Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Fenelon's Treatise
on the
Education of Daughters;
Translanted from the French and Adapted to English Readers
With an Original Chapter, "On Religious Studies."
By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, B. A. F. A. S
Albany; printed and published by Backus and Whiting, 1806.

Chapter VII.
On Inculcating Principles of Religion in the Minds of Children.

It has been before observed that the first years of childhood are not calculated for reasoning : not that children are divested of those ideas and general principles of reason which hereafter become manifest, but that they are ignorant of many facts which hinders the application of their reason ; and, moreover, leaves that agitation of the brain, which prevents them from connecting their ideas.

We should, however, without pressing them, gently direct the use of their reason towards a knowledge of God. Persuade them of Christian truths, without giving them subjects of doubt. They observe some one to be dead : they know that burial afterwards follows : say to them-" Is this dead person in the tomb ?" Yes.- "He is not then in paradise ?" " Pardon me, he is." " How can he be in the grave and in paradise at the same time ?" " It is his soul which is in paradise-his body only in the grave" His soul and body then are not the same thing ? " No" The soul, therefore, is not dead ? " No-It will live for ever in heaven." Add: " And you, do you wish to be saved ?"- " Yes." But what is being saved? " It is the soul's going into paradise." And what is death ? " It is the mouldering of the body into dust, when the soul has left it."

I do not pretend to say that children may at first be taught to answer in this manner : though I may add that many have given me such answers when they were four years of age.- Let us, however, suppose a child to be extremely reserved and uninstructed-.the worst that can happen is, the waiting only a few more years with patience.

Shew children a house, and make them comprehend that this house did not build itself. The stones or bricks, say you, were not elevated without some one's carrying them so high. It may be as well, too to shew them the masons at work : then make them contemplate heaven and earth, and the principal things which God has made for the use of man : say to them '' how much more beautiful and better made is the world than a house ! Was it made of itself ? No-assuredly it was made by the hands of the Almighty,"

First follow the method of scripture. Strike their imaginations in as lively a manner as possible--propose to them nothing which may not be clothed with sensible images. Represent God as seated on a throne-with eyes more brilliant than the rays of the sun, and more piercing than the lightning-represent him with ears that hear every thing ; with hands that support the universe ; with arms always stretched out to punish the wicked ; and with a tender and paternal heart to make those happy who love him. The time will come when this information may be rendered more exact. Observe every opening of the mind which a child presents to you : try her by different methods, so that you may discover how these great truths will best occupy her attention. Above all, talk of nothing new, without familiarising her to it by some obvious comparison.

For example-ask her if she would rather die than renounce Jesus Christ -she will answer- Yes. Then say- " how, would you suffer your head to be cut off in order to enter paradise ?" Yes. The child will now think she has sufficient courage to do it. But you, who are willing to make her sensible that nothing can be effected without grace, will gain nothing, if you merely say that grace alone is sufficient to produce faithfulness--the child does not understand those words; and if you accustom her to repeat them without understanding them, you gain nothing by it. What then is to be done ? Relate to her the history of St. Peter : represent him saying, in a presumptuous tone of voice -" I will follow thee even unto death, though all the rest should desert thee, yet will I never abandon thee." Then describe his fall: he denies his master Christ, three times-even a servant makes him tremble. Declare why God permitted this weakness-then make use of the comparison of a child or sick person who cannot walk alone -and make her comprehend, that as an infant must be supported in the arms of its nurse, so we stand in need of the Almighty's assistance. Thus you will make her sensible of the mystery of grace.

But the most difficult truth for a child to comprehend is, that we have a soul more precious than our body. Children are at first accustomed to talk about the soul ; and the custom is advantageous-for this language, which they do not understand, is perpetually exciting them to have a (confused) notion of the distinction of body and soul, until they are able really to conceive it. In proportion as early prejudices are pernicious when they lead to error, so are they useful when they conduct the imagination to truth, until reason is gradually directed towards it by the force of principles. But, at length, we must fix a true persuasion -and how are we to set about it ? Is it in plunging a young girl in philosophical subtleties ? Nothing is worse calculated for it. We must confine ourselves to render clear and distinct to her mind, what she hears and speaks every day.

As to her person, she is perhaps too well instructed in the knowledge of that : every thing induces her to flatter, adorn, and idolise it. An essential point is gained if you can inspire her with contempt for it, by observing something of greater value about her.

Say then to a child who is capable of a little reasoning-Is it your soul that eats ? If she answers absurdly, do not be harsh with her-but tell her mildly that the soul does not eat-It is the body that eats-the body, which resembles the brutes. Have brutes intellect-are they learned ? No, the child will answer. But they eat, you will add, although they have no intellect : you see, therefore, that it is not the soul which eats-it is the body which takes food to nourish it-it is that which walks, and which sleep And what does the soul do ? It reasons-it knows every one-it loves certain things, and dislikes others.- Go on, in a playful manner, " Do you know this table ?" Yes You know it then ?" To be sure. " You see clearly that it is not made like that chair, which is formed of wood, and not like the chimney piece, of stone ?"

Yes, the child will reply. Proceed no farther without being convinced, by her tone of voice, and by the child's eyes, that these simple truths have struck her. Then say -But does this table know you ? You will see that the child will begin laughing, and ridiculing, as it were, such a question. -No matter : go on-Which loves you the best, that table or that chair ? She will still keep laughing-but pursue the discourse-Is the window very wise ? Then try to go further-Does this doll answer you when you speak to it ? No. Why-has it no intellect ? No, none. It is not then like you ; for you know it, and it does not know you. But after death, when you will be under the ground, shall not you be like this doll ? Yes. You will no longer feel any thing ? No. You will no longer know any body ? No. And your soul will be in heaven ? Yes.- Will it not then see God ? True, it will. And where is the soul of the doll at present ? You will perceive that the child will answer with a laugh or at least that it will make you understand the doll has no soul.

Upon this foundation, and by means of these simple illustrations, enforced at different times, you may accustom the child, by degrees, to attribute both to the body and the soul, that which is peculiar to each-provided you do not indiscreetly propose to her consideration, certain actions which are common to the one and the other. All subtility must be avoided, as it perplexes truth ; and we must content ourselves to point out, with care and correctness, those circumstances that mark distinctly the difference between the body and soul. Sometimes one meets with such stupid characters, whom even the help of a good education will not assist in the comprehension of these truths : however, they may be sometimes clearly conceived, without being perspicuously expressed. God sees better than we do into the spirit of man, what is there placed for the knowledge of his mysteries.

With respect to those children in whom we discover a mind capable of further researches, one may, without throwing them into a study which savours too much of philosophy, make them conceive, according to their inclination, what is meant when it is said that God is a spirit, and that the soul is also a spirit. I think that the best and most simple method of making them conceive this spirituality of God and of the soul, is, to make them remark the difference between a dead -and living man : in the one, there is ''nothing but a body ; in the other, the soul is united with the body. Afterwards you may shew them that that which is capable of reasoning, is more perfect than that which has mere form and motion. Then illustrate, by various examples, that no body perishes -that it is only separated : thus, pieces of burnt wood fall into charcoal, or evaporate in smoke. If then, you will add, that which is of itself only charcoal (incapable of knowing and thinking) perishes not-how much more shall the soul, which is capable of both knowledge and thought, endure for ever ! The body may die-- that is to say, may quit the soul and shrink into dust--but the soul will Jive ; for it will always have the faculty of thinking

Those who instruct children, should develop, as much as possible, these truths, which are the foundation of all religion. But if success should not crown their exertions, especially with dull obstinate children, let them hope that God will enlighten internally.- There is, however, a sensible and practical way of confirming this knowledge of the distinction between body and soul-and that is, accustom children to despise the one, and regard the other, throughout their manners and intercourse with the world. Praise that instruction which nourishes the soul and causes it to expand : esteem those great truths which animate it to become wise and virtuous. Despise luxury of diet and dress, and every thing which enervates the body : make them sensible how much honour, a good conscience, and religion, are above these sensual pleasures. By the force of such sentiments, without reasoning upon the body and the soul, the ancient Romans taught their children to despise the body, and to sacrifice it to every thing which could inspire their minds with the pleasure of virtue and glory. With them, it was not simply persons of high birth, it was the entire mass of the people who lived temperately, disinterestedly, despising life, and sensible only of honour and wisdom, which excited their applause or imitation. When I speak of the ancient Romans, I mean those who lived before the extension of their empire had corrupted their simplicity of manners.

Let it not be said that children are incapable of receiving these prejudices from education. How often do we discover certain maxims which have been established among us, against the impression of our senses, by the force of custom alone. For instance, that of duelling-founded on a false principle of honour. It is not by reasoning, but by taking for granted, without reasoning, the maxim to be established on a principle of honour, that life is exposed, and that every man who carries a sword lives in continual danger. Those who have no quarrel may have one every moment with certain people, who are seeking every pretext to signalize themselves in some duel. However moderate one may be, such moderation is hardly preserved, without violating that false honour, which will not suffer you to avoid a quarrel by an explanation, or to refuse becoming the second of some one who has an inclination to fight.- What authorities have not failed in eradicating so barbarous a custom ! See, therefore, how powerful are the prejudices of education--But how much more powerful will they be on the side of virtue, supported by reason, and animated with the hope of happiness hereafter !

The Romans of whom we have been speaking, and before them the Greeks-in the good times of their republics, brought up their children in the contempt of luxury and effeminacy : they taught them to esteem glory-to be ardent, not to heap up riches, but to conquer those kings who possessed them-to believe that virtue alone was the road to happiness. This spirit was so strongly established n the foregoing republics, that they achieved incredible things according to those maxims which were so contrary to the opinions of all other people. The examples of so many martyrs, and of other primitive Christians of all conditions and ages, demonstrates that the grace of baptism being united with the help of education, may make impressions still more wonderful among the faithful, to enable them to despise every thing which is attached to the body. Seek then for every agreeable circumstance, every striking comparison, to convince children that our bodies are like the brutes-our souls like angels. Represent a knight mounted on a horse and directing its ; course : and say, that the soul is to the body, what the horseman is to the horse. Finish your remarks by observing that the soul is weak and miserable, when abandoned to the direction of the body; which, like a furious horse, would hurl it down a precipice. Relate, also, that the beauty of the body, or external person, is like a flower which blossoms in the morning, and withers and is trod under foot in the evening-but that the soul is the express image of the immortal beauty of God. There is, you may add, an order of things much more excellent, which cannot be seen by the gross eyes of the flesh-whereas every thing here below is subject to change and corruption. In order to make children sensible that there are really certain things, which neither the eyes nor the ears can apprehend, you may ask them whether it is not true that such a person is wise-and that such an one is witty or ingenious.- When they have answered yes, you may observe-" But have you seen the wisdom of such a person ? Of what colour is it ? Have you heard it ? Does it make much noise ? Have you touched it ? Is it cold or hot ?" The child will laugh : nevertheless put the same questions relating to wit or ingenuity.-She will appear quite astonished when she is asked of what colour is wit-whether it is round or square ? Then you may make her remark that she knows there are many things in reality which she can neither see, touch, nor hear ; and that these things are spiritual. But you must enter with great soberness and caution on these sort of conversations with girls. I only propose it here for the sake of those, whose curiosity and reason, will bring you, in spite of every effort to the contrary, to such questions. You must regulate the discourse according to the bias of the child's mind, and the necessity of the case.

Retain their understandings, as much as possible, within common limits : and teach them that there is a modesty with regard to science, which belongs to their sex, almost as delicate as that which is inspired by the horror of vice.

At the same time you must bring imagination to the aid of intellect; to give them pleasing images of the truths of religion, which the gross senses of the body are unable to behold. Paint to them the glory of heaven, such as St. John has represented it ! tears wiped away from every eye - neither death, disease, nor lamentation -all agonies ceasing, all evils at an end-eternal joy on the head of the righteous like the waters on the head of a man immersed in the sea ! Display that glorious Jerusalem, of which God himself will be the Sun, to create days without an end-a river of peace, a torrent of delight, a fountain of life, shall water it-there, every thing shall be gold, pearls, and precious stones.

I am well aware that all these images are attached to things sensible ; but after having animated children with such a beautiful spectacle so as to rivet their attention, one may adopt the method just recommended to bring them to spiritual things.

Conclude, that we are, in this world, like travellers in an inn, or under a tent : that the body is hastening to decay, and that all our efforts can retard its corruption but a few years : but that the soul will fly away to that celestial country, where it will live for ever with God. If children can be brought to contemplate these grand objects with pleasure, and to judge of the common things of life through the medium of such high hopes, we shall have accomplished a most important task.

I would even try to impress them with strong ideas of the resurrection of the body. Teach them that nature is but the common order which God has established in his works, and that miracles are only exceptions to this common order ; so that it is as easy for the Almighty to work an hundred miracles, as it is for me to go out of my room a quarter of an hour before my usual time of departure. Then call to recollection the history of the resurrection of Lazarus, of Jesus Christ, and of those apparitions which were recognised for forty days by a great number of persons. Next, shew that it cannot be difficult for that Being who created man, to bring him to life after dissolution ; and do not forget the comparison of a grain of corn which is sowed in the earth, and decays, in order to reproduce and multiply its species.

Moreover, these moral lessons must not be taught children by memory, in like manner as they are taught the catechism : such a method would have an immediate tendency to convert religion into an affected language, or at least into troublesome formalities: only assist their understanding, and put them in the way of comprehending the foregoing truths on their proper foundations : they will, in consequence, appear more consistent and agreeable, and become more vividly impressed on the mind. Take advantage of every opportunity to make them develop with clearness, what they at present confusedly behold.

Always bear in mind that nothing will be more dangerous than to speak to them with contempt of this life, when, by the tenor of your conduct, they discover that you do not deliver your sentiments with sincerity and truth. In every period of life, example has an astonishing effect upon us -in infancy, it is every thing. Children are very fond of imitation ; they lave not yet acquired habits which render the imitation of another difficult -besides, not being of themselves able to judge profoundly of things, hey judge much more from the example of those who propose, than from he reasons which they adduce in proposing, them. Actions are much more striking than words : so that if they observe your actions do not correspond with your precepts, they will be disposed to consider religion only as a specious ceremony, and virtue as an impracticable idea.

Never indulge yourself before children, in any railleries about things which have relation to religion, or on the indiscretion of any pious persons: you may think all this innocent-you are mistaken-it will have its certain consequences. Never speak of God, or of what regards the worship of him, but with seriousness and respect, free from all levity-observe decorum in every thing, but particularly on this head. People who are very nice observers of it in what regards the world, are frequently gross and negligent in respect to religion.

When a child shall have made such necessary reflections as lead to a knowledge of herself and of God-add to them the historical facts in which she has already been instructed : this union will enable her to have a correct idea of the whole of religion: and she will remark with pleasure the connexion between such -reflections and the history of mankind. She will have observed that man did not make himself, that his soul is the image of God, that his body has been formed with so many admirable resources, by an industry and power which can only be divine-and she will then recollect the creation. Afterwards she will think that he is born with inclinations contrary to reason, that he has been deceived by pleasure, carried away by anger, and that his body hurries on his soul, contrary to reason, as a furious courser rushes forward with a horseman ; instead of the soul governing the body. She will perceive the cause of this disorder in the history of the sin of our first parents ; and this history will lead her to that of the Saviour, who reconciles man to God.- Such is the foundation of religion.

To make young people better understand the mysteries, actions, and precepts of Christ, we must dispose them to read the Evangelists. They must, therefore, be early prepared to read the word of God, as they are prepared to receive the holy communion of the Sacraments.

* Here follows, in the original, certain matter which may be thought to savour too Strongly, on the one hand, of the authority due to the Romish Church and on the other, of principles (resulting therefrom) which are now called Evangelical; and as such, contrary to the doctrine and tenets of the established Church of England, (a)

(a) Whatever may have been Fenelon's attachment to the established Religion of his Country, he was unquestionably a warm advocate for " Evangelical" truth : And we would charitably hope, that, in the above note, where " evangelical priinciples" are represented as " contrary to the doctrine and tenets of the established Church of England," the Translator meant something not liberally or critically implied by the term.-The plain, simple, unsophisticated truths

Remember, then, to place before their eyes the Gospel, and the great examples of antiquity ; but not till you are assured of their docility, and iimplicity of faith. Provided you lay he foundation of humility, submision, and an aversion to all suspicious singularity, you will shew young people, with great benefit and effect, every thing the most perfect in the law of God, in the institution of the Sacrament, and in the practice of the ancient church. I know that one can.

of the Gospel are, in strictness of speech, evangelical,- and as such, they are precious in the estimation of every Christian,, through whatever channel they are derived or by whatever same they are called. 'Tis on this evangelical ground that real Christians of every denomination are seen to agree , and, notwithstanding a thousand petty distinctions of the sectaries they shall eventually come from the north & the south, on the east and the west, and sit down together in Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. EDITOR.

not hope to give these instructions, in their full latitude, to all sorts of children ; I propose it only, in order that we may make use of them, as exactly as possible, according to circumstances, time, and the dispositions of them whom we instruct.

Superstition, without doubt, is to be avoided in the sex: but nothing eradicates or prevents it better than solid instruction : this instruction, although it ought to be restrained within proper bounds, and different from the studies of the learned, produces greater effects than is ordinarily imagined. A person sometimes thinks himself to be well informed, who in reality is not so ; and whose ignorance is even so great that he is not in a condition to feel what he wants in order to know the foundation of Christianity.

Never suffer any thing to be mixed with the faith, or the practices, of religion, that is not drawn from the Gospel. Carefully guard children against certain abuses which are but too common, and which are, therefore, too apt to be considered as points of present discipline in the church.- These errors are not to be guarded against without recurring to the source, an knowing the origin of the usages and customs of holy men of the primitive ages. Children who are naturally too credulous, should never be used to admit lightly certain histories without authority; nor to attach themselves to certain devotions which are thy offspring of an indiscreet zeal.- The true way of instructing them in these subjects, is, not to criticise these things which have often been introduced from pious notions, but to shew, without passing a severe censure, that they rest on no solid foundation. Content yourself with omitting these matters in your instructions relating to the Christian religion : this silence will be sufficient, at first, to enable children to form a perfect idea of Christianity, without adding practical cautions.

Give children a taste for plain, sensible, and edifying discourses -not for those that are full of vain and affected ornament : accustom their imaginations to hear death spoken of : to see, without perturbation, a funeral pall- an open grave-sick people who are dying, and those already dead : if you can do so without exposing them to violent emotions of fear.

Nothing is more to be lamented than to see many people, who are really religious, express a continual dread of death : some absolutely turn pale at finding the number thirteen at table -or on having had certain dreams- or having seen a saltseller thrown down : the fear arising from these imaginary presages is a gross remnant of paganism : make children see the folly and absurdity of them. Although women may not have the same opportunities of shewing their courage, as men, they ought nevertheless to possess it. Cowardice is despicable, every where, and has always bad effects. A woman should know how to resist vain alarms, and should be firm against unforeseen danger: let her cry and be agitated on great occasions only, and in them let virtue be her chief support. A Christian of either sex should never be a coward, The soul of a Christian, if one may so express it, is the contempt of this life, and the love of that which is to come.

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