« PreviousContinue »
the son is idle—when he has never put it in his power, or given him the means to exert his diligence, with any advantage or encouragement; or that he is fallen into a loose course of conduct--when the parent, probably from pride, avarice, or some such motive, opposed some generous attachment, and prevented that virtuous connexion which might have preserved him from his present course of life. This also is no uncommon case, no uncommon consequence. Or, the child is fretful and discontented in his situation, instead of attending to the business or the duties of it. This also is often the parent's mismanagement, as well as the child's fault. It may be that the parent has advanced his child to a state of which he either cannot or will not supply the expenses, and so he leaves him in much embarrassment and perplexity-has dignified him with a condition of life beyond his first expectations, or has accustomed him early to habits of luxury inconsistent with the calling he is destined to, or the provision he has given him.
The example of a parent, I have already said, has a great and obvious influence upon the manners and moral sentiments of children ; and the greater in proportion as they entertain the more reverence, esteem, and affection for their parent. Young people seldom seem much or well impressed with moral sentiments of their own; and it is not to be expected, hardly indeed to be wished, that a child should condemn or regard with abhorrence what he sees his parent practise. This is obvious. But there is another way in which the child's character is often determined by the parent's conduct, which is not so obvious; and that is, when the
parent carries any quality or behaviour to an excess which the child sees and suffers under. The child is apt, when he grows up, to discard the whole principle, and run into the contrary extreme. Thus, when a parent carries his economy to a length which teazes and harasses, and makes unhappy his family and all about him, it is odds but the child despises, when he enters into the world, all economy as so much covetousness, and sets off, as soon as it is in his power, a prodigal and spendthrift. If the seriousness and gravity of the parent be mixed with moroseness and austerity, the effect is, that the child contracts an aversion to all seriousness, and turns out a character of thoughtlessness, levity, and profaneness. If the parent's religion be melancholy or superstitious, it compels him to a constant affectation of it, in season and out of season. If it be a troublesome attention to multiplied forms and ceremonies, there is danger lest the child take up a dislike to all religion, as inconsistent with any tolerable degree of ease or pleasure.--The same of many other qualities. We are often disgusted even with virtue itself, when coupled with forbidding
A parent, therefore, who wishes to recommend good principles and good qualities to the child, should not render them forbidding in his own example: and if he wishes to procure and preserve a proper influence, he should not only be virtuous (which is the first and great thing), but take care to make his virtues sit easy upon him, and render even his virtue-what virtue is always capable of being-amiable, easy, and engaging
THE DUTY OF CHILDREN TOWARDS THEIR
EXODUS XX. 12.
Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may
be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
In my last discourse I gave an account of those duties which parents owe to their children, I proceed now to take notice of those which the children in return are enjoined to perform towards their parents. And this may be done by examining into the sense and meaning of the words of the text : “Honour thy father and thy mother.” Something may be added, too, with regard to the promise annexed to the performance of this duty, “ that thy days may be long in the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
“ Honour,” then, signifies a great many things; and takes its sense especially from the person it relates to. To honour the king is one thing,—to honour God is another. To honour our equals or inferiors is different from either; and therefore the word must not be taken in the same sense wherever we meet with it; but the meaning and extent of it must be determined by the party to which it is addressed. Since then the words, “ Honour thy father and thy mother,” are so much of one of the commandments of God as is meant
to secure the duty of children towards parents; and several duties of love, of respect, of obedience, and of support, which children owe to their parents, are comprehended under them.
First, then, we are commanded to love our parents. But because, properly speaking, it is not in our own power to love or hate, to hope for or fear, when, and what, and whom we will, but according as we apprehend the thing or person to be desirable and lovely, by being commanded to love our parents, we are to take such courses and considerations as may increase our natural affection to them, and avoid all such things as may any way diminish it. How far their being, under God, the authors and originals of our life and existence, may contribute to excite this affection, is not so easy to determine; because life, as it is happy or miserable, is differently to be represented. But parental love, which exerts itself in a constant care and preservation of us, is a real good, which deserves to be repaid with all the love we can show. It is this which supplies all the wants of helpless infancy, secures from all the hazards of heedless childhood, of giddy and unthinking youth. It is this that informs the mind and regulates the manners, that trains up the reason, that exercises the memory, that instructs us to argue and understand such things as by our years we are capable of, and takes care to educate and fit us for greater concerns. It is this that brings us first to God in baptism, and keeps us afterwards in the ways of goodness and religion, by instilling into us wise and virtuous principles ; by reminding us constantly of our several duties, encouraging us in good by favours and rewards, and reclaiming us from evil by reproofs and corrections. These, and a thousand more, are the ways which parents
take to make their children happy; besides those endless and innumerable labours, watchings, and solicitations, which consume their whole life, to make a handsome provision for them of the good things of this life. So that whatever benefits can be the grounds and foundation of love in children, the care and love of parents abundantly afford them; and, therefore, they are obliged to take the remembrance of these frequently into consideration, in order to stir them up to love their parents, who have done so great things for them ; who next, under God, are not only the authors of their being, but of their well-being likewise, and present happiness.
Another duty which children owe to their parents is respect; that is, all external honour and civility, whether in words or actions, by virtue of which they are obliged to be submissive in their behaviour, and mannerly and dutiful in their speeches and answers to them,—to say things honourable and commendable of them, to pry as little into their failings and infirmities as they themselves can, and to extenuate and conceal them as much as possible from others. And for this there is so much reason and decency in nature, that it shocks us to hear one reproach his parents with vices and infirmities, though what he says be true, unless it be done with great concern and tenderness, with grief and pity; but when it is done with contempt and pleasure in telling, we cannot help abhorring such impiety; for the hearts of all men go along with Noah for laying punishment upon Ham for his unnatural and profane derision, and love the memory of those sons who would not themselves see, nor suffer their own senses to be witnesses of the mi
iages of their father. That, there?
discharge this part of