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And could we bring the rising generation really to believe this, we would do a great thing.
4. In trusting to the promise of the gospel allenarly for life and happiness, and a rest to the heart, upon the ground of God's faithfulness. Here is the nature of faith, a betaking one's self unto God's truth, by trusting to him in his word of promise for all, Ruth ii. 12. It implies these three things. The soul, seeing there is in the promise what is not in all the creation-enough to answer all its needs, and to make it completely happy,
1st, Believes its own common interest in the promise, that itself, as well as others, has access to claim it with all that is in it, and to rely on it as held out to him in particular to trust upon for his upmaking in tin
and eternity, seb. iv. 1, 2. For no man can embrace the promise of the gospel, that does not first see himself warranted so to do. And the nature of the promise warrants all, John iii. 10, “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
2dly, The man thereupon lays the weight of his happiness wholly on it, trusting that it shall be made out to him, and expecting all happiness from it. Thus he buys the field, takes possession of it, and the treasure hid therein, Matth. xiii. 44. This is the embracing of the promise, Heb. xi. 13, as one takes an honest man's word for his security, rests there, and looks no farther. So what trust was before placed in the vain world, is now placed in the promise.
3dly, The ground on which he bottoms this his trust in the promise, is not any thing in himself, but the truth and faithfulness of God, Tit. i. 2. The man sees the promise is not yea and nay, as the promises of fickle men are : but that it is the word of God, which is surer than heaven and earth, Heb. xi. 11, and yea in Christ, 2 Cor. i. 20. And to this trust we should labour to bring the rising generation, which is to bring them unto a rest for their restless hearts, by bringing them to Christ, and by him to God. When we see hungry infants moving about with their mouths for something to suck, natural affection teaches to set them on the breast: but as they grow up, ye might observe their hungry souls moving up and down among the creatures for a fill, and still restless because they cannot get it. It would be as great charity in that case, to endeavour to bring them to the breasts of divine consolations from the promise of the gospel.
5, Lastly, In hoping and waiting for their happiness from the promise of the gospel. Hence says the apostle, Rom. viii. 24, 25, “ We are saved by hope : but hope that is seen, is not hope : for what a
man seeth, why doth he yet hope for ? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” There is much got out of the promise, for the present in hand; but still there is more in hope, to be got on the other side of death. The nataral cry is, “ Who will shew us any good ?" It is hard to make children wait even for temporal good things : they would ay have all presently, whenever they take it in their head: but it is harder to get them to wait in the matter of a portion for their hearts. So they greedily embrace the present world. But we should labour to get them off that, and wait for bappiness in another world.
II. The means to be used with them for that end. That is, to make God known to them. He is to many of the aged among men an unknown God, as to any saving acquaintance with him: but to young ones, he is an unknown God, so much as by report or hearsay, till the aged do tell them of him. The saving knowledge of himself God only can give : but there is a doctrinal way of making him known to the rising generation : and that is our duty, Psalm xxii. ult., “ They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this."
Now, ye are to make him known to the rising generation, as a God in Christ, John xiv. 2: for as such only he is the object of a guilty creature's trust for salvation, 2 Cor. v. 19. The blind world pretend to trust in God as an absolute God, not eyeing him as in Christ: but so he is a “consuming fire,” Heb. xii. ult. And he is pot honoured, but dishonoured by such a trust, John v. 23. In Christ he appears,
1. As a God of majesty and glory, 2 Cor. iv. 6. There is no glass in which ye can represent to the rising generation the glory and majesty of God so lively as in Christ. The creating a world of nothing, the deluge, and the destruction of Sodom, are but dim glasses, in comparison of the mystery of Christ. Here the glory of his infinite holiness, and infinite hatred of sin, bis exact justice, his precise and uualterable truth, his unsearchable wisdom, most fully appear.
2. As the God of grace, 1 Pet. v. 10. The former view of God is apt to fill the soul with the honour, awe, and reverence of him, fit ballast for the vain heart: this view of God is apt to fill the soul with faith and love, whereby the heart may be disengaged from the the vain world, and knit to him as the alone upmaking portion of the soul. In Christ ye can let them see majesty vailed with mercy, righteousness and peace kissing mutually, a crystal wall to go between them and the consuming fire.
III. The third thing is, io give the reasons why this is the true way of propagating religiou to the rising generation.
1. Because all true religion begins with the knowledge of God in Christ. Hence our Lord says, John xvii. 3, " This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” As long as ignorance of God continues in the soul, the prince of darkness rules there, the works of darkness go on there, and the party is on the way to everlasting darkness, Hos. iv. 6; Isa. xxvii. 11. Therefore cruel are they that bring up young ones, whether children or servants, in ignorance ; especially considering that it is the learning age, which season missed, the loss is seldom retrieved.
2. Because vain is that religion and knowledge that brings not the soul to betake itself to God's truth for a portion, and to renounce the world and its way, 1 Cor. viii. 1. Our aim in all our teaching should be to affect the heart, to bring sinners to God, to be his only, wholly and for ever. To satisfy ourselves with filling their heads with notions of religion, while we are careless of getting their hearts to Christ, is sorry service.
3. Because the right discerning of the glory of God in Christ is the true way to bring a sinner to faith in him: Psalm ix. 10, " They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” John iv. 10, “ Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink ; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” All who are brought acquainted with him, cannot choose but take up their soul's rest in him : and whoever do not betake themselves to him, it is because they know him not. For his glorious excellency truly discerned, cannot miss to captivate the heart.
USE. Make God known to the rising generation, so that they may be stirred up to give up with the vain and false world, and to betake themselves to the promise of the gospel, therein to take God for their portion. I have given motives already, I will now give directions how to manage the work.
1. A general direction. Aim at that particularly, and keep it always in your view, to teach them to know God in Christ. Never satisfy yourselves with letting them know what God is in himself out of Christ ; for that may strike them with terror, but it will never bring them to him in faith and love. But labour to discover to them the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Shew them Christ, and ye shew them the Father; for in him the fulness of the Godhead dwells. In his person, you may let them see God's willingness to take mankind into union and communion with himself; in his offices, how willing he is to teach them, justify them, and sanctify them; in his holy birth, what a nature is pleasing to him ; in his
righteous life, what a conversation he requires : in his satisfactory death, how dreadful his wrath is against sin; and in a word, how they may be made holy and happy for ever. Therefore inculcate on them the knowledge of Christ. I urge this for three reasons.
1st, Do this, and ye do all to them. Hence says the apostle, 1 Cor. ii. 2, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." When the darkness of the night sits down on the face of the earth, as many candles as are burning abroad, so many spots of the earth will be enlightened: but let the sun arise, and there will be light over all; for the one sun will do more than millions of lighted candles. So, whenever Christ the Son of Righteousness ariseth, that gross darkness which covers the mind will suddenly be dispelled. There is more of the glory of God to be seen in the face of Jesus, than throughout the whole compass of the heavens and the earth, which yet were made to declare the glory of God. Life, eternal life, is in the knowledge of him, John xvii. 3.
2dly, Neglect this, and ye do nothing to them to purpose. Hence says Christ, John viii. 24, “ If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” That light that is without him is but darkness, and the sparks of knowledge and religion that is without illumination in the knowledge of Christ, will leave those that walk in the light of them to lie down in sorrow at length, John i. 9. Not one truth is rightly learned, that is not learned as it centres in Jesus, Eph. iv. 20, 21.
3dly, Because the rising generation is in extreme hazard in this point at this time, beyond what they have been for many years. A
A religion is like to come in among them, that has no relation to Christ and his Spirit, which is in effect but refined Paganism. With some Christ is almost dropt out of their practical divinity, and morality in doctrine is justling out the gospel of the grace of God; and hence immorality in practice comes in like a flood; and principles are vented highly injurious to his glorious Godhead.
2. Particular directions are these :
1st, Acquaint them with God's word. Let your children be learned to read; and your servants that cannot read, be so chari. table as to teach them. And ye servants, secure that in your hiring yourselves. And press them, and stir them up to read the scriptures ordinarily when they can do it. It is recorded of Timothy, to his honour, that " from a child he had known the holy scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim. iii. 15.
2dly, Neglect not family catechising. Oblige them to get the Shorter Catechism, and labour to make them understand it by examining them. For which purpose ye have many good helps laid to your
hand. 3dly, Often inculcate on them their sinful and miserable state by nature, and the salvation for them in Jesus Christ.
4thly, Join a practical exhortation with your catechising. It might be profitable to close the catechising on every question of the Catechism upon a particular head, with a short admonition to them by way of use. Ex. gr. on the first, Well, mind that the great thing ye have to do in the world is, to glorify God; and that the great thing ye have to seek, is the enjoyment of him.
5thly, Inculcate upon them, and train them up in a reverence and esteem of the ministry of the gospel, as an ordinance of Christ for the salvation of sinners. And oblige your family to a conscientious attendance; none of them to sit at home that are capable of profiting by the word, without a reason that will bear weight before God, 1 Cor. i. 21. I urge this the rather, that some are trained up in a neglect, or in a contempt of it, to the ensuaring of their poor souls. Mind the children of Bethel.
6thly, Inculcate and labour to impress them with the belief of the vanity of the world, and the impossibility of finding a rest to their heart in any creature. Tell it them from the word, your own and their experience.
7thly, Inculcate and labour to impress them with the belief of the full happiness to be found in a God in Christ, held forth to them in the promise of the gospel. Solemnly assure them, that there they may find a rest to their heart; and that God is offering himself to them as such.
8thly, Make it known to them how good a master God is; how pleasant the way of holiness is : what an ill master Satan is; how contrary and odious sin is to God; how dear it stood Christ; how bitter it will be to the sinner here or hereafter.
9thly, Put them on praying by any means, and teach them to pray, and inculcate on them the necessity of it.
10thly, Make known to them how God is a God of exact justice, and purest truth : and from thence, as ye love their souls, endeavour often to inculcate on them, and impress them with a horror of injustice in the least things, and of lying in any case. The sad way some are brought up in those points, leave them without any conscieuce of common honesty or truth.
And mind that “precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little," Isa. xxviii. 10.