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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 seeds 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 xviij. 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 souls 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 scriptures 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 sin. 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 sinful 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 sake 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 Englishliturgy 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 baptismal vows: and I judge it adviseable, that when ye have been at pains to instruct them in the principles of religion, and they have attained to a tolerable measure of knowledge, so that with judgment they may personally consent to the co venant, as a child religiously educated may be able to do be twixt nine and twelve years of age, if not before; it would be profitable to call them before you, and solemnly declare: how ye have laboured to do your duty to them, as ye engaged in their baptism. and require them expressly to con sent unto the covenant for themselves; taking them per. sonally 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 sad, 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 passion, would first beat down their own disordered spirits before they beat
(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 severity 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-seed. Measure your correction, then, by the child's disposition.
(4.) Go about the work with an eye to the Lord for success. 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 ofttimes does no good.
Lastly, Take heed ye correct not your children only for faults against yourselves, letting them pass with their sins 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 sins 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 sins before a child, sins 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.
Your good precept will not stick, if it be not fastened with a good example.
6. Encouraging of them to do well; and when they do well, with kind looks, speeches, and actions, 1 Chron. xxviii. 20. Ingenuous spirits are but abused, when they are always driven by way of authority, and not drawn in the way of kindness. The name of a father and mother sounds of bowels of kindness; it is a pity it should ever degenerate into the nature of mere masterly authority.
7. Lastly, Seasonable disposing of them in marriage, if need be, Ruth iii, 1. 1 Cor. vii. 36. So did Abraham with his son Isaac, Gen. xxiv; and Isaac with his son Jacob, Gen. xxviii; always consulting their own inclinations, not forcing them to this or that marriage against their will, which is but either to oblige them to disobey their parents, or to make themselves miserable to please them. The neglect of this duty may prove a snare to the child, and bring grief and sorrow to both.
4. There is a duty they owe to them at all times; and that is praying for them. Sometimes this is all they have ac cess to do for them. But be they never so far away, they should not be forgotten. Though they be out of your family, they should not be out of your prayers, as Job's children were not, Job i. 5. And parents should consider the several cases of their children, and be very particular before the Lord for them. It is marked of Job, that he offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all,' ib. And though in some cases this may not be convenient in family-prayers, yet, in secret, parents should have their particular petitions for their particular children, according to their particular cases.
5. Lastly, The duty that parents when a-dying owe to their children. We must all die, and leave our children, else they will leave us before. Lay up these few advices, then, for that time.
(1.) If providence surprise you not, call together your children, that you may do them good by your advice at your latter end, as Jacob did, Gen. xlix. 1. And do it timeously, lest, if you delay, you be not able to speak to them when you would. A word from a death-bed has usually more influence than ten words in a time of health; and words spoken with the dying breath of a parent are fair to stick.
(2.) Lay over your children whom ye are to leave, on the Lord himself; and whether ye have any thing to leave them or not, leave them on your covenanted God by faith, Jer. xlix. 11. Accept of the covenant now, renew it then, and lay the stress of their through-bearing on that God on whom ye have laid the stress of your own souls.
(3.) Give them your testimony for God, against sin, and concerning the vanity of the world. If ye have had any experience of religion, commend Christ and the way of the Lord, to them from your own experience, Gen. xlviii. 15, 16. If ye have had experience of the evil and bitterness of sin, shew them the ill of it. What courses ye have found profitable for your soul, and what hurtful; mark these to them particularly. If experience fail, yet conscience may help you out, if awakened, to this testimony.
(4.) Give them your dying advice to make choice of Christ as their portion, and holiness as their way, to cleave to it, living and dying in it. And what faults ye know are in any of them, which ye could not before get reformed, let your dying lips again reprove, exhort, obtest, and testify against, if so be they may be persuaded to hearken at last.
(5.) Bless them, in praying for them to God, the fountain of blessing; declaring withal, that they shall be blessed, if they keep the way of the Lord.
(6.) Let your temporal affairs be so ordered, as that after your decease they may not be a snare to your children, a bone of contention, or an occasion of grudge, one of them against another, Isa. xxxviii. 1.
Use 1. This serves for conviction and humiliation to those that are in that relation. In these things we offend all, both in the matter and manner of duty; which may send us to the Father of mercies, through Christ, for grace to remove our guilt, and to fit us to reform.
2. I exhort parents to be dutiful to their children, according to the will of God laid before you in his word. For motives, consider,
(1.) The strong tie of natural affection laid upon you, Our children are parts of ourselves, and therefore our bowels should yearn towards them, moving us to do them all the good we can. There are three things that may make our affection work towards dutifulness to them.
[1.] They have sin conveyed to them by natural genera.