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
Use 3. Advice to the children of godly parents.
I shall first speak to them in the general, and then to this day's meeting more particularly. In the general--
1. Bless God for this privilege. Better be the child of a godly than wealthy parent. I hope none are of so vile a spirit as to hate and contemn your parents because of their piety. Certainly it is a great privilege when you can go to God, and plead your Father's covenant: Psa. 116:14, 'Lord, I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid.' So did Solomon: 1 Kings 3:25, 26, 'Lord, make good thy word to thy servant David, my father.' That you are not born of infidels, or popish parents, nor fautors and upholders of superstition and formality, but in a strict, serious, godly family, it is a great advantage that you have. It is better to be the sons of faithful ministers than of nobles.
2. Do not interrupt and break off the blessing. It is the greatest unworthiness that can be to be ungodly children of godly parents, and to cast off the God of your fathers: Jer. 2:12, 'Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this!' He would have the sun to look pale upon such a wickedness, and the spheres to cast out their stars, that a people should cast off their God. Solomon continued alliance with Hiram because by had been a lover of David; and it is his advice to others, ' Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake thou not.' Surely, then, not the father's God. Wilt thou be a traitor to thy father's God? 'Be astonished, O ye heavens!' None stain their blood so much as you that forsake the sincerity and strictness of religion which your fathers professed. Treasons in the posterity are counted a stain to noble ancestors; so is apostasy and loss of church privileges in you. It is an excellent thing to see the power of religion preserved from father to son: Heb. 11:9, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are called 'heirs of the same promise.' Pliny writeth that it was counted a great honour and point of felicity that in one house of the Curios there were three excellent orators one after another, and of the Fabii three presidents of the senate in the same succession. Oh, what an honour is it when there is a constant succession from father to the son, from the son to the grandchild, and all heirs of the same promise! The third descent, they say, maketh a gentleman in a new and opulent family. Here is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all heirs of the same promise; this is the true noble blood, a holy kindred, true gentry; otherwise omnis sanguis concolor--all blood is of a colour. It is high honour to be born of such a race. My father, my grandfather, and great-grandfather were all servants of the Lord, and will you cut off the entail? Christians, I must speak to you not only as sons of private christians, but as the sons of ministers, of whom special holiness is required, and which will engage a special blessing to their posterity, and will you stop the course of it? Oh! let not the ministerial blessing be worn out of your generations. I remember one observeth of the Jews, that as long as the strength and virtue of manna continued in their constitutions, they were a fortunate, valorous, and brave people; but when, after some successions of generations, that it was worn out, they grew pusillanimous and base. The ministerial blessing, while that lasteth, the posterity thrive, and by a wonderful providence arrive to great increase, many times from small beginnings. Oh! therefore keep up the warmth and vigour of godliness in your families, and then you will transmit the blessing to ages to come, and the children that are yet unborn. But alas! many times, through our carelessness and default, in the next generation it is worn out; as Phylostratus said of the son of Rufus, Perrinthius, a great master, 'As for his son, I have nothing else to say but that he was his son.' If that be all your honour, that you are the son of such an eminent man, but have nothing worthy in you that will be a sorry commendation; much more it you should fall to looseness and riot, you are the stain of your parents, and put them to shame when they are dead and gone. There is a notable place, Lev. 21:9, 'The daughter of any priest, if she shall play the whore, she profaneth her father, and shall be burnt with fire.' Let us comment on this text a little. Under the daughter, saith Calvin, the sons were also comprised; but if that were not, the daughter of the priest suiteth with your case; for the sons of priests were priests, which you are not now in the times of the gospel; and her case was more like your, who are not always public persons. Now it is said, 'She profaneth her father.' How? That is, she was a defilement to his name and house. And so the Septuagint, to onoma tou patrou auteu aute bebeloi, she is a reproach to the dignity of his office. Ministers must be not only good in their own persons, but in their relations, ruling their children and their own houses well. Eli's sons were a disgrace and shame to their father; so will you be, if you be nought. Men judge of the parents by the behaviour of their children. Yea, that is not all; the reflection will not only be personal, but as they will judge of the parents by the children, so of the calling by the persons; yea, and of God by the calling. It reflects upon God at last; as the people 'abhorred the offering of the Lord because of the wickedness of Eli's sons,' 1 Sam. 2:17. The heathens thought it a disgrace to the persons of their gods if their ministers were detected of impurity; and that is the reason of the great punishment there mentioned, 'She shall be burnt with fire.' The punishment of the priest's daughter was greater than that of any other woman. Others were not to die for simple fornication, neither man nor woman; but the man to marry her, or to pay a sum of money, Exod. 22:16, 17; but she is to be burnt. Austin observeth the same of the Romans, Lib. de Civit. Dei, cap. 5, Nam et ipsi Romani antiqui in stupor detectas vestales sacerdotes, vivas etiam defodiebant: adulteras autem faeminas, quamvis aliqua damnatione, nulla tamen morte plectebant; usque adeo gravius quae putabant adyta divina quam humana cubilia vindicabant. They were zealous for the honour of their gods, and therefore punished the faults of their ministers the more severely. Well then, if you would preserve the name of your ancestors to posterity, show it in the gravity of your conversations. Your offences will be a disgrace to them, and by them to God.