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NOTES ON MISS HAMILTON'S TREATISE ON EDUCATION.
ruby shines so bright as heavenly wisdom? What girdle displays such charms as that which is formed from the graces of the gospel? What will stand instead of the robes of righteousness in the day of final account? (To be concluded.)
For the Mother's Magazine. EXTRACTS FROM A MOTHER'S COMMON PLACE BOOK.
ANALYSIS OF MISS HAMILTON'S LETTERS ON EDUCATION.
[Continued.] How sweet to a mother is the task-no, I cannot call it a task-the privilege of directing the opening affectionsof the infant soul to the great object of love and trust. An angel, even, might find superlative delight in taking in charge a soul that is as yet unsullied by contact with the world, but for which the price of redemption has been paid, and moulding its first early conceptions of the great Father of all. When her infant has just begun to be acquainted with the vehicle of thought, and can scarcely prattle forth its own ideas, as she lays it at night on its couch for repose, she may say, “Who will take care of my darling to-night, while he sleeps ?” “Mother, ” will be the natural reply. “No, mother is going to sleep too, and all in the house are going to sleep, and who will take care of my little one?” The mind of the child is thus thrown into an inquisitive state, just the attitude for acquiring knowledge, and is now happily directed to its Father in heaven. When he wakes in the morning, the lesson of the eyening may be repeated: “Who has taken care of little Edward all night, so that he wakes up well and happy? Who has made this bright sun to rise giving us gladness ?”
Miss H. devotes her fifth and sixth letters to the consideration of the best method for inspiring children with devotional sentiments. In her introductory remarks she combats the opinion of some philosophers, who contend that in order to preserve the human mind from the shackles of prejudice, religious instruction should be withheld until it has come to maturity, and is able to compare and decide for itself. How absurd! That a being who enters on an immortal existence, of which this life is but the threshold, should not at the first dawn of reason receive that knowledge and be guided to those principles which alone have any appositeness to the broad extent of its being! Well may one exclaim of such philosophers, 0! the blindness and misery of being shut up từ this little span of material existence !
After a cursory view of the Christian religion, Miss H. remarks:
" Is there aught in these doctrines that can tend to render the mind gloomy and unsocial? Will the habitual gratitude of the heart to the Supreme Benefactor detract from the enjoyment of his gifts? Will the idea of the constant presence and protection, the love and favor of such a being, tend to depress the mind? Or will the wish for the approbation of this heavenly Father, friend, protector, and judge, and the fear of his displeasure, impair the energy of virtue? Why then do we reject the salutary assistance which religion offers us, for subduing the worst, and cultivating the best passions and affections of the human
NOTES ON MISS HAMILTON'S TREATISE ON EDUCATION.
heart? Alas !-because that by the public and the splendid scenes of this vain and transitory life we are so completely engrossed, that in the education of our children we lose every other view but that of qualifying them to attract the applause and admiration of the world. For this, in our boys we cultivate the understanding while we neglect the heart. In our girls we leave both heart and understanding to the care of chance, while we assiduously endeavor to make them excel in a few superficial and useless accomplishments.”
Again : “ The sympathy which makes the applause of our fellow creatures so grateful to the heart; the sensibility which makes us so keenly feel the wounds of neglect, ridicule, or disapprobation, may be made instruments to form the character either to vice or virtue, according to the direction they receive from early association.” Where the conscience has been enlightened, and directed to the favor of God as its standard in judging of actions, and not to the applause of the world, a moral sensitiveness will be acquired, and a discriminating power, which will preserve youth from the imminent danger, as they are thrown into the world, of conforming to the opinions of those around them.
A young person thus trained will distinguish between “ the solid and the superficial;” “will not be dazzled by the splendor of talents,” and “will on all occasions have an unerring standard to recur to.”
Miss H. notices the fact that "we see every day instances of those who, after having received the most religious education, and been most strictly brought up in the fear of God, have no sooner been released from paternal restraint, than they have entered on the career of vice, and become the most zealous champions of infidelity.” The frequent recurrence of such instances she refers to the fact that so many parents, by their mode of instruction, produce in the minds of their children early associations with religion of an unpleasant and repulsive character. Another cause of such abounding infidelity is, that religion is not exemplified in the happiest manner. - The duties of religion are considered as separate and distinct from the common concerns of life ; and those who pique themselves on the strictest performance of them are not always most amiable and engaging. What Mrs. More so well observes of the learning of ladies, may justly be applied to the religion of devotees. “It stands out, as it were, above the very surface of their minds, like the appliquee of the embroiderer, instead of having been interwoven with the growth of the piece, so as to have become a part of the stuff. * * * Yet some worthy people make it a matter of conscience to interlard their conversation with a sort of technical piety, which, by exciting disgust or ridicule in the young and unthinking, is productive of the worst effects."
Undoubtedly a successful religious education must be accompanied by a different exemplification of religion from this. Yet, I think it cannot be questioned that many duties of religion are “ separate and distinct from the common concerns of life.” It is a vital mistake, however, to suppose that these distinct duties compose the only sphere in which religious principle is to operate. Nowhere is its influence more needed than in the common concerns of life ; and especially is it important for parents, who desire their children should respect and love the principles by which they profess to be controlled, to exemplify them in their every day, home deportinent, and to manifest that
NOTES ON MISS HAMILTON'S TREATISE ON EDUCATION.
not the least happy influence of religion is to produce contentment, harmony, patience, forbearance, and kindness in the domestic sphere. Parents who wish to recommend religion to their children, would do well to observe the maxim, “ Never be satisfied with your religion until it makes you happy."
On the best mode of communicating early religious instruction, Miss H. beautifully remarks, “It is observable, says Hartly, that the mere transit of words, expressing strong ideas, over the ears of children, affects them. On this principle, the idea of an unseen benefactor, who is the giver of every good, the author of all the felicity of which the infant heart is sensible, may easily be conveyed to the mind at a very early period. By a little pains, the most pleasing associations may be formed with the idea of this unseen Benefactor. Let the moment be seized, when the little heart dilates with joy at some unexpected pleasure, to form its first attempt at prayer. “ I thank thee, O God, for making my mama, or other friends, so good to me,” may be quite sufficient; and if suggested upon proper occasions, and repeated, not as a formal duty, but a spontaneous effusion of the heart, it will not fail to produce an effect upon the affections. As the sphere of observation is enlarged, and the sources of pleasure multiply upon the mind, every object of nature that inspires admiration, every social endearment which produces delight, may be made instruments to conduct the infant heart to God.” Miss H.
goes rather too far for me, when she adds, “I at this moment look back with infinite pleasure to the delightful period, when with the simplicity of infant innocence I poured out my little soul in grateful thanks to the Almighty for the happiness enjoyed at a dancing school ball !" I go to the full extent with her in the conviction that religious instruction should be conveyed to the youthful mind with agreeable associations. Therefore I would endeavor to place my child in no circumstances, and encourage him to no employment, on which he might not implore the blessing of his heavenly Father. I would have him feel that his great Preserver and Benefactor is continually about his steps to guide, protect, and bless. In efforts for intellectual improvement, he may be assured of the divine approbation, and at every step of progress may make his infant offering of devout gratitude. In the cheerful recreations necessary to physical growth and vigor, he may gratefully recognize the protecting hand which keeps his “ feet from falling.” In every social enjoyment which harmonizes with the great end of life, he may bless the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I would not judge parents who send their children to “dancing school balls,” on the plea that it is essential to a finished education, and that they will thus be prepared to exert more influence in society, should they become Christians. But I must be more convinced than I now am, of the divine approbation, as extended to these auxiliaries of a Christian education, before I can be quite pleased with the idea of a child's heart dilating with gratitude for the enjoyment thence derived. I should fear the dear child was receiving wrong associations on another ground than that which Miss H. deprecates.
I confess it is much easier, and perhaps more gratifying to our vanity, as well as to our indolence, to make children get long prayers and catechisms by heart than by gentle and imperceptible degrees to impress them with feel
NOTES ON MISS HAMILTON'S TREATISE ON EDUCATION.
ings of gratitude and affection for their heavenly Father. But whoever would succeed in the great work of education, must begin by conquering vanity and indolence in themselves ; for these are the great, the perpetually occurring obstacles to success."
I would add to this important remark, that the mother, who would succeed in impressing her children with feelings of gratitude and affection for their heavenly Father, must be full of these feelings herself. They must flow out spontaneously and be imparted by gentle degrees, as the milk which nourishes their bodies, or as the small dew which distils on the tender herb. The fear of God also must be imparted in the same way, by its holy influence on the mind of the parent. The means used will be as a seal, which takes its impression, not from books, and from rules in the memory, but from the parent's own heart, and exactly as it is there, enstamps it on the mind of the child. I am surprised that Miss H. while she says much of love and gratitude to the Divine Being, almost passes over the fear of God, which the Bible tells us is the beginning of wisdom. Instruction in it must therefore be suitable for a child, if he is to be led in “wisdom's ways." She does indeed remark, when speaking of the danger of affixing gloomy associations with early impressions of the Deity, “ That hatred of sin, which springs from the perfection of the moral attributes of the Deity, is prematurely presented to the minds of children at a period when they are yet incapable of perceiving abstract truth.” But I would ask, does a child love its parent the less for the displeasure he manifests towards disobedience, or for any just punishment he inflicts ? No. I have seen a child of eighteen months cling to its father with even fonder affection than before, after he had severely chastised it for obstinate wilfulness.
Miss H. thinks the practice of committing scripture by rote is of no advantage to a religious education. I do not agree with her in this. I think religious sentiment in any form, but especially scripture fixed in the memory at the period of its early susceptibility, is of incalculable worth. It is like a beacon at sea; it may be washed away; but, a peradventure not to be despised, it may remain, and save a soul in the hour of utmost peril. But, while this mode of inculcating scripture is not, I think, to be laid aside, that which Miss H. advocates is far better. “ The first step towards inspiring your children with a veneration for the sacred writings, and with a desire of knowing something of their contents, must be the observations they will naturally and voluntarily make upon your frequent perusal of them. While they see other books read and dismissed, and that the Bible alone remains the constant companion of your serious hours, the subject of your daily and delightful meditation, they will associate the idea of superior excellence with the Bible, before they are able to read. But on the contrary, if they see it only brought out upon a tedious and gloomy Sunday, and then read as a duty and a task, the prepossession that will take place in disfavor of its contents will probably never be eradicated.”
She further recommends, “ As soon as a child can read so well as to be able to understand something of what it reads, its imagination and curiosity ought to be excited by the mention of some of the passages in the Old Testa
ment which are most likely to amuse and gratify the fancy; these, afterwards, as a favor, it ought to be permitted to read. By a repetition of this ás often as occasion offers, a pretty accurate knowledge of the Old Testament will be acquired.” Again: “ As the understanding opens to the perception of moral truth, the sublimer doctrines of the New Testament should in the same manner be impressed upon the heart, at such times and seasons as the impression is likely to be most favorably received." For instance, if a child has exhibited angry or revengeful feclings, let him read the example of David, whan he found his enemy Saul asleep in the cave; then refer him to some passage in the New Testament which illustrates “the superior benignity and divine forgiveness of the blessed Jesus.” Thus take advantage of passing incidents to impress religious truth, by directing the child to read, or reading to him appropriate examples or intructions in scripture. This chapter is closed with the following excellent remarks.
“ Would we have religion become this animating principle, this stamina of the mind, we should administer our instruction upon religious snbjects as daily bread, in such portions as the appetite calls for, and nature can digest; and not as a nauseous medicine, which they must be forced to take for the good of their souls. Thus shall we best fulfil the command of him who emphatically said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not."
For the Mother's Magazine..
It is not the lightest part of a mother's duty to superintend the physical welfare of her offspring. This complicated and wonderful clay temple, rendered so precious as the shrine of an undying spirit, is worthy of strict guardianship. The mother, appointed to watch its construction, to aid the harmony of its architecture, to rejoice in its symmetry, who perceives daily how much the mind is affected by the circumstances of its lodgement, should cherish and prize the mortal for the sake of the immortal.
Does she attach value to the gems of intellect? Let her see that the casket which contains them be not carelessly disarranged or broken? Does she pray for the welfare of the soul? Let her seek the good of its companion, who walks with it to the very gate of the grave, and returns to its embrace on the morning of the resurrection.
But a single modification of this extensive subject is at present contemplated. Yet, as it affects the health and life of our daughters, it ought not to be regarded with indifference by their maternal guardians. The injuries arising from the compression of the vital parts are too numerous to be here recounted. Multiplied forms of obstructed circulation, nervous disease, and organic affection, are in their train. A physician, eminently skillful in the melancholy science of insanity, asserts that tight lacing is a prolific source of mental derangement. Another medical gentleman, who has been led by philanthropy to investigate this point, assures the public that thousands die annually from the severe discipline of busk and corset. The frightful internal