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the Text, is laid down in general Terms, SERM. which imply fome Limitations and Ex- III. ceptions; and it is fufficient that, for the moft Part, the Matter of Fact is true, that Comfort and Bleffednefs is the natural Reward of Children bred up in the Fear and Nurture of the Lord. It is a common Obfervation, that, when the best Things degenerate, they become the worft; and, therefore, it is no Wonder that, fince a good and dutiful Child is one of the most valuable Bleffings, a refractory and wicked Child fhould be one of the most grating Troubles and severest Afflictions, which can befal a Man. For the most Part, when Children are bred up virtuously and religiously, in the Fear of God, and a Senfe of Religion, they retain it as long as they live, they are udum et molle Lutum, foft and pliable Clay, and may be reduced into any Form, and are difpofed to receive any Impreffion : 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 elfe over rigorous and fevere, or else do not fow the Seeds of Virtue in their Hearts, and
SERM. and principle them in the Doctrines and
II. THAT God is the fole Author and Difpofer of these Bleffings: Children are his Heritage, and the Fruit of the Womb is bis Reward. The Word, Heritage, de
notes to us, that they are the voluntary Gift SE RM. 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 Enjoyment of them. An Heritage is an Estate got by our Ancestors, which descends 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 obferve, that the Hebrew Word in the Original fignifies, any unmerited Favour conferred upon a Man, whereby his State or Condition is altered, and is better expreffed by the Word Gratuity than Reward. And then the Words run thus, Children are the Heritage of the Lord, a Bleffing 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 pleafes; or elfe, if we like the Vulgar Tranflation, and retain the Word Reward, we must underftand it of fuch 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 religious 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 referved to himself the fole Prerogative of giving and taking away Children, when he pleafes, yet he doth frequently open his Ears to the Prayers of good and virtuous Men, and fo favourably 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 fome ufeful Inftructions for the Direction of our Lives and Converfations.
1. LET thofe, 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 affured, that God will, in his good Time, bring Things about to their nearest Intereft, and beft Advantage; either they fhall obtain that Bleffing which they pray for, or, if not, they may fafely conclude, it is beft for them to be without it. Children are indeed Bleffings, when towardly and dutiful; but God may foresee, that, if we had Children, either we fhould not perform our Duty to them, or they would be wanting in theirs to us; either we fhould
fhould love them too much, or too little, SE RM. be too indulgent, or too fevere, and then III. it is much better for us to be without them: So little Reafon was there for that impatient Exclamation of Rachel, Give me Children, or elfe I die. How Gen. xxx. often doth God in his Mercy deny our1.. Prayers, when to give us the Defire of our Hearts would be to ruin and undo us ?
2. LET thofe, who have a numerous Family of Children, be thankful to God for bestowing thefe Bleffings on them, and use their utmoft Endeavour to make them Bleffings indeed; by grounding them in the Principles of Religion, and bringing them up foberly and virtuously, in fome lawful Calling; by advising, reproving, and correcting them as Occafion requires; always laying down this as a fure and certain Maxim, That thofe Impreffions, which are made upon them in their green and tender Years, will continue as long as they live; and though fome, who have had a fober and religious Education, should miscarry, yet generally it is not fo for the most Part, like new Veffels, they will retain the Scent of that Liquor which was first poured into them. Much less should that Man, who is the Parent of a