« PreviousContinue »
THE subject of the following Discourses is of high importance to the
interest of religion, and justly claims a share in our labours, if we would fulfil the ministry we have received in the Lord, and give a good account of it another day. This led the author to insist upon it, in the congregation under his care. What was delivered from the pulpit met with a favourable reception, and many who heard these Sermons, have importunately desired they might be published, for the benefit of others. I have perused them with some attention, and such special satisfaction, that I heartily concur in the same request.
The neglect of the rising generation, which so generally prevails, ought, surely, to awaken our serious concern for it; and I persuade myself, that the present attempt will be welcome to all who are duly impressed with that concern; for so far as I am capable of judging, it is well adapted to answer its intended purposes. The method is natural and easy, the language correct, the reasoning strong, the address pathetic and convincing; and the whole is so agreeably adjusted, that I can with pleasure recommend it as a valuable and useful performance.
The peculiarities of the christian scheme are frequently and pertinently interspersed, through the several parts of this work; which will be acceptable to them, who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. I look upon these as the brightest ornaments of practical discourses; and when they are introduced in this view, it must evidently appear, that the principles of our holy religion, are not merely refined speculations for the entertainment of curious and inquisitive minds, but doctrines according to godliness, and the great support of virtue and goodness in the world. When arguments are drawn from the glorious dispensation of the grace of God, to persuade us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; such endearing motives represent duty in its most amiable light, and have a most direct tendency to engage our cheerful compliance. It deserves our serious consideration, whether this be not a proper method to prevent the growth of infidelity; if not to reclaim those, whose arguments against the sacred scriptures are mere banter and ridicule, and who are gone so far as to glory in their contempt of the gospel, yet, at least, to prevent the spreading of that dangerous infection.
It has been justly observed by an excellent person*, whose practical writings meet with that general acceptance which they so justly deserve, "That when men have heard the sermons of their ministers, for many years together and find little of Christ in them, they have taken it into their heads,
* Dr. Watts.
that they may go safe to heaven without christianity." And this I apprehend will ever be the consequence, if we so lay the whole stress of our moral obligations, on the reason and fitness of things, as to neglect that Saviour who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. When christian preachers seldom mention redemption and salvation by the Son of God, unless it be to expose an absurd sense, which some have put upon those doctrines; and thereby more artfully slur them, than by a direct and open attack; they cannot expect their hearers should have any great regard for them. Their people will be insensibly led into this conclusion, that they have little concernment with any thing in the New Testament but the morality of it, and that the other parts of the gospel may be neglected, without hazard to their souls. And when they have advanced thus far, the next step will be, to set the inspired writings on a level with heathen authors, whose moral sentiments are admired, though there are many poetical fictions and fabulous stories intermixed with them.
The apostles took a different method, and constantly supported their instructions, by considerations peculiar to the gospel of Christ. And if our schemes in religion will not permit us to follow their example, and we feel a secret unwillingness to form ourselves on their model, lest our discourses should not be polite and rational, we have reason to fear, we are declining from that faith which they once delivered to the saints. But if we copy after these wise master-builders, we may hope the hand of the Lord will be with us; and that we shall see something of that divine success attending our labours, which so remarkably accompanied theirs, when many believed and turned unto the Lord. And they, who have experienced the powerful influences of the gospel, in forming their hearts and lives for God, will be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight and craftiness of men, nor easily prevailed upon to part with it. And I am confirmed in this opinion, by observing that deism makes little progress in those auditories, where the distinguishing doctrines of christianity are frequently and judiciously considered.
For this reason, I would humbly propose the following composures to the imitation of younger ministers. And I cannot but indulge a reasonable expectation, that those who are forming for the service of the sanctuary under the instructions of the learned and worthy author, having so good a pattern daily before them, will appear in our assemblies with a fixed resolution to exalt a Redeemer in all their ministrations; that they will stand as pillars in the temple of our God, and be the ornaments and supports of the christian cause, when their fathers shall sleep in the dust.
As the subject of these sermons is no matter of controversy, but plain and important duty, one would hope, they will not fall under the severe censure of any. At least, I am fully persuaded, that humble and serious christians, whose chief concern is to know, and do their duty, will find agreeable entertainment, and much profitable instruction, in the perusal of them.
ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.
On the Way in which they should be trained up.
Prov. xxii. 6.
-Train up a Child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
IT is a most amiable and instructive part of the character
* Isai. xl. 11.
which Isaiah draws of The great Shepherd of the church, that he should gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom*: A representation abundantly answered by the tender care which our Redeemer expressed for the weakest of his disciples; and beautifully illustrated by the endearing condescension, with which he embraced and blessed little infants. Nor is it foreign to the present purpose to observe, that when he recommends to Peter the care of his flock, as the most important and acceptable evidence of his sincere affection to his person, he varies the phrase; in one place saying, feed my sheep, and in the other, feed my lambs+. Perhaps it might be in part intended to intimate, that the care of a gospel-minister, who would in the most agreeable manner approve his love to his master, should extend itself to the rising generation, as well as those of a maturer age, and more considerable standing in the church. It is in obedience to his authority, and from a regard to his interest, that I am now entering on the work of catechising, which I shall introduce with some practical discourses on the education of children, the subject which is now before us.
I persuade myself, that you, my friends, will not be displeased to hear, that I intend to handle it at large, and to make it the employment of more than a single Sabbath. A little reflection may convince you, that I could hardly offer any thing to your consideration of greater importance; and that, humanly speaking, there is nothing in which the comfort of families, the prosperity of nations, the salvation of souls, the interest of a Redeemer, and the glory of God, is more apparently and intimately concerned.
+ John xxi. 15, 16.
I very readily allow, that no human endeavours, either of ministers or parents, can ever be effectual to bring one soul to the saving knowledge of God in Christ, without the co-operating and transforming influences of the blessed Spirit: Yet you well know, and I hope you seriously consider, that this does not in the least weaken our obligation to the most diligent use of proper means. The great God hath stated rules of operation in the world of grace, as well as of nature; and though he is not limited to them, it is arrogant, and may be destructive, to expect that he should deviate from them in favour of us or ours.
We live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; and were he determined to continue your lives, or the lives of your children, he could no doubt feed or support you by miracle: Yet you think yourselves obliged to a prudent care for your daily bread, and justly conclude, that were you to neglect to administer it to your infant offspring, you would be chargeable with their murder before God and man; nor could you think of pleading it as any excuse, that you referred them to a miraculous divine care, whilst you left them destitute of any human supplies. Such a plea would only add impiety to cruelty, and greatly aggravate the crime it attempted to palliate. As absurd would it be for us to flatter ourselves with a hope that our children should be Taught of God, and regenerated and sanctified by the influences of his grace, if we neglect that prudent and religious care in their education, which it is my business this day to describe and recommend, and which Solomon urges in the words of my text: Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I need not offer you many critical remarks on so plain and intelligible a passage. You will easily observe, that it consists of an important advice, addressed to the parents and governors of children, Train up a child in the way he should go; and also of a weighty reason by which it is inforced; and when he is old he will not depart from it. The general sense is undoubtedly retained in our translation, as it commonly is; but here, as in many other places, something of the original energy and beauty is lost.
The Hebrew word†, which we render train up, does some
Mat. iv. 4.
timbuere, prima rudimenta dare, erudire, docere, dedicare. Pagn. initiare. Cocc. The LXX. render it, with an exactness which our language will not admit, by Eyxam. It is used also of those attendants of Abraham, who in the text are called his trained, and in our margin, his instructed Servants; Gen. xiv. 14.
times signify, in the general, to initiate into some science or discipline; and, very frequently, to apply any new thing to the use for which it was intended*. It is especially used of sacred things, which were solemnly dedicated, or set apart to the service of God+: And perhaps it may here be intended to intimate that due care is to be taken in the education of children, from a principle of religion, as well as of prudence and humanity; and that our instructions should lead them to the knowledge of God, and be adapted to form them for his service, as well as to engage them to personal and social virtue.
It is added, that a child should be Trained up in the way in which he should got; which seems to be more exactly rendered by others, at the entrance or from the beginning of his way, to express the early care which ought to be taken to prevent the prevalency of irregular habits, by endeavouring from the first dawning of reason to direct it aright, and to infuse into the tender unpractised mind, the important maxims of wisdom and goodness.
To encourage us to this care, the wise man assures us, that we may reasonably expect the most happy consequence from it: That if the young traveller be thus directed to set out well in the journey of life, there is a fair prospect that he will go on to its most distant stages, with increasing honour and happiness. Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I shall endeavour to illustrate and enforce this important advice in the following method, which appears to me the most natural, and for that reason the most eligible :
I. I shall more particularly mark out the way in which children are to be trained up.
II. Offer some plain and serious considerations to awaken you to this pious and necessary care.
i. e. probably, formed to military discipline, though religious instruction is not to be excluded. Gen. xviii. 19.—, a word derived from the same root, in the rabbinical writings signifies a catechism; and therefore the margin of our text reads catechise a child, &c.
* Thus it is applied to any new built house, Deut. xx. 5. to that of David, Psal. xxx. tit. and to the wall of Jerusalem, Neh. xii. 27.
+Thus it is applied to the dedication of the altar, Numb. vii. 10, 11, 84, 88. 2 Chron. vii. 9. and to that of the temple, 1 Kings viii. 63. 2 Chron. vii. 5.
177y, which the French version renders "a l' Entree de son train:" Yet I am sensible when used with by is sometimes an expletive, as Gen. xliii.7. Numb. xxvi. 56. and the learned Glassius, as well as our translators, thought the text another instance of it. Glass. Phil. Sac, p. 482.