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we now commemorate ; but as unlike it and contrary as possible in all material circumstances. And the reasons which once so strongly pleaded for the one, do now as strongly plead against the other; since it would not be restoring us to any happiness we want, but to such miseries, or even to greater than those from which we were this day delivered.
Let us then be thankful to Almighty God for the blessings which he hath sent us, and has preserved to this time; for restoring to us our happy constitution and legal establishment in one reign, and for watching over it in another; for securing and strengthening it in a third, and for improving, fixing, and perfecting it in the reigns following. All which gives us grounds to hope, (unless God for our sins shall otherwise determine,) that the blessings which we now commemorate may prove as lasting and durable for ages to come, as they are highly valuable for the present. Let but the spirit of contention cease, and brotherly love return : “ Depart from evil, and do good ; and dwell RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN,
PREACHED IN THE
PARISH CHURCH OF ST. SEPULCHRE,
June the 6th, 1723.
THURSDAY IN WHITSUN.WEEK;
At the Anniversary Meeting of the Children educated in the
Charity Schools in and about the Cities of London and Westminster.
Prov. xxii. 6.
Train up a child in the way he should go : and when he is old, he
will not depart from it.
THE 'HE meaning and design of these words of king Solomon
is plain and obvious at first hearing : from whence we may reap this advantage, that the time which upon more difficult texts would be spent in prefatory explications, may here be more agreeably (and perhaps more usefully too) laid out upon the subject. The pertinency of the text to the present occasion will, I doubt not, be as clear and manifest as the meaning and purport of it: so that your thoughts, very probably, will run quicker upon
it than any words can do, and will be beforehand with me in the application. My design from it is to offer, or rather to
repeat, some of the most obvious and most approved rules and directions for the training up children ; and to intimate of how great moment and importance they are to the children themselves, to their parents and others having the charge over them, and to the public at large.
You will not, I presume, expect any new directions from me on this head, (the older they are the better,) nor indeed any so exact and accurate as those which have been more maturely weighed, and after long experience, perfected by the united wisdom and joint counsels of those whom God hath raised up to inspect, promote, and conduct this weighty affair through this great city, and other parts of the kingdom. All I shall endeavour is, to collect and lay before you a few useful hints, out of many you will think on; such as may deserve to be treasured up in our memories, and such as, in regard either to their own weight or to our forgetfulness, may very well bear the repeating and frequent inculcating. And now not to detain you with any further preface, I proceed directly to what I intend.
First, To point out some of the principal rules or directions for the religious training up of children.
Secondly, To remind us of some special reasons and motives proper to enforce the use and exercise of them : concluding all with a brief application of he whole to as many as are any way capable of promoting, assisting, or encouraging so good a work.
I. I am, first, to point out some of the principal rules or directions for the religious training up of children. The persons herein chiefly concerned are fathers and mothers, natural and spiritual, masters and mistresses, tutors, guardians, governors, and the like. All the branches of this duty belong not equally to
: many of them are indeed common to parents, masters, guardians, &c. but some are special to parents only, or to them chiefly, and not to the rest. In the enumeration of particulars, , I shall think it sufficient if they belong to any, and if they be of such importance as may make it necessary to mention, and not to omit them.
1. I shall begin with what comes first in order, and which chiefly belongs to fathers and mothers, godfathers and godmothers, the bringing children to the font, to be publicly baptized according to the rules and orders of the Church of England, formed exactly upon the primitive model; saving only as to the allowing and dispensing with the pouring on of water upon the child, in
stead of immersion : which allowance has at length, by custom, took place of the rule, and unhappily excluded it, perhaps beyond recovery ; though many good and pious men have hinted their desires, or wishes, for restoring the primitive practice, which had constantly obtained in England, from the first planting of Christianity, till within less than two hundred years ago, and has not been entirely laid aside, above a century and a half at most. But enough of that.
I said publicly baptized. For as to the custom of administering Baptism by reading the office for public Baptism in private houses, it is of very late date, and is neither so decent nor so regular as the public method which our Church prescribes in her Rubrics. It has indeed, with great reluctanee, been submitted to, and still is so; and especially in this city more than in any other place of the kingdom. Custom hath here also prevailed against rule ; and many have been, in a manner, forced to comply with it, upon prudential reasons ; submitting to it as a tolerable inconvenience, to prevent greater. But it were much to be wished that the more public and solemn way were again restored, and universally practised as formerly. To proceed.
When Baptism is once over, nothing more remains to be done for the infant, in the religious way, for some time ; except it be praying for him. The care of supporting and cherishing the growing infants, while unable to speak, or to learn any thing, falls not under the head of religious education : as neither does the method of nursing, or suckling them; though it may not be improper to throw in a word or two of it, because a case of conscience has been thought to be nearly concerned in it. Some Divines of great note have been very particular and pressing upon the duty of mothers, as obliged to nurse and suckle their own children. I cannot stay to examine their reasons for it, which are not all of the same weight, but differing in the degrees of more and less. One thing, however, is certain, that it is no unalterable duty of mothers so to do: in some circumstances they cannot, and in others they need not; there is a latitude left for discretion and prudence in such cases. They are in duty bound to do the best they can for the health of their children, and the right forming their tempers and manners; both which may, in some measure, depend on their first milk, or on the method of nursing. But if both these points may be effectually secured, (as they often may,) as well by a nurse, as by the proper mother, then the thing is indifferent, and either way may be taken without scruple. 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 im