« PreviousContinue »
employment suited to their station, like truant schoolboys, they must seek men as idle as themselves for their companions; and, to kill time, must be eager in the pursuit of foolish and puerile amusements; and even be tempted to sink into meanness and the wickedness of a debauched life, merely to free themselves from the lan
guor and misery of sloth. On the contrary, that by culVtivating the love of study and fine writers, by being active
and useful, by improving their advantages of station, they will never feel time a burden on their hands. They will always be doing good, and be honourable in their generation. These instructions, enforced by the example of the very conduct they inculcate, will work as a powerful antidote to the intoxicating pride which wealth and grandeur naturally inspire. Enforced, I say, by the example of the conduct inculcate; for if the
give these instructions violate them, they can have no effect. Children must necessarily believe that their parents judge that to be the way of happiness in which they see them continually walk, because they do it out of choice; and if they did not think it best, why should they choose it? As it would therefore appear cruel in parents to correct or reprove for tempers and practices their children learn from themselves, so it would be absurd to expect that precept or reproof should profit them, when the persons from whom they come, are not themselves acting under their influence.
II. It is the duty of parents to make a provision for their children, sufficient, if they can, to enable them, by honest industry, or some liberal profession, to support themselves, and be useful members of society. For what can be more contrary to the feelings of parental love, than, by idleness or extravagance, to expose their offspring to poverty, or to force them to settle in a station of life much beneath that in which they were born, a cause frequently of much vexation to them, and a bitter disappointment which few are able to bear. But with regard to what may properly be called a provision,-reason, not
fashion,-the word of God, not blind affection,-must determine. When persons who were born to no estate, think it incumbent on them to amass wealth sufficient to raise their children above the need of any employment or profession, scanty must be their charities, and strong their love of money. And so far is opulence from being any real benefit to children, that (a few instances excepted) it proves a corrupter of their hearts, a pander to their lusts ; fixing them in habits of vanity, extravagance, and luxury.
III. But the duty which, above all others, is incumbent on parents, is to provide, as far as lies in them, for the spiritual and everlasting welfare of their offspring. And here let me request the most serious attention of every parent. I am at a loss for words strong enough to describe the importance of this duty. Parents ought to consider themselves as chiefly living for the proper discharge of it, and as in the most solemn manner accountable to God for their conduct herein. Let them attend to the many and strong obligations by which they are bound to the performance of it.
First, This is clearly the command of God: “These words,” saith he, “ which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,” Deut. vi. 6, 7. “He established a testimony in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children : that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments,” Psalm lxxviii. 5—7. The New Testament enforces the same duty, and calls upon fathers to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” Ephes. vi. 4.
Secondly, This command of God is solemnly acknowledged by the covenant into which professing christians enter their children. Almost as soon as they have received them from God, they pledge themselves, in the ordinance of baptism, to educate them in the service, and for the honour of their Maker and Redeemer. And they make choice of some particular friends, who engage, as sponsors, to join in seeing their children properly
instructed. Unless therefore these parents are careful to do for their children what was then promised in their behalf, they turn the solemn religious rite, which claims God our Saviour for its author, into an idle ceremony.
Thirdly, Natural affection should influence christian parents to be solicitous for the salvation of their children. That they know they have immortal souls is taken for granted; therefore if they neglect the cultivation and improvement of them, anxious only to heap up wealth, to provide them with temporal subsistence, this is but a brutish fondness, not a rational, much less a christian kind of love. A rational, a christian affection for chil. dren, must make parents reason thus with themselves about them :
“ These tender plants, sprung from our own bodies, ares endued with an immortal spirit: they possess a capacity of serving, loving, and enjoying the favour of the blessed God for ever. And if they do not serve, love, and enjoy him for ever, their being, instead of a blessing, will prove an insupportable curse. We, their parents, feel such love for them, as impels us to think no pains too great to provide for their present comfort. But what avails it to secure them, were we able, from the evils of transient sickness, pain, and poverty, if woes of endless duration are to be their final portion? What avails the most ardent affection, which reaches only to the mortal part, if all that lieth in our power is not done, that after their passage through the present short-lived scene of things, they may enter into eternity in the favour of God ?”
A small degree of natural affection, where there is any persuasion of the certainty of another world, must excite such reasonings as this in the breasts of parents, and be followed with some correspondent care in the education of their offspring
But those parents, who are in truth what they profess to be, christians, have a clear view by faith of the realities of the invisible world. They feel their unspeakable importance; and such is their love to God, that, were it in their power, there would not remain one rebel upon the face of the earth, one slave to sin. They are grieved to see any perishing, whilst Jesus, mighty to save, and merciful to pardon, stands ready with open arms to receive
all who will come to him for life. With what greater force then must these principles and sentiments work in them toward their own offspring. How solicitous, how active must they be, to secure their spiritual welfare.
Fourthly, The aptitude of children to receive either good or bad impressions, which can scarcely be afterwards effaced, forms another powerful argument for instructing them with the utmost care in the knowledge of God. Should this noble opportunity to season their minds with excellent sentiments, and to furnish them with just notions, be lost, all future methods of instruction or means of grace are likely to be without effect. For children very soon and very justly conclude, that whatever their parents inculcate with seriousness and frequency, must be worthy of their remembrance; and, on the contrary, that the things in which they have never or very seldom been instructed, must be of little or no advantage to their happiness. Hence young people, who have never been taught at home the excellent majesty of the Lord our God ; our absolute dependence upon him, and his unwearied mercy towards us; attend the public worship of his name with most offensive levity and profaneness of carriage. What mere babbling also must their secret prayers be (if they are directed to pray at all) if they have never been instructed in the nature and qualities of sin, never been taught the worth of the soul, or the weakness and depravity of men, on which is founded the necessity of prayer and the aids of grace! What an invincible obstacle, humanly speaking, to the success of the preacher of the Gospel must be found in the hearts of young people, whose natural ignorance, pride, and unbelief, like poisonous plants, have been nourished by their parents' principles, or suffered to strengthen by their criminal neglect. Nay, even the calls of God in the voice of his providence, by the death of relations, by misfortunes, and afflictions in the family, are likely to lose their intended benefit, where no care has been taken to teach children, that these are monitors from God to lead men to consider their ways and repent of their transgressions.
It is true (blessed be the free grace of God, and the power of his spirit) that children who were utterly neglected, and even became depraved through their parents'
neglect, have been and are brought daily to the knowledge of salvation by Christ. Nevertheless, it is certain that the prevalence both of empty formality and open profaneness is in a great measure owing to parents neglecting their duty to their children, and by them it must be answered for. And this suggests another reason,
Fifthly, which should engage parents to care for the salvation of their children; namely that God takes particular notice of their behaviour in this matter. Abraham, the father of the faithful and friend of God, stands greatly distinguished on this very account: “ And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do, seeing
that Abraham shall surely become a great and a mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him.” Other shining excellencies in Abraham might have been mentioned: but the Lord God, you observe, selects and holds forth to our notice, as a peculiar excellency in which he delighted,and names it in conjunction with the inestimable promise of the Saviour,-that Abraham would above all things regard the salvation of his children, and the honour of God in his family.
On the other hand, how awful does the scripture represent the indignation of the Almighty against the negligence of parents with respect to their children's spiritual welfare. Behold he does a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it do tingle. The aged Eli, though piously disposed himself, yet “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not;" –because he mildly admonished, when he should have rebuked with all severity; expressed only his disapprobation of their conduct, when he should have threatened them at their peril to persist; and upon their obstinacy have delivered them up to the punishment of the law: for this neglect he is branded as in some degree an accessary to their inquity; he is charged with “kicking at the sacrifice of God,” and “ honouring his sons above him.” He must hear the doom of his family, that they should be cut off from the altar, and that the iniquity of his house should not be
“ For them that honour me," saith the Lord God,'" I will honour; and they that despise me