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rebellious Absalom. In the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, there was godly Abijah.
In some families we see the children generally of a sober and virtuous turn; and in other families we see them the reverse. When the children are generally vicious, we suspect there is some gross neglect in those who have had the care of them; or if they are of a contrary character, we conclude much pains have been taken in their religious education. And though, for the most part, this conclusion will be found just, yet it is not always so. For we see this difference of character take place among children of the same family, who have had the same instructions and examples.
It will naturally be enquired, Whence proceeds this difference?
1. There is undoubtedly a very great diversity in natural temper.
Though all are partakers of the corruption consequent on the primitive apostasy, yet this corruption does not always appear and operate in just the same way. Though in all there is an inclination to evil, yet the inclination is not in all to the same evil, or in the same degree. This diversity calls for different treatment. The same kind of government which would be useful to one, may be dangerous to another. Those restraints, which would be sufficient for this youth, may be unfelt and disregarded by that; and the curb, which would only hold the latter, might break and destroy the tender spirit of the former.
It is the wisdom of parents to watch and observe the various passions, tempers and propensities of their children, and diversify their government accordingly.—And then,
2. Children early have different worldly prospects, which often make a great difference in their character and conduct.
This was remarkably the case of the two young men mentioned in our text. Though Herod and Manaen were educated together, yet they had not the same prospect in life. Herod, who was of royal descent, had early expectations of being exalted to a throne. This grand object probably engrossed his thoughts; and to this all his ambition, and all his studies were directed. The other had no such object before him. He was born to a humbler lot. His mind was more at liberty to admit the sober concerns of religion. Worldly greatness is not usually the most favourable to piety. The apostle says, "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called." He who would receive the kingdom of God, must humble himself as a little child. Such a difference of prospects, as there was between these two persons, cannot ordinarily take place. But there may be a difference in a less degree, among brethren in every family.
Different passions and capacities put young men on different pursuits. Some, through a natural indolence or self diffidence, fall so low in their views and designs, that they never reach to eminence in any profession; nor attain to that degree of usefulness and respectability, of which they seem naturally capable. Others take their aim so high that they never can rise to the object by any virtuous exertions. Hence by their aspiring ambition they are urged to an indirect and winding path, that they may climb the steep ascent, where the cautious foot of virtue will not dare to tread. They who will be rich," says the apostle, "fall into temptation, and a snare, and many foolish lusts which drown men in final perdition." Happy is the youth, who sets out in life, with a governing aim to approve himself to God, and secure the joys of immortality; and to this aim subordinates all his temporal views.
3. The sovereign grace of God must also be acknowledged in the difference which we often observe among the members of the same family.
The dependence of mankind in their fallen state, on the influence of the divine Spirit, must be acknowledged by all who believe revelation. God affords this kindly influence to all under the gospel, especially in the early period of life. There is a day, when the Spirit of grace strives with them, and the things of their peace may be known. Happy are they, who early attend to these things, and who obey the heavenly voice while it is called to day. As this grace is undeserved, so it may be afforded to different persons in various degrees, and for a different length of time. No man can demand it as his na tive right, and therefore none can complain, though it is afforded to others in a greater measure than to himself. Besides, Where is the youth who can say, He has never grieved the spirit of grace-never resisted its holy motions-never received its influence in vain. If among those, who have alike forfeited the grace of God, it is withdrawn from some, and renewed to others, Where is the injustice? Shall the eye of man be evil, because God is good? May not God have mercy on whom he will have mercy,. when he owes his mercy to none?
Farther-Though men may be born and educated under the same external advantages, yet doubt. less some do more than others to oppose the grace, And perhaps many, and quench the spirit of God. who appear to us to possess the happiest natural temper, and to conduct among mankind with the most agreeable manners, may have indulged those impious thoughts and passions toward God, which others never dared to retain; and, by their secret wickedness, have done more to provoke God, and far more grieve his holy spirit, than some who appear criminal in the undiscerning eye of man.. Though
the grace of God is sovereign, it is not arbitrary. It makes a difference among men in the bestowment of outward advantages and inward assistances; but divine wisdom always sees a reason for this difference, though human ignorance discerns none. This subject will afford several useful reflec
1. We see the particular care, which was taken in the apostolick times, that publick teachers should be men of distinguished learning and ability, as well as exemplary virtue and piety.
Most of Christ's first disciples were, indeed, men who had received, in their youth, but a common education. But before they were sent forth_to preach, they were taken under the immediate discipline and instruction of Jesus himself; and were, for several years, trained up for the ministry under his care. Paul enjoyed not this privilege; but he had other literary advantages; he was a man of the first education in his day, being brought up at the feet of Gamaliel,
When the disciples, after their master's ascension, sent forth teachers into the churches which they had planted, they ever gave a preference to men of learning. Manaen was one who had been favoured with a princely education. Timothy from a child had known the holy scriptures. Apollos was a man mighty in the scriptures. Luke, Stephen, and others, appear to have been men of superiour literary accomplishments. And, as the apostles always considered learning to be a desirable qualification in those whom they recommended to the ministry, so they also cautioned the ministers whom they ordained, not to lay hands suddenly on any man, and particularly on novices, who had not had time to furnish their minds with competent knowledge to become teachers of others.
2. We see that parents ought to pay a particular attention to the different tempers and dispositions of their children, and diversify their government accordingly.
As there is a variety in the natural and constitutional bias of the human mind, so the same manner of government, which would be proper for one, might be very unsuitable for another. Some must be ruled with greater rigor, others with more lenitySome kept under a severer curb, others treated with more tenderness and indulgence. The parent ought to watch the early inclinations of his children, that he may correct their evil propensities, before they are grown into incurable habits; and may encourage and confirm every hopeful disposition, lest it be overborne by the power of temptation. Family government is a work which requires much care and prudence, that it may be adapted to the tempers and circumstances, infirmities and dangers of those who are the subjects of it; and diversified according to their respective cases.
3. The young may here see, that no worldly connexions, no outward temptations, no inticements or examples, will excuse them in the neglect of religion.
Herod the tetrarch was a man of a vicious and abandoned character. Though he did some commendable actions, he is not applauded for any habitual virtue; nor was there scarcely a vice of which he was not capable. Manaen, conversant in a royal court, and connected with so vile a companion, received an education, which, however favourable to learning, was exceedingly dangerous to his virtue. And yet we find him so distinguished for his piety, that he is early numbered among the prophets and teachers of the church.
There is such a thing, as a youth's maintaining his virtue, amidst the most powerful temptations.