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having led for a long time a life of regularity and religion, fall off from these characteristics, we are not entitled to conclude, as we are very apt to do, that they are, and have been, disbelievers on the whole. Experience of human nature authorizes no such conclusion; the probability is, that they are not so much consequences as inconsistences ; these men are borne down by the force and strength of the temptation. But, chiefly and industriously, ought we to beware of drawing such inferences from the examples, as to make them either a reason for the less respectability of religion itself; or for thinking that such may in any way, or by any construction, either in the judgment of mankind, or in the final judgment of God, be an excuse or cover for our own evil courses.
"THE DUTY OF PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR
EPHESIANs VI. 4.
Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
THE duty of parents towards their children is a duty which concerns so many, and is of such importance to all those whom it does concern, that it deserves every consideration which we can give it; for though it be a duty generally acknowledged, it is not in some parts of it either so well understood, or so properly practised as it ought to be. I shall divide the duty, for method’s sake, into three parts.
First ; the maintenance of children, and a reasonable provision for their happiness, in point of circumstances and situation in the world.
Secondly ; education.
And thirdly; the proper care of their virtue.
The obligation upon parents to maintain their children is the first and pleasantest part of their duty; and it is founded upon this reason ; the helpless condition of infancy renders it absolutely necessary that one or other take the charge of its maintenance. And it is manifest that the parents have no right, by their act and deed, to burden others with the charge. Nothing, therefore, is left but for the parents to undertake it themselves; so that the maintaining of our offspring is matter of strict debt to the rest of mankind, and this, independent of the affection of parents to their children; which, if it be instinctive, is an instinct implanted for the express purpose of promoting the interests of their children, and so demonstrative of God Almighty’s will and intention about it. This part of a parent's duty, though so plain and natural, and though the impulse to it be commonly so strong, is not always discharged. They are the lowest, indeed, as well as the vilest of the human species, who neglect or break through it; yet there are some such in every neighbourhood. There are those who run away from their families and leave them to perish, by the want of what they should do for them. There are others who stay at home only to consume in drunkenness and idle sports, what should be bread for their families; and perhaps what their families earn. There are those who are fallen into so slothful and idle a course of life, that they had rather cast their children upon the public than labor for them. And there are those, lastly, who, after having ruined the mother, and been the means of bringing innocent sufferers into the world, abandon both to shame and misery, nor concern themselves as being any farther connected with them, or being under any obligation to provide for the maintenance of either; which is just as abandoned and wicked a line of conduct as any of the others; for, if you remember the reason why parents are bound to maintain their children, that reason holds equally for natural children, as for any other. There is no difference in the obligation, so far as it extends to maintenance, but what custom holds, which is no difference at all. But there is something beyond mere subsistence, which a child is entitled to receive at the hands of its parents, because there is something necessary for it, and which the child cannot procure for itself; and that is, a reasonable provision for the happiness of the child in its circumstances and situation of life. Those, who, to make short work of the subject, say that a parent is bound to do all he can for his children, say too much ; because at that rate, every thing a person spends which might have been saved, and every profit omitted which might have been made, would be criminal, as it would be a breach of that rule. Besides, such very general rules, which have no limtis,
would be of no sort of use. But a reasonable care of the circumstances and situation of children is certainly a parent's duty; that is, to put them in such a situation, and leave them, if in our power, in such circumstances, as that they may have a fair chance, and a probable expectation of being happy and useful. Happy and useful are the two words to be remembered; that is what I mean by a reasonable provision. Now I do not say a child has this chance or expectation, unless he be well placed in a situation suitable to his habits and reasonable expectations, and furnished likewise with a competent provision for the demands of that situation. But here it becomes a very material question, how we are to calculate the demands and expenses of the situation, or what may be deemed a person’s reasonable expectations. For these exigences depend much upon the young man himself, and they can call or think what they please so many exigences; and thus making the expectations of the child in some degree the measure of the parent’s duty, we are laying the parent open to unbounded demands. I answer, that the exigences of any situation, and the reasonable expectations of children, are so far regulated by custom, that as much indulgence in expense, appearance, and manner of living, and the like, as is customarily allowed to and practised by people of such professions, or in similar situations of life, is to be accounted the exigences of that situation. Not that custom, in its own proper force, can alter or determine what is wrong in any case ; but in the present case you cannot suppose that a young person who is denied that which all, or almost all, about him are allowed, or, which is the same thing, is not supplied with the means of procuring it, and exposed on that account to continual mortification, and what he reckons disgrace; you cannot, I say, suppose that he will be tolerably easy or happy under such circumstances, at least you will not find him so ; and a fair chance for his ease and happiness he has a right to look for. You will understand that all vicious and licentious indulgences are to be excepted out of this rule, which a parent is not to encourage or supply, or even permit, if he can help it, however common they may be in the situation and class of life in which his child is placed; nor would it alter the case if such practices were universal. o What we have said of custom regulating the exigences, and situation, is equally true as to the expectation of the child, and the choice of situation. In reality, and in the eyes of reason, all situations which are equally innocent and useful are equally honorable; but it is not exactly so in the opinion of the world. The world has what it calls its distinctions of rank, its liberal professions, and inferior stations; and in laying out a plan or provision for our children, we must be content in some measure to submit to such opinions. A child will naturally expect to preserve the place, rank, and condition in life, in which he has been brought up. He has had from the first those who accounted him their equal, and he will expect to continue so. And who should say that his expectations are unreasonable At least they are natural and unavoidable. It is not likely that a child should be satisfied in a condition which degrades and depresses him beneath his acquaintance; and that he should see with patience the children of all other families, whose birth, place, and rank in life were like his own, advanced before him. The habits of a young person are a consideration of still greater importance than his expectations. To accustom children to habits of ease, amusements, and elegance, and a thousand distinctions, and then to send them abroad into a calling where they must all be given up, or meet every day with contradiction and rebuke, and to suppose that your children will reconcile themselves to the change, is to suppose the children much wiser than their parents; is to expect that from the indecision and vehemency of youth, which you will find is the fruit of reflection and resolution. The rule we lay down then is this; that a parent is bound, if in his power, for no one is bound to impossibilities, to provide his child with a calling suited to his talents and reasonable expectations, and to supply the exigences of that calling; and those expectations and exigences are to be deemed reasonable, which the generality of others in similar circumstances, or of the same profession, are commonly indulged with ; and then, when a parent has done this, he has done his duty, so far as relates to provision. We will next see how this rule applies to the different classes and conditions of life, and who are the persons that offend against it. First, then, the most important, because the most numerous order of men amongst us, are those who have only their labor to live by. It is manifest that if they accustom their children betimes to industry, and procure them any calling in which their industry will honestly support them, they completely acquit themselves of the duty of a parent to his child; as completely, perhaps more so, than the man who lays up an independence for his son, in order to raise a family or be in a condition above his birth. He provides his child with a situation suited to his habits; for he took care to habituate him from the beginning to labor and sobriety, and to the reasonable use of exertion; for the child who expects to live in idleness when his parents brought him up by their labor, cannot be said to entertain a reasonable expectation. And then, as to the demands of the situation, a livelihood for himself, and, in due time, the means of providing a livelihood for a family of his own, is the utmost that either reason or even custom can authorize him to expect. That in fact, with no extraordinary vein and inclination, he will expect. These things a parent cannot supply him with ; but he can do better; for he can establish him in the business which he has taught him, or can get him, taught, and direct him by the sober and industrious life he has brought him up with, to maintain himself. This is a consolation and encouragement to their condition of life, as it shows that every man who has health, and hands, and activity, need not fear being able to do his duty to his family; and would we did not observe many persons more afraid of the burden of a family than they are of offending God by a life of lewdness and licentiousness They who transgress against this rule are the people who suffer their children to live in absolute idleness, or what is next to it, in some trifling employment which can never be of service to them when they become men, or in little pilferings and private tricks; and who do not, if they grow up, take care betimes to provide them with masters and honest laborious callings. The next order of men are those who are in the middle, betwixt poverty and riches; who are of liberal professions, and though of smaller estates, in creditable branches of business. These might provide a mere subsistence for their children by sending them out into the world to get their bread by trade or manual labor; but they would not satisfy by these means the reasonable expectations of their children, which is necessary to be done, in order to give them a fair chance for happiness. Much less are they bound, on the other hand, to make them or leave them independent of any profession. This may happen sometimes; but I believe that there is more pleasure than merit in it, when it does happen. A calling in some degree upon a level, in point of place and station, with that which their parents follow, is the utmost they are entitled to expect; and yet this simple and practicable rule is often and in various ways neglected. It is neglected from avarice, from vanity, and from