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The Benevolent Affections Earliest Demonstrations of them in Infancy-What Circumstances most favourable to their developement Distinction between Parental Love and Parental Instinct Conventional character of our Benevolence-Selfdenial-Infant Sympathies-Importance of Parental endearments Family Exclusiveness.
It will be thought by many, that in postponing the consideration of the BENEVOLENT AFFECTIONS and their influences until I have advanced midway in my work, I have begun at the wrong end-I am ready to admit their importance in its fullest extent, and if I have delayed until now to direct attention to them as a primary and most essential part of education, it is because I wished to set forth in all its magnitude that which I conceive to be the corrupt principle of human nature; and to prove by various illustrations how fatal to happiness is the power it exercises. That the sole but sufficient remedy lies in the cultivation of the benevolent affections, is my firm belief. Holding this opinion, most consolatory does it appear to me, that the wisdom and beneficence of the Almighty has, by implanting in the human heart the germ of those affections, made provision for the counteraction of that spontaneous source of evil, which, had it remained without its antidote, must have
rendered our nature utterly depraved. To this mercy another has been superadded in the Christian revelation, so that nothing more might be wanting to work out the salvation of man except his own watchfulness and perseverance in well doing.
Were mankind, in this enlightened age, to suffer all the gifts wherewith God has endowed our planet, to remain idle and unimproved; mines of rich ore unfathomed, districts without tillage, plants and seeds without culture, in a word, every natural advantage suffered to remain in a pristine state, without being turned to any account whatever, such neglect would be deemed little short of madness. Is it then, I ask, more sane to suffer the rich mine of virtuous affection inherent in the infant heart, and which, if properly worked, would pour forth its wealth abundantly for the benefit of society, to remain for ever hidden and unprofitable, nay, to become narrower and narrower, until at last not a vestige of it is left? The only apology that can be offered for such negligence is, that we ignorantly rely upon nature for developing, unassisted, the benevolent affections in the hearts of our children, wholly forgetful that faculties which are never exercised must necessarily remain dormant. This fact is readily admitted in regard to the intellectual faculties, no one expecting to see a mathematician or geometrician grow up spontaneously; why then not admit the same necessity of education in regard to the qualities of the heart? Having once established the necessity of this educa
tion of the heart, let us proceed to enquire how it may best be conducted.
The earliest demonstrations of sensibility in the infant do not appear to exceed that degree of instinct which leads the young of the inferior animals to nestle to the parent for food, warmth, and protection, or, should the parent be removed, to whatsoever is at hand to supply the wants of nature. By degrees the perceptions are awakened, and with the perceptions, the power of discrimination, and these are followed, though at a somewhat later period, by sympathy. The child's attention becoming more and more active, any tokens of pain or sorrow on the part of those from whom it has experienced constant care and endearment, begin to be a matter of infantine concern. Still this is but a very imperfect developement of the benevolent affections, and in the majority of cases proceeds rather from the fear of losing what is essential to present comfort, than from any higher or more disinterested sentiment. It is, however, the germ of better things, if not extinguished by neglect and unkindness, or perverted by those early beginnings of over indulgence which foster selfishness, for even in infancy the perception is soon sufficiently awakened to discover where, and to what extent, kindness may be encroached upon, and the mastery obtained.
It is a gross error to suppose that the affection of children is to be purchased by indulging their humours and gratifying their palates. Sometimes this is done solely with a view to quieting them,
and getting rid of what is troublesome. Nothing can be more unwise, or more certain to ensure the final discomfiture of parent or nurse. Unless children are impressed with the belief that the indulgence they experience proceeds from pure motives, they bestow in return neither their regard nor their gratitude. They will not love those whom they cannot respect. This holds good also in relation to chastisement: they must feel a conviction of the beneficence, as well as of the firmness of the power that would control them, and under such conviction alone will the control prove salutary.
There needs no stronger argument than that which may be founded on the quick perceptions of children as to motives, against parents and teachers giving way to passion, while correcting them. Locke who utters his protest against beating, wisely remarks, "as children should very seldom be corrected by blows, so I think frequent and passionate chiding of almost as ill consequence. It lessens the authority of the parent and the respect of the child: for I bid you still remember they distinguish early between passion and reason, and as they cannot but have a reverence for what comes from the latter, so they quickly grow into a contempt for the former; or if it causes a present terror, it soon wears off. Children being to be restrained by the parents only in vicious (which in their tender years are only a few) things, a look or nod only ought to correct them when they do
amiss; or if words are sometimes to be used, they ought to be grave, kind, and sober, representing the unbecomingness of the faults, rather than a hasty rating of the child for it; which makes him not sufficiently distinguish whether your dislike be not more directed to him than his fault. Passion
ate chiding usually carries rough and ill language with it, which has this farther ill effect, that it teaches and justifies it to children, and the names that their parents or preceptors give them, they will not be ashamed or backward to bestow on others, having so good authority for the use of them."
If intemperance in chastisement be the destruction of authority, no less so is it of the benevolent affections; a vindictive spirit is engendered, which, from consciousness of lack of power, being cowardly, wreaks itself upon the weak, whether offending or unoffending, so that they be within reach. This practice of chastising with violence, accompanied by abusive language, is, doubtless, the principal cause of the benevolent affections, except in a few peculiar instances, exerting so feeble an influence over the lower classes. the impulse of the moment, uncontrolled by reason, incites alike to indulgence and punishment; and the inevitable consequence is the brutalization of the little human beings who are the objects of it.
I am inclined to think that the circumstances in which both the lower and higher classes are placed are almost equally unfavourable to the cultivation