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said, “Well, what I told was something that happened when I was a little girl.” “What, when we lived in
?" " Yes." “Well, that was when you were only four years old.” Then turning to me the mother continued, “ Surely, Mrs. S., you could not lay up against a child anything done at so early a period. She took no notice whatever of the fact that at first the child had denied the whole thing, and then admitted it, referring it to a very early period. It was evident to me that her anxiety was not so much that her child should be free from offence, as that she should seem to be
The father was angry, the mother civil, but said, “ Of course, hereafter, I shall think it best to keep my child under my own care."
THE SHAMS OF SOCIETY ET AL. VERSUS TRUTH.
It is some thousands of years since the Psalmist wrote, in answer to the inquiry “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell in thy holy hill ? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteously, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” It is a good deal more than eighteen hundred years since the one great Teacher inculcated the beautiful virtue of truth by precept and by example, exhibiting it in his life and in his death; and still that virtue, in its purity, is so rare even among those who call themselves by his name, as to draw forth remark and excite admiration, if not surprise, wherever it is found. This is true of individuals and true of bodies of men.
When I speak of truth, I mean truth of character, as well as of speech—honesty and uprightness of intention, as well as that which fulfils merely the letter of the law : the truth of him, whose eye is single, and therefore his whole body full of light, and who is willing to be seen and known, through and through ; who is found under all cir
cumstances perfectly reliable—“ who sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not; who bears the stamp of sterling coin that always has the true ring; who is sure to tread the straight and narrow way of duty, however broad and attractive may be the paths which lead away from it. Such men and such women are pillars of strength in families, in communities, in nations.
The natural world, without the elements of law and order; with day and night-summer and winter-seed-time and harvest, in irregular succession, would be a fitting type of the moral world, without the stable element of truth perpetually existing, from generation to generation, in the hearts of the fifty, forty, twenty, or ten righteous of cities and villages.
Why are the mass of a people calling themselves Christians, and favored with Christian institutions, so deficient in this essential virtue; with just enough to make society cohere; with so little excess over that which is imperatively enforced by conventionalisms, by expediency, and by criminal laws ?
I think there are three obvious causes ; there may be many more. These three are defects in education, insufficient or erroneous religious instruction, and the shams of society. A little child's first departure from the truth usually occurs before he is old enough to distinguish be
tween right and wrong—to choose the good, and refuse the evil. But, nevertheless, it is not to be passed over on this account. He must be carefully instructed from the first, in the beauty and obligations of truth, the odiousness and sin of lying ; and the aim of the parent must be to make him true in conduct, as well as in words. There must be no severity that will make him afraid to tell the truth—no foolish indulgence that he can count upon to save him from the penalty of untruth, or the legitimate consequences of a fault confessed; and, above all, the parents themselves must be true in heart and in life.
“ Have you driven the cow home ?" I once heard a father ask of a little boy, not more, I think, than five years old, upon whom that duty devolved. It was a dark, rainy night, in the autumn.
“ Yes, sir ; but I did not put up the bars.”
“ Then, my son, you must go directly back again.”
The decree was obeyed without a murmur. The father was one who would have much preferred to save his child from the disagreeable service, by performing it himself, but that the child's good was far dearer to him than the indulgence of his own feelings. The want of perfect fidelity in duty, must not be excused because it is confessed. The child had been too conscientiously trained not to make the confession.
Many parents are sadly deficient in duty to their children from a species of self-indulgence, often miscalled parental love, that cannot bear to bring any trial, any inconvenience, even, upon them. This reluctance proceeds from the pure selfish instinct, unenlightened by reason or conscience. True parental love is that which makes the best good of the child its highest object.
There would be an immense accession to truth and honesty of dealing, as also to the comfort of living, by simply cultivating in children a strict habit in regard to the keeping of promises. They should be made to attach sacredness to a promise even when it has reference to small matters, of no great importance in themselves; and to feel that their word once given, is always to be kept. The word promise, when associated with obligation, is usually supposed to imply an engagement formally, if not solemnly made; but this is not its necessary meaning. A promise is a simple engagement to do or not to do, certain things; and should be considered obligatory under all circumstances. Yet, so far is this from being the case, even in matters of business, that an artisan, a mechanic, a dress-maker, etc., who comes at the time appointed, or has an article finished, or a job completed at the time specified, is hardly to be found in those parts of the country where little or no competition exists.