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DEUTERONOMY vi. 7.
Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.
THE statutes and the judgments, the commandments and the ordinances which God gave unto Israel, the people were thus commanded to "teach diligently unto their children." The injunction is most earnestly and forcibly expressed. "These words which I command thee this day," says the divinely commissioned legislator of Israel, “shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." He had previously expressed the same injunction-" Teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;" and he afterwards urges the solemn admonition-" Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
The injunction of the legislator of Israel is afterwards ranked among those maxims which the inspired wisdom of one profoundly acquainted with
human nature dictated. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old," (generally, without doubt, is meant; for no maxim applicable to human nature is without exception,) "he will not depart from it."* And it is the admonition of a divinely commissioned apostle, that parents should "bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."+
To urge the duty which these precepts enjoin, would at any time be proper: it is particularly seasonable now, when your attention is directed to the public method of instruction by catechizing which the church prescribes, and when an opportunity will soon be afforded of presenting your children for receiving the holy ordinance of confirmation.
There must be wisdom in these admonitions, as to the religious education of children; there must be efficacy in the system which they prescribe-for they are the voice of inspiration; and whether or not we see the reasons of them, let us remember, that, as the command of our divine Lawgiver, they are binding upon us. That instruction in worldly knowledge is necessary, no one would be guilty of the gross absurdity of denying for a moment; and can that knowledge which is, above every other, important, be an exception? Must the various facts and truths of secular science be early displayed before children, and must they be kept in ignorance of those which concern their nature and character as spiritual and immortal beings? Must they early be taught to serve, to love, to fear, to obey, and to thank their earthly parents and bene
factors; and must no emotions of reverence, of love, of fear, of gratitude, no act of obedience be directed to their heavenly Father, to their almighty and merciful Saviour? And must they be instructed in the various arts of advancing themselves in that world in which, at the longest, their sojourn is so short; and no attention be paid to the means of securing their happiness, and averting their misery, in that world in which they must live for ever? The case is too plain to admit of a moment's doubt; and the importance of urging the religious education of children is increased in proportion as, at the present day, the disposition to enlarge their worldly knowledge and accomplishments excites the apprehension that religious instruction may thus be excluded, or not receive its due share of attention.
Some of the particulars in which the religious education of children consists, I propose to lay before you now, and at some subsequent opportunity.
1. Their dependence upon God, and their obligations to serve him, should be diligently impressed upon them.
The sentiment of dependence may be easily excited in the young mind. Accustomed to derive every thing from the bounty and care of their parents, children may be made sensible that they are indebted for all their enjoyments to other exertions than their own. They should be taught that the supreme power from whom every good thing comes, is that almighty Being who made them and all things, and whom, therefore, they are bound to revere and serve. When their hearts are softened by the attentions and caresses of parental VOL. II.
fondness, let this favourable moment be embraced to direct their excited feelings to that heavenly Father who hath provided for them their earthly protectors, and who regards them with an affection infinitely more exalted than that which can animate a human breast. If they love the earthly parent who so kindly provides for their comfort and happiness, may not the glow of affection be easily and naturally turned to that good and gracious Being who is the Father of all his creatures, who satisfies them all with good, and who, beyond the imperfect and interrupted joys of the present life, hath provided for those who love him, those good things which it hath not entered into the heart to conceive? While, by the display of the infinite goodness and the tender mercies of their gracious Maker, you excite them to serve him, strengthen the sentiment of grateful duty by impressing on them that this beneficent Lord of all things possesses a power which none can resist, and a justice which none can escape; and that, while his justice will require the punishment of their wilful disobedience, his power can render that punishment tremendous in degree, and eternal in duration.
2. While the consideration of the goodness, the justice, and the power of their Almighty Maker impresses on them the duty of obeying him, it is necessary still further to confirm this sentiment, by teaching them to bear in mind constantly his holy presence with them.
What a most powerful effect will be produced upon the tender sensibilities of youth, by those awful truths that are calculated to impress so deeply the mature feelings of manhood, that there
is a great, and holy, and just Being, invisibly, but constantly, surrounding us; that he discerns every secret emotion of the heart, and notes every action of the life; and that, while his goodness will prompt him to reward every virtuous endeavour to please him, his justice will punish every wicked deed!
Let then the young be taught that it is in vain to attempt to hide any thing from that God with whom they have to do; that he is about their path, and about their bed, and spieth out all their ways—no where can they go from his presence, nor hide themselves from his Spirit; for the darkness is no darkness with him, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to him are both alike. With these simple but awful truths operating on their minds, how natural will be the inquiry-Shall I dare to transgress, when the omniscient eye of God is upon me? Shall I indulge sinful thoughts and emotions, when the Sovereign of the universe searches my heart? Shall I think to cover with the darkness of night unlawful pleasures, when the almighty Being who now surrounds me, will bring into judgment every secret thing?
3. With their duties to God the Father who made them, those should be enforced which result from the consideration of the obligations which they are under to God the Son, who hath redeemed them.
The infinite condescension and love which the Son of God displayed in taking upon him our nature, and in suffering and dying for the salvation of sinful man, are subjects particularly calculated to excite and interest the ardent feelings of youth. If the contemplation of disinterested and exalted affection, if the view of deep distress, if the exhibi