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FIFTH COMMANDMENT.-DUTY OF PARENTS.
PROVERBS XXII. 6.—Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.
IN the preceding discourse, I gave a brief account of the Duties of Children. I shall now proceed to consider the Duties of Parents. This, also, I must consider in a very summary manner, notwithstanding the copiousness, and importance, of the subject.
In this passage of Scripture, parents are directed to train up their children in the way in which they should go: and, to encourage them to this duty, a promise is given, that their children, if trained in this way, will not depart from it. The word, train, originally denotes to draw along by a regular and steady course of exertions; and is, hence, very naturally used to signify drawing from one action to another by persuasions, promises and other efforts, continually repeated. In a loose and general sense, therefore, it may easily include all the duties of Parents to their children.
The way in which a child should go, is undoubtedly the way, in which it is best for him to go, with respect both to his temporal and eternal well-being.
These duties are customarily, and justly, distributed under three
The Education; and,
The Settlement; of Children.
The Maintenance of Children must unquestionably be such, as the circumstances of the parents will admit, consistently with the dictates of prudence; and such as will secure comfort to their children. Their food and raiment, their employments and gratifications, ought to be all such, as to promote their health. They are carefully to be nursed in sickness, and guarded from danger. Their enjoyments of every kind ought invariably to be innocent; reasonable in their number and degree; evident testimonies of parental wisdom, as well as of parental affection; such as shall prevent them from suffering unnecessary mortification; and such as shall not flatter pride, foster avarice, or encourage sloth or sensuality. They ought also to be such, as to place them upon the same level with the children of other discreet parents in similar circumstances.
The education of children involves their Instruction, and Govern
The Instruction of children includes,
The Things, which they are to be taught; and,
The Manner of teaching them.
The Things, which Children are to be taught, may be distributed under the two heads of Natural Knowledge; and Moral Knowledge.
Natural Knowledge includes,
1. Their Learning.
By this I intend every thing, which they are to gain from books: whether it be Learning, appropriately so called, or the knowledge of Arts and Sciences. Of this subject I observe, generally, that, like the Maintenance of Children, it must comport with the circumstances of the Parents. It ought, also, to be suited to the character, talents, and destination, of the Child. But an acquaintance with Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, is indispensably necessary to every Child. It is indispensable, that every child should read the Scriptures; highly important, that he should read other religious books; and very useful, that he should enlarge his mind by such diversified knowledge, as may render him beneficial to him
self and to mankind.
2. Natural Knowledge includes, also, an acquaintance with at least some one kind of useful Business.
Ordinarily, this acquaintance can be gained only in the practical manner; that is, by placing the child, at an early period of life, in the business, which is to be learned. After he has been instructed in Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, which are indispensable to the advantageous prosecution of every kind of business, he should be required to do the very business, in which he is to be edu
There is no greater mistake on the part of rich parents, than their neglect of educating their children to the thorough knowledge of some useful business. It is often observed, and generally felt, that such an education is unnecessary, because their children are to inherit fortunes. The children also feel and are taught by their parents to feel, that such an education is utterly unnecessary for themselves. Both, at the same time, are but too apt to consider active employments, and even the knowledge necessary to direct them, as humiliating, and disgraceful, to the children. These are very great mistakes; the dictates of pride and vanity, and not of good sense. Were nothing but the present prosperity of children to be regarded; they ought invariably to be educated in the knowledge of useful business. Almost all the wealth in this country is in the hands of those, who have acquired it by their own industry: and almost all those, who inherit fortunes, dissipate them in early life; and spend their remaining days in poverty and humiliation. Ignorance of business; and its consequences, idleness and profusion; will easily, and in a short time, scatter any estate. A fortune is a pond, the waters of which will soon run out: well-directed industry is a spring, whose streams are perennial.
Besides, the man, who pursues no useful business, is without significance, and without reputation. The sound common sense of mankind will never annex character to useless life. He who merely hangs as a burden on the shoulders of his fellow-men; who adds nothing to the common stock of comfort, and merely spends his time in devouring it; will invariably, as well as justly, be accounted a public nuisance.
Beyond all this, every parent is bound by his duty to God, and his children, to educate them to useful business, in order to enable them to perform their own duty; to become blessings both to themselves and mankind; and to possess the rational enjoyments, furnished by a life of industrious activity; in their very nature incomprehensibly superior to sloth and profusion.
Moral Knowledge is all included, as well as enjoined, in the Scriptures. It is also, in its own nature, either directly, or indirectly, all practical.
Knowledge of this kind is naturally distributed under the following heads:
To this head belongs Reverence to God. Every child should be taught, from the beginning, to fear that great and glorious Being, to whom he owes his existence, his blessings, and his hopes. This knowledge is indispensable to all rectitude of character. As I have considered the general nature of this subject in a former discourse; I shall only observe here, that nothing will, in an equal degree, secure a child from sin; strengthen him against the force of temptation; or fix his feet immoveably in the path of righte
Inseparably connected with this subject is a sense of Accounta bleness. Every child should know, as soon as he is capable of knowing, that he is a Moral being in a state of probation, for his conduct, in which he will be hereafter judged and rewarded; that God is an eye-witness to all his secret and open conduct alike; and that every thing, which he speaks, thinks, or does, will be the foundation of his final reward. Proper impressions of these two great subjects, habitually made in the early periods of childhood, will influence the life more than any other considerations; will revive, after they have been long thought to have been forgotten; and will produce happy effects, when all other causes have lost their power.
With the same care, should children be accustomed to read the Scriptures, whenever they have become able to read. Here they will find these great subjects, as well as all others of a similar nature, placed in the strongest light, and taught in the most perfect manner: a manner suited to every mind, capable of understanding such subjects at all. Here, particularly, facts, and characters, of a moral nature, are exhibited with a felicity altogether unrivalled. With both of these, children are delighted; and fasten on both
with that peculiar earnestness, which prevents them from being ever obliterated. As they are presented in the Scriptures, they are eminently entertaining to children; and to a great extent, are set in so obvious a light, as to be easily understood even by very young minds.
Every child should be taught, also, that he is a sinner; and, as such, exposed to the anger of God. The efficacy of this instruction upon the early mind is of the most desirable nature. Nothing more successfully checks the growth of pride; the most universal, the most pleasing, the most operative, and the most mischievous, of all the human passions. Without this instruction, also, all other religious teaching will be in vain. He, who is not conscious that he is a sinner, will never take a single step towards salvation. Happily, children very easily receive and admit, this instruction. In the earlier periods of life the conscience is so far unbiassed, and possesses so great power, as to induce the heart, however reluctant in itself, regularly to acknowledge the truth of this important doc
As soon as it is practicable, every child should be conducted to the knowledge of the Saviour. On the infinite importance of this indispensable knowledge I need not here dwell. Suffice it to observe, that children will sooner imbibe this knowledge, than parents are usually aware; and that childhood is, often, the only oppor tunity for obtaining it, which they ever enjoy.
Finally, children should be carefully instructed in all the external duties of Piety. They should be effectually as well as unceasingly taught to mention the name of God, and every thing obviously related to this awful Being with profound Reverence only; to observe the Sabbath, from the beginning to the end, with religious exactness; to be present punctilicusly at the public worship of God, and to attend to all the ordinances of it with reverence and care; to attend in the same manner upon family worship; and in the same manner to perform, regularly, every morning and every evening, the duty of secret prayer.
All these things should be explained to children in such a manner, as to render their views of them just, and rational, and their practice of them Evangelical, and not a mere matter of form. 2. Morality; or the Duties, which respect our fellow-men.
Among these, Truth should hold the first place. As I expect speedily to examine the nature and importance of this subject, as well as most others which will be mentioned in this discussion; it will be unnecessary to expatiate upon them at present. sufficient to say here, that a profound and reverential regard to truth should be awakened in the mind of a child, from the moment when he begins to assert any thing; that no variations from it, either in jest or in earnest, should ever be permitted to pass without animadversion; that its nature and importance should be explained to the child, as soon as he is able to understand them; that
resistance to falsehood and prevarication should invariably be made unconditionally, and without any abatement; that this resistance should be made in every hopeful manner, and to every necessary degree, and should never cease, until the veracity of the child shall be effectually secured; that every encouragement to veracity, which prudence can suggest, should be holden out to him continually; and that a rigid example of speaking truth, and fulfilling promises, should be set before him by all, with whom he corresponds, especially by the parents and the family, without any variation from it, either in reality or appearance; that all seeming departures from it should be carefully explained to him; and that he should be obliged to fulfil all his promises, if not unlawful, however inconvenient the fulfilment may be to the parents, or to him.
Justice, by which I intend Commutative Justice, is a kindred virtue to truth; and should be taught, from the same period, with the same care. Every child should be taught to pay all his debts and fulfil all his contracts, exactly in the manner, completely in the value, and punctually at the time. Every child should be discouraged from the propensity to make bargains; so early, so strongly, and so universally, visible. He should be discouraged, also, from every wish to make what is called a good bargain; the common source of all cheating; and should be taught, that he is bound to render an equivalent for what he receives. Every bargain, disadvantageous to himself, he should be bound scrupulously to fulfil. Every thing, which he has borrowed, he should be obliged to return, uninjured, at the time and every thing belonging to others, which he has lost, he should be required to replace. In this manner he will grow up to that sense of justice, without which it is impossible for virtue to exist.
Morality, begun in truth, and advanced in justice, is finished in Kindness. The minds of children may be easily rendered kind by a wise cultivation; and by the want of it will easily become unfeeling and crucl. Children should be taught, the first moment they are capable of being taught, a lively tenderness for the feelings, the sufferings, and the happiness, of all beings, with whom they are conversant. The Emperor Domitian has proved, that cruelty, when it cannot satiate itself on human misery, can be gratified even with the death of flies. Every child should be invariably instructed to exercise kindness towards animals, and to shun cruelty even to an insect. The plundering of birds' nests, and the capture of their young, is in all ordinary cases, notwithstanding it is so generally allowed, an employment, fitted only to harden the heart, and prepare it to be insensible to human sufferings. Still worse is the deplorable practice, extensively allowed also, of setting up poultry as a mark, to be destroyed by gradual torture. Worse still is the practice, so widely and shamefully extended in some parts of this country, of cock-fighting; abomina