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7. This subject teaches all real christians that they have no just ground to doubt of their good estate. They often see what they imagine are just causes of their doubting; but if they would critically and impartially examine their own hearts, they would find that in them which would remove their doubts. They would find supreme love to God, and sincere desires after holiness and the enjoyment of God on earth and in heaven. Such views and feelings all have, who have passed from death unto life, and turned from sin to holiness. And such views and desires are positive evidence that their hearts are right, notwithstanding all the contrary views and desires which they too often experience. Though Paul found great moral imperfections cleaving to him, yet he could confidently say, “I delight in the law of God, after the inward man." And Peter, after he had denied his Master and lamented his conduct with tears, could appeal to Christ and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Let christians carry their hearts to heaven, and there they will find an infallible standard by which they may safely determine that they are friends of God, and prepared to be with him, and with all the pure spirits in heaven, to see his glory and praise him
But after all, there may be a question in the minds of sinners which they wish to have answered. And though it has been often answered, yet they still desire to have it answered again: If it be so, that we have no desire to go to heaven because we have no desire to be there, what shall we do? The answer is short and plain : Renounce your enmity against God, which you have felt and expressed without a cause, and love him supremely. And then you may rely upon his promise: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”
THE CONSISTENCY OF THE DIVINE CONDUCT, IN REWARDING OR PUNISHING CHILDREN ON THEIR PARENTS'
For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love
me and keep my commandments. - EXODUS, XX, 5, 6.
This is the reason annexed to the second commandment, which runs in this form: “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water un. der the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” The phrase visiting iniquity is often used in scripture, and always means punishing iniquity. God here threatens to punish disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient parents; and, on the other hand, he promises to bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents. This reason annexed to the second commandment, is probably much oftener read and repeated, than understood. It was designed to make a deep impression upon the minds of both parents and children. But it is not to be expected that it will make a deep impression upon the minds of any, who do not understand the meaning, the force, and propriety of it. I shall endeavor, therefore, in the present discourse, to explain it as clearly and intelligibly as I can.
And in order to this, it seems necessary to show,
I. That God does bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents ;
II. That God does punish disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient parents; and,
III. That there is a consistency in this mode of conduct.
I. I am to show that God does bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents.
God promised Abraham that he would show mercy to his obedient children, for the sake of his obedience. " And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect - and I will establish my cove
, nant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Abraham was faithful, in the first instance, to keep covenant with God in respect to his family. God says, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” After he had offered up his son Isaac on the altar, the Lord said again to him, " In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” For the sake of Abraham's obedience, God did actually bless thousands and thousands of his obedient children from generation to generation. God blessed the obedient children of David for his sake. After he had purposed to build the temple, and God had forbidden him to do it
, he then promised to bless him, by blessing his children. He said to him, “ When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt rest with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish thy kingdom. He shall build me an house for my name, and I
, will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” But though Solomon was not uniformly obedient like his father David, and for a time fell into idolatry, yet God told him he would not punish him so severely as he deserved, for his father David's sake. “ Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant, and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Nevertheless, in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant's sake.” Though Abijam's heart“ was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David; nevertheless, for David's sake, did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him.” Again, though Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat greatly deviated from the path of duty, it is said, “ Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah, for David his servant's sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his children.” God blessed the obedient children of Jonadab for the sake of the obedience of their father Jonadab. It is said of the merciful man, “his seed is blessed;" and of the just man, “ his children are blessed aster him." Thus it appears from scripture, that God does bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents, not only unto the third and fourth generation, but unto every generation of obedient parents and children.
II. I proceed to show that God does punish disobedient children for the sake of disobedient parents.
This is expressly asserted in the text. God solemnly declares that he does visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him.
This declaration means that God does punish children who hate him, for the sake of their fathers before them, who hated him; which is precisely the same thing as his punishing disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient parents. As it is only obedient children that God blesses for the sake of obedient parents, so it is only disobedient children that God punishes for the sake of disobedient parents. This will appear from a number of plain, undeniable facts recorded in scripture, as well as from some plain scripture declarations. God visited the iniquity of Ham, not upon himself, but upon his son Canaan and his posterity, for the long period of more than four thousand years. God punished the posterity of Baasha for the sake of their father's iniquity. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu, the son of Hanani, against Baasha, saying, Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat." God also visited the iniquity of Ahab, not upon himself, but upon his son. “ The word of the Lord came to Elijah, the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house." These facts are perfectly agreeable to the divine declarations on this subject. Job says, “ He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail.” Again, speaking of the wicked man, he says, “ God layeth up his iniquity for his children; he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.” David, speaking of one of the same character, says, “Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following, let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out." Christ taught the same doctrine that the prophets taught, concerning God's punishing a disobedient posterity for the sake of their disobedient progenitors. “Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Here Christ foretells the cruelty and persecution
” which that generation should be guilty of, and then tells them that they should be severely and signally punished, for the sake of their cruel and persecuting forefathers. The meaning is, that, because God delayed to punish their fathers according to their desert, he would more certainly and severely punish them according to their desert. Having proved from scripture that God does bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents, and does purish disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient parents, it remains to show,
III. The consistency of this mode of the divine conduct, towards obedient and disobedient parents and children.
It must be granted that this is a subject rather difficult to understand and explain; but, if it be consistent, its consistency may be explained and understood. And, in order to make it appear consistent and plain, I would observe, that it does not imply that God punishes innocent parents for the sins of their guilty children; nor that he punishes innocent children for the sins of their guilty parents. This would be wrong in its own nature, and contrary to an express command which he had given to his people Israel. “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” When God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, he does not punish the innocent instead of the guilty which would be contrary to immutable justice, and to the plain prohibition of his own law. He says he visits the iniquity of VOL. VI.