« EdellinenJatka »
hed fbehold od sa
world before me! I shall there meet not only these illustrious personages, but my dear Cato, who, I will venture to say, was one of the best of men, of the best natural dispositions, and the most punctual in the discharge of his duties, that ever was. I have put his body on the funeral pile, whereas he should have placed mine there: but his soul hath not left me, and he hath only stepped first into a country where I shall soon join him.”
If this hope made so great an impression on the mind of a pagan, what ought it not to produce in the heart of a christian? What infinite pleasure, when the voice shall cry, Arise ye dead, to see those children whom God gave you? What superior delight, to behold those whom an immature death snatched from us, and the loss of whom cost us so many tears? What supreme satisfaction, to embrace those, who closed our eyes, and performed the last kind offices for us? O the unspeakable joy of that christian father, who shall walk at the head of a christian family, and present himself with all his happy train before Jesus Christ, offering to him hearts worthy to serve such a master, and saying to him, behold me, and the children which God hath given me, Heb. ii. 13.
We have been speaking of the fatal consequences of an irreligious education; and now we wish we could put you all into a condition to prevent them, But, alas ! how can some of you reduce our exhortations to practice ? You disconsolate fathers, you distressed mothers, from whom persecution has torn away these dear parts of yourselves, ye weeping Davids, ye mourning Rachels, who, indeed, do not weep because your children are not, but because, though they are, and though you gave them existence, you cannot give them a religious education? Ah! how can you obey our voice ?
asundertion? Will you you obey the
Who can calm the cruel fears, which by turns die vide your souls ? What results from all the conflicts, which pass within you, and which rend your hearts asunder? Will you go and expose yourselves to persecution ? Will you leave your children alone to be persecuted ? Will you obey the voice that commands, flee out of Babylon, and deliver every man his own soul, Jer. 1. 6. or that which cries,
Take the young child ? Matt. ii. 20. O dreadful · alternative! Must you be driven, in some sort, to make an option between their salvation and yours, must you sacrifice yours to theirs, or theirs to your own?
Ah! cruel problem!—Inhuman suspence! Thou tyrant, is not thy rage sufficiently glutted by destroying our material temples, must you lay your barbarous hands on the temples of the holy Ghost ? Is it not enough to plunder us of our property, must you rob us of our families ? . Is it not enough to render life bitter,—would you make eternity desperate and intolerable ?
But, it is not to tyrants that we would address ourselves, they are inaccessible to our voice, or inflexible to our complaints. It is to God alone, who turns them as he thinks proper, that we address our prayers. Hagar found herself banished into a desert, and she had nothing to support her but a few pieces of bread and a bottle of water. The water being spent, her dear Ishmael was ready to die with thirst. She laid him under a bush, and only desired that she might not see him die, She rambled to some distance, wept as she went, and said, Let me not see the death of the child, Gen. xxi. 16, &c. See, she cannot help it, she sits over against him, lifts up her voice, and weeps. God heard the voice of the mother and the child, and, by an angel, said unto her, what aileth thee Hagar ? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad. Arise, take hold of his hand, and lift him up, for I will make him a great nation. See what a source of consolation I open to you! Lift up the voice and weep. O Father of spirits, God of the spirits of all flesh, Heb. xii. 9. Num. xvi. 22. Thou Supreme, whose essence is love, and whose chief character is mercy, thou who wast touched to see Nineveh repent, and who wouldst not involve in the general destruction the many infants at nurse in that city, who could not discern between their right hand and their left, John iv. 11. wilt thou not regard with eyes of affection and pity our numerous children, who cannot discern truth from error, who cannot believe, because they have not heard, who cannot hear without a preacher, and to whom, alas! no preacher is sent ? --Rom. x. 14.
But you happy fathers, you, mothers, favorites of heaven, who assemble your children around you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, Matt. xxiii. 37. can you neglect a duty, which is impracticable to others? The tyrants and persecutors should display their fury by making havock of our children, and by offering them to the devil, is, I allow, extremely shocking, but there is nothing in it very wonderful: but that christian fathers and mothers should conspire together in such a tragical design would be a spectacle incomparably more shocking, and the horror of which the blackest colors are unable to pourtray.
How forcibly soever the motives, which we have alleged, may be, I fear they will be ineffectual, and such as will not influence the greatest part of you. It must be allowed, that, if there be any case, to which the words of our Saviour are applicable, it is this of which we are speaking, strait VOL. V.
is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it, Matt. vii. 14.
A reformation of the false ideas, which you form on the education of children, is, to speak, the first step, which you ought to take in the road set before you this day. No, it is not such vague instructions as you give your children, such superficial pains as you take to make them virtuous, such general exhortations as you address to them, it is not all this, that constitutes such a religious education as God requires you to give them. Entertain notions more rational, and remember the few maxims, which I am going to propose to you as the conclusion of this discourse.
First maxim. Delays, always dangerous in cases of practical religion, are peculiarly fatal in the case of education. As soon as children see the light, and begin to think and reason, we should endeavor to form them to piety. Let us place the fear of God in these young hearts, before the world can get possession of them, before the power of habit be united to that of constitution. Let us avail ourselves of the flexibility of their organs, the fidelity of their memories, and the facility of their conceptions. To render their duty pleasing to them by the ease with which they are taught to discharge it.
Second maxim. Although the end of the divers methods of educating children ought to be the same, yet it should be varied according to their different characters. Let us study our children with as much application as we have studied ourselves. Both these studies are attended with difficulties : and as self-love often prevents our knowing ourselves, so a natural fondness for our children ren
ders it extremely difficult for us to discover their propensities.
Third maxim. A procedure, wise in itself, and proper to inspire children with virtue, may sometimes be rendered useless by symptoms of passions, with which it is accompanied. We cannot educate them well without a prudent mixture of severity and gentleness. But on the one hand, what success can we expect from gentleness, if they discover that it is not the fruit of our care to reward what in them is worthy of reward, but of a natural inclination, which we have not the courage to resist, and which makes us yield more to the motions of our animal machine, than to the dictates of reason? On the other hand, what good can they derive from our severity, if they see, that it proceeds from humor and caprice more than from our hatred to sin, and our desire to free them from it? If our eyes sparkle, if we take a high tone of voice, if our mouths froth, when we chastise them, what good can come of such chastisements ?
Fourth maxim. The best means of procuring a good education lose all their force, unless they be supported by the examples of such as employ them. Example is always a great motive, and it is especially such to youth. Children know how to imitate before they can speak, before they can reason, and, so to speak, before they are born. In their mother's wombs, at the breasts of their nurses, they receive impressions from exterior objects, and take the form of all that strikes them. What success, miserable mother, can you expect from your exhortations to piety, while your children see you yourself all taken up with the world, and its amusements and pleasures; passing a great part of your life in gaming, and in forming criminal intrigues, which, far from hiding from your family, you ex