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Israel ever could produce during their existence as a nation? As a reproof to their posterity, was it not to them that the Lord looked back with such complacency, many ages afterwards, and of them that he then said—“I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, or steadfast love, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
Israel then was holiness unto the Lord.” How was all this ? Simply because these Parents well understood the subject to which we now refer; and because that generation had so far adopted the advice of Moses on principle, and acted accordingly.* To all succeeding ages, these and many others will prove standing witnesses to the power and importance of what has already been styled the Education of circumstances, and the Education of the disposition.
II. THE EDUCATION OF THE DISPOSITIONS.As the Sacred Scriptures have entered so deeply into the various dispositions of the human character; explaining, with great minuteness, and almost infinite variety, not only what they are, but what they ought to be; I presume that you will make them your guide, in training or educating the dispositions of your Children. As the only certain and solid foundation, you will therefore, of course, begin with
Religious Instruction, properly so called. As a basis for such instruction, I cannot conceive of any thing which is once to be compared with the law of God, and
* See Deuteronomy vi. 6-9, and xi. 18-21.
that simply as it was delivered, and is recorded in Scripture; for it is a singular fact, that, with the exception of a very few words, which can be left without any loss or injury to a future period, the law which binds angels as well as men, is so expressed, as to be level to the capacity even of a child. We have no ambiguity, no perplexity, or high-sounding words here. The majesty of thought is indeed divine ; but as angels themselves, when they did address men, spake with great simplicity of language, so the Lord of angels, knowing not only the perversity of human nature, but the limits of human reason, has condescended so to express his will, that, in his law especially, there should not remain the shadow of an apology for not understanding it. The statute laws of Great Britain are said to amount to about twenty folio volumes, and the unwritten, to many more; yet, after all, cases are occurring, even in our day, to which neither of these can reach! Digests of these laws are also still only in the course of publication, and commentaries are endless ; while, in regard to the divine law, it has been both summed up and expanded by its Author, in a style and manner equally plain and striking with the original code itself! Never was any law so briefly comprehended, in only one sentence, without losing one iota of its import and intention, as this has been. Two commands only, like pillars of the moral universe, comprise the whole; while these are telligible, so easily remembered, and so easily applied, that they are at once level to the capacity, and ready for the use of every moral being.” Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Yet, plain and perspicuous as is this law of ten commandments itself, its expanded interpretation is not less remarkable for the same qualities. In the interpretation of human statutes, the explanation or expansion has very often had the effect of only involving the law of the land in greater obscurity; and human comments on things divine, have not unfrequently had the same effect. Not so when God condescends to become his own interpreter. This he has done abundantly, and perhaps on no subject has he been more copious, than in the varied interpretation of his own law. For why? His law is but the tranścript of his own glorious character; and taking the Scriptures as a whole, what are they, in truth, but “ this law expanded into móré minute precepts and multiplied applications-enforced by the happiest comments, and illustrated by the most useful examples-but, above all, by the example presented to us in the all-perfect and glorious life of the Son of God.”—“Thy law,” said he, “is within my heart; I delight to do thy will, O God.”
Take then this law as the basis of your religious education—the only basis, assuredly, of all the relia gious instruction, which produced that fine generation in the wilderness, to which allusion has been made. Explain to your Children, why it was that our blessed Lord summed up his ten commandments, in two.
this summary, occasionally. Explain every word of it, as far as you can, and they are able to bear it. You will, of course, try to instruct always persuasively, and most by example; but be not
discouraged at their not comprehending the whole. It is a common mistake to under-rate the capacity of Children on religious subjects ; but depend upon this, you will often find more difficulty in explaining human language than divine. Go on; and by here a little and there a little, like the small rain upon the tender grass, let them be taught to observe, the personality of this summary—the authority of it—its spirituality—its extent—and the divine benevolence running through the whole.
Perhaps the next subject, in point of importance, is the violation of this law ; for they will very soon in, deed remark its violation by the young,
especially by the old. Now, as an understanding of the nature of sin, so far from leading to its commission, lies at the foundation of genuine religion, explain to them, as the Scriptures so powerfully, yet prudently, enable you to do, wherein the sinfulness of sin consists. On this point let there be no misunderstanding, much less confusion or ignorance, so far as you can explain it. Never attempt too much; but, at all events, let sin be regarded as that which stands opposed to the divine character, and shew that it is forbidden by him, invariably, because such is his character, and therefore his will. “ All unrighteousness is sin,” and “ sin is the transgression of the law,” may seem, at first reading, to be inspired assertions, fit only for the contemplation of manhood. But this is a great mistake. The conduct of your own Children will not unfrequently, alas ! furnish you with a commentary on both passages.
“ Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” Indeed there is a guileless simplicity in
Children, which seems as though it were providentially intended, to lay them open to the Parent's judgment of their state, and character, and condition; and wo to that Parent who takes not every advantage of these early days, these first and singular opportunities, which, when once lost, never, never return again!
Amidst all this species of instruction, tenderly administered, and patiently repeated, be, however, most especially careful, that they can observe your own dread of sin, and your own fear of offending God in any way; for surely you must have observed, how much Children are afraid of any thing, at which their Parents express or evince alarm; while, at the same moment, your dread of sin must appear to them to be only an effect of your veneration for God, and your love for his character. The fear of Isaac, was an expression of Jacob's, descriptive to his own mind of the God of his Father ; which he seems to have carried about with him throughout life: at one period, preserving him from the fear of man, and at another, expressive of his own most solemn sense of obligation to the Almighty. Whatever instructions you give, therefore, on the subject of sin or salvation, be assured that, in connexion with the divine blessing (for which you daily intercede,) their effect must depend, in a most material degree, upon your Children, not only observing that
esteem all Jehovah's precepts concerning all things to be right, but that you yourself hate
every false and every wicked way. With regard to the Gospel of Salvation, as you have been laying the foundation for its being so denominated, you will certainly not forget to explain