« PreviousContinue »
God has enjoined. “And you shall teach them your chil. dren, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy gates." Such is the injunction of God on this all-important subject; and it is so plain, that he' who runs may read it. In the present age, however, the great object which many of the leaders of public opinion seem to have in view, is to banish religion from education, and secularize it as much as possible, under the vain and groundless plea that it is too sacred to be mixed up with the common routine of instruction, or too difficult and sublime for the mind in childhood to have to do with it. But here, as in everything else in regard to which the depraved heart of man is left to judge for itself, “ God's thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways.” God says, " These my words, you shall teach your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou
"but no, say these modern theorists on the training of the infant and youthful mind; for this would be to preoccupy their mind with truths before they can be supposed capable of understanding them, and would therefore lead only to hypocracy. Or, if anything is to be said on the subject of religion, say they, why not confine it to the Sabbath and the sanctuary? Why should we be always talking about it? Is not this the sure way to disgust the young mind in reference to it, and to fill it with prejudices against it? But to all such objections, how plausible soever they may appear, it is enough to adduce the explicit command of the text. For, can we suppose, without being guilty of the grossest impiety, that the Creator of the human soul, and the unerring Judge of the universe, can be in error on such a subject as tbis, and that we can amend any of his institutions ? The very thought is blasphemy; and the efforts which are made to carry it into execution are fearful acts of rebellion against God. If we had no relations to sustain, nor duties to perform, nor evils to dread, nor hopes to cherish, but those which arise from our connection with the present world, it might be all well enough to exclude God and his words from the family circle, and from all parental counsel, and warning, and example; but so long as it is true that the human soul is immortal; that, in consequence of the aposcy of our first parents, it enters this world in a state of sin ; that it is prone to depart from God, even from its earliest days; that the world is full of errors and allurements calculated to lead to destruction ; that it is not capable of guiding or saving itself and that the words of God alone point out the way which leads to salvation here, and to glory hereafter, just so long will it be wise and necessary for parents not only to lay them np in their own heart and soul, but con. stantly to put forth their best efforts, in order to give them a place in the heart and soul of their own children. Nothing short of this, indeed, can prepare them even for the proper discharge of their secular duties of future life, or for safely mingling in its corrupting scenes, or for bearing its many diappointments and afflictions, or for securing the guidance and the blessing of God during it, and for at last closing it in peace, and entering on an eternity of glory and blessedness. The parent, then who duly feels his parental obligations, and endeavors to act up to them, will ever be dilligent in teaching the words of God to his children, speaking of them when he sits in his house, and when he walks with them by the way-when he lies down, and when he rises up; nor will he be ashamed to have them as ornaments or mementos upon the posts of his house, and upon his gates. The men of science or antiquarian research are not ashamed to have their habitations adorned with the emblems of their respective studies; and why should not the Christian have his ornaments and everything around him, proclaiming that God in Christ, and his words are all-in-all to him? Thus, should the family conversation, the family example, the family worship, the famliy instruction, and the family mansion in its or naments, all conspire to train up our children in the words of God, that from their earliest days they may know," the way in which they should go." In place of leaving them to the negetave and cheerless influence of a godless system of education, and to the consequent complete secularization of the heart, in all its aims and pursuits, the Christian parent wiil endeavor so to instruct his children, that they will never be able to recollect the period when these were unknown to them, or when their heart and conduct were not directed to a supreme regard to them. For surely it requires no argument to show that nothing is so worthy of engaging the first recollections of the mind as “the words of God," nor any. thing so important as to have the heart-before it is immerced in the cares and anxiety of life-fully brought under the guidance of God, the grace and the love of Christ, and the attractions of heaven. And to attain this, should elicit the daily efforts and the daily prayers of the Christian parent, As he sits in his house, or walks by the way, or lies down, or rises up. It is, indeed, to be the one great object that is to be ever before his mind, in reference to those whom God has placed under his care. Nor can this be done without experiencing the most ample reward. Let us, therefore, consider
IV. The happiness which may be expected to result from this. “That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” There are those who would make us believe that these, and all similar promises of a temporal nature, which we meet with under the Old Testament dispensation, have no place under the New, and that it is now vain to look for their fulfillment in the experience of any, no matter how faithful they are in discharging the duties with which they are connected. But so long as it is true that “in the keeping of God's com mands there is a great reward,” and that “ godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come," and that there is a natural adaptedness in a life of piety to promote the universal well-being of man, I cannot see how that such interpretations of Scripture can be according to truth. The pen of the Old Testament inspiration deelares, that "the way of transgressors is hard," and that many sorrows shall be to the wicked;" declarations which we find to be as true now, and as descriptive of the actual dealings of God with the various classes of transgressors of the present age, as ever they were in ancient times. And why should not those of an opposite character still hold equally true ? Is it not as true now as ever it was, that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,” and that his character in the government of the world is still the same? If parents, then, of the present age faithfully fulfil the duty which is enjoined in the text, we feel persuaded they may safely cherish the expectation " that their days, and the days of their children, will be multiplied, as the days of heaven upon the earth," just as long as may be for their good, and the glory of God. It is quite true, however, that the chief and most glorious part of the recompense of the reward " is spiritual, and such as can be fully enjoyed only in the heavenly state ; but this was as true of the Old as it is of the New dispensation; and the faithful Israelite, as well as the faithful Christian bad to “look within the veil,” for it. If it is a blessing, then, for parents to have their children preserved to them as the sources of hope and joy to them in future years ; and a blessing to children long to enjoy the instruction, the example, and the prayers of parents, the faithful discharge of the duty enjoined in the text is surely far more likely to secure it than the neglect of it; for in this,'as well as in everything else, we shall no doubt find the declaration to be verified: “ Them that honor me I will honor ; but they who despise me shall be lightly esteemed." But though this, we feel persuaded, is the
only correct sentiment that can be entertained on this part of the subject, viewed as a matter of Divine promise, yet we need not rest the matter here. For is it not à truth indelibly impressed on the experience and observation of all ages, that piety, in its divinely enlightening and directive principles, its sanctifying grace, its holy affections, its pure morality, its spiritual and exalted enjoyments, supplies us with influences which operate as so many conservative principles to the health of the mentul as well as the corporal constitution of man; and thus it cannot but tend to the prolongation of human life. The restraints, too, which it throws over us against the too eager pursuit of the affairs of this world, are, no doubt, designed to guard us against that oppressive load of perplexity, anxiety, and disappointment, usually attendant on a lite of unrestrained worldly ambition and interprise, and which in multitudes of instances, bring down their votaries to a premature grave. The sustaining influence, and abounding consolation also, which it imparts, and the cheering and well-grounded hopes which it cherishes, with regard to glory and blessedness hereafter, under all the inevitable afflictions and trials of life, are eminently calculated to soothe the mind and uphold it under all the cares which are more or less incident to our present condition. Thus whilst it effectually protects us against all unnecessary tear and wear of the constitution, by the excessive perplexities and anxieties attendant on all undue connection with plans of worldly agrandisement, and by the destructive influence of sinful indulgences, by its grace and consolations, it also sustains and soothes the mind under all the inevitable ills of the present world, and thus cannot but exert an important influence favorable to the duration of human life. Besides all this, the early and decided piety, and the due discharge of the filial duties which children owe to their parents, and the peace and happiness which may naturally be expected generally to flow from such a system of training, cannot but free the minds of parents from much of that anxiety which they cannot fail more or less to feel in reference to their children. Nor is it the burden of care and anxiety alone which is thus either allevi. ated or taken away; there is the joy which the parental heart cannot but feel as it surveys the holy and happy circle around it, or ventures to look forward into the future, and pictures each one, as they rise into mature years, verging off into some new path of usefulness and happiness, as Providence may allot to them, in " serving their generation," and thinks of the expanding influence which they may thus have in sustaining the cause of the Redeemer in the world ; or ventures to look forward to the closing scene of all, and to their happy meeting in some of the mansions of glory in heaven. As these are circumstances which seem eminently calculated to free the parent's heart from care, and to fill it with exalted joy, so they cannot but have a favorable influence on their health, and therefore on the prolongation of their life. The undutifulness and impiety of a child have broken many a parent's heart, shortened their days, and at
last brought down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. But, in the case before us, there is nothing of all this. Piety, in all the maturity and fruitfulness of age, on the one hand, and in all the lovliness and freshness of childhood and youth on the other, throws its hallowing and cheering influence over all, so that their days pass as the days of heaven upon
the earth.” and when death comes and breaks up the happy circle, parent and child can part in peace and joy, and in the delightful assurance of soon meeting again in a far happier home, in a mansion into which sin and death can never enter, and in which the joys and bliss of all will be complete and without end, for it is in heaven.
In closing this important subject, permit me, earnestly and affectionately to remind parents of the duty which they owe to their children. It is on you my dear hearers, that God has laid the injunction,“ to lay up his words in your heart and soul, and to bind them for a sign upon your hand, and to have them as frontlets between vour eves, and to teach them your children." This clearly defines what is your great duty in reference to the training of your offspring. It is on you that God has laid it, and you cannot neglect it, or attempt to transfer it to others, without calling in question his wisdom and setting aside his authority; and this can never be done, in reference to any matter, without bringing along with it the most fearful consequences. It is doubtless a true saying, that no other person.can duly fill a parent's place; and it is no less true that no other person can supply a parent's instructions, and a parent's example. However good these may be in others, yet they have not the frequency nor the moulding influence of parental intercourse ; nor are they aided by the attractions of a father's and a mother's love, entreaties and prayers-ingredients in moral influence, the want of which nothing else can supply. And yet the observant mind cannot fail to see that the tendency of the fashionable education of the age is to keep “the words of God” as far as possible from the youthful mind, and to bring it, in all its early impressions and associations, under the influence of a system in which neither God nor eternity finds a place, and whose chief object is to secularize the human heart, and to bound its hopes, and fears, and aims, within the narrow span of life, and leave it wholly unprepared for eternity. But, though we thus speak, we are far from being opposed to a due measure of attention to those acquirements in science, or literature, or the arts, which are regarded as necessary accomplishments in modern society ; it is only the giving of the chief place to these, instead of the words of God," in the training of the young, that we may fear and deprecate. Parents, also, too often forget their character as divinely appointed teachers of their children in “ the words of God," and to wish to transfer all the religious instruction which they receive, the pulpit and