Imatges de pÓgina

order which she regards as scriptural and important? When we neglect this, we not only sin against the best interest of our children, but we pursue a course which is adapted to weaken, and eventually to scatter and destroy the church herself; or, at any rate, to take away all her intelligence, zeal and strength as a witness for Christ. Children are the hope of the church as well as of the state. Of course, if they are not prepared to come in, and take the places of their parents, when they cease from their labours, by whom shall we expect the purity and activity of the body of Christ to be sustained?

It is deeply to be regretted that this negligence has so far obtained in many of the churches of our denomination. In this day of Christian zeal and effort, when the Spirit of God is poured out in such copious measures upon young as well as old, and when the motives to fidelity in instructing our children and youth are becoming every day more obvious and powerful; it would seem as if in many of our churches, the faithful training of young people in the knowledge of scriptural doctrine, were more and more declining. The cxcellent compends of Gospel doctrine, sanctioned and carefully taught by our fathers, are in a great measure neglected, as there is reason to fear, by many pastors and church sessions. The general principles of religion only, which are common to all Protestant denominations, are imparted to our youth, and that in a superficial manner, and the whole system of instruction so conducted as to leave them destitute of any distinguishing views of doctrine or order; and to train them up in that ignorance of discriminating Gospel truth, which will prepare them to be "carried about by every wind of doctrine,' perhaps, in the end, to be drawn away from all the fundamental principles of our holy religion, and allured, it may be, into open infidelity.



I am aware that many serious people profess to be of the opinion, that it is improper to pre-occupy the minds of children with any particular mode of religious belief. They allege that they ought to be taught to believe in the Christian religion; to read the Bible; and to reverence those general doctrines of the Gospel in which all Christians agree; but that instilling into their minds the peculiarities of any one denomination, is adapted to fill them with prejudices, and to interfere with that impartial examination of the relative claims of all denominations, which it will be incumbent upon them to make when they reach mature age, and begin to take their stand in the church of God. However specious this plea may appear in

the view of some, it will by no means stand the test either of common sense or of scriptural examination. Will any contend that it is improper to pre-occupy the minds of our children with any kind of truth? Is it improper to instil into their minds, with the earliest dawn of reason, and anterior to all experience, that fire will burn them; that if they fall into deep water, they will be drowned; that lying is infamous; and that if they commit theft or murder, they will be punished? Would it not be highly desirable that the deepest impression of these truths and of a hundred others which we cannot enumerate, should be made upon their minds as early as possible? Could any wise parent desire that his child should be kept in ignorance of these things, under the notion that he did not wish him to be filled with prejudices, until he acquired the knowledge of them by painful and perilous experience? Surely not. Would he not rather say, that the more completely he could fill his youthful mind with the knowledge of errors and dangers, and with a desire to avoid them, the better? Precisely so is it with regard to all moral and religious errors. If our children were always inclined, by nature, to embrace and obey the truth, our constant efforts to explain and recommend it, would be less important. But the fact is just the reverse. Their invariable tendency, left to themselves, is to error rather than truth. Common sense, then, tells us that the more completely we can put them on their guard against every species of mistake and danger; and the more entirely we can fill their minds with truth, that is, with just apprehensions of the God who made them, of their own character, and of the way of duty and happiness;-the more we shall be likely to promote their safety and enjoyment. If this were in all cases successfully done, how many false steps; how many aching hearts; how many disgraceful falls, on the part of children and youth, might be prevented? Accordingly the Scriptures, with peculiar solemnity and force, enjoin upon us this duty. The inspired command is, "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Surely even prejudices in favour of truth and righteousness will be so far from injuring our children, that if we can instil them into their minds beforehand, and thus forestal the allurements of error, we shall confer upon them a rich and lasting benefit. Nay, to omit this is as cruel as it is unwise.

Not only are parents, then, bound, as far as possible, to guard their children against error, and to fill their minds with

what they deem just sentiments, on all important subjects, and especially on subjects of the most vital importance, as early as they are capable of receiving them;-but the church also, as such, is bound to see that this momentous trust is faithfully discharged by her appropriate officers,-by instructing and stimulating parents to perform their duty; by diligently conducting Bible-classes; by causing the Catechisms of the church to be carefully committed to memory, and statedly recited by all the children under her supervision; by making the Sabbath-school instruction as rich and faithful as possible; and, in short, by the diligent use of all suitable means, to train up children and youth in an enlightened attachment to those principles of doctrine and order which the church, their moral mother, believes to be taught and enjoined in the word of God. It is really distressing to observe in how many of our churches this great duty is almost entirely neglected. The noble Catechisms, drawn up, I had almost said, by the collected wisdom and piety of the seventeenth century; which our fathers publicly adopted, and placed among our Formularies, as manuals for the instruction of youth, have in a great measure passed out of view in hundreds of congregations nominally Presbyterian. Indeed the false liberality of the present day has taken so strong a hold of many serious minds in our communion, that they turn away, with fixed purpose, from those doctrinal manuals which the church has sanctioned as contracted and obsolete; and think it right, upon principle, to put nothing into the hands of their children but those general and superficial compends which are equally adapted to all denominations, and which, of course, will inculcate none of the peculiarities of their own. The consequence is, that these children grow up without any intelligent acquaintance with the distinguishing tenets of the church of their fathers, and of course without any motive or disposition to adhere to them. Hence, when they come to adult years, they are just as apt to go off to other societies, and sometimes to those of the most corrupt character, as to remain Presbyterians. If we wish our children to become Pelagians, Universalists, or Socinians, we cannot take a course more directly adapted to attain the object, than to adopt the plan just mentioned; to instruct them in some general principles only of our common Christianity, leaving them under all the disadvantages of inexperience, and all the ardour of youthful appetite and passion, to spell out the distinguishing system of doctrine and order with which they ought to connect themselves. In this situa

tion, they will not only be liable to go astray; but the proba bility is, that they will make a wrong choice, perhaps a fatally wrong one. If we could unfold the history of many Presbyterian families, we should, no doubt, find the entire abandonment of the second generation to moral and religious error, and their deplorable shipwreck of the advantages transmitted to them by their parents, manifestly attributable to the want of enlightened fidelity on the part of those parents, in regard to religious instruction. If intelligent Christians will not laboriously endeavour to pre-occupy the minds of their children with discriminating truth, it will be found that, long before they arrive at the age in which they are capable of making an enlightened inquiry, and an impartial choice of a religious system for themselves, they will be apt to have imbibed prejudices, and to have formed connexions, from which, you might as well hope to bend the mature oak of the forest as to think of turning them. The idea leaving our children to choose their religion when they come to mature age, is of all delusions one of the most unreasonable and fatal. Every child of apostate Adam, I repeat, is by nature a heretic, and if left to himself, will probably take some heretical course; and long before the age of intelligent inquiry arrives, may be irrecoverably sold, by his depraved propensities, to fatal error.

I would say, then, to every Presbyterian parent-"If you desire your children to be happy here and hereafter, or the church to which you belong to prosper, faithfully train them up, from their mother's lap, in that system of Gospel truth and order which you verily believe to be taught in the word of God. But be not contented with mere doctrinal instruction. Take unwearied pains to instil into their minds the sentiments of practical piety. Pray with them, and for them, and teach them to pray! Not only warn, but restrain them from plunging into those unhallowed amusements which the children of this world love, but which are deeply hostile to all real religion. Be not afraid of the charge of sectarianism.' If by sectarianism' be meant a strict adherence to scriptural Christianity, I hope you will not shrink from the charge, but rather glory in being yourselves, and in training up your children to be, such sectarians' as the apostles and primitive Christians were." And to every Presbyterian pastor and elder I would say " As ever you wish the church committed to your charge to grow in solid enlightened piety, and to be built up under your watchful labours, bestow unwearied attention on the children of the church. If you consider yourselves as


witnesses for Christ, leave no effort unapplied to train up all the youth committed to your care to be equally intelligent and faithful witnesses. For this purpose bring them all as early and as thoroughly as possible under the inspection and instruction of the church. Put the BIBLE into their hands, and teach them to study and revere it as the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Put into their hands also those Catechisms, and other digested summaries of Bible truth, which the church has sanctioned as manuals of elementary Christian knowledge, that their memories may be stored with Gospel doctrine in such a plain and simple form as will be likely never to be forgotten. Endeavour to make them familiar with some of the soundest and best treatises on doctrinal and practical religion, with which such men as Flavel, Baxter Boston, Doddridge, Edwards and Bellamy have favoured the church. Let the instructions of the Sabbath School, too, be so conducted under your parental eye, as to minister to the same end. Never allow that institution, so transcendantly important to the rising generation, to pass from your control into irresponsible and capricious hands. But ever keep it under the eye and the guidance of the pastor and church session, and see that all its instructions be sound and edifying. In short, let your aim be to train up the children committed to your care, not as bigots, but as enlightened Presbyterians. Teach them to exercise the most cordial charity toward all of every name who bear the image of Christ; but peculiarly to venerate and love the church in which they were born and baptized, and whose interest they are bound assiduously to promote. There is no part of your official duty to the church of God more important, or more likely to produce a rich reward of the most precious fruit, than that which is here recommended." Other denominations around us are taking unwearied pains to produce an enlightened attachment, on the part of their children, to the religious connexions of their parents; and if we neglect to imitate their example, while they are built up, we shall be "scattered and peeled," and our beloved children become the prey of every vain delusion.

But there is one source of danger, my Christian friends, to the children of some of you, concerning which I feel constrained to put you on your guard with more than common solemnity. I refer to that whole system of artful, proselyting allurement which is presented by the adherents to the CHURCH OF ROME, and which, in many parts of your bounds, must be considered as a source of real and formidable danger to inex

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