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or refuse, and no milder means of coercion will prevail, punishment must follow. In selecting the most proper mode of punishment, there is room for the exercise of much discretion. Corporal punishment, or that which is inflicted by blows and the rod, I should regard as the last resort—as that to which recourse must be had, only when all other means have failed.
It hardly need be observed, that in inflicting punishment, the parent should be perfectly calm and dispassionate, and should manifest, in every feature, the pain he feels, in being compelled to resort to such a measure. He should manifest that he punishes, not because he loves to punish, but because he must. In all ordinary cases, punishment should be continued till it produces submission; or till it accomplishes the end for which it was inflicted,—when it ought instantly to cease.
In every case, where resistance to parental authority results in the necessity of punishment, the child should be made sensible that he has sinned, not only against his parents, but much more against God; and that when he has submitted, and obtained his parents’, forgiveness, the difficulty is not half settled. He must humble himself before God, and repent of his sin, and seek the forgiveness and favor of his heavenly Father.
5. I would only observe further, that all the means of religious education should be accompanied with fervent and persevering prayer, for the Divine direction, support, and blessing. In nothing, surely, do parents more need Divine direction, than in the religious education of their children. In nothing do they more need strength and support from heaven. In nothing are they more dependant on the blessing of their heavenly Father. For with him is the residue of the Spirit, and he alone is able to crown their labors with complete success. To him therefore should they go, in humble, persevering prayer. He has encouraged them to do this, with many promises. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him.” He hath never " said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain."
The means of religious education should be used with children, with a steady, a consistent, a persevering hand. They should have line upon line, and precept upon precept, as they are able to bear it. There should be no wavering on the part of the parent, as to his grand object; and no relaxing of exertion, in order to accomplish it. He has his course marked out, and he must pursue it—with all mildness indeed, but yet with all firmness. He will meet with numerous difficulties and discouragements; but let him remember that his object is a great one that interests not less dear to him than his own, are involved--and that the most powerful motives impel him to persevere.
In presenting these motives to the consideration of parents, it should be observed, first of all, that fidelity to their children is strictly required of them in the holy Scriptures.-" These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children ; and shalt talk of them, when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” “ The Lord established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known unto their children, that the generation to come might know them, even the children that should be born, who should arise, and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In view of these and similar Divine commands, the Christian parent will feel, that he is no longer at liberty to neglect the religious education of his children. He is bound, by all the authority of heaven, to care for their spiritual interests, and to be faithful to their souls.
2. Parents are not only bound by the commands of God, they are encouraged by his promises to be diligent and faithful in the religious education of their children.—"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” “ The generation of the upright shall be blessed.” “The just man walketh in his integrity, and his children are blessed after him.” “ The Lord thy God is a faithful God, keeping covenant and mercy with them that love him, to a thousand generations." “When thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice, according to all I command thee this day; the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed.” “I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement.” Promises such as these, with which the Scriptures abound, afford all the encouragement to pious, anxious parents, which they need. They are dependant op God, to be sure, for his blessing; but this blessing he has promised he will not withhold, if they are faithful. They have only to go forward, therefore, in obedience to the Divine command, and in imitation of the example of the wise and good in other ages; and the God, who has blessed others, will bless them. The promises are still to them and to their children; they are as good promises now as they ever were ; and if they will be faithful to the souls of their children, they have abundant reason to believe they shall not labor in vain.
3. As an inducement to be faithful in the religious education of their children, those parents, who have publicly devoted them to God, should remember their baptismal vows. When you presented your children for baptism, you were regarded, not only as giving them up to God, but as promising to train them up for him. When your covenant respecting them was sealed in baptismal water, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, you were understood as binding yourselves, by the most solemn obligations, to make their conversion and final salvation a leading object of your lives. You will remember, therefore, that this is a subject, in regard to which you stand sacredly pledged. The vows of God are upon you, and you cannot go back. You are bound, not only by the Divine command, but by your own voluntary engagements, to be faithful to the souls of your children, and to do all in your power for their conversion and salvation. If you are in a good degree faithful, you may look up to God with humble confidence, and plead his promises with earnestness and effect. But if you are palpably, grossly unfaithful, the solemnities through which you have passed with your children, may be worse than of no avail, both to them and to you.
4. Christian parents have strong inducements to be faithful to their children, from the consideration that their example and intercourse must have a powerful effect upon them, one way or the other. You are daily, perhaps almost constantly, in the presence of your children, and under circumstances which lead them to look to you for instruction and example. And the example which you set before them, the aspect you assume, the manner in which you speak and act, and especially the manner in which you treat the subject of religion, you may depend on it is having its effectis exerting a strong influence one way or the other. Impressions are “ sinking deep into their yet soft and yielding nature; and habits are forming, which will take such a firin hold of that nature, as almost to become a part of it.” Their minds are receiving a bias of some sort, which they will never lose. Their characters are beginning to form, not for this life only, but for eternity. It is, then, for every parent to say, what kind of impression he will make upon his children; or what kind of influence he wishes to exert, in moulding and shaping their future characters. An influence he must exert, and a strong one too, of some kind or other,—this is inevitable. What, then, shall this influence be? Can any Christian parent think of contributing to confirm his children in habits of sin? Can he endure the thought of contributing to prepare them for a life of wickedness on earth, for a miserable death, and for a hopeless, joyless eternity? Can he endure to meet them, in the other world, and to be known there as their destroyer? If not, he must be faithful to the souls of his children now. He must set before them such an example, he must so instruct them, watch over them, and pray for them; he must be so much in earnest, and so persevering, in their religious education, that all the influence which he exerts upon his children, and all the impressions which they receive from him, shall be decidedly favorable to their spiritual interests.
5. Christian parents have further inducements to be faithful to their children, from the consideration that there is a great work needing to be done, and that this work is committed specially to them. Your children are naturally depraved creatures. The whole native bias of their minds is towards evil, rather than good. They need therefore to be changed, and to become new creatures, before they can see the kingdom of God. And the foundation of this great change needs to be laid in youth. Indeed, a thousand considerations are urging, that the change itself should be accomplished in youth. A great work then is to be done for them; and by whom, Christian parents, if not by you? To you are your children specially committed by the God of nature. To you are committed their souls, as well as their bodies—their spiritual, as well as their temporal interests. And who can be expected to care for their souls, if you do not? Who will take them up, if you neglect them? Who shall superintend their religious education, and “ train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” if you refuse? The heart of that parent must be very hard, who, in view of considerations such as these, does not resolve, with Joshua, “ As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord. Henceforth I will devote myself to the spiritual interests of my beloved offspring.”
6. I shall only urge further, as a motive to diligence in the religious education of children, the strong affection which parents feel for them. Your affection for your children, Christian parents, is so strong, that you cannot bear to see them in distress, even for an hour. How then can you endure the thought of their perishing forever in that miserable world, “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”? And yet, have you no children, whom we are obliged to regard as exposed to the horrors of that dreadful place? Have you none, who are already advanced, or are rapidly advancing, to an age, when they will discern between good and evil, and will begin to form a character for themselves ? You see them every hour exposed to death, and to be summoned away to their final account. Still, perhaps, they are not pious, and give not the least evidence of their being prepared to die in peace, and to enjoy the rest of heaven. How then can you be easy respecting them, at all? Why do not your hearts yearn over them? Why are not all your anxieties awakened for them? Why do you not, as it were, lay hold of them, and endeavor to pluck them as brands from the burning? You love your dear children so well, that you can scarcely bear to be separated from them here, at all. And yet, if you are real Christians, and they are impenitent, you are aware that you are already separated from them in a most important sense. You are on one side of the line, and they on the other. And the separation here begun you know is continually widening. Things remaining as they now are, it will be fearfully, infinitely, unalterably wide, very soon. Soon, you will be on the right hand of the Judge, and they on the left. Soon, you will be in heaven, and—they in hell. But what Christian parent, who reads these pages, can think, for a moment, of a separation such as this? What Christian can endure the thought, that his dear children, whom he loves as himself, are to live, and die, and perish forever, among the enemies of God ?-If you cannot, Christian reader, endure the thought of this separation at all; then, how much-let me affectionately ask-how much are you doing to prevent it? How much are you doing, from day to day, and from week to week, to promote the spiritual interests of your children, and to save them from the dreadful end and portion of the wicked? Are you setting before them a holy, consistent, and proper example? Are you instructing them in the truths and duties of religion? Are you watching over them with care and diligence, and dissuading and restraining them from everything, which will have a tendency to draw them away from God? Are you laboring with them, and praying for them, and doing all you have it in your power to do, to promote the salvation of their immortal souls? If this is indeed the case, you need not, I think, be over-anxious. God will bless you, and will grant you your heart's desire.—But if this is not, in some good degree, the case, then, are you not preparing trouble for yourselves in this life ? Are you not preparing for a dreadful meeting with your dear children, in the day of judgement? Are you not preparing for an awful and final separation from them, in the eternal state ?
O that every Christian parent, who turns over these pages, might yield to the force of the considerations here urged, and be excited to greater diligence and faithfulness, in the religious education of his children. It cannot be concealed, that this branch of education -the most important of all branches—is lamentably neglected. It is neglected much more than it was, in the days of our pilgrim Fathers; and much more than it will be, in the coming days of millennial glory. As we approach these future, happy days, may the millennial spirit be exhibited more and more, in the reviving of family religion, and in the strict spiritual education of those who are to stand in our places, when we are in the dust!