Page images

the fame Plea to make to exempt them from the Authority of a Father? If Religion be something internal, and of which the Magistrate cannot judge, because he knows not the Heart of Man; is a Father better qualified to judge the Heart of his Son or Daughter than the Magistrate is to judge the Hearts of his Subjects ? In every View the Objections are equally frivolous, or equally strong in both Cases.

· From the Text, thus opened and explained, I Ihall take an Occasion to inquire, Wherein the Care of Religion, as well public as private, doth consist; and to justify the Means which are necessary to the Sup

port of it.

If we consider the Nature and Disposition of Mankind, we shall easily perceive that two Things are especially necessary to guard the Practice of Virtue and Religion, Instruction and Correction : One, a proper Remedy for the Weakness of the Understanding; the other, for the Perverseness of the Will. Where these two are joined together, where the same Person has a Right to instruct and correct, the Instruction is properly authoritative ; and this is the Case both of Parents and Mag strates: And therefore Abraham's Care for his Family, which without Doubt included Instruction, is expressed by the Word Command; He will command his Children and his Houshold, that they shall keep the Way of the Lord. And the same Precept, given by God to the Children of Israel for the Instruction of their Pofterity, and which is called teaching their Children in Deut. xi. 19, is, in ch. xxxii. ver. 46. called commanding their Children : And be faid unto them, Set your Hearts unto all the Words which I testify among you this Day; which ye shall command your Children to observe, to do all the Words of this Law.


This Duty Princes cannot perform personally to all their People ; and therefore there has been an Order of Men set apart to this work in every civilized Nation in the World: And, upon the Foot of Natural Religion, there is no Question to be made but that the supreme Power in every

Nation has a full Right to appoint and constitute these public Teachers and Ministers of Religion. The People of Rome had as good a Title to chuse Priests as to chuse Consuls; and had their Religion been right, no Fault could have been found in the Constitution of their Priesthood. But this Right was under


[ocr errors]

the Law of Mofes limited to one Family ; and the Priesthood under the Gospel is confined to such Methods of Conveyance as Christ and his Apostles, have appointed or approved : And the Christian Priesthood being in all Christian Nations owned and established by the Public, they have the Commission and Authority of the Magistrate for the Edification of the People.

The Power of Correction is proper to be preserved in the Hand of the Magistrate, and is never better applied than for the Punishment of Wickedness and Vice, and for the Maintenance of true Religion and Virtue.

As these Methods are necessary for the promoting and preserving the Virtue of Nations, and establishing public Happiness and Tranquillity, which so much depend on it, so are they likewise for the good Government and Improvement of private Families: And every Father, by natural Right, has Power to instruct, and within proper Restraints to use Correction, for the Good and Benefit of those under his Care.

As to Instruction, considered separate from Correction, he must be a great Friend to Libertinism who has any thing to cbjcct against it. Some have thought, that since God has given all Men Reason to direct them, all Men should be left to their Reason to difcover the general Truths of Religion and Morality, without having any Principles or Notions instilled into them by others; which they esteem as so many Prejudices only. But, not to infist how contrary this is to all the Rules and Precepts of Scripture relating to the Duty of Fathers and Mothers, and to the Practice of all Nations, it is sufficient to observe, that had God intended that all Men should be left to the Discoveries of their own Reason in Matters of Duties, it had been necessary for him to have supplied all Men with Leisure for Speculation, as well as with Reason: For Experience Thews that the generality of Men, in the present State of Things, are not able, for Want of Leisure and Education, to be their own Masters : So far from it, that, in conjunction with all the Helps that are at present afforded them, great Numbers continue ignorant to a Degree hardly to be imagined ; and were these Helps to be removed, we could expect nothing in the room of them but the grossest Ignorance and Superstition.


If Men have so much Reason as to be able to discover their Duty without Assistance, as those who would deliver them from the Bondage of Instruction suppose them to have, it is certain they have Reason enough to distinguish between Truth and Falsehood, when proposed to them by others, and are not therefore in more Danger of being bea trayed in acting contrary to their Reason by Instruction, than by being left to themfelves : And as for those who have not Reason enough to enable them to direct themselves, or to make them capable of receiving Instructions from others, they are fit only to be governed by other Methods.

It is very certain that general Errors have been perpetuated by traditionary Instruction, as well as general Truths: But if for this Reason an End must be put to all Instruction, what one Thing of use can be preserved in Life, if we will be so fair as to çarry the Argument to its full Extent? Many die daily by Eating and Drinking : What then ? Must the World be starved, because you can tell us of some who have suffered by Intemperance? or is there a greater Reason to leave the World in Ignorance,


« PreviousContinue »