Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

work of falsehood, parents, brethren, sisters, friends, and servants, frequently all unite; and the unfortunate children, who perfectly comprehend the deceit, find sometimes the whole, and sometimes a part, of the family thus combined for their destruction. Equally unhappy are they in the examples, which they find abroad. Children, thus corrupted, carry the miserable contagion to school. All their companions, who have been educated with happier care, and under better examples, are here exposed to the disease; and in many instances become infected and leprous through life. At the same time, Children are often permitted to frequent places, to which vile and unprincipled persons resort ; and there become witnesses of all their abominable sentiments, and conduct. Here, Lies are not only told, but are made the subjects of jest and diversion. Successful falsehoods, and impositions, are not only repeated, but repeated with explanations, merriment, and triumph; and exhibited as proofs of superior address, and honourable ingenuity. What child can fail of corruption in such haunts of sin, and amid such examples of villainy 2. Children are taught to lie by Influence. In very early life, children discover a strong tendency to talk abundantly, to repeat marvellous stories; to rehearse private history; and to recount the little occurrences of the neighbourhood. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin. Every tendency to loquacity ought, therefore, to be vigorously repressed. The disposition to recite marvellous stories, to give characters, and to recount private history, and the occurrences of the neighbourhood, increases by every indulgence; and soon becomes both habitual and enormous. Instead of checking these propensities, however, no small number of parents, unaware of the danger, and forgetful of their duty, directly listen, and inquire; and in many instances repeat what has been said in this manner by their children. In this conduct, the children perceive that they derive consequence, in the parental eye, from the fact, that they utter things of this nature; and are efficaciously taught, that what they have said, instead of being criminal, odious, and disgraceful, is right, and pleasing. They are naturally, and powerfully, led, therefore, to increase, instead of slackening, their efforts; and to multiply their tales of these unfortunar kinds. From repeating, they go on to exaggerating ; from rehearsing to inventing; and from inventing such parts, as the memory does not supply, to inventing the whole. In this manner, they become, after no great length of time, absolute liars.

In multitudes of instances also, children, to gain favourite objects, and interesting compliances, from their companions, are induced to make promises, of various kinds. These, afterwards, they are often disinclined to fulfil. The parent, whose duty it is to compel the performance, finding the child reluctant, because it involves some sacrifice of his play-things, his property, or his convenience, neglects this duty, and suffers the promise to go unfulfilled. In this manner, he gives his own sanction to a direct breach of faith, infinitely more mischievous to the child, than the loss of all the gratifications, which he ever possessed. Nay, in some instances, the child is even encouraged, and, in some, directly commanded, not to fulfil his promise; because, perhaps, the fulfilment will be very painful to the child, or in sone degree inconvenient to the parent. In all such cases as I have mentioned, nothing can be expected, but that the child should grow up without truth, and, of course, without any moral principle.

3. Children are often driven to falsehood by Passion.

There are parents, whose whole life is an almost continual scene of passion. There are others, who often break out into paroxysms of rage. Among these, the number is not small of those, who exercise this furious spirit towards their children; not unfrequently because their faults, whether real or supposed, disturb their own quiet, and make, or seem to make, it necessary for them to undertake, what they equally hate and dread, the task of parental discipline. The unhappy children are, in such cases, commonly assailed with the looks, and language, of a Fury, instead of those of a Christian parent. Terrified at this storm of wrath and rage, the children are, in a sense, compelled, under the influence of the severest threatenings, to lie, in order to conceal their faults, and escape the dreaded infliction. Passion, manifested towards children, whatever may have been their transgressions, is madness; shameful to the parent, and ruinous

to the child. The parent, who exercises it, can expect nothing, but that his child should become a liar. 4. Children are often forced to lie by Punishment. Parents, in many instances, feel satisfied, that they have done their duty, when they have corrected their children for this crime. Accordingly, as often as the children repeat the crime, they repeat the punishment. Hardly any mistake, with respect to the government of children, can be more unhappy than this. So far as my own experience may be relied on, the same punishment can never be safely repeated, in any great number of instances, for the same fault. Usually, when administered once, if administered wisely, it will produce its whole efficacy on the child. All the supernumerary inflictions appear, ordinarily, to terminate in hardening the child; and, so far as my observation extends, in no case more effectually, than in that of lying. Perhaps, the rod is oftener used for the purpose of extirpating this fault than any other; and in no case, I suspect, with smaller success. The propriety and usefulness of correction, at early periods of childhood, are sanctioned by abundant experience, and by God Himself. But reiterated correction, I mean often reiterated, has, I believe, rarely cured a child of falsehood: while it has confirmed multitudes in this sin beyond every rational hope of reformation. The consciousness of having been often corrected, produces, of course, in the mind of every child, who is the subject of this discipline, an habitual sense of degradation. A sense of degradation is more nearly allied, than mankind are usually aware, to hardness of heart. When punishment fails of producing repentance, it is commonly followed by indifference to the crime; often, by a determination to repeat it; and, usually, by feelings of revenge towards the author of the infliction. A child has told a lie. The parent has been provoked by it. The child has been corrected; but has not become a penitent. On the contrary, he feels, that he has been injured; and, instead of regarding the lie as a crime, considers it only as an unfortunate cause of his own suffering. The turpitude of the act is therefore forgotten, and lost, in the sense of suffering. To retribute the

abuse will naturally seem, in this case, a gratification, of no conWor... IV. 45

temptible importance. A new crime is therefore committed, as soon as his own safety will permit. He is accused of it; and a new lie is told, to shield him from another correction. In this manner, he will soon begin to believe, that both his lies, and his other crimes, are merely a balance for a given measure of punishinent; and will calculate how many blows it will be prudent to hazard for the pleasure of committing a fault, and the convenience of telling a lie. The parent, who governs his child in this manner, takes, in my opinion, well directed measures to make him a villain.

SERMON CXXVII.

NINTH COMMANDMENT.

MISCHIEFS AND PREVENTIVES OF LYING.

Exodus xx. 16.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

In the preceding discourse I proposed to consider

The Nature;

The Causes ;

The Mischiefs ; and,

The Preventives ; of Lying.

The two first of these subjects I discussed at that time. I shall now proceed to discuss the two last. The

1. Mischief of Lying is the great and general one; that it is a Sin against God.

There have not been wanting persons in every age, who have holden the doctrine, that Lying is in some cases lawful. Among these, have been many professed Moralists, and at least some Divines. Particularly, the very respectable Writer, whose opinions I have several times questioned, Archdeacon Paley, has taught this doctrine in form in his system of Moral Philosophy. At the head of these men we find the celebrated name of Origen. This Father, with an indistinctness of discernment, which characterizes not a small number of early writers in the Christian

« AnteriorContinuar »