Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

youth in their vigour and usefulness; nay, a sense of their piety and goodness will undoubtedly be a reviving cordial to you in your dying moments. A delightful thought will it indeed be! “ I am going to take my leave of the world, and my scene of service is over; but I leave those behind me, who will appear for God in my stead, and act, perhaps, with greater fidelity and zeal, for the support of religion in a degenerate age. I leave my dear children, destitute indeed of my counsel and help, perhaps in no abundant affluence of worldly enjoyments; but I leave them under the guardian care of my Father, and their Father, of my God and their God. I must soon be separated from them, and the distance between us must soon be as great, as between earth and heaven : But as I leave them under the best guidance in the wildernes, so I have a joyful persuasion they will soon follow me into the celestial Canaan. Yet a little while, and I, and my dear offspring, shall appear together before the throne of God; and I shall stand forth with transport, and say, Behold, here am I, and the children which my God has graciously given me. Then will the blessedness on which I now enter, be multiplied upon me, by the sight of every child that has a share in it. Now, Lord, sufferest thou thy servant to depart in peace, since thou hast directed, not only mine eyes, but theirs, to thy salvation."

But if you see these dear little ones grow up for the destroyer; if you see those, whose infant days have given you so many tender pleasures, and so many fond hopes, deviating from the paths of duty and happiness, how deeply will it pierce you! You now look upon them with a soft complacency, and say, “ These are they, that shall comfort us under our labours and our sorrows :” But alas! my friends, if this be the case, “ These are they, that will increase your labours; and aggravate your sorrows; that will hasten upon you the infirmities of age, or crush you the faster under the weight of them, till they have brought down your hoary hairs with anguish to the grave. ' Little do they or you think, how much agony and distress you may endure, from what you will see, and what you will fear concerning them. How many slighted admonitions, how

many deluded hopes, how many anxious days, how many restless nights, will concur to make the evening of life gloomy! And at length, when God gives you a dismission from a world, which the folly and wickedness of your children has so long imbittered, how painful will the separation be ; when you have a prospect of seeing them but once more, and that at the tribunal of God, where the best you can expect, in their present circumstances, is to rise up in judgment against them, and to bear an awful testimony, which shall draw down upon them aggravated damnation !

And let me plainly tell you, that if in these last moments, conscience should also accuse you of the neglect of duty, and testify that your own sorrow and your children's ruin, is in part chargeable upon that, it will be a dreadful ingredient in this bitter cup, and may greatly darken, if not entirely suppress those hopes with regard to yourselves, which alone could support you in this mournful scene. I am fully persuaded, that if you knew the weight with which these things will sit upon your mind in the immediate views of the eternal world, you would not suffer every trifling difficulty, or little care, to deter you from the discharge of those duties, which are so necessary to prevent these galling reflections.

To conclude : Let me intreat you seriously to weigh the united force of those arguments, which I have now been urging, to excite vour diligence in this momentous care of training up your children in the way in which they should go.

Consider how pleasant the attempt is :-Consider how fair a probability there is that it may prosper, as it is in itself a very rational method, as it is a method God has appointed, and a method which he has crowned with singular success :-Consider how important that success is, to the honour of God and the interest of religion, to the temporal and eternal happiness of your children, and finally, to your own comfort both in life and death.

On the whole I well know, and I am persuaded, Sirs, that you yourselves are convinced, that whatsoever can be opposed to such considerations as these, when laid in an impartial balance, it is altogether lighter than vanity. I do therefore seriously appeal to those convictions of your consciences, as in the sight of God: And if, from this time at least, the education of children amongst you be neglected, or regarded only as a light care, God is witness, and you yourselves are witnesses, that it is not for want of being plainly instructed in your duty, or seriously urged to the performance of it.

SERMON III.

ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.

Advice to Parents.

Prov. xxii. 6.-Train up a Child in the way he should go; and when he is old

he will not depart from it.

THOSE of you who have made any observations on human life, must certainly know, that if we desire to be agreeable and useful in it, we must regard not only the quality, but the manner of our actions; and that while we are in the pursuit of any important end, we must not only attend to those actions which do immediately refer to it, but must watch over the whole of our conduct ; that we may preserve a consistency in the several parts of it. Otherwise we shall spoil the beauty and acceptance of many an honest, and, perhaps in the main, prudent attempt; or by a train of unthought-of consequences, shall demolish with the one hand, what we are labouring to build up with the other.

This is a remark which we shall have frequent occasion to recollect; and it is of peculiar importance in the business of education. It is therefore necessary, that having before described the way in which children are to be trained up, and urged you to a diligent application to the duty, I now proceed :

Thirdly, to offer some advices for your assistance in this attempt, of leading children into, and conducting them in this way.

These will relate-partly to the manner in which the attempt is to be made,-and partly to the precautions necessary for rendering it effectual : Which are, as you see, matters of distinct consideration, though comprehended under the

general head of directions.

1. As to the manner in which the attempt is to be made.

And here it is evident, it should be done plainly,-seriously,--tenderly, and patiently.

1. Children are to be instructed plainly : In the plainest things

and by the plainest words.

They are to be taught the plainest things in religion in the first place. And it is a pleasing reflection on this occasion, that according to the abundant goodness and condescension of the great God, those things which are the most necessary are the plainest. Just as in the world of nature, those kinds of food, which are most wholesome and nourishing, are also the most common. We should shew our grateful sense of the divine goodness in this particular, by our care to imitate it; and should see to it, that when the necessities of our children require bread, we do not give them a stone, or chaff; as we should do, if we were to distract their feeble minds with a variety of human schemes, and doubtful disputations. The more abstruse and mysterious truths of the gospel are gradually to be unfolded as they are exhibited in the oracles of God and to be taught in the language of the spirit ; according to the excellent advice of the great Dr. Owen*, making scripture phrascology our rule and pattern in the declaration of spiritual things.” But we must not begin here. We must feed them with milk while they are babes, and reserve the strong meat for a maturer aget. Take the most obvious and vital truths of christianity. Tell them, that they are creatures, and sinful creatures; that by sin they have displeased a holy God; and that they must be pardoned, and sanctified, and accepted in Christ, or must perish for ever. Shew them the difference between sin, and holiness; between a state of nature, and of grace. Shew them that they are hastening on to death and judgment, and so must enter on heaven or hell, and dwell for ever in the one or the other. Such kind of lessons will probably turn to the best account, both to them and you. I know it is a very easy thing to in.. flame the warm ignorant minds of children with an eager zeal for distinguishing forms, or distinguishing phrases; and to make them violent in the interest of a party, before they know any thing of christianity. But if we thus Sow the wind, we shall probably reap the whirlwindi; venting ourselves, and transfusing into them, a wrath of man, which never works, but often greatly obstructs, the righteousness of Gods. Blessed be God, this is not the fault of you, my friends of this congregation. I would mention it with great thankfulness, as both your happiness and mine, that so far as I can judge, it is

Owen on the Spirit, pref. ad fin.
+ Heb. v. 13, 14. Hos. viii. 7. § Jam. i. 20.

The sincere milk of the word that you desire*. Let it be your care to draw it out for the nourishment of your children's souls, as their understandings and capacities will permit them to take it in.

And while you are teaching them the plainest things endeavour to do it in the plainest words. It is the gracious method which God uses with us, who speaks to us of heavenly things in language, not fully expressive of the sublimity and grandeur of the subject, but rather suited to our feeble apprehensions. Thus our Lord taught his disciples, As they were able to bear itt ; and used easy and familiar similitudes, taken from the most obvious occurrences in life, to illustrate matters of the highest importance. A most instructive example ! Such condescension should we use, in training up those committed to our care, and should examine, whether we take their understandings along with us, as we go on : Otherwise we are speaking in an unknown tongue, and as the apostle expresses it, are barbarians unto themt be our language ever so graceful, elegant, or pathetics.

Give me leave to add, for the conclusion of this head, that though it is to be taken for granted, that children in their earliest infancy are to be engaged to what is good, and to be restrained from evil, chiefly, by a view to rewards and punishments, more immediate or remote, or by some natural workings of a benevolent affection, which are by all means to be cherished and cultivated; yet, as they may grow up to greater ripeness of understanding, something further is to be attempted. It must then be our care, to set before them, in the strongest light, the natural beauties of holiness, and deformities of sin; and likewise to propose, in the easiest and most familiar way the evidences of the truth of christianity, that they may be fortified against those temptations to infidelity, with which the present age does so unhappily abound. The external evidences of it are by no means to be slighted, such as the credibility of the gospel history, the accomplishment of prophecies, the unity of design carried on by so many different persons in distant ages

and countries, its amazing and even miraculous propagation in the world; all which, with many other considerations to the same purpose, are very judiciously handled in a variety of excellent writings of our own age ; of which I know not any more suited to your use, than Mr. Bennet's Discourses on the Inspiration of Scripture, which I therefore recommend to your attentive peru

* 1 Pet. ii. 2.
+ Mark iv. 33.

1 Cor. xiv. 11. * Mercator renders 1277 3 3y juxta meusuram viæ ejus, i, e. pro captu ingenji ejus indirmioris.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »