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tude to the affections, our reason should make some exertions to rescue us from the servile fear of a Deity, it is too apt to precipitate us into the contrary fault of a deliberate neglect; and deliberate neglect, should our conscience be awakened by a sense of its guilt, may prompt us to flee for protection to servile fear.
You see then the necessity there is for a young mind to steer between these terrible and opposite dangers. Such a task cannot be performed by a child himself, who, in his opinions is as passive, as in his actions he is imitative; and whose mind is every moment acted upon by a variety of causes, which he can seldom resist or comprehend. It is also to be executed by parents themselves, not without unremitted vigilance and activity indefatigable.
Having thus shown the practicability of a rational and useful education in religion, and of course obviated the arguments drawn from the supposed incapacity of youth to be employed in it, I proceed to expose yet other instances of the fallacious reasonings, and inconsistent practices, into which parents are betrayed, when they presume to make the morals of their children a subordinate and remote consideration. Some remarks will be occasionally interwoven, in order to convince
how much your interests in this world, as well as the next, require you to renounce those reasonings, and abandon these pursuits.
That parents should sincerely and solicitously deter their children from those criminal pursuits to which they are themselves addicted, is a degree of heroic virtue, which even paternal affection is rarely sufficient to produce. The general arguments adduced in favour of religion have little weight with those who have long disregarded them in their own case ; some are unwilling to smart under the accusations of their own consciences, which must awaken from their slumber, when we reproach others for the crimes we ourselves commit; and others perhaps, actuated by a base and unnatural jealousy, are unwilling to be excelled by those who are nearest and dearest to them. With such men I fear, it is useless to expostulate ; though callous must be that heart, and sottish that understanding, which can hear without emotion that the sins of the children are often to be charged to the seductive example of their father, and that by thus perpetuating the contagion and the misery of wickedness, the guilt of that father becomes more atrocious, and his condemnation will be more
Happy were it for youth, if the contagious influence of parental vices were counterbalanced by the salutary efficacy of parental virtues ; but alas, such is the blindness, and such the imperfection of man, that fathers often do not discourage in their children, what they would condemn in themselves, and that they counteract by a foolish fondness the effects of their own better qualities.
It is recorded of Cyrus and Darius, that they were valiant warriors, profound politicians, and illustrious monarchs ; but their private negligence tarnished the lustre of their public character. For by suffering their children to be educated in the nauseous effeminacy and luxurious dissoluteness of the Medes, they brought disgrace upon their posterity, and ruin upon their subjects. Their sons, unaccustomed to labour, and restless under control, were incapable of executing the high office belonging to their station-and indeed how could it be expected, that the man should labour without reluctance, or govern without arrogance, when we reflect on the pampered appetites, the untamed judgments, and unruly passions of the boy? Take care, therefore, that you do not hereafter go down with sorrow and ignominy to your graves, by permitting your children to do with impunity, what you would shudder yourselves to have done. Recollect, that whatever degrades the dignity, impairs also the intrinsic worth of your actions. Be assured that there lurks in you some unsuspected want of zeal in the cause of virtue, if you refuse to extend its influence where the noblest instincts of nature, and the most solemn obligations of religion, call upon you to perpetuate in others the good work, which yourselves have successfully begun.
If expostulations on the danger of vice lose their force upon the obdurate father, let me not plead without effect with the well-meaning and well-inforined, when I intreat you to admit his children to the participation of the highest and purest satisfaction which himself can enjoy. In general, the misconduct of children is not, I believe, so much to be imputed to the want of affection in parents, as to the excess of that affection, and the wrong direction it takes in the choice of our objects. By an infatuation equally fatal and extensive, the error is most frequent where it is big with the heaviest and most outrageous mischiefs.
I will state to you a case which my own experience, alas, will warrant me in pronouncing too common. Propose to a parent some project for preserving his child's innocence, for improving his moral sense, and for enlarging the sphere of their operation ; he will secretly despise what, out of regard to decency, he coldly approves ; and when the moment of trial is come, he will suffer the impetuous humours of his child, the tumultuous clamour of his acquaintance, and the capricious fashions of the age, to over-rule the best meant, and best supported admonitions. Set before the same man some proposal which respects the temporal welfare of his family, and that tends to the increase of their fortune, or the elevation of their rank, will he then listen with slovenly attention, or welldisguised contempt? Will he put off the attainment of the end proposed to him with all the artifices of self-deceit, and all the multiplied delays of lazy and irresolute procrastination ? Rather, will he not embrace with eagerness, and execute with alacrity, whatever is likely to assist him in the execution of his design? Did
you then correct your children's morals with the same diligence with which you polish their exterior manners—did you pay no less regard to their spiritual than their temporal welfare--did you interest heaven as well as earth in their favour, good God! what fair prospects would open themselves to our view—what flattering hopes might we then form of the rising generation—what prosperity might we promise them here—what glory hereafter ?
Let therefore those among you who bear the venerable name of father, frequently and carefully consider, how momentous a trust you have to perform. Children are sent, not to inherit the wealth and honours, not to exercise the undistinguished fondness, or to indulge the blind vanity of their parents ; but to act as rational and moral creatures, to become ultimately the subjects of moral reward, and to contribute by their own personal behaviour to the great and comprehensive designs for which you and they and all men are created. They are a sacred deposit, for the use of which you are responsible to the society in which you live, and to the Judge by whom they were delivered to your trust. You are also responsible more immediately to them, since to have brought any creature into being implies an obligation to make that being happy; and what, I beseech you, can contribute so much to this purpose as to form the minds of your children to early habits of virtue—to check every propensity to viceand to unite them as it were to their heavenly Father by faith and hope—by serious meditation and fervent prayer ?
With the neglect of all moral cultivation, there is often mixed a secret suspicion, that