Page images

the Old Testament, infants were to receive the feal on the eighth day. Now there is no set time, but common equity bids take the first opportunity, and not delay it needlessly. The undue delay of circumcision was punished in Mofes, Exod. iv. 24. ; and the delay of baptism cannot but be difpleasing to God too, as a slighting of his ordinance.

3dly, Tender care of them, doing all things necessary for them, while they are not capable to do for themselves, If. xlix. 15. And here it is the duty of the mother to nurse the child herself, if she be able, Hof. ix. 14. And this care of infants, the burden of which lies most on the mothers, is one great piece of their generation-work, wherein they are useful for God, and which they ought to look on as special service for their comfort in the trouble which therein they have.

3. The duties they owe to them from the time they come to the use of reason, and fo forward.

1st, They are to provide for them, and that aye and until they be in a capacity to provide for themselves, 1 Tim. v. 8. This arises from the natural obligation and instinct that is common to men with beasts whereof the wildest will feed their young till they be able to do for themselves. Thus parents are, (1.) To provide suitable maintenance for their children for the present, and to lay out themselves for it, though with the sweat of their brows. (2.) And, as God profpers them, they are to lay up something for them, 2 Cor. xü. 14. ; for though the possession be their parent's entirely, yet he is stinted to the use of a part, according to what is necessary. Only no man is to take from present necessities for future provisions ; but what God has given, let men take the comfortable use of it; and what remains, let them lay by for their children, Eccl. ii. 18, 19. 24. But for people to deny themselves things necessary and comely, that they may lay them up for their children, is a curse; and if their children should follow their example, to deny themselves the use thereof, to transmit them to theirs, the use of it should never be had : but ordinarily what the parents narrowly gather, and keep so as they cannot take the convenient use of it themselves, the children quickly run through.

2dly, Civil education, that they may be useful members of the commonwealth. This we may take up in these three things

(1.) Parents should polish the rude natures of their children with good manners, so as they may carry comely and discreetly before themselves or others, Prov. xxxi. 28. It is the dishonour of parents to see children rude and altogether unpolished as young beasts; and religion is an enemy to rudeness and ill manners, 1 Pet. iii. 8.

(2.) They should give them learning according to their ability, and see that at least they be taught to read the Bible, 2 Tim. iii. 15. What is it that makes so many ignorant old people, but that their parents have neglected this ? But where parents have neglected this, grace and good nature would make a shift to supply this defect.

(3.) They should train them up to do something in the way of some honest employment, whereby they may be useful to themselves or others. To nourish children in idleness is but to prepare them for prisons or correction-houses, or to be plagues to some one family or another, if Providence do not mercifully interpose, Prov. xxxi. 27. Christians should train

up their daughters to do virtuously, ver. 29. For their own sakes, let them be capable to make their hands fufficient for them, seeing none know what straits they may be brought to. And for the sake of others to whom he may be joined, let them be virtuously, frugally, and actively educated, otherwise what they bring with them will hardly quit the cost of the mischief that their unthriftiness and filliness will produce, Prov. xiv. 3. Whether ye can give them something or no. thing, let them not want Ruth's portion, a good name, a good head, and good hands, Ruth iii. 11. Sons should be brought up to some honest employment, whereby they may be worth their room in the world, Gen, iv. 2. This is such a necessary piece of parents duty to their children, that the Athenians had a law, That if a son was brought up to no calling at all, in case his father should come to poverty, he was not bound to maintain him, as otherwise he was,

3dly, Religious education, Eph. vi. 4. If parents provide not for their children, they are worse than beasts to their young; if they give them not civil education, they are worse than heathens; but if they add not religious education, what do they more than civilised heathens ? When God gives thee a child, he says, as Pharaoh's daughter to Moses' mother, « Take this child and nurse it for me,” Exod. ii. 9. Though we be but fathers of their flesh, we must be careful of their souls, otherwise we ruin them.

(1.) Parents ought to instruct their children in the principles of religion, and to sow the feeds of godliness in their hearts, as soon as they are able to speak, and have the use of reason, Deut. vi. 6, 7. Such early religious education is a blessed mean of grace, 1 Kings xviii. 12. compare ver. 3. Not only is this the duty of fathers, who should teach their children, Prov. iv. 3, 4. ; but of mothers, who, while the children are young about their hand, should be dropping something to them for their fouls good. Solomon had not only his father's lesson, but the prophecy his mother taught him, Prov. xxxi. 1. See chap. i. 8.

(2.) They should labour for that end to acquaint them with the scriptures, 2 Tim. iii. 15. to cause them to read them. Let the reading of their chapters be a piece of their daily task; and cause them read the fcriptures in order, that they may be acquainted both with the precepts and histories of the Bible. Let them be obliged to learn their Catechism, and catechise them yourselves, according to your ability. For teaching by way of question and answer is most easy for them.

(3.) If they ask you any questions concerning these things, do not discourage them, but take pains to answer all their questions, however weakly they may be proposed, Deut. vi. 20, 21.

Children are often found to have very mishapen notions of divine things; but if they were duly encouraged to speak, they might vent their thoughts, which parents thus get occasion to rectify.

4thly, Labour to deter them from fin. The neglect of this was Eli's sin, for which God judged his house, 1 Sam. iii

. 13. Endeavour to possess their hearts with an abhorrence of sinful practices, and a dread of them. Carefully check their lying, swearing, cursing, or banning, and Sabbathbreaking. If they learn these while young, they will be fair to accompany them to gray hairs. Let them not dare to meddle with what is another man's, if it were not worth a farthing. Encourage them in taking up little things, and they may come in time to bring themselves to an ill end, and you to disgrace.

5thly, Stir them up to the duties of holiness, and the practice of religion. Often inculcate on them the doctrine of their finful and miserable state by nature, and the remedy provided in Christ. Shew them the necessity of holiness, pointing out Christ to them as the fountain of sanctification. Commend religion to them, and press them to the study of it, as the main thing they have to do in the world, Prov. iv. 4. &c.

6thly, Pray with them, and teach them to pray. For this cause let not the worship of God be neglected in your families; but for your childrens fake maintain it. No wonder that those children seek not God who never see their parents bow a knee. Ye should take them alone, and pray with them, and teach them to pray, laying the materials of prayer often before them; and let them learn the Lord's prayer, and use it as a form till such time as they can conceive a prayer by that directory. For though we do not think the Lord has bound us to that form, (if he has, the forms of the English liturgy are most impertinent, which intrude themselves on us, and do not leave us to it), yet that it may not be used as a prayer, or as a form, I know none that do affirm ; though it is plain it is principally intended for a directory in prayer, Matth. vi. 9.

Lastly, They should often be put in mind of their baptifmal vows: and I judge it adviseable, that when ye have been at pains to instruct them in the principles of religon, and they have attained to a tolerable measure of knowledge, so that with judgment they may personally consent to the covenant, as a child religiously educated may be able to do betwixt nine and twelve years of age, if not before; it would be profitable to call them before you, and folemnly declare how ye have laboured to do your duty to them, as ye en. gaged in their baptism, and require them expressly to confent unto the covenant for themselves; taking them personally engaged to be the Lord's

4. Correction, Eph. vi. 4. The Greek word there signifies both correction and instruction ; and so does the English word nurture. They must go together ; for instruction without correction will hardly succeed. Parents must keep their children in subjection; if they lose their authority over them, the children will be children of Belial indeed, without a yoke, the end of which will be fad, Prov. xxix. 15. They must not only be corrected by reproof, but, when need is, with stripes, Prov. xix. 18. Begin early, as soon as they are capable to be bettered by it; and let your love to them engage you to it, and not restrain you, Prov. xiii. 24. As ever ye would keep them out of hell, correct them, Prov. xxiii

. 13, 14. I offer the following advices in this point. (1.) Take heed ye correct not your children just to satisfy your own passion ; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. That is revenge, not correction. Let the end of your correction be the child's good. It were good that parents, if they find themselves in a paflion, would first beat down their own disordered spirits before they beat the child.

(2.) Let them know well wherefore ye correct them : for if the child know not what he has done amiss, he can never be bettered by the correction. And therefore pains should be taken to convince them of the evil of the thing; otherwise we deal not with them as rational creatures.

(3.) Consider well the disposition of the child. That feverity may be necessary for one, that will quite crush another. A man will not take his staff to thresh his corn, nor yet his flail to beat out kail-feed. Measure your correction, then, by the child's disposition.

(4.) Go about the work with an eye to the Lord for fuc. cess. Correct thy child in faith of the promise, Prov. xxii. 15. “ Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him," viz. as a mean appointed and blessed of God for that end. It is our belief, and not our blows, that will do the business. And no doubt the neglect of this is one main cause why correction oft-times does no good.

Lastly, Take heed ye correct not your children only for faults against yourselves, letting them pass with their fins against God. Many will give them a blow for a disrespectful word against themselves, who for lying, banning, Sabbath-breaking, will never touch them. Their children's crossing of them must not go unpunished, but it will be long ere they correct them for their fins against God.

5. The casting them the copy of a good example, Psal. ci. 2. Children are apt to imitate their parents, but especially in evil. He that fins before a child, fins twice, for he may expect that his sin shall be acted over again. Let them, then, not see you do any thing ye would not have them to do, nor speak words ye would not have them to follow you in.

« PreviousContinue »