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from their fearing God, will earnestly wish to promote these their best interests. And how is this to be done? I answer, by seasonable counsels and admonitions. By a regular attention to family duty. And by requiring their constant and serious attendance on public worship. Subjects these on which we have largely insisted in a former discourse, and therefore shall only here subjoin a few general remarks, submitting them to the Christian prudence and benevolence of masters.
If then we would allure our servants to the love and practice of religion, we should, in the first place, do our utmost to conciliate their affection to us. Having gained their esteem and good-will, we shall have the more easy access to their hearts. Persuaded that we sincerely wish them well, they will the more · readily attend to what we say.-Whilst we are endeavouring to convince them of the truth, and to make them sensible of the importance, of religion, we should take particular care that they have full proof from the general course of our behaviour, not only that we are ourselves persuaded of its truth, but that we do indeed consider it as by far the most important concern in the whole world. The fervour of our devotion, accompanied with the strictness of our morals, will have an effect to awaken their attention, at certain seasons, to these great matters.—But at the same time we should guard against a prejudice, which often nips the first serious thoughts in the bud, and creates a disgust that no reasoning can subdue: I mean a notion that religion is a severe, sour, ill-natured thing. Servants will narrowly wateh their masters, and if they observe a continual gloom on their countenances, and a forbidding austerity and reserve in their manners, they will conclude that this business of religion which they talk so much of can be no very agreeable thing. We should therefore studiously avoid this great evil, and endeavour, by an open, frank, cheerful, good-natured deportment (all which I am sure religion teaches) to convince them, that it is as friendly to their present comfort, as to their everlasting happiness.—Events of a providential kind that are awakening, such as narrow escapes from danger, sickness, and particularly death when it enters our houses, should be carefully improved. At such times they will be more susceptible of religious impressions than at others, and affectionate counsels addressed to their hearts on these occasions, will be likely, with the blessing of God, to produce very important effects.-Sufficient time we should allow them for recollection and prayer, and to this end guard against an evil which in too many families is the bane of religion, I mean frequent and late entertainments in the evening. How is it possible that servants distracted with the hurries of domestic concerns to very near midnight, should either before they go to rest, or at the early hour they are obliged to rise, have proper calmness or leisure for serving God in their retirements ?-Serious books, particularly the Bible, we should put into their hands, earnestly wishing them to read them, and lay them to heart.-In fine, these and all other measures we take to promote the great object of their salvation, should be crowned with our fervent prayers to God, remembering ourselves, and taking pains to fix that sentiment on their minds, that the grace of God is absolutely necessary to renew the heart, and prepare men for another state.
And now, need any arguments be used to urge masters, who fear God, to their duty in all these particulars ? Have you no tenderness for your servants-no compassion for their precious and immortal souls? Have you no wish that they may escape the wrath to come, and be happy with God for ever? Do you not consider their spiritual as well as temporal interests, in a sense entrusted to your care? Perhaps Providence sent them into your families for purposes of the most salutary nature. Perhaps, under the direction of Heaven, they left another house and came to yours, as Onesimus did to Paul, that you might receive them for ever. How great will be your joy, if, in the noblest sense, they should be born under your roof! if in their dying moments they should have it to tell you, that their admission to your family was the most favourable event of their life ! And how unutterable will be the pleasure you will feel on the great day of account, to hear it reported by the lips of the blessed Jesus, your Master and Judge, that you had been the instrument of saving this and that soul from the miseries of hell, and forming them for the happiness and glory of heaven!
Thus have we considered at large the reciprocal duties of masters and servants. And we will now close the whole with reminding one another of the character and conduct of the blessed God, as our Master, towards us; and of ours, ás servants, towards him. As to God, my brethren, his character as a Master is perfect in the highest degree. He hath an uncontrolled authority over us, to which he is entitled by every imaginable consideration : and that authority is exerted in concurrence with infinite wisdom, justice, and goodness. He requires obedience to his will in all things, and in doing so he consults our good, as well as his own honour. And like a good Master as he is, he fails not to instruct willing servants in their duty, to assist them in the discharge of it, and to reward them infinitely beyond their deserts. Their numerous failings he overlooks and forgives; and as on the one hand he gently reproves them when they do amiss, so on the other their humble and cordial endeavours to conform to his pleasure, he graciously approves and commends. Indeed, his conduct towards them is in every circumstance of it truly admirable. But ah! how disingenuous has been our character, and how base our conduct towards him! Have we obeyed him in all things? No. We have failed in ten thousand instances. Instead of serving him humbly, faithfully, diligently, and cheerfully, as we expect our servants should serve us; pride, infidelity, sloth, and reluctance, have too often disgraced our services. What cause have we for the deepest humiliation and contrition in his presence !
Let us acknowledge before him that we are unprofitable servants. Let us smite on our breasts, and penitently say, God be merciful to us sinners. Let us expect pardon and acceptance alone through the mediation of his Son, who took on him the form of a Servant, and became obedient to death, that he might reconcile us to our offended Master. Let this his amazing condescension, benignity and love, inspire our breasts with the noblest sentiments of gratitude and obedience. Let us feel the effect of this divine motive to engage us, as Masters, to exercise all due tenderness, compassion, and kindness towards our servants; and to dispose those of us, who are Servants, to render faithful and cheerful obedience 'to our masters. And may we all of us, Christians, whether Masters or Servants, be honoured with the approbation of our divine Master in the great day of account !-Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
Psal. CXXXIII.-Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment
upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the
blessing, even life for evermore. OUR
ur great Creator hath wisely and benevolently implanted in our breasts a strong propensity to social connections. Feeling that we cannot subsist of ourselves, we look to our fellow-creatures for support, assistance, and protection; we covet one another's company, and are happy in contributing to each other's felicity. It is evident, therefore, that we are formed for the pleasures of friendship and society, and that these, next to the favour of God, are our chief enjoyments.
Now family connections are the first which take place among mankind, and those from which all other social connections originate. Marriage, which is a voluntary and permanent union of one man and one woman, was instituted by God, not only for the increase of the species, but for the purpose moting their mutual happiness, and that of their offspring. A family then is a little society, consisting of man and wife, their children, their servants, and such other relations or friends as may either dwell or occasionally sojourn with them. Now it may naturally be expected from the general idea of man as a social creature, and from that of a family as the first social connection, that friendship should prevail here in the highest degree it is capable of being enjoyed in the present state.
And it must strike every one too on reflection, that the cherishing it in this connection is of no small importance to the welfare of the public as well as individuals : for the intercourses and
friendships which prevail in larger circles, take their rise and denomination from those of a domestic kind. To disseminate therefore the true grounds and reasons of this friendship, to hold up to view all the natural and pleasing expressions of it, and to afford every assistance in our power towards the cultivation and improvement of it, are the objects of this discourse.
To the objects our text naturally leads us. It contains a 'most cheerful and animated description of domestic unity. And however it is probable from the occasion on which the psalm was written, that the idea was meant to extend to a larger society than that of a family, yet it is evident that this is the primary sentiment in the text. The psalm is generally understood to have been composed on the final issue of the civil war, which so long prevailed between the two houses of Saul and David. A happy and memorable event this, upon which the king of Israel with no small pleasure congratulates his countrymen, wishing them in the character of brethren henceforth to enjoy the sweets of internal peace and prosperity! And happy it is indeed to see neighbouring states, especially the subjects of ene kingdom, at peace among themselves. Happy it is likewise to see all other public bodies of men, particularly religious societies or churches, in friendship and harmony. But families are the little societies we have in our eye, and to that idea we shall restrain the language of the text.
There are three things observable in the words, which we shall briefly explain before we proceed to the main argument to be discussed the manner in which a family is described the particular domestic virtue recommended--and the psalmist's commendation of it.
First, A family is described as a society made up of brethren that dwell together.
Mankind in general are brethren, as they derive from the same stock, are of the same species, possess one common nature, and subsist after the same manner. God hath made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell on the face of the earth a. But this character with peculiar propriety belongs to those who compose one family, as they are united to each other by the most intimate and endearing bands of nature, and, if pious, of
a Acts xvii. 26.