« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
begin the voyage of life, furnished with a compass and rudder. Mariners exposed to the winds and waves, destitute of these requisite instruments, are in a situation less perilous than those young persons, who begin the world without any fixed principles of religion. My young friends, whatever your temporal success may be, yet, if in the end, you shall fail of reaching the haven of everlasting rest, you had better never have been born. Let me entreat you to fix your thoughts upon this great and awful concern; and whatever else you may neglect, neglect not, O neglect not, the one thing needful! Hasten, hasten your choice of that good part which shall not be taken from you.' Having made your choice, bind, yourselves to adhere to it, by openly avowing it in the face of the world. By thus becoming and profes sing yourselves the servants of God, you will lay a proper foundation for exerting your influence over others. When you shall have families, you will be qualified to preside over them with dignity and comfort to yourselves, and with advantage to them. The influence of the resolution which you have formed for yourselves, will be extended to those, whom providence may place under your care, and afford a degree of security that they also will serve the Lord, On your becoming parents, it will be your firstcare to give up your children to God, not only by acts of devotion in private, but by having them publicly baptized into the name of Christ, and thereby dedica-ted to his service. That this is one of the first duties of parents to their offspring, has been believed by-the generality of Christians ever since the apostolic age.
As we know that of old, God required the seal of his covenant to be applied to the children of his profassing people; that the great Author of the gos pel dispensation has been so far from excluding them from this new covenant, that he has explicitly numbered them among his visible subjects; that his
apostles have dignified them with the titles of saints and disciples; and actually baptized them on the
pro. fessed faith of their parents to me it is wonderful, how any can doubt whether it be the will of God that parents should in this way, dedicate their children to him and his service. It is with great concern, my brethren, that I see such numbers among us living in the neglect of this duty. It is not indeed, neglected by those of you who have professed your resolution to serve God. But, are all the others unresolved upon this subject. Are you still wavering and undeter. mined whether to serve God or not? Are you still halting between two opinions ? Alas for you! Has not the matter been under consideration long enough already? If you are not yet convinced of the proprie. ty, reasonableness and advantage of serving God, what further light or new arguments can you expect? When will you come to a conclusion? If you can feel easy and unconcerned in your present situation, and while you live on in the neglect of Christ's institutions, neither devoting yourselves nor your children to his service, you must be left to abide the consequences of manifest disobedience to the divine authority. I turn to professors.
My brethren, if you are sincere in your profession, you will not content yourselves with having dedicated your children to the service of God; it will be your next care to instruct them how to serve him, teaching them the principles of that religion into which they have been initiated. To train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' is the express injunction of the gospel, and has been the endeavor of religious parents in all ages. To the faithfulness of Abraham in discharging this duty, God himself testi. fies when he says, I know Abraham, that he wilt command his children and household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." His example cannot bat be initated by
all who are of his character. If you believe that there is a God, that his favor is life and the source of all happiiress to his creatures; will you not instruct your children in this most interesting truth, teaching them betimes the good knowledge of their Creator? If you have a just sense of the depravity and corruption of human nature, and of the need we all stand in of being cleansed by sanctifying grace; will you not endeavor to awaken in the consciences of your chil. dren a conviction of the necessity and importance of this great moral change, and travail in pain for them till Christ be formed in them, and they are born again of his spirit? If yourown hope of salvation be founded on Christ, will you not hold him up to their view in all those characters and offices which he sustains as Mediator, and earnestly recommend him to their esteem, their love, their trust and obedience ? If you have yourselves experienced the ways of wisdom to be ways of pleasantness,' will you not endeavor to lead
children into these delightful paths, and earnestly wish and pray, that they may largely participate of the noble and refined pleasures of true religion ? In fine, if you believe that there is an inheritance incorfuptible, undefiled and which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for all the faithful servants of God; with what anxious concern will you endeavor that your own families may be of the happy number, and belong to the family of heaven ! With what diligence will you instruct them in the service of the Most High, in all the various branches of their duty, teach: ing them how to live and walk so as to please God!
In doing this, much prudence will be requisite. Your instructions should be adapted to the age and capacities of your children. It should be conveyed in easy and familiar language, and illustrated by apt and striking representations. It should be often repeated, crop as the rain, and distill as the dew on, their tender minds. . These words, says Moses to
the Israelites, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shall teach them dilligently unto thy children, and shall 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. The occasional dropping of religious sentiments in the hearing of children, though there be no direct address to them, has a good tendency, and is some. times exceedingly useful. The religious parent will watch for opportunities to instill sentiments of piety into their minds, and will improve those seasons when any awakening providence or remarkable event has disposed them to be more thoughtful than usual. If he observes them to be under any
serious impressions, he will endeavor by every suitable mean, to render those impressions lasting, to fix their wavering resolution for the service of God, and stir them up to their duty, by all the awakening motives of the gosa pel. Beginning with the most plain and simple truths, you should endeavor gradually to lead them on, as they may be able to follow, to further and more enlarged views of the doctrines and duties of our holy religion. Their memories however ought not to be overburdened ; and nothing should be unnecessarily imposed which may lead them to consider religion as a task. Much of your success will depend upon your conciliating their good affections, and so manageing your instructions that they may listen to you with pleasure. This will probably be the effect, if you can let them see that their good and happiness are the objects of your solicitude. Let some little premium occasionally reward their diligence and attention. Commendation and praise for improvements already made, will whet their ambition, and excite çmulation in making further progress.
As the religions householder will be thus dilligent in teaching his family in private, so it will be bis care
that they regularly attend upon public instruction and the several means which heaven has appointed for our growth in the knowledge of God, and of our duty. This is a special part of that service which we owe to God, and which he, at a stated season, expressly requires. To instruct both parents and children in the doctrines and duties of the gospel, the standing ministry of God's word is appointed. On this ministry, at the seasons set apart for divine service, every family ought to attend. If the master of a house be himself truly religious, he will not suffer any under his care to be unnecessarily absent. If a passion for rambling or novelty tempt a child or a servant to distant and various places of worship, such irregularity. upon the Lord's day, will be frowned up
. on and checked by the householder, who has any mixture of wisdom with his piety. He will never approve of such disorderly behaviour. Much less will he himself set so ill an example. It is but a poor character which the scripture gives of those who have itching ears and are always ready to turn their backs on tried and faithful instructors, to follow strangers, These are unstable souls, light and empty minds. The judicious christian is incapable of such levity and caprice. He moves on in one steady uniform course of goodness, and his authority is exerted in preserving order and regularity in his family. At the hour of di- . vine worship, he appears in his place at the head of his household. He watches the demeanour of the younger branches, that they may be serious and attentive. They know that when the services of the day shalt be over, some account of what they have heard will be required. This excites their attention, and puts them upon taking pains to treasure up divine instruction. Visits and social intercourses for the purposes of amusement, are resolutely avoided on this day. The Sabbath is not only begun and closed with the exercises of secret and family worship; but the whole.