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faithful Israel: Give me children, or else I die ; Gen. xxx. 1. So desirous hath nature been, even in the holiest, to propagate itself; and so impatient of a denial. Lo, children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift, that cometh from the Lord ; Psalm cxxvii. 3. Happy is he, that hath his quiver full of such shafts ; v. 5. It is the blessing, that David grudged to wicked ones; They have children at their desire ; Ps. xvii. 14. It was the curse, which God inflicted upon the family of Abimelech, King of Gerar, that he closed up all the wombs in his house, for Sarah's sake; Gen. xx. 17, 18: and the judgment threatened to Ephraiın, is a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts; Hos. ix. 14: and Jeconiah's sad doom is, Write this man childless ; Jer. xxii. 30. As, on the contrary, it is a special favour of God, that the barren hath borne seven ; 1 Sam. ii. 5 : and it is noted by the Psalmist, as a wonder of God's mercy, that he maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children ; Ps. cxii. 9.
It is pity he was ever born, that holds not children a blessing : yet not simple and absolute, but according as it may prove.
She hath a double favour from God, that is a joyful mother of children : many a one breeds her sorrow, breeds her death.
There is scarce any other blessing from God seasoned with so much acrimony, both of misery and danger. Do but lay together the sick fits of breeding, the painful throws of travail, the weary attendances of nursing, the anxious cares of education, the fears and doubts of misguidance, the perpetual solicitude for their provision, the heart-breaking grief for their miscarriage; and tell me, whether thy bemoaned sterility have not more ease, less sorrow.
The pains of child-bearing. It is thy sorrow then, that thou art not fruitful :-Consider, that thou art herein freed from a greater sorrow : In sorrow, shalt thou bring forth children ; Gen. iii. 16.
Do but think upon the shrieks and torments, that thou hast seen and heard in the painful travails of thy neighbours. One, thou hast seen wearying the days and nights, in restless pangs; and calling for death, in a despair of delivery : another, after the unprofitable labours of midwives, forced to have her bowels ransacked by the hand of another sex. One hath her dead burthen torn from her by piece-meal: another is delivered of her life and birth together. One languisheth to death, after the hand of an unskilful midwife : another is weary of her life, through the soreness of her breasts. All these sorrows thou hast escaped by this one: in these regards, how many whom thou enviest, have thought thee happier than themselves!
The misery of ill-disposed and undutiful children. Thou art afflicted, that thou art not a mother :- Many a one is so, that wishes she had been barren. If either the child prove deformed and mis-shapen; or, upon further growth, unnatural and wicked; what a corrosive is this to her, that bore him!
Rebekah thought it long to be, after her marriage, twenty years childless : her bolv husband, at sixty years of age, prays to God for issue by her; Gen. xxv. 20, 21. His devotion, as the Jewish Doctors say, carried him to mount Moriah, for this purpose; that in the same place, where his life was miraculously preserved from the knife of his father, it might, by the like miracle, be renewed in his posterity : God hears him: Rebekah conceives: but, when she felt that early combat of her struggling twins in her womb, she can say, If it be so, why am I thus ? v. 22. And, when she saw a child come forth all clad in hair, v. 25. and after saw his conditions no less rough than his hide, ch. xxvii. 41. do we not think she wished that part of her burden unborn ?
Certainly, children are, according to their proof, either blessings or crosses. Hast thou a child weil disposed, well governed ? A wise son maketh a glad father. Hast thou a child disorderly and debauched ? A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother ; and the calamity of his father ; Prov. x. 1. xv. 20. xix. 13. Hast thou a son, that is unruly, stubborn, unnatural ? as commonly the cions overrule the stock : He, that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son, that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach ; ch. xix. 26. And, if such a son should live and die impenitent, what can be answerable to the discomfort of that parent, who shall think that a piece of himself is in hell ?
The cares of parents for their children. Thou hast no children :-As thou hast less joy, so thou hast less trouble.
It is a world of work and thoughts, that belong to these living possessions. Artemidorus observes, that to dream of children, imports cares to follow *. Surely, as they are our greatest cares, so they bring many lesser cares with them. Before, thou hadst but one mouth to feed; now, many. And upon whom doth this charge lie, but upon the parent? Not nature only, but religion casts it upon him: for, If any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel ;
* Artemidor. de Insomniis. 1. i.c. 16.
i Tim. v. 8. Dost thou not see, that many suckers, growing up from the root of the tree, draw away the sap from the stock and many rivulets, let out from the main channel, leave the stream shallow? So it must be, with thee and thine.
But this expence is not more necessary, than comfortable. I remember a great man coming to my house at Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and stature, said, “ These are they, that make rich men poor :” but he straight received this answer; “ Nay, my Lord, these are they, that make a poor man rich: for there is not one of these, whom we would part with for all your wealth."
Indeed, wherefore do we receive, but to distribute ? and what are we, but the farmers of those, we leave behind us? And, if we do freely lay out our substance beforehand for their good, so much of our rent is happily cleared.
It is easy to observe, that none are so gripple and hard fisted, as the childless : whereas those, who, for the maintenance of large families, are inured to frequent disbursements, find such experience of Divine Providence in the faithful managing of their affairs, as that they lay out with more cheerfulness than they receive.
Wherein their care must be abated, when God takes it off from them to himself; and, if they be not wanting to themselves, their faith gives them ease, in casting their burden upon him, who hath both more power and more right to it, since our children are more his than our own. He, that feedeth the young ravens, (Psalm cxlvii. 9.) can he fail the best of his creatures ?
Worthy Master Greenham tells us of a Gentlewoman, who, coming into the cottage of a poor neighbour, and seeing it furnished with store of children, could say, “Here are the mouths, but where is the meat ?" but, not long after, she was paid in her own coin: for the poor woman, coming to her after the burial of her last and now only child, inverted the question upon her, “ Here is the meat, but where are the mouths ?"
Surely, the great Housekeeper of the World, whose charge we are, will never leave any of his menials without the bread of sufficiency : and who are so fit to be his purveyors, as the parents for their own brood? Nature hath taught the very birds, to pick out the best of the grains for their young ? Nature sends that moisture out of the root, which gives life to the branches and blossoms.
Sometimes, it meets with a kind retaliation: some stork-like disposition repays the loving offices done by the parents, in a dutiful retribution to their age or necessity.
But, how often have we seen the contrary! Here, an unsatisfiable importunity of drawing from the parent that maintenance, which is but necessary for his own subsistence: so, we have seen a young bat, hanging on the teat of her dam for milk, even when she is dying : so, we have seen some insatiable lambs, forcing the udder of their dams, when they have been as big as the ewe that yeaned them. There, an undutiful and unnatural neglect ; whe
ther in not owning the meanness of those, that begot them; or in not supporting the weakness of their decayed estate, by due maintenance. Ingratitude is odious in any man; but in a child, monstrous.
The great grief in the loss of children. It is thy grief, that thou never hadst a child :-Believe him, that hath tried it, there is not so much comfort in the having of children, as there is sorrow in parting with them : especially, when they are come to their proof; when their parts and disposition have raised our hopes of them, and doubled our affection towards them,
And as, according to the French Proverb, “ He, that hath not, cannot lose ;” so, contrarily, he, that hath, must lose. Our meeting is not more certain, than our parting : either we must leave them, and so their grief for us must double ours; or they must leave
and so our grief for them must be no less than our love was of them.
If, then, thou wilt be truly wise, set thy heart upon that only Absolute Good, which is not capable of losing. Divided affections must needs abate of their force. Now, since there are no objects of darkness which might distract thy love, be sure to place it wholly upon that Infinite Goodness, which shall entertain it with mercy, and reward it with blessedness.
If Elkanah therefore could say to his barren wife Hannah, Why weepest thou ? and why is thy heart heavy ? am not I better to thec than ten sons? 1 Sam. i. 8: how.much more comfortably mayest thou hear the Father of Mercies say to thy soul, “ Why is thy heart heavy ? am not I better to thee than ten thousand sons
COMFORTS AGAINST WANT OF SLEEP.
The misery of the want of rest ; with the best remedy. Thou art afflicted with want of sleep :-A complaint incident to distempered bodies and thoughtful minds. Oh, how wearisome a thing it is, to spend the long night, in tossing up and down in a restless bed, in the chase of sleep; which, the more eagerly it is followed, fies so much the farther from us ! Couldst thou obtain of thyself to forbear the desire of it, perhaps it would come alone : now that thou suest for it, like to some froward piece, it is coy
and overly ; and punishes thee with thy longing. Lo, he, that could command a hundred and seven and twenty provinces, yet could not command rest : On that night his sleep departed from him ; Esth. vi. 1: neither could be either forced or entreated to his bed. And the great Babylonian Monarch, though he laid some hand on sleep, yet he could not hold it; for his sleep brake from him ; Dan. ii. 1. And, for great and wise Solomon, it would not so much as come within his view: Neither night nor day seeth he sleep with his eyes ; Eccl. viii. 16. Surely, as there is no earthly thing more comfortable to nature than bodily rest (Jer. xxxi. 26.); so, there is nothing, whose loss is more grievous and disheartening. If the senses be not sometimes, in meet vicissitudes, tied up; how can they chuse, but run themselves out of breath, and weary and spend themselves to nothing? If the body be not refreshed, with a moderate interchange of repose; how can it but languish, in all the parts of it? and, as commonly the soul follows the temper of the body, how can that but find a sensible discomposure and debilitation, in all her faculties and operations? Do we not see the savagest creatures tamed with want of rest ? Do we not find this rack alone to have been torture enough, to fetch from poor souls a confessional discovery of those acts they never did? Do we not find reveries and frenzies the ordinary attendants of sleeplessness? Herein, therefore, thy tongue hath just cause to complain
For Remedy, instead of closing thy lids to wait for sleep; lift up thy stiff eyes to him, that giveth his beloved rest; Ps. cxxvii. 2. Whatever be the means, he it is, that holdeth thine eyes waking ; Ps. lxxvii. 4. He, that made thine eyes, keeps off sleep from thy body, for the good of thy soul : let not thine eyes wake, without thy heart. The Spouse of Christ can say, I sleep, but my heart waketh ; Cant. v. 2: how much more should she say, “ Mine eyes wake, and my heart waketh also !" When thou canst not see sleep with thine eyes, labour to see Him, that is invisible: one glimpse of that sight is more worth, than all the sleep that thine eyes can be capable of. Give thyself up into his hands, to be disposed of at his will. What is this sweet acquiescence, but the rest of the soul? which if thou canst find in thyself, thou shalt quietly digest the want of thy bodily sleep.
of thine eyes.
The favour of freedom from pain. Thou wantest sleep :-Take heed thou do not aggravate thine affliction. It is only an evil of loss; no evil of sense: a mere lack of what thou wishest; not a pain of what thou feelest. Alas, how