« PreviousContinue »
simplicity. They use art: they hang out false colours: they practise either simulation or dissimulation. So that you cannot say truly of any person living, till grace has altered nature, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."
11. Every one is likewise prone by nature, to speak or act contrary to justice. This is another of the diseases. which we bring with us into the world. All human creatures are naturally partial to themselves, and when opportunity offers, have more regard to their own interest or pleasure, than strict justice allows. Neither is any man by nature merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful: but all, more or less, transgress that glorious rule of mercy as well as justice, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, the same do unto them."
12. Now if these are the general diseases of human nature, is it not the grand end of education to cure them? And is it not the part of all those to whom God has entrusted the education of children, to take all possible care, first, not to increase, not to feed any of these diseases, (as the generality of parents constantly do) and next to use every possible mean of healing them?
13. To come to particulars. What can parents do, and mothers more especially, to whose care our children are necessarily committed, in their tender years, with regard to the Atheism that is natural to all the children of men? How is this fed by the generality of parents, even those that love, or, at least, fear God, while in spending hours, perhaps days with their children, they hardly name the Name of God? Mean time, they talk of a thousand other things in the world that are round about them. Will not then the things of the present world, which surround these children on every side, naturally take up their thoughts, and set God at a greater distance from them, (if that be possible,) than he was before? Do not parents feed the Atheism of their children farther, by ascribing the works of creation to nature? Does not the common way of talking about nature leave God quite out of the question? Do
they not feed this disease, whenever they talk in the hearing of their children, of any thing happening so or so? Of things coming by chance? Of good or ill fortune? As also when they ascribe this or that event, to the wisdom or power of men: or, indeed, to any other second causes, as if these governed the world? Yea, do they not feed it unawares, while they are talking of their own wisdom, or goodness, or power to do this or that, without expressly mentioning, that all these are the gifts of God? All tends to confirm the Atheism of their children, and to keep God out of their thoughts.
14. But we are by no means clear of their blood, if we only go thus far, if we barely do not feed their disease. What can be done to cure it? From the first dawn of reason continually inculcate, God is in this and every place. God made you, and me, and the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and every thing. And every thing is his: heaven, and earth, and all that is therein. God orders all things: He makes the sun shine, and the wind blow, and the trees bear fruit. Nothing comes by chance: that is a silly word: there is no such thing as chance. As God made the world, so he governs the world, and every thing that is in it. Not so much as a sparrow falls to the ground, without the Will of God. And as he governs all things, so he governs all men, good and bad, little and great. He gives them all the power and wisdom they have. And he over-rules all. He gives us all the goodness we have: every good thought, and word, and work, are from him. Without him we can neither think any thing right, or do any thing right. Thus it is, we are to inculcate upon them, That God is all in all.
15. Thus may we counteract, and, by the grace of God assisting us, gradually cure the natural Atheism of our children. But what can we do to cure their Self-will? It is equally rooted in their nature, and is, indeed, the original idolatry, which is not confined to one age or country, but is common to all the nations under heaven. And how few parents are to be found even among Christians, even among them that truly fear God, who are not guilty in this matter?
Who do not continually feed and increase this grievous distemper in their children? To let them have their own will, does this most effectually. To let them take their own way, is the sure method of increasing their self-will sevenfold. But who has the resolution to do otherwise? One parent in a hundred? Who can be so singular, so cruel, as not, more or less, to humour her child? "And why should you not? What harm can there be in this, which every body does?" The harm is, that it strengthens their will more and more, till it will neither bow to God nor man. To humour children is, as far as in us lies, to make their disease incurable. A wise parent, on the other hand, should begin to break their will, the first moment it appears. In the whole art of Christian education there is nothing more important than this. The will of a parent is to a little child in the place of the will of God. Therefore, studiously teach them to submit to this while they are children, that they may be ready to submit to his will, when they are men. But in order to carry this point, you will need incredible firmness and resolution. For after you have once begun, you must never more give way. You must hold on still in an even course: you must never intermit your attention for one hour; otherwise you will lose your labour.
16. If you are not willing to lose all the labour you have been at, to break the will of your child, to bring his will into subjection to yours, that it may be afterward subject to the will of God, there is one advice, which, though little known, should be particularly attended to. It may seem a small circumstance; but it is of more consequence than one can easily imagine. It is this; never, on any account, give a child any thing that it cries for. For it is a true observation, (and you may make the experiment as often as you please,) If you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying: and then he will certainly cry again. “But if I do not give it him when he cries, he will scream all day long." If he does, it is your own fault; for it is in your power effectually to prevent it. For no mother need suffer a child to cry aloud after it is a year old. "Why, it
is impossible to hinder it." So many suppose; but it is an entire mistake. I am a witness of the direct contrary; and so are many others. My own mother had ten children, each of whom had spirit enough. Yet not one of them was ever heard to cry aloud, after it was a year old. A gentlewoman of Sheffield, (several of whose children I suppose are alive still,) assured me, she had the same success with regard to her eight children. When some were objecting to the possibility of this, Mr. Parson Greenwood, (well known in the North of England,) replied, "This cannot be impossible; I have had the proof of it in my own family. Nay, of more than this. I had six children by my former wife. And she suffered none of them to cry aloud, after they were ten months old. And yet none of their spirits were so broken, as to unfit them for any of the offices of life." This, therefore, may be done by any woman of sense, who may thereby save herself abundance of trouble, and prevent that disagreeable noise, the squawling of young children, from being heard under her roof. But I allow, none but a woman of sense will be able to effect this. Yea, and a woman of such patience and resolution, as only the grace of God can give. However, this is doubtless the more excellent way and she that is able to receive it, let her receive it!
17. It is hard to say, whether self-will or pride be the more fatal distemper. It was chiefly pride that threw down so many of the stars of heaven, and turned angels into devils. But what can parents do, in order to check this until it can be radically cured?,
First: Beware of adding fuel to the flame, of feeding the disease, which you should cure. Almost all parents are guilty of doing this, by praising their children to their face. If you are sensible of the folly and cruelty of this, see that you sacredly abstain from it. And in spite of either fear or complaisance, go one step farther. Not only do not encourage, but do not suffer others to do what you dare not do yourself. How few parents are sufficiently aware of this! Or, at least, sufficiently resolute to practise it. To check every one at the first word, that would praise
them before their face. Even those who would not, on any account, sit attentive to their own applause, nevertheless, do not scruple to sit attentive to the applause of their children. Yea, and that to their face! O consider! Is not this the spreading a net for their feet? Is it not a grievous incentive to pride, even if they are praised for what is truly praise-worthy? Is it not doubly hurtful, if they are praised for things not truly praise-worthy;-things of an indifferent nature, as sense, good breeding, beauty, elegance of apparel? This is liable not only to hurt the heart, but their understanding also. It has a manifest and direct tendency, to infuse pride and folly together: to pervert both their taste and judgment, teaching them to value what is dung and dross in the sight of God.
18. If, on the contrary, you desire, without loss of time, to strike at the root of their pride, teach your children, as soon as possibly you can, that they are fallen spirits; that they are fallen short of that glorious image of God, wherein they were first created; that they are not now, as they were once, incorruptible pictures of the God of glory; bearing the express likeness of the wise, the good, the holy Father of spirits; but more ignorant, more foolish, and more wicked, than they can possibly conceive. Shew them that, in pride, passion, and revenge, they are now like the devil. And that in foolish desires and grovelling appetites, they are like the beasts of the field. Watch over them diligently in this respect, that whenever occasion offers, you may "pride in its earliest motions find," and check the very first appearance of it.
If you ask, "But how shall I encourage them when they do well, if I am never to commend them?" I answer, I did not affirm this: I did not say, "You are never to commend them." I know, many writers assert this, and writers of eminent piety. They say, "To commend man, is to rob God," and therefore condemn it altogether. But what say the Scriptures? I read there, that our Lord himself frequently commended his own disciples: and the great Apostle scruples not to commend the Corinthians, Philip