ACTS II., 39.
"Parent who plantedst in the joy of love,
The promises of the Christian home may be divided into two kinds, viz.: Those which God has given to the family; and those which Christian parents have made to God.
God has not only laid His requisitions upon the Christian home, but given his promises. Every command is accompanied with a promise. These promises give color to all the hopes of home.
When the dark cloud of tribulation overhangs the parent's heart; when the overwhelming storm of misfortune rages around his habitation, uprooting his hopes and demolishing his interests; when the ruthless hand of death tears from his embrace the wife of his bosom and the children of his love; -- even in hours of bereavement like these, the promises of God dispel the gloom, and surround his home and his heart with the sunshine of peace and joy.
His promises extend to both the parents and their offspring. "Unto you, and unto your children," "I will pour my spirit on thy seed, and my blessing on thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." His promises extend to children's children; and whatever they may be for the parent, they are "visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."
Now these divine promises are of two kinds, -- the promise of punishment, and the promise of reward. He promises to punish the unfaithful parent, and to reward the faithful parent. He also promises to visit both the evil and the good of the parents upon their children. Such is the constitution of the family, and such are the vital relations which the members sustain to each other, that by the law of natural and moral reproduction, the child is either blessed or cursed in the parent. What the parent does will run out in its legitimate consequences to the child, either as a malediction or as a benediction.
We have divine promises to punish the unfaithful members of the Christian home. If the parent becomes guilty of iniquity, it will be visited upon the children from generation to generation. There is no consideration which should more effectually restrain parents from unfaithfulness than this. Let them become selfish, sensual, indolent, and dissipated, and soon these elements of iniquity will be transmitted to their offspring. What the parent sows, the child will reap. If the former sow to the flesh, the latter shall of the flesh reap corruption. Thus, whatsoever the parent sows in the child he shall reap from the child. The promised curse of the parent's wickedness is deposited in the child so far as that wickedness affected the child's character. This is all based upon the great principle that the promises are unto you, and to your children.
But while this great principle is ominous of terror to the ungodly, it is a pleasing theme to the pious and faithful. Home is a stewardship; and if faithful to its high and holy vocation, it has a good reward for its labor of love. "If ye sow to the spirit ye shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." This promise of reward is "to you and to your children." "Many souls shall be given for its hire." Their children shall reap the reward of the faithfulness of the parents. Of them it shall be said, "this is the seed which the Lord hath blessed." Faithful parents have thus a glorious recompense of reward. God shall reward thee openly. Make your household a true nursery for the soul; and He will give thee thy wages. The blessing of the Most High will descend like dew upon you and your children. And when they grow up to manhood, He will make them His agents in rewarding you. They will honor and comfort you in your declining years. They will not depart from the ways of the Lord in which you trained them. Though they may be in a distant land, -- far from you and the cherished home of their childhood, yet they will obey your admonitions, gratefully remember your kindness; and their grateful obedience and remembrance will be your great reward from them. They will rise up and call you blessed.
"Though we dwell apart,
And when you descend to the grave and are gathered to your fathers, the assurance of fidelity to your home-trust, the prospect of meeting your children in heaven, and all the brilliant hopes that loom up before you, full of the light and glory of the eternal world, will furnish you a great recompense of reward.
Parents can rely upon these promises of God with the full assurance of faith; for His promises are yea and amen. Let them but lay hold upon the promises, and act upon the conditions of their fulfillment, and then leave the rest to God. Abraham and Joshua, and David, acted upon this principle in their families. Let the members of the Christian home do the same, and the blessing of God will rest upon them.
God promises to reward parents in this life. We find their fulfillment in the peace, the hopes, the interests, and the pleasures of the faithful household. The members are happy in each other's love, in each other's virtue, in each other's worth, in each other's hopes, in each other's interests, in each other's confidence, in each other's piety, in each other's fidelity, in each other's happiness. Thus God shall reward thee openly. He has never said to the seed of Jacob seek ye me in vain. "Verily there is a reward for the righteous." "This is the seed which the Lord hath blessed."
The promised reward of faithful parents may be seen in their children. They are in the true Christian home a precious heritage from the Lord. Thus a parent's faithfulness was rewarded in the piety of Baxter, and Doddridge, and Watts. What a rich reward did Elkanah and Hannah receive by their training up Samuel! And were not Lois and Eunice rewarded for their faithfulness to young Timothy? What a glorious reward the mother of John Q. Adams received from God, in that great and good man! God blessed her fidelity, by making him worthy of such a mother. He himself was conscious that he was his mother's reward, as may be seen from the following anecdote of him. Governor Briggs of Massachusetts, after reading with great interest the letters of John Q. Adam's mother, one day went over to his seat in Congress, and said to him:
"Mr. Adams, I have found out who made you!"
"What do you mean?" said he.
"I have been reading the letters of your mother," was the reply.
With a flashing eye and glowing face, he started, and in his peculiar manner, said: "Yes, Briggs, all that is good in me, I owe to my mother!"
But God promises to reward faithful parents in the life to come. Their great reward is in heaven. The departure of every pious member of their home but increases the heavenly reward. The little child that dies in its mother's arms, and is borne up to the God who gave it, but increases by its sainted presence there, her joyful anticipations of the eternal reward.
"And when, by father's lonely bed,
And oh, how glorious will be this reward when all the members shall meet again in heaven, recognize each other there, and unite their harps and voices in ascriptions of praise to God. There in that better home, where no separations take place, no trials are endured, no sorrows felt, no tears shed, they shall enjoy the complete fulfillment of divine promises. Heaven, with its unfading treasures, with its golden streets, with its crowns of glory, with its unspeakable joys, with its river of life, and with its anthems of praise, will be their great recompense of the reward. How the anticipation of this should stimulate Christian parents to increased fidelity; oh, what a happy meeting will that be, when husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, after many long years of separation, shall great each other in that glorious world, and feel that parting grief shall weep no more!
"Oh! when a mother meets on high,
With these gracious promises of reward sounding in their ears, Christian parents should never despair; neither should they doubt for a moment the fidelity of God to all his promises. It is true that His promises are conditional, and their fulfillment depends upon the parent's performance of his part as the condition, yet to every duty he has attached a promise; and wherever He has made a promise for us, he has given us the ability to use the means of securing its fulfillment; and as soon as their conditions are thus met, they become absolute. "Train up a child in the way he should go." Here is the duty. "And when he grows old he will not depart from it." Here is the promise. The condition is, that you discharge the duty. If you do so, the promise becomes absolute, and shall with certainty be divinely fulfilled in your child, though the time and manner of this fulfillment may not meet your expectations.
But some may object to this position, and remind us that pious parents are known to have ungodly children who died in their sins. They may refer us to the case of Absalom, and to the sons of Eli. In reply we would state that this is begging the question. It is here taken for granted that these pious parents did fulfill the conditions attached to the above promises. This is a mere assumption; for Absalom was not properly trained; and both he and the sons of Levi, were ruined by the misguided fondness and extreme indulgence of their parents. And thus also does the foolish partiality of many pious parents prevent their fidelity to their children. We must not think that all pious parents are faithful to their duty to their children. The above objection, however, assumes this ground; and, therefore, it is not valid. It is often said that the children of ministers and pious parents are usually more wicked than other children. This is false. The opposite is true. We admit, some have bad children; but it is the fault of the parents; not because God does not fulfill His covenant promises to His people. His people, in these instances, do not meet the conditions upon which His promises are made absolute.
We must not suppose that because a divine promise exists detached from expressed conditions, it will be fulfilled without the use of means. There is a manifest compatibility between the absolute promises of God and the use of the means in our power for their fulfillment. The promise to Paul in the ship in which he was conveyed to Rome, that none of the passengers should perish, was not incompatible with Paul's declaration, "except these persons abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." Neither were the efforts of the mother of Moses to save him, incompatible with the absolute promise of God that "this babe shall be saved, and be the deliverer of Israel." What she did to preserve his life was accompanied with an active, confiding faith in the divine promise concerning him. And thus should faith in God's promises stimulate Christian parents to zealous activity in the use of all those means which secure their fulfillment.
The Christian home should ever keep in lively remembrance the solemn promises made by her to God. In marriage, in holy baptism, she has made vows unto God, and he says to her, pay thy vows. "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it; for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee." These parental promises made to God regard themselves and their children; and their faithful fulfillment brings them within the glorious promise which God gave to Abraham; for, says Paul, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise:" Gal. iii., 29.
Christian parents: the promises of God shine forth as brilliantly now as over they did upon the pages of sacred history. They are as bright for you as they were for Abraham and Joshua, when they trembled in sublime eloquence upon the lips of God. Let them, therefore, be not in vain. The promises are unto you, and to your children. And you in turn have promised God that you would bless your household, and be faithful to your children. Hold, fast to these promises without wavering. Hang all your hopes upon them. Cling to them with the wrestling spirit of Jacob. And remember that you cannot shake off your vows and promises made to God. He will sorely require it of thee. Therefore pay thy vows unto the Lord. God will reward you for so doing. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee:" Isaiah liv., 10.
[Illustration: Rural Landscape.]