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
There is but one clause more that needeth explaining, and that is, 'Before thee.' Some understand it of the duration of the blessing; that is, so long as thou dost endure; as before the sun and moon is endure,' Psa. 72:5. And the Septuagint renders it eis ton aiona kateuthunthesetai, 'Shall be continued for ever,' or, 'Before thee;' God looking on, or they looking upon thee. But rather it noteth God's respect and favour. These blessings do not come by chance: Psa. 41:12, 'Thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever.' In a like case, Lev. 26:9, 'I will have respect to you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you; it is I will set my face to you;' epiblevw ef umaj; And the Chaldee paraphrase, 'Am I in the place of God?' Gen. 30:2. A facie Domini debuisses petere? --Oughest thou not to seek them from the face of God?
The words are explained. The point is--That God hath a great care of and blessing for the posterity of his servant, that they may be established by his favour.
Here I shall show you--(1.) What privilege they have; (2.) The reasons; (3.) Reconcile it with common sense and experience; (4.) To whom the promise is most eminently fulfilled.
First, How far a blessing cometh on the posterity of God's servant.
1. Good men do convey many temporal mercies to their relations; that is the least. God cannot satisfy himself with doing good to the persons of his children, but he must do good to their relations; all about them fare the better for their sakes. A land fareth the better for them: 2 Kings 2:12, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof;' that is, the defence of the country; much more the vicinage and place of their abode. Sodom was in Lot when Lot was in Sodom: Gen. 19:22, 'I cannot do anything while thou art there.' Nearer yet; they bring a blessing into their families. You know the offer made to Lot, God. 19:12, 'Hast thou any here besides son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughter? Whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place.' There was a fearful storm a-coming, and God would have none that had relation to Lot to perish by it. these sons-in-law were but so by contract and promise of marriage, for Lot's daughters were virgins, and knew not a man, yet God offereth them quarter for Lot's sake. Nearer yet; their own children, that are a part of themselves, do certainly enjoy many temporal blessings by their means. Ishmael, though the church was not continued in his line, yet a great part of the world fell to his share: Gen. 21:13, 'I will make of him a great nation, for he is thy seed.' There is the blessing of Isaac and the blessing of Ishmael; if they have not the blessing of Isaac, yet usually the blessing of Ishmael, Isa. 65 from verse 19 to the last.
2. Where the parent in is visible covenant, the children also are in visible covenant with him as soon as born. I say, they are without scruple to be accounted children of the covenant, and belonging to the church, till they do declare the contrary. Let us see a few places to prove this: Rom. 11:16, 'For if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches.' It is an allusion to the law, where the lump was consecrated in the first-fruits, or the cake of the first dough that was offered in the heave-offering. So when a man is dedicated to God, his whole family and posterity is dedicated to God with him. There is a federal holiness descendeth to them by virtue of their parents accepting the covenant of God. So in the decision of that case that was brought to the apostle, where one of the yoke-fellows was an infidel: 1 Cor. 7:14, 'For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are thy holy.' The scope of that place is to hold forth some privilege to believers, which is not common to others; for it is for the believer's sake; for otherwise the unbelieving husband had been as much sanctified in himself as in the wife. Certainly, therefore, it is some special privilege not common to the marriage of an unbelieving couple. Mark again; this is propounded both negatively and positively. The Holy Ghost doth not mention both, when one is emphatical enough: 'Else were they unclean, but now are they holy.' Pray observe the graduation of the privilege; the unbelieving husband, to whom all things are impure, he is sanctified to serve God's providence to this holy end and use. But higher yet; the children, they are holy; he is sanctified, they holy; that is, instrumentally sanctified, to be a means that the believing wife may bring forth fruit unto God. But now they are holy; and because holy, not to be refused and rejected from the ordinances. Person were called unclean that might not enjoy the privileges of the temple; holy, that were sanctified for worship. When God permitted ordinances to the gentiles, they are called holy: 'That which God hath made holy, call not thou common and unclean,' Acts 10:15, intending thereby the gentiles as capable of gospel worship. One place more: Ezek. 16:10, 'Sons and daughters born to me.' Those that are born during our being in covenant with God are born to God; as the children born in marriage are reckoned to the husband. This is the high privilege which God puts upon his servants, to beget sons and daughters to God, whilst others beget sons and daughters to men for civil uses, or only to people the world. Take, for instance, Seth and Cain, Gen. 6:1, 2. To bring forth to God, to multiply the church; it will be your crown and rejoicing in the day of the Lord. It is a greater blessing than to see your children monarchs of the world, or if thy had been born kings and queens; that had been beneath this of being members of the church. It is very notable that Moses, when he would set forth the dignity of Shem, he doth it thus: Gen. 10:21, 'Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth, the elder, which is of the Hebrews.' This is the prerogative above all his brethren. The Syrians, Assyrians, Lydians, Persians, Armenians, Elamites, these all came of Shem; but because they were ignorant of the knowledge of the true God, he doth not take his title from them, though they were great and mighty nations; this was his prerogative, that Abraham came from him, and all Israel, the people whom God had chosen to himself, and among whom he would record his name, whilst all the rest of the world lay in darkness. A man would have thought that Moses should have set out his great ancestor in more magnificent terms. Another would have taken notice either of his long life (for he lived six hundred years), that he saw both worlds, both before the flood and after; that he was one of the heirs of Noah, one of the three great princes of the world; that Asia, the paradise of the earth, fell to his lot, and Shinar, a land rich in jewels, gold, and spices; another would have reckoned up the mighty kings descended from his loins, or have called him father of the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, famous nations that made such a bustle in the world; but Moses only calleth him father of the children of Eber, a nation shut up within the precincts of a little spot of land; but theirs were the 'promises, and the adoption, and the glory,' Rom. 9:4, 'and the covenant, and the law.' I tell you, to be a means to bring forth children to God, and to multiply the church, is as great an honour as can be put upon you.