« PreviousContinue »
mands far higher regard and veneration. In every earthly government it is always regarded as an evidence of good and comely order, as well as equity, that children should inherit the
of those parents who were confessedly not only poor but profligate, or who had squandered, or forfeited by their crimes, all they had. But the violation of this first and second commandment amounts to nothing short of treason under the divine government: now, under an earthly government, the traitor is himself condemned to death; his
forfeited to the crown; his escutcheon is reversed ; his arms of honour extinguished; and the nobility of his family is lost and forgotten. Such are some of the melancholy consequences of what has been styled—the taint of blood. Even among heathen nations such a connexion between a parent and his children has been well understood and approved : “When the Athenians saw honour done to the posterity of Cimon, a good citizen, who had been murdered for his wisdom and virtue, they were highly pleased; when, at the same time, they saw a decree of banishment pass against the children of Lacharis and Aristo, they laid their hands upon their mouths, and with silence did admire the justice of the Power above."
To proceed only one step farther : in every thing divine, where moral beauty is conspicuous, mercy is apparent; so it is here especially, even in the solemn sanction of the second commandment. Language which, at first reading, to a superficial observer, might seem fraught with evil only, will be found, in the event of our taking warning, only big with blessing,-with blessing not only to ourselves, but to gene
rations yet unborn. Well does our merciful Creator know, that neglects arising from inconsideration, or want of forethought, are often attended with consequences just as serious and fatal as those which follow the greatest crimes. To counteract these sins of neglect, there must be some general law, and God, in great mercy to man, thus reveals it, as one admirably adapted for this end. In man there is a certain fearlessness or indifference with regard to what may be hereafter, or after him, in the moral
government of God. It becomes necessary, therefore, that the Author of his being should lay hold of him in the most vulnerable and tender part; thus securing for himself that respect and veneration which is at once our interest and duty, and his right. By making his examples thus lasting and communicative, and of great effect, he arrests the spirits of men, and secures for himself the great object for which he once wrote these words on the top of Mount Sinai :-“ For the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven on the tables.”
Such being the law and solemn determination of the Most High, you need not be surprised when you see the displeasure of God first hover for a season over the habitation of the ungodly, then enter in and abide there, till He hath destroyed the wealth and the honour, the comfort and the credit of the whole family. Such being his law, you will not long wonder at the roll which the prophet Zechariah saw flying in the air, over the land of Judea : nor can you object to the answer which was given him, when asked, “ What seest thou ? « Then said He unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the whole earth ; for
every one that stealeth shall be cut off on this side, according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off on that side, according to it. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of Hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name ; and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it, with the timber thereof, and the stones thereof.” Did not this entire consumption of the house indicate that the divine displeasure rested on the family of the sinful parent ? while the dishonest and the profane are selected as fit and awful representatives of the violators of both tables of the law.
What! it will be said by some who do not yet fully understand the subject, is there no way of escape-no way by which the entail of the curse may be cut off? Even natural evil, or natural and hereditary disease, may be so far ameliorated, and often eradicated or prevented, by the regimen or temperance of any one link in the chain of generations. Precisely so; and here also is revealed to us the moral check to moral disorder or deformity: it is simply by a recurrence to this very statute. So said the Psalmist long after Moses,—“ He established a testimony * in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know, even the children
* Such was the title given to the moral law (Exod. xxv. 16.), as to be deposited in the Ark, which was covered by the mercy
There securely kept, it testified at once God's authority and his regard ; that though merciful, he required obedience ; while in case of failure or neglect, it testified against every transgressor.
which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their hearts aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”
Suppose now, if you will, that parents have even generally neglected their duty in a town-in a cityin a nation,--then to this statute, taken from the moral law itself, must we have immediate recourse, if we desire to arrest the plague, and restore the tone of society. It is for the legate of the skies, and for every judicious Christian, to lay the axe to the root of the tree. It is for them to look to the Parents, all corrupt and abandoned though they be. Their hearts must be turned, and then will these hearts turn to their children. Not that the children are to be forgotten by such ; oh, no—in no wise; but let the parents, as to conversion, be regarded, not with a hopeless or unbelieving eye-let them be primarily regarded. Let us not be told of their corrupt, and formed, and confirmed habits, and let no Christian's heart fail him here. We tread in the footsteps of the word of God, and follow the order marked out to us by Heaven. “ He shall,”—-yes, and John did “ turn the heart of the parents to the children, and the heart of the children to their parents.” He did, and we may ; nay, we shall, if we have faith in God, when treading in the footsteps of John: otherwise what has become of our blessed Saviour's assurance-"He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he ?"
THE BLESSING CONNECTED WITH OBEDIENCE,
DESCENDING TO POSTERITY.
Though this Blessing, revealed in Scripture, and confirmed by ex
perience, seems acceptable to the human heart, no man believes in it, who disregards or rejects the punishment in contrast...The descending Blessing illustrated by example.
that this moral connexion between a parent and his family is of God's own institution, it seems now only necessary to notice the blessing which he has graciously connected with our regard to it. To the blessing descending, men in general profess to feel no objection; and the language in which it is expressed is indeed peculiarly affecting : “I, the Lord thy God-am shewing mercy to thousands," or a thousand generations “ of them that love me, and (as the proof of their love) keep my commandments.” It is, however, very questionable whether there is not as little faith in the blessing descending, as the curse; and it deserves consideration, that he only believes in one, who believes in both; since, in producing conformity to the law, faith in both is absolutely requisite. The curse secures attention and consideration, caution and forethought; the blessing produces pleasure and hope, perseverance and success: the threatening is intended to maintain the fear of God, and to prevent the entrance of the fear of man, or undue regard to him in the management of one's family ;