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According to our catechism, it requires “ the preser“ ving the honour, and performing the duties, belong« ing to every one in their several places and rela. “ tions; as superiors, inferiors, or equals.” In speaking to this, I shall,
1. Take notice of God's appointment of several places and relations.
2. Consider the necessity of the performance of relative duties in the general,
3. Shew the duties of the particular relations wherein we severally ftand.
FIRST, I am to take notice of God's appointment of several places and relations. Observe, that a difference of places and relations amongst the children of men is of divine appointment. All are not alike. Some God will have to be superiors, others inferiors, others equals; yea, the same persons superiors in respect of some, and inferiors in respect of others. This command supposeth this, as the eighth doth a propriety of goods. God is a God of order, not of confusion: so that the levelling design is levelled against the divine will. It ferves,
1. To manifest the sovereignty of God, that invests one man more than another with dominion and honour, though all are of one blood; takes one piece of clay and sets it on a throne, and fets another piece of the same on a dunghill. He himself is the King of the world, and the fountain of honour.
2. To beautify the world. God that has made the natural body of man not all one lump, but consisting of several members, some more, fome less honourable, for the beauty of the whole, has so shewed his wisdom in the political body.
3. It is necessary in this state of fin, especially for the preserving of the world, which without rules and government in familes, churches, and states, would be like a ship without a pilot amongst dangerous rocks.
Use. Let every one then be content with his place afsigned him by the divine providence. Are worle than yourselves fet above you? God has done it ; fay you Amen to your own post. And do the duty of your place and relation ; and that will be your greatest honour. The moon shining by night is very beautiful, but in the day there is little beauty with her. As little is there in those who forsaking their own place and the duties thereof, thrust themselves into that of an. other, and act without their proper spheres.
SECONDLY, Let us consider the necefsity of performance of relative duties in general. Observe that the conscientious perforınance of relative duties is a necessiry piece of true religion. The fifth com mandment “ requireth the preserving the honour, and per
forming the duties, belonging to every one in their " several places and relations." True religion con- . fifts of faith and holiness; and true holinels is made up of personal and relative holiness. Do not think that religion has no concern in thy domestic and civil affairs. All of us are in some relations, husbands, wives, children, servants, neighbours. Each of these has its own train of duties. Be thou master, servant, doc. here are thy instructions fent down from heaven, how to carry in thy place and relation. Thou wilt fay, Who is concerned how I carry to my relations? I tell you, God is concerned, and he will require it. His commands are like a man's shadow; where ever he goes, they follow him. The necessity thereof is apparent.
1. The conscientious performance of relative duties is necessary in respect of the command of God. The command for them is the first command of the second table. God who hath placed us in these relations, binds us by his sovereign authority to perform the duties of the same. The same stamp of divine authority is on these commands, that is upon the command to pray, &c. And he will not fit with our overlooking our duty.
2. It is necessary to evidence us to be Christians in. deed. No man can jusly pretend to be a new crea.
ture, that does not make conscience of relative du. ties, 2 Cor. v. 17. Saving grace goes through all relations like leaven in a lump, and fets men right ini them. It makes the man not only a good man, but a good neighbour, husband, fervant, &c. the woman a good neighbour, wife, servant, &c. For,
(1.) Relative duties are an integral part of true godliness; they are a part of the new man; Eph. iv. 24. 25. A body that wants a leg or an arm is no complete body; and a man that wants relative holiness, is no complete Christian, no evangelically.complete Christian, 2 Pet. i. 7. 9.
(2.) Relative holiness is an essential part of true godliness; it cannot be without it, more than the body can live without the foul, 2 Pet. i. 7. 9. Shew me thy faith by thy works, says the apostle; and so may
we say, Shew me thy personal holiness by thy relative : holiness, Eph. v. 9.
(3.) Relative duties are the great trying points of the work of Christianity, which, if any thing, will try what metal people are of. A man is that really which he is relatively. If there be any dirt on the hand, it will readily be found on the joints. And if there be any defect in a professor of religion, search for it in his relations, and it will readily be found in one or all of them. The pride of mens hearts makes them often very difficult; superiors thro' their pride of heart are apt to tyrannize; inferiors through theirs think themselves as good, and cannot comport with subjection. Every man naturally loves to be mafter, and feeks himself; hence there is no dutiful. ness to equals.
3. It is necessary as a piece of conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not a complete Christian that has not received of Christ grace for grace. We must prove our union with him by our conformity to him, i John ii. 6. He stood in various relations, and therein was a pattern to us. He is a loving Husband to his church, Eph. v. 25.; a faithful servant to his VOL. II.
Father; a kind and affectionate Master to his servants; a dutiful subject to the magistrate ; and an obedient child, Luke ii. 51.
4. It is necessary to make an useful Christian. Cum. ber.grounds must be cut down, Luke xiii. 7. useless Christian is like the vine, which if it bear not fruit, is good for nothing but the fire, Ezek. xv. Now shall we be useless in the world? And useful we cannot be but in our several places and relations, dif charging the duties of the fame; and useful we are, if we do the duties of the relations wherein we stand. How is the eye, the tongue, &c. useful? Why, if they remain in their proper place, and do their proper office : whereas if they either be removed out of their place, or in it do not their office, they are useless. Let us make a help meet for man, said God, when he brought the first relation into the world. So that relative duties as we stand in relation to others, in family, church, or state, are the proper orb of usefulness. They that are useful there are useful in. deed; and they who are useless there, are useless alto. gether in the world.
5. It is neceffary to make a straight Christian. If we will
go straight in religion, we must go as it were with these two legs, personal duties and relative duties. If either of these be wanting, then our way is like the legs of the lame that are not equal, Prov. xxvi..
An unequal pulse fhews a distempered body. How many such crooked profeffors are there, saints abroad, but devils at home? But fee Pfal. cxxv. 5. As for such as turn afide unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.
6. Lastly, It is necessary for personal holiness. These are like two live-coals ; put them together, and they will burn; but put them asunder, and they will both go out, 1 Pet. iii. 7. A sad evidence of this is to be feen in many, who while they were single gave good hopes of themselves, and had fair blossoms of religion; but being married, and making no conscience
of their duty to their relatives, all good goes from them, their spirits four, their souls wither, and their spiritual cafe goes qțite to wreck.
It is a common observation of such as flight relative duties, that their relatives are not in their duty to them. But though it be so, this tie is laid on them by divine authority, and so cannot be taken off that way. Must I go out of my duty, because another goes out of his duty to me? No. See 1 Pet. ii. 18. &c. It is the way to gain them to their duty, chap. iii. 1,
Use I. of information. This lets us see, that,
1. There is very little true religion in the world, there is so little relative holiness in it. There are two things that make this evident.
(1.) How few are there that make any conscience at all of their duty to their relatives? We may take up Micah's lamentation over the land at this day, Micah vii. 1.-6. If we look to the church, what confusions are there, with untender ininisters and unruly people? the stars losing their light, and trampled under foot with contempt. If we look to the state, magiftrates abusing their authority, and people de fpiling them and their authority too. If we look into families, what disorder is there? parents careless, children disobedient, husbands untender, wives stub. bond; masters rigid, and servants unfaithful. A fad evidence of the decay of religion, that they world is so far out of course,
(2.) The relative duties that are done, how few of them are done in a right manner ? To do the duty it self may please men; but God will never accept it if it is not done in a right manner, A good humour is all with many, who have no principle of a new nature. A natural affection prevails with some; love to peace makes others do their duty: and fear of their relatives puts on others to their duty; while in the mean time they are nowise stirred up thereto from the fear and love of God; nor have they any respect to the command of God in what they do. But in