« AnteriorContinuar »
accounted for, only on this one principle, that the early religious training, enjoyed and practised under the Patriarchal dispensation, was transfered to the Jewish dispensation, and was not overwhelmed by the multiplied ceremonies of the Mosaic law. Thus, it can be shown, was nurtured and matured, the piety of Samuel and David, of Symeon and Anna, and of all those, who, towards the close of the Jewish economy, were " waiting for the consolation of Israel," and
spake often, one to another” respecting that dayspring from on high, that Sun of righteousness, who was soon to arise, with “ healing in his wings.”
Nor, in Christianity, the last and best dispensation of the grace of God, is this masterprinciple discarded, or forgotten. - When our Lord commanded little children to be brought unto him; when he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them; when he declared, that each of his followers must “ enter into the kingdom of heaven as a little child;" when Saint Paul recognized in Saint Timothy, the faith which had dwelt in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, and reminded him, that, from a child he had known the holy Scriptures; when the same Saint Paul, exhorts all Christian parents, to “ bring up their children, in the nurture and admonition of the
Lord,” — in these and various passages of like import, we cannot but discern the identity, in this particular, of the Patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian schemes. In each, and in all of them, instruction is to be communicated in early youth; in each, and all of them, instruction is to be communicated, in order, that, through the grace of God, religion may become hereditary and transmissive; in each, and all of them, the religious institution of one generation, is intended to become the seed-plot of religion, in future generations, and in ages still to come.
There is no room, then, for mistaking the will of God, as to the way in which religion, his own revealed religion, should be communicated to mankind. But it is not enough, that we know the divine will concerning us; it is essential, also, that, so far as practicable, we acquaint ourselves with the grounds and reasons of that will. It is our bounden duty, in order to make this great law of revelation practically efficacious, that we enquire into its foundations and to this inquiry it is, that the text particularly invites us. The covenant made with Jacob, the law given unto Israel, God commanded the first generation of his people to teach their children: but, not satisfied with an authoritative command, he was graciously pleased to assign the reasons of it;
and thus, the duty of examining into this matter more largely for ourselves, is at once imposed, and impressed upon us.
Let us consider, therefore, in the first place, the natural causes which conduce to render a youthful training in religion, the best and most salutary training for man; why it is, that, if the child be trained up in the way he should go, when he is old he will not, probably, depart from it. Let us consider, secondly, the mode and process, in which early training will be most likely to produce its desired effect.
And, lastly, let us consider the character of this training, as exemplified in its fruits.
I. First, then, with respect to the reasonableness of this divine appointment. The text itself, sets forth one particular, of the widest and most comprehensive kind; namely, that provision is thus made, which could be made in no other imaginable way, for linking together, in the one true faith and worship, the successive generations of mankind. And viewed in this single light, the benefits of this injunction are incalculable. Religion, thus received, on the one hand, from the parent, and communicated, on the other, to the child, will, in the nature of things, be likely to expand, and improve in quality, from generation to generation. In no other manner, can the religious affections be so happily elicited, as by the union, in one and the same person, of the parent and instructor. For, each father, and each mother, in every lesson that they give, will thus recall, by the strongest and most delightful associations, the tenderness and feeling, with which, lessons of the same kind, had been imparted to themselves, by parents now no more. Never, perhaps, do children arise, and so emphatically call their departed parents blessed, as when they are communicating Christian instruction to children of their own.
Thus, our best natural affections are enlisted in the service of religion; and the piety and goodness of generations that are past, are the pledge and preparation, of equal piety, and equal goodness, in generations still to come.
It is a peculiar advantage of this mode of training, that it gives, in the infant mind and heart, the pre-occupancy to right views and feelings. The importance of first impressions, has, at all times, been acknowledged and enforced, by all moralists. But its religious importance, is transcendantly great. And here, it is matter of thankfulness, that, in the department where first impressions are, beyond comparison, the most important, they are, if the right course be pursued, the most easily secured. In all ordinary pursuits, in all which relate to this world, as contradistinguished from the next, we must become proficients, through the exercise of reason and of taste. In religion, it is otherwise. Here, we must become proficients, chiefly by the right engagements of our affections. Now, it is certain, that our reason and our taste are of slow growth, and not promptly forthcoming at a tender age; while, it is equally certain, that, from the very first, the affections are in full vigour, in full play, and perhaps, in their most perfect state. The seeds of the future artist or poet, or politician, or philosopher, cannot be sown, till the reason and the taste are somewhat developed ; that is, till the infant has, at least, become the child; perhaps, we may say, till the child is grown into the youth. But, in earlier infancy, the affections are at once the most readily engaged, and the most deeply interested. And, in the soil of the affections, the seeds of Christianity may be sown, by a judicious parent, long before it shall be possible even to suggest, with any hopes of being understood, the difference between one and another of the common walks and professions of life. But this is not all; for while, in earliest infancy, the affections, the great auxiliaries of religion, are most impressible, in earliest infancy, too,