1 Samuel 17:58
And Saul said to him, Whose son are you, you young man? And David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.
The king saw, what you and I see, that this question of heredity is a mighty question. The longer I live the more I believe in blood — good blood, bad blood, pure blood, humble blood, honest blood, thieving blood, heroic blood, cowardly blood. The tendency may skip a generation or two, but it is sure to come out, as in a little child you sometimes see a similarity to a great grandfather whose picture hangs on the wall. That the physical and mental and moral qualities are inheritable is patent to anyone who keeps his eyes open. The similarity is so striking sometimes as to be amusing. Great families, regal or literary, are apt to have the characteristics all down through the generation, and what is more perceptible in such families may be seen on a smaller scale in all families. A thousand years have no power to obliterate the difference. Scottish blood means persistence, English blood means reverence for the ancient, Welsh blood means religiosity, Danish blood means fondness for the sea, Indian blood means roaming disposition, Celtic blood means fervidity, Roman blood means conquest. The Jewish facility for accumulation you may trace clear back to Abraham, of whom the Bible says "he was rich in silver and gold and cattle," and to Isaac and Jacob, who had the same characteristics. This law of heredity asserts itself without reference to social or political condition, for you sometimes find the ignoble in high place and the honourable in obscure place. A descendant of Edward I, a toll gatherer. A descendant of Edward II, a doorkeeper. A descendant of the Duke of Northumberland a trunk maker. Some of the mightiest families of England are extinct, while some of those most honoured in the peerage go back to an ancestry of hard knocks and rough exterior. This law of heredity is entirely independent of social or political conditions; for you find avarice and jealousy and sensuality and fraud having full swing in some families. The violent temper of Frederick William is an inheritance from Frederick the Great. It is not a theory founded by worldly philosophy, but by Divine authority. Do you not remember how the Bible speaks of a chosen generation, of the generation of the righteous, of the generation of vipers, of an untoward generation, of a stubborn generation, of the iniquity of the fathers visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation? So that the text comes today with the force of a projectile hurled from mightiest catapult, "Whose son art thou, young man?" "Well," says someone, "that theory discharges me from all responsibility. Born of sanctified parents, we are bound to be good, and we cannot help ourselves. Born of unrighteous parentage, we are bound to be evil, and we cannot help ourselves." Two inaccuracies. As much as if you should say, "The centrifugal force in nature has a tendency to throw out everything to the periphery, and therefore everything will go out to the periphery." You know as well as I know that you can make the centripetal force overcome the centrifugal, and you can make the centrifugal overcome the centripetal. As when there is a mighty, tide of good in a family that may be overcome by determination to evil, as in the case of Aaron Burr, the libertine, who had for father President Burr, the consecrated; as in the case of Pierrepont, Edwards, the scourge of New York society seventy years ago, who had a Christian ancestry; while, on the other hand, some of the best men and woman of this day are those who have come of an ancestry of which it would not be courteous to speak in their presence. The practical and useful object of this sermon is to show to you that if you have come of a Christian ancestry, then you are solemnly bound to preserve and develop the glorious inheritance; or if you have come of a depraved ancestry, then it is your duty to brace yourself against the evil tendency. I want to arouse the most sacred memories of your heart while I make the impassioned interrogatory in regard to your pedigree: "Whose son are thou, thou young man?"
I. I ACCOST ALL THOSE WHO ARE DESCENDED OF A CHRISTIAN ANCESTRY. I do not ask if your parents were perfect. There are no perfect people now, and I do not suppose there were any perfect people then. You have a responsibility vast beyond all measurement. God will not let you off with just being as good as ordinary people when you had such extraordinary advantage. Ought not a flower planted in a hothouse be more healthy than a flower planted outside in the storm? Ought not a factory turned by the Housatonic do more work than a factory turned by a thin and shallow stream? Ought not you of great early opportunity be better than these who had cradle unblessed? Your Heavenly Father charges against you all the advantage of a pious ancestry — so many prayers, so much Christian example, so many kind entreaties — all these gracious influences, one tremendous aggregate, and He asks you for an account of it. Ought not you to be better than those who had no such advantage? Better have been a foundling picked up off the city commons than with such magnificent inheritance of consecration to turn out differently. Oh, the power of ancestral piety! Oh, the power of ancestral prayer!
II. I TURN FOR A MOMENT TO THOSE WHO HAD EVIL PARENTAGE, and I want to tell you that the highest thrones in heaven and the mightiest triumphs and the brightest crowns will be for those who had evil parentage, but who by the grace of God conquered — conquered. Find out what the family frailty is, and set body, mind, and soul in battle array. Conquer you will. I think the genealogical table was put in the first chapter of the New Testament not only to show our Lord's pedigree, but to show that a man may rise out of an ancestral line and beat back successfully all the influences of bad heredity. See in that genealogical table that good King Asa was born of vile King Abia. See in that genealogical table that Joseph and Mary and the most illustrious Being that ever touched our world, or ever will touch it, had in His ancestral line scandalous Rahab and Thamar, and Bathsheba. Perhaps the star of hope may point down to your manger. Perhaps you are to be the hero or the heroine that is to put down the brakes and stop that long line of genealogical tendencies, and switch it off on another track from that on which it has been running for a century. Estranged children from the homestead come back through the open gate of adoption. There is royal blood in our veins; there are crowns on our escutcheon. Our Father is King, our Brother is King; we may be kings and queens unto God forever. "Whose son art thou, thou young man?" Son of God! Heir of immortality! Take your inheritance!
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.