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your care, permit me to address a few words. Remember, that the sin of the father shall be visited upon the children, even unto the third and fourth generation. How necessary then is it to form the
young mind, and to train up the child in the way it should go, that when he is old he may not depart from it! The twig, when young, can be bent, and will grow the way it is directed; but when old, like the aged oak, it will resist the strongest efforts to turn it from its natural growth. Oh, brethren, what finer spectacle is there to a truly Christian heart, than a pious family pouring out their hearts and souls to the great Father of the universe! The joy to the artist, who perceives the picture rising into life under his gentle touches, or the pleasure to the sculptor, who chips the rude marble, till the cold stone breathes beneath his animated hand, is a pleasure of a very ordinary nature, compared with the joy and the inward satisfaction of perceiving the young mind improve and glow under a father's instruction. Even to the most obdurate heart, a feeling must be excited, and a glorious effect achieved.
That these gracious effects may not pass away from us in vain, before “ we go hence and be no more seen,” it shall be our object, in conclusion, to warn you. In the parable before that, from which our text is taken, our Saviour tell us, “that there is joy in heaven over one sinner, that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.” If, then, the conversion of a sinner be the object of such joy, that heaven can feel it; ought not gratitude to our Almighty Father to be an inducement to arise and go to him, and to pray with heart and soul for forgiveness and sufficient grace to continue God's faithful servants unto our lives' end ?
The father, in the parable, while the son was yet a great way off, saw him, and had compassion on him; and will he not likewise have compassion upon us ? He has all the attributes of a tender Fatherthough a God, he can be moved as a Man; but more he can give us, yea more than we are able to ask or think. Oh, ye fathers! ye who bear the honourable and sacred name of parent ! how have ye felt the love and affection of the human heart, when the child, with its speaking countenance, has stretched out its arms for the fond and parental kiss ? how, we ask, have you felt, when the natural love which you bear to your child has been, if possible, rendered more warm, more holy, more sacred, by the child's return of the fond embrace, by the child's feeble efforts, which make you sensible, that its little heart is fixed upon you, as the object of its growing love ? And ye, who have witnessed the offences of your children, thoughtless in erring, but eager to atone; have ye not watched with almost passionate anxiety for the repentant heart, for the return of the wanderers to the fond embrace, and ere that time arrived, have ye not run to meet them with opened arms, and with renewed affection ? And if ye know by experience the joy of an earthly parent under such circumstances, ye can the better feel or rather imagine the joy of an heavenly. We are the children of God; we have sinned against heaven and in his sight; we are no more worthy to be called his children. But his gracious arms are now open to receive the returning prodigals ; the Saviour is now interceding for us at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost is moving in our hearts, by various means, to excite us to arise and go to our Father—to be reconciled through Christ to him—to repent us heartily of our former sins—to lead a new life—to have a lively faith in God's mercies—a thankful remembrance of Christ's death, and to be in perfect charity with
ROMANS xii. l.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of
God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
The preceding chapters of this Epistle contain the doctrine of the Christian faith. And the one from which the text is taken, with the following chapters, enforce the necessity of good works, as springing from that faith. The Epistle appears to be divided into two parts, the first respecting doctrine ; the second, practice. And perhaps there is no Epistle, upon which greater differences of opinion have arisen than upon this. There are some,