« ZurückWeiter »
ings are the bond of affection among virtuous minds, and the source of their felicity.
This we settle as a more advanced stage of education, as far as it depends upon the mother. To part with the child firmly and unreluctantly, when the proper hour of separation comes; to preserve the commerce of affection by works and messages of kindness; and to subject every feeling and pursuit to the known and declared will of God. Let no one, O woman, usurp thy pro ince, step between thee and thy child, steal his affections from thee. What, suffer him to have a step-mother while thou art yet living ! Forbid it nature, forbid it decency, forbid it religion. But the hour of separation is arrived, you have done your duty, he must now pass into other hands; as a mother you retained him, as a mother resign him. You have not laboured in vain : you have not spent your strength for nought and in vain. Be of good cheer, you have trained him up in the way in which he should go, and when old he will not depart from it. Your heart shall rejoice in him many days hence. He shall be to thee a crown of glory when thou art dropping into the grave.
The disorderly state of Eli's family, the consequence of a careless and neglected education, will, through the divine permission, be the subject of the next Lecture.
I conclude with addressing myself in a very few words, first, to the parents of the other sex. You see what a heavy burden God and nature have laid upon the weaker of the two. You are bound in justice, in humanity, in gratitude, to alleviate it. To no purpose will the mother watch and toil, unless you cooperate. She has part of her reward in her very employment: her recompense will be complete if she obtain your approbation, and retain your affection. Has offence arisen, does calamity press, is the spirit ruffled, is her person changed ? Reflect, she is the mother of thy child; perhaps she lost her looks, her health, it may be her spirits and temper, in doing the duty of a mother : she ought to be the more estimable in your eyes at least.
Let me next speak for a moment to ingenuous youth. Young man, superadded to all the other motives to virtue, if you feel not the force of this, you are lost indeed. There is a worthy woman in the world, who loves you as her own soul, who gave your first nourishment and instruction, who brought you into life at the risk of her own, to whom nothing that affects you can be a matter of indifference. She is jealous over you with a holy jealousy. If
you tread in the ways of wisdom, how her heart will be satisfied within her; if you decline from the right path, if you become “ a son of Belial,” you will rend her with severer pangs than those which she endured in bringing thee into the world. And can your heart permit you to plunge a dagger into the heart of your own mother ? Who does not shudder at the thought of a parricide so detestable, so monstrous ? For a mother's sake, renounce that “Covenant with death :" retrace thy wandering steps, resume the reins of self-government, and return to real rest and joy.
Young woman, let thine eyes be still toward the nurse, the guide, the comforter, the refuge of thy early years. Alleviate by partaking of the burdens and labours of her station ; dissipate her solicitude; soothe her pains; give her cause to bless the day she bare thee. Trust in her as thy most prudent counsellor, as thy most assured friend, as thy most intelligent instructer. Do her good and not evil, all the days of thy life. Rise into usefulness, into importance, into respectability, by marking her footsteps, imbibing her spirit, following her example. A daughter unkind, undutiful, ungrateful to a mother, is of all monsters the most odious and disgusting. Youthful excellence is never more amiable and attractive, than when it seeks retreat and retirement under the maternal wing, and, shrinking from the public eye, seeks its reward in a mother's smile of approbation.
MOTHER OF SAMUEL.
1 SAMUEL II, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, 24.
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial: they knew not the Lord. And the priest's custom with the
people was, that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came while the flesh was in seeihing, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand : and he struck it into the pan, or keule, or caldron, or pot: all that the flesh-hook brought up, the priest took for himself: so they did in Shiloh, unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burned the fat, the priest's servant came and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest : for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently: and then take as much as thy soul desireth, then he would answer him, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things ? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report thai I hear; ye make ihe Lord's people to transgress.
PERFECTION consists in the happy medium between the too little and too much. It is eminently conspicuous in every thing that comes immediately from God. ** He is the rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are judgement.” Contemplate the stupendous whole, or examine the minutest part and you find no redundancy, no defect. All is good, yea, very good. But man is ever in the extreme. Now, under the power of an indolence which shrinks from every appearance of difficulty or danger, and now hurried on by a zeal which overleaps all the bounds of wisdom and discretion. Now, he cannot be prevailed on to begin, and now nothing can persuade him to stop. He makes his very good to be evil spoken of, by imprudence and excess in the manner of performing it.
In nothing is human ignorance and frailty more apparent, than in the important article of education. It is conducted, at one time, with a severity that intimidates and overwhelms; at another, with a lenity that flatters, encourages, and fosters vice.
One is driven into an evil course by despair, another drawn into it, and fortified in it, by excessive indulgence. It is, in truth, no easy task to manage this matter aright. The modes of treatment are as various as the character and dispositions of the young ones, who are the subjects of it. The application of a general rule is impracticable and absurd. The discipline which would oppress one child, is hardly sufficient to restrain another within any bounds of decency. It is happy when the child is inured to habits of restraint and submission from the cradle. If the mother has discharged her duty tolerably, the business of the father and master is half executed. Last Lord's day we had the satisfaction of observing the effects of an early good education, in the example of Hannah the mother of Samuel. We saw in her conduct a happy mixture of tenderness and resolution; of attention to domestic employments, and regard to the offices of religion; of moderated anxiety about the safety and comfort of her son's person, and prudent concern about the culture of his mind. We are, this evening, to meditate on a subject much less pleasing, but not less instructive: the ruinous effects of education neglected ; youth licentious and unrestrained, sinking gradually into universal depravity, and issuing in accumulated wretchedness and untimely death. A father weak and indulgent; sons profligate and abandoned ; a God holy, righteous, and just.
Observe, in the entrance, the provision which infinite wisdom has been making to supply the breach which was ready to be made in the priesthood. The measure of the iniquity of Eli's sons was nearly full, their destruction was hastening on ; Samuel is already born, instructed in, prepared for, the service of the tabernacle ; and the care of a pious mother has been employed in the hand of Providence to counteract the criminal negligence and carelessness of a too easy father.
The representation given us of the degeneracy and dissoluteness of the Levitical family, equals, if not exceeds, all that history relates of the irregularity, and impurity of idol worship. The law had made a decent and even an ample provision, for them who ministered at the altar, but had carefully guarded against whatever tended to countenance luxury or excess. But behold every thing confounded. The directors of religious worship are become the patterns of impiety. There is no reverence of God, no regard to man. Before the fat of the sacrifice smokes upon the altar of Jehovah, the choicest pieces of the victim are served up on the abominable table of a luxurious priest. The pious worshipper has his offering marred, his spirit discomposed, the festival of his family peace disturbed and defrauded, and indecencies, too shocking to be mentioned, close the scene of riot and intemperance.
All this is easily to be traced up to early habits of indulgence: men could not have become thus wicked all at once. Had the authority of the father, had the sanctity of the high priest, had the severity of the judge interposed, to check and punish the first deviation from propriety, it had never come to this. We may judge of the gentleness with which slighter offences were reproved, when the most attrocious transgressions meet with so mild a rebuke as this, " Nay, my sons, it is no good report that I hear.” This is rather an invitation to commit iniquity, than the vengeance of a magistrate to expose and suppress it. To point out the aggravation of Eli's offence, is neither malicious nor useless; it is written, among the other things in this book, for our instruction, and by the blessing of God it may prove salutary, as a beacon pointing out the rock on which others have made shipwreck.
Against his personal virtue no censure is insinuated. He seems to have been one of those quiet, easy, good-natured men, who love not to have their tranquillity disturbed, and are loth to disturb that of others; who, without being vicious themselves, by a passive tameness, become the undesigned abettors of the sins of other men. The corruption of the times must indeed have been very great, when it was supposed possible for the mistress of a family, during the solemnity of a sacred festival, to be disguised with wine, in the face of the sun, in the court of God's house. But the bare possibility of such a case, grievously enhances his guilt. He had not done his duty as the public guardian of morals and religion, or Hannah had not been suspected of intemperance, and the suspicion reflects the highest dishonour on both his understanding, and his heart; his bitterest enemy could not have devised a severer censure upon his conduct, than that under the priesthood of Eli such enormities were committed and connived at.
Men in power are chargeable not only with the evil which, they do, but also with the evil which they might have prevented, but did not.
Power is ted to them, for this very end, that they may be " a terror to evil doers," as well as a praise to such as do well.” The same carelessness runs through the whole of his domestic and public administration ; a disorderly family, a polluted church, a distracted, staggering state; no government, or what was worse than none. The best things are the most liable to abuse : and we shall give this faulty, unhappy father all the credit we can. His error's had their origin perhaps in goodness. His natural disposition was mild and gentle ; his parental affection was great; he was unwilling to render any one unhappy; he thought of prevailing by love. He began with overlooking trifling faults ; he flattered himself that the reason and reflection of riper years would correct and cure the wildness and irregularity of boyish days; “Surely the young men will by and by see their folly, and grow wiser.” Who would not rather attempt to rule by love? But what is the proper conduct and expression of love ? What saith the wisest of mankind ? “He that spareth the rod, hateth the child.” What saith the great Father and Saviour of all men ? * As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” There is no such thing as happiness but in habits of order, decency and subjection. The man, or the child, who knows no law but that of appetite or caprice, must of necessity be miserable. It is cruelty, not kindness, to give a man up to himself; and to dream of changing habits of indolence, dissipation, and criminal indulgence, by remonstrance and reason, is expecting that reason should survive itself, or that it should effect, when enfeebled, disordered, and corrupted, what it could not do when clear, and sound, and vigorous. But, "the grace of God is almighty, and his mercies are very great.
Nay, but who art thou, O man, who darest to expect, or to ask a miracle of grace, with the consciousness of having neglected the means, which, timely employed, might, through the divine blessing, have proved effectual without a miraculous interposition ? The one talent is justly taken away from him who hid it in the earth, and it is given to increase the store of the diligent and faithful servant, who by wisdom and industry, had increased his five talents into ten.
The human mind, put under early culture, may be made to produce any thing. It possesses a happy pliancy, which may be moulded into any form. But the same plant, which, young and tender, you could with a touch bend into what shape you pleased; when grown into a tree, resists every effort of your strength. Cut it down you may, break it you may, cleave it asunder you may, but bend it you cannot. And alas, how great a portion of human life is spent in useless, unavailing regret for opportunities lost, seasons misspent, mischief done, misery incurred ! Yet men will not profit even by experience, that plainest, most faithful, and most powerful of all instructers.
Who can view, without pitying him, that wretched old man, deploring the guilt which he himself had occasioned, which he wants resolution to punish, and wisdom to cure ; which is proceeding from evil to worse, filling the past with remorse, and overspreading the future with despair ? Ah, how heavily he suffers in his age, because these profligate sons bore not the wholesome yoke of discipline and restraint in their youth! Who can conceive the anguish of Jacob's soul, as he was sinking into the grave under the loss of a gracious son by the stroke of Providence? But what is it, compared to the more dreadful anguish of Eli, looking forward in horror to the utter extinction of all his family, with the insupportable reflection, that all, all was chargeable upon himself?
The character and behaviour of the unhappy young men is a melancholy and affecting representation of the progress of moral corruption. It begins in their making light of the ordinances of religion, which they were bound, by their office, to venerate themselves, and to recommend by their example, to others. And you may be assured there is something essentially wrong about that man who expresses real or affected contempt for the worship of God. It is a gross violation of the laws of decency and good breeding. For what title can you have to insult that sober minded person, who has given you no provocation, by deriding or profaning what he holds sacred ? It is a direct defiance to the laws of your country, which have adopted the institutions of religion, to assist, at least, in carrying on and supporting good government, so essential to public happiness. He that despises, therefore, the ordinances of God, is a friend to anarchy, is making a wicked attempt to dissolve the bands of society, and deserves to be treated as a public enemy. It is an argument of a light and silly mind, aiming to supply the want of consequence, by affected boldness, impiety and singularity, and which, like every other species of affectation, generally misses its aim.
In the example before us, we find irreverence toward God speedily degenerating into violence and injustice to men. And indeed what hold has society of that man who has shaken off the first and strongest obligations of his nature, who has professedly degraded himself, and is become less than a man, in making the silly attempt to be thought something more. He who begins with defrauding God of his due, will not long be scrupulous about invading the rights of his fellow-creature. The same spirit which defers the sacrifice till an unruly appetite be first gratified, will, by and by, proceed to “take by force” the portion of another; and will lose all sense of the just claims and real wants of mankind, in pride and selfishness.
The third stage of this humiliating progress, discovers to us men wholly brutified, plunged into the lowest, grossest sensuality; sinking deeper and deeper in the mire, till nothing remains but the image of the most odious and abominable of animals. Young man, look at the picture, consider it well. If you are so happy as to have preserved your virtue, if you have any savour of piety, you must regard it with a mixture of indignation and pity; if you are not lost to the feelings of humanity, it will fill you with loathing and disgust. The sequel will teach us many important lessons. For my own part, ever since I became a father, I have never been able to read this history without trembling; and my anxiety has not been diminished by reflecting, that the children whoin God has given me, neither in their bodies, nor their minds, nor their dispositions, are among the lowest of their species. I have an awful conviction, that if any of them should unhappily turn out ill, a great part of the blame will be imputable to myself. I am frequently tempted to rejoice that none of my grown children have made choice of my own profession, the most dangerous, the most responsible of all; and I am much more alarmed at the apprehension, that when they are become men and women, they may accuse me of over-indulgence, than I am now, of being thought harsh and unkind by children.
As the greatest and most respectable part of my audience are parents, I must of necessity apply the great and important subject of my discourse particularly to them. And, as I always flatter myself with the greater hope of success with female parents, I take the liberty of addressing myself first to mothers. Providence, my friends, as I have frequently repeated, has laid the earliest, the heaviest, and the most important part of education, upon you ; but it has also alleviated and sweetened the task by many peculiar affections and endearments. Let me suppose you have done your duty, and carefully reared up infancy and childhood. The charge must then pass into other hands. But surely both your heart and conscience tell you that you have not yet done with them. Female children in particular are an anxious and a lasting burthen upon the mother. They love you, they look up to you, they imi
You must be therefore what you wish them to become. Will a daughter learn to be industrious from an idle, indolent mother? Will she learn to be sober-minded, by seeing you habitually carried away by the pride of life? Will she catch the spirit of piety from one whose very sabbaths are devoted to dissipation and pleasure? 'I will not insult you by supposing that a positively bad example has been set, or that your darling charge may have grossly deviated from the paths of virtue ; but let me suppose, for a moment, a case that may, and does happen every day; that your daughter has grown up with a vain, light, worldly mind; has acquired a taste for dress and amusement; has become a perfect mistress of the usual accomplishments of the