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making them uneasy by needless mortifications, yet when they are eagerly and intemperately desirous of a trifle, they ought, for that very reason, sometimes to be denied it, to teach them more moderation for the future. And if by such methods, they gradually learn to conquer their little humours and fancies, they learn no inconsiderable branch of true fortitude and wisdom. I cannot express this better, than in the words of Mr. Locke*, in his excellent treatise on the subject before us; "He that has found out the way to keep a child's spirit easy, active and free, and yet at the same time to restrain him from many things which he has a mind to, and draw him to things uneasy to him, has got the true secret of education."
I have sometimes been surprised to see, how far a sense of honour and praise has carried some children of a generous temper, in a long and resolute course of self-denial. But undoubtedly the noblest principle of all is a sense of religion. Happy would it indeed be, if they were led to see, that there is but very little in this kind of gratification and indulgences; that the world itself is but a poor empty trifle; and that the great thing a rational creature should be concerned about, is to please God, and get well to heaven. May divine grace teach us this important lesson for ourselves, that we may transmit it with greater advantage to our children! Amen.
* Locke on Education, § 46.
ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.
Arguments to enforce the Duty.
Prov. xxii. 6.-Train up a Child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
It is certainly a very pleasing reflection to every faithful
minister of the gospel, that the cause, in which he is engaged, is the most benevolent, as well as the most religious; subserving the glory of God, by promoting the happiness of mankind. It must be a great satisfaction to a man of integrity and humanity, to think that it is not his business to dazzle and confound his hearers with the artifices of speech, to give the appearances of truth to falsehood and importance to trifes; but to teach them to weigh things in an impartial balance, and by the words of truth and soberness, to lead them into the paths of wisdom and of goodness.
This is a satisfaction which I peculiarly find this day, while I am urging you to that religious care in the education of children, which I have at large opened in the former discourse. And it is a circumstance of additional pleasure, that I am pleading the cause of the weak and the helpless; of little tender creatures, who are incapable of pleading for themselves, and know not how much their interest is concerned. Nor am I without a secret hope, that if the Divine Spirit favour us with his assistance, some who are yet unborn may have eternal reason to rejoice in the fruits of what you are now to hear. Amen.
Having already endeavoured to describe the way in which children are to be trained up; I now proceed,
Secondly, To propose some arguments to engage parents to this pious care.
And here I would intreat you distinctly to consider,—that the attempt itself is pleasant ;-you have great reason to hope it may be successful;-and that success is of the highest importance.
I. The attempt itself is pleasant,
I speak not merely of the pleasure arising from the consciousness of discharging present duty, and a probable view of future success; such a satisfaction may attend those actions, which are in themselves most painful and mortifying. But I refer to the entertainment immediately flowing from the employment itself, when rightly managed. This is undoubtedly one of those ways of wisdom, which are ways of pleasantness, as well as a path, which in its consequences is peace and happiness*: It is a commandment, in keeping of which there is great reward+.
The God of nature has wisely annexed a secret unutterable delight, to all our regular cares for the improvement of our rising offspring. We rejoice to see our tender plants flourish, to observe how the stock strengthens, and the blossoms and the leaves successively unfold. We trace with a gradually advancing pleasure, their easy smiles, the first efforts of speech on their stammering tongues, and the dawnings of reason in their feeble minds. It is a delightful office to cultivate and assist opening nature, to lead the young strangers into a new world, and to infuse the principles of any useful kind of knowledge, which their age may admit, and their circumstances require. But when we attempt to raise their thoughts to the great Father of Spirits, to present them, as in the arms of faith, to Jesus the compassionate Shepherd, and teach them to enquire after him; when we endeavour to instruct them in the principles of divine truth, and form them to sentiments of prudence, integrity and generosity; we find a pleasure superior to what any other labour for their improvement can give.
On this occasion, my friends, I persuade myself I may appeal to the repeated experience of many amongst you. Do you not find, that the sweetest truths of christianity, which are your hope and your joy in this house of your pilgrimage, are peculiarly sweet when you talk them over with your children? Do you not find, that your instructions and admonitions to them return into your own bosom with a rich increase of edification and refreshment? Thus while you are watering these domestic plantations, you are watering also yourselves; and from these
Prov. iii. 17.
+ Psal. xix. 11.
THOMPSON'S SPRING, p. 57.
holy converses with your children, you rise to more endearing communion with your heavenly Father: God by his Spirit visiting your souls in the midst of those pious cares, and giving you immediate comfort and strength, as a token of his gracious acceptance, and perhaps as a pledge of future sucThis leads me to urge the religious education of children, II. By the probability there is, that it will be attended with such success, as to be the means of making them wise and good.
This is the arrangement urged by Solomon in the text, train up a child in the way in which he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Being early initiated into the right way, he will pursue it with increasing pleasure; so that with regard to the prosperity of the soul, as well as of the body, his path will be like the morning light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day*
It is true, this assertion is to be understood with some limitation, as expressing the probability, rather than the certainty of the success; otherwise experience would contradict it in some melancholy instances. Would to God there were none untractable under the most pious and prudent methods of education; none, who Like deaf adders stop their ears against the voice of the most skilful charmers+, and have been accustomed to do it from their infancy! Would to God there were none of those, who appeared to set out well, and seemed eager in enquiring the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, who have forgotten The guides of their youth, and the covenant of their Gods, and are to this day wandering in the paths of the destroyer, if they are not already fallen in them! But do you throw by every medicine, which some have used without being recovered by it; or decline every profession, of which there are some who do not thrive? What remedy must you then take? What calling must you then pursue? The application is obvious. It would be folly to pretend to maintain, that religious education will certainly obtain its end; but let me intreat you to consider, that it is in its own nature a very rational method, that it is a method which God has appointed, and a method which in many instances has been found successful. Attend seriously to these remarks, and then judge whether prudence and conscience will not oblige you to pursue it.
Jer. 1. 5. § Prov. ii, 17.
* Prov. iv. 18. VOL. II.
Psal. lviii. 4, 5.
1. The religious education of children is a very rational method of engaging them to walk in the way in which they should go. There is this most evident advantage attending our early attempts of this kind, that we shall find the minds more opened and disengaged, not tainted with all these corrupt principles, nor enslaved to those irregular habits, which they would probably imbibe and contract in the advance of age. Though the paper on which we would write the knowledge of God be not entirely fair, it is clear of many a foul inscription and deep blot, with which it would soon be covered. Though the garden, in which we would plant the fruits of holiness, be not free from weeds, yet many of them are but (as it were) in the invisible seed, and the rest are not grown up to that luxurious size, which we must expect, if due cultivation be omitted or delayed.
It is a farther advantage which deserves to be mentioned here, that infancy and childhood is the most impressible age; and as principles are then most easily admitted, so they are most firmly retained. The ancients, those judicious observers of human nature, as well as many modern writers, are full of this remark in their discourses on education, and illustrate it by a great many beautiful allusions which are well known.
The new vessel takes a lasting tincture from the liquor which is first poured in*: The soft clay is easily fashioned into what form you please+: The young plant may be bent with a gentle hand; and the characters, engraved on the tender bark, grow deeper and larger with the advancing treet. It will be our wisdom then to seize these golden opportunities; and so much the rather, as it is certain they will either be improved, or perverted; and that, if they are not pressed into the service of religion, they will be employed as dangerous artillery against it§. But you will say, "With all these advantageous circumstances we cannot infuse grace into the hearts of our children; and after all our precautions, corrupt nature will prevent us,
Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
+ Udum & molle lutum es: Nunc, nunc properandus, & acri
Et Naturâ tenacissimi sumus eorum, quæ rudibus annis percipimus; ut sapor quo nova imbuas, durat; nec lanarum colores, quibus simplex ille candor mutatus est, elui possunt. Quintil. Orat. Lib. i. Cap. 1.
Ut corpora ad quosdam membrorum flexus formari, nisi tenera, non possunt sic animos quoque ad pleraque, duriores robur ipsum facit. Ibid.
Bates's Works, page 636.
§ Hæc ipsa magis pertinaciter harent, quæ pejora sunt. Quintil. Orat.