THE UNFOLDING LIFE
A Study of Development with Reference to Religious Training
ANTOINETTE ABERNETHY LAMOREAUX
With Introduction by Marion Lawrance
My Precious Father and Mother, in whose daily ministry I have seen the beauty and learned the meaning of Christian Nurture, this book is affectionately dedicated.
I FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPMENT II EARLY CHILDHOOD III EARLY CHILDHOOD—Continued IV EARLY CHILDHOOD—Concluded V CHILDHOOD—SIX TO TWELVE VI THE JUNIOR AGE—NINE TO TWELVE VII ADOLESCENCE VIII MIDDLE AND LATE ADOLESCENCE
Having read with much care the proof sheets of this book, I am prepared to say three things about it, and it gives me pleasure to say them here.
1. THE BOOK IS WELL NAMED. "THE UNFOLDING LIFE." Turn which way we will, we see life unfolding all about us, and yet how faintly are its mysteries understood! And is it not the one thing above all others, which teachers, mothers, fathers and all of us, need to understand? It is well that our attention has been called to this most vital of all themes by a book, whose very name compels attention to its content, and whose content is but its name in fuller treatment.
2. THE BOOK IS WELL WRITTEN. Such books as this should be read slowly and pondered well; but this book by its fascination will tempt one to read too rapidly. Its line of argument is logical; its diction is as pure as the bubbling stream; its truths are evident and compelling. It presents the purest psychology stripped of all mystifying technicalities, and clothed in language which even a child can understand. The reason for this is plain. It is the "Beaten Oil" drawn from the rich and ripe experience of one of the best students of childhood and teachers of children in our land.
3. THE BOOK IS WELL TIMED. Teachers are seeking now as never before to understand the soil in which the living seed of God's Word is to be cast. Nothing can be more important than this. The author deals largely with the every day problems of the average home and Sunday School, thus rendering the highest service to the great army of ordinary teachers and mothers. While this book will be hailed with joy by all such, it will nevertheless command a place by the side of the highest grade books on the subject. There never was a time when any book on any subject was more greatly needed than this book is needed now. It would be a boon indeed to every home, and to every Sunday School as well, if all teachers, mothers, yes, and fathers too, would read and re-read "THE UNFOLDING LIFE."
Chicago, March, 1908.
The greatest thing in the world is a human life. The greatest work in the world is the helpful touch upon that life. Here and there an artist in soul culture is found at the task, but the many are unskilled and the product of the labor is far from a manhood "perfect in Christ."
In dealing with things, the vessel marred in the making can be set aside or fashioned anew, but a life is for eternity. The faulty work can not be undone. The mistake can never be wholly rectified, for life never yields up what is given it. The look, the word, the invisible atmosphere of the home and church, the sights and sounds of all the busy days enter the super-sensitive and retentive soul of the child and are woven into life tissue. Character has no other from which to fashion itself. Therefore its final beauty and worth will be determined in large measure by the quality of the material which entered in.
It is with earnest desire to help some parent or teacher in the divine work of soul nurture, that this volume is offered. There is no attempt to add to knowledge in Child Study or Psychology, but rather to interpret certain of their fundamental facts and principles with reference to Religious Training.
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPMENT.
Row upon row they stretched, fifteen acres of regal chrysanthemums, roses pink, yellow, white and red, fragile lilies of the valley, carnations and vivid orchids, no two alike, yet all expressions of plant life. Skilled gardeners from England and Germany were busy with these exquisite flower children, watering, pruning and training upon slender cords, that every bud might come to perfect unfolding. The laws of the plant world and the law of each individual flower were well known to them. They knew that all required sunshine and soil, warmth and moisture, but in varying amount. The chrysanthemums grew in the sunlight, while only a few days before cutting could the lilies of the valley be released from their darkened beds. All needed cultivation but not in the same way. Some were massed, while yonder were thousands of carnations, and every one sole monarch of its own little garden plot. Painstakingly and completely, day after day, the needs of each frail life were met, until the flowers grown in this greatest of Canadian greenhouses have become renowned far across the border for their unsurpassed beauty, coloring and size.
The quiet walk between the glorious masses of bloom that October afternoon brought a vision of a greater Child garden, with an infinite variety of human plants to be tended, every one with its own individuality, needs, possibilities and a divine purpose for it cherished in the heart of the Heavenly Gardener. The work of nurture He has given to parents and teachers, longing unspeakably that it shall be so wise and tender that His plan for every life may be realized.
But as the earnest soul takes up the task, it seems so bewildering. "Three little ones in the home, and every one different! Ten boys in the Sunday School class and no two alike! Where does nurture begin? How is it carried on?"
Though the differences in human lives are countless, there are certain great likenesses. All have life, needs, possibilities; they all grow and develop in the same general way. From these common likenesses have been formulated a few principles which are as helpful to a child gardener as a knowledge of the laws of plant life to one who nurtures roses and carnations. Their understanding is not dependent upon physical parenthood. God will interpret the meaning to any one whom He calls into fellowship with Himself in the matchless work of soul culture.
I. The First Principle deals with the nature of life—What is it? Some answer must be given in order to arrive at an aim, a method, and an inspiration for work. If a child is only a beautiful figure upon which to display dainty garments, the mother has a plain pathway marked out for her. If a boy is a capacity to be filled, or a machine to grind out facts or dollars, the teacher's course of action is clear.
God's conception of life is surely greater than these, yet He never gave a definition. Jesus said it is more than meat, that it is worth more than all the world, that it does not consist in abundance of things, that it is eternal, but He nowhere tells us what it is, for He can not. It is a part of God. He can only make us understand it in any wise by giving its characteristics and values. Perhaps these may come to us more clearly through considering first what life is not.
1. Life is not merely "plastic clay" to be moulded, or a "block of marble" to be hewn according to the will of the sculptor.
This poetic conception emphasizes rightly the tremendous power of environment and personality in shaping character, but it is really a dangerous half truth. If the child were a block of marble, he would be no different from the dead, inert lump that lies in the studio awaiting the will of the sculptor. They would both be things. But a child has life, and the difference between life and thing lies in an inner power or activity which life possesses and uses when and as it will. This activity has to be reckoned with. Sun and rain and earth can not make a plant grow if it does not use its own mysterious inner force upon them. No sort of influence can affect a life, if the life does not respond to it. This response will be either receiving or rejecting the influences that come, working with or against them. Assuredly this is a condition very different from "plastic clay." Two great tasks, therefore, are included in the work of nurture: the first, to see that all that comes to plastic life from the outside is what it ought to be; the second, to somehow arouse the power within to vigorous effort upon the best things.
2. Life is not a "pure white page," even in its beginning.
There is here also a half truth, and an error. Life is unstained by guilt in its early years. It comes innocent from the hand of God, but fingers long since vanished have traced lines that mar the perfect whiteness. There are tendencies away from God as well as toward Him, and these are not the result of environment. Environment will cultivate tendencies but can not implant them. Favoring conditions will make an apple tree produce magnificent apples, but they will never implant in it any tendency to bear roses or produce thorns. Failure to recognize the fact of two sets of tendencies in the life will lead to a fatal mistake in nurture. Christ will be presented only as an Example and not as a Savior also, thus setting before a life its pattern and leaving it impotent to reach it.
3. A life in its beginning is not a "little man."
The element of truth in this conception is perhaps less than in either of these preceding. It is indeed true that child life is that out of which man life is to come, but the difference is more vital than that of inches or strength. The bulb shelters a lily life, but the difference is greater than size. The chrysalis will bring forth the butterfly, but the two are not identical. Childhood will unfold into manhood, but each has its own characteristics and needs, differing in largest degree.
The physiologist tells us that it would be hard to find many important points beyond the most fundamental laws in which the infant and the adult exactly resemble each other. (Oppenheim.) In bodily proportions, in actual composition of bones, muscles, blood and nerves, in size and development of the organs, the differences are wide.
The psychologist proves that there is equal variance in mental conditions. The man has a sense of responsibility to his neighbor and to God, unknown to child life. He thinks and reasons and judges as the child mind can not. His whole outlook upon life is opposite from that of the child.
We recognize this difference in caring for the body, and the babe is fed on milk and the boy on meat. But the difference must be recognized as equally important in caring for the soul. Just as meat is meat, whether minced or uncut, and therefore unsuited for a tiny life, so doctrine is doctrine, whether stated in words of one syllable or four, and equally unsuited to a beginning life. Paul refers to those who need milk and not solid food, spiritually, because they are "without experience of the word of righteousness," clearly indicating a difference in the kind of instruction, not the amount. The subject matter must be adapted to the life, not merely the number of syllables, the method of teaching, as well as the length of the lesson. Without this careful adaptation of food and method, the developing life will be under-nourished, and the most vigorous maturity be impossible.
But these negative statements only safeguard against mistakes by telling us what to avoid. A real working basis must be found in a positive principle.
The study of an unfolding life at any time in its development always reveals two supreme facts, possibilities peculiar to that period, and self activity. The First Principle of development combines these two facts and gives us our nearest approach to a definition.
"Life is a bundle of possibilities and self activity."
The block of marble has possibilities, so has molten metal and a tube of paint; but life has possibilities plus inner power. The three imperative "Oughts" for the parent or teacher are herein suggested.
First, he ought to be able to recognize each possibility as it appears.
Second, he ought to know how best to deal with it.
Third, he ought to know how to stimulate the activity to greatest endeavor.
II. The Second Principle states the relation of nurture to the unfolding of these possibilities.
"The direction and degree of development are largely determined by nurture."
Every possibility in a life, unless it die out, must develop either upward or downward, toward the best or worst. This development, whether in a plant or a boy, depends on what is given the life to work with and the use that is made of it, or, stated in more dignified terms—the development is a result of influences that come to a life and the response made to them by activity. The sort of influences and the sort of response given will determine the sort of development. When some one is consciously endeavoring to make both outer influences and the inner working of the life the best possible, it is called nurture.
The responsibility that grows out of this thought of nurture is almost crushing, yet its opportunity is sublime. To make a boy strong for his life work, because the right word was spoken at the critical moment, the encouragement given just when his purpose was faltering, to help a girl reach glorious young womanhood because the inspiration came as she stood at the parting of the ways—surely this, in a very real sense, is working with God. The story of almost every life of marked power, reveals a human touch at the cross roads. Is this one meaning in the Master's words, "Inasmuch as ye did it," or "Inasmuch as ye did it not?" "I would have been on the foreign mission field seven years ago," said a splendid young man, "had not my Sunday School teacher laughed at me when I told him my new born desire. I expect to go now, but what of those seven years?"
If the home and the church should begin at once to obey God's command to nurture the children "In the chastening and admonition of the Lord," with all that means, the next generation would see the kingdoms of this world given to Christ and the advent of the King.
III. The Third Principle defines the work of nurture.
"Nurture must care for both nourishment and activity."
1. The Watch Care over Nourishment.
Nourishment is the general term for all that upon which the life feeds. It is given both consciously and unconsciously and is absorbed in like manner, but in its effect upon the life, the unconscious nourishment has greater power.
(1) Unconscious Nourishment.
(a) The first factor in unconscious nourishment is personality.
Just as truly as the physical life is nourished by life, so is the mental and the spiritual. Standards of living, ideas, a sense of values, opinions, do not come from text-books but fathers and mothers. The lesson from the printed page may fail to gain entrance, but the lesson from the teacher's life, never. This explains the success of many a humble mother and the failure of many an intellectual teacher. It is at the very heart of all work for another.
Its first message is a personal one. It tells the worker that his life is more compelling than his voice; that the Word must again become flesh to give it authority. It tells him further that if he is to be the bread of life to growing souls, his own pasturage must not be things, but in reality, the living Christ.
The other message applies to his work. While every life that touches his will always carry away something from the contact, the most helpful human life can never suffice for another's nourishment. Each soul needs the complete Christ for itself. The amazing thing among parents and teachers is their unconcern over His absence from the lives of the children. Years pass, and precept, lesson and admonition are given, while Christ, the Life, is not definitely and personally offered. "According to their pasture so were they filled." Is not this the explanation of so many meagre lives?
(b) The second factor of unconscious nourishment is environment with its subtle atmosphere.
The importance of environment is found in this great law, that life tends to become like that which is around it. So strong is the tendency that the only escape from conformity lies in real struggle. This a little child rarely puts forth, and an adult not always, for it is far easier to follow the line of least resistance and "be like other people."
Growing out of this power of environment comes the problem of all philanthropic and religious work—how to overcome the influence of harmful surroundings. The need is obvious when the surroundings are vicious, yet the home does not need to be in the slums to injure a growing life. It only needs to be Christless. This may seem a very radical statement, but it is nevertheless true. Arresting the highest development is as truly an injury as giving to life wrong direction. Has not a plant been positively injured when its most beautiful possibilities are unrealized because of unfavoring conditions? Is not a body, undersized and stunted because of lack of fresh air and food, as truly deformed as though the back were bent? Has not that soul received the most cruel of all injuries, when its divinest possibilities can never be attained either because of spiritual starvation or misdirection? The Church and the Sunday School attempt to furnish a counteracting environment, but it is infrequent and brief. The only power which can render this temporary, religious environment mote effective in influencing character than a harmful, permanent one, is the Divine. A church building or a Sunday School session of itself, can accomplish little, placed over against a home. Methods of grading and forms of worship are impotent in themselves. It is only a living Christ, actually vitalizing the lesson and the sermon and the plan of work Who makes them efficacious.
If this be so, then the teacher who goes to the home itself to press the claims of a personal Savior on the father and mother, has after all reached the heart of the problem of environment.
(c) The third factor of unconscious nourishment is the Superhuman Power.
This thought has been suggested in connection with personality and environment, but it demands separate emphasis. It is not an easy thing in the stress of the visible to remember the greater power of the Invisible. The most earnest Christian worker is sometimes overwhelmed by discouragement or, again, unduly confident because of the perfection of system and method, forgetting that God knows no obstacle, and that He alone can put life into a plan of work.
But though God uses men and methods, He does not always so approach a life He deals directly with a soul through the influence of the Holy Spirit, and life receives its most holy nurture in those sacred hours. Therefore, the highest service permitted a Sunday School teacher is to pray effectually for the brooding Spirit to rest upon the pupils in his class. The mother can do nothing which shall mean so much for the precious life in her arms as learning, herself, the secret of prevailing prayer, for, "If we ask anything according to His Will, He heareth us; and if we know that He heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him." Therefore, O Lord, "Teach us to pray."
(2) Conscious Nourishment.
This is definite instruction so given to a life that it is appropriated. A large part of attempted instruction is never taken in. "I have told you over and over again," says the despairing mother, but telling does not always involve receiving. Placing nourishing food before the boy does not necessarily mean stronger muscle and purer blood. He must eat and digest it. Teaching, to be nourishment, requires first, careful adaptation of the subject matter, then presentation in such a way that the mind will voluntarily reach out, lay hold upon and assimilate it. God again gives the key to real teaching in the word "engraft." Its process in the physical and mental world is identical. First, the delicate adjustment, then a vital union, and lastly, new life resulting.
2. The Watch Care over Activity.
We have considered nurture in its work of supplying the best nourishment to growing souls, and now its care for activity must be noted. Since the subject will be discussed more fully in a succeeding chapter, only the necessity for the nurture will be considered here. This necessity appears in the four-fold result of activity.
(1) New Experiences.
This is the first result to the child from ceaseless movement of hands and feet and eager eyes. In early life he is not conscious of seeking the new experience, he only wants to be in motion. In later life, energy is definitely put forth for some desired end. But whatever the motive, experiences helpful or harmful, according to the sort of activity, result, and they enter character at par value.
(2) Growth or Increase in Size.
Activity is necessary before anything given to the body or the soul can become a part of life. Food must be acted upon by the digestive, circulatory and assimilative organs to make it bone and muscle and nerve. The mind must think upon the fact in order to add it to the store of knowledge. The heavenly vision must be obeyed before Christian experience is enlarged by it.
But there is another aspect of this same thought. Just as truly as activity must precede assimilation, so truly does assimilation follow activity. It may be stated more simply in this way. Nothing can become a part of the life until it has been acted upon; when it has been acted upon it can not be taken out of the life. When digestion is finished and the food is bone and muscle, it can not be withdrawn. When the idea has been thought in or acted upon, it has by that process become a part of the life, and though it may fade from memory its influence is abiding.
(3) Development or Increase of Power and Skill.
Every muscle exercised gains greater freedom. Every knotty problem mastered means increased mental ability. Every victory means greater power in resisting temptation. Whatever the action, whether good or bad, helpful or harmful, greater skill and power in that direction follows it.
This other very important fact needs to be clear, that no amount of energy put forth for another will mean development for him. He must exercise his own arm for strength and solve his own problem. Development only comes through the effort of each individual for himself; hence the best teacher is the one who can rouse the pupil to the greatest endeavor.
(4) Habit Formation.
It is impossible to act, physically, mentally or spiritually, without making it easier to repeat the action, and soon ease passes to tendency, then tendency to compulsion, and life is in the grip of a habit. This is the inevitable outcome of activity, until "nine-tenths of life is lived in the mould of habit."
If it be true that habit is "ten times second nature," the importance of directing activity toward the formation of right habits needs no discussion.
IV. The Fourth Principle of unfolding life deals with its crises. "The crucial points in development are those times when new possibilities begin to unfold."
The life comes from God complete in its possibilities, but at the beginning all is in germ. As life progresses, development of these possibilities proceeds, but it is not uniform. The body acquires ability to control the larger muscles before it can adjust the finer and more complex ones, as instanced in the child's ability to walk before he can thread a needle. The mind is able to imagine before it can reason clearly. The feelings center on self before they reach out to the world around. As every new possibility begins to develop, two serious facts must be remembered:
(1) Direction must be given in the beginning before tendencies are fixed.
A beginning is always a time of easy adjustment and flexibility. Business corporations can readily alter a course of action before a policy has been established. The nurseryman can easily secure the straight trunk of the mature tree in the yielding sapling. The law is just as true when it touches human life. The trend of any possibility is determined largely in the beginning of its unfolding. After that time has gone by, conditions are practically fixed, and he that is unjust will be unjust still, and he that is holy will be holy still.
(2) Future strength and vigor are largely determined in the beginning of development.
It is well nigh impossible to overcome the effect of early neglect. If the culture of the growing stalk is passed over, the corn in the ear can not be full. If the bodily needs of the boy are unmet, he can not reach his full development as a man. If his budding intellectual life, his awakening feeling life, or the delicate unfolding of his spiritual life is neglected, a complete, rounded out maturity is impossible. A starved childhood is always the prophecy of a stunted manhood, while life nourished in its beginning foretells vigorous maturity.
V. The very important question now arises, "How may these crucial times be recognized?" The answer is given in the Fifth Principle. "A new interest always accompanies an awakening possibility."
The increasing love of a story discloses a growing imagination. The passionate hero worship of a boy's heart reveals the fact of a budding ideal. The interest in clubs and desire for companionship tell of awakening social feelings. Life is always the exponent of its own need to one who cares to know, and it further reveals what should be given it, and how.
VI. The Sixth Principle has already been touched upon in the preceding discussion, but it needs the emphasis of special statement, because of its importance. "Development is from within, out, through what is absorbed, not from without, in, through external application without absorption."
If development were a matter of external application, the post would grow and the stone and the stick, because they have earth and air and moisture around them. If it came from without, in, the most admonished child would be the best, the most talked to pupil the wisest, but the reverse is usually true. That which adheres simply to the surface of rock and child is veneer, which the testing circumstance will rub off. Only that which is assimilated is of any value to the life.
These are the great principles revealed in the development of life from infancy to maturity. The factor of human contact appears in every one. The question, "What is my touch upon this unfolding life?" can not be evaded. The stonecutter takes the marble and hews out the rough block; the sculptor finds its hidden soul. The artisan takes the canvas and the common sign appears; the artist makes it immortal. But God gives life to parents and teachers to fashion. Will hands clumsy and unskilled, miss the perfect beauty, or the touch of master workmanship bring forth a likeness to the Christ?
The first period of life, Early Childhood, includes the years from birth to about six or, in Sunday School phraseology, the "Cradle Roll," from birth to three, and the "Beginners," from three to six.
It is a temptation to note at length the marvelous achievements of a little life in its earliest years, as it comes,
"Out from the shore of the great unknown, Blind and wailing and alone, Into the light of day. * * * * *. "From the unknown sea that reels and rolls, Specked with the barks of little souls, Barks that were launched on the other side, And slipped from Heaven on an ebbing tide."
The wealth of material, however, clustering around each period of developing life is so great that selection must be made. Therefore only those facts illuminating the chosen theme of religious nurture will be considered.
The baby's world is a "big, blooming, buzzing confusion," according to James, but gradually, cosmos emerges from chaos. The senses, clouded at first, become clear and active. Adjustment and voluntary control of the larger muscles are secured. The art of walking is mastered, and the great feat of learning a language practically unaided, is well under way. The awakening mind learns to know certain objects and simplest relationships within a very limited sphere, and through ceaseless activity, new experiences are constantly coming in to the soul.
Guided by instinct and impulse, responding to any wind that blows, sensitive and retentive as the plate of a camera,
"Just a-yearning To be learning Anything at all,"
can any religious nurture be given to this tiny little bundle of possibilities? Manifestly, it will not be through precept and admonition, for they are meaningless, yet never will life be more open to the influences of impression and atmosphere than at this time. The child can not understand their import as they come, but he will feel them. He does not understand love, but he feels it. He can not comprehend personality, but his restless little body grows quiet in the tender arms of a strong father. He responds to the fretfulness or gentleness of the mother, the noisy confusion or peace of the home. These multitudinous impressions become his life, though he can not grasp their meaning.
Just as surely does he drink in impressions which have the Divine element. What they speak to him only God knows, but some message is theirs. The picture of the "Good Shepherd," of "Jesus Blessing Little Children," of the "Madonna and Child," perform their silent ministry to his soul. He is peculiarly sensitive to the reverence and worship in lofty music. In the evening tide of a Sabbath day, a father was seated at the piano, while the two older children stood near, and a wee one of two and a half years listened from his mother's arms. The songs used in Sunday School were sung one after the other, and then came the baby voice, "Papa, sing about Dod." "Do you mean, 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord'?" he asked. "Yes," was the answer, and in the hush of the twilight, the worship of the children blended with the worship of the angels, and who shall say they did not all behold the Father's face?
The nurture of these years is as silent as that of the dewdrop upon the blade of grass, but it is as real. God's voice is the still, small voice that ever speaks in quietness. The stillness of the moment at the mother's knee, the prayer repeated in the reverent, low tone of the mother's voice, the earnest prayer for him offered in his presence, the Christ-like living in the home, all carry their holy influence to his soul. He feels God, without knowing Him. But there shall come a day when the Voice that has gently called him will be recognized, and he will say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
But general nurture must be supplemented by the definite nurture of each growing possibility. Though the principles underlying this careful watch care and training are stated in connection with Early Childhood, they are applicable to every succeeding period where the same power is developing.
The most marked characteristic of the entire period of early childhood is physical activity, manifesting itself largely in restlessness. The nervous force which later will be used in complex mental processes, now seeks expression through hands and feet and tireless body.
In early infancy activity is entirely purposeless and unwilled, merely the instinctive movement of every part of the body. Gradually, however, through the contact with different objects brought about by his restlessness, the baby learns to reach out for what he wants, and purpose in the activity begins to appear. Later, play affords an outlet for the constant flow of this pent-up power, and the child lives over again those activities of the busy life around which appeal to him.
From the previous discussion of activity, we know that the child is bringing about far-reaching results, all unconscious to himself, through this never ceasing restlessness of every waking moment. He is growing, through the kneading process of constant movement; he is developing freer use of his muscles; he is building new experiences into character, and he is forming habits of life. How then may this great force be nurtured so that greatest results shall follow?
The law of activity must first be understood. It has been very succinctly stated, "Activity must act, explode or cease to generate."
If it cease to generate entirely it means death, for every organ of the body is using it. If it lessen in amount, it means lowered vitality, and indicates illness or abnormal conditions in some way. The over-strained mother who says to a little one of this age, "I wish you could keep still for five minutes," does not realize what she is expressing. It has been demonstrated in scientific tests, that the perfectly normal child under six can keep absolutely still but few consecutive seconds, therefore the desire could only be fulfilled through some disturbed physical condition which would lessen the amount of life itself. Any diminution is everywhere felt, for the same activity which impels hands and feet, impels also the hungry senses, the eager curiosity and every part of a growing mental life. Fortunately for the child, God's finger is on the dynamo of his life, and as long as He wills the activity can not cease to generate.
There are but two alternatives left, an action or an explosion, for activity can no more be confined than steam in an engine. If the explosion has occurred, it has resulted from successful repression. The stopper, "Don't," has been inserted in the last opening through which the nervous force could expend itself, and after a moment of dangerous calm, the inevitable occurs, and the happiness and peace of the entire home is for the time destroyed. The result is just as sure as that of confining an expanding gas, while its disaster is wrought in the mental and moral as well as the physical realms. Fortunately again for the well-being of the child, it is difficult to secure the last outlet, so fertile is his busy brain.
But without the explosion, the results that come to a child from a policy of repression are very serious. Briefly stated, they are first, irritability and nervousness. The refinement of cruelty is dealt to a little child, compelled by superior force to act contrary to God's law for him and "Keep quiet." Activity which should normally be expended, when confined, reacts upon the cells of the body so that soon there are physical reasons beyond the child's control for his nervousness and crossness.
Second, Friction, in which defiance and stubbornness appear. The severest test which could be imposed upon adults would be a constant and apparently arbitrary thwarting of their desires. Is it to be wondered at that a little, unreasoning life which hears "don't" by the scores of times from morning till night, grows rebellious, vindictive and obstinate?
Third, Unhappiness and a sense of alienation. Sympathy between two persons is impossible when they are at cross purposes, and happiness which is God's gift to childhood can never be realized when souls are out of touch. Further, discouragement and consequent loss of incentive to effort must inevitably overwhelm a little life that never does anything right.
Fourth, weakened will and character. This is the most serious result of all. One of the great principles already stated makes it clear that development can come only through the activity of the individual himself. If the child is constantly withheld from doing by the word "don't," he can not reach the fullest development of character. Furthermore, character is not built negatively but positively. A building can never be erected by merely keeping out of it all unworthy material. There must be an actual putting together of brick and mortar, and the great truth is evident that whenever a place is filled by the good, the bad is in that very act kept out, whether in buildings or character. The motive back of many a "don't" is worthy, and often there may be no alternative but to instantly check an action, but for the effect on character building there is a more excellent way than repression. It lies in the expression suggested in the law of activity, but expression under direction.
Some parents realize the necessity of allowing the child's activity to be expended, but fail to see the other side of the matter, namely, that while activity means development, the sort of development that follows will depend on the character of the activity. It is important that a boy's energy be given an outlet, but it is more important whether it make of him a gentleman or a hoodlum. The guidance or neglect of the activity will determine which it is to be.
Too frequent emphasis can not be put upon the fact that every outgoing activity traces a little deeper some pathway that tends toward a habit. The mistake is often made of thinking that habits can be formed only by "taking thought." It is true that some of the finest habits of life are built into character with painstaking effort, but untidiness and selfishness and irreverence and all their kin reach fullest unfolding in the thoughtless outflow of activity, when no one is attending.
But activity, untrammeled, means more than wrong habits. It means lawlessness and undisciplined character. The child who has learned no higher authority for his acts than his own erratic whims, has laid good foundation for future disregard of the laws of man and God.
The converse of all that has been said concerning both repression and neglect of activity characterizes its wise direction. When the child, ignorant and unskilled, hears a voice saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it," his willing response means activity going out in right channels or the formation of right habits. It means a dual joy for him, the joy of activity itself and also the joy from the approval and sympathy of the parent or teacher. Under encouragement he puts forth greater effort, which means constant development of greater power. Yet more than all, it means that he is learning the greatest lesson of early life, obedience.
Obedience is only activity under law. It begins with submission to the will of the parent, but when at last it is a response of the whole life to the will of God and rendered of voluntary and loving choice, it has reached its highest unfolding. This is the goal toward which all nurture of activity must be directed, else no life is safe after it goes out from the restraints of the home. In the heart of the parent who is a seer, the mere closing of the door or putting away of the toy in response to a request is not the thing most desired, for that is external and true obedience is internal. The father, possessing insight, wants the heart as well as the hand of the boy to close the door or put away the toy. Without this, no victory is gained. The act itself is the least of all. "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. ... Then said I, Lo, I come. ... I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart." This attitude of voluntary heart acquiescence to the will of another is never the product of compelling power, else God would force His children to obey, since obedience is the thing He most desires. Force can sway the hand but not the heart. Paul, whose tireless activity spent itself out under the direction of his Master, discloses the great secret when he says, "The love of Christ constraineth us." The eternal Father says to His child, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."
It is by love, by words of approval, by patient encouragement and help, and also by experiencing the consequences of each act, whether joyous or painful, that the child is led to follow the one who points out the path for his activity. Soon he faces the words, "right," and "wrong," and though knowing only at first that "right" is the thing permitted, and "wrong," the thing denied, he feels the difference in the results of each. Then he learns that the pathway of the thing called "right," is not an arbitrary one laid down by mother or teacher, but the pathway traced by God Himself, wherein we all must walk, parent and child, teacher and pupil alike. When with dimmest understanding but loving heart, he first sets faltering foot in that path, because he catches glimpse of its shining light, that "shineth more and more unto the perfect day," the one who has nurtured him will hear God's voice speaking to his soul, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Hungry senses, directed in their quest by a hungrier mind, mark the second great characteristic of early childhood. These are the channels through which the world around comes into the life of the child. The sights and sounds of the physical realm, when carried beyond the portals of the senses, under the marvelous transmutation of God's touch, become ideas. The process, in so far as its secret has been revealed, will not be discussed at this point, but rather the relation of these impressions to character.
In early years the senses are undiscriminating as far as the real worth of an impression is concerned. The vulgar picture will be admired as quickly as the beautiful one, if its colors are attractive. The impure word is caught as readily as the pure. There is no standard of values; even taste is not yet formed, and eyes and ears hungrily reach out for anything to satisfy their voracious appetite. Each sensation which is reported to the mind through the senses and intricate nervous system, supplies an idea, embodying itself. It is with these that all the thinking of the child is done, these rouse his feelings and prompt his actions and, finally, mean character. Manifestly, then, his life can be no better than the things he sees and hears, handles and tastes, for he lives in a world of sensations and not of ideas. This was the thought of the mother who said, "I never wash my little children's faces at night, and put them to bed all sweet and clean on the outside, that I don't think that I would give all the world if I could somehow get inside and wash that too." But the inner cleansing from the influence of sight and sound no hand can perform. God forgives sin, but even His touch does not remove the impression of the picture or the word which memory has put away. The only hope of beautiful character lies in bringing to the unfolding life helpful influences which shall be stronger in their power than the vitiating. When some definite counteracting impression is needed, it is in the sacred confidences of the twilight hour, and at the confessional of a mother's knee, that it can be most effectively given.
Aside from the moral import of the impressions, there is a vital relationship between the senses and the quality of the intellectual life. Since knowledge can come to the child only through his senses, the amount of knowledge, as well as its sort, depends upon the story the senses tell. If they be dull, the knowledge is meagre and life has little with which to build. If they be defective, the impression is either falsely reported or not at all. Tests have revealed the amazing fact that over fifty per cent of children have imperfect sight and hearing. This means that the first idea given through eye or ear may be wrong; consequently each subsequent idea growing out of it is wrong, at least in part, and ultimately, false conceptions and mistaken courses of action appear, all traceable directly to the ear that did not hear accurately and the eye that told a false tale.
There is also a direct connection between defective senses and conduct. Naturally, the boy who can't see the blackboard, pays no attention to the work placed upon it, and the child partially deaf, disregards the words of the teacher. The overwhelming number of personally observed cases of difficult discipline, disclosed the unvarying fact of defect, either in the senses or the body itself. Therefore a teacher or parent should be very sure that the "bad boy problem" is not physical rather than moral, lest cruel injustice be done.
While the dull senses call for limitless patience, that life be not pitifully narrow, and the defective senses call for wise and remedial attention, the normal, keen, wide-awake senses exact the most from the conscientious parent or teacher. Eternal vigilance is the price of beautiful building material for the character in such an unfolding life. Each day adds to the store put away in the brain, to reappear later. "We must soon be careful what we do before the baby," says the mother who half grasps the connection between impressions and character building, not realizing that the work is already far under way, that foundations are in. Nurture of the senses must begin with the first dim reaching out for impressions, that only the best may enter, that right tastes may be formed, and self control in this fiercest battle-field of life be learned.
THE PERIOD OF EARLY CHILDHOOD—Continued.
As we come to consider the soul of the child, using this term not in its religious sense, but to include all of life but the physical, we understand that in reality it is indivisible. There are no separate parts or faculties possessing unique powers such as reasoning, remembering, feeling or willing. The whole soul remembers, feels and wills. However, for the sake of clearness and convenience, when it is reasoning, we are accustomed to speak of soul power in that direction as reason, or imagining as imagination or willing as will.
We must understand, also, that the soul of the child is as complete in its possibilities as the soul of the adult, only they are undeveloped. As life and environment grow more complex, new needs arise and these new needs awaken soul power in a new direction. The expression "I didn't know he had it in him," is frequently heard, as some one has shown unexpected ability under sudden pressure of circumstances. Every brain has millions of undeveloped cells, scientists affirm, signifying that every life is infinitely poorer than it might be. The need is something to arouse its latent power.
The little child is at first in a world of total mystery. Sights, sounds, sensations from contact come to him and all are unintelligible. As they are carried to his brain, somewhere, somehow, they awaken a desire to know their meaning, and as the tiny fingers are extended toward objects the soul is reaching also. This soul reaching is curiosity, one of God's most gracious and wonderful provisions for the life, but so often its significance is misunderstood. If there were no curiosity, there would never be any eager attempt to explore the field of knowledge. The disciplined spirit of inquiry that makes for the world's progress, is only a fuller development of the untutored and disastrous effort of the child to find out about things. We forget that before there can be a flower there must be a bud. Before there can be a scientist who shall pick the rock to pieces to learn its secret, there must be a child who picks a doll to pieces to see what is inside. The pathos of childhood is its bowed head and mute lips under the blow and the stinging word, because judgment is passed, not on motives, as the parent demands for himself, but on the external appearance of the act. We look into our Heavenly Father's face, out of the wreckage and mistakes of a day, and say, "I meant to do it aright, but I am so ignorant," and we are comforted that He looks at the heart and understands. Can we be less pitifully tender toward His little ones?
There are three marked manifestations of curiosity during this period of childhood.
In the wordless years of earliest life, mysteries around the child can receive only partial solution. But the day comes when language gives him a key whereby to unlock the doors, and he begins to ask, "What is it," then "Why," and "Where," and "How." This questioning period commences about the age of three, and is in strong evidence for some time. The answers involve for the most part nouns and verbs, not adjectives nor adverbs, signifying that the child is not yet ready for abstract qualities and characteristics. Simple facts only are sought at first. Questions concern the names of things, activities connected with them, causes and ends and the age-long mystery of origins.
Passing by reluctantly any further discussion of this most fascinating subject of children's questions, four great facts bearing upon nurture must be noted.
1. Repression of the sincere questioning of a child tends to weaken his effort to acquire knowledge.
2. Questions reveal a need felt by the child, and are a guide to the kind of instruction he is ready to receive.
3. A question not only reveals a need, but is also an assurance that the instruction given will be received, for what the mind wants to learn, it will learn.
4. A sincere question demands a sincere answer.
This statement would seem superfluous, if its need were not apparent in questions dealing with the origin of life. God gives to the mother, first, the sacred privilege of investing these most holy mysteries with purity and sanctity, and through this confidence drawing the life of the child into closer fellowship with her own. If the opportunity be cast away through the evasive or untruthful answer, the facts may come with a taint upon them which can never be wholly removed.
A word must suffice upon these other manifestations of curiosity. When truly understood, they reveal only an eager mind trying to obtain new experiences to add to knowledge. It is not total depravity that leads a child to pull the articles from the workbasket, or tear the book, or demolish the toy. He merely wants to see the object under as great a variety of conditions as possible, to find out all he can about it. It is identical with the spirit of the scientist who essays new combinations to see what the results may be, only in its inception it is crude and unskilled.
Assuredly, instead of dealing harshly with an instinct which in later years may make the whole world richer, it would be wiser to give it legitimate outlet. Toys and blocks which admit of being taken apart and readjusted may begin the training of an Edison or a Stephenson.
Just as in the realm of the physical, appetite for one sort of food may be greater than for another, even in hunger, so a varying appetite appears in connection with the soul hunger of curiosity. It is strongest in the direction of that in which the life is naturally interested at any given time.
The interests of early childhood are primarily in things which exhibit or suggest activity and in simplest relationships, found in the little world bounded by home, neighborhood, Kindergarten and Sunday School. Nature makes strong appeal, not on the aesthetic side of tint and shadow, but through the charm of her multiform movements and family life akin to the child's. The bird's nest fascinates because there is connected with it the story of the building and the hungry little brood it sheltered. Tales of animals, fairies and real folk, busy in simple and familiar occupations hold him entranced, and he will watch with rapt attention the performance of most common tasks. It is noteworthy that his interest in all this is not so much in the end to be accomplished, as in the activity itself. Even in his play, the preparations are often more delightful and satisfying than the game which follows.
All this has a deep meaning for one who is trying to help the little life in its unfolding.
1. "Wise education takes the tide at the flood," says James. These interests reveal the fact that in this period, instruction should deal with things, not with statements of ideas, apart from things, or, in other words, with the concrete, not the abstract.
2. The greater the knowledge of things gained while interest attaches to them, the greater the resources for clear, broad thinking as life matures.
3. When instruction is in line with interests, attention and consequent learning are assured.
4. The child's religious interests will be identical in character with the other interests of this period. He will not be interested in the Being or attributes of God, but God in His great activities as Creator and Wonder-Worker, and in His relation as Father. Jesus will make appeal, not in His discourses, but in His acts of helpfulness and power, and His love.
The great law of teaching is here involved, that interest in and knowledge of the unknown can come only through interest in and knowledge of something which is like it. Paul says in Romans, "For the invisible things of Him since the world began are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity." Therefore the first definite religious instruction which the child receives, must be upon spiritual truths illustrated in his own known world of interests.
The result of the efforts of curiosity, senses and activity is a constantly increasing store of ideas in the child's mind, relating to these things in which he is interested. As these ideas enter his mind, applying this term to the "intellectual function of the soul," he immediately wants to act upon them, according to a law inborn that an idea always tends to go out into action, unless it is held back. Adults have fixed habits of expressing ideas that come to them, but not so the child. An interesting activity is always a suggestion to him to reproduce it exactly, if possible. This difference between habit and suggestion in action is illustrated in the case of a long-suffering kitten in the hands of a resourceful child. The sight will arouse in another child an irresistible impulse to try the same experiment, while it always leads his mother to attempt a rescue.
This tendency to exact reproduction of activity is the instinct of imitation, and is a marked characteristic of childhood. As these words are written, a glance through the window discloses surveyors at work with tape and red chalk. Following in their wake is a five year old with diminutive string and piece of red crayon, laying out distances and taking measurements, in exact copy of his predecessors, a genuine "pocket edition" of the original.
While such elaborate exactness characterizes imitation in this period of childhood alone, the impulse to conform is never entirely lost. The desire grows more complex and general as the years go on, and from reproduction of definite acts, the life tries to emulate the spirit and achievements of its hero, and later to be in some harmony, at least, with public opinion. Brave, indeed, is the soul that dares to be a nonconformist in regard to the standards "they" have established.
The results of imitation are profoundly important in character building.
1. When a child re-enacts what he sees, he comes to a better understanding of its meaning. This is one purpose of the imitation of common activities in Kindergarten games.
2. The idea which is acted upon becomes an inseparable part of the life.
3. Habit is the outcome of repeated imitation.
4. Life grows like what it imitates.
With these facts in view, the application to the work of nurture is too obvious for discussion.
The child is not content alone to imitate activities. He likes to transform objects and make over familiar situations. This he does through that power of his soul called imagination.
The imagination of this period is "fancy-full," crude, and unbridled by reason or will. The child lives in a world of make believe. He sees whole menageries in the back yard, and performs exploits worthy of a David or Samson. He gives soul to inanimate objects, and endows them with feelings like his own. He plays with companions of his own creation, and peoples the dark with weird forms. Things are changed at will to suit his whims, the stick becoming the untamed steed and the rocking chair the storm-tossed boat. The magic of his alchemy may extend to himself, and make him for days another person, or even an animal.
This world of make believe is as real to him as the world which is seen through his eyes, and often he can not distinguish between the two. Many a little heart has quivered over the punishment inflicted for "lying", when willful misrepresentation was not in his thoughts. However, harsh treatment of a vivid imagination may result in real deception later on, for the child can not help "seeing things," too wonderful to be enjoyed alone, and then, perforce, there must be deliberate planning to escape the punishment.
This harshness also begins to raise an invisible barrier between the child and parent. It was felt by a little maiden of rare fancy, who said in a whisper at the conclusion of one of these marvellous tales, "But don't tell Mamma." The impassable wall between many a mother and daughter in later years, once consisted of but a scattered stone here and there.
Passing by the play life of the child where the imagination has fullest scope, the question arises as to the meaning of this power in character building. One purpose stands paramount over every other. It is the "ideal making factory" of the life. From transforming sticks and chairs, the soul will one day pass to transforming memories and thoughts, putting away the unattractive features and investing the attractive with even more charm, through dreams of what might be. From constructing houses out of blocks, the soul will begin to construct ideals out of its experiences and visions, according to a pattern shown on some mount.
As childhood recedes and manhood beckons, the soul unveils this ideal, fashioned in its secret workshop out of all that appeared most desirable, and with strange, magnetic power, it begins to draw the life after it. Worthy or unworthy, the years to come will see some part, at least, of the ideal, a reality. The character of the imagination, therefore, becomes a matter of supreme concern to nurture. It will be healthy or diseased morally, according to the quality of the material supplied for its use. The two great sources of this material are every day experiences and the story. The meaning of these experiences to the child's life has already been emphasized in various connections, and repetition is unnecessary, but the story holds a unique place in point of influence. Since it comes with deepest significance to the child in the next period of development, when imagination is less mixed with fancy, its discussion will be reserved for that time.
The child has an unfortunate experience with a hot stove and tender fingers bear the cruel scar. Must some one always watch him, year after year, to save him from a succession of burns? He is taken to school by his mother; must she forever accompany him to insure his safe arrival? Is there no way of understanding a present experience except by passing through it? Life would be an unsatisfactory thing indeed, if this were true, but the soul has the power of retaining past experiences in order that they may throw light upon the present. The business man does not deliberately do again that which was disastrous before, for he remembers the past misfortune. The child will not tomorrow press his little burned hand against the heated iron, for he recalls the pain of yesterday. This gracious gift of God to life, we call memory. Without it, there could be no understanding, no reasoning, no imagination, no knowledge, no growth.
The physical side of memory is most interesting. On the covering of the brain, each in its own place, the images or impression brought in by the senses and the activity are registered. So sensitive and susceptible are the brain cells during childhood, that these impressions are received as clay receives the touch of the sculptor's finger, and under right conditions, they are ineffaceable. When the soul acts upon these images, they live again, and we say, "We remember."
Two important questions are suggested by these facts. First, what kind of impressions should we attempt to store in the memory during childhood? Second, how may these impressions be made permanent?
To the first question, the child himself makes answer through what he most easily retains and through his needs.
Since he is interested and curious in regard to things, since he spends all his physical activity upon them, since he desires them and thinks about them, we would expect that things, together with experiences and ideas associated with them, would naturally fill his memory. Any observer of childhood knows that this is true. The memory of a little child is overwhelmingly for the concrete, the impressions through the senses and from what he does being far more easily retained than ideas alone. A child will recall the story of the Good Samaritan more readily than the isolated verse, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The reward or punishment of an act makes a more lasting impression than the dissertation upon it. Since the concrete must be the starting point of thinking, it must come to his soul at some time, and, judged by every condition, this is God's time for it.
The child's needs are also a guide in this matter. The soul is growing in every direction, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually if properly nurtured, and memory holds the constantly increasing food for its growth. Is it to be treated as a stockroom, where packages unavailable for the present are to be laid away until needed, or as a store-house supplied with nourishing food for the present? If memory is a stockroom, then it should be filled with definitions, statements, terms, facts, anything which may be needed sometime. This can be done, for the brain will retain the sound of the words, but meantime, what shall the child feed on? What shall he use? The soul can feed on or make use of only that which is at least partially understood. This means largely the concrete, for abstract statements can be understood only through the experience or reason, and the child has meagre resources in either direction. Only when a thought embodies what he has experienced, can he grasp and use it.
Is it not the work of nurture to see that memory is provided with that out of which it can supply every need of the developing life today? That, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," may mean much to his mature heart, but what if the child should be frightened tomorrow and need to have his budding faith strengthened from memory? Would not the story of God's care over the baby Moses, Jesus' care for the disciples in the blackness of the storm, with the words, "He careth for you," if these were stored in memory, quiet more quickly the beating heart, and more surely increase his faith? True nurture will not starve life in the present to hoard for the future. Memory now requires all its store for immediate use. Later, after growth is well under way in every direction, memory not only can supply present needs, but it will also demand a surplus for future use.
The second question, relating to the permanency of these impressions, is answered in meeting the following conditions:
1. A healthy, non-fatigued brain when the impression is made.
2. Close attention.
3. A clear, easily understood and forceful presentation of the thing to be remembered.
4. The use of as many senses as possible. When an impression has been given through eye and ear and touch, for example, it is more definite in the mind than when it has come only through the sense of hearing.
5. A natural association of the new impression with others well known and interesting to the child.
6. Immediate and frequent recall.
THE PERIOD OF EARLY CHILDHOOD—Concluded
A child receives a coveted toy and his face is aglow with delight. He is sharply reproved and anger or grief appears. Another child comes to play with him, and he may assert that all his guest desires "is mine," and tears, and even blows ensue before amicable adjustment can be made. And so through the hours of a kaleidoscopic day, the emotional pendulum keeps swinging from love to anger, from pride to humility, from selfishness to sporadic and angelic bits of generosity. What is the significance of it all in the life of the child?
Before considering this vital question, shall we note some characteristics of the feelings in Early Childhood?
They center about self, and instinctive feelings, such as hunger and thirst, pain and pleasure, fear, pride and anger, are strongest. Love is present in its first stages, not the self sacrificing sort, but love given in response to love and attention. The child's feelings are easily aroused, fleeting, and usually more or less superficial. Abstractions, such as beauty, duty, responsibility, and relationships in general have but slight effect upon his soul, and the lack of feeling in these directions is commonly expressed by saying that the higher feelings are not yet developed.
The child's feelings in response to religious truth can not, therefore, be those of the adult. He will feel love for God as he feels it for his mother, because of His love, provision and care for him. God's power and the mystery that envelops Him will awaken a response of awe and wonder in his soul, and absolute confidence that He can do anything. But this same power and majesty, carelessly presented, may call out fear, not the godly sort that is afraid of grieving Him by sin, but the physical fear that casts out love. He does not have the sense of moral obligation to God, for that again goes into the abstraction of thought. His religious life begins in feeling, pure and simple, and his creed is in I John, "We love Him because He first loved us."
Most interesting lines of discussion open out from the subject, but they are not pertinent to the chosen theme of this book. The only legitimate question is, "What is the work of nurture in connection with the feelings?"
Before this can be answered, the purpose of the feelings in character building must be clear. Then we shall know what nurture must do.
No feeling has a right to exist for itself. There is a task for it to perform, namely, to lead the soul to action. If unhindered it will always do this. The careful analysis of any action will reveal a motive power in some feeling, ranging from the lowest desires for self gratification to the sublime heights of love that denies self for the Master's sake. Knowledge alone does not suffice for action. A man may be familiar with the claims of Jesus and even acknowledge them, but until he feels a great need of Him, he will not become a Christian. The sermon may compel the admiration of the mind, but unless it move the heart no man will practice it. Jesus summed up his commands in "Love," not "Know," for He knew that loving meant God-like living. It is significant that the fruitage of the Spirit appears in the feelings of "love, joy, peace," before it can be manifest in the acts of "long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self control."
This indissoluble relation between feeling and action gives deep meaning to the words of Dr. W.H. Payne, "At least the half, and perhaps the better half of education consists in the formation of right feelings."
The work of nurture in connection with the feelings is now apparent. It must endeavor to develop right feelings in order to secure right actions and consequent strong character. This development is secured through repeatedly arousing the feelings, and giving them expression in action until they are habitual.
1. How may the Feelings be Aroused? Passing by all the physiological and psychological processes involved, and using the term, feeling, as it is popularly understood, the law that governs its appearance may be stated thus: "A feeling is occasioned by the touch of an impression upon the soul." With older people, these impressions may come from without or from a thought within, but with little children they come almost entirely from without. The sort of feeling aroused will evidently depend upon the sort of impression that comes, as well as the condition of the soul that receives it. This difference in conditions, or difference in lives as we ordinarily say, explains why the Sunday School lesson has such varied effects in the same class, or even upon the same child at different times.
Keeping in mind the law that some impression must precede a feeling, true nurture asks, "In what way can these impressions best be given, that desired feelings may be aroused?"
1. They are not given through command.
Common sense would recognize the absurdity of attempting to awaken anger by saying to a group of happy children, "Be angry." But why is the absurdity not equally apparent in saying, "Be loving," "Be sorry," "Be reverent?" Yet this is a method on which countless teachers and parents place their dependence. Suppose, for instance, reverence be the feeling desired; a thought of God's greatness and power and holiness must be given. If, to the sensitive soul of the child, the teacher bring the story of Sinai, or the story of Majestic Power as it is set forth in the 104th Psalm, or the glory of the Heavenly throne with the adoring multitudes, following with the words, softly sung,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of Thee, Heaven and earth are praising Thee, Oh Lord, most high."
the result will be true reverence.
2. Suggestion is a most effective way of conveying these impressions.
Instead of saying to the child, "This is the thought you should have, and this is what you should feel, and this is what you ought to do," he is allowed to draw meanings and have feelings of his own, for then they are genuinely a part of his soul, not something foisted upon him.
But even though the application is not made, nurture will consciously present impressions intended to suggest certain feelings. The Sunday School lesson, the missionary story, the visit to the poor family, the song carefully selected, all fall in this class. Special mention should be made of the great effect upon the child in making attractive in another, the feeling desired for him. A single incident will illustrate this: A frightened little candidate for the Beginners' Class and his stern mother stood one Sunday morning before the Primary superintendent. "He's got to stay in here by himself today," she said; "I won't have such nonsense. Look at him, with his first trousers on! I'm ashamed of him!" The superintendent did look and saw the new trousers, and in them the trembling little body, and a soul speechless with terror at facing for the first time, alone, the unknown experience of a great world, even though it was enclosed in four walls. There was no trace of relenting in the mother's face, and any plea for pity was useless. But the new trousers gave a possible key to the situation. "Why, so he has new trousers on!" the superintendent said. "I want to see them," and very thoroughly and enthusiastically they were inspected. "I didn't know that he was so nearly a man that he could wear trousers instead of dresses. I am sure he will stay alone today because men do and are not at all afraid." She waited. Gradually the little head lifted as the thought of bravery began to make its appeal. He put his hand into the hand of the superintendent, and without hesitation started on the perilous journey across the room to the Beginners' section, where no punishment could have driven him a few moments earlier, and proud and heroic sat by himself through the hour. Such is the power of suggestion.
Two points, however, must be carefully guarded in deliberate effort to arouse a feeling.
1. Care must be exercised not to over stimulate feeling, as an excess beyond that which can be expended in action has an after weakening and reactionary effect. This has its illustration in certain methods of evangelistic work with children, where results are measured by their hysterical condition when the meeting concludes. Contrast with this the gentleness which breathes through the story of the Master's touch, as He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them, when He had said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me."
2. It is as injurious to a child to attempt to force a feeling before its normal time, as to a bud, to pry open its petals to hasten God's processes. Even the Divine Child "grew." "That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual," is God's law of unfolding life.
But these consciously presented impressions form only a small part of the sources of suggestion to the child. The countless sights and circumstances of his everyday life all have a voice for him, and a feeling follows their message.
Every mother who has suffered mortification over the unaccountable behavior of her child toward a guest, knows the sometimes untoward as well as helpful working of suggestion from personality. Atmosphere has the same power. "I don't know what there is in your home," said a visitor to her hostess; "I can't define it, but it makes me want to be good." Music may be suggestive, aside from what it actually says. It would seem as if no sane superintendent would prepare for prayer by a two step song, or follow the lesson on, "The Washing of the Disciples' Feet", by, "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," but it was done. It would seem as though no primary teacher could be so insensible to suggestion from objects, as to try to teach worship in giving by taking the offering through a hole in the tail of a jointed tin rooster, but that self-same rooster is no myth.
The subject expands into endless ramifications. True nurture essays the difficult task of analyzing the impressions that come from suggestion—guarding against the harmful, and multiplying the helpful.
3. Impressions may be given and feelings aroused through doing the act which would naturally result from the feeling.
This is the reason why a reverential attitude helps to arouse real reverence, and a smiling face and cheery tone actually bring cheerfulness in a case of the blues. Little children are so imitative that they quickly copy the outward manifestations of a feeling, and the inner state tends to follow. This is further a reason for leading them into acts of loving service, that love and kindred gracious feelings may gain strength through the reflex influence of the action upon the soul.
One word should be spoken on the negative side. Since each recurrence of a feeling strengthens its power, nurture will seek to avoid the conditions which would arouse wrong feelings. "But should not the child control himself?" some one asks. Instinctive feelings are stronger than the power of self control in the beginning, and life needs shielding more than testing. God says, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger," or, literally, "Fathers, irritate not your children beyond measure, but nourish them fully in the instruction and admonition of the Lord."
2. The Expression of the Feelings.
Every normal feeling tends irresistibly to express itself in action unless it is held in leash. The story of the poor family needs the addition of no impassioned appeal; the child is already wondering whether he can empty his bank for their help. If expression is denied to the feeling, it tends to die out, and continual repression means a lessening either in power to act or power to feel. "Sentimentalists" have lost power to act except in tears or ejaculations when their emotions are stirred, and "hardened" people have lost the power to feel under ordinary stimulation. Therefore nothing is more fatal to vigorous development of the feelings of the child than to allow them to be dissipated without expression in the action they naturally suggest.
But nurture will see that little hands are allowed to hinder by "helping" to make the beds, or dust the room or carry the package, not simply that love may grow stronger, but that in after years there may be the desire to lift the burdens in reality from wearied shoulders, for the higher feelings of life develop from the instinctive feelings, if they have proper expression in the beginning. Love that is almost barter in early years, since it is bestowed for value received, if given constant expression in acts of helpfulness, will become the self-denying love of later years. Love for self, which is so strong in a child, can be developed toward its manifestation of self respect, by using it at first in childhood, "to help this good body grow both strong and tall." Childish hate may be directed against wrong things, in preparation for indignation against sin of future years. It must not be forgotten, however, that in God's economy every feeling, if properly used, has its work to do in character building in every stage of its development, so that even the foundation stones may be laid in beauty and strength.
The power of the soul to make deliberate choice of action, and unwaveringly to execute it, is undeveloped in this period of Early Childhood. The child does not balance reasons or desires. Instead, he acts impetuously and unthinkingly, as the feeling of the passing moment impels him. Often one desire so completely absorbs his mind as to obscure everything else, and he will make any effort to gain his end. His case is like that of a man who "sets his heart" on a thing, or who harbors an alluring temptation too long, until it overpowers him. This is the explanation of most cases of obstinacy and strong will, as is proven by the disappearance of the "will" when the mind is diverted.
One of the deepest desires of every parent and teacher is that there shall in truth be a strong will as the life matures, and so its training is sought. But just what is meant by it? We know there is no separate faculty to be strengthened as the arm is strengthened. What can be trained? The only training possible is in helping the soul to form the habit of choosing to do the right thing, or, analyzing still more closely, of following the promptings of the noblest feelings of the heart.
The inseparable relation between feeling and action has been noted. If the noblest feelings can be made the strongest, they will be followed. The previous discussion shows that their strength is increased every time they are aroused and acted upon, and this leads to habit in both feeling and action. The nurture of the will or executive power of the soul is seen, therefore, to be most intimately connected with the nurture of the feelings, and its work will consist in making the right course of action so appealing that the child will desire and choose it for himself, until it becomes habitual, and consequently, undebatable. Forcing him to follow it, secures the action; it does not arouse the feelings that would lead him to choose to do the act himself.
An act compelled is like an apple tied to a fruit tree; it did not grow there and has no connection with the life of the tree. A fruit tree that can not bear its own fruit is worthless, and a life that does not reach the point of producing its own right actions, independent of human coercion, is a failure. The comparison may be pressed still further. No quantity of apples tied upon a tree will ever make it produce apples, and even so, no number of right acts imposed upon a child will, in itself, make him do right things voluntarily. This can only come through strengthening in his own soul the processes that lead to right action. The truth of this is proven in the case of thousands of boys who did the right things at home because they were compelled to do so, but when they left home they went wrong. The one who should have nurtured was too busy, or too thoughtless, to take the time to lead into strength and uprightness the thinking and feeling and choosing of the soul while it was developing. It was easier to say peremptorily, "Do this," with the inevitable result, that when compulsion was removed character gave way because it was weak.
But some one is saying, "That is a very questionable doctrine; 'Let the child do as he pleases, if he don't want to do the right, don't force him.'"
Such a deduction from the argument entirely misses the point. The child must do the right, but, in a nutshell—which is the stronger constraint—outer or inner? Which makes character surer, the voice without, saying, 'You must,' or the voice within which says it? No external power could have made Paul's record of service, or Brainerd's or Paton's. All the force of the Russian government was powerless to obtain that which each Japanese soldier poured out upon his country's altar in the fight for supremacy in Manchuria. These deeds are the soul's response to the most irresistible power in the world—a consuming passion. It was such a passion, intense beyond earthly fathom, that led the Savior through Gethsemane to Calvary.
Because this is so, the Heavenly Father's effort to secure right action from His children is not evident in external compulsion. Through His favor and fellowship, the joy of His approval, the peace that passeth understanding, the "Well done," the eternal reward, He endeavors to arouse love for Himself and what He desires, in order that His will may be chosen.
According to this Divine pattern human nurture labors. At the very first, the parent must make choice for the child, but earlier than is usually appreciated, definite training may be begun. The loving smile of the mother and her known wish, her approval or disapproval, her recognition and encouragement, the knowledge that, "Whatsoever a man soweth that must he also reap," gained through bearing the penalty or enjoying the reward of each choice, the right course made attractive in the story of some one who chose it, or, most magnetic of all, in the life of the one who is nurturing, all these will begin to arouse the inner constraint that compels, and with glad acquiescence the soul will say, "Necessity is laid upon me."
When the life shall learn that the most blessed joy that inheres in right actions is not human approval but God's favor, and for His sake, with face steadfastly set, the right is followed, even though shorn of all external attractiveness, the highest development possible for a soul has been realized.
APPLICATION TO SUNDAY SCHOOL WORK
The Sunday School is such an important factor in religious training that a special application of the foregoing discussion to its methods and work seems wise. It is evident that plans can not be detailed, but only some principles underlying the methods be suggested.
THE CRADLE ROLL
In the first department known as the Cradle Roll, nurture can be given by the Sunday School only as it touches the parents. Any Cradle Roll work that culminates in the sentiment of securing the babies' names and calling them, "Our Sweet Peas", has missed its purpose. A peculiar opportunity comes with the flood tide of new parental love. "If I had not been a Christian when my boy was born, I could very easily have been led to Christ, my heart was so tender and full of gratitude," said the father of an only son.