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depravity. It is impossible, being our children, that they should not be depraved, as we are; for, to use the language of scripture, their "fathers are Amorites and their mothers are Hittites," Ezek. xvi. 13. Here I wish I could give you some notion of this mortifying mystery; I wish I could remove the difficulties which prevent your seeing it; I wish I could show you what a union there is between the brain of an infant and that of its mother, in order to convince you that sin passes from the parent to the child.
consummation of that great sacrifice, which he was about to offer to the justice of his Father. The soul of our divine Saviour was affected with the dangers to which his dear disciples were going to be exposed. Against these gloomy thoughts he opposed two noble reflections. First, he remembered the care which he had taken of them, and the great principles which he had formed in their inds: and secondly, he observed that "shadow of the ALmighty, under which he had taught them to abide," Ps. xci. 1. "I have manifested thy
What! can we in cool blood behold our chil-name unto the men which thou gavest me. dren in an abyss, into which we have plunged While I was with them in the world, I kept them; can we be sensible that we have done this them in thy name, and none of them is lost but evil, and not endeavour to relieve them? Not the son of perdition. They are not of the world, being able to make them innocent, shall we not even as I am not of the world," John xvii. (♥ endeavour to render them penitent? Ah! vic- 12, 16. This is the first reflection. "Now I tims of my depravity, unhappy heirs of the am no more in the world, but these are in the crimes of your parents, innocent creatures, born world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep only to suffer, I think I ought to reproach my- through thine own name those whom thou hast self for all the pains you feel, all the tears you given me, that they may be one, as we are. I shed, and all the sighs you utter. Methinks, pray not that thou shouldst take them out of every time you cry, you reprove me for my in- the world, but that thou shouldst keep them sensibility and injustice. At least, it is right, from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth, that, as I acknowledge myself the cause of the thy word is truth. Father, I will that they evil, I should employ myself in repairing it, and also, whom thou hast given me, be with me endeavour to renew your nature by endeavour- where I am," ver. 11, 15, 17. This is the seing to renew my own. cond reflection.
This reflection leads us to a third point. To neglect the education of our children is to be wanting in that tenderness, which is so much their due. What can we do for them? What inheritance can we transmit to them? Titles? They are often nothing but empty sounds without meaning and reality. Riches? They often "make themselves wings and fly away," Prov. xxiii. 5. Honours? They are often mixed with disagreeable circumstances, which poison all the pleasure. It is a religious education, piety, and the fear of God, that makes the fairest inheritance, the noblest succession, that we can leave our families.
These two reflections are impenetrable shields, and a parent should never separate them. Would you be in a condition to oppose the second of these shields against such attacks as the gloomy thoughts just now mentioned will make upon your hearts on that day in which you quit the world and leave your children in it? endeavour now to arm yourself with the first. Would you have them abide under the shadow of the Almighty?" Inculcate his fear and his love in their hearts. Would you be able to say as Jesus Christ did, "Holy Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me, that they may behold my glory; keep them through thy name?" Put yourself now into a condition to enable you then to say to God as Christ did, "I have given them to thy word, they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
To neglect the education of our children is to let loose madmen against the state, instead of furnishing it with good rulers or good subjects. That child intended for the church, what will he become, if he be not animated with such a spirit as ought to enliven a minister of religion? He will turn out a trader in sacred things, and prove himself a spy in our families,
If any worldly care may lawfully occupy the mind of a dying parent, when in his last moments the soul seems to be called to detach itself from every worldly concern, and to think of nothing but eternity, it is that which has our children for its object. A Christian in such circumstances finds his heart divided between the family, which he is leaving in the world, and the holy relations, which he is going to meet in heaven. He feels himself pressed by turns between a desire to die, which is most advantageous for him, and a wish to live, which seems most beneficial to his family. He says, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to de-a fomenter of faction in the state, who, under part, and to be with Christ, which is far better; pretence of glorifying God, will set the world nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more need-on fire. That other child intended for the bar, ful for you," Phil. i. 23, 24. We are terrified what will he become, unless as much pains be at that crowd of dangers, in which we leave taken to engage him to love justice as to make these dear parts of ourselves. The perils seem him know it, or to make him not disguise it as to magnify as we retire from the sight of them. well as understand it? He will prove himself One while we fear for their health, another an incendiary, who will sow seeds of division while we tremble for their salvation. My bre-in families, render law suits eternal, and reduce thren, can you think of any thing more proper to indigence and beggary even those clients, to prevent or to pacify such emotions, than the whose causes he shall have art enough to gain. practice of that duty which we are now pressing And that child, whom you have rashly deteras absolutely necessary? A good father on his mined to push into the highest offices of state death-bed puts on the same dispositions to his without forming in him such dispositions as are children as Jesus Christ adorned himself with necessary in eminent posts, what will he bein regard to his disciples immediately before the come? A foolish or a partial judge, who will
pronounce on the fortunes and lives of his fel-world a sinner? was it necessary to put me in low citizens just as chance or caprice may im- arms against Almighty God? Was it not enough pel him: a public blood-sucker, who will live to communicate to me natural depravity? must upon the blood and substance of those whom you add to that the venom of a pernicious eduhe ought to support: a tyrant, who will raze cation? Was it not enough to expose me to the and depopulate the very cities and provinces misfortunes inseparable from life? must you which he ought to defend. plunge me into those which follow death? Return me, cruel parent, return me to nothing, whence you took me. Take from me the fata! existence you gave me. Show me mountains and hills to fall on me, and hide me from the anger of my judge; or, if that divine vengeance which pursues thee, will not enable thee to do so, I myself will become thy tormentor; I will for ever present myself, a frightful spectacle before thine eyes, and by those eternal howlings, which I will incessantly pour into thine ears, I will reproach thee, through all eternity I will reproach thee, with my misery and despair."
Let us turn our eyes from these gloomy images, let us observe objects more worthy of the majesty of this place, and the holiness of our ministry. To refuse to dedicate our children to God by a religious education, is to refuse those everlasting pleasures, which as much surpass our thoughts as our expressions.
It is a famous question in the schools, whether we shall remember in heaven the connexions we had in this world? Whether glorified spirits shall know one another? Whether a father will recollect his son, or a son his father? And so on. I will venture to assert, that they who have taken the affirmative side, and they who have taken the negative on this question, have often done so without any reason.
The least indulgence of the bad inclinations of children sometimes produces the most fatal effects in society. This is exemplified in the life of David, whose memory may be truly reproached on this article, for he was one of the most weak of all parents. Observe his indulgence of Amnon. It produced incest. Remark his indulgence of Absalom, who besought him to allow his brethren to partake of a feast, which he had prepared. It produced an assassination. See his weak fondness of the same Absalom, who endeavoured to make his way to the throne by mean and clownish manners, affecting to shake hands with the Israelites, and to embrace and kiss them (these are the terms of Scripture,) and practising all such popular airs as generally precede and predict sedition. This produced a civil war. Remark how he indulged Adonijah, who made himself chariots, and set up a retinue of fifty men. The sacred historian tells us, that "his father had not displeased him at any time, in saying, why hast thou done so?" 1 Kings, i. 6. This produced a usurpation of the throne and the crown.
To neglect the education of your children is to furnish them with arms against yourselves. You complain that the children, whom you have brought up with so much tenderness, are the torment of your life, that they seem to reproach you for living so long, and that, though they have derived their being and support from you, yet they refuse to contribute the least part of their superfluities to assist and comfort you! You ought to find fault with yourselves, for their depravity is a natural consequence of such principles as you have taught them. Had you accustomed them to respect order, they would not now refuse to conform to order: but they would perform the greatest of all duties; they would be the strength of your weakness, the vigour of your reason, and the joy of your old
To neglect the education of children is to prepare torments for a future state, the bare ap-mented with the devil? prehension of which must give extreme pain to every heart capable of feeling. It is beyond a doubt, that remorse is one of the chief punishments of the damned, and who can question, whether the most excruciating remorse will be excited by this thought; I have plunged my children into this abyss, into which I have plunged myself?
Imagine a parent of a family discovering among the crowd of reprobates a son, whom he himself led thither, and who addresses to him this terrible language. "Barbarous father, what animal appetites, or what worldly views inclined you to give me existence? to what a desperate condition you have reduced me! See, wretch that you are, see these flames which burn and consume me. Observe this thick smoke which suffocates me. Behold the heavy chains with which I am loaded. These are the fatal consequences of the principles you gave me. Was it not enough to bring me into the VOL. II.-4
On the one side, the first have pretended to establish their thesis on this principle, that something would be wanting to our happiness if we were not to know in a future state those persons, with whom we had been united by the tenderest connexions in this present world.
On the other hand, if we know, say the partisans of the opposite opinion, the condition of our friends in a future state, how will it be possible that a parent should be happy in the possession of a heaven, in which his children have no share; and how can he possibly relish pleasure at the right hand of God, while he revolves this dreadful thought in his mind, my children are now, and will for ever be tor
It should seem, the proof and the objection are equally groundless. The enjoyment of God is so sufficient to satiate a soul, that it cannot be considered as necessary to the happiness of it to renew such connexions as were formed during a momentary passage through this world. I oppose this against the argument for the first opinion: and I oppose the same against the objection, for the enjoyment of God is every way so sufficient to satiate a soul, that it can love nothing but in God, and that its felicity cannot be altered by the miseries of those with whom there will then be no connexion.
A consideration of another kind has always made me incline to the opinion of those who take the affirmative side of this question. The perfections of God are here concealed under innumerable veils. How often does he seem to countenance iniquity by granting a profusion of favours to the contrivers of the most infernal
schemes? How often does he seem to declare | such a master, and saying to him, "behold me, himself against innocence by the misfortunes and the children which God hath given me," which he leaves the innocent to suffer? How Heb. ii. 13. often have we seen tyrants on a throne, and good people in irons? Does not this awful phenomenon furnish us with an irrefragable argument for the doctrine of a general judgment and a future state? Which of your preachers has not frequently exhorted you to "judge nothing before the time," 1 Cor. iv. 5; at the end of the time comes "the restitution of all things," Acts iii. 21, which will justify Providence?
Now, it should seem, this argument, which none but infidels and libertines deny, and which is generally received by all Christians, and by all philosophers, this argument, I say, favours, not to say establishes in an incontestible manner, the opinion of those who think that the saints will know one another in the next life. Without this how could we acquiesce in the justice of the sentence, which will then be pronounced on all? Observe St. Paul, whose ministry was continually counteracted. What motive supported him under so much opposition? Certainly it was the expectation of seeing one day with his own eyes the conquest which he obtained for Jesus Christ; souls which he had plucked out of the jaws of Satan; believers whom he had guided to eternal happiness. Hear what he said to the Thessalonians, "What is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy," chap. ii. 19, 20.
Now, this is the hope, this is the crown, which I propose to you, heads of families, to engage you to dedicate your children to God by a religious education.
It was this thought which supported one of the wisest of the heathens against the fears of death, I mean Cato of Utica. No man had a greater affection for a son, than he had for his. No man bore the loss with greater firmness and magnanimity. "O happy day, when I shall quit this wretched crowd, and join that divine and happy company of noble souls, who have quitted the world before me! I shall there meet not only these illustrious personages, but my dear Cato, who, I will venture to say, was one of the best of men, of the best natural disposition, and the most punctual in the discharge of his duties, that ever was. I have put his body on the funeral pile, whereas he should have placed mine there; but his soul has not left me, and he has only stepped first into a country where I shall soon join him."
If this hope made so great an impression on the mind of a pagan, what ought it not to produce in the heart of a Christian? What infinite pleasure, when the voice shall cry, "Arise ye dead," to see those children whom God gave you? What superior delight, to behold those whom an immature death snatched from us, and the loss of whom had cost us so many tears? What supreme satisfaction, to embrace those who closed our eyes, and performed the last kind offices for us? O the unspeakable joy of that Christian father, who shall walk at the head of a Christian family, and present himself with all his happy train before Jesus Christ, offering to him hearts worthy to serve
We have been speaking of the fatal consequences of an irreligious education; and now we wish we could put you all into a condition to prevent them. But, alas! how can some of you reduce our exhortations to practice? you disconsolate fathers, you distressed mothers, from whom persecution has torn away these dear parts of yourselves, ye weeping Davids, ye mourning Rachels, who, indeed, do not weep because your children "are not," but because, though they are, and though you gave them existence, you cannot give them a religious education? Ah! how can you obey our voice? Who can calm the cruel fears, which by turns divide your souls? What results from all the conflicts, which pass within you, and which rend your hearts asunder? Will you go and expose yourselves to persecution? Will you leave your children alone to be persecuted? Will you obey the voice that commands, "flee out of Babylon, and deliver every man his own soul," Jer. i. 6; or that which cries, "Take the young child?" Matt. ii. 20. O dreadful alternative! Must you be driven, in some sort, to make an option between their salvation and yours? must you sacrifice yours to theirs, or theirs to your own?
Ah! cruel problem! Inhuman suspense! Thou tyrant, is not thy rage sufficiently glutted by destroying our material temples must you lay your barbarous hands on the temples of the Holy Ghost? Is it not enough to plunder us of our property, must you rob us of our families? Is it not enough to render life bitter, would you make eternity desperate and intolerable?
But, it is not to tyrants that we address ourselves, they are inaccessible to our voice, or inflexible to our complaints. It is to God alone, who turns them as he thinks proper, that we address our prayers. Hagar found herself banished into a desert, and she had nothing to support her but a few pieces of bread, and a bottle of water. The water being spent, her dear Ishmael was ready to die with thirst. She laid him under a bush, and only desired that she might not see him die. She rambled to some distance, wept as she went, and said, "Let me not see the death of the child," Gen. xxi. 16, &c. See, she cannot help it, she sits over against him, lifts up her voice, and weeps." God heard the voice of the mother and the child, and, by an angel, said unto her, "What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad. Arise, take hold of his hand, and lift him up, for I will make him a great nation." See what a source of consolation I open to you! Lift up the voice and weep. "O Father of spirits, God of the spirits of all flesh," Heb. xii. 9; Numb. xvi. 22. Thou Supreme, whose essence is love, and whose chief character is mercy, thou who wast touched to see Nineveh repent, and who wouldst not involve in the general destruction the many infants at nurse in that city, "who could not discern between their right hand and their left," John iv. 11; wilt not thou regard with eyes of affection and pity our numerous children, who cannot discern
truth from error, who cannot believe, because gentleness, if they discover, that it is not the they have not heard, who cannot "hear with-fruit of our care to reward what in them is out a preacher," and to whom, alas! no worthy of reward, but of a natural inclination, preacher is sent? Rom. x. 14. which we have not the courage to resist, and which makes us yield more to the motions of our animal machine, than to the dictates of reason? On the other hand, what good can they derive from our severity, if they see, that it proceeds from humour and caprice more than from our hatred to sin, and our desire to free them from it? If our eyes sparkle, if we take a high tone of voice, if our mouths froth, when we chastise them, what good can come of such chastisements?
But you, happy fathers, you, mothers, favourites of heaven, who assemble your children around you "as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings," Matt. xxiii. 37; can you neglect a duty, which is impracticable to others? That tyrants and persecutors should display their fury by making havoc of our children, and by offering them to the devil, is, I allow, extremely shocking, but there is nothing in it very wonderful: but that Christian fathers and mothers should conspire together in such a tragical design would be a spectacle incomparably more shocking, and the horror of which the blackest colours are unable to portray.
How forcible soever the motives, which we have alleged, may be, I fear they will be ineffectual, and such as will not influence the greatest part of you. It must be allowed, that, if there be any case, to which the words of our Saviour are applicable, it is this of which we are speaking," strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," Matt. vii. 14.
A reformation of the false ideas which you form on the education of children, is, so to speak, the first step which you ought to take in the road set before you this day. No, it is not such vague instructions as you give your children, such superficial pains as you take to make them virtuous, such general exhortations as you address to them, is it not all this, that constitutes such a religious education as God requires you to give them. Entertain notions more rational, and remember the few maxims, which I am going to propose to you as the conclusion of this discourse.
First maxim. Delays, always dangerous in cases of practical religion, are peculiarly fatal in the case of education. As soon as children see the light, and begin to think and reason, we should endeavour to form them to piety. Let us place the fear of God in these young hearts, before the world can get possession of them, before the power of habit be united to that of constitution. Let us avail ourselves of the flexibility of their organs, the fidelity of their memories, and the facility of their conceptions, to render their duty pleasing to them by the ease with which they are taught to discharge it.
Second maxim. Although the end of the divers methods of educating children ought to be the same, yet it should be varied according to their different characters. Let us study our children with as much application as we have studied ourselves. Both these studies are attended with difficulties; and as self-love often prevents our knowing ourselves, so a natural fondness for our children renders it extremely difficult for us to discover their propensities.
Third maxim. A procedure, wise in itself, and proper to inspire children with virtue, may sometimes be rendered useless by symptoms of passion, with which it is accompanied. We cannot educate them well without a prudent mixture of severity and gentleness. But on the one hand, what success can we expect from
Fourth maxim. The best means of procuring a good education lose all their force, unless they be supported by the examples of such as employ them. Example is also a great motive, and it is especially such to youth. Children know how to imitate before they can speak, before they can reason, and, so to speak, before they are born. In their mothers' wombs, at the breasts of their nurses, they receive impressions from exterior objects, and take the form of all that strikes them. What success, miserable mother, can you expect from your exhortations to piety, while your children see you yourself all taken up with the world, and its amusements and pleasures; passing a great part of your life in gaming, and in forming criminal intrigues, which, far from hiding from your family, you expose to the sight of all mankind? What success can you expect from your exhortations to your children, you wretched father, when they hear you blaspheme your Creator, and see you living in debauchery, drowning your reason in wine, and gluttony, and so on?
Fifth maxim. A liberty, innocent when it is taken before men, becomes criminal, when it is taken before tender minds, not yet formed. What circumspection, what vigilance, I had almost said, what niceties does this maxim engage us to observe? Certain words spoken, as it were, into the air, certain imperceptible allusions, certain smiles, escaping before a child, and which he has not been taught to suspect, are sometimes snares more fatal to his innocence than the most profane discourses, yea, they are often more dangerous than the most pernicious examples, for them he has been taught to abhor.
Sixth maxim. The indefatigable pains, which we ought always to take in educating our children, ought to be redoubled on these decisive events which influences both the present life, and the future state. For example, the kind of life to which we devote them, is one of these decisive events. A good father regulates his views in this respect, not according to a rash determination made when the child was in the cradle, but according to observations deliberately made on the abilities and manners of the child.
Companions too are to be considered as deciding on the future condition of a child. A good father with this view will choose such societies as will second his own endeavours, he will remember the maxim of St. Paul," Evil communications corrupt good manners," 1 Cor. xv. 33; for he knows, that a dissolute compan
ion has often eradicated from the heart of a youth all the good seeds which a pious family had sown there.
Above all, marriage is one of these decisive steps in life. A good father of a family, unites his children to others by the two bonds of virtue and religion. How can an intimate union be formed with a person of impious principles, without familiarizing the virtuous by degrees with impiety, without losing by little and little that horror which impiety would inspire, and without imbibing by degrees the same spirit? So necessary is a bond of virtue. That of religion is no less so, for the crime which drew the most cutting reproofs upon the Israelites after the captivity, and which brought upon them the greatest judgments, was that of contracting marriages with women not in the covenant. Are such marriages less odious now, when by a profane mixture people unite "light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the temple of God and idols?" 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. Are such marriages less hateful now, when, by a horrible partition, the children, if there be any, are mutually ceded before hand, and in cold blood disposed of thus: the sons shall be taught the truth, the daughters shall be educated in error, the boys shall be for heaven, the girls for hell, a son for God, a daughter for the devil.
Seventh maxim. The best means for the education of children must be accompanied with fervent prayer. If you have paid any attention to the maxims we have proposed, I shall not be surprised to hear you exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?" 2 Cor. ii. 16. But, if it be the fear of not succeeding in educating your children, which dictates this language, and not that indolence, which tries to get rid of the labour, be you fully persuaded, that the grace of God will triumph over your great infirmities. Let us address to him the most fervent prayers for the happiness of those children, who are so dear to us, and let us believe that they will return in benedictions upon them. Let each parent collect together all his piety, and then let him give himself up to the tenderest emotions towards his children. O God! who didst present thyself to us last Lord's day under the amiable idea of a parent "pitying them that fear thee as a father pitieth his children," Ps. ciii. 13. O God! who thyself lovest thy Son with infinite tenderness and vehemence: O God! author of the tender affections, which unite me to the children thou hast given me, bless the pains I take in their education: disobedient children, my God, I disown. Let me see them die in infancy, rather than go along with the torrent of general immorality, and "run" with the children of the world to their "excess of riot," 1 Pet. iv. 4. I pray for their sanctification with an ardour a thousand times more vehement than I desire their fortune: and the first of all my wishes is to be able to present them to thee on that great day, when thou wilt pronounce the doom of all mankind, and to say to thee then, "Lord, behold, here am I, and the children thou hast given me." May God excite such prayers, and answer them! To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
ROMANS xii. 2.
Be not conformed to this world
Or all the discourses delivered in this pulpit those which deserve the greatest deference, and usually obtain the least, are such as treat of general mistakes. What subjects require a greater deference? Our design in treating of them, is to dissipate those illusions, with which the whole world is familiar, which are authorized by the multitude, and which, like epidemical diseases, inflicted sometimes by Providence on public bodies, involve the state, the church, and individuals. Yet are any discourses less respected than such as these? To attack general mistakes is to excite the displeasure of all who favour them, to disgust a whole auditory, and to acquire the most odious of all titles, Í mean that of public censor. A preacher is then obliged to choose either never to attack such mistakes as the multitude think fit to authorize, or to announce the advantages which he may promise himself, if he adapt his subjects to the taste of his auditors, and touch their disorders only so far as to accommodate their crimes to their consciences.
Let us not hesitate what part to take. St. Paul determines us by his example. I am going, to-day, in imitation of this apostle to guard you against the rocks, where the many are shipwrecked. He exhorts us, in the words of the text, not to take "the world for a model!" "the world," that is, the crowd, the multitude, society at large. But what society has he in view? Is it that of ancient Rome, which he describes as extremely depraved in the beginning of this epistle? Does he say nothing of our world, our cities and provinces? We are going to examine this, and I fear I shall be able to prove to you, that our multitude is a dangerous guide to show us the way to heaven; and, to confine ourselves to a few articles. I shall prove that they are bad guides to direct us, first, in regard to faith; secondly, in regard to the worship which God requires of us;thirdly, in regard to morality; and lastly, in regard to the hour of death. In these four views, I shall enforce the words of our text, "Be not conformed to this world." This is the whole plan of this discourse.
I. The multitude is a bad guide to direct our faith. We will not introduce here the famous controversy on this question, whether a great number form a presumption in favour of any religion, or whether universality be a certain evidence of the true Christian church? How often has this question been debated and determined! How often have we proved against one community, which displays the number of its professors with so much parade, that if the pretence were well-founded, it would operate in favour of paganism, for pagans were always more numerous than Christians! How often have we told them, that in divers periods of the ancient church idolatry and idolaters have been en