Luke i. 66. What manner of child shall this be ? These words were originally uttered on observing the miracles connected with the birth of John the Baptist, the illustrious forerunner of our Redeemer. The high hopes of his future eminence that these miracles excited, were accomplished. He was indeed "a burning and a shining light." His career was short, but important and glorious. It is not my intention, however, to confine myself to the history of the Baptist. Language similar to that in the text is used on the birth of every infant. The parents anxiously desire to lift the veil which covers futurity, and would wish to have the prophetic vision of Zechariah, that they might discern the future character of their child. This desire is natural, and even laudable, when it proceeds from proper motives and feelings, and incites to proper actions. But it frequently springs vol. in. 2

10 SERMO I.WiV. from a vain curiosity, or a wordly temper. Parents ask, " What manner of child shall this be ?'' not with solicitude that it may adorn the doctrine of the Redeemer, but only with an anxious wish that it maybe encompassed by all that the world idolizes.

If we would render the question beneficial to us, we must ask it, I. With a submissive temper. II. With a sense of the importance of the future character of the child. III. With a recollection of the awful charge it imposes upon us, and, IV. With a persuasion of our dependence upon the blessing of God, to render it holy and happy. This question should be asked, I. With a spirit of unfeigned submission to God: submission exercised both as to the bounds he prescribes to our knowledge of the future, and as to his righteous government and disposal of the child. 1. Many are desirous to know more of the future than God has thought fit to reveal, and they are disposed to murmur that the events that shall befall their children are hidden from them. But while with the natural solicitude of parents you make the inquiry in the text, repine not at the narrow limits of your knowledge. A perfect acquaintedness with the future conditions of your offspring would not tend to your real good ; it would serve only for curiosity, and not for use. ay, it would be disadvantageous to you. You would he prevented from performing present duty, and diverted from your daily work, by the continual and unprofitable ranges of your mind to and fro in that futurity, which would then lie open, and present so vast a prospect to you.

MISCELLA EOUS. II Your afflictions would be inconceivably multiplied. Every sorrow of your whole life that shall result from your children would be felt in every day. If the bare possibility of their misery sometimes severely afflicts you, how keenly would you feel the certainty of this misery, without the ability to avert it ! Could you at once perceive all the tears that this child shall shed, all the woes that he shall endure, all the agonies that shall wring his heart, what a melancholy gloom would settle on your soul ! How speedily would that joy, with which you now caress your infant, and form the dearest hopes concerning him, be withered, were the veil of futurity suddenly withdrawn, and he presented to you perhaps an early corpse, perhaps a profligate sinner, perhaps the victim of poverty, affliction, or reproach ! The sweetness of mercies would be diminished by this clear knowledge of the future. All the delight which results from the unexpectedness of blessings would be wrested from you. If the future presented you a dark and gloomy prospect respecting your child, you would raise no tribute of gratitude for present blessings. Did you, on the contrary, see before you brighter joys, an anxiety to possess them would make you indifferent to the pleasures which now encompass you. With a clear view of the future, the Christian graces would be impaired or entirely prevented from exercise. Then there could be no trust in God under the most frowning aspect of his providence ; no faith in the midst of gloom and perplexity; no hope, since, as the apostle remarks, " hope that is seen, is not hope ;" no energetic and fervent prayer for deliverance and support, no exercises suited to the situation of those who are to " walk by faith, and not by sight." While

12 SERMO LXXiV. then, nature prompts you to cry, " What manner ot child shall this be ?" submit without murmuring to the disposals of the Ruler of the universe, who has hidden the future from you ; and in this, as in all the dispensations of his providence, admire his wisdom and his mercv. 2. This submission must be shown also by a con= tentedness of heart to leave the government of your offspring, and the regulation of their lot in the hands of the All-Wise and All-Good God. Christian parents, the language of your hearts should be, " Though from those principles which nature has implanted, and grace has strengthened, we cannot but be solicitous what manner of children these shall be," yet we are comforted when we remember that we have committed them to Him, who is at once the God of our fathers, our God, and the God of our children. Should he have resolved that these, like so many infants, should only glance upon the coasts of life, and after only a few weeks, or months, or years, fall victims to death, yet still we will remember that God has removed them ; will submit to his rod, and show that these children, though tenderly loved, w r ere not idolized, were not regarded as our chief good, and that our supreme felicity was not attached to their lives. Should they, by the guardian providence of God, be safely conducted through the dangers of infancy and youth, though we desire and supplicate for them temporal felicity, yet, should it please the Most Merciful to visit them with affliction, we will submit ; knowing that all which God does is wisest and best. To him we have devoted ourselves and ours; Ave wish not that the regulation of our own lot, or that of our children, should be in any other hands than those

of our Father. Only let them be the children of

MISCELLA EOUS. I .J God, the followers of the Redeemer, the heirs of glory, and we will be happy, whether they be rich or poor, honoured or contemned by men, surrounded by earthly enjoyments, or destitute of them. If we pass before them unto the eternal world, we will leave them with confidence, to the protection of that God whom they have chosen as their portion ; or if they precede us in the descent to the tomb, we will resign them to that Redeemer who has washed them in his blood, and " sorrow for them, not as those without hope." " What manner of child shall this be ?" This is a question which should be asked, not only with a submissive temper, but also, II. With a deep and solemn sense of the importance of the future character of every child. The feeblest infant is not born like inferior animals, merely to eat and drink, to walk up and down upon the earth, and enjoy the light of the sun for a few years, and then to lie down for ever in the dust. It is not born merely to engage in the occupations of earth, although even the temporal events that may mark its life, render it an object of importance. Helpless and ignorant as it now is, knowing not its parents nor itself, nor its wants, nor the world of which it has become an inhabitant, it may hereafter be enrolled, either with those blessings or curses, of mankind, who once lay thus feeble. But it especially swells into consequence when we consider the sublimity of the future destination of man. Yes, parents ; solemnly ask, " What manner of children shall these be ?" when you remember that

they are embryo angels, or infant fiends, that through eternity they will either continually rise higher in glory and felicity, or sink deeper and deeper in the gulfs of despair. There is an immortal

14 SERMO LXXIV, spark within them, which shall hereafter mingle and blaze with the seraph, that " adores and burns" with holy love before the throne of God ; that shall still flame when the sun and the stars shall be torn from the heavens ; or that shall be quenched in everlasting darkness, or only give that fearful light, which renders more dreadful the regions of horror and despair. And not only will they themselves dwell in heaven or in hell, but they will also be the means of conducting others to one of these abodes. Every person has a circle whom he influences to good or evil. Every spirit that is now blest or lost, has not only received impressions from others which tended to lead him to glory or misery, but has also given similar impulses to those with whom he associated. Of what infinite consequence then is the feeblest child ? Thus feeble once was Paul, and those who, like him, are now in glory, surrounded by those whom they were the instruments of plucking from ruin : thus feeble once were the blasphemer, the infidel, the profligate, who groan in torments, while the curses of those whose principles they subverted, and whose morals they overthrew, and who have followed them to the regions of despair, pursue, and for ever shall pursue them. Yes, could we have a proper idea of the intensity and duration of future punishments or joys, we should, when we remembered that another birth awaited these children when they should open their eyes on

the unchanging world, cry with the utmost solemnity, " What manner of children shall they be ?" Parents should ask this question, III. With a serious and habitual recollection, that according to the ordinary course of God's providence, th*

MISCELLA EOUS. 15 dental httppiness of their children greatly depends upon (hem. God works by means. His providence excludes not human agency ; and if you wish that your children should be holy in this life, and happy in that which is to come, carefully attend to their religious education. This he commands you in his word. To the faithful performance of this duty he has given the most precious promises. These promises we see constantly accomplished : for who are those who ordinarily are members and ornaments of the church of Christ ? Are they not those generally who can recollect the early instructions of a pious father, or the tears and prayers of a mother solicitous for their everlasting welfare? Parents, you have seen the importance of the charge committed to you. These children are God's ; he has intrusted them to your keeping ; but he will require an account of them from you. For these immortal souls that are in your care, Jesus died : he will from his throne of judgment demand of you the purchase of his blood. Feel then your responsibility, and to the question in the text add another, 4 What manner of parent shall I be ? Shall my conduct be so conscientious and holy that I may hope, through the divine blessing, to see my child the

friend of Jesus and the heir of glory: or shall I here abandon him to sin and Satan, and hear his curses and reproaches poured upon me throughout eter« nity ?' If you desire to see your children holy and happy, begin early to instruct them. In the very first period:? of life, they are susceptible of those religious impressions that may decide their future character. Speak to them of God and the Redeemer, of heaven and hell,

16 bERMO LXX1V. before their minds receive false impressions. Those only who have never been in the habit of conversing with children on divine things, will maintain that such subjects are either uninteresting or unintelligible to them. Persevere in this religious instruction and admonition. Continue to watch, lest the good seed that was sown in infancy be rooted up. There are many who are attentive to the child while they neglect the youths who instead of cherishing the impressions that were early made, and endeavouring to fasten them upon the heart and conscience, suffer them to be effaced : who become " weary in well-doing ;" and abstaining from the pious admonition, the tender exhortation, and the heart-felt entreaty, drop " the staff of domestic authority, and neglect the book of domestic wisdom :" who as their children advance in life, seldom advise them how to obtain everlasting blessedness, but speak to them only of the road that conducts to temporal wealth, or honour, or wisdom : who eagerly reprove them for a breach of fashionable manners, but are silent when they violate the law of God. It is not difficult to say c; what manner of children those will be," who are thus educated.

They will be ncglecters of their God, strangers to serious piety, and the heirs of sorrow. They may be caressed and applauded by the world, but will not have that " honour which cometh from God only." Remember too that the character of these children is to be formed, not only by good instructions, but also by good examples. This is the most lively and effectual mode of instruction. There are few parents so awfully wicked and utterly abandoned to sin. as not to wish that their children should love

MISCELLA EOUS. 1 7 and practise virtue, as never to exhort them to the love and fear of God. But if your exhortations and admonitions are contradicted by your examples, they will have no effect but to upbraid and reproach yourself, and to increase both your condemnation and theirs. But on the other hand, when a pious parent shall not only, with the most affectionate and tender words that love can dictate, instruct his children in the ways of holiness, but also walk before them in those ways ; not only by admonitions show it to be most rational, but also by constant practice show it to be most pleasant and delightful, he has surely cause to hope for the divine blessing upon his offspring. This blessing such a parent anxiously seeks ; for when he asks, " What manner of child shall this be ?" he does it, IV. With a deep persuasion of his dependence upon God for that holiness and felicity that he desires for his child. Without the blessing of God, in vain is the tender and assiduous watchfulness of the mother, and the

enlightened care of the father. And there is no reason to expect this blessing, if our efforts are made M with a proud independence, or a careless neglect of his providence and grace." Sensible that it is God alone who can renew the heart of this child, and raise him to glory, the pious parent, solicitous for his welfare, offers him to the Lord in the only spiritual ordinance of which he is capable; and esteems as a precious privilege the seal of the promise of the covenant, the sign of the grace of the Spirit, the initiating sacrament of the church. He observes this not as a bare empty ceremony, but as a dear pledge of the kindness of God to his child, and of his readiness to receive and bless him. vol. ur. 3

Iti SERMOS LXXH . His sense of his dependence upon God causes him also, whenever he comes to the throne of grace, to bring his children upon his heart with him. He earnestly beseeches his heavenly Father to adopt them into his family ; to bestow on them a large portion of " spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus," and to bring them at last to " the inheritance of the saints in light." Such prayers frequently and fervently offered for and with his children, shall not be in vain. He will probably have the consolation of seeing his offspring walking in the ways of goodness and religion. 1. Parents, this discourse has peculiarly been addressed to you. Feel the importance of the truths which have been announced to you, and reduce them to practice. In your hands are deposited the hope and blessing, or the curse and plague of the next age. Your families are the nurseries both of

the church and state, and according to your cultivation will probably be the fruits hereafter. Are your children yet young ? Save them from wretchedness, and yourselves from remorse, by endeavouring early to lead them to the Redeemer. Are your children more advanced in life, and do they give evidence of true holiness and piety ? Pour forth your thanks to God that he has blessed your efforts and answered your prayers ; and that he has given your children the best, an everlasting inheritance. Are your children careless of the Redeemer, or disobedient to you ? Examine your past conduct to them ; see whether you have not been remiss in the discharge of your duty to them, and whether God is not punishing you by them for your transgressions. Implore from your heavenly Father forgiveness for the past.

MISCELLA EOUS. 19 and still importunately supplicate him to save your children from sin and from despair. 2. This subject addresses all the children who are in this assembly. My dear young friends, I have been pleading your cause with your parents, and now let me entreat you to listen to the admonitions and instructions of these parents, to remember and to practise them. They speak to you from a tender concern for your everlasting happiness. They are qualified to instruct you, for they have the wisdom and experience of many years. They are commanded by Him who made and preserves them and you, to admonish and instruct you. They dare not neglect to obey this command : can you refuse to listen to them ? The subject they are chiefly anxious to impress upon your minds, is the most important, the mediation and death of Jesus Christ, through whom alone you can be forgiven and saved. By

your perverseness and neglect of their instructions, you will become hardened in sin, and prepared for that world of torments where there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth. " Hear then, ye children, the instructions of a father : let your hearts retain his words ; keep his commandments, and live." 3. Finally, this subject addresses us all. Over each of us our parents cried, " What manner of child shall this be ?" Have we answered their expectations and their hopes ? There are some of you who by your piety have cheered their hearts, and rewarded them for all their cares. Let your thanksgivings rise mingled with theirs for the grace that has been displayed to you. There are others who by their irreligion have tilled the hearts of their pious parents with anguish. If these parents still live, they shudder while they contemplate your present cha-

20 SERMO LXW , racter and your future doom. Jf they are dead, you perhaps planted thorns in their dying pillow. Turn at last unto the Lord, and these parents, il' living, shall rejoiee in you ; or if dead, their happy spirits shall cry in glory, " Our child was dead, but is alive again ; he was lost, but is found.'' Since he has given himself to God, we know " what manner of child he shall be;" we know that he shall ever dwell with us in the kingdom of blessedness.



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