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Secondly. I would now add some considerations to enforce what I have been pleading with you about. And,524
1. That which is obvious in the text—“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Parents, they have transmitted a corrupt nature to their children. Into what agonies of spirit should it put us, to think with ourselves, “I have been an instrument in producing an heir of wrath, and of a divine curse. O! shall I use no endeavour to draw it under a blessing, and make it the subject of blessedness, now that we live under that gospel, in which we are called to blessedness?” But that call must be pursued; and God expects it should be so, in apt and suitable methods and applications, by such as he makes use of as instruments, one way or another, whether in private or more public stations, in order thereunto. And,
2. Consider God’s original, supreme, and sovereign interest in families, as he is the Founder of them, and as they are his plantation. “He sets the solitary in families.” Psalm 68. 6. Consider this, together with the design of his forming of them; to wit, that he might have a godly seed still arising, from age to age, as you may see in that Malachi ii. 15. It was the very end and design of that fundamental relation in families, and unto families, the conjugal relation: “Wherefore did he make but one, when he had the residue of the Spirit? Why, that he might seek a godly seed.” As if it had been said, These plantations are mine. This, the constitution of families, (in which the conjugal relation, is the fundamental relation,) speaks, upon the, first design of settling such a constitution as this. There lay open (as we must but be sure) to the foresight of the divine eye, what a general apostasy and defection there would be; and that a corrupt nature would be transmitted, from age to age, from generation to generation. But God did determine with himself, not, therefore, to abandon all to one common ruin: as if he should have said, “I will have an interest in this world, notwithstanding.” And therefore, as this was the original design of the constitution of families, that he might have a godly seed, though the apostasy hath intervened, he will not quit his design: for his interest is still the same in its own nature. And therefore, this we must understand him continually to insist upon, as a sacred right to himself; that he will have this design pursued by all that will be subject to him, that will return into their state of subjection, and be willing to serve him in the several stations that he hath set them. He will have all endeavours used for transmitting of religion, as well as corrupt and sinful nature is transmitted, from age to age; though the one is done by a natural, the other is done by instituted means, followed 525with a blessing, and by influence from above: he will have this latter design carried on by the mutual and joint endeavours of parents, under the influence of his grace; as well as the former course is carried on unavoidably. But when no care or concern is had about this, the foundations of families are laid in a curse. And then,
3. Consider, that it cannot but concern parents, such as are such, or may be so, to express a natural affection, and to endeavour to have that improved, by having it spiritualized, and improved to a spiritual purpose, as well as they are the means by which a natural corruption is conveyed, and transmitted to their posterity. “They have natural corruption from me; (they ought to think;) and shall there be nothing of natural affection? And shall I not labour to have that natural affection sublimated, and spiritualized, and improved, so as to aim at their spiritual and supernatural good? Shall they have nothing from me, but sin and death? or nothing besides the human nature which they have from me; nothing but what shall corrupt and spoil, make it the subject and seed-plot of sin, against God, and misery to themselves?” If there be any thing of natural affection working downward with the descent of natural corruption, that natural affection should aim at the true good of them whom nature hath so much endeared; and should, upon that account, take in the auxilia, draw in the aids and helps from heaven, by which that natural affection will become spiritualized; and so the more sincerely and entirely aim at, and the more fervently pursue, a design for the spiritual and eternal good of those who descended and sprung from us. And,
4. It is to be considered, what an honour this doth derive upon the persons themselves, that shall be instrumental in this design. A glorious thing it is, to be a servant to God in so great a work as this; to recover out of the state of apostasy, those that come into that state by our means; to be an instrument, in the hand of God, to promote his kingdom in this world, in opposition to the dark kingdom of the infernal powers. How glorious a thing is it, to carry on a designed opposition against the work of the devil in this world! that when we know the aim and purpose of the great God, is to have, in all successions of time, a people for his name, I should be instrumental in promoting it! It is an honourable thing, a thing that draws a glory upon the persons, and upon the families, where religion doth thus come to take place, to take root, and is planted, and doth flourish. And again,
5. It speaks an agreement and sameness, in a great measure, 526of mind and design, with the Redeemer. For he is to have his seed in this world, from which his word and Spirit are never to depart; Isaiah lix., latter end. And the matter is settled, by everlasting covenant, as you find it there: “This is my covenant, (saith the Lord,) My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, from henceforth and for ever.” And so we know it hath been an agreed thing, as the matter is stated, (Isaiah liii. 11,) between the Father and him, that he shall see his seed, and the travail of his soul, and be satisfied therein: and that, as a recompense for his having undertaken the work of redemption, and accomplishing it, upon terms so painful, so expensive, so dolorous, so ignominious to himself. As if the Father had said to him, “Thou shalt have all this, this reward; thou shalt see thy seed, and the travail of thy soul, and be satisfied therein.” Upon this, our Lord Jesus Christ cannot but be most intent to see a continual seed spring up to him, out of a seed of evil doers; out of an apostate race of men. Now, if we be intent upon this thing, it bespeaks a sameness of mind and design, between the Redeemer and us: which, how pleasant, how delightful, how comfortable, should it be to our reflecting thoughts! And again,
6. It is further to be considered, that if there be no such design to promote godliness in families, that that may be transmitted from age to age, (though in a distinct and diverse way,) as the corrupt and sinful nature is transmitted, then, we can not but be doing our part to the promoting of ungodliness in the world ourselves. We shall do that, and nothing besides, nothing in opposition thereunto. For do but consider, as the case stands between God and man, there can be no medium between being for godliness, and being for ungodliness; we cannot be in an indifferency. If we are not, according to the uttermost of our power and capacity, for transmitting, and continuing of godliness in the world, we must be for the continuing of ungodliness. A horrid and fearful thought, if any would but allow it to take place! They can only be in an indifferency, in reference to any case whatsoever, that have no real concern therein, one way or other. But here, every one is concerned; and he must take a part: he must be for the promoting of godliness, or promoting its contrary. And therefore,
7 According to this state of things in the world, they that do aim to contribute nothing to the transmitting of religion 527and godliness in the world, in opposition to the corruption of nature, which is so generally spreading through it, they are continually providing that there may be a war and rebellion continued and kept on foot, against heaven, from age to age, and from generation to generation. “He that is not with me is against me,” saith the Lord. If you will not take God’s side in this matter, you are fighting against him, and labour to do all that you can, that the rebellion against him, may not cease; but that there may be still a succession of new rebels, new enemies, from one age to another. And,
8. You will herein, too, be constant accomplices and confederates with the prince of the apostasy; he that first fell from God, and that made it his design to involve all the world in the transgression, and in the consequent ruin; you will be continual accomplices with him. And this is, indeed, the state of every one’s case, in these matters. Whoever will but consider with himself, if he be come to the use of his understanding, and hath some prospect, (though uncertain,) of a life’s time to be run out in this world, he will find the world divided between two great lords, two great masters, two great fathers: that is, the true and Rightful Lord of all, he that made all; and to whom all belong; and that usurping prince of darkness, who is called, *’ the god of this world,” and whose children and seed wicked men (as such) are said to be. Why, every man, upon the prospect of entering upon the scene, the stage of this world, is to think with himself, “I must, in this case, either be with God, or against God. If I be not with God, if I be against him, I am with that horrid, usurped power, that is set up in opposition to him, with this world: and I fall in with that common destroyer, against the common Maker and Preserver of all things.” This will be the state of your case, if you be not intent upon a design of counterworking this common corruption, which is descending in this world; you will be looked upon under no other notion but as an accomplice of hell against heaven. And,
9. You will herein, falsify with God, after you have solemnly vowed and covenanted by your Christian parents. You have ordinarily been devoted and dedicated to God in baptism. To deal falsely and treacherously with a man, against the tenor of a covenant, is a horrid thing: but to break faith with God, is much more horrid!
But you will say, You made no such vow; and what your parents did for you, how should that bind you? Why,
(1.) It is very great ignorance to think, that parents cannot bind their children to any thing. Those that have the nearest 528natural interest in you, and whose understandings and wills are to be employed for you, when you have no understanding and will to use of your own, do you think they, from whom you sprang, have not a natural interest in you? How unreasonable and absurd a thought is that! In reference to all other concerns besides, have parents no disposal of their children? And may they dispose of them, or do for, or with them otherwise, and may they not dispose of them for their spiritual good? And again,
(2.) It is every where counted a very horrid and barbarous thing, to endeavour to rescind the lawful act of a parent, if it were in my power, if I could do it. If I could alienate, or alter, what he hath so and so disposed; and if he have righteously disposed of it for me, to come after and labour to rescind and undo all that he hath done—this is barbarous and infamous, in common estimate, among men. And,
(3.) It must needs be much more so as to God, or if he be concerned in the matter. As now for instance, Suppose a pious person, with an honest mind and design, hath dedicated such a part or portion of his estate to a pious use; suppose it be not mere charity, but a pious charity, that is, not designed for a superstitious use, but for a use truly pious, and to serve the interest of God and religion in the world; and a son comes after, and he labours to undo all this: you that would think it horrid, to alienate a piece of earth, dedicated to God by your parents, ought you not to think it horrid, to alienate a soul from God, which hath, as much as in them was, been dedicated to God by them too? I would not alienate a piece of earth, dedicated to God; but I would alienate myself, my soul, my body, dedicated to him. This no man should (if he had power) alienate. What was dedicated and sacred to a use truly pious, may not be alienated; and if not a portion of his estate, much less himself so dedicated, and given to God. But yet, further,
(4.) It is to be said, that as this was not to be done, if it were in his power, so he cannot have such a thing in his power, to wit, in his rightful power: for every one was a debtor of his whole life and being, his soul and body, and his all, to God, antecedently to any such dedication. And therefore, when such a tender is made to God, it was but to tender and devote to him, what was his own by a more early title. “All souls are mine;” so he lays his claim universally to all the souls of men; and therein to the whole of them; for what are they besides a soul? what that is valuable or considerable besides? “All souls are mine, as well as the soul of the father, as the 529soul of the son.” Ezekiel xviii. 4. He hath a nearer interest in them than a parent could have, before any such dedication: for a parent was not the parent of their spirit. They are the fathers of our flesh; but he himself Is the Father of spirits; the principal and most considerable thing that we have about us, or that belongs to our being. And therefore, when such a dedication was made, there was only a tender made to God, of what was his before; of what he claims an interest in originally. He is the Father of them, and they are his offspring. And again, further,
(5.) This, in answer to that, is to be considered, that though inclination to good do not descend, yet, obligation to it doth descend, from fathers to children, and from the predecessors in a family, unto their successors. Not only obligations of justice and common right, but obligations of kindness and friendship. As, how ordinary is it for friendships and amities to descend from father to son, in families. And it is looked upon as a rude kind of thing, to be uncivil to my father’s friend. And on which side, between families, among whom hath been a friendship, it first begins to fail, it always lies as an imputation upon that side. Great amity there was between such and such families; but now it is at an end, since such and such successors are sprung up there. On whose side the failure is, there commonly lies a very ill character. And it is a thing contrary to the dictates of common wisdom,—yea, and of the divine wisdom. “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not,” Prov. xxvii. 10. But how much less then, thy God, and thy father’s God? If it be an indecency, and uncomeliness, and a very unfit thing, that is, contrary to the precept of studying whatsoever is lovely, and thinking of those things, to forsake my friend, and my father’s friend, how much more horrid must it be to forsake my God, and my father’s God? “My father’s God shall not be my God!”
And therefore, it is not so light a matter, as is commonly thought, to have the weight of that early dedication, lying upon one’s score as a violated thing; as having dealt falsely in that covenant of God. Indeed, it is not only an evidence, but a cause of the languishment of religion in our days, that this is a thing so little thought of among Christians: “I was devoted to God early, given up to him with great solemnity; having these venerable names,—the name of the Father, the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Ghost, named upon me, at my setting forth into the world.” It speaks an apprehension of that thing itself, as if it were trivially done at first, if we make a trifle of it all our days afterwards: 530as if such a solemn transaction between the great Lord of heaven and earth, and his own dust, his own creatures, the works of his hands, were to be so lightly made of. Therefore, take we the weight of this upon our spirits. If we do not do, in our several stations and capacities, our uttermost to counter work this descending evil in the world, we do falsify the sacred covenant of God, in which we were early and preventingly bound to him, by the vow of parents concerning us. And then,
10. It is the way, certainly, for us to lose all the comfort of domestical relations, when we are not driving on this design in our several stations: we lose by it, all the comforts of family relations. For what comfort can I take in having such and such relations, in a family, when, in the mean time, there is a contrariety, and a war, maintained and kept up between God and me? So that I can never eat or drink in peace, or converse in peace, or rise up, or lay down in peace; but still I have wrath from heaven upon me? This will infuse gall and gravel into all my enjoyments whatsoever. I am not serving God’s design, for the promoting of godliness, in opposition to this growing and descending wickedness in the world: I do nothing towards it. This very reflection is enough to embitter all my comforts. And what are such and such relations to me, but confederates against God? They agree to sin together, and to carry on an interest against God together. For there can be no neutrality in such cases, as was said before. And then,
11. This is but an ill provision for a day of accounting, which will come, whether we sleep, or whether we wake; whether we forget all such considerations, or whether we consider them. “Judgment lingereth not; and destruction slumbereth not.” If I eat on, and drink on, and sleep on, judgment comes on with never a whit the slower foot. O! the seriousness of that interwoven counsel, in the discourse of the apostle, even with reference to this business of the matrimonial state. 1 Cor. vii. 29, 30. “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as if they had none; and they that weep, as if they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as if they possessed not; and those that use this world as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
The time is short. That may have reference to families, and the world: families that were spoken of before and after; and the world, in the whole, which is spoken of there in express terms. The fundamental relation in families, it is measured by a short time; by a very short time. Where there hath been such a 531union lately contracted, it will shortly be broken; time measures it; and that time will have run to its period very speedily. The time is short: it remains, therefore, that they that have wives be as if they had none; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not. They rejoice in having newly contracted such a relation: it is reasonable to understand it so, considering it the subject of the apostle’s foregoing discourse; that joy will be as if it had not been, in respect of the grounds: and it ought to be so, in the mean time, in respect of the degree. That rejoicing, in having entered into such a relation, will soon be turned into weeping, as having lost it, or it having lost you, which comes all to one. And it is but a short time that measures all this.
And do you think it strange, that that time would be counted short, which measures the time of a family, as it is made up of such and such persons now coexistent; or that measures the relation of two such conjugal relatives? Do you think it strange, that that should be spoken of, and counted a short time, when it is but a short time that measures the whole, and measures the duration of the whole—the fashion of the world passing away? As persons vanish, and families vanish, so is the world vanishing, all will be gone ere long. As the apostle John speaks in the like place, 1 John ii. 17. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Now while it is time, and but a short time, that measures all our affairs, and all our enjoyments, and all our designs, under the sun; time that will be soon done, and which will end in a general dissolution of all this world; a day, a time, “when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat; and the earth, and all things therein, be burnt up and destroyed.” I say, sure if this is certain to be the last catastrophe and end of all things, of what concernment is it to us, to consider how we may make a comfortable account when time expires, and when it is to be received, and with it, what I have been, and what I have done, in such or such a state and relation, in which I was placed in this world! There ought to be an account made daily: How can I lie down in peace at night, and not be capable of giving some good account that I have been doing somewhat for God, and for the interest of God, and religion, and godliness, in my station that day? But how shall I lie down in the grave, when a life time is wasted, and spent, and thrown away, and nothing done for God? I have rather served the interest of ungodliness, than religion, all my time in this world: and 532how shall I think of appearing before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge, when the end of all things cometh; and when I am beset with all the terrors of that day,—the heavens rolling up, and all the powers of them shaken; the earth all on fire, the elements all flaming round about me? And I have a life’s time to review and look back upon, spent away in sin and vanity, with no design for God, and for the Redeemer; though I know that he had his design set on foot here in this world, with which I co-operated not, to which I was not subservient—nay, to which I have lived opposite in a stated course.
Let all these things be weighed and put together; and sure we have a great deal to enforce this first instruction; that since corrupt nature is to lie certainly and constantly descending in this world, we would, as we ought, in our several stations and capacities, do our uttermost to counterwork that descending evil.
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