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“ AND THESE WORDS WHICH I COMMAND THEE THIS DAY, SHALL
BE IN THINE HEART. AND THOU SHALT TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY UNTO THY CHILDREN, AND SHALT TALK OF THEM WHEN THOU SITTEST IN THINE HOUSE, AND WHEN THOU WALKEST BY • THE WAY, AND WHEN THOU LIEST DOWN, AND WHEN THOU RISEST UP.”
The generation of the children of Israel who received the last instructions of the aged Moses on the borders of the promised land were incomparably more pious and obedient than any who preceded or followed them; either having been born in the wilderness, or brought up out of Egypt in their childhood or youth, they were not so prone to idolatry and rebellion as their fathers. Eye-witnesses of many wonderful instances of the goodness and severity of God during their long and painful wanderings, and disciplined in the school of adversity, they had now become docile and teachable, and were prepared to receive the dying testimony of Moses with filial meekness.
Confident of the sincerity and piety of those whom he more immediately addressed, the exhortations of the great lawgiver of Israel were principally directed towards the preservation of the knowledge and worship of the true God in the rising generation, and among their children's children in successive ages. He contemplated with some anxiety the probable effects of victory, and consequent prosperity in the fertile land of Canaan; he feared that they might become proud and worldly-minded, and so 'might be tempted to cast off the service of God, and to forget his holy covenant. Turning therefore to the fathers and mothers in Israel, he reminded them of the great responsibility which devolved on them, and urged them to a conscientious discharge of their duty to their children. “These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
That these injunctions are equally binding upon the conscience of every christian parent, will be admitted by all.' Assuming this, let us study the words before us as an inspired directory for the religious instruction of children. And may this important subject arrest the attention of every
parent, and may the general precepts of the text, which are applicable to all persons, be written on every heart by the Holy Spirit of God!
The First lesson obviously inculcated in the text is THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL PIETY IN ALL THOSE WHO HAVE THE CARE AND EDUCATION
Before the injunction is given, “ Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children,” the precept is enforced, “These words shall be in thine heart,” and then, “thou shalt teach them to thy children.”
6. THESE WORDS which Moses commanded” were the words of God; and from that source alone-- the word of God--the substance of all religious education must be derived. We may understand the expression in its most extended sense; that WORD which we possess, the holy Scriptures, the books of the Old and New Testaments, containing the whole revealed will of Heaven, “these shall be in thine heart,” christian parent! From the love of God and of his truth in the parent bosom, proceeds all effective religious education. That of which we are ourselves ignorant we cannot teach to our children; and principles which do not actuate our own conduct we can never hope to impart to the immortal souls entrusted to us. It is therefore most important that personal piety should exist in a parent's heart. “Every sinner does indeed destroy much good;" but the father or mother of a family who is destitute of the fear of God, is in a situation to ruin not one soul, but many, and incurs responsibilities of the most awful nature. How powerful a motive is supplied by this consideration ! how awakening and animating for all who fill this important station in society! Doubly culpable is the ungodly, and doubly blessed shall be the pious parent. All who are conversant with children will admit that their powers of discernment and imitation are displayed at a very early age; and that the failings and inconsistencies of their natural guardians are quickly perceived by them. If therefore those who ought to teach them by example as well as by precept, fail in this respect, if their conduct be at variance with the principles they seek to inculcate, and they manifest ungovernable passions, angry tempers, or indeed any evil propensities, their exhortations to their children will be powerless. Religious instruction proceeding from the lips of those who are evidently irreligious will ever be ineffectual, and precepts of morality will be but empty sounds when connected with immorality of life!
Can a parent instruct her little child in the true nature of its heart, as born in sin and shapen in iniquity, who is unacquainted with her own state in the sight of God, and who has never herself felt conviction of sin? Can she exhibit to the inquiring mind and opening affections of her little child the amazing love of God in sending Jesus Christ his own Son to die for all, and more especially to bless little children, if at the same time she has never herself felt a Saviour's love, or fled to him for refuge, mercy, and salvation ? Can that parent explain the nature of true conversion to God, the renewal of the heart and affections, who has never herself experienced that great change from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God? Can the excellencies of the christian character, and the holy tempers which the grace of God imparts, be duly inculcated by one who does not herself exhibit them? Oh that all parents would weigh well these important considerations! The education of our children must commence in our own hearts; before we can teach them, we must learn ourselves ; before we can hope to regulate their tempers, we must govern our own; before we expect to witness in them the dawning of true piety, we must earnestly and anxiously labour to be truly pious ourselves. “These words shall be in thine heart;" deposited, deeply rooted there, and springing up thence in every thing that is lovely and of good report; and when by the union of gentleness with firmness, by the general consistency of our conduct, bearing testimony to the influence of religion upon our own bearts, our children perceive that what we inculcate on them we conscientiously endeavour to practise in our own lives, then shall we have made an important step in their education. It cannot be denied that this is a duty of