« PreviousContinue »
some other lesson, something to engage the mind.
Learning dictionary by heart is a most laborious way of getting at―(what may be gotten at without any labour)-the meaning of words. Learning grammar [by heart] employs time very dully, and does not give an idea, not even a grammatical idea.
A vast number of the regular routine lessons have been devised only to take up a great deal of the pupil's time, and very little of the tutor's.
A child comes in to family-prayer in the morning, and perhaps at night: what does he hear of religion in the intermediate time? and what does he see of it?
I would not teach a child a catechism by heart. Dr. Watts's catechisms are very good; but it is surely better to alter the questions continually, and to give a question for every answer, which Dr. Watts certainly does not. For example; "Who made you?" Dr. Watts makes the child answer this, and two other questions, in one; one as to the greatness of Him who made him, and another as to the other things which He made. "The great God, who made heaven and earth." The answer of Dr. Watts is not the child's natural answer. I would rather say, "Who made you? Did He make any thing else? Is He not, then, very great?" These questions again may be interspersed and varied with historical questions, and such texts in proof as the child may have learned. Thus you get the child, in answering your questions himself, to give out his own knowledge.
From catechisms, as they are commonly taught, the child does not soon acquire knowledge; he learns something by heart. Rather let him learn the Bible; it is more useful, and more interesting.
God condescends to be called our Father. Behave in such a manner to your child that this title, thus assumed by God, may indeed convey to him the highest and tenderest idea of which he is capable.
Mr. Burnett was the clergyman of a moderately-sized parish in one of the midland counties of England. His health was by no means robust, and being deeply aware of the necessity of a constant and familiar attendance upon his flock, he had engaged the assistance of a very pious young man, Mr. Springfield, as his curate. Mr. Burnett had thus more time afforded him for the education of a young family, in which work he was most faithfully and tenderly helped and supported by his wife, a woman of very sound sense, and of a deep-rooted piety.
They had lost several children in infancy. "I have given them all up," said Mr. Burnett to his wife, "to God from the womb; and that He will accept them all at my hands, I am firmly convinced. Shall I repine because he has already answered my prayers for some of them, and be
cause my Saviour has suffered some of my little children to come to him?"
They had five children still living. Mary, the eldest, was fourteen years of age, and her brother Samuel nearly thirteen; Emma was just nine, and Elizabeth between seven and eight; little Charles was not yet four.
The first indeed, it might almost be said, the only, wish of Mr. and Mrs. Burnett for their children was, that they might be children of God; that they might exemplify that religion which is
by faith of Jesus Christ," in the holiness and usefulness of their lives, and experience its comforts in life and in death. "This is what we daily pray for," said Mr. Burnett; "let us show by the way in which we deal with these dear little ones, that it is what we really pray for; let us not ask in our closet that they may be God's, and then come out of it, and educate them for the world; let us not tell them that religion is every thing, and then show by our neglect of it that it is, to us, the merest by-the-bye in the world.
That such was the conduct of many, he hoped, real Christians, Mr. Burnett saw with wonder and concern. He saw children, in houses professing godliness, made to attend family-prayers, made to repeat their own prayers morning and evening, made, perhaps, to read a chapter once in the day, and all this occasionally enforced as a duty; but no appeal to the feelings, no attempt to draw with the cords of love, no affectionate prayer with them, no constant reference of all
that is done to God, no subordination of all other things to the one thing needful, no such thing practically taught as the seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The prayers over, the chapter read, then begins the real business of the day; then languages, sciences, accomplishments-but where is God, where is religion, and where is the Bible? Where is even usefulness of life, command of temper, regulation of motives? Are we in the school-room of a family devoted to God or to the world? nay, of a Christian or a Heathen? What shall tell us? The studies? the books? the incitements?
"But what? (said Mr. Burnett, after spending the whole morning in the school-room of a religious friend,) were the Jews to teach the words of the law diligently unto their children, to talk of them when they sat in their house, and when they walked by the way, and when they lay down, and when they rose up; to bind them as a sign upon their hands, and as frontlets between their eyes, and to write them upon the posts of their houses, and upon their gates; (Deut. vi. 7—9.) and do we spend a whole morning in geography and arithmetic, in history and poetry, nay, in mythology and word-catching, and no reference to God, to his law or his word, or the most holy and comfortable doctrines of his Gospel?"
"Convince your judgment," said he, in a letter to a younger friend," but it is impossible,pray to God to convince it, that seventy years to eternity is nothing; and then act accordingly.
Most parents educate their children for the seventy years, and leave eternity to God."
And again, to another friend, "Do you desire spiritual mercy for yourself-not as a supplement to earthly blessings, not as a quieting of the conscience, that you may go on undisturbed in the pursuit of carnal enjoyments,-but as the great thing, for itself, and sufficient in itself? If you do not, how can you for your children?"
And, at another time, to the same friend, "You must wait God's time, you say; well and good, if understood aright; but take care that this be not an excuse for neglecting God's way. You must wait God's time; yes, but when is it not God's time? Does he not out of the mouths of babes and sucklings ordain praise? Is nineteen or twenty more his time, than seven or eight? Why should it be? Is a person less set on the world then? Is his heart softer? Has he less need of the Holy Spirit, to enlighten and convert? You must wait God's time; but you may pray to Him to hasten it; you may put your child in the way. of His blessing. You are only to expect conversion in the use of the means of grace. And what are the means of grace to him? Not so much attendance at church or family prayers: it is but little he can understand then at his tender age,. and, finding so little, he will not, perhaps, attend very diligently for that: but earnest, affectionate exhortation to him, and earnest, affectionate prayer for him and with him.”
That I may put the reader, as far as I can, in possession of Mr. Burnett's principles of edu