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The fourth chapter contains some observations on the true ground of the duty of parents towards their children, and on its general nature and offices. The doctor observes that the authority of parents is one of the greatest and most important trusts that the sovereign wisdom of the eternal parent of the universe, has thought fit to vest in mankind; and therefore, that the right execution of this trust, by a conscientious performance of every part of parental duty, may juftly be ranked among the chief obligations of religions among the first, in order of nature, and the most diffusive, and momentous, in their confequences. He thews that the provident care of parents for their children, in the first irrational, and absolutely defenceless, stage of human life, is an inviolable law of nature, and one of its wisest, and most important, institutions, and that, if we rise higher, to the stage when reason begins to open, when conscience, and the first dawning sense of morality discovers itself in children, the right discharge of the parents duty will appear to be of Atill greater moment, because this is the scene for nurturing the understanding, and laying the foundation for good and useful manners.
He observes farther on this subject, that parents can properly demand no reverence, no gratitude, or honour, on account of the instrumental communication of being to their children ; and that their first discharging, at least in the greater and more essential instances, their natural obligations, is what chiefly constitutes the tie of duty on the part of the children.
In the fifth chapter our author proceeds to the consideration of a subject, of all others, the most important, viz. The proper education of children; in treating of which he not only shews great knowledge of human nature, but the most ardent concern for the happiness of mankind, and the interests of virtue and true religion. After some general reflections to fhew the necessity of removing the impediments to a proper education, and of preventing the growth of noxious weeds, that will suffocate the seeds of wisdom, and virtue, in their very birth, he examines the followingquellion, viz. Whether the rigorous and compulsive, or the mild, ingenuous, and liberal education, be the preferable course? He obferves very justly, that extreme severity in paternal government, like tyranny of all other kinds, depresses and breaks the spirits ; begets a pusillanimous, abject, flavish mind; enervates the force of resolution ; damps emulation and ardor, the chief springs of wise and virtuous improve
ments ; that it raises a prejudice against virtue in some tempers, scarce possible to be ever afterwards subdued ; and that instead of bending others to compliance, it renders them more ftiff and obstinate, through a disdain of rigour, and an opposition to tyrannical power. To reduce and conquer obstinacy, he allows that the severer method, and even the infliction of corporal punishments, may be often right and fit ; nay farther, that they seem to be the only means of quelling and controuling an intractable spirit, that is averse to all reason, and incapable of receiving impressions from it : but observes that these, with respect to the whole, are rare instances, and perhaps ever likely to be fo; the first temper of youth being, in the main, soft and flexible, if it be not hardened by an over-fond and indiscreet indulgence. As rigid discipline, though it may repel, is not fo likely to cure and reform, a perverse and evil temper, our author prefers the gentle, mild, and persuasive method of education ; and recommends it to parents to inculcate strongly on the minds of their children, the infamy of ignorance and vice, the reafonable character of wisdom, the intrinsic excellence and amiableness of religion, and to nourish and strengthen, aş much as possible, their sense of ingenuity and honour.
He now proceeds to shew the vast importance of a religious education. Nothing else, says he, can be so worthy of our solicitous care, and steady attention. If the foundation be, here, rightiy laid, we provide, in the surest manner, for our childrens future honour, and their happiness throughout the whole period of their existence; not for a low, fleeting, animal, but for a reasonable, moral, immortal life. We take the only method, to render all their other accomplishments, of learning, extensive knowledge, polite address, engaging and ingenucus manners, in the highest degree graceful, and beneficial; to refine their dispositions, enoble their views, fit them for offices, of society and friendship and urge them from the sublimest of all motives, and motives of the most certain and constant efficacy, to laudable and great pursuits.
In a word, so far as the best principles, and the utmost precautions, of human prudence can avail, we guard those tender branches of the family (whom the God of nature, the universal parent, has especially committed to our tutorage, while they are credulous and unexperienced) against the dangerous fnares of life; and those excesses of vice and falle pleasure, which impair the health, and corrupt the manners of youth, often to such a degree, that they
are never, afterwards, recover'd to a due strength and vigour, either of body or mind. And thus the rational workmanship of God is render'd in a manner abortive, and stifled in its very birth. It is prevented, not by any direct fault of its own, but before it becomes capable of distinguishing, rightly, between good and evil : it is prevented, I say, merely through its misfortune, in having been intrusted to the conduct of unnatural and faithless guardians, from so much as aspiring after any improvements of virtue and religion, and from ever thinking in earnest, how it may best attain the end of its creation.
• And from hence, it undeniably follows, that no man deserves, to such a degree, the character of a father, abfolutely favage and cruel, as he, who entirely negleets to instruct his children in the knowledge, the grateful adoration, and serious reverence of God and the eternal momentous principles of virtue and true religion. Such an one, who has no concern at all about their chief intereft, in time, and to eternity, muft (if he himself believes that there is a God, and that man, as to his mind, is of nobler extract, and allowed to form more extended prospects than a brute) be quite a barbarian, alienated from the taste and feelings of humanity, and hardened against the tenderest sympathies of nature.
For he is the instrument of communicating a being, weak, helpless, ignorant, unapprehensive of danger, in a great degree (for a considerable time, after reason has first began to display itself) and yet exposes it to innumerable fatal hazards of its virtue and peace. Instead of endeavouring to point out to it its duty, and the paths that lead to happiness, its most pernicious exceffes, and the high road of difhonour and misery, he is stupidly insensible of its most pressing exi. gencies, and acts as if he had directly propos'd it to him. self as his chief end in being the Jecondary cause of its existence, to leave it to shift as it could, deftitute of proper ad. monition and culture, amidst the many chances that lay against its right conduct; or, which amounts to much the fame, to devote it to probable vice, shame, and infelicity.
• And is not such a behaviour excessively shocking to reason! to benevolence ! to all honeft sober thought! to rude nature, as well as to refinements of philosophy, and the divine illuminations of the Christian religion ! if children may be thus neglected, the whole human race must have been design'd, in the first page of their lives, when they stand in need of the most officious attendance, and careful cultivation, to be deserted and abandon’d; and consequently, to
be placed, hy nature, in those distress'd and forlorn circumstances, to which, in all countries, pretending to civility, and just regulations of government, only the children of the meaner and poorer part are exposed : in that state, towards which, the pity of the generous mind soonest relents, as one of the most deplorable of all others, and as having a singular claim to its succour and relief.
Having enforced, both on the principles of natural and revealed religion, the parent's obligation to discharge this part of his duty, our author concludes this chapter with suggesting a few hints of a proper model for religious and christian education. And in the first place, says he, it is a rule of great importance, that the religious instruction of children be plain and intelligible ; not only adapted to their age and capacities of reason, but to their real degrees of reason, and actual proficiency in knowledge. To teach them by rote, things of which they have no understanding, is exactly the same with giving them no instruction at all ; nay, it may, sometimes, be attended even with worse consequences ; because the imposing upon them the learning of words, from which they can derive no information, no ideas at all, may infuse into their minds an early deep impression that religion is a thing entirely arbitrary, from which they can, reasonably, expect no more solid advantage than a slave has in obeying the will of a tyrant, i. e. the being merely exempted from punishment, without any rational hope of a reward. If they are obliged, for example, in the first rudiments and exercises of their reason, to learn and retain the following words viz. “ that juftification is an act of God's free grace, “ wherein he pardoneth all our fins, and acceptethus as righte“ ous in his fight, only for the righteousness of Christ, imput“ed to us, and received by faith alone"-(without enquiring, at present, whether this be a scriptural doctrine or not) molt certain it is, that they might, almost, as well have been taught the pronunciation of a sentence in Greek or Arabic, as a necessary article of true religion, because, in both cases, they are obliged to learn somewhat, the sense of which they are entirely ignorant of; and which the parent, the instructor himself, is generally unable to explain.
And from hence, it necessarily follows, that the in. struction, in principles of religion, should be progressive and gradual, as the understanding grows mature and ripe for receiving it. To overload a tender mind, breaks its force of genius, discourages its application, and may fix an inveterate freiudice against religion itself. Many parts, especially of
the do&trines and evidences of revealed religion, children seem, at first, to be not capable of comprehending : it is scarce posible, therefore, that these should establish any good principles and dispositions in their minds : And, because they experience nothing of this kind, they may, perhaps, be led to conclude that there is nothing of real moment in these things, and be discouraged, ever afterwards, from engaging in a serious difquisition into such apparently dry unprofitable fpeculations ; against which, by wrong management, they have been early prepoffefs'd, as perplex'd and intricate, and of but little importance to their happiness.
. Another rule, therefore, to be observed in religious education is, to begin with those first principles, on which all religion, whether natural or revealed, is founded : and by which alone its authority can be supported and maintained. From their own senses and experience, as soon as they become capable of exertions and operations of reason, youth may have easily instilled and established in their minds the general notion of a first cause. They have a sentiment derived from nature, and confirmed by the weakness and dependance of their infant state, that they were not the authors of their own existence : they will soon admit this also of their parents, whom they fee to be of the same kind with themselves, though advanced to higher degrees of strength and perfection in human nature.
They will, therefore, without much difficulty, admit the idea of an universal parent, presiding over, and governing all mankind ; that they are bound to pay him a supreme reverence ; that they owed to him, in their defencless itate of infancy, all the supports and accommodations of life; that his government is mild and gracious, and his punishments when he is obliged to correct, necessary, and intended for thir good; that he is a witness to all their follies ; and that whatever excesses they are either ashamed or afraid to commit, in the presence of their earthly parents, they should be much more solicitous not to indulge themselves in under his constant notice and inspection. These fundamental principles of all religion may be explained and deeply fixed in the minds of children, as soon, almost, as they are capable of being instructed in any branch of knowledge.
! But their more explicit knowledge of the character and perfections of God would be best infused by degrees; and may, perhaps, be more properly communicated, as curiosity prompts them to enlarge their views, and in answer to the questions which general discourses on these subjects will natu