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Behold, ye poor sinking souls, behold with wonder and gratitude: here is a sure foundation for you; cast your whole weight, venture your eternal all upon it, and it will support you. Say no more, “ Alas! I must sink for ever under this mountain of guilt;” but turn to Jesus, with sinking Peter, and cry, Help, Lord, I perish; and he will bear you up. Yes, whatever storms may blow, whatever convulsions
shake the world, you are safe. Behold, ye joyful believers. See here the foundation of all your joys and hopes. Do you not stand firm like Mount Zion ? See, here is the rock that supports you. Gratefully acknowledge it, and inscribe this precious stone with your praises. Point it out to others as the only ground of hope for perishing souls.
Behold, ye wretched, self-righteous Pharisees, the only rock on which you must build if you expect to stand. Your proud, self-confident virtue, your boasted philosopical morality, is but a loose, tottering foundation. Virtue and morality are necessary to complete and adorn the superstructure; but when they are laid at the bottom of all, they will prove but a quicksand.
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish! perish you must, if you set at naught this precious stone. Το you this only foundation is like to prove a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. To you the nature of things is inverted; the only ground of hope will heighten your despair; and the Saviour of men will be your destroyer.
Behold, ye glorious angels, behold the firm foundation divine love has laid for the salvation of guilty worms. It is as firm as that on which you stand. Are the affairs of mortals beneath your notice? No, we are concerned with Jesus too who is your Head; and our connection with him must give us an importance in your view. Therefore join with us in celebrating the praises of this foundation. This
precious stone appears to you in all its splendours; its brilliancy dazzles your admiring eyes.
We also admire it as far as we know it; but to us it is like a foundation laid deep under ground, that supports us though we see it not. When shall we be placed in your advantageous situation, the heights of the heavenly Zion, where it will appear full to our view, and be the object of our delightful contemplation for ever and ever?
THE NECESSITY AND EXCELLENCE OF FAMILY RELIGION.
1 Tim. v. 8.—But if any provide not for his own, and
especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
The great Author of our nature, who has made us sociable creatures, has instituted various societies among mankind, both civil and religious, and joined them together by the various bonds of relation. The first and radical society is that of a family, which is the nursery of the church and state. This was the society instituted in Paradise in the state of innocence, when the indulgent Creator, finding that it was not good for man, a sociable creature, to be alone, formed a help meet for him, and united them in the endearing bonds of the conjugal relation. From thence the human race was propagated; and when multiplied, it was formed into civil governments and ecclesiastical assemblies. Without these associations the worship of God could not be publicly and socially performed, and liberty and property could not be secured. Without these, men would turn savages and roam at large, destitute of religion, insensible of the human passions, and regardless of each other's welfare. Civil and religious societies are therefore wisely continued in the world, and we enjoy the numerous advantages of them. But these do not exclude, but presuppose domestic societies, which are the materials of which they are composed; and as
churches and kingdoms are formed out of families, they will be such as the materials of which they consist. It is therefore of the greatest importance to religion and civil society that families be under proper regulations, that they may produce proper plants for church and state, and especially for the eternal world, in which all the temporary associations of mortals in this world finally terminate, and to which they ultimately refer.
Now in families, as well as in all governments, there are superiors and inferiors; and as it is the place of the latter to obey, so it belongs to the former both to rule and to provide. The heads of families are obliged not only to exercise their authority over their dependents, but also to provide for them a competency of the necessaries of life; and indeed their right to rule is but a power to provide for themselves and their domestics.
This is implied in my text, where the apostle makes the omission of this duty utterly inconsistent with Christianity, and a crime so unnatural, that even infidels are free from it. “ If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
The apostle, among other things, in this chapter, is giving directions how widows should be treated in the church. If they were widows indeed; that is widowed and entirely destitute of relations to support them; then he advises to maintain them at the public expense of the church; (ver. 3, 9, 10.) But if they were such widows as had children or nephews, then he orders that they should be maintained by these their relatives, and that the charge should not fall upon the church; (ver. 4, 16.)
He supposes that the relatives, of some of them might be unwilling to put themselves to this expense: and to engage such to their duty, he in the text exposes the unna
tural wickedness of neglecting it. “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse that an infidel.”
By a man's own are meant poor relatives, who are unable to support themselves. And by his house are meant those that are his domestics, and that live with him, as wife, children, servants. The former a man is obliged to provide for, but especially the latter; and if he neglect it, he has denied the faith in fact, however much he may profess it in words; he is no Christian, nor to be treated as such ; nay, he is worse than an infidel: for many heathens have had so much humanity and natural light, as to observe their duty, supporting their domestics and such of their relatives as could not procure a subsistence for themselves.
In order to make provision for our families, we must be careful or laborious, according to our circumstances, and see that all our domestics be so too. And him that will not work, neither let him eat. 2 Thess. iii. 10.
“ This,” some of you will say, “is excellent doctrine, and this is our favourite text, which we often descant upon to justify our eager pursuit of the world. This commandment have we kept from our youth up; and, as we exert ourselves to provide estates for our children, we are not chargeable with any guilt in this case.” But stay, sirs; before you peremptorily conclude yourselves innocent, let me ask you, are your domestics, your wives, children, and servants, nothing but material bodies? If so, I grant your duty is fulfilled by providing for their bodies. If they are only formed for this world, and have no concern with a future, then it is enough for you to make provision for them in the present state. They are like your cattle, upon this hypothesis, and you may treat them as you do
your beasts, fodder them well, and make them work for you. But are you so absurd as to indulge such a thought? Are you not