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extraordinary, for I began early to be sensible of what advantage it is to observe an exact regularity in domestic concerns.
Of the wonderful boy.
THERE is a remarkable variety in the growth of mind, from the first visible dawnings of reason to the full maturity of its powers. Of minds that finally attain to an uncommon degree of intelligence, some have a slow growth; an ample harvest of fruit succeeds to no extraordinary blossom. Neither their childhood nor their youth gave promise of the parts which the process of time gradually and slowly developed. It has been remarked of the late Patrick Henry, so celebrated in the annals of Virginia, that he did not appear at the bar until he was about thirty years old, and that he had attained nearly to forty, before the extent of his talents was discovered by the public, and probably before it was known to himself.” Other minds have a rapid growth, and shortly become stationary, or even go to decay; and the maturity of age, disappoints the high expertations that had been built upon the singular forwardness of childhood and youth. The premature brightness passes away, and is presently gone, like the flitting blaze of a meteor.
“ The wonderful boy, being no longer a boy, is no longer a wonder.” Not that this is the fact in all instances : there have been men of gigantic minds, who discovered marks of superiority in mental stature, almost from the cradle. One remarkable instance of it, was Doctor Samuel Johnson; and another, the late Chief Justice Parsons. Of the latter, the Hon. Judge Parker, in an address to a Grand Jury, observes :
“From the companions of his early years I have learned, that he was comparatively great, before he arrived at manhood ; that his infancy was marked by mental labor and study, rather than by puerile amusements;
that his youth was a season of persevering acquisition, instead of pleasure; and that, when he became a man, he seemed to possess the wisdom and experience of those who had been men long before him."
But, notwithstanding these and sundry other similar instances, experience teaches that the wonderful boy, not seldom, makes but an ordinary, and sometimes, but an inferior man: and this is owing, perhaps, for the most part, to the two following causes.
In the view that is taken of childhood and immature youth, the partial or superficial observer is very apt to mistake loquacious vivacity for brightness of intellect, and a forward pertness for genius: and the fond hopes that are founded upon this common mistake, are at length blasted of course. In the progress of age,
there is discovered the want of solidity and depth. The mind has no bottom. It retains its sprightliness through life; but it is still the sprightliness of childish years.
But the most common cause of the deplorable failure of youths of great promise, is the indiscretion, not to say vanity, of their friends. It is quite common for parents to think their children very bright, if they have merely common sense. But if any one of them happen to be more forward for his age than what is usual, he makes a prodigious figure in their partial and doting ayes; nor can they be content to smother or conceal the delicious sensations of their hearts. They exhibit the prodigy of intellect to their acquaintances and visitants; and these, out of courtesy, praise the wonderful boy to his face, and express quite as much admiration of his parts as they feel—and peradventure a little more.
Young master listens—" nothing loth”—to these notes of adulation. Ere he is out of his teens, he thinks himself too wise for instruction, and too important for advice. He looks down with scorn upon the beaten tracks of life, and must needs strike out some eccentric path for himself. Or, depending on the mere force of genius, he despises plodding industry even of the intellectual kind, as fit only for vulgar souls. The deplorable
consequences are inevitable. A boy flattered much for his genius, or a girl for her beauty, is of all human wights the most likely to become
tumid with vanity—that wen of the mind, which alike deforms it, and hinders its growth.
The natural gifts of the mind are dealt out with a frugal hand; to none so abundantly as to surpersede the necessity of mental labor; and to few so sparingly, that they may not, under the enjoyment of suitable means and with well-directed industry, attain to a respectable standing for knowledge; and whatever differences there may be between mankind in regard to the original powers of their minds, the most common and the greatest differences between them, arises from a diligent cultivation of these powers on the one hand, and a slothful neglect of them on the other. With respect to intellectual, as well as worldly treasure, it is the hand of the diligent that maketh rich; while the sluggard, who neglects to cultivate and improve his mind, will find that mind a wretched waste at the age of fifty, of however great promise it had been at the age of twenty. Like rare-ripe fruit, its maturity and its decay will be simultaneous.
There is yet another cause, and a fearful one, by means of which a delightsome dawn is frequently succeeded by a lowering sky. Nothing is more infectious than bad example, especially the corrupt example of those who are elevated by their fortune or rank, or by their personal accomplishments and the amenity of their manners; its poison insinuates itself imperceptibly into the young heart, where it produces a moral gangrene, awfully dangerous, if not utterly desperate. And to this deadly poison none are more eminently exposed than the boy that is thought to possess uncommon talents. Often does it blight some of the most promising plants of human nature, at the period when the crudity of youth is beginning to ripen iato manhood.
Two inferences are obvious, and of practical importance :
1. Parents should ever be thankful, rather than dissatisfied and repining, if their children are gifted with common faculties, though there be observable in them no indication of extraordinary brightness. Mere common sense, well cultivated and well directed, is capable of arriving at great excellence.
2. A youth should not be discouraged by being, in comparison with some others, slow to learn. The race is not always to the swift. As in pecuniary, so in intellectual acquisition, small gains unceasingly continued, accumulate at length to a large hoard. Drops added to drops,” says the Arabian proverb, “ constitute the ocean.
On the other hand, the mind, as well as the body, may move rapidly, and yet, through the infrequency or misdirection of its motions, make but little progress.
Of bridling the tongue.
“ The tongue can no man tame." If tuis had not been the language of inspiration, experience has proved it to be the language of truth. The tongue is the most untameable thing in nature. « Every kind of beasts and birds, and of serpents, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind.” But not so with the tongue. Who amongst the sons of men ever yet tamed his own tongue? Not one.-A person can bridle his tongue, or hold it: but no sooner does he take off the bridle, or let go his hold, than this little member runs wild, and out slips something from it, in the moment of passion or of levity, which the speaker presently wishes back.
Mark Anthony, it has been said, tamed lions, and drove them, harnessed to his chariot, through the streets of Rome. Had he tamed his own tongue, it had been a greater wonder still.—The rattle-snake has been tamed, and even the crocodile : but the tongue never.
Pythagoras imposed on his pupils constant silence, for months and years together. But what did it all signify? No sooner were they permitted to talk than they gabbled a deal of impertinence. Besides, to withhold the tongue from speaking at all, is destroying its end and use, rather than taming it. The gift of speech is too precious to be thrown away. Let the tongue be ac
customed to speak, and to speak as it ought. “A word spoken in due season, how good is it !"
Unruly tongues, on the contrary, produce 6 a world of iniquity. Some are full of deadly poison.” Such are they that curse men and blaspheme God, and which utter lies, for mischief or for sport. Such too is the deceitful tongue,
whose words are smoother than oil; yệt they are drawn swords.” There is the sly, whispering tongue, and the babbling, tattling tongue; each of which “separateth very friends." 66 The words of a tale-bearer are as wounds." He wounds others thereby, and himself too. For the mouth of such a fool is his destruction.
An impertinent, meddling tongue, makes bad worse, even when employed in offices of friendship. When Job was smit from head to foot, the busy tongues of his wife and his friends were a sorer plague to him than all his biles. And thus it often happens, that a person under misfortunes, suffers, as well from the busy meddling tongues of friends as from the malicious tongues of enemies.
There are fiery tongues. “ The tongue is a fire." Such is the tongue of the passionate man or woman, whose mouth, foaming with rage, casteth abroad words which are as
firebrands, arrows, and death.” Such also is the tongue of the slanderer and backbiter, which being itself " set on fire of hell,” puts whole neighborhoods and communities in a flame, and “setteth on fire the course of nature.” How many a pretty mouth has been disfigured and made hideous, by the fiery tongue in it.
What then is to be done with this unruly little member, which “boasteth great things," and occasioneth infinite mischief in the world ? Since no man, nor woman can quite tame it, what is the best way to manage it?
First, correct the heart, and keep that with all diligence. The foolishness of the lips is first uttered in the heart. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
Next, carefully bridle the tongue. Keep the bit upon it at all times; especially in the moment of sudden anger, and in the hour of joy and conviviality.