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seen, no family prayer is heard, no parental admonition is delivered! What ! this cruel, wicked, ruinous neglect of their children's immortal interest in the families of professors !! Monstrous inconsistency! Shocking dereliction of principle! No wonder that their children go astray. This is easily accounted for. Some of the most profligate young people that I know, have issued from such households. judices against religion, and their enmity against its forms, are greater than those of the children of avowed worldlings. Inconsistent, hypocritical, negligent professors of religion, frequently excite in their sons and daughters an unconquerable aversion and disgust against piety, which seems to inspire them with a determination to place themselves at the farthest possible remove from its influence.
But I am now speaking of the failure of a religious education, where it has been, in some measure, carried on; instances of which are by no means unfrequent. Too often do we hear the echo of David's sorrowful complaint uttered by the distressed and disappointed Christian father, Although my house be not so with God." Too often do we see the child of many prayers and many hopes forgetting the instructions he has received, and running with the multitude to do evil. Far be it from me to add affliction to affliction, by saying that this is to be traced, in every case, to parental neglect. I I would not thus pour as it were nitre and vinegar npon the bleeding wounds, with which filial impiety has lacerated many a father's mind. I would not thus cause the wretched parent to exclaim, “ Reproach hath broken the heart,
already half broken by my child's misconduct." I know that in many cases, no blame whatever is to be thrown on the parent; but it was the depravity of the child alone, which nothing could subdue but the power of the Holy Ghost, that led to the melancholy result. The best possible scheme of Christian education, most judiciously directed, and most perseveringly maintained, has, in some cases, totally failed. God is a sovereign, and he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Still, however, there is, in the order of means, a tendency in a religious education, to secure the desired result; and God usually does bless, with his saving influence, such efforts. “ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. This is certainly true, as a general rule, though there are many exceptions from it.
I shall now lay before you the principal obstacles to success in religious education, as they strike my mind.
First.-It is frequently too negligently and capriciously maintained, even where it is not totally omitted.
It is obvious, that if at all attended to, it should be attended to with anxious earnestness, systematic order, and perpetual regularity. It should not be taken up as a dull form, an unpleasant drudgery, but as a matter of deep and delightful interest. The heart of the parent should be entirely and obviously engaged, A part of every returning sabbath should be spent by him, surrounded by his filial charge; and it should be embodied, more or less, with the whole habit of parental conduct. The father may lead the usual devotions at the family altar : ihe mother
may join with him in teaching their children catechism, hymns, scripture : but if this be unattended by serious admonition, visible anxiety, and strenuous effort to lead their children to think seriously on religion, as a matter of infinite importance, little good can be expected. A cold, formal, capricious system of religious instruction is rather likely to create prejudice against religion, than prepossession in its favour.
Then, again, a religious education should be consistent-it should extend to every thing that is likely to assist in the formation of character. It should not be mere abstract tuition, but should be a complete whole. It should select the schools, the companions, the amusements, the books of youth; for if it do nothing more than merely teach a form of sound words to the understanding, and to the memory, while the impression of the heart, and the formation of the character are neglected, very little is to be expected from such efforts. A handful of seed, scattered now and then upon the ground, without order or perseverance, might as rationally be expected to produce a good crop, as a mere lukewarm, capricious, religious education to be followed by true piety. If the parent is not visibly in earnest, it cannot be expected that the child will be so. Religion, by every christian parent, is theoretically acknowledged to be the most important thing in the world; but if in practice the father appears a thousand times more anxious for his son to be a good scholar than a real Christian, and the mother more solicitous for the daughter to be a good dancer or musician, than a child of God, they may teach what they like in the way of good doctrine, bat they are not
to look for genuine piety as the result: this can only be expected where it is really taught and inculcated, as the one thing needful.
Secondly-The relaxation of domestic discipline is another obstacle in the way of a successful religious education.
A parent is invested by God with a degree of authority over his children, which he cannot neglect to use without being guilty of trampling under foot' the institutions of heaven. Every family is a community, the government of which is strictly despotic, though not tyrannical. Every father is a sovereign, though not an oppressor: he is a legislator, and not merely a counsellor: and his will is law, not merely advice. He is to command, to restrain, to punish; and children are required to obey: he is, if necessary, to threaten, to rebuke, to chastise; and they are to submit with reverence. He is to decide what books shall be read, what companions invited, what engagements formed, and how time is to be spent. If he sees any thing wrong, he is not to interpose merely with the timid, feeble, ineffectual protest of Eli, “Why do ye
, thus, my sons ?” but with the firm, though mild prohibition. He must rule his own house; and by the whole of his conduct, make his children feel that obedience is his due and his demand.
The want of discipline, wherever it exists, will be supplied by confusion and domestic anarchy. Every thing goes wrong in the absence of this. A gardener may sow the choicest seeds; but if he neglect to pluck up weeds, and prune wild luxuriances; he must not expect to see his flowers grow, or his garden flourish ; and so a parent may deliver the best instructions, but if
he do not, by discipline, eradicate evil tempers, correct bad habits, repress rank corruptions, nothing excellent can be looked for. He may be a good prophet, and a good priest, but if he be not also a good king, all else is vain. When once a man breaks his sceptre, or lends it to his children as a plaything, he may give up his hopes of success from a religious education.
I have seen the evil resulting from a want of discipline in innumerable families, both amongst my brethren in the ministry, and others. Frightful instances of disorder and immorality
now present to my mind, which I could almost wish to forget. The misfortune in many families is, that this regimen is unsteady and capricious, sometimes carried even to tyranny itself, at others relaxed into a total suspension of law; so that the children are at one time trembling like slaves, at others revolting like rebels; at one time groaning beneath an iron yoke, at others rioting in a state of lawless liberty. This is a most mischievous system, and its effects are generally what might be expected.
In some cases, discipline commences too late, in others it ceases too early. A father's magisterial office is coeval with his parental relation. A child as soon as he can reason, should be made to feel that obedience is due to parents; for if he grow up to boyhood before he is subject to the mild rule of paternal authority, he will, very probably, like an 'untamed bullock, resist the yoke. On the other hand, as long as children continue beneath the parental roof, they are to be subject to the rules of domestic discipline. Many parents greatly err, in abdicating the throne in favour of a son or