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It is casting an unworthy reflection upon him, who by divine. appointment is in all things to have the pre-eminence.
- He who loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.” This is as if he
, had said, “I should be ashamed of that person who would give a fellow-worm a preference to me: Such a grovelling temper would be a disgrace to my re-. ligion. I despise the man who makes me give way to every little piece of animated dust, because it is related to him; and leaves me a second, third, or, perhaps, a lower place only in his affections. He may love himself, or his children; but let him not pretend affection for me. I scorn a divided heart, and disdain a partnership with any creature what.
If he think me not worthy of the highest place in his soul, I shall not think him worthy of the lowest seat in my kingdom.”
They must, indeed, have slight thoughts of the person and performances of Christ, who can prefer the nearest and most amiable relative before him. What is the fruit of our bodies to the only begotten Son of God! What are the olive branches round our tables, to this rod of the stem of Jesse, and branch out of his root! If the great Creator endow some children with such engaging qualities, as strangely to command the affections, because they are lovely, shall we love nothing else? Because a star sparkles, shall we prefer it to the sun ? Children may be loved; some are so engaging, that it is impossible not to love them: but shall we compare these with the engagements laid upon us by Christ, and the in finitely stronger attractions which arein his person and character ? If this be our value for redeeming mercy, we have surely no evidence of our interest in this inestimable blessing. “ The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hid in a field ; the wbich, when a man
a has found, he hideth; and for joy thereof, goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
What must the world think of Christ, if they see those who avow themselves to be his followers and friends, prefer the prattling of a child before the sublime pleasure of a Saviour's presence and favour, lavishing the vigour of their affection upon a mortal delight; yet lukewarm and unaffected in the contemplation of the grace and glories of Jesus ? Little do we think what a disgrace we bring on Christ, and Christianity, by an inordinate love of creatures. With regard to many of us, it is to be feared, that he is more reproached by our practice, than ever he is glorified by our Christian profession.
Such a preference of the creature is also highly dangerous to ourselves.
This excessive fondness is not so innocent and harmless as we may imagine. Many have severely suffered for it, and not a few have been ruined : for it will not permit us to be sincere in our religious profession. Love to Christ, when genuine, is also superlative. If, therefore, our regard to creatures exceed our affection to Christ, our hearts are not upright: We said what was not true, when we professed to leave all, and follow bim: we lied to him, when, pretending to consecrate our whole heart to the Saviour, we kept back part, and so great a part, for the creature. Can we, then, flatter ourselves that he will not see, and resent, this hypocrisy? Can we have the confidence to say, if he should ask, “ Lorest thou me more than these?” “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that we love thee,” when we are conscious that we prefer some other object? A profession so insincerely assumed, cannot be long maintained without discovery or suspicion. Whatever it be which thus engages our affections, when a storm gathers, we shall be anxious to have it
preserved: and no considerations of honour, duty, or religion, will be sufficient to hinder us from publishing to the world our sinful preference. Let what will become of Christ, if we can but keep the dear creature, it is all that we shall desire ; and it is not difficult to guess, though grievous to think, what cowards and apostates we shall appear upon trial. We shall be found to be mere chaff in religion, salt without savour, lamps without oil, Christians without Christ; and to have maintained a profession which can profit us nothing. Such a fondness will often deprive us of the comfort which an earthly object would otherwise afford. A snare, and a blast often, attend that love which is not subordinate to Christ. Strong affections lead to heavy afflictions; as the experience of many a parent has proved. God alone can put sweetness into any means of enjoyment; and what he gives, he can as easily remove. If we provoke him, he will certainly do it. He will take away the desire of our eyes, and the idol of our hearts, with a stroke. He will send a worm to eat the root of the gourd, whose shadow has so much delighted us ; or some distemper to blast the flower, of whose beauty we had boasted. Thus he gives us leisure to recollect and lament our ill-placed preference; and intimates to us, that if we had loved our friends less, we had en,
joyed them much longer. But if he deal not with us in such a summary way, yet how easily can he drop gall and wormwood into the cup, which at first seemed sweeter than honey! He can make the child which we had embraced with transport, prove a thorn in our flesh, and a grief to our spirits ? It may lose the use of its bodily organs, and become blind, or deaf, or dumb: or it may be deprived of its mental powers, and be either an ideot or distracted. Or, which is infinitely .worse, it may want sanctifying grace, and live and die among the enemies of God. In either of these cases, where is the comfort of children? Thus God often makes parents see and feel that he is a jealous God; and will not hold them guiltless that give his glory to another. So that selflove, and affection for our children, should make us cautious how we love them to excess ; lest we provoke God to strike them dead in our arms ; or to suffer them to be curses, instead of comforts, to their infatuated parents.
III. It only remains for us to inquire, in what particular cases we should be afraid of this fondness to children ; or in what instances it most frequently discovers itself.
I answer, first, in the want of children. Rachael was very faulty in this respect, and was severely reproached by God for her impatience. We are informed, that when she saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachael envied her sister; and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” God gave her her will, but it cost her her life; and thus he answered her by terrible things in righteousness. Let this be a warning to others in like circumstances, to
keep their desires under the conduct and controul of reason and religion. Never be too importunate and peremptory in praying for children ; as you know not whether your child may prove a Barnabas or a Benoni; a son of consolation, or a son of sorrow. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you: such things at least, as your heavenly Father sees will be safest, and conduce most to your advantage. When one said to Christ, 66 Blessed is the womb which bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked,” he said, “ Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” If to have faith and holiness, then, be better, and more blessed, than to be the mother of our Lord himself, surely it must be an infinitely greater privilege, than to be the father or mother of any other children. If, therefore, we be more solicitous to be parents than to be Chris. tians ; if we be more importunate for the increase of our family, than for the growth of grace ; in short, if we be more afraid of dying childless, than of living and dying out of Christ, we ought to tremble when we hear him saying, “ He that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me."
Secondly, we should fear lest we should sin in the enjoyment of children.
The most vigilant care must be taken that they encroach not upon the affection and duty which we owe to our Lord. Delighting in children may prevent us from delighting in God. When a fondness for their persons makes us connive at their sins, and when, to avoid displeasing them, we offend our own consciences, do we not love son or daughter more