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Some Duties of Parents to their Little Children.
Ephe. vi. 4. And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath,
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
RELIGION is of such a nature, that it extends to every age and every character. Not only does it command the attention of the mature in age, but younger years are to be directed by it. And lietle ones, the sweet lambs of the church, before they can appear to us to think, or reason, are to be ta. ken into its guardianship. O! how precious is the church of Chrift! It spreads its wings over the whole body of the faith. ful, but in the softest and tenderest manner broods the young. A great trust is committed to parents ; every infant, thrown into their fond embraces by heaven, is ever attended with this pleasing commission, “ Bring up this babe, and nourish it for “immortality; you feel it in your arms a precious creature, " and it is given to you to render it useful in the world and ** to form it for eternal felicity." The tender charge is solemn, and the christian heart glows with affectionate gratitude, and says, “ Lord, with pleasure I undertake the business, it shall be my delighe, to do all in my power to answer the gift, and fulo fil my
Allow me here to make one remark arifing from long experience and much observation. That a people accuftomed to hear the doctrines of grace, to be taught the firft principles and experimental views and exercises of internal and vital reli. gion, all which are invisible to their fellow men, they will beat in this refpect, the most close and searching preaching ; but when the visible parts of religion and external duties are explained and inculcated, none more grated and offended tham these. Their bearts are among the firft to pronounce it carnal and legal preaching. Multitudes in all our congregations, will their ministers to dwell more upon the moral duties, and vifible virtues of piety than they generally do. This has its fin. ifter origin in two motives; the one is, that in this, they will be equal to their neighbours ; and in the other, they will fand on apparent and visible ground in certain respects superior to many blazing and experimental profeffors. The subtilties, and tortuous windings of the human heart are exceeding hard to unfold; some are all for inviable exercises, and for experimental preaching, and others for morality, and the exterior duties of religion. Both in certain refpects are right, and both wrong. What God has joined together ought not to be put afunder. The feparation is dangerous and ruinous. The one cannot focure the glory of God and the happiness of the creature without the other. No internal experiences, be they what they may, can introduce to heaven, without the visible works of righteousness, where there is time for their manifeftation; and no outward exhibitions of morality, however fplended, without holiness of heart, will ever bring the soul to the fruition of God.
I fear these remarks, however just and proper in themfelves, are estraying me from my subject, one design of which is to show that the nature and evidences of true religion consist much in the faithful performance of relative duties. And ministers are not only to warn against personal and relative, but also against every inquity which is a transgression of the law of Christ. Let ministers ever have the folemn charge given by God to Ezekiel upon their minds, “O! “Son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house « of Israel, therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, “and warn them from me ; when I say unto the wicked, O!. “ wicked man, thou shalt surely die : If thou doft not speak to 56 warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man fhall die “in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand ; " nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn “ from it ; if he do not curn from his way, he shall die in his « iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” O! that God would impress these sentiments upon my heart, and that I might see them engraven upon my hands, that they may be ever before me, while I treat of the relative and moral duties of our holy religion. One of these duties must engross your attention for the present. The words of our text evidently contain a comprehensive and compleat exhortation to parents, respecting the education of their offspring. The proper and wile education of children, in all the extension of usefulness, arises far beyond our conception. They are hereby formed to be bledings in this world, and often to be stars of glory in the next. The evil and unhappy consequences of omiflion or negligence in this business are beyond the powers of imagination to describe.
The divine counsel given, is addressed to parents in general, who are here defignated by the term fathers. Although fathers are only expressed, yet undoubtedly mothers are herein included. The superior parent often involves the inferior.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit selected the word fathers, because it is probable they are most apt to deviate from, and neglect the counsel here administered. The matter of this exhortation wholly respects the education of children. “ They are not to “ provoke their children to wrath." This cannot be understood as the practice of some would seem to expound it, that pa. rents ought by no means to do those things which may difplease their children, and rather than their children should be crossed or dissatisfied, they neglect their duty. When they do evil they must not be chided, and when guilty of mischief, they must not be corrected. The apostles meaning is evidently this, and it is the construction of common sense. We are not by passionate, unreasonable, morose, and humorsome commands, improperly on our part, to irritate their tempers or provoke them to wrath. We ought to watch against their ill humours as well as against our own.-" But bring them up
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The word nurture signifies nourishment in its utmost extent, both with regard to their bodies and minds. Nature dire&s that we should feed and cloath their bodies, reason dictates that we should nourish and instruct their minds, and the holy scriptures command that we should furnish their immortal souls with divine knowledge and train them up in the fear of God. The words, “ Of the Lord," ought to have a powerful influence upon christians in the extensive circle of the education of their offspring, both in respect to their minds and bodies, and in regard to their moral, civil and religious instruction. The word admonition intends to express the counsel, advice, and direction, which it behoves us to afford them, in all the relations which they do or may sustain in life, especially in regard to spritual duties towards God and Jesus Christ with a view to their acquisition of eternal falvation. This is not merely on occasional business, but ought to be a habitual practice as far as in our power, conIstent with other duties and avocations, that we give our chil.
dren all suitable inftruation for time and eternity. The word rendered bring up, fignifies to foster or nourish them up, and intimates that rational and religious nourishment ought to be adminiltered to their minds, as well as common provisions to their bodies. The latter shall not be much attended to, be. ing a natural duty, and generally well observed and in some cases perhaps even to excess, but the former shall employ the few obfervations that will be made on the subject.
First, one of the primary duties of christian parents is openly to acknowledge Gods right unto their children, early dedicating them by faith to him in the holy ordinance of baptism, hoping and trusting in Chrift, that he will bestow upon them the saving blessings of the covenant of grace. Was the ordi. Dance of circumcifion profitable to the Jewish church in every way? So also is baptism which was instituted in the room thereof. Hereby they are initiated into the visible church, brought into a covenant relation with God, are placed under the blefsings granted to his people, and are by parents, under the watch of the church, to be educated for God. Children are now as capable of a covenant relation to God as when in an. cient times they were circumcised. Neither the sacrament nor the subject of it has been abrogated to this day, only the form of it has been changed from a typical and bloody rite, to a mod. erate ute of pure water. Children are surely as capable of this relation now, as they were when that covenant was made in the twenty ninth chapter of Deuteronomy, “Ye ftand this day, “all of you before the Lord your God, your little ones, your “ wives. &c. that thou shouldlt enter into covenant with the “ Lord thy God, and into his path.” These little ones were entered into the covenant, and no reason can be advanced, why they are not still as capable of that blesling as they were then; especially as Christ commanded little children to be brought to him and sharply rebuked those who forbade it. And in testimony of his approbation of the dedication of chil.