The first way to hell, discovered.
From - The Works of John Flavel Volume 3 - Pneumatologia: A Treatise of the Soul of Man (Continued) Section 4 - Of the Human Soul More Valuable than the Whole World: Its Blessedness when Saved, it’s Irreparable Ruin when lost:
Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall I man give an exchange for his soul?
[This is the first paragraph introducing this section on page 153_ ed]
DIFFICULT duties need to be enforced with powerful arguments. In the 24th verse of this chapter, our Lord presseth upon his disciples the deepest and hardest duties of self-denial, acquaints them upon what terms they must be admitted into his service: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me."
[This is the first of 12 ways to hell and remedies thereof by Mr. Flavel as found on pages 183 through 225 _ ed]
The first way to hell, discovered.
1. And to begin where, indeed, the ruin of very many doth began, it will be found, that ill education is the highway to destruction; Vice need not be planted; if the gardener neglects to dress, sow, and manure his garden, he need not give the weeds a greater advantage; but if he also scatter the seeds of hemlock, docks, and nettles into it, he spoils it, and makes it fit for nothing. Many parents, and those godly too, are guilty of too many neglects, through carelessness, worldly encumbrances, or fond indulgence; and whilst they neglect the season of sowing better seed, the Devil takes hold of it; if they will not improve it, he will: if they teach him not to pray, he will teach them to curse, sware, and lie; if they put not the Bible, or catechism in their hands, he will put obscene ballads into them: and thus, the offspring of many godly parents turn into degenerate plants, and prove a generation that does not know the God of their fathers. Unchaste debauch stage can furnish us with too many said instances here of. Thus, they are spoiled in the bud; simple ignorance in youth, becomes affected and willful ignorance in age; blushing sins in children become impudent in age; and all this for want of a timely, and prudent preventing care. Others there are of the rude and ignorant multitude, who are bred themselves much like the beasts they daily converse withal; and so they are fairly described, Job 30:6, 7. Go into their houses, and you may sooner find in the window, or upon the shelf a pack of cards, than a Bible or catechism; their beds and tables differ little, or not at all, from the stalls and cribs where beasts lie down and feed, in respect of any worship of God among them; or if, for fashion-sake, a few words be huddled over in the evening, when their bodies are tired, the man saith something, he scarce knows what, the wife is a sleep in one corner, the children in another, and the servants in a third. This is the education multitudes of parents give their children all the week, and when the Sabbath comes, the most they learn to know at church, is, where their own seat stands, and that it is necessary to speed with such a neighbor after prayers about such or such a bargain, or business for the next week.
And others there are, who breed their children so profanely, as these do sottishly;[foolishly, as in a stupor] teaching them, by their examples, the newest oaths that were last minted in hell, and revile and scoff all serious godliness, and the sincere professors of it, smiling to here with what an emphasis they can talk in the dialect of devils, and how wittily they can droll upon godly ministers and Christians.
Such families are nurseries for hell; and though God, by an extraordinary hand of providence, now and then snatches the sole by conversion from among them, as a brand out of the fire; yet generally, they die as they live, going "to the generation of their fathers, where they shall never see light," Psalm 49:19. I know education and regeneration are two things; but I also know one is frequently made the instrument of working the other, and that the favor of what first seasons our youth generally abides to old age, Proverbs 22:6. We may observe, all the world over, how tenacious men are of that which is delivered to them by their parents. " what a cut must it be to the heart of that father whose son's life shall tell his conscience what a profane son's lips once told his father to his face! If I have done evil, I have learned to it of you. Had they felt more of your reproof or correction, it might of prevented their destruction. Proverbs 23:14. "Thou shalt beat him with a rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell." That this is a common beaten path to hell, is beyond all question; but how to bar it up, and stop the multitudes that are engaged in it to their own ruin, this is the labour, this is the work. I cannot be large, but I will offer a few weighty considerations.
The first way to hell barred.
1. Let all parents consider, what a fearful thing it is to be the instruments of ruining for ever, those that receive their beings instrumentally from them, and to seek whose good they stand obliged, by all the laws of God and nature.
In vain are all your cares and studies for their bodies, whilst their souls perish for want of knowledge. You rejoiced at their birth, but they will have cause to curse the day they were born of you and say, you were solicitous for their bodies, but careless of their souls; earnest to see them rich, but indifferent whether there were gracious; you neglected to teach them the way of salvation, but the devil did not neglect teach them the way of sin. You will one day wish you had never been parents, when the doleful cries of your damned children shall bring such notes as these in your ears: "0 cursed Father! Oh cruel, merciless mother! Whose examples have drawn me after you, into all this. You had time enough, and motives enough to have warned me of this place and misery whilst my heart was tender, and my affections pliable: Had it not been as easy to have put a Bible as a play-book before me? To have chastised me when I provoked God by sin, as when I provoke you about a trifle? One word spoken in season might have saved my soul; one reproof wisely given and set on by your example, might have preserved me. Had it not been the same pains to have asked me, child, what wilt thou do to be saved? As, what wilt thou do to live in this world? Or, had I but observed any serious religion in you, had I but found or heard my father or mother upon their knees in prayer, it might have awakened me to a consideration of my condition. In my youth I was shame-faced, fearful, credulous, and apt to imitate; had you but had wisdom as other parents have, to have taken hold of any of these handles in time, you had rescued my soul from hell. Nay, so cruel have you been to your own child, that you allowed me no time (if I had had a disposition) for any exercise of religion; yea, you had quenched and stifled the sparks of convictions and better inclinations that sometimes were in my heart. O happy had it been if I had never been born of you, or seen your faces." This must be the result and issue of your negligence, except God, by some other hand (which is no thanks to you) rescue them from their impending ruin.
2. Let all children, whose unhappy lot it is to be born of, and educated by, carnal and irreligious parents, consider, God hath endued them with the reason, and a conscience of their own, to enable them to make a better choice than their parents did, and that there is no taking sanctuary from the wrath of God in their parents examples. We read in 1 Kings 14:13. of a good Abijah, "in whom was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in the House of Jeroboam." Here was a child that would not follow his wicked father to hell, though he had both the authority of the father, and of the king over him. "You must honor your parents, but still you must prefer your God before them." God will never lay it to your account as your sin, but place it to the account of your duty, and comfort, that you refused to follow them in the paths of sin and destruction. No law of God, no tie of nature binds you to obey their commands, or tread in their steps, farther than they command in God's authority and Name, and walk in his ways. Your temptations, indeed, are strong, and disadvantage is great; but the greater will the mercy of your deliverance be: it will be no plea for you, at the judgment seat, to say, Lord my father and mother did so and so, before me, and I thought I might safely follow them; or thus and thus, they commanded me, and I thought I was bound, by thy command, to obey them. Therefore look to your own souls, if they are so desperate as to cast away their own. If some children had not minded their own salvation more than their parents minded it they had never been saved.
3. Let this consideration work upon the hearts, and bowels of all serious Christians, to pity, and help those that are like to perish under this temptation; and if their parents be so ignorant, that they cannot, or so negligent, that they do not instruct and warn their children; you that at anytime have an opportunity to help them, have compassion on them, and do it. It is true, they are none of your children by nature; but would it not be a singular honor, and comfort to you, if God should make them so by grace? Thousands of children (and, it may be some of you) are more indebted to mere strangers, upon this account, then to their nearest relations; you know not how much good an occasional word may do them: all have not the ability to be so publicly useful this way, as a late worthy minister of our own nation hath been, who, in compassion to the dark and barbarous corners in Wales, where ignorance and poverty shut up the way of salvation to them, at a vast expense procured the translation, and printing of the Bible in their own tongue, and freely sent it among them. Oh you that have the bowels of Christians in you, pity, and help them! What is it, for the saving of a precious soul, to drop the serious exhortation, as you have opportunity, and to them, to bestow a Bible, or suitable book upon them? Believe it, these little sums of shillings, and pence, so bestowed will stand for more, in the audit-day, then all the hundreds, and thousands, other ways expended.
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