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and you will easily bring them to obey in others. Why should you not begin to day ? Surely you see what is the most excellent way; best for your own soul. Why then do you disobey? Because you are a coward, because you want resolution. And doubtless it requires no small patience, more than nature ever gave. But the grace of God is sufficient for you: you can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth you. This grace is sufficient to give you diligence, as well as resolution : otherwise laziness will be as great a hinderance as cowardice. For without much pains you cannot conquer : nothing can be done with a slack hand : labour on : never tire : lay line upon line, till patience has its perfect work.
3. But there is another hinderance that is full as hard to be conquered as either laziness or cowardice. It is called fondness, and is usually mistaken for love: but, oh, how widely different from it! It is real hate; and hate of the most mischievous kind; tending to destroy both body and soul in hell! Oh give not way to it any longer, no, not for a moment! Fight against it with your might! For the love of God; for the love of your children; for the love of your own soul !
4. I have one word more to say to parents; to mothers in particular. If, in spite of all the apostle can say, you encourage your children by your example to "adorn" themselves" with gold, or pearls, or costly apparel,” you and they must drop into the pit together. But if they do it, though you set them a better example, still it is yours, as well as their fault. For if you did not put any ornament on your little child that you would not wear yourself; (which would be utter distraction, and far more inexcusable than putting it on your own arms or head ;) yet you did not inure them to obey you from their infancy, and teach them the duty of it, from at least two years old. Otherwise they would not have dared to do any thing great or small, contrary to your will. Whenever, therefore, I see a fine dressed daughter of a plain dressed mother, I see at once the mother is defective either in knowledge or religion. Either she is ignorant of her own or her child's duty; or she has not practised what she knows.
5. I cannot dismiss this subject yet. I am pained continually, at seeing religious parents suffer their children to run into the same folly of dress, as if they had no religion at all. In God's name, why do you suffer them to vary
hair's breadth from your example? Why, they will do it.” They will! Whose fault is that? Why did not you break their will from their infancy? At least, do it now: better late than
It should have been done before they were two years old. It may be done at eight or ten, though with far more difficulty. However, do it now: and accept that difficulty, as the just reward for your past neglect. Now, at least, carry your point, whatever it costs. Be not mealy mouthed; say not, like foolish Eli, “Nay, my children, it is no good report which I hear of you," instead of restraining them with a strong hand; but speak (though as calmly as possible, yet) firmly and peremptorily, “I will have it so;" and do as you say. Instil diligently into them the love of plain dress, and hatred of finery. Show them the reason of your own plainness of dress, and show it is equally reasonable for them. Bid defiance to indolence, to cowardice, to foolish fondness, and at all events, carry your point; if you love their souls, make and keep them just as plain as yourselves. And I charge Vol. II.
you, grandmothers, before God, do not hinder your daughters herein. Do not dare to give the child any thing which the mother denies. Never take the part of the children against the parent; never blame her before them. If you do not strengthen her authority, as you ought to do, at least do not weaken it; but if you have either sense or piety left, help her on in the work of real kindness.
6. Permit me now to apply myself to you, children ; particularly you that are the children of religious parents. Indeed, if you have no fear of God before your eyes, I have no concern with you at present; but if you have, if you really fear God, and have a desire to please him, you desire to understand all his commandments, the fifth in particular. Did you ever understand it yet? Do you now understand what is your duty to your father and mother ? Do you know, at least do you consider, that by the divine appointment their will is a law to you ? Have you ever considered the extent of that obedience to your parents which God requires ? “Children, obey your parents in all things :" no exception, but of things unlawful. Have you practised your duty in this extent? Did you ever so much as intend it?
7. Deal faithfully with your own souls. Is your conscience now clear in this matter? Do you do nothing which you know to be contrary to the will either of your father or mother ? Do you never do any thing (though ever so much inclined to it) which he or she forbids ? Do you abstain from every thing which they dislike, as far as you can in conscience ? On the other hand, are you careful to do whatever a parent bids ? Do you study and contrive how to please them? To make their lives as easy and pleasant as you can? Whoever you are that add this to your general care to please God in all things, blessed art thou of the Lord! “Thy days shall be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
8. But as for you who are little concerned about this matter ; who do not make it a point of conscience to obey your parents in all things, but sometimes obey them, as it happens, and sometimes not; who frequently do what they forbid or disapprove, and neglect what they bid you do; suppose you awake out of sleep, that you begin to feel yourself a sinner, and begin to cry to God for mercy; is it any wonder that you find no answer, while you are under the guilt of unrepented sin ? How can you expect mercy from God till you obey your parents? But suppose you have, by an uncommon miracle of mercy, tasted of the pardoning love of God, can it be expected, although you hunger and thirst after righteousness, after the perfect love of God, that you should ever attain it, ever be satisfied therewith, while you live in outward sin, in the wilful transgression of a known law of God, in disobedience to your parents ? Is it not rather a wonder, that he has not withdrawn his Holy Spirit from you? That he still continues to strive with you, though you continually grieve his Spirit! Oh grieve him no more! By the grace of God obey them in all things from this moment! As soon as you come home, as soon as you set foot within the door, begin an entirely new course! Look upon your father and mother with new eyes. See them as representing your Father which is in heaven. Endeavour, study, rejoice to please, to help, to obey them in all things. Behave not barely as their child, but as their servant for Christ's sake. Oh how will you then love one another! In a manner unknown before.
God will bless you to them, and them to you: all around will feel that God is with you of a truth. Many shall see it and praise God : and the fruit of it shall remain when both you and they are lodged in Abraham's bosom.
SERMON CII.-On Obedience to Pastors.
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves : for they watch over your souls as they that shall give account, that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you," Heb. xiii, 17.
1. Exceeding few, not only among nominal Christians, but among truly religious men, have any clear conception of the important doctrine, which is here delivered by the apostle. Very many scarce think of it, and hardly know that there is any such direction in the Bible. And the greater part of those who know it is there, and imagine they follow it, do not understand it, but lean too much either to the right hand or to the left, to one extreme or the other. It is well known to what an extravagant height the Romanists in general carry this direction. Many of them believe, an implicit faith is due to the doctrines delivered by those that rule over them; and that implicit obedience ought to be paid to whatever commands they give. And not much less has been insisted on, by several eminent men of the church of England : although it is true, that the generality of Protestants are apt to run to the other extreme; allowing their pastors no authority at all; but making them both the creatures and the servants of their congregations. And very many there are of our own church who agree with them herein : supposing the pastors to be altogether dependant upon the people ; who, in their judgment, have a right to direct, as well as to choose their ministers.
2. But is it not possible to find a medium between these two extremes? Is there any necessity for us to run, either into one or into the other? If we set human laws out of the question, and simply attend to the oracles of God, we may certainly discover a middle path in this important matter. In order thereto, let us carefully examine the words of the apostle above recited. Let us consider,
I. Who are the persons mentioned in the text: they "that rule over" us?
II. Who are they whom the apostle directs to obey and submit themselves to them ?
III. What is the meaning of this direction ? In what sense are they to “obey and submit themseives ?”—I shall then endeavour to make a suitable application of the whole.
I. 1. Consider we, first, Who are the persons mentioned in the text: “They that have the rule over you ?" I do not conceive that the words of the apostle are properly translated; because this translation makes the sentence little better than tautology. If they “rule over you,” you are certainly ruled by then; so that aceording to this translation, you are only enjoined to do what you do already: to obey those whom you do obey. Now there is another meaning of the Greek word, which seems abundantly more proper : it means to guide, as well as to rule. And thus, it seems, it should be taken here. The direction, then, when applied to our spiritual guides, is plain and pertinent.
2. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by the seventh verse, which fixes the meaning of this. “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.” The apostle here shows, by the latter clause of the sentence, whom he meant in the former. Those that were “over them,” were the same persons “who spoke unto them the word of God:” that is, they were their pastors; those who guided and fed this part of the flock of Christ.
3. But by whom are these guides to be appointed? And what are they supposed to do, in order to be entitled to the obedience which is here prescribed ?
Volumes upon volumes have been wrote on that knotty question, By whom are guides of souls to be appointed ? I do not intend here, to enter at all into the dispute concerning church government; neither to debate, whether be advantageous or prejudicial to the interest of true religion, that the church and state should be blended together, as they have been ever since the time of Constantine, in every part of the Roman empire, where Christianity has been received." Waring all these points, (which may find employment enough for men that abound in leisure,) by " them that guide you," I mean them that do it, if not by your choice, at least by your consent; them that you willingly accept of to be your guides in the way to heaven.
4. But what are they supposed to do, in order to entitle them to the obedience here prescribed ?
They are supposed to go before the flock, (as is the manner of the eastern shepherds to this day,) and to guide them in all the ways of truth and holiness: they are to “nourish them with the words of eternal life ;" to food them with tho "puro milk of the word " applying it continually “for doctrine;" teaching them all the essential doctrines contained therein ;~"for reproof;" warning them if they turn aside from the way, to the right hand or to the left;" for correction;" showing them how to amend what is amiss, and guiding them back into the way of peace;-and" for instruction in righteousness;" training them up to outward holiness, "until they come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
5. They are supposed to "watch over your souls, as those that shall give account.” "As those that shall give account !" How unspeakably solemn and awful are those words ! May God write them upon the heart of every guide of souls !
“They watch," waking while others sleep, over the flock of Christ : over the souls that he has bought with a price ; that he has purchased with his own blood. They have them in their hearts both by day and by night ; regarding neither sleep nor food in comparison of them. Even while they sleep, their heart is waking, full of concern for their beloved children. “They watch," with deep earnestness, with uninterrupted seriousness, with unwearied care, patience, and diligence, as they that are about to give an account of every particular soul, to him that standeth at the door,-to the Judge of quick and dead.
II. 1. We are, secondly, To consider who those are whom the apostle directs to obey them that have the rule over them ? And in order to
determine this, with certainty and clearness, we shall not appeal to human institutions, but simply (as in answering the preceding question) appeal to that decision of it which we find in the oracles of God. Indeed: we have hardly occasion to go one step farther than the text itself. Only it may be proper, first, to remove out of the way some popular opinions, which have been almost every where taken for granted, but can in no wise be proved.
2. It is usually supposed, first, That the apostle is here directing parishioners to obey and submit themselves to the minister of their parish. But can any one bring the least shadow.of proof for this from the Holy Scriptures ? Where is it written, that wo are bound to obey any minister, because we live in what is called his parish ? you say, we are bound to obey every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." True, in all things indifferent; but this is not so: it is exceeding far from it. It is far from being a thing indifferent to me, who is the guide of my soul. I dare not receive one as my guide to heaven, that is himself in the high road to hell. I dare not take a wolf for my shepherd, that has not so much as sheep's clothing; that is, a common swearer, an open drunkard, a notorious sabbath breaker. And such (the more is the shame, and the more the pity) are many parochial ministers at this day.
3. “But are you not properly members of that congregation to which your parents belong ?" I do not apprehend that I am: I know no scripture that obliges me to this. I owe all deference to the commands of my parents, and willingly obey them in all things lawful. But it is not lawful to call them Rabbi; that is, to believe or obey them implicitly. Every one must give an account of himself to God. Therefore every man must judge for himself: especially in a point of so deep importance as this is,-the choice of a guide for his soul.
4. But we may bring this matter in a short issue, by recurring to the very words of the text. They that have voluntarily connected themselves with such a pastor, as answers the description given therein ; such as do, in fact, “ watch over their souls, as they that shall give account ;'' such as do “nourish them up with the words of eternal life;" such as feed them as with the “pure milk of the word,” and constantly apply it to them “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness;" —all who have found and chosen guides of this character, of this spirit and behaviour, are undoubtedly required by the apostle, to "obey and submit themselves" to them.
III. 1. But what is the meaning of this direction? This remains to be considered. In what sense, and how far, does the apostle direct them to “obey and submit" to their spiritual guides?
If we attend to the proper sense of the two words here used by the apostle, we may observe, that the former of them, FE12e6d, (from Feldw, to persuade,) refers to the understanding; the latter, UTFIX®Te, to the wiù and outward behaviour. To begin with the former. What influence ought our spiritual guides to have over our understanding? We dare no more call our spiritual fathers, Rabbi, than the" fathers of our flesh.” We dare no more yield implicit faith to the former than to the latter. In this sense, "one is our Master,” (or rather Teacher,)." who is in heaven." But whatever submission, of even our understanding, is short of this, we may, nay, we ought, to yield to them.