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into hell. I have many a time told thee, I must for ever justify thee, if thy justice be glorified in my destruction for all my abominations; and if thou deal thus with my beloved offspring, I will say, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." Righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto me and mine confusion of face.* I submit my all to thee, and thank thee for grace in my own soul, and hopes of glory; and if my wilful child may not bring a revenue of glory to free grace, I will be submissive.
But say you, what tender-hearted parent can be contented to see his child lost?
[i.] You must distinguish betwixt nature and grace. Nature loves its own, and cannot bear to see part of itself in misery. Yea, grace cannot but desire, cannot but earnestly breathe after the spiritual and eternal good of our children. And it is not only lawful, but our duty to desire it; yet if God deny it, grace brings man's will to a due submission to the divine disposal; for the more a Christian is like to God, the more is his will melted into God's will; and therefore will a child of God say, Amen, on the execution of God's justice upon relatives at the great day. As sanctified Levi in the cause of God, said to his father and his mother, "I have not seen; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children." Nature will be in a sort swallowed up by grace in God's good pleasure. A religious gentlewoman had a vicious son, who fell into many debaucheries, and into one heinous act, which sunk her tender spirit; but recovering herself, she said to him with some warmth, Ah, my depraved son, thou hast cost me many a tear and groan, and bitter hour, but a day is coming when I shall triumph in seeing the just vengeance of God executed upon thee; *Psal. cxlv. 17. Dan. ix. 7.
+ Deut. xxxiii. 9.
this did so appal the young gentleman, that he laid it to heart, repented, and became a new man, to the joy of his pious mother. But,
[ii.] You must consider a state of final condemnation, in a double light.-As a state of unchecked sinning, blaspheming and hating of God to the utmost. God calls you not to be content with this, which is so directly contrary to the grace of God in the Christian; nor yet may you be content to have your child separated from God, the chief good; which is the worst part of hell. But,-Hell may be considered as a place or state of torment and misery, to the rational creature; and on this account, though you cannot have satisfaction in having your child tormented, which is abhorrent to nature, but your souls must be so overruled with the divine pleasure, as that, where his will is manifested, you must rest satisfied with that by which God thinks proper to glorify himself.
(11.). Yet further, say, Lord, if thou refuse to hear me for this or that particular child, yet I will thank thee for free grace displayed towards another child, or more of my children that are hopeful. God forbid, that my sorrow for our child should drown all my comfort in another, or my complaints should silence my gratitude; I will praise thee for what I enjoy, and hope for more. Nature teacheth persons to beg a future, by acknowledging a former kindness. I bless the Lord, I have a praying, obedient child, that was born as destitute of grace as this, and I humbly take this as a pledge of more; thou hast grace enough for all my children, I will not despond, but be thankful; such a child I hope, hath embraced the covenant of God. "Who am I, O Lord God! and what is my house? that thou hast brought me hitherto; and this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God! but
thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come; and is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" thou didst not owe me any thing, and yet thou hast given me the best things. It is true I have a Cain, yet I have a righteous Abel, I have a Shem as well as a Ham, an Isaac as well as an Ishmael, a Jacob as well as an Esau, a Solomon as well as an Amnon or Absalom. All my children were born in sin, and God might have suffered all to have died in sin; but blessed be free grace, that hath plucked this or that as a brand out of the fire; God hath heard prayer and taken of my seed to be the Lord's, he hath not dealt so with all families. I own this as a higher preferment for my children than if they were the greatest princes on earth, I will be thankful for them, yet jealous of them, and mix my praises with prayers, the heart is very deceitful; I will give God glory, yet not glory in my children. But my jealousy shall not obscure the glory of this mercy; Ebenezer, hitherto God hath helped; I will rejoice with trembling; something God hath done that I may love and praise him, and be encouraged to hope for more; much is yet to do that I may still have an errand to the throne of grace, thus my Lord keeps me in a waiting, depending posture, I must have something to evidence that God is my God, and a hearer of prayer; I must not have all, that I may know I am on earth, and not in heaven. It may be religion may live in my family when I am dead and gone; and if all my offspring be not happy, I hope some may; however, God hath done my own soul good, and laid a foundation of grace in my heart, and will lay the top-stone in glory. It was a notable speech of a gracious minister of Christ, Mr. Avery;† passing to New England, in a storm at sea, expecting every wave * 2 Sam. vii. 18-20. + See the life of Mr. Mather, pag. 131.
to bring death, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Lord, I cannot claim preservation of my life, but according to thy covenant I claim heaven; immediately a wave wafted him to heaven-he, his wife, and five children, being then drowned. And is this nothing that thou mayest with gratitude and confidence claim a promise for thy own salvation, if it reach no farther?
(12.) Lastly, Lord, notwithstanding all the discouragement I have, I will believe, hope, and pray till thou take me off by my own death, or till the death of my child. As I will follow on to know, and love, and serve the Lord, whatever thou do with me, so I am resolved to pray, and hope, and wait whatever thou say to me, for I am sure, it is good for a man both to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." God is worthy to be waited on, even upon my knees, I cannot be in a better exercise. I confess, my dear Lord, I am a poor worm, have a wicked heart, am of polluted lips, and a sinful life; I deserve not the least crumb of bread, or drop of water, I have forfeited my right to all covenant as well as common mercies, for myself and offspring; I have a child bearing my own image, not thine; a child of wrath by nature as well as others, but thou in thy love hast made a covenant with believers and their seed, thou hast brought me into the bond of the covenant; the like mercy I beg for mine, my child must have thy image as well as mine, or it is undone for ever, and it is not in my power to convey it, but thou canst. My daily errand to the throne of grace, is to beg the blessings of the covenant of grace, for me and mine, I will not go from thy door without alms; thou shalt have a troublesome guest of me till thou grant me my request; O remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast
*Lam. iii. 26.
caused me to hope.* Come, Lord, let covenant grace enter into the soul of my child, which is part of myself, and I will take it as done to myself; if I had not the mercy I beg under a promise, I durst not ask it, but thou hast made thyself a debtor, and I will plead thy bond by faith in prayer; thou canst not deny thy own hand-writing; thou art faithful, and wilt perform it to some, and why not to me?
God loves such importunate beggars, and our dear Lord Jesus hath proposed two parables,† to encourage importunity; therefore it is not unmannerly intrusion, but only earnestness and approved perseverance, wherein God most delights; the end thereof is not to move God to alter his purpose, but that our own souls may have the condition of the promise; thus the Canaanitish, or Syrophenician ‡ woman cries out for her daughter, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil," Matt. xv. 22-28; she received a first, a second, and a third repulse, but she perseveres still, and will have no denial, and at last obtained her suit, with a high encomium and large grant, "O woman, great is thy faith, be it even unto thee as thou wilt." Go thou and do likewise. You cannot be too importunate, only do
not limit the Holy One of Israel; as long as there is life, there is hope, therefore continue your prayers as long as the children, for whose spiritual and eternal interests you have so much solicitude, continue in the land of the living, and as long as the breath of life animates your own frame.
* Psal. cxix. 49.
Luke xi. 5, 8, 9. xviii. 1-8. Mark vii. 6.