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Custom and Education ; consider the Na. ture and Condition of Men, and it is impoffible 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 them. selves 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 flow Degrees to the Use of Reason and the Knowledge 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 upon 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 fee abundant Evidence for this Truth..
But, when the Ways of Men grew corsupt, when Custom and Education were gone over to the side of Vice and Superstition, and Reason and Religion were left alone to ftruggle 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 firft 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 fhake them, but was con
tent 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 foon grow to be Tyrants over Reason; and Men will think and act as if they had none.
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 civilized Nations: but those People being asked in their Turn, what they thought of those, who suffered their aged Parents to linger and die of themfelves, and then burnt or buried their dead Bodies, they expressed the greatest Abhorrence for such Impiety. Had the Egyptians, or any other people, been examined in like Manner, upon any or all their Superstitions, their Sentiments in Favour of their national Customs would have been found as strong, and as hard to be rectified.
So general and so strong is the Force of Custom and Education, that the Influence may be said to be natural to the Mind of
Man; and if the Influence is natural, it was, doubtless, designed by the Author of Nature to be subfervient to good Purposes. That he intended it for this Use, is manifest also from his making this Use of it, and from his interposing to correct the Abuses to which this natural Influence was but too liable through the Passions and Corruptions of Men.
Consider, from the Beginning of Things what Provision was made for propagating Religion in the World. "Adam was created in the State of Manhood; and as he came a Man, and not a Child, out of the Hands of his Creator, he brought into the World with him all Knowledge necessary to a Man; of which the Knowledge of God and true Religion was the most necessary Part. Of him then sufficient Care was taken.
But all after him came Infants into the World, void of Knowledge, capable of coming at it but by flow Degrees, and liable to many Errors in the only Thing they had to depend on, the Use of their Reason. What Care now was taken to die rect them right in this momentous Affair of Religion? Was it not plainly this, that they were put into the Hands of an In. Ta