Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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securing the ends of good government, by teaching chil-
dren the first principles of religion, and especially by let-
ting them know that God requires them to honor their
parents: "For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father
and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let
him die the death." Parental authority, then, is of so
much importance, that we must maintain it, or give our
children over to the righteous judgments of Heaven.
Again: Solomon says, "The rod and reproof give wis-
dom : but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to
shame." That is, timely correction and suitable admoni-
tion make a child obedient and happy ; but if left to fol-
low his own perverse inclination, without restraint, he
disgraces himself and best friend. The truth of this
maxim is verified constantly in our own day and country.
Who does not know that ungoverned families afford om


chief supplies of street loafers and vagabonds, our horse-
racers, blacklegs, prostitutes, and felons ? Parents should
exert all their authority and influence over their children
when young, to prevent the formation of those habits of
insubordination which lead to such calamitous results ; for
when children once become habitually disobedient, they
are ever after impatient of restraint, and the very worst
consequences may be expected. On the other hand,
every thing commendable may be anticipated of those
who, being ruled with parental authority, tempered with
love, learn to submit with pleasure and gratitude. They
have the promise of a long and happy life, which, for
their encouragement, is here inserted: "Children, obey
your parents in the Lord : for this is right. Honor thy
father and mother, (which is the first commandment with
promise,) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest
live long on the earth."

It is a very prominent duty of parents to educate their
children for usefulness in this life. The first material part
of such an education consists in forming industrious habits,
by regular application to some lawful business. A child
who is allowed to be habitually idle, and select his own
amusements, will very probably be a lazy man, and, con-
sequently, unfit for any department of life. No man of
indolent habits succeeds in any calling or profession, either
in Church or state. Those who think it a disgrace for
their children to labor with their hands for a living, are
training them for drones in society. Every male and fe-
male should be, early in life, put to regular manual labor.
It would be good for their health and fortunes, as well as
their reputation and happiness. Boys might labor to
advantage in the agricultural or mechanical branches of
business, and girls in the domestic department. But any
lawful business whatever is preferable to idleness; for
idleness is the school of vice, and the way to ruin.


There is no good excuse for any, rich or poor, except the
want of health ; and every child should be taught the
apostle's doctrine, " That if any would not work, neither
should he eat."

Another material part of a useful education consists in
being learned to think, which is of more practical import-
ance than a diploma from a college. Many young men
seem to be borne along through a college course, by their
classmates and teachers, with but little knowledge of
their text-books, and still less of any thing by way of
preparation for future action, who are never of much use
to themselves or the world. They go forth without con-
stitution, without energy of character, or practical knowl-
edge of life, to sink into obscurity ; while poor boys, who
are taught to work and think for themselves, with but a
common school education, often rise to great eminence, as
statesmen, scholars, jurists, or divines. I allow that such
as obtain a classical education, without the loss of health,
or of their industrious habits, have an advantage over
others ; but they appear to be comparatively few ; and it is
chiefly owing to the bad management of parents, in keep-
ing them six or seven successive years wilting in the shade
of a college, instead of requiring them to labor a part of
each. One year employed in training a boy to think and
apply what he knows to some useful purpose, is worth
more than two spent in memorizing and reciting.

There is, in most instances, much error committed in
the education of girls, it being conducted on the principle
of gloss and show, without proper regard to practical use-
fulness. What is a young lady fitted for who has no con-
stitution, no industry, no practical knowledge of domestic
duties, and can only dress, perform on the piano-forte,
repeat a French dialogue, and figure at fashionable par-
ties? She may answer for a plaything, a mere subject of
pastime ; but how could she fill the responsible station of


a wife and mistress of a family ? A part of the educa-
tion of every female should be given in the dairy and
kitchen, where she may acquire a vigorous constitution,
and much useful knowledge for the after part of life.
Then, when thrown upon her own responsibility, as the
mistress of a family, she will know what is to be done,
and how to do it, or have it done. And, connected with
this, should be a sound literary course, such as imparts
not ornament merely, but useful knowledge on every sub-
ject pertaining to her appropriate sphere of life, so that
she may examine for herself, and form an opinion of her
own respecting every important matter.

Another important part of useful education, for both
sexes, consists of a well-formed system of manners, which
should be taught them from childhood up to maturity.
By this, however, I do not mean a perpetual round of
bowing and courtesying, which is just the reverse of
agreeable manners, but a familiar acquaintance with the
rules and usages of good society, and an easy conformity
to them, so as to feel pleasant and unembarrassed in
every genteel company, and help others to feel so too.
To this end, young people should not only be instructed
at home, by precept and example, but be allowed, under
proper limitations, to mix in good society abroad, where
they can learn by experience and observation. Social
intercourse between the different sexes, on safe and well-
regulated principles, is of great use in forming agreeable
manners. And let no one suppose that it is of small con-
sequence to be able to pass pleasantly in every sort of
respectable society into which we may be thrown by the
duties and changes of life; it is an accomplishment, not
only convenient for them who possess it, but which im-
parts pleasure to others.

The most important of all parental duties, and the last
one assigned to this article, is, training their children for


happiness in the life to come, by a genuine religious edu-
cation, and imploring the blessing of God upon the effort.
"And these words which I command thee this day shall
be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently
unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sit-
test in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and
when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." From
this authority it appears that the chief qualification for
teaching our children the words and commands of God, is
to have them written upon our own hearts, or to be exper-
imentally religious ourselves; and then they are to be
enforced by example, as well as precept, talking of them
in doors and out, morning and evening. The Bible
abounds with similar injunctions. Solomon says, " Train
up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it." This is found to hold good,
at least as a general rule, and might universally, if prop-
erly complied with. The principles of an early religious
education are scarcely ever effaced from the mind; and
though they may be violated for a time, amidst the follies
of youth, they are almost certain to regain the ascendency
afterward. The good seed sown in the heart of little
children, by the pious mother, may lie dormant a long
time, then vegetate under the showers of grace, and the
genial rays of the Sun of righteousness, and produce fruit
unto holiness, and the end be everlasting life. But the
responsibility is not all with the mother; for Paul says,
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the

The means afforded us for the religious instruction of
our children are various. One of the best of all is, read-
ing daily select portions of holy Scripture to them, for
their special benefit, accompanied with familiar explana-
tions, adapted to their age and capacity. By this means


they may become so interested, that what Paul said to
Timothy might truly be said to many of them: " From a
child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in
Christ Jesus." Family worship, too, should be per-
formed, at such times, and under such circumstances, that
the children may be present, and in such manner as to
interest them. They should be learned short, easy forms
of prayer, to repeat morning and evening, till they become
old enough, and sufficiently advanced in knowledge, to
express their wants in their own words. Their parents
should lead them to the closet, unite with them in private
devotion, and so live daily as to say by their example, fol-
low us as we follow Christ. They should be taken to
meetings for social worship, and regularly to hear the
Gospel preached, from the time they can understand the
nature and design of public worship. Moreover, they
should be thoroughly taught the Scripture catechism at
home, and in the meeting of catechumen by the minister
of Christ. They should likewise be sent regularly to the
Sabbath school, where they may derive a vast amount of
mental, moral, and religious instruction, which will greatly
aid in the formation of sound principles, for the regulation
of their conduct in after life. And, when their years and
attainments shall have prepared them for it, they should
be thoroughly trained in Bible classes, by competent
teachers, conducted on such principles as will call their
knowledge of the holy Scriptures into requisition, and
afford exercise for their own judgment in the application
of it. Now, all this may be done without interfering
materially with their daily labor, or their regular school
education; and it will be worth more to them, both in
time and eternity, than all the rest of their literary

In the work of religion., training there are formidable


difficulties. The greatest of these, and the one which lies
at the foundation of all the rest, is that inherent depravity
common to all mankind, and which develops itself at a
very early period of life. Solomon says, "Foolishness is
bound up in the heart of a child." This foolishness, or
sinful nature, grows with his growth, and strengthens with
iris strength, and, unless counteracted by gracious influ-
ence, leads to innumerable personal transgressions, and
ends in perdition. Another difficulty arises from the
influence of vicious examples. This indicates clearly the
necessity of keeping our children out of bad company.
If our sons are allowed to mingle with the street rabble,
attend horse-races, and resort to other places of dissipa-
tion and corruption, and if our daughters are suffered to
attend balls, theaters, and other sinful amusements, all
our efforts to benefit them, by a religious education, will
be useless. A few days of indulgence in such folly would
destroy all the fruit of our care and toil for many long
years: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt
good manners." I entreat all parents, as they love their
children, and desire their present and everlasting welfare,
to keep them away from all such evil associations, and,
resisting every opposing influence with decision and firm-
ness, persevere, to the end of life, in striving to lead them
in the path of duty and safety. The obstacles in the way
of this work, though numerous and discouraging, are not
insurmountable. The Lord said, by the prophet Ezekie],
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so
also the soul of the son is mine." They are alike re-
deemed by the death of Christ, and children and parents
may be saved together. The children may be indifferent
on the subject now, but the Holy Spirit can soon awaken
them to a proper sense of their danger. They are de-
praved in heart, but the blood of Jesus is sufficient to
?leanse from all unrighteousness : they may have to con-


tend with hardness and unbelief, as we did, but God will
be faithful to his promise, to take away the heart of stone,
and give a heart of flesh. To use the means belongs to
us, yet none but God can convert and save ; therefore,
we should be instant in prayer for his blessing upon our
labor of love. Let the father and mother unite in a per-
petual covenant to pray for their children, and take en-
couragement from the sure promise of the Savior : " Again
I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth,
as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done
for them of my Father which is in heaven." Never cease
to plead this promise ; and though you may see no fruit
for a time, be not discouraged. The Lord will hear and
answer in mercy. If your children be not saved while
you live, they may be after you shall have gone to rest.
Many cases might be adduced, and some of them within
our own knowledge, to show that the prayers of pious
parents have been answered in blessings upon their chil-
dren, after those parents had gone to heaven. Indeed,
it would be difficult for those whose father and mother
lived and died praying for them, to shake off their solemn
convictions, and resist the powerful motives to a life of
piety set before them. For a long time Jacob supposed
that his son was dead : who can imagine his joy on hear-
ing, "Joseph is yet alive!" Yet what was his joy, com-
pared with that of Christian parents, who, in answer to
their prayers, after all their painful solicitude, find their
sons and daughters in heaven!

That fasting is enjoined in the Bible as a religious duty,
will scarcely be questioned by any who have carefully

40 M 1 S C E LLAi'T.

examined the subject. Still, there may be much differ-
ence of opinion among pious people as to what that duty
is ; by what authority it is made obligatory ; how, and on
what occasions, it should be observed ; and what are its
beneficial results. To arrive at safe conclusions on all
these points, reference must be had to the law and to the
testimony. In such questions, mere human authority is
not sufficient: to settle them requires Scriptural precept
and divine sanction. Whoever presumes to set up his
own judgment in opposition to the sacred record, or to
teach what it does not warrant, as essential to salvation,
should not be regarded as a safe instructor of those who
wish to find the path of life. "If any man speak, let
him speak as the oracles of God."

The point of inquiry which requires attention first of
all, is, What is fasting, in the sense of the inspired au-
thors? On this subject various opinions have been, and
still are, entertained and propagated ; and among them is
the singular one, that fasting is simply "refraining from
sin." To refrain from sinning is in itself certainly right
and commendable; but to insist on that as the sense of
the term fasting, involves at least one serious difficulty.
Fasting is not, and can not be practiced daily and con-
tinuously ; it is only occasional ; and if to fast is to refrain
from sin, then we are required to refrain from sin only on
fast-days, which would imply that on all other days we
may sin with impunity ; whereas the Bible, which enjoins
fasting, forbids sin at all times and in every place, and
that under fearful penalty. "Awake to righteousness
and sin not;" "The wages of sin is death;" "The soul
that sins shall die." It is declared of the Lord Jesus
Christ, on the occasion of his temptation in the wilder-
ness, "When he had fasted forty days and forty nights,
he was afterward an hungered." Now, will any one pre
sume to say that he, after abstaining from sin forty days,


hungered for it? I trust not; and yet, to be consistent,
all who contend that fasting is simply refraining from sin,
would have to admit the blasphemous conclusion.

Another view of the subject, and one entertained by
many who regard themselves as the only true Church of
Christ, is, that fasting is merely a change in the manner
of living, from the use of certain articles of food to the
use of others. While their conscience, acting in the light
of their creed, or, more properly, in the darkness of it,
will not allow them, on any consideration, to eat meat
during certain days of the week, and certain weeks of the
year, it does strangely allow them, on the same days and
weeks, to eat fish, butter, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and
most luxuries of the country. It is really amusing to
read over a printed bill of sumptuous fare, made out by a
prelate who assumes to have the consciences of the people
in his own keeping, for a forty days' fast. Serious as the
subject is, to read of a "fish-dinner" on fast-day is
enough to excite a smile. To us this appears to be a sin-
gular kind of fasting — one which requires but little sacri-
fice of taste or self-denial, and which need not diminish
the strength or flesh of those who practice it, however
long the fast may be protracted. Daniel and his fellow-
captives, while receiving their court education, were sus-
tained only on pulse and water ; and yet, at the period of
examination, "their countenances appeared fairer and fat-
ter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion
of the king's meat" and drank of his "wine." And why
should not any healthy individual gain both flesh and
strength during "Lent," with all its various substantiate
and luxuries ? Such feasting may justly be regarded as
a burlesque on the Christian duty of fasting. How dif-
ferent was the case with the devoted Psalmist, when he
said, "My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh
faileth of fatness," Psa. cix, 24.


To fast, in the proper sense of the term, is to abstain
entirely from food and drink of every kind for a given
time — the period of such abstinence to be determined by
the circumstances of the individual, and the nature of the
occasion which moves him to observe it. The kino- of
Nineveh, under just apprehension of the judgments of
the Almighty, proclaimed a general fast, saying, "Let
neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing : let
them not feed, nor drink water," Jonah iii, 7. Saul,
afterward Paul, when stricken down by the power of God,
and brought under sore conviction of sin, "was three
days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink," Acts
ix, 9. Many other facts similar to these might be recited,
going to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that fasting,
in the Scriptural sense of the term, is neither refraining
occasionally from sin, nor a mere change of diet, but
entire abstinence from all temporal refreshments, of eve^ry
sort, for a given time.

Having settled the meaning of the term fasting — very
briefly, it is true, but, as I trust, satisfactorily, at least
to such as believe the Bible — the next point which claims
attention is the authority for observing this duty as above

This authority, to be satisfactory, must be clear and
unequivocal, and from a source entitled to universal re-
spect. Such authority, I maintain, is abundantly fur-
nished in the holy Scriptures, in the recorded examples of
inspired religious teachers, and in plain and obvious pre-
cept. In regard to the first, it is in place to observe that
the example of uninspired persons, however pious, is not
good authority; and, therefore, may be imitated or not,
according to our own conviction of duty, without involv-
ing the sin of omission. Uninspired men are as liable to
be mistaken as ourselves. Perhaps most of the truly
pious, from Moses to the present day, have fasted, and


their example might be profitably imitated ; but of itself
it imposes no obligation upon us. But with inspired men
the case is different. When a man was called of God to
be a prophet, or an apostle, and was inspired by the Holy
Ghost, he became an infallible teacher of religious doc-
trine, experience, and practice; and whatever duty he
enforced by example, as an inspired man, was obligatory
upon others, as far as applicable to their cases. The holy
prophets of the Old Testament, and the holy apostles of
the New Testament were all inspired men ; as such they
fasted, and did it understanding^, and thereby settled the
practice of fasting as a duty in the Church, Jewish and
Christian. They were not deluded fanatics, but holy men
of God, speaking and acting as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost; and, consequently, their example rested
upon others in this respect, and now rests upon us, with
the force of religious obligation.

In addition to the example of inspired men on the sub-
ject of fasting as a religious duty, we have the authority
of direct Divine precept. That God required the Jews to
fast on the day of expiation, and on other occasions, will
probably be admitted by all careful Bible readers ; and
hence I shall not occupy the room which would be
requisite for inserting the proofs. And it is equally clear
that our Lord and his apostles taught the Christians to
fast, both by precept and example, not at regularly-recur-
ring periods, but as an occasional duty. Christ gave his
disciples special directions how to perform the duty of
fasting, and, therefore, by fair inference, gave it his sanc-
tion — as it can not be presumed that he would give them
direction how to perform an act which was either unlawful
or useless. The certain proof that our Savior did give
such direction is found in sundry places, and, among
others, in Matt, vi, 16-18, which I shall have occasion
to cite hereafter.


Again: when interrogated by the disciples of John
Baptist, why they and the Pharisees fasted frequently,
while his disciples fasted not, "Jesus said unto them, Can
the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the
bridegroom is with them? but the days will come when the
bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they
fast," Matt, ix, 15. Here our Lord compares the season
of his personal intercourse with his disciples to a festival at
or after a wedding ; which, being a time of feasting and
rejoicing, was not a proper time for fasting; and hence it
was not required of them at that time. But, alluding to
the time when his personal intercourse with them on earth
should cease, and to all after-times of conflict and trouble,
he said, "Then shall they fast." Now, this last phrase,
"Then shall they fast," is not to be regarded as a mere
prophecy that such an event should transpire, but as an
expressed sanction of it, and an assurance that it would
be done; as if he had said, "Though I do not wish my
disciples to fast while I am personally with them, I do ap-
prove of their fasting after I shall have been taken from

Moreover, our Lord taught that there were some evil
spirits in man which could not be dislodged without fast-
ing; saying, " This kind can come forth by nothing but by
prayer and fasting." Of course, when other means have
been tried without success, that of adding fastino- to
prayer should not be neglected : it comes in as the last
resort. And what our Savior taught his disciples respect-
ing the duty of fasting by word, he enforced by his own
example, only with more severity on himself than they
were capable of enduring: "When he had fasted forty
days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered."
Now, in view of all these recorded facts — that our Lord
Jesus Christ, who was "God manifest in the flesh," and
"spake as man never spake," prescribed the manner of

E S S A Y S . 45

fasting, authorized his disciples to fast after he should
be taken from them, and added his own personal example
to enforce his teaching — it is difficult to account for the
hesitancy of some people in admitting that fasting is a
Christian duty, and their slowness of heart to believe it
is required of them. It was not so with the apostles.

That the inspired apostles, who were eye and ear-wit-

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 3 of 30)