Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

child. She is just able to walk about the floor of her mother's parlour, and though her life is full of sources of happiness, it is full likewise of sources of disappointment and suffering. A moment since she was delighted with a plaything which her mother had given her, but now she has laid it aside, and is advancing towards a valuable book which lies upon the chair. She is just reaching out her little arm to take it, when she is arrested by her mother's well-known voice.

66

Mary! Mary! must not touch the book."

A child as young as this will understand language, though she cannot use it, and she will obey commands. She looks steadily at her mother a moment, with an inquiring gaze, as if uncertain whether she heard aright. The command is repeated.

[ocr errors]

'No, Mary must not touch the book."

The child, I will suppose, has been taught to obey, but in such a case as this it is a hard duty. Her little eyes fill with tears, which perhaps she makes an effort to drive away, and soon seeks amusement elsewhere. Now, if such a child has been managed right, she will be improved by such a trial. The principle of obedience and submission will have been strengthened; it will be easier for her to yield to parental command on the next occasion.

But see, as she totters along back to her mother, she trips over her little cricket and falls to the floor. The terror and pain, though we should only smile at it, are sufficient to overwhelm her entirely. Her mother gently raises her, tries to soothe her, and soon you can distinctly perceive that the child is struggling to repress her emotions. Her sobs are gradually restrained, the tear flows less freely, and soon the sunshine of a smile breaks forth over her face, and she jumps down again to play. This now has been a useful trial; pain and fright have once been conquered, and they will have less power over her in future.

But though there is a real and most important benefit to be derived from these trials of infancy, the child herself cannot understand it. No child can become prepared for the future duties of life without them, and yet no child of such an age can understand why they are necessary. The mother might say to her in attempting to explain it as follows: Mary, I might save you from all these difficulties and

[graphic]

66

troubles if I chose. I might put you in a room where every thing was cushioned, so that you could not hurt yourself, and I might keep carefully out of your sight every article which you ought not to have. Thus you might be saved all your pains and disappointments. But I choose not to do this. I want you to become useful and happy hereafter, and so you must learn submission and patience and fortitude now. So I leave the book in the chair, where you can see it, and tell you, you must not touch it, and I leave you to fall a little now and then, for the pain only lasts a moment; but if you try to conquer your fears, and to bear the pain patiently, it will do you lasting good. Your character will acquire firmness and vigour, and you will thus be prepared for the duties of future life."

The child now would not understand all this, but it would be true whether she should understand it or not, and the judicious mother, who understands the design of education, and the manner in which children are to be trained up to future duty, will not be sorry to have her children repeatedly tried. These repeated trials are the very means of forming their characters, and were it possible to avoid them entirely, instead of meeting and conquering them, the child exposed to such a course of treatment would be ruined. Sometimes parents seem to make efforts to avoid them, and in going into such a family, you will find the shovel and tongs perhaps placed upon the mantelpiece, so that the child cannot touch them, and the mother will not dare to bring a plate of cake into the room, for fear that the children should cry for it. Instead of accustoming them to trials of this kind, and teaching them obedience and submission, she makes a vain effort to remove all occasion for the exercise of such virtues. If perchance these remarks are read by any mother who feels that she is pursuing the course which they condemn, I would stop a moment to say to her as follows:

Do you expect that you can govern your children for fifteen years to come, in this way? Can you put every thing which, during all this period, they shall want, which they ought not to have, upon the mantelpiece, as you do the shovel and tongs?

"No," you reply smiling, "I do not expect to do it. My child will soon become older, and then I can teach him obedience more easily."

You never can teach him obedience so easily as when he is first able to understand a simple command, and that is long before he is able to walk. And there is no way by which obedience and submission can be so effectually taught to child or to man, as by actual trial. That is the way in which God teaches it to you, and that is the way you ought to teach it to your child. God never puts sin away out of our reach; he leaves it all around us, and teaches us by actual trial to resist its calls.

"I know this is right," you reply, "but sometimes I am busy,-I am engaged in important duties, and do not wish to be interrupted, and on such occasions I remove improper playthings out of the reach of my child, because just then I have not time to teach him a lesson of obedience."

But what important business is that which you put into competition with the whole character and happiness of your child? If your sons or your daughters grow up in habits of disobedience to your commands, they will embitter your life, and bring down your gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. You never can gain an ascendency over them so easily as in infancy,-and you cannot in any other way so effectually undermine your power, and prevent your ever obtaining an ascendency over them, as by accustoming them in childhood to understand that, in your endeavours to keep them from doing what is wrong, you do not aim at strengthening their own moral principle, and accustoming them to meet and to resist the ordinary temptations of life, but that you depend upon a vain effort to remove them entirely away from trial, so that, if you could succeed, you render it equally impossible for them to do right or wrong.

Yes, trial is essential in childhood, and God has so arranged the circumstances of early life, that parents cannot evade it. It must come. It may be removed in a very few cases, but that only brings additional difficulty upon those that remain. And it is far better not to attempt to evade it at all. Come up then, parents, boldly to the work of accustoming your children to trial. If you see a child going towards an open door, do not run to shut it so that he cannot go out. Command him not to go, and enforce obedience; if you do any thing to the door at all, throw it wide open, and say mildly," I will see whether you will disobey." Do not put the book or the paper which you wish him not

to touch high upon a shelf away from his reach. If you change its place at all, lay it upon the floor, and tell him not to touch it. Remember that youth is a season of probation and trial, and unless you avail yourself of the opportunities of probation and trial which it presents, you lose half the advantages which the Creator had in view, in arranging the circumstances of childhood as he has.

Now, the whole of life is, equally with the years of childhood, a time of probation and trial,-it is filled up with difficulties and obstacles, and sources of slight disappointment and suffering, for the very purpose of trying and increasing our moral strength. And all these things are, or may be, sources of enjoyment. They will be sources of enjoyment, if we take the right view of them, as I shall explain more fully hereafter. God has so arranged it, that we have, in passing through life, a specimen of almost every sort of moral difficulty; and moral every of the heart may power be brought into active exercise, and cherished and strengthened by the trial, if the opportunity is rightly improved. God has therefore made a double provision for the moral growth of men. First, he has given us instruction in our duty, in the Bible; and secondly, he has given us opportunity to practise, in the various difficulties and duties of life. The Bible is full and complete as a book of directions. Human life is full and complete as a field for practice. best parade-ground for drilling and disciplining an army would not be a smooth and level plain, but an irregular region, diversified with hills and plains, where the inexperienced army might practise every evolution,-now passing a defile, now ascending an acclivity, now constructing and crossing a bridge. So human life, to answer the purposes. intended as a field for moral exercise, must have a variety of difficulties to enable us to practise every virtue, and to bring into active requisition every right principle of heart.

The

A wealthy man, I will suppose, engaged in commercial pursuits in a great city, wished to prepare his son to manage his business when he should be old enough to take charge of it. He accordingly gave him a thorough commercial education in school, but before he received him into his partnership, he thought it might be necessary to give him some practical knowledge of his future duties.

"My son," says he to himself, "is now theoretically

acquainted with all which is necessary, but he wants the readiness, and the firmness, and the confidence of practice. To complete his education, I will give him a thorough trial. I will fit out a small vessel, and let him take charge of her cargo. I will so plan the voyage, that it shall embrace an unusual share of difficulty and trial, for my very design is to give him practical knowledge and skill, which come only through such a trial.”

He accordingly fits out his ship. He thinks very little of the success of the voyage in a pecuniary point of view, because that is not his object. He rejects one port of destination, because it is too near. Another, because the passage to it is short and direct; and another, because the disposal of a cargo there is attended with no difficulty. He at last thinks of a voyage which will answer his design. The passage lies through a stormy sea. Rocks and quicksands, and perhaps pirates, fill it with dangers. The port at which he will arrive is one distinguished by the intricacy of its government regulations. His son is a stranger to the language of the country, and a great discretionary power will be necessary in the selection of a return cargo. "This," says the merchant, "is exactly the place. This voyage will comprehend more difficulties and dangers and trials than any other, and will accordingly be exactly the thing for my son."

Perhaps you may say, a father would not form such a design as this, he would not expose his son to so many difficulties and dangers. I know he might not go so far as I have represented, but the reason why he would not, would be because he might be afraid that some of these dangers would overpower the young man entirely. He would not send him among rocks and whirlpools, for instance, for the sake of getting him into danger, because he would fear that that danger might result in death. If, however, he could be sure of ultimate safety,-if, for example, he could, as our great Father in heaven can, go along with his boy, and, though unseen and unheard, could be at his side in every danger, with power to bring effectual protection-if earthly fathers had such power as this, there would be a thousand who would take the course I have described. They would see that there could be nothing so well calculated to give maturity and efficiency to the character, and to prepare the

« AnteriorContinuar »