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3. It is necessary as a piece of conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not a complete Christian that has not received of Christ grace for grace. · We must prove our union with him by our conformity to him, 1 John ii. 6. He stood in various relations, and therein was a pattern to us. He is a loving husband to his church, Eph. v, 25. a faithful Servant to his Father ; a kind and affectionate Master to his servants; a dutiful subject to the magistrate; and an obe, dient child, Luke ii. 51.
4. It is necessary to make an useful Christian. Cumber. grounds must be cut down, Luke xiii. 7. And useless Chris. tian is like the yine, which if it bear not fruit, is good for nothing but the fire, Ezek. xv. Now, shall we be useless in the world ? And useful we cannot be but in our several places and relations, discharging the duties of the same ; and useful we are, if we do the duties of the relations wherein we stand. How is the eye, the tongue, &c. useful? Why if they remain in their proper place, and do their proper office : whereas, if they either be removed out of their place, or in it do not their office, they are useless. Let us make a help meet for man, said God, when he brought the first relation into the world. So that relative duties, as we stand in relation to others, in family, church, or state, are the proper orb of usefulness. They that are useful there, are useful indeed ; and they who are useless there, are useless altogether in the world.
5. It is necessary to make a straight Christian. If we will go straight in religion, we must go as it were with these two legs, personal duties and relative duties. If either of these be wanting, then our way is like the legs of the lame that are not equal,' Prov. xxvi. 7. An unequal pulse shews a distempered body. How many such crooked professors are there, saints abroad, but devils at home? But see Psal. cxxv. 5. • As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.
6. Lastly, It is necessary for personal holiness. These are like two live coals; put them together, and they will burn; but put them asunder, and they will both go out, 1 Pet. iii. 7. A sad evidence of this is to be seen in many, who, while they were single, gave good hopes of themselves, and had fair blossoms of religion ; but being married, and making no
conscience of their duty to their relatives, all good goes from them, their spirits sour, their souls wither, and their spiritual case goes quite to wreck.
It is a common observation of such as slight relative du. ties, that their relatives are not in their duty to them. But though it be so, this tie is laid on them by divine authority, and so cannot be taken off that way.. Must I go out of my duty, because another goes out of his duty to me? No. See 1 Pet. ii. 18. &c. It is the way to gain them to their duty, chap. iii. 1. Use 1. Of information. This lets us see, that,
1. There is very little true religion in the world, there is so little relative holiness in it. There are two things that make this evident.
(1.) How few are there that make any conscience at all of their duty to their relatives? We may take up Micah's la. mentation over the land at this day, Micah vii. 1,-6. If we look to the church, what confusions are there, with untender ministers, and unruly people ? the stars losing their light, and trampled under foot with contempt. If we look to the state, magistrates abusing their authority, and people despising them and their authority too. If we look into fa. milies, what disorder is there? parents careless, children disobedient, husbands untender, wives stubborn, masters rigid, and servants unfaithful. A sad evidence of the decay of religion, that the world is so far out of course.
(2.) The relative duties that are done, how few of them are done in a right manner? To do the duty itself may please men; but God will never accept it if it is not done in a right manner. A good humour is all with many, who have no principle of a new nature. A natural affection prevails with some ; love to peace makes others do their duty: and fear of their relatives puts on others to their duty; while, in the mean time they are nowise stirred up thereto from the fear and love of God; nor have they any respect to the command of God in what they do. But is that religion? will God ever accept of that as obedience to him? No, no, Rom. xiii. 5. 1 Pet. iii. 6.
2. This lets us see what need all of us have to be humbled for our defects in relative duties; what need we have of the blood of Christ to wash away our guilt in these; what need we have of the Spirit of Christ to help us unto these duties, Oh! they are not easy: nature will never comply with the work, or at best but bungle at it. We have much need to pray for the Divine assistance in this matter; as without him we can do nothing, even in these outward duties. :
Use II. Of exhortation. Set yourselves to make conscience of relative duties. For motives to press this, consider,
1. This will be a notable mean of good to yourselves. He that thus lays out himself, lays up for himself indeed what the world cannot take from him. (1.) It will be an evidence of the sincerity of your obedience, if to personal holiness ye join relative holiness too, Psal. cxix. 6. (2.) It will be a great promoter of personal holiness; for he that watereth, shall be watered also himself. (3.) It will waft you in within the compass of the promise in the text.
2. The conscientious performance of relative duties is the way to do good to others. Would ye be useful for God, or useful to your relatives? then do this? This would make you a blessing like Abraham. There is nothing more convincing, and more likely to make others fall in love with religion, than this, i Pet. iii, 1. .
3. If ye make no conscience of these duties, it will discover the rottenness and unsoundness of your hearts, Psal. cxix. 6. When God changeth the heart, he writes his laws on it, and these laws among others. And the want of this will bring in that dittay, notwithstanding all thy pretended religion, One thing thou lackest.
4. The neglect of these duties, and unfaithfulness in them, does much ill to religion. The world will observe how people manage the duties of their relations; and a flaw there is a sad stumbling-block, that makes others cast at religion. That religion that tends not to the good of society, what does it avail ? Suppose a professor to have a graceless neighbour, can lie take a readier way to stumble him at religion, than to be an ill and unconscionable neighbour? That is a remarkable admonition, 1 Tim. vi. 1.“ Let as many servants as are under the yoke, count their own masters worthy of all honour; that the name of God, and his doctrine, be not blasphemed.' Many pride themselves in their contempt of magistrates and their authority; but I am convinced it has no small influence on the malignancy and atheism of the age, and scares many from the religion that we profess. The malicious Jews knew very well the influence that would
have; and therefore tempted our Lord with a question relative to paying tribute to Cæsar, Matth. xxii. 16, &c. But see our Lord's practice, Matth. xvii. 27.
5. God takes special notice of the conscientious performers of relative duties; for indeed those that are most observant of them are most useful for God in the world. What a noble commendation is that of Enoch, that he walked with God? Gen. v. 22. of Abraham, of whom the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment,' Gen. xviii. 17, 19; and of Sarah, 1 Pet. iii. 6. who obeying Abraham, calling him lord.' Nay, at the great day of judgment, it is relative duties that are pitched upon as evidences for the saints; and the neglect of these is the ground of the condemnation of the wicked. It is not what passed or did not pass betwixt God and them, but what passed betwixt their neighbours and them, upon which the sentence of absolution or condemnation is founded. . 6. Ere lorg all these relations will be taken away, and then ye will have no more access to do a duty to them. Or. dinary emergents may separate betwixt the servant and master, minister and people, one neighbour and another. Death comes and dissolves all relations, Job iï. 17, 18, 19. This dissolves the relation betwixt husband and wife, pa. rents and children. Should we not then take that warning? Gal. vi. 10. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith? When they are gone, many times the neglect stings terribly. ·7. Thy undutifulness that way may ruin thy relative; for by such a stroke ordinarily it is not one, but two that fall together. And if God do keep them up, yet ye do what in you lies to ruin them. The rich man in hell desires not to see his brethren. Why, dreadful is the meeting that many relatives will have one with another at that day.
8. Lastly, The neglect of these duties will undoubtedly ruin you, if ye get not pardon and grace to reform that neglect, Heb. xii. 14. If ye have any love to your own souls, then endeavour after this. · I offer you the following directions.
1. Keep up a sense of your own inability for relative du ties, and look to the Lord for strength to perform them. People look on these but as common things, and live not by faith with respect to them, and the Lord leaves them so as they mar all. Prayer and faith in the promises are neces. sary to the performance of these duties.
2. Watch. Satan bends his force against this particularly, because he is in a fair way to ruin two at least at once. So relatives should join forces to resist him, and carefully watch against this subtle and malicious enemy.
3. Lastly, Consider ye have to do with God in that mata ter, and not merely with another. It is he that has set you in your several relations, and has prescribed the laws whereby ye must walk with him in them. He is your witness, and will be your Judge with respect to your behaviour in that relation, according to these laws.
THIRDLY, I come now to consider the duties of the particular relations wherein we severally stand; and they are two in general; those of superiors and inferiors, and that of equals. The former is of two sorts. There are some relations where one of the relatives has power and authority over the other; and those that import a mere preference. The first of these we may consider with respect to the family, the church, and the commonwealth.
In the family we find three relations, of superiors and in. : feriors, husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants, wherein one of the relatives has power and authority over the other.
I shall begin with the family-relations, and therein with the first relation that was in the world, and from which all others do proceed, viz. that of husband and wife, and so proceed to the rest in order. And we must be particular, that we may declare the whole counsel of God. I shall shew you the laws of heaven with respect to each of these relations, which if observed would make happy societies, families, &c. and when neglected keep the world in wild disorder; and these are laws by which we shall be judged.
FIRST, As for the relation betwixt husbands and wives, read Col. iii. 18, 19. - Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. The apostle here lays down the duty of married persons one to another. He
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