4. The Transition
|“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”Psalm 27:10
The lesson of obedience has been learned. The next step in development is for the child to assume the guidance of his own life, which up to this time has been in his parents’ care. The Lord, therefore, gives in opening manhood and womanhood the rational faculty, the power not only to know and remember, but to understand, to rise above facts to principles, and to see the application of principles to various conditions. The new faculty does not give us power to invent truth,- no human mind has that power, – but it does enable us to make for ourselves the applications of truth which before our parents have made for us, and so to look directly to the Lord as our standard of truth and our Teacher. The rational faculty is not given that a young man may turn from dependence upon his parents to dependence upon himself, but to dependence upon the Lord ; that he may advance from indirect obedience to Him to direct obedience. ” When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
When circumstances remove children from their parents’ care; when parents die, when children leave home for college or for work ; when, though they still live with their parents, they outgrow the dependence of childhood, then they should be prepared to transfer their dependence to the Lord. It is to enable them to do this that rationality is given them. This is the essence of the change from boy- and girlhood to man- and womanhood.
To see clearly what the change is, is a help in knowing our duty to children at this transition period of life. If we have the change in mind as something that is coming, we can do much to prepare the children for it, so that at the right time they can make the change safely and happily.
From the first we can cultivate the thought that the children are the Lord’s children. We shall not selfishly wish to keep them in ignorance of their Heavenly Father, and claim all their affection for ourselves. We shall teach them about the Lord, and shall be glad to see their thoughts and affections turn to Him in childlike ways. If little children look up to us and think us very wise and good, we shall in our own hearts transfer their reverence to the Lord, knowing that whatever goodness or wisdom they find in us is from Him; and as the children grow older we shall not hide it from them that we are but giving them what the Lord gives us. It may be a trial to our natural feelings to think in this way of the children, as the Lord’s, and gradually to lead their thoughts and affections beyond ourselves to Him. It is a process of weaning ; it is a taking the child to the tabernacle and lending him to the Lord forever. But we must remember that we cannot always nurse and lead the children ; they will outgrow us. If we love them we must teach them about the Lord as the only One who is good and wise, so that when the change comes they will be able to turn promptly to Him.
We can also help to prepare the children for the responsibility which is coming to them, when they must be trusted to take into their own hands the choice of their course of life and their eternal destiny, by giving them even as children little responsibilities and gradually greater ones, and by helping them as children to be trustworthy. Suppose parents in their anxious carefulness for a child never let him go out of their sight; they go always with him to prevent his doing wrong and to shield him from every danger. The child grows up with the feeling that nothing depends upon him ; parents do everything for him, or if he must do some things himself, they carry the whole responsibility for him, they continually remind him of what he is to do and when to do it, and stand over him to see that it is done. When the child becomes a man and such care is no longer possible, is he well prepared to take up the responsibility of guiding his own life? He would be better prepared if he had become accustomed little by little to meeting the difficulties of life himself; if his parents in little things and for short times had trusted him to do right without their presence to check him or remind him. This mistaken kindness does not make a manly boy, nor prepare him for the time when he must assume the responsibilities of a man.
To take one practical example. We want the children, when they are grown up, to be honest and careful in the use of money. Shall we prepare them for the responsibility by always taking care of the money ourselves, always buying for them, and deciding for them what to buy? Or will it be better for them gradually to learn the value of money by earning a little themselves, and to learn to use it carefully by giving and spending of their own with some guiding advice from us? It is no doubt easier to do it all ourselves, but there can be no question which course better prepares a child for the responsibility of earning his own living, or of caring for a fortune by and by. Moreover, trustiness in temporal things is the basis of trustiness in eternal things.
There is nothing more destructive of manliness of character than for a child to feel that he is never trusted, especially to feel that he is not trusted to do right without watching. Treated so, he very soon depends upon the watching and is not safe without it. But a child responds readily to trust reposed in him. He is upon his honor to do well, and the manliness in him is awakened not to disappoint the expectation. It is of course necessary to adapt the responsibility to the strength, and not to expect a child to know what he has never been taught, nor to exercise the judgment of a man. We must be sure that what he is asked to do is within his ability; then to trust him, and to let him know that we trust him, begins to make a man of him. Faithfulness in a few things prepares him to make good use of many things. Trustworthiness cultivated in the years of boy- and girlhood prepares the children to take up the responsibilities of man- and womanhood.
If the earlier stages of development have done their work we need not fear the transition period, which is commonly recognized as a trying season in life, and a critical one. Infancy has laid up a store of innocence which has given heaven a hold upon the soul. Childhood has given a store of knowledge of what is good and right, and has disciplined the powers to obedience; the child has learned in small dangers and small duties not to disappoint the trust reposed in him by his parents; he is prepared for the greater responsibility with which the Lord now entrusts him. Still, the transition period needs our tenderest and wisest help. It is called a disagreeable age, and often it does not receive the sympathy and consideration which it needs. It is a trying and disagreeable age for reasons which we shall consider, but it is most of all trying and disagreeable to the one who is passing through it. He finds himself growing hard and critical; he finds himself questioning the decisions of his parents; he is rebellious and irritable; even the kindness of friends is an annoyance to him and he returns it with rudeness. This new state is distressing to one who inwardly loves his parents and friends as tenderly as he ever did. He is ashamed of himself, and sorry, when he has been rude to them. Even at the time he treats them so it hurts his better feelings, and yet he seems hardly able to do otherwise. He does not understand the meaning of this change. He does not know why it has come, and whether it is temporary or must last for the rest of his life. He certainly deserves not blame but kindly sympathy.
The cause of the change is that the faculty of rationality is developing. When fully formed it will give strength and grace to the manly character, but in the process of development it shows an unlovely side. The faculty first develops on the natural side, and in a hard and intellectual way. Afterwards it may open upward and become spiritual, and its hard intellectualness may be softened by a regard for use.
In the panorama of life presented in the Bible story, this faculty of rationality is represented by Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael is the first, natural reason, critical and hard; the son of the Egyptian hand-maid, a man of the deserts, described as “a wild-ass man, his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16: 12) In explaining these words about Ishmael, Swedenborg describes the character of one whose rationality is developed only in a natural way, and is not yet softened by regard for use. ” He is morose,” he says, ” impatient, in opposition to all others, regarding every one as in the wrong, instantly rebuking, chastening, punishing; he is without pity, and does not try to bend the minds of others; for he regards everything from truth, and not from good.” (AC 5949) Again, the natural rationality likened to the wild ass is described as ” morose, contentious, having a dry, hard life.” (AC 1964)
When one who has been a good and affectionate child comes into this critical, contentious state, it may be hard for his friends, but it is harder still for himself; he is not to be blamed, but helped with the utmost kindness and patience to come through the Ishmaelite stage to a more lovely and wiser rationality. And how shall we help ? by disputing and ridiculing the first efforts of a young man to reason for himself? To be sure his conclusions are very crude; he sees only the natural side of the question that he undertakes to solve; he thinks little of the opinion of any one in comparison with his own. But it may be an honest effort to use the faculty of reason. Shall we ridicule it? Do we treat so a child’s first efforts to walk? Does a bird treat so the efforts of her young to fly? This comparison is a good one, for the wings of a bird are emblems of the power of thought. ” He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings : so the LORD alone did lead him.” (Deuteronomy 32: 10-12) The patience of the parent-bird in teaching the young to fly is a suggestion of the Lord’s patience with our first efforts to use the faculty of reason. It is a lesson of patience to human parents.
Remember also that it is application to use which softens the hard intellectualness of the natural reason. We can be helpful, then, by leading a young man’s thoughts to usefulness, by encouraging the doing of useful work, turning his active mind from speculation and theory to good use, in which the truth will find the softening influence of good. There is nothing so wholesome for a young man or woman as work, good work, useful work; nothing is a surer help to bring them safely through to substantial manhood and womanhood.
What a help and safeguard it is if we have kept the children’s confidence from their babyhood till now, by sharing their interests with them, by meeting always kindly and patiently their confessions of weakness and failure! New dangers and temptations meet the children in these transition years; they need our instruction and warning, yet if we have not their fullest confidence, if we are not their tried and faithful friends, we cannot reach them with the help they need.
It may be with an agony of fear that parents see their children pass from their control. But if they have learned to be trustworthy children, trust them still, and let them know that you trust them. If we would have influence with a man and strengthen his manhood, we must treat him like a mean. Coercion is not useful at this stage. If it succeeds at all it does so by forcing the young man to remain a child. There is far more power in trust. It recognizes the developing manhood, and appeals to it to show itself worthy of confidence. We must respect a young man’s right to think for himself; if he is crude in his conclusions, not contradicting him, but comparing his view with ours, as man with man. Such treatment disarms his opposition, the self-assertion melts away, and often, with almost his old childlike docility, he voluntarily seeks advice and follows it.
Much of our ability to help the children in the new relation of opening manhood and womanhood depends upon our recognizing that it is a new relation. We must not treat them now as children, subject wholly to our will and judgment. The subjection they now owe is to the Lord, and we are their companions in the service. We help them with loving advice and sympathy and by doing our part to keep alive the tender things which give heaven its hold upon the soul. We help still more by expecting a young man to do right and trusting him to do it.
Day: April 14, 2014
|“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business .
And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.- but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
Luke 2: 49-52
We must now follow the development of the child from infancy through boy- and girlhood, the period say from seven to seventeen years, reserving for a future study the transition period which leads to man- and womanhood. The familiar passage from the Gospel taken as our text presents simply and beautifully the Lord’s example in childhood and youth, the consciousness of higher work before Him, and the preparation for it by faithful subjection to natural parents, and to the circumstances of humble life in this world. It will help us to see and to do our duty to the children at this stage of their development to know what the essential quality of this period of life is; what kind of goodness ought to be expected at this age, and what its special place is in the life-history of each one. If we express in one word the essential quality of this period of life, and the element which it should contribute to heavenly character, the word is obedience. By and by will come the time to choose our course of life, but first the Lord gives opportunity for our faculties to be developed and trained to obedience, so that when we reach the age of choice we shall have well-disciplined minds and bodies which can be trusted to carry our choice into effect. As in any trade or art, one first learns the use of his tools, and trains his hand to follow the models set by others, before he undertakes original work. One thing at a time. In childhood to develop the faculties and bring them into willing obedience; afterwards the responsibility of guiding them.
The physical powers must learn obedience; they must be developed and disciplined to quick and skilful action. The hands and feet must become strong and willing servants. The senses, too, must learn obedience, to see and hear accurately, and to report truly what they receive. All the members and faculties of the body must learn obedience, till their efforts, at first weak and blundering, grow strong and perfect. The mental powers at the same time need similar training. The thought must gain the ability to apply and concentrate itself, and, like the senses and the hands, to do accurately what it is set to do. The same lesson must reach to the highest plane of faculties, and the affections must learn obedience. Children must gain the power to turn from what is pleasant, if it is forbidden, and to yield their will to their parents and to others who are in place of parents. To do this and to do it bravely, to do it promptly and even cheerfully, is the crown of childhood’s work. For skilful hands and brain are useless and perhaps worse than useless if the will is ungoverned. If the will has learned obedience, all the discipline of thought and hand is turned to good account.
We appreciate the value of the first innocence of childhood only when we know its use in after life, and so with this lesson of obedience. If it were a mere question of the child’s present happiness and our own, we might often not have the patience to teach his desires to obey; we might often with mistaken kindness yield. But consider the injury, the loss to the child. He fails to gain the mastery over his will, which of all forms of obedience is the most essential. By and by he will outgrow our care and he will have, of his own accord, to give obedience to the Lord’s commandments. How easy this will be if he has learned to yield his will promptly and cheerfully to his parents! How hard it will be if he has not learned obedience, but is led by his passions and appetites and his own pleasure! Childhood was the time to learn the lesson, and to learn it easily. It is hard to teach skill to the old hand which has been untrained in youth. It is hard to discipline the powers of thought late in life. It is harder still, far harder, to teach obedience to the will which has grown up to have its own way.
Yet obedience must be learned. God’s laws are as unchanging as His love. We cannot disobey them, we cannot evade them, and escape unharmed. They have the fixity of the rock. If we run against it, it is not the rock that suffers, but we. We see the fixity of Divine laws in nature. We do not try to stop the sunrise or to delay the tides. There is no physical safety but in conforming to the laws of God in nature. Just so in the realm of spiritual life. We may defy the commandments, we speak of breaking them, but it is we that are broken and suffer till we learn to obey. How much of such suffering is saved if we learn obedience as children, first to our parents, and then to the Lord!
Our duty to the children in the years of boy- and girlhood is to help them to learn the lesson of obedience; to help them to develop and discipline their physical powers, and their powers of mind and heart. It is to help them to gain mastery over themselves, so that when presently, in the exercise of manly freedom, they make the Lord their Master, they can bring to His service faculties trained to obey and to be obeyed. They can look up to Him as did the centurion at Capernaum, saying, “Speak the word only… . For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” (Matthew 8: 8,9) The Lord feels the same pleasure to-day in one who has learned this childhood’s lesson of obedience as He found in the centurion when He marveled at his faith and granted his prayer for help.
When we understand obedience in its broad and true sense, as self-mastery and discipline, we see that it is not something to be taught by contention between us and the child. We are not to conquer him, but to help him to conquer himself. Nothing will aid us more in this great work than sympathy, unfeigned interest and sympathy in each step of his progress. We can share his pleasure in his developing physical powers, and can enjoy his successes in trials of physical strength, helping him to feel that it is himself rather than his rivals in the game that he is learning to conquer. We can also raise the child’s thought from mere strength to quickness and skill. We can awaken his interest in these finer kinds of excellence, and can show him the pleasure of teaching his hands to obey accurately and to work with neatness, exactness, and grace. In encouraging a child to such excellence with his hands, we are also training the powers of thought and purpose which are behind the manual action to similar exactness and honesty. In this lies the real benefit of manual training as an element of education, and experience has shown its power as a means of awakening and strengthening essential elements of character. We must encourage and teach the child to use his hands and all his physical powers, and to use them accurately and well.
Without our suggestion and help the children do not know how much their senses may be awakened and developed. Some children who have been thought to be entirely deaf have, by careful training, been taught to hear. This is of course in cases where the difficulty is not wholly in the organs of hearing, but in the ability to use them. It is a delight to all children to learn to use their eyes and ears; and in this development what a help we have in nature, which is so good a friend to the children in many ways. We can go with them into the country and teach them to look and listen, teach them to watch the plants and insects and the birds, to learn to recognize their faces and their voices and to know what they are doing at different seasons of the year. Children miss a rare delight who do not know the pleasure of searching for nature’s secrets, always finding something curious and new. In this they need a companion who knows a little more than they, and yet who is always learning with them with the enthusiasm of a child; one who can rejoice with them in the finding of a crystal, who can show them how the violet hides its summer blossoms, what the bumble-bee is doing in the clover, for himself and for the plant; who can show them how one butterfly has learned to imitate his neighbor for his greater safety, and how the humming-bird trims her nest. We must be the guides and the companions of the children in this delightful lesson of learning to use their senses; for we all are children together on the threshold of a world of wonders. Such nature-study assists development in many ways. It leads to much wholesome exercise in the air and sunshine. It tempts to long walks and to rough climbs. Its benefit is felt through all the physical plane of life. We have seen its use in developing the senses and training them in accurate observation. It also gives opportunity for close and careful thought in following the changes of a flower or insect, in studying the relation of plant and insect to each other; in comparing one kind with another, noting their likenesses and differences; in trying to learn the reason for what we see. There is no better discipline for the mental faculties, to give the power of application and concentration and the ability to make accurate decisions. We must lead the children’s interest in these thoughtful ways, and must show them the pleasure of close and accurate exercise of thought and memory.
The mental discipline which begins so naturally in the’ woods and fields can be carried further in the school-room. The amount that is learned is far less important than the way in which it is learned. It should be learned in a way to call out and develop the mental powers and deeper elements of character. To accurate observation and careful thought children may add the ability for true expression, learning the use of words and of that wonderful and sadly neglected instrument, the voice. Mathematics or history or language may give the same pleasure as games and exercises of physical strength and quickness. There is the same pleasant sense that the faculties are learning to obey. During this period of childhood the memory is especially strong and active, and with the awakened powers of observation the memory may gain a store of knowledge which will be of after-use. Both from the book of nature and from the book of the Lord’s Holy Word it gathers precious treasures and holds them faithfully.
But obedience must, as we have seen, reach higher; it must extend to the affections. This is the hardest lesson and the most important. It needs our closest sympathy and constant help. We, have spoken of a child’s intercourse with nature as a means of training the senses and the powers of thought. It also appeals to the affections. Under wise guidance it awakens in the children a kindly sympathy with living things, a friendliness for the insects and the flowers, a fellow-feeling for the animals. It is wholesome to have the affections drawn outward and away from one’s self. A child is also very sensitive to the influence of what is beautiful and grand in nature. He feels his smallness and the power of Him who made the mountains and the sea and calls the stars by name, and yet who remembers each bird and flower. Very little help is needed to turn the affections of one who loves nature to the Lord.
We have spoken also of children’s sports and games as means of developing and disciplining their powers. In these relations of children among themselves there is constant appeal to the affections, and our help is constantly needed to bring home to these activities of the will the lesson of self-control and obedience We must help the children to gain mastery, not only over the foot and hand, not only over the power of thought, but over the affections. The will must learn to obey, to yield promptly to what is right. We must help the children to see the beauty of a spirit which can yield and let others have their way. We see the contest going on in a child’s heart, and we watch it with more interest than any test of physical or intellectual skill. We give the encouragement of our sympathy by a touch or a look, and when he conquers and the selfish will yields, we let him know that we admire the victory.
The children’s sympathy with suffering and need is easily aroused, and when children’s sympathy is touched no generosity is so self-forgetful as theirs. We can encourage this sympathy and the spirit of self-sacrifice, at the same time that we teach it a wise moderation. Again, it is not a long step from the children’s desire to be doing and their natural enjoyment in imitating the work of older people, it is not a long step to the enjoyment of doing something useful. Here we have a constant opportunity to bring the lesson of obedience to the affections of the children ; for usefulness requires self-sacrifice, the yielding of their natural will, to duty. We can show that we value their help, even when there is little valuable in it but the motive. We can assign them some regular work and encourage them to do it faithfully. As they become able to do small things faithfully, as their affections learn obedience, they are prepared to be trusted with great things.
What patience it requires to teach the lesson of obedience! What firmness and what kindness are needed! What intimate knowledge of the children’s interests! What real sympathy with their failures and successes! What exercise on our part of that self-control which we are helping them to gain! But much may be done, and easily done, if we begin from the very beginning to help the child to yield, from the first time that we lay the baby down and tell him that he must go to sleep, alone. He quickly learns that resistance and coaxing are useless, and is content. It is a great point gained. There will be other times with a growing child when the parents’ refusal of his wishes seems hard and arbitrary. He rebels against it, but he is inwardly ashamed, for he knows that his parents have his good at heart. He rebels but they are firm, for they know that obedience must be learned, and they are thinking of the time when the child is grown, and it becomes a question not of obedience to their will but to the Lord’s commandments. They are firm, and when he is a little older the child thanks them for it with all his heart. They have not conquered him ; they have helped him to conquer himself, to gain mastery over all his faculties of body, mind, and heart. They have prepared him to go safely into the world, and to obey the laws of God.
Heaven’s Hold Upon the Child
2. Heaven’s Hold Upon the Child
|“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.”
Isaiah 7: 15
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”
Psalm 8: 2
Our study of heredity has taught us that every one inherits a tendency to the evils which have been developed and confirmed in the lives of many generations of ancestors. There are also some good traits of inheritance, but these are a feeble ground of resistance to the evil tendencies, both because of their fewness, and still more because good of inheritance, until it becomes of principle, is superficial and has no strength of resistance in it. With such an inheritance the case of a child would be hopeless if the Lord did not provide some strong basis of good to offset the tendency to evil. Without such help there would be no ground to stand upon to resist the natural tendencies, and one would inevitably be carried away by them. The Lord makes the provision which is necessary in a most wonderful way, and He makes it for every one.
The Lord first provides that the natural inheritance of a child shall not be awakened immediately at his birth. It lies dormant, and the natural tendencies to evil only gradually manifest themselves as years go by, some of them not appearing till life is far advanced. We see the wisdom of this provision of the Lord, for if one came suddenly at birth into the full force of the evil tendencies of his inheritance, it would be impossible to withstand them. But delay alone is not protection enough. Even if the awakening of the evil is postponed and comes to our consciousness only gradually, we still are no better able to meet it unless in the mean time, while the natural disposition is sleeping, good gains a positive hold upon us. If in some way this can be brought about, then when the evil tendencies are allowed gradually to awaken, the child has something to compare them with, to judge of their real quality; he has some ground to stand upon to offer effective resistance.
And this help the Lord gives. He provides that in the first years of life, before the natural inheritance is aroused, holy influences shall be with every child. He accomplishes this in part by touching the hearts of parents and others in this world, to show a tenderness towards little children, which calls out their affection in return. Of this we must speak later. But this is not the only means of giving the foundation of goodness which is so necessary for after-life. This is too feeble a means and too uncertain to be trusted to alone. The strongest influences for good with every little child are influences direct from heaven and the Lord. Angels of heaven are near to every child, and they use the precious opportunities while his soul is open to them to implant impressions of innocence, of goodness and truth, on which the strength of after-years and eternal life in heaven depend. They are among the best and tenderest of the angels who are assigned to this holy duty. The Lord tells us this when He says of little children that their angels do always behold the face of the Father in heaven.
“Immediately after birth,” says Swedenborg, “angels from the heaven of innocence are with little children; afterwards angels from the heaven of the tranquility of peace, and afterwards angels from the societies of charity.” (AC 2303) Elsewhere the heavenly companions of children are described in other words. It is said that at first celestial angels, those characterized by the most tender love, are with little children, and later, as their state changes, spiritual angels are with them, those who impart more of the light of truth. Afterwards, when one begins to act from himself and his hereditary evils awaken, then the earlier innocent states are withdrawn by the Lord towards the interiors of the soul, and are there stored up. (AC 5342, 2280, 3183) The innocent states and impressions which are thus stored up by the Lord are often called in the Bible “the remnant” from which new life is to revive, and in our doctrines they are called ” remains.” To quote again a more explicit definition of ” remains.” “They are not only the goods and truths which a man has learned from his infancy out of the Lord’s Word, and which are thus impressed on his memory; but they are likewise all states thence derived, as states of innocence from infancy, states of love towards parents, brothers, teachers, and others, states of charity towards the neighbor and also of mercy towards the poor and needy. In a word, all states of good and truth. . . . These are stored up by the Lord in the internal man whilst he is altogether ignorant thereof, . . . and there is not the smallest of them lost.” (AC 561, 1906)
The use of this store of innocent states and impressions, so carefully laid away and guarded by the Lord, appears when the hereditary evil tendencies begin to awaken and to assert themselves. Heaven already has a hold upon the child. He knows something of the happiness of good and innocent states. The new attractions come into contrast with these. He has some means of judging the new states, and some ground of resistance to them. As the work of regeneration goes on, deeper and deeper stores of innocence are opened and brought to consciousness, so that as one grows in spiritual life, in a very real sense he is becoming again as a little child.
The taste of heavenly goodness and happiness which is given to every little child in infancy, and the purpose of it, are taught in the prophecy spoken directly of the Lord, but true in a degree of every one, “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” The value of these heavenly states as a ground of resistance to evil as it arises in the life, is taught in the words of the Psalm, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”
Do we not know practically something of the value of the pure and holy things of childhood stored away within us? Are not a man’s recollections of his early home, his memory of his father and mother and his love for them, among the strongest influences for good that he knows? It is not rare that the recollection of some tender scene of home, the face of one who was dear and now has gone, comes to mind in a moment of temptation, and is the means of calling a man to himself. How often some early lesson, some line of Scripture learned as a child, some tender word of counsel, returns in a critical moment and gives the help we need! And these are among the most external of the holy things stored up by the Lord. The influence of the angels who were with us in the beginning of life is more deeply laid away, hidden from distinct consciousness. Yet it is the strongest tie. We have breathed the air of heaven; we have felt its innocence and peace. It is our native land, our home, and though we may yield to the promptings of evil and come into other states; though we may wander far from the Lord and heaven, we are as exiles, as home-sick children. There are inner yearnings for our first home and our angel friends. These are the strongest ties. They give us warning as often as we go astray. Unless we wantonly destroy them, they whisper ever in our hearts of heaven, and give us no rest until we find it.
The knowledge of this store of innocent impressions which the Lord lays up in childhood as a basis of strength in later years, – as the foundation of all the happiness of heaven forever, has an important bearing upon our duty to the children. In the first place, it is a most blessed and encouraging thought that in the mercy of the Lord heaven is near to every little child, however degraded his natural surroundings. Have you not wondered to see a ragged child playing with a few sticks and a heap of earth with the same content and innocent enjoyment which another finds in costly toys? It is the angels who glorify all things to his eyes, and make the simplest possessions lovely. However hard the outward lot of children may be, however they may be neglected by natural parents, the Lord and angels do not forget them. By their ministry the basis of heaven is laid in every child; the ability is given to refuse evil and choose the good, and so to find a home in heaven.
But this does not make it unnecessary for us on the natural side to do our part for the children in these first years of life. To know what angels and the Lord are doing should exalt our idea of the importance of these first years. It should stimulate us to do our part well, that we may not hinder but help the Lord and angels in their work. There is, perhaps, no grander, truer movement, in the world to-day than the new effort to learn the nature of the child, to approach his opening faculties in sympathetic ways, and to assist their orderly and beautiful development. We can let the founders of the kindergarten and its wise workers be our teachers in many things. It is a promise of great good, that so many young women are making those principles a study, and are finding their application in the school and the home. Knowing, as we do, how near heaven is to children, and that the Lord has provided these first years of innocence as a means of laying a basis of good on which regeneration and heaven for the child must rest, we can avail ourselves of the methods of wise teachers with a still deeper purpose than their discoverers knew. In all our efforts for the children we look beyond their natural development and their preparation for usefulness in this world, to the awakening and strengthening of their spiritual life. In what we do for children we know that we are not alone, but are co-operating with the Lord and angels in storing up during years of plenty the corn which shall preserve their life in the years of famine which must follow.
Knowing the purpose of the Lord for little children, a wise mother or teacher feels every smallest contact with a child to be a precious opportunity. Care of the child is not a hardship to be got rid of as easily as possible. A mother feels that she cannot do a nobler and more useful work than to cherish this beginning of immortal life. The opportunities to cooperate with the angels begin from the very beginning. Remember the description that was quoted of the treasures of innocence that are laid up in childhood. They are not only things learned from the Holy Word, but states of innocence from infancy, states of love towards parents, brothers, teachers, and friends, states of charity towards the neighbor, and of mercy towards the poor and needy; in a word, all states of good and truth.
From the very beginning there is opportunity to encourage these states of innocence. The love in a mother’s voice does something; her lullaby as she puts her child to sleep, her smile which awakens an answering smile of love. Who shall say that her own cheerful, useful, holy thoughts, as she sits by her sleeping child, or passes in and out where it is lying, have not an effect upon the opening life? As the child grows, the variety of the mother’s opportunities increases. She does not yield to every wish, in the thought that if the child is gratified angels have the best opportunity to do their blessed work. In some of the child’s wishes the mother sees a sign of selfishness, of greediness, of willfulness. To encourage that would be to hinder the angels in their work. So from the very first she checks these unholy things in wise, loving ways, and encourages instead states that are free from selfishness. The effort to bend the child to these most innocent states and most open to the influences of heaven cannot begin too soon. And who can see the opportunities so quickly as the wise mother? Where can the same tenderness and patience be found as in the mother’s love? How carefully for the child’s sake must parents and teachers avoid all anger or other unheavenly feelings in their relations with the children, which cannot fail to call out unheavenly feelings in return! They lead the awakening senses of the child to beautiful things in the world around him. They take advantage of his association with other children at home or in school to encourage a kind and generous spirit. They lead the child to find pleasure in being helpful in little ways. Every hour that the child is kept in a good and heavenly state, the hold of heaven upon him is strengthened. Does the nurse who tends the baby, does the mother herself, appreciate her opportunity?
And among the treasures which may be stored up in children’s hearts we must not forget the influence of sacred things, especially the influence of the Lord’s Word and His prayer. We know the peculiar charm which the Bible stories have for children when simply and reverently read to them. We are taught that the reverent reading of the Bible, and the repeating of the Lord’s prayer, brings heaven near to every soul, but that this is especially true of little children. (AC 1776, 1871) We must not deprive them of this precious help. We need not wait till they can fully understand the Bible. (Will that time ever come?) Choose the simple stories that they love, and find the time before they sleep at night, or some quiet Sunday hour, when they will listen reverently. As they can, let them learn the prayer and other simple words of Scripture. Learned now, they will bean eternal possession and a source of untold strength. And in all this seek to make the reading and the learning pleasant to the children; a duty, but a pleasant duty, that the moments with the Lord’s Word may be precious memories laid away among the most tender associations of family and church and home. The mother by the bedside of her child, the teacher with her class in Sunday-school, should know the value of every holy moment when the thoughts and the affections are turned to the Lord and heaven.
In many such ways which love and experience teach, those who are entrusted with the care of children on the earthly side may co-operate with the Lord and angels in laying up the store of innocence which will enable them to refuse the evil and choose the good; which will be a source of strength to them in the temptations which must come; which will give heaven an entrance to their souls, and a hold which – let us pray – will never be shaken off, but will resist all strains and bring them safely home.
Our Duty to the Children
|“Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keel my commandments.
Exodus 20:5, 6
The attention of reformers and educators, and of all who have the good of the world at heart, is turning more and more to the children. It is a difficult task to re-form the character when it is confirmed and hardened with years. It is like trying to straighten an old tree, or to mould clay that has been hardened in the fire; but the same effort wisely directed to a child may do much to form a character that is noble and lovely; we are then bending a pliant twig, or molding plastic clay. The period of childhood, of growth and formation, gives us our best opportunity to exert an influence which will be effective. When we realize how great the results of our influence maybe for happiness or misery through all of life, and not in this world only but to eternity, we feel the sacredness of our duty to the children, and the importance of learning to do it wisely. To think that my association with a child, my words or my example, may influence his whole life in this world and forever! It is a wonderful trust that the Lord has reposed in us in committing such great things to our care.
And where does our duty to the children begin? with helping them as young men and women to choose their course in life? But their ability to choose depends largely upon the instruction and training which they have previously received. And our responsibility begins before the age when children need the instruction of a teacher, from the time that they first become conscious of their surroundings. Mothers are learning that. the hours with their children when first impressions are received, and the first tender developments of affection and intelligence appear, are full of precious opportunities. It is even known that influences affect the child before his birth; yes, that the responsibility of parents goes back of this to the attitude towards good and evil which they have assumed in their own lives. Let us begin at the beginning and inquire how heredity bears upon our duty to the children.
By heredity we do not mean an arbitrary title to virtue or to sin, supposed to have descended to us from Adam. We mean nothing arbitrary nor exceptional, but simply the same kind of transmission of qualities and of traits of character from parent to child which we recognize as a law of all generation. The seeds of plants and trees bring forth after their kind. When we plant wheat we know that wheat will grow, and corn from corn, and not thorns and thistles. Not only are the general characteristics of a species perpetuated in successive generations, but special qualities. So we plant in our gardens the seeds of choice varieties of vegetables and fruits, expecting that the peculiar flavor and quality of the parent plants will reappear in their descendants. We also know that if we continue the conditions which have given rise to certain peculiar qualities, those qualities will be developed to greater perfection. The same law holds in the animal kingdom. The gentle animals and the fierce bring forth according to their kind; and special excellences of parents are perpetuated and increased in their descendants.
According to the same law of heredity in the human family, each race of men perpetuates its own peculiarities. Closer likenesses are noticeable among those of nearer kin. Children inherit from their parents and grandparents peculiarities of feature and of manner, liability to disease of special forms, or aptitude for one kind of work or another. (AC 2300) This likeness of children to parents extends to things deeper than physical form and manner, to mental traits and to the inmost tendencies of character. The general principle of heredity is stated thus by Swedenborg
“Everything which parents have contracted by frequent use and habit … until it has become familiar to them, so as to appear as if it were natural, is derived into their children and ,becomes hereditary. If parents have lived in the enjoyment of the love of good, and have perceived in this life their delight and blessedness … their offspring receive thence an inclination to a like good. In like manner they who receive hereditarily the enjoyment of the love of evil.” (AC 3469) “As to hereditary evil the case is this, that every one who commits actual sin induces a nature on himself thence, and the evil thence is implanted in the children and becomes’ hereditary, and that thus from each ancestor, from his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and other forefathers in order, it is multiplied and grows in his posterity and remains with each and is increased with each by actual sins. Nor is it dissipated so as not to be hurtful, except with those who are regenerated by the Lord.” (AC 313)
How real a factor heredity is in the problem of human development and regeneration may be seen from the fact that men in their state of early innocence were born into love for the Lord and to one another, and into the faculty for knowing, appropriate to those loves, as animals are born into the affections and perceptions appropriate to their life. Then as men grew from childhood to adult years, they needed only freely and intelligently to confirm the good that was natural to them. But hereditary evil has changed the inner structure of the mind and turned it away from heaven, so that children are born in absolute ignorance, and rationality must `be developed by slow degrees and by external means. A factor which has produced such effects is not one to be ignored nor lightly treated. (Lesser Diary 4635, AC 1902, 3318) The seriousness of the question of heredity is still further seen when we learn that while some things of inheritance are comparatively external and may in time be cast off, other things are more interior and enduring. In general, the inheritance from the mother is more external in kind and may gradually be removed; that from the father is more interior and is never absolutely removed, even though we become angels of heaven; but it may be so thoroughly overcome and put to one side that it gives no more pain or annoyance. (AC 1414, 1444,1573,4546, DP 79)
Instruction like this invites us to very serious reflection. At first when we are told that this accumulated evil of generations is our inheritance, we are appalled; and when we learn that a part of the evil inheritance can never be absolutely removed, the case seems hopeless, especially when we see the conditions of evil in which so many children are born. It is well that we should be enough appalled to realize that there is no safety and no possibility of heaven for any one except through the mercy of the Lord. Trusting in His mercy, which is forever and over all His children, we may calmly study the principles of heredity and note their bearing upon our duty to the children. They compel us to feel kindly towards the children and their faults; they show us that the way of heaven is open to every child, but that the Lord’s providence needs our co-operation; they teach us that the first help we owe the children is to resist for their sakes the evil in ourselves.
If tendencies to evil come to children through no wrong of theirs, how tenderly we must feel towards them and their faults; especially towards those’ who are born in conditions which seem to make their burden heavy. We may hate the evil thoroughly, and use every means to correct it; but we can feel only pity for the children, and the tenderest desire to free them from the evil tendencies before they deliberately choose them and make them their own.
And if we look tenderly upon all children, most of all must parents regard tenderly their own children when they recognize the children’s faults as theirs. A child shows a disorderly appetite, a hasty temper, a natural deceitfulness, a complaining or critical spirit, and the parent recognizes it as a fault which his child has inherited from him; he perhaps feels that by his own indulgence of the wrong he has made the burden heavier for his child. Must he not have the deepest pity and the tenderest desire to help the child? He knows the wrong from experience, and the sorrows to which it leads. He recognizes it at its first appearance in the child, and is even prepared for it before it appears. With kindest sympathy he checks it promptly and patiently, and, as the child grows older, he lets him feel the encouragement of companionship in the conflict. One advantage which parents have above all others in helping their children is, that if they will they can understand them better, both their virtues and their faults, and can help them with a more tender sympathy and patience.
There is hope for every child. We should look upon even the most unpromising children as angels in possibility. For common sense teaches, and the doctrines of the New Church emphatically teach by general principles and by explicit statements, that every child whom the Lord allows to be born and to grow up in the world may, if he fights his battle bravely, find a home in heaven. (AC 828, DP 322, 329)
The Lord in judging takes all conditions and circumstances into account. He that knew not and committed things worthy of stripes is less guilty than he that knew and committed the same sins. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12: 47, 48) And among the conditions which the Lord takes into account are those of heredity and birth, which He only knows. The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there.” (Psalm 87: 6)
Moreover, sin is not inherited, nor goodness, but only tendencies to one or the other. As tendencies, they are not a part of character, and, however bad they may be, they do not make one guilty. Evil dispositions do not become actual and a part of our real selves until we knowingly choose them and encourage them, and, so far as we are free to do so, act from them. Then they become ours, and by continuing to act from them we confirm and strengthen them. If one thus chooses evil, he is guilty, not before. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.” (Ezekiel 28: 20)
It is possible to overvalue a good natural disposition, and to exaggerate the disadvantage of one who has a conspicuously bad heredity. Just as evil of inheritance does not become of the character, and does not condemn, except so far as it is knowingly chosen and confirmed, so good of inheritance, even though it may appear outwardly lovely, does not make a heavenly character unless principles of truth are learned from the Lord, and the good is done religiously for His sake. We are taught that there is no depth to goodness that is merely of inheritance, which comes, as we say, by nature and not from principle, and there is no strength in it. It is compared to the goodness of animals, and when it is exposed to any real temptation it has no power of resistance, but is carried hither and thither into evil. (AC 4988, 5032, 6208) It is possible that natural good and pleasing ways may sometimes be a hindrance rather than a help in the formation of true, strong, heavenly character. One may move along easily and think himself good; hateful evils may never show themselves in his life and compel him to recognize their hideousness, and to condemn them and resist them, and to seek the Lord’s help against them. And so his character may never gain any real depth and strength. It may well be that such a life of easy natural goodness, which seems to us so lovely, has in the Lord’s sight less of strength and of real fitness for heaven than a life with far less natural goodness, which, by many temptations and even through many falls, has learned its own weakness and the hatefulness of evil, and with the Lord’s help has set itself resolutely against it. ” Many that are first shall be last,” the Lord says; “and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 29: 30)
It was otherwise when men were innocent, but in our day and generation it is permitted by the Lord that some awakening of our natural evil inheritance shall be for our good. It gives the opportunity to choose definitely between good and evil, to learn our own weakness and the Lord’s saving power. It never is useful to do evil : that confirms the evil in us; but if when we feel the tendency to it we resist it and turn to the Lord for help, we have gained in strength. We are even taught that those who go as little children to heaven, and grow up there in innocence, are at times allowed to feel something of what their natural disposition is, of what the Lord is saving them from, and the experience adds strength to their character, a deeper gratitude and trust, a more perfect safety and peace. (AC 2307, 2308) There is this same mercy over the permissions of evil inheritance and evil association which rest so heavily upon some children in this world. Where the conditions cannot be wholly changed we can cooperate with the Lord’s providence for the children by helping them to see the hatefulness of evil and to gain strength by resisting it. The evident evil tendencies of inheritance are the handles by which, with the Lord’s help, one may take hold of the work of repentance and regeneration. ” Master,” the disciples asked, “who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” ” Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” the Lord answered: “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 8: 2,3) Be the cause of one’s weak nature what it may, its very weakness may become its strength, by leading him to find the saving power of the Lord.
The providence of the Lord is with every human being, making possible to every one a home in heaven, and causing even the evil of inheritance to give unwilling help in regeneration. He labors always to restrain the effect of wrong within the narrowest possible bounds, and to multiply good to the widest possible. extent. So He teaches us when He speaks of visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments.
But because the Lord does His part, it does not follow that there is nothing for men to do. His providence always needs our co-operation. The very sentence which tells us of His care for future generations reminds us also of our own responsibility. “The iniquities of the fathers upon the children.” The son is not made guilty by his father’s sin; no one is condemned because of a bad heredity; and yet it still is true that careless and wicked parents make the way harder for their children. On the other hand, ought not a knowledge of the laws of heredity put it in the power of the well disposed to lessen the burden which is handed on from parent to child from generation to generation ? No doubt it ought. The words of the commandment distinctly imply it. But here we are on holy ground. One who would assume to predetermine and control the character of a child is surely touching with profane hands what belongs to the Lord alone. Human efforts in this direction must be rather negative than positive. They must be efforts to subdue self, and to put thoughts of self far away, that there may be no hindrance to the Lord in doing His blessed work. ” Except the LORD build the house…. except the LORD keep the city. . . . Lo, children area heritage of the LORD : and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Psalm 127)
Yet the thought of helping others should be a strong motive in resisting not only wrong acts, but wrong thoughts and feelings. Every resistance to evil lessens the power of evil in the world, for others as well as for ourselves. We resist evil for the sake of others when we put away some selfishness, that the Lord may work more fully through us and with us, and that the brightness of heaven may grow within us and shine around us. Especially must we think of this in our relations with the children. Parents -and the thought applies in a less degree to teachers and all who are with children-should faithfully resist every evil act and thought and feeling in their own hearts for the children’s sake, that they may bring to them a good and helpful influence and not a poisoned one; that they may not cut off from the children the blessed influence of the Lord, but in every way may suffer them to come to Him. Often one might grow careless or be led away by some sudden impulse, but the thought of the children who look to him for help reminds him to be faithful. “For their sakes I sanctify myself.” (John 17:19) It is our first duty to the children.
The discipline of our children upon earth and in heaven equally favorable to their spiritual growth and happiness
The discipline of our children upon earth and in heaven equally favorable to their spiritual growth and happiness
|The doctrines of the New Church give us the most comforting assurance of the happiness of our children in heaven. They teach us that they are kindly and .tenderly received by the angels, and that all their infantile wants are fully provided for. Their lot seems fortunate, both in what they escape and in what they gain. They are released from the encumbrances and hindrances of a material body; they are free from all want – from hunger, and cold, and disease, and pain, and the limitations of time and space, and privation in every form. They are introduced into beautiful homes, where they find everything which can in any way contribute to their comfort and culture and happiness. They have teachers who know how to touch the secret springs of their natures; to anticipate their wants; to repress in the gentlest manner, and to direct the unfolding of all their affections and intellectual faculties in order and harmony
When we see this, and furthermore when we find that these doctrines concerning the condition of our children who have passed into the other life, are based upon the Word of God and the immutable laws of Divine order, as we do when we examine them fully; and when we compare their condition with even the most favored children in this life, but more especially with the vast multitude of children who are born into the sphere of every evil influence, and who must necessarily grow up in ignorance, our first thought is, how fortunate it would be for all children to be taken from earth to heaven!
But this conclusion is drawn from only a partial view of the subject. . Removal from the labors and trials and temptations and sufferings of earth in infancy and childhood is attended with loss as well as gain. The hard conditions and sore trials of earth have their compensations, as well as the peace and blissful activities of heaven. A little examination of the nature of the human mind, and of the relations of this life to the life after death, will enable us to see that it is so.
We cannot doubt that the Lord has arranged the order and methods and proportions of our life in a manner which is best adapted to the full and harmonious development of all our faculties, in time and in eternity. Every step in life is ordered with reference to the one which succeeds it. It has its beginning, its culmination, and its end. One step grows out of another and is based upon it. There is “first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.” In the production of fruit the leaf is an instrument in forming the blossom, and the blossom in its turn is an instrument in forming the fruit. So it is with all spiritual growth.
Our life in the material body is one step in existence. In a true order of life it would have its beginning, its culmination, and its end. It must necessarily have some relation to our life after we leave the body: We are in our material bodies as the bird is in the egg. In a true order of creation the bird must attain a certain degree of development before it is born into this world. While it is true that its condition after it is hatched is vastly superior when considered in itself to its state of imprisonment in the shell, yet it is essential to its perfection as a bird that it should continue in the shell until it has fully completed that stage of its existence. To anticipate it by any violence would be in some respects an injury to its perfection. It would never attain the strength or fullness of development. The eagle could never soar so high, or be so keen of sight and swift of wing. Some beauty of color and richness of song would be wanting to every one prematurely forced into a new state of life.
The same law applies to human beings. They are in a shell in this life. As to their spirit, which constitutes their identity and personality as a human being, they are in embryo, in the womb of the material body. Their spiritual organization is effected in it; and without doubt it is in the best possible conditions to have that work well done, for these conditions are provided and determined by Infinite Wisdom, and by that Omniscience which sees the end from the beginning. Our life in this world is the basis for the superstructure of our whole being. It must of necessity follow that it is best to have that basis well laid, and that this cannot be done without following out and completing the order of the Divine providence with reference to our work.
While, therefore, it is true that the spiritual world is ineffably superior to this in substance, in form, in beauty in variety, and in adaptation to spiritual beings; while it is true that there infants almost immediately begin to walk and speak, and their development in, every respect is much more rapid than it can be here, yet it does not follow that, when all things are considered, it is a positive gain over what they would have attained by the slower and more difficult processes of earth. There is a kind of work which can be done better in this world than in the spiritual world. There is a work, which is essential to the complete development of all our faculties, and full attainment of our highest good, which can be done only in this world: To gain complete control over humanity, to become the last as well as the first. It was necessary that our Lord should assume a human nature, and be born into natural conditions. So human beings lay the foundation of their life here. They do a work which cannot be done in the other life. They work in many respects in darkness and silence; they work blindly and under rough conditions. But these conditions are essential to the kind of work. The most skilful artist cannot make delicate and beautiful work out of metals full of dross. They must be put into the furnace. Nor can we look for delicate handling and brilliant polish in the forge. But in those fires, and under the force of tremendous blows, the dross is separated from the pure metal, and it is brought into a state to receive the highest polish, and be wrought into the most beautiful and useful forms. So it is with our life.
An infant will always remain an infant, in some respects, in the other life. It will grow up into womanhood or manhood. It will gain knowledge and strength and wisdom, but it will retain something of the tenderness and the necessity for the help of others which attend the first stages of life. It will retain an infantile character. It can never be as self-reliant, in the good meaning of the term. It can never act so fully from itself. It would never be likely to perform what for the sake of distinction we may call the higher offices of humanity. It would not be able to teach others, to lead and direct and perform the more public functions. Those who go into the other life in infancy will never be pioneers in the investigation of truth, in exploring new realms of thought, and in attaining new varieties of good. They will like the privacy and sweet peace of home, and be content with a comparatively narrow routine of life. I do not think the angels who strengthened our Lord and helped His human nature to sustain His agony in Gethsemane, or those who rolled away the great stone from the sepulcher, or opened the prison doors for Peter, were infants. Like Moses and Elias, these angels had been trained in the school of trial and suffering, and like the multitude whom John saw, “they had come out of great tribulation, and had made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.” Those only who have been tempted know how to succor the tempted. Those who have suffered know how to sympathize with the suffering.
Those who pass into the other life in infancy and childhood will always have a delicate organization. It will be beautiful. They will be the embodiments of loveliness. They will be sensitive to the most interior and gentle influences, and will yield to the slightest motions of the Divine love. They will be forms of innocence, and will constitute one of the most important elements of influence and interior delight in heaven. But they will never stand alone. They will occupy, relatively, about the same position in the families and societies of heaven that they do in the families and societies of earth. They may be to the whole body of heaven what the nervous fluid or the more delicate membranes are to the material body, absolutely necessary to its perfection, but dependent upon others to support and guide.
Indeed, I think I see good grounds in the nature of things for the belief that it is in accordance with the purpose of the Lord from the beginning that human beings should pass into the other life in all ages and all states of development. There are children, who impress every one with the idea that they do not belong to this world, and that they will not remain long here. The impression may be true or it may not. But such is the fact. The saying,
“Whom the gods love, die young,”
has been handed down from generation to generation. There is an apparent truth in it, if we judge of the Lord’s affection for us by the fact that we seem better fitted for the peace and bliss of heaven than the rough work and sore trials of earth, though in reality He loves those whom He takes early to His fold no more than those who remain late. He loves the oak as well as the mushroom.
There are natures which cannot stand opposition, as there are some constitutions which cannot stand exposure and hardship. They wither under it, and are killed by it, as tender plants are killed by frost, There are others that need opposition to bring out their natural force. They need frost and fire to subdue their hardness and roughness, and give tenderness and sweetness to their natures. They grow and ripen under influences which destroy others. It may, therefore, be according to the order of the Divine providence that some should ripen early, and some late, that there may be every variety of character in heaven.
But if we can forget for a moment the pressure of time and space and material conditions, and regard ourselves as spiritual beings; if we look at character, at mental and spiritual state, and the laws of mental development, we can see, even in this world, how the hard labors and the sore conflicts of life are more favorable, are necessary, indeed, to the development of the highest and noblest qualities of human character. It is a universal law of the Divine order that all growth and all attainment should be gained by action. The development of our spiritual faculties is at first impeded by the opposition of the natural degree in us. But in the end we may be gainers by it. The new person born from above has every imaginable hindrance to remove, and innumerable enemies to overcome. It is born in the midst of enemies. It is nurtured like a lamb among wolves. Its promised land is pre-occupied by powerful combinations of evils, protected by fortified cities of false principles, and entrenched in habits. Its way lies through the wilderness, where it must endure hunger and cold, and meet wily enemies, and the most formidable dangers. But under the guidance of the Divine providence, these very labors and privations and trials will be instrumental in consolidating and giving vital power to the spiritual person. This plane of the mind gains vigor by every combat. The necessity of learning truth, and applying it in the various exigencies–of our daily labor and combats against the evil and false, gives breadth and nerve to the understanding. The affections, which are the fountain of courage – of heart-power – get their development by this exercise; gain vital energy. They may not expand so much as they would if they met with no opposition, but they become more firmly knit, and more intimately united with the understanding. The spiritual fiber becomes firmer, and more compact, like the fiber of those woods which grow upon open hillsides, where they are rocked by every storm, and get the full blaze of every sun. They are like the muscles of the well-trained athlete, clean and compact and elastic, and capable of any strain.
With all this strength, there is a tenderness which is not weakness, a gentleness which is the product of power penetrated by love. Such natures are large, not by dilution and diffusion, but by concentration. They are equal to emergencies. They have opinions. They cannot only affirm, but they can give reasons. They not only have faith, but knowledge. They can stand alone, and walk alone. You can build upon them as upon a rock.
To whom would you go for sympathy in some great sorrow? To one who had never suffered? No. Rather to those who had passed through the hottest fires in the furnace of affliction, and had come out tender and strong and pure from it. To whom would you go for advice in any great exigency? To one who had met with no difficulties? who had sailed only in calm weather with fair winds? No. You would seek those who have had experience, who had been in the same perils, and knew the danger and the way to avoid or to overcome it.
We get this spiritual discipline in this life. Our being gets root, and the more it is rocked and buffeted by storms the deeper it takes root. It sends them down into the earth of the natural mind, and pushes them out in every direction.
A human being who has not labored and grown weary, who has not suffered and despaired, is not half a person. Their faculties are only in the gristle. They have no temper. They will not hold an edge. There are great compensations for the labors and trials of this short life. We think them hard to bear, and they are grievous. But when they grow out of the conflict between good and evil in the mind, they are rich in their rewards. They give a tone and, temper to the soul which can be acquired in no other way. They lay the foundation for a superstructure of life which will remain firmer than the hills, and which will rise above the level of those who have known no labor, no conflict, and no sorrow. The Lord’s mercy is in human labor, in the darkness of our darkest night, and in the hottest fires of our afflictions. When we have enjoyed the blessedness of heaven for millions of years, if we could see the bearing of our sorest conflicts and heaviest burdens upon our future good, we would come back, if it was possible, and we could see it to be necessary to the attainment of the good which grows out of them; we would lay aside our glory and put down the cup of our joys, and take upon ourselves the burden, and the yoke, and the fear, and go through the wilderness once more, and suffer its hunger and its thirst and its defeats.
No. When we think of the happiness of our little ones in heaven, how safe they are, how free from the sore trials of earth, how rapidly they are advancing from joy to joy; when we compare their lot with that of our children who remain upon the earth, we need not envy them; we need not pity those whose path for manyyears must be steep and difficult, whose tender feet must bleed, and whose hearts must be pierced with many sorrows.
If we do our duty by them, they will yet outstrip those who have gone before. They will find the most ample compensation or every good deed done, for every battle fought and victory won.
But there is another good gained by a long and useful life in this world, which grows out of the changed relations of spiritual beings to the world without them. In the spiritual world all the scenery and all the objects of every kind which surround a person or a society, which the man or woman can see or hear or perceive by any sense, is a representative of the thoughts and affections within. The outward world answers to the inward world. The outward world is the effect of the thoughts and forms of the angels.
This life is the seed-time of principles. What we make our own here become the germs of all that will be our own through eternity. The typal forms of all that willbecome objective to us are stored up in the mind. The soul gets its color here, and the Divine light which streams through it in the other life will receive its hue from the peculiar quality of the soul.
The spiritual law according to which this takes place isthe same as the one with which we are all familiar inthis life. Every one has his own mental scenery. Every one lives in a world more or less different from the world which surrounds them. He or she has a more beautiful house in mind than the material house in which they dwell . They do nobler or baser deeds in thought than in act. Their mental world is determined by their knowledge and character, by the images in their mind, and the love of good or evil in their heart. Anyone who will reflect a moment upon the workings of his or her own mind will see that it is so. This law is not annulled or changed when we go into the other world. It is carried into fuller effect. Here we may be in a better or worse condition externally than we are mentally. John Bunyan in his cell was a pilgrim on his way to the Heavenly City, meeting adventures, and fighting battles, and passing through scenes more various than any knight-errant of old, or pilgrim to the Holy Land. On the other hand, those who dwell in palaces, and are surrounded with all the beauty and splendor which wealth and art can produce, may live in a mental and moral world foul with vile lusts, and terrible with infernal purposes. But in the other life the outward world will correspond to the inward. It will be no better and no worse. An angel could not wear a torn, filthy, and unbecoming garment. A devil could not live in the pure, shining robes of the angels. It would be a torment.
An infant has not stored up any images or states of mind; it has not formed any character in this world, and this must have some effect upon its condition there. The minds of children must be in some degree transparent and negative. They will be supplied with everything that can in any way contribute to their happiness. But it will not be so fully their own. It will be the creation of others around them. Like fluids, they will assume the forms of other vessels, rather than give form to them.
They can never rise so high because they have not so deep a root. They can never extend their influence so widely. Their affections cannot assume such variety of form, their sympathies cannot be so wide and deep. Their natures cannot be so large and capacious for the reception of the Divine life. If they are saved from much labor and suffering, and many dangers, they also lose the good which is gained by them. If they enter early into the joys of the heavenly state, they miss that fullness of preparation which is essential to the largest and most complete development of our spiritual nature.
While, therefore, we have so much to comfort us in the removal of our children to the other life, we have equal cause to rejoice in the possession of those who remain, and the most powerful motives to do all in our power to protect them from evil, to instruct them in the truth, and to initiate them into the practice of a heavenly life, that when they throw aside their earthly garments, they may be in a state to join those who have gone before.
The death of children a ministry of good to parents
The methods of educating them
The methods of educating them
|The Lord has endowed people, the crowning work of His hands, with the possibility of endless progression. There is no assignable limit beyond which they may not pass. The more a person knows, the more he or she is capable of knowing. The more we put into the mind, the more capacious it becomes. Every new idea is a new vessel to receive, and a new power to give. Our affections and all our intellectual faculties gain strength and depth and capacity by exercise, and they. will continue to do so for ever.
The laws of mental and spiritual growth are not changed by passing out of the material body and coming consciously into the spiritual world. On the contrary, we are brought into better conditions for the exercise and development of every faculty which has been perverted by evil. We escape the trammels of time and space by escaping from the material body, and we come into a world where everything is specifically related to us.
Life in the spiritual world is a continuation of this. The death of the material body is no more an interruption to our life than sleep is. When we rise in the spiritual world we begin where we left off here, just as we begin in the morning where we left off when we went to sleep at night.
The infant, therefore, has everything to learn, the same as if it had remained in this world. It has to be taught. It must have teachers and schools, methods and implements, for nothing can be done in any world without the means of doing it. The Lord uses means to accomplish His ends. The instruction is more perfect in the other life, because the mind is in a better state to receive, because the teachers are wiser, and the means better adapted to the end. But this we shall see as we enter more particularly into the subject.
Our first inquiry naturally is, What are our children taught? To answer the question in one sentence, I should say, to be useful; to love the Lord and the neighbor, and to carry their love into practical effect by doing all they can to promote the highest good of all. The angels teach our little ones who have passed to their care what we ought to teach our children who remain with us – to be useful. We have to learn many things in this world by slow and painful processes which they do not. But it is all for the same purpose. We learn to read that we may gain knowledge, and we gain knowledge that we may use it for the good of others. We learn trades, arts, and professions as means to gain a living and perform a use in the world. Those who have passed into the other life are freed from what we may call the mechanical and material part of education. They have not to learn to read as our children do by an outward and mechanical way, though they have books in the spiritual world and learn to read them. But no one has any knowledge which he does not gain by the exercise of his mental faculties. The little child has no innate knowledge of the Lord or of their own nature – they must gain it.
It may strike some persons as a novel, if not an absurd idea, that we are to learn to be useful in the other life because the idea is so prevalent that the rest of heaven consists in doing nothing. But this isa total mistake. Happiness doesnot consist in idleness. If it did we should be happiest when we were asleep. A stone in the street, or a dead log in the fields, or a mummy well embalmed, would be perfect types of rest and happiness. Rest for the mind is not inaction. It is harmonious and orderly activity. Rest for the affections is not ceasing to love. It is loving proper objects, and having ourlove received and reciprocated. It is love embodied in act; love communicated by word and deed. Hope and fruition gohand in hand in heaven.
Instead of having less to do in the. other life, weshall have more. The occupations will be more numerous, and they will continue to increase to eternity as our knowledge increases: Truth is infinite. The more we know, the more we shall see there is to be known. Gaining ideas does not exhaust knowledge. Discovering a new method of doing a particular work is not one step towards the limits of invention. Every new invention leads to many others. This will continue to be so forever in this world and the principle will exist much more fully in the spiritual world.
It is a law of Divine wisdom that we should enjoy life by living. By giving to others we receive more abundantly from the Lord. heaven is a life of the most active use. It is the outflowing of heavenly affections into every beautiful form; into speech and act and deed. The more perfect the speech – the more lovely the deed, the more fully the love will be communicated and the more lively the joy. The activities of heaven will be the perfection of happiness because they will not be forced, because they will be spontaneous – the play of the affections, and not the servile labor of compulsion.
If we lookat our own natures, we shall see that all delight flows from activity in some form, and the more ardent the affections the greater the activity. The idea, therefore, that every one isto be initiated into some use is in accordance with all we know of man’s nature. Itis the Divine method of making human beings happy.
One of the first things, therefore, that children are taught is that the Lord is their Father, and that every good thing comes from Him and is His gift to them. They are, therefore, continually initiated into knowledge concerning Him; their thoughts and affections are led to Him. At the same time they are taught that they must love their companions and teachers and they are initiated into the exercise of the truths they are taught. Precept and practice go hand in hand.
Herein is one of the great perfections of education in the other life. Children are taught the truth in doing it and by doing it. They learn as they live and by living. Knowledge of which they have no present use is notstored up with the idea that it may some time become useful. Indeed, there is no separation of truth and life as there is in this world. They see the practical use and force, of every truth as it is learned. Theysee the necessity for it. Education is something more than instruction. It is the calling forth of all the spiritual faculties into full, harmonious
action. It is not cramming the memory with words which have no meaning to the child. It is not driving them to repeat a given number of terms by fear. It is calling their own affections and thoughts into play by processes of delight. It is sport rather than hard study. It is the wise direction and proper gratification of awakened curiosity, and not its suppression. Our children in heaven are not shut up in close rooms, and compelled to sit hour after hour in dreary confinement, poring over repulsive tasks. Their schools are more like holiday excursions without their fatigue and exhaustion, in which new and interesting objects are continually appearing to call forth their affections and instruct their minds.
A common, delightful and most effectual method of instruction is by representatives. In the spiritual world everything which surrounds the inhabitants represents their state of love and intelligence. Their outward world is a perfect picture and symbol of their characters. Their houses, their furniture, their clothing, and the scenery around them, are a mirror in which the specific character of the inhabitants can be seen. The principle is the same we see in operation everywhere in this world, only it is carried into full and specific effect there. Our dress and habitation, our employments and amusements, our furniture and books and ornaments, indeed everything we touch, bears the impress of our characters. Every house has its peculiar expression. The carpet and the chairs and the bed and the closets and the table all speak.
And if we could fully control them, they would speak much louder and more truly than they do now. Suppose every woman had the means of clothing herself as she chose, and that she was compelled to choose for herself – would not her dress reveal her taste, her pride, or humility, her neatness or the want of it?
In the spiritual world every external thing is the exponent of some internal principle, and the inhabitants have a perception of their meaning. The ideas and affections assume corresponding forms and make the outward world of every one, and when occasion requires they can create forms which represent the truth or affection they wish to teach.
For example: Suppose an angel wished to give the children he or she was instructing an idea of the nature of innocence. Instead of giving the child a description of innocence in words to commit to memory, or of explaining it in an abstract way, the teacher would create a living representation of innocence and cause it to pass like a vast panorama before the children. It may be a beautiful landscape through which they wander for hours. This landscape is filled with every lovely thing which is the embodiment of innocence in its various forms and relations. The most delicate and lovely flowers spring up around them wherever they go. Lambs, and every beautiful and harmless form of animal life act out their natures in sportive gambols, Lovely birds fill the air with song. Groups of heavenly children, clothed in beautiful garments, singing heavenly songs, and engaging in innocent sports, are seen on the lawns and in the groves, Their very sports are an exhibition of innocence in some of its forms. Their garments illustrate it. Innocence speaks in the tones of their voices. It is expressed in pantomime in their gestures. It shines in their faces and is set forth to the life in all the objects which surround them. As the little pupils enter into this scene, innocent affections become awakened in their own hearts, they have a perception of the meaning of the whole scene and of each particular part of it. They see it acted out to the life. They see innocence itself in form. After an hour or day of delight, they return to their homes with a perfect image of the nature and form of innocence indelibly impressed upon their minds. There is no labor in giving or receiving instruction in this way. The heavenly teachers enter into the representation with as much delight as the heavenly pupils. The representation is indeed the outbirth of their own affections. They get a clear and more accurate idea of the nature of innocence from this embodiment of it in outward forms; their hearts glow with a more heavenly ardor; they see more clearly the depth and richness of the, Divine goodness, and their hearts open more fully to the Lord to receive it from Him.
The children also are instructed that these forms which have so delighted them come from the Lord; that the whole representation came from Him, and was a partial and finite form of innocence in Him. Thus they are taught to connect everything with the Lord, to look upon it as His gift, and a token of His love.
Sometimes a single object will appear which is the symbol of some thought and affection. It may be a flower; whose color and fragrance fully express the idea. It may be a bird, whose form and plumage and song and graceful motions represent it. It may be an animal, or a garment, or some change in the appearance of the world around them. I think we can all see that this is the perfection of teaching. It is impossible to conceive of any more efficient method of communicating truth. If we wish to give a child an idea of a plant or landscape, how much more. quickly and clearly it can be done by showing it to him or her than it can by any verbal description. No words can convey to the mind such a clear and distinct idea of the terrible passions of people as a battle conveys.
In these heavenly schools there is not only the perfection of method and the command of every facility necessary to effect the desired end, but there are other elements which add vastly to the superiority of their instruction and their rapid progress in knowledge.
The objects themselves are more beautiful and attractive than the things of this world. Spiritual substances are so much more excellent than any material substances that everything made of them excels every earthly quality and form. The flowers are not only brighter in color and more beautiful in form than any earthly flowers, but they shine as from an inward light. They are as it were a creation from those who are present; the natural representation of principles which exist within them. They change, therefore, with their changing states. They change as the expression of the face and the gestures of the body change as the thoughts and affections are exalted or depressed. They are, therefore, a constant revelation to us of our own states, and of the states of those around us. They have a personal relation to us, and speak to us more clearly and specifically than the outward world in this life can.
They also teach us of higher things and of our more immediate relation to the Lord. We can, indeed, see the Lord’s goodness reflected in nature in this life. But the idea is vague and general, and comes by way of inference. If our food and clothing came to us every day without any special agency of our own, as gifts from the Lord, we should see the Lord’s goodness in them. They would remind us of Him, as a gift reminds us of the kindness of our friend. Now it is true that the material universe and everything in it is a perpetual creation from the Lord. It is new every morning, and fresh every evening. It does not, however, seem so to us. But in the spiritual world everything is specifically related to us, and seems to be a special gift to us. It is, therefore, a perpetual reminder of the Lord; it brings us as it were into more direct relations to Him.
Thus the child is led to look to the Lord. Every object reminds it of the Lord; connects its thought with Him and calls forth its affections to Him. Thus the child is constantly led into the practice of the first commandment, to love the Lord with all the heart, and his or her faculties unfold in true order. The child regards everything from a central point of view, and sees it in its true light.
We see everything in this world as it were upside down. We look upon the web of creation on the wrong side. We mistake the appearance for the reality, the means for the end. We reverse the true order of life, and chase the shadows of the good and true while we lose sight of the substance. Consequently, we are continually led astray, and must be constantly retracing our steps. Much of the labor of life is spent in unlearning, and setting ourselves right; in correcting false views, and breaking up bad habits.
The Lord seems to be so remote from us that it is difficult to connect Him with the constant operations of nature; so many agencies interpose between us and Him, that it is difficult to recognize His goodness in our food and clothing, and our daily means of comfort and culture. It is so difficult that multitudes do not think of Him, and some do not believe in His existence even, much less in His constant providential care.
But it is not so with our children in heaven. They are led as it were into the presence of the Lord by everything they see and hear and enjoy. Their food and garments and beautiful habitations, and all the lovely objects around them, are gifts from the Lord and tokens of His love. They are the forms and messages of His love to them. Every new object is a new token of it. Their affections are newly awakened by new and beautiful surprises. As they advance in knowledge they find new flowers in their gardens; new species of birds sing new songs; the sun shines brighter, the air is purer, the waterfall sparkles with new light; new and more beautiful garments appear in their wardrobes; new ornaments adorn their rooms. And all these things are the gift of the Lord. Seeing this, their hearts open more largely to Him. Their natures expand, their power to perceive grows more acute, they come into clearer light, and are drawn nearer to the Lord. Every new idea is imaged and reflected in new forms in everything around them. In this way their affections are elevated to the Lord and centered in Him. The chords of love which bind them to Him are continually strengthening.
They are also taught and led into the constant practice of loving each other. They are educated together. Those of a genius adapted to be useful to each other, and none others, are brought into one family, and associate with each other.
Children do not like to be alone. They are social, and they have more influence upon each other than the most persistent formal instruction. One bad associate will do more to pervert an innocent nature than much patient instruction and many good examples can correct.
How happy in this respect are our children in heaven. In this world they corrupt each other. They cannot go into the streets without hearing some profane word, or seeing some evil deed. They teach what is false and evil to each other at home. The parents develop evil passions within them, and by precept and example lead them away from the Lord rather than to Him. The moral atmosphere in the best of homes, in the school and street, in city and country, is tainted and it is impossible to escape from its influence.
But our children in heaven are free from all these influences. They help each other to love what is good and true. Each one is alive with love from the Lord, and exercises it towards all his or her companions. Every one in the little circle of home stands between all the others and the Lord, and communicates that love to them in a form peculiar to himself. Each one is like a choice flower in a bouquet, which gives a new color, a new perfume and a new beauty to the whole.
We must not think of these angelic children as all cut after one pattern, as an assemblage of negatives and insipid proprieties. heaven is, not a perpetual Sabbath in the Puritan sense. It is a state of glowing and ever-varying activity. The innocent affections of the children are called into constant play. Education is not repression. It is what it truly signifies, the drawing forth of all the intellectual faculties into harmonious and joyous play. The most of the commandments in this world are negative: They begin with “Thou shalt not.” In the other life they become affirmative. They are laws of life leading to good. There are no negatives in the heavenly language. There are no such words as “must not,” and ” do not.”. Education is direction, not restraint. The faculties of the spirit unfold from within, like a blossom. The affections are primary, and lead and give form to the thoughts. The thoughts are forms of the affections. There is no separation between the will and the understanding. Every truth springs from the heart, and is learned by heart, in the true sense of the term. Thus education is life itself, a lovely, harmonious, beautiful, happy life.
It may be difficult for us to conceive what one child can do for another when each one has all its natural wants supplied. But we must remember that everyone not only preserves his or her individuality in the other world, but becomes more distinctly themselves. heaven is not sameness, but constant variety. Nor is it composed of opposites, but of homogeneous natures. This harmony of varieties gives endless scope to the exercise of affection and thought. Each one receives the Divine life in a different form from another. There is something novel to all in every one; there are perpetual and interesting surprises. As everyone in heaven loves all others better than him or herself, they are more interested in what another says and does than in their own thoughts and affections. This, as every one can see, would open an exhaustless field for communion. When two children came together each would be interested in the other’s form of thought. They would find the other a complement of their own. Thus, the greater number of persons a child was brought into contact with, the more complete would be their own life, the more they would find to give, and to receive. Thus by heavenly methods they learn truth for heavenly uses, and they use it as they learn it. Knowledge is simply the means of attaining their ends for the time. Every step is a clear and distinct attainment. It is an advance of the whole nature. The head does not outstrip the heart, nor the heart the head. All the faculties unfold in true order, and keep equal pace. There is a roundness and fullness and, completeness of culture in every stage of progress. Every day is bright with joys because knowledge is simply the way to attain them. The knowledge of every day is equal to their wants. So there is satisfaction and contentment in what they learn and do, and a constant enjoyment and peace. They live in the present. Their whole being is so absorbed in what they learn and do and enjoy that they have no care for the morrow, no regret for the past. Their whole life is an eternal now, and an eternal joy.
I have heretofore spoken more of the general principles which control and regulate the lives of children when they enter the other world. I think it will interest you, and give you a clearer idea of their life, to carry these general principles out to their legitimate consequences; to mention some of the particular things which they do, and the particular influences which must be continually operating with a silent but ever-active power, to develop their affections and strengthen their minds.
They are committed to the care of those who understand their natures, and know how to teach and guide them. Such is the perfection of purely spiritual conditions that those who are best adapted to each other, and can be of the most use to each other, are brought together. Thus every child is committed to the care of those who, of all the innumerable hosts of heaven, are the best fitted to its peculiar nature. The Lord provides for them the best educators in the universe. The children are committed to the care of those who understand their peculiar genius, and know how to touch the secret springs of their natures and call forth their affections in due order and form. They know how to enter into their motives and life, and to adapt means to their particular wants.
We know how impossible it is always to find such teachers in this world. Parents themselves do not know how to manage their children. How few of us fully understand our children. How few have the wisdom to choose the best methods of government and instruction, or to apply them when selected. We have not the skill; we have not the patience; we are wanting in that spiritual love which looks only to the spiritual good of the child. We constantly make mistakes, sometimes from weakness and importunity; granting indulgence when we should withhold it, and at other times acting with too much severity from anger. How often do we see our children taking the first steps in an evil course and feel that we are powerless to prevent it. How often from ignorance or folly or selfishness do we help them on in the development of the loves of self and the world.
Our children are gathered in such great numbers in schools that there is no possibility of knowing their individuality of character and peculiar mental genius. The same instruction, the same methods, the same motives are applied to the bold and timid; to the quick and slow of apprehension; the active and the indolent. The consequence is that all must suffer more or less.
The teachers will also have their likes and dislikes. It cannot be otherwise. The children, too, will have theirs. They grow out of their natures. Neither are to blame for it. If, to this want of knowledge and skill and natural adaptation, we add the evil influences to which they are exposed, we can form some faint idea of the difference of condition between our children in heaven and on earth.
But let us look for a moment at one. The natures of the children are open and ingenuous. Their minds are transparent. They have no concealments. They have such entire confidence in those to whose care they are committed that they lay bare their inmost souls to them; not from a sense of duty, but from a sweet ingenuousness and innocence – from that perfect love which casts out fear. Their motives are as open as their faces. What freedom this absence of all fear and apprehension must give them. What rest and peace will mingle with all their delights. They will love those who take care of them, and the love will be fully reciprocated. Thus the child and the angel-guide will be interiorly united, and happy in what is given, and received. Life will be a flow of delight. Their natures will unfold as blossoms do in spring-time. They have perfect teachers. Think of it. Perfect in every quality of head and heart.
Their homes are perfect in every quality and form; what we may call their outward conditions, their surroundings are perfectly adapted to their genius and all the wants of their natures. They are all instrumental in calling forth the affections and educating the intellect. The law is the same which is in universal operation in this world, but it is carried out to perfection there. Every parent who loves their children desires to provide them with a comfortable home, and to surround them with objects whose silent but constant influence will tend to elevate and ennoble their characters. The desire and love of doing this comes from the Lord; it is the result of His providential care for His children while in this world. He has made the whole world beautiful and attractive for this purpose. But matter is so hard and difficult to deal with, and people in our world are so selfish and perverse, and so eager to lavish everything upon their own lusts, that it is impossible to provide beautiful homes for all, or to make beautiful homes contribute to the spiritual culture of all those who dwell in them.
But in heaven it is not so. There are no hindrances to carrying into perfect effect the desire of the Lord to have all His children surrounded with everything which can in any way contribute to their comfort, culture, and delight.
Such is the nature of spiritual substances that the homes of everyone in the spiritual world can be specifically and exactly adapted to all the wants of their natures – to their highest spiritual and intellectual, as well as to their lowest natural, wants. Food, clothing, and habitation are given to every one in the other life by the Lord. There is, therefore, no want of means, or of wisdom, or power to make them perfect; that is, perfectly adapted to the nature, tastes, and wants of every one.
These three necessities demand the greatest share of our care and labor in this world, and they constitute the most efficient means of moral and intellectual culture. Let us look at them for a moment, and see what they must be in the other life, and how effectively, they must serve the ends of the Lord in communicating delight.
First, let us consider the subject of dress. We all know what a powerful influence dress has upon the minds of children, and adults too, in this world. What attainment in after life ever fills the heart of the child so brimful of delight as the first trousers, or the first pair of boots, or the first dress which marked a stage in the progress of the child towards girlhood or womanhood. No colors in after years are ever so bright, no pattern so beautiful. After supplying the wants of the body for protection and comfort, dress reaches the mind and clothes it with ideas, and stimulates its affections. How much it cultivates the taste, and in the selfish and worldly nature develops pride and fills the mind with vanities.
In the other world, the clothing its inhabitants wear means far more than it does here. It is the embodiment and expression of their ideas. The dress which each one wears has a personal fitness which it is impossible to attain in this life – a fitness of color, of form, of texture and material. It fits the affections and thoughts and the taste and the whole mind as well as the body. Every child will be clothed in a dress which represents its innocence, and intelligence, and individuality of character. It will feel its fitness; it will perceive its beauty, and it will rejoice in it. Every ornament will have a meaning; it will be an exponent of the child’s thought and affection, and consequently it will be constant source of delight. It will always be new and fresh, and a source of new pleasure. Recall. the greatest delight you ever felt on the attainment of any new article of clothing, and you may gain some faint idea of the pleasure which our children in the other life constantly derive from their dress.
But although their clothing is beautiful beyond the power of language to express, and is a source of constant delight, it does not minister to any evil passion. It does not beget pride or foster vanity. They see the fitness and admire the beauty, not only of their own garments but of those of their companions, and this perception calls forth their affection for their companions and for those to whose care they are committed. They take as much or more delight in the beauty of their companions’ dress as they do in their own. They regard it as a gift of the Lord also, and thus it calls forth and elevates their affections to Him. So it becomes an instrument of culture and delight.
According to the same law, the house they live in is adapted to their tastes, to their, minds, and nothing is wanting that can in any way contribute to their good. It is the embodiment of all their desires. The first or most essential use of a house is protection from storm, from heat and cold, and to serve as common center in which the whole family can gather, and a place where expression can be given to the more interior, personal, and private affections. Spiritual beings have the sense of these wants. They need a common center, and privacy for the free play of the more interior, personal and delicate affections. They need a home as much as we do; and it is impossible to conceive of home without a house, or of a house without rooms, and the more excellent the house the more various the apartments.
Applying the general principle that the Lord provides houses for those who dwell in heaven, and keeping in mind the perfection of spiritual substances, we necessarily come to the conclusion that the homes of our children in heaven must be beautiful and pleasant beyond our powers of conception. They must surpass the most beautiful dwellings on the earth, more than they surpass the most wretched hovels of savage tribes.
They are built of more excellent materials, as spiritual substances are more excellent than matter. There are earths, and all things of the mineral and vegetable kingdoms in the spiritual world, as well as in this. They exist, indeed, in much greater variety. There are precious stones and the most beautiful woods and materials for garments, as silk and wool. The earth is as solid to the tread of spiritual feet as this earth is to the tread of ours. But still all these things are spiritual in form and substance.
Swedenborg describes some of the dwellings which he was permitted to see. He says their form is the embodiment of architecture. It is an expression of the art itself, that is, in size, form, proportion, materials, location, ornamentation, and arrangement within and without; all the parts are perfectly fitted to each other, and to those who dwell in them. They are the embodiment of their affections and thoughts. There is not a single thing in them which is not of some use, and which as not a beauty according to use; nor is there anything wanting which could in any way gratify the taste or contribute to the happiness of those who dwell in them. Every child and adult has the room of his or her choice. He or she finds everything in it they want. It is as large as their thought; it is as beautiful as their tastes. Everything in the furniture and ornaments, in bed and closet and wardrobe, in color and material; in light and shade and form, perfectly corresponds to their wants – not merely bodily wants, but to the wants of the child’s whole nature. The same is true of everything without the house. The street, the lawn, the grove, the garden, the orchard, the landscape.
Take the garden for an example. It will contain those flowers, and fruit-bearing vines, and shrubs, and trees, which would most delight the children. There would be nothing which did not interest them, and there would be nothing wanting which could in any way gratify any taste or contribute any delight. Every plant would speak to them. Its form, color, fragrance, its leaves and fruit, would be the embodiment of some affection and some form of thought. It would be a mirror in which some phase of interior life would be variously and perfectly reflected.
The outward beauty, grandeur and glory which surround them is only a small part of its value. It is their sympathy with it; its connection with their inward lives. It does not oppress them. It is not a cold artificial splendor which merely dazzles. It is warm with the life of the heart; it is natural. They feel at home in it, as we feel at home in the scenes of our childhood. It is as though all the associations of the past with any sense were gathered into one moment; and went thrilling through affection and thought:
But notwithstanding this familiarity, this sense of rest and contentment in these scenes of beauty and grandeur, the familiarity and commonness does not dull the edge of curiosity, or diminish the zest of delight. They are ever new. They give the unfolding natures of our children continual surprises. Not startling and unpleasant ones, but surprises which are the fulfillment of dim prophecies within them. Thus they never tire of their homes.
But the supreme excellence of the richness and beauty of their outward world consists in the fact that its whole influence elevates and purifies their affections, draws out their love for each other, and opens their hearts more fully and interiorly to the Lord. It is a constant reminder to them of the Lord’s goodness to each one of them. It not only begets in them a knowledge of their dependence upon the Lord, but a growing delight in being dependent, and in feeling that they are.
The natural person cannot bear much prosperity in this world. The natural person is prone to settle down in useless and destructive luxury, if they can command the means of indulging their appetites. If they have power, they become tyrannical; if they have knowledge and genius, they are proud, and claim admiration and indulgence. So we have to be beaten, and crossed, and pinched with want, and to make our way through mountains of difficulty. Like some plants, we have to be continually clipped in, or we should not bear any spiritual fruit. Indulgence spoils our children.
But in the other life it is not so. Loving what is good and true, the more they indulge their affections and tastes the better they become.
We must not think of their life, however, as one of luxurious indulgence and sensuous gratification. They have their uses, which tax their powers to the utmost. I say uses, not tastes, or duties, because we associate with these words something of constraint and arbitrary force. Children in this world delight in exercising their powers to the utmost verge of endurance, where led by their delights.
Infants in the other life are sent to infants in this, and they take great delight in associating with them, and perform an important use in the development of their innocent natures. I have no doubt that the spiritual sight of infants and little children in this world is often opened, and that they see their heavenly companions, and the beautiful spiritual scenery which surrounds them. It is not merely from an internal influence that they crow and laugh, and the whole body seems to be moved with delight. It is not merely a poetic fancy that
“heaven lies about us in our infancy.”
It is a beautiful reality. Our little ones see beings invisible to our grosser sight, and their tender natures become imbued with something of their heavenly sweetness and purity.
Those who have a taste for it learn to play on instruments of music, and to sing songs which perfectly express their heavenly affections. They have not only harps, but instruments of every kind; and their music is incomparably grander and more joyous and elevating than any upon earth. Indeed, our noblest songs in this world are only some broken chords and snatches of the harmonies of the other life, which have floated down and been caught by the sensitive ears of the great masters of song in this world.
Boys are boys there as well as here. They have masculine tastes, a boy’s love of action. They are enterprising, confident, and daring. They love competition. They delight in sports which test their strength and skill, and give free play to all their bodily and intellectual faculties. But they are guarded and guided with such wisdom by their heavenly teachers that they engage in those pastimes only which serve as a relaxation, and which tend to beget and cultivate generosity and kindness of nature, strength and dignity of bearing, and grace of movement.
According to the same law, girls are girls. They delight in those offices and recreations which are feminine, but not effeminate. They grow up into a lovely womanhood, and gain its strength and beauty and grace and innocence by the exercise of those qualities in their daily lives. They are gay and joyous; their happiness flows forth in song and laughter and innocent sports, and in the free and orderly play of every feminine grace.
Boys and girls associate with each other, and influence each other for good. The girls soften and subdue the natural robustness of the boys, and tone down their tendency to wild force. The boys in turn give strength and dignity to feminine gentleness. They give variety and completeness to social life. Thus they grow up in the midst of influences which tend to cherish the good, the beautiful, and the true in their natures. They breathe an atmosphere of love and purity. They walk in paths of wisdom, and they find them ways of pleasantness and peace. They grow towards the perfection and prime of an eternal manhood and womanhood. Every faculty unfolds in true order and harmony: Their characters are well balanced, and complete at every step; and yet they admit of continual advancement.
Such is an imperfect view of what our doctrines teach us concerning the condition of those who pass into the other life in infancy. It is not a mere idle fancy. It is based upon the nature of the spiritual world and well-established laws of human nature. It is well calculated to comfort those whose little ones have passed into that life. It assures them that it is well with their children, and shows how the Lord’s goodness and mercy may be as fully shown in taking the lambs from our flock into His own fold as by giving them to us at first. Blessed innocents, they are safe from all the temptations and trials of this life. They will never suffer hunger or cold or fatigue or pain. They will never be pinched by want. They will never be tormented by fear or stung by pangs of remorse. They will never want any good. They will go on from step to step in the knowledge of truth, and in the attainment of wisdom and happiness for ever. The cup of life will always be full of the richest joys they are able to receive from the Lord, and its capacities will continue to enlarge to eternity.
The necessity for their education, and the favorable conditions for gaining it
The necessity for their education,
|One of the first questions put by those who hear what the friends of the New Church believe concerning the spiritual world and the nature of human life there, is, How do you know these things? They are interesting and beautiful, that no one can deny. They are what every one who has children in the other world desires to believe. They comfort those who mourn; they assuage the sorrows of the bereaved heart; they satisfy, to some extent at least, the demands of parental love. But how do you know that they are true ? How did you learn these things which have been so long hidden from humanity? What evidence can you give to confirm them ?
These are proper questions, and New Church people take great delight in answering them, though they are not always able to do it to the satisfaction of those who ask them, because they cannot be fully and rationally answered in a few words. No great vital question of natural science, even much less the principles which lie at the foundation of our existence as spiritual beings, can be answered in a few words. We say, for example, that we get these things from Swedenborg. But that does not satisfy. The question immediately rises, How did he learn them? We answer that his spiritual sight was opened, and that as to his spirit he was admitted into the spiritual world, and actually saw and heard the things which he relates. Then we are met with the customary epithets which are supposed to set aside his testimony – mystic, dreamer, insane. His claims are regarded by the great majority of humankind as unworthy of credence. It is impossible in the nature of things, men say, that he could see and hear such things. If we reply that there are many instances recorded in the Bible of the opening of man’s spiritual sight; that the whole Book of the Revelation is a record of what John saw, while, as to his material body, he was in the Isle of Patmos, and, as to his spirit, in the spiritual world; if we say, further, than there are well authenticated instances of the opening of man’s spiritual sight, in all ages and among all people, the question comes as quick as the report of a gun after the flash, Why was Swedenborg rather than some one else prepared and commissioned to do this work? and the question is put with a tone of voice which shows more clearly than the words, how absurd they think the claim is. We answer, Swedenborg was selected for the office of making known to man the nature of the spiritual world and of man as a spiritual being, because he was one of the greatest and wisest and best men who ever lived in the world. The history of mankind gives us no example of a more unselfish and devoted lover of the truth than he was.
But we do not ask people to accept what he says merely on his assertion and authority. While we gratefully acknowledge that we could never by our own power have discovered what he has revealed to us, yet when his disclosures were once made known, we hold that all he has taught us is a proper subject for the exercise of reason. We hold that it ought to be subjected to the test of reason and revelation. We ask everyone to give them this test. We are delighted when we can find a man or woman who will do it, for we are quite sure that whoever will do it in a candid spirit, with a sincere desire to know what is true, will find them in full accord with reason and revelation; and that they will stand any test they can apply to them, and satisfy all the real wants of the head and the heart.
We are remanded, therefore, to the intrinsic probability of Swedenborg’s disclosures. Let them be judged by their merits; by their coherence with each other; by their accordance with the Divine nature and purpose, and with man’s nature.
For example, let us take the subject of the present discourse, the necessity for the education of infants and children in the other life; we can test what Swedenborg says about it by the nature of the human mind itself, and the purpose of the Lord in the creation of man. This is the point of view in which I wish to place you, and from which I wish to view the whole subject. I wish not only to tell you what our doctrines teach us about the condition of children in the other life, and how they are educated, and their whole natures developed into angelic strength and beauty, but I wish to show that this is done according to the laws of the human mind, and the conditions in which the children are placed.
The human mind, composed of will and understanding, or of the affections and intellect, is man’s spiritual nature. It comprises all that belongs to a human being, except the material body, Mind and body are the whole of man. At death the body remains in this world, the mind or spirit goes into the spiritual world. Its nature is not changed by this transition. It remains the same as it was while in the body. Its wants are the same; its powers are the same; its qualities are the same. It has gained no knowledge; it has obtained no new affections. It has simply been raised out of the material body and brought consciously into the spiritual world. Keeping these facts in mind, every one can decide whether what I have to say is intrinsically probable or not; whether it is contrary to Scripture or not.
First, let us see what reason we have to believe that there is any necessity for instruction. So far as we know anything about the human mind, all its knowledge is acquired. It is not innate. The new-born infant has no knowledge. It does not possess the instinct of animals. It is the most ignorant and helpless of created things. It has everything to learn. If it leaves the material body and is born into the spiritual world as soon as it is born into this, it is as ignorant and helpless, and needs care and instruction as much as it would have needed them if it had remained in this world. At whatever age a little child passes into the other world, it is there as it was here.
But while an infant has no actual knowledge, it has the germs of all knowledge; while it has no power of loving actually developed and in exercise, it has the capacity for a seraph’s affection. A mere possibility itself, it has a nature which can be developed beyond any assignable limit. The infant just born has the capacity of passing beyond the present attainments of the highest angel. But this attainment is to be made by the exercise of its faculties. It must learn; its affections must be called into various play and unfolded by use.
These faculties, or what we may call the nature of the infant, are tainted with hereditary evil. Every child derives its peculiar nature, or specific character, or tendencies, from its parents. The mind of a child is not like a sheet of white paper, or the prepared surface of the photographic plate, passively receiving and retaining every form impressed upon it. It is organic; it is alive. It is like the germ in the seed, or the invisible principle in an egg, which determines the form and color and nature of the whole plant, or animal which springs from it. These germs derive their quality from the parent. “Like begets like.” The moral as well as the physical nature is hereditary. Moral as well as physical disease is handed down from. generation to generation. The natural spontaneous impulses of children are selfish, and no child who was left to the unrestrained indulgence of its natural appetites and passions would grow up to be a good man or woman. .
This hereditary evil nature is not sin, it is only a tendency to it. The child is no more to blame for it than it is for having a narrow chest…. Sin is the voluntary violation of a known moral law. An evil nature is a tendency to sin.
Every child takes with it all its hereditary nature; all its tendencies to evil. This must be so, because it is the child itself which goes into the other world. It leaves only the material body in this world, which is only a better-fitting garment, woven of material substances, and fashioned in the form of the spiritual body. The subject of education and the necessity for education are the same that they would have been if the child had remained in this world. The conditions and means of education only are changed. The child is placed in far better conditions than it would be possible to find in this world. These conditions are worthy of a passing notice.
The child is freed from the encumbrance and restraint of the material body. The material body in itself is dead. It has no life which the spirit does not give it. It grows slowly; it is feeble and will never bear much strain. It is easily deranged; it is heavy and dull.. It is like a veil to the senses – a glove to the hand. In this life we can only approach the child through the obtuse and perverting medium of the body, and the child can only apprehend what comes to it through this medium, and as it comes. How long it takes to get any recognition from the infant before it can even answer the mother’s smile! How much longer before it can understand her words. It requires months and sometimes years before it can walk and articulate words. How many efforts it must make before it can stand, or even sit alone! How long it must coo and mumble before it can speak a word distinctly! How many falls it will catch before it can walk. I doubt whether we ever do anything in after life so difficult, and so apparently impossible, as walking and speaking.
But when the infant passes into the other life, it escapes from all the hindrances and limitations of the material body. It is an infantile form. It has the same spiritual body it had before its material body died. Its death was only its resurrection from the material body. The material body is a cast upon the spiritual body. Death is withdrawal from the cast. The living mold remains the same.
Freed from this encumbrance, the spiritual body, which is the child itself, develops much more rapidly than it could when imprisoned in the flesh. The little infant from its mother’s arms begins to walk immediately, and to express its affections by sounds. It grows up much more rapidly, also, because it does not wait for the slow motions of the material body. It has no dead weight to carry about. Its body is organized of spiritual substances, and moves spontaneously at every effort of the will.
The idea that the soul grows seems very absurd to those who have been accustomed to look upon it as a formless essence, or a vital force, and it is absurd from that point of view. How can that which has no form grow? It is a contradiction in terms. But the point of view is false. The spirit is in the human form. The spirit gives form to the material body. The body grows as the spirit grows. We know this from abundant experience. When a little child leaves its material body, the body does not grow any more, but soon turns to dust. There is no power in the elements of matter, in carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, to organize themselves into a living body. There is no more power in the food we eat to make brain and muscle, nerve and bone, than there is in the clay ‘to mould itself into bricks, and in the bricks to arrange themselves into a house. The spirit forms the body. The body grows because the spirit grows. If it is the, spirit which weaves the body around it as a garment, why should it cease to grow whenit is freed from the body? If the body does not cause its growth, why should it prevent it? Why should it not grow more rapidly until it attains its adult and normal form?
If infants always remained infants in the other life there would be just ground for the too common idea that the death of an infant is a loss to humanity; a promise unfulfilled, a hope blasted. Delightful as infancy is, and fruitful in innocent joys, every parent would regard itas a terrible calamity if the child, born today, was to remain forever a feeble infant. It is not infancy in itself which has so many charms. It is the sense of progress, the surprises which continually greet the parental heart, caused by newly-awakened powers. The half-opened bud is more beautiful than the full blossom, but it would not be if it was to remain half-opened.
It would be impossible to reconcile the death of infants with the Lord’s goodness and wisdom if the death of the bud was the cessation of all progress; if they were to remain infants for ever. Reason and observation, and the nature of the human mind, and the goodness of the Lord, all unite in declaring that the growth of the spiritual form is not arrested by its separation from the material body. On the contrary, it is brought into better conditions in every respect for more rapid and perfect development. Your little son or daughter who passed from the sanctuary of your home to the purer and more beautiful homes of the angels lost nothing of the means and capacities for growing up into the full stature of angelic manhood or womanhood; on the contrary, it gained immensely in every faculty and power of growth and attainment.
What a comfort this would be to you if you would let it have its due weight. How many of us have children in the other world and in this world! If we should compare their conditions in the one particular which determines in which world they live, whether they are in the material body or out of it, how much we should find in favor of those whose bodies we have put tenderly away into the earth. They are free from all physical restraints. They are as free to move as the mind itself. They can be where their thought and affection carry them. Those who remain here are imprisoned in the flesh. They must carry the dead weight of their bodies with them wherever they go; and they are often kept from companionships and delights by those physical impediments. How often they would go and come if they were not hindered by the body. How much weariness they would escape. How many delights they would share, if by merely thinking and willing they could change their places.
Our children in heaven have escaped all the pain of disease and all the weariness of labor in escaping from the material body. How great a gain that is. If some angel should announce to you when your child is born, This child shall never be sick, shall never suffer a moment’s pain, would you not consider it one of the greatest blessings that could be conferred upon it? How much our children suffer, and how much we suffer with them! I do not know a more painful situation than to see a dear child writhing with pain, and to feel utterly powerless to relieve it, and how often we are called upon to sustain this trial! How many diseases they are exposed to! There is no day without some danger from exposure from their own imprudence. How much they suffer from hunger and from cold! How few children there are in the world who have a really happy childhood!
But those who have gone into the other life never fail to have it. Not one. Those who go from the poorest and foulest homes, as well as those who go from the best, gain entire freedom from all physical infirmity.
When the merciful and loving angel of the Lord came for our children, then he took them from all weariness, all hunger, all the torments of cold and heat, all the weakness of pain and disease. He gave us more than we could ever ask or hope for while they remained in this world. If we could see thosewho have gone and those who remain, side by side, we could not ask the Lord to let them come back, we could not grieve over their removal from earth. As we saw them rosy with perfect health, strong, vigorous, elastic; all manly and noble qualities crowning the heads of our sons, and the dignity of wisdom embodied in their forms, and flowing forth in every graceful movement; as we saw the loveliness and purity of heaven, blossoming like half-open roses in the faces of our daughters, and the grace of the angels swaying every motion, the beauty of the angels embodied in their forms, and their whole natures imbued with the modesty, the gentleness, and sweetness of the angels, we could not but confess that the Lord had done better for those whom He had taken into His own fold than we can do for those who still remain with us. How could we fail to be thankful that the Lord had made us instruments in giving existence to beings who are the subjects of so much happiness, a happiness which will continue to increase in variety, intensity, and fullness of joy to eternity.
But they are not only freed from all physical restraints and imperfections, from weariness and pain, and sickness of every form. They are also removed from the temptations to evil which assail them on every side in this world. This is the reason why they will never sin, though their hereditary nature is evil. In the other life they are carefully removed from every influence which would have any power to call it into activity, and they are surrounded with attractions whose whole influence tends to develop their good affections. This repression of the evil tendencies of their hereditary natures is not effected by restraint and coercion. The angels to whose care they are committed do not shut them up, and by so doing hope to exclude temptation. Their minds are so preoccupied and filled with heavenly delights that they have no time for anything else. The wheat gets such a start in the ground of their affections, that the tares have no chance to grow, while in this life it is too often the reverse. The hereditary nature is like the germ of a plant which remains dormant.
They become regenerate there as we do here. The necessity is the same and the process is the same. There is no possibility of entering heaven and living in it in the full consciousness and enjoyment of its blessedness until we are born from above, until we have a heavenly nature. We must receive the kingdom of heaven before we can enterinto it, as we must receive eyes before we can enter into the kingdom of light.
But while the necessity for regeneration still remains, and the means by which it is effected are the same with our children in the other life that it is with those who remain here, it is much more easily effected with them because there are not so many difficulties in their way. They are not exposed to temptation, and they form no evilhabits. They have no sins to repent of, they have no evils to subdue and put away. There is no difficulty in itself in leading a heavenly life. The whole difficulty consists inlaying down the evil one. The love of selfand the world grows strong and hardens into habit in this life before we begin a heavenly life. We have much to unlearn and undo. Our spiritual natures are like the land of Canaan before the Israelites entered it. They are preoccupied with powerful enemies, who have entrenched themselves in strongholds, who are brave and cunning and skilful in the use of every weapon of offence and defense. We have to conquer them and drive them out. What a long and weary and painful contest it is! How often we are defeated and taken captive! What slow progress we make! How often we despair!
Our little ones who have passed into the other world are saved from all this labor and conflict, this weariness and despair. They have no such hindrances. They are exposed to no temptations; they have formed no evil habits; they have imbibed no false principles they have cherished no evil affections. There are no enemies to oppose them. How blessed is their condition! Free from sin and error; with ardent and innocent and tender natures, open to every heavenly influence, with what delight they will receive every heavenly truth! How their hearts will glow with love to the Lord and to each other! How rapidly their natures will unfold.
Thus we find. the necessity for learning truth and for regeneration the same in the other life as in this. The nature and laws of the mind are the same. The nature of the child is not changed. It is an infant still. It is in the form and stature of a child. It will never know anything which it does not learn. It will never taste theblessedness of an affection which it does not exercise. But its condition is vastly improved. It has escaped all the hindrances and obscurities which are caused by the material body. It is removed from all temptation; it never becomes enslaved by any evil habits; it has nothing to unlearn. It is a real being in a real world, surrounded by everything that is perfectly adapted to call all its faculties into play and committed to the care of those who know how to touch every secret spring in its nature, it must rapidly develop into the strength, beauty, and loveliness of an angel.
What children are after death – Who takes care of them – The homes provided for them
Chapter 1 children in heaven
|” Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom Of God.”– Matt. 10:1….Viewed from this world, the mortality in our race in the first years of life is a great enigma. It is contrary to the Divine order; it is the defeat of the Divine purpose; it is the blasting of parental hopes; it is offering the cup of the richest blessings to the lips with one hand, and dashing it to the earth with the other. The Divine promise to parent and child is broken. How many a Rachel has mourned for her children and would not be comforted because they were not! How many bereaved hearts have wondered why the Lord should bestow upon them such a priceless gift, only to take it from them; why He should open such deep and rich fountains of new life, only to change them to bitterness. These questionings of the sore and aching heart cannot be answered from the point of view of this life.
But when we regard the subject from the spiritual world, it presents a very different aspect. What seems to us as death is seen to be entrance into life. What appears to us as failure and defeat of the Lord’s purpose is seen to be carrying it out to successful completion. Earth is the seminary of Heaven. The infant and childlike soul is not the bud of an immortal flower broken from its stem and left to wither and die. It is taken up by the living root and transplantedinto the paradise above. It is taken from the wintry sphere of this world and placed in the warm spring of the spiritual world, where every faculty will unfold in order, harmony, and fullness.
The doctrines of the New Church give us clear light, and the most consoling assurance upon this subject, which so intimately touches the parental heart., They place us in a position from which we can see it as it is. They throw light upon its darkness, and not only give us the means of solving its enigmas, but they comfort our bereaved hearts; they heal our wounded affections; they show us that the Lord’s loving-kindness is as fully manifested in taking them from our natural sight as in giving them to us.
They teach us that all who leave this life in infancy and childhood are saved. The children of heathen as well as Christian parents; the multitudes who are exposed and left to die by the superstitions of the crowded populations of the East; the offspring of sin and shame – of the worst as well as the best of parents; all are saved. Here we have a third part of the human race sure of heaven, under whatever conditions they may have been born. Here also we find a rich source of consolation for those who have been naturally bereaved. If the Good Shepherd has taken a lamb from your fold, you are sure that it cannot be lost. You are sure that your highest hopes for your child have been fulfilled. You never did ask and you cannot ask for anything better than it has attained. If you had the wealth of the world, you could not surround it with so much beauty, you could not provide it with such abundant and excellent means of comfort and delight, as it now enjoys. If you had the power of the world, you could not protect it so securely from all harm, from every evil influence, from all spiritual and natural danger. If you had the wisdom of the world at your command, you could not direct the unfolding of its spiritual faculties so perfectly. You could not give it so large, so full, so liberal, so complete a culture as it will now attain. You cannot conceive, much less provide, such large, varied, and complete means of development and culture for every faculty of intellect and affection, as the dear child whom the Lord took from your fold and placed within His own has come into full and permanent possession of.
If this is true of those children whose parents have ample means for their wants and education, and who would grow up in a sphere of intelligence and purity in the circle of home and school, what shall we say of those who would be kept in ignorance; who would be subjected to the contagion of evil influences; whose evil propensities would be stimulated to activity by evil example? The little one, innocent of wrong against the Lord or man, is taken from the midst of influences which could not fail to corrupt its moral nature, and placed in the best conditions for its spiritual health and happiness. How the infinite mercy and wisdom of the, Lord shines out in clear light from what has been regarded as a most mysterious dispensation of His providence or permission!
When little children pass into the other life, they are infants and children still. They gain nothing by the mere transition. The little infant which goes from its mother’s arms to the arms of the angels is the same little child when it reaches them that it as when it left hers. It is just as weak and ignorant, and needs the same care. If you should see it after it is raised up out of the material body, you would know that it was your child, for it has the same features, the same character; it preserves its individuality. It has left nothing behind that properly belonged to it. It loses nothing!
Many of you have seen what we call the death of children. It is one of the most touching scenes in human experience. Did you ever feel so helpless as when you saw the dear child of your affections going from you, slipping as it were from your hold? Bond after bond is severed. The little hand fails to return – the pressure of your own; the lips no longer answer to the mother’s voice. You hold them only, as it were, by the eye, and the light begins to fade and soon is gone from that. The last natural link which bound them to you is broken, and they have gone – fallen into the dark unknown. That is the too vivid and terrible appearance from this life.
If you could see the other side of the event, how different it would appear! You would see nothing of death. Two companies gather around the little one, invisible to each other. How different their feelings and the offices they perform! We are trying to hold it in this world, and every step of its removal is like breaking one of our heart-strings. We minister to it as long as we can reach it through the material body.
The other company stand with gentle hands and warm hearts to lift it out of the grave of the body, and to welcome it to their own home. They see nothing but life. New affections are awakened in their hearts, new joys fill their souls, as they see new opportunities for the exercise of them, a new being to love and care for. Their thoughts and affections must be’ somewhat of the same nature, only fuller, closer, and more ardent, as those with which the parent’s heart greets the newborn child.
If both sides of the event could be seen by both companies at the same time, what a change it would make in the thoughts and feelings of both! The angels could not but look with compassion upon the sorrowing parents. And what comfort they could give them! Oh sorrowing mother, they would say, grieve not so blindly and wildly. The dear child of your heart is not lost, but saved. It is not dead, but more than ever alive. The good and wise and all-merciful Lord, who loves us with infinitely more depth and tenderness than we can love each other, permits this transfer of your child from your home below to our home above, for your good, for our good, and for the good of the child. We will love it with an affection as deep and pure as your own; we will supply its every want. We will keep the precious trust for you and restore it to you when you are ready to receive it. We will more than fulfill your fondest hopes and largest expectations.
As you saw the beauty and glory of heavenly wisdom shining in their faces, and the gentleness and purity of heavenly love embodied in all their actions, you could not fail to be comforted with the assurance that your child would want no good which love and wisdom could supply. As you saw it rising out of the material body, leaving disease and pain behind; as you saw life glowing in the face of your child, and its whole form springing into new activity; as you saw it welcomed by, and welcoming, the angel friends, you could not say, My child is dead. You might feel sad that one so dear to you was removed from your care and natural sight. But your sadness would be tempered with a calm and sweet sense of its happiness. You would see that this change is not death; it is transition; it is the springing up of the real child from the earth; it is the transplanting of an immortal life from the garden below to the paradise above. And if you saw this event in any degree of correctness, you would say, The Lord has more than fulfilled my hope. “The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In this light one of the most terrible trials of life is seen to be full of the loving-kindness and tender mercy of the Lord. The soul is comforted, sustained, and the healing balm of heavenly consolation is poured into the bleeding heart.
But this source of comfort and hope will be seen to be much larger and more satisfactory as we follow the little children who have passed into the other life to their new homes.
As I said before, all children enter the other world with the same forms, the same natures, and the same attainments, with which they leave this. They need instruction and parental care in that world as much as they would have done if they had remained here. And the Lord does not leave them orphans. He provides a home and instruction for every one.
The spiritual world has so long been regarded as an abstraction, and spiritual beings as formless essences, and consequently without organization, order, or relation to each other, that it is difficult for men to believe that it is a more substantial world than this, and that all its forms are more sharply defined and distinct from each other, and that all the relations of those who dwell there are more specific than they can be in this world. But such is the fact. Heaven is a sphere of growing activities, directed to particular ends. We shall need each other’s help more in heaven than we do here, and we can do more for each other. Our happiness will consist in giving and receiving. Heavenly love and wisdom will flow out into heavenly deeds of a precise and specific form. It is the nature of a heavenly life, that each one desires and is in constant effort to communicate his own love and wisdom to others. The more largely he can do it the happier he is.
We can all see what a large and varied field for the exercise of heavenly affections is opened to the angels in the instruction and care of the little’ children who are constantly passing into the spiritual world. Accordingly, our doctrines teach us that “as soon as infants are raised from the dead, they are carried up into Heaven, and delivered to the care, of angels of the female sex, who in the life of the body loved infants tenderly, and at the same time loved God. Since these angels, when in the world, loved all infants from a sort of maternal tenderness, they receive them as their own; and the infants also, from an affection implanted in them, love them as their own mothers.”
Thus we see. that the tender infants who are taken from the cradle and themother’s arms are not left to perish. They are not crowded into a great orphan asylum and committed to the care of strangers. They go from an earthly to a heavenly home. In most cases they go from a motherly love of a merely natural degree, from a merely animal affection, to a motherly love of a heavenly degree. It is a motherly love purified from all selfish and worldly affections. It is a mother’s tenderness imbued with a heavenly tenderness. It is a mother’s devotion intensified and exalted by heavenly devotion. It is as much more watchful, patient, and self-sacrificing than any natural affection, as heavenly love is purer, deeper, and holier than any earthly affection. But it is not only ardent, gentle, and pure; it is what a mother’s love often is not-it is wise. Wisdom and love go hand and hand in Heaven. The motherly affection of the angels is not weak and foolish. It will not yield to importunity. It is firm as well as gentle. It can guide and restrain as well as lavish tenderness and minister to wants.
Each motherly angel receives as many infants into her home as she desires, and no more. Thus infancy, which is one of the most powerful instruments in the development of our affections, and our spiritual culture, in this world, is not wanting to any home in Heaven whose inmates desire it.
Nor are these tender germs of life, just transplanted. from the earth, distributed by lot, or assigned in an arbitrary way to any who will take them. They are, as it were, drawn to their homes by a spiritual attraction. As there is an inborn and natural relation between mother and child which draws them together, and adapts them to each other, so there is a spiritual relation between the children and the motherly angels into whose home they are introduced. The love of the angelic mother is not merely an indiscriminating and general benevolence; it is specific. There is a cause in her own nature and in the nature of every child which comes to her home, which determines why that one should be selected rather than another. If a hundred infants were placed in one room, and you desired to obtain one or more of them, to take to your own home and adopt as your own, you would see something in one which would attract you, and something in another which would repel you. You would see something to determine your choice, and all would not choose alike.
This power of perceiving the specific qualities of character is vastly increased in the other life, and this faculty enables the angels to select those children whose natures are most congenial, or whose peculiar qualities of character they are the best qualified to unfold and wisely direct. Thus there will be a more intimate, natural, and tender relation between the angels and the little ones committed to their care, than exists between parents and children in this world.
This care and education of children is not a wearisome task assumed by the angels from a sense of duty. It is not attended with care and anxiety and watching and exhausting labor, for there is nothing of that in Heaven. It is a labor of love. It is a means of giving free play to heavenly affections. It is the unfolding of parental affection purified from all its dross and imperfections, and elevated to a spiritual plane of life. The natural affection is intensified and exalted. It is not prim, cold, and bloodless. It is playful, joyous, spontaneous. It bubbles up and runs over in forms ever-varying and perfect.
These angels are not abstract and bloodless beings, created by a fiat of Omnipotence, without human form or human affection. They are your mothers and grandmothers, who, with renewed youth and exalted affections, are performing a service for your children, which it would have given them the greatest pleasure to perform if they had remained in this world. They minister to their wants. They watch their unfolding faculties with the most joyous delight. They enter into all their innocent and playful affections with genuine sympathy, and grow young by the new life they receive from the Lord through them. They come in contact with new life, and are sharers of its blessings. It is a genuine fountain of youth to them.
These little new-comers from the earth are also received into homes. It is impossible to conceive of a home without some definite and distinct habitation that has a permanent relation to our thoughts and affections; that can become rich with associations; that has an individuality, and a sort of personal relation to our real natures.
This idea of distinct and personal relation is one of the prominent doctrines of the New Church concerning the spiritual world. Instead of being merged in vague and indistinct generalities, everything becomes more clearly defined and individualized. All lines
are more sharply drawn. Everything is more distinct to the senses. Unity is not gained by destroying distinctions and merging the individual in the mass. This principle applies both to persons and dwellings.
To float about on a cloud in the regions of space would not be home-like. To join an innumerable multitude in everlasting song would not be home. The very idea of home is opposed to multitudes, to publicity. Home is shelter; it is privacy; it is room for the free play of the most interior personal thoughts and affections.
Little children are received into homes, where they are loved and cherished with the most tender affection. And such homes! There are no such homes on earth. None so quiet, so orderly, so joyous, so full of beauty, so warm and sunny and bright, with light from without and light from within. They are perfectly furnished with every means for comfort, culture, and delight. They are free from all the contagion of evil example. The infant nature unfolds in them like flowers in a rich soil, and in the warm breath of spring. The freest play is given to every heavenly affection. There is the greatest freedom with the most perfect order. They live in an atmosphere of love, and are directed by a wisdom perfectly adapted to their states.
In such homes are our children who have passed into the other life. Free from all disease and pain, from all causes of discomfort and harm, with room for the freest play of all their innocent and child-like affections, happy in the enjoyment of today, they will be led on to the attainment of higher good by a process of continued delight.
It is well with our children whom the Good Shepherd has taken to His own fold in Heaven. They are safe beyond all danger, they are happy beyond all contingencies. They are the rich treasures of the heart, laid up in Heaven; where no moth of earthly lust, no rust of falsity, can corrupt, and no thief of passion or deceit can break through and steal their innocence and joy. They. will continually grow more fully into eternal youth, beauty, and blessedness.