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heart to look on a child and reflect, “ Here is an heir of eternal misery : Alas! what am I doing for him ? preparing an estate? Contriving for his present convenience or grandeur ?" Vain, wretched, preposterous care! which, to use a very plain simile, is but like employing yourselves in trimming and adorning its cloaths, while the child itself were fallen into the fire, and would be in danger of being destroyed, if not immediately plucked out. Hasten to do it with an earnestness answerable to the ex. tremity of the case, and so much the rather, as the danger is in part owing to you. I will
not now say, how far your personal mistakes in conduct may have been a snare and a temptation to your children; nor can I pretend to determine it. But I am confident of this, that they have derived from you a corrupt and degenerate na. ture. Through your veins the original infection, which tainted the first authors of our race, has flowed down to them. And is not this an affecting thought ? and ought it not to quicken you to attempt their relief?
Dr. Tillotson sets this in a very moving light : “ *When a man has by treason tainted his blood and forfeited his estate, with what grief and regret does he look on his children, and think of the injury he has done to them by his fault; and how solicitous is he before he die to petition the king for favour to his children! How earnestly does he charge his friends to be careful of them, and kind to them!" We are those traitors. Our children have derived from us a tainted blood, a forfeited inheritance. How tenderly should we pity them! How solicitously should we exert ourselves to prevent their ruin! Mr. Flavel expresses the thought still more pathetically. “ +Should I bring the plague into my family, and live to see all my poor children lie dying by the walls of my house; if I had not the heart of a tyger, such a sight would melt my very soul.”
And surely, I may add, were there a sovereign antidote at hand, perhaps an antidote I had myself used, should I not direct them to it, and urge them to try it, I should be still more savage and criminal. The application is easy : The Lord deeply impress it upon your souls, that your dear children may not die eternally of the malignant plague they have taken from you !
This is one consideration, which should certainly add a great deal of weight to the argument I am now upon. I will conclude the head with the mention of another : I mean the
* Tillotson, vol. I. sermon LIII. page 544. + Flavel's Husb. spir. page 260.
peculiar advantages which you their parents have for addressing yourselves to them. You, who have known them from their infancy, are best acquainted with their temper, and manner of thinking ; you, who are daily with them, may watch their most tender moments, the most favourable opportunities of pleading with them ; your melting affection for them, will suggest the most endearing sentiments and words on such occasions: Their obligations to you, and love for you, will probably dispose them to attend with the greater pleasure to what you may say ; or your authority over them, your power of correction, and a sense of their dependance upon you in life, may prevent much of that opposition and contempt, which from perverse tempers, others might expect; especially if they were supported by your concurrence, in their attempts to instruct and reform your children.
On the whole then, since your obligations and your encouragements to attempt the work are so peculiar, I may reasonably hope you will allow its due weight to this second consideration, that the character and conduct of your children, and consequently your care in their education, is of the highest importance to their present and future happiness, I add, once more: 3. It is of great moment to your own comfort, both in life
Solomon often repeats the substance of that remark; A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is a heaviness to his mother. And the justice of it in both its branches is very apparent. Let me engage you seriously to reflect upon it, as a most awakening inducement, to the discharge of the im. portant duty I am recommending.
you have reason to hope, that your labours are not in vain, but that your children are become truly religious; it must greatly increase your satisfaction in them, that they are dear to you, not only in the bands of the flesh, but in those of the Lord. You will not only be secure of their dutiful and grateful behaviour to you, but you will have the pleasure of seeing them grow up in their different stations, to prospects of usefulness in the church, and in the world. Should providence spare you to the advance of age, they will be a comfort and honour to your declining years. You will, as it were, enjoy a second
youth in their vigour and usefulness; nay, a sense of their piety and goodness will undoubtedly be a reviving cordial to you in your dying moments. A delightful thought will it indeed be! “ I am going to take my leave of the world, and my scene of service is over ; but I leave those behind me, who will appear for God in my stead, and act, perhaps, with greater fidelity and zeal, for the support of religion in a degenerate age. I leave my dear children, destitute indeed of my counsel and help, perhaps in no abundant affluence of worldly enjoyments; but I leave them under the guardian care of my Father, and their Father, of my God and their God. I must soon be separated from them, and the distance between us must soon be as great, as between earth and heaven : But as I leave them under the best guidance in the wildernes, so I have a joyful persuasion they will soon follow me into the celestial Canaan. Yet a little while, and I, and my dear offspring, shall appear together before the throne of God; and I shall stand forth with transport, and say, Behold, here am I, and the children which my God has graciously given me. Then will the blessedness on which I now enter, be multiplied upon me, by the sight of every
child that has a share in it. Now, Lord, sufferest thou thy servant to depart in peace, since thou hast directed, not only mine eyes, but theirs, to thy salvation." But if
you see these dear little ones grow up for the destroyer; if you see those, whose infant days have given you so many tender pleasures, and so many fond hopes, deviating from the paths of duty and happiness, how deeply will it pierce you! You now look upon them with a soft complacency, and say, “ These are they, that shall comfort us under our labours and our sorrows :” But alas! my friends, if this be the case, “ These are they, that will increase your labours ; and aggravate your sorrows; that will hasten upon you the infirmities of age, or crush you the faster under the weight of them, till they have brought down your hoary hairs with anguish to the grave.” Little do they or you think, how much agony and distress you may endure, from what you will see, and what you will fear concerning them. How many slighted admonitions, how many deluded hopes, how many anxious days, how many restless nights, will concur to make the evening of life gloomy! And at length, when God gives you a dismission from a world, which the folly and wickedness of your children bas so long imbittered, how painful will the separation be ; when you have a prospect of seeing them but once more, and that at the tribunal of God, where the best you can expect, in their present circumstances, is to rise up in judgment against them, and to bear an awful testimony, which shall draw down upon them aggravated damnation !
And let me plainly tell you, that if in these last moments, conscience should also accuse you of the neglect of duty, and testify that your own sorrow and your children's ruin, is in part chargeable upon that, it will be a dreadful ingredient in this bitter cup, and may greatly darken, if not entirely suppress those hopes with regard to yourselves, which alone could support you in this mournful scene. I am fully persuaded, that if you knew the weight with which these things will sit upon your mind in the immediate views of the eternal world, you would not suffer every trifling difficulty, or little care, to deter you from the discharge of those duties, which are so necessary to prevent these galling reflections.
To conclude: Let me intreat you seriously to weigh the united force of those arguments, which I have now been urging, to excite your diligence in this momentous care of training up your children in the way in which they should go. Consider how pleasant the attempt is :-Consider how fair a probability there is that it may prosper, as it is in itself a very rational method, as it is a method God has appointed, and a method which he has crowned with singular success :-Consider how important that success is, to the honour of God and the interest of religion, to the temporal and eternal happiness of your children, and finally, to your own comfort both in life and death.
On the whole I well know, and I am persuaded, Sirs, that you yourselves are convinced, that whatsoever can be opposed to such considerations as these, when laid in an impartial balance, it is altogether lighter than vanity. I do therefore seriously appeal to those convictions of your consciences, as in the sight of God: And if, from this time at least, the education of children amongst you be neglected, or regarded only as a light care, God is witness, and you yourselves are witnesses, that it is not for want of being plainly instructed in your duty, or seriously urged to the performance of it.
ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN. .
Advice to Parents.
Prov. xxii. 6.-Train up a Child in the way he should go ; and when he is old
he will not depart from it.
THOSE of you who have made any observations on human life, must certainly know, that if we desire to be agreeable and useful in it, we must regard not only the quality, but the manner of our actions; and that while we are in the pursuit of any important end, we must not only attend to those actions which do immediately refer to it, but must watch over the whole of our conduct ; that we may preserve a consistency in the several parts of it. Otherwise we shall spoil the beauty and acceptance of many an honest, and, perhaps in the main, prudent attempt; or by a train of unthought-of consequences, shall demolish with the one hand, what we are labouring to build up with the other.
This is a remark which we shall have frequent occasion to recollect; and it is of peculiar importance in the business of education. It is therefore necessary, that having before described the way in which children are to be trained up, and urged you to a diligent application to the duty, I now proceed :
Thirdly, to offer some advices for your assistance in this attempt, of leading children into, and conducting them in this way:
These will relate-partly-to the manner in which the attempt is to be made,-and partly to the precautions necessary for rendering it effectual : Which are, as you see, matters of distinct consideration, though comprehended under the general head of directions.
I. As to the manner in which the attempt is to be made.
And here it is evident, it should be done plainly,--seri: ously,-tenderly, and patiently.