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quite impossible to answer.” They will then cite some expression or mistake, that seems to them to place it in a ludicrous light; and they appear to wish you should draw an inference not very honourable to Christianity. They treat it as something most reverenced, when least inquired into or understood. “I think the less that is said about religion, the better,” is a phrase of the same nature, which we all have heard, from moral and well-conducted people; and it never can be heard, without pain, by those whose hearts are feelingly alive to the best interests of men. It is certain that intelligent children will sometimes require explanations no man can give. We may allow the truth of that assertion, though we deny the inference too often meant to be drawn from it; and we deprecate the habit of making it a text for indecorous and insipid jests.
On religious subjects we are doubly armed; for, when pressed by inquiries it is impossible to satisfy, we can reply, as to questions on all other topics, “ You are yet too young to comprehend the meaning of my answer." In this, a welltaught child will cheerfully acquiesce, from a confidence founded on experience, that you will explain to him all you can, as soon as possible. And we may also say: “ What you inquire about cannot be understood in this world—it may in the next. One of the pleasures of heaven will be, the knowledge of many things no one can comprehend in this life.” They are so fully satisfied with this, that an intelligent child, of five years old, said to his mother :“ Mamma, the foolishest angel in heaven, is wiser than Sir Isaac Newton while he was here.” And they may be so impressed with the hope of a future state, that the same child at seven, when as well-informed in history as most of his age, observed: “I am surprised the wicked ever put a good man to death; since they must know how much happier he will be, than if they allowed him to live.” Many will smile at his simplicity; but some will own that he had only a clearer view than his seniors, of the difference between time and eternity.
In Moorehead's twelfth and thirteenth Sermons, both this duty, and the manner of its performance, are beautifully described and enforced. He advises us to begin by expatiating
on the rule of doing to others as we would they should do unto us; and on the fourth and fifth commandments, so intelligible to infant capacities, I may add, so soothing to youthful hearts. It seems a pleasure to them to know, that in the necessary, easy, and obvious duty of honouring their parents, they are also obeying the Governor of the Universe. And the contemplation of the Sabbath, that day which gives “a pause from labour to the whole Christian world*,” and whose venerable form is coëval with creation, is always delightful to their opening minds.
Till they can read well, selections from the Bible should be read to them, and its phraseology carefully explained, where it differs from the language of conversation. This is far better than their stammering over the Sacred Volume as a task, or making use of it as a book for learning to read. Mrs. Trimmer's judicious
* The author appears to have fallen into the mistake, so common at the present day, though almost unknown in the age of our reformers, of confounding the Jewish Sabbath, instituted in memory of the Creation, with the Christian commemoration of Christ's Resurrection, celebrated on a different day, in a different manner, and on different grounds.
selections will assist parents in this part of their duty; but if we mean the very young should profit by her Annotations, they must be considerably familiarized and abridged. Mr. Bullar's Bible Questions may be used in conversation, before we give them to be answered in writing. This little book, at once simple, concise, and ingenious, fills up a chasm which many instructors had observed with regret. The Creation, the Deluge, the pious confidence of Abraham, the resignation of Isaac, the eventful history of Joseph, the firmness of Moses, the escape of the Israelites, their wanderings in the desert, the magnanimity of David, the patience of Job, and the devoted affection of Ruth, are more interesting to children, when related with due attention to their powers and taste, than any other points of history, ancient or modern. But if with a sad face, and peevish voice, we summon them, in the dreaded words, “ Come, read your chapter, then you may take some amusing book ;” and give them a fragment, in an idiom not rendered familiar to their ears, of a history they have never been led to relish or understand, (just as if so much medicine were first to be swallowed, and then more agreeable food permitted,) we raise powerful difficulties against their reaping the full benefit, in after-life, of the Inspired Writings: we associate with a thousand unpleasing recollections, that which it is our duty to present in the fullest and clearest light.
It will scarcely be thought irrelevant to remark, that the unwieldly form of a well-printed Bible, and the very small type of a moderatesized one, occasionally prevent the Sacred Volume from being read. There is also sometimes an apprehension of being supposed to make a parade of devotion, which prevents the Bible from lying on tables where it would appear, if less distinguished in shape and size. The publication of a few, in five or six volumes, would obviate these inconveniences, and make any particular part, selected for study, more portable in travelling, and more manageable in sickness.
What Moorehead has said of the introductory steps to a knowledge of Christianity, conveys a new idea, so just and important, that my readers will be pleased to see it in his own words.