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WHAT IT MAY.
First, Begin early and persevere. A twig may be turned with the finger, and be trained in almost any course; but the tree will sooner break than bend. So children, when very young, may be easily trained to habits of obedience ; but, if parental authority be not established then, you afterwards take up the reins in vain. They are “ born in sin,” and it is for you to watch its first risings, to check it in its first appearance. But the generality of parents seem not to be aware that SELF-WILL is the form which sin first assumes, and that this must be subdued, both for the happiness of the parent, and the safety of the child.
You cannot overrate the importance of this : the want of this established and undisputed parental authority would render every other part of a child's training comparatively worthless. It is essential to the parent's comfort and usefulness, to the child's present happiness, and to a reasonable hope of his conversion to God.
Let it never be forgotten, that this is a DIVINE Law; and, therefore, must never be set aside by any supposed advancement in the science of education. It is God's plan; and who shall presume that he has improved it? Great care should be taken not to oppose the child's will unnecessarily; but when the will of the parent has been made known, and is opposed, that opposition must be broken down, cost
Woe to the parent who once yields, and to the selfwilled darling who once prevails. It would be hard to say which is most to be pitied, the parent, on account of his weakness and wickedness, or the child, on account of his folly and danger. Christian parents ! think of Eli, and remember, that parental indulgence, which breaks down parental government, and renders restraint in after life impossible, is not only cruelty to your children, but impiety towards God.
But it is necessary, not only to begin early, but to PERSEVERE. Be not discouraged, if you see not immediately the good effects of your care.
“Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient !" Examine your manner of instruction, your motives, your example; increase your diligence and prayerfulness, and “in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.”
' The seed may lie buried so long that you may think it has perished: but despair not; the tears that are shed over your tomb may quicken it, and your joy before the throne of the Redeemer may be increased by the tidings that your child has become a penitent,-a believer, an heir of glory.
Secondly. Act not only with kindness, but with consistency and firmness.
This is essential to the maintenance of an enlightened and beneficial influence. Here Eli failed, and here the great majority of religious parents fail. They are kind, but not consistent and firm. Sometimes severe, and sometimes lax, governed more by impulse than by principle, they correct their children with undue severity one moment, and fondle them the next. And what is the consequence? The correction is regarded merely as the effect of passion, the authority of the parent is weakened, the child is provoked, or discouraged. He becomes insincere and servile, or sullen and rebellious. Such government as this is as bad, if not worse, than no government. But where the parent calmly and kindly acts on principle, using his authority for the honour of him who intrusted him with it, the children know what to expect; obedience becomes natural and cheerful, and a habit is formed which is productive of a vast amount of happiness, and which prepares them to yield more readily to the claims of God. Neither of these facts have been duly considered by parents; but they are facts, and should be regarded as powerful incentives to the attainment, and exercise, of this influence.
Thirdly. Set before them a good example.
What your children see must not contradict what they hear. A parent should be able to say with the apostle: “That which ye have heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you. But alas! multitudes who are not destitute of religion, do anything but recommend religion in their home circle. Their light is that of the uncertain and bewildering meteor, rather than the clear, steady shining of the sun. Inconsistent professors of religion have done more to mislead, and prejudice, and ruin their children, than all that avowed infidels could have accomplished; and for this reason I had rather place a youth with a professed worldling, than with an inconsistent professor of religion.
If you would lay the foundation for a wise, an efficient family government, there must be a character and a conduct which shall command respect; which shall carry the conscience of the child with you. The felt influence of parental piety should be such as to lead your children to say, as one said of his parents : “Well, if there are only two Christians in the world, my father is one, and my mother is the other.”. Such parents will not have much difficulty in restraining their children.
We might urge parents to perseverance and diligence in the discharge of their solemn obligations, by referring to the beneficial effects which thousands have received from parental instruction and discipline, by showing that it is an evidence of personal piety; that it is the most effectual way to promote religion; that it will be a source of consolation when death separates them from you; but, leaving these suggestions for the Christian parent's contemplation, we shall conclude with a few words to
Young PEOPLE. You may learn from the story of Eli's sons, how displeasing to God is disobedience to parents and early impiety. His command is, “Honour thy father and mother;" and he has annexed to this command a special promise; that those who observe it shall enjoy a peculiar blessing as the result of their obedience. And this voice of God is echoed by an inspired apostle, and re-echoed by the writers of every nation and every age. All men look upon filial
piety with delight and commendation : he who manifests it is universally esteemed and loved, while filial impiety is ever regarded with contempt and abhorrence, or with pity and indignation. I am not about to describe all the methods in which
should honour your parents; but let me remind you, that an ingenuous and affectionate child will honour them, not only by a scrupulous attention to all their injunctions, but by a careful compliance with all their wishes, expressed or unexpressed, and by a ready obedience in their absence, as well as in their presence. Your obligations to obedience are not lessened, because they are not present to enforce their commands; while their absence affords you an opportunity of showing that your obedience is the result of principle ; that it is sincere, hearty, and cheerful. Such obedience as this is pleasing to God, and will honour him who renders it, not less than those to whom it is rendered. Ever let the will of your parents be a sacred law, which you would not, dare not violate, under any circumstances, or
, by any inducements, unless their will is manifestly opposed to the will of God. Be assured that this will be your honour and ultimate happiness, whatever the self-denial it may sometimes require. You will not be respected by others, you will not be able to respect yourself, without filial obedience.
But I would especially address you as the children of those who are in covenant with God. You have been given to him in fancy ; his name is upon you, and you are expected to love him, to serve him, to dwell with him forever. These expectations are grounded upon his revealed intentions, and precious promises, concerning the seed of his people; but it is in your power to disappoint these expectations,--to blast these bright and cherished hopes; and that, not only by open wickedness and daring impiety, but simply by refusing to give yourself to God; by silently renouncing Him, to whom you were early consecrated, as your God and Father, your Saviour and Friend, your Sanctifier and Guide. That act of consecration was deliberate and solemn; if you are determined to revoke it, will you not, at least, do so thoughtfully, deliberately, seriously ? Consider what you do. Endeavour to weigh the consequences of your choice in time, and through eternity, and you will not dare to cast off those cords of love by which God has sought to draw you to himself, and to everlasting happiness. You will say to your pious parent, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
How great the condescension of God in admitting you into his covenant, and promising to you the blessings of his children! He invites you to give your youthful affections to him, offering to become, through Jesus Christ, your God, your Friend, your Father. Let such love engage you to give your hearts to him; to seek his favour; to yield yourselves to him, as your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
The vows of God are upon you; let not those vows be broken. Ye are not your own; forsake not the God of your fathers. You have
been entered in the school of Christ; see to it that ye be not expelled from it; but study his word, obey his precepts, imitate his example. Rely not upon any advantages of birth or education; but, while thankful to your parents and to God for the blessings of an early consecration to him, and for a religious education, show your gratitude by receiving their instructions with attention, and by seeking to grow in knowledge and holiness. Avoid all temptations to evil. Choose for your companions those who fear God, and confirm the parental act of dedication to God, by an early and public avowal of your devotedness to Christ, and let your whole course be such as that “all who see you shall acknowledge you, that you are the seed which the Lord hath blessed."'*
THE DOCTRINES, PRIVILEGES, AND DUTIES OF
BY THE REV. THOMAS HOUSTON, D.D., OF SCOTLAND." The youth of the Church have been introduced to her fellowship by the simple and significant rite of Baptism; and it seems proper to refer to the nature, obligations, and privileges of this ordinance, as, when rightly understood and improved, it is fundamental to future godly practice, and spiritual blessing.
Baptism has been well defined to be “a Sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's.” Appointed by the blessed Redeemer, as a badge of discipleship, and as the introductory ordinance in his Church, it is replete with spiritual meaning-presenting, in an affecting manner, an exhibition of the cardinal doctrines of the glorious Gospel. External symbols, addressed to the different senses, teach more forcibly than words that are merely spoken to the ear. They are the natural way of communicating knowledge, while written language is the artificial ; and by impressive representations, as in a well-executed picture, they exhibit great truths, and important facts, in a manner more striking than could be effected by any description, however lengthened or particular. Divine wisdom is apparent in the two symbolical institutions of the New Testament. They are few in number. The one is the initiatory rite; the other, a standing means of nourishing up saints to the stature of perfection in Christ Jesus. The simplicity of both ordinances, while it gives evidence of their Divine origin, renders them admirably adapted to the capacity of persons of every condition in life, and of every grade of intellect; and we cannot conceive of means that could be devised more suitable for inculcating the most important truths, and of promoting their continuance and diffusion throughout the world.
* Article II is a reprint of a pamphlet published in 1847. † Article III is extracted from Dr. Houston's admirable work on Baptism.
I. DOCTRINES EXHIBITED IN BAPTISM. The existence of Baptism, in different ages, and in all parts of the world, proclaims the Divine authority of the Church's exalted Founder; it displays, at the same time, other vitał doctrines, in the most natural and impressive manner. The grand fundamental article of all revealed religion—the doctrine of the Trinity—is strikingly exhibited, by the application of water to the body, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and so long as the Saviour's parting commission to his Apostles shall be executed, in the case of every person who is baptized, will the Church present a solemn public testimony to the cardinal Scriptural truth-the plurality of Godhead in unity. The great propitiation made for sin by Christ's death, and evidenced by his resurrection, is not obscurely shadowed forth by baptism. On the eve of his crucifixion, He himself spoke of his death in terms that obviously referred to this ordinance: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished !"* The Apostles repeatedly spoke of being." baptized into Christ's death," and of being “buried with Christ in baptism,”† —thus teaching, that the ordinance may be regarded as an exhibition of the all-important fruits of the Saviour's death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.
Not only are the great objects of Christian faith symbolically exhibited in baptism—the principal doctrines of subjective religion are vividly represented and impressively taught in this ordinance. To believers, it presents a lively emblem of the remission of sins and the cleansing of the soul by the blood of Christ, and of its renovation by the Spirit of God. In other words, it shadows forth by the simplest images, fellowship with Christ in his death and resurrection, with all the blessed consequences that result from it here and hereafter. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death, that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” " Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”I These comprehensive declarations evidently imply that, while baptism assumes as fundamental the doctrine of human depravity, and would be destitute of all proper meaning, if this cardinal article were denied-it symbolically and figuratively represents the great doctrines of regeneration; justification through the righteousness of Christ; adoption into God's
* Luke 12:50. † Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2 : 12. * Rom. 4:3, 4; Col. 2 : 12.