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son, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3. You see how grace passes over the head of one, and lays its hand upon that of another, yea, sometimes it crosses hands, and as Jacob guided his hands wittingly laying his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh, setting the younger before the elder, contrary to Joseph's desire and design: so God crosses our natural affections and expectations, blessing such as we least thought of, and leaving others whom our hearts were most set upon, to convince us of the freeness of his grace: but thus his covenant doth stand sure.
5. Delays are no denials. God hath his time to bring in the prodigal sons of pious parents; the King of heaven can take what time he pleaseth to work on the hearts of men; Saul shall long persecute the church, yet become a chosen vessel. It deserves attention that the children of many pious parents sowed their wild oats in youth; even Jacob was guilty of many faults, especially of stealing the blessing by a lie: several of Jacob's sons had foul spots, Reuben and Judah were guilty of incest, Simeon and Levi of rash anger, treachery, and murder; yet all distinguished patriarchs: several of them combined out of envy to sell Joseph, whereby they almost broke their father Jacob's honest heart; but let not religious parents make too hasty conclusions; he that believes makes not haste; it may be God defers to hear because he loves your company, and would make you an errand to the throne of grace, your prayers are yet too cold, he thinks fit to quicken importunity: the answer will come doubly loaded, and pay for all your pains and patience; give God the glory of his wisdom, he knows how to husband your mercies better than you. It is worth observing that those women in sacred writ that waited longest for children * Gen. xlviii. 14, 20.
had the best, as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Manoah's wife, and Elizabeth. Indulge not despondency, you may see God's salvation before you die.
6. If God never shews mercy to your seed, you must not so much murmur at his justice, as bow to his sovereignty; he is the absolute disposer of his own grace; such an act of prerogative may be adored, but must not be questioned: the apostle Paul having gone as far as Scripture led him on the subject of God's casting off the covenanted seed of believing Abraham, and adopting the forlorn and forsaken Gentiles, stands on the brink of the unfathomable abyss, and cries, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!"* The immensity and ineffability of these counsels are such depths! as he saith in Job xxxiii. 13, “He giveth not account of any of his matters;" they are oft unaccountable, but never unrighteous; kings have mysteries of state, not proper to be communicated to vulgar capacities, † and much more the infinite God; "secret things belong to God." It is presumption to pry into God's ark, our weak eyes cannot behold this glorious sun: poor sinner, down on thy knees, and say thus to God: Lord, I will rather admire the riches of thy grace to my own soul, than quarrel with thee for not giving my child grace; it is an inscrutable depth, my humble ignorance shall stop at thy pleasure, my will shall be melted into thy will; if my offspring must glorify thy justice, I will acquiesce therein and say, though "clouds and darkness are round about thee, yet righteousness and judgment are the habitations of thy throne," Psal. xcvii. 2.
7. Yet for all this, religion must be owned and vin* Ω βάθος, Rom. xi. 33. + Arcana imperii. Deut. xxix. 29.
dicated, "God is good to the soul that seeks him;" to them "that wait for him."* He never said to the seed of Jacob, seek "ye me in vain." If God never shew mercy to any of my descendants, yet I will never justify the wicked, by saying, “It is in vain to serve God." No, God forbid, I will never say, that prayerless families are as good as praying families, my own experience, and thousands more, besides the infallible verity of the faithful God, will contradict that atheistical maxim. "In the keeping of God's commandments I have found great reward:"|| yea, I have found that the miscarriage of my child, which is the greatest cross that ever I met with, hath been blessed for the good of my soul; as the good woman said, bearing my children and my crosses has cost me dear, but I could not be without either. It is not fit that I should choose my affliction, and what God lays on is welcome, I will esteem Christ no worse for his cross; for I find these bitter waters most medicinal, and the sweetest fruit grows on this bitter tree; the depravity of my child hath helped to make me better; this heart-breaking hath proved a heart-melting; it is true, wicked men are hardened by seeing the children of the covenant thus miscarry, even as divisions and offences amongst God's people, are occasions of their ruin, yea, the gospel preaching is the savour of death to some,§ but as God is just therein to them, so my soul hath cause to bless the physician of souls, that so tempers this poison, as to make it wholesome physic to my poor soul; my crosses are better than their comforts. I will commend religion, though I mourn over my irreligious child; godliness is gain,, though I gain not grace for my child by it.
Lam. iii. 25. || Psal. xix. 11.
Mal. iii. 14.
+ Isa. xlv. 19.
§ Matt. x. 34, 35. 2 Cor. ii. 16.
THE SUBJECT CALCULATED TO PRODUCE CONVICTION AND HUMILIATION.
ON a reveiw of what has been advanced the reflections I shall make, are intended to produce conviction and humiliation.
If it be true, that notwithstanding the sins and sufferings in a pious man's family, which occasion much grief to his spirit, yet he is comforted and satisfied with God's gracious, gospel covenant; then it follows by the rule of contraries that those families that have no right to this gospel covenant are in a dreadful state, have no grounds of comfort or satisfaction, no hopes of salvation; so remaining they are not under a blessing, but under a curse, Prov. iii. 33, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked;" the plague is in that house; set a cross on the door, and say, Lord, have mercy upon it; wicked families, read your doom, and a train of curses, Deut. xxviii. 15-19; you make a great reckoning of your estates, alas there is no covenant blessing on any thing you have, they are in themselves great blessings of God, but to you they are cursed, Mal. ii. 2, "If you will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and will curse your blessings, yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart;" this is an awful, flaming declaration uttered against impenitent, inconsiderate sinners; not only their persons, but all their domestic concerns are under a curse; your meat, money, houses, wives, children, garments, employments, enjoyments, all that you do, all that you have shall be accursed; this is a heavy
curse; a curse uttered by man has sometimes operated long and dreadfully; Noah pronounced a curse on Ham's offspring, which never left them till the Canaanites were extirpated by Shem's posterity. *
The subject is important and affecting, I shall say something,
First, To irreligious parents, and then to irreligious children.
I begin with addressing parents within the bounds of the visible church. 1. Some understand not this covenant, they never set themselves to consider it; they bring their infants to be baptized according to custom, because others do so, and it would be a shame not to have them christened, neighbours would cry out against them; but they neither know the meaning of baptism, nor covenant, nor have they any mind to know them. 2. They take no pains to get their own souls interested in this covenant, but "are strangers from the covenants of promise,"† and so have no hope for themselves or children. We find great fault with prodigal parents that waste and alienate their ancestors' inheritance, which should have descended to their children, but it is a thousand times worse for parents, to cut off this blessed entail of the gospel covenant. 3. Most are negligent in doing their duty to children. Alas, how few will take pains to instruct them in the principles of religion, the nature, use, ends of the seals of the covenant, in praying for them, as if there were no such text in the bible, or they had never made such a promise, "as to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!" Ah! wretched father, or mother, out of your own mouth are you condemned, who promise what you never intend to perform; how notoriously do you falsify your words, and betray your * Gen. ix. 25. + Eph. ii. 12. + Eph. vi. 4.