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which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not
such like, he shall not die for the iniquity of his father,
he shall surely live ?” Having prepared the way for it,
God now meets and refutes their great objection against
his conduct. “ Yet ye say, Why ? doth not the son
in fact bear the iniquity of the father ?
not now visiting the iniquity of our fathers upon us their
children, and actually punishing us for our father's sins,
and not for our own ? This God absolutely denies.
“ When the son hath done that, which is lawful and
right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done
them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it
shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of
the father neither shall the father bear the iniquity of
the son ; the righteousness of the righteous shall be
upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be

God illustrates this truth, by different cases, and declares, that if a righteous man should tu rn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, he should die in his iniquity; or if a wicked man should turn from his wickedness and become righteous, he should live. Still God supposes, that the objectors are not satisfied. “ Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel, Is not my way equal ? Are not your ways unequal ?" After making this appeal to their own consciences, he assures them that he would in time to come, as he had done in time past, reward, or punish them according to their

- Therefore I will judge you, own personal conduct. O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions ; so iniquity shall not bo your ruin.” God here completely refutes the objec

upon him."

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tion, which his people made against the rectitude and consistency of his conduct towards them, by showing that he never had and never would punish parents for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their

parents, as they had supposed and represented. But he does not pretend to say, that he had not visited the iniquity of their fathers upon them, according to the reason he had annexed to his second commandment. For he had actually done it. The long series of their fathers' iniquities was the occasion of his sending them into their long captivity in Babylon. He delayed to punish the nation according to their deserts for a long course of years, until they were ripe for a dreadful national calamity, and then he inflicted that national calamity upon their children, who deserved it for their own sins. The iniquity of their fathers was the occasion, not the cause of their being punished ; just as the sins of those, who killed the prophets, were the occasion, and not the cause of the blood of all the prophets being required of that generation, who crucified the Lord of glory. God having delayed to punish persecutors, it was then time to punish persecutors according to their deserts. When God blesses obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents, he rewards the children for following the good example of their parents; and when he punishes disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient parent, he punishes them for their own sin in following the wicked example of their parents. In the first case, he does not reward parents for their own obedience ; but rewards children for their own obedience ; which is agreeable to the reason annexed to the fifth commandment. “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land, which the

Lord thy God giveth thee.” The reason annexed is, a promise of long life and prosperity. This is exactly similar to the promise annexed to the second commandment—"showing mercy unto thousands that love me, and keep my commandments.” God was under no obligation to make these promises to obedient children; nor to threaten to punish disobedient children in this life. But he had a right to make both the promise and threatening, as a holy and righteous sovereign, to answer wise and important purposes. And he has a right to treat obedient children according to his promise, and disobedient children according to his threatening. This is perfectly agreeable to his justice and goodness, and not in the least inconsistent with the law of nature, or his own written law, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children ; neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.”

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IMPROVEMENT.

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1. Since God has promised to bless the obedient children of obedient parents, and threatened to punish the disobedient children of disobedient parents, we may be assured, that he will faithfully fulfil the promise and the threatening according to their true import and extent.

It appears from scripture and universal observation, that obedient parents sometimes have disobedient, as well as obedient children ; and that disobedient parents sometimes have obedient, as well as disobedient children ; and that neither obedient children are always blėssed, nor disobedient children are always punished. Though Abraham was an obedient parent, and

commanded his children and household to keep the way of the Lord ; yet it is probable that he had disobedient, as well as obedient children. Isaac was an obedient son, but it does not appear that all his other sons were so. David had both obedient and disobedient children, and this was true of other pious kings. And on the other hand, Ahaz was one of the worst of parents, and of Kings ; but yet his son Hezekiah was a most excellent person and prince. Nor does it appear, that the good children of good parents have always been blessed, nor that the bad children of bad parents have always been punished. Now, these things seem to be inconsistent with the promise and threatening in the text. It seems as though God does not fulfil either his promise or his threatening, in respect to obedient and disobedient children. But this, however, must not be admitted. There must be some way to remove the difficulty. And it will immediately vanish if we only consider that both the promise and threatening are general and indefinite. God does not promise any particular parent, that he shall have obedient children; or if his children are obedient, that he will bless each of them in particular ; or if he blesses each of them, that he will bestow the same blessings upon each.--And on the other hand, he does not threaten any particular parent, that he shall have disobedient children; or if he have disobedient children, that he will punish them all; or if he punishes any, that he will punish them all alike. Nor does God specify in his promise and threatening, when he will bless obedient, and punish disobedient children. He has reserved all these par . ticulars in his own power, retaining his right to act as an absolute Sovereign. Both his promise and threat

ening are to be construed and understood, in a general and indefinite sense, like many other general and indefinite promises and threatenings we find in his word.--We read, “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread.” We read “ The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” We read, “The fear of the Lord prolong. eth days : but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” We read, “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth ; much more the wicked and the sinner.” These we know are general and indefinite promises and threatenings, which God acts as a sovereign in fulfilling. He fulfils them at one time, and not at another; and in respect to some persons, and not in respect to others. Just so, the promise and threatening in the text are general and indefinite ; and God acts as a sovereign in fulfilling them. I know some have considered them as particular and definite, and adduced them as proof of the opinion, that if parents are faithful in dedicating and educating their children, they shall certainly be pious. But this appears to be a groundless opinion from universal observation. It is generally true, that pious parents oftener have pious chil. dren, than wicked parents do, and wicked parents more rarely have pious children, than pious parents. But both pious and wicked parents sometimes have wicked children. God has not promised any particular spiritual or temporal blessings to pious parents, or pious children; nor threatened any particular spiritual or temporal evils to wicked parents, or wicked children. We have a right to conclude, that God always fulfils the promise and the threatening in the text, according to their general and indefinite meaning ; and not to conclude, that he fulfils them in any other sense. And

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