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perpetuate religion ; then we may discover the primary cause of the declension of religion in any place where it has prevailed and flourished. It must be primarily
. and principally owing to the neglect of parents in exercising their parental authority over their children and households. While parents faithfully follow the example of faithful Abraham, they seldom fail of promoting and preserving religion in their own families. And family religion generally spreads from one family to another in a continued, a long, if not perpetual line of succession. It was owing, as we have seen, to pious, private, parental education, that the spirit and cause of true religion were transmitted, from family to family, through the long period from Abraham to Christ. And it has been transmitted, through the same channel, from Christ to this day. It is evident, therefore, that when this cause becomes languid, in one place or another, religion will, in the same degree, languish and decline. The declension of religion most generally begins in families. Is not this confirmed by universal observation ? Look into any place, where family government is neglected, and will you not find that religion is declining and languishing in that place ? Look into this place in particular. Many of you can recollect the piety and faithfulness of your fathers, in instructing, warning, admonishing, and restraining you, and the order and regularity which were the happy effects which followed. Do you now discover the same things in your own, or other families? Can you doubt the cause ? 'Has not family government declined, and religion declined with it? Do the third or fourth generation maintain that family government, which the first maintained ? Do you discover much
religion among the children, or youth, or the young and rising families ? Can you not easily trace this melancholy effect to the neglect or decline of the faithful exercise of parental authority? The decline of religion never fails to follow the decline of family government. Irreligious families are the nurseries of impiety and irreligion. When parents cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God and their children and households, it is to be expected, that they will grow up ignorant, stupid, impenitent and irreligious. Pa. rents of this character are fast multiplying here ; and do we not here see the melancholy fruits and and effects of their great and inexcusable negligence ?
4. If the proper exercise of parental authority be so important, as has been said, to promote and perpetuate religion ; then we may discover the primary cause of the prevalence of religious errors at this day in this land. A few years ago, either infidelity, or gross and fatal errors were scarcely any where to be found.--The great and fundamental doctrines of the gospel were generally taught, believed, and professed. But of late, a host of sectarians, and a flood of fatal errors have spread almost every where. These dire effects are, undoubtedly, primarily and principally owing to the neglect of parents in not giving their children and households, that religious instruction, which was given to them, and which they ought to have given to those under their watch and care. The general practice of parents and others of teaching children and youth the Assembly's Catechism continued, for many years, almost a complete barrier against the spread of dangerous and fatal errors in respect to the essential doctrines and duties of christianity. But since this excellent system of di
i vine truths has been so much laid aside in families and
schools, a torrent of fatal errors has come in, and threat1 ens to bear down all before it. How many parents are
there, who not only neglect to teach their children and B households the Catechism, but object against its being ... taught, and the bible's being read in the school? Is it od strange then, that truth is fallen in our streets, and that od error so triumphantly prevails almost every where ?
Mankind naturally love error and hate religious truth.
This was strikingly verified in the days of Jeroboam, od who led away ten tribes out of twelve, to forsake the 1 house and worship of the true God, to bow down and
worship dumb idols. As soon as God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, he gave up all nations to idolatry ; for there was not a man left to restrain them from their beloved error. And the only way, by
which any were preserved from falling into the same erd ror, was by the faith and faithfulness of Abraham...
And if any thing, by the way of external means can suppress and restrain the progress of error, it must be the faithful exercise of parental authority, example, and instruction. This will strike at the fountain-head of the numerous streams of error, which threaten to overwhelm the land.
5. We learn from this subject, to whom it primarily and principally belongs to bring about a reformation in piety and virtue. It certainly belongs to parents in particular. And is there a pious, or sober parent, who will not acknowledge, that a reformation is necessary ? There is no occasion to look into the state of partic ular families, in order to see that parental authority is not generally and duly exercised. We learn the
neg. lect of performing that great duty, by the visible effects of the neglect in the rising generation and rising fami
lies. Is there any fashionable and sinful amusement, error, ur vice, which children and youth and rising families are not running into ? And should there not be a reformation ? But to whom can we look to bring it about? Is it reasonable to look to the
who are joyfully swimming down the current of corruption ? Can it be expected, that they will reform themselves ? It cannot. Must we not then look to the aged and the heads of families to reform the young, the unsuspicious and unguarded ? The cause of virtue and religion is now lodged in the hands of the pious and virtuous few, to defend, promote, and perpetuate the infinitely important interests of vital piety, and christian morality. If you now ask, what must we do? The answer is easy. Be faithful to yourselves, and to your children and households. I might venture to say, do as your fathers did to you. You do not want for numbers, for information, nor for influence. The wicked always did and always must bow before the good. You have most of you vowed to the Lord, with respect to your children and households and you may not go back.--What if it be painful and self-denying to do your duty, have you not solemnly engaged to do it? Did you expect, when you engaged to live a christian life, that you could live such a life, without self-denial ? And what have you to lose, in comparison with what you have to gain for yourselves and households ? You may lose the love and applause of some, but not the good opinion of any. All men have consciences, which ap
, prove of right conduct in themselves and others.--Let every one then this day make and keep the same good resolution, that Joshua made, “ as for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
THE REASON ANNEXED TO THE SECOND
Exodus. xx. 5, 6.--- For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
This is the reason annexed to the second commandment, which runs in this form : “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth : Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them : for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me ; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” The phrase, visiting iniquity, is often used in scripture, and always means punishing iniquity. God here threatens to punish disobedient children for the sake of their disobedient
parents; and on the other hand, he promises to bless obedient children for the sake of their obedient parents. This reason annexed to the second commandment is probably much oftener read and repeated, than understood. It was designed to make a deep impression upon the minds of both parents and children. But it is