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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Gaiety in Education; or, A Study in Augustine and Calvin

by T. G. Rooper
Volume 7, 1896, pgs. 136-137


(continued from page 45)

In the present day a wholly different conception of training lies at the base of our ideas of education. Our desire now is to train the best faculties which the child possesses and as many of them as possible in a harmonious way. No greater misfortune, I think, can befall a child who has a gift for music or drawing or sculpture, than to miss the chance of cultivating and improving his talent. Yet the influence of Calvin has spread widely and deeply. Now there is no spiritual movement of importance which has not some truth in it commensurate with its success and popular acceptance. There is, so far as I can see, really nothing in Calvin himself which necessarily leads to suppression of faculties in children. I will quote what Calvin did say about intercalating periods of solemn thoughtful repose in the routine of life, his views namely on the Sabbath:

"Does the lVth commandment order us to work on six days that we may rest on the seventh?

"Not exactly, but in handing over to men six days to work, it excepts the seventh that it may be devoted to repose.

"Does it forbid all labour on the seventh day?

"This commandment has a special and peculiar bearing. The observance of a day of rest was part of the Jewish law, and as such was abrogated by Christ's advent.

"Had then this commandment a special application to the Jews alone, so that it was temporary and transient?

"Yes, in so far as it related to Jewish ceremonies.

"Is there then anything in the commandment beyond Jewish ceremony? "It was given for three reasons.

"Name them:

"First, to show in a figure spiritual repose. Secondly, to maintain the constitution of the church. Thirdly, to lighten the lives of servants.

"(1) What do you understand by spiritual repose?

"We keep a holy day that God may work in us.

"How do we keep holy day?

"We crucify our flesh. That is, we give up our own will that we may be governed by the Spirit of God.

"It is sufficient that we do this on the seventh day only?

"Nay, rather without ceasing. As we have once begun so we must continue to the end of our lives.

"Then why is a stated day set apart to show to show in a figure spiritual repose?

"It is not necessary that the truth should agree with the figure of it in every particular. It is enough if certain features of the truth are figured forth.

"Then why is the seventh day prescribed for the purpose rather than any other?

"The number Vll. is used in Scripture to denote perfection. It is therefore suited to denote perpetuity. At the same time it denotes that this spiritual rest commences only in this life, and will not be perfect till we migrate from the world.

"But what is the meaning of this that the Lord urges us to rest after His example?

"Having made an end of creating the world in Vl days, He devoted the Vllth to the consideration of His work. To stimulate us to similar meditation He sets His example before us. For nothing is more desirable than that we should form ourselves after His image.

"(2) But should the meditation of the works of God be continuous, or is it enough that one day in seven should be devoted to that occupation? "No; we should exercise ourselves in it day by day, but by reason of our weakness one day is specially set apart for the purpose. And this is the constitution of which I spoke.

"What then is the order to be observed on that day?

"People are to meet together to hear Christ's teaching, to join in public prayers and to make public profession of their faith.

"(3) Now explain what you said about the Lord wishing to provide for the relief of all who are employed as servants.

"Some relaxation should be given to those who are not their own masters. "This is necessary even for the maintenance of the constitution of the state; for where one day is set apart for the rest, people accustom themselves to work during the remainder of the week.

" Now let us consider how far this commandment refers to us.

"As regards the ceremonial observance, since the truth and substance of it were in Christ, I say that it is abrogated.

"How?

"By virtue of His death the old man is crucified in us, and we are called to newness of life.

"Then what part of the commandment remains to apply to us?

"That we should not neglect the institutes which conduce to the spiritual constitution of the Church; especially that we should attend the holy meetings to hear God's word, to celebrate His mysteries, and to pray to Him, according to the ordinances.

"But does the figure convey nothing further to us?

"Yes, it does. We must consider the substance of it. As we are grafted in the body of Christ, and made members of Him, we should cease from our own ordinary occupations and resign ourselves to the governance of God."

In these words Calvin endeavours to describe an element of seriousness which he would see included in every healthy life. I read in them nothing austere, much less pedantic. It is on record, I have been told, that on one occasion, Calvin played bowls with his friends on Sunday, but that the elders in Calvinistic families think it prudent to suppress this record.

I see nothing in Calvin's description of the Christian Truth, which he recognized as predigitated by the ceremonial law of the Jewish Sabbath, inconsistent with playing at bowls on Sunday, unless indeed playing at bowls were a man's ordinary occupation. he would clearly not divide life into Sundays and Week-days, as if by a convenient division of labour, thoughts might be all secular during the week, and all religious on Sunday.

I find in him, again, no sympathy with people who make a cross for themselves and then take a pride in believing that they are nobly bearing one sent by Providence. Calvin would encourage contemplation, and desired rest from manual toil, that time might be found for it. But the train of thought would control action instead of being wholly dependent on it. What people did on Sunday would be in harmony with their meditation, and what there was of constraint in Sunday occupation would follow from the temper natural to meditation. Calvin would hardly have expected that the mere negative conduct of withholding from this or that pastime, would of itself lead to spiritual meditation.

Let us suppose, for instance, that you want a little girl to feel aware that there is something in the world of greater consequence than dolls, her chief solace and joy. Suppose you commence by depriving her of that joy forcibly. Will that tend to elevate her thoughts? What you need to do is to suggest, by some means or other, ideas, which will lead her, of her own accord, to forget her doll, or even put it away. Doubtless this is much more difficult than external constraint. But to empty the mind of one set of ideas is not to fill it with another. The supposition, that if you remove the doll, you will create a vacuum in the mind which can then be filled with what you please, seems to evince ignorance of the way in which the mind works.

There is a kind of living and organic connection between the succession of thought, and it is no easy matter to change at will the current ideas in a child's mind. My own belief is that if a child's head is full of some train of thought, or some object, and you wish to substitute something different, so far from suppressing the pre-existing thought or object, you had better commence with it as a base for your efforts. You want, for example, to talk about kind and unkind behaviour. The child plays with her doll. I should not remove the doll. I should deal with it as the child's companion, and pass through stories about it to stories of life, real or imaginative, and so to parables, till the lower is absorbed into higher imagination, and the common world in an ideal world. It is no wise method of training to deprive a child on Sunday of amusements and occupations which please him, unless you can substitute others which please him more. How can instruction be made attractive? Hardly, if the teacher undertakes it as an irksome task. If the lesson is annoying and wearisome to the teacher, it certainly will not be anything different to the learner.

Even serious subjects cannot be rightly dealt with among children without a certain amount of gaiety, and an exaggeration of seriousness in the teacher is instantly detected by the scholar. Children are genuine touchstones of pretence.

Plato remarks, "No, study pursued under compulsion remains rooted in the memory; hence you must train the children to their studies in a playful manner, and without any air of constraint."

Through this truth I am brought to St. Augustine. I have always been much impressed by his sympathy with the wrongs of children.

"I was not incompetent to study," he says, "but I did enjoy my games, and then I was punished by those who did no other than myself." "But," he continues "the lighter occupations of grown-up people pass with them as business, while children are punished by their elders for similarly amusing themselves, and no one pities the children."

To me there is something remarkably instructive and suggestive in the contrast between St. Augustine and Calvin in their treatment of the significance of the Jewish Sabbath to Christians. The contrast is not due merely to the difference in character and temperament between the two men. I seem to feel a difference due to time and development and experience of many human generations.

There is in Calvin a certain practical sense. He feels the need of a discipline for the spirit as well as for the understanding. Even the spirit of pure religion he sees cannot be entirely free from the aid of conventional ordinances. The Jews substituted the letter for the spirit, and observance of conventional ceremonies did duty for the justice, mercy and righteousness.

The experience of many generations of Christians seemed to lead the most thoughtful men of the Reformation period to look back a little, and lean once again rather more heavily on the staff "Bands," and rather less on the staff "Beauty." They were compelled to believe more in the regulation of daily life, and, figuratively speaking, to substitute a fixed and definite tithe in place of committing themselves unreservedly to the precept, "Give alms of all that thou hast."

I shall, perhaps, be more clearly understood if I describe St. Augustine's treatment of the Sabbath. He has what seems to modern ideas a curiously subtle and almost fanciful chain reasoning on its significance.

"Whatever a man finds to do," he writes, "if he does it in such a spirit that he expects to obtain earthly advantage, then he does it in the spirit of a hired workman, and therefore he does not observe the Sabbath; for the love towards God must be without the expectation of payment, and there is no Sabbath for the soul except in that which God loves. Eternal rest: there is none except in the love of God, who alone is eternal, and this alone is complete holiday and the spiritual sabbath of sabbaths. God laboured not for six days that He might rest on the seventh--that is a carnal idea.

"God made all things, and behold, all was very good. And God rested on the seventh day from all the works which He did. Would you also rest? Then begin by doing works which are very good. Do you do what that holiday means; for holiday is the spiritual quiet of the heart. Quiet of the heart comes from the calm of a good conscience; therefore he keeps the true Sabbath who sins not. Let this be the instruction for those who are to observe the Sabbath: 'The service shall not be for wages, for those who sin work for the wages of sin.'"

St. Augustine thus draws a paradoxical but bold and original conclusion, that there is no rest for a sinner because he is a hired workman receiving pay for his work. It seems to me that fully to realize and appreciate the height and depth of this conception needs the mind of a saint. St. Augustine describes a state of mind in which the desire to avoid error and the aspiration after right conduct will render exact conventional regulation of life no help, and possibly a hindrance.

In Calvin we seem to descend from this almost superhuman elevation of character to the practical man of religious sentiment who believes that nine people out of ten, apart from conventional arrangements for religious exercise, will neglect it altogether. He would seem to agree with Montalembert: "Il n'y a pas de religion sans culte; et il n'y a pas de culte sans Dimanche."

It was ordered in 1584 that one half of all the people in every house above twelve years of age, not being sick or lawfully hindered, be at the beginning of every sermon every Sunday in the morning, and one from every house at the beginning of every sermon in the afternoon, of every Sunday and festival day, and likewise on every Wednesday, upon pain of 20d. on Sundays and 12d. on other days, and stringent orders were made for Sunday closure of tradesmen's shops.

Sunday lessons and occupations! How many people when grown up look back to them with a sense of disgust, as if they were a weekly drug that turns the sickening memory! How many wrecked lives have been caused by irrational Sunday conventionalities! Yet God forbid that the English Sunday should ever be a day either of paid labour or noisy public holiday. There is no sin that I know of in making a noise, but generous youth will not be unwilling on Sunday to suppress the youthful tendency to noisy behaviour, feeling the greater pleasure of not disturbing other people who desire to be quiet. Perhaps, in return, people who want to be quiet on week-days will not be unwilling to recognise the sacrifice which youth thus makes to please them on Sundays, and above all, will avoid the hypocrisy of pretending that their demand for peace is only for the good of youth, when it is really a thing agreeable and salutary chiefly to themselves. For life without gaiety is a cake without sugar, or, rather, it is unleavened bread.