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of the living God: the Holy Spirit has condescended to take up his abode there; there to shed abroad the sweet perfumes of his grace,
and to conciliate some if not all the members of it to the dominion of divine love. And would the blessed God thus dwell with men on earth, if he were not disposed to admit them by and by to dwell with him in heaven ? Surely this happy house is a figure, a type, a model of that infinitely more noble mansion my Bible tells me, he has prepared for the whole family, of the redeemed above. Religion would not again have flourished on earth, if the glorious prospects which bring it into existence were all to expire in death.—But the next question is, 2. May I hope, when called
habitation here below, to be admitted into this blessed family above ?
An interesting question it is! It demands our most serious attention. Ah! my friends, to little purpose have we held up to your view the domestic employments and pleasures of heaven, if you should by and by be denied a share in them; if when you knock at the gate of that house, the master should say, I know you not. As therefore we regard our present comfort and our everlasting happiness, let us well consider the grounds on which we are to expect admission into this family, and what is necessary to prepare us for associating with such company.
If heaven is our lot, we must acknowledge ourselves indebted to the free
grace of God for it. The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord a. We must receive it with all that humility which a sense of our demerit inspires; and with all that gratitude which the value of the gift itself, and the immense expence at which it is procured, demand. Who that considers his guilt and the punishment it merits, on the one hand; and the infinitely glorious character of the Saviour and his deep humiliation and sufferings, on the other; but feels himself disposed most cheerfully to acknowledge with the apostle, that by grace he is saved, through faith, and that not of himself, for it is the gift of God b. But a meetness for heaven is as necessary as a right to it. And since they who are to compose the family above are gradually prepared for it here, by the salutary influence of the Holy Spirit; let us examine ourselves carefully on this great question, whether any of the gea Rom. vi. 23.
1 Eph. ii. 8.
nuine fruits of his operations appear in our tempers and lives. To those fruits we will confine ourselves at present which are proper to our domestic character; a family of religion being, as we have shewn, an emblem of heaven, and the nursery or school wherein men are trained up for the employments and pleasures of that state.
A family destitute of all order, decency, and love, and devoted to pride, sensuality, and contention; we may be sure can have no connection with the general assembly above. That house too bears but little affinity to it, whatever character it may have for sobriety and good manners, which hath no altar erected in it to God, and is a total stranger to all acts of piety and devotion. There may be indeed one here and there in these families, who is a candidate for heaven; a lonely plant that sheds its sweet fragrance amidst the thorns and briers of these wretched wildernesses. And on the contrary, in families truly venerable for their regards to religion, there may be here and there a root of bitterness springing up which shall by and by be rejected. But the members that shall compose the family above, are chiefly to be looked for in the mansions where religion hath set up her lovely banner, and diffuses her sweet and balmy influence. Now what is our domestic character ? “Let us enquire how we have hitherto been used to conduct ourselves towards God, our parents, brethren, wives, children, preceptors, attendants, friends, associates, and servants: whether we have treated them unbecomingly either in deed or word a?"
Ye Masters, have ye dedicated your houses to God? Have ye
vowed to Heaven that vice shall not enter your dwellings? Have ye nobly resolved to exert the authority of kings and priests in these little commonwealths over which you preside ? Do you sternly frown upon sin? Do you tenderly cherish every appearance of virtue and religion? Do you devoutly officiate from day to day at the altars you have set up in your tents ? And is it your aim to enforce your
instructions by your example? Be assured when ye lay down your office as kings and
α Πως προσενανεξαι μεχρι νυν θεοις, γονευσιν, αδελφους, γυναικι, τεκνοις, διδασκαλους, τροχευσι, φιλοις, οικειοις, οικεσαις· α προς παντας σου μεχρι νυν εσι το μησε τινα ρεξαι εξαισιον, μητε απειν. -M. ANTON. lib. 5.
priests on earth, ye shall instantly resume these characters, but with infinitely greater dignity and splendour in the world above.
Ye Mistresses, do ye concur with the partner of your cares and joys in all his active and generous concern for the welfare of your families? Does the happiness of your offspring and your servants, in this world and in that to come, lie near your hearts? Do you bring up your
children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ? Do you endeavour to sow the early seeds of piety in their breasts? Do you counsel, encourage, and reprove them? Do you weep over them, and pray for them? Is it your wish to mingle simplicity with prudence, gentleness with authority, and cheerfulness with seriousness, in all your deportment ? Be assured ye shall by and by rest from your labours, and your
works shall follow you. There are mansions preparing for you above, and therein shall you be everlastingly happy.
Ye Children, do you obey your parents in the Lord ? De you dwell together in unity? Do you meekly bear with one another, tenderly sympathize with one another, and cordially assist one another? Is it your wish to make some recompense to those whose anxious care has led you up into life, by copying after the holy examples they have set you? And is this your filial piety cherished and improved by a prevailing sense in your breasts of the duty you owe to your Father in heaven ? Be assured, ye shall at death be received again to your parents' embraces, and with them enjoy domestic pleasures in their highest perfection.
Ye Servants, whom Providence hath directed to these pious houses, that you might receive a new and divine life: have you from the noblest motives ministered to them who have ministered to you ? Have humility, faithfulness, diligence, and cheerfulness marked your conduct; reflected credit on your Christian profession; and entitled you to the friendship of those you have served ? Be assured that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance : for ye serve the Lord Christ a.
The public walk of life affords innumerable occasions of selfexamination and trial. But would men bring their tempers and conduct to the tests which domestic intercourses furnish, these would, methinks, suffice to throw a light upon their real charac
a Col. iij. 21.
ters. Is all that sweet peace, that smiling content, that tender sympathy, that generous friendship which prevails in a virtuous family congenial to your soul ? Do you prefer the instructive and entertaining discourse that perfumes the tabernacles of the righteous, above all the boasted joys that abound in the tents of sin ? With cordial pleasure do you unite with the excellent of the earth in their returning exercises of devotion? In fine, is a name and a place in such a house as this more envied by you than the most shining stations in the courts of princes ? No doubt then, you are related to the happy family above, mansions are preparing there for your reception, and angels are waiting to conduct you to your long wished for home.—To close the whole,
3. And lastly. Let us express our gratitude to the great Author of all these our glorious hopes, in every possible way that duty and love dictate.
How vast, how immense, how inconceivable is the love of God ! He made us reasonable beings. He formed us for the duties and pleasures of social life. He established domestic connections. He bound us to himself and one another by bands the most firm and endearing. But ab ! pride and rebellion tore these bands asunder. The Author of our happiness abandoned the mansion he had built. Sin with all her deformed and wretched train entered. And in the dwelling where the opposite graces had sweetly reigned, strife, envy, discontent, malevolence, and misery displayed their horrors.—But oh! amazing grace! the Father of mercies pitied us. He sent his Son to vindicate the rights of justice, to extirpate Satan from the seat he had usurped, and to restore harmony and love to the habitations his Spirit had deserted. The Prince of peace arrayed himself in mortal flesh; and wept, and bled, and died, to compass these great ends. His object he has attained. Families emerge from the ruins of human apostacy, recover in a degree even here their original simplicity, beauty, and glory, and by and by acquire their utmost height of splendour and perfection in the world above. What amazing grace is this ! Rejoice, O heavens, and be astonished, 0 earth ! Let every bosom that receives these tidings, exult with joy!
But amidst the joy we feel, let us not lose sight of those returns of duty which this unexampled grace demands. There are many ways of expressing our gratitude, and this of a cheerful persevering attention to domestic duties is not the least. Have we thrown open the doors of our hearts, and hailed the King of glory to his residence there ? Let us consecrate our houses also to his service. Let the fragrant incense of prayer and praise daily ascend to Heaven. Let all our actions, intercourses, and pleasures be regulated by his will. And to his honour let our knowledge, substance, influence, example, and all be devoted. So shall we have the refined, ecstatic, godlike pleasure of forwarding the great and good design the Father of mercies has adopted, even that of rescuing our children, servants, and connections from impending ruin; forming them for the several stations they are to fill in life; and introducing them at length to the unutterable joys of heaven.