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celled or lessened by our having lived one and twenty years. I never understood it so, in my own case. When I had lived upwards of thirty years, I looked upon myself to stand just in the same relation to my father as I did when I was ten years old. And when I was between forty and fifty, I judged myself full as much obliged to obey my mother in every thing lawful, as I did when I was in my leadingstrings.
5. But what is implied in, " Children, obey your parents in all things?" Certainly the first point of obedience is to do nothing which your father or mother forbids, whether it be great or small. Nothing is more plain, than that the prohibition of a parent binds every conscientious child: that is, except the thing prohibited is clearly enjoined of GoD. Nor indeed is this all: the matter may be carried a little farther still. A tender parent may totally disapprove what he does not care flatly to forbid. What is the duty of a child in this case? How far is that disapprobation to be regarded? Whether it would be equivalent to a prohibition or not, a person who would have a conscience void of offence, should, undoubtedly, keep on the safe side, and avoid what may perhaps be evil. It is surely the more excellent way, to do nothing which you know your parents disapprove. To act otherwise seems to imply a degree of disobedience, which one of a tender conscience would wish to avoid.
6. The second thing implied in this direction is, Do every thing which your father or mother bids, be it great or small, provided it be not contrary to any command of God. Herein God has given a power to parents, which even sovereign princes have not. The King of England, for instance, is a sovereign Prince: yet he has not power to bid me do the least thing, unless the law of the land requires me so to do; for he has no power but to execute the law. The will of the King is no law to the subject. But the will of the parent is a law to the child; who is bound in conscience to submit thereto, unless it be contrary to the law of God.
7. It is with admirable wisdom, that the Father of spirits has given this direction, that as the strength of the parents supplies the want of strength, and the understanding of their parents the want of understanding in their children, till they have strength and understanding of their own, so the will of the parents may guide that of their children, till they have wisdom and experience to guide themselves. This, therefore, is the very first thing which children have to learn. That they are to obey their parents, to submit to their will in all things and this they may be inured to, long before they understand the reason of it. And, indeed, long before they are capable of understanding any of the principles of religion. Accordingly, St. Paul directs all parents to bring up their children in the discipline and doctrine of the Lord. For their will may be broken by proper discipline, even in their early infancy; whereas it must be a considerable time after, before they are capable of instruction. This, therefore, is the first point of all; bow down their wills from the very firs
dawn of reason and by habituating them to your will, prepare them for submitting to the will of their Father which is in heaven.
8. But how few children do we find, even of six or eight years old, that understand any thing of this! Indeed, how should they understand it, seeing they have none to teach them? Are not their parents, father as well as mother, full as ignorant of the matter as themselves? Whom do you find, even among religious people, that have the least conception of it? Have you not seen the proof of it with your own eyes? Have you not been present, when a father or mother has said, "My child, do so or so?" The child, without any ceremony, answered peremptorily, "I won't." And the parent quietly passes it by, without any further notice. And does he or she Hot see, that by this cruel indulgence, they are training up their child by flat rebellion against their parents, to rebellion against God? Consequently they are training him up for the everlasting fire, prepared far the Devil and his angels! Did they duly consider this, they would neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, till they had taught him a better lesson, and made him thoroughly afraid of ever giving that diabolical answer again.
9. Let me reason this case a little farther with you parents that fear God. If you do fear God, how dare you suffer a child above a year old to say, I will do, what you forbid; or I won't do, what you bid, and to go unpunished? Why do not you stop him at once, that he may never dare to say so again? Have you no bowels, no compassion for your child? No regard for his salvation or destruction? Would you suffer him to curse or swear in your presence, and take no notice of it? Why, disobedience is as certain a way to damnation as cursing and swearing. Stop him, stop him at first, in the name of God. Do not spare the rod, and spoil the child. If you have not the heart of a tiger, do not give up your child to his own will, that is, to the Devil. Though it be pain to yourself, yet pluck your offspring out of the lion's teeth. Make them submit, that they may not perish. Break their wills, that you may save their souls.
10. I cannot tell how to enforce this point sufficiently. To fix it upon your minds more strongly, permit me to add part of a letter on the subject, printed some years ago.
"In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done, is to conquer their will. To inform their understanding is a work of time, and must proceed by slow degrees: but the subjecting the will is a thing which must be done at once; and the sooner the better. For, by our neglecting timely correction, they contract a stubbornness, which is hardly ever to be conquered; and never without using that severity, which would be as painful to us as to the children. Therefore, I call those cruel parents, who pass for kind and indulgent; who permit their children to contract habits which they know must be afterwards broken.
"I insist upon conquering the wills of children betimes; because this is the only foundation for a religious education. When this is
thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason of its parent, till its own understanding comes to maturity.
"I cannot yet dismiss this subject. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children, ensures their after-wretchedness and irreligion; and whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident, if we consider that religion is nothing else but the doing the will of God, and not our own; and that self-will being the grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness, no indulgence of it can be trivial; no denial of it unprofitable. Heaven or hell depends on this alone. So that the parent who studies to subdue it in his children, works together with God in the saving of a soul: the parent who indulges it, does the Devil's work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable; and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body, for ever!
"This, therefore, I cannot but earnestly repeat, Break their wills betimes. Begin the great work before they can run alone, before they can speak plainly, or perhaps speak at all. Whatever pains it cost, conquer their stubbornness; break the will, if you would not damn the child. I conjure you not to neglect, not to delay this! Therefore, 1, Let a child from a year old, be taught to fear the rod and to cry softly. In order to this, 2, Let him have nothing he cries for; absolutely nothing, great or small; else you undo your own work. 3, At all events, from that age, make him do as he is bid, if you whip him ten times running to effect it: let none persuade you, it is cruelty to do this; it is cruelty not to do it. Break his will now, and his soul will live, and he will probably bless you to all eternity."
11. On the contrary, how dreadful are the consequences of that accursed kindness, which gives children their own wills, and does not bow down their necks from their infancy. It is chiefly owing to this, that so many religious parents bring up their children that have no religion at all; children, that when they are grown up, have no regard for them; perhaps set them at naught, and are ready to pick out their eyes! Why is this, but because their wills were not broken at first, because they were not inured from their early infancy, to obey their parents in all things, and to submit to their wills, as to the will of God! Because they were not taught from the very first dawn of reason, that the will of their parents was, to them, the will of God that to resist it was rebellion against God, and an inlet to all ungodliness.
II. 1. This may suffice for the explication of the text: I proceed to the application of it. And permit me first to apply to you that are parents, and as such concerned to teach your children. Do you know these things yourselves? Are you thoroughly convinced of these important truths? Have you laid them to heart? And have you put them in practice, with regard to your own children? Have you inured them to discipline, before they were capable of instruction? Have you broken their wills from their earliest infancy? And
do you still continue so to do, in opposition both to nature and cusDid you explain to them, as soon as their understanding began to open, the reasons of your proceeding thus? Did you point out to them the will of God, as the sole law of every intelligent creature? And show them, it is the will of God, that they should obey you in all things? Do you inculcate this over and over again, till they perfectly comprehend it? O never be weary of this labour of love; and your labour will not always be in vain.
2. At least, do not teach them to disobey, by rewarding them for disobedience. Remember! You do this every time you give them any thing because they cry for it. And herein they are apt scholars; if you reward them for crying, they will certainly cry again. So that there is no end, unless you make it a sacred rule, to give them nothing which they cry for. And the shortest way to do this is, never suffer them to cry aloud. Train them up to obedience in this one instance, and you will easily bring them to obey in others. Why should you not begin to-day? Surely you see what is the most excellent way; best for your own soul. Why then do you disobey? Because you are a coward; because you want resolution. And doubtless it requires no small patience, more than nature ever gave. But the grace of God is sufficient for you: you can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth you. This grace is sufficient to give you diligence, as well as resolution: otherwise laziness will be as great a hinderance as cowardice. For without much pains you cannot conquer: nothing can be done with a slack hand, labour on: never tire: lay line upon line, till patience has its perfect work.
3. But there is another hinderance that is full as hard to be conquered as either laziness or cowardice. It is called fondness, and is usually mistaken for love: but, O, how widely different from it! It is real hate; and hate of the most mischievous kind, tending to destroy both body and soul in hell! O give not way to it any longer, no, not for a moment! Fight against it with your might! For the love of God; for the love of your children; for the love of your own soul !
4. I have one word more to say to parents; to mothers in particular. If, in spite of all the Apostle can say, you encourage your children by your example, to adorn themselves with gold, or pearls, or costly apparel, you and they must drop into the pit together. But if they do it, though you set them a better example, still it is yours, as well as their fault. For if you did not put any ornament on your little child that you would not wear yourself, (which would be utter distraction, and far more inexcusable than putting it on your own arms or head,) yet you did not inure them to obey you from their infancy, and teach them the duty of it, from at least two years old. Otherwise they would not have dared to do any thing, great or small, contrary to your will. Whenever, therefore, I see the fine-dressed daughter of a plain-dressed mother, I see at once the mother is defective either in knowledge or religion. Either she is ignorant of
her own or her child's duty; or she has not practised what she knows.
5. I cannot dismiss this subject yet. I am pained continually, at seeing religious parents suffer their children to run into the same folly of dress, as if they had no religion at all. In God's name, why do you suffer them to vary a hair's breadth from your example? Why, they will do it." They will! Whose fault is that? Why did you not break their will from their infancy? At least, do it now; better late than never. It should have been done before they were two years old. It may be done at eight or ten, though with far more difficulty. However, do it now; and accept that difficulty, as the just reward for your past neglect. Now, at least, carry your point, whatever it costs. Be not mealy-mouthed; say not, like foolish Eli, "Nay, my children; it is no good report which I hear of you :" instead of restraining them with a strong hand; but speak (though as calmly as possible, yet) firmly and peremptorily, "I will have it so;" and do as you say. Instil diligently into them the love of plain dress, and hatred of finery. Show them the reason of your own plainness of dress, and show it is equally reasonable for them. Bid defiance to indolence, to cowardice, to foolish fondness, and at all events carry your point; if you love their souls, make and keep them just as plain as yourselves. And I charge you, grandmothers, before God, do not hinder your daughters herein. Do not dare to give the child any thing which the mother denies. Never take the part of the children against the parent; never blame her before them. If you do not strengthen her authority, at least do not weaken it but if you have either sense or piety left, help her on in the work of real kindness.
6. Permit me now to apply myself to you, children particularly, you that are the children of religious parents. Indeed, if you have no fear of God before your eyes, I have no concern with you at present; but if you have, if you really fear God, and have a desire to please him, you desire to understand all his commandments, the fifth in particular. Did you ever understand it yet? Do you now understand what is your duty to your father and mother? Do you know, at least do you consider, that by the divine appointment their will is a law to you? Have you ever considered the extent of that obedience to your parents which God requires? Children, obey your parents in all things. No exception, but of things unlawful. Have you practised your duty in this extent? Did you ever so much as intend it?
7. Deal faithfully with your own souls. Is your conscience now clear in this matter? Do you do nothing which you know to be contrary to the will either of your father or mother? Do you never do any thing, (though ever so much inclined to it,) which he or she forbids? Do you abstain from every thing which they dislike, as far as you can in conscience? On the other hand, are you careful to do whatever a parent bids? Do you study and contrive how to please them? To make their lives as easy and pleasant as you can? Who