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HEADS OF FAMILIES.
S we cannot but with grief of foul lament thofe multitudes of errors, blafphemies, and all kinds of profaneness, which have in this last age like a mighty deluge overflown this nation; fo, among feveral other fins which have helped to open the flood-gates of all these impieties, we cannot but efteem the difufe of family-inftruction one of the greateft. The two great pillars upon which the kingdom of Satan is erected, and by which it is upheld, are ignorance and error; the first step of our manumiffion from this fpiritual thraldom confifts, in having our eyes opened, and being turned from darkness to light, Acts xxvi. 18. How much the ferious endeavours of godly parents and mafters might contribute to an early feafoning the tender years of fuch as are under their infpection, is abundantly evident, not only from their fpecial influence upon them, in refpect of their authority over them, intereft in them, continual prefence with them, and frequent opportunities of being helpful to them; but alfo from the fad effects which, by woful experience, we find to be the fruit of the omiffion of this duty. It were eafy to fet before you a cloud of witnefles, the language of whofe practice hath been not only an eminent commendation of this duty, but also a feious exhortation to it. As Abel, though dead, yet fpeaks by his example to us for imitation of his faith, &c. Heb. xi. 4.; fo do the examples of Abraham, of Jofhua, of the parents of Solomon, of the grandmother and mother of Timothy, the mother of Auguftine, whofe care was as well to purfe up the fouls as the bodies of their little ones; and as their pains herein was great, fo was their success no way unanswerable.
We should scarce imagine it any better than an impertinency, in this noon-day of the gospel, either to inform or perfuade in a duty fo exprefsly commanded, fo frequently urged, fo highly encouraged, and fo eminently owned by the Lord in all ages with his bleffing, but that our fad experience tells us, this duty is not more needful, than it is of late neglected. For the restoring of this duty to its due obferyance, give us leave to fuggeft this double advice.
The first concerns heads of families in refpect of themselves, that as the Lord hath fet them in place above the rest of their family, they would labour in all wifdom and fpiritual understanding to be above them alfo. It is an uncomely fight to behold men in years, babes in knowledge; and how unmeet are they to inftruct others, who need themfelves to be taught which be the first principles of the oracles of God? Heb. v. 12. Knowledge is an accomplishment fo defirable, that the devils themselves knew not a more taking bait by which tempt our first parents, than by the fruit of the tree of knowledge; So fhall you be as gods, knowing good and evil. When Solomon had that favour fhewed him of the Lord, that he was made his own chufer what to afk, he knew no greater mercy to beg than wifdom, 1 Kings iii. 5. 9. The understanding is the guide and pilot of the whole man, that faculty which fits at the ftern of the foul: But as the most expert guide may mistake in the dark, fo may the underftanding, when it wants the light of knowledge: Without knowledge the mind cannot be good, Prov. xix. 2; nor the life good, nor the eternal condition fafe, Eph. iv. 18. My people are deftroyed for lack of knowledge, Hof. iv. 6. It is ordinary in feripture to fet profaneness and all kind of mifcarriages upon the fcore of ignorance. in the body have many times their rife from diftempers in the head, and exorbitances in practice from errors in judgment: And indeed in every fin there is fomething both of ignorance and error at the bottom; for, did finners truly know what they do in finning, we might fay of every fin, what the Apoftle fpeaks concerning that great fin, Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; did they truly know that every fin is a provoking the Lord to jealoufy, a proclaiming war against Heaven, a crucifying the Lord Jefus afresh, a treafuring up wrath unto themselves against the day of wrath and that, if ever they be pardoned, it must be at no lower a rate than the price of his blood; it were fearce poffible but fin, inftead of alluring, fhould affright, and inftead of tempting, fcare. It is one of the arch devices and principal methods of Satan to deceive men into fin: Thus he prevailed against our firft parents, not as a lion, but as a ferpent, acting his enmity under a pretence of friendfhip, and tempting them to evil under an appearance of good; and thus hath he all along carried on his defigns of darkness, by transforming himself into an angel of light, making poor deceived men in love with their miseries, and hug their own deftruction. A most fovereign antidote against all kind of errors, is to be grounded and fettled in the faith: Perfons, unfixed in the true religion; are very receptive of a falfe; and they who are nothing in fpiritual knowledge, are eafily made any thing. Clouds without water are driven to and fro with every wind, and fhips without ballaft liable to the violence of every tempeft. But yet the knowledge we efpecially commend, is not a brain-knowledge, a mere fpeculation; this may be in the worst of men, nay, in the worft of creatures, the devils theinfelves, and that in fuch an eminency, as the beft of faints cannot attain to in this life of imperfection: But an inward, a favoury,
an heart knowledge, fuch as was in that martyr, who, though the could not difpute for Chrift, could die for him. This is that fpiritual fenfe and feeling of divine truths, the Apostle speaks of, Heb. V. 14. Having your fenfes exercised, &c.
But, alas, we may fay of moft mens religion, what learned Ri. vet* fpeaks concerning the errors of the fathers, "They were not "fo much their own errors, as the errors of the times wherein they "lived." Thus do molt men take up their religion upon no better ૮ an account than Turks and Papists take up theirs, because it is the religion of the times and places wherein they live; and what they take up thus flightly, they lay down as eafily. Whereas, an inward taste and relish of the things of God, is an excellent prefervative to keep us fettled in the most unfettled times. Corrupt and unfavoury principles have great advantage upon us, above those that are spiri tual and found; the former being fuitable to corrupt nature, the latter contrary; the former fpringing up of themselves, the latter brought forth not without a painful induitry. The ground needs no other midwifery in bringing forth weeds, than only the neglect of the hufbandman's hand to pluck them up; the air needs no other cause of darkness, than the absence of the fun; nor water of coldnefs, than its diftance from the fire; because these are the genuine products of nature. Were it fo with the foul, (as fome of the philofophers have vainly imagined,) to come into the world as an abrasa tabula, a mere blank or piece of white paper, on which neither any thing is written, nor any blots; it would then be equally receptive of good and evil, and no more averfe to the one than to the other: But how much worfe its condition indeed is, were fcripture filent, every man's experience does evidently manifeft. For who is there that knows any thing of his own heart, and knows not thus much, that the fuggeftions of Satan have so easy and free admittance into our hearts, that our utmost watchfulness is too little to guard us from them? whereas the motions of God's Spirit are fo unacceptable to us, that our utmost diligence is too little to get our hearts open to entertain them. Let therefore the excellency, neceffity, difficulty of true wisdom stir up endeavours in you, fomewhat proportionable to fuch an accomplishment; Above all getting, get underftanding, Prov. iv. 7. and fearch for wisdom as for hidden treafures, Prov. ii. 4. It much concerns you in respect of yourselves.
Our fecond advice concerns heads of families, in refpect of their families. Whatever hath been faid already, though it concerns every private Christian that hath a foul to look after; yet, upon a double account, it concerns parents and mafters, as having themselves and others to look after: Some there are, who, because of their ig norance, cannot; others, because of their fluggishness, will not mind this duty. To the former we propound the method of joshua, who firit began with hiinfelf, and then is careful of his family. To the latter we fhall only hint, what a dreadful meeting thofe parents and mafters must have at that great day, with their children and fervants, when all that were under their infpection fhall not only ac cufe them, but charge their eternal mifcarrying upon their fcore. • Rivet. Crit. Sacr.
Never did any age of the church enjoy fuch choice helps, as this of ours. Every age of the gofpel hath had its creeds, confeffions, catechifins, and fuch breviaries and models of divinity as have been fingularly useful. Such forms of found words, (however in these days decried,) have been in ufe in the church, ever fince God himself wrote the decalogue, as a fummary of things to be done, and Chrift taught us that prayer of his, as a directory what to afk. Concerning the usefulness of fuch compendiary fyftems, fo much hath been faid already by a learned divine* of this age, as is fufficient to fatisfy all who are not refolved to remain unfatisfied.
Concerning the particular excellency of thefe enfuing treatises, we judge it unneedful to mention thofe eminent teftimonies which have been given them, from perfons of known worth in refpect of their judgment, learning, and integrity, both at home and abroad, because themfelves fpake fo much their own praife; gold ftands not in need of varnish, nor diamonds of painting: Give us leave only to tell you, that we cannot but account it an eminent mercy to enjoy fuch helps as these are. It is ordinary in thefe days, for men to fpeak evil of things they know not: But if any are poffeffed with mean thoughts of these treatifes, we fhall only give the fame counfel to them, that Philip gives Nathanael, Come and fee, John i. 46. It is no finall advantage the reader now hath, by the addition of fcriptures at large, whereby with little pains he may more profit, because with every truth he may behold its fcripture-foundation. And indeed, confidering what a Babel of opinions, what a ftrange confufion of tongues there is this day, among them who profefs they fpeak the language of Canaan; there is no intelligent perfon but will conclude that advice of the prophet efpecially fuited to fuch an age as this, If. viii. 20. To the law and to the teftimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. If the reverend and learned compofers of thefe enfuing treatises were willing to take the pains of annexing fcripture-proofs to every truth, that the faith of people might not be built upon the dictates of men, but the authority of God; fo fome confiderable pains hath now been further taken in tranfcribing thofe fcriptures, partly to prevent that grand inconvenience (which all former impreffions, except the Latin, have abounded with, to the great perplexing and difheartning of the reader,) the mifquotation of fcripture; the meaneft reader being able, by having the words at large, to rectify whatever mistake may be in the printer in citing the particular place: Partly to prevent the trouble of turning to every proof, which could not but be very great : Partly to help the memories of fuch who are willing to take the pains of turning to every proof, but are unable to retain what they read; and partly that this may ferve as a Bible common-place, the feveral paffages of Scripture, which are scattered up and down in the word being in this book reduced to their proper head, and thereby giving light each to other. The advantages, you fee, in this defign, are many and great: The way to fpiritual knowledge is hereby made more eafy, and the ignorance of this age more inexcufable.
• Doctor Tuckney, in his fermon on 2 Tim. i. 13.
If therefore there be any spark in you of love to God, be not content that any of yours fhould be ignorant of him whom you fo much admire, or any haters of him whom you so much love. If there be any compaffion to the fouls of them who are under your care, if any regard of your being found faithful in the day of Chrift, if any refpect to fu ture generations; labour to fow thefe feeds of knowledge, which may grow up in after-times. That you may be faithful herein, is the earnest prayer of,