Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

shall have the joy of seeing their children walk in the truth. The piety of one generation shall descend to another; so that there shall at no time be occasion for inquiring, “why the former days were better than these.”

Against that explanation of the text, which has now been given, it may perhaps be objected, that it receives no support from acknowledged facts. We do not perceive in the church of God, that pious succession, which, agreeably to this explanation, the immutable God has pledged himself to provide.

To this I reply, that many promises in Scripture are conditional, even where no conditions are expressed. From many proofs of this, we select the following; I mean the rejection of the house of Eli from sacerdotal honors, on account of the profligacy prevailing in his family; which profligacy he had not used sufficient efforts to suppress : Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever. But now the Lord saith, be it far from me; for them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed.

In like manner, when God promises to his professing people, whether collectively or individually, that their successors, or descendants, shall receive the blessings of his word and spirit, it seems to be with the understanding, that certain things, on their part, are to be performed ; that each rising generation in the series shall receive such Christian attention and instruction from parents, guardians, or the church, as the interesting relation which the latter sustain to the former, requires them to impart. When the want of this is flagrant, or habitual, neither parents, nor churches, can, with any propriety, appropriate the promise contained in the text. In places, in churches, and families, where the light of Christianity once shone with all its clearness, and where the spirit of piety was exhibited in its native excellence, there is now gross error, palpable darkness, or unblushing impiety. To say nothing of the seven churches of Asia, those golden candlesticks, in the midst of which was seen walking, one like the Son of man, what are the present effects of all that flood

[ocr errors]

of light, which was once poured on the city of Jerusalem and the land of Palestine ? “ The pure gospel of Christ,” says a recent traveller, “every where the herald of civilization and science, is almost as little known in the Holy Land, as in California, or New Holland. A series of legendary traditions, mingled with remains of Judaism, and the wretched phantasies of illiterate ascetics, may now and then exhibit a glimmering of heavenly light. But, if we seek the blessed effects of Christianity in the land of Canaan, we must look for that period, when

the desert shall blossom as the rose, and the wilderness become a fruitful field.'»

It may now, I think, be fairly inferred, that something is to be done by Christian parents, by churches, by the Christian community, that the blessings, mentioned in the text, may be conferred on the rising generation and their posterity. We are bound to consecrate our influence to the cause of God; i. e. to the interests of truth, happiness, and virtue. But the influence of every man extends somewhat beyond the limits of mortal existence. The civil, literary, moral, and religious character of future generations, will be materially affected by the piety or impiety, the wisdom or folly, the activity or sloth, of those who are, at present, in active life.

I now proceed, very briefly, to specify some of those things, which are necessary on our part, that the blessings, promised in the text, may be conferred on our descendants : that God may prevent his Spirit and his words from departing from the mouth of our seed, or of our seed's seed.

1. It is necessary that we ourselves should have, not only a unisorm, deep-rooted conviction of the truth of Christianity, but a sensible apprehension of its promises, threatenings, and requisitions. Our religion will doubtless make no very deep impression on the minds of others, while its influence on our own appears to be inconstant and superficial. Besides, if such be the state or cast of our religion, it will want that hardiness and energy, without which enlarged purposes of benevolence, and piety, will neither be formed nor carried into effect. Had Abraham

[ocr errors]

been a believer, of doubtful or wavering character, God would not have given such honorable assurance, as to the effects which his religion should have on his descendants : I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him; and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.

2. That the Spirit of God and his words may not depart from our posterity, it is obviously requisite, that knowledge of the Holy Scriptures should be early and sedulously cominunicated. Here is the safe repository of our religion ; the source and guardian of the Christian faith. Every true church, every Christian on earth, has imbibed the waters of life from this fountain. The knowledge of sacred Scripture, when once obtained, is, to a certain degree, wrought into the character; by which I mean, that it imposes the most salutary restraints, by producing a sense of responsibility-exbibits a perfect code of moral preceptsand represents religion as something solemn, magnificent, vast, and immutable. Attention to these writings, is to be perpetually urged upon the young. All opportunities are to be improved for fixing their minds on that system of faith and morals, which the Scriptures inculcate. This method must be pursued with unyielding perseverance. It is a divine ordinance—a mode of .

education, instituted by the Author of revealed religion : These words, which I command thee this day, said God to Israel, shall be in thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children ; and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. By such means was a theoretical and practical knowledge of God, to be preserved and cherished in the church of Israel, and the land of promise. Domestic education was part of that system, by which Jehovah designed to secure to himself a chosen people. In the words, quoted from Deuteronomy, there is one sentiment peculiarly to be noticed; especially, as it corroborates the remarks which were made under the preceding article: The words that I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. This is menVol. II.


tioned as a pre-requisite, tom persevering and successful communication of them to others. The principles of revelation are to be so incorporated into the character, as to exbibit themselves in habits, actions, and conversation—they are to produce a facility and readiness in the communication of inspired doctrine : They are to cause our doctrine to drop as the rain, our speech to distil as the dew; as the small rain on the tender herb, and as showers upon the grass.

In regard to domestic education, there is perfect agreement between the religion of Moses, and that of Christ. By the latter, as well as the former, parents are required to bring up their children - in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

The rising generation may doubtless be taught from other books besides the Scriptures. If oral instruction may be conveyed in words, different from those of inspiration, so doubtless may written instruction. It is on this ground, that religious dissertations and discourses have been made public, in every age. Summaries of the Christian faith, seem likewise to have been used in all periods of the church. It cannot be easily conceived, either that a Christian parent should suffer his children to remain ignorant of Christianity, until, by reading, he shall be enabled to instruct himself; or, that he should, in conveying instruction, as to the plainest doctrines of the Bible, fear to vary in any measure, froin the language in which they are expressed. Still a broad and distinct line should be cautiously drawn between the oracles of God, and any symbol or abstract of Christian doctrine, forined by men uninspired, and therefore liable to err in judgment. If we desire, that God's words, and his Spirit should not depart from our posterity and successors, they should be assiduously taught to make this distinction. It was not more advantageous to Timothy, than honorable to her who had superintended his youth, “that from a child he bad known the Holy Scriptures." By means of such education he was, by grace, enabled to possess and cultivate the same faith, which first dwelt in his pious progenitors.

3. That the words and Spirit of God may not depart out of the mouth of our seed, or of our seed's seed, it is einphatically

[ocr errors]

necessary, that family prayer be maintained ; and that it often have reference distinctly to them. To enumerate that variety of ways, in which the prayers and intercessions of parents may be advantageous to their children, would itself require more time, than can be allowed to this whole discourse.

Prayer is practical piety. You teach your family the being, persections, and government of God. They see that you acknowledge his existence, adore his perfections, and implore his superintending care. You teach them that all have sinned; and you confess before God your own demerit. You instruct them concerning the offices of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They hear you offer prayers, in which these offices are recognized, and corresponding petitions are made. You teach them that devout dispositions, and holy desires,—that ability to make an acceptable offering, is, with humble gratitude, to be ascribed to a divine influence, which " helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession.” They occasionally observe in you, that en

, largement, feeling, and copiousness in prayer,-that lively sense of things invisible, -chat consciousness of obligation, and those affecting views of redeeming mercy, which your religious belief ought to inspire, but in the actual existence of which, they perceive evidence of the presence and agency of God. Scarce any thing tends more directly to impart just ideas, both as 10 the theory and power of religion, than the prayers of consistent, judicious, enlightened Christians. No instruction, it is believed, which can be imparted to the minds of our children, has greater effect in forming their religious character, than that, which they derive from family worship.

But prayer is to be considered, not merely, or chiefly, as a means of instruction, but as application to a God, infinitely wise and all-sufficient. Parental intercessiou for children is made,

either when the latter are present, or when they are not. In the former case, that mixture of devotion to God with affectionate concern for their welfare, which is likely to be exhibited in these intercessions, is peculiarly adapted to arrest the attention, to excite inquiry, and to produce religious anxiety. Why should

« AnteriorContinuar »