Page images
PDF
EPUB

spiritually as you can: there you may keep up as holy converse and communion, and as strict a discipline as you please : there you may celebrate the praises of your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and observe the Lord's day in as exact and spiritual a manner as you are able : you may there provoke one another to love and to good works, and rebuke every sin, and mind each other to prepare for death, and live together as passengers to eternal life. Thus holy families may keep up religion, and keep up the life and comfort of believers, and supply the want of public preaching, in those countries where persecutors prohibit and restrain it, or where unable or unfaithful pastors do neglect it.

Motive viii. ' The duties of your families are such as you may perform with greatest peace, and least exception or opposition from others.' When you go further, and would be instructing others, they will think you go beyond your call, and many will be suspicious that you take too much upon you; and if you do but gently admonish a rout of such as the Sodomites, perhaps they will say, “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge.” But your own house is your castle; your family is your charge; you may teach them as oft and as diligently as you will. If the ungodly rabble scorn you for it, yet no sober person will condemn you, nor trouble you for it (if you teach them no evil). All men must confess that nature and Scripture oblige you to it as your unquestionable work. And therefore you may do it (among sober people) with approbation and quietness.

Motive ix. Well-governed families are honourable and exemplary unto others. Even the worldly and ungodly use to bear a' certain reverence to them; for holiness and order have some witness that commendeth them, in the consciences of many that never practised them. A worldly, ungodly, disordered family, is a den of snakes, a place of hissing, railing, folly and confusion : it is like a wilderness. overgrown with briars and weeds; but a holy family is a garden of God: it is beautified with his graces, and ordered by his government, and fruitful by the showers of his heavenly blessing. And as the very sluggard, that will not be at the cost and pains to make a garden of his thorny wilderness, may yet confess that a garden is more beautiful, and fruit

ful, and delightful, and if wishing would do it, his wilderness should be such; even so the ungodly, that will not be at the cost and pains to order their souls and families in holiness, may yet see a beauty in those that are so ordered, and wish for the happiness of such, if they could have it without the labour and cost of self-denial. And, no doubt, the beauty of such holy and well-governed families hath convinced many, and drawn them to a great approbation of religion, and occasioned them at last to imitate them.

Motive x. 'Lastly, consider, ' That holy, well-governed families are blessed with the special presence and favour of God.' They are his churches where he is worshipped; his houses where he dwelleth : he is engaged both by love and promise to bless, protect, and prosper them. It is safe to sail in that ship which is bound for heaven, and where Christ is the pilot. But when you reject his government, you refuse his company, and contemn his favour, and forfeit his blessing, by despising his presence, his interest, and his commands.

So that it is an evident truth, that most of the mischiefs that now infest or seize upon mankind throughout the earth, consist in, or are caused by the disorders and ill-governedness of families. These are the schools and shops of satan, from whence proceed the beastly ignorance, lust and sensuality, the devilish pride, malignity, and cruelty against the holy ways of God, which have so unmanned the progeny of Adam. These are the nests in which the serpent doth hatch the eggs of covetousness, envy, strife, revenge, of tyranny, disobedience, wars and bloodshed, and all the leprosy of sin that hath so odiously contaminated human nature, and all the miseries by which they make the world calamitous. Do you wonder that there can be

persons

and nations so blind and barbarous as we read of the Turks, Tartarians, Indians, and most of the inhabitants of the earth? A wicked education is the cause of all, which finding nature depraved, doth sublimate and increase the venom which should by education have been cured ; and from the wickedness of families doth national wickedness arise. Do you wonder that so much ignorance, and voluntary deceit, and obstinacy in errors, contrary to all men's common senses, can be found among professed Christians, as great and small, high and

low through all the Papal kingdom do discover ? Though the pride, and covetousness, and wickedness of a worldly, carnal clergy, is a very great cause, yet the sinful negligence of parents and masters in their families is as great, if not much greater than that. Do you wonder that even in the reformed churches, there can be so many unreformed sinners, of beastly lives, that hate the serious practice of the religion which themselves profess? It is ill education in ungodly families that is the cause of all this. Otherefore how great and necessary a work is it, to cast salt into these corrupted fountains! Cleanse and cure these vitiated families, and you may cure almost all the calamities of the earth. To tell what the emperors and princes of the earth might do, if they were wise and good, to the remedy of this common misery, is the idle talk of those negligent persons, who condemn themselves in condemning others. Even those rulers and princes that are the pillars and patrons of heathenism, Mahometanism, Popery, and ungodliness in the world, did themselves receive that venom from their parents, in their birth and education, which inclineth them to all this mischief. Family reformation is the easiest and the most likely way to a common reformation : at least to send many souls to heaven, and train up multitudes for God, if it reach not to national reformation.

CHAPTER VI.

More special Motives for a Holy and Careful Education of

Children.

Because the chief part of family care and government consisteth in the right education of children, I shall adjoin here some more special Motives to quicken considerate parents to this duty : and though most that I have to say for it be already said in my “ Saints' Rest,” Part iii. Chap. 14. Sect. 11. &c., and therefore shall be here omitted, yet something shall be inserted, lest the want here should appear too great.

Motive 1. Consider how deeply nature itself doth engage you to the greatest care and diligence for the holy education of your children. They are, as it were, parts of

if

yourselves, and those that nature teacheth you to love and provide for, and take most care for, next yourselves : and will you

be regardless of their chief concernments ? and neglective of their souls? Will you no other

Will you no other way shew your love to your children, than every beast or bird will to their young, to cherish them till they can go abroad and shift for themselves, for corporal sustenance? It is not dogs or beasts that you bring into the world, but children that have immortal souls; and therefore it is a care and education suitable to their natures which you owe them: even such as conduceth most effectually to the happiness of their souls. Nature teacheth them some natural things without you, as it doth the bird to fly; but it hath committed it to your trust and care to teach them the greatest and most necessary things : if you should think that you have nothing to do but to feed them, and leave all the rest to nature, then they would not learn to speak : and if nature itself would condemn

you, you teach them not to speak, it will much more condemn you,

if
you

teach them not to understand both what they ought to speak and do. They have an everlasting inheritance of happiness to attain: and it is that which you must bring them up for. They have an endless misery to escape: and it is that which you must diligently teach them. If you teach them not to escape the flames of hell, what thanks do they owe you for teaching them to speak and go? If you teach them not the way to heaven and how they may make sure of their salvation, what thanks do they owe you for teaching them how to get their livings a little while in a miserable world? If you teach them not to know God, and how to serve him, and be saved, you teach them nothing, or worse than nothing. It is in your hands to do them the greatest kindness or cruelty in all the world : help them to know God and to be saved, and you do more for them than if you helped them to be lords or princes : if you neglect their souls, and breed them in ignorance, worldliness, ungodliness and sin, you betray them to the devil, the enemy of souls ; even as truly as if you sold them to him; you sell them to be slaves to satan; you betray them to him that will deceive them and abuse them in this life, and torment them in the next. If you saw but a burning furnace, much more the flames of hell, would you not think that man or

woman more fit to be called a devil than a parent, that could find in their hearts to cast their child into it, or to put him into the hands of one that would do it? What monsters then of inhumanity are you, that read in Scripture which is the way to hell, and who they be that God will deliver up to satan, to be tormented by him; and yet will bring up your children in that very way, and will not take pains to save them from it? What a stir do you make to provide them food and raiment, and a competent maintenance in the world when you are dead! And how little pains take you to prepare their souls for the heavenly inheritance! If you seriously believe that there are such joys or torments for your children (and yourselves) as soon as death removeth you hence, is it possible that you should take this for the least of their concernments, and make it the least and last of

your cares, to assure them of an endless happiness? If you love them, shew it in those things on which their everlasting welfare doth depend. Do not say you love them, and yet lead them unto hell. If you love them not, yet be not so unmerciful to them as to damn them: it is not your saying, 'God forbid,' and we hope better, that will make it better, or be any excuse to you. What to damn them, if you studied to do it as maliciously as the devil himself? You cannot possibly do more, than to bring them up in ignorance, carelessness, worldliness, sensuality and ungodliness. The devil can do nothing else to damn either them or you, but by tempting to sin, and drawing you from godliness. There is no other way to hell. No man is damned for any thing but this. And yet will you bring them up in such a life, and say, 'God forbid, we do not desire to damn them? But it is no wonder; when you do by your children but as you do by yourselves; who can look that a man should be reasonable for his child, that is so unreasonable for himself? Or that those parents should have any mercy on their children's souls, that have no mercy on their own? You desire not to damn yourselves, but yet you do it, if you live ungodly lives : and so you will do by your children if you train them up in ignorance of God, and in the service of the flesh and world. You do like one that should set fire on his house, and say, 'God forbid, I intend not to burn it:' or like one that casteth his child into the sea, and saith, he in

can you

do more

« PreviousContinue »