by John Angell James, 1848
"And fathers, don't stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
The next step from individual earnestness is to that which is expressed at the head of this chapter. This of course, has reference to the duties of parents. It is not my intention to enter at large on the great subject of religious education in all its details; this I have already done in my work entitled "The Family Monitor, or a Help to Domestic Happiness," but only to insist on the importance and necessity of carrying forward this work with the most intense solicitude and the most untiring devotedness. Perhaps at no period in the church's history has this been understood and felt as it ought to be; but it is to be feared that there have been few periods since the revival of religion, when it has been less felt than it is now. How few are the habitations, even of professors, upon entering which the stranger would be compelled to say, "Surely this is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven!" And yet ought it not to be so? Ought not the dwellings of the righteous to be filled with the elements of piety, the atmosphere of true religion? It may be that family prayer, such as it is, is performed, though coldly and formally and with little seriousness and no unction; but even this in many cases is wholly omitted, and scarcely anything remains to indicate that God has found a dwelling in that house. There may be no actual dissipation, no drunkenness, no card playing—but O, how little of true devotion is there! How few families are there so conducted as to make it a matter of surprise that any of the children of such households should turn out otherwise than pious; how many that lead us greatly to wonder that any of the children should turn out otherwise than ungodly!
Now the church cannot be in earnest if its families are not. The awakening of attention to the claims of religion must begin in the domestic circle. Ministers may be in earnest for the salvation of the young, and their schoolmasters and mistresses may be in earnest for it; but if parents also are not, all the efforts and influence both of the pulpit and the school united will be in vain. Home is usually the mold of character; and the parent is the help or hindrance of the minister of religion. Parents, this chapter then, is for you. Fathers and mothers, read not another line until you have lifted up your hearts to God in prayer, for a blessing on what is now submitted to your attention.
Thoroughly understand and remember what it is we are now considering; it is not merely religious education—but earnestness in this momentous duty. It is not whether you are paying some attention to the salvation of your children—but whether you are paying such attention as this great subject requires—whether you are so devoting yourself to the pious education of your children, as that a visitor on leaving your house shall bear this testimony concerning your parental solicitude, "That father and mother are really concerned for their children's salvation—it is seen in all their conduct." This is the question, whether you are so pursuing this object as that your children themselves shall say, "My father and mother are truly in earnest about my soul!" This is the question, I repeat, whether godliness is the great thing, the one thing, you are pursuing for them? Does it gather up into itself your chief solicitude and control your general plans? What I mean by earnestness in domestic religion will be obvious from the following considerations.
I. It includes a deep thoughtfulness about the subject; a pious thoughtfulness.You will, if you are thus pensive, often say, "I am a parent. I am a Christian parent. I profess to believe my child has a soul, the salvation or the loss of which will depend much upon me. Yes, upon me does it much depend whether my children are to be forever in glory, or in perdition. How inexpressibly solemn! how tremendously important! I have not only bodies to care for, or minds to cultivate—but souls, immortal souls, to bring to Christ! Every other parent, whether beast or bird, by instinct teaches its offspring the highest good of which their nature is capable; and shall I, by neglecting to teach mine religion, neglect the highest good of which their immortal nature is susceptible? Even the sea monsters nurse their young—and shall I be more cruel than they?"
II. There must be a right understanding and a constant recollection of the nature and design of the domestic constitution.Families are the nurseries both of the state and of the church; and if this be true, then the design of the domestic economy must be to form the good citizen and the true Christian. No doubt the present and future welfare of the individual members of each household, their right conduct towards each other, and their own good training for all domestic relations they may in future sustain—are the proximate objects to be sought. But the ultimate end is the formation of a character in which citizenship, loyalty, and piety, shall be beautifully united and harmonized. Well-instructed, well-ordered, and well-governed families, are the springs which from their retirements send forth the tributary streams that make up, by their confluence, the majestic flow of national greatness and prosperity. No state can be prosperous where family order and subordination are generally neglected; and everyone will be prosperous, whatever be its form of political government, where they are maintained. Disorderly families are the sources of wicked characters, pestilent criminals, factious rabble-rousers, turbulent rebels, and tyrannical oppressors, who are their neighbors' torment, and their country's scourge.
But every family has also a sacred character belonging to it, which ought ever to be sustained; I mean it is a preparatory school both for the church militant and the church triumphant, where immortal souls are to be trained up by the influence of a pious education, for the fellowship of saints on earth, and for the felicities of a higher association still, in heaven. The mother, as she presses her babe to her bosom, or sees the little group sporting around the hearth; and the father, as he collects the circle round his chair or his table; as he directs their education, or selects for them their future occupation, should never forget to say to themselves, "These are given to us that we may train them up to be useful members of society, and holy members of the church. God and our country will demand them at our hands. Yes, the destinies of the world will in some measure be affected by them, and the present and all future generations of mankind have claims upon us in reference to the training of our children."
Yes, those children are something more than living domestic play-things; something more than animated household ornaments, who by their elegant accomplishments, and graceful manners, shall adorn the habitation, and be their father's pride, their mother's boast—they are the next inhabitants of our country, and the next race of friends or enemies to the cause of God on earth. The family then, I repeat, is the mold where the members of both the state and the church are cast and formed, and this ought never for a single day to be forgotten.
III. Earnestness implies a deep sense of the tremendous responsibility of the parental relation.Delightful as it may be to hear infants' prattle; to witness the rollicks of childhood's joyous years; to mark the growing development of faculty, and the gradual formation of character during youth's advance to manhood; interesting as it is to see the slow unfolding of the human flower—still a solemn sense of responsibility, ought, with all this, to come over the mind. It is a solemn expression, "I am a parent," for what is it but saying, "I have immortal souls entrusted to my care, whose destiny for eternity will be affected by my conduct."
Fond mother, look at that babe hanging on your bosom, and those other children sporting around your knee; and you, the father of the family, watching them indulge in joyous emotions and playful expressions--pause, ponder, reflect--millions of ages from that moment of domestic ecstacy, every one of those little creatures will be either in heaven or in hell--will be a seraph or a fiend--will be enduring inconceivable torment, or enjoying ineffable felicity—and the fearful alternative in great part will depend upon you! Overwhelming thought! Is it true? Can it be true? It is—and you admit it, at least in profession. Then I say again, how tremendous the responsibility of a parent! This is earnestness, to have this fact written on our very heart; to see it ever standing out in visible characters before our eyes; to carry it with us everywhere, and into everything; to be ever saying to ourselves, "My child is immortal, and his eternal destiny in great measure depends upon me. I am not only the author of his existence—but in some measure of his destiny. I shall be the means perhaps of raising him to heaven, or sinking him to perdition. I am educating him to be an associate with the devil and his demons in everlasting fire, or a companion with the innumerable company of angels in everlasting glory. O God, help me! for who is sufficient for these things?"
IV.Arising out of this, and as a necessary adjunct, earnestness implies a concentration of our chief solicitude upon the salvation of their souls. A Christian parent who is not only nominally concerned for the salvation of his children—but really so, often says to himself, "Yes, I see it; I feel it; I own it; my children are immortal creatures, their souls are entrusted to my care, and will be required at my hands, and their salvation depends much upon me. Then by God's grace, 'this one thing I will do,' I will make their salvation, above all things besides, the object of my desire, of my pursuit, and of my prayer. I will neglect nothing that can conduce to their respectability, comfort, and usefulness in this world; but above and beyond this, I will chiefly desire and do whatever can conduce to the salvation of their souls. Their pious character shall be, in my estimation, the one thing needful, with reference to them. What shall I do, what can I do, that they may be saved?" Ah, this is it! an ever-wakeful concern for their eternal welfare, an inventive solicitude for their immortal destiny; a determined, resolute subordination of everything else to this as the supreme object; such a solicitude as never sleeps or tires; such a solicitude as leads, like all other great concerns, to the use of right means. Not merely a concern—but the concern; not one among many objects—but the one great, commanding, controlling, absorbing object; which if it be not gained, makes a father or a mother mourn over the highest degree of worldly prosperity to which a child can attain, and exclaim, "Yes, he is successful for this world, and of course I am not insensible to the advantage of this—but alas! it is unsanctified prosperity, which I would gladly and gratefully exchange on his behalf, for sanctified adversity."
V. An earnest man will be cautious to avoid MISTAKES—he will say to anyone who can give him information, "Do guard me against error, that I may be kept from mis-spending my time, and mis-directing my labor." Now there are some mistakes in education, against which the Christian parent should be cautioned, and against which he should most assiduously guard. A very common, and a most fatal one, is this; that the conversion of children is to be looked for rather as a sudden thing, which is to be expected as the result of some single event, such as a sermon, or an address, or a letter, or the perusal of a book—than from a systematic and continued course of instruction, discipline, and example.
It is a very frequent thing for Christian parents to say to themselves, and sometimes as an excuse for their own indolence and neglect, "We are taught that regeneration is a sudden and instantaneous change wrought by the Spirit of God; and therefore, though my children exhibit no symptoms of religious concern at present, yet I hope the time will come, when by the blessing of God upon some event, or some means or other, they will be brought suddenly and at once to decision. Perhaps it may be at school, for I have selected pious instructors; or it may be by the preaching of the gospel, for they hear very faithful and energetic ministers; or it may be by some visitation of God in the way of bodily sickness. I live in hope that the good time will come when I shall yet see them converted to God." And, perhaps, all this while there is no systematic course of instruction and of discipline going on at home, so that their religious character is left to whatever contingencies may arise. Fatal delusion! False reasoning! Ruinous mistake!
It is very true that in some cases conversion is sudden—but this is such a perversion of the fact, as involves not only mistakes—but criminality. If it is sudden, how do such parents know but that the very next efforts which they themselves make, may be the happy means of effecting it; and ought they not, upon their own principle, to be ever laboring for, and ever expecting, the blessed result? The fact is, it means nothing less than an indolent handing over the religious education of their children to schoolmasters, to ministers, to friends, to whoever will undertake it, and even to chance—so that they may be rid of the trouble. A parent, who has right views of his relationship and his responsibility, will say, "I may commit the general education of my children to others—but not their pious training. This is too momentous to be entrusted out of my own hands. Others may be ignorant, negligent, or erroneous—I must see, therefore, to this matter myself. I cannot transfer my relation or my responsibility, and I will not transfer my exertions. God will require my children at my hands, and as I cannot reckon with him by proxy, so I will not work by proxy. And I will endeavor, by God's grace, to form their pious character by a system and a course of moral training, and not look for it as the sudden result of passing incidents." This is a correct view of the subject—and the only correct one.
Sudden conversions do often take place in those who have not enjoyed the advantages of a pious education—but rarely in those who have. In the latter case, there is often a gradual change of character and conduct, the effect of good training, which issues at last in regeneration; and in some few rare instances of the conversion to God of the children of judicious, earnest Christians, the change has been so gradual as to be scarcely perceptible. Were all Christian parents to act in the same way, the same results might with good reason be expected, and domestic education would be the ordinary means of conversion for the children of the godly. There is more truth in the proverb, even as regards religion, than many people are disposed to allow, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This does not ensure success in every instance—but it warrants the expectation of it, and should make the lack of success, and not the acquisition of it, matter of surprise.
In all scriptural means of conversion, there is an adaptation to the end to be accomplished, though there is no necessary connection between them; and were right means always used, success would more frequently be the result than it now is. This is especially true of religious education. Let parents give up all dependence upon teachers and ministers, though thankfully availing themselves of their collateral aid, and consider that they are the people to be looked to as the instruments of their children's conversion; and, at the same time, let them abandon the expectation of sudden conversions by contingent circumstances, and look for this blessed result from the grace of God upon a system of instruction and discipline begun early, extending through everything, and carried on with wisdom, perseverance, and prayer, and then they will see much more frequently than they now do, the happy consequences of this holy training of the youthful mind for God.
A second mistake in religious education is putting off the commencement of it too long. Earnestness means seizing the first opportunity that occurs for doing a thing, and indeed a looking out and waiting for the first season of action. "Begin yourself, begin well, and begin soon," are the maxims of common sense, which apply to everything, and especially to religion. Evil is already in the heart at birth, and begins to grow with the child's mental growth, strengthens with his strength, and must be resisted by early endeavors to root it out, and to plant and nourish good. Most parents begin too late. They have let Satan get before-hand with them, and have allowed corruption to grow too long and get too much strength before they attack it. Half the failures in religious education, yes, a far greater proportion may be traced up to this cause. Temperament can be disciplined, conscience may be exercised, subordination may be inculcated, and the child be made to feel the consequences of disobedience—long before he can receive what may be called pious instruction.
A third mistake to be avoided is, making pious instruction a thing by and for itself, and not sustaining it by other things which are related to it, and which have considerable influence upon it. Earnestness presses everything into its service, and avoids whatever would defeat its end. A person intent upon some object which he considers to be of importance, will sustain his pursuit of it, by attending to whatever will aid his endeavors, and will carefully watch against everything which would impede his progress, or defeat his purpose. It were to be wished that Christian parents would act upon this principle, and call in the aid of whatever can promote their one great object. With many, it is to be feared, pious education is nothing more than a mere patch upon the system of training, a bit sewed on, and not an integral part of the whole, the very warp of the texture. For instance, they will teach a little religion occasionally, and perhaps frequently, and somewhat seriously; but all this while will take no pains to inculcate obedience to themselves, to discipline the temper, to cultivate habits of industry, to produce thoughtfulness, kindness, and general good behavior.
When a farmer wishes to produce a good crop, he not only prepares the ground, and sows good seed—but he takes care that the young grain shall enjoy every advantage for growth; and knowing that weeds will stifle it and drain away its nourishment, and keep out the sun's rays, he takes care to clear the ground of them. So it is with the earnest parent, he not only communicates pious instruction, and thus sows the good seed—but he takes care to keep down the weeds, and to do all he can to aid the growth of the plant. Some very good people have erred here; they have taught, entreated, and prayed—and then wondered that their children did not become truly pious—but their excessive indulgence, their injudicious fondness, their utter neglect of all discipline, the relaxation of their authority—until the children have been taught to consider that they, and not their parents, were the most important people in the household—might have explained to them the causes of their failure. If general excellence of disposition and character is not cultivated along with that which is specifically pious, the latter will be of but slow and sickly growth.
The last mistake in religious education which an earnest parent must avoid, to which I shall refer, is the confounding instruction with education; that is mistaking a part for the whole; the means for the end. What, in the estimation of many, is pious education? Nothing more than the communication of so much religious knowledge, a little Scripture, a few hymns, or a catechism, committed to memory. Alas, even this is not done in the families of some professors—and I have heard a concerned and accomplished mistress of a ladies' school express her grief and astonishment at the ignorance of the very elements of Biblical knowledge displayed by many of her pupils who had come from the families of professors of religion. Some of the children of the higher classes in our Sunday schools would put to the blush many of these young ladies of our boarding schools.
And even the more diligent parents are but too apt to stop with the mere communication of knowledge—though it is not education in the more comprehensive sense of the word, which means the formation of character. And from the quarter which I have just mentioned, I have heard most emphatic testimony borne to the anxious and judicious care which that respectable body of professing Christians, the Quakers, themselves take at home to form their children's characters. None have been better trained, she has informed me, than those who have come to her from such families. There is a habit of thoughtfulness, by no means gloomy or unaccompanied by cheerfulness; a sense of propriety, without any such stiffness as is generally supposed to appertain to these young people; a respectful submissiveness, not found in many others; and a soundness of judgment—which afford admirable specimens of good domestic training. The fact is that some of what are called the accomplishments of fashionable and elegant education, are banished from the families of the Quakers, to make way for the cultivation of the mind and heart, and the formation of the character. There may be, and I think there are, omissions in their system, which I would supply; but for the inculcation of habits of reflection, good sense, general propriety of conduct, orderliness, and control of the temper and passions—most parents may take a lesson from the home education of Quaker children.
Now observe theCONDUCT of earnest parents. In addition to the communication of knowledge, they admonish, entreat, warn, and counsel. They direct the reading of their children, and watch carefully what books come into their hands. They analyze their characters, and make themselves intimately acquainted with their peculiarities of disposition and tendencies, that they may know how to adapt their treatment to each. They encourage habits of subjection, modesty, reflection, conscientiousness, frankness; and at the same time, respect for all, especially for themselves. They dwell on the pleasures of true religion, and the misery of sin. They repress faults, and encourage budding excellences. They speak to them of the honor and happiness of godly men, not only in another world—but in this. They endeavor to implant in their hearts the fear of God, the love of Christ, and the desire of holiness. Everything is done to render true religion attractive, and yet to exhibit it as a holy and an solemn reality. They watch the conduct, and look out for matter of commendation and of censure. In short their object and aim are the real, right, and permanent formation of the pious character, the character of the genuine Christian.
Parents, you are always educating your children for good—or for evil. Not only by what you say—but by what you do—not only by what you intend—but by what you are—you yourself are one constant lesson which their eyes are observing, and which their hearts are receiving. Influence, power, impulse, are ever going out from you—take care then how you act!
Let me then here remind you of the immense importance of three things—first,PARENTAL EXAMPLE. What example is so powerful as that of a parent? It is one of the first things which a child observes; it is that which is most constantly before his eyes, and it is that which his very relationship inclines him most attentively to respect, and most assiduously to copy. Every act of parental kindness, every effort to please, every favor conferred—softens a child's heart to receive the impressions which such an example is likely to stamp upon the soul. Vain, worse than useless, is biblical instruction which is not followed up by godly example. Good advice, when not illustrated by good conduct, inspires disgust.
There are multitudes of parents to whom I would deliberately give the counsel never to say one syllable to their children on the subject of religion, unless they enforce what they say by a better example. Silence does infinitely less mischief than the most elaborate instruction which is all counteracted by inconsistent conduct. It is no matter, either of wonder or regret, that some professing Christians discontinue family prayer. How can they act the part of a hypocrite so conspicuously before their households, as to pray in the evening, when every action of the day has been so opposed to every syllable of their prayer. O, what consistent and uniform piety, what approaches to perfection, ought there to be in him who places himself twice every day before his household at the family altar, as their prophet, priest, and intercessor with God. It seems to me as if the holiest and best of us were scarcely holy enough to sustain the parental character, and discharge the parental functions. It would seem as if this were a post for which we could be fitted only by being first raised to the condition of spirits made perfect, and then becoming again incarnate, with celestial glory beaming around our character. What an additional motive is there in this view of our duty, for cultivating with a more intense earnestness the spirit of personal religion!
Would you see the result of parental misconduct—look into the family of David. Eminent as he was for the spirit of devotion, sweet as were the strains which flowed from his inspired heart, and attached as he was to the worship of the sanctuary, yet what foul blots rested upon his character, and what dreadful trials did he endure in his family! What profligate creatures were his sons—and who can tell how much the apostacy of Solomon was to be traced up to the recollection of parental example? Parents, beware, I beseech you, how you, act! O let your children see piety in all its sincerity, power, beauty, and loveliness; and this may win them to Christ.
But there is another thing to be observed, and that is the mischief ofEXCESSIVE INDULGENCE. Read the history of Eli, as recorded by the pen of inspiration. The honors of the priesthood and of the magistracy lighted upon him. He was beloved and respected by the nation whose affairs he administered, and to all appearance seemed likely to finish a life of active duty, in the calm repose of an honored old age. But the evening of his life, at one time so calm and so bright, became suddenly overcast, and a storm arose which burst in fury upon his head, and dashed him to the ground by its dreadful thunder bolts. Whence did it arise? Let the words of the historian declare, "I have told him, said the Lord, that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile—and he restrained them not!" Poor old man, who can fail to sympathize with him under the terror of that dreadful sentence, which crushed his dearest hopes and beclouded all his prospects—but the sting, the venom of the sentence, was in the declaration that a criminal unfaithfulness on his part had brought upon his beloved sons both temporal and eternal ruin! All this destruction upon his sons, all this misery upon himself, was the consequence of weak and criminal parental indulgence! Doubtless it began while they were yet children; their every wish and every whim were indulged, their foolish inclinations were gratified; he could never be persuaded that any germs of malignant passions lurked under appearances so playful and so lovely; he smiled at transgressions on which he ought to have frowned; and instead of endeavoring kindly but firmly to eradicate the first indications of pride, anger, ambition, deceit, self-will, and stubbornness—he considered they were but the wild flowers of spring, which would die of themselves as the summer advanced. The child grew in this hot bed of indulgence—into the boy; the boy into the youth; the youth into the young man; until habit had confirmed the vices of the child, and acquired a strength which not only now bid defiance to parental restraint—but laughed it to scorn.
Contemplate the poor old man, sitting by the way-side upon his bench, in silent despair, his heart torn with self-reproach, listening with sad presages for tidings from the field of conflict. At length the messenger arrives, the doleful news is told. The ark of God is taken, and his sons Hophni and Phinehas are slain! His aged heart is broken, and he and his whole house are crushed at once under that one sin—the excessive weakness and wickedness of a false and foolish parental indulgence!
Parents, and especially mothers, look at this picture and tremble—contemplate this sad scene, and learn the necessity of judicious, affectionate, firm, and persevering discipline!
To all this, add earnest, believing, andPERSEVERING PRAYER. Let family devotion be maintained with regularity, variety, affectionate simplicity—and great seriousness. As conducted by some, it is calculated rather to disgust than to delight. It is so hastily, perfunctorily, and carelessly performed, that it seems rather a mockery, than a solemnity; there is neither seriousness nor earnestness in it. On the other hand, how subduing and how melting are the fervent supplications of a godly and consistent father, when his voice, tremulous with emotion, is uttering to the God of heaven the desires of his heart for the children bending around him! Is there, out of heaven, a sight more deeply interesting than a family gathered at morning or evening prayer, where the worship is what it ought to be? When the godly father takes the Bible, and with patriarchal grace reads to his household the words of heavenly truth? And then the hymn of domestic gladness, in which even infants learn to lisp their Maker's praise; not better music is there to the ears of Jehovah in the seraphim's song, than that concord of sweet sounds—and last of all the prayer; oh, that strain of intercession, in which each child seems to hear the throbbing of a father's heart for him! When this is the type of the families of professors; when family religion is conducted after this fashion; when the spectator of what is going on in such households shall be compelled to say, "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel," when earnestness, after beginning in the soul of the Christian, shall communicate itself to the parent, what a new state of things may we expect in the church of Christ.
In my volume addressed to the ministry, I remarked that the conversion of the children of the pious should be looked for at home, and from the blessing of God on the endeavors of Christian parents. And this is quite true, and a truth which cannot be put forward too prominently, or enforced upon public attention too urgently. I cannot be supposed to under-rate the importance of the pulpit nor the value of preaching; but it is possible so to exalt this order of means as to depress, if not to displace, all others. God never intended by preaching to subvert or set aside the domestic constitution, or to silence the voice of the parental teacher. All systems that obtrude anyone, whether priest, preacher, or school-master, between the parent and his child—so as to merge the obligations of the latter in the functions of the former—are opposed alike to nature and to revelation.
God will hold every parent responsible for the instruction of his children, and it will be no excuse for his neglect of them—that he has handed them over to another. One of the earliest and most certain indications of a revived church, will be the marked revival of domestic piety. Whatever stir be made congregationally or ministerially, will still leave the church but partially awakened, and religion but negligently attended to—until the families of the righteous have become the scenes of godly concern and of spiritual instruction.
The canon of the Old Testament closes with these remarkable words, "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Under the Christian dispensation, the children were to be brought in with their fathers, and through their instrumentality—and whenever throughout the various churches of Christ we shall be favored to see those who sustain the relation of parents intensely earnest for the salvation of their children, and adopting all proper means for that end—then shall we see the blissful sight of fathers leading their sons, and mothers their daughters, and bringing their children to the church for membership, saying, "Behold, I and the children you have given me." Then will the families of the saints present the beautiful scene, more than once spoken of in the New Testament, of a church in the house.
This state of things will, perhaps, in some measure account for a very painful fact, which both parents and ministers attest and lament—that very few of the sons of our more wealthy members become truly pious. Many of the daughters are brought under the influence of true piety, and come into our fellowship—but comparatively few of the sons. I am aware that as a general fact, far more women are pious than men; but the disproportion is, I think, still greater in the class to which I now allude, than in any other. Many concurring causes will account for this. Young men go out into the world, and are exposed to its temptations, while the daughters remain at home under the sheltering care of their parents. It requires greater moral courage in a young man to profess true religion, than in a female. Young men are more swallowed up in business, and have their minds more drawn away from religion, by this means. They are more exposed to the influence of bad companions, and are more in the way of being injured by scepticism and heresy. They are allured to out-of-door recreations and games, which lead them into ungodly company. And from the fact of a large proportion of pious people being females, young men are carried away with the shallow and flippant notion that religion is a matter pertaining to the weaker gender, rather than to them. These things will account for the fact to which I now allude, which is indeed a very painful one. Our churches and our institutions need the aid of pious young men of this class. We know the soul of a female is as precious in the sight of God, as one of the opposite gender, and we know how valuable are female influence and agency in all religious matters; but women cannot be in such things a substitute for men; and therefore, we do lament that so few of our respectable young men become truly pious.
To what use ought this painful fact to be turned, and to what specific efforts should it give rise? First of all, it should lead Christian parents to pay a more diligent and anxious attention to the pious education of their sons. Daughters must not be neglected—but sons must have special pains taken with them. As in good agriculture, most labor is bestowed on an unproductive soil, to make it yield a crop, so in the pious culture of the heart, the main solicitude should be directed to the boys. Mothers, I beseech you, look to them, and from the very dawn of reason exert your gentle, molding influence over their more sturdy natures. Be concerned for your sons; think of their dangers and difficulties.
Imagine, sometimes, that you see that lovely boy, a future prodigal, lost to himself, to his parents, to the church, and to society, and yourself dying under the sorrows of a heart broken by his misconduct. At other times, look upon the enrapturing picture of his rising up to be a minister of religion, or the deacon of a church, foremost in aiding the Christian institutions of the day, and yielding the profits of a successful business to the cause of God in our dark world. Oh, dedicate that boy to God, with all the fullness of a mother's love, both for him and for his Lord, and pour over him all the influences of a mother's judicious care and culture. Fathers, I say to you also, look well to your sons; be doubly solicitous, and doubly laborious, and doubly prayerful in reference to them. Be the friend, the companion, the counselor of your sons—as well as their father. Be intensely solicitous to see them not only by your side in the counting-house or the warehouse—but in the church of Christ, and in the committees of our Christian societies.
Mothers, much devolves on you. Both among the rational and irrational creatures, the first training of the infant race belongs to her who gives them being, and supports them. And of course, the first and afterwards the strongest yearnings of their affection are to her. It is her privilege and reward for pains, privations, and labors, all her own, to be thus rewarded by the earliest and most earnest aspirations of the heart. Avail yourselves of this bliss, and the influence it gives you, to mold the infant heart and character—for God. Let a mother's vigilance, care, and affection, all be most earnestly consecrated to the blessed work of sowing the seeds of piety in childhood's heart, and thus forming the young immortal.
Scarcely a person of eminence has ever appeared, either in the church or in the state—but has confessed his obligations to a judicious mother. Pious mothers have done more to people heaven than any other class of people, next to the preachers of the gospel; and even the usefulness of ministers must be shared with those who had prepared the minds of their converts to receive impression from their sermons. "Napoleon once asked Madame Campan, what the French nation most needed. Her reply was compressed into one word, "Mothers!" It was a wise, beautiful, and comprehensive answer. Ask me what the Church of God needs, next to earnest ministers, and I answer—intelligent, pious, earnest mothers!