The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Last Commandment
by Mary L.G. Petrie, B.A.
"BRING them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." In accordance with this apostolic injunction, it is the aim of the Christian parent and teacher, so to mold the plastic mind and heart of the child, that the law of Christ shall in after life become, no mere matter of discussion or even admiration, but the unquestioned and unquestionable rule of conduct, until, habit rather than argument sets aside at once what is contrary to it.
We know well those two laws of love to God and our neighbor which Christ enunciated as the Great Commandment of His kingdom. (Matt. xxii. 37-9). We know well that expansion of it, the law of love one to another, which He gave as His New Commandment. (John xiii. 34.) There is another law less often emphasised by us but specifically emphasised by our Master, which has the peculiar sacredness of being His Last Commandment. Ten of the many occasions on which He manifested Himself after His Resurrection are recorded for our instruction. Three of these manifestations were to individuals, viz., to Mary Magdalene, Cephas, and James. (Mark xvi. 9, 1 Cor. xv. 5, 7.) Four were to small groups of His followers, viz., to the women on Easter morning, to Cleopas and his friend, to the Eleven a week later, and to the Seven on the Lake of Galilee. (Matt. xxciii, 9, Luke xxiv., John xx, 26, xxi.) About these seven appearances of the Risen Lord there is something of a private and informal character, but the circumstances and purpose of the three other manifestations show that they are the most important and significant of all. And on each of the three the Last Commandment was given. On Easter evening, He said to the Apostles met in solemn conclave, "As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you," and told them that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations. (John xx. 21., Luke xxiv. 47.) On the same day He appointed the great gathering in Galilee (Matt. xxvii. 7.) of more than 500 brethern, that is doubtless of the whole Church of Christ then existing (1 Cor. xv. 6), and to them He said, "Go ye and make disciples of all the nations." (Matt. xxvii. 19.). Lastly, "when they were come together," and an expression which may include many besides the Twelve, He said, and they were the last words He uttered on earth, "Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts i. 8.)
The reiterated command remains at least as binding upon the whole Christian community as any of the prohibitions of the Decalogue; and whatever excuse for evading it might have been found in earlier times in the inaccessibility of the heathen world, no such excuse is possible now, when political changes and commercial development have brought men of British race into direct contact with non-Christians of every nation in every corner of the world. Some would excuse their indifference to the matter by sweeping statements to the effect that modern missionary effort is not a success. By saying this, they simply proclaim their ignorance of matter concerning which, ignorance is a disgrace to any Christian. For in every place where there effort has been faithfully made, there has been set upon the work the seal of a success, which would have been beyond all hope and all expectation were it not undertaken for Him and with Him, to whom all power is given in Heaven and on earth. But our obligation to aid this work does not rest upon its success, actual or probable, it rests simply upon a plain Divine command. Probabilities were all against the first preachers of Christ's gospel, but they bravely obeyed their "marching orders," and we have entered into the results of their unquestioning obedience.
How shall we rise to our own duty in the matter?
It is a notable fact that the heart of not a few who have done great things for this great cause have been won to it in early childhood. We all know the story of the Eton boy listening entranced in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, to Bishop Selwyn's appeal for the islands of the sea, and responding to the appeal by living to become the martyr Bishop of Melanesia, john Coleridge Patteson. And many not as a rule conversant with "missionary" literature, have lately felt the fascination in the autobiography of another pioneer in the same region, john Gibson Paton. His story likewise begins with the deep impression made upon his heart in early childhood by his father's petitions for the heathen at family worship. In both cases parents ungrudgingly gave a loved child to the work, and were happy in having such a costly gift to give to such a cause. Nor is effort to rouse missionary enthusiasm wasted in the case of those who do not live to become preachers of the gospel abroad. We are told that one who has perhaps done more home work for foreign missions than anyone living, was first won to them by a children's sermon preached by the Rev. James Vaughn, of Brighton, in days when he was one of only two or three clergymen, who dreamed of using the pulpit to provide milk for babes as well as meat for adults.
And apart from the direct results of helpfulness to the missionary cause in after life, there are many indirect benefits in kindling a child's interest in it. Some assert that children are naturally selfish and greedy. Some deny this, pointing to the impulse to divide possessions with others even in the nursery. Formation of character in this matter probably begins far sooner than we commonly suppose. The men and women whose selfishness make others lives wretched to-day, were once toddlings whose elders laughed at their childish exactions, saying "They will outgrow all this," but taking no pains that they should do so, and it is not difficult to call out in hearts not yet hardened by contact with the world, a quick sympathy with others. Strive to make the range of that sympathy as wide as possible, even at the risk of diminishing some of that sense of unquestioning superiority, that makes the young Briton sweep up all foreigners as inferior creatures. The white children will assuredly be gainers and not losers by effort and even self-denial, in order to brighten the lives of the black and brown and yellow children, who have to them become fellow-creatures, and not mere cyphers in a lesson book.
Which leads us from the moral to the intellectual gain of missionary training for our children. "We are going to the house, which has the globe in it," was the delighted exclamation of some Sunday School laddies from a poor district, who had for the second time received from their teacher an invitation to spend an evening, enlivened by pictures and music and curiosities. They had never forgotten the fascination of discovering through that globe the vastness of our world, and the practical results in labour and giving of their interest in foreign missions, put some twice favored children to shame. There is no subject that can be rendered more attractive to the young than geography by a teacher gifted with sympathy and common sense, and to subject that can be more simply connected with our theme. One of the prettiest children's books that has lately appeared is Miss Gollock's "Light on Our Lessons" (Church Missionary Society, is. 6d.) which connects all done in the schoolroom with the mission field, in a way that cannot but save both subjects from seeming "dull and dry" even to the fashioned idea, that half the useful discipline of "lesson" is lost if they are made attractive instead of repulsive; we are also getting beyond the notion that missionary literature must be a dreary penance for the dreariest day in the week. I know no more practical solution to the problem pressing upon the conscientious parent, of how to make Sunday both a holy and a happy day for those, who cannot sit still for hours or give an adult's sustained attention to any subject, than this of making it especially a missionary day. Don't thrust missionary books into their hands that are feeble and trite, and quite beyond their comprehension. Read up some definite chapter of the subject yourself, and then spread out maps and pictures, and tell them in your own language of the church at Mengo overflowing with its morning congregation, in a land where Christ's name had never been uttered 30 years ago; of the mighty warrior Sheuksh in the frozen plains of Kitlan on the North Pacific, assembling his retainers to confess himself a Christian, and to ask their prayers on his behalf. Then let them work out the questions and prize competitions in the "Children's World" (Church Missionary Society 1/2d. monthly) a magazine of which I have heard complaint made by young people that it ought to be twice as large, it is so interesting. Such biographies as those of Livingstone, Allen Gardiner, and James Gilmour of Mongolia or the illustrated lives of missionaries (Patterson, Crowther, Morrison, & c.) published at is. 6d. by Partridge, or The Story of Mackay of Uganda told for Boys. (Hodder & Stoughton, 5s.), and "John G. Paton for Boys" are volumes at least as interesting, and far more profitable than the ordinary adventurous fiction that feeds the imagination of the British boy. All this will raise the whole matter to a higher level than the mere asking for pennies to put into the missionary box, which too often constitutes the sum total of childish effort for the heathen. Desire to give will arise spontaneously when the reason for giving is understood, and the child will from the first perceive, that the giving of self in personal service is a greater thing than the giving of means. A lecturer for the Bible Society was once telling a drawing-room full of boys and girls, how an accomplished parrot once collected a large sum by saying to every one who came into the room, "Don't forget the Bible box." Half way through the story he paused and asked, "How do you think Poll helped?" One of the audience promptly called out, "Saved his seed," an apt illustration of the good old fashioned ideas on the subject. I call them good, for they only need expanding, not superseding. The child who forgoes idle self0indulgence for others, will not be father to the man whose selfish extravagance asserts his unchristian right to live unto himself only. Social friction and bitterness is caused not by the existence of rich people, but by the existence of rich people who use their riches for nothing but their personal enjoyment.
So we make our children better citizens of our own state as well as better citizens of the world, by bringing home to them the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of their fellows, and engaging them in the ministry of prayer and labour for all whom God loved and Christ redeemed. It is the greatest work in the world, and yet none are too small to have some share in it, and to do something towards rolling away the reproach of indifference from Christendom. Could we find a more powerful missionary appeal than the words lately uttered by an aged hindu to Mr. Ball of Calcutta, from whom he had just heard the story of the gospel for the first time. With a look on his face never to be forgotten he ejaculated, "Did God really love me like that?" and added, "But no one ever told me before."
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