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and fix a wrong bias on the mind, before we can attempt to direct it aright." A mournful, but too evident truth? which, far from denying or suppressing, I would often declare and inculcate; and the rather now, as it greatly confirms my argument. Are the influences of a degenerate nature unavoidably so strong, and will you suffer them to be confirmed by these additional advantages? Do you apprehend, that Running with the footmen, you shall be in danger of fainting; and do you for the very reason chuse to contend with the horsemen*? You cannot sure, in the face of so much reason and scripture, urge this as an excuse against making any attempts at all of this kind; and how then is it an apology for the neglect of those, which are, other things being equal, the most rational and easy? But the trifling plea is more evidently silenced, by observing :
2. The religious education of children is a method which God has appointed; and this greatly increases the probability of its success.
I assuredly know, and may God more deeply engrave it on our hearts! that with regard to your labours, as well as ours, Neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increaset. But consider, I beseech you, how that increase is to be hoped for: Is it in the omission, or in the use of prescribed means? I urge it on your consciences, my friends, that religious education is an ordinance of God, which, therefore, you may reasonably hope he will honour with a blessing. And you might as justly expect, that your souls should flourish in an unnecessary absence from the table and house of the Lord, or an habitual neglect of reading and prayer; as that your children should grow up for God, while you fail in your endeavours to engage them in his service. I repeat it again, religious education is an ordinance of God. And is it a work of labour and difficulty to prove the assertion? Which of you does not know that christian parents are solemnly charged to Bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and that even under the Mosaic economy, God urged it on his people in a very affecting manner? Surely you must have observed, how strictly God charged it upon the Jews to take all opportunities to this purpose, occasional, as well as stated. These words, says he, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine Eph. vi 4.
Jer. xii. 5.
+1 Cor. iii. 7.
house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up*. And elsewhere, Thou shalt teach them to thy sons, and thy sons sons +: Plainly recommending a care of more remote, as well as immediate descendants, of grand children, as well as children. Thus when God Established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, he commanded the fathers, that they should make them known unto their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children that should be born, that they should arise and declare them to their children; that so religion might be transmitted to every rising age. You cannot be ignorant of such passages as these, which need no comment to explain them, and consequently you cannot but know, that the religious education of children is a divine institution, as well as in itself a most rational attempt: After which you will not wonder to hear, 3. That it has in fact been attended with very happy success.
We acknowledge, that the great God does not confine himself to work by this way; and that he sometimes displays his sovereignty in visibly turning out of it. We acknowledge, that he sometimes leaves those, who had been, as it were, born and brought up in his family, to forsake it in a very scandalous manner while he seems to go into the territories of satan, into ignorant, carnal, profane families, and takes from thence persons, whom he erects as trophies of free, surprising, and (as Mr. Howe justly expresses it,) "unaccountable grace." But yon well know, that these are more rare and uncommon cases: And though some of you, my friends, are and I hope you will never forget it,) happy instances of the singular divine goodness; yet most of you, as I apprehend, were from your childhood trained up in the knowledge of God, and are living monuments of the success which has attended the care of parents, or masters in this particular. The greater part of those, who have of late been admitted to your communion, have, to my certain knowledge, mentioned it with thankfulness; and I rejoice to think, how many of the rising generation amongst us, (if even a child may be known by his doings, are like to encrease the number, and give us an encouraging hope that they will at length be set as olive-plants around the Lord's table, as well as yours. I persuade myself it is so elsewhere, and think I may pronounce it with some confidence, that the families of God's children are, generally speaking, the nurseries of his church. Solomon, no`
doubt, had observed, that a good education had generally been successful, or we could by no means account for the remark in the text; and a very accurate writer of our own age and nation has carried it so far as to say, "That of all the men we meet with, nine parts in ten are what they are, good or bad, useful or not, according to their education*."
I hope you are by this time convinced, that, humanly speaking, there is great probability, that religious educatiou may be the effectual means of promoting serious piety in the rising age; which was the second argument by which I was to recommend it: An argument, which may be greatly strengthened, by observing,
III. That the success, which we may so reasonably expect, is a matter of very high importance.
It is of evident importance-to the honour of God, and the support of religion,-to the present and future happiness of your children, and to your own comfort both in life and death. Weighty and comprehensive thoughts! which I shall briefly toucht, and to which I beg you will renew your attention.
1. The honour of God, and the interest of a Redeemer, is greatly concerned in the behaviour of your children; and consequently in your care of their education, which is like to have so great an influence upon it.
We live in a dying world. Our fathers, where are they‡? Sleeping in the dust, as we must shortly be. We are sure, that in a little, a very little while, these places must know us no more§: And when we are mouldering in the house of silence, who must fill our places in the house of God? Who must rise up in our stead for the support of religion amongst those that succeed us? From whom can it be expected, but from our children? Yet how can we expect it from these, in the neglect of a method, which comes recommended by so many advantageous circumstances? "Yes," you will perhaps be ready to say, "God will take care of his own cause, and almighty grace will do what we have not attempted, because we knew that we could not accomplish it." Almighty grace can indeed do it; and almighty power can Of
* Locke on Education, §. 1..
I omit many things which might be said on these heads, because I have opened them more largely in a sermon on this very subject, The Importance of the Rising Generation, which is the first of those sermons to young persons, which are now reprinted in the same form as these.
these stones, on which we tread, raise up children to Abraham*. But shew me your warrant from the word of God for expecting it, either in the one case, or in the other. You will possibly answer, "He has promised to be ever with his churcht, and that The gates of hell shall not prevail against it; but that One generation shall arise and declare his mighty works unto anothers, and that the kingdom of his Son shall continue As long as the sun and the moon endure||.” Blessed be his name for these encouraging promises, which shall no doubt be accomplished. But where has he engaged, that this kingdom shall always continue amongst us? Such passages as these will no more prove, that the gospel shall never be removed from Great-Britain, than they would once have proved, that it should never be taken away from Pergamos or Thyatirà, or any other of the Asian-churches, which have so many ages ago been given up to desolation.
Now let me intreat you, for a few moments, to dwell upon that thought; what if the gospel should be lost from amongst your descendants! what if in the age of these little ones, or the next that shall succeed to theirs, the house of the Lord should be forsaken, and his table abandoned? What if the ministry should be grown into disuse, or the servants of Christ in it should have nothing to do, but to bear a fruitless testimony against an unbelieving generation, till, when their hearts are broken with so sad an office, the gospel here die with them, and religion be buried in their graves? Is it a thought easily to be supported by a true Israelite, that the ark of the Lord should thus be lost, and God should write upon us Icabod¶, the sad memorials of a departed glory!
It would surely be peculiarly melancholy, that religion should die in the hands of those who were the children of the kingdom. And were not yours so? In this respect, my friends, permit me to say, that I am witness against some of you. When you have offered your children to baptism, you have delivered them into my hands, with an express declaration of your sincere desire, that they might be devoted to God; and have received them again with a solemn charge and promise to bring them up for him, if their lives should be continued. And as for those of you, who do not practise this institution, I doubt not, but many of you are equally faithful in dedicating your infantoffspring to God, is it not then reasonable to expect them both,
Mat. iii. 9.
+ Mat. xxviii.
Mat. xvi. 18.
that they should be brought up as a seed to serve him? And from whom may we hope it, if not from you? If you have experienced the power of divine grace upon your own souls, and have Tasted that the Lord is gracious*, methinks it should awaken the holy zeal to spread the sweet savour of his name and word wherever you come: You should labour to the utmost for the advancement of his gospel amongst all your acquaintance, and even amongst strangers; how much more in your own families, amongst those whom you have received from him, amongst those whom you have so solemnly given back to him.
2. The character of your children, and consequently your care in their education, is of the most evident importance to their present and future happiness.
I need not surely employ a great deal of time in proving the truth of the assertion. As christians you must undoubtedly own, that Godliness is profitable to all things, having the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to comet. If your children, through the divine blessing on your holy care, become truly religious, they will not only be preserved from those follies and crimes, which stain the honour, and ruin the substance of families, but they will secure a fair reputation, will take the most probable method to make life truly comfortable; they will be entitled to the paternal care and blessing of God; and, to crown all, will be heirs of eternal glory with him: And what could your most prudent, faithful, tender love wish for them as a greater, or indeed as a comparable good? On the other hand, if they prove vicious and profane, (which in so degenerate an age it is very probable they may, if they have no religious principle to secure them,) what can you expect but their infamy and misery in this world, and their eternal destruction in the next?
One would imagine, that such considerations as these should very deeply impress the heart of a parent; and if they were alone should be sufficient to gain the cause. You, who have so tender a regard to all their temporal concerns; you, that rise early and sit up late, that you may advance their fortunes, that you may furnish them with those dubious and uncertain possessions, which may be blessings or curses, as they are improved or abused; can you bear to think, that they may be for ever poor and miserable? Surely it should cut you to the