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of those feeds which were fown in infancy, but had been long stified by the violence of youthful passions, or the pursuits of ambition and the hurry of an active life. I have known several instances of the instructions, long neglected, of deceased parents, at last rising up, asserting their authority, and producing the deepest penitence and real reformation. But my experiences furnishes me with no example of one brought up in ignorance and security, after a long course of profaneness, turning, at the close of life, to the service of the living God. The most com. mon case is, that the deep sleep continues to the last, and, as the saying is, they die as they live; though in some inftances, when the fins have been of the grosselt kind, con. science awakens at their going off the stage, and they seem, as it were, to begin the torments of hell with the terror of despair.
You will find in some practical writers an opinion, or sentiment, that seems not ill-founded to the following pur. pole, "Some are called at the eleventh hour that none 'may despair,' and there are few, that none may prefume. Others make a distinction, not without ground, as it seems founded upon the wisdom and equity of the divine government; That when the gospel comes to a people that had long fitten in darkness, there may be numerous converts of all ages; but when the gospel has been long preached in pienty and purity, and ordinances regularly administered, few but those who are called in early life are ever called at all. A very judicious and pious writer, Mr. Richard Baxter, is of opinion, that in a regular state of the church, and a tolerable measure of faithfulness and purity in its officers, family instruction and government are the usual means of conversion, public ordinances of edification. This seems agreeable to the language of fcripture; for we are told God hath set in the church " apostles, prophets, evangelilis, pastors and teachers,” (not for converting finners, but) " for perfeeling of the " faints for the work of the ministry, and the edifying of " the body of Christ.” it seems to add further weight to this, that most of those who are recorded in fcripture as eminent for piety, were called in early life; and we know not but it may have been the case with others, though not particularly mentioned: Those I have in view, are Abra. ham, Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jofiah, Daniel, and the three Children, in the Old Testament, and in the New, John Baptist and John the beloved disciple ; of whom I may just observe, that no other reason has ever been given for the Saviour's distinguishing him by particular affection, but that he was the youngest of the twelve.
6. In the last place, this declaration implies that the comparative innocence of children is a lesson to us, and an emblem of the temper and carriage of Christ's real difciples. This instruction we are not left to infer for our- . felves. Our Lord has made the remark in the passage where the text lies, “ Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter there.
This is directly levelled against the pride of selffufficiency, and every rough and boifterous paffion. It is remarkable that the very fame image is made use of in several palsages of scripture. Thus, Matth. xviii. 1, 2, 3,
“ At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? “ And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in “ the midst of them, and faid, verily I say unto you, ex* cept ye be converted, and become as little children, ye “ fhall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Wholo" ever, therefore shall humble himself as this little child, " the fame is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So. also the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiv. 20. “ Brethren, be not “ children in understanding: howbeit
, in malice be ye “ children, but in understanding be men :"-And fur. ther, 1 Peter ii. 1, 2. “Wherefore laying aside all ma“ lice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and " all evil speakings, -as new-born babes, desire the fin. “ cere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”— The graces of the fpiritual life recommended to us by this beautiful image, are humility, gentleness, teachableness, fincerity, and easiness to be reconciled: all which are remarkable in young persons, and are frequently lost or vitiated by growing years.
Í come now to make a practical improvement of the fubject, which shall be confined to pointing out the duties fuggested by the foregoing truths, as they are severally incumbent on, 1. parents; 2. children; 3. every hearer of the gospel.
1. Let us consider the duties incumbent on parents. Is it so, that of children or infants the Redeemer said, of such is the kingdom of God? Then parents should be (1) thankful. Thankfulness is a happy frame of spirit in itself, and powerfully reconciles the mind to difficult, and animates it to important duties. Be thankful then for the honor that is done you, for the trust that is reposed in you, and for the encouraging promise of God to aflift and accept of you in the discharge of it. “ Children are the “ gift of God, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” I cannot easily figuré to myself any greater earthly blessing than to have children to be the objects of your care and diligence while you live, and to inherit your name and substance, when you yourselves must, in the course of na. ture, go off the stage. And is it a little honor to be intrusted with the care of these rational creatures of God, . born for immortality, and whose present peace and future welfare depend so much on your conduct ? Are you not called to prepare members for the church of Chrift?“ for of such is his kingdom ;” and however important the ministry of the gospel is (which I should be the last to detract from) you may know, that it is out of a minister's power to speak to the understanding of those who are not prepared by previous instruction. But above all, how thankful fhould you be for the encouragement given you to bring your children to the Saviour, and the promise of his blessing. “ He took them up in his arms, laid " his hands on them and blessed them.' Fathers ! Mothers! What ground of praise to the condescending Saviour !
(2.) Be early and diligent in instruction. This is the great and substantial evidence you are called to give of your thankfulness for the mercy. You have heard that children are much niore early capable of receiving beVOL. II.
nefit by outward means than is commonly supposed : Let not, therefore, the devil and the world be too far before. hand with you, in posseffing their fancy, engaging their affections, and misleading their judgment. Is it a fable, or do I speak truth when I say, many children learn to fwear before they learn to pray. It is indeed affecting to a serious mind, to hear children lisping out ill-pronounced oaths, or scurrilous and scolding abufe, or even impurities which they do not understand; so that the firft fentiments they form, and the first words they utter, are those of impiety, malice, or obscenity. Nay I have seen children in their mother's arms actually taught to fcold, by uttering angry founds, before they could speak one word with distinctness. It is wholly impoffible for me here to introduce a system of directions as to the method of early instruction ; this must be learned elsewhere and at another time; but I mean to impress your minds with a sense of the importance and necessity of the duty, and I will add, the efficacy of it. Remember the connection between the duty and the promise" Train up a child in " the way he should go, and when he is old he will not deu part from it."
from it.” I knew a pious and judicious minister, who affirmed, that we did not give credit to that part of God's word if we did not believe the certainty of the promise, as well as the obligation of the duty; he was of opi. nion, that every parent, when he seemed to fail, should conclude that he himself had been undutiful, and not that God had been unfaithfu!.
(3.) Be circumfpect and edifying in your example. All the arguments that press the former exhortation, apply with the same, perhaps I may fay, with double force to this. Example is itself the most powerful and successful instruction; and example is necessary to give meaning and influence to all other instruction. This is one of the oldest maxims upon the subject of education ;- The Roman satyrist says, “ Nil dictu visuve foedum hæc “limina tangat intra quæ puer ell.” Let nothing base be feen or heard within there walls in which a child is. And if children naturally form their sentiments, habits and manners, by imitation of others in general, how much more powerful must be the example of parents, who are every hour in their fight, whom nature teaches them, and whom duty obliges them to love, and when it comes recommended by the continual intercourse, and the endearing services that flow from that intimate relation.
(4.) Lastly, parents are taught here perseverance and importunity in prayer. This, indeed, is an important thing upon every fubject of our requests to God. Our Saviour spoke a parable on purpose to teach men, that they should pray and not faint, Luke xviii. 1. And if we are called to believe, that “if we ask any thing agree" able to his will, he heareth us," what more agreeable to his will than frequent and importunate prayer for the temporal and spiritual happiness of children—What a support this to the faith of prayer. You ought, at the same time, to remember that, as the prophet Jeremiah says, “it is good for a man to hope and quietly to wait " for the salvation of God.” The answer of prayer may come at a much greater distance than we are apt to look for it. There is a remarkable anecdote handed down to us, respecting the famous St. Auguftine. He was the son of an eminently pious woman, whose name was Monica, yet he was in his youth very loose and disorderly. One of his fellow-citizens, it is said, seeing him pass along the Street, reflected upon him with great severity, as a disgrace to society; but another made answer, that he was not without hopes of him after all, for he thought it next to impoffible that the son of so many prayers should perilh.And we know, that in fact, he became in due time one of the most eminent champions for evangelical truth, There is not the least doubt that many prayers, and especially of this kind, may have their answer and accomplishment after the believer that offered them has been many years sleeping in the dust,
2. The truths above illustrated, fuggest important advices to children, tha! is, to such young persons as are able to understand and apply them. (1.) Preserve a tenderness of heart, and be thankful that you are not yet