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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE READER
CONCERNING THE FOLLOWING SERMON.
WHOSOEVER shall judge it worth his time to peruse the following discourse, (if it meets with any such,) he is desired to take notice, that it was penned and prepared to have been preached at Westminster Abbey, at a solemn meeting of such as had been bred at Westminster school. But the death of King Charles II. happening in the mean time, the design of this solemnity fell to the ground together with him, and was never resumed since; though what the reason of this might be, I neither know, nor ever thought it worth while to inquire: it being abundantly enough for me, that I can with great truth affirm, that I never offered myself to this service, nor so much as thought of appearing in a post so manifestly above me; but that a very great person* (whose word was then law, as well as his profession) was pleased mero motu (to speak in the prerogative style, as best suiting so commanding a genius) to put this task upon me, as well as afterwards to supersede the performance of it: the much kinder act this of the two, I must confess, and that in more respects than one, as saving me the trouble of delivering, and at the same time blushing at so mean a discourse, and the congregation also the greater, of hearing it. But what further cause there was or might be of so much uncertainty in this whole proceeding, I cannot tell, unless possibly, that what his lordship as chief justice had determined, he thought fit as chancellor to reverse.
Nevertheless, out of an earnest (and I hope very justifiable) desire, partly to pass a due encomium (or such an one at least as I am able) upon so noble a seat of the Muses as this renowned school has been always accounted hitherto, and partly to own the obligation and debt lying upon me to the place of my education, I have here at length presumed to publish it. So that although neither at the time appointed for that solemn meeting, nor ever since, have I had any opportunity given me to preach this sermon myself, yet, now that it is printed, possibly some other may condescend to do it, as before in several such cases the like has been too well known to have been done.
THE VIRTUOUS EDUCATION OF YOUTH THE SUREST, IF NOT SOLE WAY TO A HAPPY AND HONOURABLE OLD AGE.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it."- PROV. xxii. 6.
WHEN I look back upon the old infamous rebellion and civil war of forty-one, which, like an irresistible torrent, broke in upon and bore down the whole frame of our government both in church and state, together with the principal concerns of private families, and the personal interests of particular men, (as it is not imaginable, that where a deluge overtops the mountains it should spare the valleys;) and when I consider also, how fresh all this is in the remembrance of many, and how frequent in the discourse of most, and in both carrying the same face of horror, (as
• The lord Jefferys.
inseparable from such reflections ;) I have wondered with myself, and that even to astonishment, how it should be possible, that in the turn of so few years there should be so numerous a party of men in these kingdoms, who (as if the remembrance of all those dismal days between forty and sixty were utterly erased out of the minds of men, and struck out of the annals of time) are still prepared and ready, nay, eager, and impetuously bent to act over the same tragical scene again. Witness, first of all, the many virulent and base libels spread over the whole nation against the king and his government; and in the next place, the design of seizing his royal person, while the parliament was held in Oxford in the year 1682; and likewise the Rye conspiracy, formed and intended for the assassination of the king and of the duke his brother, in the year 1683; and lastly, (though antecedent in time,) the two famous* city cavalcades of clubmen, in the two years of 1679 and 1680, countenanced and encouraged under that silly pretence of burning the pope, but carried on with so much insolence and audacious fury, and such an open, barefaced contempt of all authority, as if the rabble had in plain terms bid the government do its worst, and touch or meddle with them if it durst. So hard has the experience of the world found it, for the pardon of a guilt (too big for the common measures of pardon) to produce any thing better than the same practices which had been pardoned before.
But since nothing can happen without some cause or other, I have been farther considering with myself what the cause of this terrible evil, which still looks so grim upon the government, should be. And to me it seems to be this; that as the forementioned rebellion and civil war brought upon the nation a general dissolution of order, and a corruption and debauchment of men's manners, so the greatest part of the nation by much now alive has been born, or at least bred, since that fatal rebellion. For surely those who are now about or under fifty years of age make a much greater number in the kingdom than those who are above it; especially so much above it, as to have passed their youth before the time of the late confusions; which have since so perfectly changed and new-modelled, or rather extinguished the morality, nay, the very natural temper of the English nation.
For this is certain, that wise and thinking men observe with sorrow that the change is so very great and bad, that there is no relation in society or common life but has suffered and been the worse for it. For look into families, and you will find parents complain
R. C. said he had tossed up the ball, and his successor
P. W. said he would keep it up. That is to say, Extortion be
gan the dance, and Perjury would carry it on.
ing, that their children pay them not that duty and reverence, which they have heard and read that children used to shew their parents heretofore. Masters also complain, that servants are neither so obedient nor so trusty as in former times. And lastly, for the conjugal relation, (a thing of the greatest and most direct influence upon the weal or woe of societies of any other thing in the world besides,) it is but too frequent a complaint, that neither are men so good husbands, nor women so good wives, as they were before that accursed rebellion had made that fatal leading breach in the conjugal tie between the best of kings and the happiest of people. But now, how comes all this to pass? why, from the exorbitant licence of men's education. They were bred in lawless, ungoverned times, and conventicle, fanatic academies, in defiance of the universities, and when all things were turned topsy-turvy, and the bonds of government quite loosed or broken asunder. So that, as soon as they were able to observe any thing, the first thing which they actually did observe, were inferiors trampling upon their superiors; servants called by vote of parliament out of their masters' service to fight against their prince, and so to complete one rebellion with another; and women running in whole shoals to conventicles, to seek Christ forsooth, but to find somebody else. By which liberties having once leaped over the severity and strictness of former customs, they found it an easy matter, with debauched morals and deflowered consciences, to launch out into much greater. So that no wonder now, if, in an age of a more grown and improved debauchery, you see men spending their whole time in taverns, and their lives in duels; inflaming themselves with wine, till they come to pay the reckoning with their blood; and women spending both time and fortune, and perhaps their honour too, at balls, plays, and treats. The reason of all which is, that they are not now bred as they were heretofore: for that which was formerly their diversion only, is now their chief, if not sole business; and in case you would see or speak with them, you must not look for them at their own houses, but at the playhouse, if you would find them at home. They have quite cashiered the commandment, which enjoins them six days doing what they have to do, and substituted to themselves a new and very different one in the room of it; according to which they are for six days to go to plays and to make visits, setting apart a seventh to go to church to see and to be seen. A blessed improvement doubtless, and such as the fops our ancestors (as some use to call them) were never acquainted with. And thus I have in some measure shewn you the true grievance which this poor and distracted kingdom groans under. A grievance (without the help of a vote) pro
perly so called. A grievance springing from a boundless, immense, and absurd liberty. For though the zealous outcry and republican cant still used to join those two tinkling words liberty and property together, (in a very different sense from what belonged to them,) to make a rattle for the people; yet I am sure the intolerable excess of liberty has been the chief thing which has so much contributed to the curtailing their properties; the true, if not only cause, which of late years has made such numbers so troublesome to the government as they have been.
Well, but if it be our unhappiness that the mischief is become almost general, let us at least prevent the next degree of it, and keep it from being perpetual. And this is not to be done but by a remedy which shall reach as far and deep as the distemper: for that began early, and therefore the cure must do so too, even from the childhood of the patient, and the infancy of the disease. There must be one instauratio magna of the methods and principles of education, and the youth of the nation, as it were, new cast into another and a better mould.
And for this we have the counsel and conduct of the wisest of men, Solomon himself, who knew no other course to ensure a growing flourishing practice of virtue in a man's mature or declining age, but by planting it in his youth; as he that would have his grounds covered and loaded with fruit in autumn, must manure and dress them in the spring. "Train up a child," says he, "in the way that he should go :" the way, "non qua itur, sed qua eundum est." Man is of an active nature, and must have a way to walk in, as necessarily as a place to breathe in. And several ways will be sure to offer themselves to his choice; and he will be as sure to choose one of them. His great concern is, that it be a safe one; since, as the variety of them makes the choice difficult, so the illness of some of them must make it dangerous. "For," as the same Solomon tells us, "there is a way which seems right in a man's own eyes," when yet the tendency of it is fatal. An easy, pleasant, and a broad way, a way always thronged with passengers, but such that a man is never the safer for travelling in company. But this is not the way here chalked out to us: but rather a rugged, strait, and narrow way; and, upon that account, the lesser, and consequently the younger any one is, the easier may he get into it, and pass through it. In a word, it is the path of virtue, and the high road to heaven, the via ad bonos mores; the entrance into which, some say, is never too late, and, 1 am sure, can never be too soon. For it is certainly long and laborious; and therefore, whosoever hopes to reach the end of it, it will concern him to set out betimes; and his great encouragement so to do is, that this is the
likeliest means to give him constancy and perseverance in it. "He will not," says Solomon, "forsake it when he is old." And such is the length of the stage, that it will be sure to hold him in his course, and to keep him going on till he is grown so.
It is, in my opinion, very remarkable, that notwithstanding all the rewards which confessedly belong to virtue in both worlds, yet Solomon, in the text, alleges no other argument for or motive to the course here recommended to us, but the end of it: nor enjoins us the pursuit of virtue in our youth, upon any other reason mentioned in the words, but that we may practise it in our age. And no doubt it is an excellent one, and will have many others fall in with it, for the enforcement of the duty here prescribed to us.
For can any thing in nature be more odious and despicable, than a wicked old man? a man, who, after threescore or fourscore years spent in the world, after so many sacraments, sermons, and other means of grace, taken in, digested, and defeated, shall continue as errant a hypocrite, dissembler, and masquerader, in religion as ever, still dodging and doubling with God and man, and never speaking his mind, nor so much as opening his mouth in earnest, but when he eats or breathes.
Again, can any thing be so vile and forlorn, as an old, broken and decrepit sensualist, creeping (as it were) to the devil upon all four? Can there be a greater indecency than an old drunkard? or any thing more noisome and unnatural, than an aged, silver-haired wanton, with frost in his bones, and snow upon his head, following his lewd, senseless aniours ? a wretch so scorned, so despised, and so abandoned by all, that his very vices forsake him.
And yet, as youth leaves a man, so age generally finds him. If he passes his youth juggling, shuffling, and dissembling, it is odds but you will have him at the same legerdemain, and shewing tricks in his age also: and if he spends his young days whoring and drinking, it is ten to one but age will find him in the same filthy drudgery still, or at least wishing himself so. And lastly, if death (which cannot be far off from age) finds him so too, his game is then certainly at the best, and his condition (which is the sting of all) never possible to be better.
And therefore, whosoever thou art, who hast enslaved thyself to the paltry, bewitching pleasures of youth, and lookest with a wry face and a sour eye upon the rough, afflicting severities of virtue; consider with thyself, that the pleasures of youth will not, cannot be the pleasures of old age, though the guilt will. And consider also, what a dismal, intolerable thing it must needs be, for a man to feel a total declension in his strength, his
morals, and his esteem together. And remember, that for all the disciplines of temperance, the hardships of labour, and the abridgments of thy swelling appetites, it will be a full, sufficient, and more than equivalent recompense, to be healthful, cheerful and honourable, and (which is more than all) to be virtuous when thou art old.
The proposition then before us is this,That a strict and virtuous education of youth is absolutely necessary to a man's attainment of that inestimable blessing, that unspeakable felicity of being serviceable to his God, easy to himself, and useful to others, in the whole course of his following life.
In order to the proof of which, I shall lay down these six propositions.
I. That in the present state of nature there is in every man a certain propensity to vice, or a corrupt principle more or less disposing him to evil; which principle is sometimes called the flesh, sometimes concupiscence, and sometimes sensuality, and makes one part of that which we call original sin. A principle, which, though it both proceeds from sin, and disposes to sin, yet, till it comes to act, the doctors of the Romish church deny to be in itself sinful. And the Pelagians deny that there is any such thing at all; especially our modern, orthodox, and more authentic Pelagians. For though our church indeed, in her ninth article, positively and expressly asserts both; yet there having been given us, not very long since, a new and more correct draught of discipline, to reconcile us to the schismatics, it is not impossible but that in time we may have a new draught of doctrine also, to reconcile us to the Socinians.
II. The second proposition is this, That the forementioned propensity of the sensual part, or principle, to vice, being left to itself, will certainly proceed to work, and to exert itself in action; and if not hindered and counteracted, will continue so to do, till practice passes into custom or habit, and so by use and frequency comes to acquire a domineering strength in a man's conversation.
III. The third proposition is, That all the disorders of the world, and the confusions that disturb persons, families, and whole societies or corporations, proceed from this natural propensity to vice in particular persons, which being thus heightened by habitual practice, runs forth into those several sorts of vice which corrupt and spoil the manners of "Whence come wars and fightings?" says the apostle, (James, iv. 1;) come they not hence, even from your lusts that war in your members?" And indeed it is hard to assign any mischief befalling mankind, but what proceeds from some extravagance either of passion or desire, from lus or anger, covetousness or ambition. IV. The fourth proposition is, That when
the corruption of men's manners, by the habitual improvement of this vicious principle, comes from personal to be general and universal, so as to diffuse and spread itself over a whole community; it naturally and directly tends to the ruin and subversion of the government where it so prevails; so that Machiavel himself (a person never likely to die for love of virtue or religion) affirms over and over in his Political Discourses upon Livy, that where the manners of a people are generally corrupted, there the government cannot long subsist." I say, he affirms it as a stated, allowed principle; and I doubt not, but the destruction of governments may be proved and deduced from the general corruption of the subjects' manners, as a direct and natural cause thereof, by a demonstration as certain as any in the mathematics, though not so evident; for that, I confess, the nature of the thing may not allow.
V. The fifth proposition is, That this ill principle, which being thus habitually improved, and from personal corruptions spreading into general and national, is the cause of all the mischiefs and disorders, public and private, which trouble and infest the world, is to be altered and corrected only by discipline, and the infusion of such principles into the rational and spiritual part of man, as may powerfully sway his will and affections, by convincing his understanding that the practice of virtue is preferable to that of vice; and that there is a real happiness as well as honesty in the one, and a real misery as well as a turpitude in the other; there being no mending or working upon the sensual part, but by well principling the intellectual.
VI. The sixth and last proposition is, That this discipline and infusion of good principles into the mind, which only can and must work this great and happy change upon a man's morals, by counterworking that other sensual and vicious principle, which would corrupt them, can never operate so kindly, so efficaciously, and by consequence so successfully, as when applied to him in his minority, while his mind is ductile and tender, and so ready for any good impression. For when he comes once to be in years, and his mind, having been prepossessed with ill principles, and afterwards hardened with ill practices, grows callous, and scarce penetrable, his case will be then very different, and the success of such applications very doubtful, if not desperate.
Now the sum of these six propositions in short is this: That there is in every man naturally (as nature now stands) a sensual principle disposing him to evil. That this principle will be sure, more or less, to pass into action; and, if not hindered, to produce vicious habits and customs. That these vicious habits are the direct causes of all the
miseries and calamities that afflict and disturb mankind. That when they come to spread so far, as from personal to grow national, they wil will weaken, and at length destroy governments. That this ill principle is controllable and conquerable only by discipline, and the infusion of good and contrary principles into the mind. And lastly, that this discipline or infusion of good principles is never like to have its full force, efficacy, and success upon the minds of men, but during their youth.
Which whole deduction or chain of propositions, proceeding upon so firm and natural, and withal so clear and evident a connection of each proposition with the other, I suppose there can need no farther demonstration to prove it as absolutely necessary, as the peace of mankind, public and private, can be, that the minds of youth should be formed and seasoned with a strict and virtuous, an early and preventing education.
Let us now, in the next place, see who they are whose province it is to be so great a blessing to society, so vast a benefit to the world, as to be the managers of this important trust.
And we shall find that it rests upon three sorts of men, namely,
1. Parents. 2. Schoolmasters. And, 3, the Clergy; such especially as have cure of souls.
1. And first for Parents. Let them endeavour to deserve that honour which God has commanded their children to pay them; and believe it, that must be by greater and better offices than barely bringing them into this world; which of itself puts them only in danger of passing into a worse. And as the good old sentence tells us, that it is better a great deal to be unborn, than either unbred, or bred amiss; so it cannot but be matter of very sad reflection to any parent, to think with himself, that he should be instrumental to give his child a body only to damn his soul. And therefore, let parents remember, that as the paternal is the most honourable relation, so it is also the greatest trust in the world, and that God will be a certain and severe exacter of it; and the more so, because they have such mighty opportunities to discharge it, and that with almost infallible success. Forasmuch as a parent receives his child, from the hand of God and nature, a perfect blank, a mere rasa tabula as to any guilt actually contracted by him, and consequently may write upon him what he pleases, having the invaluable advantage of making the first impressions, which are of so strong and so prevailing an influence to determine the practice either to vice or virtue, that Buxtorf, in the third chapter of his Synagoga Judaica, tells us, that the Jewish fathers professedly take upon themselves the guilt of all their chil
dren's sins till they come to be thirteen years old; at which age the youth is called filius præcepti, as being then reckoned under the obligation of the law, and so by a solemn discharge left to sin for himself.
Now these and the like considerations (one would think) should remind parents what a dreadful account lies upon them for their children; and that, as their children, by the laws of God and man, owe them the greatest reverence, so there is a sort of reverence also that they as much owe their children: a reverence, that should make them not dare to speak a filthy word, or to do a base or an indecent action before them. What says our Saviour to this point? (Matt. xviii. 6.) "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." And surely he, who teaches these little ones to offend God, offends them with a witness: indeed so unmercifully, that it would be much the less cruelty of the two, if the wretch their father should stab or stifle those poor innocents in their nurse's arms. For then he might damn himself alone, and not his children also; and himself for his own sins only, and not for theirs too.
And therefore, with all imaginable concern of conscience, let parents make it their business to infuse into their children's hearts early and good principles of morality. Let them teach them from their very cradle to think and speak awfully of the great God, reverently of religion, and respectfully of the dispensers of it; it being no part of religion any where, but within the four seas, to despise and scoff at the ministers of it. But above all, next to their duty to God himself, let them be carefully taught their duty to their king; and not so much as to pretend to the fear of the one, without the honour of the other; let them be taught a full and absolute (so far as legal) obedience and subjection to him (in all things lawful,) the true and glorious characteristic of the Church of England; for I know no church else, where you will be sure to find it. And to this end, let parents be continually instilling into their children's minds a mortal and implacable hatred of those twin plagues of Christendom, fanaticism and rebellion; which cannot be more compendiously, and withal more effectually done, than by displaying to them the late unparalleled rebellion in its flaming and true colours.
For this was the method which God himself prescribed to his own people, to perpetuate the remembrance of any great and notable providence towards them; and particularly in the institution of the prime instance of their religion the Passover, (Exod. xii. 26, 27,) "And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean you by
this service? that you shall say, It is the Lord's passover; who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our fathers," &c. So say I to all true English parents: When your children shall ask you, Why do we keep the thirtieth of January as a fast? and the twenty-ninth of May as a festival? What mean you by this service? Then is the time to rip up and lay before them the tragical history of the late rebellion and unnatural civil war. A war commenced without the least shadow or pretence of right, as being notoriously against all law. A war begun without any provocation, as being against the justest, the mildest, and most pious prince that had ever reigned. A war raised upon clamours of grievances, while the subject swam in greater plenty and riches than had ever been known in these Islands before, and no grievances to be found in the three kingdoms, besides the persons who cried out of them. Next to this, let them tell their children over and over, of the villainous imprisonments, and contumelious trial, and the barbarous murder of that blessed and royal martyr, by a company of cobblers, tailors, draymen, drunkards, whoremongers, and broken tradesmen; though since, I confess, dignified with the title of the sober part of the nation. These, I say, were the illustrious judges of that great monarch. Whereas the whole people of England, nobles and commons together, neither in parliament nor out of parliament, (as that great judge* in the trial of the regicides affirmed,) had power by law to touch one hair of his head, or judicially to call him to account for any of his actions. And then, in the last place, they are to tell their children also of the base and brutish cruelties practised by those bloodhounds in the plunders, sequestrations, decimations, and murders of their poor fellow subjects: likewise of their horrid oaths, covenants, and perjuries; and of their shameless, insatiable, and sacrilegious avarice, in destroying the purest church in the world, and seizing its revenues; and all this under the highest pretences of zeal for religion, and with the most solemn appeals to the great God, while they were actually spitting in his face.
These things, I say, and a thousand more, they are to be perpetually inculcating into the minds of their children, according to that strict injunction of God himself to the Israelites, (Deut. vi. 6, 7,) "These words shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt diligently teach them thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." Such discourses should open their eyes in the morning, and close them in the evening. And I
* Sir Orlando Bridgman, lord chief baron.