Both nature and revelation teach that it is the duty of parents to care for the religious education of their children. The mind of the child is in a receptive condition, and the first light it receives should be light from heaven, the first truths those that are eternal and immutable, never to desert them. The mind of the child cannot be shut up until he is of an age to investigate and determine for himself. It becomes, therefore; a high duty to furnish the expanding intellect with truths such as piety cherishes. The apostle says, "Fathers, bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). In the education of children several mistakes are to be avoided:
(1.) That the habits of children only are to be regarded, and that, in time, principles will follow of course. Habits, without principles of piety, are nothing better than a citadel ungarrisoned and uncommanded.
(2.) That many of the subjects of religion are beyond the capacity of children, and that, therefore, to instruct them in Christianity is only to load their memories with words. Yet we do not defer other kinds of instruction till their nature and use can be completely understood by the pupil. But, in fact, the principles of religion are some of the most simple and intelligible which can be proposed to the human mind.
(3.) That to furnish children with religious ideas is to infuise into them prejudices. But we must be careful to discriminate between religious ideas and prejudices, for the latter is an unexamined opinion. And, further, by this very conduct we prejudice him against religion as something unworthy his concern, or beyond his comprehension. We do not so treat literature, politics, or science.
(4.) That the child will acquire in school and the public institutions of the Gospel an adequate sentiment and knowledge of religious truths. But if the love or natural interest of the parent in the child does not stimulate him to this duty, can it be expected that it will be voluntarily assumed by others? The institution of Sunday-schools does not diminish, in the least, the responsibility of those having charge of children to train them for God. SEE PEDAGOGICS.