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also of an earthly father ? But above all, let us anticipate that we all are to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and to enter a boundless eternity; and when we awake to judgment, beyond all question, the entire engagements of worldly life will appear as trifles in comparison with the momentous interests that must abide forever. But we and our households are as immortal now as we then shall be ; wisdom now, is what will appear wisdom then; and he only is wise for himself and his family, who now adopts and practises the principles which he will wish he had adopted, when he and his children and his posterity influenced by them, are all met together in the judgment.
The foundation of family characteristics is the personal character of the parents. How happy for our land if we could say of every married pair,—both righteous. It is not, however, within the compass of a few brief pages that our needful instruction for family duties can be compressed. These are engagements claiming our study and our zeal, our prayers and our diligence, for the best years of life. It is of unspeakable importance to adopt correct principles, and zeal and patience must carry them out. You have heard, perhaps, the anecdote of the man whose exceeding caution not to injure or defraud others in the slightest thing, excited the surprise of his neighbors, and led to the inquiry, why he so conducted himself. His reply was this, in substance: "I can pass through the world but once; if I speak falsely, or deal dishonestly, or exert an evil influence, I cannot return to correct the error, and I am anxious to do right as I go along.” How just this principle for parents to adopt ! Your children will never be babes again ; you cannot enjoy twice the same opportunities for their instruction; they are constantly changing, and future care cannot correct present errors; you educate them once, and that once is for eternity.
There is a general, and, we fear, a just belief of lamentable defection in the household training of the present age. Many parents are far from what they should be ; and, of course, their families are neglected. Even many parents, whose profession is better, are far from controlling and teaching and guiding their children; and upon them rests the prophet's curse, “ Pour out thy fury upon
the families that call not upon Thy name.” (Jeremiah 10 : 25.) This is a matter for something else than idle regret. Multitudes of children are not controlled,-are not instructed in pious principles, and have no reverence for sacred things. This renders it greatly more difficult for other parents to do as they should by their children. But just in proportion to the difficulties of the case, is the increased importance that serious parents should be of unswerving fidelity to their sacred trust; and should exercise prudence and zeal and piety the more, as their children are exposed to greater dangers. If every other parent was right and you wrong, their right might correct your wrong; but where so many are wrong, we must be doubly careful of the influence exerted upon us and ours. No possible argument can be constructed from existing evils, to justify our yielding to them.
There is something wrong, it must be acknowledged, in the general family training of our communities. We see proofs of it in the abounding of crime; in the desecration of the Sabbath; in the demoralizing schools upon the corners of our streets; and in the lawless and boisterous wandering of troops of boys, when and where they please. We feel the influence in all our households; and are called to contend with it in our own children. We will not join the cry, repeated in every age since the time of Solomon, "What is the cause, that the former days were better than these ?”' But we should seriously ponder the principles and measures which every man should adopt who would do his duty by his family. This simple principle we have now urged. The family is a religious institution, and the promotion of piety is its great aim.
These thoughts chiefly address parents, but are of interest also to others. God has bound us all in tender ties to our own families. You are required to perform many duties here; but you should live chiefly for the life beyond. There is indeed a sense, in which the ties of kindred will be unknown in heaven; but the affections kindled towards each other here, will be warmer there; the efforts made here, for the salvation of our brothers, our friends, our children, shall never be forgotten. And thus, though the family be dissolved, the members of the family must live forever; the influence of the family must ever abide; and, with regard to those that are so happy as to meet in heaven, the love of the family shall be eternal. We are all, then, in our different spheres, but doing our duty, and but seeking our highest advantage, when we strive to make the family a model of heaven, and a nursery for the Paradise of God. Happy is the man whose youthful years in his father's house, and whose maturer years in his own house are spent in piety; who sets the Lord always before his face; and who makes his earthly home, as much as possible, like the heavenly home.
THE EXPECTATION AND DUTY OF CHRISTIAN
BY THE REV. T. ATKINSON, OF LOWELL, MASS.
THE CHRISTIAN PARENT'S EXPECTATION. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.”—ISAIAH 61: 8, 9.
The subject announced in the above title, is one in which every thoughtful mind will be deeply interested. Especially must it interest
every Christian parent. The tendency of human nature to sin, is not, with him, a mere theory; he has proofs and illustrations of the fact, which reach not only his judgment but his heart! And sometimes he is alarmed and distressed to see that the seeds of sin have actually sprung up, and gathered strength, and borne fruit, in a space of time which he had supposed too brief to allow them even to germinate. As he looks upon his child, reposing in the helplessness and innocency of infancy, what more calculated to heave the bosom of the pious parent with intense emotion, than the thought of what that child is, and may become! If the tender plant shall live, how soon may chilling winds blow upon it, or piercing frosts spoil it. And who can tell how it will grow up, and what fruit it will produce? There are the elements of manhood ;-but how shall they be developed and matured, so that that manhood may be virtuous and lovely; a blessing, and not a curse ?
But there are deeper and higher thoughts than these;—that child i8 IMMORTAL! It may become a fit companion for seraphs, or for fiends! And the parent's influence may mould that character, and shape that destiny. Undoubtedly, if this were duly considered by parents, they would be far more circumspect and prayerful,--more solicitous to give the earliest buddings of their children's affections a right direction; and, as far as human instrumentality can possibly go, to implant early in their minds the pure and exalted principles of virtue and piety. Something of this anxiety is felt, and something of this care exercised by every Christian parent; for, as the law of nature requires parents to seek the temporal happiness of their children, so the law of Christianity requires them to seek their spiritual good; to bring them up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” But while we cultivate the intellect and AFFECTIONS,while we instruct their minds, restrain their sinful passions, establish correct principles, and regulate their outward conduct, we feel that the utmost we can accomplish is, to prevent the growth of unseemly excrescences; to produce honesty, amiableness, and perhaps the semblance of piety. We therefore commend them to Him who alone can renew their affections, give them a heart to love him, and make them meet for his kingdom and glory. Affection for them, and confidence in God, will lead us thus far; and now we come to His word, and ask, Have I any reason to expect more than the natural effect of a wise, affectionate, and careful training? Will God himself interpose ? Upon what does that expectation rest? Does it rest upon the general promises of God, that he will hear and answer prayer? or upon some special promises made to believers with regard to their seed? And if there be any such promises, do they belong to me? and am I acting as those promises require; so that the blessings they convey may be secured to me, and to my offspring? These are some of the important inquiries involved in the subject now under consideration, and I think it will be made clearly to appear,
That the people of God have special encouragement, in the general aspect of his word towards the posterity of those who are in covenant with him :
That this peculiar blessing has been very generally misunderstood, undervalued, and forfeited; and
That the promise of its bestowment involves peculiar responsibilities, on the part of both parents and children.
I. The people of God have special encouragement, in the general aspect of his word towards the posterity of those who are in covenant with him.
Our text may be regarded as a specimen of a numerous class of predictions and promises scattered throughout the prophetic books. Compare it with Isaiah 59: 21, and 65: 23. 6 I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.” “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever." They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.”
There may be differences of opinion respecting the primary application of such promises; some may apply them to the Jews, others to the Gentiles, and others to the Gospel Church, without any national distinctions; but all will agree in three things:
That they relate to the “people of God,"—those who are in covenant with him:
That they relate to the people of God in Gospel times ; and
That a peculiar blessing is attached to the seed of those whom God hath brought into covenant relation to himself.
It appears to me very plain, that the verses we have quoted refer to the future establishment and prosperity of the Gospel among the Jews; but we have now only to do with the principle, that God does specially regard the seed of those who are in covenant with him. It will be admitted that this principle is recognized in every part of the Old Testament. It stands out distinctly in its exhortations and predictions; its warnings, and promises, and narratives. It is also declared to be a fundamental principle of the divine government, an unchangeable law in his kingdom of grace. “Know therefore, that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." Deut. 7:9; Ps. 103: 17, 18.
We are aware that all this will weigh little with some Christians. They have learned to regard the Old Testament as a faded and wornout garment; once valuable, and still to be preserved with care, but of little practical use to the believer of the present day. If we speak of Abraham and Moses, they think we are about to mar the Gospel, by the introduction of Judaism; or, that we love the dim light of the stars, rather than the clear shining of the sun. We rejoice, not less than they, in the spirituality of the New Testament; in the fulness of that statute-book of the Gospel kingdom; but we remember that we have, in the Bible, the gradual development of God's purposes of grace to man; one consistent and harmonious scheme,—not inconsistent and conflicting systems of government, and manifestations of mercy,-an emanation from “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.". If, then, we maintain that the covenant which God makes with his people now, is the same, in substance, as that which he made with Abraham, let it not be said that we confound spiritual things with temporal; or, that we limit the grace of God, by confining its exercise to the natural descendants of believers, to the exclusion of others. We are willing to take the exposition of Andrew Fuller, whom the whole body of Baptists regard as one of their most powerful and accurate writers. Referring to the covenant transaction recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis, he says: “ To ascertain the meaning of this promise, we can proceed on no ground more certain than fact. It is fact that God, in succeeding ages, took the seed of Abraham to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all other nations; not only giving them the land of Canaan for a possession, but himself to be their God, King, and temporal Governor. Nor was this all. It was among them that he set up his spiritual kingdom; giving them his lively oracles, sending to them his prophets, and establishing among them his holy worship; and what was still more, the great body of those who were eternally saved, previously to the coming of Christ, were saved from among them. Such, then, being the facts, it is natural to suppose that such was the meaning of the promise.”
Let it be remembered that we are not speaking of the covenant by which Canaan was secured to the seed of Abraham, but of the promise, “ I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” What richer blessing has been promised? What nobler privilege can the people of God now enjoy? It is the greatest good of which the New Testament ever speaks. The manner in which the blessing is secured, by the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Spirit in us, is more fully taught, and the paternal character of God more fully unfolded : but the blessing itself is the same; in every age demanding and securing the same love, obedience, and separation. “As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." It is admitted that the pos