The Hereditary Principle in God's Government of Humanity
Jeremiah 31:29
In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.


1. Its necessary working is secured by the connection existing between the members of our race.

(1) How close is the tie of physical relationship subsisting between men and generations! We are all made of the "one blood," all descendants from the same stock. Our parents transmit to us not merely their natures, but their idiosyncrasies, their diseases, their characteristic propensities.

(2) How close, too, is the tie of social interdependence. Every man is dependent upon his brother. One has something to impart which the other requires.

2. It is registered in the everyday experience of humanity.

(1) You see it written in a man s history as the lineal descendant from a particular family. Some inherit a princely fortune, and some a crushing penury, from their ancestors. Their social status, too, is often ruled by the position and conduct of those of whom they were born.

(2) You see it written in his history as the offspring of past generations. The human plant does not grow up in its wild luxuriance and unassisted strength, but is trained against the walls and espaliers of law and government, and pruned by the hand of public customs and manners.


1. No man is made to suffer more than he actually deserves on account of his own personal sins. The method is for the Judge of all the earth to determine and no one else. In sooth, since suffering must come to the sinner, I would sooner have it through parents than in any other way; for that medium seems to afford some alleviating considerations. Love modifies suffering, cools its fires on the nerves, and lessens its pressure on the heart.

2. The evil which thus descends to us from our ancestors is not to be compared with that which we produce ourselves. With evils that are transmitted to you there can be no remorse. You bear them as calamities; and you have the grace of heaven, the sympathy of the good, and the smiles of an approving conscience to enable you to bear them with calm magnanimity, and even with triumphant exultation.

3. Whilst this hereditary principle of the Divine government entails evil, it also entails good. Whence came our political constitution, which, notwithstanding its defects, affords a better guarantee of personal liberty, social order, and human progress, than any other government under heaven? Did we elaborate it ourselves? No. It is the production of days. It has grown out of the enlightening instructions, the importunate prayers, the patriotic sacrifices and struggles of the best men of the generations that are gone.

4. This hereditary principle tends to restrain vice and stimulate virtue. What sacrifices will not parents of the ordinary natural affection make to serve the interest of their children! Now the hereditary principle of government brings this mighty impulse in the world's heart to act in the restraint of evil and in the development of good.

III. THE TIME WILL COME WHEN MEN WILL CEASE ENTIRELY COMPLAINING OF THIS PRINCIPLE. In "those days" of universal knowledge, virtue, and blessedness, not a solitary man will be found to complain of this hereditary principle in the Divine government. Every man shall have such an insight into the nature of God's administration that he shall see the wisdom and feel the beneficence of this principle. In "those days" the successive generations of holy and happy men will clearly see that the good, that will then have come out of this principle to humanity, will far out-measure all the evil that has ever grown out of its operation, through all the past history of man. In "those days," parents, through many a circling age, down to the solemn day of doom, will transmit nothing to their offspring, but halesness of constitution, elasticity of intellect, purity of felling, nobleness of soul, and honour of name, knowledge, and blessed example, on which it shall leave its successor to lay another, and thus on for centuries; until humanity shall find itself on that rich and lofty soil, where the choicest productions of paradise will bloom for ever.

1. This subject serves to show the right which every reformer has to protest against the sins of individuals.

2. It serves to show the solemn responsibility of the parental character.

3. It serves to show that the best way to elevate the race is to train the young.

4. It serves to throw some light upon what is called "original sin." A deterioration of our nature, and a disturbance of our moral relations, is a fact palpable to every eye, incontrovertible to every intellect, conscious to every soul

5. It serves to indicate the philosophy of Christ's incarnation.


Parallel Verses
KJV: In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.

WEB: In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.

The Bequethment of the Ungodly
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