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she was crushed under them. At five years old she was an inactive, dull child. Her mother saw the change, and bitterly did she lament her folly.
It seems, then, a most dangerous and unwise experiment, to enlarge the memory at all risks, and leave the understanding to chance. They are two powers which can never be effectually served but when united. The understanding ought never to be presented with that which it may not share with memory; neither should the latter have aught that is not also given to the former. In other words, if a child may not be benefited, in ever so small a degree, by remembering something he is told and can understand, then is that something extremely improper for him to know; and if that something be what he is required to remember, and cannot understand, it is equally improper to force it into his memory, before any pains have been taken to explain and dissect all its parts, and to reduce them to such a size, as may be admitted through the narrow entrance of the mind of childhood.
But here it is necessary to make a remark, for a subject there is, and one only, in which a deviation must be made from this rule. On the article of religion ; in which, as has been seen in that division of this work, it is scarcely possible for a little child to understand many of the words he must pronounce, The grace of God, or Holy Spirit, is a point, for instance, so perplexing, that we can never hope to make it easy to the comprehension of a little child ; and yet one of two and three years old may be, and is taught to say after the Lord's prayer, “ The Grace of our Lord, &c." We must, however, recollect that this same child has been taught, and understands who God, Lord and Saviour are; he is, consequently, master of the greater part of the sentence, and some few words he is not so much injured by passing over, and leaving unknown. When a child, too, goes to church, he must hear, and in time will remember much that he cannot understand. For this we have no remedy: only we must take especial care to explain whatever is possible for us to explain well, and for him to understand perfectly ; for imperfect or confused explanations are better set aside altogether. It is absolutely necessary that religion should be given to infancy, because its principles must be worked into the child's ideas, and affections, and very being; it must be reduced to the simplest parts, and every part should by explanation be made still easier. Yet, with all this, some confusion will arise in understanding ; and as it cannot be remedied, we trust to time, and the strengthening of the natural powers by exercise and attention, for every mystery to be cleared away, and every impediment to cease.
But no other subject whatever, for mind, can in the least be put in comparison with that of religion; consequently there is no excuse for the mother who forces any other at all risks into the memory of her child, and who is at the same time indifferent whether it be above or below his comprehension. There is no subject whatever of which the first principles seem so grateful and interesting to a tender human creature as this ; no subject, of which the first principles are repeated morning and night, during an entire existence, and no subject of which any one of the first principles, which may not be understood in infancy, is not likely, nay certain, by this constant repetition, to provoke mind at last to enter upon the scrutiny, to take it to pieces, and see of what it is actually composed ; by which process, and with adventitious aids, sense is sure to be found, and the late stumblingblock is seen no more.
“ BY THE GREATNESS AND BEAUTY OF THE CREATURES, PRO
PORTIONABLY THE MAKER OF THEM IS SEEN.” “ TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY TO THY CHILDREN.” “ AND TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS." " PREPARE WHAT TO SAY, AND SO SHALT THOU BE HEARD.”
CHILDREN are so ready to learn by observation, that we have only to give them the field, and they will of themselves cull the flowers. If a mother, in going through her house and offices, her garden and poultry yard, were accompanied by her little girl or boy, to whom such a ramble is a delightful change, the child would be sure to mark this and that circumstance or thing, and improve upon it, either by understanding it at once, or by understanding so much as to have a corresponding idea, either just or erroneous, which will put him upon desiring an
explanation. Thus the mother might purposely loiter in an outhouse, the pantry, or the barn, to give her child an opportunity for spying out puss, with a family of kittens, or a favourite dog with a litter of puppies. The child would be sure to rush upon this, to him, most engaging scene. A goodnatured child would walk upon the points of his feet, to the furry matron, and would be certain to stoop down and examine her tribe with the most eager attention, his faculties as much on the stretch as those of a general in the turn of a battle. The child so examining, would soon find out, and entirely of himself, that the kittens were blind ; the word blind would not, it is true, occur to him, but he would call out to his mother that their eyes were shut, that they could not see. Now such a circumstance, so discovered, is infinitely more useful than if it had been related, and the mother should seem not less pleased* than the child with the fact ; but she need make no comment upon it, she need not lavish praises on the child, neither ought she to lessen the merit of a discovery which belongs to him ; she may simply give a few words of congratulation to puss upon her new character, and then lead the child to another scene, without a fear that that one which has made so deep an impression, and to which she will give a sequel, will be ever forgotten. At the expiration of nine days she may take the same walk, and again afford an opportunity for observation to work its own way. The child, will not fail to return to the point which so forcibly engaged his notice, and he will in extacy call out that the kittens' eyes are open, that they can see. The mother may now begin to reckon how many days have passed between the first and second visit, and she will say nine. Then is the moment, and not till then, when observation can help him to no other relative facts, that the mother may finish by explanation and words. All kittens are born with their eyes shut, she may say, and their eyes are always open nine days after they are born. Crude observation is thus like a block of marble hewn into shape ; understanding is satisfied, charmed and convinced; memory lays up the fact for ever ; and judgment and the reasoning powers are busied in weighing, and turning it in every view, and building upon it new and pleasing associations. To crown the whole, the child has the pleasure of the new idea, as well as of that arising from the sense of a discovery made.
* No affectionate person has need to be informed, how much the sharing in the joy and sorrow of our friends endears us to them : more especially in this case, with children,
Natural history appears the very first subject for tender minds to be exercised upon, and, after religion, it is the most important. Morality, or virtue, as has been attempted to be shewn, is given to infants in their tenderest age, not in words, but by example. Even when the infant is lost in the child, morality is seldom talked of, but it is continually acted upon. Religion begins in conversation and practice; and next to religion, the names, species, propensities and habits of the inhabitants of earth, air, and sea, are the subjects for observation, reading, and conversation.