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which enclose them, so they are also made for an infinitely longer life and duration : for they must live for ever in inconceivable happiness or misery; and when their bodies are mouldered into insensible dust, be partaking either of the raptures of angels, or of the horrors and agonies of devils. And can I think myself obliged in mercy to feed and clothe the body of my child or servant, the body which within a few days, in despite of all my care and pains, will resolve into a clod of stupid earth, and yet be altogether unconcerned what becomes of that precious soul, which must be the subject of an everlasting happiness or misery! Is it possible I should be so careful and solicitous as I am, to heap up great fortunes for my children, that so they may swim in plenty a few moments, wear fine clothes, and fare deliciously every day, and at last go down to the worms with pomp ; and in the mean time neglect that immortal being within them, which, when all the wealth I provided for them is shrunk into six foot of earth and a winding-sheet, must be a glorified spirit or a damned ghost! Sure did we but seriously consider, with what vast capacities of happiness or misery the souls of men are framed and constituted, and what proportionable fates do attend them, we should be much more solicitous than we are, not only to secure our own souls, but also to make a timely provision for the souls of our children and relations.
2. Consider how much you are interested and concerned in the fate of the souls of others, but especially of your children and servants. . For in this state of danger, wherein we are placed, God hath committed us to one another's care, with a strict injunction that we should exhort one another daily,
while it is called To-day, lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, Heb. iii. 13. And if, when it is in our power to prevent it, we suffer our brother to be irrecoverably hardened in his sin, we are accountable for it at the tribunal of God, who will one day severely charge us for this our cruel unfaithfulness to our brother, in suffering him to miscarry for ever, without admonishing him of his danger, and endeavouring to rescue him from it by our charitable counsels and persuasions : so that if we suffer him to fall, by neglecting to exhort and admonish him, in all probability he will not fall alone, but pull us down along with him into eternal perdition. Wherefore it concerns us for our own sakes, so far as we have opportunity, to discharge all offices of mercy towards the souls of others; lest, whilst they perish through our neglect, we should be involved in their ruin. But then as for our children and serv. ants, their souls are more immediately committed to our care and conduct, as being placed under our power and disposal by God's overruling providence; which, by bestowing them upon us, and placing them with us, doth in effect thus bespeak us : “ These “ precious souls I intrust in your hands, to be edu“ cated and trained up to eternal happiness : see you “ give me a good account of them; for if they perish
through your neglect, whenever I make inquisition “ for blood, I will certainly require it at your hands.” How then shall we be able to lift up our heads, when God shall demand of us what are become of those precious jewels which he committed to our trust? If through our barbarous neglect they should happen to be lost and forfeited to eternal misery; if, through a wretched regardlessness of their eternal interest, we
have not instructed and admonished them; if, through a cruel fondness and indulgence, we have not reproved and corrected them; or if, by our wicked connivance or example, we have encouraged and soothed them up in any destructive course of action, and so they should finally miscarry; Lord, what a dreadful account shall we have to give, when we come to appear at thy tribunal, where the blood of our children and our servants' souls shall join with our own personal guilts to cry aloud for vengeance against us! Wherefore, if we have no pity or compassion for them, yet let us at least be so merciful to ourselves, as not to omit those offices of mercy which we are obliged to render to them.
3. Consider what a mighty influence your mercy may have upon their welfare. It is not to be imagined how many souls might be saved from perishing, were we but so kind and merciful as to distribute the bread of life to one another, according as we have ability and opportunity: how many a dark mind might be enlightened by our sound and pious instructions! how many a headstrong will might we curb and restrain by our prudent and seasonable reproofs and admonitions! And how can we tell, but these our merciful endeavours may, through the concurrence of divine grace, prove blessed means of their final recovery and happiness? And if so, what better office can we do in the world, or what higher dignity can we aspire to, than to be the saviours and redeemers of souls ? And if by our instructions and admonitions we might do so much good in our common conversation among men, how much more might we do in our own families ! For our children and servants being under our power and government, will upon that account receive our admonitions with greater awe and reverence; and consequently comply with them with greater ease and readiness. And then, we having the conduct of their young and tender years, in which their minds and
, manners may be easily shaped in any form, it is in our power to stamp upon them what impressions we please : so that, would we but now take care to instruct their minds and regulate their wills with wise and good principles and admonitions, we might easily impregnate their natures with strong dispositions to virtue and religion; and so by degrees cultivate those dispositions into a state of grace and habitual good
And when this blessed effect is so much in our power, what a cruel neglect is it not to contribute towards it so far as we are able ! Should you see a mother deny a morsel of bread to her famished child, when she hath enough and to spare; or strip it stark naked in a deep winter's frost, and expose it on the mountains to be starved with cold; would you not brand her for a monster of her sex, and exclaim against her with the greatest detestation and abhorrence? And yet, alas ! that unnatural cruelty, which we should so much abhor in another, we ourselves are too often guilty of in a much higher degree. For by neglecting to instruct and educate our families in religion, we deny them the most necessary thing in the world, even that which is the food and raiment of their souls; without which they cannot live, but must necessarily starve and famish for ever: and therefore, by how much more precious their souls are than their bodies, and by how much more deplorable eternal death is than temporal, by so much the more barbarous and inhuman are those parents who do not institute their children in religion, than those who suffer them to perish with hunger or cold. For are you such infidels as to imagine that they are born
for this life, and that there is nothing beyond the grave in which they are concerned ? If not, what account can you give of this your unnatural neglect of them ? If you think they must live for ever when they are gone out of this world, why then do not you take care that they may live in the other world, as well as in this ? O improvident that we are! Can we be so much concerned that they may be happy for a moment, and yet so indifferent whether they are happy or miserable for ever? Are their souls such trifles, or their everlasting fate such an indifferent matter, as that, when it is so much in your power, you think it not worth your while to concern yourselves so much about them? Wherefore, in the name of God, consider with yourselves, what an infinite deal of good you are capable of doing them by your pious instructions and admonitions, and what an unnatural barbarity it would be to omit and neglect it.
Of mercy, as it relieves the miseries of the body. I SHALL now proceed to the second sort of miseries, viz. such as do affect men's bodies ; under which I shall shew you what acts of mercy this kind of miseries requires of us. Now these, as the former, may be reduced to five heads :
First, Natural blemishes and defects.