4. This is a duty which; as parents, you owe to the community of which, you and your children form a part, and to the world in which we live. Your children are to be either blessings or curses to society, according as their principles, education, and habits are good or bad. Should they become, through neglect of proper care and attention to their education, profligates, and the corrupters of others, you will have entailed an evil on the community in which they live, which cannot be estimated in this life, and which will countervail all the benefit that you may have conferred on the race by your own life. If ‘one sinner destroyeth much good’ who can conceive the amount of injury that may result to the human family, by your neglect of duty to your children, who in turn will, according to your example, and the principles they have imbibed, be guilty of a similar neglect to theirs? Thus may their successive generations .prove a continued scourge to the land in which they dwell. Such characters are a two-fold curse. They do evil and prevent good. And they may in the end, become a burden to society, and dependent on its support. The well-being of every community must depend, instrumentally, upon the proper education and training of those who, from time to time, compose it. This is a subject of vast moment to our own country. The magnitude of its importance, and its direct bearing on the destiny of this nation; are more and more manifest as we contemplate it. Such is the character of our system of government, and such is the nature of our free institutions, that unless a wholesome moral principle, founded on eternal truth and righteousness, pervade and actuate the people, we may not hope for their efficient administration, nor for a fair and just experiment of the doctrine of self-government. It is the glory of a republic that it cannot flourish, nor permanently exist, where the people are corrupt, ignorant, and debased. Knowledge and christian virtue form the basis of a free government. And if these be wanting, the superstructure will be a ‘baseless fabric.’ He then is a true patriot, an efficient benefactor of his country, who so brings up his offspring, as to be wise enough to understand, and virtuous enough to seek, her true interest and honour.
Should the people, generally, become corrupt, the laws which they enact, and the measures which they adopt, will wear the impress of their own unseemly image. The executive arm will become palsied, or nerved by reaction to relentless tyranny. Our free institutions will crumble to dust, and on their ruins will be erected an absolute despotism. Say not that these apprehensions are visionary. Look at the history and fate of other republics, and learn a lesson of timely wisdom. We live not for ourselves only, but to transmit unimpaired to posterity the just principles of government we have adopted, and the blessings which flow from them. We live for other nations, and for their descendants; for if the experiment now making in this land, should prove abortive, their hopes will be blighted, and the fears of despots will be quieted, and their principles receive plausibility from the failure of ours.
Let us not rely too confidently upon the wisdom of our laws, and the efficiency with which they may now be executed. For while these are necessary and important, yet if we neglect to cherish in the people, whose benefit they contemplate, that spirit, and those principles which enacted them, they will become a dead letter, and their enforcement will dwindle into oppression, or criminal favouritism.
It is a shame and a reproach to any community, where great care is taken to punish wickedness, and little or none to prevent it.
I am fully persuaded that it is the influence of christian principle alone, that can save us. ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’ For ‘righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God.’ By the smiles of a merciful God, we succeeded in our struggle for independence. And ‘by the grace of God we are,’ as a nation, ‘what we are.’ To forget or disown our dependence on the same mercy and power, is ingratitude and rebellion. The sinfulness of this nation, and its abounding licentiousness of principle and practice, call for national judgments, and may provoke the Most High to bring us to naught.
The religious obligation of oaths, deserves special attention. A deep sense of this obligation should be sedulously cherished in the minds of children, that it may be controlling and abiding. This can only be effected by a careful religious education. Without such precautionary measures on the part of parents, their children will grow up without fixed and definite views of religion, and liable to be turned about like a weathercock, by every wind of doctrine.
Should they espouse the principles of infidelity, which is nothing more than a bigoted credulity; or should they adopt such erroneous views of Christianity, as amount to little or nothing more than modified and baptized deism, they will regard oaths as a mere legal formality, and be uninfluenced by their solemnity and obligation. And there can be no doubt, that the careless and irreverent manner in which they are sometimes administered, tends greatly to produce this effect upon the minds of those, who are sworn. An oath is an act of religious worship. And as to those who deny the being or essential attributes of God, who question the existence, nature, or scriptural character of sin, or who disbelieve in a future retribution of punishment, it is nothing less than mockery and blasphemy. But it is a question for the legislative power to determine, how far the oaths of such should be regarded, and how far their testimony is admissible, in courts of justice.
For my own part, I should have but little hope of justice, if arraigned at the bar, and the verdict of the jury were to be determined by the testimony of such characters, so far as the influence of oaths is concerned; especially if they could secure some sinister end, or gratify a revengeful spirit, by misrepresentation or concealment. It is manifest, therefore, that you owe it to your country and to your fellow-creatures, to ‘Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’