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ject, as truthful and of vital importance. But when we look at our own hearts, and with conscientious fidelity compare them with the standard for the Christian mother, are we not ready despairingly to inquire, “Who is sufficient for these things ?”
?But though humbled by this self-examination, let us not be discouraged in our high and holy work.
In concluding this report, let me say, our only hope, as well as our only help, is to be derived from the throne of grace. There is a mercy-seat sprinkled with blood, to which we may at all times come, just as we are, and from which no true suppliant has ever been sent empty away.
“Who can faint, while such a river
Ever flows, our thirst to assuage ?
Never fails, from age to age.”
B. McLELLAN, Sec'ry. North Adams, Sept. 7, 1849.
THEORY AND PRACTICE.
THESE are often inconsistent with each other, in parental duties or the management of children. Some parents live without any definite end, and with no plan concerning the responsible duties of this relation. They are not destitute of parental affection—but, besides providing their children with food and raiment, and perhaps some means of instruction, or availing themselves inconstantly of the means provided by the State, they think little of what principles their children embrace, or what habits they form, even though they be principles and habits which in future years may result in defective character, if not in open disgrace.
But there are other parents, who feel more or less their peculiar responsibility, and really desire to have their children well governed, and trained to the formation of an estimable and virtuous character. While we would fain hope that this is true of the
great majority of parents in Christian countries, how small is the proportion of those who are eminently successful in attaining this end! How many are constrained to acknowledge that they constantly fall far short of their aims, and of what both self-respect and a regard for the best good of their children will not allow them to relinquish! But, as in many other things, their practice falls much below the standard of their theory. This is perfectly in accordance with human imperfection, or deficiency in many of the important duties of life.
This inconsistency of theory and practice arises, in part, from the difficulty of adapting our theory or plan to the ever-changing affairs of real life. We are unable to anticipate many circumstances and contingencies of frequent occurrence, which modify, or even change our rules of conduct. But we must, in the government of children, suppose many such contingencies, or else, when occurring, they will take liberties, or follow their own inclinations, so as to occasion us much needless pains, anxiety or suspense, unless we let them take their own course, with little thought or concern of our own. For instance—a child is sent of an errand, or has liberty to spend an hour with a mate at the next neighbor's ; and unless such contingencies are anticipated to some extent, either by general or special directions, it will not be half the time that you can depend on the child's return at the specified time. So of other things. It is very common for those who have never been called to parental responsibility, to imagine how orderly and obedient would children be, if they were only brought under their training. Those who are parents also, at times, in observing the management of others, think they could do far better; or, in witnessing specimens of good management, that they can form rules and
carry them out, in the same manner; but they fail in the experiment. And all this may be, while their theory is by no means chimerical or utopian; but they cannot follow in others? footsteps; they cannot foresee the circumstances which must affect their rules and their treatment; or they fail, because little minds and sensitive spirits, easily affected by pain, disappointment, hunger, fatigue, trouble and temptation, cannot always be dealt with according to the unbending rules which apply to material sub
stances. Experience must often modify our projects, and teach us what is, and what is not attainable.
A just theory fails of being carried into practice often by reason of the many cares and duties which occupy the parent's attention. So pressing are these labors and cares at times, that filial obedience, desirable habits, and even good manners come to be, practically, quite of secondary importance. The conclusion is, that this piece of work, or that important service must be done at all events, unless sickness, risk of life, or something alike unusual should intervene; and of course the habits and even the morals of children must be disregarded, because some act of disobedience, or some misconduct, which cannot now have their attention, is not seen in its bearing on future character, in the train of evil-doing thus begun or repeated. When urgent business is pressing on the hands of parents, they feel that at present they have no time to correct their children; and when some suitable leisure moment occurs, they are irresolute or forgetful, so that the offence is suffered to pass unnoticed. Worldly good is so much their object, or they are otherwise unduly burdened with cares and labors, so that they constantly neglect their duty to their children. Their high responsibility to train them up in the way they should go, to the formation of right habits and a good character, comes thus to be too little regarded. This inconsistency in practice also arises from lack of perse
There are not a few who mean well and set out right, but come far short of their purposes. Either their general characteristic is inefficiency, or they are very irresolute in what concerns the proper training of their children. With some, the idea of punishment or inflicting pain, even in case of deliberate transgression, is very trying to their feelings. Thus, by mere sympathy, deserved correction is passed by, to the serious injury of the child, by his becoming impatient of restraint, self-willed and disobedient. Such will inevitably be the result-however well parents may know and wish to do the right—if they merely form resolutions, but are irregular and fitful, irresolute, and not actuated by principle when the time for action comes. They who do not correct their children in some way, when repeated disobedi
ence occurs, as they cannot but feel that they ought to do, must feel the mortification and grief of their growing worse and worse, as the reward of their false tenderness and ill-founded sympathy. Severity is not needed, but plain rules, steady, careful treatment in the true spirit of parental kindness and love, and perseverance therein, to secure that prompt and cheerful obedience which is necessary to promote the honor and happiness of both parents and children.
Inconsistency with a just theory also occurs in the practice too often, through parental deficiency in their own life and example. It is one of the easiest things in the world for their examples to be followed, but their precepts to be altogether neglected. The intemperate man and the profane, however much addicted to these practices, usually have enough sense of their impropriety, to wish that their children may not follow the same course. Children naturally suppose what their parents do to be right, till gross misconduct and loss of confidence lead them to feel otherwise ; and, of course, example is an ever-present guide for the regulation of their conduct and the formation of their habits, against which discordant precepts have little power. - It is one of the chief maxims of human intercourse, that self-government is an essential prerequisite for those who would govern others. Hence, if a parent betrays inconsistencies in this respect with his own precepts, his efforts will prove powerless in the right management of his children. If he is impatient or passionate, if he is fretful or self-willed, his authority over his children will fail to make them of a contrary spirit. Or, in whatever respect his theory and precepts essentially conflict with his own practice, the unhappy influence will be apparent in the conduct of his offspring, so directly and naturally led astray by himself. Inefficiency in discipline, notwithstanding the influence of correct precept and example, will leave children to become quarrelsome and unkind, without warm affection and interest in each other's welfare; but how much worse may they be expected to become, if the potent influence of example is cast into the wrong scale !
How circumspect, then, should parents constantly be in all their acts, which are exerting a moulding influence on the plastic
minds of their offspring, in infancy and childhood! Let not parental example ever be what they would not wish to have copied by their children. A just sense of parental responsibility should prompt to vigilance and perseverance in doing, for the formation of right principles and habits, and a desirable character in children, what their own convictions of duty may dictate. Other duties and cares, however important in their place, ought not to take precedence of their obligations to their children, to the hazard of their well-being, here and hereafter, and of future generations. To study also the nearest adaptation to the ever-varying circumstances which affect the health and comfort, the temper and conduct of children, will enable the careful and faithful parent to govern with mildness, kindness, and success—and thus, by means of prayer and the Divine aid, present a good degree of consistency between his theory and practice; to fulfill his responsible trust, by training up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and give him the unspeakable satisfaction of meeting them in the world of glory, and presenting them before the throne of God, saying, “ Here am I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me.”
E. W. R. Lisbon, Ct, December, 1849.