|Piety In Our Children
... what will be the evidences which we should expect to find of its existence? Surely, we ought not to look for wisdom, judgement, and the stability of adult years, even in a pious child. We should expect, if I may say so, a childish piety - a simple, devout, and tender state of heart. As soon as such a child should obtain the first ideas of god as its Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, and of Christ as its Saviour, who shed His blood and laid down His life for us on the cross, it would be piously affected with these truths, and would give manifest proof that it possessed a susceptibility of emotions and affections of heart corresponding with the conceptions of truth which it was capable of taking in. Such a child would be liable to sin, as all Christians are, but when made sensible of faults, it would manifest tenderness of conscience and genuine sorrow, and would be fearful of sinning afterwards. When taught that prayer was both a duty and a privilege, it would take pleasure in drawing nigh to God, and would be conscientious in the discharge of secret duties. A truly pious child would be an affectionate and obedient child to its parents and teachers; kind to brothers and sisters, and indeed to all other persons; and would take a lively interest in hearing of the conversion of sinners, and the advancement of Christs kingdom in the world.
We ought not to expect from a regenerated child uniform attention to serious subjects, or a freedom from that gaiety and volatility which are characteristic of that tender age; but we should expect to find the natural propensity moderated, and the temper softened and seasoned, by the commingling of pious thoughts and affections with those which naturally flow from the infant mind. When such children are called in Providence, to leave the world, then commonly their piety breaks out into a flame, and these young saints, under the influence of divine grace, are enabled so to speak of their love to Christ and confidence in Him, as astonishes, while it puts to shame aged Christians. Many examples of this kind we have on record, where the evidence of genuine piety was as strong as it well could be. There is a peculiar sweetness, as well as tenderness, in these early buddings of grace. In short, the exercises of grace are the same in a child as in an adult, only modified by the peculiarities in the character and knowledge of a child. Indeed, many adults in years who are made the subjects of grace are children in knowledge and understanding, and require the same indulgence, in our judgements of them, as children in years.
If piety may commence at any age, how solicitous should parents be for their children, that God would bestow His grace upon them, even before they know their right hand from their left; and, when about to dedicate them to God in holy baptisrn, how earnestly should they pray that they might be baptized with the Holy Ghost - that while their bodies are washed in the emblematical laver of regeneration, their souls may experience the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
The education of children should proceed on the prin- ciple that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidence of piety clearly appears, in which case they should be sedu- lously cherished and nurtured. These are Christs lambs - "little ones, who believe in Him" - whom none should offend or mislead upon the peril of a terrible punishment. But though the religious education of children should pro- ceed on the ground that they are destitute of grace, it ought ever to be used as a means of grace. Every lesson, therefore, should be accompanied with the lifting up of the heart of the instructor to God for a blessing on the means. "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth."