Parenting in Imitation of God

Swedenborg Foundation

By Coleman Glenn

Our early impressions of God are strongly intertwined with our early impressions of our parents. After all, when we are young children, our parents are the ones who clothe us, feed us, teach us, and sustain us—they act in some ways as surrogates for God. It’s no surprise that so many religious traditions, including Christianity, refer to God as a divine parent.

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If it’s true that our ideas about parenthood shape our ideas about God, it’s also true that our understanding of God shapes how we raise our children. If we think of God as stern and dictatorial, we’re likely to be stern and dictatorial as parents. If we think of God as gentle and warm, we’re likely to act gently and warmly as parents (or at least try to!).

The Swedenborgian understanding of God comes from reading the Bible with the firm conviction that God is love and that Jesus is God. The picture of God that emerges in this reading is one of a God who loves each and every person in creation, who protects human freedom as the apple of his eye, and who always acts for the eternal welfare of all. Looking at those attributes, we can draw insights into how we might better imitate God in our parenting.

Here are three ideas that have been particularly valuable to me as a father of two young kids:

1.  Loving your child means loving everyone else’s children, too.

There are passages in the Bible that explicitly suggest acting in imitation of God. Several of them have to do with loving as God loves. This means loving not only ourselves, our own families, or people who agree with us, but loving even our enemies:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44–45)

What does this mean for parenting? Because we know our children’s hearts, we can be tempted to assume that in any conflict, they are in the right. But if we’re called to love as God loves, then we’re called to extend love to other people as much as we extend love to our own kids. Obviously, we will feel a stronger affection for our own children, but we are called to act as lovingly even toward strangers and those who seem to be our enemies.

This doesn’t mean we have to choose between loving our children with all our hearts and loving everyone else. One of my favorite Swedenborgian concepts is that in the long run, caring for an individual and caring for the good of all make for one and the same thing. For example, if we teach a child to care for the less privileged, we’re serving the less privileged and our child by creating the foundation for a life—an eternal life!—of joyful service. It’s not an either/or situation, so it’s a useful exercise to ask in any situation whether there is a course of action that will be best both for our children and for everyone with whom they are interacting.

2.  Protect your child’s freedom and sense of self—even if it’s easier not to.

My personality is such that I find it much easier to just do things myself than to try to help others do them. In some situations, this is a useful trait; in many others, though, it’s a failing. This is particularly true in parenting: it is much easier to pick up after my kids than it is to coax them to pick up after themselves. It is much easier to wrangle over my son’s head whatever shirt I choose than it is to patiently wait while he tries to choose between dinosaurs and robots.

It is significantly harder to offer a child freedom and a sense of self than it is to do everything for them. It takes much more work, but I remind myself often that the work is worth it. We do have to set limits, of course. But within those limits, it is vital that children be free to make choices and to have a sense that they are acting from themselves.

The book Divine Providence expresses just how much the Lord cares about human freedom. One of the Lord’s greatest gifts to us is heavenly freedom: the sense that we act from ourselves and that from this we have the ability to act with free will. According to Swedenborg:

The Lord protects our freedom the way we protect the pupil of our eye. The Lord . . . is constantly using our freedom to lead us away from our evils, and to the extent that he can do so through our freedom, he uses that freedom to plant good things within us. In this way, step by step he gives us heavenly freedom in place of hellish freedom. (Divine Providence §97)

It’s not easy to watch my kids make choices I don’t want them to make. But I remember that it’s not easy for the Lord to watch me make choices he’d rather didn’t make—and yet, he keeps giving me the freedom to make those choices. I think it’s important that I offer the same gift to my kids.

3.  Discipline with a purpose.

I firmly believe that there is no inherent value in punishment—it must always be for a purpose and never simply for payback. The prophet Ezekiel records God as saying, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). If God allows punishment, it is never for its own sake; it is always so that the person may “turn and live”:

People have charity and mercy . . . when they exercise justice and judgment, punishing the evil and rewarding the good. Charity is present in the punishment they inflict, because zeal moves them to reform the wrongdoer and to protect others from the harm such a person might do. In the process they are looking out for the best interests of the wrongdoer, their enemy, and are wishing that person well. At the same time they are looking out for and wishing well to others, and to their country itself. (Secrets of Heaven §2417)

As parents, we are required to instill discipline in our kids. While discipline is much broader than consequences or punishments—involving other such things as establishing routines—it does still have to include these kinds of corrective actions. With all our choices in this area, we need to be asking ourselves the following questions:

  • How will this disciplinary action help my child make a better choice next time?
  • How will it help protect the child herself and the people around her?

So we should keep some things in mind:

  • Encourage our children to think about what they might have done wrong and what other choices they could have made.
  • Help them come to those conclusions themselves; but if they are unable to do so, always be very clear with them.
  • Demonstrate, when possible, a clear connection between consequence and behavior (e.g., “I am going to take away the baseball bat for a week because you had trouble stopping yourself from hitting the walls with it, and that hurts the walls.”)
  • Let them know they are still loved, and let them know you believe they can make a better choice next time.

There are thousands of different perspectives on exactly the right way to set up discipline. Find what works best for you and your family, but make sure it follows these guidelines: it will work to help the child in the long run, and it will work to keep the child and others safe. Remember the first principle mentioned above: from the eternal perspective, loving our children well and loving our neighbor well make for one and the same thing. This is the perspective of God, who desires what is best for all of his children.

Coleman Glenn is an author and a New Church minister currently working with General Church Outreach in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Religious education – What should children learn?

religious educationAsk parents what is deeply important for their children to learn in life and they will often say things like being a decent human being, having meaningful relationships, leaving the world a better place, and being freed from personal hang-ups. How can children be helped to form their own personal and spiritual goals? Religious education is seen as an opportunity to provoke challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong, and what it means to be human.

Religious fundamentalism

The rise of prejudice, discrimination and violence associated with religious fundamentalism has led more people to question the certainties of any religion, and there is growing doubt concerning even the need for any kind of system of spiritual belief. Given the decline in belief of the traditional Christian version of God — particularly in north-west Europe — there is a tendency for thinking adults not to see ultimate reality as fixed into any certainty: it being likely to change with different experiences. Thus religious education tends to be sidelined.

The question is sometimes asked about the individual who knows love and does good works that grow out of that love and is content with the richness of the life that love brings. What need have they of any sacred writings or of any belief system?

Religious education and history of spiritual ideas

Clearly, some humanists and agnostics live a better life than some of those who are affiliated with a religion. Nevertheless, I would claim that religious education can reflect the historical source of spiritual concepts: not just concepts that can help one to see through the illusions of the natural world to a deeper reality within, but also that are essential to bring about the good life for all.

These days, the aim of teachers in religious education is to provide information about a range of faith traditions — especially now in multicultural Britain where pupils in one classroom often come from a range of ethnic backgrounds. In its latest report into religious education in British schools, the Government agency Offsted concludes

“There is uncertainty among many teachers of RE (religious education) about what they are trying to achieve in the subject.”

Need for religious education despite non-religious language

In our increasing secular society, there is a growing trend to use non-religious language. We use such terms as getting in touch with one’s higher self, becoming calm through meditation, gaining a better understanding of one’s attachments and cravings, recognising the life force all around. In other words spiritual ideas are seen as potentially useful and important even if they are usually not explicitly linked to traditional religious teachings.

I would say what we appreciate as the ‘Good’ in life is difficult to get a handle on and  communicate without ideas taught in religious education. Don’t you need an awareness of ethical ideas and spiritual teachings to guide your actions? For example the golden rule ‘Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you’ is an idea in the mind about the `Truth’. This is something which puts into words your appreciation of the importance of where other people are coming from when you are dealing with them i.e. what can be ‘Good’ about your relationship with other people. Knowledge about what is ‘True’ tying in with awareness of what is ‘Good’.

Here are a few other spiritual ideas:

  • We should take care of the earth and protect the environment.
  • Rules defining right and wrong should not be based on enlightened self-interest but on the needs of all.
  • Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  • Something must have started the universe.
  • Your life does not cease at bodily death.

Don’t you need such worthy ideas to guide your thoughts and intentions? From such ideas come systems of belief that can give you hope especially when you get discouraged by the set-backs in life. In other words I feel it does matter what you think, as your understanding about things guides your actions — what you do, how you do it and how confident you can be you are on the right track.

According to Emanuel Swedenborg an awareness of deeper ideas concerning what is ‘Good’ and ‘True’ is essential. Without a religious education and thus knowledge about such things, how could there be a channel for deeper understanding: arguably without understanding, you cannot find a system of spiritual belief that will give you hope and confidence in the good life.

I would say unless they first learn about deeper ideas children are not protected from the illusions of life. Teachers in religious education however can only go so far in helping the young. They can impart information, but isn’t it up to the learner what to do with it?

Limits of religious education

According to Swedenborg’s theory, religious education has its limits: an awareness of ethical and spiritual ideas by itself is merely something in the head: personal choice and heart-felt desire are also important. So he asserts that an inner thirst for what is really ‘True’ and ‘Good’, based on a memory of ethical and spiritual ideas, when put into practice will result in enlightened understanding. In other words a heart of good intent coupled with a head full of good ideas will lead to an inspired system of belief that not only provides meaning, but can lead to the hope and confidence needed for personal transformation and commitment to some worthy goal in life.

“It’s what you choose to believe that makes you the person you are.” (Karen Marie Moning, Darkfever)

What should religious education teach

So what should religious education teach children?

Government has identified a difficulty in structuring and defining a clear process of learning in religious education. I believe this difficulty reflects an emphasis on religious diversity in practice and belief across different faith traditions, at the expense of offering clarity regarding beliefs that different faiths have in common. Are pupils being expected to work all this out for themselves without being offered spiritual ideas about what is universally “Good” and “True”?

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Child rearing – What spiritual practice helps?

Children and grandchildren can provide your child rearing with wonderful moments. Their spontaneity and sense of fun can brighten your day. But almost out of the blue all hell can break loose and they can be a real pain testing your limits and boundaries. child rearingWhat they want can be different from what you want. They seem to be noisier, more untidy and more demanding than ever you expected. A spiritual practice is needed for difficult child rearing.

Responding as a good carer can be a real struggle, particularly when you feel stressed and tired. What psycho-spiritual ideas can help? The professionals talk about empathy, consistency, and unconditional love in child rearing. But how do you find these within yourself when you are feeling challenged?

Deeper aspects of child rearing

I would like to suggest the answer is that understanding and acceptance come from focusing the mind on deeper aspects of the interaction with the child; more than on just how you are feeling at the time and more than what you are immediately aware of that is going on.

This deeper watchfulness is a form of spiritual discipline: staying in the moment, and being alert to deeper issues, rather than mindlessly jumping to judgment or being attached to what you hope for. Experience shows illuminating insights can emerge as one stills the mind.

Some challenges of child rearing

When the baby is crying non-stop it might be caused by a wet nappy, or hunger, or perhaps due to an uncomfortable position, or teething pain or maybe it is a sign of illness.  If whatever you do doesn’t seem to work and the problem keeps recurring most days you might be feeling fraught and think something like ‘This is a wilful attempt to control me’ or ‘It’s an emotional cry for help’ or ‘This baby has too low a level of tolerance of discomfort’.

Whatever you happen to think colours your feelings and actions. The danger is you become unduly upset and this will affect the trust the infant has in you.

Jumping to conclusions during child rearing

It will probably take an effort to reserve judgment, to remember that the cause of the crying might be different on separate occasions. To become alert to such possibilities often means staying in the moment and focusing on the problem rather than jumping to conclusions.

Likewise how do we see it when a school age child is having a tantrum of shouting, hitting, and spitting at you? As a sign of a psychiatric condition? An evil disposition? A spoilt brat who requires harsh punishment? When caught up in the feelings of the situation it can be hard to see other possibilities.

Not rushing to judgment would mean you calmly dealing with the immediate crisis and only later trying to explore whatever had been going on. The child is not in thinking mode just yet. Filled up with anger he or she isn’t ready to be reasoned with. That can come later.

Reflection during child rearing

I hear you thinking ‘It’s all very well saying don’t jump to conclusions, but how do I do that?’ One suggestion is that you try to consciously reflect on what you are saying to yourself.  Question what it is you are assuming, what you are expecting to happen and what belief is being aroused by the situation?

Admittedly this requires some effort but once thoughtful consideration becomes something you are used to doing then it becomes easier to put one’s emotions on one side and instead gain some insights into what might be going on. This accords with the old idea of counting to ten and taking a step back before reacting. Like all spiritual practice this requires self-discipline.

Unfair expectations during child rearing

One common assumption is that the child will conform to one’s hopes and aspirations: for example be sensitive, hardworking, or athletic. Such beliefs are unfair as children come with their own characteristics and dispositions and cannot be molded against their will to fit in with adult expectations. By being attached to certain future outcomes there is a danger of mindlessly denying the child a sense of individual uniqueness.

Acceptance in child rearing

One thing that can enhance a relationship is when adults make room for children accepting each of them as they are, for example being prepared to negotiate and compromise.

Accepting a child’s warts and all as a person in his or her own right doesn’t mean encouraging any socially unacceptable behaviour but rather acknowledging that, like the rest of us, he or she has certain negative as well as positive tendencies. I would suggest it means looking for opportunities to encourage and support new behaviours.

Giving care to children is one of the most important and challenging of all jobs yet people often expect to be able to do it without any help. For those people, who have the time and resources, help can be gained from a mindfulness meditation retreat coupled with daily practice. Alternatively, no money is needed to set aside a little time by yourself each day to deeply reflect on the challenges of a child’s behaviour.

You may think that it is only natural to feel unconditional love and selfless concern for children but no one has limitless amounts of patience and self-restraint. We all need some rest to restore our inner resources and find the concentration and forbearance required to focus our attention on somebody else’s needs.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

An Heritage of the Lord

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, October 18, 2009

          Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward Psalm 127:3.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that every human being, every one of us, has been created with an innate belief that there is a God and that He is one. We see evidence of this when we are with little children. They readily acknowledge heavenly truths such as that the Lord is their Heavenly Father, that they are under the protection of angels, that everything in the universe is living and good because it was created by Him. It’s as they get older, and more experienced in the ways of the world that they become more callous, questioning, cynical – more like adults. But we all do begin with this basic premise:  that there is a God, and that He is one. This is the primitive doctrine or religious point of view of every man.

It is also true that from the moment of birth our environment, hereditary inclinations, our educational experience, and the results of our own free choices begin to add to the basic doctrinal view. We experience the delights of good behaviour, and the pain that comes from bad behaviour – and we adjust and add to our doctrine to account for the ways other people react to us. People whom we trust and love tell us that certain things are true, and we believe what they say because we love them, whether we fully understand what they say or not. We become aware of the kinds of things the people in our home community do and think, and we consciously and subconsciously either adjust our own view to fit, or we begin to associate more and more with others outside our home group. Over the years each of us builds up a doctrine as unique as our own personality, and depending on what our life’s experience has been, it may bear little resemblance to the primitive idea placed there by God at birth.

Such is the nature and completeness of our spiritual freedom that we may take what God has freely given us, and make of it whatever we wish, make it totally and uniquely our own. However, the fact remains that the Writings teach that all humans begin with the same doctrinal basis. Since this is the case, we should be able to see some evidence of that common religious background in all peoples.

For example, we note that in almost every known form of society, whether pagan or God-fearing, whether ancient or modern, there is some form of practice or ritual in which people may thank God for His gifts. The Ancient Canaanites ritually sacrificed their first-born children. Ancient farmers would place the first produce of their fields at the foot of the statue of their local god. The children of Israel brought a sacrifice to the temple as a symbol of their willingness to give their children to Jehovah, a practice that was commanded by God to replace human sacrifice with them, and which continued for thousands of years. Recall that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple with the sacrifice of the first-born son. Even in our day, in many countries throughout the world, a day is set aside for national thanksgiving at about the time of harvest.

Why is it, in a world that seems to be increasingly materialistic and godless, do these ancient practices survive? Why do people continue to feel a need to thank God when important milestones in their life are reached? Why is it that in a world where marriage is increasingly viewed as a purely natural contract that can be broken the moment it ceases to be convenient, that people still want to be married in a church? Why is it that people who haven’t prayed in years suddenly find themselves fervently praying to God that a loved one will survive a time of severe trouble or illness. Could it be that, for all our sophisticated veneer and technological advances, most people still have the voice of God within them, whispering that He is there and that He wants to bring reassurance and peace into our lives? And people instinctively want to respond to that knowledge by turning to Him at the important milestones of life, at those times in our lives when our attention is turned away for just a moment from those natural material things that occupy most of our time and attention. When we come to church to witness a baptism, a wedding, or a funeral, we are prepared to consider some eternal truths that we might not be willing to consider at any other time.

The 127th Psalm speaks about the part the Lord plays in life’s events, and beautifully phrases the Psalmist’s thanks to Him for His help. The Psalm begins with the words, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it,” and as the opening idea it sets the tone for all the rest of the psalm. Through much of our life we work very hard, we put a lot of thought and effort into the things we do, and to a great extent we want to take credit for them to ourselves. The farmer clears the field, plows it, plants it, cultivates the new plants, waters it during drought, and harvests it in its season. He works from dawn to dusk through the whole season – and yet he gives thanks to God for the good harvest. And it is very important for him that he do so, for the knowledge and acknowledgement that God alone lives is the “celestial confession” – but through His gift we have the joy and the pleasure of performing uses in the world as-if-of-ourselves.

Our text focuses on the idea that children are an inheritance of the Lord, that they are a reward from God for a good life. But at the same time we must know that having and raising children is not always rewarding – it can be expensive, frustrating, and difficult, so we must ask ourselves how to understand this promise. The Heavenly Doctrines speak specifically to this point when they say, “Since there is no other offspring born of spiritual marriage, and a male offspring is truth and good in the understanding and consequent thought and a female offspring is truth and good in the will and consequent affection, therefore by ‘a son’ in the Word truth is signified” (AR 543:2).

The Doctrines further explain who the heirs of God are:  “All who are in the heavens – are heirs of the Lord’s kingdom; for they all make one heaven. It is that which is internal that causes any one to be an heir. That which is internal is love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbour; in proportion therefore to the love and the charity which they have, in the same proportion they are sons and heirs, for in the same proportion are they partakers of the Lord’s life” (AC 1802).

Wherever the Word speaks about children, it is telling us about the good that we can have when we live according to the truth that the Lord has given us from heaven. And the more we live the life of charity, the more we will be prepared to receive our inheritance and our reward from God. “The heavenly kingdom should be given as an inheritance to those who from charity have faith in Him” (AC 1865).

In the church we often speak of the marriage of good and truth, and how when this occurs, uses are the result, but how can we get a feeling for what this really means? When God created the universe, He did so by uniting His Divine Love – His desire to have a human race to care for – with His Divine Wisdom – His plan for an orderly development on all planes to eternity. The result was the spiritual world, the natural universe, and all the living things therein.

By correspondence the same thing happens in marriage. The love of creating and nurturing new life – (the wife) is united to the intelligence and wisdom to teach new life (the husband) in the marriage, and on the natural plane this expresses itself as a new human being, an eternal life that is loved unconditionally by its parents. We should not be surprised that the conjugial delights of marriage are so wonderful when we see that they represent nothing less than the joy that God felt when He created the human race. God’s purpose in creating the universe was so that there would be a heaven from the human race that He could care for, and that would be free to return His love. Children are meant to be angels of heaven, and we have been given the marvellous privilege of sharing with God in the process of creating a heaven from the human race! No wonder children are the cause of such wonder and joy, for they give us a taste of God’s own delights.

But our children grow up so fast and move away from home. They too soon begin their own lives and families, and the parents who centred their whole lives on them are soon left alone. This cannot be the order God intended. If children are our heritage and our reward, why do they leave us when they are grown?

We have both natural and spiritual children. Both can give us great pleasure. Both are serious responsibilities. Natural children are a great deal of work, and considerable worry, and yet they are our prime source of joy and satisfaction in this world. How much more, then will be the joy and satisfaction we experience when we produce spiritual offspring and when we can spend eternity watching them grow.

The Lord loans us children for a time to teach us some important lessons about Himself and His universe. He wants us to have some small knowledge of why and how He created the universe when He shares with us the delight of the miracle of creation of new life, He wants to give us a taste of heaven when He gives us the celestial spheres of little children, and He wants us to know what an eternal life of use will be like when He gives us the opportunity to take part in the education and upbringing of a child.

Raising children in this world teaches us how to raise spiritual children, that is, how to do be genuinely useful to others. When after practice and conscious effort we form a good habit, when some truth from the Word is so ingrained in our hearts that we do it without thinking and from delight, it is called a marriage of good and truth. And when good and truth are married, there are spiritual offspring, that is, uses. When you form good habits from the Word, the things that you do are useful to others and express your charity and love to the neighbour. These actions are your spiritual children. They will be with you to eternity. They will bring you continual pleasure. Your sons will be the charitable thoughts you have, and your daughters will be the delights you feel. Eternal life is our inheritance, freely given by God to each of us His children. But the reward, the delight of heaven comes only to those who themselves produce children, that is, who produces spiritual offspring – goods and truths, for children are an heritage of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is His reward. AMEN.

First Lesson:  PSA 127

(PSA 127) Unless the LORD builds the house, They labour in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. {2} It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. {3} Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. {4} Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. {5} Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. Amen.

Second Lesson:  TCR 685

…The three uses of baptism cohere as a unit, like first cause, mediate cause, and effect, for the sake of which the former exist; for the first use is that the man may be called a Christian; the second, following from this, is that he may know and acknowledge the Lord the Redeemer, Regenerator and Saviour; and the third that be may be regenerated by Him; and when this is done man is redeemed and saved. As these three uses follow in order, and are conjoined in the last, and consequently in the conception of the angels cohere as a unit, so when baptism is performed, read of in the Word, or mentioned, the angels who are present do not understand baptism, but regeneration. Therefore, by these words of the Lord:  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark xvi. 16), the angels in heaven understand that he who acknowledges the Lord and is regenerated will be saved. And for this reason baptism is called by the Christian churches on earth the laver of regeneration. Let every Christian know, then, that he who does not believe in the Lord even though he has been baptized, cannot be regenerated. Also that baptism without faith in the Lord has no effect whatever. Every Christian is well aware that baptism involves purification from evils, and thus regeneration, for when he is baptized in infancy, the priest with his finger makes the sign of the cross, as a memorial of the Lord, on his forehead and breast, and afterwards turns to his sponsors and asks whether he renounces the devil and all his works, and accepts the faith; to which the sponsors, in the place of the infant, answer, “Yes.” The renunciation of the devil, that is, of the evils that are from hell, and faith in the Lord, are what effect regeneration.

The Transition

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.

. The Transition

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.

Obedience

3. Obedience

“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.