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FIRST RELIGIOUS LESSONS.
FOR YOUNG MOTHERS.
By a first religious lesson, we mean, the parent's first attempt to make a religious impression upon the intellect and heart of a child. It is the most interesting experiment upon mind which can be made.
Parents very often confine the early religious instruction of their children to teaching them hymns and answers to ques tions. This is done in many cases before the child can articulate easily, and is in fact only a lesson in articulation. The mother so considers it. The child so considers it. He regards it merely as an effort on his part, to remember and to pronounce certain words. It is useful, not withstanding. It exercises and improves both the memory and the organs of speech. But it is not religious instruction.
Perhaps it is better, on the whole, that such lessons on articulation, should be given by means of other exercises than those connected with religious subjects; for many a niother, after holding a dialogue with a little child, in which he lisps out in reply to her questions, " Adam," "Eve," and " Methuselah," will insensibly receive the impression that she has been giving a religious lesson,—that she has been discharging the obligation, which, as a Christian parent, she owes to her child.
Such an impression cannot be correct.
A religious lesson is one which reaches the understanding and the heart. 'Tis no religious lesson to teach a child that Cain slew Abel his brother, if the words are all which are taught,---nor that God made him, if, after he has learned to repeat the truth, he still has no conception of an invisible Being. A religious lesson, must reach the understanding and the heart.
The first religious lesson to be taught a child, is evidently the existence of God, and it is useless to attempt it, until he is old enough to comprehend you, when you for the first time inform him of the presence and the power of an unseen Being. Must then, the reader will ask, the child's religious education be entirely neglected, until this time shall arrive? Strictly speaking it must. You may inculcate and enforce duties of various kinds, before, but what religious lesson can come before the being of a God, and how can this come, before the child is capable of understanding it.
If religious truth is brought before the child, with a proper regard to his capacity and to his previous knowledge, and if it is brought before him with a design that he shall really understand and feel it, it will make a strong impression. In fact the time most favorable for making a strong religious impression on the human heart is when the principles of Christianity are first anncunced, provided that it is done in such a manner as to be really an announcement to the intellect and heart, and not merely to the ear. The following case, which we have good authority for saying occurred exactly as it is here described, illustrates this, and shows what we mean, by attempting really to reach the mind of a child and not merely his ear, in giving early religious instruction.
Little Samuel had just learned to talk. His father had said nothing to him about his obligations to any higher power than his earthly parents,-having been waiting for him to acquire such maturity of mind and command of language as should enable him to understand and to feel the existence of God, when it should first be declared. The time had now arrived..
One evening, when he had gone to bed, his father determined to employ the few minutes which would intervene before he would be asleep, to convey to his mind his first notion of the unseen Jehovah. He leaned over him on his pillow, and the following dialogue ensued.
“Samuel,” said his father, “who is here ?"
“Who is here, besides Samuel ?" asked the child, as if he did not fully understand the question.
Papa and Mamma."
“Who else is here?" said his father, intending first to excite his attention to the question of persons present and absent.
Samuel raised his head and looked around the room, and then said,
" Mary is out,--away."
“Besides the room, where Samuel is ?" asked he, looking round in vain for any other person.
After a momentary pause, the father added in a serious voice; 6 God is here."
“Heh ?" The exclamation was in the tone of a robin ; it cannot be spelt.
"God is here."
“Let me see him ;” said he, starting up from his pillow and looking eagerly around.
“No, you can't see him."
"Is he out this way?" asked he eagerly, pointing.
No, you cannot see him I say." « Is he out that way?" No, you cannot see him
where." “ Is he out that way,"—very eagerly. “Let me get up.-I can see it."
“No," said the father, calmly, "you cannot see him any where. Papa cannot see him. Mamma cannot see him. No body, can see him."
“All body,--all folks can't see him.”
It was with great difficulty that he could be satisfied that he could not see God. He wanted to get up and look around, and he gazed, with great earnestness, into every part of the room, which was but feebly lighted, by a single dimly burning lamp,
Presently he lay down and there was a pause.
“God can see Samuel," said his father, " though you cannot see him.”
When you are naughty God sees you, and when you are good he sees you." The child did not answer.
He seemed lost in thought. "God is all about us,” continued his father, “every where. He is down stairs and up stairs, and out in the street and every where."
“ Can Mary see him?"
Ile lay still for a moment, apparently thinking with interest and pleasure, of what he had learned. At last he said in a subdued and gentle tone,
“ I like God.”
He probably merely meant by this that he was interested in the new idea thus presented to his mind.
After a little more conversation he was lest for the night, and a few minutes afterwards, some one passing by his door, heard his voice. He was half singing, half talking himself to sleep.
“Dum-dum-dum, -Pa' can't see him, Ma’ can't see him; dum dum dum-God can see me, dum dum dum.!*
Probably all our readers except fathers and mothers, interested in the religious instruction of their young children, will think this dialogue 100 trivial for the press, anal perhaps some of those would have omitted such a passage as the last sentence. The field however of childish thought and feeling on the subject of religion is yet to be explored, and the whole value as well as the principal beauty of descriptions which relate to it, depend upon their being true to nature. We invite contributions, therefore, of a character like ihe above. It is one of the most important and most pleasant of a parent's duties to study the human nature of childhood. This field musi be far more fully explored, and understood, than it yet has been, and a thorough knowledge of it can be ibe ouly basis of real progress in the science of early education. VOL. I.
Although such a mind could of course but faintly appreciate the sublime conception of an invisible but omnipresent Deity, the lesson had evidently made its way to the understanding and the heart. It was not a mere lesson in articulation. Such a lesson must have been remembered too. Abbott
There is however one great danger, against which a mother ought very carefully to guard ; it is that of allowing her attention to be turned away from the work of guiding to religious truth, the intellect and conscience of the child for his good, and becoming interested in his simple remarks and questions, for her own amusement. Many a time will a mother, especially in the presence of others, attempt to instruct the child and draw him forth into conversation, simply to hear and to exhibit the queer things he may say. Thus while the solemo truths of religion are on her tongue, her real object is not to lead her child to its Maker, but to amuse herself with his remarks.
A child, for example, two years old, after hearing the existence of God explained as above, asks, in the fine clear voice, and hesitating and imperfect accents of childhood;
“ Mother, what is God for ?”
“He is to take care of you," perhaps the mother replies, “and of me, and your father; to keep us from being sick, and when we are sick to make us well."
66 Well, I am glad of God.-- What else does he do ?''
“He made every thing; the trees, and the fields and the lofty mountains."
“ I think God is very high."
We copy the above from a mother's journal; and every mother's journal will furnish abundance of dialogue, which would give similar illustra:ions of the feelings of a child, and of the singular inferences which he will, of himsell, draw, when his little mind is active on the simple truths of religion. We copy it in order to say, that if a mother allows her attention to be drawn away from her object by the mere singularity and oddity of such remarks, she greatly.errs. She ought however, to reflect upon such remarks, and to philosophize upon them, that she may the better understand the effects wbich her future instructions may give. In the above case, for instance, she will perceive that her announcing God's goodness to her child awakened some kind of joy. The child said he was glad of God.” She will be interested too in bis inference, (perhaps the first attempt at drawing a conclusion from premises he ever made, that God, if he created the mountains, must himself be very high. It is right to be deeply interested in these indications of the first workings of the mind, and to draw from them useful lessons for the fu
ture, but not to turn away from the great object in view to the mere amusement they afford. If the mother does this, the child will almost immediately discover it, and will shew, by his look and manner, that in his answers and remarks he is only aiming at an exhibition of wit or drollery. We come thus to the following practical principle.
In giving early religious instruction, endeavor to find your way, in, to the intellect and heart of your child. Study his character and feelings, and the manner in which his dawning intellect illuminates imperfectly the objects you present. Do this with interest, but let it be serious interest. You are cultivating powers for immortality.
INSENSIBILITY TO THE FUTURE.
BY DR. CHALMERS.*
This insensibility to the futurities of our immortal state is one of those strange anomalies in our nature than which none are more certain and yet perhaps none more inexplicable. We know that so it is, but we feel a vast difficulty--by any effort of mental analysis, or any power of discernment into the mysteries of the human constitution, to determine how it is. The fact is undeniable. It is the reason of the fact which is so hard of solution, and so copiously beyond all the attempts of reason to give account of. For it is not that man is actually satisfied with present things ; that is not the reason--it is not that he is sitting down in placid acquiescence among the creatures and the circumstances by which for the moment he is surrounded, we see nothing of the repose of full and finished attainment in any of our acquaintances; there is not one of them, in fact, who is not plainly stretching himself forward to some distant object or other, by the tokens of which he is evidently on the pursuit. We behold him in a state of motion and activity and busy endeavor ; but when we inquire into the nature of the object which so stimulates his desires and his faculties, you may find it to be something that lies within the confines of mortal
The eloquent and strongly characteristic passage which constitutes this article, is from a very recent sermon of Dr. Chalmers, sent out by one of the conductors of this work, now in Europe It has not, (at the time it goes to press,) been re-published in this country.