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
Secondly, The reasons.
1. That he may show the riches of his grace, which reacheth not only to the persons, but to the families of those that love him and serve him. God is resolved to act in the covenant according to the highest laws of friendship; as David: 2 Sam. 9:1, 'Is there yet any left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?' So will God be a friend to us and our children after us. Yea, this love runneth down to thousands of generations, Rom. 11:28. They are beloved for their father's sake. For so many years to love their seed, this is a friendship not to be paralleled, 2 Sam. 1:19. It is mercy that our persons, that the fruit of our souls should be accepted, spotted and speckled as it is; that the evil should not outweigh the little goodness that is in them; but the fruit of our bodies is much more, especially if you consider the natural leprosy and filthiness that is in them. But grace, like a mighty river, will be pent within no banks, but overfloweth all that a man hath, all his relations.
2. Out of an indulgence to natural affection. God hath a son of his own, and he knoweth how he loveth him, and is acquainted with the heart of a father, and he hath planted an affection in parents to their children. Love, like a river, is descensive. Many are more sensible of a misery and curse in their seed than in themselves. Surely next to our eternal happiness their welfare is the most welcome blessing which we can receive; therefore, in an indulgence to good parents, God will bless them in their children. The charter runneth for them and their seed. Children are a part of them, the parent continued, as before, Psa. 37:24. We abide and live in them when we are dead and gone.
Thirdly, How can we reconcile the promise with experience, since the children of the servants of the Lord are reduced to great extremities, and are as naught and bad as others?
I answer, The blessing is invisible for a great measure, and we want faith to interpret this privilege, as well as any other mentioned in the covenant. Sometimes their outward portion may be small, but however, they are a holy seed unto God. We see the providence of God by pieces; for the present they may be in their natural condition, and the blessing doth not as yet break out in effects of grace, as it doth afterwards. We must leave the Lord to his own seasons. Sometimes for a while God may skip over the next branch in the line, and a wicked and ungracious man may interrupt the blessing for a while, but it runneth on again to a thousand generations. Jotham had Ahaz, but Ahaz had Hezekiah; the grandfather wicked, the son wicked, but the grandchild godly again; so that still there is a respect to the family. It is the usual practice of the Lord's grace, and is here put into the form of a promise, and must, as all temporal promises, be referred to God's pleasure, when to exempt the godly from poverty and their seed. Mostly the blessing is conspicuous enough in the course of God's dispensations, and examples to the contrary are very rare. David was a man of good years and narrow observation, a great student in the providence of God; yet saith he, Psa. 37:25, 'I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor their seed begging bread.' He could find none of their issue in his time reduced to a state of beggary.
Fourthly, To whom the promise will be most eminently fulfilled. There are some qualifications mentioned. All God's servants have their blessings, but these especially; as, namely--
1. The strict, and such as dare not offend him: Psa. 103:17, 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness to children's children.' They that fear him, that walk exactly in his sight and presence, such are frowned upon, hated, maligned, scorned in the world; therefore God doth take care to provide for them and theirs.
2. The just and upright. They abridge themselves of many advantages of gain which others hunt after. It is not lost: Psa. 112:2, 'His seed shall be mighty upon earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed.' They cannot project, and turn, and wind in the world as others do, but they deal plainly; it is not without a blessing. So Prov. 20:7, 'The just man walketh in his integrity, and his children are blessed after him.' They transmit a clear estate, and so it thriveth.
3. The merciful and charitable: Psa. 37:26, 'He is ever merciful, and lendeth; his seed is blessed.' When we are urged to giving, you may object, What shall wife and children do? I answer--Give the rather; do something the more for every child, that the blessing may be entailed upon them; it is lent to the Lord, and it will be paid to your posterity; your children will not have a whit the less.
4. Those that are tender of God's institutions. The second commandment, that provideth for God's instituted worship, the sanction of it speaketh of blessings and punishments in the posterity, and deservedly. Family arguments prevail with many to yield to the corruption of their age. But alas! that which they would build they destroy; their children are not preserved, but ruined by it. You may convey an estate, but with a curse. Much of the evil that hath lighted upon ministers and their families had its rise hence. God, that gloriously exalts godly ministers and their children, that would rather suffer the loss of all than yield to the least corruption in worship, doth also reckon with them and their families that are partial in his law.