« VorigeDoorgaan »
who are bound perhaps to transmit to some one child a considerable part of their fortune. Such child will seldom submit to enter into a profession, nor would the parent be willing he should. When those persons, by luxury or mismanagement, throw away their large fortunes upon themselves—or enjoy it while they may, as it is termed—they leave the rest of their family of all others the most destitute; for they have brought them up with expectations only to be disappointed; with habits which will teaze and torment them, and with a pride which will starve them.
To sum up the whole; the duty of parents to their children, like every other duty, has its limits. There is such a thing as doing too much, when we are so anxious for our family as to be hardly just, and never generous to the rest of mankind. And there is such a thing as doing too little-when we neglect the opportunities we have, or may have, of providing for our children in such a manner as is reasonable, and, if it be not their own fault, conducting them through an ensnaring and precarious world, with comfort to themselves and usefulness to others.
THE DUTY OF PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR
PROVERBS XXII. 6.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
ONE grand article of a parent's duty to his children is the care of their virtue, and the using of proper expedients and precautions to preserve and inculcate it. This you will say was the business of education, which has been already treated of; but there are certain other precautions and expedients which do not fall under the notice of what is commonly reckoned education, and which therefore we choose to make the subject of a separate exhortation; though to say the truth, it matters little how our duty is arranged or divided, if it be but understood and practised.
Now the first and principal and most direct way of encouraging virtue in our children, is by our own example. The great point in a young person, or indeed in any person, is the being accustomed to look
forward to the consequences of their actions in a future world and this is not to be brought about by any other method than the parents' acting with a view to those consequences themselves. Whatever parents may be in their own conduct, they cannot but wish to have their children virtuous: both because they know that virtue at the setting out has a better chance for thriving in the world than vice (though with all chances it may turn out otherwise), and because, unless a man has deliberately, and from conviction, cast off all expectation of a future state (which is not, I trust and believe, the case with many, if with any), he cannot but desire, if he love his children at all, to have them happy in that state-he cannot but know that to promote and secure that happiness and that interest is, after all, the very best thing which he can do for them. And I will suppose it to be the wish and purpose of every parent. But then how do they go about to accomplish it? They gravely, perhaps, and solemnly give them lessons of virtue and moralitywarn them with much seeming earnestness against idleness, drunkenness, lewdness, dissoluteness, and profligacy; whereas they themselves hang about all day without employ, come home disordered by intemperance, are cried out against in the whole neighbourhood for some profligate connexions, and waste and destroy their substance in riot, dissipation, and high living or they will tell their children, possibly, of the great importance of religion-that every thing
beside is of short duration, and, consequently, small importance, in comparison with this-that death closes all our cares but this-whatever else, therefore, they regard, to take care of this. This is the conversation, perhaps, that they hold with their children, whilst their own conduct all the while has not much of the influence of religion discoverable in it. The offices and ordinances of religion, which are the apparent, and therefore, as examples, the affecting and influencing spirit of it, are put by and neglected, if there be any pretence or cause for neglecting them-not seldom without any pretence or excuse at all.
All that the child sees of the parents is, that they are continually taken up with the pursuit of some pleasure; or that they busy themselves about some worldly advantage, as much as if there were no such things as religion and a future state ever heard of. One hour the parent shall be representing to the child the tremendous authority of God Almightythat the whole world is in his hands-that He is the giver of all good, and has the power to inflict upon us every evil-that He is the author of life and death-that it is He only that can kill the body, and after that can cast into hell-fire-that He is never, therefore, to be named or thought of without awe and veneration. Thus will the parent talk one hour, and the next, perhaps, if a very slight provocation fall in his way, the child shall hear him cursing and swearing, and dealing about the name and
vengeance of God, the terrors of hell and damnation, with as little concern, and upon as frivolous an occasion, as if these things were only tales to frighten fools with, and to be sport to the wise man. Even the understanding of a child is not to be imposed upon by such mockery, or made to believe that a parent can be sincere, or really is in earnest in delivering rules and principles of behaviour, which manifestly possess no sort of influence upon his own-which he forgets or breaks on every occasion that arises; and when the child has once found out this, or suspects it, the discovery has a fatal effect upon the parent's authority in general; for whatever lessons of prudence, or maxims of morality, or admonitions, or exhortations he afterwards gives his child, they will only pass with it for so much form and affectation: whereas, did the parent regularly and constantly act with a view to a future judgement and the laws of religion himself, the child would easily learn to turn its eyes and attention the same way, and with very little talking to; and the custom of considering itself accountable hereafter for what it does here, thus silently and insensibly formed by the parent's example, would have a chance of remaining with it to its life's end. This is the least troublesome, and only true way of inculcating religion into young minds, and does not disgust or frighten them with the suddenness of it.
A second thing, by which much may be done towards the preserving and cultivating of a young