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Appeals to his Conscientiousness.
signs and gestures which he perfectly understood, what I conceived his offence to be.
He had been long enough with us, to have learned something of God and of our accountability to him ; of the object of the Christian Sabbath; and of the nature and design of public worship. He had behaved improperly at church before, and often been admonished on the subject. He knew why he had been removed to the pew in which I sat, and that he was, thus, under peculiar obligations to notice my directions and to yield to them.
I set all these things in order before him, clearly, affectionately, and impressively. During the whole of the admonition, he kept his eye on me with a steady, unwavering gaze, while the muscles of his countenance gave no disclosure, as yet, of the internal workings of his soul. He had an eye and a countenance capable of the strongest expression of purpose and emotion. - I made a short pause, and asked him what he thought of his conduct in the church. He gave no reply. I repeated the inquiry, again and again ; and there he sat, like a little statue, literally mute, so that not a breath, or motion of any kind, escaped him. "Do you think you did right, to behave as you did ??
Yes,' said he, - 'yes, yes, yes;' - moving his head affirmatively, with a look that showed his whole soul felt the force of the declaration.
Thinking it barely possible that he might not have understood me, I repeated the inquiry in a different form.
. Was it not wrong for you to behave as you did, at church ?'
"No, no, no;' was the immediate and prompt reply, with equal emphasis.
Will you be guilty of such conduct again ? "Yes, yes, yes ;' with an expression of countenance that indicated the fixed purpose of his soul.
What was to be the issue of this contest I knew not, or what expedient I should resort to, in the hopes of inducing a better state of feeling. I felt it to be a duty to let him see that such conduct could not escape with impunity. I demanded his attention, and he gave it immediately, with the same settled and stern look of coinposure that he had exhibited before.
You are a very bad boy, and I must punish you in some way severely. I am thinking seriously of keeping you confined in this room, perhaps for several days, and giving you nothing but bread and water. Do you not think it would be just what you deserve ?'
No, no, no.'
Final Resort to Prayer.
Would you like to be confined so ?' • Yes, yes, yes.'
One other resort occurred to me. It is that which is vouchsafed to us in all times of extremity. I fear we do not seek it with any thing like the fidelity or the frequency which we ought.
. Look at me,' said I, 'I am going to pray for you. You are a poor, wicked boy; and if God does not have mercy on you, and shew you that you are a sinner, and lead you to repentance, and help you to do better, I do not know what will become of you. I am afraid, you will keep on growing more and more wicked, till your Father in Heaven becomes so much displeased with you, that he will abandon you to your own course in sin. I will beseech him, for Christ's sake, to have mercy on you. Look at me, while I pray for you.'
He seemed quite disposed to do so; and, standing directly before him, with my eyes closed, and my arms extended upwards, I offered a short prayer in that expressive language of signs and gestures, which, to the deaf and dumb, is fully as significant, for all the purposes of devotion, as speech is to us. I have often thought, that it is more so. For it is the language of feeling, deep and strong, and of picturesque thought. Prayer,at least a great proportion of it, —is conversant with those spiritual objects, which can be presented to the mind only by the aid of sensible analogies and symbols. To be sincere and fervent, it must flow from the heart, and mingle with the contemplation of such objects its purest and most hallowed emotions.
The petitions offered at this time, I have already stated, in substance, in the remarks which I made to the boy when I invited his attention.
I trembled to open my eyes, and ascertain the result; for if he would not be moved now, what could I hope for ? Imagine, then, my astonishment and delight, to see tears trickling down a softened and subdued face, the expression of which clearly showed, that the fountains of feeling within were broken up, and that I might now use a moral influence with the prospect of success.
I released him from his bonds. He acknowledged that he had done wrong. I went into a renewed course of admonition, which he received, apparently, with a docile and contrite temper. He promised entire amendment, in the particular in which he had offended. He hoped God would forgive him, and enable him to do better in future.
My end was attained ; and if my recollection is correct, his conduct, at church, was not afterwards deserving of censure.
Another instance occurs to me, illustrating with equal force, Another Obstinate Pupil.
the efficacy of a religious influence on the deaf and dumb, and, indeed, on all other subjects of discipline, especially in families and schools, – as the principles of human nature, and the avenues to the heart, are the same in all.
After the pupils were removed to the commodious edifice which they now occupy, about half a mile west from the centre of the city of Hartford, a young man, twentytwo or twentythree years of age, gave way to an ungovernable temper, and was guilty of very great misconduct, one evening, in the boys' sitting-room.
As a part of his punishment, he was required, the next morning, to stand up, in his place, in the chapel, when the pupils assembled for prayer, and receive a public reprimand. To explain the nature of this reprimand, and the mode of giving it, it is necessary to state, that it was a constant custom, at morning and evening devotions, to select a very short portion of Scripture, usually only a single verse, and, at the commencement of the exercises, explain it in the presence of the pupils, (being written on a large slate in full view of them all,) and accompany that explanation with some practical reflections and application. Not unfrequently, if there happened to be any thing going on wrong among the pupils, an appropriate text was selected, and thus the will and authority of God himself brought to bear upon the peculiar circumstances of the case. In some instances, the offences of individuals were thus alluded to, and names occasionally mentioned, if such a course was thought to be merited by the nature or aggravation of the offence. The effect often produced by this, shewed that God did, indeed, honor his own Word. This, of course, was all done in the language of signs.
The text selected the morning that the young man was to receive his reprimand, was the following: -' He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.'
After explaining its import, some general remarks, applicable to all present, were made. T'he young man was then directed to rise, while a particular application was addressed to himself.
He was reminded of his offence the preceding evening. Its inexcusableness and aggravation were described, and its character of bold opposition to the government and wholesome regulations of the Institution. But, there was a strong endeavor to shew him that the burden of his offence consisted in its being committed against God, who, he well knew, commanded him to have very different feelings from what he had exhibited, and to conduct in an entirely different manner. The peculiar appropriateness of the text to his case, was attempted to be shewn. He had come to the Asylum, very ignorant of a Supreme Being, Method of Subduing him.
and of his duty. His mind had been gradually enlightened by instruction in moral and religious truth. He had been brought to know how to do good, - in what way to demean himself as he ought, — and now he had disregarded this instruction, derived by his teachers from the Word of God. He had done very wrong, knowingly and wilfully, and was, therefore, in this, as well as in other respects, a sinner in the sight of that Being who ever notices our conduct, and of all of which we must, one day, render to him a strict account.
He was strongly and affectionately urged to confess his guilt to God, to implore his forgiveness, to repent of it, to go to Christ as his only Saviour from sin and its consequences, and to pray for the influences of the Holy Spirit, that he might be led to do this, and be kept from similar transgressions in future..
The displeasure of God against him, and the vast importance of obtaining a restoration to his favor, rather than the disrespect shown to the officers of the Institution, or the incurring of their disapprobation, were the topics made prominent in the reproof and admonition ; — after receiving which, he was dismissed, in company with the other pupils.
This was, it will be recollected, in the morning. In the evening of the same day, he came, of his own accord, to the house which l occupied, contiguous to the Asylumn, and asked if he could have the opportunity of conversing with me. Certainly,' was my reply. I invited him to enter, and we sat down by the fire together. His first remark was : • The text which you applied to me this morning, has been turning round and round in my head ever since. It has stuck tight there. I have tried to pluck it out and throw it away. But I could not. I have been thinking about it all the time. It has troubled me much.'
This acknowledgment, made with deep feeling, and in the most expressive sign-language, opened the way for a very free and friendly conversation of some length, consisting, on his part, of acknowledgments of various other acts of transgression against the laws of God, and the rules of the Institution, with expressions of deep regret for them, and hopes that he should be enabled to do better in future,-and, on my part, of parental admonition and advice.,
Before leaving me, he expressed a strong wish to come before the pupils, the next morning, at prayers; to confess his fault in the particular instance of misconduct for which he had been reproved ; to ask forgiveness; and to promise future amendment.
I told him, that if he did this, it must be entirely voluntary, on his part. No such thing could be required of him by the Gov
ernment of the Institution, as he had already received the punishment allotted to his offence; and that, while we should be glad to witness this manifestation of his penitence, it must be distinctly understood both by the pupils and himself, that it was entirely the result of his own unconstrained wishes.
He renewed the request, and retired. The next morning, he came out from his seat, in the presence of the teachers and the pupils, taking a conspicuous position, and, in a very becoming. ingenuous, and manly way, made his confession and promises of future good conduct. It was an unexpected and affecting scene. The reasons of his thus appearing before us all, were explained. A deep impression was made by this vol'untary acknowledgment on the part of one known to have offended greatly, of a mature age, and of a strongly marked character, on the rest of the pupils, — an impression for good, not soon to be obliterated. I ought to add, he was particularly noticed in the prayer, that God would aid him in carrying his good resolutions into effect.
That the moral effect on himself was of the most salutary kind, may be inferred from the fact, that, from that time, his conduct was, in general, strictly correct ; conforming to all the regulations of the Institution; conscientious and orderly; and causing no trouble, as it had formerly often done, to those who had the charge of his instruction and government.
A simple and short prayer, in the one case, and a text of Scripture, in the other, (accoinpanied with prayer also,) — accomplished, under the divine blessing, these moral changes. The subjects of them were both possessed of great, natural force of character, and of strong passions and obstinacy of will.
I have seen other results of a similar kind, among the deaf and dumb, and also among children who are in possession of all their faculties; which has long convinced me, that, both in the family and in the school, -- prayer, with the Word of God, applied to the conduct in an appropriate, kind, and solemn manner, - is the great secret of effectual discipline and government.
Let parents and teachers put themselves, and their own dignity and authority, in a far less prominent attitude than is often the case. Let them so speak and act as to lead those under their care, to regard them as God's vicegerents, commissioned and required by him to enforce his commands, and to see that his authority is respected and obeyed.
Let the Bible be referred to, as the Universal Statute Book ; the great Director and Arbiter of what is right and wrong in all