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tions of the gospel ? Or must we never have the satisfaction of conversing with you in private, as our brethren in the Lord, and our companions in the way to heaven?
Well might it grieve us to be thus left alone in the midst of a degenerate world ; especially when we reflected, that the cause of God was sinking in the time of our administrations, and serious religion was lost amongst us, whilst the cultivation of it was committed to our care. Shall we not be suspected of unfaithfulness to God, and to you, if it die in our hands? That were dreadful indeed. May the divine grace preserve us from that guilt! And I trust, my brethren, that it will preserve us; and, in dependence upon that, I plainly tell you, that while God continues us in a capacity of doing it, we will honestly warn you, we will seriously expostulate with you, we will carnestly pray for you ; and if it be all in vain, we will appeal to an omniscient God, that your destruction is not chargeable upon us, but upon yourselves.
But in the mean time, it would be dreadful to reflect, that while we are thus endeavouring to deliver our own souls, we are in effect heaping aggravated damnation on yours ; while every attempt is resisted by you, and so brings you under a greater load of guilt. You may indeed be insensible of the load now, but we foresee the day when you will sink under it. And here is the accent of our sorrow; in such views as these we fear, that when the ministers of former generations shall appear before their judge with a train of happy souls, which have been conducted to heaven by their means, it must be our melancholy part to stand out as witnesses against our hearers, that we Have stretched out our hands all the day long to a disobedient and a gainsaying people*. Oh, how shall we be able to advance this dreadful testimony against the children of our dearest friends, against those whom we tenderly loved, and whose salvation we would have purchased with any thing, but our own! Yet this is our prospect with regard to you ; and we may leave it to you to judge, whether it must not sadden our souls.
Now pardon me, my friends, if I tell you, that we may reasonably expect, that an argument of this nature should not be despised. I hope it is no breach of modesty to say, that we have not deserved so ill at your hands, as that our joy, or our distress, should be indifferent to you. In all the common affairs of life we would cheerfully serve you to the utmost of our power, and therefore at least reasonably expect to stand on a level with the rest of your friends in like circumstances. And our character as ministers, if we be careful to answer it, gives us some peculiar claim to your regard. For you we give up many more splendid prospects in life, which, in other employments, we might possibly have secured; for you we lay out our time and our strength, in study, in prayer, and in preaching. We bear you upon our hearts in our public ministrations, and our private retirements: (And God is witness with what sincerity.) Nor would we refuse those laborious services, which, in human probability, might hasten upon us the infirmities of age, and the approach of death, if they might be the happy means of your conversion and salvation. And is this the reward of all our friendly care? to weaken our hands, to grieve our souls, and to behave in such a manner, that the more tenderly we love
* Rom. x, 21.
you, the more deeply we must be amicted by you? Many of you treat us with a great deal of humanity and decency; with the appearances of affection and esteem. You are ready to serve us in the common offices of friendship, and would express your resentment if you saw us injured, in actions, or in words. We thankfully acknowledge your goodness in such instances as these ; but permit us to ask you, why you will not be so kind and so grateful to us, as to take care of your own souls, when nothing could oblige us more than such a care, and nothing can afflict us more than the neglect of them? Let me conclude this head with those pathetic words of the apostle, If there be any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye our joy*. And let me intreat you to consider, once more, 4. That the propagation of religion to future generations does,
under God, chiefly depend upon you.
For this reason the pious Israelites are represented, as resolving to declare the wonderful works of God unto their children, That the generation to come might know them, even the children that should be born; that they might arise, and, in their turn, declare them unto their childrent, and so the intail might be carried on to the remotest ages.
Now, my brethren, it is evident, that the propagation of religion to succeeding generations does, humanly speaking, depend on you, and others, who with you are entering upon life. If you are under the influences of serious godliness, you will
+ Phil. 1. 1, 2.
+ Psal. lxxviii.
carry them along with you to the end of your days; and when God calls you into families of your own, it will be your desire that you and your houses may serve him*. Family prayer, and family-instruction will be maintained : You will be teaching your children to know the Lord, and exhorting them to serve him, and praying for a blessing on those endeavours : And who knows what a remarkable blessing might attend them? Your children, under the impressions of such an education may be eminent for religion, as you have been. They may be equally diligent in the care of their posterity, and God may favour them with equal success; and so there may be thousands of your remote descendents, who never saw you, nor perhaps heard of your name, who yet, under God, may owe their religion and their happiness to you. The prospect of
The prospect of it may now afford you a sensible pleasure ; and it is highly probable, that when they meet you in the regions of the invisible world, such an important obligation may engage them to treat you with peculiar respect and affection : As surely all other obligations will appear trifling, when compared with this.
On the other hand, if you neglect religion yourselves, it cannot be thought you will be much concerned to transmit it to others. You would hardly be at the pains to give them good instructions ; supposing you much more capable of doing it than you can expect to be: Or if you do attempt it, those instructions will be like to have little effect, when they are contradicted by the daily language of your example. Nay, it is possible you may arrive at such a height of wickedness, as directly to oppose practical godliness, and breed up your children in the contempt of it ; which is often to be seen, even in this christian country. And what do you think will become of such children as these? If you have been so wicked, notwithstanding all the restraints of a serious education, what will they be, who miss of the advantages you enjoyed, and must be exposed to numberless temptations from which you were free? Shall these be a seed to serve the Lord ? Shall these be accounted to hin for a generation ? It might almost as well be expected, that a race of men should spring up in a desart, where no human creature ever appeared before them, as that true christianity should be propagated in the world by the children of such an education.
And have you, after all, so utter an indifference to the honour of that Redeemer, into whose religion you were baptized, and whose name you bear, as that you could be contented it
Josh. xxiv. 15.
should be lost in the world? Was it for this, that the Son of God descended from heaven that he might publish the gospel covenant, and expired on the cross that he might establish it? Was it for this, that the pious labours of our ancestors have transmitted this religion to us through so many succeeding ages; and that so many martyrs have sealed it by their sufferings and their blood? Was it for this, that our sacred liberties have been so courageously asserted by the best of men, and almost miraculously defended by the hand of God? For this, That the precious intail should be cut off by us, and this invalnable treasure, the charge and the glory of so many former generations, should perish in our hands ? that the name of christianity should, for the future, be lost in the world; or which is altogether as bad, that it should sink into an empty name, and a lifeless circle of unmeaning forms? Yet, humanly speaking, this must be the consequence, if you, and others of the rising generation, will not heartily engage in the interests of it.
Such a variety of arguments concur to prove the great importance of the rising generation. They are so plain and so weighty, that I cannot but think, you, my brethren, to whom I have particularly applied them, are in your consciences convinced, that they are not to be disputed.
How that conviction should work, I have not time largely to shew you ; but if it be seriously and deeply impressed on your minds, you cannot long be at a loss for proper directions, amongst so many pious friends, and excellent books; especially if you consult the scripture, and seek for the teachings of the blessed Spirit. To these assistances I heartily recommend you, and omitting many other reflections, which would naturally arise, shall conclude my discourse with one, which I shall immediately address to another part of my auditory. Reflection.—How solicitous should we be in our endeavours for
the religious improvement of the rising generation, since its character appears of so great importance !
We have all our concern in the thought, but I would peculiarly recommend it to those of you, who are parents and masters, or have the education of youth under any other capacities : Imagine not, my friends, that it is an inconsiderable charge which is lodged in your hands. Providence has intrusted to you the hopes and the fears, the joys and the sorrows, of many hearts, and of many families. Future generations will have reason to applaud or detest your memory, as your present duty is regarded or neglected ; and, which is infinitely more, the Father of the spirits of all flesh will require a strict account of those precious souls which he committed to your care.
It is not for me, at this time, to direct you at large, as to the particulars of your duty with regard to them*. In the general you will easily apprehend, that some methods are to be taken to inform their minds with divine knowledge, and to impress them with an affecting sense of what they know. And if you find the work attended with great difficulty, I hope it will engage you thankfully to accept of the assistances of ministers, and other christian friends, and earnestly to implore those communications of the Spirit, which are absolutely necessary to make them effectual.
And if God have any mercy in store for so sinful a nation as ours, we may humbly hope, that, in answer to our united supplications, he will Revive his work amongst us in the midst of the yearst; and, according to the tenor of his promises, Will pour out his Spirit on our seed, and his blessing on our offspring ; so that they may spring up before him as the grass, and as willows by the water-courses; and calling themselves by the name of Jacob, and subscribing with their hands unto the Lordt may be acknowledged by him as a generation of his people. Amen.
* Something of this kind I have since attempted in the Sermons on the Religious Education of Children, which are now rcprinted in the same form with these ; though I have there been obliged to repeat some thoughts, which occur here, though in different words, and in a different view, + Hab. iii. 2.
| Isa. xliv. 3-5.