« AnteriorContinuar »
their bodies; what is he that suffers his family to neglect the salvation of their souls ?
That nothing of this, therefore, may be laid to my charge, if ever Providence sees fit to bless me with children of my own, I will take effectual care, so soon as conveniently I can, to devote them unto God by baptism, that what guilt they have contracted, by coming through my loins, may be washed away by the laver of regeneration; and then to be constantly soliciting the throne of grace, that he who hath given them to me, would be pleased to give himself to them.
The next thing to be done, as soon as they come to be capable of instruction, is, to take all occasions, and make use of all means, to work the knowledge of God into their heads, and the grace of Christ into their hearts; by teaching them to remember their Creator in the days of their youth; by acquainting them with the duties that he that made them expects from them; with the rewards they shall have, if dutiful, and the punishments they shall feel, if disobedient, children; still accommodating my expressions to the shallow capacity of their tender years. And, according to their doing, or not doing, of what they have been told, I shall reward them with what is most pleasing, or punish them with what is most displeasing, to their years. To speak to them of heaven, and eternal glory, will not encourage them so much, as to give them their childish pleasures and desires; and the denouncing of a future hell will not affright them so much, as the inflicting a present smart. Hence it is that Solomon so oft inculcates this upon parents, as their duty to their children, that they should not spare the rod, lest they spoil the child.
But I must still take care to let them understand, that what I do is from a principle of love and affection to them, not of fury and indignation against them. For, by this means, God may correct me for correcting them; may set before my children such an example of indiscreet and sinful passion, as they will be apt enough to
learn, without my teaching them. On the other hand, it behoves me, if possible, so to order my family, that my children may not see or hear, and so not learn, any thing but goodness in it; for commonly, according to what we learn when we are young, we practise when we are old. And, therefore, as I shall take great care that my children learn nothing that is evil or sinful at home, so likewise, that they do not come into such company abroad, where their innocence may be assaulted with swearing, cursing, or any kind of profane or obscene discourse, which the generality of our youth are so obnoxious to.
Or, at least, if this is not wholly to be avoided, to prevent these poisonous weeds from taking root in the heart, it behoves me to take all opportunities of discoursing to them of God and Christ, of the immortality of their souls, and the future state they are to be doomed to in another world, when they have lived a little while in this; that, according as they grow in years, they may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Christ. And when they come to years of discretion, capable of doing farther honour and service to God and their country, by some calling or profession, I must be sure to place them in such a one, as may be no hindrance to that high and heavenly calling, which they have in Christ Jesus, but rather contribute to further and promote it; that being, like tender plants, ingrafted into the true vine, they may bring forth much fruit to God's glory, to my comfort, and their own salvation.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to do my duty to my servants, as well as expect they should do theirs to me.
IT was Joshua's, and, by God's grace, it shall be my resolution, that I and my house will serve the Lord.
I, in the first place, and then my house; for if I myself do not, I cannot expect that they should. So that, for the ordering of my family in general, I must not only press their duty upon them, but likewise practise my own duty, in suppressing all vicious and lewd conversation, and composing all strife and contention amongst them; in praying every day, at the least, twice with them; in catechizing and expounding the principles of religion to them, and in calling for an account of every sermon and godly discourse they hear, either in private or in public; in seeing that they constantly frequent the divine ordinances, and that they behave themselves so conscientiously therein, that they may be, some way or other, the better by them. And to these ends, I think it my duty to allow my servants some time, every day, wherein to serve God, as well as to see they spend their other hours in serving me; and to make them sensible, that they do not serve me only for myself, but ultimately and principally in reference unto God; their serving me making way for my better serving God.
And, for this reason, I cannot believe but it is as great a sin to cumber my servants, as myself, with too much worldly business. For, how can they spend any time in the service of God, when I require all their time in my own? And, how justly should I be condemned, if, by this means, I should bring them into a sort of necessity of sinning, either in not obeying God, or not obeying me. Not that I think it a servant's duty, to neglect his Creator to serve his master; on the contrary, he is obliged, in all cases, where their commands interfere, to obey God rather than man. But where they do not, there is a strict injunction upon all servants, that they should be obedient to their masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ, Eph. vi. 5. But how with fear and trembling? Why, fearing lest they should offend God, in offending them, and trembling at the thoughts of being disobedient to the divine command, which enjoins
them to be obedient to their masters in all things, not answering again, Tit. ii. 9. that is, not repining at their master's lawful commands, nor muttering and maundering against them as some are apt to do. For it is as great a sin in servants to speak irreverently to their masters, as in masters to speak passionately to their servants.
But how are servants to give obedience to their masters, with singleness of heart, as unto Christ? Why, by obeying them only in obedience unto Christ; that is, they are therefore to do their master's will, because it is the Lord's will they should do it; serving them, not with eye-service, as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good-will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, Eph. vi. 6, 7. Col. iii. 22. This is the duty therefore that I shall be oft inculcating upon my servants, and shall as oft be reflecting upon myself, that what I require for my own service may be always in subordination to God's, who is our common Lord and Master, whose laws are equally obliging to all ranks and conditions of men, and in whose sight there is no respect of persons.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to feed the flock, that God shall set me over, with wholesome food, neither starving them by idleness, poisoning them with error, nor puffing them up with impertinencies. AND here I cannot but declare, that ever since I knew what it was to study, I have found, by experience, that spiritual and intellectual pleasures do as far surpass those that are temporal and sensual, as the soul exceeds the body. And for this reason, as I always thought the study and profession of divinity to be the noblest and most agreeable of all others, as carrying with it its own encouragement and reward; so I have often won
dered with myself, that the greatest persons in the world should not be desirous and ambitious of exercising their parts in the study of this necessary, as well as sublime, science, and even devoting themselves to the profession of it. For do they aspire after honour? What greater honour can there be than to be the mouth of God to the people, and of the people unto God; to have the Most High himself not only to speak by them, but in them too? What greater honour, than to have a commission from the King of kings, to represent himself before his people, and call upon them, in his name, to turn from the error of their ways, and walk in the paths of God to everlasting glory? What greater honour, than to be an instrument, in his hand, to bring poor souls from the gates of hell, to set them among princes in the court of heaven? Do they thirst after pleasures? What greater pleasure can they have, than to make it their business to feed themselves and others with the bread and water of life?
But stay, my soul, let not thy thoughts run only upon the dignity of thy function, and the spiritual pleasures that attend the faithful discharge of it; but think, likewise, upon the strict account thou must give of it in another life: the serious consideration of which, as it cannot but be a great comfort to the true and faithful pastor, who has diligently fed his flock with the sincere milk of God's word; so must it be a great terror and confusion to the slothful and negligent, the false and deceitful dispensers of the divine mysteries, who have either carelessly lost, or treacherously deluded, the souls of those committed to their charge, which they must one day answer for, as well as for their own. And therefore, that nothing of this kind may ever be laid to my charge, I solemnly promise and resolve, before God, so to demean myself in the exercise of my ministerial function, as to make the care of souls, especially of those committed to my charge, the chief study and business of my life.