The Unbroken Line of True Nobles
“Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.”— Psalm xlv. 16.
WERE you ever perplexed by being drawn with almost equal force in two directions? I have been so. There is a bond which reaches from the cemetery which holds me very fast, and therefore I desired again this morning to have made use of the solemn visitation which so suddenly removed one of our friends from us. But this is the beginning of the week set apart for prayer for the young, and I have felt in duty bound to take a part in the celebration, and to assist to stir up Sundayschool teachers and the members of the church in general to pray for the blessing of God upon the rising generation. See these mourning friends expect a consoling word from me: and these children demand that I plead for them also! I realised the scene in my study. What was I to do? Between two subjects I might arrive at none, and that was not a desirable conclusion. I watched, and looked, and prayed, and at last I resolved to yield myself to both influences, and I have as nearly as possible done so by selecting this text— “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.”
The text begins with “Instead” It is a sad word, I do not enjoy the sound of it. “In stead,” — well, then, we must expect to lose some if others are to come in their stead. Alas! these funerals will be repeated, new graves must be digged. New friends will arise, but we dread the exchange. Would it not be pleasanter to keep the old workers? Would it not be safer to have the same comrades in the day of battle? What a grand Old Guard the veterans would make! “Instead”! It is a prophecy that some must go that others may come, that some must decay that others may flourish, that some must die that others may succeed them. Our trembling faith hardly likes the change here hinted at, for we are apt to think that those who are to stand “instead” will be very slow in coming. Where are we to find men to fill the vacant places? By whom shall Jacob arise, for he is small? Indeed, there are some saints so eminently blest of God, that we ask ourselves the question, “Who can stand in their stead?” Moses! may Moses live for ever, for who but he can rule and guide so great a multitude, and, with mingled meekness and authority, conduct so great an army through the wilderness? Who but he can have such power with God as to stand between Israel and the divine anger? We hear a whisper of Joshua as his successor, but, good as Joshua may be, we can hardly endure to see the leadership change hands. And Elijah, too, that bold iron prophet, that man of fire and thunder. “I only,” said he, “am left.” Shall we lose him? whence shall there come another? No, if it please the Lord, we would rather keep Elijah. We do not like that word “instead,” even though we hear that there is an Elisha to follow Elijah. Too frequent is the fear that the one who comes instead will be a poor substitute, and succeed only in name. After high hills come deep valleys, the second crop seldom equals the first, and so great grace and ability seldom continue long either in a family or in an office. We know that Solomon died, and was succeeded by Rehoboam— a wise man by a fool. We know also that Eli, good man and true priest of God, had most ungodly Phineas to succeed him: we would, therefore, keep Eli, if possible, and see Solomon for ever on the throne. But it cannot be so, and therefore it is of no use our sitting down idly to fret over the future and lament the past. All our sorrow over changes caused by the mortality of our race will not alter it, for God has ordained that one must depart and another come in his stead.
But, hearken, I think that the word instead, if we listen to it with another ear, will sound out a note of gladness. If one falls, there is another to fill up the gap in our ranks. Comrades, is not this good news? If one labourer is taken from the vineyard, there is still a man in reserve to supply his place, does not this cheer you? We are encouraged by the belief that when the Lord supplants one set of servants by others he does not after all diminish the display of his love and grace and power, nay, rather he shows his independence of any one company of men, and his power to use whom he pleases. After all he puts the same spirit upon the new comers, and the power remains the same though the weapon wielded differs. Sometimes the change is manifestly for good. Eli was followed by Samuel, a great improvement upon Eli after all; we remember, too, that Moses, albeit there was never a man born of woman greater than he, was yet followed by a hero more fitted for the new phase of Israel’s history than he would have been. I can hardly conceive of Moses, sword in hand, slaying Canaanites at his advanced age, that was fitter work for Joshua; and though in some respects Joshua was an inferior man to Moses, yet he was more suitable for his times, and more adapted for the peculiar work which the armies of the living God had to do. Courage, my brethren, our sons may be superior to ourselves! There is room for it, and let us hope they will be. Our sons, at any rate, may be fitter for the work which they will have to do than we should be, if our lives could be extended into another age. I doubt not, we may say without personal vanity that we have been better men for this age than our grandsires would have been had their lives been protracted into this present time, and so shall our children and grandchildren go beyond us, if the Lord enable them, in fulfilling the growing demands of the ripening ages. God knoweth best, and when he puts one man instead of another, I make no doubt that his infinite wisdom perceives that there is abundant cause for the change. For life to display fresh developments instead of the old, is the law both of nature and of grace: whether we are glad or sad, it must be so, therefore let us accept the divine arrangement and act accordingly.
To help us in this matter, let us consider the promise before us,— “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children”; this may be viewed in a light which will reveal its gracious recompense; secondly, we shall regard its eminent fulfilment: thirdly, we shall look at its happy encouragement, for it has a very bright side; and fourthly, we shall remember its practical requirements. Into this last we shall throw our strength, in the hope that, by the divine blessing, holy effort for the coming generation may be aroused.
I. First, in the promise of our text let us observe ITS GRACIOUS RECOMPENSE.
I read you the psalm just now. Now, in this sweet song you noticed that the bride is commanded to forget her own people and her father’s house. Very naturally this would be painful to her, and therefore the rest of the psalm is occupied with cheering her by a sight of the recompenses which she may expect. Instead of thy fathers, whom thou O bride of Christ art to forget, and to forsake, shall be thy children, equally dear to thee, who shall occupy that place in thy heart which has been left empty by thy forgetting thy father’s house. Do you not see that her husband’s heart is so full of love to her that while he takes her right away from old connections, and makes it a condition of his desiring her beauty that all these shall be forgotten, yet he assures her that new associations shall be formed, which shall yield more than equal solace to her? “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” The practical lesson is this,— many Christians when they are converted to God are members of irreligious families, and from the moment of their conversion they cease to have any real heart-fellowship with their relations, who in many cases treat them unkindly, and show them the cold shoulder, or something worse. Dwelling with them after the flesh they have to come out from among them after the Spirit, and be separate, and no longer touch the unclean thing. However kindly disposed they may be, and grace will make them more so, and induce in them a double affection to their kin, yet they feel that the possession of grace by them, and the non-possession of it by their friends, sets a great gulf between them. Let them not lament nor sigh, though their foes should be the men of their own household, for there are recompenses abundant and available. You are to be introduced, my friend, into another household and you are there to form other acquaintances, and other intimate connections, for to you shall be fulfilled the promise of the Saviour, “No man hath left father or mother or children that shall not receive in this life a hundredfold, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Do not look back to those evil companionships and ensnaring loves; forget the flesh-pots of Egypt, and the associations of Goshen. Let them go, they will do you no good; and now throw yourself into the work of Christ. In the converts whom you shall lead to Jesus, in the desponding saints whom you shall cheer, in the disciples whom you shall instruct, and in the brotherhood of which you shall become a member, you will find ample room for all the affections of your soul, till you shall be able to say of the church of God,
“My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life or breath remains,
There my best friends, my kindred dwell,
There God my Saviour reigns.”
The law of recompense works also in another quarter, and comes in to compensate for the separations caused by death. As the fathers die one after another, those of like years feel that they are left almost alone: to them, then, shall it be true, “instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” Do not give way to idle regrets and say, “All who joined the church with me are gone, all those who were the companions of my manhood are now taken away, and I am left alone, and the cause is weakened.” No, my brethren, keep your hearts young and make yourselves indispensable to the young people around you. The old soldier must let his heart go out towards the recruits, and he must make friends of the young warriors. Instead of lamenting that you are lonely, as I have known some do, and looking down upon everything that is of the present time as though it could not possibly be so good as in your own palmy days, throw yourself into the present, project yourself into the future, and love the children for the fathers’ sake. I know when I was much younger than I now am I used to think the men in office were such marvellous saints, but then I did not mix with them, I only looked up to them from a distance. At prayer-meetings and communions I thought there never were such excellent people in the world as those pillars of the church. Somebody said to me the other day that he did not meet with such good old men now as we used to know in our youth, and I told him that the men were quite as good, but we were in among them, and therefore had less of the superstitious awe of our youth, and I added that I was myself surprised to find them as good as they are now that our view of them is so much nearer and so much more daring. No prophet has honour in his own country, nor among men of his own age. Distance lends enchantment in many cases. We have as good men among us now as ever lived, but we know more about them than of those who have departed, and we criticise them more severely. We are none of us able fully to compare the generations past with this present one, because we were not in those generations as we are in this. Men at a great distance may appear to be absolutely perfect, but when we get close to them, spots are manifest, and our judgment changes. Never let us fall into that silly state of mind, in which we say “the dear good men are all gone: the faithful are all dead.” There are dear good men alive still, and there are more coming on. Do not let us be afraid that the Almighty will run short of servants. Let us not dream that he with whom is the residue of the Spirit will allow his cause to droop for want of qualified ministers, elders, deacons, or other workers. On the contrary, let us say, “Bless the Lord, whose mercy endureth for ever.” We have learned that instead of the fathers shall be the children, and we will take as much delight in the young saints who are growing up as in former years we took in those mature, judicious, well instructed saints, whom the Lord our heavenly Father has taken home. Let this suffice to show that the text promises a recompense.
II. Secondly, let us view our text historically in ITS EMINENT FULFILMENT. Brethren, all along since God ever had a people in the world there have been changes. In God’s garden as in ours, plants of this year have been succeded by those of the next. “As the days of a tree are the days of my people, saith the Lord.” As soon as the leaf is formed in the spring, if you watch it, there is a new leaf beneath it for the next spring. This year’s leaf opened gradually, grew, came to perfection, and then it began to decay, and there is now on the bough a new leaf-bud which is pushing it off, and that is what our sons are doing with us. We must drop off from the tree of mortal existence, and it is right we should: and we need not complain, for God hath provided some better thing for us. It has been the law in the world and the law in the church that one set of labourers should follow the other, and they have done so without fail. It is with the church as with the sea: each wave dies, but there is another wave behind it. Sometimes the wave appears to retreat rather than advance, but frequently the next wave rolls up gloriously. So must it always be, and we must not deplore that the waves die, for the sea does not die, and the tide is still advancing. You may, perhaps, have seen an olive tree in growth. I have studied it carefully, for it has the charm of Gethsemane about it; it looks like an embodiment of sorrow and fruitfulness. An olive is twisted like a thousand snakes. It seems as if in an agony; yet it has a cheerfulness about it, too, for when the tree grows old the young shoots spring up from its roots, keeping it always young. I have no doubt it is to this that the psalmist refers when he says, “Thy children round thy table like olive plants.” The shoots spring up around the old olive, and so it lives again; and when these also die, fresh shoots appear, and the tree still brings forth fruit in old age. The church of God never dies, for when one after another we finish our course others spring out of the ever-living root, and so the blessed succession of grace is kept up in the world.
Now, look ye back a moment. That was a grand age when patriarchs walked through the earth, when Abraham and Isaac and Jacob towered above the sons of men. They died and the church was in captivity in Egypt, down-trodden and afflicted, yet were there among them those who sighed and cried unto the Lord, and therefore he looked down upon the tribes with pitying eye. Then there came great rulers like Moses and Joshua to deliver the chosen seed; and when these departed the judges were raised up. Time would fail us to tell of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, who each one in his turn delivered Israel. When the judges passed away, God exalted the man after his own heart to lead his people, and the kings ruled in righteousness. When these turned aside, the light of Israel was net quenched, for the prophets bore witness, and when the lamp of prophecy burned dim, there were confessors who all through the period between the Old and the New Testament still remained faithful to the commands of God. Then blazed forth the light of our Lord Jesus and his apostles, and ere the last apostle had been taken away the martyr flames lit up the world. When persecution had ceased, and heathenism had conquered Christianity by debasing her doctrines, the Reformers shone out with their gracious brilliance, and these have been succeeded constantly by evangelists, one after the other, who have moved the people and maintained through the divine Spirit the gospel testimony, even to this day. Brethren, I trow that the history of the church in modern times is like that of olden time. The apostles were our patriarchs, the Reformers were our Moses and Joshua, and the great preachers since have been as judges, and now we look for the King himself, even he that shall sit upon the throne of David, and shall reign for ever and ever. View that history as you will, there is a continuity in it; in the darkest times there has shone forth some bright, particular star, yea, and in secret places, in holy hearts and gracious families, there has remained more of the divine life and light than the pages of historians have recorded. There has always been a remnant according to the election of grace. When the church moaned and said, “God hath forsaken me, my God hath forgotten me. The fathers, where are they?” God has not forsaken her, he has kept for himself his thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and there has arisen a leader just in the nick of time to seize the banner and to rally the wavering host: for as God lives, and the Spirit still abides in the church, and Jesus is with us alway, even to the world’s end, the succession of grace shall never cease. Glory be to the name of the Most High.
III. Thirdly, having seen concerning our text its eminent fulfilment, let us for a second or so view it in ITS HAPPY ENCOURAGEMENT.
Brethren, God’s promise is the ultimate hope of the Christian, and of the church at large, and here we have it,— “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.” Lean on the divine shall, for it is sure as the eternal covenant. As you have to leave the ark of the Lord behind you, and you can no longer carry it upon your shoulder, God will provide successors. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide.” You have believed that word in reference to your family and your own livelihood, believe it in reference to God’s family and his cause. God has provided already for himself a Lamb for his passover— you may depend upon it he will provide what is a vastly smaller thing, a line of men who shall ever keep that passover Lamb before the eye of his people. We are sure, O Lord, that thou wilt do as thou hast said—
“Fathers to sons shall teach thy name,
And children learn thy ways;
Ages to come thy truth proclaim,
And nations sound thy praise.”
Do not give way to distrust about the present or the future, for Jesus lives and walks among the golden candlesticks, trimming all the lamps, and shining through them. The stars are in his right hand, by him kindled, and by him renewed with immortal flame. You have the Spirit of God still dwelling in the church to call whomsoever Jesus wills, and to anoint them with holy oil, that they may go forth in the Master’s name. My brethren, to have doubt about this would be unpardonable, because we are coming towards an epoch where all the promises declare a victory. Do they not all travail with a glorious day of grace? We are bound to exert ourselves for the spread of the gospel, for we know that Christ must have the pre-eminence everywhere. “As truly as I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” We have received the word from God’s mouth, “He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” We are not taking a leap into the dark, we are not “shooting Niagara,” we are marching into light, the day has broken, the shadows are fleeing, the brightness is increasing, the noontide is at hand, and perhaps before this century ends we may have passed into the supreme brilliance of that millennial period, in which Christ Jesus shall reign amongst his ancients gloriously. If he bids us wait, and wait we may, we would cheerfully march on, for our faces are to the sunrising, and every hour brings glory nearer. At any rate, in such an hour as we think not, behold the Bridegroom comes, and when he comes our victory has come with him. Let us not yield to despondency. If the line of battle wavers, or our ranks are broken by the enemy, remember the reserves, the grand reserves which our Captain is holding back, and remember the King himself is coming who never fights but to conquer. He whose presence means triumph is on his way. Mark the signal, and “Hold the fort, for he is coming,” whose coming shall close your warfare and commence your triumph.
IV. I must now come to view the text, as to ITS PRACTICAL REQUIREMENTS. “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.”
Well then, if we stand instead of our fathers, what manner of persons ought we to be? I will not call to mind your immediate sires, though it were no dishonour to many of you, if I did so; I will not recount the family ancestry with which God has blessed us. No imperial blood is in our veins nor blue blood of nobility; descended from the King of kings, each saint possesses a nobler pedigree than earthly princes; to be the child of godly parents is one of the greatest honours in the world. But I ask you to look back to your spiritual ancestry, your fathers after the spirit, your predecessors in the faith of the Lord Jesus. Oh, my brethren, what manner of people ought we to be, who as Christian men have succeeded to the heritage of martyrs? who have taken up a cause pleaded by apostolic lips? who have followed upon men of whom the world was not worthy? Our ancestors were made what they were by the grace of God, and the church of God may well glorify God in them. Their sufferings and heroic fortitude, their labours and their dauntless courage have left us under solemn obligations. Shall we be craven sons of heroic sires? Shall we be sluggards and slovenly in a work which they carried out so well? They built with gold, silver, and precious stones, shall we degrade their work by heaping thereon wood, hay, and stubble? I charge you, brethren, take good heed unto your ways by the remembrance of whence ye came. Thus would I speak to all believers, for the church is one and indivisible. Each tribe of the one seed has its own history, and I leave my brethren of various denominations to speak to their own. I will now address myself specially to those who are known as Baptists. As for us, the baptised followers of Christ, our ancestry as a body of Christian men is not to be despised. Albeit that the name of Anabaptist has been made the football of reproach, because it was wrongfully associated with fanatical opinions, we may rest assured that the more history is understood the more apparent will it be that those who were the most traduced were thus treated because they were before their times: they bore the brunt of battle because they led the van. God forbid that I should induce you to glory in them, and so to wear borrowed laurels. Of all pride I think that to be the most idle which hides its own nakedness beneath the tattered banners of ancestry. I do but dwell for a moment upon our past history to excite you to yet more earnest deeds. Prove ye yourselves to be these men’s sons by doing their deeds, else are ye bastards, and not sons.
In every effort for civil and religious liberty, our fathers were to the front. In the utterance of those divine truths which have made tyrants and priests quake for fear, they have been among the boldest. Our fathers for holding to baptism as the Lord ordained it suffered at the hands of men who knew no mercy. Their beliefs were misrepresented, and themselves regarded as monsters rather than men. In this country they were in the matter of time both first and last at the stake. On this very spot where now you sit, long before there were any Lutherans or Calvinists, we read that “three Anabaptists were burnt at the Butts at Newington.” Our sires were Protestants before the Protestants. They were part of a long line of men who stood firm when the mass of the church turned this way and that; they were in fact the most bold and thoroughgoing of all the adherents of the apostolic and scriptural church, and therefore they were persecuted by prelates and abhorred by priests. When I hear Ritualists talking of their ancient church, I blush to think that Englishmen should claim kinship with the Roman Antichrist, whose yoke our fathers tore from off their necks. The pedigree of every Anglican priest must of necessity have flowed through the Dead Sea of Popery. Our limpid streamlet runs not through that slough of filthiness, but comes down pure from earliest ages. Our doctrines and ordinances remain as they were delivered unto us by our Lord, neither have we desired to add to them the traditions of men. “Hold fast, therefore, your confidence which hath great recompense of reward.” Do not give up your principles, my brethren, for the church and the world will want them. Nobody can fight the battle against sacramentarianism like the man who puts the ordinances in their scriptural position as belonging to believers and to believers only. As long as baptism is given to those who are unregenerate the figment of baptismal regeneration will find foothold. We must unflinchingly keep to our testimony that religion is a personal thing, and that only those who have faith in Jesus can partake in the privileges of his house; birthright membership and sponsorial vows must alike be the subjects of our protest. By your sires, who were drowned by hundreds for refusing homage to a superstitious rite, men who neither feared Luther nor the Pope, and were hated of all men, and even by reformers, because they occupied a standpoint still bolder, clearer, and more advanced than all others, I beseech you, brethren, hold fast your Christian liberty, and never cease to testify to all the truth which God has taught you. May our brethren who differ from us come to us in this matter, for we cannot go to them; we are spellbound by the plain teaching of Scripture, and dare not move so much as a hair’s breadth. May the Lord yet give to all his saints to know the “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” If we are instead of our fathers let us endeavour to continue their testimony undiminished in force and untarnished in clearness. Our brethren of other denominations must bear their testimony to what truth they know, and we are the last to deny them this liberty or to despise their co-operation; but, after all, our own duty is that which we must look to, that we may be found faithful “in that day.”
The next practical point is this,— if others are to come instead of us, what are we doing for them? Looking at ourselves as occupying the present time, how far are we good links between the present and the future? Others are to come instead of us, are we taking care as much as lieth in us that those who come in the stead of us shall be fit men to maintain the interests of God’s truth? Oh, brethren, let us as a church love the young; let us labour, by God’s grace, to gather in a multitude of young converts. Let us pray God to bless our schools of every sort, and the teaching amongst the rising youth, as far as that teaching is according to his mind and will. A church which does not believe in the conversion of children, a church that in fact scarcely believes in the conversion of anybody, is likely to die out; but a church that lives for converts, even as parents live for their children, will be the joyous mother of a numerous progeny, and become stronger and stronger. I would to God we were all stirred up, not merely the teachers in the school, but all of us, to seek the conversion of the young, and to aim by every means in our power to set God’s truth before them, and lead them in his way.
The church ought to look to the tuition, the training, and the culture of her children. All those who are brought to Christ in youth should be peculiarly watched over by us. It is said that Alexander gathered together his valiant army principally through training children from their very birth to the pursuits of war. He took little children as soon as they could run alone and placed them in the camp, where their playthings were swords, and their amusements were found among armour, spears, and shields. These born soldiers grew up knowing of nothing, and caring for nothing but for Alexander, Macedon, and fight. Thus would we, by God’s grace, train our sons to live alone for Christ, his truth, and the souls whom he has redeemed. O that our sons might be men of war from their youth. We need workers who have been in the vineyard from the first hour of the day; these are the backbone of successful Christian husbandry. There is necessity for far more attention to training and Christian edification than has hitherto been usual, and the sooner this is felt the better. We need men whose earliest feats of mental strength are shown in the gymansia of the church, young athletes trained for war, ready for exploits, and waiting to take their place in the Lord’s battles at their fathers’ side. We shall have a grand era when the church learns to train her youth in holy enterprises, and to employ them early for the Lord.
We know, too, that if we are to have good successors, our young friends must acquire a noble carriage from their childhood. That is a great word,— “whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth,” and we must not be content to come shore of it. What, make our young converts princes! Yes, so says the text; and it is to be done, by God’s grace, if they are imbued with heavenly principles by the Holy Ghost, if we set before them the example of our princely Saviour, and if each one of us shall try to make his own life right royal in dignity of purpose and aim. The nobility of the text is of a rare sort— “princes in all the earth.” Why, a man may be a prince in his own country, and have no power out of it: but a man of high Christian character is a prince in all the earth, and we would have all our children such. That ancient schoolmaster, Jacob Trebonius, whenever he went into his school was accustomed to take off his hat to his boys, and when asked why he did so, he replied, “Because, sir, I do not know what learned doctors and great men I may be teaching.” He was quite right, for Martin Luther was one of the boys in his school, and I would have taken off my hat to Martin Luther if I had been his schoolmaster, perhaps chastised him as well, but taken off my hat at any rate, out of respect to the man concealed in such a boy. Who knows but amongst those whom we teach for Jesus, right royal spirits may be concealed; and it is ours to try, by the grace of God, to train those choice spirits that they may be yet more noble. I have read a story which shows how poor, ragged children may be nobles. A minister once called in to examine a school. The master said to him, “Question the boys all through the Catechism, for they know it thoroughly.” “But,” said he, “do you think they understand it?” The schoolmaster smiled, and bowed his head in assent. “Try them, sir.” The minister asked one of the shoeless little boys to repeat the commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” and he did so promptly. “Do you understand it, my lad?” said the minister. “Yes, sir, I think I do.” “What does it mean?” “Well, sir, last week I went over the mountain with some gentlemen to show them the way, and I had no shoes, and the stones were so sharp that they made my feet bleed, and the gentlemen gave me some money to buy a pair of shoes. When I went home I recollected that mother wanted shoes too, and so I gave her the money to buy a pair for herself.” That lad was surely one of the princes in all the earth, and if children by the grace of God are taught to do the like, and if we ourselves shall each one cultivate a noble spirit of disinterested love, we shall give proof that the Holy Spirit has made us princes in all the earth. Oh, brethren, when I think of what the church of God can do for her young converts when God helps her, I am amazed and full of delight. She is a mother whose sons are each one born in king’s palaces, and each one joint heirs with the Prince Emanuel; all her children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be their peace.
To make a man a prince you ought to give him not only a noble carriage but a rich endowment. He will be wretched unless he has some means with which to exercise the liberality which dwells in his heart. If I were addressing the young man who has lately been converted, I would say, my son, take thou this Bible in thy hands, it is the church’s best treasure, and thou wilt be a prince if thou wilt make it thine own by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Here is an endowment for thee which shall make thee richer than Croesus of old. Give to your children the gospel, the glorious doctrines of grace; give to them the precepts of Christ, and the blessed inspiring example which he has left behind him. Give them a hallowed example in your own life, and you have done infinitely more for them than if you had left them an annual income to be measured by millions. You shall make them princes in all the earth if by God’s grace you lead them to Jesus, and he endows them with the Spirit of all grace, so that they are rich in faith and zealous for good works. I was so glad last Monday, that I do not know whenever I have been gladder; there were two young sisters and two young brothers of this church, two of them connected with this Sunday School, who were going abroad as missionaries. The Prince of Wales set out on his journey on Monday, and so did two princes and two princesses out of this church, and I felt more confidence in sending my princes out, I will be bound to say, than the Royal mother did in sending her son. Perhaps in the last day of account India will have more to say of our princes than even of our future King. It is a grand thing for a church to have missionaries bred and born in her: we aspire to it, and already the blessing is coming. Young men, young women in the Tabernacle, we are looking for more of you to be our princes in all the earth. We have some in India, we have some in Spain, we have some in other lands who are preaching Christ, but we want to have princes in all the earth. I never shall be completely satisfied till looking over the map I shall recollect, “Brother So-and-so is there, sister So-and-so is there, turning the heathen to Christ, and conquering the land to Jesus.” To the utmost bounds of the habitable globe may a princely offspring go forth from all the churches of the living God, and may we take our full share of the blessed privilege.
The last word is this,— looking to my young friends, who may be present this morning, as I have already looked back to our sires and down upon ourselves, I say to them, are you prepared to take your fathers’ places? It was with great joy that, at the cemetery last Friday, when I buried my beloved brother, Henry Olney, I saw so many of our young men present, the hope of the church: honourable men too, I believe worthy to succeed their sires. I thanked God, and I took courage as I came out of the cemetery gate as I saw many of them walking together in Christian brotherhood. Younger brethren, I trust you will be worthy of your sires, even if you do not excel them. I beseech you, since you are the church’s hope, do not disappoint us! Young men and young women, consecrate yourselves early to God, and let it be thorough, out-and-out consecration— you will never repent of it. There sits behind me a brother who could tell you, if he were well enough, how his early days were happy in his Master’s service, and how now, when he speaks with somewhat trembling accents, his heart rejoices in the Lord, whom he has loved so long. Young men, follow in his footsteps; young women, be ye also fully devoted to Christ.
By way of warning I must add, let none of you suppose that because you come of pious parents you will be saved. Remember Abraham had for his son an Ishmael. The line does not run according to blood and natural descent, but according to the will of God. Alas, there are some, too — I met one the other day, I feel the arrow in my heart at this moment— there are some who utterly forsake the Lord God of their fathers, and turn aside to scepticism and sin. When a young man glories in infidelity, and chooses for his companions loose fellows of the baser sort, his descent from saintly fathers will bring upon him sevenfold guilt. It were better for him that he had never been born than leave an ancestry which God has blessed to turn aside to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. Perhaps some one may say, “Ah, but Ishmael had not a good mother— she was Hagar, the bondwoman.” My solemn answer is — Esau had the same mother as Jacob, and was born at the same birth, yet Esau shared not in spiritual privilege as Jacob did. Trust not in your descent; rely not upon a mother’s tears or a father’s piety. Seek ye the Lord, my sons, or ye will not taste his love. “My son, give me thine heart,” says Jesus,— not thy father’s heart, but thine own. Yield yourselves as living sacrifices unto God, and then instead of the fathers shall be the children.
I stand among you like an officer in the midst of his regiment, and, as one and another falls, I entreat you to close up your ranks. My brethren, my children, do not permit the good cause at the Tabernacle to fail. You will not I am sure. I am persuaded better things of you though I thus speak. Whoever dies, stand ready, you younger men, to take their places. As you get older ask for more grace to qualify you, not merely to be private members, but to be leaders among us, that to this church may be fulfilled for evermore the promise of the text, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” God bless you, my beloved companions in the army of the Lord, young and old, for Christ’s sake.