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'N all Matters of Importance, every one that wants Information, should firft seek for it, then attend to it: and the more our Happiness depends upon judging and acting right in any Cafe, the more Care and Pains we should take to qualify ourfelves for both. Now the Happiness of all Perfons depends beyond Comparison chiefly on being truly religious. For true Religion confifts in three Things; reasonable Government of ourfelves, good Behaviour towards our Fellow-creatures, and Dutifulness to our Maker: the Practice of which will give us, for the moft Part, Health of Body and Eafe of Mind, a comfortable Provifion of Neceffaries, and Peace with all around us; but however, will always Tecure to us, what is infinitely more valuable ftill, the Favour and Bleffing of God; who, on these Terms, will both watch over us continually with a fatherly Kindness in this Life, and beftow on us eternal Felicity in the
Since, therefore, whoever is religious must be happy, the great Concern of every one of us is to know and obferve the Doctrines and Rules which Religion delivers. Now we all come into the World ignorant of these; and our Faculties are fo weak at firft, and gain Strength fo flowly; and the Attention of our earlier Years to ferious Things is fo fmall; that even were our Duty to comprehend no more than ourown Reafon could teach us, few, if any, would learn it fufficiently without Affiftance; and none fo foon as they would need it. They would come out into a World full of Dangers, every Way
unprepared for avoiding them; would go wrong in the very Beginning of Life, perhaps fatally: at leaft would hurt, if they did not ruin themselves; and make their Return into the right Path certainly difficult, and probably late.
But we muft confider yet further, that Reason, were it improved to the utmost, cannot discover to us all that we are to believe and do: but a large and most important Part of it is to be learnt from the Revelation made to us in God's holy Word. And this, though perfectly well fuited to the Purpofes for which it was defigned, yet being originally delivered at very diftant Times, to very different Sorts of Perfons, on very different Occafions; and the feveral Articles of Faith and Precepts of Conduct, which it prefcribes, not being collected and laid down methodically in any one Part of it, but difperfed with irregular Beauty through the whole, as the Riches of Nature are through the Creation; the Informations of the more knowing must be in many Respects needful, to prepare the more ignorant for receiving the Benefits, of which they are capable from reading the Scripture. And particularly, giving them before-hand a fummary and orderly View of the principal Points comprehended in it, will qualify them better than any other Thing to difcern its true Meaning, so far as is requifite, in each Part.
Therefore, both in what Reason of itself dictates, and what God hath added to it, Inftruction is neceffary, especially for Beginners. And indeed, as they are never left to find out by their own Abilities any other Sort of ufeful Knowledge, but always helped, if poffible; it would be very strange, if, in the most important Kind, the fame Care at leaft were not taken.
But befides enlightening the Ignorance of Perfons, Inftruction doth equal, if not greater, Service, by preventing or oppofing their Prejudices and Partialities. From our tendereft Age we have our wrong Inclinations, and are very prone to form wrong Notions in Support of them; both which we are extremely backward to acknowledge,
acknowledge, and very apt to model our Religion in fuch Manner as to leave Room for our Faults. Now right Explanations clearly delivered, and right Admonitions preffed home, in early Days, may preferve Perfons from thus deceiving themselves, and guard them against future, as well as prefent Dangers. Nay, though flighted, and seemingly forgotten for a Time, they may ftill keep fecretly fuch a Hold upon the Mind as will fooner or later bring those back, who would elfe never have feen, or never have owned, that they had loft their Way.
But a ftill further Advantage of Inftruction is, that bringing frequently before Perfons Eyes those Truths on which otherwife they would feldom reflect, though ever fo much convinced of them, it keeps the Thoughts of their Duty continually at Hand, to refift the Temptations with which they are attacked. Thus their Lives and their Minds are infenfibly formed to be fuch as they ought; and being thus trained up in the Way wherein they fhould go, there is great Hope, that they will not afterwards depart from it.
Nor doth Reafon only, but Experience too, fhew the Need of timely Inftitution in Piety and Virtue. For is it not vifible, that, principally for Want of it, Multitudes of unhappy Creatures, in all Ranks of Life, fet out from the firft in Sin, and follow it on as fecurely, as if it were the only Way they had to take; do unfpeakable Mischief in the World, and utterly undo themselves, Body and Soul: whilft others, of no better natural Difpofitions, but only better taught, are harmlefs and useful, efteemed and honoured, go through Life with Comfort, and meet Death with joyful Hope? There are doubtlefs, in fuch Numbers, Exceptions on both fides; but this is undeniably the ordinary, the probable, the always to be expected Course of Things. Therefore seriously confider, will you defpife religious Knowledge, and be like the former miferable Wretches? or will you embrace it, and be happy with the latter, here and to Eternity?
But it is not fufficient that you be willing to receive Inftruction, unless they alfo, to whom that Care belongs, are willing to give it. Now the Care of giving it belongs to different Perfons in different Cafes. In the Cafe of Children, it ufually belongs in a peculiar Degree to their Parents; who, having been the Means of bringing them into the World, are most strongly bound to endeavour that their Being may prove a Benefit, not a Caufe of Lamentation to them; and having been endued by Heaven with tender Affections towards them, will be doubly Sinners against them, if they are guilty of that worft of Cruelty, not teaching them their Duty: without which alfo, and it deferves a very ferious Confideration, they can no more hope for Comfort in them here, than for Acceptance with God hereafter. And therefore, both the Old Teftament directed the Jews, to teach their Children diligently the Words which God had commanded them; and the New enjoins Chriftians to bring up theirs in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord. Sometimes indeed Want of Leifure, fometimes of Knowledge and Ability, obliges Parents to commit Part, it may be a confiderable one, of the Instruction of their Children to other Perfons. But far from being ever discharged of the whole Burthen, they muft always remember, that unless they affift and enforce what others endeavour, it will feldom produce any valuable Effect; and much lefs, if fome of the Things, which their Children hear them fay, and fee them do almoft every Day, are directly contrary to thofe, which they pretend they would have them believe and learn.
The Perfons on whom ufually this Care is devolved by Parents, are Mafters and Miftreffes of Schools, and afterwards Tutors in Colleges, who ought never to omit furnishing Children, amongst other Knowledge, plentifully with that which is the moft neceflary of all; but conftantly to employ the Influence which they have on their Minds, and the Knowledge which they acquire
b Deut. vi. 6, 7.
Ephef. vi. 4.