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SERMON XVII.

THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF THE YOUNG.

1 CHRONICLES xxviii., 9. And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father,

and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind.

TAE words of the text exhibit the character of king David in a very amiable point of view. We find him retaining to the close of life that zeal for the glory of God, and for the interests of true religion, by which he had been so highly distinguished throughout the course of it. It is true, that, surrounded as he was by the temptations of royalty, he had not, in every instance, been found capable of resisting them, but had been betrayed at times into acts of intemperance and tyranny, which exposed him to the indignation of his subjects, and drew down upon him the severe displeasure of the Almighty. It would seem, however, that, in all such cases, he was rather a thoughtless, than a hardened sinner. The acts of wickedness into which he suffered himself to be betrayed, were succeeded by the bitterest repentance; and the expressions of his penitence, which have been handed down to us in the Book of Psalms, are little less edifying than the effusions of his piety. The same ardour of devotional feeling which, at an early period of life, obtained for him the honourable appellation of the man after God's own heart, continued to animate him to his latest hour; and we find the closing period of his reign employed in collecting materials to facilitate the erection of that vast and magnificent structure which he knew that he was not himself to be allowed the satisfaction of beholding. This disinterested zeal, my friends, for the promotion of the Divine glory amongst men, deserves our imitation, and more particularly that exhibition of it which is made in the passage from which the text is taken, where we find the venerable monarch exhorting his son Solomon, in the most affectionate and impressive language, to cultivate the same temper of mind, and abide by the same principles.

“ And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

Our present object, in the selection of these words, is to direct your attention to a subject of the greatest importance; we mean the religious education of your children.

We know of no concern in the management of which the friends of rational religion have, generally speaking, been more wanting to themselves, than this most important one of education. The unoccupied condition of the youthful mind presents us with a fine opportunity of scattering the seeds of religious knowledge; but it is an opportunity which has been too frequently neglected. Our brethren of other denominations, on the contrary, have been indefatigable in the application of this powerful engine to the maintenance and propagation of what we are forced to regard as their erroneous opinions. They have spared no pains to familiarise the minds of the young with those unscriptural and revolting doctrines, which too frequently occur to us in the perusal of their confessions and articles of faith; and their efforts have been too successful. Were we called upon to name the most powerful props hy which established error is

supported, we should feel strongly tempted to pass by unnoticed, or to rank among subordinate supporters, its connection with the state, the monarch's smile, and the influence of fashion ; to

omit the talents and virtues by which so many of its members are distinguished, the learning that dignifies, the wealth that adorns, the nobility that illustrates, and the antiquity that hallows it; to overlook even its stalls, and its mitres, and its archiepiscopal thrones, and to lay our fingers upon its catechism. Yes, my friends, it is here, even in its very cradle, that the intellect of man is strangled by the serpents of an irrational and unscriptural theology; it is here, while the innocent victim is incapable of resistance, that those iron fetters are imposed, which, when once rivetted, it would require the strength of a Sampson to break asunder. Let us do justice, however, to all parties. We cheerfully admit that, however erroneous we may conceive such opinions to be, those who are satisfied of their truth are the more deserving of our respect for their diligence in disseminating them. Let us add, likewise, that they are well worthy of our imitation. Let us strive to emulate their diligence. Let us shew that we can be as active in the inculcation of truth, as we believe them to be in that of error. Let us prove to the world that we entertain some value for our opinions, and not for our own peculiar opinions merely, but for religion in general, by our anxiety to bequeath them to our children. Let the language of every parent to his child agree with the words of King David: “Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind."

The notion of a religious education involves several important particulars. Parents are required, in the first place, to set their children a good example, both in a moral and in a religious point of view. Without this, every exertion which they can make must prove, in a great measure, useless. The human mind, in its infancy as well as in its maturity, is so formed as to be always disposed to give credit to actions rather than to words, where they seem to contradict one another; and you do not require to be told, that children are very close observers in matters of this description. The man, therefore, who lives in the known practice of vice, or in the known neglect of moral or religious duties, is incapable of bestowing upon his children a religious education. To be in the constant habit, for

years together, of accompanying a parent to the house of worship, and of kneeling beside him at family prayer, and, during the whole of this time, never to have heard or witnessed anything that could throw the slightest shadow of an imputation upon his moral character, must undoubtedly do more towards the formation of a truly religious and virtuous character in a child,

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