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generally, when truined up in the way they should go, not depart from it
. This, as it appears to me, has also been the course of providential dispensations.
To this declaration, however, it probably will be, as it often has been, objected, that the course of providence, here alleged, is against the promise ; and that it is contradicted by plain facts. «The children,” it has been often said, “ of religious parents, the children particularly of Clergymen, who, if any, must be supposed to be religiously educated, exhibit as few proofs of a virtuous character, and as many proofs of a sinful one, as the children of other men." Nay, it has been said, I have frequently heard it said, that "the children of professing Christians, and particularly of Ministers, are less virtuous, and more distinguished for profligacy, than other children." These observations are not always made with an intention to utter slander, and with a conviction that they are false. They are sometimes uttered by sober men. Nay, they are sometimes countenanced by Christians, and even by Ministers; especially in the indulgence of zeal against the doctrine, that there are Means of Grace. I have heard it asserted, and apparently with some feelings of victory, that in a given case, or cases, persons, who have not been religiously educated, had become subjects of piety in as great, and greater, numbers, than those who had received such an education. That many persons, who have not been religiously educated, are sanctified, is undoubtedly true. That their number is proportionally so great, as is here indicated, will be affirmed only by the zeal, which is not according to knowledge. Let any man read the history of Revitals of Religion ; and he will need no further arguments on this point. Still, as this doctrine has spread so far, and assumed so serious an aspect, I shall now make a few brief remarks concerning the subject.
First. All professors of Religion, and all Ministers, are not Christians. From those who are of this character, the Religious Education of their children cannot be expected.
Secondly. Some, who are Christians, perform this duty very imperfectly. Men of both these classes are not unfrequently too much engrossed by other concerns. Professors are sometimes so deeply engaged in their business, and ministers by their studies, as to neglect this and many other duties. Some of them, also, are negligent, through a characteristical easiness and carelessness of temper. Some are injudicious; and pursue ill devised plans. Some are of a changeable disposition ; and undo to-day, partially at least, what they did yesterday. From these and other causes, of the like nature, the manner in which they educate their children is very imperfect. Of this imperfection the consequences will be experienced of course.
Thirdly. Some Christians govern their children unhappily. They are passionate; and govern with fickleness, and violence. They are indulgent; and scarcely govern them at all. They are austere,
or gloomy; and thus discourage, and disgust, their children: insensibly alienating their minds both from their instructions, and themselves.
Fourthly. One of the parents is sometimes irreligious; and thwarts the labours of the other.
Fifthly. Some Christian parents, though it is believed this number is small, do not pray in their families; and in this manner fail of receiving blessings upon themselves, and upon their children.
Sixthly. The children of Christian parents, for various reasons, are often educated chiefly by others, who are incompetent or unfaithful.
Seventhly. The children of Christian parents are not unfrequently corrupted by evil companions; and that, perhaps, during the best education.
Eighthly. Christian Churches extensively neglect the discipline, which they ought to administer both to the parents, and the children, when negligent of their respective duties. By this neglect the spirit of educating children religiously has been suffered to languish ; and the obligations to this duty have ceased to be felt, as its importance demands.
These remarks will, if I mistake not, sufficiently explain the real state of facts, so far as to show, that they are consistent with the promise, as it has been interpreted above.
But the truth is, The Assertion itself is substantially false. That there are children of religious parents, who are themselves destitute of religion through life ; that the whole number of these is considerable; will not be questioned. Who, after what has been said, could rationally expect it to be otherwise? That some of these are profligates, and some even remarkable for their profligacy, I shall not deny. Those, who have broken through peculiar restraints, and sinned against powerful motives, are usually abandoned sinners. Accordingly, Dr. Young says, forcibly, and justly, though solecistically,
A shameless woman is the worst of men."
But, notwithstanding these exceptions, the great body of Christians is made up of those, who have been religiously educated ; imperfect as this education has been. Every sober man may perceive this truth by his own observation. It is true of this seminary: it is true of this country : it is true of every other Christian country: it has been always true. A striking proof of it is furnished, here, by the character, and offices, which the sons of Clergymen have holden in New-England, ever since it was settled by our Ancestors. A complete proof of it, every where, is furnished by the history of Revivals of Religion. Every contradictory instance, it is to be remembered, is regarded with surprise; a fact, which could not exist, if the declension were common; and is made, very improperly, a representative of multitudes. Nor ought it to be forgotten, that, when members of irreligious families become pious, surprise is equally excited.
Having now, as I hope, removed all the objections, which might be supposed to attend this
subject, I proceed to remark. 1. That by a religious Education of their children, parents more easily, and more perfectly, than is possible in any other manner, will render them dutiful, harmonious, and happy, in the present world.
A family, religiously Educated, will in a good degree become orderly, and dutiful, of course. The doctrines and sentiments, which they are taught, and habitually imbibe; the conduct, to which they are formed; the examples, which they daily behold; the motives, steadily presented to their view; and the worship, to which they are daily summoned; all conspire with supreme force to call up every thought, affection, and action, which constitutes a part of their duty. Their minds are wrought into a character, a course of action, widely different from that of other children. This difference even a stranger cannot fail to discern at once, Among those who are charged with the instruction of youth, it has long since become the subject of proverbial remark.
All the tendencies of religion are dutiful tendencies; and are therefore, peaceful and pleasing. Harmony of minds, and har. mony of purposes, cannot, without this aid, be produced for any length of time, or any extent of operation. Unity of conduct may indeed be effectuated, to a considerable extent, by the rod of power ; but not unity of affection, or design. Constrained union can never be the source of happiness to any collection of rational beings; and will peculiarly fail of producing happiness in a family. To repress the native selfishness of the heart, means, of some kind or other, are indispensable, Nothing has, hitherto, effectually accomplished this purpose, but religion. Even the mere, fixed belief of its truths and duties, and of accountableness to God, will go far towards overcoming the open indulgencies of passion and appetite. A cordial reception of these truths and duties will finally vanquish them all. Religious Education, then, is the road to the religion of a family; and that religion is the road to domestic happiness.
As happiness in this world is chiefly enjoyed in the family, and, under God, supremely dependent on domestic peace; the Religious Education of Children become plainly the chief means of the first earthly good. A glorious motive is here held out, to induce us to educate our children religiously.
2. Children, thus educated, will persevere also in the way to eternal life.
This I consider as the main subject of the promise in the text. In the sense, in which I have explained it, ii has, I apprehend, been universally verified. Of this truth, the proof, already alleged, is presumed to be sufficient.
The parent must be an unnatural wretch, by whom this motive is not deeply felt. The salvation of his child is promised to him, and in the most endearing of all methods; viz. as the consequence of his labour. He, who is not a barbarian, or a brute, must wish his children to be happy, favoured of God, and beloved by his own companions, throughout eternity. To the heart of him, who knows the tenderness of nature, this desire must come home with supreme and unmingled power. The very thought of presenting one's children to the Judge, at his right hand, on the final day, and of being able to say, Behold here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me, is a thought of ecstasy, which bewilders the heart with joy. Let no parent, who is not compelled by this consideration to a duty so delightful in itself, pretend to love his children at all.
If we train up our children in the way they should go, they will enter it almost of course ; follow us to heaven; and be our companions for ever. There they will be everlasting witnesses of our tender affection to them, and our faithful care of their souls, while we were both in the present world. At their dying bed, if we survive them ; on our dying bed, if they survive us, we shall be saved, also, from the distressing reflection, that through our negligence they have been lost, and are destined to sin, and suffer for ever.
3. In this manner parents perform their prime duty. The great end of our being is the performance of our duty. In this God intends, that we should find our happiness, and that a greater happiness, than we can otherwise attain. All parts of our duty are plainly to be regarded according to their importance. To parents, that, which is enjoined in the text, is primarily import
On their children they can usually have more and better influence, than they can possibly have on others. In a high and endearing sense, they are their property; are united to them by the tenderest ties; are ever in their presence; and regard them with singular reverence and affection. From all these sources parents derive the power of making more, deeper, and happier, impressions, than others can make, or than they can make on others. This power God has required all parents faithfully to exert; and in religious Education alone is it faithfully exerted. To perform this duty is, therefore, the chief end, for which we are made parents ; the chief good, which men are usually able to do; the chief means of glorifying our Creator. If, then, we wish to please God, to enjoy the greatest happiness in this world, or to carry our children with us to Heaven, and enjoy their company, for ever; we shall not fail with deep solicitude, watchful care, and unshaken constancy, to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.THE CHARACTER OF
MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
3 CORINTHIANS vi. 14.-Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
IN the last discourse, I finished the observations, which I have thought it necessary to make concerning The Ordinary Means of Grace. In the several discourses on this subject I have endeavoured to show, that there are Means of Grace; What they are; and what is their Influence; and to answer the Objections, usually made against this scheme of doctrine. I, then, severally considered each of these means, at some length; and gave such directions concerning the use of them, such explanations of their efficacy, and such
answers to objections against them, sederally, as this System of Discourses appeared to require.
The next subject in order is
Those Means of Grace, which are of limited application : viz. Baptism; the Lord's Supper; and the Communion of Christians.
But, before I enter upon the immediate discussion of these subjects, it will be necessary to consider the Character, and Circumstances, of those, by whom these Means of Grace are to be used; viz. that Collection of persons, which is denominated the Church of Christ. In examining this interesting subject, I shall,
Describe the Church of Christ, as exhibited in the Scriptures; and then,
Explain the Nature of its peculiar Ordinances and Employments.
The Church of Christ is composed of its Ordinary Members and its Officers. In the present discourse, I shall attempt to exhibit the Character of its Ordinary Members, as presented to us in the Scriptures.
To this subject we are naturally led by the text. Be ye not unequally yoked together with Unbelievers. The word, here translated unequally yoked, is in the Greek, "reseco Swyxuess, and denotes, literally, being yoked to those of a different kind; and here means being yoked unfily, or improperly. Concerning the Communion, here forbidden, there have been various opinions.
First. It has been frequently supposed to be marriage.
That this is not a just interpretation, is evident, because there is not, before or afterward, a syllable said concerning this subject; and because the direction, given in the seventeenth verse of the context, concerning the communion, here specified, would, if