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doing too little—when we neglect the opportunities we have, or may have, of providing for our children in such a manner as is reasonable, and, if it be not their own fault, conducting them through an ensnaring and precarious world, with comfort to themselves and usefulness to others.
THE DUTY OF PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR
PROVERBS XXII. 6.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when
he is old he will not depart from it.
ONE grand article of a parent's duty to his children is the care of their virtue, and the using of proper expedients and precautions to preserve and inculcate it. This
you will say was the business of education, which has been already treated of; but there are certain other precautions and expedients which do not fall under the notice of what is commonly reckoned education, and which therefore we choose to make the subject of a separate exhortation ; though to say the truth, it matters little how our duty is arranged or divided, if it be but understood and practised.
Now the first and principal and most direct way of encouraging virtue in our children, is by our own example. The great point in a young person, or indeed in any person, is the being accustomed to look forward to the consequences of their actions in a future world : and this is not to be brought about by any other method than the parents' acting with a view to those consequences themselves. Whatever parents may be in
their own conduct, they cannot but wish to have their children virtuous: both because they know that virtue at the setting out has a better chance for thriving in the world than vice (though with all chances it may turn out otherwise), and because, unless a man has deliberately, and from conviction, cast off all expectation of a future state (which is not, I trust and believe, the càse with many, if with any), he cannot but desire, if he love his children at all, to have them happy in that state-he cannot but know that to promote and secure that happiness and that interest is, after all, the very best thing which he can do for them. And I will suppose it to be the wish and purpose of every parent. But then how do they go about to accomplish it? They gravely, perhaps, and solemnly give them lessons of virtue and morality-warn them with much seeming earnestness against idleness, drunkenness, lewdness, dissoluteness, and profligacy; whereas they themselves hang about all day without employ, come home disordered by intemperance, are cried out against in the whole neighbourhood for some profligate connexions, and waste and destroy their substance in riot, dissipation, and high living : or they will tell their children, possibly, of the great importance of religion--that every thing beside is of short duration, and, consequently, small importance, in comparison with this--that death closes all our cares but this—whatever else, therefore, they regard, to take care of this. This is the consation, perhaps, that they hold with their children, whilst their own conduct all the while has not much of the influence of religion discoverable in it. The offices and ordinances of religion, which are the apparent, and therefore, as examples, the affecting and influencing spirit of it, are put by and neglected, if there be any
him into politer stations of life, where he will hear these vices and propensities reprobated, and a spirit of honour and dignity set up against them : and it will carry him away from those places where he is beginning to form mean attachments and bad habits. If there be reason to suspect him of a mercenary, sordid temper,which in youth is not common,—a liberal education and a liberal profession are the best remedy. An intercourse with young persons of these lines of education and profession will probably cure it. If he be envious, proud, and passionate, impatient of superiority and disappointment, the more private his condition of life is, the better ; where he will meet with fewer quarrels, competitions, and mortifications.
This all seems very plain and rational, and yet it is not only neglected in practice, but expressly contradicted, and a rule the reverse of this pretty generally observed. Men choose sometimes their children's professions with a view to the dispositions they remark in them. But how do they direct their choice ?—Commonly to such callings and ways of life as are of all others the most likely to foment, call out, and encourage every bad disposition they have betrayed. Thus, does a child seem addicted to dissolute and licentious pleasures, is what we call wild and ungovernable ? he is despatched abroad to a distance, and enters one of those professions where he will be out of the reach of his parents or of any other authority; without superintendence and control; with every opportunity and every temptation to vice, together with the example and encouragement and conversation of those he is placed amongst. If his temper be narrow and mean and mercenary, a trade and employment by which that tendency is naturally increased is sought out for him, where a selfish and
avaricious turn will grow upon him, under the name of frugality, attention to business, care, and circumspection ; all which he finds to be qualities of great use and esteem in the way of life and among the people he converses with—and to a certain degree they are both necessary and meritorious. If he be of a wily, crafty turn of mind, proud of a successful stratagem, and laying out to overreach and make an advantage of the simplicity and unsuspicious temper of those he deals with—why then he is made, a parent concludes, for one of those callings, necessary and honourable in their nature, but in the practice of which vileness and craft have too many opportunities, too much success. If his spirit be haughty and ambitious, this is considered as the indication of a lofty and aspiring mind, which must be gratified by placing it in one of those liberal professions where the respect and importance, and dignity and rank of that higher order are apt to flatter the vain, the proud, the arrogant; but in which this sort of temper will have no other effect than to expose a man to repulse and disappointment, chagrin, envy, and vexation, and the whole train of conflicting passions which infest unsuccessful, mortified, or affronted pride. In their arguments no regard is had to the care or preservation of the child's virtue, the subduing of his vicious propensities, the amendment of his disposition, —which in reason ought to be the first of all considerations; but the whole attention is paid to worldly advancement and success, in which also their choice often fails.
Another case in which parents are chargeable with the source of their children's ill conduct, is when they urge them, as it were, into situations in which it is
very difficult to behave well. The parent complains that