Instead of your fathers shall be your children, whom you may make princes in all the earth.
We can understand, by taking up the attitude of the Jewish mind, how very much there was in such a promise to occasion delight; but to our modern ears there is not the same sort of delight in the benediction which speaks of posterity. We might almost be disposed to challenge the value of the promise. From the standpoint of home we go back, and our hearts are touched with tender memories. We remember that once venerable figure. We remember how, when we wore but children, he, forgetting the pressures and the anxieties of life, stooped to play with us in our infant hours. We recall how it was that wisdom allied with sympathy came to our aid, and how we found in him who bare the name of "father" a most venerable and trusted friend. And then we are told that we shall find in this cradle an adequate substitute for all that he was. Where is the benediction of such a change? And yet it is a blessing. We live under laws which are inevitable, invariable. The hour must come when we are obliged to accept the responsibility which the death of those who were dear has thrust upon us. Necessity, kindly nurse, stern mother, that cultivates human wit, that develops human character, forces us into situations where we are bound to become men. But it is not only in the order of the home that this prevails. It suggests to us that it is true in the order of the nation, of the community, and of the Church. There were fathers in Israel as well as fathers of our flesh — men who, in the days when we were young, and the first flush of our youthful enthusiasm was upon us, were hailed, as young life only knows how to hail, with an enthusiastic devotion and admiration. Can the cries of the cradle be an adequate substitute for the eloquent words which caused our hearts to burn? or shall we find in the unfurnished brain of the child anything like an adequate substitute and compensation for the well-furnished mind and the large sources of knowledge and learning which were ever consecrated to the welfare of the Church? And yet the very law of necessity which makes us see a benediction in the compulsion of work and gain in the responsibilities which are thrust upon, us, may well also remind us that the ways of God are always beneficent. Larger, stronger, more tender because more stern is that love which says, "Instead of thy fathers thou shalt have children." Instead of waiting and watching for the words of leaders, you must be prepared to become leaders yourselves. And it is well for Churches as it is well for men, it is well for nations as it is well for individuals that these things should be; for in the order of God, as He works His great work, He changes His implements. He lays aside the stonemason when the stone is set, that the sculptor may begin to adorn the temple of God. Elisha must follow Elijah; Joshua must take the place of Moses; and if we are wise, we shall understand that men reared in a younger generation, acclimatized, so to speak, for the efforts and difficulties of war by the new surroundings of fresh and progressive education, are fitted to take the place of trust if only they will be faithful to their God. They have opportunities of discharging before God and His Church that service which is called for, and of achieving in their day and in their generation the deliverance of the Lord's people. And thus from the standpoint, then, of the communities as well as from the standpoint of home this benediction is realized, "Instead of thy fathers thou shelf have children." There is this principle, then, underlying. There is a benediction in responsibility; but responsibility may fail to bring us its blessing unless we are ready for it. As the blessing of peace only rested in the homes where the Son of Peace was found, so the benediction of responsibility only abides where the fit spirit awakes to meet it. And what spirit should this be? The answer is, that we must have the spirit of courage, the spirit of trust, the spirit of love. Mr.:Ruskin has said that that land is base where the children are always trying to be men, and the men are always trying to keep them children, and that land is noble in which the children are ready to remain children, and the men are helping them to become men. If the land is base in which the children desire to become men, and the men seek to keep them ever as children, is not that land, that Church, that community base in which the men fail in the reverence with which they should accept and in the courage with which they should meet responsibilities as they drop from the hand of Providence into theirs? What else should be our readiness? Faith. The bride who went forth, went forth with that leal courage which became her decision, went forth also with the faith that there was work for her to do. Her trust was to be seen in absolute forgetfulness of the father's house — "Forget thy father's house:" put it aside; your trust now must be, as your work must be, in the work of the home to which you are called. There must be faith — ah! who can measure it? "The past to be forgotten!" we say. This is just our difficulty. Does it mean that we are so to set aside what has gone as to gather from it no lessons, and receive from it no impulse, and to carry forward from it no authority? Oh, not so. There is a way in which the past must be remembered, because you are men of the past. In your blood there flows the blood of preceding generations. You cannot falsify your" heritage. With Churches and communities it is the same. You are born with a certain function and a certain destiny. In the Church it is the same. All the great heritage of the past, the noble traditions, the splendid freedom, and the venerable antiquity, the wondrous catholicity, and the strong loyalty to her Master's words which has belonged to that Church in all ages, is part of our heritage, and we cannot refuse it. Accept it and live by the spirit of it. Translate its spirit into the action of to-day. The third spirit that we want for bearing this responsibility is love. "Forget also thine own people and thy father's house." Another's name is signed upon you, and to the work of that other your life must be consecrated. What is wanted here for us — for all, by whatever name they may be called, in Church or State — first and most, and last and best of all, is that the spirit with which we undertake the responsibilities which fall upon us shall be the spirit of those whose lives are merged in His, so that it is no longer "I, but Christ that liveth in me."
(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.