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shall be lightly esteemed," 1 Sam. ii. 30. From both these instances, judge how much it is the duty and interest of parents to be very diligent in training up their children in the knowledge and love of God.
Sixthly, The state of children, exposed to the most alarming dangers, loudly calls upon parents to be solicitous for their salvation. Their case demands compassion, for they are wholly distempered. How much grief, anger, and vexation do you see them feel, even in their very childhood, from their natural stubbornness, passion, envy, pride, and selfishness. And do you not know what these disorders portend? What greater troubles, what severer conflicts, what more frequent vexations await them as their certain portion, unless the strength of these baleful passions is subdued. Are you not conscious what latent seeds of various lusts are to be found in their hearts, which will ripen by time and occasion to a terrible harvest of corruption, unless prevented by you? Can you think of this, and be negligent or dilatory in commending their case to the great physician of souls, and teaching them how much they need and ought to seek for his power to heal them?
Were a parent to leave his child alone in paths beset with beasts of prey, and full of covert precipices, would not his scandalous negligence or wanton barbarity shock every humane heart? But do you act a better part, O parent, if you leave your child to walk through this world, filled with seducing objects, infested with a subtle watchful adversary, and lying in wickedness-to walk through such a world, without the light of faith, the defence of God the influences of his spirit; ignorant of the grounds of justice, truth, sobriety, chastity, and a christian life; by what strength they are to be practised ; why they are so absolutely required; and what the irreparable misery of violating these holy duties ? A young man or woman entering upon the stage of life, ignorant of these things, is like a child deserted by its unnatural parent in the howling wilderness, and is not more likely to escape destruction.
Again, were you content, О parent! to see your child hastening to poverty, to a jail, and an infamous death, and use no methods to reclaim him, what words could
express your guilt? Be not deceived: you are in effect as guilty whilst you are negligent about their spiritual welfare. For go now, and inquire of poor imprisoned debtors, what deprived them of the sweets of liberty, and their family and society of the benefit of their labour; the answer in general from that place of wretchedness would be this : “ Not the cruel rigour of our creditors towards us; not any unavoidable losses in trade, but early vice and headstrong passions, never controlled in our education by religious instructions, never disciplined by the fear of God, brought us to this shameful house of our prison. Our parents were the first, and the most effectual instruments of our ruin. Some of them live to see it; and groan under the conviction of this heart-breaking truth. Amidst all the other instances of their affection, the grand one still was wanting, to give conscience authority, by teaching us the word of God. This would have made us tremble at those sins which have destroyed our possessions, our peace,
and our character.” Consider, 0 ye parents, with yourselves, how such an accusation could be borne by any of you from the mouths of those who were intrusted by God to your care, that you might early instil into their minds the important principles of the christian faith, and guide them into the paths of righteousness.
But should there be any parents so hardened in profaneness, as not to care what may become of their offspring hereafter, provided they escape poverty, and prosper in this world; let them know and hear once more, whether they will attend to the awful truth or no, that there is a day coming, when they will see that their relation to their children was constituted for far higher purposes than to secure them advantages in this world, or to keep them from its misfortunes. Then how insupportable will it be to them to hear their own children calling out for justice on them, imputing their damnation, in a great measure, to their cruelty. They kept the dreadful danger out of sight, they suffered their passions to rule, they joined in extolling pleasure, riches, honour, and power; but never exposed the mischief, infamy, and ruin, inseparable from obstinate disobedience to God. How insufferable the anguish, when children, with bitter imprecations, will rage against their father and mother, and curse the day in which they were born to them,born finally to aggravate their misery, by perishing together with them.
The united force therefore of these various obligations, and these heart-affecting considerations must make all christian parents active and solicitous, above every thing, to do what lies in their power, as instruments, to prepare their offspring to receive the truth of God to the saving of their souls; and to use those methods in which they may expect his grace to work with them, and give them the desired efficacy."
ON THE METHOD OF INSTRUCTING CHILDREN.
The duty of christian parents to instruct their children in the knowledge of God and of Christ has been laid
But as the condition and capacities of men are very different, it is accordingly the duty of some,and what God will undoubtedly require at their hands,to bestow much more pains in this matter, and to use a greater variety of methods with their children, than others.
The poor will discharge their duty to their children by correcting them from their early childhood for lying, for pilfering, even in the smallest degree, for swearing, for quarrelling, and for every mark of a cruel disposition :by frequently declaring to them that it is a good and gracious God who gives their parents strength to provide food for their offspring; that he is their Maker, whose eyes are ever over all; that he will give unto every one according to his doings, when he shall call the whole world before his tribunal; that this glorious God will ever bless, love, and comfort those that fear and love him; but that he will punish with inconceivable pain all wicked and ungodly persons, who do the things and live in the tempers which he hates. The poor who fear God themselves, have it further in
* See Prayer the 11th.
their power to make their children pray morning and evening; to tell them that the Bible is the word of God, which they must believe and love; to carry them to church on the Lord's day, and to keep them from profaning it. And when these things are enforced by a good example, there is little doubt but that their children will be greatly blessed ; and, generally speaking, tread in the steps of their godly and excellent parents. And where so much time must be employed in hard labour, and the understanding can be so little improved, this may justly, I apprehend, be deemed a conscientious discharge of their duty towards their children whilst they are young.
But when years have ripened the minds of their offspring, all that believe in Jesus, however poor, will delight to enlarge their instructions. They will tell them that their own guilty consciences never found peace, till they depended on the atoning blood of Jesus shed on the cross, and pleaded that alone for their pardon before God; that they obtained deliverance from their strongest sins only by praying for the power and in-dwelling presence of God's spirit ; that they have been kept in peace from worldly fears, and from anxiety for a subsistence, by casting all their care upon God reconciled to them in his dear Son.
In the middle ranks of life, where superior education has better qualified parents, and leisure has made them capable of taking more pains with their children, it is certainly their duty to go far beyond the poor in this important matter. They must therefore not only use the same care as the poor in all the things already mentioned, by impressing them with a regard for truth, justice, and mercy, but study also the most probable methods of making divine knowledge pleasant to the souls of their children. A successful method of doing this, I apprehend, will be to watch the opportunities for giving life to religious instruction by an appeal to outward things and particular providences. Now, by a proper attention, this may be done by parents in so great a variety of instances, as to take in all the particular branches of divine knowledge, in which children should be established.
To explain myself at large; the first thing in which all children should be thoroughly instructed, is, that God is
good and gracious, and that the earth is full of his good
To give force to this truth, which you must be often telling to your children, point out to them, in the spring, when the whole country is arrayed in all its beauty, what their eyes attest, the wide-extended bounty of God; tell them, they are his clouds which drop fatness; that it is his sun which imparts its genial warmth to make the ground fruitful; that he causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, and bread to strengthen man's heart, and oil and wine to make him of a cheerful countenance; that could they see the extent of God's bounty, they would see innumerable millions of creatures in heaven above, in earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, sustained by his daily, his incessant communications of good. In autumn, when the fields stand thick with shocks of corn, and the trees bend under their load of fruit; amidst this delightful scene, draw aside the veil of ignorance, and fix their attention upon God, as the invisible yet only cause of all the plenty and beneficence around them.
In winter, you will have frequent opportunities of bringing the elements to bear witness to the glory of their Maker. In this dreary season of the year, when frost has made the earth as iron, and congealed the flowing streams into solid ice, lead your children to observe how passive the whole creation is, in the hand of its eternal Maker. When the cold is so intense as to become in some degree distressing, and its continuance would prove hurtful, then observe to them how instantly he changes the scene; he bloweth with his wind, and the waters flow again. At another time, when the deep snow falls, and covers every object with its Aeeces; teach them how suddenly at his word it totally disappears, having answered the purpose for which it was sent.
Pursuing the same method, when you have told your children of the power of God, and what a dreadful thing it is to have him for their enemy, repeat the instruction just after his thunder has shaken your dwelling, and the arrows of his lightning have glared before their eyes; or just after the tempestuous wind has left in the neighbourhood some traces of its fury. That is the time to assure them that fire and vapour, snow and hail, storm and