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Leave it In those cases indeed we should always remember the intimation of the wise man, "At i bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place." Persons who have families and callmgs should not be too frequently, nor too long, from home. It will cherish a roving disposition, multiply expense, injure those affairs which require inspection, and produce a nameless train of evils. But sometimes journeys are necessary. Business may call a man abroad. Friends and relations may live at a distance. Health may require a change of scene. Now when God calls us abroad, he will take care of us, and we may hope to find the proverb true, The path of duty is the path of safety.
Hence he is reminded of the Welfare of his house and family in his absence. Thou ehalt know that thy tabernacle "is in peace."
Peace means Prosperity. "Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord, that walketh in his ways—for thou shalt eat of the labour of thy hands; happy ehalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee." The Lord can keep off disease. He can render business successful. He can afford every needful supply. What peace can there be while children are crying for food, and there is none to give them? But, "fear the Lord, all ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Suppose they have not so much as others—Philip Henry tells us that "The grace of God will make a little go a great way;" and David says, "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked."
Peace is Harmony. There can be no happiness in a family, among the members of which are found reserve, suspicions, bickerings, contentions. "Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." What is pomp without concord? What is abundance without union and attachmentl "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. Better is a dry morsel and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife." It has been justly said, that quietness under a man's roof is a blessing only exceeded by one thing, viz. quietness in his conscience. "O how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity"-—where all move in concert, mutually attentive to serve and please, exchanging nothing but tender affections and kind offices!
"How pleasant 'tis to see
Kindred and friends agree;
And each fulfil his part
With sympathizing heart
Peace is Preservation. To how many disasters is a family exposed if God with
draws his protection! A great wind mat come and smite the four corners of the house, and it may fall and bury us in the ruins. A man may start up from his bed, and hear within the noise of thieves and robbers seizing his property and threatening his person. At midnight, when deep sleep falleth upon man, he may be awakened by the cry of fire, and see the flames consuming his substance, and not leaving an avenue by which to carry off his babes—What a blessing is it to have a tabernacle in peace!
Nor shall the tabernacle only be preserved, but the Owner too. "And thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin." It is a mercy when we go from home to come back alive and well; for though we are too little sensible, of it, we always travel in jeopardy. Let us reflect—We might have been terrified and robbed by wicked and unreasonable men. We might have been left groaning under the pain of bruised limbs and broken bones. Our lives might have been spilt upon the ground, and we might have died among careless and mercenary strangers, and our friends have 'received the sad intelligence, broken to them by degrees,—that we were—no more.
And are no suitable Returns to be made to the God of our salvation? Surely for all this he expects from us something better than sin. But a man would sin in this case, if he visited his habitation without thankfulness, and did not fall down and adore the ".Preserver of men." He would sin, if his gratitude was not lively and practical, and, "by the mercies of God," he did not present his "body a living sacrifice"-~Hmd resolve to walk within his house with a perfect heart, to set no wicked thing before his eyes, to hate the work of them that turn aside"—to watch over his conversation, and to guard his temper—and to flee passion and pride, and "the love of money, which is the root of all evil" —to be satisfied with his lot, and resigned under his trials—to behave towards his servants as one that has "a Master in heaven" —to train up his "children in the nurture and admonition of the I/jrd," ruling well his own house "after a godly sort"—that God may derive a revenue of glory, not only from himself, but from his family.
He would sin also, did he not confide in him in future more simply and firmly; for God, by these instances of his attention and proofs of his faithfulness, solicits us to trust in him, commands us to give up our fears, and says, "Cast all your care upon me, for I care for you."
Let us observe one thing more, and conclude. Do.MESTIC PIETY CROWNS DOMESTIC
Peace. It should be our daily prayer, when we go out and when we come in,— "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." In all our employments, and in all onr enjoyments, to be preserved from sin is the greatest privilege; it should therefore be our greatest concern. Sin is a dreadful thing, for it is always the attraction of wrath. "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but he blesseth the habitation of the just The house of the wicked shall be overthrown; but the tabernacle of the righteous shall flourish."
Let us, therefore, keep sin out of our dwellings; and say, with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Then neighbours, and angels, and God will say, "The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous. Peace be both to thee and to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast" Amen.
GOD THE BEST OF FATHERS.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifit unto your children, how much more thall your Father which it in heaven give good thing! to them that ask him ?—Matthew vii. 11.
The parental relation is a very familiar and a very instructive one. It is, therefore, often employed to hold forth the union between God and his people. But while it aids our conception, it cannot do justice to the subject Man, from whom our idea of this relation is taken, is evil, whereas, "our Father which is in heaven" is perfect Defects appear in the dispositions and actions of every earthly father; but when the Supreme Being assumes the character of a parent, he fully exemplifies it He does much mare than was ever seen—ever heard of in this relation before. And hence, according to our Saviour, we may learn as much from the difference, as from the resemblance in this striking comparison.
Let us, then, see how Pre-eminently he sustains the parental office; and learn thereby the happiness of his children.
The first instance of superiority is derived from Kngwledge. Men know not always what is good for their offspring. Sometimes they ignorantly yield to their wishes, and in effect give them stones instead of bread, and serpents instead of fish. Not knowing sufficiently their talents and dispositions, they may place them in a line of business which will embarrass or ensnare them, instead of one in which they would appear to advantage. From the same principle, they may advise them to form connexions which would prove their vexation through life, or hinder them from unions which would complete their happiness. They may not know how to approach their minds most successfully by in■truction: to fix them, if volatile; to give
them confidence, if timid. By checking, they may chill; and by indulgence, they may not only encourage, but dissipate. All these disadvantages necessarily arise from our defective knowledge.
But our Heavenly Father is the only wise God. His understanding is infinite. It is our happiness that he knows what we really need; knows when to refuse, and when to yield; and so arranges our circumstances in life, as to make "all things work together for our good."
The second instance of superiority is derived from Correction. It is thus that the Apostle distinguishes between "fathers of our flesh," and "the Father of Spirits." "They verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure:" often from whim and caprice; from fretfulness and passion; to relieve their feelings, rather than to comply with their convictions. Hence, if they did not rebuke us at the very moment of provocation, they could not do it at all: whereas, if they had been concerned for our welfare, the reason for correction would have remained when the irritation had subsided—"But He for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." There is no tyranny in God: there are no uneasy sensations in him. If he afflicts, it is—not from passion, but principle; and this principle looks only to the advantage of his children.
We may also err on the other side. We may be too soft to the faults of our offspring, and our tenderness may degenerate into foolish fondness. Eli is an awful example of this: "His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not" It is said also of Adonijah, that his father David "had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?"—But it is cruel to connive where we should punish: "he that spareth the rod, hatetb his son." And God will not sacrifice our profit to our feelings. If our welfare requires it—he will frown—or withhold the tokens of his love—or shut us up for a time ♦ —or smite us—and severely too. Nor let us think hardly of his dealings with us, since it is written, "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him but of thy law."
Behold a third instance in which God surpasses every earthly parent It arises from Nearness and Observation. They cannot be always with their children, so as to attend to their circumstances. They sleep, and are unable to watch over them. They are employed, and business draws them off, and occupies all their thoughts. They journey, and leave their little ones behind them with many an anxious feeling. There is an age when their children go from them: school or trade calls them away from home, and they are no longer under the eye of their natural guardians. It was well for the little Shu namite, when seized in the field, that he had a father hy—he said unto his rather, "My head, my head!" Joseph would have been preserved from the rage of his brethren, in the plain of Dothan, had his venerable father been there—but in vain he looked—and called —no father was nigh.
But here it is otherwise. If we are the children of God, we are never out of his sight —"He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous." He who keepeth them—"never slumbers nor sleeps." Though he governs worlds, he attends as much to each individual as if nothing else engrossed his care. And wherever we go—there is he. Jeremiah found him in the dungeon. Daniel in the lions' den. John in the isle of Patmos. And Jonah and Paul in the deep. "Yea," says David, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Fourthly. Parents may be Unable to relieve their children, if with them. I pity the mother whose ears are assailed with the cries of half-fed babes, when, alas! she has no more to give them. I feel the situation of poor Hagar; her bread consumed, and the bottle of water spent—what could she do ?—" she cast the child under one of the shrubs"—and "she went and sat her down over against him, a good way off, as it were a bow-shot: for she said—Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept" "By faith, Moses when he was born was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child"—and what could they do more? They make him a little "ark of bulrushes, and daub it with slime and with pitch—and lay it in the flags by the river's brink"—one thing more is possible—" his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him." And here Providence took up the business, or what had become of the poor helpless infant? We read in the Gospel of "a certain nobleman whose son was at the point to die"—and what in this case could titles and riches do for him .' Nothing. He therefore goes abroad in search of ii id. O, I sympathize with the father who hears from the physician the sad hint—Sir, I can do nothing more for the child. He enters the room—we behold him standing by the side of his expiring Isaac—but unavailing are all his tears—life quivers upon the lip, and the eye is closed—for ever.
The children of God are never in a condition in which He cannot effectually aid them. "They are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." O blessed thought? our Father is Lord of heaven and oarSi. The silver and the gold are his: his "are the cattie upon a thousand hills; the world is his, nnd the fulness thereof" There is no enemy which he cannot vanquish; no disease which
he cannot cure; no want which he cannot supply.
Fifthly. Other parents are not suffered to Continue by reason of death: and thus their children become Orphans. It matters not how heavy the affliction may be—they are left—left perhaps uneducated, unprovided for. Incapable at present of appreciating their loss, they are to learn it by bitter experience. Behold them passing through an unfeeling world, on which they are turned adrift to be overreached by artifice, oppressed by injustice, injured by violence. In vain do they visit a father's tomb with the voice of joy or grief: "his sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them."
But hear David: "When my father and my mother forsake me—then the Lord will take me up." Hear the Church: "Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not" With him the relation continues for ever—he is "the everlasting Father:" and hence his children can never be destitute. In every loss they have this to comfort them —" the Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted."
Again. The Love of parents is far exceeded by the love of God. There is no affection perhaps more ardent and forcible than parental: hence God assumes it: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." But this marks resemblance, not equality; for the one is no more to the other than a drop to the ocean. Though the love of a father be great, it is generally, and it is justly supposed that the love of a mother is more so. We see in this the wisdom and kindness of Providence, which thus makes duty a privilege, and reconciles the woman to numberless privations, and cares, and toils, in rearing the human race, from which the man is exempted: and God avails himself therefore of this relation also: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you."
"Can a fond mother from herself depart
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her wombl yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
Finally. Parents give good things to their oflspring, However Imperfectly They Make
KNOWN THEIR WANTS AND DESIRES. Behold
a family of several children: Here is one who is able to come and ask for his supplies in proper language—a second begs in broken phrases—but here is a third that cannot speak at all—but he can point, he can cry. Sweet babe! thou too art a child—thou too shalt succeed—every thing pleads for thee—thy dimpled cheeks, thy little hand, thy big shining tears. And if we who are evil do this, what think we of Him whose "tender mercies are over all his works?" Let us therefore go to him—let us go, and ask as we are able. Let us remember, that words are not necessary to inform him who knows all things, or to move him who is already "more willing to give than we are to receive." He hears the voice of our weeping. Our desire is before him, and our groaning is not hid from him.
He calls himself your Father, to teach you with what dispositions you should enter his sacred presence. It is to encourage you to approach him with holy confidence and humble boldness.
Admire him. Love him. Hope in him. Repair to him. "Pray without ceasing." "Pray, and not faint" "He who hears the young ravens that cry," will not refuse the importunity of children. He hears prayer. Thousands, millions, have sought him—and none ever sought him in vain. These successful suppliants, returning from his throne, encourage us to go forward, all saying, " I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and debvered me from all my fears. They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." "O teste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
SATURDAY EVENING. To^morrom it the rett of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.—Exod. xvi. 23. Angther week is drawing to a close. Another period has been added to the season of God's longsuffering patience, and to the time of your preparation for an etcrnnl world. These hours are gone to appear before God —What can they testify in your favour? They are gone, to return no more—How have you improved them? What use have you made of your trials, your mercies, your means of religious instruction and edification? On such an occasion as this, it is well to look
back and review the past But I wish you also to look forward. "To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." Let us consider the sabbath as a rest, and see with what dispositions we should think of its approach.
First The sabbath is a rest
It is so even to the Brute Creation. The mercies of God are over all his works: He takes care for oxen. It is pleasing to hear him say, "that thine ox and thine ass may rest as well as thou." If animals were endued with reason, they would bless God for the kind and tender design of a sabbath. But, alas! in how many instances does the wickedness of man counteract and defeat the goodness of God!'
The sabbath is a rest for the Body. Those who live in ease and idleness cannot value the day as a cessation from labour: all days are nearly alike to them. But think of the condition of thousands and millions of your fellow-creatures—think of a man sitting six days at a loom, or standing six days at a forge; —how inviting, how soothing, how useful, how necessary is a period of repose! Man is impelled to labour: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." But is there nothing to soften the rigour of the obligation i Who could bear everlasting drudgery and fatigue? Behold a refreshing pause: a day of relaxation. The labourer lays aside the implements of industry—changes his apparel—unbends hie wearied limbs—enjoys the fresh air of heaven. The alteration of scene conduces to the preservation of health—enlivens the dull sameness of toil, and renews the waste of spirits. Who would be cruel enough and senseless enough to blot out the sabbath from the days of the year? How heavily and joylessly would time pass away without these precious intervals! How many pleasing emotions associate themselves with the idea of a sabbath !—our charming Poet therefore has not forgotten to notice the want of this in the lines supposed to have been written by Alexander Selkirk in his solitude:
"But the sound of the church-join* bell
But it is principally designed to be a rest for the Mind—a Spiritual rest Thus it is not a day of inactivity, but of reflection and devotion—a day in which, disengaged from the concerns of time and sense, we may attend to the thin?s which belong to our peace, examine our state and our character, inquire where wo are going, and what preparation we have made for the journey. It is almost the only opportunity some of the labouring poor have to gain religious information. It is the return of this day, that reminds them that they are men, that they are heirs of immortality. It is the worship of this day, that preserves in them a sense of that dignity and unportance which they are so likely to lose while grovelling always in the earth, or toiling among the beasts that perish. A pious mmd will overflow with joy to behold them under the sound of the Gospel, and to think of the accomplishment of these words, "Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet sliall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more: but thine eyes shall see thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." A pious mind will love to enter the cottage, and witness the Sunday scene—the Bible is taken down, and while one child is stationed between the knees, and the rest are sitting around, a portion is read of that blessed book which "brings glad tidings to the poor," and teaches us " in whatever state we are, therewith to be content"
The real Christian indeed does not confine his devotion to particular seasons: he will mingle piety with business, and endeavour to acknowledge God in all his ways. But still he finds week-days to be worldly days: he wants a retreat—he wants a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
When, therefore, he awakes in the morning, he can say,
"Welcome, sweet day of rest,
Blessed be his name, he has ./erf me through the week—but
"The Kin? himself comes near.
Here is such a day as Christians want—a day entirely for their souls and their God. They feel impressed and sacred; every thing wears a new appearance. And
"With joy they hasten to the place
Where they their Saviour oft have met;
This leads us, secondly, to inquire with what dispositions we should think of the approaching Sabbath.
We should endeavour to Finish All Our
WORLDLY AFFAIRS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE ON
A Saturday Evening, that we may feel free and composed. Edgar, one of our Saxon kings, passed a law, that the Sabbath should be observed from nine o'clock Saturday evening till Monday morning. I wish the custom, if not the law, was revived. How wrong is it for tradesmen, and masters and mistresses of families, to drive things oft so as to
create hurry and confusion on the very eve of the Sabbath, and to retire later, and with a mind less fitted for devotion, than on any other day in the week! Where something of this is unavoidable, persons are to be pitied.
We should expect the return of this season with Thankfulness. Let us bless God for an institution which shows his concern for our present and everlasting welfare, and marks his lovingkindness more than his sovereignty: for " the sabbath was made for man." Let us bless God, that our lives are spared, and that in a few hours we hope to hear the multitude who keep holy-day saying, "Let us go into the house of the Lord, let us bless him, that we are in circumstances which promise us ability to join in the sacred exercises, and that we are not by accidents and diseases doomed to pass a solitary sabbath, and impelled to take up the melancholy complaint,
"Lo! the tweet day of sacred rest returns—
But not tome returns
Rest with the day. Ten thousand hurrying thoughts
Bearme away tumultuous, far from heaven
And heavenly work : alas! flesh drags me down
From things celestial, and confines my sense
To present maladies. Unhappy state 1
Where the poor spirit is subdued lo feel
Unholy idleness; a painful absence
From God and heaven, and angel's blessed work;
And bound to bear the agonies and woes
Thai sickly flesh and shalter'd nerves impose."
We should expect the return of the day with Holy Awe. It is a solemn thought— and we should impress it upon our minds— that every sabbath, every sermon, every prayer, is a step taken, which brings us nearer heaven or hell—that the means of grace with which we are so frequently indulged will prove either "the savour of life unto life" or "of death unto death." Yes—these are privileges which will not leave us as they find us: if they are not food, they will prove poison; if they do not cure, they will be sure to kill. They are talents, for each of which we shall be called to give the strictest account, and, unimproved, they will sink us deeper in condemnation than either Jews or heathens.
We should meet the sabbath with Pious Resolution. Here is at hand a returning season of mercy, let me embrace it By how many will it be profaned—but "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Hour many of these invaluable opportunities have I already trifled away! how many have 1 sinned away! O let me now awake, and be serious and diligent: let me not shorten the day by rising late; let me not lose it by inattention. Let it not be "a price in the hand of a fool."
But what is resolution without Prayer? "The preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue in man are from the Lord." Without him, we can do nothing.