The great Difficulty.
It would seem, perhaps, at first view, from what has been said in this chapter, that it would be a very simple and easy thing to train up children thus to correct ideas and habits in respect to the use of money; and it would be so—for the principles involved seem to be very plain and simple—were it not that the qualities which it requires in the parent are just those which are most rare. Deliberateness in forming the plan, calmness and quietness in proposing it, inflexible but mild and gentle firmness in carrying it out, perfect honesty in allowing the children to exercise the power and responsibility promised them, and an indulgent spirit in relation to the faults and errors into which they fall in the exercise of it—these and other such qualities are not very easily found. To make an arrangement with a child that he is to receive a certain sum every Saturday, and then after two or three weeks to forget it, and when the boy comes to call for it, to say, petulantly, “Oh, don’t come to bother me about that now—I am busy; and besides, I have not got the money now;” or, when a boy has spent all his allowance on the first two or three days of the week, and comes to beg importunately for more, to say, “It was very wrong in you to spend all your money at once, and I have a great mind not to give you any more. I will, however, do it just this time, but I shall not again, you may depend;” or, to borrow money in some sudden emergency out of the fund which a child has accumulated for a special purpose, and then to forget or neglect to repay it—to manage loosely and capriciously in any such ways as these will be sure to make the attempt a total failure; that is to say, such management will be sure to be a failure in respect to teaching the boy to act on right principles in the management of money, and training him to habits of exactness and faithfulness in the fulfillment of his obligations. But in making him a thoughtless, wasteful, teasing, and selfish boy while he remains a boy, and fixing him, when he comes to manhood, in the class of those who are utterly untrustworthy, faithless in the performance of their promises, and wholly unscrupulous in respect to the means by which they obtain money, it may very probably turn out to be a splendid success.
It might, perhaps, be thought that, in a book which professes to show how an efficient government can be established and maintained by gentle measures, the subject of corporal punishment could have no place. It seems important, however, that there should be here introduced a brief though distinct presentation of the light in which, in a philosophical point of view, this instrumentality is to be regarded.
The Teachings of Scripture.