The Christian Father's Present to His Children
by John Angell James
As a Christian, the author of the following volume believes that there is a state of everlasting happiness prepared beyond the grave for those, and those only, who are partakers of pure and undefiled religion. And, as a parent, he will freely confess, his supreme solicitude is, that his children, by a patient continuance in well doing, might seek for glory, honor, immortality--and finally possess themselves of eternal life. He is not insensible to the worth of temporal advantages; he is neither cynic nor ascetic. He appreciates the true value of wealth, learning, science, and reputation--which he desires, in such measure as God shall see fit to bestow, both for himself and his children. He has conquered the world--but does not despise it; he resists its yoke as a master--but values its ministrations as a servant.
Still, however, he views the present state of earthly affairs as a 'splendid pageant'--the fashion of which passes away to give place to the glory which shall never be moved. "He looks not at the things which are seenóbut at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporalóbut the things which are not seen are eternal." It is on this ground that he attaches so much importance to a true religious education. To those, if such there should be, who imagine that he is too anxious about this matter, and has said too much about it, he has simply to reply, that "he believes, therefore has he spoken." The man who does not make the eternal welfare of his children the supreme end of all his conduct towards them, may profess to believe as a Christianóbut certainly acts as an Atheist! Besides, if this end be secured, the most likely step is taken for accomplishing every other; as "godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come."
With these views, the Author has embodied in the following volume his own parental wishes, objects, and pursuits. Much that is here written, has been the subject of his personal converse with his children, and should God spare his life, will still continue to be the topics of his instruction.
What is beneficial to his own family, the author thought might be no less useful to others--and this was another reason which induced him to publish. The multiplication of books of this kind, even if they make small pretensions to classic elegance of composition, is to be looked upon as a benefit, provided they contain sound scriptural sentiments, and an obvious tendency to produce right moral impressions. Books are sometimes read merely because they are new; it is desirable therefore, to gratify this appetite for novelty, when at the same time we can strengthen and build up the moral character by a supply of wholesome and nutritious spiritual food. Nor is it always necessary that new books should contain new topics, or new modes of illustration, anymore than it is necessary that there should be a perpetual change in the kinds of food, in order to attain to bodily strength. Whatever varieties may be introduced by the wisdom that is sensual, bread will still remain the staff of life. So there are some primitive truths and subjects, which, whatever novelties and curiosities may be introduced for the gratification of religious taste, must still be repeated--as essential to the formation of religious character.
The author has not selected the sermonic form of discussion, because some of his topics did not admit of it; and also because sermons are perhaps the least inviting species of reading to young people. Letters would not have been liable to these objections; but, upon the whole, he preferred the form of chapters, in which the style of direct address is preserved. The advantage of this style is obvious; it not only keeps up the reader's interestóbut, as every parent who presents this volume to his children adopts the advice as his own, such young people, by an easy effort of the imagination, lose sight of the author, and read the language of their own father. If anything is necessary to secure this effect, beyond the simple act of presenting this book, it might be immediately obtained by an inscription to the child, written by the parents own hand upon the fly-leaf.
The author scarcely need say that this work is not intended for young people below the age offourteen. In the composition of the book, a seeming difficulty sometimes occurs; what is just touched upon in one place, is more expanded in others; and some subjects are intentionally repeated. To give additional interest to the volume, numerous extracts, and some anecdotes are introduced, which tend to relieve the dullness of didactic composition, and prevent the tedium of unvarying monotony.
In the references which the author has given to books, both in the chapter on that subject and in marginal notes, he does not wish to be considered as laying down, much less limiting, for young people a perfect course of reading; but as simply directing them to some works, which, among others, ought by no means to be neglected.
Once more let it be stated, and stated with all possible emphasis, that the chief design of this work is to form the pious character of its readers, and to implant those virtues which shall live, and flourish, and dignify, and delight--infinite ages, after every object that is dear to avarice or pride, to learning or science, to taste or ambition--shall have perished in the conflagration of the universe!
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