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Childhood is like a mirror, catching and reflecting images from all around. Remember, that an impious or profane thought, uttered by a parent's lip, may operate upon the young heart like a careless spray of water thrown upon polished steel, staining it with rust which no scouring can efface.
We remember reading an interesting article, on the government of children, which confirmed our views on early practical lessons of piety, which we will record :
A man who had experienced in his family a number of afflicting bereavments; among which was, the loss of an only daughter, for whom, as she was his eldest child, he had ever felt a peculiar attachment. The agony of separation having subsided, the tender affection for his daughter was transferred, in an intense degree, to her only child, an infant daughter of a few weeks old, who was committed principally to his care by the surviving parent. As the child grew, she entwined herself more and more closely around the heart of her grandfather. And as her powers were beginning to unfold, she very early afforded the evidence of having a will, which needed restraint,―a temper, that required to be brought into subjection, a disposition, which, if left without control, would soon prove refractory and unmanageable, The feelings of the grandfather naturally led him to adopt a system of indulgence, while his reason admonished him, that he was thus injuring the child. Past scenes would crowd upon his recollection, and revive afresh the anguish which he had formerly experienced, whenever he thought of controlling her disposition by the ordinary means.
this conflict between his feelings and his duty, he was greatly troubled. But at last instead of the rod of correction, he took her into his closet, shut the door, knelt down, and caused her to kneel by his side, and there humbly spread his petition before the throne of grace. The effect upon the mind of the child was deep and powerful. Though not more than two years old, she seemed to understand the object for which these prayers were offered. And that temper which was obstinate and refractory before the special seasons of retirement and prayer, immediately afterwards appeared meek and affectionate, and she manifested a cheerful obedience to the directions which were given her.
While we believe it often necessary to correct the child at a tender age, we do not scruple to give it as the conviction of our own mind, that little children of two and three years old, are capable of understanding the object for which prayer is offered, and that whenever corrected, it should be done with a spirit of prayer, and never under the influence of anger. Among Christians, there ought to be no doubt, with respect to the efficacy of prayer; but we fear, that many a Christian parent is incredulous on this subject,so incredulous as never to devote their children to God in the same private manner recommended by the above example.
Let infants, then, be taught to supplicate the throne of grace, the moment they are able to return thanks for the important gift of speech, which bestows on us all our pre-eminence. We would begin with talking to them about God, with the view of engaging them to fear and love
him; but to fear him, without making him an object of terror. Terrifying views of God generate superstition, and inspire horrible apprehensions of priests and death.
The first precept of religion is, to love God. "Love, and do what you will," was the saying of a saint. We are enjoined by scripture, to love him above all things. If we are commanded to fear him, it is only with a relation to the love which we owe him; because we ought to be fearful of offending him whom we are most bound to love.
Let us give to children much of the habit and principle of our holy religion, but very little of doctrine. If we early imprint a true notion of God, as the independent, supreme being, who is the author and maker of all things; from whom we receive all our good, who loves us, and gives us all things, and excite love and reverence of the supreme being, we do enough for the present; lest by speaking too early of spirits, and being unseasonably forward, to make our children understand the incomprehensible nature of that infinite being, we fill the head with false and unintelligible notions, and assist the foolish and indiscreet practices of servants and nurses, who, to keep children in subjection, talk to them of raw-head and bloody-bones, thus impressing the notion of spirits and goblins, and creating apprehensions and fear, destructive both to body and mind, which sink deep, and fasten so tenaciously, as with difficulty, if ever to be eradicated.
To keep children constantly, morning and evening, to acts of devotion to God, as to their maker, preserver,
and benefactor, in some plain and short form of prayer, suitable to their age and capacity, will be of more use to them in religion, knowledge, and virtue, than to distract their thoughts with curious enquiries into his inscrutable essence and being.
Religion is easily communicated to children. The flowers in their garden, the fruits suspended on the trees, might be their first lectures in theology. As they grow up, their minds might be fixed on the principal object of religion, by the pure and simple recitation of the life of Jesus Christ, in the gospel. A selection, both from the Old and New Testament, will convey, in the easiest manner to be apprehended, ideas of the power and benevolence of God; a choice of hymns might be selected on the same principle. Dr. Watts has written some well adapted for this purpose. They were all got off by heart by the late Princess Charlotte, and our own children pursue the same plan.
It is worthy of remark, that of all the sacred books, there is no one which children take so much delight in, as the gospel history of Christ. It will be proper to habituate them early to what is there enjoined, without vain glory, and without any respect to human observation or applause. They ought to be trained up therefore, while young, in the habit of mutually assisting each other, in acts of friendship, in mutual deference, and in good offices of every kind; from a love of obedience to their divine teacher and master, Christ.
STRICTURE THE SECOND.
MIND AND TEMPER.
IF what we have said in our first letter be correct, that the difference to be found in the manners of men is principally owing to their education, great circumspection must be had in forming the minds of children, and giving those principles early, which will influence their future lives.
The follies of childhood are tinctured with singularity; their spirits flow unequally. They seize every opportunity, which the absence of those they stand in awe of presents, to break through the rules which authority obliges them to follow. This is the time to discover the predominant passions, and prevailing inclinations,— whether the child be fierce, or mild, bold, or bashful, compassionate, or cruel, open or reserved: for as these passions are different in him, so must the authority and methods of correction be different in the tutor.
Children are seldom left to themselves, without entering into some unhappy course of action; and this not proceeding from any vicious turn in their affections, but from an irregular imagination, which is ever prompting them to a mischievous activity. This turn of mind, in all probability, proceeds from some capital defects in the constitution, which affect the due circulation of the