Your sons will succeed your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land.
I. THE CHANGES OF LIFE. The fathers come first, then the children. There is a constant succession. We see the same on the earth. The sun and moon and stars are the same that have been from the beginning, but the scarred face of the earth indicates change. The year has its seasons. Fields white unto harvest to-day will be bare to-morrow. The leaves fade, and others come in their places. So it is in life. Go where you will, the cry is, "Your fathers, where are they?" (Zechariah 1:5). This throws great responsibility upon the living. They stand between the past and the future. From the fathers they have received much, and of them the children require much. They are the "heirs of all the ages," and they are bound to hand down, pure and entire, to those who come after, the glorious inheritance they have possessed.
II. THE COMPENSATIONS OF LIFE. When the fathers are taken, we are ready to regard it as a calamity. If one fails who stood high in Church or state, we cry in our grief like David when Abner was slain, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" (2 Samuel 3:38). But God's hand is in these things. There is compensation. If the fathers go, it is that the children may take their places. The line is never broken. The order which God has fixed continues. If Moses dies, Joshua takes his place. If Elijah is carried into heaven, his mantle falls upon Elisha. If Stephen is martyred in the midst of his labours, God has a chosen vessel in preparation, to take up his work, and carry it out in nobler ways than he could have done. So it is still. Though there be breaks and interruptions and intervals when things were dark, yet the law holds good. Let us take heed. The future is the outcome of the present. We are sowing in the hearts of our children the harvests that are to be. Let us do our duty towards those who are to come in our place, and leave results to God. "0 Church of God," said Augustine, "think not thyself abandoned, because thou seest not Peter, nor seest Paul. Seest not thou through whom thou wast born; out of thine own offspring has a body of 'fathers' been raised up to thee."
III. THE DISTINCTIONS OF LIFE.
1. Their source is Divine. We say the sovereign is the source of honour. So it is in the higher things. True honour is from God only, and he gives it to those alone whom he has "made" to be worthy (John 1:12).
2. Their character is princely. When God makes princes, he makes princes in reality. He gives not only place, but power; and not only power, but the highest honours (Genesis 32:28; 2 Timothy 1:7; Revelation 1:5). What Gideon's brethren were in appearance they are in reality (Judges 8:18).
3. Their influence is world-wide. Wherever they are known, they are honoured. What was true of the twelve is true in a measure of all Christ's servants (Matthew 19:28). As Samuel Rutherford said with his last breath, "Glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land." - W.F.
Mark 10:15). And to take a child and induct him into the knowledge of life, of its duties and responsibilities, its dangers and its guards, its fellowships and the secrets of its success, without bringing God into it, without making Him the foundation of it all, anything more fatal to the morality, the greatness, nay to the existence of this nation I cannot conceive! Thank God for the conversion of a father or a child in a family circle, but we want to revolutionize the basis of family life. Enter the house of that working man; he will tell you that he joined a Band of Hope when he was a boy; that he grew up faithful to his pledge; that on the principles of that association he married, and is bringing up a family; that under his father's roof there was no home; there never had been a home within his recollection, for his father was the victim of drink. Instead of the father, here is the son, himself a father, building up a family, and not dragging it down; ruling his children and training them in the fear of the Lord; a citizen, and not a pauper, contributing to the wealth of his country, and not a burden upon her rates. Imagine the influences radiating from a home like this; imagine many such homes in the same street, in the same town, in the same country; every home a centre of order, a pattern of sobriety, a model of industry, and an ornament of religion.
Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children.
I. REMOVALS ARE IMPLIED — a thought too painful for publicity if treated in the absence of Christian promise. Did death end all, it would be sad indeed; but under the light of the Gospel death is translated into the realm of departure. By these removals we lose the friendships of time and staled alone waiting for new and untried friends. We lose the benefit of tried friendship so that life is a scene of unending and unanswered questioning. And yet we are confronted by this law in every department of fruit-bearing life. If we walk in nature's garden we find the same law dismissing all that is beautiful and fruitful; when once the work is done the fruits appear and are crowded off to give place to others. The Christian removal is always enlargement of influence. Paul ministered to a few hundred while in the flesh, but on taking his departure, ministered to the nations of the earth with increasing influence age after age. But there is blessing to us who succeed them. It is necessary to the highest order of life that there be discipline in care and thought, not that a few think for the race, and work for all, but that all work, think, and feel responsible for results. Thank God, then, though Abraham died, his faith lives for others to exercise — if Elijah goes up, Elisha can part the Jordan. And when the fathers go, God is calling children to take their place.
II. PRIVILEGE OF THE CHILDREN. Wave on wave roils in from the ocean world and breaks on the same rocks ignorant of their successor's power. The baptism of summer glory finds the bare poles where last spring found them. It cannot retain the summer glory and meadow's beauty. But it is our privilege to begin where the fathers retire, and from the outlook of centuries look out over the field before entering the fight. Ours to take the battle where the warfare of centuries has carried it and then on to victory, entering into the conquests of our fathers with the advantage of their experience. History records the wonders of the three hundred cavalrymen in the Theban army, who were always successful. They fought under a vow of eternal loyalty. They were known as "The Sacred Battalion," the "Band of Lovers." Has not the Church greater claims upon us as legatees?
III. POSSIBILITIES. "Princes in all the earth." The gift of a child or convert is the gift of possibilities. "Mayest" implies attention, interest in, a work for the new-comer. If princes, we must study the child, his disposition, methods of thought, adaptations to different kinds of work. You can recall readily business firms, where the death of the head would close the house; not because there are no sons, but the sons have no knowledge of the father's business. Do you not call to mind churches where ten deaths would close the church? For these ten have given all the money; another ten have done all the praying, all because no part is assigned the children, and they are ill-fitted to take up the work. once said, "Could I climb to the highest place in Athens, I would lift my voice and proclaim — Fellow citizens, why do ye turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?" If our children are to be princes they must have some part in the work, some responsibilities. Let all pray, give, do and plan, then all will have an interest and grow therein.
(H. W. Bolton, D. D.)
(E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)
I. If you would properly prepare yourselves for your future position, you must GIVE YOURSELVES NOW TO THE CULTIVATION OF PERSONAL PIETY. I place this at the foundation, because it is of supreme and permanent importance.
II. You MUST CULTIVATE INTELLIGENCE. Even now there are symptoms of the most unmistakable kind that a crisis in the history of divine truth is approaching, and we would have our young men gird themselves to meet it. We find them for the most part trifling their time away in pursuits which, at the best, are but an excuse for idleness; and among too many, everything that would lead to reflection, and stimulate to thought, is accounted dull and stupid. I want you to be thinkers as well as readers; nay, thinkers rather than readers; for the mental disease of the age is just literary indigestion. Thus conducting your studies, you will thoroughly furnish yourselves as men of God, and will be enabled to stand undaunted before all comers.
III. A third thing indispensably required, if you would meet the claims of the future on you, is COURAGE. By this I mean moral courage; the heroism, not of the warrior, but of the man who has learned to run the gauntlet of ridicule and scorn, and to follow the leadings of duty in the face of every obstacle. The large proportion of the rising race are growing up in moral weakness. How few of them can meet temptation with a direct negative! Be strong then, and quit you like men. Never mind though you may seem to stand alone; he who has God on his side is always in a majority; and he is never alone who can say, the Father is with me.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
II. THE RELATION OF THE YOUNG TO THE OLD. As the sun in his setting behind the western horizon ofttimes casts a wondrous purple glow over the east whence he arose, making the glory of the evening of richer beauty than the brilliance of the noon, so does the generation whose life declines behind the everlasting hills shed its glow upon the generation just arising, suffusing it with a glory not from itself. Our glory lies in the achievements of our fathers. What, then, ought to be the attitude of the young toward the old?
1. Reverence. This spirit lies at the root of all nobility, purity, and strength of character. The glory of the past is summed up in our elders. There is that in the old which calls for reverence.(1) An old man is a book of life — an epitome of life's experience. If one should come to us from the weird mystery of the Arctic regions, or from the dim twilight of the dense and tropical forest, with what awe we should regard him t He is a man who has seen strange sights which we have not seen, and partaken of experiences beyond our imagination. Such is the old man to the young one. He has heard life's many voices, tasted its sweets and bitters, wrestled with its temptations, bowed under its sorrows, and discovered its illusions. He is a book of life, in which we ought to read with reverence.(2) He is a book of God. The record of human life is also a Divine record. This is true of the life that is evil; it is much more true of the life of pure goodness. As the star catches the light from some other world, and sends it down to illumine other spheres, so the good man has caught in his life the light of God, and flings it forth to enlighten younger minds around him. As such a revealer of God the old man commands our reverence.
2. Patience. You touch the heirloom with very gentle hand. It stands for you as the treasury of many sacred traditions of family history. So should the old forms of religious teaching. We may not be able to subscribe to every form of teaching we received; but let us remember that what was handed down to us made a noble woman of our mother and a monument of integrity of our father. It may not have been wholly true; it, certainly was net wholly false, and therefore Cannot be dismissed with a smile. We ought to be careful in the transfer of truth from old forms into new. You cannot empty the ointment from one vase into another without risk of losing some drops of the precious liquid. So there is always risk in adapting truth to its newer shapes lest we should lose some of its spirit. The old forms change and decay; but the spirit of truth is eternal, and for its sake, lest it should flee from careless and unhallowed touch, we should be patient with its dying body.
3. Humility. Our fathers were great; they Who come after us will be greater. The revelation of God is a progressive unveiling. The pilgrim father with exultant insight said, "God has much more light to break from His holy Word." The world will not always grow with such painful slowness. Moral and spiritual forces will doubtless gain impetus, and will bear our world more quickly to her divine end. Meantime it is for those who are young to toil humbly, recognizing the labours of their fathers, and thankful if they may, in their generation, but add a share to the work which shall fulfil the Divine will.
III. THE RELATION OF THE OLD TO THE YOUNG. "Every grave is also a cradle, every death is also a birth. He who puts a bud beside every withered leaf places a child beside the old man and a young man in the sepulchre of his father." In this way does God renew the life of the world. The attitude of the passing generation to the one succeeding it may be expressed under the same terms as the relationship we have already considered.
1. Reverence. It is most solemn to think of the germs of possibility that lie in the child: awful powers of good or evil lie enfolded within the little soul sent to dwell in our home for a while. Old men, having tasted the bitter disappointments of life, grow pessimistic, cold, cynical, and lose the clearness of their early visions. This can hardly be escaped; but let us be slow to impose these unhealthy influences on the fresh hopes of the young. The Church which checks the ardour of its young members by the half-cynical reminder of its illusions and failures, will thus put the frosty finger on the tender spring buds, and will doom them to die in an unnatural and wintry decay. For the hope of the world and of the Church, when the ancient blood is chilled and the pulse enfeebled, we must look to the strong pulse, the warm impulse, and the high hopes of youth. "Your young men shall see visions."
2. Humility. Every generation passes away in disappointment. It has "not realized its hopes, nor done the work it desired to do. Yet it is hard to confess this, and before death to see the work pass into younger hands and younger shoulders assume the responsibilities that have been ours. Our wisdom ties in humility.
(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)Martin Luther rose up from among them to emancipate Europe from the bondage of the Papacy, the laugh was all upon his side; and it were well if the young men of our own day would do practical homage to their own future career, by preparing themselves for the honour which may be theirs if they will only worthily discharge the duties to which they are called. I am anxious that they should realize that they have the character of the Church and of the State to keep; and that each man of them should act as if the whole thing depended upon him. I desire that they should feel that they are to receive as a legacy the reputation and the labour of their fathers; and that they should educate themselves so that both shall be safe in their hands. Yea, I would charge it upon them as their guilt and crime, if in any degree the wheels of progress shall be retarded, or the labour of their fathers undone, in their day. If Britain's glory wane, if the Church's triumphs cease, young men of these days, the greater share of the blame must be yours. This responsibility is fixed upon you, and you cannot shake it off.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.I. THE PERPETUATION OF RELIGIOUS LIFE. "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children." It is in a succession of godly families we see the channel along which the water of life flows in unfailing fulness and beauty. The children of parents who love the truth and honour God are likely to take and keep the features which distinguish the character of the parents. Godliness is not nearly so difficult to those who come into the world with blood and brain favourable to righteousness as it is to those who come into the world with blood and brain favourable to unrighteousness. But in addition to all that is gained by birth there is the influence of precept and example.
II. THE DIGNITY OF RELIGIOUS LIFE. "Whom thou mayest make princes." The grandest man is he who has most of the spirit of Christ. When we bring together those who most faithfully reflect His character we have all that is choicest in the race. Nor is it in resemblance to Christ only that princely dignity is manifested. The graces and virtues of religion are often as stepping. stones to high positions in the Church and the world. How many there are, tradesmen, manufacturers, merchants, officers of government, who began life in hardship and poverty, and confess that it is the grace of God which has made them what they are. "He raiseth the poor out of the dust, that He may set him with princes."
III. THE DIFFUSION OF RELIGIOUS LIFE. "Whom thou mayest make princes." We have an almost literal fulfilment of these words in the history of our foreign possessions. The men who have laid the foundation of great Anglo-Saxon nationalities in different parts of the world have many of them been good men. When we think of the Pilgrim Fathers who sought in America the freedom to worship God which was denied in England; of the religious forces which have done so much to shape and enrich the grandly developing life of Canada and Australia; of the godly soldiers and civilians who have laboured for the enlightenment of India, we recognize the providence of God in sending to those wide tracts of earth "men with empires in their brains," and who by their heroism, industry, and religion have caused the wilderness to become like the garden of the Lord. How pleasing also it is to think of those who have preached, and of those who are preaching, Christ in heathen lands, "Princes in all the earth." Has not Coke still a princely power in Antigua and all its neighbouring isles; and John Hunt in Fiji; Carey in India and Moffatt in Africa?
I. THEY ARE PRINCES BORN. "Born of water and of the Spirit." There are two things, you see. Both are included in what is called "born again," or "born from above." John's baptism and Christ's baptism bring the two together in figure. Don't separate the two parts; get rid of your sins, and begin new heavenly lives, and you are born again. Breathe the air, then, as princely creatures; Christ makes you "princes in the earth."
II. THEY ARE PRINCES BY GETTING A ROYAL EDUCATION. It is a good thing in education to get a good school-book to learn from. It is better still to get a good teacher to teach from the good text-book. Now, Christ provides both things in the princely education which He gives to His own. This Book of God is in all Christ's schools, and there are none of Christ's princes made to do princely work here without it. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, and He is the most excellent teacher. What is the first quality in a teacher — I mean moral quality? Now, teachers are qualified for their work as they have a mother's patience, a mother's gentleness, a mother's love. There is no teacher so gentle as the Holy. Spirit, none so patient, so full of love, as He.
III. THEY ARE PRINCES BY TRAINING IN ROYAL WORK. The proper end for which princes are being educated is to rule, to take care of others, and manage them; to order and guide subjects for their good. But the first subject that any Christian prince gets to rule is his own spirit. A person who cannot rule his spirit is compared to a city the walls of which are broken down, so that the wild beasts can run in at the breaches where they like. We are to rule ourselves by letting Christ rule us. Being His subjects, we are also His princes. Apart from the general idea of ruling, there are three kinds of work that princes made by Christ get to do. The first is prayer, the second is patience, the third is peace-making.
IV. THEY HAVE A CROWN IN PROSPECT. All princes don't come actually to be crowned with earthly crowns; but this is one of the fine things about Christ's princes, they will all be crowned, and all wear their crowns in heaven. Some crowns are made of leaves, fading leaves, but this crown never withers. Some crowns are made of gold, and glitter and shine for a time, yet must perish at last; but this will shine for ever.
(John Edmund, D. D.)
I. ITS GRACIOUS RECOMPENSE. Compare the psalm from which it is taken. The bride was commanded to forget her own people and her father's house. But her loss shall be made up to her. And the law of our text holds good in reference to the separations caused by death in the midst of the Church. If good men are taken, the like will be given, perhaps better.
II. ITS EMINENT FULFILMENT. All along, there have been changes, but in God's garden, as in ours, plants of this year have been succeeded by those of the next.
III. ITS HAPPY ENCOURAGEMENT. It says, "shall be." "Lean on the Divine "shall." Do not give way to distrust about the future, for Jesus lives and walks among the golden candlesticks, trimming all the lamps, and shining through them. We are not taking a leap into the dark; we are not "shooting Niagara"; we are marching into light.
IV. ITS PRACTICAL REQUIREMENTS.
1. If we stand instead of our fathers, what manner of persons ought we to be? See what noble men have been before us. Look back to your spiritual ancestry, your fathers after the spirit, your predecessors in the faith of the Lord Jesus. But shall we be craven sons of heroic sires?
2. If others are to come instead of us what are we doing for them? The Church ought to look to the tuition, the training and the culture of her children. It is said that Alexander gathered together his valiant army principally through training children from their very birth to the pursuits of war. These born soldiers grew up knowing of nothing, and caring for nothing but for Alexander, Macedon, and battle. Thus would we, by God's grace, train our sons to live alone for Christ, His truth, and the souls whom He hath redeemed. Now, looking to my young friends, I would ask of them, Are you prepared to take your father's place? Let none of you suppose that because you come of pious parents you will be saved. I stand amongst you like an officer in the midst of his troop, and as one and another falls, I bid you close up your ranks. May the text be true for us.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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