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A CORRESPONDENT, who signs himself a “ Christian Parent,” having requested, in your number for January last, the communication of “ a few hints, respecting the means that have been found most successful, in impressing the minds of children with the important truths of our holy religion, and bringing them to an early acquaintance with its sanctifying influence;" I take the liberty of suggesting a few considerations on this important subject.
Though a pious education is not universally successful, in bringing children into a truly religious state ; yet it is undoubtedly ap
; pointed by God for this end, and is perhaps more frequently attended with success than any other means of grace.
Education may be comprised under these three heads, discipline,
discipline, instruction, and example. These must all concur, and be agreeable to the word of God, in order to form what is comprehended under the idea of christian education.
Children are the proper subjects of disciPline, before they are capable of receiving much instruction; and a system of discipline ought to commence as soon as ever they are able to discern between good and evil. This branch of education is of more consequence than parents in general are aware of. We shall see its importance if we consider the nature of true religion, and the ideas which a child forms in infancy of the authority of his parents.
True religion consists in choosing the will of God in preference to our own. His authority is absolute. It should silence all our perverse reasonings; and obtain from us an implicit obedience. And as a parent is to his child in God's stead, he ought to require from the child an entire submission to his authority.
A child naturally conceives the authority of his parent to be absolute; and if a proper discipline is maintained, this branch of education will be a handmaid to religion. Let the object be changed, and filial obedience becomes piety.
All the commands of a parent should be reasonable; and as the understanding of the child advances, their reasonabless should be unfolded : but implicit submission must be enforced long before the reason of the command can be understood.
We may easily discover, that children are perpetually endeavouring to break through the absolute authority of their parents. This, is attempted with amazing sagacity even in early infancy. Children will sometimes disobey in the most trifling circumstances, in hope that the parent will not think it worth the trouble to persevere in requiring obedience. They will endeavour by some humorous trick to disarm the displeasure of a parent, when they see him serious in requiring obedience. They will seize the opportunity when the parent is engaged with company, or with some close employment, to evade obedience to a command, which they know would be enforced if the parent was more at leisure to pay attention to their conduct. In these, and similar instances, parents should be upon their guard, and never suffer their children to break a known command by any device or artifice whatever.
That discipline may be effectual, it must be steady. A child will soon discover, whether the commands of the parent depend upon his humour, or his principle. Commands urged merely because the parent is angry, will harden the heart of a child, instead of producing a spirit of obedience. We too often see the authority of a parent directed by caprice. Alternate fits of indulgence and severity occupy, in too many instances, the greatest share of family government. Such conduct is completely destructive of christian discipline.
Discipline must not only be steady, but gentle. Commands that appear to flow from love naturally dispose the child to obey. A child sees no hope of escaping from a system of discipline, that seems to arise from the tenderness of a parent. The harshness of a command is generally more grievous to a child than the thing commanded. Displeasure in the parent should only be excited by wilful disobedience; and should rise in proportion to the contempt of authority.
When the understanding of a child is suficiently matured, the christian parent should shew, that, in the commands which he gives, he himself is subject to a higher authority. If the conduct of a parent is formed upon this principle, he will be ready to grant indulgence where that is not inconsistent with the commands of God. And when a child is convinced, by the uniform conduct of the parent, that restraints are not the effect of caprice, or want of affection ; discipline loses all its galling effects, and becomes truly subservient to holiness and happiness.
As soon as a child is capable of understanding the nature of God's law, religious INSTRUCTION should keep pace with discipline. It must not, however, be confined to stated times, as in the ordinary branches of learning, but it must also occupy a considerable share in the common conversation of the parent. This is the method which divine wisdom has appointed for parental instruction. “ Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy vi. 7.
It is scarcely necessary to observe, that children should first be taught the plainest truths of religion; which, indeed, they are