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ftantly before them, been disposed, in after life, to regard the rules of morality? Have those, who have been thus taught to do evil, learnt to do well ? Left to their own management in early life, the usages and establishments of any age or country, however favourable to virtue, have been disregarded. The laws have been insufficient to reftrain them. The principles of ingenuousness, gratitude, honour, shame, have been want. ing. Grown up ignorant of religion, full of disgust to it, they continue to be worse and worse. In some instances, no care of pious parents is effectual to restrain and control the folly in the hearts of children. What then may be looked for where no care has been taken of them ? where they lie open to those, who spare no means and endeavours to poison their minds with the worst principles ?
The first Itage of life looks up with reverence and confidence to parents and instructors. It is hopeful, that wisdom may then enter into the heart, and knowledge be pleasant to the soul. Evil propensities of nature may then be checked; but, if unchecked, may acquire strength, which no after pains can subdue. Many evil propensities are acquired from evil customs and examples, through the neglect of education. A prompt genius and amiable natural endowments have been ruined for want of culture ; while some of but an ordi. nary genius have made good proficiency, and a froward disposition has been mended, by proper education.
Parents, whose instructions in religion come recommended by a correspondent example, restrain and awe by their presence such as are viciously inclined. They cherish the first openings of virtue. A contrary character, at the head of a family, may root out any sense of piety, which may have been excited in the young members of the household; or it may prevent any sense of it from being once awakened.
How far it belongs to the head of a family to direct the religion of it, we shall not here tarry to enquire. The enquiry will have a different answer according to the variation of circumstances. The head of a family is furety, in a measure, for the principles and conduct of his household. God ordinarily improves means and instruments in imparting knowledge and grace. It is incumbent on parents to guide their family alike in' the things of life and godliness—to be, in both refpects, ministers of God for good.
The importance of religion is especially manifest from the immortality of the soul, our relation to GOD as moral Governour, and our intimate concern with Jesus Christ, the MEDIATOR between God and men. Hath God condescended to speak to us from heaven, by his own Son? What he hath spoken must be of the highest moment. Shall we not then apply our hearts to it, and train up our children to an acquaintance with it? Doth it, in no measure, depend on parents, whether their children are acquainted with the doctrine of Christ? the words of eternal life? The greater part die while under age. Shall they die without instruction, when, through the instrumentality of parents and others, they might become wise to salvation ? Those who have been instrumental to their existence, appear to be under the strongest bonds to lead them in the way everlasting Early imbibed principles and early manners may extend beyond the bounds of time. The importance of that period cannot be too often and too seriously considered by those who have the education of children and youth.
Parents, doubtless, will inculcate their own ideas of religion. And though they presume that their ideas are taken from the scriptures, yet it is their own construction of them--except that a considerable part may be delivered in the language of the Holy Ghoft. Is it probable, then, that, in a Protestant country, where the fcriptures are recurred to as the only rule of faith
and practice, parents will give such instruction to their children as is materially wrong? Attached to the principles of civil and religious liberty, having no inclina. tion to educate in errour those who are so dear to them, it is very improbable that they should train them up in any errours which affect the substance of Christian doctrine. What profession of faith is there among the churches of the reformation, which does not, for substance, accord with holy writ? Though none be exempt from errour, it may be difficult to fix the charge of essential errour on any. All may bold the head. The things in which they differ from one another are of small moment compared with those wherein they are agreed. Notwithstanding the hold which superstition has of the mind, is there occasion, in this enlightened age, to be so very jealous of its fway ? Does not the pretended jealousy proceed from an aversion to the paths in which our ancestors found rest to their souls ? in which they trained up a godly feed ? Is there not more occasion to fear new errours than old ? Further, are the presumed errours of education in religion of such a description, and so riveted, that those, who may be educated in them, will not be able, with the improvements of this age of the world, to extricate themselves--to separate the chaff from the precious grain ? Many just and important sentiments may be connected with erroneous ones. If some great and good men have held great errours, their practical sense of piety has been superiour to the influence of their abstract theories, and oberbalanced the influence of them. When the spirit of vital piety shews that fome wrong opinions do not corrupt their hearts, the bias to those opinions is not so dangerous, as, at first view, might be suspected : It shews that they do not view them in the manner, connection and consequences which others do. It should further be considered, whether the errours and imperfections of good men furnith objections, which bear any comparison with the
open neglect and contempt of religion-whether the former differve the cause of truth and virtue as do the latter.
Candour must grant that the danger is not from religious education, but from its neglect. Those who are taught, are not precluded the right of private judgment: It is their privilege and duty to study the scriptures, and compare one part with another, so far as they are able, and in the use of the best means. Nothing can be more pleasing to a pious parent, than to observe a thoughtful, inquisitive mind in his chil. dren on the subject of religion. May he not take pains to sow good feed, while the enemy is busy to fow tares ? To prevent prejudices of education, would you hazard the experiment of their early imbibing ruin. ous principles, and contracting unconquerable propen. fities to vice and impiety of every kind ? To guard against bigotry in religion, would you make them bigots to infidelity?
You well know, and therefore need only to be rea minded, that if you neglect to train up a child to some suitable employment, and to his civil duties; if you suffer him to waste his time, and are inattentive to the company he keeps, the consequences will be moft in. jurious to him, and to mankind. Will the consequences of a neglect of religious education be less injurious ? The natural soil, if not cultivated, will be overgrown with briers and thorns, which will prevent the growth of good feed. The moral foil, without culture, will yield a luxuriant growth of noxious fruit. The principles of religion not being sown in it, those of irreligion will naturally spring up. Growing up without information in religion, what should hinder children from following the bad examples which abound? from listening to the instruction which causeth to err from the words of knowledge ? The season to imbue their minds with honourable and virtuous sentiments, with wife and prudent counsel, has been
neglected; and no such advantage will return. Conscience will be defiled and wasted. They will have little or no regard to character-will, with the unclean spirit, walk through dry places in pursuit of rest, but find none. Seeking whom they may devour, they will become intolerable to fociety, and be victims to its justice. A mere civil education may prevent many of these evils. Shall then the children of this world be wiser in their generation than the children of light?
Some, with much art and pains, would educate children and youth in the system of fatality—the syftem of human perfectibility--the system of political justice, which gives to all a common right to the possessions of individuals—“the favage philosophy, which “ teaches its disciples to look with perfect indifference " on" all the tender relations of life ; “to forget and “ insult friends and benefactors, to diveft themselves w of all that is humar, that they may be better pre“ pared for the disinterested love of their species.” There are those who are affiduous thus to educate the rifing generation. We hope there are but few of this description. We believe and know that there are parents,
who, though openly iminoral and impious themselves, wish their children a very different education. Though religious and moral instruction must come with an ill grace from such mouths, yet they choose to put their children under the care of those who will pay particular attention to good morals.
I need not ask any of my hearers, whether they would choose to have their children trained up in the sober habits of our ancestors ? or in the way of Vol. taire and Godwin? If the apostles of the vilest errour compass sea and land to diffeminate their poison, shall the friends of truth provide our children and youth with no antidote against the poison? Should they, by means of early instruction, acquire a bias to the side of piety and found morals, and an aversion to licentious principles and conduct, Satan and his fervants