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And has God put less love and care for their offspring into human hearts ? Is it the case that He has engraven there by His creating hand no beautiful instinct of affection akin to that which we admire so much in the lower animals ? Is it the case that He has so constituted the human family, that parents may naturally be quite indifferent about their children,—may feed them or starve them—may shelter them or expose them—may wrap them in warm clothing or send them forth in rags and nakedness ? Humanity in every corner of the earth cries out against the imputation of its being chargeable with such indifference. Millions of fathers in every land under the sun, and millions of mothers, whether white as the lily or black as coal, bear testimony by their daily habits that God has filled their bosoms with parental love. Christianity may be unknown by them, religion may be neglected, almost all the lines of high intelligence imprinted upon the soul may have been effaced; but this affection, most deeply engraven of all, may remain distinctly visible. So utterly repugnant to our very nature is conduct which indicates an opposite spirit, that we are not satisfied with calling it unchristian,—we are not satisfied with
calling it irreligious; we call it unnatural—we call it monstrous. Want of affection in any one is to be blamed; but want of affection in a father to the child he begat, or in a mother to the child she bore, is abominable beyond expression. “If any provide not for his own,” says the Scripture, “and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
The parental love which God has placed so strong and so deep in the human constitution, He addresses in His Word for the purpose of quickening it and of regulating its exercise. Vice deadens it, as it deadens everything else that is good; and God desires to deliver it through Jesus Christ from this deadening influence, and to call it forth to new life and vigour. Vice corrupts, weakens, and paralyses it, and, deep and strong as it is, would in the course of time destroy it utterly; but God, by His Word and Spirit, desires to check the first steps of a progress so degrading and ruinous. And even where it does exist in great force, its action may take a wrong course. It may come forth with the powerful impulse of a large gushing stream, but the mind which directs its flow may be weak and foolish ; and thus the very gifts which
it lavishes, meant for kindness, may produce injurious effects.
It is the duty of parents, then, to provide for their children all that is needed for their proper maintenance, till they attain to years of maturity and are able to provide for themselves. How helpless is the infant when God first places it in its parents' arms, and says, “Bring up this child for me”! From that moment how much depends upon their unceasing kindness and care ! For years it must be an object of their attention day and night. Its food and clothing, and shelter and safety, are in their hands, to give or to withhold. Its health or sickness, its strength or weakness, its ease or pain, its full development or its diseased and stunted growth, are determined to a large extent by their wise and loving attention, or by their foolish and cruel neglect. It is not a matter of no moment whether a child's food be wholesome or unwholesome—whether its skin be clean or besmeared with dirt—whether its clothing be warm and comfortable or hanging in tatters. It is not a matter of no moment whether a child be tended with a watchful eye for be left alone to tumble into the fire or to break its head upon the stones. A diseased body or a limb maimed
for life is not pleasant to look upon, especially if it be a monument of a father's cruelty or of a mother's neglect. Troubles and calamities may come even when love is most tender and unremitting in its watchfulness; but when parents are unkind and careless, it looks as if they were beckoning the evils on all sides to draw near and to devour.
Again, it is the duty of parents to prepare their children during their early years for suitably supporting themselves when they have attained to maturity. For this purpose children ought to be trained to habits of industry, to be instructed in the elements of useful knowledge, and to be put in the way of learning some honourable trade or profession, for which they may be best fitted by their natural gifts and attainments. How disastrous often are the consequences when children are not thus prepared by the forethought and firm purpose of those under whose care they are placed! If they have been indulged in idleness; if the attempts to cultivate their minds have been desultory or ineffectual; if they have not been urged to strenuous effort and perseverance in any matter whatever,-it is exceedingly unlikely that they will ever become steady and skilful workmen.
In all probability they will delight in anything rather than in their regular occupation, and will be very soon numbered among those who meanly throw themselves upon the industry of others.
The greatest attention, therefore, ought to be paid to their habits. Habits, whether good or evil, grow daily; and though you do not see them growing, any more than you see a tree growing, they soon attain to great strength. They throw out branches which by-and-by you would attempt in vain to bend. How gratifying if they are habits of diligence which are thus formed! How mortifying if they are habits of idleness! In the one case there is laid in their disposition an essential element of success. In the other case there is laid in their disposition a sure element of failure. The greatest attention ought to be paid also to the cultivation of their minds. All have not the same faculties; but whatever these may be, they ought to be drawn out and exercised to the full. Because it may be considered that a child has not the same amount of talents as some others, is that any reason why the little which he has should be neglected ? While the five talents are to be carefully improved, is the one talent to be hid in the earth? While the boy of strong parts is