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SERM. Lastly, In his old Age, when his Joints
III. wax feeble, and his Eyes grow dim,

they will be instead of a Staff to him, to
guide him in the Way he ought to go,
and to stay and hold him up; and when
he can no longer take Pleasure in any
sensual Enjoyment, yet then will he de-
light in the Children of his Youth, and
fancy himself immortal, by surviving him-
self, and living in his Posterity : For his
Children will bear his Name, and the
Glory of his Actions to succeeding Gene-
rations, and, by imitating his virtuous
Deeds and noble Atchievements, add to
his Renown.
From all which it

appears,

that it is a happy and blessed Thing to be the Parent of a numerous and hopeful Off-Spring, that Children are the Heritage of the Lord, and the Fruit of the Womb is. bis Reward. But here I expect it will be objected, that Experience demonstrates the quite Contrary, so that it is

grown even to a Proverb, that Children are certain Troubles, but uncertain Comforts ; that the greatest Afflictions in the World proceed, either from the Loss of a good Child, or from the perverse and undutiful Carriage of a bad one. To which I answer, that the Proposition, in

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the Text, is laid down in general Terms, Serm. which imply some Limitations and Ex- IIĮ. ceptions; and it is sufficient that, for the most Part, the Matter of Fact is true, that Comfort and Blessedness is the natural Reward of Children bred

up

in the Fear and Nurture of the Lord. It is a common Observation, that, when the best Things degenerate, they become the worst; and, therefore, it is no Wonder that, since a good and dutiful Child is one of the most valuable Blessings, a refractory and wicked Child should be one of the most grating Troubles and severest Amictions, which can befal a Man. For the most Part, when Children are bred up virtuously and religiously, in the Fear of God, and a Sense of Religion, they retain it as long as they live, they are 2dum et molle Lutum, soft and pliable Clay, and may

be reduced into any Form, and are disposed to receive any Impression : Train up a Child in the way that he should Prov.xxii. go, and, when he is old, he will never de-6. part from it.

When Children take ill Courses, for the most Part, it happens through the Default of the Parents; either they are indulgent towards them, or else over rigorous and severe, or else do pot fow the Seeds of Virtue in their Hearts,

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SERM, and principle them in the Doctrines and
III. Duties of Religion, and go before them

by a good Example, and make them-
selves a Pattern of good Works to them.
From some of these Causes it generally
happens, that Children take ill Courses ;
and then it is but just in God to punish
this Neglect of the Parent, by the Un-
dutifulness of the Child, and to scourge
him with that Rod, which he himself has
bound

up. But yet there are some Ex-
amples where the Fault is not in the Pa-
rent, where the Soil proves so barren and
full of Thorns and Thistles, that all his
Labour in manuring and cultivating it
proves unsuccessful; and, in such Cases
as these, the Parent has no Reason to be
troubled or cast down, considering, that
it is not Paul that plants, or Apollos that
waters, but God that gives the Increase ;
and that it is Part of his Daty, after he
has done his utmost Endeavours to correct
and reform his Child, to rest contented,
and to resign up his Will to God's Di-
: vine Will, and the wise Disposal of his
good Providence. Considering,

II. That God is the sole Author and
Disposer of these Blessings: Children are
his Heritage, and the Fruit of the Womb is
bis Reuard. The Word, Heritage, de-

notes

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notes to us, that they are the voluntary Gift Serm,
of God; they are not obtained by our III.
own Industry, but are bestowed upon us
by our heavenly Father, who has a Right
to annex what Conditions he pleases to
them, and to limit the Time of our En-
joyment of them. An Heritage is an
Estate got by our Ancestors, which de-
scends down to us lineally without our
Pains-taking; it is true in the latter Part
of the Text they are called a Reward;
but we may observe, that the Hebrew
Word in the Original signifies, any unme-
rited Favour conferred upon a Man,
whereby his State or Condition is altered,
and is better expressed by the Word
Gratuity than Reward. And then the
Words run thus, Children are the Heritage
of the Lord, a Blessing derived down to us
by our heavenly Father, and the Fruit of
the Womb is his Gift or Gratuity; a Gift
which he bestows when he fees fit, and
takes away again when he pleases; or else,
if we like the Vulgar Translation, and re-
tain the Word Reward, we must under-
stand it of such a Reward as is given to
us of mere Favour and Grace, not from
any Debt or Obligation ; and thus the
Prayers and Alms-deeds of pious and re-
ligious Men may move God to give them

Children;

Serm. Children ; and then the Sense and Import
III. of the Words is this, that though God

has reserved to himself the fole Prero-
gative of giving and taking away Chil-
dren, when he pleases, yet he doth fre-
quently open his Ears to the Prayers of
good and virtuous Men, and so favour-
ably accept of their Alms-deeds, as to
give them Children, even beyond, and
contrary to Hope.

· And now what remains, but that, from
what we have laid down, we draw some
useful Instructions for the Direction of
our Lives and Conversations.

1. LET those, who have no Children, learn from hence, to wait with Patience the Divine Pleasure, to continue in Prayer and Alms-deeds, and to be fruitful in good Works; and then, they may be allured, that God will, in his good Time, bring Things about to their nearest Interest, and best Advantage; either they shall obtain that Blessing which they pray for, or, if not, they may safely conclude, it is best for them to be without it. Children are indeed Blessings, when towardly and dutiful; but God may foresee, that, if we had Children, either we should not perform our Duty to them, or they would be wanting in theirs to us; either we

should

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