The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The correspondence in the last two numbers of the Parents' Review on the subject of children's doubts and religious difficulties has suggested to me to relate what has been my own experience of the manner in which the doctrine of the resurrection of the body mat be made real, and in a sense naturally easy to a child's mind.
It was through finding how very little reality it had for one of my older children--indeed, that it hardly seemed to have been grasped at all even, after years of careful religious instruction--that I was awakened to the need for being much more distinct and even realistic in my method of bringing it before the younger ones.
In the case of the older child the belief seemed only to be in the immortality of the soul; she had no difficulty or doubt about that, nor did it amount to difficulty as to belief in a resurrection body; she simply had never taken in the idea.
The writings which, of all others, have thrown most light for me on the doctrine of the "resurrection of the flesh" are those of F. D. Maurice, and it was to his words on the 15th chapter of the 1st of Corinthians, in his "Unity of the New Testament," that I went for fresh help in the effort that I felt called on to make in bringing home to my children the gospel of the new life of the body.
Charles Kingsley's sermons (extracts from which are given in "From Death to Life," a little volume of selections of his writings edited by his wife) are also most useful in clothing the great thought of the glorious future awaiting the risen body in vivid and stirring words, the very outcome of his own warm and sanguine heart; but Maurice's "Theological Essays" and "Unity of the New Testament" have even better enabled me to put the doctrine dimply and scripturally before the children's minds; and once having grasped his mode of treating it, I found it easy to use the wonderful symbolism of nature in her resurrection hour as a kind of "object lesson" to bring St. Paul's teaching before their very eyes. So one Sunday afternoon at our "Bible lesson" I had ready, before the home class assembled, several seeds with their young plants just breaking from them--a pea, just an inch or two high, with the old husk adhering to the stock; a tiny sycamore escaping from its brown and withered seed-body, which yet clasped the springing shoot and again a bean in the same condition. Along with these I had a few unsown and undecayed seeds, among them the brightly coloured "scarlet-runner" bean, so attractive to a child's eyes; and, after calling the children's attention to the Easter festival which we were then celebrating, I showed them the various seeds--the pretty bean in particular--and asked them what must happen if the new living body of the growing pea and bean and sycamore were ever to come out of them. This brought forcibly before them the fact so strongly dwelt on by St. Paul in his epistle--namely, that death is the very condition of newer and higher life.
Then I made them notice the difference between the new body given to the plant and its former one, and the great superiority of that difference, even when, as in the case of the bean, the seed was beautiful--how "glorified" it had become. This superiority they were able to realise more fully as I led their thought to dwell on the picture of the full-grown plant in flower, with its abundance of leaf and blossom; its dwelling among the air of heaven, drawing beauty from the sunlight; its wonderfully multiplied relations with the vegetable and animal kingdom; its increased usefulness in numberless ministries to the insect and to man. Yet they were also able to realise from what was before their eyes that "to every seed" was given "its own body," so that the vague fear of an awful change which would break off continuity with the past known life, and destroy, not transfigure, the ties and loves of earth might be met and overcome by the sight of such a miracle of nature as the transformation from embryo to developed plant. This fear haunted my own early days, and is, I fancy, one which often distresses children. We opened the seed, and they saw the tiny germ within only awaiting the death of that which concealed it to become truly manifested. Then I pointed to the fact that the "sowing" necessary to this resurrection was a figure, not of burial (a mere accident in our case), but that it symbolised our whole earthly existence, which is but that of a seed being sown compared to the higher life which awaits us in the resurrection body; that our meaning while in this lower stage is concealed and cannot be made manifest till deaths sets us wholly free, and shows our true selves, and that which we were meant to become.
This method of bringing home to the children's minds a doctrine of which people seem somewhat shy in these days (chiefly, I cannot but think, on account of the very unscriptural additions which it has received, and still receives - additions which make it appear absurd and untenable to the view of those who have had any scientific training) has, I believe, had the effect, not merely of making it real to them, but also attractive--a fact to be looked forward to.
Surely, unless we succeed in infusing into their hearts a certain buoyancy of hope with regard to the resurrection of the body, we have failed to catch the spirit of the great apostle while he expands the doctrine before the minds of his readers in words which rise to a strain of jubilant triumph.
I felt that this was what I had failed to do in teaching my older child, and it was what I sought to aim at when entering more fully into the subject with the younger ones, and it does seem to me that it is one which should be oftener and more naturally dwelt upon between parents and children, and that in a spirit of hope and joyousness. Nature on every side is ready to help us with her teeming symbols of life coming out of death, and the children's own sense of gladness in the free life of the body is of itself an aid to making their early impressions of the resurrection-doctrine strong and vital, and such as will last. Very young persons, even more than the old and careworn, to whom the idea of rest has become specially valuable, can enter into the spirit of those ardent, aspiring words, "Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life."
Let us help them to forget the coffin and the tomb. (Would that we could a little more forget these ourselves!) Let us take them to the garden, the wood, and the field, as does St. Paul, and one greater than he when we would teach them the true meaning of that clause of our creed, "I believe in the Resurrection of the Body."
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