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heard well enough what the prophets say, that preach lies in my name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed.' How long will this continue in the prophets' hearts, to tell lies, and preach the crafty subtilty of their own heart? Whose purpose is, with their dreams which every one telleth, to make my people forget my name, as their forefathers did, when Baal came up.-Therefore thus saith the Lord, I will upon the prophets that steal my word privily from every man : Behold, here am I, saith the Lord, against those prophets that dare prophesy lies, and deceive my people with their vanities, whom I never sent, nor commanded them. They will do this people great harm, saith the Lord."*
The Parents here were certainly as far gone as they could well go ; and what was the remedy in such a case ? Though, to all appearance, in a desperate and hopeless condition, was there any hope of recovery, independently of these Parents, or were they to be reached only in a circuitous or indirect way, through impressions made on their Children? If, however, there was any remedy at all, what was it? “ He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord ? Is not my word like a fire ? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ?” The Almighty, then turning upon those who ought to have known better, at the same moment tells the whole nation, by Jeremiah, if no one else would :-“The prophet, and the priest, and the people, which shall say, the burden of the Lord, I will even punish that man, and his house !"I For divine threatenings despised then, it seems there was no remedy, except calm and patient, but determined repetition-repetition of the testimony, and the threatening and the promise of God; but still in doing this,
* Jeremiah xxiii. 21–27, 30-32. Tyndal's translation.
I Jeremiah xxiii. 34.
I know not of a heart, however far gone, of which I can obtain a more powerful hold, than the parental, nor of a more powerful hold of that heart, than that which God himself here employs, “I will even punish that manand his house !"
For a few moments, however, let the consideration of the purpose of God, by the ministry of his word, be suspended, and the Domestic Constitution itself be again regarded. To the method proposed by some, of beginning with the Children, it might also be remarked, that, were a constitution of things founded in nature by God himself, with such designs in view, and existing alike wherever human nature exists, not standing before us; and were education to be summed up in the mechanical arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and the communication of knowledge only, instead of its embracing also the communication of wisdom and the formation of habits, then some such theory might be applied, and its effects watched. But it is in vain to contend with Nature and her physical impossibilities. While the Child remains in the daily or even nightly possession of the Parent, how little can any such plan radically accomplish ? and yet, whatever is done upon system, however kindly meant, which either at first, or ultimately weakens this connection, is a proportional advance to the brink of ruin; and take the Child
in nation, and that nation is ruined. The entire fabric of society is affected; a constitution of things is invaded and broken down; and the God of all the families of the earth would rise up in judgment. No; human expedients, however specious, and beautiful, and well-intentioned they seem at first sight, often in the application prove hideous and cruel ; and if they, I do not say, run counter to a constitution of God's own creation, but if they pass by, or even slight it, they will prove vain and weak indeed. In modern times, it seems to be unknown to many, that what
ever may be done for the Children of a nation, they will ever go on, not merely to receive a tinge, but to take their character from those with whom they speak, and eat, and sleep. To fall in, therefore, with the all-wise arrangement of the God of nature and revelation is our only wisdom. Such a course will secure his blessing and sanction, and with these, in the most desperate case, the utmost success awaits
of which the case will admit. Without hesitation, it will be granted by all, that in proceeding to apply a remedy to a disease, to restore what is corrupted or decaying, or to rectify any disorder, ultimate success depends almost entirely on the commencement. If we begin wrong, sooner or later, we must begin again, wherever it is possible so to do. In such a case as the present, therefore, let it be our wisdom to begin with Men where God begins with them; and, in humble dependence on Him, if we have his word, and speak it faithfully, let no man's heart fail him: the same cause will produce the same effect. He will turn the heart of the Fathers to the Children, and the heart of the Children to their Fathers, and employ us, too, blessed be his name, in doing so.
Nor is there in this case anything unusual, or anything which is not done in every other case analogous to it, whether for the rectification of evil, or the production of good. Hence, when nations are sunk in depravity, their Rulers are addressed; when churches are corrupt, their Pastors : the leader of an army is held responsible for his men ; the guide and supercargo of a vessel, for the vessel itself, and all on board.
For the prevention of evil the same method is pursued. Hence, while God himself wrote the ten commandments, thus strongly marking their permanency and universal obligation, he ordered Moses to write down all the judicial and ceremonial precepts peculiar to the economy of which
he was to have the charge. Hence, the degeneracy of Israel as a nation was removed or retarded by Judges who judged, or Kings who ruled over them. Hence, to the kings in general over the Jews, it was said, _ And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the Priests and the Levites; and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren ; and that he turn not aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left; to the end, that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel."*
Hence Paul, unable to reach the Church itself, sent for its Elders, and said, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers.” Hence when the seven churches in Asia were addressed by the Saviour, he desired his address to be sent to the angel of each ; and when Paul would provide for the future purity and prosperity of the Church of Christ, he sits down and solemnly addresses himself to Timothy and Titus.
If this, however, is the mode of procedure to which the Author of Nature and the constitution of things alike direct us, we shall not be left without reasons, both
powerful and striking, for our pursuing it; and especially with regard to a family. As a specimen, let the two following considerations be duly weighed:
1. Observe the difference between what is requisite and generally adopted, for the ascertaining of guilt, and for the conviction of sin, once ascertained or confessed.
* This law was probably but very seldom observed by the Kings of Judah, and never by the Kings of Israel. Observe the consequences.
The manner in which the Lord himself proceeded, upon the
very entrance of sin into our world, affords an illustration of this difference, at once safe and satisfactory. Proceeding to ascertain the painful and awful case, and in a way of condescension to human nature, now, alas ! fallen, His voice first strikes upon the ear of Adam, who at once admits that he was afraid and ashamed, but refers to the woman, who endeavors to shift the blame, by a reference to him who was most guilty. But the respective guilt of each party once ascertained, this order is reversed; and in pronouncing sentence of condemnation, with a view to our first Parents reading their sin in their punishment, Jehovah begins with Satan ; then pronounces sentence on the woman; and finally on Adam.
Now, were it not already ascertained, beyond a doubt, that Parents have been first in fault; that they have been not only most negligent and most guilty, but the cause of their Children's ignorance and bad habits ; then would it seem not only proper, but even necessary, to begin with the party who has been led astray, and less guilty, as Jehovah did. But between the process necessary for the ascertaining with whom the chief guilt rests, and that which is incumbent on us for the radical conviction of sin in the group itself, there is such a material difference, that it is generally found necessary to proceed in two ways, directly opposite.
2. Observe also the difference between what I may style ascending and descending love.
Descending love ought to exist to a much greater degree, since it is capable of being carried to a much greater extent, than ascending. As the love of God descending is infinitely greater than that which does or which can ascend to him in return; so the love of man, which descends to the young and to posterity, or the love of care over them, is, or may be, much greater than that