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rebellion and infirmity of his own will, and committing himself wholly over to the will of God, and desiring to stand in the great Head of all things, bis Son, Christ Jesus, who both taught us the will of God for our salvation, and gave us the example of the most perfect obedience and conformity thereto. And if so be that every man, in order to be redeemed, must thus resign all pleas of right, and resources of self, then is it manifest that no one will plead the right of a promise or of a covenant, though he may humbly expect the grace of it; nor accuse God of unfaithfulness, because he hath not seen it good to pour the burden of it unto his lap. For this is a direct act of discontent and dissatisfaction, and doth indicate the very opposite state of spirit to that of humility and salvation. It is a turning of God's goodness and grace against himself, and seeking to wrest his good promises to the purpose of enslaving his will to the good-pleasure of our own will.
Besides, who is the parent that can plead the perfect fulfilment of his baptismal obligation; who can say, that since the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost was named over my child, I have renounced sin, cut him off in the flesh, sacrificed. my Isaac, my child of laughter, and looked upon him as a Nazarite separated unto God, loved him only with a spiritual love, and rejoiced over him only with a holy joy, ruled him only with a heavenly rule and government, and administered God's heritage for God's glory, but never at any time for my own profit or pleasure ? Now if we have offended in one point, we have offended in
and how then should we be able to set up a claim of right, or be disappointed if God should not
fulfil a covenant which we have violated in every act, and attempt to fulfil it? But if we, being in the covenant, do hope with a continual hope, resting upon the blood of the covenant, and desire with a continual resignation to the Divine will, and receive with a continual admiration of the Divine forgiveness to such covenant-breakers ;thus for ourselves and for our children, hope, desire, and receive; shall we have any such disappointments and upbraidings of God, as the objection implieth? We will never dream of our children being otherwise placed to God than we ourselves are: we will hope from God's grace à continuance to them of their fathers' privileges, and even this we will expect with a full sense of their father's misuse of them; but we will never expect that they are to be delivered from their fathers' battles, which they must fight for themselves, because no man can redeem his brother or his child from death. And if the sons must enter to the wrestlings of their fathers, then must they stand or fall according to their faith and their faithfulness, according to their denial of their own will, and only exaltation of the will of God. How then should we be surprised that many of them fall before the tempter and the seducer, when we see the same taking place amongst their fathers in the church every day of our life. We will rather be surprised that the Lord doth not visit all our sins upon the head of our children, and upon our own head, and admire his long-suffering, which continueth his candlestick in its place to us and to them. But as to the arrogancy of making a demand upon God, and, as it were, drawing an obligation upon
him which he must answer in due time, it
is utterly abominable, and in direct variance with the whole spirit of the Gospel, which is free grace and sovereign will and pleasure, in every promise which is given in the word, and in every instance wherein that promise is fulfilled by providence.
Nevertheless, if it be doubted by any whether the promise of God to bless the children, and the children's children of those that keep his covenant, be true and faithful, or not, I stand forth and say, that it is most true and faithful; and may most surely be relied on by every parent, and pleaded by every child of pious parents, though in both cases not in the spirit of right, but of simple reference to the good pleasure of God. And I am ready to maintain, that in my observation of Divine providence, nothing hath been so much shewn forth, as the blessing which descendeth upon the families of the pious, and the curse which descendeth upon the families of the impious. And especially have I observed this in those extreme cases of the martyrs upon the one hand, and the murderers of the martyrs upon the other. Insomuch that, if I were called upon to enter into particulars, I could go through almost every family of the saints, and every family of the persecutors of the saints of our mother church, and shew how through long generations they have been most diversely entreated by the righteous providence of God. So that there is nothing more spurious and hateful than the notion of our sectarians, that we are not to look for a retribution in this life; whereas the truth is, that God's dealings with men and families, yea and kingdoms in this world, are the very manifestation of that future retribution which awaits the evil and the good in another world, and likewise the fulfilment of his purpose, and the accomplishment of his promises to this day. And after long withdrawals of his countenance, will God return again to have mercy upon a family or a church which in times past hath testified boldly for his truth. And when he has a work of grace to work unto that land, he will make the first overtures of occupation therein, to the children of those who served him heretofore. And haply if he have a work of chastisement, and scourging, and judgment, he will do the same by the children of those who heretofore were his hammer and his axe. Witness how, after a long century of deadness, he hath returned unto the Church of England, with a revival which they will not acknowledge to his glory; and so I fear it will end in a visitation of wrath. Witness how he blesseth the children of the Scottish Church with prosperity and honour, wherever they go in the first generation; which, alas! they do seldom improve to his glory and the honour of his church, whence it cometh to pass in the next generation that they fall short, and do often give themselves up to wickedness. And from God's faithfulness, dear brethren, I have a good hope that He will turn unto our church with mercy, because of the sufferings of our fathers: although I lament to say, there be as yet but faint signs of any light or enlargement.
With respect to the other part of this objection, that the word of God doth often take root in the hearts of the most reprobate and wicked men, when to all human observation there is no appearance of any soil having been prepared, but the
very reverse; I answer, generally, that the Lord is always larger than his promises, which, though they be exceeding broad, and most faithful all, do not yet comprehend the grace of God, which is far larger than words can express. God is fuller than his word: Christ Jesus alone comprehendeth his fulness. He could make as many promises more as he hath made, and be as far from being exhausted as ever. He is a rule unto himself, and his word is merely prophetic of the course that his will is to pursue: given not for his own limitation, but for our belief and expectation. And when we believe and expect that his providence will proceed, and his Spirit operate, as he hath written, we are not therefore to infer that they must restrict themselves within that boundary. How many instances of such an unaccountable providence is there in the records of God's mighty acts. Though he honours primogeniture, he took Abel and not Cain for his first martyr. Again, he loved Jacob and hated Esau ; he preferred Ephraim to Manasseh. Though he honours chastity and purity, how often did he cross the line of Messiah's descent by irregular and illicit generation, in the case of Thamar, of the harlot Rachab, of Bathsheba, and others. In the case of David, the youngest and least stately of Jesse's sons was preferred: and so forth, in innumerable instances. Now, what meaneth this? It meaneth the greatest wisdom and goodness; by manifesting the continual presence of a WILL which gives no account of itself. Not that every promise is not a free act of unconditional will, but that man is so accustomed to the operation of cause and effect in the material world, that he is