By Louisa Lane Clarke
Schools, more especially the Sabbath school, may be considered as the nurseries of heaven. And here the parson's wife appears as a nursing-mother to the church, to whose care the immortal soul of each little one is committed, while as yet they are too young to enter fully into the holy ordinances of public worship, and cannot follow the shepherd in his teaching. She catechises the children in simple language, leading them to God as to their heavenly and righteous Father, who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," and who is "about their path and about their bed, and spieth out all their ways," teaching them early their helplessness and natural sinfulness, with a constant remembrance of God's all-seeing eye, that
There's not a sin that we commit,
Nor wicked word we say,
But in God's dreadful book 'tis writ
Against the judgment day."
Then leading them to Jesus as their friend and Saviour, who so graciously hath said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven;" setting his great sufferings and love before them, so as to make them hate their sins, and giving them high and noble motives for every good work--"The love of Christ constraineth us." Forbearing threatening and punishment as much as possible, which generally tend to harden the heart, she teaches with much patience and earnestness; studying each little character, so as to give a word in season to every one; and becoming acquainted with their habits and dispositions by frequently inquiring of their behaviour at home towards their parents, and teachers, and brothers, and sisters, that she may the better encourage the good and reprove the wayward. She speaks in a kind and gentle tone, so as to draw out their affections without fear; at the same time gravely and steadily, so as to keep up respect. The elder children she instructs with the greater care in the faith of our holy church, that by a right understanding of her precepts and ordinances, they may not only be led into the way of salvation, but be kept from those schisms in the church of Christ which have chiefly sprung either from ignorance of the truth, or from the negligence of those who were the shepherds of God's flock, and faith less to their charge. So the parson's wife useth double diligence in her duty to the young, lest they also turn aside and forsake their mother church.
She notices their punctuality in attending public worship, and their behaviour in the house of God, teaching that "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of them that are round about him," and that the wandering eye, the playful hand, or the careless heart, is an abomination in his sight before whom they stand. Also that those who rudely and thoughtlessly break in upon those holy services, deprive themselves of many blessings, and are displeasing to the great God, who has said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." So those who come habitually late to church, and are inattentive to the prayers, sin in a threefold manner, against God, against their minister, and against their fellow-worshippers. The parson's wife requires that each child should be neatly and plainly dressed, watching against vanity on the one hand, and careless slovenly habits on the other. Their books also are frequently examined, that they may be kept clean and whole; not only because a torn and dirty book is unseemly in appearance, and a disgrace to the owner and the school, but also because it denotes a want of reverence to God and to the church, when their holy books are thus disfigured. An attention to these little things is found to be of the, greatest importance in the education of children; for it is a lesson early to be learnt, that nothing is too small for God's notice, nothing too trivial for his care; and even as a mote in the eye will cause blindness and stumbling, so a little sin in the soul will cause its sickness and death. Before leaving the school, the parson's wife speaks kindly to the instructress, encouraging her in her labours, and supporting her authority before her pupils, leaving more particular exhortations to be given by the pastor himself.