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external circumstances. When the Christian possesses wealth or influence, and has extensive connexions, he ought to attempt great things: while a little may be done in a more obscure situation, by edifying discourse, letters, or the distribution of books; provided opportunities be sought after, and diligently improved. We allow, indeed, that conceited disputatious talkers, whose conduct does not consist with their principles, or who grossly violate the proprieties of relative life, are often a disgrace to religion: but, when divine truth occupies the heart, and influences the conduct, a man's ordinary conversation may be rendered very useful, in diffusing religious knowledge, and making others wise unto salvation.
They, however, who are placed at the head of families, should deem themselves peculiarly called upon to teach their children and servants. The examples of scripture are in this respect very encouraging and instructive. The Lord had given. promises of special blessings to the posterity of Abraham, and he was made a principal instrument in preparing the way for their accomplishment. "I know him," saith God," that he will command "his children and his household after him; and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do judg"ment and justice, that the Lord may bring upon "Abraham the thing that he hath spoken to him " of." "As for me, and my house," says pious Joshua, we will serve the Lord." Cornelius the centurion, who "feared God with all his house," and who had pious domestics, and even soldiers,
'Gen. xviii. 19.
around him, (though doubtless most of them had been educated pagans,) may be considered as a remarkable instance of the blessing attending this kind of religious instruction: while the awful doom of Eli and his family, may serve as a salutary caution to all who are tempted to indolence or timidity in this important concern.
The ancient method of rendering the truths and precepts of religion familiar to the minds of men, especially of children and servants, is described in the text: "Thou shalt talk of them when thou "sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by "the way, and when thou liest down, and when "thou risest up." And why should the same method be less effectual at present, if it were properly employed? Did we daily instruct our households, by reading and explaining the scriptures to them, along with family-worship; and then frequently converse with seriousness on edifying subjects; did we take occasion from common occurrences, to direct the attention of those around us to the over-ruling providence of God, the fatal effects of sin, the lamentable evidences of human depravity, and the suitableness of the gospel to the state of the world; and did we joyfully embrace every opportunity of inculcating right principles, rectifying mistakes, and making pertinent remarks: young people would be more generally preserved from scepticism, and a considerable barrier would be placed to the incursions of infidelity and impiety. Our Lord himself has taught us this way of improving conversation, in the most simple and easy manner imaginable: he deduced profitable instructions from every occurrence: and grafted the
most important admonitions, even on the insidious questions and impertinent objections of his enemies. We cannot indeed expect to speak with his consummate prudence and irresistible energy: yet we should remember that in this, as in all other things," he hath left us an example that we "should follow his steps ;" and promised to give his disciples "a mouth and wisdom, which all their "enemies shall not be able to resist."
We are also taught in scripture to encourage young persons in asking questions on religious subjects, by giving them plain and satisfactory answers: and some institutions seem to have been chiefly intended to give occasion for such inquiries.1 "The Lord established a testimony in “Jacob, and appointed a law which he commanded
our fathers; that they should make them known "unto their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children that should "be born, who should arise and declare them to "their children, that they might set their hope " in God."2
The neglect of this duty is a very dark sign of the present times. Children in general are trained up amidst those very vanities, which they who presented them for baptism solemnly vowed they should renounce! They are early initiated into the corrupt maxims and fashions of this evil world, and brought to join in its frivolous and fascinating pleasures: and, instead of being cautioned against the dangers of conformity to it, are taught to fear
'Exod. xii. 36, 37. xiii. 10-14. Josh. iv. 21, 22.
nothing so much as the least appearance of singularity! Nay, those persons, who profess a serious regard to religion, often act as if they were anxious to give their children a relish for those seducing trifles, from which they themselves appear to be weaned; and were afraid lest they should too early choose the good part that can never be taken from them! It is inexpressible how much these things promote ungodliness, and prevent the permanent success of the gospel. But let us, my brethren, aim "to bring up our children in the nurture and admo"nition of the Lord;" hoping and longing that they may be " a chosen generation, a royal priest"hood, a holy and peculiar people," by whom true religion may be supported after our decease, and transmitted to future ages. In this view we may consider them as real blessings: but in what other light can a pious parent behold his beloved offspring without the most painful reflections?
We ought not, however, to confine our efforts within the limits of our own families, but should endeavour to propagate our religious principles in the world. What reason indeed can we have to be ashamed of them? Or how can we timidly conceal them, without being ashamed of Christ and his words? We live, it is true, among men called Christians: yet it is almost deemed an outrage on good manners, to speak seriously of the doctrine and salvation of our Lord and master! Shall we then hold our peace, and sanction the conduct of a lukewarm or apostate generation by our example? God forbid! We are commanded to bind the great truths and precepts of his word, "as a sign upon our hands, and as frontlets between
our eyes; and to write them on the posts of our "houses, and on our gates." This can imply nothing less than an open profession that we are the worshippers of God, and the disciples of Christ; that we believe the scriptures, embrace the gospel, and make the commandments of the Lord the rule of our conduct. These things should be clearly understood by our friends and connexions, that when they enter our houses they may say,' God is worshipped in this family;' that they may be restrained from evil in our presence by the consideration of our character and profession, and be prepared to hear from us such pious reflections as may occur in the course of con
We shall rejoice at the last day to have our faith and piety made known before the assembled world: what then can induce us to conceal them at present, but fear of ridicule or reproach? We should recollect that an intrepid profession of the truth, without ambiguity or prevarication, is expressly required by the Lord Jesus from all his disciples; that this is one grand means of promoting his cause in the world; that the scorn, to which it may expose us, is a clear demonstration of the great contempt in which the divine Saviour is held, even among his professed disciples; and that this is evidently a cross to be borne for his sake, "who "bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Let us then,
III. Consider the reasonableness of such a conduct.
Should a liberal and honoured benefactor ear