By Horace Bushnell
PHYSICAL NURTURE, TO BE A MEANS OF GRACE.
A MOST fit subject of prayer! And if the feeding of an adult person, such as Agur, has a connection so intimate with his religious life and character, how much more the feeding and the physical nurture of a child. I use the text, therefore, to introduce, for our present consideration, as a kind of first point, the food or feeding of children, and their physical treatment generally.
It will not be incredible to any thoughtful person, least of all to any genuinely philosophic person, that the treatment and fare of the body has much to do with the quality of the soul, or mind--its affinities, passions, aspirations, tempers; its powers of thought and sentiment, its imaginations, its moral and religious development. For the body is not only a house to the mind as other houses are, which we may live in for a time with no perceptible effect on our character, but it is a house in the sense of being the mind's own organ; its external life itself, the medium of all its action, the instrument of its thought and feeling, the inlet also of all its knowledges and impressions, and the instigator, by a thousand reactions, of all such spiritual riot and corruption as have had their leaven brewed in as many physical abuses and disorders. So intimate is this connection of mind and body, so very close to real oneness are they, that no one can, by any possibility, be a Christian in his mind, and not be in some sense a Christian in his body. If his soul is to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, then his body must be. If his soul is under government, then his body will be. And if his body is not under government, then his soul, by no possibility, can be; save that, in every such ease, it will and must be under the government of the body; subject to its power, swayed by all its excesses and distempers.
Hence that most determined, almost proud, resolve of the apostle, when he declares--"I will not be brought under the power of any." Under the body? No! he will scorn that low kind of thraldom. Meats, drinks, appetites--none of these shall have the mastery in him. He will assert the supreme right of the soul or person, above the house it lives in; so God's preeminent right in the soul. He will say to the body--"stay thou down there"--as they that fast do, in fasting; and, what is more profoundly, more scientifically rational than fasting, when it is practiced in the real insight of its reasons? It is the soul rising up, in God's name, to assert herself over the body; over its appetites, passions, tempers, and, if possible, distempers, And how often the poor, coarse, stupid, sensual, fast-bound slaves of the body, calling themselves disciples, need this kind of war, and a regular campaign of it, to get their souls uppermost and trim themselves for the race.
One must be a very inobservant person, not to have noticed, that all his finest and most God-ward aspirations are smothered under any load of excess, or overindulgence. It is as if the body were calling down all the other powers, even those of poetry, magnanimity, and religion, to help it do the scarcely possible work of digestion. At that point they gather. The sense of beauty is there, and the soul's angel of hope, and the testimony of God's peace, and the music of devotion, and the thrill of sermons, dosing, all together, and soughing in dull dreams round the cargo of poppies in the hold of the body. To raise any fresh sentiment is now impossible. Even prayer itself is mired, and can not struggle out. The news of some best friend's death can only be answered by dry interjections, and forced postures of grief, that will not find their meaning till to-morrow.
And much the same thing holds true, only under a different form, when the body is prematurely diseased and broken, by the excesses of self-indulgence. Its distempers will distemper the mind itself; its pains prick through into the sensibilities, even of the spiritual nature. Out of the pits of the body, dark clouds will steam up into the chambers of the soul, and all the devils of dyspepsia will be hovering in them, to scare away its peace, and choke the godlike possibilities, out of which its better motions should be springing.
So important a thing, for the religious life of the soul, is the feeding of the body. Vast multitudes of disciples have no conception of the fact. Living in a swine's body, regularly over-loaded and oppressed every day of their lives, they wonder that so great difficulties and discouragements rise up to hinder the Christian clearness of their soul. Could they but look into Agur's prayer, and take the meaning--feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord?--they would find a real gospel in it. And making it truly their own, they would dismiss, at once, whole armies of doubts; their faith would get wings to rise; they would rest their soul in an element of power, and peace and sweetness, and would run the way of God's commandments with a wonderful clearness and liberty.
I have spoken, thus briefly, to a fact of adult experience, because it is adult conviction which my subject needs to obtain. To simply look on children from without, and tell what effects will be wrought on their religious tempers and habit by their feeding, and the general nurture of their body, will not carry any depth of conviction by itself; for there is no creature of God less adequately understood, or conceived, than a child. And therefore it is that I appeal to parents, in this manner, requiring them to make some observation of themselves; to notice what becomes of them, and their sentiments, and senses of Christ and of God, when they are down under the burdens of an overloaded, or permanently diseased body.
The principle I am here asserting, as regards the religious import of feeding and bodily nurture, in the case of children, is the same on which the child Daniel and his friends acted, in the choice of their very simple and temperate diet. Whether Daniel had been brought up from his infancy in this manner does not appear. He may have been prompted to this choice, by a purely divine impulse. But whether he came into it by one method or the other, makes little difference; for, in either case, the most important matter is to observe the result, and that such kind of feeding was chosen, or instituted, for the sake of the result that would follow, on perfectly natural principles, viz: to give greater clearness to the religious perceptions and sentiments of the soul. The body grew toward perfect health, because it was burdened and distempered by no excesses. And the soul was just as much more open to God and the sense of unseen things, as the body was more serenely and blissfully well, in its physical condition. In this manner the child's nature grew apace, in the molds of a perfectly evened judgment, and was also wonderfully opened to God and all highest discoveries of his will. In a certain sense, he became a great prophet by his physical nurture--God gave him knowledge, thus, and skill, in all learning and wisdom, and he had understanding in all visions and dreams. His feeding stood with his health, and with all purest affinities and deepest openings toward God.
Let us glance a moment, now, at some of the points here involved, and distinguish, if we can, the 1esllts that are always depending on the sight feeding of children.
The child is taken, when his training begins, in a state of naturalness, as respects all the bodily tastes and tempers, and the endeavor should be to keep him in that key; to let no stimulation of excess, or delicacy, disturb the simplicity of nature, and no sensual pleasuring, in the name of food, become a want or expectation of his appetite. Any artificial appetite begun, is the beginning of distemper, disease, and a general disturbance of natural proportion. Intemperance! the woes of intemperate drink I how dismal the story, when it is told; how dreadful the picture, when we look upon it. From what do the father and mother recoil, with a greater and more total horror of feeling, than the possibility that their child is to be a drunkard? Little do they remember that he can be, even before he has so much as tasted the cup; and that they themselves can make him so, virtually, without meaning it, even before he has gotten his language! Nine-tenths .of the intemperate drinking begins, not in grief and destitution, as we so often hear, but in vicious feeding. Here the scale of order and simplicity is first broken, and then what shall a distempered or distemperate life run to, more certainly, than to what is intemperate? False feeding genders false appetite, and when the soul is burning, all through, in the fires of false appetite, what is that but a universal uneasiness? and what will this uneasiness more naturally do, than betake itself to the pleasurable excitement of drink? What is wanted is a sensation--the soul is aching for a sensation; for it is one of the miseries of food that the tasting pleasure is soon over and the cloyed body turns away in disgust; one of the excellencies of drink, that the sensation is a long one, and may be easily drawn out so as to cover whole hours of duration. Food, sleep, friends, the self-enjoyment of character-what an excellent and easy substitute it is for them all! Thus, for example, when a very young child, taken by the captivating flavor of some dainty or confectionery, has refused to restrain itself, and has kept on, as by a kind of spell, repeating the sensation again and again, till the organs, dried and cloyed by excess, refuse to give it longer, you will see that a wonderful uneasiness follows, asking what sensation next? and really there is nothing that can fill the vacant space, or quiet the uneasiness. One toy or another will be seized and thrown into the fire. The plays that before satisfied look insipid and do not please. The world goes ill because there is nothing good enough in it, and a general cry finishes the overdone pleasure of the day. And here you have in small, as in a single view, just that misery of distemper and uneasiness which is wrought, by the bad feeding of childhood, and prepares the vice of intemperance, even before it appears.
It is only a larger and more comprehensive mischief of the wrong feeding of children, that it puts them under the body, teaches them to value bodily sensations, makes them sensual every way, and sets them lusting in every kind of excess. The vice of impurity is taught, how commonly, thus, at the mother's table. The finer sentiments and wits of children are smothered also and deadened, by this same animalizing process. They make a dull figure at school. Their feeling is coarse, their conscience weak, their passions low and violent. Their higher affinities, those which ally them to God and character and unseen worlds, appear to be closed up, and the lines of their faces, particularly about the mouth, give a low sensual expression, even when the upper-head is large and full. A certain degree of selfishness is likely to be somehow developed in children, for sin of every kind is selfish, but the lowest, meanest, and most utterly degraded type of selfishness, is the sensual; that which centers in the body, and makes every thing bend to bodily sensation And yet the early feeding and growth of children tends, how often, to just this and nothing higher. Saying nothing of genius and great action, impossible to be developed in this manner out of the finest possible organization, what hope is there under such abuse of nature, that religion will there begin to loosen her noble aspirations, and claim her sonship with God? What place can the love of God find open, in a soul that is shut up under the brutishness of sensuality? What sensibility is left for Christ and God, when the body has become the total manhood?
And exactly this it will most certainly be, if first it becomes the total childhood. We have a way of saying, continually, that children are creatures of the senses, and we please ourselves in making allowances for them in this manner, and raising expectations of them that suppose the likelihood of their, by and by, coming out of their senses, into the higher ranges of thought and spiritual impulse. But we do not remember, always, the immense distinction between being in the senses and being in the sensualities; between going after the eyes, and going after the stomach; between the almost divine curiosity of intelligence, exploring all objects, sounds, and colors, to get in the stock of its mental furniture, and the totally incurious hankering of appetite, for some finer, freer indulgence of the animal sensation. Little hope is there of a child, who is in the senses, after this latter fashion. This he will quite seldom or never outgrow; on the contrary, it will overgrow him, and subjugate all nobler impulse in him, by a kind of natural law; even as disease propagates more disease and not health. In this manner, a child can be fairly put under the body for life, by the time he is five years old. And just this, I verily believe, is often true. Kindness, it may be, has done it, but it is that kindness which is better called cruelty. Coarseness of feeling, lowness of impulse, gluttony, dissipation, drunkenness, adultery--all foul passions that kennel in a sensual soul, it has cherished as a foster-mother; not once imagining the fact, in the indiscreet feeding of the hapless creature trusted to its care.
This, too, will be rendered yet more probable by reviewing, briefly, some of the methods by which a more judicious, and more properly Christian feeding will conduce toward a different and happier result.
First of all, it will not be a permitted practice, to quiet the child in states of irritation, or stop it in crying, or pacify it in fits of ill-nature, by dainties that please the taste. What is this but a schooling and drawing out of sensation, by making it the reward of just that which is most totally opposite to self-government? It must be a very dull child that will not cry and fret a great deal, when it is so pleasantly rewarded. Trained, in this manner, to play ill-nature for sensation's sake, it will go on rapidly, in the course of double attainment, and will be very soon perfected, in the double character of an ill-natured, morbid, sensualist, and a feigning cheat beside. By what method, or means, can the great themes of God and religion get hold of a soul, that has learned to be governed only by rewards of sensation, paid to affectations of grief and deliberate actings of ill-nature?
Simplicity also, as opposed to luxuries, condiments, and confections, is a condition of all right feeding for infancy and childhood, which ought to approve itself to the most ordinary measure of parental discretion. Of course I do not mean to say that the child is never to have his holiday feast--that would be to cut him off from another kind of benefit--I only insist that he is not to have a perpetual holiday, and be stimulated by continual flavors on his organs, till the beautiful simplicity of his appetite is gone and nothing pleases longer, but that which is intense enough to be rather poison than food. Coffee, for example--what can be worse for a child's body, or his future character, than to be dosed every morning with his clip of coffee? No matter if he cries for it, all the worse if he does; for it shows that he has been already taught to love it, and is so far taken away, prematurely, from the natural simplicity of his tastes. And how is the child going to be drawn by the beauty of God, and the sacred pleasures of God's friendship, when thinking always of the dainties he has had, or is again to have, and counting it always the main blessing of existence, to have his body seasoned by the flavors of sensation? Instead of praying, as possibly he may be taught, in words--"Feed me with food convenient for me"--he prays, in fact, from morning to night, with all diseased longings and hankerings, to be fed, in the exact contrary, with what will most increase his already overgrown sensuality. In a manner faithfully characteristic of his low, prudential morality, Paley advises that all children and young person should live simply, because they are now susceptible enough to relish simple things; in order that, as their tastes grow duller with advancing age, they may allow themselves a freer indulgence in the stimulations of appetite, and may so maintain the feeding pleasures to the last. Counsel not to be questioned, even if these pleasures were the chief end of life itself. We are only disappointed and vexed by the lowness of it, when we recall, what is the real and true penalty of youthful indulgence, that it takes away the possible relish of truth, duty, and religion, and makes the soul forever inaccessible to these noblest powers of character and blessedness.
In a wise, physical nurture, it is a matter of great import also to regulate the times of feeding. For this induces the sense of order, which is closely allied to a habit of self-government. If the nursing child is simply stuffed to its last limit, at any and all hours, then it is put in the way, not of intelligent feeding, which is interspaced by rest, but of always being filled to its limit. The feeding must, of course, be as much more frequent in infancy as the demands of a more rapid consumption require, but there should be times, and a degree of order established, as soon as possible; otherwise the stuffing method will go on into childhood, and boyhood, and by that time the bodily habit is in total disorder, carrying the tempers and general character with it. The breakfast before breakfast, and the dinner before dinner, and the casual snatching and feeding at all hours between, bring the child to the table with a scowl upon his face, and a nervous, morbid look of disgust, which declare, as plainly as possible, that there is nothing good enough prepared for him; and, quite as plainly, that he is a poor, misgoverned and spoiled child. He is overtaken by all the woes of sensuality, and yet has gotten almost none of its pleasures; for he is always kept, by his irregular, ungoverned feeding, so close up to the line. of possible appetite, that peevishness and ill-nature are the spice of all his sensations, and his body and soul are about equally distempered by the morbid irritations and dyspeptic woes that have come upon them. What a preparation is this for the calm, sweet, thoughtful, motives of religion, and the gentle whispers of God's truth in the heart!
It should also be understood in the religious training of children, how great mischiefs are likely to follow, when much is made of the pleasures of the table. If the feeding is the great circumstance of the house and the day, if the discourse turns always on the peculiar relish of this, or the wonderful delicacy of that, and the main stress of life in general on the bliss of good living, it will not much avail, that the parents have a certain wish to see their children grow up in religion. A stranger falling into such a family, will be amazed to find how pervasive and spirit-like this most unethereal, undiffusive kind of bliss may be. The smack of appetite will seem to be in the atmosphere of the house. It will be as if the gastric nerve of the family were become the whole brain. A certain coarseness of feeling and character will appear in every thing. The grain will be coarse, both of body and soul; and the general expression of manners, faces, and voices, will be such as indicates a reduction of grade, in all the finer impulses of society, intelligence, and duty. The family affections themselves will seem to have fallen back, to make room for the valued bliss of the appetites. No matter how much of prayer and regular church-going there may be in such a family, the child brought up in it has a most sad fortune to bear, in the savoring habit to which it trains him. Nor is it only in some high conditioned family, where wealth is steeping itself in luxury, that this kind of woe is put upon children. It quite as often begins at the coarse, low table of the sensually minded poor. These are even most likely of all to live, and teach their children to live, for what they may eat. The humble Christian mother, it may be, having no luxuries of dress and show to give her children, makes it a great point to have them enjoy the feeding of their bodies; and so, instead of fining them to a nobler pleasure in the virtues of frugality, order, gentle society, and good action, she graduates them into just that coarsest sensuality which is the bane of all character, for this life and the next.
It is a much greater point, in this connection, than is commonly supposed, that children should be trained to good manners in their eating. Good manners are a kind of self-government which operates continually to keep the body under, and hold the sensualizing tendency of food in check. Animals have no manners, and the higher gift of manners is allowed to man, to keep him from the coarseness and lowness to which his animal nature would otherwise run. In this view, good manners are even a sort of first-stage religion, for the reduction of the body. If the child is practiced carefully, at his food, in deferring to superiors and seniors; in the restraint of haste, or greediness; in the proprieties of positions, and the handsome uses of tools; in the limitation of his feeding by his wants, and a good-natured submission to restriction when restriction is needed for his good; he will not grow sensual in that manner, but his mind will be all the while getting sovereignty over the body. Good breeding and civility are, in this view, indispensable. The Christian training of children, without any care of their manners in these respects, is only the training, in fact, of barbarians and savages, in thie houses of such as call themselves Christian people.
There is great importance also, for a similar reason, in the observance of a Christian blessing, or giving of thanks at the table. The mere form, taken only as a constantly recurring acknowledgment of God and the obligations of gratitude, laid on the family by his goodness, is a matter of inestimable value. The bare recollection of a higher nature and the higher meaning of life, coupled uniformly thus with the order of the table, qualifies the lower sensations, and raises them to a kind of spiritual dignity It is even a pitiful figure, in this view, which the great Franklin makes, when, with so little show of philosophy, saying nothing of Christian reverence, he recites, in a manner of evident pleasure, the wit of his boyhood: asking his father, at the packing of his barrel of meat, why he did not say grace over the whole barrel at once, and save the necessity of so many repetitions? These repetitions are the very things most wanted. They compose the liturgy of the table, and have their value, not in the quantities of meat they season, but in the seasoning of the partakers themselves, by so many reiterations of their, at least, formal homage and gratitude. At the same time there should be much care taken to make these blessings of the table more than a form; to connect a real and felt meaning with them, and make them the expression of a living and true gratitude in all present. Children can be so trained, in this matter, as even to miss the flavor of their meat, when no blessing is upon it. What then can be expected, in a Christian family, when the children are put to their food with no such recognition of God and have their faces turned downward always upon it, even as if they were animals? Doubtless the blessing may, too often, be a mere form, but it is a form which, apart from any conscious glow of sentiment, no Christian family can afford to lose.
Much also may be done for children, by associating subjects, and sentiments, and plans of practical charity, with the blessings and pleasures of the table. To do this requires no very ingenious methods, or deeply studied plans. It will be done almost, of course, if the parents themselves are, at all, given to such things; for, in such a case, they can hardly fail to speak of the children of the poor, and the bitter pains and pinings of their unsatisfied hunger. If the appetites of children are eager and easily turned to a habit of sensuality, their sympathies also are quick, and their compassions wonderfully tender. Let these last be called into play, and kept in play, as they may be always by a few simple words of charity, and proposed acts of bounty to the children of want, and the former, the appetites, will become incentives even habitually, to what is noblest in feeling and remotest from a properly sensual character. The body itself becomes the interpreter, in such a case, of want, and offers itself dutifully to mercy, to be used as its organ.
Such are a few of the suggestions that require to be noted and observed, in the right feeding of children Others will occur to you daily, as your work goes on, if only you are really awake to the transcendent importance of the subject. Let it never be assumed, for one moment, that you are now doing nothing and can be doing nothing for your children, because you are only feeding their bodies. A very considerable part of your parental charge lies just here; in giving your children such a nurture in the body, as makes them superior to the body; subordinates the passions, and evens the tempers of the body; prepares them to a state of robust and massive healthiness; gives them clearer heads, and nobler sentiments of truth; preparing them, in that manner, to be good scholars, to have their affectional nature opened wide by a general love, to have their perceptive feeling quickened to all highest forms of beauty and good, and so to have them ready, more and more ready, for a state of eternally unsealed affinity with God. There is not any thing, in the highest ranges of their spiritual and religious nature, that will not be somehow affected, and powerfully too, by the feeding of their bodies. Even their conscience itself, which is God's own organ or throne, so to speak, in their nature--the most self-asserting and, as we should say, most indestructible of all their powers--can be made to ring out clear and true, like a bell in the night, or it can be stifled and choked, so as scarcely to be audible--all by the mere feeding of the body. So there is a feeding that makes a manly life, and a feeding that makes a mean, weak, ignoble life. So there is a feeding which makes room for God, and a feeding that leaves him no vacant space or chamber to fill. The question here is not, exactly, what converting power is exerted or not exerted, what Christian truth impressed or not impressed, but it is what kind of metal, in fact, the future man is to be made of; for all that is entered, thus early, into the feeding habit of the body, is about as really composite and substantial as that which is prepared in the inborn properties of nature itself. This feeding nurture, if we take the real sense of it, is to grow in good or bad affinities and possibilities; to grow a body under the soul, or over it; to form a good or bad staple, in the substance of the man, which is going to remain unchanged, by all his future changes and transformations, about as certainly as his face, or gait, and in much the same degree.
To complete this view of the bodily nurture and keeping, something ought also to be said of personal neatness, and also of dress, in both of which the bodily habit is concerned, though in a more external and less decisive way.
As regards the matter of personal neatness, I will only suggest the very close relationship of association between it, as a habit, and the spiritual habit of the soul in religion. In this holy endeavor of grace, or religion, the soul aspires to be clean. Conscious of great defilement in sin, it hears a call to come and be made white, even as the snow. It begins with the prayer--"Create in me a clean heart, O God," and the longing after purity and a clean consciousness before Him, draws it on. To be washed, purified, made clean--under these, and such like terms of aspiration, it is exercised, in all the keeping of the life, that it may incur no spot or stain, and be effectually purged from all most subtle defilements. In this view, bodily neatness, or the cleanly keeping of the person, is a kind of outward religion going before, preparing tastes, images, sensibilities, habits that make the soul more akin to religion, readier to feel the obligation, and labor in the purifying endeavor. And, in this view, the mother, the poor Christian mother, who has nothing of this world's good, as we commonly speak, to put upon her children, has yet one of the best goods of all. which she may, without fail, bestow, viz: a cleanly habit. She gives them a great mark of honor, and sets them in a way of great hope and preferment, as regards all highest character, when she trains them to a felt necessity of neatness and order. On the other hand, if she allows them to grow up in a filthy and loose habit, crowding all bounty upon them, and breathing out her soul beside, in prayer and fasting on their account, it will be wonderful if they have much sensibility to the defilements of the soul, or come to God in any determinate longings after purity. Nay, it will be wonderful if the dirt upon their persons and clothing is not found upon their conscience also, and if they do not go on to live the disorder in their souls, which has been the untidy element of their bodies.
There is also this very peculiar excellence in neatness, that it is not ambitious, not for show, but more for what it is in itself--an honest kind of benefit, or good, that brings along no bad or false motive with it. Hence there is no temptation in the practice. Honor and ornament and grace of poverty, as it often is, it is only the more truly such, that it simply fulfills and perpetuates a fixed necessity, looking after no reward, save what it is to itself. Formed to such a habit, and scarcely conscious of it, the children grow into a kind of pure simplicity in good, which is itself one of the finest symbols and surest outward preparations of the religious life and character.
The subject of dress, taken as related to religious character in youth, is one of transcendent importance, but as I am treating mostly of what is to be lone for children, in the few first years of their training, I shall dismiss the subject with only a few suggestions, such as my particular purpose appears to require.
There is this very singular and striking contrast between animals and men, that they are born dressed, and these to be dressed; while yet the fact of a dress is equally necessary to both. The object of the distinction appears to be, to allow, in the latter case, a certain liberty of form and appearance, even as there is given a grand central liberty of life and character within. It allows us to choose what shall be added to finish out our form, or appearing; and it is a singular fact, in this connection, that we always take our dress to be, in some sense, ourselves; just as if it grew out of our bodily substance; so that we feel ourselves ordinarily limited and hampered, in behavior and manners, in thought and feeling, and fancy, by the dress we have on. The consciousness of being badly, or half absurdly dressed, makes us awkward. We can not sit down to write in a sordid and tattered dress--thought can not sufficiently respect itself, the feeling nature and the taste and the fancy can not be in trim in such a guise. As a king would not like to appear in the dress of a convict, so they ask a dress that more respects their quality. There is a fearfully powerful reaction, thus, in dress, upon what is inmost and deepest in character. And so much is there in this fact, that every Christian parent should be fully alive to it, even from the first; understanding that the child is going to enlarge his consciousness, so as, in a sense, to take in his dress and be configured to it--inverting the common order of speech on the subject, when we talk of cut ting the dress to the child; for it is equally true, in a different sense, that the child will be cut to his dress.
Hence the dreadful mischief done to a child, by what may be called the dolling of it; that is, by dressing, or over-dressing it, just to please, or amuse, or, what is really more true, to tickle a certain weak and foolish pride in the parents. What meantime has become of that most tender and godly concern, which belongs to the Christian charge put upon them, in the gift of this same child? It takes whole months, how often, to get the child's looks and dress into such trim that it can be offered by them for baptism, making the desired impression; in which it turns out that the chief object to them, of baptism, is the exhibition of the doll they have been dressing; not to get the seal and sacrament of God's mercy upon it, as a creature in the heritage of their own corrupted life.
And then, afterwards, the dressing goes on still, in faithful keeping with its sad beginning. In a few days this same child appears, marching the streets, in the figure of a little gentleman with a cane; or if it be a daughter, hung with necklaces and chains, and set off with as much of finery as can well be supported--visibly conscious, in either case, of the fine show being made; even!. the foolish parents, it might fitly despise, were just now admiring their doll at home, and praising to itself the pretty figure it made!
Is this now the dress of a Christian child? is this such a dress as a properly Christian nurture prescribes? What is this child training for, but simply to be a fop, or fashionist, or fool? This taste for show, and finery, and flattery--what is it but the beginning of all irreligion? and what will the after life be, but the continuance of this beginning?
Just contrary to this, whoever will bring up a child for God, must put him, at the very first, into God's modes and measures. The real question of dress, is what shall be put upon this child, to make it feel most like a Christian--what will give him the finest feeling with the least of show and vanity? What will leave him in a state most natural. and simple, and farthest from affectation? What will be most like to the putting on of Christ himself, his righteousness, beauty, truth, meekness, and dignity? Dress your child for Christ, if you will have him a Christian; bring every thing, in the training, even of his body, to this one final aim, and it will be strange, if the Christian body you give him does not contain a Christian soul.