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They should be taught to treat their superiors with peculiar respect, and should at proper seasons be accustomed to silence and reserve before them. Hence they will learn in some degree the government of the tongue; a branch of wisdom, which, in the advance of life, will be of great importance to the quiet of others, and to their own comfort and reputation.
Nor should they be allowed to assume airs of insolence towards their equals; but rather be taught to yield, to oblige, and to give up their right for the sake of peace. To this purpose I cannot but think it desirable, that they should be generally accustomed to treat each other with those forms of civility and complaisance, which are usual among well-bred people in their rank of life. I know these things are mere trifles in themselves, yet they are the out-guards of humanity and friendship, and effectually prevent many a rude attack, which taking its rise from some little circumstance, may nevertheless be attended with fatal consequences. I thought it proper to mention this here, because, as Scougal very justly and elegantly expresses it*, "These modes are the shadows of humility, and scem intended to shew our regard for others, and the low thoughts we have of ourselves."
I shall only add farther, that it is great imprudence and unkindness to children, to indulge them in a haughty and imperious behaviour towards those who are r. ost their inferiors. They should be made to understand, that the servants of the family are not their servants, nor to be under their government and controul. I the rather insist upon this, because I have generally observed, that where young people have been permitted to tyrannize over persons in the lowest circumstances of life, the humour has shamefully grown upon them, till it has diffused insolence and arrogance through their behaviour to all about them.
Lastly, Children should be trained up in the way of self-denial.
As without something of this temper we can never follow Christ, or expect to be owned by him as his disciples; so neither indeed can we pass comfortably through the world. For, whatever unexperienced youth may dream, a great many distasteful and mortifying circumstances will occur in life, which will unhinge our minds almost every hour, if we cannot manage, and in many instances deny our appetites, our passions, and our humours. We should therefore endeavour to teach our children
*Scougal's Life of God, page 45.
this important lesson betimes; and if we succeed in our care, we shall leave them abundantly richer and happier, in this rule and possession of their own spirits, than the most plentiful estates, or the most unlimited power over others, could make them.
When a rational creature becomes the slave of appetite, he sinks beneath the dignity of the human nature, as well as the sanctity of the christian profession. It is therefore observable, that when the apostle mentions the three grand branches of practical religion, he puts sobriety in the front; perhaps to intimate, that where that is neglected, the other cannot be suitably regarded. The grace of God, (i. e. the gospel,) teaches us, to live soberly, righteously, and godly" Children therefore, as well as young men, should be exhorted to be soberminded: And they should be taught it, by early self-denial. It is certain, that if their own appetite and taste, were to determine the kind and quantity of their food, many of them would quickly destroy their constitution, and perhaps their lives; since they have often the greatest desire for those things, which are the most improper. And it seems justly observed by a very wise man, who was himself a melancholy instance of it, "That the fondness of mothers for their children, in letting them eat and drink what they will, lays a foundation for most of those calamities in human life, which proceed from bodily indisposition." Nay, I will add that it is the part of wisdom and love, not only to deny what would be unwholesome, but to guard against indulging them in too great a nicety, either of food or dress. People of sense cannot but see, if they would please to consider it, that to know how to fare plainly, and sometimes a little hardly, carries a man with ease and pleasure through many circumstances of life, which to luxury and delicacy would be almost intolerable.
The government of the passions is another branch of selfdenial, to which children should early be habituated; and so much the rather, because, in an age when reason is so weak, the passions are apt to appear with peculiar force and violence. A prudent care should therefore be taken to repress the exhorbitancies of them. For which purpose it is of great importance, that they never be suffered to carry any point, by obstinacy, noise, and clamour, which is indeed to bestow a reward on a fault that deserves a severe reprimand. Nay, I will venture to add, that though it be very inhuman to take pleasure in
making them uneasy by needless mortifications, yet when they are eagerly and intemperately desirous of a trifle, they ought, for that very reason, sometimes to be denied it, to teach them more moderation for the future. And if by such methods, they gradually learn to conquer their little humours and fancies, they learn no inconsiderable branch of true fortitude and wisdom. I cannot express this better, than in the words of Mr. Locke*, in his excellent treatise on the subject before us; "He that has found out the way to keep a child's spirit easy, active and free, and yet at the same time to restrain him from many things which he has a mind to, and draw him to things uneasy to him, has got the true secret of education."
I have sometimes been surprised to see, how far a sense of honour and praise has carried some children of a generous temper, in a long and resolute course of self-denial. But undoubtedly the noblest principle of all is a sense of religion. Happy would it indeed be, if they were led to see, that there is but very little in this kind of gratification and indulgences; that the world itself is but a poor empty trifle; and that the great thing a rational creature should be concerned about, is to please God, and get well to heaven. May divine grace teach us this important lesson for ourselves, that we may transmit it with greater advantage to our children! Amen.
* Locke on Education, § 46.
ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.
Arguments to enforce the Duty.
Prov. xxii. 6.-Train up a Child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
It is certainly a very pleasing reflection to every faithful
minister of the gospel, that the cause, in which he is engaged, is the most benevolent, as well as the most religious; subserving the glory of God, by promoting the happiness of mankind. It must be a great satisfaction to a man of integrity and humanity, to think that it is not his business to dazzle and confound his hearers with the artifices of speech, to give the appearances of truth to falsehood and importance to trifles; but to teach them to weigh things in an impartial balance, and by the words of truth and soberness, to lead them into the paths of wisdom and of goodness.
This is a satisfaction which I peculiarly find this day, while I am urging you to that religious care in the education of children, which I have at large opened in the former discourse. And it is a circumstance of additional pleasure, that I am pleading the cause of the weak and the helpless; of little tender creatures, who are incapable of pleading for themselves, and know not how much their interest is concerned. Nor am I without a secret hope, that if the Divine Spirit favour us with his assistance, some who are yet unborn may have eternal reason to rejoice in the fruits of what you are now to hear. Amen.
Having already endeavoured to describe the way in which children are to be trained up; I now proceed,
Secondly, To propose some arguments to engage parents to this pious care.
And here I would intreat you distinctly to consider,—that the attempt itself is pleasant ;-you have great reason to hope it may be successful-and that success is of the highest importance.
I. The attempt itself is pleasant.
I speak not merely of the pleasure arising from the consciousness of discharging present duty, and a probable view of future success; such a satisfaction may attend those actions, which are in themselves most painful and mortifying. But I refer to the entertainment immediately flowing from the employment itself, when rightly managed. This is undoubtedly one of those ways of wisdom, which are ways of pleasantness, as well as a path, which in its consequences is peace and happiness*: It is a commandment, in keeping of which there is great rewardt.
The God of nature has wisely annexed a secret unutterable delight, to all our regular cares for the improvement of our rising offspring. We rejoice to see our tender plants flourish, to observe how the stock strengthens, and the blossoms and the leaves successively unfold. We trace with a gradually advancing pleasure, their easy smiles, the first efforts of speech on their stammering tongues, and the dawnings of reason in their feeble minds. It is a delightful office to cultivate and assist opening nature‡, to lead the young strangers into a new world, and to infuse the principles of any useful kind of knowledge, which their age may admit, and their circumstances require. But when we attempt to raise their thoughts to the great Father of Spirits, to present them, as in the arms of faith, to Jesus the compassionate Shepherd, and teach them to enquire after him; when we endeavour to instruct them in the principles of divine truth, and form them to sentiments of prudence, integrity and generosity; we find a pleasure superior to what any other labour for their improvement can give.
gard to the
On this occasion, my friends, I persuade myself I may appeal to the repeated experience of many amongst you. Do you not find, that the sweetest truths of christianity, which are your hope and your joy in this house of your pilgrimage, are peculiarly sweet when you talk them over with your children? Do you not find, that your instructions and admonitions to them return into your own bosom with a rich increase of edification and refreshment? Thus while you are watering these domestic plantations, you are watering also yourselves§; and from these
* Prov. iii. 17.
+ Psal. xix. 11.
Delightful task! To rear the tender thought,
pour the fresh instruction o'er the mind,
THOMPSON'S SPRING, p. 57.
The generous purpose in the glowing breast.
§ Prov. xi. 25.