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I have chosen for my text, Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. What words were ever more fitly spoken by mortal lips; and yet have these "apples of gold in pictures of silver,' so long been familiar to us, that we little think of their intrinsic and inestimable value. Can we spend the present hour more profitably, than in subjecting them to a minute and careful examination ?
As every science and course of instruction depends, essentially, upon a few elementary principles, and that of Christian education as much as any other, so a familiar acquaintance with these principles is essential. Before we undertake to teach, it is extremely important that we understand the primary laws of thought and feeling; and that we have an intimate acquaintance with the elements which we are to arrange and combine, so as to strengthen every faculty, and to secure the most perfect developement of symmetry and beauty. And, whatever our ultimate object may be, we must begin at the beginning. We must commence with the simplest combinations, either of characters, substances, thoughts, or affections. This holds true, whether we would construct the most ordinary machine, or measure the height and magnitude of the stars; whether we would unlock the stores of literature in a foreign language, or fathom the deepest wells of our own; whether, in short, we would, in any way, concentrate and direct the mighty energies, either of matter, or of mind. He who should wait for his son to understand Paradise Lost, before he would teach him the first lesson in two letters; or, who should attempt to bend an oak of fifty circles, would be about as wise, and about as successful, as the parent who should wholly neglect the religious instruction of his children in their tender years, and then undertake
to change their habits, and mould their hearts. in the strong maturity of passion and appetite. We must begin the work early, or we shall · labor in vain, and spend our strength for nought and in vain.'
The elements of things never change. The laws both of matter and mind are immutable.
What they were three thousand years ago, they were yesterday, and always will be. The same intellectual and moral cultivation which was needful then, is required now. motives which swayed the reason and the conscience before the Christian era, or before the flood, would, in like circumstances, sway it now.
And the same course of instruction and discipline which formed a good moral and religious character in the time of Solomon, would produce similar results at any other time. If it was then true, that children trained up in the right way, would not depart from it, it is still true, and will be in every coming age. For the young mind and the young heart are everywhere alike. Children are just what they always have been. They have the same constitution; the same physical, intellectual, and moral susceptibilities; the same bias to evil; the same plastic nature; and they may, by the blessing of God, on early and pious training, be moulded into the same virtuous habits.
And what is true of one child, at any given time, is true of a thousand or a million. The meaning of the text, obviously, is not, train up this child, or that child, but train up any child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Here and there a mournful exception there possibly may be. One child in an age, or a country, thus piously educated, might possibly bring down a father's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave : but if the earth should now and then tolerate one
such reprobate upon a thousand leagues of its surface, the general rule would not be affected.
It becomes extremely interesting, therefore, to inquire,
How is it that such training forms a permanently virtuous and pious character ? And,
How the whole youthful population of our country may be thus piously educated ?
1. What is it to train up a child in the way he should go? Here a few preliminary observations will, if I mistake not, lead to a clear and satisfactory answer. The elements, or first principles of education, and indeed of all science, and of all things, are extremely simple. We know, for example, that the sublime, and almost incredible discoveries of modern astronomy, are based upon numbers, lines, and angles, which are familiar to a little child. How few and simple, too, are the substances which constitute this great globe, with all its solid ground and restless waters; its smothered fires and teeming population! The philosophy of mind, so wonderful, so illimitable, so godlike—what are its elements but the simplest thoughts and perceptions imaginable? And the science of morals, reaching, as it does, from earth to heaven, from the lowly cottage up to the throne of God and the Lamb,' on what does it rest, but the simple principle of love ?
One of the most striking characteristics of the present age is simplification. Almost all our improvements in mechanics, in the arts, in the use of natural agents, and in the science of education, consist in the discovery and application of more simple principles than had before been observed. Hardly a month passes
new invention, or discovery, by which power is gained or dispensed with : and by which human labor is rendered at once more perfect, and more productive. And who can look at those great benevolent institutions, which are the glory of the present age, without being struck with the simplicity of their principles; with the unparalleled extent and efficiency of their operations ? How much
more is done to enlighten and save mankind, than the } world ever dreamed of, till the current century, and with
how little comparative cost. It is sufficient, here, just to name the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, and the American Sunday School Union, which now holds its seventh and brightest anniversary. Who would have believed, thirty years ago, that so many denominations of Christians could ever be brought to meet on common ground, in any such great Society; or that so nany millions of people could be furnished with the means of improvenient in knowledge and piety, with so much ease, and so little expense ? Verily, it is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.'
But while we speak of these and other astonishing improvements, in so many departments of Christian benevolence, let us not credit ourselves with inventions which
are as old as the Bible itself. A little reflection will be į sufficient to convince any man, that we have discovered
no new principle in morals, or religion—in the spread of the gospel, or in Christian education. In all our plans for doing good, we are only approximating to the divine simplicity of that perfect compend, · Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.' Our Foreign and Home Missionary Societies, what are they doing, but in simple obedience to the command, Go
ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature ?' All our Bible and Tract Societies, what are they employed about, but just scattering abroad those leaves of the tree of life, which are for the healing of the nations ?' And this great and prosperous Union, what is it doing, what can it ever do, more than is implied in these few monosyllables, Train up a child in the way he should go ? As there never was a more simple plan thought of for renovating the world, so none could be more comprehensive, or effectual. Let it once be thoroughly tried, in any state or nation, with a humble reliance on the grace of God; that is, let every child be trained up from infancy in the right way, and how wonderful would be the moral transformation in the space of forty years! Let the same thing be done everywhere, and how soon would there be new heavens, and a new earth?'
What then is it to train up a child in the way he should go ? The general import of the term is perfectly obvious. To train, is to draw from act to act, by a skillful influence-to form to any practice by exercise—to invite, allure, educate, bring up; or, as it is in the margin of the text, to catechise. Thus, a young animal is trained, when he is gradually brought under subjection to his master, or when he is made docile, trusty, and useful. A soldier is trained for active service, when he is taught the art of war by an experienced officer, and is by degrees inured to hardships and dangers.
A child is trained, when, instead of being left to grow up in ignorance, and follow his own inclinations, he is brought under the influence of instruction and persuasion-of mental and moral discipline. And he is trained up in the way he should go, when he receives a pious