תמונות בעמוד


Preached before the Society, corresponding with the Incor

porated Society in Dublin, for promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland, at St. Mary-le-Bow, March 17, 1738.


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And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel : And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which

ye shall command

your dren to observe to do, all the words of this law.


You have in the text the last piece of advice which Moses gave to the people of Israel; for on the self-same day on which he made this exhortation, he was summoned by God to depart from this world ; accordingly he died on the mountain of Nebo, and was gathered to his people.

The last advice of dying friends naturally makes a strong impression on the minds of those who survive them; and it is as natural for those who are leaving this world, to make the thing which they esteem to be of the greatest consequence and importance to their friends, who are to stay behind them, the subject matter of their last advice.

Consider now the character of Moses ; the many years he spent in conducting the people of Israel from Egypt to the land of promise; the high office he bore, by being appointed by God a prophet and lawgiver to his people : consider him, after a long course of teaching and exhortation, giving his last advice before he died; and you must needs think the happiness of the people to be extremely concerned in the matter

recommended to them by so great a friend, by one of such authority, and under such circumstances.

The advice is no less interesting than is to be expected: it aims at laying a solid foundation of happiness for that and all succeeding generations; by instructing the people how to perpetuate to their posterity the knowlege of God and his law, and to make him their constant friend and protector; namely, by instilling into the minds of their children a sense of the great things which God had done for them and their forefathers, and by forming them early to obedience to the divine law under which they lived: Ye shall command your children to observe and do all the words of this law.'

The Jews had still a greater reason to be careful and constant in discharging this duty towards their children; they had not only the last command of their great lawgiver for it, but they well knew that they were distinguished from the rest of the world by Providence for the sake of this duty. Their great ancestor Abraham was chosen to be the head of a great nation, that he might, and because God knew he would, be diligent to transmit to his posterity the knowlege of God's laws, and to breed them up in obedience to them. In the eighteenth chapter of the book of Genesis, God declares his purpose of making · Abraham a great and mighty nation ;' and that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him.' At the 19th verse, the reason of this peculiar regard to Abraham is given : 'For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.'

That the command of Moses lays an obligation on parents to make use of their authority with their children to bring them into subjection to the law of God, is put out of all doubt by the language of the text. They were to command their children to observe and do all the words of the law. But this precept had a larger and more extensive view, being given not merely as the advice of a preacher, but as the injunction of a great lawgiver, prescribing a proper method to establish and secure the prosperity of a nation. The education therefore of the children of a country may, and ought, in all wise governments, to be considered as a national concern.

This conclusion may appear perhaps with greater force, as supported by the declaration of God concerning Abraham, just before mentioned. God saw that Abraham would command his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment; and therefore he determined to make him a great and mighty nation. Now if this disposition, seen and approved in Abraham, has no relation to the office of a public magistrate, the reason given for making Abraham head of a great people is a very strange one.

For if the magistrate has, and ought to have, no concern in seeing the youth of the country brought up in the fear of God, Abraham's disposition to take this care on him could be no reason for making him the head of a great nation. To judge of the methods which have been or may be

applied to propagate or preserve religion and the fear of God in the world, we must consider the nature, capacities, and circumstances of men in general; the influences under which they act; and which of them may be properly made use of in the case in question. Religion being the service of a free agent, all external force is excluded as absolutely improper : instruction is the proper application to a reasonable mind; and were men under no influence but that of reason, instruction would be the only proper application : but men are born with passions as well as reason, and the passions grow strong and turbulent, much sooner than reason comes to such maturity as to be able to correct and restrain them; and therefore authority is wanted as well as instruction, to form the minds of men to virtue and religion.

I am sensible there are some, who have their objections to this method of propagating religion, who think all men should be left free to judge for themselves, without having the prejudices of education thrown into the scale on either side. They see that in Christian countries all are, through the power of education, Christians; in Mahometan countries they are, for the same reason, Mahometans; and they think true religion should reject the use of those means which serve indifferently to promote truth and falsehood.

It is no uncommon thing for men to pursue their speculations till they lose sight of nature; the consequence of which

is, that they fall into notions contradictory to the experience of mankind, and absolutely impossible to be reduced to practice.

Look into the history of ages past, there is no instance to be found of children brought up free from the impressions of cus. tom and education; consider the nature and condition of men, and it is impossible there ever should be.

Children have eyes and ears; what they see they naturally imitate ; what they hear influences their tender minds. And where parents neglect the care of their children, they are left to chance, and pick up notions and opinions from others; perhaps from the footman, who oftentimes is constant companion to the heir of the family. So that where parents omit to instruct their children, it is not leaving them to their own freedom of judgment, but it is leaving them to receive impressions from far worse hands.

But as this objection, if there be any weight in it, directly impeaches the natural means ordained by Providence for preserving true religion, and the means enjoined as well under the Christian as the Jewish dispensation for perpetuating the great truths of revelation, it may be proper, perhaps, to take this matter a little higher, and consider how it stands on the principles of reason and human nature.

Did men come into this world perfect, and equally perfect, having their minds stored with all necessary ideas, and able to make a proper use of all the faculties of the understanding, there might be some reason, perhaps, in saying, · Leave themselves to judge for themselves.” But as the case is otherwise, and we bring little more into the world with us than an animal life, and arrive by slow degrees to the use of reason and the knowlege of things about us, it is the direction of nature, in consequence of this course of nature, that parents should teach their children, as they grow capable of learning, the things that are necessary to their well-being.

The great force of custom and education, whether rightly applied or otherwise, could not be long, unobserved in the world : as soon as it was observed, it became a strong call on the natural affections of parents to guard the tender minds of their children against wrong impressions, and to prevent the

growth of evil habits in them. Without the exercise of this care in some degree, authority cannot be maintained on the part of parents, nor duty required on the part of children. If parents have nothing to teach, what have children to obey ? What then must become of the natural duties arising from this relation, when nothing will remain, unless perhaps some degree of fondness, such as brute creatures have by instinct of nature ?

That this natural force of custom and education was intended by Providence to act in conjunction with reason for the support of virtue and religion, there can be no doubt ; and whoever considers what God has done, by natural or supernatural means, for the sake of religion, will see abundant evidence for this truth.

But when the ways of men grew.corrupt, when custom and education were gone over to the side of vice and superstition, and reason and religion were left alone to struggle for themselves; it is hardly to be imagined how universally the corruption spread, and how strong possession was given to idolatry and superstition throughout the world. It may be hard to say what induced men at first to consecrate birds and beasts, stocks and stones, and to fall down and worship them. But when once those follies were introduced, custom and education spread them far and wide; and they took such deep root, that human reason could not shake them, but was content for ages together to wear the chains of blind superstition. Custom and education cannot be shut out of the case, and influence they must and will have; and if they are not secured on the side of reason, and taken in as assistants to it, they will soon grow to be tyrants over reason; and men will think and act as if they had


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We read in ancient story of a people who used, when their parents and relations were grown old and infirm, to kill them and feast on them. The custom appeared, as well it might, barbarous and inhuman in the eyes of all civilised nations; but those people being asked in their turn what they thought of those who suffered their aged parents to linger and die of themselves, and then burned or buried their dead bodies, they expressed the greatest abhorrence for such impiety. Had the

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