« AnteriorContinua »
been under discussion. Wisdom, patience, faithfulness, kindness, and constancy, are rarely demanded of man in any concern, either so unceasingly, or in so great a degree, as in this. All these qualifications are indispensable to our success; and we need them indis pensably from the Father of lights who alone can furnish these and all other good gifts. If we possessed them all; we should equally need his blessings to give an efficacious and happy issue to our exertions. Both the qualifications, and the blessings, then, are to be asked of God who giveth liberally unto all; and who hath assured us, that every one who asketh shall receive. The parent, who educates his children with the greatest care, and yet fails to invoke the blessing of God upon his labours, has done but half his duty; and is entitled to no promise of success.
III. I shall now make a few observations concerning the Settle ment of Children.
The parent's duty with respect to this subject will be principally concerned with the following things.
1. The choice of that Business, in which he is to spend, principally, his life.
In selecting this object, a parent is bound to regard the state of his own circumstances; the reasonable expectations of his child; his talents; his inclinations; the probability of his obtaining a competent subsistence; the prospect of his usefulness; and the security of his virtue. It will be easily seen, that all these are discretionary things; to be judged of as well as we are able, and reducible to no precise general rule. Where children are not peculiarly froward, and parents not peculiarly prejudiced, the advantage of the child will, in ordinary cases, be sufficiently consulted. The principal difficulty, here, will usually be, to determine how far regard is to be had,to his inclinations. A degree of indulgence is always to be given them. When they direct to a prudent and profitable employment, there can be no controversy; nor when they direct to a dangerous one. All the real perplexity will spring from cases of a doubtful nature. Here the child's inclinations are supposed to lean one way, and the judgment of the parent another. If the parent apprehends the bias of the child to be invincible; it will be both prudent, and right, to yield his own inclinations: If not; he may lawfully require the child to make an experiment of the business, which he has preferred. The child is then bound to submit quietly to the choice of the parent; and to endeavour faithfully to subdue his own opposing inclinations. If, after a fair trial, he finds them unconquerable; the parent is, in my view, bound to yield the contested point. The happiness of the child ought, here, to be the commanding object; and no child can be happy, who is prevented from following the business which he loves, and compelled to pursue that which he hates.
Universally, the parent's duty demands of him to place his child, so far as the case will permit, in that employment, which up
on the whole is best; which will probably be most productive of his comfort, reputation, usefulness, and piety. To some children, on account of their peculiar dispositions, certain employments are sufficiently safe, which for others are to be regarded as eminently dangerous. The business, in which children are to be placed, when they are exposed by their dispositions to peculiar temptations, should, as far as may be, always be such, as to counteract their dispositions. The employments, which awaken a moderate ambition, and a moderate desire of wealth and pleasure, and which yet disappoint no reasonable expectations of children, are usually preferable to all others. Those of a contrary nature, and those, particularly, which are expected to produce sudden opulence, and speedy aggrandizement, or which conduct to volup tuousness, are fraught with infinite danger and mischief. They that will be rich, or great, or voluptuous, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, that drown men in destruction and perdition. The love of these things is the root of all evil: and those, who covet after them, pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Most parents wish these things for their chil dren; but they know not what spirit they are of. Most parents, also, wish their sons to be geniuses, and their daughters to be beauties. How unfounded, how self-deceiving, are all these desires! I do not deny, that many men of high office, and of great wealth, men who have possessed in abundance all those, which are called the enjoyments of life, have been pious; and, so far as this world permits, happy. I do not deny that such has been the character, and state, of many men, remarkable for their talents; and of many women, distinguished for their beauty. I do not deny, that all these things are, in their nature, to be regarded as blessings; or that they sometimes are actually blessings. But to most of mankind they are plainly curses; and probably to all who ardently desire them. What a melancholy history would the whole history be of beauties, geniuses, and men in high office, of great wealth, and determined sensuality!
With respect to this subject, children are usually governed by inclination only, or chiefly: their parents sometimes by judgments; sometimes by avarice; sometimes by ambition; sometimes by hatred to the family, or person, with whom the child is intended to be connected; and sometimes by favouritism for other persons, or families. The parent ought to be influenced by his unbiassed judgment only. By every thing else he will, without suspecting it, be deceived; and sometimes in a degree which can neither be foreseen, nor limited, render both himself, and his child, unhappy through life.
Parents can never lawfully compel their children to marry persons, who are objects of their dislike; nor use at all for such a purpose that influence, or those persuasives, which operate upon
tender and susceptible minds as the worst kind of compulsion. The reasons are plain. The child would be made miserable; and could not, in any event, without a prevarication, of the same nature with perjury, take upon himself the marriage vows. But, during the minority of his children, he may be required by indispensable duty to restrain them from marrying, in certain cases. This, however, is an extreme exercise of authority; and should take place, only where the cases are extreme; cases, for example, in which the intended partner is an infidel; or grossly vicious; or of a family, scandalous for vice; or in some other case of a similar importance. In all inferior cases, the parent's duty is, in my view, confined to information; to persuasion, kindly and reasonably conducted; and to such delays of the intended connexion as will furnish opportunity to give these dissuasives their full operation. In these cases, children are bound to listen with the utmost willingness, and impartiality, to the parent's reasons; and deeply to feel, and to respect his pleasure. If the reasons are solid; they ought to be influenced by their whole force; and, as far as may be, to overcome their own inclinations: remembering, that, although their own happiness is the first thing to be regarded in forming such a connexion, that of their parents is the second; and that parental opposition to their wishes can rarely aim at any thing but their own good. When children have used all reasonable expedients to bend their inclinations to the wishes of their parents, and are yet unable to subdue them, their non-compliance can lawfully neither be punished, nor resented.
3. Assistance towards acquiring a competent living.
When children commence their settlement in life, they often need assistance, at least as much as in earlier periods. This assistance is, however, principally confined to two articles; giving advice, and furnishing pecuniary aid. All parents, perhaps, are sufficiently willing to give advice; and most, I believe, are willing to befriend their children with pecuniary assistance, in such a degree, as is not felt to be inconvenient to themselves. There are those, however, who impart sparingly enough; and there are others, still, who are disposed to give little or nothing. Avarice sometimes influences the parent's conduct in this respect; and oftener, I believe, a reluctance to lessen the heap, which we have been long gathering; and oftener, still, the wound, which pride feels at being thought to possess less wealth, than the utmost of what we have amassed. These are always wretched reasons; and, in this case, reasons for wretched conduct. A child, when setting out in the world, finds himself surrounded by a multitude of difficulties; to struggle with which he must be very imperfectly prepared. Unexperienced, alone, suddenly plunged into many perplexities, and unacquainted with the means of relieving themselves, children are often distressed, discouraged, and sometimes broken down; when the helping hand of a parent would, with no real inconven41
ience to himself, raise them to hope, resolution, and comfort. That parents, so situated, are bound by plain duty to assist their children in these circumstances can need no proof. He, who will not thus relieve the offspring of his own bowels, even at the expense of being thought less rich, or of being actually less rich, deserves not the name of a parent; and ought to be ashamed to show his face among those who do. For my own part, I cannot conceive, that a man, who will not deny himself a little, to befriend his own children, can have ever compassed the self-denial of forgiving his enemies; nor understand how he can possess sufficient confidence to stand up in morning and evening worship, at the head of his family, and say, in his own name and theirs Our Father, who met in heaven.
FIFTH COMMANDMENT.-DUTY OF RULERS.
EXODUS XX. 12.-Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
BESIDE the direct import of this precept, it has been generally, and justly, considered as by a very obvious analogy including those duties, which are reciprocally to be rendered by men in various other relations: particularly those of superiors and inferiors, whatever may be the basis of their relative characters. To an examination of all these duties it might fairly lead. I shall, however, make it my guide to the investigation of one class of them only: viz. The Duties of Magistrates and Subjects.
The relations of Magistrate and Subject are so obviously analogous to those of parents and children, that Magistrates have been often styled the fathers of their people; and their people often called their children. No language of commendation is with more frequency, or with more emphasis, applied to a prince, distinguished for his wisdom, justice, and benevolence, than that he was a father to his subjects. In this manner mankind have acknowledged the similarity of these relations; and from a similarity of relations, every man knows, must arise a similarity of duties. Accordingly, the duty to magistrates is enjoined in the very same terms, as that which is owed to parents.
Fear God, says St. Peter; honour the king. We are also directed by St. Paul to render reverence, honour, custom, and tribute to the several orders of magistracy, as from time to time they are due.
It is my design in this discourse to state, in a summary manner, the Nature of civil government; and the respective duties of Rulers and Subjects. This I shall do without even a remote reference either to the past, or present, state of our own government. I never preached what is commonly called a political sermon, on the Sabbath, in my life: and I shall not begin now; although to preach such sermons is unquestionably the right, and in certain cases as unquestionably the duty, of every Minister of the Gospel. All, that I shall attempt to perform, is to exhibit some of the primary principles, and duties, which pertain to government, as a branch of moral science. The knowledge of these is in some degree ne