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Lord thy God giveth thee.” The reason annexed is,
” a promise of long life and prosperity. This is exactly similar to the promise annexed to the second commandment—"showing mercy unto thousands that love me, and keep my commandments.” God was under no obligation to make these promises to obedient children; nor to threaten to punish disobedient children in this life. But he had a right to make both the promise and threatening, as a holy and righteous sovereign, to answer wise and important purposes. And he has a right to treat obedient children according to his promise, and disobedient children according to his threatening. This is perfectly agreeable to his justice and goodness, and not in the least inconsistent with the law of nature, or his own written law, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children ; neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers."
1. Since God has promised to bless the obedient children of obedient parents, and threatened to punish the disobedient children of disobedient parents, we may be assured, that he will faithfully fulfil the promise and the threatening according to their true import and extent.
It appears from scripture and universal observation, that obedient parents sometimes have disobedient, as well as obedient children ; and that disobedient parents sometimes have obedient, as well as disobedient children ; and that neither obedient children are always blessed, nor disobedient children are always punished. Though Abraham was an obedient parent, and commanded his children and household to keep the way of the Lord; yet it is probable that he had disobedient, as well as obedient children. Isaac was an obedient son, but it does not appear that all his other sons were SO. David had both obedient and disobedient children, and this was true of other pious kings. And on the other hand, Ahaz was one of the worst of parents, and of Kings ; but yet his son Hezekiah was a most excellent person and prince. Nor does it appear, that the good children of good parents have always been blessed, nor that the bad children of bad parents have always been punished. Now, these things seem to be inconsistent with the promise and threatening in the text. It seems as though God does not fulfil either his promise or his threatening, in respect to obedient and disobedient children. But this, however, must not
, be admitted. There must be some way to remove the difficulty. And it will immediately vanish if we only consider that both the promise and threatening are general and indefinite. God does not promise any particular parent, that he shall have obedient children ; or if his children are obedient, that he will bless each of them in particular ; or if he blesses each of them, that he will bestow the same blessings upon each.--And on the other hand, he does not threaten any particular parent, that he shall have disobedient children; or if he have disobedient children, that he will punish them all; or if he punishes any, that he will punish them all alike. Nor does God specify in his promise and threatening, when he will bless obedient, and punish disobedient children. He has reserved all these par. ticulars in his own power, retaining his right to act as an absolute Sovereign. Both his promise and threat
ening are to be construed and understood, in a general and indefinite sense, like many other general and indefinite promises and threatenings we find in his word.--We read, “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread.” We read “ The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” We read, “The fear of the Lord prolong. eth days : but the years of the wicked shall be shorten. ed.” We read, “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth ; much more the wicked and the sinner.” These we know are general and indefinite promises and threatenings, which God acts as a sovereign in fulfilling. He fulfils them at one time, and not at another ; and in respect to some persons, and not in respect to others. Just so, the promise and threatening in the text are general and indefinite ; and God acts as a sovereign in fulfilling them. I know some have considered them as particular and definite, and adduced them as proof of the opinion, that if parents are faithful in dedicating and educating their children, they shall certainly be pious. But this appears to be a groundless opinion from universal observation. It is generally true, that pious parents oftener have pious children, than wicked parents do, and wicked parents more rarely have pious children, than pious parents. But both pious and wicked parents sometimes have wicked children. God has not promised any particular spiritual or temporal blessings to pious parents, or pious children ; nor threatened any particular spiritual or temporal evils to wicked parents, or wicked children. We have a right to conclude, that God always fulfils the promise and the threatening in the text, according to their general and indefinite meaning; and not to conclude, that he fulfils them in any other sense. And
in this sense, we find by observation and experience, that he often does visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, that hate him, from generation to generation; and that he does shew mercy to thousands of children, who love him, and keep his commandments. And he thus blesses obedient children for the sake of their pious parents, and punishes disobedient children for the sake of their wicked parents.
2. It appears from what has been said upon this subject, that God is highly pleased with pious parents, who faithfully discharge their duty towards their children. He generally and indefinitely promises to show mercy to their children, for their sake, so far as is consistent with his perfect wisdom and goodness in governing the world ; which is a peculiar mark of his approbation of their fidelity. He knows how near and dear their children are to them, and what pure and high satisfaction they take in the piety and prosperity of their offspring. They view any good bestowed upon them, as bestowed upon themselves. They have no greater joy, than to see their children both pious and prosperous, walking in the truth.
It was a great satisfaction to Abraham, to see Isaac his son, made pious and prosperous, for the sake of his parental fidelity. It was a great satisfaction to David, that God gave his son Solomon a wise and understanding heart, and erowned him with power, riches, and glory for his sake. When one man bestows favour upon another for the sake of a third person, it is a peculiar and delicate expression of his love and respect of that person, for whose sake he bestows the favours. It was a strong and delicate expression of David's love and friendship to Jonathan, when he showed kindness to Mephibo
sheth, for Jonathan his father's sake. So God's showing kindness to the children of pious parents, for their parental faithfulness, is a peculiar and high expression of his approbation of their conduct in training them up in the way they should go ; especially, if God bestow great spiritual, as well as temporal favours upon them. There is great reason to think, that according to his general and indefinite promise, he often does bestow the greatest and richest blessings upon children, for their pious parents's sake. In a great many instances, he undoubtedly grants their children the renewing and sanctifying influences of his holy spirit, and prepares them for great prosperity and usefulness in the world. There are a vast many ways, in which God can show favour to children, for their parents's sake, and by which he manifests his peculiar approbation of parental faithfulness.
3. It appears from what has been said, that God is highly displeased with those parents, who are unfaithful in doing their duty to their children.
He generally and indefinitely threatens to punish their disobedient children unto the third and fourth generation, which is as long as parents ever live to see their children, and the evils they suffer in this life. His threatening to unfaithful parents seems to be more definite, than his promise to faithful parents. He threatens to visit the iniquity of unfaithful parents upon their children who hate him, unto the third and fourth generation ; which seemed to imply, that their children shall hate him unto the third and fourth generation. That is, he will bring spiritual, as well as natural evils upon them for so long a period. He will withhold from them his special grace, as well as his special temporal