Imágenes de páginas

him near her, says, “ my dearest child, how can you say that pussy broke the plate ? you know it was these little hands which let it drop on the floor, and it then broke into pieces. You must always speak what is true ; what you have done yourself you must always tell, and never say another did." The child thus spoken too receives his first lesson in truth. Little thinks the wondering mother that she herself has given him a thousand instructions in every species of deception, prevarication, and falsehood. The child, in the mean time, looks up to his parent with astonishment in his turn. Conviction follows her words; he feels she is right, and that truth is goodness. This conviction produces confusion, which produces shame-the shame which follows evil. What a mass of contradictory recollection rises up and disturbs his senses ! He remembers the time when the doll was put in the corner for his own crying, and when the cat was driven from the room as a punishment for breaking a cup that she never touched. Why should a thing be permitted, nay, encouraged one time, which is forbidden at another ? Still the child feels that truth is right; but his ideas have taken a crooked direction; he cannot straighten them of himself; the effort to alter habit is too painful. Principle strengthens; he persists in telling untruths, but when he knows they are wrong, the doing so is attended with greater pain and confusion. In his agitation the blood rushes to his cheek, he hesitates, stammers, and pauses, says and unsays, and contradicts himself whilst his frame trembles, and his voice, almost inarticulate, declares the agony of nature at

the deed she abhors. Should punishment and improper measures be adopted with infants, they strain every nerve to smother the feelings which betray their guilt ; in time they succeed, and thus the accomplished liar is formed. But if the most unremitting care and vigilance be exercised to restore the mind to its perfection of uprightness and integrity, the deformity may, after some time, be remedied. But to hope for this success the labour is so hard, the risk so great, the watchfulness and attention required so unremitting, the fatigue and exertion so extreme, the remedy so delicate, and the distress to both parties so acute, that it would be ten thousand times more irksome than the constant and unceasing charge of half a dozen infants in an honest manner during their first year of existence : Honesty, here, we may truly say, is indeed the best policy; for the trouble attendant upon the undoing in after years what has been done in the former, is great beyond every attempt at description. .

As surely, then, as falsehood accompanies deceit and artifice, so certainly will ingenuousness sit upon the lip of integrity. An ingenuous child may be vexed that he is obliged to acknowledge to a careless or an idle act : but he nevertheless will acknowledge it. It is human nature not to covet blame, or to be displeased with praise ; but it is the province of truth to run the risk of the first when merited, and to reject the latter when undeserved.

Truth, thus secured in thought and word, will make, as it were, the heart open, and the communication between the mind, the lip, and that seat of life will be direct, free, unreserved, and instantaneous. Feeling will rise to thought, and thought rush into speech. Herein we shall perceive other dependants on truth. Sincerity, when mind, word, and feeling are in perfect unison. Frankness, which gives utterance to the compact ; and open-heartedness, to feed the wish for such a triple harmony. To these attributes of truth may be added candour, which resembles frankness; but which seems a commixture also of grace, elegance, and sweetness, tempering the austerity of the plainer virtue. This last is foreign to the simplicity of childhood, and indeed is the effect and result of generous habits, an uncorrupt heart, guileless lips, and a fine education.

Having considered the progress of truth through idea and speech, there remains but to carry this bright virtue into action: and truth in acts is styled honesty.

Honesty is a branch of virtue very well understood in its general sense ; particularly as it regards the leaving untouched that which we have no right or pretensions to. But this is a very wide point on which to place so delicate a virtue. We must bring our infant nearer to it, or he will be a stranger to its excellence ? No, the trouble is unnecessary. If truth in thought and word are fixed into habit, she will follow into action in natural and beautiful order, and honesty will be known and viewed in all its minutest bearings.

The child, then, possessed of honesty, will not move from his seat whilst his attendant or parent steps into an adjoining room, and creep back to his post on

tiptoe as he hears her returning, if he has promised, he will not stir. Or if, in the giddy volatility of his period of life, he should perchance transgress, he will declare it at once.“ Mamma, or nurse, I forgot. I jumped up once, but I sat down again.” He will not, when his mother asks him for something which she has said he must not have, answer, as he hides the article under the table, or in the folds of his frock, “ I don't know where it is ; it is lost, mamma ;" and then as he finds he is discovered, drop it artfully on the floor, and say, “oh there it is; it fell down, mama, I did not touch it.” He will never hold up the toys or objects he has himself broken,, and charge the damage to his sisters, or any person, or animal. If two apples, cakes, or trinkets of nearly equal size are given to him and his brother, he will not slyly take an opportunity to compare both, and slide off with the best. He will not, when he is eating his breakfast or supper with his inother or the maid, watch for a moment when she turns her head to snatch a lump of sugar from the bason and put it gently and silently into his own mug of milk; neither will he ever think of making a false pretence for gaining what he desires, or for avoiding what he dislikes. The child may be troublesome, daring, noisy, greedy, fretful, perverse, but what mother can help doting on his ingenuous lip, his upright thought, his open heart, and his little honest ways ! All, all his faults vanish to nothing, comparatively; if he possess truth. Time, which shall ripen his love for that virtue, will do much towards conquering what there is amiss in him. With truth we may hope for every

thing, in infancy, in childhood, in adolescence. Without it, infancy withers to the sight as a blighted ear of corn; childhood chills every heart as the caterpillar's tooth in the bud; and youth gives a pang in the sense of its promise betrayed, like that of the sapling which is stifled by the base ivy that clings on its vitals and destroys.




The second superior virtue which we give to infancy is mercy.

The dependants on this virtue, or its attributes, are as numerous as those of truth. They rise by as fine gradations, are connected as closely to each other, and form nearly as beautiful a whole when united in one body as the first.

Mercy, too, in all its bearings, must begin through the example of others striking the mind, forcing the germ of idea in the right direction, which idea will break out into words, which words will be embodied into acts, with the development of the natural pow. ers. In short, mercy, like truth, must spring up out of principle, which principle is forming from almost the birth, and grows along with the mind and frame, till it can no longer be contained and held passive ; but

« AnteriorContinuar »