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cause of the contrary. It becomes good friends to cover one another's faults : Love covers a multitude of faults : Prov. x. 1. Hatred stirreth up strife ; but love covereth all sins." not you rather quick to spy faults, and ready to make the most of them. Are not very little things often the occasion of contention between you? Will not a little thing often ruffle your spirits towards your companions ? and when any misunderstanding is begun, are you not guilty of exasperating one another's spirits by unkind language, until you blow up a spark into a flame?
Do you endeavour to accommodate yourselves to each other's tempers? Do you study to suit each other? or do you set up your own wills, to have your own ways, in opposition to each other, in the management of your family-concerns ? Do you make it your study to render each other's lives comfortable? or is there not, on the contrary, very often subsisting between you a spirit of ill will, a disposition to vex and cross one another?
Husbands do sometimes greatly sin against God, in being of an unkind imperious behaviour towards their wives, treating them as if they were servants; (and to mention one instance of such treatment in particular) laying them under unjust and unreasonable restraints in the use and disposal of their common property ; forbidding them so much as to dispose of any thing in charity, as of their own judgment and prudence. This is directly contrary to the word of God, where it is said of the virtuous wife, Prov. xxxi. 20, that she strelcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. If God hath made this her duty, then he hath given her this right and power, because the duty supposes the right. It cannot be the duty of her who hath no right to dispose of any thing, to stretch forth her hand to the poor, and to reach forth her hands to the needy.
On the other hand, are not the commands of God the rules of bis word, and the solemn vows of the marriage-covenant, with respect to the subordination which there ought to be in this relation, made light of by mamy? Eph. v. 22. Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord; So Col. iii. 18. What is commanded by God, and wbat hath been solemnly vowed and sworn in his presence, certainly ought not to be made a jest of; and the person who lightly violates these obli. gations, will doubtless be treated as one who slights the authority of God, and takes his name in vain.
(2.) I shall apply myself to parents and heads of families. Inquire whether you do not live in some way of sin with respect to your children, or others committed to your care ; and particularly to inquire,
1. Whether you do not live in sin, by living in the neglect of instructing them. Do you not wholly neglect the duty of instructing your children and servants? or if you do not wholly neglect it, yet do you not afford them so little instruction, and are you not so unsteady, and do you not take so little pains in it, that you live in a sinful neglect? Do you take pains in any measure proportionate to the importance of the matter? You cannot but own that it is a matter of vast importance, that your children be fitted for death, and saved from hell; and that all possible care be taken that it be done speedily; for you know not how soon your children may die. Are you as careful about the welfare of their souls as you are of their bodies? Do you labour as much that they may have eternal life, as you do to provide estates for them to live on in this world ?
Let every parent inquire, whether he do not live in a way of sin in this respect : and let masters inquire, whether they do not live in a way of sin, in neglecting the poor souls of their servants; whether their only care be not to make their servants subservient to their worldly interest, without any concern what becomes of them to all eternity.
2. Do you not live in a sinful neglect of the government of your families? Do you not live in the sin of Eli ? who indeed counselled and reproved his children, but did not exercise government over them. He reproved them very solemnly, as i Sam. ii. 23, 24, 25.; but he did not restrain them; by which he greatly provoked God, and brought an everlasting curse upon bis house ; 1 Sam. iii. 12. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house. When I begin, I will also make an end. I will judge his house for ever; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
If you say you cannot restrain your children, this is no excuse ; for it is a sign that you have brought up your children without government, that your children regard not your authority. When parents lose their government over their children, their reproofs and counsel signify but little. How many parents are there who are exceedingly faulty on this account ! How few are there who are thorough in maintaining order and government in their families ! How is family government in a great measure vanished ! and how many are likely to bring a curse upon their families, as Eli! This is one principal ground of the corruptions which prevail in the land. This is the foundation of so much debauchery, and of such corrupt practices among young people: family-government is in a great measure extinct. By neglect in this particular, parents bring the guilt of their children's sins upon their own souls, and the blood of their children will be required at their hands.
Parents sometimes weaken one another's hands in this work; one parent disapproving what the other doth; one smiling upon a child, while the other frowns; one protecting, while the other corrects. When things in a family are thus, children are like to be undone. Therefore let every one examine whether he do not live in some way of sin with respect to this matter.
(3.) I shall now apply myself to children. Let them esa mine themselves, whether they do not live in some way of sin towards their parents. Are you not guilty of some undutifulness towards them, in which you allow yourselves ? Are you not guilty of despising your parents for infirmities which you see in thenı ? Uudutiful children are ready to contemn their parents for their infirmities. Are not you sons of Ham, who saw and made derision of his father's nakedness, whereby be entailed a curse on himself, and his posterity to this day; and not the sons of Shem and Japheth, who covered the nakedness of their father? Are you not guilty of dishonouring and despising your parents for natural infirmities, or those of old age ? Prov. xxiii. 22. Despise not thy mother when she is old. Doth
. not that corse belong to you, in Deut. xxvii. 16. Cursed be he that selteth light by his father or his mother?
Are you not wont to despise the counsels and reproofs of your parents? When they warn you against any sin, and reprove you
for any misconduct, are you not wont to set light by it, and to be impatient under it? Do you honour your parents for it? On the contrary, do you not receive it with resentment, proudly rejecting it? Doth it not stir up corruption, and a stubborn and perverse spirit in you, and rather make you to have an ill-will to your parents, than to love and honour them? Are you not to be reckoned among the fools mentioned, Prov. xv. 5. A fool despiseth his father's instruction ? and doth not that curse belong to you?. Prov. xxx. 17. The eye that mocketh
. at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it ?
Do you not allow a fretful disposition towards your parents, when they cross you in any thing? Are you not apt to find fault with your parents, and to be out of temper with them?
Consider, that if you live in such ways as these, you not only live in sin, but in that sin, than which there is scarcely any one oftener threatened with a curse in the word of God.
Awakening considerations for self-examination.
We ome now to mention some things, in order to convince those who, upon examination, find that they do live in some way of sin, of the importance of their knowing and amending their manner of life. You have had directions laid before you, how to find out whether you do live in any way of sin or not; and you have heard many particulars mentioned as proper subjects for your examination of yourselves. How, then, do you find things? Do you find yourselves clear of living in any way of sin ? I mean not whether you find yourself clear of sin; that is not expected of any of you; for there is not a man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not; 1 Kings, viii. 46. But is there not some way of sin in which you live, which is your stated way of practice? There are, doubtless, some, who are clear in this matter, some who are undefiled in the way, and do no iniquity; Psal. cxix. 1, 2, 3. Let your own consciences answer how
find with re. spect to yourselves, by those things which have been proposed
Do you not find that you are guilty? that you live in a way of sin, and have allowed yourselves in it? If this be the case, then consider the following things.
If you have been long seeking salvation, and have not yet succeeded, it may be this hath been the cause. You have, perhaps, wondered what hath been the matter, that you have been so long a time under concern about your salvation, that you have taken so much pains, and all seems to be to no purpose. You have many a time cried earnestly to God, yet he doth not regard you. Others obtain comfort, but you are left in darkness. But is it any wonder at all, if you have lived in some way of sin all this while ? If you have lived in any sinful way, this is a sufficient reason why all your prayers and all your pains have been blasted.
If, all this while, you have lived in some sinful way, so far you have failed of seeking salvation in the right way. The right way of seeking salvation is, to seek it in the diligent performance of all duties, and in the denial of all ungodliness. If there be any one member that is corrupt, and you cut it not off, there is danger that it will carry you to hell, (Matt. V. 29, 30.)
2. If grace have not been flourishing, but, on the contrary, in languishing circumstances in your souls, perhaps this is the cause. The way to grow in grace, is to walk in the way of obedience to all the commands of God, to be very thorough in the practice of religion. Grace will flourish in the hearts of Vol. VI.
those who live in this manner; but if you live in some way of sin, that will be like some secret disease at your vitals, which will keep you poor, weak, and languishing. One
way of sin lived in will wonderfully keep you down in your spiritual prosperity, and in the growth and strength of grace in your hearts. 'It will grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and will in a great measure banish him from you : this will prevent the good influence of the word and ordinances of God to the causing of grace to flourish in you. It will be a great obstacle to their good effect. It will be like an ulcer within a man, which while it remains, will keep him weak and lean, though you feed him with ever so wholesome food, or feast him ever so daintily.
3. If you have been left to fall into great sin, perhaps this was the occasion of it. If you have been left greatly to wound your own souls, perhaps this was what made way for it, that you allowed yourselves in some way of sin. A man who doth not avoid every sin, and is not universally obedient, cannot be well guarded against great sins. The sin in which he lives will be always an inlet, an open door, by which Satan from time to time will find entrance. It is like a breach in your fortress, through which the enemy may get in, and find his way to you greatly to hurt and wound you.
If there be any way of sin which is retained as an outlet to corruption, it will be like a breach in a dam, which, if it be let alone, and be not stopped will grow bigger and wider, and will endanger the whole." 'If any way of sin be lived in, it will be like Gideon's Ephod, which was a snare to him and his house.
4. If you live very much in spiritual darkness, and without the comfortable presence of God, it may be this is the cause. If you complain that you have but little sweet communion with God, that you seem to be left and deserted of God, that God seems to hide his face from you, and but seldom gives you the sweet views of his glory and grace, that you seem to be left very much to grope in darkness, and to wander in a wilderness ; perhaps you have wondered what is the matter; you have cried to God often, that you might have the light of his countenance, but beareth you not; and you have sorrowful days and nights upon this account. But if you have found, by what hath been said, that you live in some way of sin, it is very probable that is the cause, that is the root of your mischief, that is the Achan, the troubler that offends God, and causes him to withdraw, and brings so many clouds of darkness upon your souls. You grieve the Holy Spirit by the way in which you live : and that is the reason that
you have no more comfort from him. Christ hath promised, that he will manifest himself to his disciples ; but it is upon the condition, that they keep bis commands: John xiv. 21. He that hath my commandments, and