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pose to the sight of all mankind ? What success can you expect from your exhortations to your children, you wretched father, when they hear you blaspheme your Creator, and see you living in debauchery, drowning your reason in wine, and gluttony, and so on.
Fifth maxim. A liberty, innocent when it is taken before men, becomes criminal, when it is taken before tender minds, not yet formed. What circumspection, what vigilance, I had almost said, what niceties doth this maxim engage us to observe ? Certain words spoken, as it were, into the air, certain imperceptible allusions, certain smiles, escaping before a child, and which he hath not been taught to suspect, are sometimes snares more fatal to his innocence than the most profane discourses, yea they are often more dangerous than the most pernicious examples, for them he hath been taught to abhor.
Sixth maxim. The indefatigable pains which we ought always to take in educating our children, ought to be redoubled on these decisive events, which influence both the present life, and the future state. For example, the kind of life, to which we devote them, is one of these decisive events. A good father regulates his views in this respect, not according to a rash determination made when the child was in the cradle, but according to observations deliberately made on the abilities and manners of the child. •
Companions too are to be considered as deciding on the future condition of a child. A good father with this view will choose such societies as will second his own endeavors, he will remember the maxim of St. Paul, Evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Cor. xv. 33. for he knows, that a dissolute companion hath often eradicated from
the heart of a youth all the good seeds, which a pious family had sown there.
Above all, marriage is one of these decisive steps in life. A good father of a family, unites his children to others by the two bonds of virtue and religion. How can an intimate union be formed with a person of impious principles, without familiarizing the virtuous by degrees with impiety, without losing by little and little that horror, which impiety would inspire, and without imbibing by degrees the same spirit ? So necessary is a bond of virtue. That of religion is no less so, for the crime, which drew the most cutting reproofs upon the Israelites after the captivity, and which brought upon them the greatest judgments, was that of contracting marriages with women not in the covenant. Are such marriages less odious now, when by a profane mixture, people unite light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the temple of God and idols ? 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. Are such marriages less hateful now, when, by a horrible partition, the children, if there be any, are mutually ceded before hand, and in cool blood disposed of thus, the sons shall be taught the truth, the daughters shall be educated in error, the boys shall be for heaven, the girls for hell, a son for God, a daughter for the devil.
Seventh marim. The best means for theeducation of children must be accompanied with fervent prayer. If you have paid any attention to the maxims we have proposed, I shall not be surprised to hear you exclaim, Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Cor. ii. 16. But, if it be the fear of not succeeding in educating your children, which dictates this language, and not that indolence, which tries to get rid of the labor, be you fully persuaded, that the grace of God will triumph over your great infirmities. Let us address to him the most fervent prayers for the happiness of those children, who are so dear to us, and let us believe that they will return in benedictions upon them. Let each parent collect together all his piety, and then let him give himself up to the tenderest emotions towards his children. O God! who didst present thyself to us last Lord's day, under the amiable idea of a parent, pitying them that fear thee as a father pitieth his children, Psal. ciii. 13. O God! who thyself lovest thy Son with infinite tenderness and vehemence: O God! author of the tender af. fections, which unite me to the children thou hast given me, bless the pains I take in their education: disobedient children, my God, I disown: let me see them die in infancy, rather than go along with the torrent of general immorality, and run, with the children of the world to their excess of riot, 1 Pet. iv. 4. I pray for their sanctification with an ardor a thousand times more vehement than I desire their fortune : and the first of all my wishes is to be able to present them to thee on that great day, when thou wilt pronounce the doom of all mankind, and to say to thee then, Lord, behold here am I, and the children thou hast given me. May God excite such prayers, and answer them! To him be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Romans xii. 2.
Be not conformed to this world.
o f all the discourses delivered in this pulpit,
those which deserve the greatest deference, and usually obtain the least, are such as treat of general mistakes. What subjects require greater deference ? Our design in treating of them is to dissipate those illusions, with which the whole world is familiar, which are authorized by the multitude, and which like epidemical diseases, inflicted sometimes by providence on public bodies, involve the state, the church, and individuals. Yet are any discourses less respected than such as these? To attack general mistakes is to excite the displeasure of all who favor them, to disgust a whole auditory, and to acquire the most odious of all titles, I mean that of public censor. A preacher is then obliged to choose, either never to attack such mistakes as the multitude think fit to authorize, or to renounce the advantages, which he may promise. himself, if he adapt his subjects to the taste of his auditors, and touch their disorders only so far as to accommodate their crimes to their consciences.
Let us not hesitate what part to take. St. Paul determines us by his example. I am going to-day, in imitation of this apostle, to guard you against the rocks, where the many are shipwrecked. He exhorts us, in the words of the text, not to take the world for a model; the world, that is the crowd, the multitude, society at large. But what society hath he in view ? Is it that of ancient Rome, which he describes as extremely depraved in the beginning of this epistle ? Does he say nothing of our world, our cities and provinces ? We are going to examine this, and I fear I shall be able to prove to you, that our multitude is a dangerous guide to shew us the way to heaven ; and, to confine ourselves to a few articles, I shall prove that they are bad guides to direct us, first, in regard to faith, secondly, in regard to the worship which God requires of us ;-thirdly, in regard to morality; and lastly, in regard to the hour of death. In these four views I shall enforce the words of my text, Be not conformed to this world. This is the whole plan of this discourse.
1. The multitude is a bad guide to direct our faith. We will not introduce here the famous controversy on this question, whether a great number form a presumption in favor of any religion, or whether universality be a certain evidence of the true christian church? How often has this question been debated and determined! How often have we proved against one community, which displays the number of its professors with so much parade, that, if the pretence were well founded, it would operate in favor of paganism, for pagans were always more numerous than christians! How often have we told them, that in divers periods of the ancient church idolatry and idolaters have been en