A Sermon Preached Before the Sons of the Clergy
The children of thy servants shall continue and their seed shall be established before thee. Psalm 102:28
The context speaketh of God’s unchangeableness. The world changeth, and we change but God changeth not; in the midst of all confusions he is where he was at first. Now this is a great comfort to God’s people, both as to their person and to their posterity. For their personal happiness, whatever breaches are made upon them, they cannot perish utterly that have an interest in an unchangeable God. When engaged in a good cause, they may die, and fall in the quarrel; but God liveth for ever, and so their service will not be lost. His promises are mostly made good in the other world; therefore a poor mortal creature may find and enjoy happiness enough in a living God. Thus as to their persons. Now to their posterity: it is a comfort that when we go to the grave we have a God with whom to leave our children when we can provide for them no longer; he hath undertaken to look after them, and bring them up. This is the other part of the comfort—
The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.
In which words observe--(1.) The person; (2.) And then their privilege.
1. The person--The children of thy servants.
2. Their privilege is set forth in two words--They shall continue; they shall be established.
And the ground or duration is specified in that word--Before thee.
Let us open these circumstances, that we may see what aspect they have upon the present occasion.
First, The person, 'The children of thy servants.' There two things will be explained--(1.) Who are the servants of God here spoken of; (2.) In what sense children is taken--
1. Who are the servants of God here spoken of? Men may be said to be the servants of God--
[1.] In a general sense; and so all that worship, fear, and obey him are his servants.
[2.] In a limited and more restrained sense; and so those that wait upon him in the office of the ministry are said to be his servants; 2 Tim. 2:23, 'The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach;' and Psa. 134:1, 'Bless the Lord, all ye servant of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.' It is meant of the priests which watched by turns in the temple; and the prophets: Amos 3:7, 'Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.' The one sort are as retainers, that wear his badge and livery; the other, as his domestics and menial servants, that have a nearer and constant attendance upon him. Now I cannot but say that the privilege here spoken of belongeth to all God's servants, but in an especial manner to his special servant; all are rewarded by God according to the degree of their service. Nebuchadnezzar, that was but a servant at large, a bare instrument of his providence, had his wages; but there is a special blessing descendeth upon the family of ministers, as their service is more eminent, and nearer about his person. In the whole course of their employment they are devoted to him. Their labour is great, so are their sufferings; they are called out upon the stage as the public factors for his kingdom, and so exposed to more hardships and losses; therefore God will make it up to their posterity. Often they are contemned, have no portion among their brethren; therefore God will be their portion. Certainly, though they be not principally intended, they cannot be excluded and shut out from this blessing.
2. In what sense is children taken? Either the children of their flesh or of their faith. Some say the children of the same faith with the godly teachers and servant of the Lord, begotten by them to God, as noting the perpetuity of the church, who shall in every age bring forth children to God. It is the comfort of God's people to see a young brood growing up to continue his remembrance in the world, that when they die, religion shall not die with them, nor the succession of the church be interrupted. This sense is not altogether incongruous; but rather, I think, the children of their body are here intended, it being a blessing often promised. See the next psalm, Psa. 103:17, 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, and his righteousness to children's children.'
Secondly, The privilege, 'Shall be continued; shall be established;' in what sense is it spoken? Some think only pro more faederis, according to the fashion of that covenant which the people of God were then under, when eternity was but more darkly revealed and shadowed out, either by long life, or the continuance of their name of their posterity, which was a kind of literal immortality. Clearly such a kind of regard is had, as appeareth by that which you find in Psa. 37:28, 'The Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever.' How? since they die as others do. Mark the antithesis, and that will explain it: 'They are preserved for ever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.' They are preserved for ever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.' They are preserved in their posterity. Children are but the parents multiplied and the parent continued. It is nodosa aetermitas; when the father's life is run out to the last, there is a knot tied, and the line is still continued by the child. I confess, temporal blessings, such as long life, and the promise of a happy posterity, are more visible in the eye of that dispensation of that covenant; but yet God still taketh care for the children of his people, and many promises run that way belong to the gospel administration, and still God's service is the surest way to establish a family, as sin is the ready way to root it out. And if it doth not always fall out accordingly, yet for the most part it doth; and we are no competent judges of God's dispensations in this kind, because we see providence by pieces, and have not the skill to set them together; but at the day of judgment, when the whole contexture of God's dealing is laid before us, we shall clearly understand how the children of his servants continue, and their seed is established. But of this by and by.