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PARENTS OF THE CHILDREN
WHO ATTEND THE SCHOOLS FOR RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION,
AT ST. JOHN'S CHAPEL, BEDFORD ROW.
When our Lord put the question, 'What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ? he showed the infinite worth of that soul, and also the awful consequences of neglecting it.
To make this more plain, he has given us a book, showing us, in a variety of ways, that the soul, like the body, has its wants, diseases, and death, and also its means of recovery of spiritual health, and eternal life.
This recovery is compared in Scripture to the bringing of a lost sheep back again to the fold;' or to one awaking from 'a deadly sleep to a lively hope :' as it is written, 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give thee light.'
Now RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION is one of God's appointed means for this relief and recovery of the soul of man; as he saith, "Take fast hold of instruction : let it not go, keep it, for it is thy life.
More particularly with respect to our children, He says, • Train
he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.' And accordingly he charges us, 'In the morning to sow the seed of instruction, and in the evening not to withhold our hand, since we know not which shall prosper.'
"A brutish man knoweth not, and a fool doth not un.
derstand this' wisdom; and therefore despiseth it. But mark what honour the Lord putteth upon it, when he saith, “Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do? For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.—Them, that honour me, I will honour.'
And because religious instruction is God's usual method of delivering us from the blindness of ignorance and the poison of sin, He hath not only sent His Word, and promised His Spirit to them that ask Him; but he has also raised up Ministers and witnesses, from time to time, 'to open men's eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith which is in Jesus.'
But that religious instruction which is needful at all times, is particularly needful in a day of rebuke and blasphemy, like the present. A sort of madness now abounds, that leads guilty, dying creatures, not only to ridicule and reject both the physicians and the remedies which God hath sent to heal them, but also to delight in spreading the pestilential disorder.
Now if some cruel wretch were contriving to give your child a dose of poison under the notion of a sweetmeat, could you rest till the child was informed of the danger, and secured against it? Or if the plague were to break out among us, would you be easy till the best remedies were administered to your family, and every thing tried for their safety?
What then are we to think of those who are so anxious to secure the body of a child which must soon turn to dust, and yet slight the means which God has appointed for the safety of its never-dying soul ? None will need to have these things urged upon
consciences the moment after they enter Eternity. But few consider enough how much, even in the present world, the comfort of the parent depends upon the religious instruction of bis child.
How many, who have sowed the seed of religious instruction, are reaping the fruits of their labours in the piety, affection, and prosperity of their children! On the other hand what fruitless complaining and bewailing is often heard, over a profligate son, or a ruined daughter! And what bitter reflections must follow in the mind of those parents, who trace this ruin to their own neglect ?
'I will judge,' said the Lord, the House of Eli for ever, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.'
Consider the advantages of preparing your children against the time when they must leave you, to struggle with a dangerous world. Good principles form a suit of armour. They are also a recommendation; for who would not prefer a servant, or a partner, who has been brought up in the fear of God and the knowledge of his duty, to one who has been left to run wild, neither fearing God nor regarding man?
Consider, also, if they should be taken from you by death, how painful will be the reflection, if they meet it in ignorance and unbelief through your neglect! On the contrary, what a consolation it will be in parting with them, if
, through God's blessing on your religious instructions, you have ground to hope that they are
gone to Him.
Now, when to these considerations you add, that youth is the spring-time to plant good principles, before bad ones take root; and how much easier it is to prevent evils than to cure them; we trust that those, who have a real regard to the honour of God—to the souls
and bodies of their children—and to their own future -peace and comfort, will embrace and further the pious design of their friends, whose only object, in their expense and labour, is to make you and your children happy in time and in eternity.
To attain this end, we would begin by setting before your children their fallen and depraved state by nature; and the root of those evil tempers and practices, by, which they so dishonour God, distress you, and plunge themselves in destruction. We would teach them the nature of right and wrong, from the only infallible standard, God's holy law: a law, by which every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.'
After showing them their ruin by sin, we would teach them their remedy in the Gospel ; setting before them the necessity of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ ;' the merit of his blood ; the influence of bis Spirit ; and the obligations to a holy life and conversation.
But, while we, as their friends, are using our endeavours, how much stronger reasons have you, as their parents, to join us in bringing them, as you are able, to the knowledge of God and themselves !-leading your little ones (like those mentioned in the gospel, Mark x. 13,) by faith and prayer to Christ, that He may take them into His arms and bless them.
There are, indeed, parents so vain and unthinking, that they would be better pleased if their children were presented with baubles, articles of dress, money, &c., than with good books and religious instruction. On the contrary, your friends have far nobler views : they are seeking to adorn and enrich your children with those substantial benefits which can never be taken away from them.
You have already given good reason to nope that this also is your wish, from the great number of children who attend, and seem desirous of improvement in the best knowledge; and this hope will be greatly increased in proportion as you regard the following advice :
1. Show them the nature and excellency of our design.
2. Strictly enjoin them to be exact in attending at the appointed times, and to be attentive to the instructions given them.
3. Give them admonitions and directions at home, as to their behaviour in church, and in going thither and returning
4. Encourage them to learn at home what they will be expected to repeat at church ; and inquire at home what they have heard at church, and explain to them what may be too difficult for their present capacity.
5. Keep them, by all means in your power, from loose and vicious books and companions; and endeavour to correct evil dispositions, before they take root and resist all your
efforts. 6. Frequently explain to them, and enforce upon their consciences, their ruined state by nature and practice-their redemption through Jesus Christ—and the necessity of the Holy Spirit's influence to make them see and feel these truths.
7. Enjoin upon them regularity in private prayer, and in reading the Word of God.
8. Pray for a blessing on your and our endeavours : for neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
9. Be watchful over your own conduct, that your example may not counteract our instructions.
10. Despair of nothing in a right way, and with the Divine blessing : Be not weary in well doing; for, in due season ye