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which does or which can return or ascend; and, as in the former case, the first is not only first in the order of time, but produces and promotes the second, so it ought to be in all cases which bear any analogy, and much more in a case like the present, which bears such analogy.
The truth, therefore, seems to be, that, in whatever way this subject is viewed, in the case of a debased or disordered family, the main offence, the chief amount of guilt, lies with the Parents. The evils and the inconvenience suffered by a country, in consequence of the ingratitude and disobedience of its Children towards their Parents may be great, but they are, literally, after all, but few and light indeed, in comparison with the evils and distress which it suffers from the remissness or neglect of which Parents are guilty towards their offspring. The influence which is peculiar to them, in depressing or elevating a nation, is not only prodigious—it is incalculable.
Now, were there no instrument expressly appointed, or peculiarly adapted, for bearing down directly upon a body so potent as this, we should feel 'helpless indeed in all our attempts after a better day. But a remedy assuredly there is, of peculiar adaptation to the character and position of a Parent. Hence, even in the two considerations just stated, we have in one the argument of greatest sin, and in the other the argument of strongest obligation. Hence the warnings, the threatenings, the arguments for conscience, furnished to us in Scripture for the parental ear, are so peculiarly adapted to the responsible, and, if guilty, the perilous situation of a Father or Mother.
Here, however, we are evidently again thrown back on the ministry of the word ; on the commission of our Saviour, still sounding in the ear; and on obedience to it, whether publicly, or from house to house ; as well as the necessity for implicit faith on our part, in God's own
instituted and determined way of proceeding with his apostate family.
It is indeed very possible, as I have already hinted, that the extreme impotency of preaching in our day, may have induced benevolent men to look about, and see whether any other, or, at least, additional means could be devised for keeping down immorality, and suppressing vice, and exterminating juvenile delinquency. Had senior delinquency been especially regarded, and inquiries been instituted on the part of individuals whom it most concerns, into the cause of the impotency referred to, I am firmly persuaded, that greater progress would have been made in what many profess to desire, and all agree to be necessary. At the same time, as I have already remarked, the impotency of any given ministry, in any country, is one thing, the institution and appointment of God another; and when I hear such a man as John Howe lamenting over this impotency, even in his day, but still magnifying the appointment itself, and confidently anticipating a brighter day, by means of this, when God shall, by his servants, justify the power and the wisdom of his own institution ; I know not that any man, in such circumstances, could do much better, than adopt his sentiments, and try to imbibe the spirit which such a man possessed. * *“I remember," says an American author,
a remarkable passage of the late learned Mr. Howe, which I think it may be worth while to transcribe here. It is in his Discourse concerning the prosperous state of the Church, before the end of time, by a plentiful effusion of the Holy Sprit. 'In such a time,' says he, 'when the Spirit shall be poured forth, surely the Ministers of Christ shall have their proportionable share; and when such a time as that shall come, I believe you will hear much other kind of sermons, or they will, who live at such a time, than you are wont to do now-a-days; souls will surely be dealt with at another rate. It is plain, too sadly plain, that there is a great retraction of the Spirit even from us. We know not how to speak living sense into souls; how to get within your minds : our words die in our mouths, or drop and die
To return, however, more directly to the Parents and Children. “ Is not all this,” some man may still say, “only a delightful dream? Not as yet,” he continues,
am I able to point out to you any triumphant instance between us and you. We even, as it were, faint when we speak; long experienced unsuccessfulness makes us despond: we speak not as persons that hope to prevail; that expect to make you heavenly, or mindful of God, and to walk more like Christians. The methods of alluring and convincing souls, even that some of us have known, are lost from amongst us in a great part. There have been other ways taken than we can tell now how to fall upon, for the mollifying of the obdurate, and the awakening of the secure; for the convincing and persuading of the obstinate, and the winning of the disaffected. Surely there will be a large share that will come even to the part of Ministers, when such an effusion of the Spirit shall be as it is expected. Then they shall know how to speak to better purpose with more compassion—with more seriousness—with more authority and allurement, than we now find we
Agreeably to the just expectation of this great and excellent man, continues this writer, with reference to the people of New England, we have found it in this day :
:-"A number of preachers have appeared among us, to whom God has given such a measure of his Spirit, that we are ready sometimes to apply to them the character given of Barnabas. The doctrines they insist on are the doctrines of the Reformation, under the influence whereof the power of godliness so flourished in the last century. The points on which their preaching mainly turns are these important ones of man's guilt, corruption, and impotence; supernatural regeneration by the Spirit of God; and free justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ. The manner of their preaching is not with the enticing words of man's wisdom; howbeit they speak wisdom among them that are perfect. An ardent love to Christ and to souls warms their breasts, and animates their labors. God has made these his ministers as a flame of fire in his service; and his word in their mouths has been as a fire, and as a hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces.' In most places, God has evidently wrought with them. Such a power and such a presence of God in religious assemblies, has not been known since God set up his sanctuary amongst us. He has indeed 'glorified the house of his glory.'"- See the Works of President Edwards, vol. viii. 581--588; and Howe's Works, vol. v. throughout.
of a community raised permanently, by the opposite method ; but are you able to show me the operation and the effect of that which you now recommend ?"__To such an individual I reply, with my Bible in my hand, happily I am ; and to such an instance also, as should, and, I believe, must become at once the guide and encouragement of all nations, in any condition, and in every age.
For both proof and illustration, I have no objections to be confined to the literal fulfilment of this very prophecy. . To the blessed day, when John began, when Jesus perfected, and his Apostles followed, in turning the heart of the Fathers to their Children. Much of proof, indeed, I think, has been already adduced; but it is more than merely worth our while to take another view of this subject, in a more distinct and connected manner.
Carry your eye, then, along the delightful stream of the New Testament narrative, from the moment when you discover, in the wilderness of Judea, “the waters break out, and streams in the desert.” On either side you will see Family connections and Family groups bestirred and changed, and the parental heart especially, vibrating in all its tenderness.
But we have been urging the importance of a right commencement ; let us try it here. On looking back to the origin of the triumph of Christianity, at once we are introduced to two Parents, and are carried home to the very bosom of a Family. It was fit that the man alluded to by the last of the Prophets, and who was first to be so employed, should himself be the Child of such Parents His Father and Mother, “ Zacharias and Elizabeth, were both righteous before God, and were walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, when, in answer to their supplications, Jehovah promised them such a Son. In fixing on the man who was to ac
complish such a prophecy, we see the Lord himself regard the Parents first. To turn the hearts of such Parents to such a Child of Promise was not necessary; but how great were the benefits which, on entering into existence, he must have enjoyed in such a Father and Mother! The little Child “grew and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his showing unto Israel.” Receiving no education from the Jewish Scribes, nor attending on any sacerdotal services of the sanctuary, with his Parents' example before him, and under their tuition, he was prepared for his great undertaking. At last, John being about thirty years of age, quitting the hill country, and coming down by the wilderness of Judea to the plains of Jordan, the nation is found in the precise state glanced at by the last of the prophets. Like “the barren fig-tree,” to which our Lord afterward compared it, it is “ nigh unto cursing :” and in the ministry of John, we see the last remedy applied, before “ smiting the land with a curse.” Out of this nation, far gone
many unto the Lord their God,—" to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, the heart of the children to the fathers, and make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
In his manner of proceeding there is something at once noble and awful : something which draws at once on our fear and love. To the bardened or hypocritical character of man, fully formed, he at once addressed himself, and, grappling with the vain refuge of the day, he says,“ Think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up Children unto Abraham. also the axe is laid to the root of the tree ; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire”-is to be changed into fuel. Nor, as though he had said, think me severe, for there cometh one after
who will be severer still : “ whose fan is in