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rents sleep over their task, Satan always performs his. Neglected children always receive evil impressions of every kind without number, and with a power which it is not easy to limit. Such impressions their own propensities prepare them strongly to receive. Such impressions every thing around them, every thing with which they correspond, will continually make. Their commerce with the world will fill them with evil thoughts and desires, will form them to evil habits, and will conduct them to evil practices. Neglected children grow up to sin of course, just as uncultivated ground is covered with thorns and briers.
But neglect is not the only mode of bad education. Children are sometimes directly taught to sin both by precept and example. By the example even of parents themselves, they are often taught to be profane, and that in many forms; to jest with things of a sacred nature; to ridicule them, and universally to treat them with contempt; to violate the Sabbath ; to forget the sanctuary ; to be lewd ; to become sots; to lie, to cheat, and to steal. All these evils, and many others, are
, at times so prominent in the conversation and conduct of parents, so continually exhibited, and so gross in their appearance, that a child, without a miracle, can hardly fail of contamination. I need not tell you how far such children must be from remembering their Creator.
There are, however, other modes in which children are directly educated to sin, with respect to which a greater number of parents are guilty, and from which far greater numbers of children are in danger. These, being much less gross, and much less obvious to the eyc, and particularly having been long and very extensively pursued by persons of reputation, have acquired a kind of sanction from custom, and a kind of ratification from the common agreement of decent society. All these may be involved in one short description, viz. an education for this world.
Under this broad character, however, are to be ranged many distinct and widely separated modes of procedure. Of these two or three only can be mentioned at the present time.
Parents often teach their children that the acquisition of
wealth is the proper and commanding object of all their pursuits. This they do, never perhaps in express terms, but in the general tenor of their conversation and their conduct. Whenever they talk seriously, they talk almost only about wealth, and the acquisition of wealth. They exult before them in the good bargains which they have made, and lament the bad ones; disclose their schemes for making better; mourn over the bad state of the markets; pride themselves in their property, particularly in the superiority of their circumstances to those of others; speak contemptuously of the poor ; panegyrize the rich; and irresistibly as well as universally show, that in their view money, literally and absolutely, answereth all things. How can children, before whom all this is perpetually done, who see wealth thus idolized by their parents, and nothing else considered as of any importance, fail of imbibing from so venerable a source the same idolatry. When they are thus early and thus efficaciously taught to serve Mammon, how can they be expected to serve, or even to remember God ?
All these instructions also are enhanced by the conduct of the parents. Often they expend their property with extreme reluctance, even for purposes plainly useful; give with a grudging hand, when they give at all, to the public, the stranger, and the poor; decry every liberal or charitable proposal ; and sneer contemptuously, and predict speedy beggary and ruin, concerning every liberal and charitable man. On the other hand, they rise early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of toil and care, to increase their own possessions; and in the language of their practice cry, “ Give, give," while neither their hearts nor their tongues ever say, “it is enough.” How can the children of such parents feel as if they had any concern with death or eternity, with heaven or hell? How can they remember God, when from the first commencement of their understanding they see him totally forgotten by those whom they most reverence and love ?
There are other parents, who, in educating their children, give the same place to the objects of ambition which those whom I have mentioned allot to wealth. These destine their children to popularity, fame, place, and power. These children are taught perpetually, that their supreme good lies in outstripping others, and acquiring in this manner the wreath of reputation. Genius, talents, eloquence, are rung continually in their ears, as the great instruments of achieving the coveted prize, and as possessions, therefore, of inestimable value. The children, on the one hand, learn to idolize these objects; and under the influence of parental dotage are easily persuaded, on the other, that themselves are the very caskets in which these jewels are treasured up by the hand of nature. Hence they become lamentably and often insupportably vain. Like the fabled Narcissus, they sicken with the love of their own beauty; and, like the more sottish national assembly of ! France, dethrone Jehovah, and, making a goddess of their own reason, worship it in his stead.
Should the children of the former class of parents become rich, beyond their most sanguine hopes, what part of their wealth would they carry with them into eternity; and what difference would there be in the grave between them and the beggar who died under a hedge? Should the children of the latter class reach the pinnacle of fame and the summit of power, of what use would their talents be when they were summoned to their final account? and what sort of distinction would they procure them in the future world ? Before the Judge of the quick and the dead, how melancholy must be the recital of talents wrapped in a napkin, and buried in the earth.
There are parents also, and, I am afraid, not less numerous than either of the classes mentioned, who educate their children to fashionable opinions and practices. The supreme object of these parents, and the object which their children are taught to consider as supreme, is to have the children make an advantageous appearance in the world. For this end they are taught, with great care and expense, what are called accomplishments; such as fashionable manners, dancing, dressing, drawing, music, and many other things of a similar nature. Their minds, in the meantime, are furnished with little useful knowledge, with few useful habits, and with no
sound moral principles ; for, unhappily, such principles have rarely been fashionable. Of God and religion, indeed, they must have heard ; but they have heard of them as subjects of antiquated tales, and never as objects of fashion, nor as means of enabling themselves to make a graceful and brilliant appear
The conversation of both the parents and the children turns chiefly or wholly upon the newest fashion of dress, furniture, equipage, and manners; and upon the happy beings who by these things have acquired peculiar distinction in the gay
the last or the next amusement or party, and the appearance, dresses, and accomplishments of those who were or will be present; upon the last or the next play, the scenery, and the actors; and upon innumerable other trifles of the same frivolous nature. The business of their life is to visit the theatre, the drawing-room, and the cardtable ; to dress, to dance, to ride, to frequent watering-places, to see shows, and to fritter away time in conversation upon these insignificant objects. Infatuated parents ! who thus train
up those whom they professedly love to objects of absolute insignificance ; who teach them to cull straws and feathers, and never think of conducting them to any solid or enduring good. Unhappy children ! converted by their own parents into intellectual butterflies; and taught to spend the summer of life in displaying their pinions to the sun, and in sporting from one flower and sweet to another, till the melancholy day arrives when they can sport no more. Happy would it be could they know that there is a dismal winter approaching, a frost which will terminate their sport and splendour for ever.
How hopeless must children educated in this manner be of performing or even thinking of the duty enjoined in the text ! We
may wish with any degree of ardency, but can never expect, that a mind thus formed should remember its Creator; or that God would take up his residence in a temple consecrated to amusement and trifling, and filled with this senseless idolatry.
Children are to be educated to industry, and taught to make the most of their talents. When it is in our power, they should be educated to graceful manners and pleasing accom
plishments. But, whatever else we do, we should train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The evil of these modes of education lies supremely in the degree of importance which we attach, and teach them to attach, to these objects ; objects in an absolute sense of little value, and in a comparative sense of none. In this manner we educate them either to sordid avarice, and equally sordid ambition, or to a despicable and sinful frivolity of mind. In all these cases, we harden their hearts against religion, and against God. We teach and help them to provide, indeed, for a life that is bounded by a day; for a character which will expire in the grave; and for a body soon to be devoured by worms : but we give up their souls to endless beggary, shame, and woe. God, whom we thus teach them to forget, will not remember them in the day when he maketh up his jewels. In that day, how deplorable will be the sight of parents who have thus ruined their children, and children thus ruined by their parents, going down together, without consolation and without hope, to one common perdition.
2. Another cause, which very extensively prevents the performance of this duty, is evil company.
After having discoursed so lately, and so extensively, upon this subject, it would be tedious, as well as unnecessary, particularly to consider it at the present time. I shall dismiss it, therefore, with a few brief observations.
Evil companions are found everywhere, are always at hand, " and are always at leisure for sin. At the same time, they
love company in iniquity : nay, it is absolutely necessary to their comfortable existence. Solitude renders them wretched; for it obliges them to look into their own hearts, and to read over those dark and dismal records of their lives which memory has written down, and which at times she opens to the terrified eye of the shrinking culprit. Such company, therefore, they seek with anxious diligence, allure with every persuasive, and seduce with every art. These companions root out every good and implant every evil principle; laugh and mock at every serious thought and thing ; recommend by argument, exhortation, and example, every wicked practice ; ensnare the