Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

may plant, and Apollos water ; but it is God alone who can give the increase. Still, it is his pleasure, in ordinary cases, to act by second means. He points out, indeed, the steps by which we must attain unto holiness. If we follow that path in sincerity and truth, he will bless us in all our ways; if we turn aside, he will leave us to ourselves. He invites us, he encourages us by the most gracious promises, to come to him; he menaces us with the most awful judgments, if we embrace not his proffered mercies; but still he does not force us into his service. We must enter it freely and sincerely; we must learn its duties by gradual and continual advances; and it becomes, therefore, a point of the utmost importance, to know what are the means which he will chiefly vouchsafe to bless. The words of my text, in suggesting the apparent cause of the piety and excellence of Timothy, will also furnish us with an answer to our enquiry. He knew the Holy Scriptures from a child. He was blessed, we read, with a mother of exemplary piety; who seems to have inherited her religious temper from her mother also. By these affectionate relatives, he was early trained to purity of life and holiness of heart. There is something delightful, as well as edifying, in the contemplation of a character thus disciplined to holiness from his earliest years ; in suffering the imagination to wander back to the time, when the aged Lois and the anxious Eunice bent over the head of their infant

son, watched the dawnings of reason in his opening mind, and strove to make his first lispings those of prayer and praise. It is in truth a pleasing sight, thus to look, though it be but in fancy, on the beaming features of childhood, taught to lighten up with gladness at their Creator's name, to glow with gratitude at the remem, brance of his bounty. This is, alas! a picture too rarely met with in the present times. And it would be difficult to account for the melancholy deficiency, except from that perverseness of heart, and those evil dispositions, to which man is by nature prone. He appears, indeed, to have an instinctive aversion to subjects of religion, to imagine that an over anxiety about them is a feeling unworthy of his dignity. He seems to conceive, that to discourse on God, or God's revelations, is unseasonable or mistimed, except during the hours of sabbath worship. Hence it too often follows, that whilst he displays the utmost anxiety that his children should be early instructed in the different branches of human learning, he ordinarily manifests but little concern as to their progress in heavenly knowledge. There is a fatal spirit of procrastination amongst us, by which we are ever deferring the time of religious instruction. We hear of men attaining the age

of fourscore years, and we vainly imagine that our own lives will be protracted to the same extent. We are, in consequence, apt to soppose, that the days of childhood are not the time to lay up stores of that learning, which is to fit us for another world, rather than this.

Yet no theory surely, was ever more delusive or more dangerous. Does not the grave yawn for the young as well as for the aged ? How few of you are there, that are parents, who have not wept over some blighted hope, some fair promise nipt in its bloom. Survey the memorials of mortality by which you are now surrounded; of how many does the legend tell, who have sunk into the night of the tomb, before the first years of manhood had been attained. It is then as important for the young to be prepared to die, as for the aged; they all have souls to be saved, and it will be as fearful for one to fall into God's hands unprepared, as for the other. “ The hoary head," says the wise man, “is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness ;” and no less beautiful is the piety of the infant brow. What task, then, can be more delightful to a parent's care, than to “train up a child in the way he should go," to guard him against the snares of the world, before its fascinations are spread around his heart; and to teach him the way to holiness, before he has become hacknied in the paths of vice. The

D

innocence of infancy is a favourite theme, and we are very prone to use it in a much wider sense, than we have any just grounds for doing. The infant, indeed, is at first incapable of committing any actual sin ; but no sooner do the powers of the reason begin to unfold themselves, than the wickedness of the heart is discovered too. And this, indeed, is one of the strongest proofs which can be given of the innate corruption of our nature, that we do in effect commit sin, before we can possibly have learnt it from any external communication. The period of childhood, then, must surely be the time, in which religious instruction may be imparted with the best prospects of success. We have seen, in the example of Timothy, that it is a labour, which God will vouchsafe to prosper. The doctrines too, of our holy faith, may be early instilled into the youthful mind. A child may soon be taught to feel itself a feeble and erring creature, to look up to its Saviour for help and assistance, to pray in his name, to hope for pardon in his merits, to endeavour to be obedient to his laws. And what better foundation can be laid for his future welfare, than that which has Jesus Christ as the cornerstone? What better support than this can be provided against the time of adversity, or the hour of distress · If it has been your fate, my Christian brethren, to experience the storms of adverse fortune, to encounter the scorn, the contumely, and the disappointments of the world, did you not, in the day of tribulation, find religion the only balm for your wounds, the only solace in your troubles? With God's blessing, then, strive to impart tbis source of consolation to your children also. It will be a better inheritance than the fairest estate—a better legacy than a mine of wealth. Yon may enlarge their minds with the varied stores of human learning, you may imbue them with the records of the present and the past; you may teach them to grasp the

tongues of other days as well as your own; and yet will one spark of Christian knowledge be of more value than all this varied lore. It may be your lot, as it has been that of thousands before you, to behold the flower you have reared with so much care, droop and languish ; it may

be

your painful office, to bear about in sickness the fragile frame, which you have hitherto caressed in its mirth and vigour, and to feel the burden grow lighter every hour ; it may be your lot to watch the pillow of its feverish rest, to see the

the eye grow dim, and feel the tiny heart flutter in its trembling tenement. At an hour like this, say, would it give you comfort, to reflect upon the earthly wisdom, which you had laboured to impart to the fading blossom before you? Would it yield you any delight, to remember the zeal and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »