no manifestation of a moral rule of right in the governor. In speaking of moral perception, I do not mean to say that children have, properly speaking, a moral perception of inconsistency; but it affects their comfort and well-being, nevertheless. There is, in the nature of man, as great a perception of moral, as of physical order and proportion; and the absence of the moral produces pain and disgust to the soul, as the absence of the physical does to the senses. This state of pain and disgust is felt, though it can never be expressed, by children, who are under the management of inconsistent persons,—that is, persons whose conduct is guided solely by feeling, (good or bad,) by caprice, or impulse; and how injurious it is to them, we may easily conceive. If, however, their present comfort only were endangered by it, the evil would be of comparatively small magnitude; but it affects their character for life. They cease to trust, and they cease to venerate; now, trust is the root of faith, and veneration of piety:—and when the root is destroyed, how can the plant flourish? Perhaps we may remark that the effect here produced upon children is the same as that which long intercourse with the world produces in men: only that the effect differs in proportion to their differing intellectual faculties. The child is annoyed, and knows not the cause of annoyance; the man is annoyed, and endeavours to lose the sense of discomfort in a universal skepticism as to human virtue, and a resolving of all actions into one principle, self-interest. He thus seeks to create a principle possessing the stability which he desires, but seeks in vain to find; for, be it remembered, our love of moral stability is precisely as great as our love of physical change;—another of the mysteries of our being. The effects on the man are the same as on the child,—he ceases to believe, and he ceases to venerate; and the end is the most degrading of all conditions,—the abnegation of all abstract virtue, generosity, or love. Now, into this state children are brought by the inconsistency of parents,—that is, these young and innocent creatures are placed in a condition, moral and intellectual, which we consider an evil, even when produced by long contact with a selfish and unkind world. And thus they enter upon life, prepared for vice in all its forms,—and skepticism, in all its heart-withering tendencies. How can parents bear this responsibility? There is something so touching in the simple faith of childhood,—its utter dependence,—its willingness to believe in the perfection of those to whom it looks for protection—that to betray that faith, to shake that dependence, seems almost akin to irreligion.
The value of principle, then, in itself so precious, is enhanced tenfold by constancy in its manifestations, and therefore consistency, as a source of influence, can never be too much insisted upon.