The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
By the Way

Volume 1, 1890, pg. 953

The biblical view of heredity.--In the November number of the Parents' Review, there was published a paper, "The Biblical View of Heredity," which seems to me to call for some reply. In the present state of our knowledge, no one will deny that heredity does produce certain tendencies of both body and mind. The question is, does it possess any such overwhelming power as Mr. Reade represents it to have? This point, put as it is put in his paper, is one which may exercise a vast influence on our practical work, and in the interests of those of our little ones who had the misfortune to be born of a line of vicious ancestors it is worthy of some careful examination.

At the very threshold of the Jewish war of extermination is placed a character which might appear to have been given this position for the express purpose of warning us off from any theory of immutable heredity. The first city captured by the Israelites was Jericho. The destruction of it was so complete, and the curse laid on it so scathing, that no room can be left for the supposition that the inhabitants were in the smallest degree less deserving of extermination, less sink in sensuality, than those of other cities. In it was a woman who must have inherited all the ancestral sins as fully as any inhabitant of the land, whose mode of life, moreover, shows that she practised the abominations which abounded. She was a harlot, and what kind of person would be specially singled out for these designation in a city such as was Jericho may be left to the intelligence of the reader. She inherited and practised, then, the sins of her ancestors. Yet, not only was she spared; not only was she married to one of the children of Israel, so that she is enumerated among the ancestors of both David and Our Lord, but she is expressly quoted in the New Testament as one of the shining examples of the faith that saves.

But, it may be replied, her case may be regarded as an example (to use a scientific term) of a reversion to the original type of man before the fall of Adam. Her goodness (on Mr. Reade's hypothesis) was but a remembrance of his. Granted. But then what becomes of the "scientific" argument with regard to the children? How can we say, "If the rising generation had been spared we may safely predict that it would have exceeded the abominations of its father?" Can we predict that sinful parents must of necessity produce yet more sinful offspring? If so, then must the course of the world be one of ever downward tendency and ever increasing corruption. So hopeless a creed hardly is in conformity with Christian teaching. If Rahab, who had grown up amidst and practised the corruptions of Jericho could be saved, much more might the babes who had done neither.

The Jews themselves seem to have had a proverb which closely approximates to Mr. Reade's theory. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." This is quoted by the Prophet Ezekiel, but quoted only to be emphatically condemned. He spends much care on confuting it. "The soul that sinneth it shall die" -- not the soul of him whose ancestors have sinned. "If a man doeth that which is lawful and right . . . he shall surely live." "The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father," if he turn from it. If the statement be true, how unfair an advantage is given to the wicked son of good parents as compared with the good son of wicked parents.

The whole teaching of the prophets is cast in the same strain. Mercy and judgement, justice and truth, repentance and goodness is the burden of the whole prophetic teaching. Without quoting examples, which would require a volume, let me transcribe the following words of a great writer: "The future of the individual. Have we ever thought of the immense stress laid by the prophets on this mighty thought? . . . The future is everything to us, the past is nothing. The turn, the change, the fixing our faces in the right direction--this is the difficulty, this is the turning point, the crisis of our life. But, that once done, the future is clear before us."

I turn now to the practical bearing of the question in our own time. One of the crying evils of our day is to be found in the existence in our large towns of a race of neglected beings who have sprung from a succession of generations of ancestors equally wretched and debased. These people, young and old, are in darkness often more profound than are many of the heathen, and we are accustomed to say that they have never had any fair chance of being other than they are, so bad are their antecedents and surroundings. Are we, in view of the extreme theory of heredity with which we are dealing, to leave the poor children of these people in their sins; to fold our hands and cry, "Kismet"; to recommend their extermination as being of a material hopelessly bad? No, a thousand times. Yet, if heredity sin can condemn any one, these children can in the mass have no hope. But how complete a refutation of the justice of any such view is given by a consideration of the results obtained by the various agencies for their reformation which are at work. The children are taken and brought to Christ, and the histories of their lives prove that no human being or race, however steeped in crime, can be considered as beyond the reach of the Spirit of God.

A very remarkable example is furnished in Mr. Darwin's account of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. So sunk in depravity were they when first he came into contact with them, that he confesses his belief that any attempt at reformation among them must, of necessity, be doomed to failure. In the course of time he visited them once more. The missionaries (not armies of extermination) had been amongst them, and Mr. Darwin expresses his astonishment at the change which had been wrought. The race had been in a few years regenerated to an extent which he had thought would have required generations to accomplish, if it could have been done at all.--QY. [This interesting communication suffers by abridgement.--ED.]

My little girl--five years and four months old--displays keen powers of reasoning. For example, when the approach of Christmas made Santa Claus the topic of conversation in the nursery, she was not absorbed in the pleasure of anticipating the gifts. She inquired where he lived, who he was, why he came, why he did not walk upstairs; and a host of kindred questions. The failure of her friends to satisfy her on these points produced by a firm disbelief in his existence--after the famous precedent of Mistresses Gamp and Prig. Is it wise to inculcate such a fiction as this in a child's mind? pleasant though the associations and surroundings of the legend and the custom may be.


Music for little ones.--Perhaps teachers who have found young children disheartened by all the difficulties they encounter on first beginning to learn music, may like to try a plan I have found successful. After teaching the names of the treble notes on the piano, I wrote out finger exercises and simple tunes in Roman letters on paper ruled in small squares, leaving blank spaces for a pause, and drawing dividing lines for the bars. Notes on ledger lines being written just above or below the spaces. The children were delighted at the ease with which they could pick out familiar tunes, and as soon as a tune was well enough known, I played the bass to the little performers' treble, thus accustoming them to keep time. Where bass and treble were alike, as in exercises, the child used both hands. Now I taught them to read musical noted, treble only, reading a few lines daily, first reading a line, then counting, pointing to each note, dot, or rest. This lesson was given at a different time to that on the piano, to avoid weariness of the subject. The next step was to play the tunes already learnt from letters from the musical notes, then new ones were learnt. Reading and playing the bass need not be attempted till sufficient progress has been made for easy duets to be learnt. The honour and glory of playing a real duet will be an inducement to conquer the difficulty of learning a new set of notes. Of course, scales and exercises will have been diligently practised in the meantime.
"A mother in India."

Typed by happi, Apr 2018