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s we cannot but with grief of foul lament those multitudes of errors, blasphemies, and all kinds of pro
faneness, which have in this last age like a mighty deluge overflown this nation; fo, among several other fins which have helped to open the flood gates of all these impieties, we cannot but esteem the disuse of family-instruction one of the greatest. The two great pillars upon which the kingdom of Satan is erected, and by which it is upheld, are ignorance and error : the first step of our manumission from this fpiritual thraldom consists, in having our eyes opened, and being turned from darkness to Acts. 26. 18. light; how much the serious endeavours of godly parents and masters might contribute to an early seasoning the tender years of such as are under their inspection, is abundantly evident, not only from their special influence upon them, in respect of their authority over them, interest in them, continual presence with them, and frequent opportunities of being helpful to them ; but also from the sad effects which by woful experience we find to be the fruit of the omission of this duty. 'Twere easy to set before you a cloud of witneses, the language of whose practice hath been not only an cminent commendation of this duty, but also a serious exhortation to it. As Abel though dead, yet Heb. 11. I. Speaks by his example to us for imitation of his faith, dc. So do the examples of Abraham, of Joshua, of the parents of Solomon, of the grandmother and mother of Timothy, the mother of Augustine, whose care was as well to nurse up the souls as the bodies of their little ones; and
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as their pains herein was great, fo was their success no way unanswerable.
We should scarce imagine it any better than an impertinency, in this noon-day of the gospel, either to inform or per: fwade in a duty lo exprefly commanded, so frequently urged, fo highly encouraged, and to eminently owned by the
Lord in all ages with his blessing, but that our fad experience tells us this duty is not more needful than 'tis of late neglected. For the restoring of this duty to its due observance, gives us leave to suggest this double advice.
The first concerns heads of famílies in respect of themselves, That as the Lord hath set them int place above the reft of their family, they would labour in all wisdom and spiritual understanding to be above them allo. 'Tis an uncomely fight to behold men in years babes in knowledge ; and how unmeet are they to instruct others, who need themselves to be
taught which be the first principles of the oracles Heb 5.12. of God? Knowledge is an accomplishment so
desirable, that the devils themselves new not a more taking bait by which to tempt our first parents, than by the fruit of the Tree of knowledge: So Mall ye be as gods
knowing good and evil. When Solomon had 1 Kings. 3. 5, 9. that favour Thewed him of the Lord, that
he was made his own chuser what to ask, he knew no greater mercy to beg than Wisdom. The under standing is the guide and pilot of the whole man,that faculty which sits at the stern of the soul: But as the most expert guide may mistake in the dark, so may the understanding when it
wants the light of knowledge; Without know Prov. 19.2. ledge the mind cannot be good, nor the life good Eph. 4. 18. nor the eternal condition fafe. My people are Hosea 4. 6. destroyed for lack of knowledge. 'Tis ordinary in
Scriptureto set profanenes and all kind of miscarriages upon the score of ignorance. Diseases in the body have many times their rise from distempers in the head, and exorbitancies in practice from errors in judgment: And indeed in every fin there is something both of ignorance and error at the bottom; for, did finners truly know what they do in finning, we might say of every fin, what the an postle (peaks concerning that great fin. Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; did they
The Epiftle to the Reader.
5 truly know that every sin is a provoking the Lord to jealousy, a proclaiming war against heaven, a crucifying the Lord Jesus a. Frelh, a treasuring up wrathurto themselves against the day of wrath, and that, if ever they be pardoned, it must be at no lower a rate than the price of his blood, it were scarce pofGble but sin, instead of alluring, hould affright, and, instead of tempting, scare. 'Tis one of the arch devices and principal methods of Satan, to deceive men into fin; thus he prevailed against our first parents, not as a lion, but as a serpent, acting his enmity under a pretence of friendship, and tempting them to evil under an appearance of good; and thus hath he all along carried on his designs of darkneiš, by transforming hinilelf into an angel of light, making poot deceived men in love with their miseries, and hug their own destruction. A most fovereign antidote against all kind of errors, is to be grounded and settled in the faith : persons, unfixed in the true religion, are very receptive of a false; and they who are nothing in spiritual knowledge, are easily made any thing. Clouds without water are driven to and fro with every wind, and fhips without ballaft liable to the violence of every tempest. But yet the knowledge we especially com-. mend, is not a brain-knowledge, a mere fpeculation ; this may be in the worst of men, nay, in the worst of creatures, the devils themselves, and that in fuch an eminency, as the bet of saints cannot attain to in this life of imperfection": but an inward, a favory, an heart-knowledge, such as was in that Martyr, who, tho' fhe could not dispute for Christ, could die for him, This is that spiritual sense and feeling of divine truths, the apostle' speaks of, Heb. v. 14. Having your fenfes exercised, &c.
But, alas, we may say of most men's religion, what learn. ed Rivet speaks concerning the errors of the Fathers, they were not so much their own errors, Rivet. Crit. as the errors of the times wherein they lived, Sacr. Thus do moft men take up their religion upon no better account than Turks and Papifts take up theirs, because 'tis the religion of the times and places wherein they live, and what they take up thus slightly, they lay down as easily: whereas an inward taste and relish of the things of God, is an excellent preservative to keep us settled in the most unsettled times. Corrupt and unsavory principles have great A 3
advantage upon us, above those that are spiritual and sound; the former being suitable to corrupt nature, the latter 'con trary; the former springing up of themselves, the latter brought forth not without a painful industry. The ground needs no other midwifery in bringing forth weeds,than only the neglect of the husbandman's hand to pluck them up; the air needs no other cause of darkness, than the absence of the fun; nor water of coldness, than its distance from the fire, be, cause these are the genuine products of nature ; Were it so with the foul (as some of the philosophers have vainly imagined) to come into the world as an ab rasa tabula, a mere blank or piece of white paper on which neither any thing write - ten,nor any blots; it would then be equally receptive of good and evil, and no more averse to the one than to the other : But how much worse its condition indeed is, were Scripture filent, every man's experience does evidently manifeft, For who is there that knows any thing of his own heart,and knows not thus much, that the suggestions of Satan bave so easy and free admittance into our hearts, that our utmost watchfulness is too little to guard us from them ? whereas the motions of God's fpirit are fo unacceptable to us, that our utmost dili, gence is too little to get,our hearts open to entertain them, Let therefore the excellency, Necessity, difficulty of true wis.
dom, stir up endeavours in you, somewhat pro.
portionable to such an accomplishment; Above Prov. 2, all getting get understanding,and search for wif
dom as for hidden treasures. It much concerns you in respect of yourselves.
Our second advice concerns heads of families, in respect of their families. Whatever hath been said already, tho' it concerns every private Christian that hath a foul to look af, ter; yet upon a double account, it concerns parents and mar: ters, as, having themselves and others to look after some there are who,because of their ignornance cannot; others, because of their fluggishness, will not mind this duty. To the former we profounded the method of Joshua, who first began with himself
and then is careful of his family. To the latter we shalį only hint, what a dreadful meeting those parents and mar. țers must have at that great day, with their children and ser: yants, when all that were under their inspection shall not on, ly accuse them but charge their eternal miscarrying upon theif
Prov. 4. 7,