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223 the child, one of whose parents follows the Saviour, and the other the world ? How painful must it be to a father or mother who feels the value of an immortal soul, who knows the Saviour's love, and anxiously desires that a beloved family of children should know this also, to think, By marrying contrary to the will of God, I have I fear entailed eternal damnation on all my dear but thoughtless children.
$ 16. Those who cavil against a divine law, because they are unwilling to submit to its restraint, invent various objections against the preceding statements, or excuses for rebelling against the authority of the Most High. Some plead that the unbelieving party may receive spiritual benefit, and urge the apostle's words, “ What knowest thou, O wife, but thou mayest save thy husband.”
Ans. A reply to this objection has in fact already been given. The good done bears no proportion to the mischief. Few strangers to religion are brought to embrace it, by marrying those that professed to enjoy its power; but many that professed religion, are led to forsake and renounce it, by entering into such forbidden unions. The words, “ What knowest thou, O wife, but thou mayest save thy husband," refer not to a case of this kind, but to those cases where, of those persons who are equally strangers to religion, one party after marriage is brought to embrace it. In these cases the wife or husband, when converted, often becomes the means of converting their respective partner ; but it is not so in those cases where professed disciples of Jesus violate his laws, by marrying those who know him not.
Obj. 2. Still it may be said, in some cases the happy result of a friend of religion marrying an amiable person, who knew not its power, has been the conversion of the unbelieving party:
Ans. Allowing this in some instances to be true, it forms no justifiable reason for violating a plain divine law. The principle maintained in this case, is neither more nor less, than “ Let us do evil that good may come.” The good expected may never come, yet if it were certain that it would, the sin of breaking God's holy law is not thereby lessened. Of those who do evil that good may come, it is said, “ that their dampation is just." I recollect reading of a thief who stole a
(u) Rom, iii. 8.
224 Bible, or other religious book. This book proved the instrument of his conversion; but would any one argue, It is law. ful to steal Bibles because they may convert the thieves that steal them? Would they not rather acknowledge, that the dishonest action retained all its criminality, whatever might be its effect? It is the same in the present case. Whether the unbelieving party be converted to God, or remain unconverted, the believing party has incurred the guilt of wilfully despising the authority of the Majesty on high.
Obj. 3. It is further objected, that so much difference exists between a nominal Christian and a heathen, that the rule which is applicable to the latter will not be so to the former.
Ans. In reply we may inquire, Wherein does that differ. ence exist ? Not in their state in the sight of God. Both are children of wrath. Not in their enjoyment of spiritual blessings; for neither has any. Not in the state of their hearts. The nominal Christian as much needs conversion, as the profligate heathen, and is as unable to be saved without it. Not that one needs less grace than the other for salvation. The nominal Christian cannot be saved, unless born again of the Spirit of God, and with that great change the heathen may. In fact, in many respects the balance turns in favour of the heathen. The nominal Christian has heard the gospel, and slighted its message; the heathen has not. In one case nego lect of religion is plainly proved, that there would be such neglect is not plainly proved in the other case. The preponderance in guilt and ruin, evidently lies with the nominal Christian. The Lord Jesus represented the state of heathea Tyre and Sidon, of Sodom and Gomorrah, as preferable to that of Jews who heard his message of love in vain.
Where then is the difference in favour of the nominal Christian ? With a heart as hard as the heathen's, and as much needing divine power to soften it, with greater sins and darker prospects, in consequence of sinning against more light and greater obligations, than the heathen ever knew, the nominal Christian is going apace to a ruin as sure, but still more tremendous.
ON FAMILY DUTIES.
A VERY considerable portion of human happiness
depends on the members of a family cherishing those sentiments, and practising those duties, which spring from the relations of domestic life. The religion of the gospel is designed to diffuse peace, love, and harmony through the family circle; to soften every rugged passion; to strengthen every affectionate feeling ; and to open in each house, as well as “ in each breast, a little heaven." There are persons who abroad appear courteous and humble, gentle and good-natured, that at home are harsh and passionate, proud or peevish, soon provoked, and easily offended. It should never be forgotten by you, that true piety should be shown at home. Let the family that has daily converse with you, behold its brightest radiance. Thus Jesus acted; Judas, who knew him best, and saw him in his retired hours, had not one charge of folly or inconsistency to bring against him. How different from those of his professed disciples, who are esteemed abroad, but not at home; loved as Christians by those who know them least, but whose profession is doubted or scorned by those who know them best.-Hypocrites in reality, that have given rise to the proverb, “ A saint abroad, and a devil at home.”
The religion of Jesus, however, is not answerable for the hypocrisy it condemns. The true disciples of the Saviour will act a very different part.
There is no scene in which the all-important graces, meekness, humility, gentleness, courteousness, are more important than at home. There is no situation in which watchfulness over your words and tempers is more necessary. There many little things will occur to vex and irritate; there you are more liable to be off your guard, and thus more liable, by improper tempers and hasty words, to bring sin upon your
226 own soul, and to injure the souls of others. The directions given in the Scriptures, respecting harmony, kindness, care not to provoke nor be provoked, and others of a similar kind, should be impressed on the heart of every Christian, who would honour religion in the family to which he belongs.
In the general it may be observed, that whatever be your situation in the family of which you form a part, as a Christian it should be your constant aim and daily study, to display a meek, humble, gentle, benevolent, affectionate spirit ; and to maintain a conscience void of offence. towards all around you. The Scriptures however descend to direction more minute, and peculiarly expressive.
§ 2. Duties of parents,
66 These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and 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." Teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons.
By needed correction to restrain them from evil. “With. hold not correction from the child; thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul fron hell."" Eli, though pious, fell under God's dreadful displeasure, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. Not to discourage or provoke their children.
« Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”e
“ Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be discouraged."
To love their children, and to pray for them, as Job and David did, and to labour for their eternal welfare. “ Train up a child in the way he should go ; and when he is old, be will not depart from it.”g “ Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”h
The expression, Train up a child in the way he should go, signifies, to draw along by a regular and steady course of exertions. This calls for line upon line, precept upon precept; continued exertions ; continued watchfulness, and unceasing care. Many pious parents, who have done something to promote their children's religious welfare, have still been far from (a) Deut. vi. 6. (0) Deut. iv. 9. (c) Prov. xxiii. 13, 14. (d) 1 Sam. iii. 11-13 (1) Col, iii. 21.
(h) Eph. vi. 4.
(e) Eph. iv. 4.
(0) Prov. xxii. 6.
DUTIES OF CHILDREN.
227 training them up in the way of life. Numerous instances can be adduced of pious parents, who have had ungodly children, but perhaps it would be difficult to produce one instance of the kind, in which a parent, who has literally TRAINED up his child in the way he should go, has had to encounter this affliction.
$ 3. Duties of children.
To indulge that honour and respect for their parents, which flow from filial love, which God approves, while opposite conduct incurs his most sedere displeasure. nour thy father and mother, (which is the first commandment with promise,) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” “Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother.' “ Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer."
To hearken to the counsels of their parents, and obey their directions, excepting only in such cases as would be sinful in the sight of God. « Children, obey your parents in the Lord : for this is right.”m “ Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
If in age their parents need assistance and support from them, cheerfully to render this, and thus to minister to their comfort, and requite their kindness. “ If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them. But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."p
Duties of husbands and wives.
On the part of the wife, submission and affection ; on that of the husband, tenderness, forbearance, and love, like that of the Lord Jesus to his church. “ Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies : he that loveth his wife loveth himself. (0) Eph. vi. 2, 3. (k) Deut. xxvii. 16.
Prov. xxx. 17. Ezek. xxii. 7. Prov, i. 8. (n) Col. iii. 20. (0) Acts v. 29. (p) 1 Tim, v. 4, 16, 8.
(1) Prov. xxviii. 24. see also
(m) Eph. vi. 1.