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L E C T U R E I.
N all Matters of Importance, every one that wants
Information, should first seek for it, then attend to it:
and the more our Happiness depends upon judging and acting right in any Cafe, the more Care and Pains we should take to qualify ourselves for both. Now the Happiness of all Persons depends beyond Comparison chiefly on being truly religious. For true Religion confifts in three Things ; reasonable Government of ourfelves, good Behaviour towards our Fellow-creatures, and Dutifulness to our Maker : the Practice of which will give us, for the most Part, Health of Body and Ease of Mind, a comfortable Provision of Necessaries, and Peace with all around us; but however, will always Tecure to us, what is infinitely more valuable still, the Favour and Blessing of God; who, on these Terms, will both watch over us continually with a fatherly Kindness in this Life, and bestow on us eternal Felicity in the next.
Since, therefore, whoever is religious must be happy, the
great Concern of every one of us is to know and observe the Doctrines and Rules which Religion delivers. Now we all come into the World ignorant of these ; and our Faculties are so weak at first, and gain Strength so slowly; and the Attention of our earlier Years to serious Things is so small; that even were our Duty to comprehend no more than ourown Reason could teach
US, few, if any, would learn it sufficiently without Amistance; and none so soon as they would need it. They would come out into a World full of Dangers, every Way
unprepared for avoiding them ; would go wrong in the very Beginning of Life, perhaps fatally : at leat would hurt, if they did not ruin themselves; and make their Return into the right Path certainly difficult, and probably late,
But we must consider yet further, that Reason, were it improved to the utmost, cannot discover to us all that we are to believe and do: but a large and most important Part of it is to be learnt from the Revelation made to us in God's holy Word. And this, though perfectly well suited to the Purpofes for which it was designed, yet being originally delivered at very distant Times, to very different Sorts of Persons, on very different Occasions ; and the several Articles of Faith and Precepts of Conduct, which it prescribes, not being collected and laid down methodically in any one Part of it, but dispersed with irregular Beauty through the whole, as the Riches of Nature are through the Creation; the Informations of the more knowing must be in many Respects needful, to prepare the more ignorant for receiving the Benefits, of which they are capable from reading the Scripture. And particularly, giving them before-hand a summary and orderly View of the principal Points comprehended in it, will qualify them better than any other Thing to discern its true Meaning, so far as is requisite, in each Part.
Therefore, both in what Reason of itself dictates, and what God hath added to it, Instruction is necessary, especially for Beginners. And indeed, as they are never left to find out by their own Abilities any other Sort of useful Knowledge, but always helped, if possible; it would be very strange, if, in the most important Kind, the same Care at least were not taken.
But besides enlightening the Ignorance of Persons, Instruction doth equal, if not greater, Service, by preventing or opposing their Prejudices and Partialities. From our tenderest Āge we have our wrong Inclinations, and are very prone to form wrong Notions in Support of them ; both which we are extremely backward to
acknowledge, and very apt to model our Religion in such Manner as to leave Room for our Faults. Now right Explanations clearly delivered, and right Admonitions pressed home, in early Days, may preserve Persons from thus deceiving themselves, and guard them against future, as well as prefent Dangers. Nay, though flighted, and seemingly forgotten for a Time, they may still keep secretly such a Hold upon the Mind as will sooner or later bring those back, who would else never have feen, or never have owned, that they had lost their Way.
But a still further Advantage of Instruction is, that bringing frequently before Persons Eye; those Truths on which otherwise they would seldom reflect, though ever so much convinced of them, it keeps the Thoughts of their Duty continually at Hand, to resist the Temptations with which they are attacked. Thus their Lives and their Minds are insensibly formed to be such as they ought; and being thus trained up in the Way wherein they jould go, there is great Hope, that they will not afterwards depart from it a.
Nor doth Reason only, but Experience too, shew the Need of timely Institution in Piety and Virtue. For is it not visible, that, principally for Want of it, Multitudes of unhappy Creatures, in all Ranks of Life, fet out from the first in Sin, and follow it on as securely, as if it were the only way they had to take ; do unspeakable Mischief in the World, and utterly undo themselves, Body and Soul: whilst others, of no better natural Difpofitions, but only better taught, are harmlefs and useful, esteemed and honoured, go through Life with Comfort, and meet Death with joyful Hope ? There are doubtless, in such Numbers, Exceptions on both sides ; but this is undeniably the ordinary, the probable, the always to be expeéted Course of Things. Therefore seriously consider, will you despise religious Knowledge, and be like the former miserable Wretches? or will you embrace it, and be happy with the latter, here and to Eternity? a Prov, xxii. 6.
But it is not sufficient that you be willing to receive Instruction, unless they also, to whom that Care belongs, are willing to give it. Now the Care of giving it belongs to different Persons in different Cases. In the Case of Children, it usually belongs in a peculiar Degree to their Parents; who, having been the Means of bringing them into the World, are most strongly bound to endeavour that their Being may prove a Benefit, not a Cause of Lamentation to them; and having been endued by Heaven with tender Affections towards them, will be doubly Sinners against them, if they are guilty of that worst of Cruelty, not teaching them their Duty: without which also, and it deserøes a very serious Confideration, they can no more hope for Comfort in them here, than for Acceptance with God hereafter. And therefore, both the Old Testament directed the Jews, to tcach their Children diligently the Words which God had commanded them b; and the New enjoins Christians to bring up theirs in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lorde Sometimes indeed Want of Leisure, sometimes of Knowledge and Ability, obliges Parents to commit Part, it may be a considerable one, of the Instruction of their Children to other Persons. But far from being ever discharged of the whole Burthen, they must always remember, that unless they allift and enforce what others endeavour, it will seldom produce any valuable Effect; and much less, if some of the Things, which their Children hear them say, and see them do almost every Day, are directly contrary to those, which they pretend they would have them believe and learn.
The Persons on whom usually this Care is devolved by Parents, are Masters and Mistresses of Schools, and afterwards Tutors in Colleges, who ought never to omit furnishing Children, amongst other Knowledge, plentifully with that which is the most necessary of all ; but constantly to employ the Influence which they have on their Minds, and the Knowledge which they acquire