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it is God who gives men power to get wealth, and therefore that the best way to prosper in the world, is to secure his favor ? And has not our blessed Lord himself promised, that if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all outward gifts shall be added unto us?
Abraham, no doubt, was a man of as great business as such objectors may be; but yet he would find time to command his household to serve the Lord. Nay, David was a king, and consequently had a great deal of business upon his hands; yet notwithstanding, he professes that he would walk in his house with a perfect heart. And, to instance but one more, holy Joshua was a person certainly engaged very much in temporal affairs; and yet he solemnly declares before all Israel, that as for him and his household, they would serve the Lord. And did persons but redeem their time, as Abraham, David, or Joshua did, they would no longer complain, that family duties kept them too long from the business of the world.
III. But my third and last general head, under which I was to offer some motives, in order to excite all governors, with their respective households, to serve the Lord in the manner before recommended, I hope, will serve instead of a thousand arguments, to prove the weakness and folly of any such objection.
And the first motive I shall mention is the duty of gratitude, which you that are governors of families owe to God. Your lot, every one must confess, is cast in a fair ground; providence has given you a goodly heritage, above many of your fellow creatures, and therefore, out of a principle of gratitude, you ought to endeavor, as much as in you lies, to make every person of your respective households to call upon him as long as they live; not to mention, that the authority, with which God has invested you as parents and governors of families, is a talent committed to your trust, and which you are bound to improve to your Master's honor. In other things we find governors and parents can exercise lordship over their children and servants readily, and frequently enough can say to one, Go, and he goeth ; and to another, Come, and he cometh; to a third, Do this, and he doeth it. And shall this power be so often employed in your own affairs, and never exerted in the things of God? Be astonished, o heavens, at this !
Thus did not faithful Abraham; no, God says that he knew Abraham would “command his servants and children after him.” Thus did not Joshua; no, he was resolved not only to walk with God himself, but to improve his authority in making all about him do so too; As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Let us go and do likewise.
But secondly, If gratitude to God will not, methinks love and pity to your children should move you, with your respective families, to serve the Lord.
Most people express a great fondness for their children: nay, so great, that very often their own lives are wrapped up in those of their offspring. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ?" says God by his prophet Isaiah. He speaks of it as a monstrous thing, and scarcely credible; but the words immediately following, affirm it to be possible; yea, they may forget; and experience also assures us they may Father and mother may both forsake their children: for what greater degree of forgetfulness can they express towards them, than to neglect the improvement of their better part, and not bring them up in the knowledge and fear of God?
It is true indeed, parents seldom forget to provide for their children's bodies, (though, it is to be feared, some men are so far sunk beneath the beasts that perish, as to neglect even that) but then how often do they forget, or rather, when do they remember, to secure the salvation of their immortal souls ? But is this their way of expressing their fondness for the fruit of their bodies? Is this the best testimony they can give of their affection to the darling of their hearts? Then was Delilah fond of Samson, when she delivered him up into the hands of the Philistines: then were those ruffians well affected to Daniel, when they threw him into a den of lions.
But thirdly, If neither gratitude to God, nor love and pity to your children, will prevail on you; yet let a principle of common honesty and justice move you to set up the holy resolution in the text.
This is a principle which all men would be thought to act upon. But certainly, if any may be truly censured for their injustice, none can be more liable to such censure, than those who think themselves injured if their servants withdraw themselves from their bodily work, and yet they in return take no care of their inestimable souls. For is it just that servants should spend their time and strength in their masters' service, and masters not at the same time give them what is just and equal for their service!
It is true, some men may think they have done enough when they give unto their servants food and raiment, and say, did not' I bargain with thee for so much a year?' But if they give them no other reward than this, what do they less for their very beasts? But are not servants better than they? Doubtless they are ; and however masters may put off their convictions for the present, they will find a time will come,
when they shall know they ought to have given them some spiritual as well as temporal wages; and the cry of those that have mowed down their fields, will enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
But fourthly, If neither gratitude to God, pity to children, nor a principle of common justice to servants, are sufficient to balance all objections; yet let that darling, that prevailing motive of self-interest turn the scale, and engage you with your respective households to serve the Lord.
This weighs greatly with you in other matters : be then persuaded to let it have a due and full influence on you in this : and if it has, if you have hut faith as a grain of mustard seed, how can you avoid believing, that promoting family religion would be the best means to promote your own temporal, as well as eternal welfare? For “godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come.”
Besides, you all, 'doubtless, wish for honest servants, and pious children; and to have them prove otherwise, would be as great a grief to you, as it was to Elisha to have a treacherous Gehazi, or David to be troubled with a rebellious Absalom. But how can it be expected they should learn their duty, except those set over them, take care to teach it to them? Is it not as reasonable to expect you should reap where you had not sown, or gather where you had not strewed ?
Did christianity, indeed, give any countenance to children and servants to disregard their parents and masters according to the flesh, or represent their duty to them, as inconsistent with their entire obedience to their Father and Master who is in heaven, there might then be some pretense for neglecting to instruct them in the principles of such a religion. But since the precepts of this pure and undefiled religion, are all of them holy, just, and good; and the more they are taught their duty to God, the better they will perform their duties to you; methinks to neglect the improvement of their souls, out of a dread of spending too much time in religious duties, is acting quite contrary to your own interest as well as duty.
Fifthly and lastly, If neither gratitude to God, love to your children, common justice to your servants, nor even that most prevailing motive, self-interest, will excite; yet let a consideration of the terrors of the Lord persuade you to put in practice the pious resolution in the text. Remember, the time will come, and that perhaps very shortly, when we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; where we must give a solemn and strict account how we have had our conversation, in our respective families, in this world. How will you en
dure to see your children and servants (who ought to be your joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,) coming out as so many swift witnesses against you; cursing the father that begot them, the womb that bare them, the paps which they have sucked, and the day they ever entered into your houses ? Think you not the damnation which men must endure for their own sins will be sufficient, that they need load themselves with the additional guilt of being accessary to the damnation of others also ? O consider this, all ye that forget to serve the Lord with your respective households, "lest he pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you !"
But God forbid, brethren, that any such evil should befall you. No, rather will I hope, that you have been in some measure convinced, by what has been said, of the great importance of family religion; and therefore are ready to cry out, in the words immediately following the text, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord;" and again, verse 21.“ nay, but we will (with our several households serve the Lord.”
And that there may be always such a heart in you, let me exhort all governors of families, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, often to reflect on the inestimable worth of their own souls, and the infinite ransom, even, the precious blood of Jesus Christ, which has been paid down for them. Remember, that you are fallen creatures; that you are by nature lost and estranged from God : and that you can never be restored to your primitive happiness, till by being born again of the Holy Ghost, you arrive at your primitive state of purity, have the image of God re-stamped upon your souls, and thereby made meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light. Do, I say, but seriously and frequently reflect on, and act as persons that believe such important truths, and you will no more neglect your family's spiritual welfare than your own. No, the love of God, which will then be shed abroad in your hearts, will constrain you to do your utmost to preserve them. And the deep sense of God's free grace in Christ Jesus, (which you will then have) in calling you, will excite you to do your utmost to save others, especially those of your own household. And though, after all your pious endeavors, some may continue unreformed; yet you will have this comfortable reflection to make, that you did what you could to make your families religious. And therefore may rest assured of setting down in the kingdom of heaven, with Abraham, Joshua, and Cornelius, and all the godly householders, who in their several generations shone forth as so many lights in their respective households upon earth. Amen.
THE METHOD OF GRACE.
JEREMIAH vi. 14.
They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly,
saying, peace, peace, when there is no peace. As God can send a nation or people no greater blessing, than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers; so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world, is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskillful guides. And yet, in all ages, we find that there have been many wolves in sheep's clothing, many that daubed with untempered mortar, that prophesied smoother things than God did allow. As it was formerly, so it is now, there are many that corrupt the word of God, and deal deceitfully with it. It was so in a special manner in the prophet Jeremiah's time; and he, faithful to that God that employed, him, did not fail, from time to time, to open his mouth against them, and to bear a noble testimony to the honor of that God, in whose name he from time to time spake. If you will read his prophecy, you will find that none spake more against such ministers than Jeremiah : and here especially, in the chapter out of which the text is taken, he speaks very severely against them; he charges them with several crimes, particularly, he charges them with covetousness : for, says he in the 13th verse, “ from the least of them even to the greatest of them, every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest
, every one dealeth falsely.” And then in the words of the text, in a more special manner, he exemplifies how they had dealt falsely, how they had behaved treacherously to poor souls, says he, they have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying peace, peace, when there is no peace. The prophet
, in the name of God, had been denouncing war against the people, he had been telling them, that their houses should be left desolate, and the Lord would certainly visit the land with war, “therefore," says he, in the 11th verse, "I am full of the fury of the Lord: I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together. For even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days. And their houses