« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and knowledge, it hath a right to be taught by its parents, according to their best ability, so much as is necessary for its well-being, both in soul and body, here and hereafter.
It is true, that the great God our Creator hath made us reasonable creatures : we by nature capable of learning a million of objects : but, as the soul comes into the world, it is unfurnished with knowledge ; we are born ignorant of every good and useful thing : we know not God, we know not ourselves, we know not what is our duty and our interest, nor where lies our danger ; and, if left entirely to ourselves, should probably grow up like the brutes of the earth ; we should trifle away the brighter seasons of life in a thousand crimes and follies, and endure the fatigues and burdens of it, surrounded with a thousand miseries; and at last we should perish and die without knowledge or hope, if we had no instructors.
All our other powers of nature, such as the will and the various affections, the senses, the appetites, and the limbs, would become wild instruments of madness and mischief, if not governed by the understanding : and the understanding itself would run into a thousand errors, dreadful and pernia cious, and would employ all the other powers in mischief and madness, if it hath not the happiness to be instructed in the things of God and men. And who is there among all our fellow-creatures so much obliged to bestow this instruction on us, as the persons who, by divine providence, have been the instruments to bring us into life and being ? It is their duty to give their young offspring this benefit of instruction, as far as they are able ; or at least to provide such instructions for them, and to put the children under their care.
Here let us therefore inquire what are the several things in which children should be instructed? And upon a due survey, we shall find the most important things which children ought to learn and know are these which follow.
Of instructing Children in Religion. RELIGION, in all the parts of it, both what they are to believe, and what they are to practise, is most necessary to be taught. I mention this in the first place, not only be. cause it is a matter of the highest importance, and of most universal concern to all mankind, but because it
be taught even in these very early years of life. As soon as children begin to know almost any thing, and to exercise their reason about matters that lie within the reach of their knowledge, they may be brought to know so much of religion as is necessary for their age and state. For in stance,
1. Young children may be taught that there is a God, a great and almighty God who made them, and who gives them every good thing. That he sees them every where, though they cannot see him; and that he takes notice of all their behaviour.
2. They must be told what they should do, and what they should avoid, in order to please God. They should be taught in general to know the difference between good and evil. They may learn that it is their duty to fear, and love, and worship God, to pray to him for what they want, and to praise him for what they enjoy ; to obey their · parents, to speak truth, and to be honest and friendly to all mankind; and to set a guard upon their own appetites and passions. And that to neglect these things, or to do any thing contrary to them, is sinful in the sight of God.
3. Their consciences are capable of receiving conviction when they have neglected these duties, or broken the commands of God, or of their parents ; and they may be made sensible that the great and holy God, who loves the righteous, and bestows blessings upon them, is angry with those who have broken his commands, and sinned against him; and therefore that they themselves are become subject to his displeasure.
4. They may be told that there is another world after this; and that their souls do not die when their bodies die ; that they shall be taken up into heaven, which is a state of pleasure and happiness, if they have been good and holy in this world; but if they have been wicked children, they must go down to hell, which is a state of misery and torment. 5.
You may also inform them, that though their bodies die and are buried, yet God can and will raise them to life again ; and that their body and soul together must be made happy or miserable according to their behaviour in this life.
6. They may be taught that there is no way for such sinful creatures as we are to be received into God's favour, but for the sake of Jesus Christ the Son of God; who came down from heaven into our world, and lived a life of pure and perfect holiness, and suffered death to reconcile sinners to the great and holy God, who is offended by the sins of men ; and now he lives in heaven to plead for mercy for them; and that as this Jesus Christ is the only reconciler between God and man, so all their hope must be placed in him.
7. They may be taught that their very natures are sinful : they may be convinced that they are inclined naturally to do evil: and they should be informed that it is the holy Spirit of God who must cure the evil temper of their own spirits, and make them holy and fit to dwell with God in heaven.
8. They should also be instructed to pray to God, that, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the great Mediator or Reconciler, he would pardon their sins past, and help them by his Spirit to love and serve him with zeal and faithfulness for the time to come : that he would bestow all necessary bless. ings upon them in this world, and bring them safe at last to his heavenly kingdom.
9. In the last place, they should be informed, that our blessed Saviour has appointed two ordinances to be obser
ved by all his followers to the end of the world, which are usually called sacraments.
The one is baptism, wherein persons are to be washed with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit, to signify their being given up to Christ as his disciples, or professors of Christianity; and as an emblem of that purity of heart and life, which, as such, they must aim at and endeavour after.
The other is the Lord's supper, wherein bread is broken, and wine is poured out, and distributed, to be eaten and drank by Christians in remembrance of the body of Christ, which was put to a bloody death, as a sacrifice to obtain pardon for the sins of men.
The first of these, namely baptism, is but once to be administered to any person; but the last, namely the Lord's supper, is to be frequently performed, to keep us always in mind of the death of Christ, till he comes again from heaven to judge the world.
This is the sum and substance of the Christian religion, drawn out into a very few plain articles ; and I think a child of common capacity, who is arrived at three or four years of age, may be taught some part of these articles, and may learn to understand them all at seven, or eight, or nine ; at least so far as is needful for all his own exercises of devotion and piety. As his age increases, he may be instructed more at large in the principles and practices of our holy religion, as I shall shew more particularly in the third section.
The Exercise and Improvement of their natural Powers. Having mentioned religion as the principal thing in which children should be instructed, I proceed to say, in the second place, that children should be taught the true use, the exercise, and improvement of their natural powers: and we may, for order sake, distinguish these into the powers of the body,
and those of the mind : now, though nature gives these powers and faculties, yet it is a good education that must instruct us in the exercise and improvement of them: otherwise, like an uncultivated field, they will be ever barren and fruitless, or produce weeds and briers, instead of herbs and corn.
Among the powers of the mind which are to be thus cultivated, we may reckon the understanding, the memory, the judgement, the faculty of reasoning, and the conscience.
I. Teach them to use their understanding aright. Persuade them to value their understanding as a noble faculty, and allure them to seek after the enrichment of it with a variety of knowledge. Let no day escape without adding some new ideas to their understanding, and giving their young unfurnished minds some further notion of things.
Almost every thing is new to a child, and novelty will entice them onward to new acquisitions : shew them the birds, the beasts, the fishes, and insects, trees, herbs, fruits, and all the several parts and properties of the vegetable and the animal world : teach them to observe the various occurrences in nature and providence, the sun, moon, and stars, the day and night, summer and winter, the clouds and the sky, the hail, snow and ice, winds, fire, water, earth, air, fields, woods, mountains, rivers, &c. Teach them that the great God made all these things, and his providence governs them all. Acquaint a child also with domestic affairs so far as is needful, and with the things that belong to the civil and the military life, the church and the state, with the works of God and the works of men. A thousand objects that strike their eyes, their ears, and all their senses, will furnish out new matter for their curiosity and your instructions.
There are some books which are published in the world, wherein a child may be delightfully led into the knowledge of a great number of these things, by pictures, or figures of birds, beasts, &c. well graven with their names under them: this will much assist the labour of the teacher, and add to the pleasure of children in their daily learning.