« EdellinenJatka »
there are some who never "fritter away their interest,” (to borrow a phrase from one of themselves,) by asking any favour for others; dreading compliance as a waste of their influence; and fearing a denial, lest it should indispose towards them, those from whom it proceeded.
Children, at different periods of their infancy, particularly if delicate in their frame, are often subject to severe fits of involuntary crying; and nothing can be more cruel than to treat these as faults. We have known this error carried to a most barbarous excess. They are, in fact, a malady, which will be increased either by injudicious fondling, or stern severity. With gravity, sweet, firm composure, and an effort, wholly unperceived by the child, to divert his attention, they ought to be met. The command of, “ Have done !" issued in a harsh and violent manner, is as useless as the adoption of looks and epithets more endearing than at other times. “ You shall cease from crying !" in all cases of this kind, commits our authority; for we never can be sure of the extent of human wilfulness; and the child, even when he cries from obstinacy, may go on in spite of all threats, and whatever degree of punishment we may think proper to inflict. If so, he has gained a victory, which sows the seeds of future disobedience. The peremptory command to cease from crying, it is impossible to obey, if the tears of a child spring from weakness ; and all punishment will increase them, sometimes to a most alarming excess. “ While you cry, I shall whip,” was the expression of a highly-approved governess of our acquaintance, in former times; and she suited the action to the word, to the utter extinction of health and firmness in her pupil, but without gaining her point.
It appeared in a court of justice, in Paris, a few years ago, that a governess had thus caused the death of a little girl intrusted to her care.
" I TEACH my children their prayers, and desire them to read the Bible; but say very little on religion, as I make it a rule to talk to them only on what they can understand.” Such is the substance of what is said by many parents, with an air of triumph over those who attempt to impress the truths of religion on the infant heart. Few opinions are more erroneous, few mistakes more fatal. Children, who are as yet undisturbed by the passions, “ those vultures of the mind," are peculiarly fitted to receive religious impressions, and Heaven is reflected in their little bosoms, as in a clear, unruffled lake. “ What !” it is said, “ will you attempt to explain to a child the nature and attributes of the Supreme Being ?”
I shall not attempt to explain what is above all human comprehension ; but I shall tell them
of a Being, all-powerful, all-wise, all-good, who sees us in every moment of our lives, and reads every thought of our hearts; who will reward the good, and punish the wicked, if not in this life, certainly in the next. I shall particularly dwell on the happiness he has prepared for those who obey him; and on his beneficence, in making this earth, though only formed as a place of trial, so often the abode of peace and pleasure. They shall learn to “ see God in the clouds, and hear him in the wind :”-in fruits and in flowers :in the sun, the moon, the stars, the beauties of nature, and the joys of family affection. They shall learn to observe how many delights he has showered upon us; and, in their pains and their sicknesses, their sorrows and their fears, to look onwards to a fairer scene, where suffering will be unknown. I shall pass more lightly over the punishment prepared for the wicked, as it is not eligible, at an early age, to cloud the mind by deep or frequent representations of guilt and misery. Children must know that both exist, as soon as they are capable of observation; and although the advantage of bringing them up in total ignorance of evil, physical and moral, has
proved an attractive subject for eloquent declamation, it is needless to state the objections to it, which must arise in thinking minds, because the plan is wholly impracticable. But the opposite extreme is far more dangerous. It has frequently thrown a lasting gloom over the mind; and the melancholy impression made on Johnson, by his mother's vivid description of the torments of hell, when he was but three years old, as related by Madame Piozzi, may have imparted to his religious feelings that dark hue, which filled his latter days with disquietude.
All the topics I have selected, will interest at five or six years of age, sometimes much earlier ; and are particularly enjoyed by children, as subjects of consideration, if not taught with a melancholy countenance, as a lecture, but introduced in their walks, in their beds, and mingled with the most interesting occurrences of their existence, whether joyous or melancholy.
We often hear parents say, sometimes with very mysterious faces, sometimes with an expression of humour, as if enjoying the thoughts of carrying on a deception, that “children ask such extraordinary questions on religion, as it is