THE CHILDREN’S PATRIMONY

"Whose son art thou, thou young man?"—Samuel 17:58.

Never was there a more unequal fight than that between David and Goliath. David five feet high; Goliath ten. David a shepherd boy, brought up amid rural scenes; Goliath a warrior by profession. Goliath a mountain of braggadocia; David a marvel of humility. Goliath armed with an iron spear; David armed with a sling with smooth stones from the brook. But you are not to despise these latter weapons. There was a regiment of slingers in the Assyrian army and a regiment of slingers in the Egyptian army, and they made terrible execution, and they could cast a stone with as much precision and force as now can be hurled shot or shell. The Greeks in their army had slingers who would throw leaden plummets inscribed with the irritating words: "Take this!" So it was a mighty weapon David employed in that famous combat.

A Jewish rabbi says that the probability is that Goliath was in such contempt for David, that in a paroxysm of laughter he [199]threw his head back, and his helmet fell off, and David saw the uncovered forehead, and his opportunity had come, and taking his sling and swinging it around his head two or three times, and aiming at that uncovered forehead, he crushed it in like an egg-shell. The battle over,

BEHOLD A TABLEAU:

King Saul sitting, little David standing, his fingers clutched into the hair of decapitated Goliath. As Saul sees David standing there holding in his hand the ghastly, reeking, staring trophy, evidence of the complete victory over God's enemies, the king wonders what parentage was honored by such heroism, and in my text he asks David his pedigree: "Whose son art thou, thou young man?"

The king saw what you and I see, that this question of heredity is a mighty question. The longer I live the more

I BELIEVE IN BLOOD

—good blood, bad blood, proud blood, humble blood, honest blood, thieving blood, heroic blood, cowardly blood. The tendency may skip a generation or two, but it is sure to come out, as in a little child you sometimes see a similarity to a great-grandfather whose picture hangs on the wall. That the physical and mental and moral qualities are [200]inheritable is patent to any one who keeps his eyes open. The similarity is so striking sometimes as to be amusing. Great families, regal or literary, are apt to have the characteristics all down through the generations, and what is more perceptible in such families may be seen on a smaller scale in all families. A thousand years have no power to obliterate the difference.

ROYAL RASCALS.

The large lip of the House of Austria is seen in all the generations, and is called the Hapsburg lip. The House of Stuart always means in all generations cruelty and bigotry and sensuality. Witness Queen of Scotts. Witness Charles I. and Charles II. Witness James I. and James II. and all the other scoundrels of that imperial line.

Scottish blood means persistence, English blood means reverence for the ancient, Welsh blood means religiosity, Danish blood means fondness for the sea, Indian blood means roaming disposition, Celtic blood means fervidity, Roman blood means conquest.

The Jewish facility for accumulation you may trace clear back to Abraham, of whom the Bible says "he was rich in silver and gold and cattle," and to Isaac and Jacob, who had the same

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FAMILY CHARACTERISTICS.

Some families are characterized by longevity, and they have a tenacity of life positively Methuselahish. Others are characterized by Goliathian stature, and you can see it for one generation, two generations, five generations, in all the generations. Vigorous theology runs on in the line of the Alexanders. Tragedy runs on in the family of the Kembles. Literature runs on in the line of the Trollopes. Philanthropy runs on in the line of the Wilberforces. Statesmanship runs on in the line of the Adamses. Henry and Catharine of Navarre religious, all their families religious. The celebrated family of the Casini, all mathematicians. The celebrated family of the Medici—grandfather, son and Catharine—all remarkable for keen intellect. The celebrated family of Gustavus Adolphus, all warriors.

This law of heredity asserts itself without reference to social or political condition, for you sometimes find the ignoble in high place and the honorable in obscure place. A descendant of Edward I. a toll gatherer. A descendant of Edward III. a door-keeper. A descendant of the Duke of Northumberland a trunk-maker. Some of the mightiest families of England are extinct, while some of those most honored in the peerage go [202]back to an ancestry of hard knuckles and rough exterior. This law of heredity entirely independent of social or political condition.

Then you find avarice and jealousy and sensuality and fraud having full swing in some families. The violent temper of Frederick William is the inheritance of Frederick the Great. It is not a theory to be set forth by worldly philosophy only, but by divine authority. Do you not remember how the Bible speaks of "a chosen generation," of "the generation of the righteous," of "the generation of vipers," of an "untoward generation," of "a stubborn generation," of "the iniquity of the past visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation?" So that the text comes to-day with the force of a projectile hurled from mightiest catapult: "Whose son art thou, thou young man?"

"Well," says some one, "that theory discharges me from all responsibility. Born of sanctified parents we are bound to be good and we cannot help ourselves. Born of unrighteous parentage we are bound to be evil and we cannot help ourselves."

TWO INACCURACIES.

As much as if you should say, "The centripetal force in nature has a tendency to bring everything to the centre, and [203]therefore all things come to the centre. The centrifugal force in nature has a tendency to throw out everything to the periphery, and therefore everything will go out to the periphery." You know as well as I know that you can make the centripetal overcome the centrifugal, and you can make the centrifugal overcome the centripetal. As when there is a mighty tide of good in a family that may be overcome by determination to evil, as in the case of Aaron Burr, the libertine, who had for father President Burr, the consecrated; as in the case of Pierrepont Edwards, the scourge of New York society seventy years ago, who had a Christian ancestry; while on the other hand some of the best men and women of this day are those who have come of an ancestry of which it would not be courteous to speak in their presence.

YOUR DUTY.

The practical and useful object of this sermon is to show to you that if you have come of a Christian ancestry, then you are solemnly bound to preserve and develop the glorious inheritance; or if you have come of a depraved ancestry, then it is your duty to brace yourself against the evil tendency by all prayer and Christian determination, and you are to find out what are the family frailties, and in arming the castle put the [204]strongest guard at the weakest gate. With these smooth stones from the brook I hope to strike you, not where David struck Goliath, in the head, but where Nathan struck David, in the heart. "Whose son art thou, thou young man?"

There is something in the periodical holidays to bring up

THE OLD FOLKS.

Sometime in the winter holiday, when we are accustomed to gather our families together, old times have come back again, and our thoughts have been set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne." The old folks were so busy at such times in making us happy, and perhaps on less resource made their sons and daughters happier than you on larger resource are able to make your sons and daughters happy. The snow lay two feet above their graves, but they shook off the white blankets and mingled in the holiday festivities—the same wrinkles, the same stoop of shoulder under the weight of age, the same old style of dress or coat, the same smile, the same tones of voice. I hope you remember them before they went away. If not, I hope there are those who have recited to you what they were, and that there may be in your house some article of dress or furniture with which you associate their memories. I want to arouse the most [205]sacred memories of your heart while I make the impassioned interrogatory in regard to your pedigree: "Whose son art thou, thou young man?"

I. First, I accost all those who are descended of a

CHRISTIAN ANCESTRY.

I do not ask if your parents were perfect. There are no perfect people now, and I do not suppose there were any perfect people then. Perhaps there was sometimes too much blood in their eye when they chastised you. But from what I know of you, you got no more than you deserved, and perhaps a little more chastisement would have been salutary. But you are willing to acknowledge, I think, that they wanted to do right. From what you overheard in conversations, and from what you saw at the family altar and at neighborhood obsequies, you know that they had invited God into their heart and life. There was something that sustained those old people supernaturally. You have no doubt about their destiny. You expect if you ever get to heaven to meet them as certainly as you expect to meet the Lord Jesus Christ.

That early association has been a charm for you. There was a time when you got right up from a house of iniquity and walked out into the fresh air because you [206]thought your mother was looking at you. You have never been very happy in sin because of a sweet old face that would present itself. Tremulous voices from the past accosted you until they were seemingly audible, and you looked around to see who spoke. There was an estate not mentioned in the last will and testament, a vast estate of prayer and holy example and Christian entreaty and glorious memory. The survivors of the family gathered to hear the will read, and this was to be kept, and that was to be sold, and it was share and share alike. But there was

AN UNWRITTEN WILL

that read something like this: "In the name of God, Amen. I, being of sound mind, bequeath to my children all my prayers for their salvation; I bequeath to them all the results of a lifetime's toil; I bequeath to them the Christian religion which has been so much comfort to me, and I hope may be solace for them; I bequeath to them a hope of reunion when the partings of life are over; share and share alike may they have in eternal riches. I bequeath to them the wish that they may avoid my errors and copy anything that may have been worthy. In the name of the God who made me, and the Christ who redeemed me, and the Holy Ghost who [207]sanctifies me, I make this my last will and testament. Witness, all ye hosts of heaven. Witness, time, witness, eternity. Signed, sealed, and delivered in this our dying hour. Father and Mother."

You did not get that will proved at the surrogate's office; but I take it out to-day and I read it to you; I take it out of the alcoves of your heart; I shake the dust off it, I ask you will you accept that inheritance, or will you break the will? O ye of Christian ancestry, you have a responsibility vast beyond all measurement! God will not let you off with just being as good as ordinary people when you had such extraordinary advantage. Ought not a flower planted in a hot-house be more thrifty than a flower planted outside in the storm? Ought not a factory turned by the Housatonic do more work than a factory turned by a thin and shallow mountain stream? Ought not you of great early opportunity be better than those who had a cradle unblessed?

THE CAPITAL ACCOUNT.

A father sets his son up in business. He keeps an account of all the expenditures. So much for store fixtures, so much for rent, so much for this, so much for that, and all the items aggregated, and the father [208]expects the son to give an account. Your heavenly Father charges against you all the advantages of a pious ancestry—so many prayers, so much Christian example, so many kind entreaties—all these gracious influences one tremendous aggregate, and He asks you for an account of it.

Ought not you to be better than those who had no such advantages? Better have been a foundling picked up off the city commons than with such magnificent inheritance of consecration to turn out indifferently.

Ought not you, my brother, to be better, having had Christian nurture, than that man who can truly say this morning: "The first word I remember my father speaking to me was an oath; the first time I remember my father taking hold of me was in wrath; I never saw a Bible till I was ten years of age, and then I was told it was a pack of lies. The first twenty years of my life I was associated with the vicious. I seemed to be walled in by sin and death." Now, my brother, ought you not—I leave it as a matter of fairness with you—ought you not to be far better than those who had no early Christian influence?

Standing as you do between the generation that is past and the generation that is to come, are you going to pass the blessing on, or are you going to have your life the [209]gulf in which that tide of blessing shall drop out of sight forever? You are

THE TRUSTEE OF PIETY

in that ancestral line, and are you going to augment or squander that solemn trust fund? are you going to disinherit your sons and daughters of the heirloom which your parents left you? Ah! that cannot be possible, that cannot be possible that you are going to take such a position as that. You are very careful about the life insurances, and careful about the deeds, and careful about the mortgages, and careful about the title of your property, because when you step off the stage you want your children to get it all. Are you making no provision that they shall get grandfather and grandmother's religion? Oh, what a last will and testament you are making, my brother! "In the name of God, Amen. I, being of sound mind, make this my last will and testament. I bequeath to my children all the money I ever made and all the houses I own; but I disinherit them, I rob them of the ancestral grace and the Christian influence that I inherited. I have squandered that on my own worldliness. Share and share alike must they in the misfortune and the everlasting outrage. Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of God and men and angels and devils and all the [210]generations of earth and heaven and hell, March, 1886."

O ye of highly favored ancestry, wake up this morning to a sense of your opportunity and your responsibility. I think there must be

AN OLD CRADLE,

or a fragment of a cradle somewhere that could tell a story of midnight supplication in your behalf. Where is the old rocking-chair in which you were sung to sleep with the holy nursery rhyme? Where is the old clock that ticked away the moments of that sickness on that awful night when there were but three of you awake—you and God and mother? Is there not an old staff in some closet? is there not an old family Bible on some shelf that seems to address you, saying: "My son, my daughter, how can you reject that God who so kindly dealt with us all our lives and to whom we commended you in our prayers living and dying? By the memory of the old homestead, by the family altar, by our dying pillow, by the graves in which our bodies sleep while our spirits hover, we beg you to turn over a new leaf for the new year." Oh, the power of ancestral piety, well illustrated by a young man of New York who attended a prayer-meeting one night and asked for [211]prayer, and then went home and wrote down these words:

AN ENTRY IN A DIARY.

"Twenty-five years ago to-night my mother went to heaven, my beautiful, blessed mother, and I have been alone, tossed up and down upon the billows of life's tempestuous ocean. Shall I ever go to heaven? She told me I must meet her in heaven. When she took her boy's hand in hers and turned her gentle, loving eyes on me, and gazed earnestly and long into my face, and then lifted them to heaven in that last prayer, she prayed that I might meet her in heaven. I wonder if I ever shall.

"My mother's prayers! Oh, my sweet, blessed mother's prayers! Did ever boy have such a mother as I had? For twenty-five years I have not heard her pray until to-night. I have heard all her prayers over again. They have had, in fact, a terrible resurrection. Oh, how she was wont to pray! She prayed as they prayed to-night, so earnest, so importunate, so believing. Shall I ever be a Christian? She was a Christian. Oh, how bright and pure and happy was her life! She was a cheerful and happy Christian. There is

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"MY MOTHER'S BIBLE.

"I have not opened it for years. Did she believe I could ever neglect her precious Bible? She surely thought I would read it much and often. How often has she read it to me. Blessed mother, did you pray in vain for your boy? It shall not be in vain. Ah! no, no, it shall not be in vain. I will pray for myself. Who has sinned against so much instruction as I have? against so many precious prayers put up to heaven for me by one of the most lovely, tender, pious, confiding, trusting of mothers in her heavenly Father's care and grace? She never doubted. She believed. She always prayed as if she did. My Bible, my mother's Bible and my conscience teach what I am and what I have made myself. Oh, the bitter pangs of an accusing conscience! I need a Saviour mighty to save. I must seek Him. I will. I am on the sea of existence, and I can never get off from it. I am afloat. No anchor, no rudder, no compass, no book of instructions, for I have put them all away from me. Saviour of the perishing, save or I perish."

Do you wonder that the next day he arose in a prayer-meeting and said: "My brethren, I stand before you a monument of God's amazing mercy and goodness, forever blessed be His holy name; all I have and [213]all I am I consecrate to Jesus, my Saviour and my God?" Oh, the power of ancestral prayer. Hear it! Hear it!

II. But I turn for a moment to those who had

EVIL PARENTAGE,

and I want to tell you that the highest thrones in heaven and the mightiest triumphs and the brightest crowns will be for those who had evil parentage, but who by the grace of God conquered. As useful, as splendid a gentleman as I know of to-day had for father a man who died blaspheming God until the neighbors had to put their fingers in their ears to shut out the horror. One of the most consecrated and useful Christian ministers of to-day was born of a drunken horse-jockey. Tide of evil tremendous in some families. It is like Niagara Rapids, and yet men have clung to a rock and been rescued.

There is a family in New York whose wealth has rolled up into many millions that was founded by a man who, after he had vast estate sent back a paper of tacks because they were two cents more than he expected. Grip and grind and gouge in the fourth generation—I suppose it will be grip and grind and gouge in the twentieth generation. The thirst for intoxicants has burned down through the arteries of a [214]hundred and fifty years. Pugnacity or combativeness characterize other families. Sometimes one form of evil, sometimes another form of evil. But

IT MAY BE RESISTED,

it has been resisted. If the family frailty be avarice, cultivate unselfishness and charity, and teach your children never to eat an apple without offering somebody else half of it. Is the family frailty combativeness, keep out of the company of quick-tempered people, and never answer an impertinent question until you have counted a hundred both ways, and after you have written an angry letter keep it a week before you send it, and then burn it up! Is the family frailty timidity and cowardice, cultivate backbone, read the biography of brave men like Joshua or Paul, and see if you cannot get a little iron in your blood. Find out what the family frailty is, and set body, mind and soul in battle array.

CONQUER YOUR WILL.

I think the genealogical table was put in the first chapter of the New Testament, not only to show our Lord's pedigree, but to show that a man may rise up in an ancestral line and beat back successfully all the influences of bad heredity. See in that genealogical table that good King Asa came [215]of vile King Abia. See in that genealogical table that Joseph and Mary and the most illustrious Being that ever touched our world, or ever will touch it, had in their ancestral line scandalous Rehoboam and Tamar and Bathsheba. If this world is ever to be Edenized—and it will be—all the infected families of the earth are to be regenerated, and there will some one arise in each family line and open a new genealogical table. There will be some Joseph in the line to reverse the evil influence of Rehoboam, and there will be some Mary in the line to reverse the evil influence of Bathsheba. Perhaps the star of hope may point down to your manger. Perhaps you are to be the hero or the heroine that is to put down the brakes and stop that long train of genealogical tendencies and switch it off on another track from that on which it has been running for a century. You do that, and I will promise you as fine a palace as the architects of heaven can build, the archway inscribed with the words: "More than conqueror."

ADOPTED CHILDREN.

But whatever your heredity, let me say, you may be sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. Estranged children from the homestead come back through the open gate of adoption. There is royal blood in [216]our veins. There are crowns in our escutcheon. Our Father is King. Our Brother is King. We may be kings and queens unto God forever. Come and sit down on the ivory bench of the palace. Come and wash in the fountains that fall into the basins of crystal and alabaster. Come and look out of the upholstered window upon gardens of azalea and amaranth. Hear the full burst of the orchestra while you banquet with potentates and victors. Oh, when the text sweeps backward, let it not stop at the cradle that rocked your infancy, but at the cradle that rocked the first world, and when the text sweeps forward, let it not stop at your grave, but at the throne on which you may reign forever and ever! "Whose son art thou, thou young man?" Son of God! Heir of mortality! Take your inheritance!