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But I pass on to something of much greater moment, and of more necessary and standing obligation.
2. As soon as children are grown up to be capable of learning any thing, it is the business of those, under whose care they are, to use all proper precautions to prevent their learning any evil customs or bad habits; and to season them betimes with a just and awful sense of a God and a world to come. They have souls to provide for as well as bodies: and therefore due care must be taken of the more precious part, which shall survive the other, and endure for ever. When children arrive to little notices of things, (sooner or later, according to their different capacities,) care must be taken to prevent their receiving or retaining any ill impressions. A child of three or four years growth, though he will have but a very faint and imperfect sense of what is good or evil, may yet contract habits of either. He may learn stubbornness at that age, which, if it grows up with him, will prove a very ill quality: or he may learn submission, modesty, and obedience, which will, in time, produce excellent fruits in his after life and conversation. A child will, at that
age, learn to curse or swear, if he becomes acquainted with such language: or he may be taught to abhor and detest every thing of that kind, and to form his tongue to quite another accent. Early care must be taken in a matter of so great concernment.
Telling of lies is a thing which children will soon learn, and especially if they find benefit in it, or can escape the rod by it. This should be prevented with all possible care, by possessing them very early with the greatest abhorrence and detestation of a lie. And instead of letting them escape punishment by any such little and mean artifice, they should be detected in it, and immediately brought to shame, and smart for it. Sincerity is the noblest and best of qualities, and ought to be timely instilled and implanted in them. If that be wanting, there will scarce be any thing truly good and valuable remaining. To be deceitful and disingenuous is to be all that
is bad : above all things therefore encourage and promote in children an honest heart, a plain and open speech, a frank and ingenuous demeanour.
It is hard to say, precisely, at what age children become capable of knowing what we mean by Almighty God, by heaven, or by hell. Some imperfect notion of these things may certainly be wrought into them very soon; and they will retain and improve their first notices as they grow up. They may be told that God will be angry with them when they do amiss; that he will torment them in hell-fire, where they shall feel excessive pain, and be more sensible of smart than they are now: and they may be informed, that God will be kind to them and bless them; and give them all the good things their hearts can wish, provided they do well. Such advices as these will at first appear new and strange to them, and will
put them upon asking many little childish questions about them; which should, however, be carefully and discreetly answered: and the answers will be well remembered by children as they grow in years, and may have a good effect upon them all their lives long.
It is observable, that many by the hearing of foolish stories of apparitions, while they were young, have received so deep and lasting impressions, as not to be able, when grown up to be men and women, to correct this early dread, or even to trust themselves alone in the dark. This is but a silly and superstitious fear, doing more hurt than good : and it would be a prudent and charitable part in parents or governors, to prevent as much as possible the frightening of children with any idle tales of that kind. But I would observe from it, how strongly those fears work afterwards, which have been implanted in young and tender minds. And therefore, instead of making children afraid where no fear is, let them be taught when, and whom to fear, namely, Almighty God. Let them be informed how dreadful his vengeance is towards those that offend him; how he drowned a whole world at once for sinning against him; how he rained down fire and brimstone out of heaven upon sinful Sodom; how he made the earth open and swallow up Corah and his company, for resisting God's high priest, and for being stubborn and rebellious; how he ordered a man to be stoned to death for breaking the holy Sabbath, caused Achan to be as severely punished for stealing; and struck Gehazi with leprosy, and Ananias and Sapphira with present death, for lying. Let but children have a list of these and the like examples of Divine vengeance lodged in their memories, by frequent inculcating, and by repeated inquiries how they retain or resent them, and it will be to them a standing lesson of religious awe and reverential fear of Almighty God, that they shall not dare to offend him in any known instance. Then, to give them a more present and constant sense of what offences are, and what the contrary, let them have notice of them as often as they occur before their eyes, in bad and in good examples. If they happen, as they often will, to meet with any sad examples of drunkenness, swearing, cursing, and the like, let not such example pass without its just censure and condemnation, that children may be thereby taught what to avoid. And when they see the contrary examples of piety, modesty, sobriety, and the like, let them hear these things commended, that they may be thereby taught to go and do likewise. In such a method as this may the minds of children be formed up to virtue, and steeled against ill impressions; which is the principal end and aim of a religious education.
3. To do this the more effectually, it will be necessary to maintain a just authority over them, either correcting or encouraging them, as need may require. If they be first taught to submit to the reason of their governors while they are young, they will be the more easily and certainly conducted by their own reason, when grown up to be men and women. They should be taught the lesson of submission betimes, before ever their passions grow to a head, and become unmanageable. It may be sometimes proper to cross and disappoint them: never comply
with a froward temper, nor humour a child even in trifles, if he appears too stubborn and self-willed. One that has been always indulged, though in slight matters, during his childhood, will expect the like indulgence afterwards in matters of much greater consequence. Let them therefore be trained up to submission and modesty; not to murmur or dispute, but to conform quietly and contentedly to rules and orders; to be patient under discipline, and to take it as a favour whenever their desires are gratified, or their inclinations indulged. By such a conduct they will be made gentle and tractable, dutiful and welldisposed; and they will love their parents or their governors the better for it. It is a mistake to imagine that excessive fondness is the way to oblige and gain them. It will rather produce pride and sturdiness for the present: which will at length show itself in ill manners, contempt, and rudeness towards their best and kindest friends. The foundation of love must be laid in humility and submission : teach them first to stand in awe by seasonable correction; and it will be easy afterwards, a thousand ways, to attract their love and esteem also. “ He that spareth his rod hateth his son,” says Solomon : « but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes a.' And again; “ Chasten thy son while there is hope, and “ let not thy soul spare for his crying b.” In another place; “ Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; “ but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
But while I am advising a just and seasonable severity, I would not forget to throw in some proper cautions, prevent any extreme on that hand. As first, let it not be used but when necessary, or when gentler means fail. If a soft rebuke will be as effectual as a sharp reproof, use it rather. The tempers of children are not all the same, but sometimes widely different; and so requiring a different kind of treatment. If any can be allured and enticed to their duty, it is sufficient, and there will be no need of
a Proy, xiii. 24.
b Prov. xix. 18.
c Prov. xxii. 15.
threats, which, in such a case, will do harm. However, do their duty they must: and it does not become a parent or a governor to use much intreaty where he ought to command.
Another caution, in the matter of correction, is, that it be done, as much as possible, without anger, passion, or resentment; though always with authority. Passion is never a good guide, and least of all in matters which require cool and sober thought. Besides, it sets an ill example to a child, and often tends to alienate his love and affections. And there is no occasion at all for anger or resentment in the affair of correction. The only end it aims at is the good of the child: and it should be considered only as a bitter potion in the hand of a kind physician, who, though he gives his patient some uneasiness, is his friend in doing so, and has no resentment or anger against him.
Another caution in this matter is, to proportion, a near as may be, the penalty to the offence: not to be as severe for every childish neglect as for stubbornness and wilful disobedience, for swearing, or for lying, or other sins against God. Slight indiscretions and weaknesses, which have no ill meaning nor evil tendency, may be slightly passed over : while offences of a more heinous nature are to be chastised with proportionable severity. Having intimated what course is proper in order to maintain a just authority over children, I now proceed to another branch of a parent's or a governor's duty; namely,
4. To bring them to church, and to instruct them duly in their catechism and their daily prayers.
The design of bringing them so soon to church, even before they can well understand what is doing there, is to inure them to the constant practice of so necessary a duty. If they know little for the present as to what it means, they will however be sensible that it is their duty to attend : and as they grow older, they will both understand what the thing is, and reap the benefit of it.