On the nurture of children

“Let it be the principal part of your care and labour in all their education, to make holiness appear to them the most necessary, honourable, gainful, pleasant, delightful, amiable state of life; and to keep them from apprehending it either as needless, dishonourable, hurtful, or uncomfortable. Especially draw them to the love of it, by representing it as lovely. And therefore begin with that which is easiest and most grateful to them (as the history of the Scripture, and the lives of the martyrs, and other good men, and some short, familiar lessons). For though in restraining them from sin, you must go to the highest step at first, and not think to draw them from it by allowing them the least degree; (for every degree disposeth to more, and none is to be allowed, and a general reformation is the easiest as well as absolutely necessary;) yet in putting them upon the practice of religious duties, you must carry them on by degrees, and put them at first upon no more than they can bear; either upon the learning of doctrines too high and spiritual for them, or upon such duty for quality or quantity as is over-burdensome to them; for if you once turn their hearts against religion, and make it seem a slavery and a tedious life to them, you take the course to harden them against it. And therefore all children must not be used alike; as all stomachs must not be forced to eat alike. If you force some to take so much as to become a surfeit, they will loathe that sort of meat as long as they live. I know that nature itself, as corrupt, hath already an enmity to holiness, and I know that this enmity is not to be indulged in children at all; but withal I know that misrepresentations of religion, and imprudent education, is the way to increase it, and that the enmity being in the heart, it is the change of the mind and love that is the overcoming of it, and not any such constraint as tendeth not to reconcile the mind by love. The whole skill of parents for the holy education of their children, doth consist in this, to make them conceive of holiness as the most amiable and desirable life; which is by representing it to them in words and practice, not only as most necessary, but also as most profitable, honourable, and delightful. Prov. iii. 17, ‘Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,’ &c.” (Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, p. 451)

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