Some persons, however, who read without much reflection, and who do not clearly see the principle involved in the case above described, and do not understand it as it is intended—that is, as a single specimen or example of a mode of action capable of an endless variety of applications, will perhaps say, “Oh, that was all very well. James’s talk was very good for the purpose of amusing the children for a few minutes while he was visiting them, but it is idle to suppose that such a conversation could produce any permanent or even lasting impression upon them; still less, that it could work any effectual change in respect to their habits of order.”
That is very true. In the work of forming the hearts and minds of children it is “line upon line, and precept upon precept” that is required; and it can not be claimed that one such conversation as that of James is any thing more than one line. But it certainly is that. It would be as unreasonable to expect that one single lesson like that could effectually and completely accomplish the end in view, as that one single watering of a plant will suffice to enable it to attain completely its growth, and enable it to produce in perfection its fruits or its flowers.
But if a mother often clothes thus the advice or instruction which she has to give to her children in some imaginative guise like this, advising them what to do when they are on a journey, for example, or when they are making a visit at the house of a friend in the country; or, in the case of a boy, what she would counsel him to do in case he were a young man employed by a farmer to help him on his farm, or a clerk in a store, or a sea-captain in charge of a ship, or a general commanding a force in the field; or, if a girl, what dangers or what undesirable habits or actions she should avoid when travelling in Europe, or when, as a young lady, she joins in picnics or goes on excursions, or attends concerts or evening parties, or in any of the countless other situations which it is pleasant for young persons to picture to their minds, introducing into all, so far as her ingenuity and skill enable her to do it, interesting incidents and details, she will find that she is opening to herself an avenue to her children’s hearts for the sound moral principles that she wishes to inculcate upon them, which she can often employ easily, pleasantly, and very advantageously, both to herself and to them.
When a child is sick, it may be of little consequence whether the medicine which is required is agreeable or disagreeable to the taste. But with moral remedies the case is different. Sometimes the whole efficiency of the treatment administered as a corrective for a moral disorder depends upon the readiness and willingness with which it is taken. To make it disagreeable, consequently, in such cases, is to neutralize the intended action of it—a result which the methods described in this chapter greatly tend to avoid.