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SERMON XI.

THE MERCY OF THE LORD TO THE CHIL

DREN OF THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.*

BY THE

REV. DUNCAN MACFARLAN, D.D.,
PRINCIPAL OF GLASGOW COLLEGE, AND MINISTER OF ST.

MUNGO's, GLASGOW.

PSALM ciii. 17.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to ever

lasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children.

The language of this Psalm exhibits many instances of a structure very common in the sacred writings, by which the same idea, with a slight variation, is conveyed in the two clauses of a verse. One of those instances occurs in the passage, which has now been read, and is selected for the subject of your consideration at this time. The word righteousness here, as in many other places, is equivalent to mercy or beneficence; and the ever-enduring loving-kindness of our God, described in the first clause as from everlasting to everlasting, is in the second more precisely defined, as continued to the children's children of those who fear Him.

* Preached before the Edinburgh Society for the Sons of the Clergy, 15th March, 1831.

The Almighty hath done nothing in vain. From the greatest to the least of his creatures, from the most extensive system to the most simple, and apparently isolated object, there is no one without its use. Every organ of those wonderfully constructed bodies which he hath formed, serves some important purpose in the animal economy. Every power, every energy, every affection of the human soul, is implanted in it by him for some valuable end which it is fitted to promote, and is operated on by the means which His wisdom hath appointed for carrying forward our improvement here, and accomplishing our preparation for happiness hereafter. The dispensations of His Providence, and the suggestions of His Word, are made to influence the fears, the hopes, the desires, the sympathies, and all the capacities of emotion which are treasured up in the human breast, and to unite them in forming that complicated and unspeakably desirable result

a character restored to the image in which man was at first created.

Of those principles, there is no one more universal, more powerful, or more obviously beneficial than parental affection. In the inferior animals, with whom it is merely instinctive, it exercises a power to which every other habit and propensity seems to be subordinate. Under its dominion the most ferocious become mild and gentle, the most fearful, fierce and daring in the defence of their offspring, the feeblest and most indolent, indefatigable in providing for their subsistence. By its operation, the living tribes of earth are, in almost each individual instance, trained up to maturity, and prevented from perishing from off the surface of the globe. In man, especially when he is enlightened and civilized, it assumes a loftier bearing, and holds a more important place. In proportion as he emerges from barbarism, from that state in which the gratification of appetite or preservation of existence absorb every higher tendency, it becomes a characteristic of his rational nature, the most amiable and ennobling of his feelings, the most powerful instrument in the progressive improvement of the human

When it is guarded by religious principle and sound judgment from the abuses to which all the feelings of mortality are liable, when it is purified and refined by the sacred and endearing habits of domestic life, and hallowed by the hope of immortality, it triumphs over every selfish inclination, and connects the successive generations of men by ties equally blessed to the present and the future inhabitants of earth. When the mother dwells on every look, and provides for every want, and watches every trace of the dawn of thought in her infant; when the father exerts his every power for the subsistence of his family, when he renounces

race.

his own favourite indulgences that their enjoyments may be increased and multiplied, when he courts success that its honour may be reflected on them and its fruits redound to their benefit, how light seems every toil, how ample the compensation for every sacrifice, how highly enhanced the triumph of which those dear objects of his love are to reap the substantial fruits ! When he succeeds in forming their minds to piety of feeling, and firmness of principle, in leading them to remember their Creator, and training them up in the way wherein they ought to go, in animating them to honourable exertion, and qualifying them to act in life a higher and a better part than he has himself been able to sustain-how precious is the recompence of his labours, how doubly valuable the bliss received and the benefits conferred, how interminable the prospect of improvement, opening from age to age on each succeeding race!

It is obvious, that under the diversified government of God, this, like every other principle, is made to produce the most valuable fruits. His Providence employs it to control selfishness, to restrain turbulent passion, to draw forth useful exertion from the individual, to supply a most powerful motive for acting uprightly and honourably. He directs its exercise, so as to guard the tender mind from temptation and every improper bias, to cherish kind affection and habitual devotion, to perpetuate the knowledge obtained, and acquisitions made, at every period of society, and to hand them down to latest posterity, in an unlimited progress of enlargement and amelioration.

Yet it is not only by its direct operation that parental love influences the human mind for good. The Almighty has been pleased to appeal to it in his Word as a motive to cherish godly fear and holy obedience. To mankind, he holds out a blessing on their posterity, as a most powerful incentive to compliance with the requisitions of his law. He declares, “ that the mercy

of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” Nor is this a solitary declaration. “ The Lord is a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children, even to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, but showing mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments.” The promise made to Abraham was, covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many

nations ; and I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generation, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee, and I will be their God. In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” children of thy servants,” saith the Psalmist,“ shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth. The generation of the upright

“ Behold my

66 The

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