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DUTIES OF A CHILD'.
O ALMIGHTY GOD, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
MARK X. 14.
SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME, AND FORBID THEM NOT, FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
THE prophet Isaiah 2 reminds the Israelites, that the parental care of God over them commences even from the womb, and continues unabated to
1 The following Sermons on the duties and circumstances of the different ages, are compiled chiefly from Eaton, Blair, Zollikoffer, Secker, Stevens, Wilson, Horne; taking their materials, and often adopting their language. I. E. N. M. Chap. xlvi. 3, 4.
the last day of their lives. Our relation to Him, as our Creator, our Father, our King, is never interrupted through all the different stages of lifechildhood, youth, manhood, and old age. From this unbroken relation to Him, which confers numberless and continual blessings upon us, necessarily arises the obligation of continual duty to Him, beginning from the moment we have any sense of duty, and never ending either in this world or the next. But, though the obligation remains the same, the character of the duties to God will vary, under the different situations and circumstances of the individuals from whom duty is to be rendered. Of all these varieties, it is not my intention to attempt the consideration; but I shall take one important division of them, that which results from the different ages of human life above-mentioned. It may be remarked, that I have spoken only of duties to God, but under that term I have in view duties to all His creatures; for His will is, that we should render to all their due, and also to our own souls. I therefore have mentioned, as the great obligation of all duty, the love and obedience we owe to God. And, in this point of view, though the effects of many of our duties immediately concern our fellow creatures, yet in the principle, as being done not unto man only, but unto God, they are tributes of duty to Him. Our observations, then, will not be confined to those acts which directly concern God's worship and honour, but I intend to
treat generally of some of the chief duties, and rules, which a sense of religion, and a desire to do God's will in all the relations of life, will excite us to observe at different periods of life. At present, however, we will consider the duties of childhood.
The remarks I have to make on this subject are addressed not solely, though chiefly, to children, but in some respects to those who have the charge of children, and are endeavouring to take advantage of that seed-time of life, and prepare for a good harvest in holiness. And for obvious reasons it will not be possible, (without rendering the discourse maimed and unconnected,) to avoid repeating the substance of some of our observations on the duties of children to their parents, and on the education of children.
No exact age can be named, at which the duties of children commence, because that period must depend upon the capacity of distinguishing between right and wrong, and of comprehending instruction. This will take place sooner in some children than in others, according to their respective abilities and means of knowledge.
But we know that such duties begin from a very early age, and that their range gradually becomes more and more extensive, as the child's faculties and information are enlarged. Samuel', for example, though a child, was not only dedicated to the
1 See 1 Sam. ii. & iii.
Lord, but ministered before Him, and was favoured with special revelations of God's will, and made to deliver prophecies of a most important nature. Josiah also, when only eight years of age, was distinguished for his piety and zeal for the worship of God'. And, when citing these examples, we should be wanting not only in a proper national pride, but also in gratitude to God, whose was the gift of this ornament and aid of the Protestant Reformation, if we were to omit the mention of our own British king, Edward the Sixth, whose piety and sweet
11 Chron. xxxiv. 1—7.
2 "At his coronation, when the three swords, for the three kingdoms, were brought to be carried before him, he observed, that there was one yet wanting, and called for the Bible: That,' said he, is the sword of the Spirit, and ought in all right to govern us, who use these for the people's safety, by. God's appointment. Without that sword we are nothing; we can do nothing. From that we are what we are this daywe receive whatsoever it is that we at this present do assume. Under that we ought to live, to fight, to govern the people, and to perform all our affairs. From that alone we obtain all power, virtue, grace, salvation, and whatsoever we have of divine strength.' Child as he was, so well had he been trained, and so excellent was his moral and intellectual nature, that he was capable of thus thinking, and thus expressing himself. One, who was about his person, says of him,' If ye know the towardness of that young prince, your hearts would melt to hear him named: .... the beautifullest creature that liveth under the sun; the wittiest, the most amiable, . . . and the gentlest thing of all the world.'-'No pen,' says Fuller, 'passeth by him without praising him, though none praising him to his full deserts.'"-Southey's Book of the Church, vol. ii. p. 105.
ness of disposition, at the age of nine years, conspicuously adorn the page of English history.
These facts, and the principles we have stated, are confirmed by the yet higher authority of Jesus Himself, who, in the text, invites little children to come unto Him. The passage is very appropriately introduced into the office of Baptism, as an unquestionable authority, both for their fitness to partake of the grace of the Gospel, and for their capacity, and consequently their obligation, to perform some of the duties of the Gospel covenant. It shows that our Heavenly Father permits, nay requires, our first thoughts to be turned to Him. Whom," said Isaiah, "shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little '." An early beginning in the course of piety and religion, and a continual advance, are required.
The duties, as I have already hinted, must be confined, in childhood, to a small range, which will be continually enlarging, as they acquire more knowledge. And these duties will relate to God and to man. I will address my youngest readers upon their duties, under these two heads.
1. With respect to God. You will be taught,
1 Isaiah xxviii. 9, 10.