History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Education of Daughters;
Translanted from the French and Adapted to English Readers
With an Original Chapter, "On Religious Studies."
By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, B. A. F. A. S
Albany; printed and published by Backus and Whiting, 1806.
Of The Use of History For Children.
Children are passionately fond of marvellous tales : one sees them every day transported with joy, or drowned in tears, at the recital of certain adventures. Do not fail to profit by this propensity. When you find them disposed to listen to you, relate to them some short and pretty fable :- but choose some ingenious and harmless one respecting animals : repeat them just as they are composed, and shew them the moral resulting therefrom. As to pagan fables, a girl will be happy in her total ignorance of them, as they are extremely indelicate and replete with impious absurdities. If, however, you are not able to keep a child ignorant of them, impress her with a sense of their horror. When you have repeated one fable, wait till you are asked to begin another-thus leaving the child hungry, as it were, for more mental food. When curiosity is at last excited, recount certain choice histories, but in as few words as possible : connect them together, and postpone the sequel from one day to another, so that you keep the children in suspense, and impatient to know the termination. Be animated and familiar in your manner of repeating-make the personages speak-and children, who have a lively imagination, will fancy they hear and see them, For instance, relate the history of Joseph-make his brothers speak like brutal characters, but Jacob like a tender and afflicted father-then let Joseph himself speak-taking pleasure, as being at the head of an Egyptian establishment, in concealing himself from his brothers-in making them afraid of him; and, at last, in discovering himself to them. This natural representation, joined to the extraordinary circumstances of the history, will delight a child ; provided she be not teased with too many similar recitals. You may let her express a desire for such stories, and promise them as a recompense for a prudent conduct, provided they assume not the form of study-provided the child is not obliged to repeat them ; for these repetitions, if not voluntarily undertaken, will discompose and fret her, and take away all pleasure arising from such sort of narrations.
It must be observed that if a child has any facility in speaking, she will, of her own accord, relate to those whom she likes, such histories as have pleased her most : but do not let her make a rule of it. You may employ some one, who is on a footing of perfect intimacy with the child, to appear anxious to learn other a particular story : the child will be delighted in repeating it. Do not appear yourself to listen very earnestly to it-let her go on as she likes, without checking her in her faults. The consequence will be, that when she is more accustomed to repeat, you may gently make her sensible of a better manner of narrating, by rendering it short, Simple, and easy ; and by a choice of circumstances better calculated to represent forcibly the nature of each thing. If you have many children, accustom them by degrees to represent the historical characters whom they read of-one may be Abraham, the other, Isaac. These representations will charm them more than any other games-will accustom them to think, and to utter serious things with pleasure-and will indelibly fix such histories on their memory.
We should strive to give them a taste for scriptural history rather than for any other ; not in telling them that it is finer, which they will probably not believe-but in causing them to feel it to be so. Make them observe how important, wonderful, and curious those histories are : how full of natural representation, and a spirit of noble simplicity. Those of the creation, the fall of Adam, the deluge, the call of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac, the adventures of Joseph (which have been briefly discussed,) and the birth and flight of Moses, are not only calculated to awaken the curiosity of children, but in discovering to them the origin of religion, fix the foundations of it in their bosoms. We must be strangely ignorant of the essential parts of religion not to observe that they are chiefly historical : it is by a tissue, as it were, of marvellous facts that we discover its establishment, its perpetuity, and all that can induce us to believe and to practice it. It is not to be supposed that by all this we wish children to be plunged into profound knowledge--on the contrary, these histories are short, various, and calculated to please the meanest capacity, The Almighty, who best knows the faculties of that being whom he has created, has clothed religion in popular facts, which, far from overpowering the simple, assists them in conceiving and retaining its mysteries. For example, tell a child, that in God there are three equal persons, but of one nature : by the habit of hearing and repeating these terms, she may retain them in her memory ; but I doubt whether she will understand the sense of them. Relate to her that as Jesus Christ went up out of the waters of Jordan, the Almighty caused these words to be heard-" This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased -hear him:" add, that the Holy Ghost descended on our Saviour, in the form of a dove--and thus, you make her sensible of the TRINITY, in a history which she will never forget. Here are three persons which she will distinguish by the difference of their actions ; you have nothing more, therefore, but to inform her that all these together make but one God. This example is sufficient to shew the use of history. Although it may seem to make instruction more tedious, it really abridges it; and renders the dryness of catechism, where mysteries are detached from facts, unnecessary. We may observe that history was an ancient mode of instruction. The admirable method which St. Austin has pointed out for the instruction of the ignorant, was not suggested by that father alone-it was the un method and practice of the church; it consisted in shewing, by a succession of historical facts, religion to be as ancient as the world-Jesus Christ conspicuous in the Old Testament, and pervading every part of the New: which, in truth, is the foundation of Christian instruction.
All this demands a little more time and care than are devoted to the usual habits of instruction with which many people content themselves : but in adopting such a mode, religion will be truly taught ; whereas, when children are not so instructed, they have only confused ideas of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the church, of the necessity of absolute submission to its decrees, and of the foundation of those virtues with which the Christian character should inspire us. The historical catechism, which is simple, short, and more perspicuous than the ordinary catechism, includes every thing necessary to be known thereupon-so that it need not be said that much study is necessary.*
Let us now add to the facts before mentioned from scripture, the passage of the Red Sea, and the sojourning of the people in the desert-where they
* I have omitted the remark which here follows-- because it alludes to the catechism of the Council of Trent, with which we have nothing to do in this country.
ate bread which fell from heaven, and drank water which Moses caused to flow from the rock, by striking it with his rod. Represent the miraculous conquest of the promised land, where the waters of Jordan went backwards towards their source, and the walls of a city fell down of themselves in the sight of the besiegers. Describe, in as natural colours as possible, the combats of Saul and David : and how the latter, a youth, without arms and habited like a shepherd, became the conqueror of the fierce and gigantic Goliath. Do not forget the glory and wisdom of Solomon : how he decided between the two women who disputed about a child-but do not forget to impress on the mind, how he fell from this height of wisdom ; dishonoring himself by an effeminacy, which is almost the inevitable consequence of overgrown prosperity.
Next make the prophets, as delegated from heaven, converse with kings : shew how they read the future as if in a book : how they suffered continual persecution for having spoken the truth. Speak, in succession, of the first destruction of Jerusalem--represent the temple burning, and the holy city in ruins on account of the sins of the people. Relate the Babylonian captivity, and how the Jews wept " when they thought on Sion." Before their return, represent the interesting adventures of Tobit, Judith, Esther, and Daniel. It may not be amiss to let children give their opinion on the different characters of these holy persons, to know which of them they admire the most. One will prefer Esther, the other Judith -and this may excite a little controversy between them, which will impress those histories more strongly on their minds, and form their judgments thereupon. Afterwards, bring back the Jews from captivity to Jerusalem, and make them repair their desolated city ; then paint, in smiling colours, the peace and happiness which succeeded. Shortly you will have to draw a picture of the cruel Antiochus, who died in false repentance : describe, under this persecutor, the victories of the Maccabees, and the martyrdom of the seven brothers of that name.
Descend regularly to the miraculous birth of St. John : and relate, more in detail, that of our Saviour Jesus Christ : after which you must select in the four Gospels all the remarkable occurrences of his life-his preaching in the temple at twelve years of age-his baptism--his retreat and temptation in the desert-the calling of the apostles--the miracle of the loaves-the conversion of the sinful woman, who anointed the feet of our Saviour with a precious perfume- washed them with her tears, and dried them with her hair. Represent the Samaritan woman instructed ; Lazarus restored to life ; and Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Next describe his passion, and his resurrection from the tomb. Afterwards make them remark the familiarity with which he continued forty days with his disciples, until they saw him ascend into heaven. Next will follow the descent of the Holy Ghost; the stoning of Stephen ; the conversion of St. Paul ; and the calling of the centurion Cornelius : the voyages of the apostles, and particularly of St. Paul, are yet extremely interesting. Select the most wonderful histories of the martyrs, and give a general outline of the celestial life of the first Christians: mingle with it the courage of young virgins, the astonishing austerity of those who led a solitary life, the conversion of emperors and of the empire, the blindness of the Jews, and the punishment which yet awaits them.
All theses histories (managed with discretion) of the whole series of religion, from the creation to the present time, would make an agreeable impression on the lively and tender minds of children ; and would fill them with such noble ideas of it as would never be forgotten. They would even see, in this narration, the hand of God always lifted up to protect the good, and to punish the wicked. They would accustom themselves to behold the Almighty, working all in all, secretly directing the movement of creatures however remote from himself. But care must be taken to select such passages in these histories as afford the most beautiful and magnificent images ; for every faculty must be employed to shew religion to children adorned with every thing amiable, pleasing, and august : and not to represent it, as is too commonly the case, as something sad and disagreeable.
Besides the inestimable advantage of teaching religion in this manner to children--such a series of pleasant histories, which they learn betimes to remember, awakens their curiosity for serious things ; makes them sensible of the pleasures of the mind, and excites an interest in the hearing of other histories which have some connexion with those they already know. But again I repeat, never make a rigid law that they should hear and retain these things-much less let them be inculcated as regular lessons : for the pleasure which they take in such recitals should be voluntary, and without this, nothing important can be effected. Do not urge them much-you will attain the desired end, even with ordinary understandings : * you have nothing to do but exercise their capacities moderately, and let their curiosity be excited, by degrees. But you will
* I may be permitted to add, that if children do not discover any propensity to these studies, we should neither neglect nor despise them ; provided their dispositions and conduct be good and regular in other matters. Besides, nothing conclusive can, at first, be drawn from their inattention to these subjects ; for a child at twelve years of age may evince as great a regard for them, as she did indifference, at ten. There is little consistency in the human intellect at such a volatile period: the girl of gaity and dissipation at eighteen, may become the devotee at five and twenty. T
say, how are those histories to be repeated in a lively, short, natural, and agreeable manner ? Where are the teachers who can accomplish such a thing ? To this I answer, that I propose it only that you should endeavour to choose persons of an excellent understanding to govern your children, and that they be gifted, as much as possible, with this method of teaching : every governess will undertake it in proportion to her talents. But if there be only a candour and openness of intellect, the thing will go on with good effect when children are formed to this manner, which is natural and simple.
To discourse or description, may be added the sight of pictures, which represent sacred subjects. Prints will be sufficient, which may be preserved for ordinary use-but when an opportunity offers of shewing a child good paintings, it must not be neglected: for the force of colouring, and the grandeur of composition, will strike the imagination with greater effect.
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