Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

inclined to be ever about something, and make it their chief delight to keep moving. This seems to furnish clear proof that industry is natural to our species; in which case, education has little else to do than to give it a proper direction. Children, who, of their own accord, play with unweariable industry, might always perhaps, be induced to apply themselves, at the proper age, with the like spontaneous industry, to things of importance. But then, in order to it, their inclinations must be led, rather than forced. Play itself would presently become irksome and disgustful to children, if they were driven to it, and kept at it, by main force. And much less can you expect they will be diligent and active in business, unless you so prevail over their inclinations as that they chuse it of their own free will : a thing of no great difficulty, for the most part, if it be set about in season, and conducted with prudence.

There is a great difference between lumpish laziness, and frisky idleness. One who is too lazy to move himself about, is diseased in the very core, and there is no help for him. Of such, however, the number is small. Whereas, the numerous tribe of idlers, or of such as spend their time without profit to themselves or others, are generally, nevertheless, frivolously busy, and quite active in their own way; and had they been tutored aright in their early years, their natural activity might have turned to excellent account.

NUMBER CIV.

Of balancing the principles of Hope and Fear in the

governance of children.

Hopes and fears are the great springs of human actions; and though seemingly standing in opposition to one another, they jointly contribute to the accomplishment of the same ends. Hope that is altogether fearless, acts with rashness, or sinks into torpitude : but accompanied with fear, it is vigilant as well as diligent. On the other hand, fear unaccompanied with hope, is despair : and despair furnishes no stimulation at all to enterprize. It is by the due balancing of these two grand principles, Hope and Fear, that the human species is governed, and stimulated to actions tending to the preservation of the individuals, and to the general weal.

Our holy Religion itself, addresses alike our hopes and our fears. Every well principled and well-poised civil government, is calculated to operate upon each of these masterly principles of our nature. And it is with a nice regard to these universal and powerful principles, that children are to be governed and managed in families and schools.

It requires no inconsiderable skill in parents, as well as faithfulness, to qualify them for the all-important task of governing their children. Tacitus, the Roman historian, remarked of Agricola, that 6 he governed his family ; which many find a harder task than to govern a province.” And why is this task so hard ? Not because it is altogether difficult of itself, but mainly because parental affection runs into error, one way or the other. On the one hand, we are blind to the faults of our children, and spoil them by indulgence ; or on the other, from the desire of rearing our children to an ideal perfection and of exalting them above the condition of childhood and of human nature itself, we mark, in them, even the pettiest of trespasses, with a keenness of severity that chills their hopes, and either breaks their spirits, or renders them restless and refractory. The Golden Mean betwixt the extreme of indulgence and the extreme of rigor, is what few parents clearly discern and stedfastly pursue.

Preceptors or instructers of schools, are, for the time being, the foster parents of the children committed to their tutorage. And though they lack that yearning of affection that is felt by the real parent, they are, for this very reason, the less apt to swerve from the golden mean I just now mentioned ; provided they possess all the requisite qualifications for their business. These requisite qualifications are generally thought of easy attainment, and so indeed would they be if they consisted only in a competent measure of learning, along with rectitude of moral character : but all this, though absolutely needful, is quite insufficient of itself. Superadded to a competent ability to teach, there must be considerable skill in governing and managing a school ; otherwise, time and labour will be in a great measure lost.

An eminent degree of this kind of skill, is no less precious than rare. One who, besides possessing in full measure all the other requisites, is an adept in the science of managing a school ; who knows the avenues to the minds and hearts of his pupils ; who can seize alike upon their hopes, their fears, their emulation, and combine these jarring affections, and, as by mechanical force, can make them all minister together for improvement; who has the faculty of encouraging the timid, of giving hope to the despondent, of repressing exuberant

vanity, of quickening the dull, and of teaching “ the young idea how to shoot” even in minds backward to learn an instructer thus gifted, and possessed withal, of excellence of moral character, together with a sincere affection for his pupils, and a fondness for his calling, is one of the most useful, and ought to be regarded as one of the most estimable, of human beings.

Whether in families or in schools there must needs be government, else the means of instruction will be employed in vain. In these little communities the government should be impartial and unwavering; firm, but mild ; energetic, but not tyrannous.

There are some, whose manner toward their chil. dren varies in exact proportion to the variations of their own fickle tempers. When in a pleasant humour themselves, they indulge them in every thing; when moody, and especially when downright angry, they will punish for almost nothing. This sort of government, if government it may be called, is nearly as bad as none : it tends alike to discourage, and to breed contempt.

Some seem to think that the sure way of gaining and keeping the affections of their children, is never to thwart their inclinations ; but experience sooner or later discovers to them their mistake. Children that have been treated with unlimited indulgence, often, very often, not only despise the counsels of their parents, but unfeelingly neglect their persons when destitute and needy ; the overweening indulgence given them, having soured their tempers and corrupted their hearts.

Others, running into the opposite error, apply their discipline altogether to the fears of their children, whom they unfortunately treat with stern and inflexible severity. They are feared indeed, but it is with a hopeless, joyless, unaffectionate fear; and by thus treating their children as if they were entirely base, they take the ready way to make them so.

NUMBER CV.

Of Brevity in relation to sundry particulars.

Dr. Cotton MATHER, of venerated memory, in order to escape the calamity of tedious visits, wrote over the door of his study, in large letters, BE SHORT. A pithy sentence in truth it is, and well worthy of remembrance in a great many more cases than I can now enumerate.

The interchange of friendly visits is one of the most precious sweets of life. But then, it must not be overdone ; else it becomes irksome and disgusting. Hence, in the book of the Wise Man we meet with the following wholesome counsel, “ Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house, lest he be weary of thee.” Now the necessary discipline of the foot, which is here inculcated, is, if I may prusume to comment, of the following import :-Beware of spinning out your friendly visits beyond due length. Retire, if you perceive in hand any necessary business which your stay might interrupt; retire, ere the family, after an hour's yawning, begin to steal off, one by one, to bed ; retire, ere plain symptoms of weariness appear in the countenances of the little circle you are visiting ; retire, ere, in some undescribable manner or other, it be manifested that your room would be more welcome than your company. When

you

have made your friends glad by your coming, stay not so long as to make them still more glad by your going away.

« ПредишнаНапред »