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And when a fine youth, standing by his father in all the vigour and spring of life, with limb firm, muscular, and well formed; intellects clear and strong; mind over which science and art have left their gracious influence : when as we gaze and admire on this, another youth, his equal in age and stature, shall advance, and holding up his clenched hand, call him liar and coward. Will he submit and listen in quiet? Or will he not rather turn upon the aggressor and demand an explanation, or else lay his cane across his shoulders ? By what, then, is this youth urged ? By the passion of anger and indig. nation. What parent will lay his hand upon his heart and say he wishes his child to live without passions? To feel upon all occasions alike? To understand neither provocation, nor incitement, nor emulation ?
Alas! this child must have passions, and will struggle for those of the bad kind, for thus is the bend of our corrupt nature. These are the traitors ; these our evil passions, which lead us astray, which ruin, which deceive, and plunge us at last into all the horrors of guilt and remorse. Not so the regular
Root up these, and excess will break out and rage with fury ; on the contrary, teach your child to govern, to keep them in order, to master them, and you are training up a band in him which will effectually ward off every dangerous intruder. But
anger and resentment, are they really, then, allowable in a system of morality?
Let us further inquire; and that I may be the better understood, let me be permitted another case.
I choose to fix it upon anger, because of all infant passions this is most common, and bears the greatest variety of significations. Indeed to anger and indig. nation the generic term, passion is more applied than to any other affection of the soul whatever.
A child gives to a poor half-starved object his slice of bread and butter : I will not say his penny, because the action is thereby rendered of less importance, for infancy cannot nor ought to know the value of money, whereas the worth of bread and butter is very well understood from experience. The poor famished suppliant walks away with the gift, and is beginning to feast upon it, when a bigger boy comes up, and snatching it from him, either devours, or maliciously throws the food into a pond. All this our child has observed. Let us in our turn observe him. His cheek reddens; his eye grows brighter, in emotion; his little frame expands ; indignation is seated on his swelling lip. This would be called a virtuous indignation; no matter ; it is still a passion, and a regular one.
A child even younger than this, which is accustomed to kiss his mother nightly before he goes to rest, is taken to bed earlier than usual, from some caprice of his maid. The child begs as well as he can speak to be carried down to his parent, to wish her, according to his custom, good night. The maid, in a cross or sullen fit, will offer no excuse or reason for what she does, but persists in undressing the child, whose anger rises and swells in a violent fit of crying and screaming. In this case and in the other,
are such passions allowable ? or will the two children be punished for shewing both ?
Were our natures different to what they actually are, even these passions, which rise in not unworthy motives, but which, in their effects, encroach into the boundary of wrong, even these should be shut out from the pale of childhood. The whole tenour of our lives should resemble the passionless and holy existence of the Saviour; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, and who stood as the gentlest lamb under the severest provocation. But if a youth may shew what is called proper and honest pride, virtuous indignation, and pardonable warmth and anger at the age of fifteen, why is he to be allowed to feel nothing in infancy? And at the very precise moment, too, when he sees by our words and looks that we permit ourselves to feel what we please? The truth is, that we are disposed to require either too much or too little in children. They are governed, not with a view to what they ought to be, and will be, when grown up, but according to the whim, caprice, and fanciful system of their parents; and, in consequence, it is only to be wondered at, that the rising generation are not more faulty than we may now observe them to be.
Far would it be from my plan, to talk of, or even hint at such subjects before a child, supposing he could apprehend something of my meaning, which is not impossible. But in truth, something must be allowed to our nature ; and those passions which approach the nearest to virtues are surely preferable,
although liable hereafter to excess, unless the greatest care be taken, to the banishing of all indiscriminately ; at least, flattering ourselves that we do so, and hereby leaving a waste for the rankest weeds. The regular passions are life, heat, fire. How vast is their power, and how great their danger, standing alone! Join them to the virtues, how sweetly they incorporate and unite! the mildness of the one tempering the ardour of the other. But add religion as a third, and then behold how compact, how solid, how beautiful, how energetic is the body!
To sum up these observations : it is our duty to strive for perfection in our children, but, with all our care, perfection stands aloof, and human nature will, at times, prevail. As imperfections and shades must be passed by and tolerated, unless the mother desire to harden or break her little child's heart, let her seriously ask herself which of some evils she chooses to prefer? To answer this well, she must have studied the child's bend of character, when she will give the preference accordingly to failings, if failings there must be, which will counter-check bad or alarming propensities. She will suffer what is termed honest warmth and indignation in that child, whose character leans to covetousness and contraction, but whose feelings have been worked upon by poverty and distress, and whose indignation was excited in the misapplication of his bounty above described ; and she will be cautious of violently reproving the infant afterwards alluded to, whom she suspects to be not of very tender and affectionate dispositions, when
his anger* swells from being denied the maternal salute, which custom had begun to endear. Let the mother, then, settle in her own mind the errors she will take small account of; the bad passions she will wholly, promptly, and resolutely exterminate ; and the indulgencies she must be required to grant. And
* It is a dreadful crime to pervert the words of Scripture, and I now hope and trust I am not incurring this blame by remarking, how careful the sacred writers are in speaking of this so natural passion of the human heart. Was it only modesty in them, and are we really required never to feel anger on any occasion whatever? (I take it for granted I am understood always to mean the regular passion, or that which is allowed to he right for young people to feel) Or is the laudable kind itself really to be permitted us ? St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, chap. iv. 26, -says, “ Be ye angry and sin not let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Now none can be so profane as to declare by this passage, that men are enjoined to give way to that base and dreadful passion by which Cain was actuated after envy had entered his breast. But (and with respectful deference to superior judgment and learning I would ask it) is any sort of anger, of the most generous origin and growth, to be suffered ? Again, Paul in his Epistle to Titus says, chap. i. 7,“ For a bishop must be blameless; not self-willed, not soon angry, no striker, &c." And Matthew records of our Lord's words thus: “ Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." Without a cause! If we had one-hundredth part of the cause for any kind of anger which the Son of God may be said justly to bave had, how satisfied should we feel that we could be justified ! After all, this is dangerous ground to stand on, and if the discussion of so delicate a subject startle, rouse, and awaken some few mothers to the consideration of the important question, what they really wish, and what they do not wish, their children to incline to; what they will and ought to pardon in them, and what they will not, one principal object of the writer will be attained.