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have the satisfaction of believing, that those afflictions proceed from a divine love, and shall at length turn to your advantage. It will revive their hearts in their dying moments to think, that when they are sleeping in the dust, you will stand up in their places, and support the interest of God in the world, with a fidelity and zeal perhaps superior to theirs. Or if an afflictive stroke should take you away before them, they will not mourn over your graves, As those that have no hope*. Faith will teach them to mingle praises with their tears, while it assures them, that though dead to them, you are living with God in glory; that you are preferred to an attendance on his throne above, where they may hope shortly to meet you on the most advantageous terms.
This is but a faint and imperfect description of the satisfaction, which your parents would find in your early piety. And it follows from hence, as a necessary consequence, that if they see you grow up in the neglect of religion, it will pierce their hearts with proportionable sorrow.
It is possible, that you may arrive at such a daring degree of wickedness, as to treat them with negligence and contempt, or perhaps to answer all their melting expostulations with insults and rage. Such ungrateful and rebellious monsters we have heard of; and would to God, that every parent in this assembly could say, that he had only heard of them! But should you preserve some sense of humanity and decency; nay, should you behave towards them in the most dutiful and obliging manner, yet they must still mourn over you; and even your tenderness and complaisance to them would sometimes come in to add a more sensible anguish to their affliction. It would cut them to the heart to think, that such dear, and, in other respects, amiable children, were still the enemies of God, and the heirs of destruction. When they heard the vengeance of God denounced against sinners, and read the awful threatnings of his word, they would tremble to think, that those terrible thunders were levelled against you. How little could they rejoice in that health, or plenty, which they saw you were abusing to your aggravated ruin! And how would they be terrified when any distemper seized. you, lest it should be the messenger to bear you away to eternal misery! If they were themselves dying, how mournfully must they take their leave of you, in the apprehension of seeing you no more till the day of accounts, and seeing you then in ignominy and horror at the left hand of the judge! Or if they
* 1 Thess. iv. 13.
saw you removed by an early death, to what hopeless sorrows would they be abandoned! With what unknown agonies would they adopt that pathetic lamentation of David, Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would to God I had died for thee! Oh Absalom, my son, my son* !
By such a variety of considerations does it appear, that the comfort and happiness of your pious parents does very much depend upon your temper and behaviour. And the argument is confirmed by the repeated testimony of the wisest of men, under the influence of the divine spirit. He tells us again and again, that A wise son maketh a glad father+; that Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father; and that The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice; and he that begetteth a wise child, shall have joy of him. On the other hand, he tells us, that A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother: And though the tenderness of her sex may make the mother peculiarly sensible of the affliction, yet it is not confined to her; for he tells us elsewhere, that A foolish son is a grief to his father, as well as bitterness to her that bare him**; yea, A foolish son is the calamity of his father++: And once more, He that begetteth a fool, doth it to his sorrow; and the father of a fool has no joy ‡‡ ; for the wickedness of his son impairs his relish for the other enjoyments of life.
Such a multitude of passages to the same purpose seem intended to teach us the importance, as well as the certainty of the argument. And it is more than hinted at in those remarkable words, My son, if thy heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine §§: As if he had said, Make a serious pause, and diligently weigh the importance of that thought, that thy piety will be an inexpressible joy to me, to thy father. And then, as if that were not enough, it is immediately added, Yea, my reins also shall rejoice, shall feel unutterable pleasure diffusing itself through all the secret recesses of my soul, when thy lips speak right things|||, which may manifest an heart under the influence of prudence, and of religion.
And let me intreat you, my friends, to reflect for a few moments on the weight of the argument, that you may judge whether it will not bear all the stress which Solomon lays upon it. The happiness of your parents is in question; and can you
*2 Sam. xviii. 33. Prov. x. 1.
§§ Prov. xxiii. 15.
+ Prov. x. 1. xv. 20.
Prov. xxix. 3.
Prov. xxiii. 24. tt Prov. xix. 13. ‡‡ Prov. xvii. 21.
See the like emphatical form of speaking, ver. 24, 25,
slight that? Consider how much you owe to your parents, as they were the instruments of your being, and have been under God, the principal support of it. Think of the tenderness with which they watched around your cradles, and of the many kind offices which they performed for you in your helpless infancy; which parental tenderness, made delightful to them, when hardly any thing else could have made them tolerable. Think how liberally they have long contributed towards the supply of your wants; and in how many instances they have denied themselves, that they might gratify you. Think how they have rejoiced with you in your joys, and mourned with you in your sorrows; how they have been terrified at your real dangers; and perhaps often disquieted with those timorous apprehensions, which fondness, rather than reason, has suggested to them. And under the impression of these reflections, say, whether it may not reasonably be expected, that you should have a most affectionate regard to their repose and comfort, and think with horror of becoming their grief and their torment.
I may add, that as the parents of some amongst you are declining under the infirmities of age, and on that account the objects of a respectful compassion to all, they should be so especially to you who are their children; for it may be, these infirmities have been hastened upon them by an excess of tenderness and concern for you. And will you Add afflictions to the afflicted, and bring down with sorrow to the grave* those venerable hoary heads, which you have perhaps made grey before their time? Surely you must abhor the thought, or God and man must abhor you.
But I would not entertain so harsh a suspicion; I charitably hope, that you are not only impressed with this consideration, but will likewise be somewhat concerned, when you hear:
3. That the comfort and happiness of faithful ministers will be greatly affected by the character of the rising generation.
St. John assures The elect lady, that he rejoiced greatly, when he found her children walking in the truth+; and a variety of arguments concur to prove, that no pious minister can be indifferent in the case before us.
If we have any thing of humanity and generosity in our tempers, we must be concerned for your seriousness, on account
Gen. xlii. 38.
† 2 John ver. 4.
of that influence which it has on the happiness of all about you, and particularly on that of your christian parents. Many of them are the ornaments and glory of our assemblies, and the most dear and intimate of our friends; we are obliged therefore to take part with them in their sorrows and their joys, with relation to you their children. It must sensibly afflict us to see, that while their wisdom and their piety might command the reverence and the love of all that know them, enemies should arise against them out of their own houses, and that even the children of their bowels should prove their tormentors: Those dear children, from whom they fondly promised themselves the delight and support of their declining years. And, when they come and tell us the tender story, when they freely open to us their sorrows and their fears on your account, and earnestly beg our prayers for you, that whatever they suffer, you may not be for ever undone, we are hardly able to stand it ; but nature, as well as religion, teaches us to echo back their sighs, and to return their tears.
Thus we are concerned for the rising generation, as we sympathize with those whose happiness is apparently affected by it: But besides this, you may easily apprehend, that much of the comfort of our lives does immediately depend upon it. And this will be peculiarly obvious with regard to those of us, who are in our younger years, and are entering on the work of God amongst you*.
Should God spare us to future years, we must expect to survive many of our aged friends; and when your parents are gone, whither must we look for the comfort of our remaining days, but to you their children? And must it not wound us to the heart, to see a Generation of vipers rising up, instead of those pious friends, with whom We have taken sweet counsel together, and gone to the house of God in company+? Can we easily bear to see the temples and altars of God forsaken, or to see them attended only by wretched hypocrites, who wear the Form of godliness, while they are strangers and enemies to the Power of it? Must we lose the pleasure of addressing you in public, as true christians, on the most comfortable and joyful subjects of discourse; and be obliged continually to speak to you in thunders, as those who have no right to the consola
N. B. This was the case of the author when this sermon was preached at Kibworth, May 18, 1724.
tions of the gospel? Or must we never have the satisfaction of conversing with you in private, as our brethren in the Lord, and our companions in the way to heaven?
Well might it grieve us to be thus left alone in the midst of a degenerate world; especially when we reflected, that the cause of God was sinking in the time of our administrations, and serious religion was lost amongst us, whilst the cultivation of it was committed to our care. Shall we not be suspected of unfaithfulness to God, and to you, if it die in our hands? That were dreadful indeed. May the divine grace preserve us from that guilt! And I trust, my brethren, that it will preserve us; and, in dependence upon that, I plainly tell you, that while God continues us in a capacity of doing it, we will honestly warn you, we will seriously expostulate with you, we will earnestly pray for you; and if it be all in vain, we will appeal to an omniscient God, that your destruction is not chargeable upon us, but upon yourselves.
But in the mean time, it would be dreadful to reflect, that while we are thus endeavouring to deliver our own souls, we are in effect heaping aggravated damnation on yours; while every attempt is resisted by you, and so brings you under a greater load of guilt. You may indeed be insensible of the load now, but we foresee the day when you will sink under it. And here is the accent of our sorrow; in such views as these we fear, that when the ministers of former generations shall appear before their judge with a train of happy souls, which have been conducted to heaven by their means, it must be our melancholy part to stand out as witnesses against our hearers, that we Have stretched out our hands all the day long to a disobedient and a gainsaying people*. Oh, how shall we be able to advance this dreadful testimony against the children of our dearest friends, against those whom we tenderly loved, and whose salvation we would have purchased with any thing, but our own! Yet this is our prospect with regard to you; and we may leave it to you to judge, whether it must not sadden our souls.
Now pardon me, my friends, if I tell you, that we may reasonably expect, that an argument of this nature should not be despised. I hope it is no breach of modesty to say, that we have not deserved so ill at your hands, as that our joy, or our distress, should be indifferent to you. In all the common
*Rom. x. 21.