Page images
PDF
EPUB

are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart A Brother or a Sister is not under bondage in such cases : but God hath called us to peace ; for what knowest thou, O Wife, whether thou shalt save thy Husband ! or how knowest thou, O Man, whether thou shalt save thy Wife ?" ·

Could any language be more explicit, and satisfactory, or consoling, or discover a more tender regard for the domestic circle ? Thus the best interests of the Children were secured, by the continuation of the marriage-contract, while the delightful prospect is held out, of the Husband or Wife being the instrument, in the hands of a gracious God, of saving the other. Under the Jewish economy such an arrangement was impossible, “ but nowit is otherwise ; and hence the enlargement of privilege here announced. Once on a time, the Children of the Jewish Parent were to be cast out, and even the Wife separated ; nor was there “ hope in Israel concerning this thing,” but upon the trying supposition of such a separation , Now, therefore,

,” said they,“ let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the Wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my Lord (Ezra), and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise ; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee : be of good courage, and do it.” What a severe trial must this have been! Still it was then imperiously necessary : but now the Wife may, nay, if she is so disposed, must, remain, and all the benefits of this Christian economy may descend on the whole family, in consequence of the piety and prayers, the consistent conduct and assiduous endeavors, of only one Parent!

To return, however, to the actual operations of the Messiah and his forerunner. Much, I know, has been said of the non-success of Jesus and of John, but the

event proved that this was only apparent. The truth is, that both were employed about foundation work, and about such a foundation ! “ Other men,” said Jesus, “ have labored, and ye are entered into their labors.” In these words, especial reference was had to himself, and perhaps to John; but this was his divinely humble manner of making such reference.

Even in the days of the Redeemer, however, we have proofs, all in character, of the faithful, and laborious, and well-directed labors of John, now gone to his reward, as well as of Jesus, now on the way to his. Corrupt and ovil as the times were, parental feeling, at least, is seen in most affecting display ; nay, it seems as if it were the only cord in the human heart which responded to the touch of Jesus ; and, when reading the evangelical history, we are often left to repose on it alone, as the surest hope and symptom of a better day. Here, the Parents intercede for their child—one comes on behalf of his only son, and another on behalf of her only daughter! Nor is it individuals only, who press round the adorable Redeemer: there, in company, the very Women bring their Children to him to be blest. He takes them up in his arms, lays his hands upon them, and blesses them, after having uttered these most gracious and delightful words, which, since he spake, have gladdened the heart of millions of Christian Parents : « Suffer the little Children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In a word, in the evangelical history, among all the travels of our blessed Lord, excepting only one instance, the strongest faith with which he met was the faith of Parents, and two cases in particular are most eminent. The one a Mother, the other a Father. The one a Jew, a ruler of the

synagogue,

and the other a solitary descendant of Canaan's devoted race. The Jewish Parent believed that his child might be even

raised from the dead, and therefore, with his partner in life, was present when this was done : and to the other, the Saviour could not, and at last would not, by any means, suppress the utterance, even of his admiration. " Oh, Woman,” said he, “ great is thy faith !" At other times we see him take a single branch of a single family, and turn it to great account. The demoniac beyond the sea of Galilee, who had not only been the grief of his family, but the terror of the neighborhood, would have left all and followed the Saviour, when He was entreated to depart out of their coasts. “ Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but said : Go home, and tell thy friends how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion upon thee." He did so; and by the next time that this heavenly Physician visited those parts, this grateful patient had made room for him. Far from beseeching Jesus to depart, the whole country was moved with one accord,—those in health carrying to him those in sickness; and the sick persuaded, that, if they might but reach the hem of his garment, all would yet be well. Nor were they disappointed, for “as many as touched him, were made perfectly whole.99*

Nor was it only in the days of the Messiah himself, that we see this prophecy of Malachi fulfilled in character. Hence, among the deeds of the apostles, we find recorded the interesting cases of “ Lydia and her household”—of “ the Philippian jailor and his house”—and the “ household of Stephanas.” All these were the heads of families, and in these fine cases, too, we see both members of this prophetic declaration fully and literally accomplished. The hearts of the Fathers are turned to their Children, and the hearts of the Children are turned to their Fathers; and the Parents rejoiced, as well they might, “ believing in the Lord with all their house!"

* Mark v. 1-20, and vii. 31–37; Matt. xv. 29–31.

The answer of Paul to one of these Parents is particularly worthy of notice. The jailor, awakened and convinced of his danger and his guilt, had asked with great earnestness of spirit: “ What shall I do to be saved ?when the apostle as earnestly replied : “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" -and thy house! Neither Paul nor Silas could intend to intimate that his faith could save them; or, let his faith be as strong as it might, that it could carry all or any under his roof to heaven along with him. They must, however, have meant something ; nay, something to him next in importance to his own salvation, and even more than this. Taking advantage of the Parental heart, now broken down and tender, through conviction and guilt, they suggested at once that all under his roof stood in equal danger with himself, and in equal need of salvation --that all required to be saved in the same way-that, if he attached any importance to his present awakened state of mind, he should feel correspondingly for every branch of his family, who had suffered greatly under his past example, and for whose souls he had always been, but was now much more, responsible : nay, in these few expressive words, uttered at such a time, and in such a connection, the high vantage ground on which the Christian Parent stands is pointed out. If Christianity laid deep hold of him, and if means were used by him in faith, like the consecrated oil poured on the head of Aaron, which went down to the skirts of his garment, so in perfect consonance with the personal confidence in Jesus now demanded of himself, and the rich grace to be thus bestowed, this grace through him, as an instrumenty might descend to all at home. Such an opportunity, however, after such an intimation, was not to be lost by the jailor. To every word of their reply he had paid marked attention, and his faith, in these few concluding words, appears very conspi

cuous from his conduct. Not a moment was lost; he

gave Paul and Silas an immediate opportunity ; " and they spake unto him the word of the Lord,” and not to him only, but “ to all that were in his house ;' the wonderful effect we have already remarked—He believed, with all his house !!!

Let it not, therefore, be imagined that it was upon Jewish families only that such rich mercy descended, or that this grace was merely in consonance with some peculiarity in the Old Testament dispensation. The cases already adduced refute this idea, and others might be mentioned. Look at the first streak of day, which gilded the horizon of the Gentile world. Upon opening the door of faith to us, the Gentiles, it is remarkable that we are at once ushered into the bosom of a most delightful family, and that a whole chapter of the Acts is employed in describing the scene. 6 Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

In the days of Cornelius, the obstacle which seemed insuperable, consisted in a deep Jewish prejudice, affecting even the apostles, against the extension of Christianity and all its blessings to the heathen ; in modern times the obstacle to its extension, which also seemed insuperable, consisted in a prejudice, as deep, on the part of the heathen themselves ; yet in this case also, the Almighty condescended to enter by the door of a single Family, or household. As he did by Cornelius at Cesarea in Palestine, so he has done, in our day, when breaking the chain of the caste in India. Yes, a departed friend, and old correspondent, so deservedly dear to me, who, before his death, visited this country from India, Mr. Ward of Serampore, may be remembered by some of my readers, as having furnished this affecting modern instance, explanatory and confirmatory, too, of the method laid down by

« PreviousContinue »