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Story of the boys on the ice continued.

a habit of doing wrong, and then coming to confess it with a careless air, as if it was not of much consequence, or rather as if confessing the sin destroyed it, and left them perfectly innocent.

I should think, on this account, that the father whose sons had disobeyed him on the ice, would be much at a loss to know what to do, after one of his boys had so frankly acknowledged it. I can suppose him saying to his son, “Well, my son, I am glad you have told me freely all about this. You did very wrong, and I am very much at a loss to know what I ought to do. I will consider it, and speak to you by and by about it. In the mean time you may be assured that I forgive you from my heart, and if I should conclude to do any thing farther, it will not be because I am now displeased, but because I wish to save you effectually from the sad consequence of doing wrong in future."

When the father is left to muse by himself upon the subject, we may imagine him to be thinking as follows.

"I should not have thought that my boys would have broken their promise and disobeyed me. I wonder if my eldest disobeyed also. The youngest only spoke of himself— shall I ask him?-No. Each shall stand on independent ground. If the other sinned too, he too may come voluntarily and obtain peace by confession, or he must continue to bear the tortures of self-reproach. And now if I take no further notice of the transgression which is already acknowledged, I am afraid that my son will the next time yield more easily to temptation, thinking that he has only to acknowledge it, in order to be forgiven. Shall I forbid their skating any more this winter?-or for a month ?—or shall I require them, every time they return, to give an exact account where they have been?—I wish I could forgive and forget the offense entirely, but I am afraid I ought not to do so."

To parents and teachers.

Confession a privilege.

Thus he would be perplexed; and if he were a wise parent, and under the influence of moral principle, and not of mere parental feeling, he would probably do something more than merely pass it by. The boy would find that confession to such a father is not merely nominal,-that it brings with it inconvenience, or deprivation of enjoyment, or perhaps positive punishment. Still he would rejoice in the opportunity to acknowledge his sins; for the loss of a little pleasure, or the suffering of punishment, he would feel to be a very small price to pay for returning peace of mind, and he would fly to confession, as a refuge from self-reproach, whenever he had done wrong.

Let the parents or the teachers who may read this, take this view of the nature of confession, and practice upon it in their intercourse with their children and their pupils. Always meet them kindly when they come forward to acknowledge their faults. Sympathize with them in the struggle, which you know they must make at such a time, and consider how strong the temptation was which led them to sin. And in every thing of the nature of punishment which you inflict, be sure that the prevention of future guilt is your sole motive, and not the gratification of your own present feeling of displeasure. If this is done, those under your care will soon value confession as a privilege, and will often seek in it a refuge from inward suffering.

Yes, an opportunity to acknowledge wrong of any kind, is a great privilege, and if any of my readers are satisfied that what I have been advancing on this subject is true, I hope they will prove by experiment the correctness of these principles. Almost every person has at all times some little sources of uneasiness upon his mind. They are not very well defined in their nature and cause, but still they exist, and they very much disturb the happiness. Now if you look within long enough to seize hold of and examine these

Depression of spirits.

feelings of secret uneasiness, you will find that, in almost every case, they are connected with something wrong which you have done. That anxious brow of yours then is clouded with remorse ;-we call it by soft names,-care, solicitude, perplexity, but it is generally a slight remorse, so weak as not to force its true character upon your notice, but yet strong enough to destroy peace of mind. A great deal of what is called depression of spirits arises from this source. There are duties which you do not faithfully discharge: or inclinations which you habitually indulge when you know they ought to be denied. Conscience keeps up, therefore, a continual murmur, but she murmurs so gently that you do not recognize her voice-and yet it destroys your rest. You feel restless and unhappy, and wonder what can be the cause.

Let no one understand me to maintain that all the depression of spirits which exists in human hearts arises from a secret sense of guilt. I know that there is real solicitude about the future, unconnected with remorse for the past ;and there is often a sinking of the spirits that results from bodily disease, which moral remedies will not reach. These cases are, however, comparatively few. A far greater proportion of the restlessness and of the corroding cares which reign in human hearts is produced, or at least is very much aggravated, by being connected with guilt.

I suppose some of my readers are perusing these pages only for amusement. They will be interested, perhaps, in the illustrations, and if of mature and cultivated minds, in the point to which I am endeavoring to make them tend. I hope, however, that there are some who are reading really and honestly for the sake of moral improvement. To those I would say: Do you never feel unquiet in spirit, restless or sad? Do you never experience a secret uneasiness of heart, of which you do not know the exact cause,

4

Remedy for depression of spirits.

Careless confession.

Anecdote.

but which destroys, or at least disturbs your peace? If you do, take this course. Instead of flying from those feelings when they come into your heart, advance boldly to meet them. Grasp and examine them. Ascertain their cause. You will find, in nine cases out of ten, that their cause is something wrong in your own conduct or characYoung persons will generally find something wrong toward their parents. Now, go and confess these faults. Do not endeavor to palliate or excuse them, but endeavor on the other hand to see their worst side, and if you confess them freely and fully, and resolve to sin no more, peace will return, at least, so far as these causes have banished it from your heart.

ter.

After I had written thus far, I read these pages to a gentleman who visited me, and he remarked that before I closed the chapter, I ought to caution my youthful readers against acquiring the habit of doing wrong and then coming carelessly to confess it, without any real sorrow, as though the acknowledgment atoned for the sin and wiped all the guilt

away.

Such confession is a mere form, and instead of exerting any salutary influence on the mind, it acts only as a lure to future sin. It is confession without penitence; and confession without penitence is mere pretence and hypocrisy.

'I was once,' said he, 'visiting in a family, and while we were sitting at the fire, a little boy came in and did some wanton, willful mischief.

'Why, my child," said the mother, "see what you have done. That was very wrong;-but you are sorry for it, I suppose. Are you not?"

'Yes, Ma," said the boy carelessly, running away at the same time to play.

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"Yes," said the mother, "he is sorry.

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He does wrong

Heartless confession.

An experiment.

sometimes, but then he is always sorry for it, and acknowledges it. You are sorry now, are you not, my son ?"

"Yes, Ma," said the boy, as he ran capering about the room, striking the furniture and his little sister with his whip.

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"YES, MA."

My friend thought that there was some danger that this sort of confession might be made. And it is undoubtedly often made. But it does no good. Confession must come from the heart, or it will not relieve or improve the heart.

This anecdote shows the necessity of some punishment in all

governments. If a father forgives the dis

obedience of his children simply upon their confessing it, his children will often disobey, expecting to make peace by confession as a matter of course; and the confession will thus become a mere useless form.

A teacher once made a rule, that if any irregularity occurred in any of the classes, the assistant who heard the classes was to send the person in fault to him. At first the pupils felt this very much. One and another would come with tears in their eyes to acknowledge some fault, although it was perhaps only a very slight one. The teacher inflicted no punishment, but asked them to be careful in future, and sent them away kindly. Soon, however, they began to feel less penitent when they had done wrong. They came more

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