Taken and adapted from, PARENTS’ GROANS OVER THEIR UNGODLY CHILDREN
Written by, Edward Lawrence, 6 June 1681.
Children! I have not of the things of this world to leave you. I do acknowledge the wisdom of God in not judging me fit to be entrusted with these things; but it is enough for us if we can call God our own, though we cannot call the riches of the world our own. Some of you do with comfort remember how we have often worshiped God together in singing with delight those words, “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked…” (Psalms 37:16-20). I hereby leave you this letter of the counsel and advice of your aged, loving, and faithful father, who sees death looking him and you in the face and beholds the Judge before the door. This will speak to you, when death hath silenced me. It speaks the same things that God, Christ, and your own consciences speak to you; and it speaks to you (as it were) in the hearing of the world.
1 Put a true value on your own beings, for ye cannot love God and Christ, if ye do not love yourselves. Ye are of that kind of creatures who are made much higher than all other visible creatures, and but a little lower than the angels. Ye are capable to know, choose, love, and delight in God; to speak of Him; and to entertain yourselves continually with Him. Ye are of those creatures in whose happiness God glorifies all His perfections.
He made this world for man. He commanded His only-begotten Son to sacrifice Himself for man and sent Him to be born, to live, to die, to rise again, and to intercede in heaven for man. He hath revealed all the truths of the Christian religion for the good of man. Therefore, ye should think it greater madness to sell your precious souls and bodies to the devil and to your lusts, for the short and dirty pleasures of fun, than to sell a purse of gold or a cabinet full of jewels for a bag of chaff or cherry-stones. You should account it below you to give yourselves to any but to God!
2 Know that as your beings are great, so your happiness or misery will be very great. Riches or poverty, sickness or health, this present life or the death that deprives you of it, are things too little to make you blessed or miserable. Rather, all the curses of God or the blessings of the Gospel will be upon you presently! Ye can live neither like men, nor like Christians, until ye know what it is to be saved or damned, and what it is to lose or enjoy God.
3 That ye may escape the wrath and obtain the glory set before you, let it be your chief end and interest to know, honor, and enjoy God. Use the creatures as His witnesses to testify and declare the being and glory of God to you—for God hath not only made and appointed them to fill your hearts with food and gladness, but also that in the use of them ye may feel, find, and fill your souls with God. Especially behold the glory of God as He is presented to you in the glass of the Scriptures, that He may have that name in your hearts, which He hath in His Word. Present Him to your souls as God over all blessed forever (Romans 9:5) that ye may conclude that He, who is so infinitely good as to be His own happiness, is sufficient to make you happy. That this God may be your eternal life and happiness, ye must know and behold His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, behold His glory as the Father of such a Son, and as the Lord of such a servant; for Jesus Christ is the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26). Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3:23), and executes His office of a Mediator in obedience to the will and glory of God the Father. Ye may behold Christ’s glory in God’s calling Him to such a high office, in His accomplishing Him for the execution thereof, in prospering Him, and making Him successful in His whole work, in giving Him such a blessed seed, in making Him victorious over all His enemies, and in rewarding Him for His great service and obedience. So, according to the intent of the Scriptures fore-named, ye must labor to get such a sight of the glory of God shining upon you in the face of Jesus Christ, as will make an impression of His image in your souls.
Therefore, loathe and abhor sin, which is against the glory of God and which is the only evil that can make you lose such a glorious God.
For this reason be convinced of the vanity of this world, which is but a poor thing when the glory of God shines on your souls. For ye will be most blessed in Him when this world shall be dissolved and passed away.
Let this make Jesus Christ glorious and acceptable to you, whose office and work it is to redeem you from all sin and misery, and to make you blessed forever in the likeness and enjoyment of this glorious God.
Let this also cause you to endeavor to fill all persons with the great Name of God and Christ that ye may gain them all the hearts, love, and service ye can. Therefore, in all company, let God and Christ have your good word.
4 Know that to love and delight in God is the best employment for the days of your youth. God is much concerned for young persons. The Proverbs of Solomon are written to give to the young man knowledge and discretion (Proverbs 1:4), and one great use of the word of God is to teach young men to cleanse their way (Psalms 119:9). Young men, maidens, and children are called upon to praise the Name of the Lord (Psalms 148:12-13). We find many mourning with holy Augustine that they loved God so late, but none complaining that they loved Him too soon! As young as you are, in heaven and hell, it is better to be a young child of God than a young child of the devil. Young saints are the glory of God, the fullness and accomplishment of Christ, the joy of angels, the security and support of religion, the crown of their parents, and the blessing of their generation.
5 Fill your time with the fruits of the Spirit. See that your hearts be filled with grace, and then your days will be filled with fruit. Be always receiving Christ and resigning yourselves to Him. Feel your hearts continually laying hold on eternal life, and live as if ye were always running to heaven. Spend every day so that ye may lie down in peace at night that the Lord’s Day may be pleasant, death gainful, and eternity glorious.
6 Improve God’s ordinances of worship… Feel the difference betwixt the Lord’s Day and other days. See that the Word preached be mixed with faith, grafted in your hearts, that it kills your sins and reform your lives. Pray continually, and in that duty, see that ye be with the spirits of children with your Father in heaven. Let all your affairs pass through praying hearts; and reckon all your own that ye sincerely pray for. Sing Psalms as those that make God your song and joy, and as if ye were sensible that ye are in the gates of heaven, ready to enter therein, to join with that world of blessed angels and saints in admiring and praising God. When ye come to the Lord’s Supper, see all that is presented to you, receive all that is offered, and do all that is commanded you.
7 Be faithful in the truth, and then ye need not be afraid of yourselves or of any other. This is your greatest safety. Ye may then feel the ground firm under you, and may say with David, “My foot stands in an even place” (Psalms 26:12). If ye are called to suffer, choose it rather than sin—seeing men cannot kill your souls, let not the fear of them make you destroy them yourselves.
8 Decline evil company. Do not go with them to hell, who will not go with you to heaven. But if ye are called into such company, feel yourselves with God, whilst ye are with them; and carry it as those that are sensible that there is a God in the place. Exercise those graces that are contrary to and do condemn their sins: be humble with the proud, meek with the angry, loving with the malicious, that they may be reproved by your graces and that ye may not be defiled by their sins.
9 Labor to be a blessing to all persons. Let me see that in you, for which they may have cause to love and praise God. Bear all wrongs, but do none. Do what lies in you to make all persons holy and joyful, but make none sinful, angry, or sad. Forgive all, but let none have need to forgive you. Exercise their love, but do not by your sins exercise their patience. Give all [persons] cause to bless God for you, but give not cause any to wish they had never known you.
10 Dread debts. Do not bring yourselves under the bondage of debtors unnecessarily. Look upon it as more just and honorable to beg than to borrow, if ye are not likely to pay—except in that case ye plainly acquaint the lender with your condition that he may know what adventure he makes. When ye are able, pay seasonably, fully, and thankfully: I would have none to lend to any children of mine without first advising with me, except they be in a hopeful way of trade. My advice to such of you is, that you be afraid of being too much trusted; for it is often seen that they who go to the length of their credit are injurious to others and prove bankrupts themselves.
11 Abhor lying. This is a sin that is an abomination to the Lord, Whom ye should always please. It is contrary to the Divine Nature, which is in everyone that is born of God (Ephesians 4:24). It is an abuse of your tongues, which should be your glory. For the use of your tongues is to express your minds, but in a lie your minds and thoughts do contradict your words. It is a wrong to others whom ye would have believe you, when ye do not believe yourselves; it makes you unfit for humane society, for who will converse with those whom they cannot believe? Ye hereby rot your names, for a liar is one of the worst characters of the devil of hell. Ye destroy your bodies and souls forever, for all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
12 Do not dare to steal. Take nothing from any person, but what ye can say ye received from the hand of God, can praise Him for it, and can comfortably beg His blessing upon it. Kill those lusts that ye would feed with the fruit of other men’s labors. Consider that when ye are tempted to this sin of theft, ye are tempted to bring a curse on your estates and persons, to thrust a dagger into your father’s heart, and to hasten yourselves to an untimely and shameful death and a tormenting eternity.
13 Deride and jeer no persons. Let your jests be harmless, and make not yourselves the fools of your company; but while ye are cheerful as men and women, lose not the favor of Christians.
14 Haunt not taverns or alehouses, etc. Go not into such places, but when God calls you. Stay no longer than He will stay with you. And do nothing there, but what ye shall have cause to bless God for when ye come away.
15 Be thankful to them who have showed mercy and kindness to me and you. Pray for them; inquire how it is with their posterity; and as ye are capable, do them good. Remember, “Thy own friend, and thy father’s friend forsake not” (Proverbs 27:10).
16 Forgive all that have done me wrong, and pray to God not to visit it on them or their posterity. Ye know I have had hard measure from some, and I know that I have stood before God to speak good for them and to turn away His wrath from them.
17 As for you that are or may be hereafter set up for yourselves in a way of trade, my counsel to you is this: See that your soul is upright with God, that ye may have a Scripture-right to the promises of the life that now is, and of that which is to come, which is to be preferred before the best estate in the world. Pray to God for His blessing. See every customer as sent from Him; and love them as yourselves. Let all that deal with you have cause to say that they deal with the members of Jesus Christ.
18 For you that are or may be apprentices, my counsel and command to you is this: Let those Scriptures dwell in your hearts that teach you your duty and encourage you therein (as Ephesians 6:5-8, Col. 3:22-25, Titus 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:18-21). Commit them to memory and bless God that He condescends to be a teacher of servants. Be content with your present condition, which may be the easiest time of your whole age. Be not apt to find fault, for that will make you uneasy to yourselves and to the family. Let all your words, looks, and actions be such as do witness that ye do in your hearts honor your masters and mistresses, and Christ in them. Bear correction patiently, though ye be wronged—the sufferings of Christ are set before you as your pattern herein. Pray daily for your masters and their families, for ye ought to improve all your interest in God for their good. Pray to God to fit you for your calling, that He who teaches the husbandman to plow and sow may teach you herein (Isaiah 28:26).
To conclude, love one another according to all the obligations that are upon you, but never put it in the power of anyone to undo the other. Kill all desires after the honors, riches, or pleasures of the world. Remember I have told you that as love fulfills all the Law of God, so lust fulfills the law of the devil. I will say no more. Choose Him for your Father that cannot die. And as Mr. Bolton said to his children, so say I to you, “Do not dare to meet me at the Day of Judgment in an unregenerate state!”