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THE CAUSES OF FAILURE TRACED TO THEIR
The failure of Parents to be ascribed to a tendency of heart-dis
played in undue severity-over indulgence-a baneful inequality of treatment-or sinful partiality.
HITHERTO we have been endeavoring to illustrate the nature of the Constitution in a human family, by bringing the light of divine truth to bear upon it; and this mainly with a view to Parents feeling at once the solemn responsibility and high privileges of their situation. There is, however, a mighty difference between things as they ought to be, and things as they are. “The heavens are the Lord's," and order has he there maintained. “The earth he hath given to the children of men;" and if we desire to see the use which they have made of it, we need not travel over any of its kingdoms. Enter into the bosom of a single family, where “ the hearts of the Parents are not turned towards the Children,” and, consequently, “the hearts of the Children are not turned to the Parents," and there we see in miniature a picture of any village, of any town or city, nay, of the earth at large, wherever Christianity does not prevail.
To return, therefore, to the Prophet Malachi: notwithstanding the admirable construction of the human family, in his language it is implied, that there is a melancholy tendency to failure here, and that too a tendency of the heart. “He shall turn the heart of the Fathers to the Children.” One party failing, at least, in the way of neglect, and the other in the way of disobedience. So when the angel of the Lord glances at this passage, he says," He shall turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just."
To begin, however, as the Scriptures do, with the Parent: Why, it may be inquired, should this ever be the case? Is there any feeling, under heaven, stronger than this parental love, or any upon which we may with more confidence depend? Does not the Almighty himself appeal to it, and even by reference to it, condescend to explain his own pity to his children? Is it not instinctive, and generally styled natural affection ? In short, where can we find any feeling superior in power and in constancy?-To all these questions there is but one reply. This, like every other natural feeling of our fallen nature, must be brought under the sway of divine revelation ; and not until it is regulated and promoted by divine influence, can it be pronounced in its healthy, and beneficial, and most vigorous exercise. I go even farther than this. Even after the dominion of sin has been broken ; after the Parents themselves have been turned to the Lord their God, there is, alas ! still in many, if not in all, some remaining tendency at least to failure. Nor is it impossible to account for this. 'Were natural connection all that existed between Parent and Child, the case would be different; but this happens to be nearly the strongest moral as well as natural connection which man sustains. This connection involves the performance of so many duties, and these require to be performed with such constancy and perseverance; with such a mixture of patience and firmness; with so much of tender sympathy
and self-command : in short, the milder and the stronger virtues require to be so interwoven, that without an imperious sense of obligation, daily felt, many affecting and even fatal mistakes will be committed.
This tendency of the heart discovers itself in courses entirely at variance with each other ; but almost every case of failure in Parents may be arranged under one or other of the four following divisions :
1. Undue Severity.—This is assuredly a most unwise extreme; since, after it is carried a certain length, and has continued a certain time, no subsequent treatment, by any individual, can completely, if at all, repair the injury. To whatever degree this is carried, the injury in such case involves a corresponding injury inflicted on the spirit of the Children, which is nothing short of a vital injury. In training even the animal creation, a greater injury cannot be inflicted than to inflame or break the spirit; and in the instance of a Child, a being born for immortality, how great must be such a crime! Besides, according to the tender language of Scripture, men are cautioned lest they should approach such a point, as though it were the edge of a precipice. “Fathers, provoke not your Children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” After this, what can the Parent do ? He may change his conduct and caress, he may humor, but this only aggravates the evil! By his blind and unthinking precipitancy and impatience, when correcting or restraining “after his own pleasure," he has not only gone too far, but he cannot now retrace his steps! He may repent, and even confess, but in many instances even this is all in vain. The period allotted to him, by the wise and unalterable judgment of Heaven, has been ill employed; and though time there was, when, if his error had been seen, it might have been at least in part repaired, that time is now gone,
and gone for ever !* Nay, what is truly affecting, if this Child happens to be the eldest, the Parent finds to his cost, that he has been the instrument of introducing a disease, like a fretting leprosy, into his family, which may, and probably will, infect the rest, while this Child remains with them. His sullen, unbroken spirit; his self-will, or, in some instances, sunk and melancholy frame of mind, they all too easily perceive; and the unhappy Child there continues the heart-break of the Parents, as well as the pest, or stumbling-block, or curse, of Brothers and Sisters. The Child, however, after all this, is not the original
: * Whatever may be said of her vices, confessedly great, one of the most powerful minds which appeared during that awful tragedy, the French Revolution, was found in the person of a female. In the course of a single morning, the last mistake was committed by her injudicious and passionate Father, when brutally forcing her to swallow a medicine. From that moment the reins were gone, and many years afterwards she observed," I experienced the same inflexible firmness that I have since felt on great and trying occasions; nor would it, at this moment, cost me more to ascend undauntedly the scaffold, than it then did to resign myself to brutal treatment, which might have killed, but could not conquer me." Poor woman! had she fallen into different hands, how different had been her future life, and though it is hard to say, perhaps then, even in these perilous times, she might not have ended her days, as she did, on a scaffold. On the morning referred to, Madame Rolland was not yet seven years of age! Her Father, at one moment infuriated with passion, and at another caring little about what was going on in his house, provided no one complained of his external intrigues, and that he had a good dish of coffee for breakfast, good soup for dinner, and some fresh eggs and a salad for supper-what else could become of his daughter? Yet this Parent has been styled a good-natured, peaceable kind of man! If any person has been shocked with the past or present relaxation of morals, in that otherwise fine country, let not this be ascribed to any régime, whether ancient or modern, but to its true cause—the dissolution of the Family compact-to the Parent letting go, or mismanaging, the reins of domestic government; precisely the same relaxation which preceded the flood, or the destruction of Sodom and the destruction of Jerusalem.
offender. The Father or Mother is, in fact, the guiltiest party ; the Child's conduct may in various ways be traced to their negligence or misconduct; and it is indeed a sad spectacle, while they read their sin in their punishment, and carry this family-cross, from day to day, to find, upon application to their best friends, that their advice proves of no avail. I know of few errands more melancholy, than that of a Parent, when, at his wit's end, he goes, with reference to his own Child, to call on a friend, and ask his counsel as to what can be done! Such being but a faint and imperfect sketch of the effects of undue severity, let Parents take especial care, that however their Children should behave, all their conduct has flowed from a principle of tenderness in the heart, and been uniformly regulated by it. However the discipline and good order of an army of men may be maintained, neither the government nor order of a Family can be secured without this feeling of tenderness.
2. Over-indulgence. After all this, it may seem strange, though it actually does appear true, from Scripture itself, that a more general and perhaps much more fatal cause of failure, lies in over-indulgence; at least the cautions against this, are far more frequent, and more pointed, than against the other. However severe the means may seem, at first reading, the following, among many other passages, at once detect the real secret cause of such indulgence, while they point to the infinitely important and merciful end of an opposite course. “He that spareth the rod, hateth his son ; but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes.” “Chasten thy son, while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” “Withhold not correction from the child;" let him at least have justice done to him, and give him at least this appointed security against future ill: “ for if thou beatest him with the rod,