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Perhaps the course of instruction to be given our children is nowhere described more explicitly than by Moses, where he says, “ These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
The plan of instruction here set forth is systematic, habitual, and practical. First, it is a regular, systematic course, and does not consist in desultory, incoherent lessons; for, by “these words," Moses evidently means "all the words of this life;"—the whole moral law—the sum of all true religion, which he had just recapitulated; and must be understood as enjoining it upon all parents to teach their children regularly the Holy Scriptures, as embracing all that is to be known, believed, or taught on the subject of human redemption ; affording them, at the same time, as they are able, all those helps which are to be derived from commentaries, catechisms, sermon books, Sabbath schools, public preaching, and, above all, private instruction.
The instruction given our children is, secondly, to be habitual.; for Moses goes on to say, “ These words, &c., shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children," i. e., with steady application; "and shalt talk of them," not incidentally-not merely when they are dying, or thou art about to be called away thyself
, to see them no more until the judgment of the great day,--but “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Thou shalt mingle thy lessons of instructions with the ordinary concerns of life, the affairs of every day; taking advantage of every circumstance to train thy children for the skies. But alas! alas ! how many parents belonging to the church, instead of teaching their children the way to heaven by a regular plan-a plan of daily use, and far less to be neglected than that of a professional or business man,-how many, I say, instead of teaching their children habitually as above required, either teach them not at all, or teach them, at least by their own miserable example, to neglect, if not despise, the duties of a holy life! O! how many there are who seldom, if ever, speak to their children on the subject of their soul's salvation, and consequently know nothing of their views and feelings, perhaps little of their behavior, concerning the things of God! It might be thought uncharitable to insinuate that they care as little as they know; and yet we can hardly view the matter in any other light. The Lord have mercy upon them, and bring them into a better state ; lest they be “ weighed in the balance and found wanting," when their “souls shall be required of them !!!
It appears, in the third place, that parental instruction is required to be practical ; as nothing less than this is implied in the following direction, viz.: “ Thou shalt bind them, (the words which I command thee, &c.,) for a sign upon thy hand;" i. e., all thou doest shall be done to the glory of God. “And they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes;" i. e., thy countenance, aspect, department, shall be such as becomes the Christian character. “And thou shalt write them
upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates ;" i. e., all thy purposes, interests, and transactions shall be sanctified and governed by the word of inspiration.
II. Having now considered the duty of training up children in the way God requires, we shall proceed, secondly, to illustrate the promise by which it is encouraged.
1. And, first, it appears from the connection which God has established between the duty and benefits of properly training up children, that our character, whether physical, intellectual, or moral, depends almost wholly on education.
In regard to the body, we know that it is either large or small, strong or weak, sound or sickly, according to the climate, food, and exercise by which it has been formed. Dr. Clarke says, that “ Ireland is the only country where the common people live on potatoes; and it is the only country, in modern times, which produces giants.” And we need not be told that our forefathers, in America, were much more athletic, healthy, and long-lived than we, their posterity, for this simple reason: that they were more industrious in their habits, and temperate in their mode of living.
The mind is still more affected by education than the body; and is either right or wrong, refined or vulgar, copious or contracted, as our education has predominated in favor of one or other of these features. It is hence that those who have risen to eminence in the world might trace their elevation, in general, to the mental culture bestowed upon them in early life; and not unfrequently to the faithful training of a pious mother.
But while education (by which we mean the entire treatment of children and youth) affects the intellectual character more than the physical, it exerts a still greater influence upon the moral character than the intellectual. Of this we shall be very sensible by contrasting the heathen with the Christian world; the irreligious part of community with the pure church of Christ; those children who have been “trained up in the way they should go," with those whose religious education has been neglected. The influence of parents over their children is such, being little less than absolute, that if they were all perfect Christians, as they should be, bringing up their children in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” little else would be necessary to eradicate sin from the world, and establish the universal reign of Messiah. In such a case, sin being destroyed in the bud, there would scarcely be an immoral person, perhaps not an irreligious one upon earth ; but “all would know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.” And now, dear parents, seeing the character and destiny of your offspring are so far confided to your determination, I beg of you to consider whether you will bring them to heaven by a religious education, or leave them to perish everlastingly in their sins, through your neglect?
2. The reason why those who are trained up in the way they should go” seldom if ever forsake it is, that this training grows into a confirmed habit; the force of which, you know, is prodigious, whether it be exerted in a good or a bad cause.
Evil habits are seldom cured : good habits are seldom abandoned. The force of evil habits is clearly set forth by the Prophet Jeremiah, where he says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?
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then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” And, indeed, we have often had occasion to observe with what difficolty the habitual offender is reclaimed. We have seen the tears and entreaties of kind friends, the pains and penalties of a broken law, the promises and threatenings of God's eternal word, employed upon him in vain ! And even the consideration of right and wrong, of life and death, of heaven and hell, has interposed but an ineffectual barrier to his mad career! On the other hand, we have been struck with the force of good habits. St. Paul, speaking of those who had become the habitual servants of God—those who were confirmed in the principles and duties of a holy life, exclaims, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” On this point, also, our text speaks volumes. And from all that has been said, we are doubtless prepared to receive, with its full force, that promissory declaration–5 When he is old he will not depart from it.” I say promissory, for though it be not a promise in form, it is so in fact to all intents and purposes; since the grace of God to assist in the proper training of children, and to crown the undertaking with success, is most clearly implied.
Some, it is true, have appeared to fall away whose piety had become habitual; but, generally speaking, there is great reason to believe it was only in appearance. For, when you come to examine the apostate, it will be found, almost uniformly, that he fell a prey to some evil habit, or easily besetting sin," from which he was never wholly free, at least for any length of time; and, consequently, he had never acquired the character of an habitual Christian. The habit of true piety being formed, its practice becomes easy, as many are able to testify; insomuch that it would be altogether more difficult to forsake, than to pursue the way of righteousness. Indeed, a man of habitual piety, having been “trained up in the way he should go” from early infancy, is almost as sure of heaven as if he were there.
3. But though the promise in our text depends on a religious education, so far as the means are concerned, yet, like all other promises in the Bible, it depends efficiently on the favor of God. Accordingly our Saviour says, “Without me ye can do nothing." And David likewise, “ Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” And also St. Paul, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God giveth the increase. So, then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” Our helplessness, however, can be no cause of discouragement, since we are allowed to depend on Him with whom “ all things are possible.” If we “lack wisdom,” or any other qualification to bring up our families aright, we have only to “ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and it shall be given." The
great Parent of us all will surely teach us our duty as parents, and enable us to discharge it with good effect, if, while we use the appointed means, we humbly rely upon his promised aid. Yes, if we look to the wise for wisdom, and to the strong for strength, He will both assist us in the blessed work of forming our children for glory, and reward us a thousand-fold for our “labor of love." He will reward a praying Hannah, consecrating her children to God from their birth, with a Samuel. He will reward a mother Eunice, and a grandmother Lois, teaching their offspring the Holy Scriptures from their childhood, with a Timothy. And he will reward a Susannah Wesley, training up her numerous family under the most wholesome discipline, with a prodigy among the great, and good, and useful. Or, if our children should not gain much distinction in the world, their bare continuance "in the way they should go” would, of itself, be an infinite compensation for any expense we may have been at in giving them a religious education. Yes, the compensation would be infinite, and therefore cannot be fully estimated. Nevertheless, I must be allowed to glance at it by saying, that the world never saw any thing to compare with a Christian family, in whose dwelling the spirit of love for ever reigns, uniting them to God and to each other; and from whose altar the incense of prayer continually ascends, morning and evening, before the Lord. It is here the father, as a patriarch, sits upon his throne, and sways an absolute but mild sceptre; and, as a priest likewise, offers his daily sacrifice and gives instruction. It is here the mother is “a help-meet" in the Lord, guiding her family aright, and “looking well to the ways of her household.” And it is here, also, that the "children are like oliveplants round about their table.” Or, as Solomon has it, “ Our sons are as plants, grown up in their youth ; and our daughters as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." This is a habitation you
would love to visit; for you must feel yourself very much at home in a family where all things put on the aspect of friendship, contentment, and prosperity. Nor can it be otherwise than that angels should delight, in shining groups, to hover round a family so much resembling their own order. And we have a thousand infallible proofs that the Deity himself looks down with complacency upon a family who constitute a 66 church” in themselves.
But, to conclude, if we would be the instruments of saving our children, by “training them up in the way they should go,” we must first be Christians ourselves, as we have already seen; secondly, we must exercise the authority with which God has invested us as parents, especially for religious purposes ; thirdly, we must give them, “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” the same as in teaching them to read, or fitting them for the ordinary business of life; and, fourthly, it is indispensably necessary that we enforce our instructions by the influence of example; both in "abstaining from all appearance of evil,” and doing “ those things which are right in the sight of the Lord.” Particularly should we avoid the practice of those who are saints abroad and devils at home. For, if we must be ill-natured, impatient, or fretful at all, (though we deny the necessity of such dispositions,) let it, by all means, be away from home, where we have less influence, and consequently shall do less harm; and never in the presence of our families, who would be greatly injured if not wholly ruined by such indulgence.
Finally, to “train up our children in the way they should go," will make it pleasant living with them; as they will be an honor to themselves, to their parents, and to their God. And also it will be pleasant leaving them at death; for, relying upon the divine assurance, that having been “trained up in the way they should go they will not depart from it,” we shall be entirely consoled with the prospect of meeting them again in heaven, where the ties of grace and affection which shall have united us together on earth, as a Christian family, will become indissoluble; and all the tender endearments, so cordially reciprocated in time, shall be renewed and consummated in eternity.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
BY J. H. YOUNG, OF THE BALTIMORE ANNUAL CONFERENCE.
Messrs. EDITORS,—The principal outlines of the following sketch of the existence of evil spirits, their primeval state, the place of their probation, the cause and nature of their fall, their present condition, and their future destination, were published in the Christian Advocate and Journal in the spring of 1835. At the head of that communication the editor made the following observation :—“We give this article because the subject of it is by no means a mere speculative point in theology, and because the writer appears to have bestowed close attention to it. If his theory be defective, whoever will point out its defects will render an important service to the Christian public."
There are few subjects of the same importance in the great scheme of Christianity, and of the same degree of revelation, I have studied with more care and interest than the following. And this has been done, not because I am fond of speculations, or desire to be wise above that which is written, or wish to be the author of innovations in the different systems of divinity composed by men, but because the common opinion of theologians on the circumstances connected with the existence of fallen angels has not been entirely satisfactory to my mind; and has not appeared consistent with the discoveries of science, and the plain meaning of the Holy Scriptures. And as no person has yet seen proper to expose the defects of this theory, I feel encouraged to send you my views, at length, for insertion in the Magazine and Review ;-especially as the article in the Advocate was crowded into the limits of a single column ;-trusting it will meet the approbation of the editors, and contain nothing contrary to common sense and the pure word of God.
-“On nature's Alps I stand, And see a thousand firmaments beneath! A thousand systems as a thousand grains !
How can man's curious spirit not inquire,