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every way unprepared for avoiding them; would go wrong in the very beginning of life, perhaps fatally; at least would hurt, if they did not ruin themselves; and make their return into the right path certainly difficult, and probably late.
But we must consider yet further, that reason, were it improved to the utmost, cannot discover to us all that we are to believe and to do; but a large and most important part of it is to be learnt from the revelation made to us in God's holy word. And this, though perfectly well suited to the purposes for which it was designed, yet being originally delivered at very distant times, to very different sorts of persons, on very different occasions; and the several articles of faith and precepts of conduct, which it prescribes, not being collected and laid down methodically in any one part of it, but dispersed with regular beauty through the whole, as the riches of nature are through the creation; the information of the more knowing must be in many respects needful, to prepare the more ignorant for receiving the benefits, of which they are capable from reading the Scripture. And particularly giving them before-hand a summary and orderly view of the principal points comprehended in it, will qualify them better than any other thing to discern its true meaning, so far as is requisite, in each part.
Therefore, both in what reason of itself dictates, and what God hath added to it, instruction is necessary, especially for beginners. And indeed, as they are never left to find out by their own abilities any other sort of useful knowledge, but always helped, if possible; it would be very strange, if, in the most important kind, the same care at least, were not taken.
But besides enlightening the ignorance of persons, instruction doth equal, if not greater service, by preventing or opposing their prejudices and
partialities. From our tender age we have our wrong inclinations, and are very prone to form wrong notions in support of them; both which we are extremely backward to acknowledge, and very apt to model our religion in such manner as to leave room for our faults. Now, right explanations, clearly delivered, and right admonitions, pressed home, in early days, may preserve persons from thus deceiving themselves, and guard them against future as well as present dangers. Nay, though slighted, and seemingly forgotten for a time, they may still keep secretly such a hold upon the mind, as will, sooner or later, bring those back who would else never have seen, or never have owned, that they had lost their way.
But, a still further advantage of instruction is, that bringing frequently before persons' eyes those truths on which, otherwise, they would seldom reflect, though ever so much convinced of them, it keeps the thoughts of their duty continually at. hand, to resist the temptations by which they are attacked. Thus their lives and their minds are insensibly formed to be such as they ought, and being thus trained up in the way wherein they should go, there is great hope, that they will not. afterwards depart from it. 1
Nor doth reason only, but experience too, show the need of timely instruction in piety and virtue. For, is it not visible, that, principally for want of it, multitudes of unhappy creatures, in all ranks of life, set out from the first in sin, and follow it on as securely, as if it were the only way they had to take; do unspeakable mischief in the world, and utterly undo themselves, body and soul; whilst others, of no better natural disposition, but only better taught, are harmless and useful, esteemed and honoured, go through life with comfort, and
(1) Prov. xxii. 6.
meet death with joyful hope? There are, doubtless, in such numbers, exceptions on both sides; but this is undeniably the ordinary, the probable, the always to be expected course of things. Therefore, seriously consider, will you despise religious knowledge, and be like the former miserable wretches? or, will you embrace it, and be happy, with the latter, here and to eternity?
But, it is not sufficient that you be willing to receive instruction, unless they also, to whom that care belongs, are willing to give it. Now, the care ofg iving it belongs to different persons in different cases. In the case of children, it usually belongs, in a peculiar degree, to their parents, who, having been the means of bringing them into the world, are most strongly bound to endeavour that their being may prove a benefit, not a cause of lamentation to them; and having been endued by heaven with tender affections towards them, will be doubly sinners against them, if they are guilty of that worst of cruelty, not teaching them their duty; without which, also, and it deserves a very serious consideration, they can no more hope for comfort in them here, than for acceptance with God hereafter. And, therefore, both the Old Testament directed the Jews to "teach their children diligently the words which God hath commanded "them;" and the New enjoins Christians to bring up theirs in the nurture and admonition "of the Lord." 3 Sometimes, indeed, want of leisure, sometimes of knowledge and ability, obliges parents to commit part, it may be a considerable one, of the instruction of their children to other persons. But, far from being ever discharged of the whole burden, they must always remember, that unless they assist and enforce what others endeavour, it will seldom produce any valuable effect;
(2) Deut. vi. 6, 7.
Ephes. vi. 4.
and much less, if some of the things, which their children hear them say, and see them do almost every day, are directly contrary to those, which they pretend they would have them believe and learn.
The persons, on whom usually this care is devolved by parents, are masters and mistresses of schools, and afterwards tutors in colleges, who ought never to omit furnishing children, amongst other knowledge, plentifully with that which is the most necessary of all; but constantly to employ the influence which they have on their minds, and the knowledge which they acquire of their tempers, in exciting them to good, and preserving them from evil, as much as they can and parents ought first absolutely to require this of them, and then examine diligently, from time to time, whether it be done. But especially masters and mistresses of charity schools, which are founded purposely to give the children of the poor an early and deep tincture of religion and virtue, should look upon it as by far their principal business to teach them, not merely outward observances and forms of good words, but such an inward sense and love of their duty to God and man, as may secure them, if possible, from that lamentable depravity, into which the lower part of the world is falling; and which it is highly the interest of their superiors, if they would but understand their interest, to restrain and correct.
As the care of children belongs to their parents and teachers, so doth that of servants to the heads of the families, in which they live. And, therefore, it is mentioned in Scripture, by God himself, as a distinguishing part of the character of a good man, "that he will command his household to "keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and "judgment." "4 For, indeed, it is a strong and
(4) Gen. xviii. 19.
requisite proof of reverence to our Maker, as well as of kindness to them, and concern for our own interest, to direct them in the way of their duty, or procure them the direction of good books and good advice; to exhort them to the more private exercises of religion; to contrive leisure for them to attend the appointed solemn ones, which is plainly one part of giving them, as the Apostle requires, what is just and equal; and to see that the leisure allowed them for that purpose, be honestly employed, and not abused.
For, after all, the most valuable instruction for servants, for children, for all persons, is the public one of the Church, which our Saviour himself hath promised to bless with his presence. And, therefore, it is a rule of inexpressible moment: "Ga"ther the people together; men, women, and "children, and the stranger that is within thy gates that they may hear, and that they may "learn, and fear the Lord your God; and observe "to do all the words of his Law: and that their "children, which have not known any thing, may "hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live. 7
Whoever else may fail of doing their duty, we, the Ministers of Christ, must not fail" to be in"stant in season, and out of season; "8 to feed the young with the "sincere milk of the word," and "preach the Gospel to the poor." It is the peculiar glory of Christianity to have extended religious instruction, of which but few partook at all before and scarce any in purity, through all ranks and ages of men, and even women. The first converts to it were immediately formed into regular societies and assemblies; and not only for the joint worship of God, but for the further "edifying of the
(5) Col. iv. 1.
(6) Matt. xviii. 20.
(7) Deut. xxi. 12, 13. (1) Matt. xi. 3.