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of those feeds which were fown in infancy, but had been long ftifled by the violence of youthful paflions, or the pursuits of ambition and the hurry of an active life. I have known several inftances of the inftructions, long neglected, of deceafed parents, at laft rifing up, afferting their authority, and producing the deepest penitence and real reformation. But my experiences furnishes me with no example of one brought up in ignorance and fecurity, after a long course of profanenefs, turning, at the clofe of life, to the fervice of the living God. The most com. mon cafe is, that the deep fleep continues to the laft, and, as the faying is, they die as they live; though in fome inftances, when the fins have been of the groffeft kind, conscience awakens at their going off the ftage, and they feem, as it were, to begin the torments of hell with the terror of despair.
You will find in fome practical writers an opinion, or fentiment, that feems not ill-founded to the following purpole, 'Some are called at the eleventh hour that none 'may defpair,' and there are few, that none may prefume. Others make a diftinction, not without ground, as it seems founded upon the wifdom and equity of the divine government; That when the gofpel comes to a people that had long fitten in darknefs, there may be numerous converts of all ages; but when the gofpel has been long preached in plenty and purity, and ordinances regularly adminiftered, few but thofe who are called in early life are ever called at all. A very judicious and pious writer, Mr. Richard Baxter, is of opinion, that in a regular state of the church, and a tolerable meafure of faithfulness and purity in its officers, family inftruction and government are the ufual means of converfion, public ordinances of edification. This feems agreeable to the language of fcripture; for we are told God hath fet in the church "apoftles, prophets, evangelis, paftors and teachers," (not for converting finners, but) "for perfe&ting of the "faints for the work of the miniftry, and the edifying of the body of Chrift." it feems to add further weight to this, that moft of thofe who are recorded in fcripture as eminent for piety, were called in early life; and we know
not but it may have been the cafe with others, though not particularly mentioned: Those I have in view, are Abraham, Mofes, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jofiah, Daniel, and the three Children, in the Old Teftament, and in the New, John Baptift and John the beloved difciple; of whom I may just observe, that no other reason has ever been given for the Saviour's diftinguishing him by particular affection, but that he was the youngest of the twelve.
6. In the last place, this declaration implies that the comparative innocence of children is a leffon to us, and an emblem of the temper and carriage of Chrift's real dif ciples. This inftruction we are not left to infer for ourfelves. Our Lord has made the remark in the paffage where the text lies, "Whofoever fhall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, fhall not enter there"in." This is directly levelled against the pride of selffufficiency, and every rough and boifterous paffion. It is remarkable that the very fame image is made ufe of in feveral pallages of fcripture. Thus, Matth. xviii. 1, 2, 34 4. "At the fame time came the difciples unto Jefus, faying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? "And Jefus called a little child unto him, and fet him in "the midst of them, and faid, verily I fay unto you, ex"cept ye be converted, and become as little children, ye "fhall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whofo
ever, therefore shall humble himself as this little child, "the fame is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." So alfo the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiv. 20. "Brethren, be not "children in understanding: howbeit, in malice be yet "children, but in understanding be men :"-And ferther, Peter ii. 1, 2. "Wherefore laying afide all ma"lice, and all guile, and hypocrifies, and envies, and "all evil speakings, as new-born babes, defire the fin"cere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."The graces of the fpiritual life recommended to us by this beautiful image, are humility, gentleness, teachableness, fincerity, and eafinefs to be reconciled: all which are remarkable in young perfons, and are frequently loft or vitiated by growing years.
Í come now to make a practical improvement of the fubject, which shall be confined to pointing out the duties fuggefted by the foregoing truths, as they are feverally incumbent on, 1. parents; 2. children; 3. every hearer of the gofpel.
1. Let us confider the duties incumbent on parents. Is it fo, that of children or infants the Redeemer faid, of fuch is the kingdom of God? Then parents fhould be (1) thankful. Thankfulness is a happy frame of spirit in itfelf, and powerfully reconciles the mind to difficult, and animates it to important duties. Be thankful then for the honor that is done you, for the truft that is repofed in you, and for the encouraging promife of God to aflift and accept of you in the discharge of it. "Children are the gift of God, and the fruit of the womb is his reward." I cannot eafily figuré to my felf any greater earthly bleffing than to have children to be the objects of your care and diligence while you live, and to inherit your name and fubftance, when you yourselves muft, in the course of nature, go off the ftage. And is it a little honor to be intrufted with the care of thefe rational creatures of God,. born for immortality, and whose prefent peace and future welfare depend fo much on your conduct? Are you not called to prepare members for the church of Chrift?-"for of fuch is his kingdom;" and however important the miniftry of the gofpel is (which I fhould be the laft to detract from) you may know, that it is out of a minifter's power to speak to the understanding of those who are not prepared by previous inftruction. But above all, how thankful fhould you be for the encouragement given you to bring your children to the Saviour, and the promise of his bleffing. "He took them up in his arms, laid
"his hands on them and bleffed them." thers! What ground of praise to the Saviour!
(2.) Be early and diligent in inftruction. This is the great and fubftantial evidence you are called to give of your thankfulness for the mercy. You have heard that children are much more early capable of receiving beVOL. II.
nefit by outward means than is commonly fuppofed: Let not, therefore, the devil and the world be too far beforehand with you, in poffeffing their fancy, engaging their affections, and misleading their judgment. Is it a fable, or do I speak truth when I fay, many children learn to fwear before they learn to pray. It is indeed affecting to a ferious mind, to hear children lifping out ill-pronounced oaths, or fcurrilous and fcolding abufe, or even impurities which they do not understand; fo that the firft fentiments they form, and the first words they utter, are those of impiety, malice, or obfcenity. Nay I have seen children in their mother's arms actually taught to scold, by uttering angry founds, before they could fpeak one word with diftinctnefs. It is wholly impoffible for me here to introduce a fyftem of directions as to the method of early inftruction; this must be learned elsewhere and at another time; but I mean to imprefs your minds with a fenfe of the importance and neceflity of the duty, and I will add, the efficacy of it. Remember the connection between the duty and the promise-"Train up a child in "the way he fhould go, and when he is old he will not de"part from it." I knew a pious and judicious minister, who affirmed, that we did not give credit to that part of God's word if we did not believe the certainty of the promife, as well as the obligation of the duty; he was of opihion, that every parent, when he feemed to fail, fhould conclude that he himself had been undutiful, and not that God had been unfaithful.
(3.) Be circumfpect and edifying in your example. All the arguments that prefs the former exhortation, apply with the fame, perhaps I may fay, with double force to this. Example is itself the most powerful and fuccefsful inftruction; and example is neceffary to give meaning and influence to all other inftruction. This is one of the oldeft maxims upon the fubject of education ;-The Roman fatyrift fays, "Nil dictu vifuve foedum hæc "limina tangat intra quæ puer eft." Let nothing base be feen or heard within thefe walis in which a child is. And if children naturally form their fentiments, habits
and manners, by imitation of others in general, how much more powerful must be the example of parents, who are every hour in their fight, whom nature teaches them, and whom duty obliges them to love, and when it comes recommended by the continual intercourse, and the endearing fervices that flow from that intimate relation.
(4.) Laftly, parents are taught here perfeverance and importunity in prayer. This, indeed, is an important thing upon every fubject of our requefts to God. Our Saviour fpoke a parable on purpose to teach men, that they fhould pray and not faint, Luke xviii. 1. And if we are called to believe, that "if we afk any thing agree"able to his will, he heareth us," what more agreeable to his will than frequent and importunate prayer for the temporal and spiritual happiness of children-What a fupport this to the faith of prayer. You ought, at the fame time, to remember that, as the prophet Jeremiah fays, "it is good for a man to hope and quietly to wait "for the falvation of God." The anfwer of prayer may come at a much greater distance than we are apt to look for it. There is a remarkable anecdote handed down to us, refpecting the famous St. Auguftine. He was the fon of an eminently pious woman, whofe name was Monica, yet he was in his youth very loose and disorderly. One of his fellow-citizens, it is faid, feeing him pafs along the freet, reflected upon him with great feverity, as a dif grace to fociety; but another made anfwer, that he was not without hopes of him after all, for he thought it next to impoffible that the fon of fo many prayers fhould perish.— And we know, that in fact, he became in due time one of the most eminent champions for evangelical truth, There is not the leaft doubt that many prayers, and especially of this kind, may have their answer and accomplishment after the believer that offered them has been many years fleeping in the duft,
2. The truths above illuftrated, fuggest important advices to children, that is, to fuch young perfons as are able to undersland and apply them. (1.) Preferve a tendernefs of heart, and be thankful that you are not yet