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their design, to enable every attentive hearer to judge of the soundness and scriptural evidence of the doctrines of our Catechism, so as to be able to give a reason for his Christian faith and hope. But the lectures require to be of a popular character-in manner affectionate and tender-the manner which should characterize all religious addresses to the young -and directed, throughout, to a practical application of the truth illustrated.
It cannot be unknown to the most of you, my young friends, that objections have been made and strenuously urged, against the propriety of the whole proceeding on which we are now entering. It is proper for my own justification, therefore, to show that these objections are unfounded; and proper to endeavour to remove them from your minds, if they have an existence there; or if they have not, to enable you to answer them satisfactorily, when you meet with them, as you probably will, in reading or conversation. The remainder of this lecture, then, shall be employed in stating and obviating the objections to which I have alluded; in showing the design and usefulness of publick creeds and catechisms; and in giving a very brief account of the origin of our Shorter Catechism, together with a few remarks of a practical import.
There are, I think, three objections to such a system of instruction as that which I propose to give, and wish you to receive. The objections, indeed, involve each other, but we will consider them separately.
The first is, that the human mind ought not to be preoccupied and biassed, by being taught the principles of any religious creed oor system whatsoever, but be left perfectly free and unprejudiced; that it may, at a proper time, impartially judge and adopt for itself, those religious tenets which shall appear most rational, and free from error. It is my wish to state the objection in all its strength, and so stated it may seem specious. But, to my apprehension, it is so far from being solid and conclusive, that I must say, I think no objection was ever more fallacious and unfounded than this. It seems to me that it is made in direct opposition to some of the plainest laws and indications of our nature. Nothing can be more evident than that it is the appointment of the Creatorwith which it is equally useless and impious to contend—that the condition of children, especially in early life, shall be almost identified with that of their parents. The previous condition of parents usually decides whether children shall be born with a sickly, or with a healthful constitution; with, or without, a tendency to hereditary disease; whether the natural disposition shall be benignant or irascible; whether they shall exist in savage or in civilized society; whether they shall be bond or free; whether they shall be rich or poor; whether they shall be instructed or remain in ignorance; whether they shall be brought up in virtue or in vice; whether they shall be Pagans, Christians, Jews, or Mahometans. In all these respects, parents and children are linked together, by the appointment of the Creator; and quarrel with the appointment as we may, we can neither deny it, nor change it. The proper use to be made of the unquestionable fact, I shall hereafter notice. I thus state and dilate upon it a little, because it is, on several accounts, important to be observed and remembered; as well as because it is closely connected with the proper answer to the objection before us. It shows incontrovertibly, that parents must, in all respects, have much to do with forming the minds of their children. Man, indeed, as all the moral writers on this subject observe, is evidently intended by his Maker, to owe the development and improvement of all his powers, to instruction and imitation; and not, like the brutes, to instinct. Brutes reach the perfection of their natures, chiefly from instinctive propensities; and hence, many of them would really be far superior to man without instruction-if, indeed, without instruction, man could even reach the age of maturity. And shall the human mind be, at first, almost wholly indebted to parental instruction for information on every other subject, and be left entirely without it on the most important of all subjects—the subject of religion--the knowledge of God and of our duty to him?-knowledge, too, which we originally receive, in a great measure, from express revelation; and which therefore can never be possessed unless it be communicated? Shall nothing be said to children on this subject? Judge for yourselves, if any thing can be more preposterous. And if you begin to teach, how much will you teach, and where will you stop? Will you not be willing to teach all that you know? Ought you not to do so? Can you often, or easily avoid itunless you refuse to answer the inquiries which children make?
Consider likewise what would be the effect, in the matter of prejudice, of refusing to teach children the principles and duties of religion. Would they, if in this matter left to themselves, really grow up without any prepossessions, in regard to this momentous subject? By no means. They would, on the contrary—and facts prove it-either contract a total indif
a ference or contempt for all religion, or else acquire the most false and pernicious notions-fortified, it is probable, by the strongest prejudices. This is probable, because we are apt to be more attached to opinions which we have elaborated for ourselves, than to those which we have received from others; especially if our minds have been puffed up with the belief that, on a given subject, we are fully competent to be our own teachers, and that to be so is to be spirited and magnanimous.
On the whole, the objection rests on an assumption which is entirely and manifestly false--the assumption that the human mind can best guide itself, in acquiring religious knowledge and principles; and that it will be less prejudiced and more likely to judge correctly, if left without instruction, than if instruction be imparted. The objection we consider is, moreover, diametrically opposed to the inspired precept of the wisest of men—" Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In like manner, it contravenes what St. Paul mentions, with decisive approbation, as the method of Timothy's education—that “ from a child he had known the holy scriptures.” And let not what the apostle immediately adds be forgotten—that these scriptures " are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through
faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Blessed be God, we have some unequivocal examples of the most amiable practical piety, in children at a very early age-at an age at which those who advocate this objection would think it too early for children to think of religion at all. And can Christian parents, who know the worth of the soul, see their children live to this age, or know that they may die before they reach it, and yet not give them any just notions of God, and the way of salvation through a Redeemer? The thought is intolerable. It ought not to be endured for a moment.
Doubtless, parents and other teachers should, as far and as fast as children can understand the reason of what they teach, give a reason for all they inculcate—The present course of lectures is delivered with this very design. Doubtless, also, youth ought, with suitable modesty and diffidence, to reason for themselves; and to this, my young friends, I earnestly in
in your attendance on all that I deliver. Hear what is said with candour and attention; ask of the Father of lights to guide and counsel you; and acting thus, judge for yourselves-remembering always that, at the tribunal of your final Judge, you must answer for yourselves.
But from what has been said on this objection, it certainly does follow, that parents have a high and awful responsibility, in regard to the religious instruction and education of their children. As children must derive their religious knowledge and opinions from their parents, or if not instructed, imbibe bad and perhaps ruinous sentiments, how careful and how anxious should parents be, that they neither neglect to teach their offspring, nor teach them any thing that is not true and useful. Every Christian parent should keep constantly in mind, that the eternal welfare of his children, as well as their present happiness, may depend on the religious and moral instruction which they receive in their early years_never forgetting, that example teaches even more powerfully than precept; and that without example all precepts will probably be of little avail.
Children and youth should, also, recollect that they have
cause for the liveliest gratitude to the God of providence, for giving them their existence in a Christian country, and granting them the privilege and benefit of a Christian educationan early instruction in the doctrines of divine revelation. This is the use, to which I have alluded, that they ought to make of the fact, that the destinies of children are closely connected with those of their parents. Guard, my young friends, against cavilling at the divine appointment in this respect; guard against perplexing your minds with deep and subtle questions on this subject; for they lead to nothing but doubt, and scepticism, and perhaps to atheism at last. One thing is clear-yours is a happy lot, which calls for gratitude and improvement. Leave to God, who you know can do no wrong,
. the order of his own government; the disposal of his own creatures, and of all that concerns them. For yourselves, be thankful to him, that you have been born of Christian parents, who have early taught you the knowledge of your Maker and Redeemer. Count it among your richest blessings, that from the very dawn of reason, your minds received information in regard to the things that belong to your everlasting peace; and that your pious parents or friends have been constantly endeavouring, by their counsels, their prayers, and their example, to form you to piety, and to lead you to heaven. While your sympathies are awakened for the heathen and the uninstructed, fail not to recollect that your responsibility is infinitely greater than theirs; and that is you perish, amidst all the light and religious advantages which you enjoy, your perdition will be inconceivably more dreadful than that which you deprecate for them. Towards those who have not had a birth so propitious, and privileges so distinguished as yours, cultivate by all means, the compassion and benevolence which the gospel enjoins. This comprises your duty to them. Join heartily and actively in all plans and endeavours to instruct the ignorant, to reclaim the vicious, and to send the gospel to those who have not yet heard the name of a Saviour.
The second objection which I propose to notice is, that in teaching and learning a catechism, and by making the answers