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PROVERBS XXII. 6. Train up a child in the
be should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. THERE is something so strikingly comprehensive in this beautiful adage, that it would seem impossible but that the mind of man must be forcibly impressed by it. It is not applicable to any one distinct branch of our moral conduct only, or to any particular period or season of our earthly existence; but to the whole circle of our religious and social duties, and to the whole compass (from the dawn and morning to the evening and last ciose) of human life. Train up a child,” that innocent and interesting, but helpless being, just entering on the course of an uncertain journey, for which he is himself incapable of making a provision ; but which will be strewed with flowers, or beset with thorns,
SERM. as those on whose care he is to depend VI. shall set him forward on his way. With
out all doubt, there is not wanting among us sufficient knowledge and experience of the snares and temptations to which the ignorant and uninstructed are exposed, to do away all doubts relative to the necessity of training up a child in the way he should go; neither, I would hope, generally speaking, is there any deficiency of feeling or sentiment, with regard to this important call upon us, that should render the task of recommending it difficult or ungrateful. The text certainly sets before us the strongest motive that can be suggested on the occasion: the care incumbent on us is not that of merely providing for the day that is passing over, or of supplying aid while the helplessness of infancy or imbecility of childhood call for it; but the future scenes of manhood and old age are concerned in the charge: it belongs to us (while their tender minds may be moulded and fashioned to any good principles whatsoever) to secure to them the best chance of becoming good
men hereafter; and of descending, with SERM. respect and the veneration of their fellowcreatures, and full of good hope of everlasting life to come, to the grave of death at the last. “ Train up a child in the way “ be should go," not merely because he is now feeble and tottering, and incapable of distinguishing the path of life; but because on such care depends consequences the most remote and important, " when “ be is old be will not depart from it."
The season being come, in which it is the custom of this place* (founded on the canons of the church, and the laws of the land) publicly to catechise the children of the respective parishes, it may not be amiss, to bestow some consideration on that particular branch of religious instruction; and I therefore purpose to make it the subject of my present discourse: in doing which, I shall avoid entering into any methodical explication of the several articles of our public form; both because the time would not well admit of so large a dis
* Preached at St. Peter's, Oxford, 1796.
SERM. cussion of the subject, and because ade
quate explanations are already spread abroad among us; and, by the bounty and benevolence of well-disposed Christians, have been very recently put in a way of more general circulation than I believe to have been the case in any former period: I am, on these accounts, therefore, inclined to confine myself more immediately to some general observations,
' at once applicable, both to the custom of catechising children, and the form itself, which the wisdom of the church has provided.
If we look into the royal injunctions, by which the ministry of the Church of England were first called to this office of catechising the children of their respective parishes; and, if we examine the canons and laws by which they are still held to be governed in this respect, we may be led to suspect, that they are become remiss in this great branch of their duty, and do not now sufficiently act up to the spirit of these laws, either in enforcing the attendance of the uninstructed, or in
expounding the Catechism; but it should serm. be recollected, that, since the passing of these acts, and the promulgation of these first injunctions, the change of circumstances is considerable: books then were few, and literate persons fewer; almost all knowledge was confined to the clergy; and, without such opportunities of public instruction, the ignorance and darkness which Popery made its advantage of might have remained for ever; for, in private houses, there were few religious books written in our native tongue, and the number of those capable of reading them proportionably small; but, happily, now the case is otherwise: religious knowledge is amply laid open to all; children may be taught under the
of their parents; and those few who continue incompetent, through ignorance or poverty, to bestow this inestimable boon of parental care on their offspring, may find a door opened to them, by the bounty and goodness of the better-endowed and better-informed. I I would not be thought to be pleading the cause of the negligent among us, much less of discommending those who continue