Page images

ren." Deut. iv. 9, 10. "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.' 99 Deut. vi. 6. 7. The Psalmist in the 78th Psalm, speaking of God's dealings of old, said"Our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children,showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strengh and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments."

Children ought early to be taught the leading historical events recorded in Scripture as performed by the Providence of God. They ought also to be instructed in the leading doctrines of religion, such as the being and perfections of God, the relations they bear to him, the obligations they are under to love and serve him, the shortness and uncertainty of human life, the immortality of their souls, their accountability to God as their Judge, their sinfulness and exposure to the wrath of God, their need of a Saviour, the character, offices, and sufferings of Christ, the way of salvation through him, and him alone, and the nature and necessity of regeneration, repentance, faith, and holy obedience. With such leading principles of religion, children ought to be made acquainted. They ought also to be taught to reverence the institutions of religion, to respect the Sabbath, to attend in the house of God, to read the Scriptures, and to pray.

And here, while on this branch of parental duty, permit me to say a few words on the subject of catechetical instruction. A catechism is intended to contain the great principles of religion, collected from the Scriptures, arranged in systematic order, and expressed in short, in the way of question and answer. This is a very useful way of instructing children and youth. This mode of instruction, was probably used by the Apostles, as some of the

learned have undertaken to show. From ecclesiastical history we know that it was used by the primitive fathers; and that a Catechist was an office of the primitive church. Many of the ancient councils, convinced of the importance of this way of conveying instruction, passed decrees for catechising. This mode of conveying instruction was of much use in advancing the reformation from Popery. Of this the Romish church was so well convinced that it was strongly urged in the celebrated council of Trent, that a catechism should be compiled containing the articles of the Papal religion. And my brethren I believe I may safely assert, that wherever we find the people in general, in a congregation, well informed and established in the great doctrines of religion, there we shall also find catechetical instruction has been carefully attended to; and that in the same congregation they who neglected the catechism while children, will not bear a comparison in point of religious knowledge with those who have been carefully taught them. We also hear the judicatories of our church from the highest to the lowest, frequently, in the addresses which they make to the churches, recommending and earnestly pressing this mode of instruction. Be exhorted therefore my brethren, carefully to attend to the instruction of your children in the catechism. The Westminister catechisms, both Shorter and Larger, are most excellent systems, which I cannot recommend equal to their worth. Be exhorted frequently to read them yourselves, and diligently to teach them to your children. The increased attention to catechetical instruction in this congregation is pleasing. It has doubtless been already greatly blessed to this people, and promises under God to be still a great blessing. But are there not many children who are yet neglected? I earnestly hope that the time may soon come when no children of our congregation will be absent from our public catechisings; when the catechising of families will uniformly make a part of the exercises of the evening of the Lord's Day; and when none of our schools will be found deficient in this branch of education.

3. A third duty incumbent on parents in the religious education of their children, is to set an example of piety before them. Human nature, generally speaking, is led more by example than by precept. And this is more espe

cially the case with the young. Youth is the age of imitation; and the young are especially prone to imitate bad examples. It was a wise maxim of an ancient, "Great respect is due to children," intimating that we ought always to conduct with circumspection in their presence. Parents should be careful to enforce all their instructions by their example, and to convince their children that they live under the influence of those truths which they endeavour to inculcate upon them. Though the instructions of parents be ever so good, they will be of little avail, if their example contradicts their instructions; for they undo with one hand, what they attempt to do with the other. Let the conduct of parents before their children, therefore, prove that they feel what they teach them.

4. Another important duty incumbent on parents, is prayer for their children. The apostle enjoins, "in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God;" Phil. iv. 6. Although parents can educate their children; yet it is the grace of God alone that can make education an ef fectual means of salvation. What the Psalmist said on another occasion may be aptly applied here," except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it;" Ps. cxxvii. 1. Except the Lord add his blessing to the endeavours of parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they will labour in vain; and he has appointed that his people should ask in order to receive his blessing. Let parents therefore often bear their children on their hearts at the throne of grace, and earnestly plead with God in their behalf.

5. Another branch of the duty of parents is, by their authority, to restrain their children from vicious courses. Parents have the right of authority over their children. They have a right to impose lawful commands; and when other means fail, to enforce these commands by correction. And they not only have the right to correct their children; but when other means fail to restrain them from vice, it is their duty to correct them. Thus we read, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes;" Prov. xiii. 24. "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying;" Prov. xix 18. "Foolishness is bound in the

heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him;" Prov. xxii. 15. "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell;" Prov. xxiii. 13, 14. "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul;" Prov. xxix. 15, 17. Abraham exerted his authority over his children, and he is particularly commended for it: "I know him (said the Lord,) that he will command his children, and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord;" Gen. xviii. 19. But here Eli failed; and he was condemned for it. When he heard of the great wickedness of his sons, he reproved them, saying, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear ye make the Lord's people to transgress;" 1. Sam. ii. 22, 24. But notwithstanding these reproofs, God denounced and executed judgments upon his house, because he did not go further, and exercise, his authority in endeavouring to restrain them. "I have told him, (said the Lord,) that I will judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." Let parents derive instruction from the examples of these two men; and not with Eli rest contented with advice and reproof alone when these prove ineffectual; but with Abraham command their children to do that which is right, and enforce their commands.


And here I would observe that parents ought to be particularly careful, into what company they suffer their children to go, and to keep them from the company of the wicked. This is perhaps one of the greatest dangers to which our children are exposed. "Evil communications corrupt good manners;" 1 Cor. xv. 33. Children, as has already been observed, are very prone to imitation; and on account of the propensity to sin in their nature, they are much more prone to imitate evil than good examples. Evil company is therefore exceedingly dangerous, and it is important that parents as they value the souls of their children, should restrain them from such associates, as will set before them a wicked example.

And further, I would here remark, that when parents place their children under the care and authority of other persons, to obtain an education, or be instructed in the knowledge of some mechanic art, their duty to them requires that they should place them in a situation, where they have a security that their immortal interests will not be neglected.

Thus I have pointed out the duties of parents to children. Weighty motives enforce these duties.

1. They are enforced by the authority of God. Our text is express; "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." And Prov. xxii. 6, we read, "Train up a child in the way he should go." A number of other texts in which parental duty is commanded have already been quoted. The religious education of children is therefore enforced by the authority of God.

2. The duties which have been pointed out are enforced by the blessed effects which may follow the perform ance of them. Reason teaches us that a correct education is of great importance. Of the permanency and strength of the prejudices of education every one must be convinced. Even the Heathen were sensible, of the importance of training up children in the way in which they desired them to go. One of them recommended to all parents, the timely education of children, advising to train them up in learning, good manners, and virtuous exercises, since we commonly retain those things in age which we entertained in youth. Another being asked, what he thought most proper for boys to learn, answered," what they ought to do when they come to be men." And a wiser than either of these has told us under the Spirit of inspiration, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it ;" Prov. xxii. 6. This being the case, it is certainly of vast importance that parents should educate their children aright. The future conduct, and therefore the future respectability, usefulness, and comfort of children in life are intimately concerned in their education; and so also is the prosperity of both church and state, of which they are to compose the future members. For as a general rule, it is certainly true that children well educated will act under the influence of those principles which they received in early years, and thus be respect



« PreviousContinue »