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THE BEAUTIES OF CREATION.
PRAISED the earth, in beauty seen
I praised the sea, whose ample field
EARLY CHRISTIAN EDUCATION.
property in possession, and seek present enjoyment
parents have consulted the best interests of their children, where knowledge, experience, and judgment have been combined, success has not always been the result. But this, so far from relaxing parental efforts, should stimulate to earnest and unceasing endeavours in a matter of such momentous importance.
In the care of children, as well as in all other affairs in which the happiness of mankind is involved, it is common to take too much for granted. Thus it is assumed by parents that their children must love them, because they are their offspring, and have a natural affection for them. But, if this were the case, what need had there been of a distinct commandment (the 5th) to children, while none of a similar kind is given to parents; though the latter become moral agents, in their relation, several years before the former. Do not the Scriptures also describe parental affection as very strong; while they speak of folly, disobedience, and rebellion as the characteristics of childhood ? And are not these truths confirmed by daily and hourly experience? What are the first actings of infancy but a display of these effects of the fall? Why, it may be asked, was parental love so deeply implanted, were it not to establish a principle which would rise
above difficulties and dangers and disappointments, such anxious parents must experience from the nature of original sin in their children.
It would be deemed a bold assertion, and young parents would be startled by it, were I to say that children, so far from being naturally friends, are naturally enemies to their parents; and, unless they be subdued at an early period, their enmity will be felt and deplored to little purpose afterwards. If they once get the upper hand, they will not resign their power. Others may subdue them, and, in a measure, undo the mischief; but this will not implant filial respect and love. In the society of their parents they will too generally resume the tone of indocility and misrule to which they have been early accustomed. How many boys are there who are docile, obedient, and diligent at school ; yet unruly, disobedient, and idle during their vacations. And how many girls are there, both at school and at home, who would be ashamed to treat a governess or a teacher as they treat an affectionate mother, whose only fault towards them has been excessive, though mistaken tenderness.
Let parents then consider well their interest and their duties. If they would reap, they must sow,—and sow betimes, They must assume that power which is placed in their hands; they must establish that authority which is to be the basis of their future proceedings; they must, by precept and example, sedulously cultivate those dispositions which involve the present and future welfare of themselves and their children.
When the relation of parents and children is calmly regarded, how must it shock the mind and pain the heart of a serious reflecting person to see children so strangely dealt with as they generally are in the present day. Even before they are born, a heap of fine things is prepared for them; each mother seeming to vie with her neighbours in sending out her infant in costly attire. The best nurses are engaged, and information from all quarters is sought as to the means of preserving or improving the child's health and bodily faculties; but how few, how very few, seem to have the desire, and to use the prayer of Manoah and his wife,
How shall we order the child ? or to have the intention of Hannah, to lend or give him to the Lord !
It will be urged, perhaps, that in early infancy the body alone requires care, and that nothing can be done for the soul or the mind. This assertion, like many others of a similar kind which are taken for granted, will not bear the test of experience when submitted to trial. An infant begins to take notice when only a few weeks old; and parents are generally delighted with the first dawn, as it were, of intellect. I do not wonder at their delight, but that should not be their only feeling : a sense of their weighty responsibility towards the dear little one should now predominate, since from this time every thing around the child makes an impression which may be improved to his advantage; or on the other hand, may tend to vitiate his mind, and thus injure his precious soul. Can parents, then, Christian parents especially—can they be too solicitous to watch over their little ones with undeviating care and circumspection ?
During the first year of a child's life he is for the most part a passive observer of persons and things around him; liking some and fearing others, according to the impressions they make on his outward senses. Yet this
is not all,
his understanding is advancing; and, like a stranger in a foreign land, he begins to comprehend the language of those around him long before he can speak it. Many good impressions may now be made on him, and many good habits may be formed for him. It should be the object of those about him to keep him in a cheerful, contented state, rather than to excite him by boisterous play; and care should be taken that his attention be not divided, - a variety of toys ought never to be placed before him; one plaything at a time, and that not very soon changed for another. He should at all times be very kindly and gently dealt with (for he will imbibe much of the disposition he is familiar with); but he should not be too much fondled or petted, neither should the epithets, “Good little baby, " “Beautiful baby,” be always sounding in his ears. Dear he must be, and lovely too; but parents must remember that there is an internal loveliness to cultivate which much petting or praise will be apt to undermine.
Before the end of the first year the child will have shown a desire to have his own way, in preference to that of his parents or his nurse. He must not, however, be allowed on any occasion to have it. Things may generally be so arranged as not to cross him unnecessarily; but when opposition originates with him, it must be resisted. A mild but firm manner is here of the utmost consequence. Real solid affection is here brought into action. The parents will stifle their yearnings over the present distress of their child, which is but transitory,
“The tear forgot as soon as shed; and anxiously strive to repress the actings of that self-will which would be so fatal to his welfare and their comfort in after-life.
A little child properly fed, simply clothed, and kept much in the open air, with all possible care taken of his habits, dispositions, and amusements, will generally be very happy in himself, and a very engaging object to others as well as to his parents. I well remember several dear little children to whom I was most tenderly attached while they were yet in the nursery, and who by the early attention paid to them were at once cheerful, tractable, and happy, before they were two years old. Indeed it must be during the first years of a child's life that much good or much evil will be fostered. And it is through the negligence or false indulgence of parents during this period that they have so much trouble with their children afterwards,—that so many children are spoiled.
There are, however, so many ways of injuring the delicate mental and moral frame of a child, that parents, when alive to their responsibility and desirous of acting up to it, may incur danger through inexperience, and commit some errors by their great anxiety to avoid others. Errors in judgment are not indeed so culpable as those arising from other sources, but they are frequently as pernicious. When therefore parents would form a secure plan to work upon with their little ones, they should not only make it the subject of earnest prayer and meditation, but they should also use the means afforded them by the advice or writings of those who have had much practical experience in training children.
Governesses frequently change their plans as they advance in age and experience. This, a change of situation allows them to do. If anxious to do well
, they will avoid, with their new pupils, those measures which did not prove successful in former cases. They will especially relax from undue strictness; and though not less earnest as to measures, will be more lenient in manner : sympathising with the feelings of children when correction is needful, and thus proving to them that it is inflicted with reluctance, and solely for their benefit. But the case is far otherwise with a young mother; she does not change the objects of her solicitude. She may indeed add to their number, but the younger will generally receive such strong impressions from the elder, that before she is able to correct, or perhaps even to discover her mistakes, the effects of them will be not only increased, but extended. I have witnessed lamentable consequences from this cause. An elder child neglected or spoiled in any way, has afforded such a sad example to the younger ones, that the parents have afterwards vainly endeavoured to stem the torrent of insubordination which has proceeded from this source. A father, whose little girl refused to do as he bade her, when I was present, said, “I shall take her in hand when she is five years old.” By that time, however, she was so much confirmed in the habit of disobedience, that almost every command was disputed by her. She had also a little sister and a brother who too readily copied her refractory behaviour.
Children imitate what they see in other children, even when it proceeds from a disposition not peculiar to them. I knew a very gentle child who sometimes stamped and cried impatiently from having seen a sister, somewhat older, express her passionate temper in that way. The little boy had been under my observation for some months, during which his sister had been absent; and it was not till he had seen her violence that he showed any such symptoms of impatience. I distinctly remember also that, when a very little child, I went to spend an afternoon with two