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trust. 4. There are too many parents that are scandalous, profane, and atheistical, and teach their young ones to lie and swear, to be drunk and unclean, by the evil example they set before them. A child brought up with Plato, coming home, and hearing his father in a furious passion, could say, I never saw or heard the like in Plato. Alas, sirs, you lessen your esteem with your children by sinful courses, you bring guilt upon your family, yea, you do your endeavour to root out your family; "the seed of the wicked shall be cut off,” Psal. xxxvii. 28. The whole Psalm, and daily experience testify the same. Ah sinner," thou hast consulted shame to thy house," and some generations hence may reap the fruits of thy folly. The text saith, “God will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him." There are some hereditary sins, and some hereditary punishments bequeathed as a heritage to children; divines vindicate God's justice by proving that God may righteously punish sins of relations in their correlates, for children, say some, are portions of parents, as people are the riches and strength of princes; yea, they have in them something of the parent, they are parts of them. So David was punished in his child's death. But I shall not spend more time on this point, because so much has been said on it by many others.
How could you see your children perish in hell through your fault? How could you hear their cries, and see their torments in the infernal lake, gnashing their teeth, and with devouring flames about their ears, saying, oh wretched parents, that by your soul-destroying negligence, have brought yourselves and me into Filii sunt res parentum.
+ Exod. xx. 5.
* Hab. ii. 10. Aliquid parentis.
this lamentable state! why would you not speak a word to me, nor seek an interest in the covenant of grace for me, to prevent these eternal torments? that saw me go on in sin, and would not stop my course betimes, by faithful admonition and sound correction, nay, that set me a bad example, and were content that I should perish with you, cursed be the day that ever I should know such criminal parents, well had it been for me, that I had never been born, or had been brought forth a brute without a rational soul, that I might have died like a brute; I had even been comparatively happy if you my parents had put me to death, or like the heathen Thracians, lamenting my birth, had buried me betimes, and rejoiced at my death, because of the miseries of human life; but O I was born and brought up for the murderer, the murderer of souls; I had then gone as a condemned person, out of a dark prison to the place of execution, but now, having lived so long in the world, I have fought against God, and sunk my soul deeper in hell. Oh! woe is me, that I lived under such cruel parents, and as the dying person said, I am going to hell and my wicked mother must follow after.
And oh, the agonizing feelings of lost parents on the hideous outcries of the fruit of their own bodies! here neighbour's fare is not good fare, but the rich man's torments are aggravated by his fine brethren's coming into the same condemnation. Every shriek of the child will tear the heart of the self-condemning father; how easily, will he say, might I have prevented these despairing groans by a faithful discharge of duty! what if I had followed my wandering child with sighs and tears to God and instructed him while there was hope, but now all too late, all too late, the guilt of my child's blood is now required at my hands; had I scourged him so as to fetch blood at every lash, it
would not have been so dreadful as the lashes of divine vengeance; had I disinherited him for his faults, it would not have been so overwhelming, as my being banished with him from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; oh! what is temporary punishment to eternal torments; oh! that God would strike the hearts of poor, careless parents with feelings of pity towards their poor perishing offspring.
In the next place I would address graceless, irreligious children, grown up. It is no excuse for you to be bad, because your parents are bad, are you so wildly sociable as to go to hell for company? This is like the miserable Indians that leap into their parents' graves to be buried with them; or like the Italian, who on visiting his father's sepulchre, and washing all parts of the monument with lamentable tears, fell down dead; God may say, who requires this at your hands? But still it is worse to follow their pernicious examples, as too many children do;* you may reverence the memory of your ancestors, yet examine their dictates by the word of truth, and not be what the young novice entering into a monastery was advised to be, namely, like an ass, to swallow down all that comes. No, no, you are redeemed from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers, and therefore must inquire not simply for the old way, but which is the good way. It is too much like what Cicero, the heathen orator, thinks a commendable piece of religion, to live and die in the religion of our ancestors. It rather becomes children to take warning by their fathers' sins and faults, and to avoid them and
Progenies viperarum nominat potius quam viperas ut toti ordini exprobret virulentam malitiam; totum corpus damnare voluit.-Calv. in Harm. Evan. in Matt. iii. 7. Jer. vi. 16. 1 Pet. iv. 18.
+ Tu et asinus unum estote.
their bad consequences. So God saith, "If the father beget a son, who seeth all his father's sins, considereth and turneth, he shall not die for his father's iniquity:"* but if you follow their sinful courses, you justify them, condemn God's ways, and destroy your own souls; yea, you bring upon yourselves the guilt of your fathers' sins besides your own; wicked parents are set before you as sea-marks, to avoid, not as land-marks, to guide you. The heathen orator said, parents are as household gods, their words should be as oracles;† but alas, they are only men, and may mistake and miscarry, but God in his word is an unerring guide: follow the Lord and you cannot do wrong or miscarry, but you may miscarry by following the best men, you will certainly miscarry if you follow bad men. The woman of Samaria erroneously pleads the place of her ancestors' worship; and Jeremiah confutes the fond plea of the foolish Jews alleging their fathers' practices, Jer. xliv. 20-23.
But I shall rather suggest a few words for the conviction of the irreligious children of pious parents, who so degenerate from their ancestors, that it may be said as in Isa. lxiii. 16, "Abraham is ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledgeth us not;" that is, as some take it, if our godly ancestors, Abraham and Jacob, were now alive, or raised up from the dead, they would not own us for their own legitimate offspring, we are so unlike them. I fear this is too true of the children of pious predecessors gone to rest, who tread not in their fathers' steps, but take a contrary course; their fathers prayed in their families, but the children have left off that practice; the fathers frequented religious societies, but the children frequent alehouses and bad company; the fathers walked closely with God, but
* Ezek. xviii. 14-–18. † θεοὶ ̓Εφεστιοὶ. + John iv. 20.
the children desert him and his institutions. Woe, woe, to such children!
1. They are perjured covenant-breakers, who in their baptism engaged to be the Lord's servants, subjects, and soldiers, and to fight under Christ's banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and took listing money, but now have turned their backs on Christ, and fight the devil's battles against Christ. Woe be to such perfidious rebels; what is the doom of such as outrun their colours? is it not death? Covenant-breakers are ranked amongst the worst of sinners: amongst heathens, Rom. i. 31; and such as make perilous times in the latter days, 2 Tim. iii. 3. If it were but a man's covenant it is a great crime to violate it, much more this; the covenant of marriage is in some sense the covenant of God,* but this more immediately, and he will avenge the quarrel of his covenant, Lev. xxvi. 25. Oh sirs! how dare you look God in the face whose covenant ye have broken? What have you to do "to take his covenant in your mouths,†” when conscience flies in your face?
2. You have lost the benefit of your infant privileges; your infant membership was but calculated for your infant state; now you are grown up adult persons, you must stand for yourselves, and no longer your parents for you; now you must "live by your own faith;"‡ you must enter personally into covenant with God, repent, and obey the gospel yourselves, or else if thou be a breaker of this gospel law, "thy circumcision becomes uncircumcision; that is, thy privileges are made void and insignificant: so God reckons the uncircumcised in heart with the uncircumcised in flesh, Jer. ix. 26; and saith, they were "as the children of the
Prov. ii. 17.
* Gal. iii. 15.
+ Psal. 1. 16.
| Rom. ii. 25.