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soever it might sit on him at first; and whenever this change is effected, the man is truly religious : for what is a religious disposition, unless this, to take pleasure in doing well? This happy change often proceeds from less happy beginnings. We see in children every day, that their propensity to some vices is by degrees wholly removed by the watchful eye and hand of a good parent; and we may observe the same effect in men from
And will you say that when a man is grown to be habitually virtuous, that he has no true religion in him, because he was at first reclaimed from vice by temporal fears ? If not, you must allow that these fears are not destructive of religion.
But I have said enough to show, and also to justify the means necessary to be used in discharging the duty recommended in the text. And I shall apply myself, in what remains, to exhort every man to do his part, and to make all, as far as his influence reaches, keep the way of the Lord, and do justice and judgment.
The magistrate is, in the first place, concerned to be watchful over the manners of the people, and to be jealous for the honor of God. In this consists the stability of nations; for * Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of the people.' This case descends from the supreme head of justice to every officer in the kingdom, in proportion to the power communicated to him; and every magistrate who connives at open impiety, is false both to God and the king. But I shall press this part of the exhortation no farther, which may perhaps concern but
very few in this place. But give me leave to add under this head, that private men, who are vested with no part of the public authority, are capable of doing great service even by showing themselves pleased that others should do their duty. It is a great discouragement to magistrates when they have not only the violence of sinners to contend with, but also the resentments and indignation of the innocent. A consideration that ought to be maturely weighed, in an age that is not, I am sure, too good to stand in need of reformation.
Next to the magistrate, the chief care of virtue and religion lies on fathers and masters of families. The kingdom is one great family, and it is made up of the small ones; and if due
care be taken in private families for the government and instruction of youth, the public will soon see and feel the happy effects of it. Permit me therefore to remind all parents of the duty they owe to God, their country, and their children, to take care that those who are by the laws of God and man committed to their government, be virtuously educated and instructed in the way of the Lord. This God requires of you; his creatures they are, whom you call your children: they owe obedience to him in the first place, and it is his authority which you exercise over them; and if they perish for want of timely instruction and correction, he will require their souls at your hands.
Parents have a trust likewise reposed in them by their country. There is nothing of greater consequence to the public than that the youth of the nation should be trained up to virtue and industry; that the seeds of religion should be sown betimes in their hearts, and cherished by proper encouragement. These are the only methods from which we can have any hopes to see our country supplied with honest and worthy men. It is but reasonable to expect from parents that they should out of natural affection seek to promote the happiness of their children; and since the same care which is necessary to form them to be good subjects, is also necessary to lay the foundation of their own happiness and prosperity in the world, this care is wholly intrusted to parents; who ought to look on themselves as responsible to their country for the future behavior of their children.
But farther; if parents would but consider the condition of those children whom they have brought into the world, they would find themselves obliged, by the strongest ties of natural affection, to guard them against the certain miseries of this life and of the next, by seasoning their minds with principles of virtue and religion. How wretched, do you think, are those parents who live to see their children made miserable by vice? And what an addition must it be to their misfortune, if it is attended with this reflexion, that it was want of early care in them which led the way to this ruin and misery? How often is it that men remember with detestation the negligence and indulgence of their parents, when either they find themselves useless to the world and themselves, for want of that early care which
should have been bestowed on them; or exposed to misery, to an untimely end, or to a life of shame and reproach, by those evil inclinations which grew headstrong in them for want of being pruned in their tender years !
You see then what strong obligations parents are under to be diligent in the discharge of this duty; which they owe to God, their country, and their children: and we might promise ourselves happy days to come, were there a performance answerable to these obligations. In many cases indeed parents are disabled from discharging this duty through ignorance and poverty; and what must become of such families, where the fathers and mothers can scarcely, with all their labor, provide food and raiment; so far are they from being able to attend to the education and instruction of their children ? And this necessity of many poor families among us gave rise to the institution of public schools, maintained by contributions for the instruction and education of the poor : an institution which, however serviceable to the poor of our country, is calculated to promote nobler views than those of private interest and advantage to any one set of men, and tends directly to the public good, and the benefit of all.
The passions of men considered, it is not to be expected that those who are permitted to go wild and untamed in their youth, should prove harmless, much less useful and beneficial to society, in their more advanced years. Necessity is a great temptation to wickedness, and leads men to use fraud or violence to support their vices; and if they have nothing but their corrupt affections to direct them, can it be hoped that they should withstand these temptations ? Idle and undisciplined boys commonly prove loose and vicious young men, and often fall a sacrifice to the severity of the law before they become
Thieves and robbers must be punished, or the innocent must be ruined; so far the rigor of the law is justified: but is it not a deplorable case, and to a Christian country a great reproach, that great care should be taken to punish wickedness, and little or none to prevent it? And yet this is the case where the instruction of the poor is neglected, and they are left to pursue the corrupt inclinations of nature to their own destruction. This mischief is in some measure provided for by
the charity-schools; and by breeding up the poor to be honest and diligent, the rich are saved from the violence of wicked necessitous men; the poor are rescued from wickedness, and the punishments due to it; and so many useful and beneficial hands are gained to the public.
Farther, not only the good order and peace of civil society is provided for by these charitable institutions, but also the peace of the church of Christ; by training up youth to be orderly and well behaved members of it: an end which every Christian, who has any regard for his holy profession, must take pleasure in promoting. But carry this consideration into its remoter consequences, the happiness to which many souls may arrive through the influence which a pious education may have on the whole course of their lives; and nothing will be wanting to give us a just conception of the usefulness of this design, or to encourage us to be liberal and generous in contributing to the support of it. If every gift bestowed for the honor of God, or for the good of our country, or for the sake of a poor brother, shall have its reward; how abundantly shall this charity be recompensed, which serves all these purposes at once; which brings maintenance to the poor, instruction to the ignorant, and opens to the miserable a way to happiness; which provides for the order of civil government, and the peace of Christ's church on earth; referring all to the glory and honor of him, who is Lord of the world which now is, and of that which is to come? Give therefore according as God has blessed you here are many who ask your help; the poor, your country, the church of Christ, which intreats for these her helpless children and one there is who looks on, and will not forget the love you show to the meanest of his members for his sake, Jesus Christ, our Lord: to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honor and glory henceforth and for evermore.' Amen.
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE I.
PROVERBS, CHAP. XXIV.-VERSE 21.
The fear of God and of the king are joined together in Scripture, to show the dependence which one has on the other. The advantage of religion to all public societies and civil governinents is evident; and if we look into the history of former times, we shall find the first symptoms of ruin in the dissolute lives of the people and their contempt of sacred things.
The duty of fearing God is not considered farther than as the obedience due to our superiors on earth is included in it; the discourse therefore is confined to the following particulars : I. what obedience to our governors is enjoined by the law of God: II. how inconsistent with this obedience is the practice of those men, who are given to change.
I. Obedience is seen chiefly in three things : first, in submission to the laws and commands of our princes : secondly, in honor and reverence to their persons and government : thirdly, in defending them, when any danger threatens them or the public. First : to determine the original of civil power, or the prince's right to the subject's obedience, is neither easy nor necessary. When our Saviour appeared in the world, various were the forms of government in it, and different the