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ments carry conviction : for some good, if not complete success, can hardly fail to arise from their being acted upon.
To return, then, to the consideration of mercy, as it regards kindness to man, and tenderness to brutes.
It has been observed that an infant's heart should be preserved tender; its affections maintained warm. That we should encourage in it the virtue of hu. manity, and that styled mercy; or, if there be no appearance of these beautiful virtues, and that we cannot be said to encourage what we cannot discover, that then we are mildly to force an entrance for them, at any expense to our own ease, and upon any terms compatible with honesty. The acquisition of them, whether engrafted by art or held with other qualities, will then be seen to produce good-nature.
Good-nature applies equally to a kind disposition towards man and beast. The good-natured infant, or the one who is to be made so (not by words, we remember, but by example influencing mind), is accustomed to a regular and striking expression of friendly interest for all the household, in the countenance of its mother. This mother does not, in an overflowing tenderness to her child, because it is her's, forget that her servants have the same feelings and passions equally with herself, or that their frames were built by the same omnipotent hand. Her children and her husband, it is true, are pre-eminent in her love, but she has affection, and regard, and goodwill for some who deserve them, whether they be equals or inferiors; and she is touched by the wants and distresses of all.
This last feeling dilates the tender heart, which throws open its widest portals to admit every attribute of mercy; and that most exquisite, soft, and beautiful attribute, pity, moves gently in; sympathy, with eyes swimming, and compassion, glide next; benevolence and beneficence follow : all these bear upon the will and inclination, and form a disposition, which, like the tide of an impetuous river, forces it in one direction; in the direction of corresponding acts. Such acts spring from the brisker virtue which crowns the whole, and sets off that of humanity ; it is called benignity, for benignity is the action of kindness to fellow-man. Beneficence is the wish; benevolence the inclination ; sympathy, the commiseration in his hopes and fears, joy and sorrow; and pity, the concern for him when he suffers.
But kindness shewn to fellow creatures may be expected to produce thanks, acknowledgment, regard, and esteem in return. And what if they do not? What if those we have most tenderly treated behave worst ? Shall we set a mark on them, and hereafter desert them in their need? Or shall we endeavour to harden our hearts against all, lest we be again so served ?
Fortunately, with the good-natured, the last can never be done, for habit puts in his protest against it. If a tender heart, and all the long train of virtues which lodge in such an organ, have been preserved during five, ten, or twenty years, the world, and that cold calculating divinity styled experience, can never succeed in persuading the heart to encrust itself with a solid battery of selfishness and apathy. The asser
tion therefore is quickly made. The reply to the first point will detain us longer.
As we are all more or less imperfect, so are our views of life, and manners, and things, more or less false and incorrect. The best of men, in surveying their actions, are disposed to overrate the good they have done, and to draw their faults and vices into the very narrowest compass. No wonder, then, if, with vanity influencing from one way, ingratitude urging from another, disappointment at being, as it were, outwitted (for no man bestows privately without expecting some kind of thanks), stinging from a third quarter, no wonder if, thus stimulated, he be apt to magnify the benefit conferred, in proportion as he is indignant at or disgusted with the return made. To a benevolent heart, the strong and apparently sincere expressions of gratitude give a kind of pleasing pain, and it seeks to check them. The very satisfaction we feel on being told in grateful language that we have obliged another, instantly disposes us to lessen the value of the favour to him and to ourselves. Like a tradesman who has been paid for his goods, and who strikes off the amount from his books and his mind, we who have received gratitude for our benefits, hold the account settled, and cancel the obligation.
But if, on the other hand, the person to whom we have done a service offer no thanks or even acknowledgment, or if he do, should he revile, or wrong, or injure us in word and deed, are we utterly to abandon him in our just displeasure ; and when he afterwards, in his distress, implores our aid, are we to refuse it ? It is goodness to relent and forgive; and if we ex
postulate, to do so with mildness. Here, then, are three other dependant virtues on the greater one of humanity : lenity, clemency, and mildness ; and with them closes the list of virtues belonging to humanity, which, as I have said, is the disposition to and practice of kindness from man to mankind.
« READY TO DO GOOD; KIND TO MAN.” “FOR HE SHALL HAVE JUDGMENT WITHOUT MERCY, THAT HATH SHEWED NO MERCY."
These general remarks are now to be practically applied; and we must turn back to the age of infancy and childhood, and see how the subject under consideration can be made to influence opinion, and to affect the conduct of the very young.
Children, for the most part, are apt, from the weakness of their judgment, to decide hastily on persons and things. It is consequently a mother's duty to watch every action, to mark its tendency, to trace it upward to the probable motive and principle, that she may quietly, and at the right moment, reason with them upon whatever she conceives to be a false notion or an error; and this, not in a way to check their confidence, but in a manner to interest and please. Children who are well trained soon become tired of idle play, and of their own accord draw near the
mother's side, raise up their arms to be seated on her knee, and say, “ Tell me something, mamma, about so and so.” Then their countenances assume a graver cast, the hands are clasped, and the whole attitude bespeaks attention. This is the time for calling to mind any prejudice or error which has crept into a tender mind, and a mother should immediately try to recollect and explain away, or reason upon the particular abuse she would rectify. “Tell me, my dear, why you did so and so yesterday?" or, " why do you think in this or that way ?” she may ask; and then, by the answers, correct and improve young opinion. She can also further this desirable end by telling a little tale which she can invent, and with it connect the circumstances of the case, so as to make an impression on the child, and to shew wherein he has erred; this tale I would have her at once pronounce to be a fiction, or partly a fiction, when either of these is so: for we shall never improve a child's moral character by teaching him that the very relation which we know to be without foundation is truth.
In forming opinions, children have generally some reason as a foundation, whether it be apparent or not, and they should be often questioned as to what that is. They are inclined to be free with those who take notice of them ; presuming and fretful with those who humour them ; conceited and vain with those who extravagantly praise them; and cold, perverse, or reserved with those who seem to take no interest in theni. Children are always, as has been remarked, close observers of appearances. If they are not watched, and above all, if they have not had the ad.