A child receives a coveted toy and his face is aglow with delight. He is sharply reproved and anger or grief appears. Another child comes to play with him, and he may assert that all his guest desires “is mine,” and tears, and even blows ensue before amicable adjustment can be made. And so through the hours of a kaleidoscopic day, the emotional pendulum keeps swinging from love to anger, from pride to humility, from selfishness to sporadic and angelic bits of generosity. What is the significance of it all in the life of the child?
Before considering this vital question, shall we note some characteristics of the feelings in Early Childhood?
They center about self, and instinctive feelings, such as hunger and thirst, pain and pleasure, fear, pride and anger, are strongest. Love is present in its first stages, not the self sacrificing sort, but love given in response to love and attention. The child’s feelings are easily aroused, fleeting, and usually more or less superficial. Abstractions, such as beauty, duty, responsibility, and relationships in general have but slight effect upon his soul, and the lack of feeling in these directions is commonly expressed by saying that the higher feelings are not yet developed.
The child’s feelings in response to religious truth can not, therefore, be those of the adult. He will feel love for God as he feels it for his mother, because of His love, provision and care for him. God’s power and the mystery that envelops Him will awaken a response of awe and wonder in his soul, and absolute confidence that He can do anything. But this same power and majesty, carelessly presented, may call out fear, not the godly sort that is afraid of grieving Him by sin, but the physical fear that casts out love. He does not have the sense of moral obligation to God, for that again goes into the abstraction of thought. His religious life begins in feeling, pure and simple, and his creed is in I John, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
Most interesting lines of discussion open out from the subject, but they are not pertinent to the chosen theme of this book. The only legitimate question is, “What is the work of nurture in connection with the feelings?”
Before this can be answered, the purpose of the feelings in character building must be clear. Then we shall know what nurture must do.
No feeling has a right to exist for itself. There is a task for it to perform, namely, to lead the soul to action. If unhindered it will always do this. The careful analysis of any action will reveal a motive power in some feeling, ranging from the lowest desires for self gratification to the sublime heights of love that denies self for the Master’s sake. Knowledge alone does not suffice for action. A man may be familiar with the claims of Jesus and even acknowledge them, but until he feels a great need of Him, he will not become a Christian. The sermon