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Trials of childhood.

trating deep into creeks, or sweeping swiftly round projecting headlands; and this, not because he wishes to examine that shore, but only to see how the boat will obey her helm. Thus he goes on placing her again and again in situations of difficulty, for the purpose simply of proving her powers, and enabling him to perfect the operation of her machinery. Afterward, when she has come into actual service, when she has received her load, and is transporting it to its place of destination, the object is entirely changed; service, not improvement, is then the aim. Her time of trial is ended.

The Bible everywhere considers this world as one of trial and discipline, introductory to another one, which is to be the world of actual service. A child, as he comes forward into life, is surrounded with difficulties which might easily have been avoided if the Ruler over all had wished to avoid them. But he did not. That child is on trial-moral trial; and just exactly as the helmsman of the steamboat steered her to the rapids for the purpose of bringing her into difficulty, so does God arrange in such a manner the circumstances of childhood and youth as to bring the individual into various difficulties which will try his moral powers, and which, if the child does his duty, will be the means of improving them. He may learn contentment and submission by the thousand disappointments which occur, patience and fortitude by his various sufferings, and perseverance by encountering the various obstacles which oppose his progress. These difficulties, and sufferings, and obstacles might all have easily been avoided. God might have so formed the human mind, and so arranged the circumstances of life, every thing should have gone smoothly with us. But he wishes for these things as trials-trials for the sake of our improvement; and he has filled life with them, from the cradle to the grave.


To obtain a distinct idea of the operation of this principle,

The child and the forbidden book.



let us look at this little child.

She is just able to walk about

the floor of her mother's parlor, 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 toward 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:

"Mary! Mary, you must not touch the book."

A child as young as this will understand language though she can not 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:

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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 footstool 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, endeavors to soothe and quiet her, and soon you can distinctly perceive that the child is struggling to repress her emotions. Her sobs are gradually restrained, the tears flow less freely, and soon the sunshine of a smile breaks over her face, and she jumps down again to play. This now has been a useful

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Advantage of trial in childhood.

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 can not 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:

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'Mary, I might save you from all these difficulties and 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 from all your pains and disappointments. But I choose not to do this. I wish to prepare you to become useful and happy hereafter, and you must accordingly learn submission, and patience, and fortitude now. So I leave the book in the chair, where you can see it, and then tell you that you must not touch it. And I leave you to fall a little now and then; for the pain only continues for a moment; but if you try to conquer your fears and bear the pain patiently, it will do you lasting good. By these means your character will acquire firmness and vigor, 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 knows what is the design of education and the manner in which children are to be trained up to future duty, will not be unwilling 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.

Putting playthings out of reach.

Conversation with a mother.

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 mantlepiece, so that the children can not touch them, and the mother will not dare to bring a plate of cake into the room for fear that they 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 selfdenial. 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, and which they ought not to have, out of their way upon some mantlepiece, as you do the shovel and tongs?

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

You never afterward 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 in which 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

Trials not to be shunned.

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 afterward can gain an ascendency over them so easily as in infancy-and you can not in any other way so effectually undermine your power, and prevent yourself from ever obtaining an ascendency over them, as by accustoming them in childhood to understand that, in your endeavors 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, der it equally impossible for them to do right or wrong.

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Yes; trial is essential in childhood, and God has so arranged the circumstances of early life, that parents can not evade it. It must come. It may be removed in a very few cases, but that only occasions additional difficulty in 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 toward an open door, do not hasten to shut it so that he can not 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 do not wish him to touch high upon a shelf, away from his reach; if you change its place at all, place it fully within his reach, and direct 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 they are.

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