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practice. They slight the religion which their parents have taught them, that they may appear to have chosen a religion for themRelves; and when they have made a creed or belief of their own, or rather borrowed some scraps of infidelity from their vain compagions and equals, they find pretences enough to cast off all Other creeds at once, as well as the counsels and custoins of their religious predecessors.
The practices of our fathers (say they) were precise and foolish, and shall be no rule for our conduct ; the articles of their faith were absurd and mysterious, but we will believe nothing of mystery, lest our faith should be as ridiculous as theirs. In their younger years, and before their reason is half-grown, they pretend to examine the sublimest doctrines of cliristianity; and a raw and half-witted boy shall commence an infidel, because he cannot comprehend some of the glorious trutlis of the gospel; and laughs at his elders and his ancestors, for believing what they could not comprehend.
The child now-a-days forgets that his parent is obliged, by all the laws of God and nature, to train hin up in his own religion, till he is coine to the proper age of discretion to judge for himself; he forgets, or he will not know, that the parent is en trusted with the care of the souls of bis young offspring by the very laws of nature, as well as by the revealed covenants of innocency and of grace. The son now-a-days forgets the obligations he is under to bonour and obey the persons that gave him birth; he pays no regard to the doctrines which led on his ancestors to the love of God and man; whereas doctrines that have such influence, claim at least some degrees of attention, and especially from a son who has been trained up in them, and beheld the effect of them in the piety of his parents ; nor will the very light of nature suffer him to depart from them, but upon the clearest judgment of his own mature reason, a thorouglı and impartial search into the subject, the loud inward dictates of his conscience, and the full evidence of his parent's mistake.
So wanton and licentious a spirit has possessed some of the youth of the nation, that they never think they have freed themselves from the prejudices of iheir education, till they have thrown off almost all the yokes of restraint that were laid upou them by God or man.
Some take a particular pride in laying aside the holy scriptures, for the same reason that Timotiiy was advised to continue in them; and that is, because they have learned and known them from their very childhood; 2 Tim. iij. 15. And some, perhaps have been laughed out of their christianity, lest it should be said, their mothers and their nurses had made thein christians.
Heretofore the sons were scarcely suffered to be absent from bome an hour, without express leave, till they were arrived at the age of a man, nor daughters till they were married ; now both sexes take an unbounded licence of roving where they please and from a dozen years oll, they forgot to ask leave to wander or to visit where their fancies lead them ; at first the parent gives a loose and winks at it, and then the child claims it as bis due for ever. In short, the last age taught mankind to believe that they were mere children, and treated them as such, till they were near thirty years old; but the present gives them leave to fancy themselves complete men and women at twelve or fifteen ; and they accordingly judge and manage for themselves entirely, and too often despise all advice of their elders.
Now, though it be sufficiently evident that both these are extremes of liberty or restraint, yet if we judge by the reason of things, or by experience and success, surely the ancient education is to be preferred before the present, and of the two should rather be chosen. If we would determine this by reason, it is easy to see that a father of fifty or sixty years old, is fitter to judge for his son at four and twenty, in many matters of importance, than a boy of fifteen is to judge for himself. Or, if we would decide the matter by experience, it is plaio enough that the posterity of the former generation (who are the fathers and the grandfathers of the present) bad more of serious religion and true virtue amongst them, than there is any hope or prospect of among the greatest part of their children and grand children. And if I would use a bold metaphor, I might venture to say with truth, the last century has brought forth more solid fruits of goodness, than the present can yet show in blossoms ; and in my opinion, this is much owing to the neglect of the pruning-knife.
But after all, is there no medium between these two extremes, excess of confinement, and excess of liberty ? May not young understandings be allowed to shoot and spread theinselves a little, without growing rank and rampant ? May not children be kept in a due and gentle subjection to their parents, without putting yokes of bondage on them? Is there no reasonable restraint of the wild opinions and violent inclinations of youth, without making chains for the understanding, and throwing fetters on the soul? May not the young gentleman begin to act like a man, without forgetting that he is a son? And maintain the full liberty of his own judgment without insolence and contempt of the opinions of his elders ? May not he who is bred up a Protestant and a Christian, judge freely for himself, without the prejudices of bis education, and yet continue a Christian and a Protestant still? Is it not possible for the parent to indulge and the child to enjoy a just liberty, and yet neither encourage nor practise a wild licentiousness?
Yes, surely; and there have been bappy instances in the
last age, and there are some in this, both of parents and children, that have learned to tread this middle path, and found wisdom and virtue in it, piety and peace. Agathus has bred his son up under such discipline, as renders them both proper examples to the world.
Eugenio is just out of his minority, and in the twenty-second year of his age he practises the man with all that virtue and decency, which makes his father's acquaintance covet his company; and indeed they may learn by his discourse the art of good reasoning, as well as the precepts of piety from his example.He is an entertaining companion to the gay young gentlemen bis equals ; and yet divines and philosophers take a pleasure to have Engeuio amongst them. He is caressed by his superiors in honour and years; and though he is released from the discipline of parental education, yet he treats the lady his mother, with all that affectionate duty that could be desired or demanded of him ten years ago : his father is content to see his own youth outshined by his son, and confesses that Eugenio already promises greater things than Agathus did at thirty.
If you ask whence these happy qualities arise, I grant there was some foundation for them in the very make of his nature; there was something of a complexional virtue mingled with his frame; but it is much more owing to the wise conduct of his parents from his very infancy, and the blessing of divine grace attending their labours, their prayers, and their hopes.
He was trained up from the very cradle to all the duties of infant virtue, by the allurements of love, and remarks suited to his age; and never was driven to practise any thing by a frown or a hasty word, where it was possible for kinder affections to work the same effect by indulgence and delay. As fast as bis reasoning powers began to appear and exert themselves, they were conducted in an easy track of thought, to find out and observe the reasonableness of every part of his duty, and the lovely character of a child obedient to reason and to his parcnts' will; while every departure from duty was shewn to be so contrary to reason, as laid an early foundation for conscience to work upon; cooscience began here to assume its office, and to manifest its authority in dictates, and reproofs, and reflections of mind, peaceful or painful, according to his behaviour. When his parents observed this inward monitor to awake in his soul, they could better trust him out of their sight.
When he became capable of conceiving of an almighty and invisible being, who made this world and every creature in it, he was taught to pay all due regard to this God his Maker; and from the authority and love of his father on earth, he was led to form right ideas (as far as childhood permitted) of the power, Vol. VIL
goverument and goodness of the universal and supreme Father of all in heaven.
IIe was informed why punishment was due to an offence against God or his parents, that bis fear might become an useful passion to awaken and guard his virtue ; but he was instructed at the same time, that where he heartily repented of a fault, and returned to his duty with new diligence there wus forgiveness to be obtained bol of God and man. When at any time a friend interceded for him tu bis fatber, after he had been guilty of a fauk, lie was hereby directed into the doctrine of Jesus the Medialor between God and man; and thus he knew him as an intercessor, before he could well understand the notion of his sacrifice and atonement.
In his younger years he passed but twice under the correction of the rod; once for a fit of obstinacy and persisting in a falsehood ; then he was given up to severe chastisement, and it dispelled and cured the sullen humour for ever; and once for the contempt of his mother's authority he endured the scourge agaio, and he wanted it no more.
He was enticed sometimes to the love of letters, by making his lesson a reward of some domestic duty; and a permission to pursue some parts of learning, was the appointed recompence of his diligence and improvement in others. There was nothing required of his memory but what was first (as far as possible) let into his understanding; and by proper images and representations suited to his years, he was taught to form some conception of the things described, before he was bid to learn the words by heart. Tbus he was freed from the danger of treasuring up the caut and jargon of mere names, instead of the riches of solid knowledge.
Where any abstruse and difficult notions occurred in his course of learning, bis preceptor postponed them till he had gone through that subject in a more superficial way; for this purpose he passed twice through all the sciences; and to make the doctrines of christianity easy to him in his childhood, he had two or three chatechisms composed by his tutor, each of them suited to his more early or more improved capacity, till at twelve years old was thought fit to learn that public form, which is inore universally taught and approved.
As he was inured to reasoning from his childhood, so he was instructed to prove every thing, according to the nature of the subject, by natural or moral arguments, as far as his years would admit; and thus he drew much of his early knowledge from reason, or from revelation, by the force of his judgment, and not merely from his teachers by the strength of his memory.
His parents were persuaded indeed that they onglit to teach
him the principles of virtue while he was a child ; and the most important truths of religion both natural and revealed, before he was capable of deriving them from the fund of his own reason ; or of framing a religion for bimself out of so large a book as the bible. They thought themselves under the obligation of that divine command, Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will nol depart from it ; Prov. xxii. 6. And therefore from a child they made him acquainted with the holy scriptures, and persuaded him to believe that they were given by the inspiration of God, before it was possible for him to take in the arguments from reason, history, tradition, &c. which must be joined together to confirm the sacred canon, and prove the several books of the bible to be divine. Thus, like Timothy, he continued in the things which he had learned, and had been assured of, knowing of whom he had learned them; 2 Tim. iii. 14, 15, 16. Yet as his years advanced, they thought it requisite to shew him the solid and rational foundations of his faith, that his hope might be built upon the authority of God, and not of med.
Thus the apostles and prophets were made his early compapions; and being instructed in the proofs of the Christian relia gion, and the divine original of his bible, he pays a more constant and sacred regard to it, since his judgment and reason assure him that it is the word of God, than when he was a child, and believed it because bis mother told him so. He reads the scriptures daily now, not like the lessons of his infancy, but as the infallible rule of his faith and practice; he searches them every day in bis closet, not to confirm any articles and doctrines that he is resolved to believe, but (as the noble Bereans did) to examine and try whether those doctrines and articles ought to be believed or no, which he was taught in the nursery.
After he arrived at fifteen he was suffered to admit nothing into his full assent, till bis mind saw the rational evidence of the proposition itself, or at least till he felt the power of those reasons, which obliged him to assent upon moral evidence and testimony, where the evidences of sense or of reason were not to be expected. He knew that he was not to hope for mathematical proofs that there is a Pope at Rome, that the Turks have dominion over Judea, that St. Paul wrote an epistle to the Romans, that Christ was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, and that in three days time he rose from the dead ; and yet that there is just and reasonable evidence to enforce and support the belief of all these. Where truths are too sublime for present comprehension, he would never admit them as a part of his faith, till be saw full evidence of a speaking God, and a divine revelation. His tutor never imposed any thing on him with a magis