« Prev A Discourse Upon Proverbs xxii. 6. Next »

The virtuous education of youth the surest, if not sole way to an happy and honourable old age.

IN

A DISCOURSE

UPON

PROVERBS XXII. 6.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

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 in separable 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 380whole 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 famous1616   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 began the dance, and Perjury would carry it on. 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 further 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 381it, 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 complaining, 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 topsyturvy, 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 382complete 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 defloured 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; in flaming 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 shown you the true grievance which this poor and distracted kingdom groans under. A grievance (without the help of a vote) properly so called. A grievance springing from a boundless, immense, and absurd liberty. For though the zealous 383outcry 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 insure 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. 384His 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, I 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 not withstanding all the rewards which confessedly be long 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 385in 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 an 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 amours? 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 386youth, 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 of it 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 recompence, to be healthful, cheerful, and honour able, 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 387authentic 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 men. 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 lust 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 388rally 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 power fully sway his will and affections, by convincing his understanding that the practice of virtue is prefer able 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 389would 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 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 further 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 390with 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, viz.

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 unvaluable advantage of making the first impressions, which are of so strong and so prevailing an influence to determine the practice 391either 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 children’s sins till they come to be thirteen years old; at which age the youth is called filius praecepti, 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 undecent 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 392of 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 393of 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 judge1717    Sir Orlando Bridgman, lord chief baron. 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, in satiable, 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 394great 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 he 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 dare undertake, that if this one thing had been faithfully and constantly practised, even but since the late restoration, (which came upon these poor kingdoms like life from the dead,) the fanatics had never been so considerable, as to cause those terrible convulsions in church and state, and those misunderstandings between the king and his people, which we have seen and trembled at, and must expect to see, as long as the same spirit, which governed in forty-one, continues still so powerful (as it does) amongst us. For I am sure no king and that can ever reign quietly together.

But some perhaps may here very sagely object. Is not this the way to sour and spoil the minds of children, by keeping the remembrance of the late rebellion always fresh upon them? I answer, No; no more than to warn them against poisons, pits, and precipices is likely to endanger their lives; or to tell them by what ill courses men come to the gallows is the ready way to bring them thither. No; nothing can be too much hated by children, which cannot be too much avoided by men. And since vice never 395loses its hold where it keeps its reputation, the minds of youth can never be sufficiently fortified against villainous and base actions, but by a deep and early abhorrence, caused by a faithful representation of them. So preposterous a method will it be found to bring a crime out of fashion, by making panegyrics upon the criminal.

In short, let parents prevent and seize the very first notions and affections of their children, by engaging them, from the very first, in an hatred of rebellion; and that, if possible, as strong as nature, as irreconcileable as antipathy; and so early, that they themselves may not remember when it began, but that, for ought they know, it was even born with them. Let them, I say, be made almost from their very cradle to hate it, name and thing; so that their blood may rise, and their heart may swell at the very mention of it. In a word, let them by a kind of preventing instinct abhor it, even in their minority, and they will be sure to find sufficient reason for that abhorrence when they shall come to maturity. And so much for parents.

2. The second sort of persons intrusted with the training up of youth are schoolmasters. I know not how it comes to pass, that this honourable employment should find so little respect (as experience shews it does) from too many in the world. For there is no profession which has, or can have, a greater influence upon the public. Schoolmasters have a negative upon the peace and welfare of the kingdom. They are indeed the great depositories and trustees of the peace of it, as having the growing hopes and fears of the nation in their hands. For generally, subjects are and will be such as they breed them. So 396that I look upon an able, well principled schoolmaster as one of the most meritorious subjects in any prince’s dominions that can be; and every such school, under such a master, as a seminary of loyalty and a nursery of allegiance.

Nay, I take schoolmasters to have a more powerful influence upon the spirits of men than preachers themselves. Forasmuch as they have to deal with younger and tenderer minds, and consequently have the advantage of making the first and deepest impressions upon them. It being seldom found that the pulpit mends what the school has marred, any more than a fault in the first concoction is ever corrected by the second.

But now, if their power is so great and their influence so strong, surely it concerns them to use it to the utmost for the benefit of their country. And for this purpose let them fix this as an eternal rule or principle in the instruction of youth; that care is to be had of their manners in the first place, and of their learning in the next. And here, as the foundation and groundwork of all morality, let youth be taught betimes to obey, and to know that the very relation between teacher and learner imports superiority and subjection. And therefore, let masters be sure to inure young minds to an early awe and reverence of government, by making the first instance of it in themselves, and maintaining the authority of a master over them sacred and inviolable; still remembering, that none is or can be fit to be a teacher, who understands not how to be a master. For every degree of obstinacy in youth is one step to rebellion. And the very same restive humour which makes a young man slight his master in the school, 397and despise his tutor in the university, (a thing lately much in fashion,) will make him fly in his prince’s face in the parliament house. Of which, not many years since, we have had some scurvy experiments.

There is a principle of pride universally wrapt up in the corrupt nature of man. And pride is naturally refractory, and impatient of rule; and (which is most material to our present case) it is a vice which works and puts forth betimes; and consequently must be encountered so too, or it will quickly carry too high an head, or too stiff a neck to be controlled. It is the certain companion of folly; and both of them the proper qualifications of youth; it being the inseparable property of that age to be proud and ignorant, and to despise instruction the more it needs it. But both of them are nuisances which education must remove, or the person is lost.

And it were to be wished, I confess, that the constitution of man’s nature were such, that this might be done only by the mild addresses of reason and the gentle arts of persuasion, and that the studies of humanity might be carried on only by the ways of humanity; but unless youth were all made up of goodness and ingenuity, this is a felicity not to be hoped for. And therefore it is certain, that in some cases, and with some natures, austerity must be used; there being too frequently such a mixture in the composition of youth, that while the man is to be instructed, there is something of the brute also to be chastised.

But how to do this discreetly, and to the benefit of him who is so unhappy as to need it, requires, in my poor opinion, a greater skill, judgment, and experience, than the world generally imagines, and 398than, I am sure, most masters of schools can truly pretend to be masters of. I mean those plagosi orbilii, those executioners, rather than instructors of youth; persons fitter to lay about them in a coach or cart, or to discipline boys before a Spartan altar, or rather upon it, than to have any thing to do in a Christian school. I would give those pedagogical Jehus, those furious schooldrivers, the same advice which, the poet says, Phoebus gave his son Phaeton, (just such another driver as themselves,) that he should parcere stimulis, (the stimulus in driving being of the same use formerly that the lash is now.) Stripes and blows are the last and basest remedy, and scarce ever fit to be used, but upon such as carry their brains in their backs; and have souls so dull and stupid, as to serve for little else but to keep their bodies from putrefaction.

Nevertheless, since (as I have shewn) there are some cases and tempers which make these boisterous applications necessary, give me leave, for once, to step out of my profession so far, (though still keeping strictly within my subject,) as to lay before the educators of youth these few following considerations; for I shall not, in modesty, call them instructions.

1. As first, let them remember that excellent and never to be forgotten advice, that boys will be men; and that the memory of all base usage will sink so deep into, and grow up so inseparably with them, that it will not be so much as in their own power ever to forget it. For though indeed schoolmasters are a sort of kings, yet they cannot always pass such acts of oblivion as shall operate upon their scholars, or perhaps, in all things, indemnify themselves.

399

2. Where they find a youth of spirit, let them endeavour to govern that spirit without extinguishing it; to bend it, without breaking it; for when it comes once to be extinguished, and broken, and lost, it is not in the power or art of man to recover it: and then (believe it) no knowledge of nouns and pronouns, syntaxis and prosodia, can ever compensate or make amends for such a loss. The French, they say, are extremely happy at this, who will instruct a youth of spirit to a decent boldness, tempered with a due modesty; which two qualities, in conjunction, do above all others fit a man both for business and address. But for want of this art, some schools have ruined more good wits than they have improved; and even those which they have sent away with some tolerable improvement, like men escaped from a shipwreck, carry off only the remainder of those natural advantages, which in much greater plenty they first brought with them.

3. Let not the chastisement of the body be managed so as to make a wound which shall rankle and fester in the very soul. That is, let not children, whom nature itself would bear up by an innate, generous principle of emulation, be exposed, cowed, and depressed with scoffs and contumelies, (founded perhaps upon the master’s own guilt,) to the scorn and contempt of their equals and emulators. For this is, instead of rods, to chastise them with scorpions; and is the most direct way to stupify and besot, and make them utterly regardless of themselves, and of all that is praiseworthy; besides that it will be sure to leave in their minds such inward regrets, as are never to be qualified or worn off. It is very undecent for a master to jest or play with his scholars; 400but not only undecent, but very dangerous too, in such a way to play upon them.

4. And lastly; let it appear in all acts of penal animadversion, that the person is loved while his fault is punished; nay, that one is punished only out of love to the other. And (believe it) there is hardly any one so much a child, but has sagacity enough to perceive this. Let not melancholy fumes and spites, and secret animosities pass for discipline. Let the master be as angry for the boy’s fault as reason will allow him; but let not the boy be in fault only because the master has a mind to be angry. In a word, let not the master have the spleen, and the scholars be troubled with it. But above all, let not the sins, or faults, or wants of the parents be punished upon the children; for that is a prerogative which God has reserved to himself.

These things I thought fit to remark about the education and educators of youth in general, not that I have any thoughts or desires of invading their province; but possibly a stander-by may sometimes look as far into the game as he who plays it; and perhaps with no less judgment, because with much less concern.

3. The third and last sort of persons concerned in the great charge of instructing youth are the clergy. For as parents deliver their children to the school master, so the schoolmaster delivers them to the minister. And for my own part, I never thought a pulpit, a cushion, and an hourglass, such necessary means of salvation, but that much of the time and labour which is spent about them might be much more profitably bestowed in catechising youth from the desk; preaching being a kind of spiritual diet, upon which people 401are always feeding, but never full; and many poor souls, God knows, too, too like Pharaoh’s lean kine, much the leaner for their full feed.

And how, for God’s sake, should it be otherwise? For to preach to people without principles, is to build where there is no foundation, or rather where there is not so much as ground to build upon. But people are not to be harangued, but catechised into principles; and this is not the proper work of the pulpit, any more than threshing can pass for sowing. Young minds are to be leisurely formed and fashioned with the first plain, simple, and substantial rudiments of religion. And to expect that this should be done by preaching, or force of lungs, is just as if a smith, or artist who works in metal, should think to frame and shape out his work only with his bellows.

It is want of catechising which has been the true cause of those numerous sects, schisms, and wild opinions, which have so disturbed the peace, and bid fair to destroy the religion of the nation. For the consciences of men have been filled with wind and noise, empty notions and pulpit-tattle. So that amongst the most seraphical illuminati, and the highest Puritan perfectionists, you shall find people of fifty, threescore, or fourscore years old, not able to give that account of their faith, which you might have had heretofore from a boy of nine or ten. Thus far had the pulpit, by accident, disordered the church, and the desk must restore it. For you know the main business of the pulpit in the late times (which we are not throughly recovered from yet, and perhaps never shall) was to please and pamper a proud, senseless humour, or rather a kind of spiritual itch, which had then seized the greatest 402part of the nation, and worked chiefly about their ears; and none were so overrun with it, as the holy sisterhood, the daughters of Sion, and the matrons of the new Jerusalem, (as they called themselves.) These brought with them ignorance and itching ears in abundance; and Holderforth equalled them in one, and gratified them in the other. So that whatsoever the doctrine was, the application still ran on the surest side; for to give those doctrine and use-men, those pulpit-engineers, their due, they understood how to plant their batteries and to make their attacks perfectly well; and knew that, by pleasing the wife, they should not fail to preach the husband in their pocket. And therefore, to prevent the success of such pious frauds for the future, let children be well principled, and, in order to that, let them be carefully catechised.

Well; but when they are thus catechised, what is to be done next? Why then let them be brought to the bishop of the diocese to be confirmed by him, since none else, no not all the presbyters of a diocese, (nor Presbyterians neither,) can perform this apostolical act and office upon them. For though indeed a bishop may be installed, and visit, and receive his revenues too, by deputation or proxy; yet I am sure he can no more confirm than ordain by proxy: these being acts purely and incommunicably episcopal.

The church of Rome makes confirmation a sacrament; and though the church of England does not affirm it to be such, yet it owns it of divine and apostolical institution. And as to the necessity of it, I look upon it as no less than a completion of baptism in such as outlive their childhood; and for that cause called by the ancients τελείωσις. It is 403indeed a man’s owning that debt in person, which passed upon him in his baptism by representation; and his ratifying the promises of his sureties, by his personal acknowledgment of the obligation.

It is also expressly instituted for the collation of those peculiar assistances and gifts of the Spirit, by the imposition of episcopal hands, which the rubric represents as requisite to bear him through his Christian course and conflict with comfort and success. For till a person be confirmed, he cannot regularly and ordinarily partake of that high and soul-supporting ordinance, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. And these are the considerations which render the confirmation of children necessary, and the neglect of it scandalous, unchristian, and utterly unjustifiable upon any account whatsoever. For is there so much as the least shadow of excuse allegeable for parents not bringing their children to the bishop to be confirmed by him? or for the bishop not to confirm them when duly brought? The chief and general failure in this duty is no doubt chargeable upon the former; the grand rebellion of forty-one, and the dissolution of all church-order thereupon, absolutely unhinging the minds of most of the nation, as to all concern about religion; nevertheless, if, on the other side also, both the high importance of the ordinance itself, and the vast numbers of the persons whom it ought to pass upon, be duly pondered, it will be found next, at least, to a necessity, (if at all short of it,) that there should be episcopal visitations more than once in three years, if it were only for the sake of confirmations; especially since the judges of the land think it not too much for them to go two circuits yearly. And some 404are apt to think that no less care and labour ought to be employed in carrying on the discipline of the gospel, than in dispensing the benefits of the law. For certainly the importance of the former, with those who think men’s souls ought to be regarded in the first place, is no ways inferior to that of the latter; at least many wise and good men of the clergy, as well as others, (who hope they may lawfully wish what they pretend not to prescribe,) have thought the proposal not unreasonable. For confirmation being, as we hinted before, the only proper, regular inlet, or rather authentic ticket of admission to the Lord’s supper, and yet withal the sole act of the bishop; if people who desire to obtain it should find that they cannot, would they not be apt to think themselves hardly dealt with, that, when Christ has frankly invited them to his table, they should, for want of confirmation, find the door shut against them when they come?

Besides that nothing can be imagined more for the episcopal dignity and preeminence, than that after Christ has thus prepared this heavenly feast for us, he yet leaves it to his bishops (by lodging this confirming power in their hands) to qualify, and put us into a regular capacity of appearing at that divine banquet, and of being welcome when we are there. And therefore, in short, since the power of confirming, no less than that of ordaining itself, is, as we have shewn, so peculiar to the episcopal character, as to be also personal and incommunicable; all wellwishers to the happy estate of the church must needs wish, that as the laws of it have put a considerable restraint upon unlimited ordinations, so they would equally enforce the frequency of confirmations; 405since a defect or desuetude of these latter must no less starve the altar, than a superfluity of the former overstock the church: both of them, I am sure, likely to prove fatal to it.

But to proceed; as the minister, having sufficiently catechised the youth of his parish, ought to tender them to the bishop, to be confirmed by him; and the bishop, for his part, to give his clergy as frequent opportunities of doing so as possibly he can; so after they are thus confirmed, he is to take them into the further instructions of his ministry, and acquaint them with what they have been confirmed in. And here, the better to acquit himself in this important trust, let him take a measure of what good the pulpit may do, by the mischief which it has already done. For in the late times of confusion, it was the pulpit which supplied the field with swordmen, and the parliament house with incendiaries. And let every churchman consider, that it is one of the principal duties of the clergy to make the king’s government easy to him, and to prepare him a willing and obedient people. For which purpose, the canons of our church enjoin every minister of it to preach obedience, and subjection to the government, four times a year at least. And this I am sure cannot be better and more effectually done, than by representing the faction, which troubles and undermines it, as odious, ridiculous, and unexcusable, as with truth he can; and by exposing those villainous tricks and intrigues by which they supplanted and overturned the monarchy under king Charles I. and would have done the same again under king Charles II. though he had obliged them by a mercy not to be paralleled, and an oblivion never to be forgot.

406

Let every faithful minister, therefore, of the church of England, in a conscientious observance of the laws laid upon him by the said church, make it his business to undeceive and disabuse the people committed to his charge, by giving them to understand, that most of that noise which they have so often heard ringing in their ears, about grievances and arbitrary power, popery and tyranny, persecution and oppression of tender consciences, court-pensioners, and the like, has been generally nothing else but mere flam and romance, and that there is no kingdom or government in Christendom less chargeable with any of these odious things and practices than the English government, under his present majesty, both is and ever has been; and consequently, that all these clamours are only the artifices of some malecontents and ambitious demagogues, to fright their prince to compound with them, by taking them off (as the word is) with great and gainful places; and therefore, that they bark so loud, and open their mouths so wide, for no other cause than that some preferment may stop them; the common method, I own, by which weak governors and governments use to deal with such as oppose them; till in the issue, by strengthening their enemies, they come to ruin themselves, and to be laughed at for their pains. For that governor, whosoever he is, who prefers his enemy, makes him thereby not at all the less an enemy, but much more formidably so, than he was before.

And whereas yet further, there have been such vehement invectives against court-pensioners; let the people, who have been so warmly plied with this stuff, be carefully informed, that those very 407men, who raise and spread these invectives, do not indeed (as they pretend) hate pensioners so much, but that they love pensions more; and have no other quarrel to them, but that any should be thought worthy to receive them but themselves.

And then, as for the next clamour, about the persecution and oppression of tender consciences. Let every conscientious preacher throughly and impartially instruct his congregation, that there is no such thing; that from the very restoration of the king, they have been all along allowed (and that by a law made for that purpose) to worship God after their own way in their own families with five more persons besides: so that all the oppression and persecution of these men amounts but to this, that the government will not suffer them to meet in troops, regiments, and brigades; and so form themselves into an army, and under colour of worshipping God, to muster their forces, and shew the government how ready they are, when occasion serves, for a battle: so that, in truth, it is not so much liberty of conscience, as liberty from conscience, which these men contend for. Likewise, let the faithful minister teach his people, that as the main body of the nation hates and abhors popery with the utmost aversion; so that old stale pretence of the danger of its being every day ready to return and break in upon us, while this general aversion to it continues, and the laws against it stand in full force, (as at present they certainly do,) is all of it, from top to bottom, nothing else but an arrant trick and term of art, and a republican engine to rob the church, and run down the clergy, (the surest bulwark against popery;) as the very same plea had effectually served them 408for the same purpose once before. And lastly, let the youth of the nation be made to know, that all the bustle and stir raised by schismatics and dissenters against the rites and ceremonies of the church of England, (which after so much noise are but three in number, and those not only very innocent, but very rational too,) has been intended only for a blind and a cheat upon those lamentable tools, the unthinking rabble, whom these leading impostors are still managing and despising at the same time. For can any man of sense imagine, that those whose conscience could serve them to murder their king, (and him the most innocent and pious of kings,) do or can really scruple the use of the surplice, the cross in baptism, or kneeling at the sacrament? Alas! they have a cormorant in their conscience, which can swallow all this, and a great deal more. But the thing they drive at by this noisy, restless cant, is to get the power and revenues of the church into their comprehensive clutches; and, according to a neighbouring pattern, having first possessed themselves of the church, to make their next inroads upon the state. I say, it is power and wealth, and nothing else, which these pretenders design, and push so hard for; and when they have once compassed it, you shall quickly see, how effectually these men of mortification will mortify all who differ from them; and how little favour and indulgence they will shew those who had shewed them so much before. Such is the cruelty and in gratitude of the party.

All which and the like important heads of discourse, so nearly affecting not only the common interest, but the very vitals of the government, had 409the parochial clergy frequently and warmly insisted upon to their respective congregations, and to the younger part of them especially; such a course could not, but in a short time, have unpoisoned their perverted minds, and rectified their false notions, to such a degree, as would in all likelihood have prevented those high animosities, those divisions and discontents, which have given such terrible shocks both to church and state, since the late happy, but never yet duly improved restoration.

And now I must draw towards a close, though I have not despatched the tenth part of what I had to say upon this useful, copious, and indeed inexhaustible subject. And therefore for a conclusion, I have only two things more to add, and by way of request to you, great men; you who are persons of honour, power, and interest in the government; and, I hope, will shew to what great and good purposes you are so.

1. And the first is, that you would employ the utmost of this your power and interest, both with the king and parliament, to suppress, utterly to suppress and extinguish, those private, blind, conventicling schools or academies of grammar and philosophy, set up and taught secretly by fanatics, here and there all the kingdom over. A practice which, I will undertake to prove, looks with a more threatening aspect upon the government, than any one fanatical or republican encroachment made upon it besides. For this is the direct and certain way to bring up and perpetuate a race of mortal enemies both to church and state. To derive, propagate, and immortalize the principles and practices of forty-one 410to posterity, is schism and sedition for ever, faction and rebellion in saecula saeculorum; which I am sure no honest English heart will ever say Amen to. We have, I own, laws against conventicles; but, believe it, it would be but labour in vain to go about to suppress them, while these nurseries of disobedience are suffered to continue. For those first and early aversions to the government, which these shall infuse into the minds of children, will be too strong for the clearest after-convictions which can pass upon them when they are men. So that what these underground workers have once planted a briar, let no governor think, that, by all the arts of clemency and condescension, or any other cultivation whatsoever, he shall be able to change into a rose. Our ancestors, to their great honour, rid the nation of wolves, and it were well, if (notwithstanding their sheep’s clothing) the church could be rid of them too; but that neither will nor can ever be, so long as they shall be suffered to breed up their litters amongst us. Good God! can all history shew us any church or state since the creation, that has been able to settle or support itself by such methods? I can, I thank God, (looking both him and my conscience in the face,) solemnly and seriously affirm, that I abhor every thing like cruelty to men’s persons, as much as any man breathing does or can; but for all that, the government must not be ruined, nor private interests served to the detriment of the public, though upon the most plausible pretences whatsoever. And therefore it will certainly concern the whole nobility, gentry, and all the sober commonalty of the nation, for the sake of God, their prince, their country, and 411their own dear posterity, to lay this important matter to heart. For unless these1818   The reader is desired to cast his eye upon a printed piece, entitled, A Letter from a Country Divine to his Friend in London, concerning the education of the dissenters, in their private academies, in several parts of this nation; humbly offered to the consideration of the grand committee of parliament for religion, now sitting. Printed at London for Robert Clavell in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1703. lurking subterraneous nests of disloyalty and schism be utterly broken up and dismantled, all that the power and wit of man can do to secure the government against that faction, which once destroyed it, will signify just nothing. It will be but as the pumping of a leaky vessel, which will be sure to sink for all that, when the devouring element is still soaking and working in an hundred undiscerned holes, while it is cast out only at one.

2. My other request to you, great men, is, that you would, in your respective stations, countenance all legal, allowed, free grammar-schools, by causing (as much as in you lies) the youth of the nation to be bred up there, and no where else; there being sometimes, and in some respects, as much reason why parents should not breed, as why they should not baptize their children at home.

But chiefly, and in the first place, let your kind and generous influences upon all occasions descend upon this royal and illustrious school, the happy place of your education. A school, which neither disposes men to division in church, nor sedition in state; though too often found the readiest way (for churchmen especially) to thrive by; but trains up her sons and scholars to an invincible loyalty to their prince, and a strict, impartial conformity to the church. 412A school so untaintedly loyal, that I can truly and knowingly aver, that in the very worst of times (in which it was my lot to be a member of it) we really were king’s scholars, as well as called so. Nay, upon that very day, that black and eternally infamous day of the king’s murder, I myself heard, and am now a witness, that the king was publicly prayed for in this school but an hour or two (at most) before his sacred head was struck off. And this loyal genius always continued amongst us, and grew up with us; which made that noted corypheus1919   Dr. John Owen. of the independent faction, (and some time after, viz. 1651, promoted by Cromwell’s interest to the deanery of Christ-Church in Oxford,) often say, that it would never be well with the nation, till this school was suppressed; for that it naturally bred men up to an opposition to the government. And so far indeed he was in the right. For it did breed up people to an opposition to that government which had opposed and destroyed all governments besides itself; nay, and even itself too at last; which was the only good thing it ever did. But if, in those days, some four or five bred up in this school, (though not under this master,) did unworthily turn aside to other by-ways and principles; we can however truly say this of them, that though they went out from us, yet they were never of us. For still the school itself made good its claim to that glorious motto of its royal foundress, Semper eadem; the temper and genius of it being neither to be corrupted with promises, nor controlled with threats.

For though, indeed, we had some of those fellows for our governors, (as they called themselves,) yet, thanks be to God, they were never our teachers; no,413not so much as when they would have perverted us, from the pulpit. I myself, while a scholar here, have heard a prime preacher2020   Mr. William Strong. of those times, thus addressing himself from this very pulpit, to the leading grandees of the faction in the pew under it. “You stood up,” says he, “for your liberties, and you did well.” And what he meant by their liberties, and what by their standing up for them, I suppose, needs no explication. But though our ears were still encountered with such doctrines in the church, it was our happiness to be taught other doctrine in the school; and what we drank in there, proved an effectual antidote against the poison prepared for us here.2121   Viz. Westminster-abbey, where this sermon was appointed to have been preached.

And therefore, as Alexander the Great admonished one of his soldiers (of the same name with himself) still to remember that his name was Alexander, and to behave himself accordingly; so, I hope, our school has all along behaved itself suitably to the royal name and title which it bears; and that it will make the same august name the standing rule of all its actings and proceedings for ever; still remembering with itself, that it is called the king’s school, and therefore let nothing arbitrary or tyrannical be practised in it, whatsoever has been practised against it. Again, it is the king’s school, and therefore let nothing but what is loyal come out of it, or be found in it; let it not be so much as tinctured with any thing which is either republican or fanatical; that so the whole nation may have cause to wish, that the king may never want such a school, nor the nation may ever want such a king. A prince, 414 great in every thing which deserves to be accounted great; a prince, who has some of all the Christian royal blood in Europe running in his veins; so that to be a prince, is only another word for being of kin to him: who, though he is the princely centre of so many royal lines, meeting in his illustrious person, is yet greater for his qualifications than for his extraction; and upon both accounts much likelier to be envied, than equalled, by any or all the princes about him. In a word, and to conclude all; a prince so deservedly dear to such as truly love their country and the prosperity of it, that, could it be warrantable to pray for the perpetuity of his life amongst us, and reign over us, we could not do it in words more proper and significant for that purpose, than that God would vouchsafe to preserve the one, and continue the other, till we should desire to see a change of either.

To which God, the great King of kings and Lord of lords, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.

415
« Prev A Discourse Upon Proverbs xxii. 6. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |