« AnteriorContinuar »
the world will be influenced by the character with which they grow up?
In doing good it is always wise to make those peculiarly our aim by whom, if good is received, it is likely to be multiplied, diffused, perpetuated. Now this is the case with the young. If you do good to an old man it is of importance to himself; but it is confined to himself, and dies with him. But communicate right views and dispositions to a child, and it will be impossible to calculate the degree of his usefulness: for as he rises up and spreads abroad, he exemplifies and extends them; and in timQ, thousands may be improved and blessed by his instruction, his example, and his influence.
Solomon well knew all this: hence he so often bespeaks the attention of youth. And what motive has he not seized and employed in this all-interesting service? Is it the certainty of eternal judgment? "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment" Is it old age as the most unfavourable season for commencing a religious course, when infirmities and afflictions, instead of allowing exertion, call for consolation ?" Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Is it the peculiar regard of Him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." Is it the condescension of God, in asking for a surrender which he might demand; and addressing not our fear, but our aflection ?" My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." Is it the poignant anguish, or the delightful satisfaction, a child is capable of yielding to those who have the tenderest claims upon him; according as he chooses the way of folly, or of life ?" The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice; and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."
Let us enter into our subject Solomon was a parent himself; Rehoboam was his son; and probably the very person here addressed. You know what a foolish, rash, improvident, irreligious character he proved; yet was he the son of Solomon! And if Solomon perceived these rising evils when he wrote this passage, with what feelings did he utter the words, "My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."
Let us consider Solomon as the representative of every rather and mother, and as
speaking in their name. Not that all parents are concerned for the spiritual welfare of their children: some have no more regard for the souls of their oflspring than if they had none, and were to die like the beasts that perish; but this is what every parent ought to feel, and what every godly parent will feel. Let us consider,—I. The Attainment Required: II. The Consequence Anticipated.
I. The Attainment Required. "My am, if thy heart be wise." A pious youth is said to be wise in heart—
First, to show us tliat religion is wisdom. I know, my young friends, that some will endeavour to make you think that it is folly, and at your time of life, many who have not been reasoned, have been ridiculed out of every serious notion; for a laugh with you often does more than an argument But hear what the Judge of all says, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding."
And though our faith standeth not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God, reason, as well as Scripture, is on our side. Men, the most pre-eminent in every depart ment of genius and learning; men, who perfectly understood the value and force of evidence; men, the last in the world to be the dupes of delusion; these men have expressed a conviction of mind with regard to the truth and importance of Revelation, such as they felt upon no other subject
Yea, and even those who are so wise in their own conceit, and even treat the godly as visionaries and madmen, will, in a very little time, change their sentiments and their language, and exclaim, " We fools counted their lives madness, and their end to be without honour! Now are they numbered with the children of God, and their lot is among the saints!"
It is a fine representation which the apostle John gives us of vital Christianity, when he says, "we have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things." Not that a Christian is taught the secrets of nature, the inventions of art, the mysteries of polities and trade: in all these he may be inferior to a man of the world. But he knows all that is essential to his safety and welfare. He is made "wise unto salvation." He is " wise towards God." He knows himself. And he knows the Saviour of sinners. He that is ignorant of Him knows nothing: he that knows Him knows every thing.
Secondly. That this wisdom is not notional; but consists principally in dispositions and actions. Speculative knowledge is, indeed, necessary to experimental and practical; but does not always produce it We often find accurate and strong convictions exerting no influence, beyond the understanding. Nothing is so certain as death; and "the living know that they shall die," and yet do they live as those who expect itl A man knows that the body is nothmg to the soul, or time to eternity: and yet, the grand question with him is, not " What must I do to be saved?" but, "Wliat shall I eat, and what shall I drink, and wherewithal shall I be clothed V How many are there, who hear the Gospel, and even acquiesce in the doctrine of the Fall, and our recovery, and yet never fall at the feet of the Recoverer, crying, "Lord, save, I perish!" They are Christian in their creed; and infidel in their conduct Religion has to do "with the heart;" and a knowledge that does not reach the heart, and govern the heart, is nothing. Knowledge is to be viewed in the order of means, and when it does not answer its end, it is considered b>y the sacred writers, as ignorance. Because he that does not know him to purpose, does not know him savingly; they will not allow that a man knows God at all—who does not trust in him and love him and obey him. "They that know thy Name, will put their trust in thee."—" He that loveth not, knoweth not God. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." To believe these things, and to feel them; to know these things and to do them —this is to be wise in heart: and nothing less than this is the promise of the new covenant; "I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" II. Tub Consequence Anticipated: "My son, if thine heart bo wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine." Pious children afford their parents pleasure, on three principles:
1. A principle of benevolence. They rejoice in the salvation of every sinner. They would rejoice to hear of the conversion of an enemy. There is no room for envy in the Church, for there is enough and to spare, however multiplied the partakers: and nothing is so remote from a Christian's disposition as a wish to exclude or monopolize. Instead of repelling, he invites: "O taste, and see, that the Lord is good: come with us, and we will do thee good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel." And can he be indifferent to the spiritual welfare of those to whom he is united by the ties of flesh and blood? Does religion prohibit relative affection? Yea, it requires, it enlivens, it sanctifies it; and causes the possessor to cry, 1 How can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"
2. A principle of piety. God is peculiarly pleased and glorified by the sacrifices of early religion, in which choice, and not compul
sion, influences the offerer. An old man regards devotion as a refuge, rather than a temple; and takes hold of the horns of the altar, not to bind his victim there, but to escape from being a victim himself. He only forsakes the world—when he can enjoy it no longer) and leaves his sins when they leave him.—Does he present to God his soul! All its powers are wasted and destroyed. Does he yield his body' It is a wornout instrument in the service of sin. But the young do not insult him with the- leavings of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They do not put him off with the refuse of life; they consecrate to him the first born of their days, the first fruits of their reason and affections; they give him the prime of their being, and while others too are powerfully soliciting their regards. And can a Christian be devoid of the love of God! Can he be indifferent to efforts, by which his Divine Benefactor is so signally delighted and honoured? Can he see a soldier so early entering his army, a servant so early engaging in his service, a worshipper so early approaching his altar—and see in this soldier, this servant, this worshipper of God, his own offspring—and not glow with the sentiment, "My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."
3. A principle of self-interest We must distinguish between self-interest and selfishness; and between a sinful self-love and a righteous self-love. "Thou shalt love," says the Law, "thy neighbour as thyself." This clearly allows and requires a proper love to ourselves; and with this the design of religion falls in, which is the advancement of our welfare. Now on this ground the piety of children delights parents, because,
First It aflords them evidence of the answer of their prayers, and the success of their endeavours. How mortifying is it to run in vain, and labour in vain! How painful to see an object of peculiar solicitude and attention baflling every eflort and disappointing every expectation! But how pleasing is it to sow, and then reap! to plant, and water, and prune, and then gather the increase! How delightful to a parent to see that his instructions have not been lost; that his tears have not flowed in vain ; that his God has not turned a deaf ear, when his big heart cried, "Othat Ishmael might live before thee!" And what a blessed stimulus and encouragement is this to future supplication and zeal!
Secondly. Because it becomes the means of their usefulness. It is by such children parents hope to serve their generation accordmg to the will of God. "What a pleasure is it," says the father, "that I am not sending into the neighbourhood and the nation a number of mischiefs and curses, children that are corrupters, such as will lead many to wish that the wretch who had begot them had been childless; but such as will attach the purest honour to my name, and lead numbers to say, as they witness the amiableness and beneficence of my offspring, 'Blessed is the Womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked,'"
Thirdly. Because it insures the proper returns of duty. It is natural for a parent to wish for reverence and affection ; for gratitude and obedience; for assistance and comfort ; especially when they feel the infirmities of nature, or meet with the afflictions of life. Who does not say, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old!" Who does not tremble at the threatening, "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it!" But pious principle is the best security for moral practice. He who fears God and confides in him is the only one that will feel the authority of the command and the truth of the promise; '' Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." And, my young friends, be assured of this, there can be no piety, where morality is wanting. An undutiful child can never be a partaker of divine grace.
Fourthly. Because it will free them from a thousand bitter anxieties. Here let me suppose a few of the cases in which children peculiarly interest the feelings and fears of their parents; and in which nothing but a hope of their piety can set their hearts at rest
Such is their removal from home. Children, in common, are soon sent to school, or articled to business; or, in humbler life, placed abroad as servants. When this is the case, they are no longer under the eye and the wing of their parents; and frequently their intercourse with them is very slender. Some places and situations are more dangerous than others; but none are free from moral hazards to youth: and what can relieve the anxiety of a parent, but a confidence in the religious principles and dispositions of his child; that these, when he has no other witness, will remind him of an omnipresent Inspector, "the Judge of all;" and lead him to exclaim, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
Such is their taking any important step in lifr. Nothing awakens the concern of parents more than the settlement of their children in marriage: and nothing can delight them more than to find them dispsed to "marry in the Lord ;" for such a connexion only can secure the discharge of all mutual duty, and draw down the blessing of God; enable them to "walk together as heirs of the grace of life, that their prayers be not hindered;" and "seek a godly seed." But what, except the power of religion, can gua
rantee them against the influence of beauty or talent or wealth or honour; and induce them to look after godliness as the one thing needful?
Such is the nature of their condition in the world. A parent cannot be insensible to the temporal estate of his children, whether they be regarded or despised; rich or poor; comfortably provided for, or struggling with the hardships of life. But this can comfort him, in all circumstances—" My child is only a stranger and pilgrim upon earth. He has a better country. God is his portion and bis guide. He possesses that grace which, if he prospers, will preserve him; or, if he be it tlicted, will support him. He has the wisdom which is from above, and knows bow to be abased, and how to abound; and can do all things through Christ, who strengthens him!"
Such is their being bereaved of their dearest relatives. How often are parents di.tressed at the thought of leaving their offspring behind them, especially as the hour of their dissolution draws near !" Ah ! not) their guardian and comforter will be removes far from them, and they may become a prey to cunning or oppression. Soon their cries, if injured, will not reach my ears; or the news, if well treated, gladden my heut What a world I am leaving them in! What errors, what vices, what examples, will assail them!' Holy Father, keep, through tay own name, those whom thou hast given me. If, in the midst of all this, he knows that they have chosen God as "the guide of their youth," and hears God saying, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive," the shadow of death is turned into the morning. "I shall not leave them orphans. He will take them up; and more than supply the place of every creature."
But let us suppose another case. In the order of nature, parents die before their children: but this order is sometimes reversed; and parents are called to close the eyes of those on whom they relied to close their own. But who can imagine the anguish of a father or mother, at the death of an ungodly child! Whose heart does not bleed for David! "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom ! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" But the bitterness of death is past when the pious father, as he views his earthl v hope closing in the grave, can say, "Wefi, thou art hastening away from the evil to come. My loss is thy eternal gain. Thou hast not been born in vain, nor in vain have been my labour and expense in rearing thee. Thou art an immortal now. Thou art equal to the angels. Our separation is but short. Soon shall I overtake thee, and 'we (hall be for ever with the Lord!'" No; that parent is not half so much to be pitied who has buried a young saint, as he that is mourning over a living sinner. Pointing to the grave, in which he had just lodged the remains of a pious youth, a father was one day heard to say, though with a quivering lip—"I do not weep for that dear child—he was my comfort and is my comfort—but for him, who is still alive, and is 'bringing down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.'"
Let me conclude:
First By addressing those who, instead of being a joy to their parents, are only their grief. And with what vile ingratitude are you chargeable! Need I tell you what claims your parents have upon you? With what tenderness did they treat you in your infancy! What nights of watching, what days of confinement, what instances of self-denial, have they passed through in training you up to youth! What pains and cost have they incurred in furnishmg you with food and raiment; and affording you an education which, perhaps, their circumstances with difficulty allowed! And do you thus requite them ?— You may one day have children of your own; and "with the same measure ye mete, it may be measured to you again!" Undutiful children commonly meet with undutiful children. "I knew," says Dr. Doddridge, "a son; in his passion he struck his father down, and dragged him by the hair of his head. When he had drawn him a certain distance, he cried out Drag me no further—for here I let my father go when I dragged him!" For this reason, oh! young man, never choose for a wife a daughter that has been a disrespectful daughter. And, oh! voung woman, never choose for thy husband a son who has been a disobedient son. Bad behaviour in a private condition is a preparation for bad behaviour in a public one; and the curse of God is likely to attend such disreputable companions.
We read of murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers! a charge at which you revolt; a crime that makes you shudder. But, remember, there are more ways of destroying a parent than by poison, or a blow! You may destroy their reputation; you may break their peace of mind; you may undermine their frame, and bring on premature decays, by the corrosions of anxiety and fear. We lately read in a foreign journal of an advocate who was desired to undertake the defence of a young man, charged with a serious crime. He went to his prison to obtain documents—and—in the criminal he instantly recognized—his own son, of whom he had not heard for a length of time! The sight upset his reason; and he went home, and put an end to his existence. Hast thou a father or mother in the grave, whoso heart was broken by thy vice and disobedience! How 2Q 2«'
deeply shouldest thou humble thyself, and repent m dust and ashes, under a consciousness of thy guilt! Hast thou a parent yet alive, to whom thou hast been only a trial and a torment? Oh! hasten to make what atonement thou canst, by confession and amendment, and become the consolation of those who are saying, "My son, if thy heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine." And here allow me the liberty of introducing two anecdotes: the one, to awaken your fear; the other, to operate, if you have any, upon your tenderness.
A pious father, in writing to his friend, says, " I lately dreamed that the day of judgment was come. I saw the Judge on his great white throne, and all nations were gathered before him. I and my wife were on the right hand—but I could not see my children. I said, ' I cannot bear this—I must go and seek them.' I went to the left hand of the Judge, and there found them all, standing in the utmost despair. As soon as they saw me they caught hold of me, and cried,—' Oh, father, we will never part!' I said, 'My dear children, I am come to try, if possible, to get you out of this awful situation.' So I took them all with me; but when we were come near the Judge, I thought he cast an angry look, and said, 'What do thy children with thee now? They would not take thy warning when on earth, and they shall not share thy happiness in heaven. Depart, ye cursed.' At these words I awoke in agony and horror."
But you say, "this was only a dream." Admitted. But a reality, equally dreadful, will be exemplified in many. Oh! what cruel separations will the last day witness. It was but a dream ; yet the relation of it was the means of impressing serious conviction on the minds of several of the children.
A minister from England, happening, some time since, to be at Ed—b—gh, he was accosted by a young man in the street, with an apology for the liberty he was taking: "I
think, Sir, said he, I have heard you at
Chapel." "You probably may, Sir; for 1 have sometimes ministered there." "Do you remember, said he, a note, put up by an afflicted widow, begging the prayers of the congregation, for the conversion of an ungodly son V "I do very well remember such a circumstance." "Sir," said he, "I am the very person; and, wonderful to tell, the prayer was effectual. Going, with some other abandoned young men, one Sunday, through -, and passing by the chapel, I was
struck with its appearance. We agreed to go in and mingle with the crowd, and stop for a few minutes, to laugh and mock at the preacher and the people. We had just entered, when you, Sir, read the note, requesting the prayers of the congregation for an