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TO YOUNG PERSONS.
The Importance of the rising Generation.
Psalm xxii. 30, 31.-A Seed shall serve him, it shall be accounted to the Lord for a Generation: They shall come, and shall declare his Righteousness unto a People that shall be born, that he hath done this.
Ir is a
is a very beautiful saying of an ancient jewish writer*, which has its parallel amongst some of the finest of the heathen poetst, that " as of the green leaves on a thick tree, some fall, and others grow; so of the generations of flesh and blood, one cometh to an end, and another is born." In this respect the resemblance is obvious; but there is another, in which it will not always so evidently hold. We perceive not any remarkable difference between the leaves of one year, and of another: They which open at the return of the spring, are commonly as large and fair, as those which the preceding winter had destroyed. But it has been matter of long lamentation, that the children of men are continually sinking into deeper and deeper degeneracy. Solomont denies not that the former days were better than the present, when he cautions against too curious an enquiry into the reasons why such an alteration was permitted: And those who know little else of the most celebrated writers of antiquity, can quote their complaints on this melancholy occasion. They can tell you, that Homer observes, "that children are seldom better, but frequently worse, than their parents ;" and they often repeat that
Ecclus. xiv. 18.
+ Homer. Iliad. ver. 146-149. ver. 463–467.—Mus. apud Clem. Alex. Strom. Lib. VI.
Eccles. vii. 10.
Παυροι γαρ τοι παιδες ομοιοι πατρι πελονται,
Οι πλεονες κακίους, παυροι δε τε πατρος αρειους.
Homer. Odys. B. 276, 277.
lively and comprehensive acknowledgment of Horace*: "Our fathers who fell short of the virtues of their ancestors, have produced us a generation worse than themselves; and our children will be yet more degenerate than we."
These complaints and forebodings have been borrowed by every age since they were published, and are to this day borrowed by us, as what we imagine more applicable to ourselves, than to those who wrote them, or to any who have already cited them. I will not say, there is universal cause for such an application; but I am sure, the face of affairs in many families, and may I not add, in many churches too, is abun dantly sufficient not only to excuse, but to vindicate it.
In the midst of this mournful survey, the heart of every pious Israelite will tremble for the ark of the Lord, and he will be ready to say, perhaps with an excess of solicitude and of anguish, What will be the end of these things+? Surely God will utterly abandon those who so basely desert him, in contempt of the clearest revelation of his gospel, and the most engaging or awakening calls of his providence. The very memory of religion will at length be lost; and When the Son of man cometh, he will not find faith on the earth."
Now there seems to be something in the very sound of the text, which may relieve our minds under these gloomy apprehensions. A seed shall serve him, it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation: They shall come, and declare his name to a third succession; a people who shall be born of them. Here is an evident promise or prediction, that the knowledge and the fear of God should be propagated from one age and generation to another: And this must be an agreeable assurance, whatever the particular occasion were on which it was introduced. Were this psalm to be considered only as relating to the calamities of David, and the wonderful deliverance which God wrought out for him, the words before us might be improved for our own consolation on the justest principles of analogy; for if a temporal salvation granted to him were to make so deep and so lasting an impression on distant nations and on future ages, how reasonably might the like effects be expected from that infinitely more important and extensive salvation, which is exhibited to us in the everlasting gospel?
* Atas Parentuh pejor Avis tulit
Horat. Lib. III. Od. VI. v. 46, &c.
But after all, the application of this passage of scripture, to the purposes for which I have alledged it, does not depend on so long a train of consequences; for if we attentively peruse this psalm, and diligently survey the distress and the glory which are described in the several parts of it, we must be obliged to confess, that a greater than David is here. It contains a most lively and sublime prophecy of the sufferings of the Messiah, and the exaltation with which they were to be rewarded*; and particularly mentions the calling of the gentiles into his church, and the propagation of his religion to future agest. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee: All they who are fat upon the earth, i. e. by an usual Hebraism, Persons of eminent rank and in plentiful circumstances, shall eat and worship, i. e. they shall pay their public homage to him, and enter themselves solemnly into his covenant, as the jewish votaries did by eating of the sacrifices which were offered to him: And, on the other hand, those that go down to the dust, i. e. who are in the most indigent circumstances, shall bow before themş, even he that cannot keep alive his own soul, who is so poor that he wants the necessaries of life: As if it had been said, there shall be an universal submission to him, in which the greatest and meanest shall concur. And the text assures us, that his triumphs shall be as lasting, as extensive: A future secd shall serve him; they shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation; i. e. being brought to the knowledge and the profession of the true religion, they shall be owned by God as his people: And it shall be their pious care, to declare this glorious display of his
* See particularly, ver. 7, 14, 16, 18, 27, & seq.
† Ver. 27-31.
See Psal. lxxviii. 31. Isa. x. 16. Psal. xvii. 10. and compare Psal. xlv. 12. lxxii. 10, 11. Isa. Ix. 3, 5, 10, 13. Rev. xxi. 24. All which texts speak of the submission of princes and great men to Christ.
§ Compare Isa. xxvi. 19. Neh. iii. 18. 1 Sam. ii. 8.
So the French translate this clause, "Mêmes celui qui ne peut garentir sa vie :" And so several famous commentators explain it, particularly Rivetus; "Famelici, qui non habent quo vitam sustineant." Thus also Buchanan paraphrases on the words,
Flectet illi poplitem
Pauper sepulchri in limine,
Qui membra fessis artubus languentia
It is certain the phrase here translated, “keep alive the soul," is often used for preservation of the animal life; Gen. xix. 19. 1 Kings xx. 21. Ezek. xiii. 19. And the meat, which was purchased at so expensive a rate at the siege of Jerusalem, is said to relieve or restore the soul, Lam. i. 11.
righteousness to a people who shall be born of them, that he has done this; that it is the hand of God which has wrought out this great salvation. And though there are not many generations mentioned here, yet other scriptures assure us, that the kingdom of the Messiali is to be of perpetual duration, and consequently that such promises as these are to be taken in their utmost extent. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth. His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him+.
Upon the whole then, it appears, that the words of the text are a prophecy, that the kingdom of Christ shall be perpetual, and extend itself to the latest generations, as well as the remotest climates: And, through the divine goodness, we must acknowledge, that this day is this scripture in part fulfilled among us. We dwell in a country, which, with regard to Judea, lay at the ends of the earth, and which was long over-run with barbarity and idolatry: Yet we are now instructed in the knowledge of the God of Israel, and are this day assembled for his worship; so that at the distance of more than two thousand years from the publication of this prediction, we are the living witnesses of its truth; being ourselves A seed who profess to serve the Lord, and accounted to him for a generation.
I hope it is the concern of many of us, that the concluding words may be fulfilled in those who come after us; that his gospel righteousness may so be declared to them, that they likewise might be engaged to serve the Lord, not only in the external forms of the true religion, but with the affections of the heart, and the obedience of the life.
That this concern may be more deep, more active, and more universal, it will be the business of my present discourse, to represent to you at large the importance of the rising generation. And here I would aim, not merely at the demonstration of a speculative truth, which may leave your minds as cold and as irregular as it found them; but I would labour, by the divine assistance, to possess you with such a sense of the case, as may have a powerful influence on your temper and behaviour; that so your meditations on this excellent promise may, through the concurrence of God, be the means of its more complete accomplishment.
I am now particularly concerned, that you my younger
+ Psal. Ixxii. 7, 17.
Compare Rom. iii. 25, 26.
brethren may be impressed with what I say: I shall therefore address myself directly to you, and endeavour to shew how important and desirable it is, that you be early tinctured with a sense of religion, and heartily engaged in the service of God.
May the spirit of God, in the mean time, so speak to your hearts, as that life and energy might be added to those convictions, which I am confident your reason will not be able to oppose!
Now I would intreat you, on this occasion, seriously to consider the importance of your character and behaviour, with regard both to yourselves, and others.
I. Nothing can be of greater importance, with regard to yourselves, than your being early engaged in the service of God.
It is a consideration which equally concerns you, and others of a more advanced age, that religion is, generally speaking, the surest way we can take to be happy in this world, and through the merits and righteousness of a Redeemer, the only way to glory in another: So that, as the apostle expresses it, godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come*.
Its tendency to promote our present comfort and happiness, will abundantly appear from the influence which it has on our external circumstances, and on the temper of our minds. As to the former of these, I might enlarge on its beneficial effects, with regard to health and reputation, estate and friendship: And as to the latter, nothing is more obvious than that it tends to secure the tranquillity, and the pleasure of the soul, as it either suppresses, or moderates, those turbulent passions which throw it into anguish and confusion, while it gives abundant exercise to those which are most sweet and delightful. Such is the immediate blessedness of the man who feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments. And whosoever, reflects on the evidence with which each of these particulars is attended, must acknowledge, that The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peacet.
To complete the argument, it is to be considered, that these pleasant and peaceful paths lead up to the paradise of God: For invariable truth and goodness has engaged, that To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, he will render eternal life§.
Prov. iii. 17.
* 1 Tim. iv. 8. + Psal. exii. 1.
§ Rom. ii. 7.