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Commandments : I really think, did you reflect upon them without prejudice against the spiritual meaning, you would find them very intelligible to plain common sense : every one of them is expressed in the simplest language; the reason of the difficulties which appear to some so very great, is to be found in the ignorance of the natural mind of its own state : therefore it is that the prohibitions appear hard or useless, and the positive injunctions either easy or indifferent. For instance, we will take the fifth commandment, as it is on that subject we are particularly interested at present.
“ Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Here is a simple command that children should show a dutiful and respectful deference to their parents. What can be more simple ? its literal sense is easily comprehended; how many hundred times have we all repeated or heard it, and never questioned the plain meaning, but we have for the most part heard it in vain. We esteemed it, perhaps, easy and indifferent, and therefore never put ourselves to the endeavor of exemplifying how we understood it by our conduct being framed by its rule. Then there is a promise attached, which is seldom attended to, of long life in the land given by the Lord our God. Why do we not attend to it? We naturally love long life; are naturally desirous to dwell long in our land; but we forget the Author and Preserver of life, and live as though our days were our own; and
the land which the Lord giveth, we esteem not as peculiar; or if we do, as only peculiar to the Jeros, and then reason that the promise belongs not to the Gentiles. There is a strange propensity in human nature, to retain the command, and cut off the promise ; but if by faith we are engrafted into the true Israel's stock, we partake of their privileges both of law and promise. I mention this, only to show, that the literal and obvious meaning are perfectly comprehensible to our minds, but the objection against them is their constraining authority.
Whatever objections to their authority we may ourselves have felt, said Mr. Conway, I think we should all like our children at least to be sensible of it, and to reap the advantage in their obedience.
Doubtless, for without obedience where is the authority; and without authority and obedience, where is the happiness of a family? or where is the hope of the promise ? It should be a very affecting consideration to parents who desire the blessing and happiness of their children, that, if they are running a course of disobedience and disrespect, they not only transgress the commandment, but forfeit the application of the promise.
I confess I have considered the necessity of obedience singly, as right and proper, without attaching any importance to the promise : I see it is an error. A great one : for enforced authority, merely
on human motives, for present 'expediency, is a selfish acting; consulting, perhaps, chiefly our own present comfort, and mere worldly morality.
I should like to have a little explanation of that idea.
I think we ought well to consider all the responsibilities belonging to a parent, to open out to his child all the revelation of God, concerning their nature and the end proposed by their birth into this world; to lead them on to a preparation for an eternal existence in another world ; to show them their sinful nature; to point out to them the redeeming blood of Jesus ; to declare the power of the Holy Ghost; and thus manifest the love of the Father ; to teach them, that though all things here are temporal, yet that they have essential and important duties belonging to them, though they are to be as pilgrims on earth, seeking for a better country. :
You are proposing instructions only calculated for mature and reflecting minds, and which would be very difficult to give, in their juvenile days.
I beg pardon, they are just as simple as the commandment; we need not shackle ourselves, and rob our children, by ideas of our own invention, which they cannot understand : adapt your language, if you please, to the capacity of your child ; but, I believe, you will always find the plain scripture words the easiest to be understood. By early teaching them to look to God in Jesus, you perform one great parental duty, which is
that of loosing them from this world, and fixing their attention at least on that which is to come.
But what has this to do with obedience ?
Much; for you give them the highest object for obedience, so constraining where it is duly impressed, that the commands from you which they would be inclined to resist, are enforced upon their consciences by the scripture admonition of the Lord_" Children, obey your parents in the Lord;"—and that they are led to bend unto, and implicitly obey as right.
It appears to me, that you put the authority of the parent too much in the back ground.
I put it second to that of God; and whatever parent will desire to be the supreme authority to his child, will find, to his discomfort, that he will be beneath every rising passion of the child. If a parent makes self supreme, there is at once a rivalry between him and the child, each taking the same god, self ; the contention is endless and hopeless; and then, when forced to try, as another method, and merely as secondary, the authority of God, the child looks upon it as a scheme, adopted for a present purpose, and as a sure indication that it has gained a point. therefore, yourselves subject to the authority of God, refer your children constantly to the same, and you preserve an eternal, unchangeable principle and motive, established and settled in the Lord.
Here Mrs. Aston asked, How early would you begin this system with your children ?
Before I reply to this inquiry, I would ask
Be, one question :-how early do you begin to train your children for the station you expect them to fill in the world !
I can scarcely say, because we do not always, perhaps, make up our minds what they shall be, at the same period.
A thought has often been presented to my mind, by the evident delight a parent takes in observing the different traits of character in his child. A father, for instance, has, perhaps, a predilection for some particular profession for his boy; he has interest in some way which he hopes to realize: then, if his son is designed for the sea, or the army, with what pleasure he notices his inclination to climb, calls him a
sailor," a "jolly tar," &c.; how he promotes his inclinations by buying him toys suited to inspire correspondent feelings; he gives him guns and cannons, a red coat ; commends a military air ; talks of marching, sailing, fighting. If for sedentary professions, how he urges his plodding over his book. If for trade, how he inculcates the necessity of all the rules of calculation and money-getting. Then see a mother : if her daughter is designed to move in a genteel sphere, how carefully she supplies her with one or two nurses or attendants; how attentive to her dress; how watchful for lady-like manners, for polished accent of speech ; she desires she should be a rich, a great lady, and studies to adorn her with every accomplishment, repressing all inclinations derogatory to her fancied dig