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in this sense, we find by observation and experience, that he often does visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, that hate him, from generation to generation; and that he does shew mercy to thousands of children, who love him, and keep his commandments. And he thus blesses obedient children for the sake of their pious parents, and punishes disobedient children for the sake of their wicked parents.
2. It appears from what has been said upon this subject, that God is highly pleased with pious parents, who faithfully discharge their duty towards their children. He generally and indefinitely promises to show mercy to their children, for their sake, so far as is consistent with his perfect wisdom and goodness in governing the world ; which is a peculiar mark of his approbation of their fidelity. He knows how near and dear their children are to them, and what pure and high satisfaction they take in the piety and prosperity of their offspring. They view any good bestowed upon them, as bestowed upon themselves. They have no greater joy, than to see their children both pious and prosperous, walking in the truth. It was a great satisfaction to Abraham, to see Isaac his son, made pious and prosperous, for the sake of his parental fidelity. It was a great satisfaction to David, that God gave his son Solomon a wise and understanding heart, and erowned him with power, riches, and glory for his sake. When one man bestows favour upon another for the sake of a third person, it is a peculiar and delicate expression of his love and respect of that person, for whose sake he bestows the favours. It was a strong and delicate expression of David's love and friendship to Jonathan, when he showed kindness to Mephibosheth, for Jonathan his father's sake. So God's showing kindness to the children of pious parents, for their parental faithfulness, is a peculiar and high expression of his approbation of their conduct in training them up in the way they should go ; especially, if God bestow great spiritual, as well as temporal favours upon them. There is great reason to think, that according to his general and indefinite promise, he often does bestow the greatest and richest blessings upon children, for their pious parents's sake. In a great many instances, he undoubtedly grants their children the renewing and sanctifying influences of his holy spirit, and prepares them for great prosperity and usefulness in the world. There are a vast many ways, in which God can show favour to children, for their parents's sake, and by which he manifests his peculiar approbation of parental faithfulness.
3. It appears from what has been said, that God is highly displeased with those parents, who are unfaithful in doing their duty to their children. He generally and indefinitely threatens to punish their disobedient children unto the third and fourth generation, which is as long as parents ever live to see their children, and the evils they suffer in this life. His threatening to unfaithful parents seems to be more definite, than his promise to faithful parents. He threatens to visit the iniquity of unfaithful parents upon their children who hate him, unto the third and fourth generation ; which seemed to imply, that their children shall hate him unto the third and fourth generation. That is, he will bring spiritual, as well as natural evils upon them for so long a period. He will withhold from them his special grace, as well as his special temporal
blessings. Unholy parents have as strong natural affection for their children, as pious parents have for theirs. It gives them peculiar pain and anxiety to see their children pursuing such evil courses, as lead to poverty and reproach in this world, and to eternal misery in the next. The sufferings of their children are often as affecting to them, as their own sufferings, and sometimes much harder to bear. This all men know; and upon this ground, the enemies of parents often revenge upon them, by punishing their children. The king of Babylon “ slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes.” This he did to torture the feelings of their father. God says, he will punish the children of unfaithful parents before their eyes, to strike daggers in their hearts, for their unfaithfulness. God still visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. He suffers them to walk in the way of their hearts and in the sight of their eyes, and to prepare themselves for both temporal and eternal ruin ; which wrings the hearts of unfaithful parents with the keenest sorrow and self-reproach.
4. God appears infinitely wise in treating children according to the mode he has established in the second commandment. To bless children for their father's sake, and to punish them for their father's sake, is directly suited to touch parents in their tenderest part. When God addresses their understandings, or consciences, they are extremely apt to disregard his voice ; but when he speaks to their hearts, they can hardly help feeling what he says.
When he tells them how kindly and mercifully he will treat their childern, if they will only conduct towards them as they ought to conduct towards them, it is calculated to awaken all their tender feelings towards the objects that lie nearest to their hearts. And he has plainly told them how they ought to conduct towards them. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command you this day shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” This is as much as to say to parents, “only give your children this relig. ious instruction from supreme love to me, and I will shew them mercy and grant them every temporal and spiritual good, which infinite wisdom and goodness shall see fit to bestow. And can you desire, that I should treat them in a better manner ? I lodge the holiness and happiness of your children in your own hands and hearts. It depends upon your fidelity, whether you shall see your children holy and happy in this world and the next.” Can parents reasonably desire any greater encouragement than this, to give up their children to God, to give them a religious education, to set before them an amiable example of piety, and to carry them to God,
“O that our children may live before thee.” On the other hand, what could God say more directly suited to prevent parents from being unfaithful to their children, than to tell them, that if they are unfaithful, he will visit their iniquity of unfaithfulness upon their children and childrens' children unto the third and fourth generation? How can they bear to see the fatal consequences of their unfaithfulness in the sin and misery of their children? If any motives can deter pa
rents from neglecting their duty towards their children, it seems that the motive, which God sets before them in the second commandment, must have this happy effect. In a word, we cannot conceive, that God could have established a wiser, or better made of conduct, than his blessing and punishing children for their father's sake. It is suited to promote virtue and restrain vice in both parents and children, from generation to generation, to the end of time.
5. It appears from what has been said, that children have great reason to be thankful for pious and faithful parents. All children have derived, or might have derived great spiritual and temporal benefit from the faithfulness of their parents ; and all pious children are thankful to God for parental faithfulness. They are thankful, that they were given up to God in sincerity, that they were instructed, advised, admonished, and restrained by their pious parents. They are thankful for their example and prayers, and for all that they have done to draw down divine blessings upon them in time and eternity. Moses was thankful, that God was not only his God, but his father's God. Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation ; he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation ; my father's God, and I will exalt him.” But whether children are gracious, or graceless, obedient or disobedient, they ought to be thankful for the fidelity of their pious parents. Their ingratitude and disobedience, under faithful parental instruction, are extremely sinful and displeasing to God. They abuse one of the most rare and distinguishing privileges. But few children enjoy such precious privileges, because there are but few faithful parents. It is one of the most