ON THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF MORAL INSTRUCTION'.
The mind of man in infancy, is like his body, complete as to its parts ; but these parts are requiring health, and strength, and support for many a helpless year, in order to lead them on to maturity. It is perfect as to the number of its operations, and the variety and complexity of its functions, but many of these are leftundeveloped and obscure; others are liable to occasional distortion and aberration ; and again, others require the strong arm of uniform controul. The faculties must be cultivated and informed ; the heart must be impressed, and the feelings enlisted on the side of virtue ; while the union of these must be shewn in their influence upon the life.
Again, the development of these principles must be guardedfrom the influence of causes which might prevent their growth, or occasion their perversion ; the mind must be supported ic health, and medicined in disease; it must be protected from the evils and dangers which encompass it; and it must be strengthened to overcome, or escape from, its difficulties. To instruct. to defend, to guide, to warn, to elicit good, and repress evil dispositions, to removefalse impressions, and substitute those which are correct; to eke out principles into consistent practice; to nourish and strengthen virtuous affections; and to repress and punish that which is not only erroneous in judgment, but injurious in its tendency : these are the objects of moral instruction ; an extensive field, over which it is easy to range without order, without an object, and almostentirely without result; and which demands a basis of true and unaffected religion and piety, in order to ensure those fruits which alone can satisfy the anxiety of the good parent.
And first, of the period included in earliest infancy ! a period generally considered as of little consequence, and as giving occasion only for attentions which relate chiefly to animal nature; but also one in whichperception is quick, and the impressions received by the mind are few, because it is as yet incapable of combining its ideas ; yet a period in which the impressions so received are more permanent, and their influence is more abiding than at any subsequent epoch; and that because the mind has time to rest its attention on the subjects presented to it, and is not distracted by the intervention of agreat number of ideas, or blinded by previous prejudice, or hindered by the secret agency of principles which prevent the unbiassed operation of the thinking faculty. This then is an important period, and one during which the character may be permunently and efficiently stamped; and therefore every opportunity it presents should be improved with niggard care, to the happiness of the child.
One reasonwhy the real value of this season is so lightly esteemed, is, that the methods commonly employed in conveying instruction, would be fruitless and unavailing; and therefore the attempt is abandoned, because the beaten track of well accustomed routine is not to be quitted for the more arduous ascent of rationality. And yet it is the employment of means suited to the end, which can alone deserve,much less ensure success; and therefore it is absurd to rely upon the aid of those which are only suitable to a developed understanding. Moral impressions can alone be received by an infant, through the medium of things with which it is conversant, or with which it may readily become acquainted: and since its senses have not yet been exercised to discern good from evil; doubt is unknown to itsunderstanding, which receives at once as just, all the impressions which have been made upon it. But this time may be improved, and the infant may be led forward in the ways of truth and knowledge. It is then a period which must not be overlooked, but one during which right impressions should be communicated, and wrong ones guarded against and counteracted.
We cannot avoid noticing again, in this...
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