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family; and secondly, the means of preventing them. We will direct our reflections so that they may instruct not only heads of families, but all our hearers, and so that what we shall say on the education of children, by calling to mind the faults committed in our own, may enable us to correct them.
To neglect the education of our children, is to be ungrateful to God, whose wonderful power, created and preserved them. With what marvellous care doth a kind providence watch over the formation of our infants, and adjust all the different parts of their bodies ?
With what marvellous care doth a kind providence provide for their wants : for at first they are like those idols, of which a prophet speaks, they have eyes and see not, they have ears and hear not, they have feet and cannot walk. Frail, infirm, and incapable of providing for their wants, they find a sufficient supply in those feelings of humanity and tenderness, with which nature inspires all human kind. Who can help admiring that, at a time when infants have nothing that can please, God enables them to move the compassion of their parents, and to call them to their succor by a language more eloquent and more pathetic than the best studied discourses ?
With what marvellous care doth a kind providence preserve them amidst a multitude of accidents, which seem to conspire together to snatch them away in their tenderest infancy, and in all their succeeding years? Who but a being Almighty and all-merciful could preserve a machine so brittle, at a time when the least shock would be sufficient to destroy it ? . With what astonishing care doth a kind providence provide for those wants, which old age inca
pacitates us to supply? Who can shut his eyes against all those wonders without sinking into the deepest stupidity, and without exposing himself to the greatest misery.
To neglect the education of our children is to refuse to retrench that depravity, which he communicated to them. Suppose the scriptures had not spoken expressly on the subject of original depravity, yet it would argue great stupidity to question it. As soon as infants discover any signs of reason, they discover signs of depravity, and their malice appears as their ideas unfold themselves. Sin in them is a fire at first concealed, next emitting a few sparks, and at last bursting into a great blaze, unless it be prevented in time. Whence do they derive so great an infection ? Can we doubt it, my brethren? They derive it from us, and by communicating our nature we communicate our depravity. It is impossible, being our children, that they should not be depraved, as we are, for, to use the language of scripture, their fathers are Amorites and their mothers are Hittites, Ezek. xvi. 13. Here I wish I could give you some notion of this mortifying mystery; I wish I could remove the difficulties, which prevent your seeing it; I wish I could shew you what a union there is between the brain of an infant and that of its mother, in order to convince you that sin passes from the parent to the child.
What! can we in cool blood behold our children in an abyss, into which we have plunged them; can we be sensible that we have done this evil, and not endeavor to relieve them ? Not being able to make them innocent, shall we not endeavor to render them penitent? Ah! victims of my depravity, unhappy heirs of the crimes of your parents, innocent creatures born only to suffer, methinks, I ought to reproach myself for all the pains you feel, all the tears you shed, and all the sighs you utter. Methinks, every time you cry, you reprove me for my insensibility and injustice. At least, it is right, that, as I acknowledge myself the cause of the evil, I should employ myself in repairing it, and endeavor to renew your nature by endeavoring to renew my own.
This reflection leads us to a third. To neglect the education of our children is to be wanting in that tenderness, which is so much their due. What can we do for them? What inheritance can we transmit to them? Titles? They are often nothing but empty sounds without meaning and reality. Riches? They often make themselves wings, and fly aroay, Prov. xxiii. 5. Honors? They are often mixed with disagreeable circumstances, which poison all the pleasure. It is a religious education, piety and the fear of God, that makes the fairest inheritance, the noblest succession, that we can leave our families. · If any worldly care may lawfully occupy the mind of a dying parent, when in his last moments the soul seems to be called to detach itself from every worldly concern, and to think of nothing but éternity, it is that, which hath our children for its object. A christian in such circumstances finds his heart divided between the family, which he is leaving in the world, and the holy relations, which he is going to meet in heaven. He feels himself pressed by turns between a desire to die, which is most advantageous for him, and a wish to live, which seems most beneficial to his family. He says, I am in a strait betwixt two, haring a de.. sire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better ; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you, Phil. i. 23, 24. We are terrified
at that crowd of dangers, in which we leave these dear parts of ourselves. The perils seem to magnify as we retire from the sight of them. One while we fear for their health, another while we tremble for their salvation. My brethren, can you think of any thing more proper to prevent or to pacify, such emotions than the practice of that duty, which we are now pressing as absolutely necessary? A good father on his death-bed puts on the same dispositions to his children as Jesus Christ adorned himself with in regard to his disciples immediately before the consummation of that great sacrifice, which he was about to offer to the justice of his Father. The soul of our divine Saviour was affected with the dangers, to which his dear disciples were going to be exposed. Against these gloomy thoughts he opposed two noble reflections. . First, he remembered the care, which he had taken of thein, and the great principles, which he had formed in their minds; and secondly, he observed that shadow of the Almighty, under which he had taught them to abide, Psal. xci. 1. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world, John xvii. 6, 12, 16. This is the first reflection. Now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those, whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. Father, I will that they also, whom thou
kast given me, be with me where I am, ver.11. 15. 17. This is the second reflection.
These two reflections are impenetrable shields, and a parent should never separate them. Would you be in a condition to oppose the second of these shields against such attacks as the gloomy thoughts just now mentioned will make upon your hearts on that day, in which you quit the world and leave your children in it? Endeavor now to arm yourself with the first. Would you have them abide under the shadow of the Almighty ? Inculcate his fear and his love in their hearts. Would you be able to say as Jesus Christ did, holy Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me, that they may behold thy glory; keep them through thy name? Put yourself now into a condition to enable you then to say to God as Christ did, I have given them thy word, they are not of the world even as I am not of the world.
To neglect the education of our children is to let loose madmen against the state, instead of furnishing it with good rulers or good subjects. That child intended for the church, what will he become, if he be not animated with such a spirit as ought to enliven a minister of religion ? He will turn out a trader in sacred things, and prove himself a spy in our families, a fomenter of faction in the state, who under pretence of glorifying God, will set the world on fire. That other child intended for the bar, what will he become, unless as much pains be taken to engage him to love justice as to make him know it, or to make bim not disguise it as well as understand it? He will prove himself an incendiary who will sow seeds of division in families, render law-suits eternal, and reduce to indigence and beggary even those clients, whose causes he shall have art enough to gain. And that child,