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upon that persuasion to begin to work upon a new stock. For it is as certain, that he may derive a blessing upon his posterity, as that his parents could transmit a curse: and if any man by piety shall procure God's favour to his relatives and children, it is certain that he hạth done more than to escape the punishment of his father's follies. "If sin doth abound,' and evils by sin are derived from his parents ; • much more shall grace superabound, and mercy by grace. If he was in danger from the crimes of others, much rather shall he be secured by his own piety. For if God punishes the sins of the fathers to four generations; yet he rewards the piety of fathers to ten, to hundreds, and to thousands. Many of the ancestors of Abraham were persons not noted for religion, but suffered in the public impiety and almost universal idolatry of their ages: and yet all the evils that could thence descend upon the family, were wiped off; and God began to reckon with Abraham upon a new stock of blessings and piety; and he was, under God, the original of so great a blessing, that his family, for fifteen hundred years together, had from him a title to many favours; and whatever evils did chance to them in the descending ages, were but single evils in respect of that treasure of mercies, which the fathers' piety had obtained to the whole nation. And it is remarkable to observe, how blessings did stick to them for their father's sakes, even whether they would or no. For, first, his grandchild Esau proved a naughty man, and he lost the great blessing which was entailed upon the family; but he got, not a curse, but a less blessing; and yet, because he lost the greater blessing, God excluded him from being reckoned in the elder line : for God, foreseeing the event, so ordered it, that he should first lose his birthright, and then lose the blessing; for it was to be certain, the family must be reckoned for prosperous in the proper line; and yet God blessed Esau into a great nation, and made him the father of many princes. Now the line of blessing being reckoned in Jacob, God blessed his family strangely, and by miracle, for almost five generations. He brought them from Egypt by mighty signs and wonders : and when for sin they all died in their way to Canaan, two only excepted, God so ordered it, that they were all reckoned as single deaths; the nation still descended, like a river, whose waters were drunk up for
the beverage of an army, but still it keeps its name and current, and the waters are supplied by showers, and springs, and providence. After this, iniquity still increased, and then God struck deeper, and spread curses upon whole families; he translated the priesthood from line to line, he removed the kingdom from one family to another : and still they sinned worse ; and then we read that God smote almost a whole tribe ; the tribe of Benjamin was almost extinguished about the matter of the Levite's concubine: but still God remembered his promise, which he made with their forefathers, and that breach was made up. After this we find a great rupture made, and ten tribes fell into idolatry, and ten tribes were carried captives into Assyria, and never came again: but still God remembered his covenant with Abraham, and left two tribes. But they were restless in their provocation of the God of Abraham ; and they also were carried captive: but still God was the God of their fathers, and brought them back, and placed them safe, and they grew again into a kingdom, and should have remained for ever, but that they killed one that was greater than Abraham, even the Messias; and then they were rooted out, and the old covenant cast off, and God delighted no more to be called the God of Abraham,' but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.' As long as God kept that relation, so long for the fathers' sakes they had a title and an inheritance to a blessing : for so saith St. Paul, “ As touching the election, they are beloved, for the fathers' sakes."'*
1 insist the longer upon this instance, that I may remonstrate how great, and how sure, and how preserving mercies a pious father of a family may derive upon his succeeding generations: and if we do but tread in the footsteps of our father Abraham, we shall inherit as certain blessings. But then, I pray, add these considerations.
2. If a great impiety and a clamorous wickedness hath stained the honour of a family, and discomposed its title to the divine mercies and protection, it is not an ordinary piety that can restore this family, An ordinary even course of life, full of sweetness and innocence, will secure every single person in his own eternal interest : but that piety, which must be a spring of blessings, and communicative to others,
* Rom. xi. 28.
that must plead against the sins of their ancestors, and begin a new bank of mercies for the relatives"; that must be a great and excellent, a very religious state of life. A small pension will maintain a single person : but he that hath a numerous family, and many to provide for, needs a greater providence of God, and a bigger provision for their maintenance; and a small revenue will not keep up the dignity of a great house; especially if it be charged with a great debt. And this is the very state of the present question. That piety that must be instrumental to take off the curse imminent upon a family, to bless a numerous posterity, to secure a fair condition to many ages, and to pay the debts of their fathers' sins, must be so large, as that, all necessary ex
penses and duties for his own soul being first discharged, it · may be remarkable in great expressions, it may be exemplar
to all the family, it may be of universal efficacy, large in the extension of parts, deep in the intention of degrees : and then, as the root of a tree receives nourishment not only sufficient to preserve its own life, but to transmit a plastic juice to the trunk of the tree, and from thence to the utmost branch and smallest germ that knots in the most distant part ; so shall the great and exemplar piety of the father of a family not only preserve to the interest of his own soul the life of grace, and hopes of glory, but shall be a quickening spirit, active and communicative of a blessing, not only to the trunk of the tree, to the body and rightly-descending line, but even to the collateral branches, to the most distant relatives, and all that shall claim a kindred, shall have a title to a blessing And this was the way that was prescribed to the family of Eli, upon whom a sad curse was entailed, that there should not be an old man of the family for ever, and that they should be beggars, and lose the office of priesthood : by the counsel of R. Johanan, the son of Zaccheus, all the family betook themselves to a great, a strict, and a severe religion ; and God was entreated to revoke his decree, to be reconciled to the family, to restore them to the common condition of men, from whence they stood separate by the displeasure of God against the crime of Eli, and his sons Hophni and Phineas. This course is sure either to take off the judgment, or to change it into a blessing ; to take
away the rod, or the smart and evil of it; to convert
the punishment into a mere natural or human chance, and that chance to the opportunity of a virtue, and that virtue to the occasion of a crown.
3. It is of great use for the securing of families, that every master of a family order his life so, that his piety and virtue be as communicative as is possible; that is, that he secure the religion of his whole family by a severe supravision and animadversion, and by cutting off all those unprofitable and hurtful branches which load the tree, and hinder the growth, and stock and disimprove the fruit, and revert evil juice to the very
root itself. Calvisius Sabinus laid out vast sums of money upon his servants to stock his house with learned men ; and brought one that could recite all Homer by heart, a second that was ready at Hesiod,-a third, at Pindar,—and for every of the lyrics, one; having this fancy, that all that learning was his own, and whatsoever his servants knew, made him so much the more skilful. It was noted in the man for a rich and prodigal folly : but if he had changed his instance and brought none but virtuous servants into his house, he might better have reckoned his wealth upon their stock, and the piety of his family might have helped to bless him, and to have increased the treasure of his master's virtue. Every man that would either cut off the title of an old curse, or secure a blessing upon a new stock, must make virtue as large in the fountain as he can, that it may the sooner water all his relatives with fruitfulness and blessings. And this was one of the things that God noted in Abraham, and blessed his family for it, and his posterity: 'I know that Abraham will teach his sons to fear me.' When a man teaches his family to know and fear God, then he scatters a blessing round about his habitation. And this helps to illustrate the reason of the thing, as well as to prove its certainty. We hear it spoken in our books of religion, that the faith of the parents is imputed to their children to good purposes, and that a good husband sanctifies an ill wife, and 'a believing wife, an unbelieving husband ;' and either of them makes the children to be sanctified, else they were unclean and unholy;' that is, the very designing children to the service of God is a sanctification of them; and therefore St. Jerome calls Christian children candidatos fidei Christiana." And if this very designation of them makes them holy, that
is, acceptable to God, entitled to the promises, partakers of the covenant, within the condition of sons; much more shall it be effectual to greater blessings, when the parents take care that the children shall be actually pious, full of sobriety, full of religion; then it becomes a holy house, a chosen generation, and an elect family; and then there can no evil happen to them, but such which will bring them nearer to God : that is, no cross, but the cross of Christ; no misfortune, but that which shall lead them to felicity; and if any semblance of a curse happens in the generations, it is but like the anathema of a sacrifice; not an accursed, but a devoted thing ; for so the sacrifice, upon whose neck the priest's knife doth fall, is so far from being accursed, that it helps to get a blessing to all that join in the oblation. So every misfortune, that shall discompose the ease of a pious and religious family shall but make them fit to be presented unto God; and the rod of God shall be like the branches of fig-trees, bitter and sharp in themselves, but productive of most delicious fruit. No evil can curse the family whose stock is pious, and whose branches are holiness to the Lord. If any leaf or any boughs shall fall untimely, God shall gather them up, and place them in his temple, or at the foot of his throne; and that family must needs be blessed, whom infelicity itself cannot make accursed.
4. If a curse be feared to descend upon a family for the fault of their ancestors, pious sons have yet another way to secure themselves, and to withdraw the curse from the family, or themselves from the curse; and that is, by doing some very great and illustrious act of piety, an action in gradu heroico,' as Aristotle calls it, an heroical action. If there should happen to be one martyr in a family, it would reconcile the whole kindred to God, and make him, who is more inclined to mercy than to severity, rather to be pleased with the relatives of the martyr, than to continue to be angry with the nephews of a deceased sinner. I cannot insist long upon this : but you may see it proved by one great instance in the case of Phineas, who killed an unclean prince, and turned the wrath of God from his people. He was zealous for God and for his countrymen, and did an heroical action of zeal: • Wherefore” (saith God,) “Behold I give unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him; even