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It is a high motive, also, to parental faithfulness, to know that it exerts a wide influence in sustaining the blessings of civil government, and in the advancement of spiritual religion. It is highly probable that there would be no civil government on earth if it were not for family government; and it never will be known, till the light of eternity reveals it, how much a few well-governed and well-instructed families do to prevent states and empires from rushing into the horrors of anarchy. Then the example of parental faithfulness, with the blessings that are seen to attend it, powerfully draws men to Christ. Nor does it merely attract men, as individuals, to a spiritual worship of God. It leads families to their Saviour. Many a parent has been won to Christ by seeing how a Christian family is blest through the influence of family religion. And when such a one is turned to God, it is like the conversion of a king among idolatrous tribes: the whole government becomes a sanctified one, and entire households are trained up for the service of the Lord. Besides, no mortal can estimate the influence of paternal faithfulness upon future generations. To a reflecting mind, that is a mighty scheme of influence which is indicated by the words of the prophet: "Tell ye your children of it, and let them tell their children, and their children another generation." That is to say, let holy sentiments, sound instruction, stern principles of right pass from lip to lip, from an individual to a family; from each one of its members to a wider circle; and so on, increasing, in a rapidly augmented ratio, till a multitude, like a nation, shall have their minds and hearts cast in the mould of a godly ancestor.
What a weight of responsibleness rests upon a Christian father! Household piety lies at the foundation of all right religious culture, and of the success of the Church of God. There the influence of the Gospel appears in its might, exerting itself under the most advantageous circumstances possible; there is authority absolute, yet tempered with parental affection, softened by maternal kindness, and enforced by a mother's echo of paternal authority, and by the example of a dignified, Sarah-like submission. There is instruction, rich, various, and solid, introduced into the mind in the most favored period. Let parents, then, address themselves to their chief work on earth, the training of their children for the service of God. Let them wait upon the Lord for the aids of his grace. Let them remember that the time is short; that their influence must be exerted now; that they shall soon meet their dear ones at the bar of God; that they shall see them there polluted with sin, scathed with thunder, and crushed to hell; or they shall meet them clothed in robes of unsullied purity, with crowns of gold on their heads, and entering with songs and transports into the Kingdom of Christ.--Rev. Dr. Parker.
FREEDOM FROM SOUL-MURDER.
Fathers and mothers! you are the ministers of God to your children. Your flock is, indeed, less numerous than that of the public preacher of the Gospel; but you have, on that very account, a more perfect supervision over them. Your obligations do not respect so large a number; but you are under a weighter responsibility in regard to each one of your little flock than any minister can be in respect to each one of his more numerous charge. The principles that bind you to faithfulness are the same as those that impose obligations upon the pastor. You may become guilty of soul-murder. Nor will the fact that you are not a professor of religion diminish in the least the guilt of your unnatural neglect of the spiritual well-being of your offspring. Their souls are of unspeakable worth. If you discharge your duty in teaching them, and in praying for the illu minations of the Divine Spirit; if you endeavor, with pious solicitude, to win them to their Saviour, you may hope to be, under God, the instrument of their salvation. If you neglect them, they may be lost forever, and you may be unable to stand up and shake your raiment, and say, with Paul, "I am pure from the blood of all men," or even to say, "I am pure from the blood of my own dear children."
The obligation to secure the well-being of persons bears some proportion to the degree of probability with which success may be expected. If the minister of the Gospel knew certainly that his efforts would be of no avail, then he could not be guilty of soul-murder; because it could not be said that any sinner ever perished as a consequence of his want of fidelity. But the probabilities are great that he shall succeed in gaining some, if he is faithful and persevering in his efforts. Parents enjoy greater prospects of success. If they are faithful, earnest, and persevering in their endeavors, they are almost sure of ultimate success. Yet neither the devout and faithful minister nor the pious parent can be absolutely certain that they shall have success in a given case. It may be that they shall be compelled, at last, to look on the object of their solicitude, and say, "Your blood be upon your own head: I am clean." But there can be no such uncertainty in respect to your own case. The parent has a more complete supervision over his child than the pastor has over an individual of his public charge. If the parent fail, therefore, through his own unfaithfulness, it is a more awful delinquency. He has less exposure to failure; he has better advantages, and better prospects of success. But you have a still more complete supervision over yourself than the parent has over his child; you have greater probability of success not
merely; you are certain of it, if you will do your best to insure it. You cannot, under any possible circumstances, stand up in your place among the lost, and shake your raiment, and say, “I am clean from my own blood." On the contrary, if you perish, though others may have contracted guilt, your blood will be preeminently on your own head.
The souls of men cannot perish without involving somebody in the guilt of soul-murder. The body may die by the operarations of natural law. Its dissolution may be only a blessingthe taking down of a comparatively incommodious and even vile tabernacle, that the indwelling spirit may go to reside in heavenly mansions; but the soul cannot die but by an unnatural death; it can perish only by murder and suicide. Take heed that its blood stain not your garments. Apply to Christ for cleansing, and see to it, that, through his atoning blood, you may be prepared to walk with him in white.-Rev. Dr. Parker.
LIFE-NOT DEATH-THE GREAT ARGUMENT FOR RELIGION.
"I shall not die, but live."-PSALM CXviii. 17.
"Godliness is profitable unto all things, HAVING PROMISE OF THE LIFE THAT NOW IS, and of that which is to come."-1 TIM. iv. 8.
PERHAPS the most common argument for religion is, that men must die. We are exhorted to consider our latter end; and to prepare for death. DEATH is the tremendous word which gives emphasis to every appeal.
In our view-as the end of Probation--death may well excite emotions of solemnity. Yet I fear that this mode of speaking, to some minds, may obscure the present necessity of religion. Its sole value is as a preparation for another world. Thus its utility is postponed to the extreme point of life. It is not necessary to us now, except as we are in danger of dying suddenly, and as a prudent man will be insured against the least exposure. But for the present we hold it, not in use, but in reserve. So long as we are in the full tide of life, we need it not. It is only as a provision for a distant futurity. Such is the impression often produced, though it be not intended.
This is a mournful mistake. It is not alone in death that religion has power, but all along through life. And it is as necessary to enable man to live well, as to fit him to die in peace.
From this point of view I mean to plead for religion-drawing arguments-not from the dark domains of death, but from
the most animated scenes of life. Let us behold man-not as he may be in some unknown hereafter, but as he stands before us to-day, in the strifes, difficulties, and temptations of the present hour. Here I find an immediate and pressing demand for religion. Not because men are to die; but because they live, and must live. Nay, if they were never to die, they would need religion as much as now. As living men, they have duties to discharge, and trials to bear; and religion alone can enable them to perform the one, or endure the other. Life is forced upon them. They must bear the great burden of existence; and it is as beings doomed to suffer, and compelled to act, that they need this Celestial Companion, Teacher, and Guide.
Whoever observes the common experience of men, or watches how his own life goes, must feel that the great drawback to every man's happiness is the want of that animating and directing power which religion alone supplies. It is the want of its principle which makes men weak and vacillating. It is the absence of the fear of God which leaves them to rush into endless folly and sin. It is the want of religious faith that permits a whole life to be clouded by misfortune, which the mind cannot rise above.
And from this source flow all human ills, both small and great. Take life's first scene--a family. You can hardly look into a household without being pained by faults of temper, and sources of unhappiness, which Christian love would charm away. Piety, including the trinity of graces--Love, Faith, and Hope, is the foundation of domestic bliss. The sweet charity of the Gospel binds heart to heart. It banishes discord and strife, and all the elements of misery. It teaches brothers and sisters how beautiful it is to sacrifice their wishes to make each other happy. Thus it saves a thousand petty jealousies. Every happy family in the world, and every unhappy one, is a living illustration of the value, or of the sad want of religion. It is a social as well as personal necessity.
Again observe men on the broad theatre of the world, and you discover sin working out its terrible effects in thousands of wretched lives. One is ruined by his ungovernable temper-another by his vices. Religion would save both. Never was a man imprisoned or executed for an act of violence and blood, whom the fear of God would not have kept from committing that act. Religion would have saved him; but his own passions have destroyed him.
In other minds, not yet polluted by gross passions, nor torn by rage, we see evil principles beginning to work; or a malignant disposition acting like a slow poison. One is cankered by envy. He hates so much to see the prosperity of a neighbor, that he cannot enjoy his own. Another is bloated with pride and glut tony-a huge mass of selfishness, absolutely rotting for the want