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produce benevolence to our fellow-creatures. If we love him, we cannot but love one another, as Christ loved us. We feel our souls enlarged in love toward every child of man. And toward all the children of God we put on "bowels of kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forgiving one another," if we have a complaint against any, "even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us.'
4. One thing more is implied in "serving the Lord," namely, the obeying him; the steadily walking in all his ways, the doing his will from the heart. Like those "his servants" above, "who, do his pleasure, who keep his commandments, and hearken to the voice of his words;" these his servants below hearken unto his voice, diligently keep his commandments, carefully avoid whatever he has forbidden, and zealously do whatever he has enjoined: studying always to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
II. "I and my house will serve the Lord," will every real Christian say. But who are included in that expréssion, My House? This is the next point to be considered.
1. The person in your house that claims your first and . nearest attention, is, undoubtedly, your wife: seeing you are to love her, even as Christ hath loved the Church, when he laid down his life for it, that he might "purify it unto himself, and render it a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." The same end is every husband to pursue, in all his intercourse with his wife to use every possible mean, that she may be freed from every spot, and may walk unblamable in love.
2. Next to your wife are your children; immortal spirits whom God hath, for a time, entrusted to your care, that you may train them up in all holiness, and fit them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. This is a glorious and important trust; seeing one soul is of more value than all the world beside. Every child, therefore, you are to watch over with the utmost care, that when you are called to give an account of each to the Father of Spirits, you may give your account with joy and not with grief.
3. Your servants of whatever kind, you are to look upon as a kind of secondary children: these, likewise, God has committed to your charge, as one that must give account: for every one under your roof that has a soul to be saved, is under your care: not only indented servants, who are legally engaged to remain with you for a term of years; not only hired servants, whether they voluntarily contract for a longer or shorter time: but also those who serve you by the week or day: for these too are, in a measure, delivered into your hands. And it is not the will of your Master who is in heaven, that any of these should go out of your hands, before they have received from you something more valuable than gold or silver. Yea, and you are in a degree accountable, even for "the stranger that is within your gates." As you are particularly required, to see that he does "no manner of work" on the Lord's day, while he is within your gates; so, by parity of reason, you are required, to do all that is in your power, to prevent his sinning against God in any other instance.
III. Let us enquire, in the third place, What can we do, that all these may "serve the Lord ?"
1. May we not endeavour, first, To restrain them from all outward sin? From profane swearing, from taking the Name of God in vain; from doing any needless work, or taking any pastime on the Lord's-day? This labour of love you owe even to your visitants: much more to your wife, children, and servants. The former, over whom you have the least influence, you may restrain by argument or mild persuasion. If you find that, after repeated trials, they will not yield either to one or the other, it is your bounden duty, to set ceremony aside, and to dismisss them from your house. Servants also, whether by the day, or for a longer space, if you cannot reclaim, either by reasoning, added to your example, or by gentle or severe reproofs, though frequently repeated, you must, in anywise, dismiss from your family, though it should be ever so inconvenient.
2. But you cannot dismiss your wife, unless for the cause of fornication, that is, adultery. What then can be done,
if she is habituated to any other open sin? I cannot find in the Bible, that a husband has authority to strike his wife on any account: even suppose she struck him first; unless his life were in imminent danger. I never have known one instance yet of a wife that was mended thereby. I have heard, indeed, of some such instances; but as I did not see them, I do not believe them. It seems to me, all that can be done in this case, is to be done partly by example, partly by argument or persuasion, each applied in such a manner as is dictated by christian prudence. If evil can ever be overcome, it must be overcome by good. It cannot be overcome by evil: we cannot beat the devil with his own weapons. Therefore, if this evil cannot be overcome by good, we are called to suffer it. We are then called to say, This is the cross which God hath chosen for me. He surely permits it for wise ends: "let him do what seemeth him good." Whenever he sees it to be best, he will remove this cup from me. Meantime continue in earnest prayer, knowing that with God no word is impossible: and that he will either in due time take the temptation away, or make it a blessing to your soul.
3. Your children, while they are young, you may restrain from evil, not only by advice, persuasion, and reproof, but also by correction; only remembering, that this mean is to be used last not till all others have been tried, and found to be ineffectual. And even then you should take the utmost care to avoid the very appearance of passion. Whatever is done should be done with mildness; nay, indeed, with kindness too. Otherwise your own spirit will suffer loss; and the child will reap little advantage.
4. But some will tell you, "All this is lost labour; a child need not to be corrected at all. Instruction, persuasion, and advice will be sufficient for any child without correction: especially if gentle reproof be added, as occasion may require." I answer, there may be particular instances, wherein this method may be successful. But you must not, in anywise, lay this down as an universal rule: unless you suppose yourself wiser than Solomon, or, to speak more
properly, wiser than God. For it is God himself, who best knoweth his own creatures, that has told us expressly, "He that spareth the rod hateth the child; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes," Prov. xiii. 24. And upon this is grounded that plain commandment, directed to all that fear God, "Chasten thy son while there is hope; and let not thy soul spare for his crying," chap. xix. 18.
5. May we not endeavour, secondly, to instruct them ? To take care that every person who is under our roof, have all such knowledge as is necessary to salvation? To see that our wife, servants, and children, be taught all those things which belong to their eternal peace! In order to this, you should provide that not only your wife, but your servants also may enjoy all the public means of instruction. On the Lord's-day in particular, you should so fore-cast what is necessary to be done at home, that they may have an opportunity of attending all the ordinances of God. Yea, and you should take care that they have some time every day for reading, meditation, and prayer. And you should enquire, whether they do actually employ that time, in the exercises for which it is allowed. Neither should any day pass, without family prayer, seriously and solemnly performed.
6. You should particularly endeavour to instruct your children, early, plainly, frequently, and patiently. Instruct them early from the first hour that you perceive reason begins to dawn. Truth may then begin to shine upon the mind far earlier than we are apt to suppose. And whoever watches the first opening of the understanding, may, by little and little, supply fit matter for it to work upon, and may turn the eye of the soul toward good things, as well as toward bad or trifling ones. Whenever a child begins to speak, you may be assured reason begins to work. I know no cause why a parent should not just then begin to speak of the best things, the things of God. And from that time no opportunity should be lost, of instilling all truths as they are capable of receiving them.
7. But the speaking to them early will not avail, unless you likewise speak to them plainly. Use such words as little children may understand, just such as they use themselves. Carefully observe the few ideas-which they have already, and endeavour to graft what you say upon them. To take a little example: bid the child look up; and ask, "What do you see there?" "The Sun ?" "See, how bright it is! Feel how warm it shines upon your hand! Look, how it makes the grass and the flowers to grow, and the trees and every thing look green! But God, though you cannot see him, is above the sky, and is a deal brighter than the Sun! It is he, it is God that made the Sun, and you and me, and every thing. It is he that makes the grass and the flowers to grow: that makes the trees green, and the fruit to come upon them! Think what he can do! He can do whatever he pleases. He can strike you or me dead in a moment. But he loves you: he loves to do you good. He loves to make you happy. Should not you then love him! You love me, because I love you and do you good. But it is God that makes me love you. Therefore, you should love him. And he will teach you how to love him."
8. While you are speaking in this, or some such manner, you should be continually lifting up your heart to God, beseeching him to open the eyes of their understanding, and to pour his light upon them. He, and he alone, can make them to differ herein from the beasts that perish. He alone can apply your words to their hearts: without which all your labour will be in vain. But whenever the Holy Ghost teaches, there is no delay in learning.
9. But if you would see the fruit of your labour, you must teach them not only early and plainly, but frequently too. It would be of little or no service to do it, only once or twice a week. How often do you feed their bodies? Not less than three times a day. And is the soul of less value than the body? Will you not then feed this as often? If you find this a tiresome task, there is certainly something