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Edward Foulke's Exhortation to his Children

My dear children: There has been for a considerable time, something on my mind to say to you by way of advice, before I return to dust, and resign my soul to Him who gave it: though I find some difficulty in delivering my thoughts in writing.

My first admonition to you, is, that you fear the Lord, and depart from evil all the days of your life.

Secondly, as you are brothers and sisters, I beseech you to love one another, and your neighbors too.  If any of your neighbors injure you, in word or deed, bear it with patience and humility.  It is more pleasing in the sight of God and good men, to forgive injuries, than it is to revenge them.  Rather pray for them, than wish them any evil: Lest that text in scripture, which requires an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, come into your minds when you leave this world, and you be found wanting.  For without doubt, he that is thoughtless and negligent all his days about the welfare of his soul, will some day or another, in the midst of his extremity, call on the rocks and mountains to secure him from the vengeance of an offended God.

My dear children, accustom not yourselves to loose, vain talking, which the scriptures declare against.  It was hurtful to me in my youth, and stopped my virtue.  The temptations of this world are very powerful, as Job said by experience.  Be watchful over your evening conversation.  Let pious thoughts possess your souls for the moment before you close your eyes for sleep.  If you do that, you will be more likely to find yourselves in the morning in a meek, humble posture before God, who preserved you from evil.  This will produce peace and calmness of mind, with a blessing in your outward affairs: as we read of Isaac, whose pious meditations in the field, was rewarded with outward and inward blessings.

I desire you not to reject the least appearance of good which may arise in your minds as if it could be obtained at pleasure.  Give speedy obedience unto God who begets this diving emotion in your hearts.  For a man's abode in this world is very doubtful.  It often happens that death comes without warning: yet we must go whether ready or not -- where the tree falls, there it must be.  I knew a man in the land of my nativity, that went to bed with his wife at night and died before morning, unknown to her.  Such things are designed, I believe, as a warning to us, that we may arm ourselves against the terrors of such a day.

And of such as die after that manner, we have little to say, save that they died and were buried; placing the rest amongst the mysteries of the Almighty.  Hence let us take a view of our own weakness, and judge of one another with charity.

I feel sorrow now in my old age, for want of being more careful and circumspect in my youth.  Although I did nothing that brought shame on myself, or grief on my parents; yet there was amongst the loose, inconsistent youth, too many things which they called innocent, without considering they were building on the sand; and I was often drawn into vain mirth with them.  There is a vast difference between the two sentences, delivered to those who built on the rock, and those who built on the sand.  Our Saviour said of the latter, their fall shall be great.

Let me entreat you, my dear children, assume not the appearance of religion, without a real possession of it in your hearts.  Our Saviour compared such as did so, to sepulchres, white without, but within, full of dead men's bones.  Yet I have better hopes of you, though I mention this.

I have known, at times, something pressing me to read good books, or to go aside in private, to pray: which, if I neglected, and took my liberty other ways, then indifference and hardness would prevail, which deprived me of those good inclinations for a considerable time after.  I have also to tell you of my own experience, concerning attending week-day meetings.  Whenever I suffered trifling occasions, or my outward affairs, and business, if not urgent, to interrrupt my going, a cool reflection and serious view, made me look upon it as a loss or injury done to my better part; and generally, the business done that day, did not answer my expectations of it in the morning.

One thing more comes into my mind, by searching myself; which is, that it had been better for me, if I had been more careful, in sitting with my family at meals, with a sober countenance; because children and servants have eyes and observations on those who have the command and government of them.  It has a great influence on the life and manners of youth.

So my dear children, perhaps some of you may get some advantage by this.  If you consider with attention this innocent simplicity of life and manners I have been speaking of, you need not fear but that God will preserve you in safety from the snares of the devil, and the storms of this inconstant world.  By diligence also you shall obtain victory over the deceitfulness of riches.  I fear there are too many of this age, who suffer themselves to be carried away with the torrent of corruption.  And not only such as content themselves, as it were, in the outward porch; but also such as make greater pretences than those: even they who ere looked upon as pillars in the church, have, I fear, turned their backs upon it.  I lay these things close to you, that you may be careful and diligent, whilst you have time left, lest by degrees, indifference creep upon you, under the disguise of an easy mind, and you forget, it is he who holds out to the end shall be saved.

And as for your father and mother, our time is almost come to a period.  We have lived together above fifty years, and now in our old age, the Lord is as good and gracious as ever He was.  He gives us a comfortable living.  Now in the close of our days, we have fresh occasion to acknowledge His benevolence and abounding goodness to us.

Now I think I can with peace of mind conclude, with hopes that your prayers will be for us in the most needful time, especially on a dying pillow, when our time in this world comes to an eternal rest.  I conclude in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "See thee up way marks, make thee high leaps, set thy heart toward the highway, even the way that thou wentest.  Turn again, Oh Virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities."