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Where the discipline of the heart has been early in progress, the task will not be found insuperable; but the child, in whose breast pride and selfishness have been permitted, nay, encouraged to expand, who has been led to contemplate himself as of paramount importance in the little world in which he moves; to whom the happiness or unhappiness of others has never been made an object of attention, will not have a remote idea of reciprocal feelings or reciprocal duties; consequently, to bring such an one into a state of conformity with that fundamental rule of our religion, will be little short of a miracle.
The benevolence of children, designed by Providence to embrace afterwards a wider range, must, of course, be earliest exercised towards the members of their own family. Even in infancy, they will naturally desire the happiness of those they love, unless each little heart has been contracted and rendered callous by the allowed indulgence of selfishness. Before the complete developement of the intellectual powers, the sympathies of the child will necessarily be confined to those with whom he is immediately connected, and who have, from the first dawning of his perceptions, been the objects of his attention; and thus it is in the domestic circle, and during that period of life when the heart is most susceptible of tender impressions, that the benevolent affections may
be cultivated to most advantage; a strong argument this in favour of the necessity of parental superintendence. Whenever it is possible to avoid it, so important a duty, at so critical a period of existence (for such it may be called, morally, as well as physically), ought not to be delegated to any person less warmly interested in the welfare of the child.
I conceive an interchange of personal caresses between parent and child to be, not only innocent and amiable, but necessary to bring into active operation those tender affections implanted in every bosom. The child whose heart is inaccessible to the endearments of a parent, must be an impracticable subject indeed. I should be sorry to think that nature ever produced such a monster. There is, I am inclined rather to believe, in all children, an instinctive yearning for the caresses of affection, which, if disappointed, cause a sad revulsion, rendering the heart callous in very self-defence. Under such cruel circumstances, the repulsed little being will, if sensitive, grow up timid and unhappy; if of a hardier nature, disingenuous, selfish, and ungentle.* French mothers fondle their offspring more than the majority of English mothers. May not this, in some measure, account for the greater suavity of the French character? I
*The author has herself lived long enough to witness several instances of young persons growing up into morose, ill-natured men, and unamiable, disingenuous women, whose mothers had been wanting in that tenderness of manner towards them in childhood, which she is now especially recommending.
doubt whether we have in our vocabulary one epithet of endearment so endearing as the cher petit of our French neighbours.
For the exercise of these pure and natural affections, an ample range is opened even within the domestic circle. Children will be endeared to their parents and to each other, by having their attention continually directed to the happiness they derive from and impart to the associates of infancy. Their daily devotional exercises will also tend to strengthen and cement, still farther, the bonds of sympathy, for they will include petitions to the throne of grace, in behalf of relations and friends, as well as in behalf of themselves.
By attention to the feelings and inclinations of others, they will learn to practice toleration and forbearance, as well as to enter into the pains and pleasures of those they live with; and will gradually acquire the invaluable habit of sacrificing self, whenever self-love would interpose, to mar the comfort of others. The habitual exercise thus given to the domestic affections, will, unless some narrow-minded policy arise to counteract their influence, produce a salutary effect upon the character; for God has ordained, that in them not only the purest source of individual happiness shall be found, but a provision also for the general diffusion of those virtues essential to the happiness and well-being of society.
It were impossible to contemplate even the imperfect picture of family love and harmony I have
attempted to draw, without experiencing a lively satisfaction. Still, while recommending the practice of the domestic virtues, I must not omit to warn those blest with such endearing ties as children, brothers and sisters, and other near connexions, against the sin of FAMILY EXCLUSIVENESS. If the affections be restricted within the family circle, they become not less selfish in principle, not less opposed to true benevolence, than the egotism of an individual wholly absorbed by his own woes and pleasures.
Our Saviour, doubtless, intended at once to convey a lesson of universal philanthropy, and to reprove the systematic exclusiveness of the Jews, when, in reply to those who said unto him, "Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee," he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." That no disrespect was meant to the domestic ties, we have sufficient proof in the conduct of Jesus upon the cross, when, in the agonies of death, he consigned his mother to the care of the most beloved of his disciples; but the very spirit of his doctrine was to extend the range of human sympathy, and so unite all, whether Jew or Gentile, in bonds of brotherhood, charity, peace, and love.
Whatever tends, then, to circumscribe benevo
lence and sympathy, is in direct opposition to the Gospel. Although the domestic circle is indubitably the proper sphere in which to cultivate the affections; and although it is equally certain, that if the heart expand not within it, there is little chance of its warming towards more remote objects; still, the liveliest interest taken in one's family and connexions neither ought, nor does, preclude the exercise of all the benevolent affections in a wider range. When it does operate so as to narrow them, we may be sure that selfishness is at the bottom: yes, it is the extension of the idea of self, and not genuine affection, that fills the breast.
Persons of this description often displays an almost unbounded love towards their families; but is it not because they belong to and form a part of themselves, that they do so? However zealous in promoting family interests, they will be found utterly devoid of every generous, every exalted feeling, utterly incapable of receiving either pleasure or pain from events in which the happiness of millions of their fellow-creatures is involved; enough for them to know, that their own near connexions are not likely to be implicated. And yet such persons will assume a merit, and pique themselves on the very narrowness of their hearts.
That family exclusiveness is inimical to the general happiness and welfare of society, is selfevident. Many a heart that would be cheered, and lightened of its cares by a more liberal exten