Page images
PDF
EPUB

on the whole is best; which will probably be most productive of his comfort, reputation, usefulness, and piety. To some children, on account of their peculiar dispositions, certain employments are sufficiently safe, which for others are to be regarded as eminently dangerous. The business, in which children are to be placed, when they are exposed by their dispositions to peculiar temptations, should, as far as may be, always be such, as to counteract their dispositions. The employments, which awaken a moderate ambition, and a moderate desire of wealth and pleasure, and which yet disappoint no reasonable expectations of children, are usually preferable to all others. Those of a contrary nature, and those, particularly, which are expected to produce sudden opulence, and speedy aggrandizement, or which conduct to voluptuousness, are fraught with infinite danger and mischief. They that will be rich, or great, or voluptuous, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, that drown men in destruction and perdition. The love of these things is the root of all evil: and those, who covet after them, pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Most parents wish these things for their children; but they know not what spirit they are of. Most parents, also, wish their sons to be geniuses, and their daughters to be beauties. How unfoundeu, how self-deceiving, are all these desires! I do not deny, that many men of high office, and of great wealth, men who have possessed in abundance all those, which are called the enjoyments of life, have been pious; and, so far as this world permits, happy. I do not deny that such has been the character, and state, of many men, remarkable for their talents; and of many women, distinguished for their beauty. I do not de ny, that all these things are, in their nature, to be regarded as blessings; or that they sometimes are actually blessings. But to most of mankind they are plainly curses; and probably to all who ardently desire them. What a melancholy history would the whole history be of beauties, geniuses, and men in high office, of great wealth, and determined sensuality!

2. Marriage.

With respect to this subject, children are usually governed by inclination only, or chiefly: their parents sometimes by judgments; sometimes by avarice; sometimes by ambition; sometimes by hatred to the family, or person, with whom the child is intended to be connected; and sometimes by favouritism for other persons, or families. The parent ought to be influenced by his unbiassed judgment only. By every thing else he will, without suspecting it, be deceived; and sometimes in a degree which can neither be foreseen, nor limited, render both himself, and his child, unhappy through life.

Parents can never lawfully compel their children to marry persons, who are objects of their dislike; nor use at all for such a purpose that influence, or those persuasives, which operate upon tender and susceptible minds as the worst kind of compulsion. The reasons are plain. The child would be made miserable; and could not, in any event, without a prevarication, of the same nature with perjury, take upon himself the marriage vows. But, during the minority of his children, he may be required by indisfrasable duty to restrain them from marrying, in certain cases. This, however, is an extreme exercise of authority; and should take place, only where the cases are extreme; cases, for example, in which the intended partner is an infidel; or grossly vicious; or of a family, scandalous for vice; or in some other case of a similar importance. In all inferior cases, the parent's duty is, in my view, confined to information; to persuasion, kindly and reasonably conducted; and to such delays of the intended connexion as will furnish opportunity to give these dissuasives their full opelation. In these cases, children are bound to listen with the utmost willingness, and impartiality, to the parent's reasons; and deeply to feel, and to respect his pleasure. If the reasons are solid ; they ought to be influenced by their whole force ; and, as far as may be, to overcoine their own inclinations : remembering, that, although their own happiness is the first thing to be regarded in forming such a connexion, that of their parents is the second; and that parental opposition to their wishes can rarely aim at any thing but their own good. When children have used all reasonable expedients to bend their inclinations to the wishes of their parents, and are yet unable to subdue them, their non-compliance can lawfully neither be punished, nor resented.

3. Assistance towards acquiring 'a competent living,

When children commence their settlement in life, they often need assistance, at least as much as in carlier periods. This assistance is, however, principally confined to two articles; giving advice, and furnishing pecuniary ajd. All parents, perhaps, are sufficiently willing to give advice; and most, I believe, are willing to befriend their children with pecuniary assistance, in such a degree, as is not felt to be inconvenient to ihemselves. There are those, however, who impart sparingly enough; and there are others, still, who are disposed to give little or nothing. Avarice sometimes influences the parent's conduct in this respect; and oftener, I believe, a reluctance to lessen the heap, which we have been long gathering; and oftener, still, the wound, which pride feels at being thought to possess less wealth, than the utmost of what we have amassed. These are always wretched reasons; and, in this case, reasons for wretched conduct. A child, when setting out in the world, finds himself surrounded by a multitude of difficulties; to struggle with which he must be very imperfectly prepared. Unexperienced, alone, suddenly plunged into many perplexities, and unacquainted with the means of relieving themselves, children are often distressed, discouraged, and sometimes broken down; when the belping hand of a parent would, with no real inconvenVOL. III.

41

DUTY OF PARENTS.

[SER. CXIL ience to himself, raise them to hope, resolution, and comfort. That parents, so situated, are bound by plain duty to assist their children in these circumstances can need no proof. He, who will not thus relieve the offspring of his own bowels, even at the expense of being thought less rich, or of being actually less rich, deserves not the name of a parent; and ought to be ashamed to show his face among those who do. For my own part, I cannot conceive, that a man, who will not deny himself a little, to befriend his own children, can have ever compassed the self-denial of forgiving his enemies; nor understand how he can possess sufficient confidence to stand up in morning and evening worship, at the head of his family, and say, in his own name and theirs, Our Father, who art in Acaden.

SERMON CXIII.

FIFTH COMMANDMENT.-DUTY OF RULERS.

EXODUS XX. 12. —Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon

the land which the Lord thy God giveth Thee.

BESIDE the direct import of this precept, it has been generally, and justly, considered as by a very obvious analogy including those duties, which are reciprocally to be rendered by men in various other relations : particularly those of superiors and inferiors, whatever may be the basis of their relative characters. To an examination of all these duties it might fairly lead. I shall, however, make it my guide to the investigation of one class of them only : viz. The Duties of Magistrates and Subjects.

The relations of Magistrate and Subject are so obviously analogous to those of parents and children, that Magistrates have been often styled the fathers of their people ; and their people often called their children. Noʻlanguage of commendation is with more frequency, or with more emphasis, applied to a prince, distinguished for his wisdom, justice, and benevolence, than that he was a father to his subjects. In this manner mankind have acknowledged the similarity of these relations; and -from a similarity of relations, every man knows, must arise a similarity of duties. Accordingly, the duty to magistrates is enjoined in the very same terms, as that which is owed to parents.

Fear God, says St. Peter; honour the king. We are also di, rected by St. Paul to render reverence, honour, custom, and tribute to the several orders of magistracy, as from time to time they are due.

It is my design in this discourse to state, in a summary manner, the Nature of civil government; and the respective duties of Rulers and Subjects. This I shall do without even a remote reference either to the past, or present, state of our own government. I never preached what is commonly called a political sermon, on the Sabbath, in my life: and I shall not begin now; although to preach such' sermons is unquestionably the right, and in certain cases as unquestionably the duty, of every Minister of the Gospel. All, that I shall attempt to perform, is to exhibit some of the prima. ry principles, and duties, which pertain to government, as a branch of moral science. The knowledge of these is in some degree necessary to every man, who wishes to discharge either the duties of a ruler, or those of a subject.

The foundation of all government is, undoubtedly, the Will of God. Government, since the days of Mr. Locke, has been extensively supposed to be founded in the Social Compact. No opinion is more groundless than this. The great man, whom I have mentioned, was probably led to adopt it, from his zeal to oppose the ridiculous whims of Sir Robert Filmer; who taught, that kings had a divine, hereditary right to their thrones, by virtue of the original gift of universal dominion to Adam. In opposing this monstrous absurdity, Mr. Locke fell into another not a whit more rational, or defensible. This doctrine supposes, that mankind were originally without any government; and that in an absolute state of nature they voluntarily came together, for the purpose of constituting a body politic, creating rulers, prescribing their functions, and making laws directing their own civil duties. It supposes, that they entered into grave and philosophic deliberations; individually consented to be bound by the will of the majority; and cheerfully gave up the wild life of savage liberty, for restraints, which, however necessary and useful, no savage could ever brook, even for a day. Antecedently to such an assembly, and its decisions, this doctrine supposes, that men have no civil rights, obligations, or duties, and of course, that those, who do not consent to be bound by such a compact, are, now, not the subjects of either : such a compact, in the apprehension of the abettors of this doctrine, being that, which creates all the civil rights, obligations, and duties,

The absurdities of this doctrine are endless. He, who knows any thing of the nature of savages, knows perfectly, that no savage was ever capable of forming such a design; and that civilized life is indispensably necessary to the very perception of the things, pre-supposed by this doctrine, and absolutely pre-requisite to the very existence of such an assembly. Every one, acquainted at all with savages, knows equally well, that, if they were capable of all this comprehension, nothing, short of omnipotence, could

persuade them to embrace such a scheme of conduct. There is nothing, which a savage hates more, than the restraints of civilized life; nothing, which he despises more, than the civilized character, its refinements, its improvements, nay, its very enjoyments. To have formed such an assembly, or even to have proposed such a system, men must have already been long governed, and civilized.

At the same time, there is no fact, more clearly evinced by the history of man, than that such a compact never existed. This even the abettors of it are obliged to confess; and this cuts up the doctrine by the roots. For if the social compact was not a fact; it is nothing

of man.

« EelmineJätka »