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ment, the apostle saith, Acts ii. 39, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children;" this is a covenant that passeth to successors. Bargains, leases, and legacies may pass to children; children may also suffer for their parent's faults, a traitor's sons lose their father's inheritance.
Now we must look upon children in a double capacity: as children of heathens or Jews, Turks or infidels; and as children of christian parents. Concerning the former we have little to say. It is of the latter we treat, and of these also-some are only by an external profession in covenant--and others are savingly in covenant with God; we can say little concerning the former, we insist chiefly on the latter; and of all these-some children die in infancy-and others live to years of maturity. I shall say a word or two of the former, though it be the latter that I principally have in view.
With respect to children dying in infancy, if one or both of the parents truly fear God, we can state the following grounds of hope for their salvation: for,
1. They are holy, 1 Cor. vii. 14, and though this may mean federally or relatively holy, yet they may also be partakers of real holiness.
2. Our Saviour saith, of such is the kingdom of God, or of heaven, Matt. xix. 14, not only such as have the disposition of children, but infants themselves may be members of the church invisible here, and glorified hereafter.
3. Children of pious parents are in covenant with God, "Now to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made," Gal. iii. 16, natural as well as spiritual; it is true there was a covenant of peculiarity to give his seed the land of Canaan, and it is as true, the + Mark x. 14.
* Foedus ad successores transiens.
text speaks not of seeds but one seed, that is Christ, but the Scripture affirms, that in his seed, Christ, yea, "in thee," saith God, addressing Abraham, "shall all the families of the earth be blessed," Gen. xii. 3, for so doth the apostle interpret and apply it, Acts iii. 25, "Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant, which God hath made with our fathers."
4. David had good hopes that his child was gone to heaven, 2 Sam. xii. 23, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
Observe (1.) He doth not mean only into the state of the dead, where the child is, but into heaven where I shall find him, for his body was but part of him, and the least part.
(2.) This hope he had of him, though the child was the fruit of adultery.
(3.) Though the child was struck with death, as a punishment of David's sin.
(4.) Though the child had not yet circumcision, the seal of the covenant, for "he died on the seventh day,” verse 18, and we know that circumcision was not to take place till the eighth day. The stress, then, it seems, is not laid on the seal, but on the covenant; so that we see grounds of hope for the eternal salvation of the infants of believing parents. But how and whence this comes to pass, that such infants become capable of eternal salvation, is a difficult question.
Luther thinks that infants have actual faith, from Matt. xviii. 6, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me." So reason is in infants in its principle, root, or habit, virtually though not yet actually produced.† Others say that they are saved in some peculiar, unknown, unspeakable way without faith. Others are of opinion, that the faith of +Tanquam in principio et radice.
* Gen. xvii. 12.
parents is also that of children, according to the tenour of the covenant; "I will be thy God and the God of thy seed;" thus children in some sense have faith. So the text saith, Rom. xi. 16, "If the root be holy, the branches are also holy." So in human laws the father and the heir are but one person; of this opinion was Mr. Perkins,† and he produceth the testimony of the ancients, as St. Augustin and Bernard saying, it is meet, and for the honour of God, that to whom age denies their own faith, grace should grant to them that benefit by the faith of another. Bellarmine's objection, "That in this way children would be born believers, and so be conceived and born without original sin," He answers thus: "Believing parents sustain two characters, one considered as men, and thus they procreate children, having man's nature with all the corruptions of nature: the other as they are holy men, and believers, and thus their infants are not so much their children as the children of God; and infants are God's children, not by virtue of their birth, but in consequence of their parents' faith, which entitles them to all the blessings of the covenant." Thus he.
But this is not the subject of our present design and consideration.
* Perk. vol. 1. fol. 486.
CHAP. IV. .
SOURCES OF HOPE WHICH PARENTS DERIVE FROM THE COVENANT FOR THEIR ADULT AND SURVIVING CHILDREN.
II. THE next thing to be done is to establish this doctrine, That notwithstanding the sins and sufferings, breaking forth in a godly man's family, or breaking in upon it, which occasion much grief to his spirit, yet he is, and hath reason to be supported and satis'fied from God's gracious gospel-covenant.
I am very sensible that I have undertaken a difficult task, and walk in an untrodden path; but this I may confidently affirm, that whatever befalls a believer, he may fetch all good out of this blessed treasury: foreither his children shall be laid hold on by converting grace-or not: if they be, O what cause will he have to magnify covenant love on their behalf! if not, still he will exceedingly adore covenant grace, on his own account, which hath made him to differ, and in the worst case will find something in the covenant for supporting his spirit, and sanctifying his bitter cup of affliction, in the death of children. As to this latter, I shall say nothing but refer you to a treatise of Mr. John Flavel's, called the "Balm of the Covenant," applied to the bleeding wounds of afflicted saints.
But my present business is to gather up some gracious promises, like flowers, out of the garden of scripture, which may refresh the drooping hearts of God's poor children, sorrowing for the miscarriages of their children, that they may turn them into prayer, or use them as a cordial to support them, till the Lord shine upon the souls of their beloved offspring.
In general observe, that as the covenant of grace is a blessed constellation, so every promise is an orient, refulgent star, to shed both light and a cheering influence on the weary traveller, amidst dark and dismal dispensations, wherein he is appalled with sad fears that his child will be a cast-away.
The question is, what grounds of hope in the scriptures have pious parents, for their children that are grown, or growing up and likely to survive or outlive them? The resolving of this is of exceeding great importance, and having searched the sacred records, I do find twelve sorts of promises that may encourage the hearts of parents.
1. The first and chief promise is of God himself, Gen. xvii. 7, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." This extends both to Abraham's natural seed, and afterwards to his spiritual seed, all Gentile believers, Rom. iv. 12, 18. O what a privilege is this! whatever God is, hath, or can be or do, is for believers, of all that is communicable, divine power, wisdom, goodness, mercy, holiness, justice, is the portion of believers, and their seed, whatever they can ask or expect from a God, shall be in due season, laid out in them and for them; this one word is the substance and confluence of all good, temporal, spiritual, eternal; My God is the most extensive and comprehensive word in the world. What can a man desire more, and no less will give a gracious soul content for himself and his seed; no less is in the covenant, Jer. xxxi. 33, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord," Psal. xxxiii. 12. God in some sense may be the God of nations and families, as well as in
* Deus meus et omnia.