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Your excuse is like the fig leaf covering of our first parents, if you say, that since God must teach all those who have any understanding of divine things, your desires however sincere, and your endeavors, however diligently made, and constantly persevered in, will be altogether fruitless. Are we not, in all things, equally dependant; and yet do we not employ instruments, and use means, to accomplish our various purposes?
Can the physician heal us when we are sick? Is there any certain connexion between the medicine and the cure? shall we not live all the days of our appointed time, whatever we may do?
Parents have the charge of children, not only to instruct them, but to govern them, using such measures of coercion as prudence may dictate, to keep them from evil courses, and to incline them to such things, as in the most serious exercise of their reason, and in the most trying circumstances of their case, they will pronounce to be good. There can be no harm in their addressing to them, with whatever explanation may be necessary, the words of St. Paul to his Philippian brethren, Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true; whatsoever things are honest; whatsoever things are just; whatsoever things are pure; whatsoever things are lovely; whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise; think on these things.
Many people seem to think, that restraint cramps the mental faculties of a child; and they, of course, prefer persuasion, without using much, even of that, in any good cause. Solomon who in the day in which he lived was accounted a wise man; and who has been ever since so accounted, by all competent judges; has left us this, among his proverbs: He that spareth his rod, hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. God says concerning Abraham, For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household, after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord. Joshua, having exhorted his countrymen to choose immediately, whom they would serve, gives them his own resolution in these words: But as for me, and my house we will serve the Lord. Respecting Abraham, and Joshua, it is evident, that they exercised the
authority connected with their stations, and enforced their commands whenever resistance was made to them.
The fourth commandment not only lays an obligation upon heads of families, to observe the Sabbath; but also makes them answerable for their children, and domestics; and even for their dumb animals. Had a child, or a servant, manifested a determination to work, or to play, upon the Sabbath, notwithstanding all advice, persuasion, and remonstrance, to the contrary, it would have been the duty of the heads of the house, to interpose with a prohibition, and, if that were disregarded, to punish the offender, as the circumstances of the case might make it practicable, or expedient.
Can we suppose that one precept was to be enforced, while with the other parts of the law, parental authority had no concern? If so, the young ruler, who was told, If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, was not much out of the way, when he inquired Which? Eli had heavy judgments denounced against his house, for not restraining his sons, when they made themselves vile; and if he was so worthy of blame for not excluding them from the priesthood, when they were old enough to officiate; did he not depart still farther from his duty in bearing with their misconduct, at a more manageable age, in suffering them to spend the days of their childhood, under too lax, and indulgent a government?
If we want a tree to grow straight we are careful not to let the twig, from which we expect it, take a crooked direction. If the same method were adopted in the family, that is practised in the nursery, the same might be the effect. Childhood, and youth are vanity; and this vanity is frequently countenanced, and fostered, by those whose solemn charge requires, that they should counteract it. Such amusements as have no tendency but to keep the mind frivolous, appear to be thought as inseparable from young persons, as their stature, or their rosy, and unwrinkled cheek. Had St. Paul been of this opinion, he would have seen the impropriety of directing Titus to exhort young nien to be soberminded. Whether a sober mind, breaks
up youthful intercourse, or operates like poison in the cup of youthful pleasure, those who possess such a mind, can best determine; and there are, in different places, at the present time, persons enough of this description, to form a cloud of witnesses.
Where religion is out of the question, festivity, under some name and form, is almost invariably connected with the annual Thanksgiving; and with the beginning of the year; and I have been misinformed, if it was never connected, and among us too, with the Fast. This festivity is the subject of conversation for Sabbaths preceding, and succeeding, the day appointed for it; and thus there is a long train to the mischief. As for keeping a Fast in this manner, I have nothing to say, the incongruity is so monstrous, and so evident. But when the Psalmist wrote, Offer unto God Thanksgiving; is it probable that he would have advised to this method; or have approved of it, had it been suggested to him? A Thanksgiving is a religious festival, and whatever diverts the mind from religious meditation, or draws off the heart from religious exercise, should be carefully avoided. When we enter upon a new year, should we not make a solemn pause; looking backward; and forward; and considering what changes have taken place under our own observation; expect the like to follow; and realize that we may have ourselves a deep interest in them.
If any of you are disposed to make sport of what I have said, I refer you to a wiser man; and beg you to attend to the words of Solomon, as you may find them in the book of Ecclesiastes. I said of laughter it is mad, and of mirth, what doeth it? Rejoice O young man in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart; and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.
To religious instruction and government, parents are bound to add their prayers, for, and with, their children and to set before them an example worthy of imitation.
We now come to the last particular mentioned in the proclamation of Ezra; that is, a right way for his substance, and that of the people. We cannot know how we ought to
use what God has entrusted to us, unless we take our directions from his own mouth; that is his own Word.
From that source of information we learn, that a person has a right to make use of what he has, so far as his own comfort may require it. There is nothing better for a man than, that he should eat, and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw that it was from the hand of God. No immoderate indulgence is here recommended; but such as, is consistent with real enjoyment, and the highest sense of responsibility. We may have the necessaries; and even the accommodations of life, if our means will allow of them; and if we deny ourselves these, with the ability to procure them, we must have manifestly a higher object in view, or we shall not be doing our duty.
Next to ourselves, those are to be provided for, who are dependant upon us for support. If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house; he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. We ought to be much upon our guard here, lest we allow ourselves too great a latitude of interpretation, and thus infer from the Apostle's words what he never intended should be understood.
A parent may think he has a right to provide a large, and independent, estate, for each one of his children, and, that he is warranted by this passage, so to lay his plans, and manage his business, as to compass this object. This however is a task which, in most cases, is impracticable; and the state of things in the world will show us, that it is as improper as it is difficult of performance. Scarcely an instance can be found of a person, who has been in any manner benefited by the large inheritance which has come into his possession. Should we search the houses provided for the maintenance of the poor, we should probably find some persons of this description, among the incumbents upon the public bounty. There is no portion of scripture perhaps, which accords better to our own observation than these words of Solomon, There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, namely riches kept for the owners thereof, to
their hurt: But those riches perish by evil travail; and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
The wealthy and the honorable, are generally those who started in life unknown, and unassisted, and who by industry, and good management, as the means, have increased their substance, and added to their weight of character, while others more highly favored have diminished or sunk to nothing, through indolence and a life of dissipation. Parents would do well not to be anxious to lay up a hoard for the establishment of their children, but be content to furnish them with comfortable food, and raiment, and the means of instruction; attending to their capacities; and propensities; and endeavoring to fit them for those places in society, for which they appear to have been intended.
For one the pulpit may be a fit place, for another a court of justice; for another a mechanic's shop; and for another the field, where labor is the honest and honorable, occupation. There is as much difference in men as there is in beasts, and birds. All beasts have not the speed of the rein deer; nor the strength of the elephant, and all birds, have not the eye of the hawk, nor the pinion of the eagle. All beasts, and birds, however, have their places, and their uses; and the same is the case with men.
As any thing may be spoiled by turning it to a use, for which it is not adapted; so a child may be rendered an useless member of the community, by thrusting him into a place which he has no qualifications to fill.
We have seen, that we may use our substance ourselves, and convert it to the support, and benefit, of our families: but there is a still farther use which requires our attention. As we have therefore opportunity, says, St. Paul to the Galatians, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. He here speaks the sentiment of all his inspired brethren, and he has the plain, and unquestionable warrant of his Lord.
The world has always had its poor, calling for the attention of persons placed in better circumstances. To the indolent and the sottish, however destitute, who scorn the service which we daily perform, we may shut up our bowels of compassion; and if we contribute at all, to their sup