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'- and ignorant be trained by early instruction to
habits of piety and virtue, that, when they are old, they may not depart from them.
To this doctrine and practice it hath sometimes been objected, that there are instances of those, who, notwithstanding a good education, have proved very bad; and of others, who notwithstanding & neglected education, have turned out well. .
That there have been such instances, I will not take upon me to deny.' But, I believe, no man will pretend to say, that they are not very rare and extraordinary, and therefore can be no ground of argument against the general utility of early instruction. Besides, as the vices and miscarriages of the one might have been still greater, if they had not been restrained by some remains of early culture; so possibly the improvements and excellencies of the other might have been more eminent and conspicuous, had the tender shoots of virtue been watered by the refreshing dews of instruction.
We may farther remark, that what carries the appearance of virtue, is often nothing more than the natural effect of constitution, or even sometimes the consequence of some over-ruling vice.
For thus, a languid imagination, à sedate temper, and an insensible heart, are almost certain preservatives against the common vices of youth, without any degree of culture whatsoever. And in maturer years, even avarice, the most hateful of all vices, will produce sobriety, chastity, prudence, and a general decency of behaviour in life; which, though it proceeds from no good principle, yet in the eye of the world will carry the appearance and semblance of true virtue.
And, on the other hand, where the passions are keen and impetuous, even the best education, , though it may check and moderate, yet it will not always hinder them from breaking out into those vices, to which they have a natural and constitutional tendency. Yet, surely we have no more reason to attribute the vices of the latter to the effect of education, than the seeming virtues of the former to the want of it.
We may farther remark, that the miscarriages of persons who seem to have had a good education, if narrowly examined, might frequently be trąced back to some capital defect in their education itself: for those who are most desirous of instilling good principles, are not always the most capable of doing it; and the ill-timed fond
ness of a virtuous parent, or the injudicious discipline of a well-meaning preceptor, may have as fatal an influence on the future morals of a child, as an avowed neglect of his education. And even the virtuous conduct of those, whose education has been neglected, may probably arise from some early, though unobserved, impression ; especially in a country like this, where instruction presents itself, in every shape, from the pulpit, from the press, and even in the private circles of civil intercourse and conversation.
I would farther observe on this head, that though the wisest methods we can pursue in the cultivation of youth, do not always make them exactly such as we could wish them to be, yet there will always still be one thing remaining, which well deserves the most serious consideration; namely, that those who have become wicked after a good education, are frequently reclaimed; but those who are wicked without any instilled principles of goodness, are hardly to be reclaimed without a miracle, unless one should rise from the dead to persuade them.
We may therefore justly conclude, that the training up of children is absolutely necessary, as well to preserve them from the corruption and · VOL. III.
wickedness of this world, as to build them up for the glory and immortality of the next. In our infant state, we may not unfitly be compared to uninformed travellers. We have a large and trackless space before us, and without a guide we know not which way to steer our course. On this side are straits and difficulties, and on that, hazards and inconveniences: we step forvard, but it is with diffidence; we move, but it is with fear : as well knowing, that every advance in a mistaken path is not only so far deviating from the right way, but is also such a progress in a wrong one, as must be trodden over again with shame and sorrow. It is therefore highly necessary that we should call in the aid of some guide, who can direct our steps aright.
And happy is it for us Christians, that we have a guide, whose information is clear and infallible., We need but open the volume of God's unerring wisdom to learn all that concerns us to know, either relative to ourselves or others : we there see the whole scheme of our existence and the lines of our duty clearly marked out. We are there informed, that we are the offspring of God himself: that this .corporeal mass is animated by an immortal soul, which will not sleep for ever, but will be sentenced to an'eternity of
happiness or misery. To guide
To guide us to the formei, we see the Captain of our salvation pointing out to us the ways of pleasantness and the paths of peace: he places before us life and death; he promises eternal rewards to our good deeds, and threatens destruction to our bad ones: he tells us, the strait way leads to life, but the broad one to misery: he opens the gates of righteousness to all that are willing to enter, and rejects none but those who wilfully exclude themselves : and, finally, to assist us in our christian course, he has assigned a variety of fit and experienced guides to direct the unskilful, to support the weak, and to exhort and encourage the fearful.
Of these guides the first and more especial are always natural parents.
They are more particularly bound to see their children religiously and virtuously brought up; because, next under God, they gave them their being, and therefore are concerned to provide for their well-being. And, indeed, what can be so desirable to a parent, as to educate his children in the way of salvation ? To see them grow in grace; to behold their opening virtues; to insure to them a possession which no change or chance can take away here, and which will make them saints in glory hereafter. And, on the Q 2