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children from vice and ruin; which can guide their feet in the ways of pleasantness and the paths of peace.' But,
II. How is it that such an education fornis a permanently virtuous and pious character ? There is something in the power of habit, over all our faculties, whether bodily, intellectual, or moral, which I do not pretend to comprehend, and which I shall not therefore attempt to explain. The facts in the case are undeniable. Nothing is better settled than that the frequent repetition of any physical art, or mental process, begets an aptitude for the same thing, which it is extremely difficult to overcome. The unconquerable despotism of bad habits is proverbial. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard bis spots ? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil, learn to do well.' The same is true of good and virtuous babits, though not in so high a degree. I am far from believing, that there are any blank leaves in the book of human nature, even at the beginning of it. Many a dark and crooked line appears upon the opening of the very first page. But still there is room to write the law of God upon it, and by the use of proper means, made effectual by the Spirit, the law of sin may be gradually obliterated. What I mean to say is this. God has so made us, such is the .constitution of the human mind, (notwithstanding the terrible blot of innate depravity, which nothing but his Spirit can ever wipe out;) that, under suitable instruction, a virtuous character may be formed, which will stand the shock, at least of ordinary temptations. This is what I call the natural effect of right training upon the mind; and in this view of the subject, I am borne out by a great many striking analogies. The world is full of them. While the clay is soft, you can mould it into what form you choose. You bend the sapling of
a year's growth with perfect ease ; and in becoming a great tree, it most obediently follows the direction which your finger gave it half a century ago. Wherever a stream first begins to flow, there it cuts out a channel for itself, and there it is likely to flow forever. And so it is with the infant mind. First impressions are deep and permanent. Every early bias has a prodigious influence upon the future character. When these biases are in a right direction, they grow and ripen into good habits; and the man thenceforth travels on in the path of rectitude and happiness.
But while I lay so much stress upon the natural force of a religious education, I am fully aware, that this can never be our chief reliance. - The carnal mind is enmity against God.' It is so in our children at the tenderest age. • They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.' The most pious education can never reconcile them to God. It is the Holy Spirit, alone, which can put his law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.' This is the only perfect security. Now, whether every child in the land would be savingly converted, if all were trained up in the right way, I do not certainly know; but I feel quite sure, that nobody can prove the contrary. Is it too much to affirm that the experiment of what, by the blessing of God, might be accomplished in this way, has never yet been tried, even upon a small scale? How many children in the world, think you, have ever yet received as good a Christian education as it is possible to give? What if your children, or mine, have grown up under our care without being born again? What does this prove, but our own unfaithfulness? Is God slack.copeerning his promises? Is not the time coming, whep all shall know him from the
least to the greatest ? And who can tell, but that during the millennium, every child will be converted, either in its mother's arms, or in the Sabbath School ?
But however this may be, no one who believes the word of God, or gives any heed to the testimony of experience and observation, will question the vast importance of early religious instruction. An insatiable and prying curiosity may exhaust itself in trying to explain how it is, that early training produces such mighty results ; and some man? may, if he chooses, declare that he will never believe what he cannot comprehend: but with the text and the facts before us, the path of duty is perfectly plain. We are just as much bound and encouraged to co-operate in promoting the great cause of Christian education, as if we could see every secret step of the process by which virtuous and pious habits are formed. We come now to inquire,
JII. How, or by what means, the whole youthful population of our country, may be trained up in the way they should go? Is such a thing practicable? Is it not too much for Christian philanthropy, with all her wealth, and all her influence, and all her faith, and all her holy yearnings, to attempt, or hope for ? Certainly it is not too much. All things are possible to him that believeth.' There is obviously one way in which the blessings of religious education might be extended to every family in the United States, without the least difficulty, were the natural guardians of the young qualified for the responsible and endearing relations which they sustain. It undoubtedly devolves upon parents, first and chiefly, to train up their children in the way they should go; lo begin the work at early dawn, and to carry it forward with many prayers, til Christ be formed in them the hope
Were fathers and mothers all enlightened and devoted Christians, (as they ought to be,) no child would be neglected. Under the cultivation which this universal piety would ensure, a transforming power would operate silently, but mightily, upon all the young millions of our country's hopes. Even then, 'helps' might, no doubt, be highly useful. Parents might need assistance in carrying forward to maturity the best systems of religious education. Many certainly would.
But how much more is foreign aid called for, in the existing state of things ? What an awful dearth of piety is there, at the head of more than a million and a half of American families! From this quarter, then, a religious influence upon all who are now coming forward into life, with the destinies of the nation in their hands, is hopeless. Not one third part of them will ever be brought up in \the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by those who
Must they then be left to grow up in ignorance and sin, and to pull down the pillars of the state upon their devoted heads? You promptly answer, No! Instant, and loud voices, from every quarter of this great and prosperous city, answer, No! All the managers, and auxiliaries, and agents, and depositories, and friends of this heaven-born Union, answer, No! All the Sabbath school libraries in the land, and more than sixty thousand teachers, answer, no! And soon will the whole American Chureh, with a voice like the sound of many waters, answer, NO!
Here, in this blessed Union of hearts and hands, of counsels and prayers--in this fowing together of the waters of life from so many different sanctuaries, I see a pledge that every child in the city and country, on the sea-board and by the great rivers of the west, shall be
grave them life.
sought out, and have the opportunity of being instructed • in the right way of the Lord. Did the time permit, and were it necessary, I might here trace the history of this blessed institution, from its precarious infancy to the lifting up of its head among the stars. I might speak of its early struggles, and the recent triumphs of its faith and its works—of the destitule regions which it has explored—of the thrilling appeals which håve gone forth from the fullness of its heart-of the four hundred and fifty thousand children now in its schools of the vast multitude of books which it has published—of the incalculable amount of good which it has already accomplished, and of its noble resolution, at the last anniversary, to supply the Valley of the Mississippi with Sabbath schools
in two years.
But it as little needs the eulogy as the defence of my feeble voice. It has excited the admiration, and kindled the eloquence of the statesman, as well as the divine, Mightier voices never thundered in our National Capitol, than have spoken its praises. On a memorable recent occasion, we have seen the north give up, while the south kept not back.' And then it was that the wrestling of the giants gave place to exalted moral reasonings, and mutual congratulations. But what is more than all, the character and deeds of this blessed Union are written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not iu tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.' Its record is on high. Its all-comprehensive and sweet benevolence is reflected from nearly half a million of happy faces every Sabbath day, and gratefully acknowledged by as many tongues. What it needs, is not the approving testimony of a humble individual, from the place which I now occupy, but the zealous co-operation of all the