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The Necessity of Self-Examination, pt. 9

by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)


Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:23-24, AV). 


(This study is continued from last month’s issue.)


Section 8 (cont.)


Self-examination respecting the families to which we belong.


[2.] I shall apply myself to parents and heads of families. Inquire whether you do not live in some way of sin with respect to your children, or others committed to your care: and particularly inquire,

1. Whether you do not live in sin, by living in the neglect of instructing them. Do you not wholly neglect the duty of instructing your children and servants! Or if you do not wholly neglect it, yet do you not afford them so little instruction, and are you not so unsteady, and do you not take so little pains in it, that you live in a sinful neglect? Do you take pains in any measure proportionate to the importance of the matter? You cannot but own that it is a matter of vast importance, that your children be fitted for death, and saved from hell; and that all possible care be taken that it be done speedily; for you know not how soon your children may die. Are you as careful about the welfare of their souls as you are of their bodies? Do you labour as much that they may have eternal life, as you do to provide estates for them to live on in this world?

Let every parent inquire, whether he do not live in a way of sin in this respect: and let masters inquire, whether they do not live in a way of sin, in neglecting the poor souls of their servants; whether their only care be not to make their servants subservient to their worldly interest, without any concern what becomes of them to all eternity.

2. Do you not live in a sinful neglect of the government of your families? Do you not live in the sin of Eli; who indeed counseled and reproved his children, but did not exercise government over them? He reproved them very solemnly, as 1 Samuel 2:23, 24, 25. But he did not restrain them, by which he greatly provoked God, and brought an everlasting curse upon his house: “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house. When I begin, I will also make an end. I will judge his house for ever; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam. 3:12, AV). If you say you cannot restrain your children, this is no excuse, for it is a sign that you have brought up your children without government, that your children regard not your authority. When parents lose their government over their children, their reproofs and counsel signify but little. How many parents are there who are exceedingly faulty on this account! How few are there who are thorough in maintaining order and government in their families! How is family-government in a great measure vanished! And how many are as likely to bring a curse upon their families, as Eli! This is one principal ground of the corruptions which prevail in the land. This is the foundation of so much debauchery, and of such corrupt practices among young people: family-government is in a great measure extinct. By neglect in this particular, parents bring the guilt of their children’s sins upon their own souls, and the blood of their children will be required at their hands.

Parents sometimes weaken one another’s hands in this work; one parent disapproving what the other doth; one smiling upon a child, while the other frowns, one protecting, while the other corrects. When things in a family are thus, children are like to be undone. Therefore let every one examine whether he do not live in some way of sin with respect to this matter.

[3.] I shall now apply myself to children. Let them examine themselves, whether they do not live in some way of sin towards their parents. Are you not guilty of some undutifulness towards them, in which you allow yourselves? Are you not guilty of despising your parents for infirmities which you see in them? Undutiful children are ready to contemn their parents for their infirmities. Are not you sons of Ham, who saw and made derision of his father’s nakedness, whereby he entailed a curse on himself and his posterity to this day, and not the sons of Shem and Japheth, who covered the nakedness of their father? Are you not guilty of dishonouring and despising your parents for natural infirmities, or those of old age?  “Despise not thy mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Doth not that curse belong to you, in Deuteronomy 27:16: “Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother?” Are you not wont to despise the counsels and reproofs of our parents? When they warn you against any sin, and reprove you for any misconduct, are you not wont to set light by it, and to be impatient under it? Do you honour your parents for it? On the contrary, do you not receive it with resentment proudly rejecting it? Doth it not stir up corruption, and a stubborn and perverse spirit in you, and rather make you to have an ill will to your parents, than to love and honour them? Are you not to be reckoned among the fools mentioned Proverbs 15:5: “A fool despiseth his father’s instruction?” And doth not that curse belong to you,  Proverbs 30:17. “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it?”

Do you not allow a fretful disposition towards your parents, when they cross you in anything? Are you not apt to find fault with your parents, and to be out of temper with them?

Consider, that if you live in such ways as these, you not only live in sin, but in that sin than which there is scarcely any one oftener threatened with a curse in the word of God.