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terial inconvenience attend it; because it is only a sense of the power, the providence, and the government of God that is of principal importance to be inculcated. What else he is, or where he is, signifies very little in this case. A child may also be made to understand that this God gave a commission to a man, called Jesus Christ, to teach mankind his will and to persuade them to practise it; that he was put to death by wicked men who would not hearken to him; but that God raised him from the dead, and will send him again to raise all the dead; when he will take the good with him into heaven, a place of happiness, and send the wicked into hell, a place of punishment. There is nothing in all this but what a child, who has attained to the use of speech, may be made to understand sufficiently; and yet, in fact, this is the substance of all that is most important in religion. When children come to read, they may easily be taught that the Bible contains several books written by good men, which give an account of the creation of the world, of what God has done for mankind, what he enjoins us to do here, and how he will dispose of us hereafter, together with the history of the prophets, of Jesus Christ, of his apostles, and of good men in all ages; and they may be made to read the Scriptures, with the seriousness and respeet that is due to them. No other history was ever written with such plainness and simplicity, no style is so easy as that of the historical books of Scripture; and with a little judgment in selecting, and skill in explaining a few things and expressions, any child that can read may be instructed in the principles of religion from the Bible with peculiar advantage; and his mind will be impressed with greater force by reading the words of God, and of his prophets, than those which proceed from any less authority. Some may object to the scheme of inculcating the principles of virtue from a regard to any mere authority, or even from the consideration of rewards or punishments; thinking it better to have them inculcated at the very beginning, from
the most generous principles only, so as to make children love virtue for its own sake. But such persons do not understand, or do not consider, the true origin of our affections. For the most disinterested of them become so by degrees only, and are far otherwise at their first formation. Except the mere gratification of our corporeal senses, we at first value and pursue every thing for some other end than itself, and afterwards come to value it for its own sake. A child has no love or affection for any person whatever, till he has felt their importance to himself, in the manner described before; and by degrees, dropping that immediate bond of union, he loves others without any regard to himself. This process admits of the easiest illustration from what is known concerning the passion for money, which is acquired so late in life, that the whole process of it may be easily ob. served. Originally, money is not valued but for its use to procure us the gratification of a desire of something else; but, by the force of habit, misers come to make that an end, which at first was only a means, and are eagerly bent upon the accumulation of wealth as such, without ever thinking whether themselves, or any person for whose welfare they are solicitous, be likely to make any use of it. If, therefore, we should follow nature, we must instruct children by the very same process. To talk to them of doing what is right, for its own sake, cannot have any influence upon them for the present. They must first of all have much easier lessons given them, and make farther advances as they are able. If any good be done by inculcating these refined maxims of conduct upon children, it must be by means of authority only, a child not being capable of comprehending any other reason why he should adopt them; and therefore they are very improperly urged by those, who object to the use of authority in teaching religion. Whatever objection any person may have to the use of authority to inculcate the principles of religion or the maxims of right conduct upon children, all persons find themselves obliged to have recourse to it, because they are not always able to explain to a child, their reasons for his acting as they prescribe; but content themselves with hoping that, when he has, by any means, been accustomed to do what it is his duty, interest, and happiness to do, he will in time be able to see that his duty, interest, and happiness are concerned in it, and therefore will be able to persevere from a regard to those better motives. In like manner, it behoves every wise parent to make use of his own authority, together with that of God, and also of the prospect of rewards and punishments, both here and hereafter, in order to enforce upon his child that course of conduct, which he wishes him to pursue from more ingenuous principles, as soon as he shall be capable of it. Besides, the submission to competent authority is of itself right and our duty; and a habit of ready submission in this case will be of great use in the course of our lives. It ought, therefore, by all means, to be inculcated upon young persons; and this is best done, and the habit most effectually formed, by actually enforcing it, — especially where no other method can be taken to engage them to do their duty from conviction and inclination; and frequent occasions for this interposition of mere authority will occur, after persons are passed the years of infancy. For as reason acquires strength, the passions acquire strength also; insomuch that the aid of authority will be very useful till the full term at which the laws of this country impower a man to act for himself. Many persons, who are now arrived to the age of forty or fifty, may recollect occasions, on which they are thankful or would have been thankful for the control of another, when passion had blinded their own judgment, at, or even after, twenty-one years of age. I will add, as an argument that must more especially enforce the religious instruction of children, that, in fact, a man has no choice, but whether his child shall imbibe the principles of true or false religion, i.e. what he himself shall deem to be so; as it will be absolutely impossible to keep the minds of his children free from all impressions of this kind, unless they converse with nobody but himself, and a few select friends, who may be apprized of his scheme, and concur with him in it. Nay, if children go to any school, or be allowed to converse with the servants or dependants of his parent which cannot be entirely prevented, he must lose no time, and be very attentive and assiduous, or his good impressions will come too late to efface the bad ones, to which they will have been exposed. Things being thus circumstanced, no person, who considers the irreparable injury that may be done to the mind by enthusiastic and superstitious notions of religion, can hesitate about what he has to do in this case.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY RELIGIOUS
The great importance of an early religious education may appear from this consideration, that the impression which ideas make upon the mind does not depend upon the definitions of them, but upon sensations, and a great variety of ideas, that have been associated with them; and these associations require time to be formed and cemented. The idea of God may be defined, and explained to a man of the world, who has hardly ever heard, and seldom thought of him; but the impression that is made upon his mind when the name of God is, at any time, mentioned to him, cannot be the same with that which will be felt by a person who has been accustomed to hear and think of God from his infancy, who has been much conversant in the Scriptures, and has lived in a general habit of devotion. In the mind of such a person the idea of God must have acquired a thousand associations, which, though they are infinitely complex, will be felt as one sensation; but, from the nature of the thing, it is impossible that it should be ever fully explained, or communicated to another. The analysis of such an idea is far too difficult a problem for any human sagacity; or if the thing were possible, the doing of it would not enable a person to communicate the sensations that entered into it; because the same events in life would be necessary to it; and without these the same resulting ideas and impressions cannot be obtained.
For this reason no two persons can have precisely the same idea of any thing about which they are much conversant; for