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sure, and forming many coloured visions of paradisaical happiness in this world, arrested by disease, stretched upon the bed of death, bidding a melancholy farewell to all things here below, and summoned to their final account before the bar of God! How solemnly do these things admonish you that man knoweth not his time! How affectingly do they prove that, as fishes are taken in an evil net, and as birds are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
But in so mighty a concern, in a duty of such immeasurable importance, nothing ought to be left to hazard, and especially to a hazard so alarming. When your all may be lost in a day, an hour, or a moment, what folly, what madness, must it be to postpone, even for the best reasons,
the performance of a duty on which that all depends ! But here you can allege no reason. The very sins which you are required to forsake, are themselves the only causes why you do not forsake them. The very sins of which you are required to repent, are the preventives of your repentance. The very dangers which you are summoned to shun, are themselves the reasons why you do not escape. Miserable choice ! Deplorable determination! Who, but for the irresistible proof from experience would believe, that rational beings could refuse their own salvation, and be in love with ruin. Think, I beseech you, what has become of your gay, deceased companions : ponder with alarm and terror what is to become of you.
“ Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth ; while
the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, 'I have no pleasure in them." ”
In the preceding discourse, from this passage, I proposed,
1. To explain the duty which is here enjoined.
II. To suggest several inducements to the performance of it; and
III. To mention several reasons which usually prevented it from being performed.
Under the first of these heads I observed,
First, That to remember our Creator is to make him, frequently, an object of our thoughts.
Secondly, To possess thoughts concerning him which are true and just, or such as are communicated by his word and works.
Thirdly, To remember him cordially, or with supreme love, complacency, gratitude, reverence, and admiration.
Fourthly, To remember him practically, or with universal confidence and obedience.
Under the second head, as inducements to perform this duty in youth, I observed,
First, That all the obligations which require it of others, require it of those who are young.
Secondly, That youth is the best season for performing this duty.
Because it is in their possession.
Because their hearts are more tender, and susceptible of religious impressions, than they will probably be at any future period.
Because it is comparatively unoccupied by other objects : and
Because it is the season at which the duty will be most acceptably performed.
Thirdly, That future seasons will be comparatively unfavourable to the performance; and
Fourthly, That future seasons may never arrive.
I shall now proceed to the consideration of the third head of discourse, proposed at that time, viz.
III. To mention several reasons which usually prevent this duty from being performed.
Notwithstanding these solemn and powerfui reasons for remembering our Creator in the days of our youth, we cannot avoid perceiving that multitudes (the greater part by far,) appear not to remember him at that time, nor at any other. This fact, like every other, has its causes. These operate in much the same manner wherever they exist, the nature of the mind on which they operate being substantially the same. They will, of course, naturally prevent those who are present, as well as others, from performing this duty. It is, therefore, of no small importance that they should know, remember, and feel, the moral causes, or reasons, which have this malignant influence, that they may be upon their guard, and as much as may be, overcome their pernicious efficacy.
Of these reasons, the
Children are justly said to have a bad education when they are not taught early, often, and affectionately, to know and fear, to remember and serve, God. The first impressions are proverbially regarded as the best which are ever made. Impressions favourable to piety cannot be effectually made without great care, pains, and perseverance ; without frequent, solemn, affectionate instruction, counsel, exhortation, rebuke, reproof, alarms, and injunctions. Line must be given to children upon line, and precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little. Parents will in vain expect from their children the proper effects of instruction, when communicated only in a single instance. Persons of mature age, in the full possession of their understanding, and at the very best period for improvement, are not often very happily affected by moral instruction, when only once communicated. How much less can this be expected from children, who are so much less capable of consideration, who often misunderstand what they are taught, and oftener understand it very imperfectly, whose thoughts are instinctively volatile, and wander away from the instruction even at the very moment when it is given to almost every object by which they are surrounded, and who must be moulded into habits of receiving, almost as much as of obeying, what they are taught. The parent who has but once explained to his children their duty has done but a very little part of
Children must be instructed, as our Saviour instructed his disciples, by degrees, and as they are able to receive and bear it; patiently, with a continual regard, and not a small one, to their prejudices; affectionately, with many repetitions of the same instruction in many forms ; without fretfulness, imperiousness, moroseness, or even austerity. Their instructions also, like those of Christ, should be communicated in the plainest, simplest, language, and continued unto the end. So far as education falls short of an accordance with these characteristics, it is, either in the positive or negative sense, bad.
At the same time, like the instructions of Christ, all the precepts given to children should be seen to have their
proper influence on the life of the teacher himself. He must show that he believes what he wishes the child to believe, and that he does what he commands the child to do. In this manner the teacher will prove himself to be in earnest. Otherwise, whatever labour and care he may employ, his instructions will be in vain. Had the apostles seen their Master's life contradict his precepts, they would never have become his disciples, nor hazarded their lives by preaching the Gospel to mankind.
To these things should always be added, also, humble, fervent, prayer for the blessing of God on the instructions which are actually given. Without this blessing, all human efforts will be to no purpose. Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain. It will be in vain to rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows, with the hope of training up children for God, without his blessing to render the exertions which are made for this end efficaci
But this blessing will not be given unless we ask for it.. In this case, only, will our children be truly an heritage from the Lord.
Wherever these things are neglected, either partially or wholly, children are so far badly educated ; and parents, in this case, will be obliged to remember, with extreme regret, when they see their children forget the God that made them, and lightly esteem the rock of their salvation, that their own misconduct, their own unfaithfulness, has been, extensively, the cause of their children's ruin.
I have observed above, that, susceptible as the mind is of strong impressions in childhood, those that are of a religious nature cannot be made without great care and pains. Good seed can be sown with success, only by means of laborious cultivation. With weeds the case is far otherwise. They spring up without any culture, and become more vigorous the more the soil is neglected. The enemy that sowed tares in the field accomplished this business while men slept. When pa