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our advantages to make manifest the favour of his knowledge. Nor may we confide in our choice of religion any further, than we have taken it up from cool reflection and examination, and are persuaded that it accords with the discoveries which God hath made of himself. In religion we may not consult with flesh and blood—with our prejudices, connections and worldly interests. We should take pains to separate the chaff from the wheat; and ask wisdom from the Father of lights.
Great allowances are to be made for those, who, having been educated in ignorance and fuperftition, know not what or why they worship, and are unable to extricate themselves. But these allowances are inapplicable to such as have been educated in a country visited by the beams of the fun of righteousness, and who are allowed full religious liberty : It is therefore the indispensible duty of parents to take all their instructions in religion ultimately from that uncorrupted source, the oracles of God.
These things being kept in mind, can it be said that religious instruction favours of bigotry, and is only adapted to superstition? Will the neglect of such instruction be a guard against bigotry? When has it proved so? When has it favoured freedom of enquiry, or liberality of sentiment? Licentiousness of thinking, scepticism, or an entire want of reflection have often been the issue.
Some training up of children all must allow to be necessary. What must this be, if religion and morals are wholly excluded? These preclude nothing ornamental or useful---no valuable improvement of any kind. What reason is there to presume that they will be educated in errour? or that, if educated in the truth, they will never after examine fairly and impartially the things in which they have been instructed ? that the force of education will of course lead them to believe precisely as they have been taught; and for no other reason
than that their teachers or ancestors thus believed? Would you have them enter on life with no principles? or with bad ones? Is the firft possible? Can the latter be commended ?
An intelligent creature can but have some principles and ends of action: These must be either virtuous or vicious. There is no middle character. The powers of reason and reflection render every creature account. able to him whose inspiration giveth understanding to man. Would you have children grow up without remembrance or knowledge of God? Or will they acquire this knowledge without a guide ? If they need a guide, who fo proper to take them by the hand, and lead them into the way of truth, as parents ? These naturally care for them. From affection, if not from a sense of duty, they will be disposed to give them the best instruction they are able to impart. Placed under their care at the dawn of reason, and having every advantage to observe its progress, will you not allow them to impart such counsel as the tender mind can bear, and they may be capable of imparting. If they may not imbue the minds of their children with
any prin ciples of religion, left it should give them a bias to such principles if they may not give early cautions against the corruption in principle and practice, which every where abounds-if children must be left to themselves in this respect, what will they be when they reach years of majority? Would you have them, at that period, wholly unprincipled? wholly opposed to piety and sound morals ? without any guard against the fnares and enticements of the world? If such is your wish, you are an atheist, and we have nothing to say to you while we are on the present subject. If fuch is not your wish, how can the evil mentioned be prevented, but by early education in religion ?-the thing which your objection states to be nothing but bigotry, the source of mental slavery, hostile to every liberal and generous sentiment?
What is your own example before your children? For this has more influence than precept. If virtuous, must it make them bigots? If vicious, will it do no injury to their principles and morals? Or would you, by your behaviour, cause them to err from the words knowledge ? to live in the errour of the wicked? Does it become you to object against a pious and virtuous deportment of parents before their children, which, more than any instructions, will influence young
minds ? Must it needs excite a partiality for pious
paths ? a prejudice unfavourable to liberal enquiry? Strange indeed must prejudices on the side of religion and virtue be in this age of diffipation and infidelity. The examples are so rare, that they need give but little concern to free thinkers.
Apply the objection before us to the concerns of this life ; for it is as applicable to these as to the subject of religion. It will be admitted that parents may, without any hazard, instruct their children in the arts and business of life in what concerns their health, usefulness and reputation-in the choice of an employment, having regard to their genius and rank in what may contribute to the comfort, enjoyment and real convenience and ornament of life--that they may, according to their ability, furnish them with means for the cultivation of their minds; the means of a liberal and polite education. Yea, it may be granted that parental care, in such instances as these, is a duty owing to their children, and to the community. Éducation in these points may, however, give them a predilection for, and attachment to, particular arts, occupations, modes of life and pursuits in it a fondness for industry, for the conveniences of life, for the acquisition of a good name, or of science, or of eminence in some useful art or profession. Now why should they not be self-taught in these things, rather than aided by education? Who ever talked in this. manner on education as it respects the things of this life? Who ever supposed that education in these matters is unneceffary, useless, and even prejudicial ? that children would be better without it?
The things of the soul and another world are of far higher moment. What good reason can be given why they should not be as much the objects of education ? At the opening of the capacity for moral action, and in the first stages of its progress, children as much need directions for their moral conduct, as they do in worldly pursuits. Shall parents take pains to form them to habits conducive to bodily health and vigour; habits of application to some laudable business ; habits of difcretion and frugality ? Shall they guide and aslift them in the attainment of human knowledge ? in the course which may conciliate favour and esteem, and make them regarded, useful and comfortable in life? Shall they caution them against companions who would tempt them to waste their time and substance; to forfeit their honour and good name; to engage them in courses fruitful of sorrow and misery, perhaps fatal, as to this world ? Is all this care of parents to be commended? Do the parents, who wholly neglect it, harden themselves against their offspring? And shall they yet be excused and justified in taking no care of the fouls of their children? in withholding from them all instruction in religion—their chief and eternal concern? Shall all information be withheld as to the di. vine art of living to God, of doing his work, of cultivating the virtues, personal, social, divine and Chriftian, which in the Night of God are of great price? which, through his abundant grace and the Saviour's merits, are a foundation of the peace that pafseth understanding ?-of joy unspeakable, and the lively hope of an heavenly inheritance ?
The strength of the parental affections is an instance of our heavenly Father's goodness, prompting parents to do and suffer those things for their offspring, which abstract confiderations could not persuade them to do
and fuffer. Religion co-operates with affection, and with every worldly motive, to enforce the same.Diligence, temperance, frugality, justice, truth, fidelity, are virtues more firmly founded in religion, than in any consideration of worldly advantage. Their reasonableness in themselves, their being enjoined by the 'example as well as authority of the Christian Lawgiver, and the expectation of future recompence, are incentives which strengthen every other motive to them. The force of Christian motives will be felt, when all worldly ones are overbalanced by the temptations in the other scale. What objection can lie against education in this religion?
Religion is highly advantageous to fociety: It teaches subjection to natural and civil superiours. Neither of these is to be expected, where children and youth are not educated in the fear of God, to whom all other superiours are accountable, and from whom they derive all their authority. He who objects to religious education, would destroy the order and foundations of society. Would it be highly prejudicial, to the rifing generation and to the world, to neglect their instruction in civil and secular concerns ? much more to neglect it in religion, which alone fecures a regular and uniform discharge of the duties of life. Good morals greatly depend on religious education. Very few will appear as advocates for bad morals. Fow; for a few there are, who are so lost to a sense of virtue and good breeding as to plead for all excess in vice.
The objection we are considering does not expressly undertake to vindicate the cause of gross immorality, whatever its real design or tendency may be. Can profligate morals be prevented, but by instruction in religion ? Any of my hearers may call to mind what has fallen under their own observation. Have those children, who have been brought up in families where little or no attention has been given to education in religion, where irreligious examples have been con