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Sixthly.—Bad companions out of the house, counteract all the influence of religious instruction delivered at home.
A christian parent should ever be on the alert to watch the associations which his children are inclined to form. On this subject, I have said much to the young themselves in the following work: but it is a subject which equally concerns the parent. One ill chosen friend of your children's may undo all the good you are the means of doing at home. It is impossible for you to be sufficiently vigilant on this point. From their very infancy, encourage them to look up to you as the selectors of their companions; impress them with the necessity of this, and produce a habit of consulting you at all times. Never encourage an association which is not likely to have a decidedly friendly influence on their religious character. This caution was
never more necessary than in the present age. Young people are brought very much together by the religious institutions which are now formed, and although there is a great probability that in such a circle suitable companions will be found, yet it is too much even for charity to believe, that all the active young friends of Sunday Schools, Juvenile Missionary Societies, &c. &c. are fit companions for our sons and our daughters. Encourage them to consider you their chief friends; and so act towards them that they shall want no other. On this subject you will find a few remarks, in a note, in the following work.
Seventhly.---The schisms which sometimes arise in our churches, and embitter the minds of chris
tians against each other, have a very unfriendly influence upon the minds of the young.
They see so much that is opposite to the spirit and genius of christianity in both parties, and enter so deeply into the views and feelings of one of them, that their attention is drawn off from the essentials of religion, or their prejudices raised against them. I look upon this to be one of the most painful and mischievous consequences of ecclesiastical contentions.
Eighthly.— The neglect of young persons by our churches and their pastors, is another impediment to the success of domestic religious instruction.
This, however, does not so much appertain to parents in their separate capacity, as in their relation as members of a christian society, and even in this relation it belongs less to them than to their pastors. There is a blank yet to be filled up in reference to the treatment of the young, who are not in church communion. As a Dissenter, I object of course to the rite of Confirmation as practised in the established church : but we want something, I will not say like it, but in lieu of it. We want something that shall recognise the young, interest them, attract them, guard them.*
Ninthly.-- The spirit of filial independence, which is sanctioned by the habits, if not by the opinions of the age, is another lindrance, and the last which I shall mention, to the good effect contemplated and desired by a religious education.
The disposition, which is but too apparent in this age, to enlarge the privileges of the chil
* See an excellent sernion by the Rev. J. Bennett, entitled “ The duties of the Churches towards the Rising Generation.”
dren by diminishing the prerogative of their parents, is neither for the comfort of the latter, nor for the wellbeing of the former. Rebellion against a justly constituted authority can never be in any case a blessing, and all-wise parents, together with all-wise youth, will unite in supporting that just parental authority, which however the precocious manhood of some might feel to be an oppression, the more natural and slowly approaching 'maturity of others, will acknowledge to be a blessing. Children who find the parental yoke a burden, are not very likely to look upon that of Christ as a benefit.*
Such, my dear friends, as they appear to my mind, are the principal obstacles to the success of those efforts which are carried on by many for the religious education of their children. Seriously consider them: and having looked at them endeavour to avoid them. Survey them as the mariner does the flame of the lighthouse, for the purpose of avoiding the rock on which it is placed. Recognise your children, as every Christian 'parent should do, not only as animal, rational, social beings, but as immortal creatures, lost sinners, beings invited to eternal life through the mediation of Christ; and while you neglect not any one means that can promote their comfort, reputation, and usefulness in this world, concentrate your chief solicitude, and employ your noblest energies in a scriptural, judicious, persevering scheme of religious education._“Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." * There is a very useful sermon of Dr. Winter's on the subject of
CHRISTIAN FATHER'S PRESENT
TO HIS CHILDREN.
On the anxiety of a Christian parent for the
spiritual welfare of his children. MY DEAR CHILDREN,
Never did I pass a more truly solemn or interesting moment, than that in which my
firstborn child was put into my arms, and I felt that I was a father. A new solicitude was then produced in my bosom, which every succeeding day has tended to confirm and strengthen. I looked up to heaven, and breathed over my babe the petition of Abraham for his son, “ O that Ishmael might live before thee." Recognising, in the little helpless being which had been so lately introduced into our world, a creature born for eternity, and who, when the sun was extinguished, would be still soaring in heaven, or sinking in hell, I retired to the closet of private devotion, and solemnly dedicated the child to that God, who had given me the precious boon; and earnestly prayed, that whatever might be his lot in this world, he might be a partaker of true piety, and numbered with the saints in glory everlasting.
During the days of your infancy I watched you, together with your sainted mother, with
all the fondness of a parent's heart. We have smiled upon you when you were slumbering in healthful repose; we have wept over you when tossed with feverish restlessness and pain; we have been the delighted spectators of your childish sports; we have witnessed with pleasure the developement of your intellectual powers; and have often listened with somewhat of pride, to the commendations bestowed upon your persons and attainments ;--but, amidst all, one deep solicitude took hold on our minds, which nothing could either divert or abate, and that is, a deep anxiety for your spiritual welfare, --for your religious character.
You cannot doubt, my children, that your parents love
you. We have, in all your recollections, a witness to this.
We have, as you know, done every thing to promote your welfare, and, so far as was compatible with this object, your pleasure also. We have never denied you a gratification which our duty and ability allowed us to impart; and if at any time we have been severe in reproof, even this was a more awful form of love. We have spared no expense in your education; in short, love, an intense love, of which you can at present form no adequate conception, has been the secret spring of all our conduct towards you; and as the strongest proof, and purest effort of our affection, we wish you to be partakers of true piety. Did we not cherish this anxiety, we shoul feel that, amidst every other expression of regard, we were acting towards you a most cruel and unnatural part. Genuine love desires and seeks for the objects on which it is fixed, the greatest benefits of which they are capable ;