In what True Piety consists.
Indeed; I think there is far more real than seeming agreement among parents in respect to this subject, or rather a large portion of the apparent difference consists in different modes of expressing in words thoughts and conceptions connected with spiritual things, which from their very nature can not any of them be adequately expressed in language at all; and thus it happens that what are substantially the same ideas are customarily clothed by different classes of persons in very different phraseology, while, on the other hand, the same set of phrases actually represent in different minds very different sets of ideas.
For instance, there is perhaps universal agreement in the idea that some kind of change—a change, too, of a very important character—is implied in the implanting or developing of the spirit of piety in the heart of a child. There is also universal agreement in the fact—often very emphatically asserted in the New Testament—that the essential principles in which true piety consists are those of entire submission in all things to the will of God, and cordial kind feeling towards every man. There is endless disagreement, and much earnest contention among different denominations of Christians, in respect to the means by which the implanting of these principles is to be secured, and to the modes in which, when implanted, they will manifest themselves; but there is not, so far as would appear, any dissent whatever anywhere from the opinion that the end to be aimed at is the implanting of these principles—that is that it consists in bringing the heart to a state of complete and cordial submission to the authority and to the will of God, and to a sincere regard for the welfare and happiness of every human being.
A Question of Words
There seems, at first view, to be a special difference of opinion in respect to the nature of the process by which these principles come to be implanted or developed in the minds of the young; for all must admit that in early infancy they are not there, or, at least, that they do not appear. No one would expect to find in two infants—twin-brothers, we will suppose—creeping on the floor, with one apple between them, that there could be, at that age, any principles of right or justice, or of brotherly love existing in their hearts that could prevent their both crying and quarrelling for it. “True,” says one; “but there are germs of those principles which, in time, will be developed.” “No,” rejoins another,” there are no germs of them, there are only capacities for them, through which, by Divine power, the germs may hereafter be introduced.” But when we reflect upon the difficulty of forming any clear and practical idea of the difference between a germ—in a bud upon an apple-tree, for instance—which may ultimately produce fruit, and a capacity for producing it which may subsequently be developed, and still more, how difficult is it to picture to our minds what is represented by these words in the case of a human soul, it would seem as if the apparent difference in people’s opinions on such a point must be less a difference in respect to facts than in respect to the phraseology by which the facts should be represented.