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IV. Children have a right to excel their parents in such things as are good and praise-worthy.
V. It is a great and singular happiness, where there is a general agreement and harmony, as to things of religion, among friends and relatives, and the several branches of a family.
1. It is an advantage to be descended of pious parents, and other religious ancestors.
This is evident at first sight. If piety, or any virtue, be preferable to irreligion, and to vicious dispositions and practices, it must be an advantage to be related to such as are religious and virtuous. It cannot but be a privilege, to descend from those who have a knowledge of God, and some just apprehensions of his perfections, and a serious sense of religious things upon their minds. For thereby they are restrained from what is evil: and are obliged, engaged, and excited to that which is good. Moreover, all the behaviour of such persons, and their treatment of others, especially of those who depend upon them, is pleasing, desirable, and agreeable. They therefore who have pious parents enjoy a kind and mild treatment, which many others want,
There is a benefit likewise in the instructions received from such. For they who are themselves pious and religious, will “ teach their children, and their household after them, to keep the way of the Lord," Gen. xvii, 19. You, therefore, who are descended from pious parents, have heard of the eternal and unchangeable existence of God, the Maker of all things. You have been informed of the goodness and bounty, the mercy and loving-kindness of God to all his creatures, especially those that fear and serve bim : and that as he has all power in heaven and earth, he is able to defend and uphold all his sincere worshippers, and to reward such as diligently seek and serve him.
You who are born of christian parents have heard of the love of Jesus Christ in dying for us. You have heard of the mean birth, and humble life of Jesus, who has most clearly taught the way of salvation. You have been acquainted with the promise he made of everlasting happiness to those who sincerely obey the rules of life delivered by him, who love God with all the heart and soul, and their neighbour as themselves, and who persevere in the profession of truth, and the practice of virtue, notwithstanding worldly difficulties and discouragements.
You have likewise such a knowledge of the wonderful works he wrought, that you cannot doubt of the truth of his words. For no man could do such works unless God was with him. His cures of the sick and infirm, and that by a word, and instantly, and raising the dead, are undeniable proofs, that he spake in the naine of God, or that the Father had sent him, and that the whole of his doctrine is true, and from beaven.
You have also been instructed in the history of his resurrection and ascension, and the mighty works that were done by the apostles of Jesus after he had left this world, when they preached the dioctrine they had received from him. And
you have no doubt but he will come again in glory, to judge the quick and the deal, and to give to all men according to the things done by them in this their state of trial.
Ry the advantage of your birth you have been favoured with the knowledge of divers maxims and observations of unquestioned truth and certainty, and of great use to the right conduct of life. You have been told, that a little with
a the fear of God, is better than great revenues without it, or than the riches of many wicked: that the fear of God, a sense of his care and providence, hope in his promises, especially the great promise of eternal life to the truly pious and virtuous, will afford great peace and satisfaction at all times: that these dispositions will increase the happiness of outward prosperity, and abate the bitterness of all worldly aillictions.
To have been early instructed in these things is a great benefit. How deplorable is the case of those who are ignorant of them !
One thing more I shall mention here, that to your descent from religious parents, possibly, you owe divers temporal advantages. Solomon says: " The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but lie blesseth the habitation of the just,” Prov. iii. 33. From the usefulness, and honourable and discreet behaviour of your ancestors, you have inherited credit and reputation. And to their frugality, discretion, diligence, sobriety, and other virtues, you may reckon yourselves indebted for the competence or the abundance of the good things you possess and enjoy, which otherwise might have been squandered away in luxury and
II. They who have this advantage ought to improve it. And it will be commendable in them to attend to the instructions, and imitate the virtues, of their religious parents, and other pious ancestors.
St. Paul esteemed it matter of much joy and thanksgiving,
that he had “ served God from his forefathers with a pure conscience,” 2 Tim. i. 3. He speaks to Timothy in the way of commendation, when he says, “ that he was persuaded, the same faith dwelt in him, which had first dwe't in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice."
There is an obligation to attend to wise and wholesome instructions, from whomsoever we receive them: and to follow the good examples we see in any. But there is a more especial obligation to hearken to, and follow pious parents. This is supposed in divers pathetic admonitions which we meet with in scripture. So in those solemn words of David : “ And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou,” own and acknowledge, fear and worship," the God of thy father,” and “serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind. -If thou seek bim, he will be found of thee: but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever," 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. And says the wise son of king David at the beginning of his book of Proverbs, or collection of wise sayings and observations: “ My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother," Prov. i. 8. Again : “My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Bind them continually upon thy heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee, when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee, and when thou walkest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life," chap. vi. 20-23.
III. They are to be blamed, and their case is to be lamented, who degenerate from the wisdom and piety of their religious ancestors.
For it is a great advantage to have had such good instructions, and to have seen good examples in the early part of life. And it implies some faulty disposition not to follow them. There must be, surely, some want of capacity, not to perceive and admire the beauty of good examples : and some perverseness of temper to act contrary to them.
This is often one article of accusation against the Jews, and assigned as a reason of calamities brought upon them, that they had “ forsaken the God of their fathers.” Wben God appeared to Solomon after the dedication of the temple, there were affecting warnings, as well as gracious promises, delivered to him and his people. They are to this purpose: “For now I have chosen and sanctified this bouse, that my name may be there for ever. And mine
heart shall be there perpetually.--. But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you—then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land, which I gave them—And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it. Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped and served them,” 2 Chron. vii. 16–22.
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That is what is frequently meant in the Old Testament by “ forsaking the God of their fathers ;" namely, leaving and abandoning his worship, and going after other gods, and worshipping idols. But as the guilt of idolatry was more especially aggravated in that people, who had known the true God, and been instructed in his worship: so in like manner is any departure from God aggravated in those who have been instructed in the principles and duties of true religion. And they who have been early taught the way of righteousness, and seen examples of virtue, if they turn from the holy commandment delivered to them: if they forsake the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and are seduced into the ways of sin and iniquity, they are very blame-worthy, and their condition is very pitiable.
IV. Children may, and have a right to exceed and excel their parents and ancestors in those things which are good and praise-worthy.
They are not restrained from this by any rule of reason, or any revealed and written law of God. If their progenitors have been wicked and irreligious, they are not obliged to follow them. They may not do so, upon any considerations whatever. Nor are they who are sincerely but imperfectly good, to be imitated in their faults or defects.
Any truth, that appears clearly revealed, ought to be embraced and professed, whether it had been before entertained by those we respect or not. And the commands of God ought to be obeyed, however others may contradict and gainsay. Paul, when it pleased God to reveal his Son in hin, did not consult with any man, whether he should be a disciple of Jesus, or not. It became thenceforward his duty, though not his interest, to preach the gospel as he did.
The truth of this observation appears from the case of Timothy in the text. Lois and Eunice were Jewesses, of the posterity of Jacob. When the gospel revelation was proposed to them, they received it as the mind of God, and professed it. This is the “ unfeigned faith that first dwelled in them.” And Timothy was to be commended for fol. xvi. beg.
lowing them therein. He was in the right to receive a doctrine, that appeared excellent, and well supported, as being the fulfilment of ancient prophecies, and confirmed by miracles; though his father, as it seems, did not embrace this faith. For if he had, it is likely that St. Paul would have mentioned him here likewise. Nor does St. Luke in his brief history of these persons in the Acts give any intimation of it. All he says of Timothy's father is, that he was a “ Greek, well reported of by the brethren," or christians, “ that were at Lystra and Iconium,” Acts
Here then we perceive, that Timothy is justified and even commended for choosing the principles of true religion : though he had not the leading or the concurring authority and example of his father. From a child he had known the scriptures of the Old Testament, having been instructed in them by his mother and grandmother of the posterity of Jacob, and by profession of the Jewish religion. And from the beginning he paid a great regard to those scriptures, till at length he also became a disciple of Jesus, and embraced the faith of the gospel.
And it is evident, that persons of mature age are obliged to receive what appears to be truth after serious and sufficient examination, and to do what they are convinced is the will of God, whether their parents consent or not. For there is a superior obligation to truth, and the will of God, to which all are subject.
If there be any defect of knowledge in those to whom any are obliged, they may endeavour to be better informed in the principles of religion, and the grounds of them. There may be occasion for them to be more open and explicit in the profession of religion, than those that went before them. They may aim at the strictest regard to the will of God, and' excel in moderation and charity toward others. If they, by whom they have been brought up, appear to them morose and severe, and to stretch their authority beyond the bounds of reason; nothing hinders, but that they may aim at escaping that mistake, and exceed them in mildness and gentleness. There can be no good reason assigned, why children should not be better than their parents, if they are able; still preserving a humble and dutiful respect to a superior relation, which is a necessary part of true goodness, without which they cannot excel.
V. It is a great and singular happiness, when there is a general agreement and harmony in things of religion among friends and relatives, and the several branches of a family.