The Instructor/Maxims for Parents

The Instructor
Maxims for Parents, to promote Piety and Virtue in Children
3211286The Instructor — Maxims for Parents, to promote Piety and Virtue in Children

Maxims for Parents, to promote Piety and
Virtue in Children.


IT is absolutely necessary for husband and wife to act in perfect concert in the care, reproof, correction, encouragement, and instruction of their children. Little good can be expected if this is not carefully attended to.

II. Except you teach your children submission to yourselves, you will be able to teach them nothing else. Therefore, be particularly careful, at all times, to maintain your proper authority over them, and make them obedient to your commands.

III. Let not your affection for your children lead you to give them any improper indulgences, or to excuse or connive at their faults, particularly such as deserve chastisement. The bad consequences of such ill-judged tenderness is too well known in the world. Many a child, who might, by proper care have been made a blessing to his parents, has by indulgence, conducted himself in such a manner, as at last to bring down their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

IV. Take an especial care to avoid, not only a partial affection for any one of your family, but also of every appearance of it. For this, most commonly, is attended with very bad consequences. Your ill-judged partiality will provoke the envy, malice, and hatred of the rest of your offspring against your favourite, and render them less respectful and obedient to yourselves. The history of Joseph and his brethren is a striking instance of its sad effects.

V. When they fall into errors of any kind which will sometimes happen, in spite of the greatest care, endeavour to convince them of it, and if they acknowledge their fault, be not severe with them; but while you are rebuking them for the wrong they have done, commend them for the truth they have spoken.

VI. But if they are obstinate and perverse, and deny the truth, severe methods must be taken, and proportioned to the greatness of the offence. In such cases, you must avoid every degree of passion in inflicting the punishment, but must not be sparing of your rod if occasion requires it. For he that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he who loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

VII. Since example is a lesson they will soon learn to read, and since parents are the original models after which children, for the most part, form their tempers and behaviour, you should make it a point to set them good examples, and do everything yourselves you wish them to practise.

VIII. Be sure to remove far from them every bad example; guard the door of your own lips, and be careful to prevent your servants, or dependants from saying or doing any thing which is improper in their presence. For they are always ready to copy every thing they hear or see.

IX. As soon as they are able to speak, begin to teach them the Lords Prayer, and let them repeat it regularly night and morning. To this, in time, may be added the apostles creed, and any other prayers suited: to the capacity of children. This will be laying a good foundation for other improvements in righteousness and true holiness.

X. Your next care should be, to teach them the commandments, and the other parts of the church catechism; and when they are able to repeat the whole, let them be publicly catechised in the church, and at home, during your leisure hours, endeavour to explain it to them. This will be no bad method of teaching them every thing that a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health.

XI. When they are capable of learning to read, either instruct them yourselves, or send them to a good school, where proper attention is paid to the morals of youth. Encourage them to diligence, and let them want no advantage of increasing in knowledge and wisdom which you can procure, or they can improve; for this, perhaps, will be of more service to them then any thing else you can bestow.

XII. Never by any means, suffer them to be idle. If it is not in your power to give them a good education, nothing but negligence can prevent you from bringing them up in the fear of God, and to accustom them to honest labour and industry. This will be a special mean of rendering them blessings both to you and themselves, and useful members of society; for it will qualify them to become good and faithful servants.

XIII. The two last maxims require some mitigation. The mind cannot always be bent without receiving some injury. It will therefore be necessary to indulge them sometimes, with play and innocent diversions, by way of relaxation from severe study or labour. But such indulgences ought not to be too frequent nor continue too long.

XIV. Whether they become servants or apprentices, it is your duty to encourage them to be steady, careful, and obliging, and to pay every attention and diligence to the business and interest of their masters. By such conduct they will be sure to gain favour, and, of course, promote their own interest.

XV. Honesty, in every station of life, is the best policy. Therefore, show them the disadvantages of using any kind of falsehood, fraud, cunning, or deceit, and the happy effects of being true and just in all their dealings.

XVI. Too great care cannot be taken to guard them against every kind of vice, but particularly against taking the name of of God in vain, against the vile practice of swearing in common conversation, and against sabbath breaking, and all other vices, which are countenanced by custom or fashion. These may give a kind of licence to sin, but can never make that action good which is by nature bad. Therefore, let them not follow a multitude to do evil.

XVII. Represent vice unto them in its greatest deformity, in order to make them abhor that which is evil; and virtue in its most natural and pleasing dress, in order to make them hold fast their integrity, and cleave to that which is good.

XVIII. Evil communications too often corrupt good manners. It therefore requires no small degree of care to guard them against keeping bad company. On the contrary, encourage them to form virtuous acquaintance.

XIX. Endeavour to cherish in your children a spirit of benevolence, compassion, gratitude, gentleness, and modesty, and to check every appearence of inhumanity or cruelty, both towards mankind, and towards every species of living creatures.

XX. Correct their vanity & pride, by giving them a low opinion of splendor and vain show, & be careful not to give them too high a notion of their own merit in any respect, either by praising them too much, or by indulging them with outward ornaments superior to their station in life.

XXI. If you wish to see them thrive in the world, and be respected, you must caution them to avoid both the luxurious extravagance of the spend thrift, and the sorded meanness of the miser. All extremes are dangerous. Therefore instruct them to keep the middle path, and by industry and prudent economy, to lay up something against the decline of life.

XXII. Gradually infuse into the minds of your children the clearest and most affecting notions of God, of his Son Jesus Christ, of the fall of man, and of his redemption through the sufferings and death of Christ, who gave his life a ransom for you, and for many, for the remission of sins.

XXIII. Sabbath breaking is the source of many other crimes, therefore accustom them, from their infancy, to keep holy the Sabbath Day. Make them repair, every time divine service is performed, to church, or some other place of public worship, and in order to make them attentive to what is read or preached unto them, it will be proper, after they return home, to inquire whether they recollect the words of the text, what part of scripture it was taken from, and the heads of the discourse.

XXIV. It is the duty of every Christian to reverence and esteem the word of God, and to search the scriptures. Therefore let some part of the sacred day be spent in reading to them some portion of the Old or New Testament, and as soon as they are able to read let them severally bear a part of this useful and pious exercise.

XXV. Encourage them, as much as possible, to read moral and religious books, and instead of novels and romances, and other profane and irreligious publications, which tend to corrupt the morals, to fill the mind with false and improper ideas, and the head with useless lumber, put into their hands natural history, and any other books that are entertaining and useful.

XXVI. Often remind them of the shortness of life and the certainty of death. Inform them that in this world we have no abiding city; that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, as all our forefathers were; that we are now in a state where our virtue is to be tried and exercised; that after death we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; and that, according as we now lead our lives, will be our happiness or misery to all eternity.

XXVII. Since we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, are incapable of performing any duty as we ought, and have no right to expect any good success in our undertakings without the assistance and blessing of Almighty God, it will be necessary, when you endeavour to instruct your children in the way they should go, to use the following, or some similar prayer.

Almighty and most merciful God, who hast promised children as a reward to the righteous, and hast been pleased to bless us, thy humble servants, with so great a mark of thy favour, grant us the blessing of life and health to see them christianly and virtuously brought up. We are sensible of our obligation, but must acknowledge our inability to discharge this important duty without thy divine aid. Be pleased, therefore, O gracious Lord! to bless our endeavours with good success. May our instructions be seasonably and properly applied, and may we have grace to enforce the practice of them, by doing every thing ourselves we wish them to do. May the seeds of eternal life be early sown in their hearts. May each of them increase in piety and virtue as they advance in years. May thy gracious providence guide them safely through the dangers and temptations of this mortal life. Be pleased to bless them with the enjoyment of health, to spend many happy days, and years in thy most holy religion. May their conduct and behaviour be such, as to prove them a comfort to us, a blessing to themselves, and an ornament to society. Finally, grant them grace to be good children, good subjects, and good christians, and after this frail life is ended, may they attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Upon the whole, if you proceed thus, you may rest persuaded, that your pious endeavours will not be in vain. Both the nature of things, and the promise of God, ensure success.