Page images

collisions, with the wills and interests of others, with which he must meet when he goes forth on the great stage of the world, and into which he may be initiated in the minor scene of a youthful community. For want of this early discipline, a young man, brought up under the roof of his parents in a kind of artificial state, in a kind of moral effeminacy and tenderness, may find himself taken by surprise, when he enters the field of public life; and, being deficient in those quick resources, and the self-exertion, which early habit supplies, and not inured to the jostling and conflicts arising from various dispositions and interests, he may be exposed not only to inconvenience, but to injury and danger, both temporal and spiritual. Every man has a part to act in society, and his training and education ought therefore, from the beginning, to have reference to this his inevitable situation, and be directed to accustom him to act in it beneficially to himself and to others. Our limits will not admit of our entering more at large upon this department of education ; let us proceed, therefore, to consider,

II. Secondly, those instructions, and parental duties, which may be comprehended under religious education.

I have said that, in considering the purposes, for which education is to be given, mankind are apt to fall into two mistakes; the one is, that of educating them solely for this life; and the other, of educating them as though they had no duties, nor interests in this life, but were to be abstracted, entirely and exclusively, to considerations connected with the life to come.

The true state of the case is, that both demand their attention, but that the latter is infinitely the most important, and always entitled to be considered as first, and paramount, whenever the two come into competition. It is, indeed, melancholy to see the blindness and infatuation, with which parents in general seem to treat education; as though it were intended to prepare their children only for time, instead of for eternity. The eagerness with which lessons of thrift, and gain, and ambition, are inculcated, while religion is wholly disregarded, or treated as an inferior subject, is an evidence, which admits of no question, that the world is uppermost in the thoughts of too many parents. But, on the other hand, care should be taken not to make religion, or rather religious observances, the sole subject of tuition: for the effect of this would probably be, either to disgust the young person with religion altogether, or to bring him

up in a gloomy and speculative fanaticism, incompatible with the active benevolence, and social spirit, of the Gospel. Let religious motives be urged as the ruling principle of action in even the discharge of worldly duties; but let those motives be inculcated at proper times and seasons, and with a due regard to the habits and capacities of those who are to receive them. Let them not be made a perpetual lesson, but gently instilled into the mind as much by example, as by precept, by commending and enforcing attendance upon the ordinances of religion, and use of the means of grace. .

With these preliminary observations, proceed we next to enter upon a few particulars of parental duty in this respect.

1st. The religious education of children cannot begin too early. And the first step that a parent has to take is to begin with dedicating the child to God, through Christ Jesus. Let him be entered into the Christian covenant, as Jesus has directed, and received into the “ Ark of Christ's Church 1 ;" in which those, who would be saved from “ perishing,” are enjoined to take refuge, and “ so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally they may come to the land of everlasting life.”

As a consequence of baptism, it will be also the parent's duty, when the child shall come to a proper age, to bring him also to the bishop to be confirmed, according to the directions of our own, and the practice of the primitive church. But we need not dwell on these duties here, as they will be made the subjects of separate discourses.

2nd. Having consecrated the child to God in baptism, the duty of the parents will be to teach him the precepts and doctrines of the Gospel, and bring him up in the doctrine and discipline of that church, into which he has been admitted.

See first Prayer in Baptismal Service.

It will not be necessary that I should here enter into many arguments to prove the importance of early lessons, and habits of piety and religion. The soil awaits the hand of the sower; it must be occupied. If the good seed be not implanted, the enemy will sow the tares. From the first dawn of reason teach children to lift up their little hands, and innocent hearts, in prayer to their Heavenly Father. Habituate them to a sense of His presence and protection ; let them not, on any evening, lay themselves down to sleep, without having first commended their bodies, and souls, to His gracious keeping, through all the perils and dangers of the night; and having acknowledged on whom they depend for repose and safety, “I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest; for it is thou, Lord, only that makest me to dwell in safety !;" let them not quit their chamber in the morning, to enter upon their pleasures and employments, without having first thanked God for His care of them during the night, and implored His guidance and defence during the day. “Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lyingdown, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether 2:

1 Psalm iv. 9. Version of Liturgy. 2 Psalm cxxxix. 2—4.


Let them be also accustomed to see practically illustrated the union of the members of Christ's church, both in family prayer and in the public ordinances of religion. These practical lessons of piety, and dependence upon God, will do more to impress upon their hearts a sense of religion, than the most laboured system of teaching. They constitute also a mode of teaching within the reach of any capacity, and which can be employed by the most plain and unlearned: not that other instruction, where the means of imparting it exist, is to be withheld; but no instruction will be more efficacious than early habits of piety, arising from early practice of piety. They will be easily acquired, and lasting in their duration. For the reception of this instruction, every child is qualified; but other instruction must be modified and adapted to the various ages and capacities of children. And it is due to mothers, and desirable for the good of all, that we should here advert to the great importance of maternal instruction and superintendence, in sowing the first seeds, and cherishing the tender blade of piety and virtue in the infant breast. At a period when the child is highly susceptible of strong impressions, when its affections are almost exclusively fixed on the mother, and hers, in its fullest and tenderest power, concentrated on the child, great, and indescribably valuable, are the opportunities at her disposal. The ever-active vigilance of a mother's love sees hourly those opportunities, and can

« PreviousContinue »