THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIST.
From Generation to Generation.
'My righteousness shall be for ever, and My salvation from generation to generation.'—Isa. li. 8.
HEN" we speak of a generation in the his
t T tory of man, we think of the shortness of human life and the continual change among men. 'One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.' What a contrast between man and the heavens above, or the mountains around him,—always the same. What a contrast, still more, between man, whose life is but a span, and the unchangeable, the everlasting God.
We shall find in God's Word that it loves not so much to contrast as to link together these opposites; it lifts man out of the transitoriness of life, to find his refuge in the unchangeableness of God. 'As for man, his days are as grass; but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children.' 'O God, take me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are throughout all generations. The earth and the heavens shall perish, but Thou shalt endure. Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before Thee.' Death may separate one generation from another God's mercy connects them, passing on from one to another; His righteousness, which is everlasting, reveals itself as salvation from generation to generation. At every point where God meets and acts with man, there are two sides to be regarded—the Divine and the human. So it is here too, in the transmission of God's salvation from generation to generation. God's faithfulness inspires that of man, and therefore demands and rewards it. In some passages it might almost appear as if everything depended upon man and his keeping the covenant; and so it does indeed. But not as if this keeping of the covenant were to be his work, by which he secures the blessing. No, but it is in the mercy and truth of God, as these are known and trusted, that human faithfulness has its strength and security. To know God's purpose, to believe God's promise, to adore God's unchanging faithfulness, communicates to the soul the very spirit of that faithfulness, and N
binds us firmly to Him, so that He who is all in all can work out His purpose in us.
Let us first look at the Divine side of this" salvation from generation to generation. In Isaiah, from whom we have these words, the truth is expressed with great frequency and distinctness: 'As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, from henceforth and for ever' (Isa. lix. 21). This speaks of New Testament times. When God made His covenant with David, He anticipated generations in which there would be disobedience, and therefore punishment (2 Sam. ii. 14; Ps. lxxxix. 30-33). But here the promise of the Spirit and the Word in the mouth of God's Anointed One and His people is not to pass from the mouth of the seed's seed. And blessed be God! there are families in which for generations, and even for centuries, the Word and the Spirit have not departed from the mouth of the seed's seed. Let us only open the heart to take in the promise, and to let it grow within us.1
Then we have that other beautiful promise: '/ will direct their work in truth, and / will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their 1 See Note.
seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed' (Isa. lxi. 9). Or, as it is otherwise expressed (Isa. lxv. 23), 'They are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.' The covenant with Abraham and David was also an everlasting covenant, but its fulfilment was reached over the heads of generations that proved faithless. But here, in the power of the promised Spirit, believing parents may claim and expect, from child to child, to see the blessing of the Lord. This is to be the fruit of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; the promise, 'Thou, and thy son, and thy son's son,' is to have its literal fulfilment. And this not only for our comfort and joy, and the blessing on our children, but that God may be known and glorified. 1 Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles.' To be God's witnesses on earth, if need be, among the Gentiles to the end of the earth: it is for this that the Word and the Spirit are not to depart from the mouth of our seed from henceforth and for evermore.
Let us look now from the human side at the fulfilment of this promise: 'My salvation from generation to generation.' Most strikingly God's purpose is set forth in the words of Psalm lxxviii. (4-7): 'We will not hide from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and the wonderful works He hath done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.' And then we read (Ps. cxlv. 4), 'One generation shall praise Thy works to another;' the triumphant joy of that psalm of praise being the spirit in which the parents tell their child of God's glory and goodness. Here we have the human side. Parents who know God show His praise, and His strength, and His wonderful works to their children. Parental instruction is in the ministry of the Spirit, not less but more than in the old covenant, a testifying for God in the spirit of praise, telling what He has done to us, His strength and His wonderful works. And so the children are taught not to forget the works of God, but to set their hope on Him and keep His commandments, to trust and to obey Him. And so His righteousness, which is from everlasting to everlasting, becomes salvation from generation to generation,
Parents! it is God's will that His salvation should be from generation to generation in your family too; that your children should hear from you, and pass on to their children, the praise of the Lord. Oh, let us seek to enter into God's plans, and with our whole heart labour earnestly to secure the blessing and to please our Father! We know what is needed—nothing but wholehearted devotion to God. But nothing less will do. God's salvation must not be a secondary thing, something to be enjoyed along with the world. It must be the first thing. We must set our whole heart upon it, even as God does. It must be the one thing we live for, to glorify this God; it is such a life, proving to the children what the joy of God's salvation is, a blessedness and a delight, that will influence them to come with us, that we may do them good. It is this whole-hearted devotion that will give strength to our faith and confidence to our hope. Under its inspiration our prayers will be persevering and believing. It will impart to our instruction the joyful tone of assurance, and make our whole life the model for our children. It is one generation living for God that will secure the next for Him; I may ask and expect that my whole-hearted consecration to God will, in His infinite mercy, be blessed to guide them; His salvation is from generation to generation.
Gracious and most blessed Father! I bow before Thee once again with the prayer, to open my eyes and my heart, that I may fully apprehend Thy holy purpose with an earthly parentage, to transmit through it Thy blessing. O my God! let Thy word,' my salvation from generation to generation,' so fill my heart that my calling and duty, with Thy promise and purpose, may be equally clear to me, and the salvation of my children be as sure as my own.
And grant, Lord! that in Thy light I may realize and manifest fully what salvation is— salvation from sin and its power unto the holiness and the service of God. Let it be in me a salvation that fills the heart with gladness, and the lips with praise, and the whole life with purity and love. Let the salvation in which I walk, and in which I train the children, indeed be, not what man calls so, but the salvation of God.
O my God! I do beseech Thee, give me grace that this be the one heirloom of their parents my children cherish, the one thing transmitted in our home from child to child, the salvation, the love, the joy, the service of God. Yes, Lord! Thou art the Eternal and Unchanging One; let it be from generation to generation. Amen.
In the life of Fidelia Fiske, the devoted Persian missionary, we have an instance of the covenant blessing descending not only through generations, but through centuries. We read in her Memoir:1—
'In the year 1637, when the effort seemed hopeless to establish in England "a practical world based on belief in God," two brothers, William and the Rev. John Fiske, emigrated from the county of Suffolk to America, settling first in Salem, Massachusetts, and subsequently in the adjoining town of Wenham. According to the' testimony of Cotton Mather, who places the name of John Fiske in his list of reverend, learned, and holy divines, by whose evangelical ministry the churches of New England have been illuminated, they were children " of pious and worthy parents, yea, of grandparents, and great-grandparents, eminent for zeal in the true religion."
'Let this last sentence be noticed. These two young Englishmen were the children of ancestors "eminent for zeal in the true religion;" we shall thus be able to arrive at one of the most encouracrincr and remarkable instances of the blesshi" of the Lord in the seed "of the godly." It may be presumed that these great-grandparents of Suffolk lived a hundred years before these two brothers sailed for America,
'Let parents observe, and let the fidelity of God
1 Fidelia Fiske, the Record of a Consecrated Life. Morgan & Scott.
to His promise be adored—for more than three hundred and thirty years the line of the holy seed has been preserved.
'From William Fiske, a man of great intelligence and Christian integrity, descended a second William, who inherited largely his father's abilities and virtues, was deacon of the Church, and, like his father, held various offices of public trust and honour, representing his town for six years in the General Court.
'Ebenezer Fiske, son of William, jun., was born in 1679, resided at Wenham, was deacon of the Church, and died at the age of 92. The son of Ebenezer was born in 1786, and removed to Shelburne. He was a man of inflexible religious principles, and exerted great influence on the growing community. His wife was a woman of energy and eminent piety, and would frequently set apart whole days to pray that her children might be a goodly seed, even to the latest generation. In 1857 three hundred of the descendants of this praying mother were members of Christian churches!
'Ebenezer Fiske was the child of these Shelburne settlers. He was a man of noble form, benignant face, saintly character, and lived to the patriarchal age of 92. His son Paifus was a devout and exemplary Christian, sound in doctrine, firm in principle, and of a meek and benevolent spirit. His wife, the mother of the subject of this Memoir, was a woman of great activity and equability, a native of Taunton, Massachusetts.
'What a blessed testimony is this to the faithfulness of God to His people through more than ten generations! How impossible for any human mind to estimate the chain of sanctifying influence, which must have extended more and more as time rolled on! Ye praying fathers and mothers, let this remarkable genealogy confirm your faith in the promise of God. The emotions of the sainted head of such a house, as he beholds his descendants through successive generations coming into heaven, and the numerous converts they have won from Satan and from eternal death, can scarcely be conceived, much less described.'