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
3. If they die in infancy, we need not trouble ourselves about their salvation. God is their God, Gen. 17:1; and that is all the best of us have to show for his right to heaven. They are bound up in the same bundle of life with their parents, in covenant with God, and never lived to disinherit themselves. We judge of the graft according to the tree from whence it was taken, till it liveth to bring forth fruit of its own; so of children, according to their father's covenant. God knoweth how to instate them in the privileges of it; Christ died for the church, and they are part of the church, Eph. 5:26, 27.
4. If they live, and bewray the corruption of their natures, there is more hope of them than of others. The grace of the covenant runneth most kindly in the channel of the covenant: Rom. 11:24, 'How much more shall those which be the natural branches be grafted into their own olive-tree?' They seem to lie more obvious to the Lord's grace. God followeth them with more calls and offers of grace. The Jews were to have the hansel and first offers of the gospel, though they killed the Lord of life, first at Jerusalem, because they were children of the promise, Acts 3:25, 26. God followeth a covenant people to the last, and beareth with them time after time, till he can bear no longer. They have a greater holdfast upon God; they may plead promises; and if ever God touch their hearts with remorse, they may plead their father's covenant. After Solomon's warping, God remembers promises to David, 1 Kings 11:12, 13, and 32, 34.
5. Among them salvation is most ordinary, though God leaveth himself a liberty to take men of an evil stock. A rose may grow upon a thorn; viles virgulae prestiosa opobalsama sudant; a slip of an ill stock may be grafted into the tree of life. Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz, and Josiah the son of Amon. Again, all the children of elect parents are not elect, to show the liberty of his counsels. In the very line of grace God will make a distinction. Abraham had Isaac and Ishmael; and Isaac had Jacob and Esau: Josh. 24:4, 'I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau;' intimating the distinction between the person and posterity of the one and the other. Though I grant all this, yet usually the children of godly parents are they that obtain the blessing; they are in a greater nearness to grace than others are, and there is more to be presumed of their children than of others, because of the ordinary practice of the Lord's grace, and because they have more means and helps, and in an ordinary course lie more obvious to the blessing, have more instruction, are nurtured and trained up in the knowledge of God, and have the prayers and examples of their godly parents. It is to be presumed that all godly men will thus do. God reckoneth upon it: Gen. 18:19, 'I know my servant Abraham, that he will command his children and household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.' He presumeth that in these families God is known and honoured, that there is less temptation to sin, as lying out of the devil's road. A godly family is the suburbs of heaven, where the young brood is hatched to supply the church.
6. They are not cast off till they do even wrest themselves out of the arms of mercy. Cain excommunicated himself: Gen. 4:16, 'And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.' The face of the Lord, in one sense it is everywhere; but it is meant of the church, where God is worshipped. Ishmael, for scoffing and malignity against the power of godliness, Gen. 21:9. He mocked Isaac, which the apostle maketh to be persecution, Gal. 4:29. Esau, for profaneness or despising the birthright, that he may set his lusts a-work, Heb. 12:15, 16; preferring the satisfaction of sensual lusts before the great privileges in Christ. The Jews were 'broken off for unbelief,' Rom. 11:20. God bore with them after they had crucified Christ all along; as the branches of the covenant grow wild, God may be cutting them off. When God doth cast off a people, that is dreadful, Rom. 11. He speaketh to the Romans as a body and a church. God may break off a church as well as a person by scattering judgments, prevalency of error, and profaneness; the discouragements of his children; they withdrawing, all is broken to pieces. This is the spiritual judgment now upon us, and we are not sensible of it.