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But now I shall carry the matter a little further; and as I have been hitherto shewing what those that are, or shortly may be, parents, ought to do themselves, in reference to their next descendants, that is, those that shall more immediately spring from themselves; so, I will shew you, too, what may and should be done, in order to a further descent, by those that may have the authority to dispose of their children in the conjugal state, with the expectation of a continual descent of human nature by them further and further,—that so, that corruption and pravity which cannot be prevented, to descend with it, may be, as much as is possible, corrected, and redressed in such an after descent.
This that I am now to speak to, will especially concern such as have children to dispose of in the conjugal relation, who are judged meet for that state. And, indeed, it will equally concern such as are loco-parents, that have the parental trust devolved upon them, by the prudence of others, and their own undertaking.
And as to such, I must still insist, that they are to observe the same measures that have been given in reference to persons who are, themselves, now entering the conjugal state, with the prospect of an offspring, to which human nature, when it 533descends, will go accompanied with a sinful pravity. And here, indeed, as to the case I am now to speak to, there are on each side two parties ordinarily to concur, or two persons in each party. There are the persons to be disposed of; and there are the persons that dispose of them. And I shall speak to the part of these that are to be the disposers, parents or loco-parents, guardians, trustees, who are to take care of settling such in the world in the conjugal state. In reference whereto, the things designed, in general, usually are, that mankind may be continued upon the face of the earth; and more especially, more particularly, that such and such families therein, or those that they are concerned or intrusted for, may be hulk and preserved: and (as the Psalmist speaks) “their houses may endure for ever; and their lands (if possible) still called after their own names;” as in that psalm xlix. 11. And this is a thing that may prudently and justly be designed, in its due subordination. If it be substituted in the room of the true and great design of heaven, or carried on without reference to God, and religion, and the transmission of a godly seed here, upon earth, then you see the censure of the Holy Ghost, upon this design, in the same context: “This their way is their folly, though their posterity approve their sayings.” Sayings are doings here: the sayings of their minds and designs, together with acting conformably and correspondency thereunto. This their way is their folly; yet one age approves the former herein, and they that come after, run the same course.
Here I must, in reference to this, insist, that their measures ought to be with consideration, that, with human nature, a sinful pravity will descend, and that this may be (as much as i$ possible) repressed: and so, as that God’s design may he carried on concurrently, which he had from the beginning, in settling the conjugal state, and in planting families here on earth; that is, that he might seek a godly seed. Wherefore one, when he might have made many, having the residue of the Spirit, but that he might seek a godly seed? Mal. ii. 15. And this design he hath no more quitted, than he hath disclaimed his interest in this whole lower world, or, saith, “It ceaseth to be a part of my creation, or I cease to be the Lord and Owner of it. But inasmuch as there lies under our present consideration, the duty of such as have children to dispose of, with a prospect that they will have children, and that so a care ought to be extended as far as lies ordinarily within the compass of human endeavour; there ought, indeed, a care extending so far as the desire reacheth, and the main intention of the mind, a great deal further. But so much as I speak to, comes commonly 534within the compass of actual endeavour. It is ordinary for parents to survive unto the disposal of their children into the conjugal state, with expectation of children from them; and therefore, it is the duty of such that I am now generally to speak to.
And I will tell you, in general, what it is to wit, that as much as in them is, to endeavour that religion be transmitted and descend, and go down in their families, and in the families for which they are concerned and intrusted. It is true, it cannot descend the same way as human nature, and the sinful pravity doth; that is, not by propagation: but it is to descend by pious education, as the means that God must be supplicated to co-operate with, and bless, for the implantation of a better principle, than could be propagated by nature. This sinful pravity, it comes by nature: this superadded principle must come by grace. But then, there are. means of grace in order to the obtaining of that grace: and this is the first and the readiest means; to wit, a pious education. And therefore, it ought to be the care of such as have children to be disposed of in the conjugal state. To speak a little more particularly,
1. To endeavour, as much as is possible, that they may see them godly before they be married. As much, I say, as is possible to endeavour that. It can be very little satisfaction to the heart of a parent, (if it be so tender as the grace of God in it should make it,) to dispose of a child into such a relation, to a human creature, when, as yet, there is no appearance that it is come into a relation to God. “My child hath now a husband, or hath a wife, gotten for it; but hath not a God, not a Christ. This is a sad thought! I have taken care that it might have what is so unspeakably less necessary: but of that which is most necessary, I have taken no care; that is, to see that my child, my son, or daughter, was married to Christ: to see, that before the conjugal covenant, there was the evangelical covenant settled and established between God in Christ, and this poor child of mine.” And,
2. Their further care hereon ought to be, finding that there are some good appearances of pious inclinations, they do choose out such for them as will fall in with them, in the design of transmitting piety to their posterity: that I may have one for my son, or my daughter, that I believe, in my conscience, will make it their study and business, to educate their children in the knowledge and fear of God; that religion may run on in the family, and that corrupt nature may not descend alone.
It is a very sad case when this is the very last part of the concern in such a matter as this: when the first thing thought 535of is, “Where shall I get a great fortune for my son; or how shall I marry my daughter into a great estate?” When this is the first care, is it like that precept of our Lord Christ—“Seek first the kingdom of God?” Matt. vi. 33. This is looked upon as the unam necessarium, the one thing necessary; a great fortune, an ample estate, a plentiful income: and as for religion and sobriety, if that he considered, it is considered on the by, collaterally, as if it were hut a trifle in comparison. And so, accordingly, are bargains driven on, as formal contracts, as for beasts in Smithfield; even for the very souls of young persons that have not judgment to choose for themselves, and that, (it may be,) have a great deal of reverence for those that are their guides, and have the disposal of them. They think they must trust their care and judgment, and do so. And they concern themselves only, how they may do well in the world, without considering, at all, what shall become of their souls; or how they may be exposed and given up for a prey; or what shall become of those that shall descend from them.
This is so intolerable an evil under the sun, that we have reason to wonder at the divine patience, that it hath not, by vindictive flames, animadverted on such wickedness long ago. But we are to expect it will. And as it is the wickedness of the world, which that final conflagration must animadvert upon, and will, it can be upon no one thing more than this: this way and means by which wickedness hath been propagated in the world, from age to age, without any care or concern, by those that should have driven on a counter-design, in duty to the great Lord and Maker of this world; as if he had given it up to men only to sin in, and to indulge their sinful lusts in, for a short life’s time; and then go down into the dust and die. This is a thing so contrary to the reason of mankind, (if that were attended to, and if men would commune with themselves,) that we cannot but wonder that vengeance hath suffered men to live so long upon the face of this earth, at such a rate: and we have no reason to wonder that such a determination is set, that this world shall end, as we are told it shall, by vindictive flames, consuming the inhabitants of this earth from off it.
But I shall here, first, answer a question which may arise about this matter I have been speaking to; and then proceed to enforce that charge or duty which, I have said, doth belong to such whose case and concern I have been speaking of. The question is this: “Why, suppose I that am a parent, or a guardian, do not discern in my child, (son or daughter,) now 536grown up, and of whom I have some thoughts of disposing into the conjugal state; suppose I do not see in them any thing of a pious inclination; am I to endeavour to settle them, in that relation, with such a one that is judged sincerely pious. And to this I must say,
1. That none ought to be rash and hasty in their judgments concerning others, who are pious, and who are not; at least, there ought to be a very careful abstaining from a positive judgment concerning any, that they are ungodly. What judgment we do pass, it is better, and safer, to err on the most favourable side. But we have a most express rule from our Lord himself not to judge; which is not to be understood, neither, in a simple, but comparative sense. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” We must not judge hastily, not judge rashly, not judge positively, and concludingly, without very clear and full evidence, that such a one is an ungodly man. But we are told afterwards, in the same chapter. Matt. vii. 16. that men are known by their fruits; so that, as we are to be slow and sparing in our judgment concerning others, especially on the severer part, that they are ungodly; so we ought to have, when we do judge, that which may be very clearly evidential: and then (as we do judge that there may be such evidence, as upon which we cannot but conclude so) it is out of question; otherwise, we should not know how to carry it towards such as are put under that mark, according as we are obliged to make distinction; and distinction even between them that have the form of godliness, but appear not to have the power of it, that we may turn away from them. And if there are many other things, mentioned in that context, that are inconsistent with the power of godliness, but do very well agree only with the form, the external form, we are to take our measures from thence, and thereby to endeavour to guide ourselves, as to our carriage and deportment, towards such: “Turn away from them,” as the apostle there directeth. And therefore, I say, if matters do evidently appear, such and such do discover, by an habitual stated course and practice, that there is not only no serious godliness, but there is an enmity, a contrariety, an opposition, to it, they cannot comply with rules and ordinary duties that do belong to it; then, upon that, upon that supposition, I say,
2. That they, with whom any such are concerned in such a treaty, will (as they ought to have) have such a design as you ought to have, and therefore will decline you. They will not have such a one for their son, or for their daughter: (if they be such as make conscience of what they do:) and so 537your question is answered. They will answer for you: “No, I will not have such a one come into my family, or for my son, or daughter, that appears an enemy to godliness, a rebel against Christ; that hath a fixed, habitual aversion to all serious religion. But,
3. If they should not do so, not make that choice, for those whom they are concerned for, which they ought to make, you, for your parts, ought to do as you would be done unto; according to that general rule of our Lord, which carries so much of equity, so visibly in the face of it, that even some pagans have been fond of it: and one of the pagan emperors would have had Christ owned for a God, purposely upon that account, for that rule: Quod tibi non vis fieri, alter ne facias, what you would not that another should do to you, that do not to him. Carefully observe that rule in this case; “I would be loath my family, being a godly family, to admit an enemy to God and Christ into it; why then should I endeavour to thrust such a one deceitfully, and when the danger appears not to them, as it doth to me, into a godly family?”
It is true, that if such were married to one another, in that case, this were not a thing that immediately concerns that relation, it not lying against the essential vinculum; as the apostle hath determined between Christians and avowed infidels: the nuptial bond holds, if it have been entered; but if it be to be made, it ought not to be made: for those that enter into that relation, are to enter it with a design of being “fellow-partakers of the grace of Christ, and helpers of one another heaven-ward;” and such as can comfortably join in prayer, and who are to carry matters so, as that their prayers may not be hindered, and the like. And if I am not to eat with a person visibly ungodly, much less am I to fall into so near a union, and converse with them: that is out of all doubt. And therefore, as I cannot in duty and in prudence, for the good of such as I am concerned for, suffer myself to be imposed upon, in such a case; so I am not to impose upon another. I would be loath to be so imposed upon, to have an enemy to God and godliness brought into my family, or united with my child: and I ought not to obtrude such a mischief as that upon another person, and another family. But when any thing in that kind is done, there must be so much the more serious, subsequent endeavours for redress; there must be the more earnest praying; and so much the more pressing advice given; and so much the more solicitude and care used, that such a one may be plucked out of the snare which, by too much unwariness, they have been betrayed into.538
And thus, having answered that question, I will lay before you some considerations that may be given to enforce all this. And pray consider,
1. How little is to be alleged against it, against the carrying on this professed and avowed design, in the disposal of those I am concerned for, whether one’s own children, or others that are intrusted to our care; I say, to avow this, as our design, to promote and transmit religion, and the interest of godliness in the world, consider how little is to be said against it. All that can be pretended against it is, that the custom and usage of the world is to look after a suitable match in point of estate, in the first place. It is very true, it is so. And so it is the custom of this world to forget God, and to carry it towards him, as if he were not the Lord of this world; and to cast his fear behind men’s back; and to trample upon his interest; and to count religion, (which is the main concern of all men,) instead of their interest, their reproach and dishonour. This is the custom of this world. But let such things as these be put in the balance; and so the other considerations, which! intended, will fall in. As this, in the next place,
2. That God doth manifestly insist upon this design still, of propagating religion in the world. You find that he doth provide that such a design should go on through all the successions of time. Our Lord Jesus Christ hath undertaken to be with them that shall be engaged in carrying on this design, to the end of the world. He hath set up an office on purpose; and therefore, the design is not laid aside, nor ever will be laid aside, of transmitting religion in the world. And how dutiful a thing, and how glorious a thing is it, to offer one’s self as an instrument, within the compass of one’s own sphere, to serve such a design as this!
For let but conscience be appealed to in the case, Do we not find, that God hath a design to keep religion in the world, from age to age? What doth he continue this world for? Is it only that it may continue in a rebellion against him, from generation to generation, when it is impossible it should subsist an age, or a moment, without his sustaining influence, when we have so much assurance given us, that it is upon the account of Christ’s interest, that this world is kept from dissolution all this while? It is by him that all things do subsist, and consist. Therefore, undoubtedly, God hath this design still. What serves that gospel for, that we live under, and the ministry and ordinances of it? And when we know that God hath such a design, shall not that which is his design, be our 539principal design? or shall we presume to disagree with him about our principal end?
Indeed, it is very true, if he had made a declaration from heaven—“I will have no more to do with this world; I will save no more souls in it; I will leave all to follow the inclination of their own hearts, and to walk and live in that darkness which they love, and will have no more concern with them:” if there had been, I say, such a declaration, then all thoughts and care of this kind, that I am speaking of, would have been superseded. For it is impossible for any to act rationally, with despair. Where there is no hope, there can be no design. But when we know that that is none of the case, but God hath a design to continue religion and godliness in this world, from age to age, I am a wretch, if I will not make his design my principal design; or if any thing shall be greater in mine eyes than that. And again, consider,
3. That if I do not do my utmost, within my sphere and capacity, for the serving this design of God, I do certainly make myself a party against him: for if there he a continual descent of human nature, without a prospect of any means to cultivate it, and correct the exorbitancies of it, in its further. descent, this is a continuation of the rebellion against God; when there is only a provision made, that a rebellious nature may descend, and no more; nothing with it; no corrective with it.
But what a monstrous thing is this! when such care is taken to correct the exorbitancies of nature in inferior kinds; vegetative nature, sensitive nature. Men take care of their gar dens, of their flowers, of their trees: and (as the divine poet, Herbert, saith) let weeds choke their sun. How monstrous is this! Into what a wilderness doth uncultivated and uncorrected nature grow! You find it in inferior kinds. If nature be not regulated, rectified, even vegetative nature, it will all be over-run with weeds, and better plants grow wild. The protusions of nature, if no way regulated, they become very ungrateful and uncomely. And when we find how the case is, as to rational nature, what cultivation that needs, that it may be susceptible of the implantation of such a better principle that shall be governing, man becoming, without it, “as a wild ass’s colt,” as the Scriptures speak. O! who can endure the thought, that so it should be with what descends from me; that what descends, shall have descending with it seeds of enmity, and rebellion, against the Majesty of heaven only; but nothing concomitant towards the cure and the remedy of so horrid an evil.
To have a nature poisoned with enmity, an envenomed nature, 540even against heaven, running on, if I do not use my utmost care and concern, that as there shall be a continual descent of human nature, so that the correctives may accompany it, and go along with it, I do make myself a party against God and godliness. For I am sure that the uncultivated, and impure corrupt nature will be continually carrying on that war, and tumultuating in fresh rebellions, against heaven. And so that makes me, by neglect, a party: I betray the interests of God in that matter. And,
4. Let it be considered too, what horrid cruelty this is towards our own bowels, or such as I have otherwise undertaken the care of, visibly to throw away their souls; to seem not to care what becomes of them; whether they shall have any helps God ward, or heaven-ward, yea or no. No concern that whatever they shall bring forth, in all probability, and according to visible appearance, is only brought forth for the destroyer; all children of perdition only in view. And it is, in the last place, to be added,
5. That if any such persons would allow themselves to consider, that have such a concern upon them, or who are so in trusted with the disposal of young ones, either their own, or others committed to them, that will finally be found most of all cruel to their own souls. For how shall such, at last, lie down in peace, when they come to make up their accounts with God. “Such and such opportunities I had to serve the God of my life in this world, which I have lost; and I have thrown away such, whose souls I was concerned for, to have taken care of, even as my own.” For we are to love our neighbours as ourselves: and much more those that are nearly related. O! the wounds and gall, and the terrors of spirit, wherewith (if the matter be reflected on) such must lie down at last. And the case is worse if it be not reflected on.
But then, there is somewhat to be said, too, to the other sort of persons that are concerned in this same case; and that is, the persons to be disposed of. All that I have said hitherto, refers to the disposers. But for them that are disposed of, it is not fit they should come into such a relation as that, till they can use some thoughts of their own, and so be capable of understanding what their duty is in such a case. And,
1. It is manifestly their duty to be very flexible towards parents and guardians, when they see they have a visible design of their spiritual and eternal welfare, in the first place; and that which they are chiefly concerned for. And,
2. It is their duty to be inflexible, if they find that such as are concerned for them, have a design to throw them away; 541that they do not care as to what concerns their souls, and their spiritual estate, so as they may marry into an opulent condition in this world. In that case, I say, they ought to be in flexible: but dutifully and submissively, still. They ought to carry it With decorum, and not to be insolent in their refusal of those offers that are made them by parental authority, or in opposition thereunto; but with modesty and humility, still to dissent, still to disagree: “I will not so venture my soul upon an ungodly person; or where there is no hope I shall have help Godward, or heavenward.”
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