Imatges de pàgina
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the punishment into a mere natural or human chance, and that chance to the opportunity of a virtue, and that virtue to the occasion of a crown.

3. It is of great use for the securing of families, that every master of a family order his life so, that his piety and virtue be as communicative as is possible; that is, that he secure the religion of his whole family by a severe supravision and animadversion, and by cutting off all those unprofitable and hurtful branches which load the tree, and hinder the growth, and stock and disimprove the fruit, and revert evil juice to the very root itself. Calvisius Sabinus laid out vast sums of money upon his servants to stock his house with learned men; and brought one that could recite all Homer by heart, a second that was ready at Hesiod,--a third, at Pindar,—and for every of the lyrics, one; having this fancy, that all that learning was his own, and whatsoever his servants knew, made him so much the more skilful. It was noted in the man for a rich and prodigal folly: but if he had changed his instance, and brought none but virtuous servants into his house, he might better have reckoned his wealth upon their stock, and the piety of his family might have helped to bless him, and to have increased the treasure of his master's virtue. Every man that would either cut off the title of an old curse, or secure a blessing upon a new stock, must make virtue as large in the fountain as he can, that it may the sooner water all his relatives with fruitfulness and blessings. And this was one of the things that God noted in Abraham, and blessed his family for it, and his posterity: 'I know that Abraham will teach his sons to fear me.' When a man teaches his family to know and fear God, then he scatters a blessing round about his habitation. And this helps to illustrate the reason of the thing, as well as to prove its certainty. We hear it spoken in our books of religion, that the faith of the parents is imputed to their children to good purposes, and that a good husband sanctifies an ill wife, and 'a believing wife, an unbelieving husband;' and either of them makes the children to be sanctified, 'else they were unclean and unholy;' that is, the very designing children to the service of God is a sanctification of them; and therefore St. Jerome calls Christian children "candidatos fidei Christianæ.' And if this very designation of them makes them holy, that

is, acceptable to God, entitled to the promises, partakers of the covenant, within the condition of sons; much more shall it be effectual to greater blessings, when the parents take care that the children shall be actually pious, full of sobriety, full of religion; then it becomes a holy house, a chosen generation, and an elect family; and then there can no evil happen to them, but such which will bring them nearer to God: that is, no cross, but the cross of Christ; no misfortune, but that which shall lead them to felicity; and if any semblance of a curse happens in the generations, it is but like the anathema of a sacrifice; not an accursed, but a devoted thing: for so the sacrifice, upon whose neck the priest's knife doth fall, is so far from being accursed, that it helps to get a blessing to all that join in the oblation. So every misfortune, that shall discompose the ease of a pious and religious family, shall but make them fit to be presented unto God; and the rod of God shall be like the branches of fig-trees, bitter and sharp in themselves, but productive of most delicious fruit. No evil can curse the family whose stock is pious, and whose 'branches are holiness to the Lord.' If any leaf or any boughs shall fall untimely, God shall gather them up, and place them in his temple, or at the foot of his throne; and that family must needs be blessed, whom infelicity itself cannot make accursed.

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4. If a curse be feared to descend upon a family for the fault of their ancestors, pious sons have yet another way to secure themselves, and to withdraw the curse from the family, or themselves from the curse; and that is, by doing some very great and illustrious act of piety, an action ‘in gradu heroico,' as Aristotle calls it, an heroical action.' If there should happen to be one martyr in a family, it would reconcile the whole kindred to God, and make him, who is more inclined to mercy than to severity, rather to be pleased with the relatives of the martyr, than to continue to be angry with the nephews of a deceased sinner. I cannot insist long upon this: but you may see it proved by one great instance in the case of Phineas, who killed an unclean prince, and turned the wrath of God from his people. He was zealous for God and for his countrymen, and did a heroical action of zeal: "Wherefore" (saith God)," Behold I give unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him; even

the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel." Thus the sons of Rechab obtained the blessing of an enduring and blessed family, because they were most strict and religious observers of their father's precepts, and kept them after his death, and abstained from wine for ever; and no temptation could invite them to taste it; for they had as great reverence to their father's ashes, as, being children, they had to his rod and to his eyes. Thus a man may turn the wrath of God from his family, and secure a blessing for posterity, by doing some great noble acts of charity; or a remarkable chastity like that of Joseph; or an expensive, an affectionate religion and love to Christ and his servants, as Mary Magdalen did. Such things as these which are extraordinary egressions and transvolations beyond the ordinary course of an even piety, God loves to reward with an extraordinary favour; and gives them testimony by an extraregular blessing.

One thing more I have to add by way of advice; and that is, that all parents and fathers of families, from whose loins a blessing or a curse usually does descend, be very careful, not only generally in all the actions of our lives (for that I have already pressed), but particularly in the matter of repentance; that they be curious that they finish it, and do it thoroughly for there are certain voreρńμara μeravoíaç, “leavings of repentance,' which make that God's anger is taken from us so imperfectly: and although God, for his sake who died for us, will pardon a returning sinner, and bring him to heaven through tribulation and a fiery trial; yet,-when a man is weary of his sorrow, and his fastings are a load to him, and his sins are not so perfectly renounced, or hated as they ought, the parts of repentance, which are left unfinished, do sometimes fall upon the heads or upon the fortunes of the children. I do not say, this is regular and certain; but sometimes God deals thus: for this thing hath been so, and therefore it may be so again. We see it was done in the case of Ahab; he "humbled himself, and went softly, and lay in sackcloth," and called for pardon, and God took from him a judgment which was falling heavily upon him: but we all know his repentance was imperfect and lame: the same evil fell upon his sons; for so said God: "I will bring the evil

upon his house in his son's days." Leave no arrears for thy posterity to pay; but repent with an integral, a holy and excellent repentance, that God being reconciled to thee thoroughly, for thy sake also he may bless thy seed after thee.

And, after all this, add a continual, a fervent, a hearty, a never-ceasing prayer for thy children, ever remembering, when they beg a blessing, that God hath put much of their fortune into your hands; and a transient formal God bless thee,' will not outweigh the load of a great vice, and the curse which scatters from thee by virtual contact, and by the channels of relation, if thou beest a vicious person: nothing can issue from thy fountain but bitter waters. And, as it were a great impudence for a condemned traitor to beg of his injured prince a province for his son for his sake: so it is an ineffective blessing we give our children, when we beg for them what we have no title to for ourselves; nay, when we convey to them nothing but a curse. The prayer of a sinner, the unhallowed wish of a vicious parent, is but a poor donative to give to a child who sucked poison from his nurse, and derives cursing from his parents. They are punished with a doubled torture in the shame and pain of the damned, who, dying enemies to God, have left an inventory of sins and wrath to be divided amongst their children. But they that can truly give a blessing to their children, are such as live a blessed life, and pray holy prayers, and perform an integral repentance, and do separate from the sins of their progenitors, and do illustrious actions, and begin the blessing of their family upon a new stock. For as from the eyes of some persons there shoots forth an evil influence, and some have an evil eye, and are infectious, some look healthfully as a friendly planet, and innocent as flowers; and as some fancies convey private effects to confederate and allied bodies; and between the very vital spirits of friends and relatives there is a cognation, and they refresh each other like social plants; and a good man is a friend to every good man and (they say) that a usurer knows a usurer, and one rich man another, there being by the very manners of men contracted a similitude of nature, and a communication of effects: so in parents and their children there is so great a society of nature and of manners, of blessing and

i Διαμένει οὖν τούτων φιλία, ἕως ἂν ἀγαθοὶ ὦσιν· ἡ δ ̓ ἀρετὴ μόνιμον. Arist.

cursing, that an evil parent cannot perish in a single death; and holy parents never eat their meal of blessing alone, but they make the room shine like the fire of a holy sacrifice; and a father's or a mother's piety makes all the house festival and full of joy from generation to generation. Amen.

SERMON V.

THE INVALIDITY OF A LATE OR DEATH-BED

REPENTANCE.

PART I.

Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light (or, lest while ye look for light), he shall turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.— Jeremiah, xiii. 16.

GOD is the eternal fountain of honour and the spring of glory; in him it dwells essentially, from him it derives originally; and when an action is glorious, or a man is honourable, it is because the action is pleasing to God, in the relation of obedience or imitation, and because the man is honoured by God, and by God's vicegerent: and therefore, God cannot be dishonoured, because all honour comes from himself; he cannot but be glorified, because to be himself is to be infinitely glorious. And yet he is pleased to say, that our sins dishonour him, and our obedience does glorify him. But as the sun, the great eye of the world, prying into the recesses of rocks and the hollowness of valleys, receives species or visible forms from these objects, but he beholds them only by that light which proceeds from himself: so does God, who is the light of that eye; he receives reflexes and returns from us, and these he calls 'glorifications' of himself, but they are such which are made so by his own gracious acceptation. For God cannot be glorified by any thing but by himself, and by his own instruments, which he makes as mirrors to reflect his own excellency; that by seeing the glory of

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