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set himself down with diligence, and try to answer Mr Reynolds's third letter in vindication of the gospel ; and that he would shew, under every head, how the several steps which were taken in the propagation of the Christian religion, might be the natural effects of imposture or enthusiasm; and consequently that it deserves no credit among men.
Volatilis undertook the work, and after he had entered a little way into it, found himself so bewildered, and his arguments to prove the apostles either enthusiasts or impostors so muddled, so perplexed, and so inconclusive, that, by a diligent review of this letter to the Deist, at last he acknowledged himself fully convinced that the religion of Jesus was divine; for that Christian author had made it appear it was impossible that doctrine should have been propagated in the world by simplicity or folly, by fraud or falsehood; and accordingly resigned his soul up to the gospel of the blessed Jesus.
I fear there have been multitudes of such unbelievers as Volatilis; and he himself has confessed to me, that even his most rational friends would be constrained to yield to the evidence of the Christian doctrine, if they would honestly try the same method.
OF THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION, AND THE DESIGN OF THIS
DISCOURSE, WITH A PLAN OF IT.
The children of the present age are the hope of the age
We who are now acting our several parts in the busy scenes of life are hasting off the stage apace : months and days are sweeping us away from the business and the surface of this earth, and continually laying some of us to sleep under ground. The circle of thirty years will plant another generation in our room: another set of mortals will be the chief actors in all the greater and lesser affairs of this life, and will fill the world with blessings or with mischiefs, when our heads lie low in the dust.
Shall we not then consider with ourselves, what can we do now to prevent those mischiefs, and to entail blessings on our successors? What shall we do to secure wisdom, goodness, and religion, among the next generation of men ? Have we any concern for the glory of God in the rising age? any solicitude for the propagation of virtue and happiness to those who shall stand up in our stead? Let us then hearken to the voice of God and Solomon, and we shall learn how this may be done : the all-wise God, and the wisest of men, join to give us this advice : “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The sense of it may be expressed more at large in this proposition, namely, let children have a good education given them in the younger parts of life, and this is the most likely way to establish them in virtue and piety in their elder years.
In this discourse, I shall not enter into any inquiries about the management of children in the two or three first years of their life; I leave that tender age entirely to the care of the mother and the nurse; yet not without a wish that some wiser and happier pen would give advice or friendly notice to nurses and mothers of what they ought to avoid, and what they ought to do in those early seasons : and indeed they may do much towards the future welfare of those young buds and blossoms, those lesser pieces of human nature, which are their proper charge. Some of the seeds of virtue and goodness may be conveyed almost into their very constitution betimes, by the pious prudence of those who have the conduct of them: and some forward vices may be nipped in the very bud, which, in three years time, might gain too firm a root in their heart and practice, and may not easily be plucked up by all the following care of their teachers.
But I begin with children when they can walk and talk, when they have learned their mother-tongue, when they begin to give some more evident discoveries of their intellectual powers, and are more manifestly capable of having their minds formed and moulded into knowledge, virtue, and piety.
Now the first and most universal ingredient which enters into the education of children, is an instruction of them in those things which are necessary and useful for them in their rank and station, and that with regard to this world and the world to come.
I limit these instructions (especially such as relate to this world) by the station and rank of life in which children are born and placed by the providence of God. Persons of better circumstances in the world should give their sons and their daughters a much larger share of knowledge, and a richer variety of instruction, than meaner persons can på ought. But since every child that is born into this world hath a body and a soul, since its happiness or misery in this world and the next depends very much upon its instructions