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his children and household in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. Moses enjoined the same duty upon the parents in Israel. He said unto them, “Hear, 0) Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Solomon inculcates the same duty upon parents.--“ Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” And the apostle exhorts parents “ to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Mankind are born like the wild ass's colt, ignorant of God and divine things, and unwilling to learn their duty to God and man.
It is therefore, the proper right and business of parents to instruct their children and all under their care, in the duties of piety, morality, and of every thing decent, and amiable in the sight of God and man.--Their parental authority obliges them to use all the means in their power, both by instruction and example, to form their children and households to virtue, piety, and usefulness.
It must be further observed, 3. That parental authority gives parents a right to restrain, as well as to instruct their children and households. Children and youth are naturally inclined to vanity and vice, from which they need to be guarded and restrained, not only by instruction, admonition, and advice, but by proper authority. It is the duty of parents to command, as well as to instruct and reprove. God knew, that Abraham would have occasion to command his children and household ; and that he would command with authority and effect. A right to command always implies a power and right to enforce obedience. A command always implies a penalty of some kind or other, in case of disobedience. A parental precept, like every other lawful precept, always contains a penalty either expressed or understood. And parents always have the same right to inflict a just penalty, as to give a just precept or command. The bible, which gives parents authority over their children and households, allows and even requires them to exercise that authority, both by precept and penalty. Solomon says “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child ; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Again he says, “ Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Again he says,
“ Withhold not correction from the child : for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.--Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell.” Again he says, “Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest : yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
It is not, indeed, always necessary, nor even proper for the parents to correct by the rod. There are many other ways in which they may express displeasure towards any of their froward children and household, which is the proper design of all punishment. To deny or take away a darling object may serve the same purpose as the rod. Or, on greater occasions, to deny some peculiar favor or privilege, may be a sufficient restraint. But in some way or other, , parents are bound to restrain their children and household from every evil practice, or sinful course. When
instruction, warning, and admonition fail to restrain them, they must use more powerful and coercive means, which are sufficient to produce the desired effect. Though Eli used the milder means to govern his family, and restrain them from evil, which proved ineffectual ; yet God blamed him for neglecting to exercise the power he had to restrain them effectually.--As all parents have authority to command and to punish all under their government; so God will require it at their hands, if they neglect to instruct and restrain their children and households. It now remains to show,
III. The importance of exercising parental authority.
This will appear, if we consider the great and happy consequences, which family government tends to promote.
1. Family government directly tends to promote family religion. This is plainly intimated in the text. God foresaw that Abraham's children and household would keep the way of the Lord, and do justice and judgment, that is, become pious, virtuous, and useful, because he would properly command, instruct, and restrain them ; or in other words; give them a pious and religious education. Accordingly, we find that family religion was the happy effect of his wise and faithful family government. His children and household were truly religious. He instructed, governed, and restrained Ishmael until he was thirteen years old, and then devoted him to God, by the right of circumcision.--Though after this, Ishmael conducted ill, which constrained Abraham to command him to leave his house ; yet he did not cease to love and pray for him, with tender paternal affection. He said unto God,
“O that Ishmael might live before thee.” This prayer was undoubtedly heard and answered. So that we have just ground to believe, that Ishmael was a good man. And we know that Isaac was. Whether all his household were pious, we are not told. But one of his servants, whom he sent to Laban upon an important errand, appears to have been not only faithful, but truly pious. It was Abraham's primary object in the government of his numerous family to promote their piety, and he employed the most proper means to obtain the important end he had in view. He walked before God with a perfect heart. He devoted his children and household to God according to his own institution. He employed his parental authority in teaching and restraining all under his command. And he had the great satisfaction to see his children and household keeping the ways of the Lord, doing justice and judgment, and becoming useful and happy in the world. Other pious parents have pursued the same method and employed the same means to promote family religion, and happily succeeded. The pious parents of Samuel
him a pious education, which appears to have been the means of his eminent piety and useful
Zacharias and Elizabeth were both righteous, and walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. They dedicated their son John to the Lord in the way he had appointed, instructed and restrained him; and instrumentally qualified him to prepare the way for the coming of Christ, and the commencement of the gospel dispensation.There is nothing, that has a greater tendency to promote family religion, than the proper exercise of parental authority in respect to the dedication, instruc
tion, and restraint of children and households. If parents neglect to exercise their rightful authority over their families, they will find it morally impossible to instruct and restrain them properly. Where can you find an instance of family religion, where family government is neglected ? It is true, there were saints in Cesar's household, and there may be pious individuals, where parental authority is not properly exercised; but these are rare instances. Nevertheless, it is the natural tendency of family government to promote family religion. Whenever we find religious parents, who give up their children and households to God, and instruct, and restrain them, there we generally find vital piety to prevail more or less, and those under their care early devoting themselves to God, and walking with the wise in the ways of wisdom, righteousness and peace. The proper exercise of parental authorty is, therefore, very important, as it directly tends to promote family religion.
2. The proper exercise of parental authority is highly important, as it tends to propagate religion from generation to generation, throughout the world..-This God mentions as the great and happy effect of Abraham's fidelity in exercising his parental authority over his family and household. “ And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him ? For I know him, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment ; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him ;" which was,