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their own families uninstructed in the fundamentals of religion. And, that many young persons do grow up and remain in this ignorance, is but too plain. For, do not we see, from time to time, persons professing godliness, and whose consciences have been struck under the Divine Word, and who have WALKED hopefully for a season, yet, in a manner that may seem unaccountable, flying off again into strange fantastic delusions, and forsaking the solid instruction which they have had for years ? These having itching ears, are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, changing their opinions and their connections in religion, I had almost said, as often as they change their garments ! They are evidently without solid principles of any kind : They have had no foundation: They never thoroughly imbibed the principles of the Christian religion : They never knew the law of God well in all its parts and branches : They know not the wickedness of their own hearts, the
grace of Jesus Christ, or the influence of the Holy Spirit. Early instruction would be one good means to prevent this shameful unsettledness in religion, of which we have too much cause to complain. A fantastic preacher would meet with little encouragement from minds which have been well informed in tender years. Such minds would find no entertainment either from enthusiastical rhapsodies of the pulpit, or from whimsical books of religious delusion. It is the ignorant, the shallow, and the empty who are caught by these and similiar temptations, and ensnared before they are aware.
5. And are not YE bound to take care of the religious education of your offspring, O Parents, YE, if any hear me, who live without the fear of God before your eyes ? Yes, and ye should learn to feel your own wickedness and repent, that ye may be enabled to discharge this duty. Justly may many parents say to their children,
“ Alas! we taught you nothing that is good, and we set you an example of all that is evil.” What a meeting will ungodly parents and ungodly children have in the next world! How likely it is that, in everlasting torments they should mutually upbraid and torment one another! This is a dreadful thought!
I must here add also the care due to apprentices and servants. Masters, they are committed to you. It would be a practice fitter for a heathen than a christian land, to use them only for your own gain and convenience, and treat them like beasts of burden, as if they had not souls accountable to God, and capable of eternal misery. You stand, in this view, before God, as their parents. It is your duty to see them instructed. If you would be justly charged with cruelty, for neglecting their bodies, much more for neglecting their precious souls. We have institutions for the education of poor, helpless, neglected, children. The utility of such things is evident. The disorderly and scandalous proceedings in our streets, and on the Lord's day most of all, show the want of instruction, as well as the growth of indecency and licentiousness in both sexes from very early life. You who are rich and prosperous, and have made use of these boys as apprentices, for your own purpose and advantage, may be careless about all these evils; but you will find, one day, that
you take with
you will be called upon to give an account of the means which you have used to prevent them. These children are consigned to you by Providence, and dreadful will be the account you have to give, if the ruin of their souls be required at your hands. What pains do
your apprentices and household servants? Do you catechize them yourselves? Do you carefully observe the rule of our Church? You will find it in the prayer book a little after the catechism. “ All fathers, mothers, masters, mistresses, shall cause their children, servants, and apprentices, which have not learned their catechism, to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear and be ordered by the Curate, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.” Do you observe this rule with your household? Or do not some put their apprentices out to board at houses where they can learn nothing good, and suffer them to wander about the streets in the indulgence of every sinful vanity, without any concern how they act or what becomes of their souls, only being careful that they attend the duties of their trade when required? If evils of this sort do not abound among us, I shall rejoice : If they do, what shall I
you? What hearts have those that act thus! O love of
money, root of all evil,” what a hardener of the heart art thou! Shall I not remind such of the rich man*, who lift
eyes in hell, being in torments? And will you not blush, weep, and abhor yourselves and repent? And shall any men who act in this manner, boast of their zeal for the Church of England? Our
* Luke, xvi. 23.
Church has many such hypocritical friends, who are her greatest disgrace: Support the Church of England with your prayers; your instruction of your household; your zeal for her doctrines; your attendance upon her ordinances; and, lastly, afford your countenance to her faithful Ministers. This is the way to escape the character and the doom of hypocrites.
6. And for an encouragement to you, Parents and Masters, in the work of educating and instructing youth, though I dare not say that your labours will be certainly attended with success in their conversion, yet surely you have good reason to hope for it. The language of Scripture in connecting believers with their children, in such passages as these, “I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee;" “ the promise is to you and your children,” and the like, show that there is ground enough to entertain the best hopes that the divine blessing will attend the use of means so truly pious and christian. And if, after all, your endeavours should fail, you will have done your duty, and the reward will return to your own bosom. If you never live to see the effect, yet the seed sown in early life, may spring up after many days, in a time of affliction perhaps, when all probable appearances have vanished. Those who, for years, have been warned to no purpose, may bethink themselves afterward, when the heavy hand of God is upon them, how earnestly their pious Fathers or their pious Mothers laboured for the good of their souls; and what an ungrateful return they made for all the kindness both of God and of their parents. And the turning
of such souls to God, in their latter days, has taken place to good purpose, in various instances.
In this life the benefit of early instruction is apparent. Some indeed are so thoughtless, so stubborn, and perverse, that every advantage seems lost upon them; and one scarce knows how to suppose they could have been worse, if even no pains whatever had been taken with them. But in general, it is otherwise. In a course of good discipline, habits of the best kind are formed: the voice of conscience is kept alive; and religion is not despised and trampled under foot. Prudence, decency, industry, and social virtues generally flourish among those who are well-educated: And hence, though many children of pious persons are far from being truly converted to God; for to turn the heart to the love of Him is not to be effected by the mere force of discipline, or the best habits: It is of grace alone;yet an attentive observer may remark that the children of such persons are usually, at least, people of good or blameless morals, and often useful members or even ornaments of human society.
How different is the case with the ill-educated, experience abundantly shows. Indulgent parents who have taken a pride in externally decking and adorning their children, and in introducing them into company of various sorts; and who have gratified them in all their fancies, and suffered them to take their own course, and left their minds unfurnished, and never inured them to labour, may frequently read their own sin in the punishment which has attended it. These children are proud, idle, worthless, impudent, extravagant, and head