The methods of educating them
The Lord has endowed people, the crowning work of His hands, with the possibility of endless progression. There is no assignable limit beyond which they may not pass. The more a person knows, the more he or she is capable of knowing. The more we put into the mind, the more capacious it becomes. Every new idea is a new vessel to receive, and a new power to give. Our affections and all our intellectual faculties gain strength and depth and capacity by exercise, and they. will continue to do so for ever.
The laws of mental and spiritual growth are not changed by passing out of the material body and coming consciously into the spiritual world. On the contrary, we are brought into better conditions for the exercise and development of every faculty which has been perverted by evil. We escape the trammels of time and space by escaping from the material body, and we come into a world where everything is specifically related to us.
Life in the spiritual world is a continuation of this. The death of the material body is no more an interruption to our life than sleep is. When we rise in the spiritual world we begin where we left off here, just as we begin in the morning where we left off when we went to sleep at night.
The infant, therefore, has everything to learn, the same as if it had remained in this world. It has to be taught. It must have teachers and schools, methods and implements, for nothing can be done in any world without the means of doing it. The Lord uses means to accomplish His ends. The instruction is more perfect in the other life, because the mind is in a better state to receive, because the teachers are wiser, and the means better adapted to the end. But this we shall see as we enter more particularly into the subject.
Our first inquiry naturally is, What are our children taught? To answer the question in one sentence, I should say, to be useful; to love the Lord and the neighbor, and to carry their love into practical effect by doing all they can to promote the highest good of all. The angels teach our little ones who have passed to their care what we ought to teach our children who remain with us - to be useful. We have to learn many things in this world by slow and painful processes which they do not. But it is all for the same purpose. We learn to read that we may gain knowledge, and we gain knowledge that we may use it for the good of others. We learn trades, arts, and professions as means to gain a living and perform a use in the world. Those who have passed into the other life are freed from what we may call the mechanical and material part of education. They have not to learn to read as our children do by an outward and mechanical way, though they have books in the spiritual world and learn to read them. But no one has any knowledge which he does not gain by the exercise of his mental faculties. The little child has no innate knowledge of the Lord or of their own nature - they must gain it.
It may strike some persons as a novel, if not an absurd idea, that we are to learn to be useful in the other life because the idea is so prevalent that the rest of heaven consists in doing nothing. But this is a total mistake. Happiness does not consist in idleness. If it did we should be happiest when we were asleep. A stone in the street, or a dead log in the fields, or a mummy well embalmed, would be perfect types of rest and happiness. Rest for the mind is not inaction. It is harmonious and orderly activity. Rest for the affections is not ceasing to love. It is loving proper objects, and having our love received and reciprocated. It is love embodied in act; love communicated by word and deed. Hope and fruition go hand in hand in heaven.
Instead of having less to do in the. other life, we shall have more. The occupations will be more numerous, and they will continue to increase to eternity as our knowledge increases: Truth is infinite. The more we know, the more we shall see there is to be known. Gaining ideas does not exhaust knowledge. Discovering a new method of doing a particular work is not one step towards the limits of invention. Every new invention leads to many others. This will continue to be so forever in this world and the principle will exist much more fully in the spiritual world.
It is a law of Divine wisdom that we should enjoy life by living. By giving to others we receive more abundantly from the Lord. heaven is a life of the most active use. It is the outflowing of heavenly affections into every beautiful form; into speech and act and deed. The more perfect the speech - the more lovely the deed, the more fully the love will be communicated and the more lively the joy. The activities of heaven will be the perfection of happiness because they will not be forced, because they will be spontaneous - the play of the affections, and not the servile labor of compulsion.
If we look at our own natures, we shall see that all delight flows from activity in some form, and the more ardent the affections the greater the activity. The idea, therefore, that every one is to be initiated into some use is in accordance with all we know of man's nature. It is the Divine method of making human beings happy.
One of the first things, therefore, that children are taught is that the Lord is their Father, and that every good thing comes from Him and is His gift to them. They are, therefore, continually initiated into knowledge concerning Him; their thoughts and affections are led to Him. At the same time they are taught that they must love their companions and teachers and they are initiated into the exercise of the truths they are taught. Precept and practice go hand in hand.
Herein is one of the great perfections of education in the other life. Children are taught the truth in doing it and by doing it. They learn as they live and by living. Knowledge of which they have no present use is not stored up with the idea that it may some time become useful. Indeed, there is no separation of truth and life as there is in this world. They see the practical use and force, of every truth as it is learned. They see the necessity for it. Education is something more than instruction. It is the calling forth of all the spiritual faculties into full, harmonious
action. It is not cramming the memory with words which have no meaning to the child. It is not driving them to repeat a given number of terms by fear. It is calling their own affections and thoughts into play by processes of delight. It is sport rather than hard study. It is the wise direction and proper gratification of awakened curiosity, and not its suppression. Our children in heaven are not shut up in close rooms, and compelled to sit hour after hour in dreary confinement, poring over repulsive tasks. Their schools are more like holiday excursions without their fatigue and exhaustion, in which new and interesting objects are continually appearing to call forth their affections and instruct their minds.
A common, delightful and most effectual method of instruction is by representatives. In the spiritual world everything which surrounds the inhabitants represents their state of love and intelligence. Their outward world is a perfect picture and symbol of their characters. Their houses, their furniture, their clothing, and the scenery around them, are a mirror in which the specific character of the inhabitants can be seen. The principle is the same we see in operation everywhere in this world, only it is carried into full and specific effect there. Our dress and habitation, our employments and amusements, our furniture and books and ornaments, indeed everything we touch, bears the impress of our characters. Every house has its peculiar expression. The carpet and the chairs and the bed and the closets and the table all speak.
And if we could fully control them, they would speak much louder and more truly than they do now. Suppose every woman had the means of clothing herself as she chose, and that she was compelled to choose for herself - would not her dress reveal her taste, her pride, or humility, her neatness or the want of it?
In the spiritual world every external thing is the exponent of some internal principle, and the inhabitants have a perception of their meaning. The ideas and affections assume corresponding forms and make the outward world of every one, and when occasion requires they can create forms which represent the truth or affection they wish to teach.
For example: Suppose an angel wished to give the children he or she was instructing an idea of the nature of innocence. Instead of giving the child a description of innocence in words to commit to memory, or of explaining it in an abstract way, the teacher would create a living representation of innocence and cause it to pass like a vast panorama before the children. It may be a beautiful landscape through which they wander for hours. This landscape is filled with every lovely thing which is the embodiment of innocence in its various forms and relations. The most delicate and lovely flowers spring up around them wherever they go. Lambs, and every beautiful and harmless form of animal life act out their natures in sportive gambols, Lovely birds fill the air with song. Groups of heavenly children, clothed in beautiful garments, singing heavenly songs, and engaging in innocent sports, are seen on the lawns and in the groves, Their very sports are an exhibition of innocence in some of its forms. Their garments illustrate it. Innocence speaks in the tones of their voices. It is expressed in pantomime in their gestures. It shines in their faces and is set forth to the life in all the objects which surround them. As the little pupils enter into this scene, innocent affections become awakened in their own hearts, they have a perception of the meaning of the whole scene and of each particular part of it. They see it acted out to the life. They see innocence itself in form. After an hour or day of delight, they return to their homes with a perfect image of the nature and form of innocence indelibly impressed upon their minds. There is no labor in giving or receiving instruction in this way. The heavenly teachers enter into the representation with as much delight as the heavenly pupils. The representation is indeed the outbirth of their own affections. They get a clear and more accurate idea of the nature of innocence from this embodiment of it in outward forms; their hearts glow with a more heavenly ardor; they see more clearly the depth and richness of the, Divine goodness, and their hearts open more fully to the Lord to receive it from Him.
The children also are instructed that these forms which have so delighted them come from the Lord; that the whole representation came from Him, and was a partial and finite form of innocence in Him. Thus they are taught to connect everything with the Lord, to look upon it as His gift, and a token of His love.
Sometimes a single object will appear which is the symbol of some thought and affection. It may be a flower; whose color and fragrance fully express the idea. It may be a bird, whose form and plumage and song and graceful motions represent it. It may be an animal, or a garment, or some change in the appearance of the world around them. I think we can all see that this is the perfection of teaching. It is impossible to conceive of any more efficient method of communicating truth. If we wish to give a child an idea of a plant or landscape, how much more. quickly and clearly it can be done by showing it to him or her than it can by any verbal description. No words can convey to the mind such a clear and distinct idea of the terrible passions of people as a battle conveys.
In these heavenly schools there is not only the perfection of method and the command of every facility necessary to effect the desired end, but there are other elements which add vastly to the superiority of their instruction and their rapid progress in knowledge.
The objects themselves are more beautiful and attractive than the things of this world. Spiritual substances are so much more excellent than any material substances that everything made of them excels every earthly quality and form. The flowers are not only brighter in color and more beautiful in form than any earthly flowers, but they shine as from an inward light. They are as it were a creation from those who are present; the natural representation of principles which exist within them. They change, therefore, with their changing states. They change as the expression of the face and the gestures of the body change as the thoughts and affections are exalted or depressed. They are, therefore, a constant revelation to us of our own states, and of the states of those around us. They have a personal relation to us, and speak to us more clearly and specifically than the outward world in this life can.
They also teach us of higher things and of our more immediate relation to the Lord. We can, indeed, see the Lord's goodness reflected in nature in this life. But the idea is vague and general, and comes by way of inference. If our food and clothing came to us every day without any special agency of our own, as gifts from the Lord, we should see the Lord's goodness in them. They would remind us of Him, as a gift reminds us of the kindness of our friend. Now it is true that the material universe and everything in it is a perpetual creation from the Lord. It is new every morning, and fresh every evening. It does not, however, seem so to us. But in the spiritual world everything is specifically related to us, and seems to be a special gift to us. It is, therefore, a perpetual reminder of the Lord; it brings us as it were into more direct relations to Him.
Thus the child is led to look to the Lord. Every object reminds it of the Lord; connects its thought with Him and calls forth its affections to Him. Thus the child is constantly led into the practice of the first commandment, to love the Lord with all the heart, and his or her faculties unfold in true order. The child regards everything from a central point of view, and sees it in its true light.
We see everything in this world as it were upside down. We look upon the web of creation on the wrong side. We mistake the appearance for the reality, the means for the end. We reverse the true order of life, and chase the shadows of the good and true while we lose sight of the substance. Consequently, we are continually led astray, and must be constantly retracing our steps. Much of the labor of life is spent in unlearning, and setting ourselves right; in correcting false views, and breaking up bad habits.
The Lord seems to be so remote from us that it is difficult to connect Him with the constant operations of nature; so many agencies interpose between us and Him, that it is difficult to recognize His goodness in our food and clothing, and our daily means of comfort and culture. It is so difficult that multitudes do not think of Him, and some do not believe in His existence even, much less in His constant providential care.
But it is not so with our children in heaven. They are led as it were into the presence of the Lord by everything they see and hear and enjoy. Their food and garments and beautiful habitations, and all the lovely objects around them, are gifts from the Lord and tokens of His love. They are the forms and messages of His love to them. Every new object is a new token of it. Their affections are newly awakened by new and beautiful surprises. As they advance in knowledge they find new flowers in their gardens; new species of birds sing new songs; the sun shines brighter, the air is purer, the waterfall sparkles with new light; new and more beautiful garments appear in their wardrobes; new ornaments adorn their rooms. And all these things are the gift of the Lord. Seeing this, their hearts open more largely to Him. Their natures expand, their power to perceive grows more acute, they come into clearer light, and are drawn nearer to the Lord. Every new idea is imaged and reflected in new forms in everything around them. In this way their affections are elevated to the Lord and centered in Him. The chords of love which bind them to Him are continually strengthening.
They are also taught and led into the constant practice of loving each other. They are educated together. Those of a genius adapted to be useful to each other, and none others, are brought into one family, and associate with each other.
Children do not like to be alone. They are social, and they have more influence upon each other than the most persistent formal instruction. One bad associate will do more to pervert an innocent nature than much patient instruction and many good examples can correct.
How happy in this respect are our children in heaven. In this world they corrupt each other. They cannot go into the streets without hearing some profane word, or seeing some evil deed. They teach what is false and evil to each other at home. The parents develop evil passions within them, and by precept and example lead them away from the Lord rather than to Him. The moral atmosphere in the best of homes, in the school and street, in city and country, is tainted and it is impossible to escape from its influence.
But our children in heaven are free from all these influences. They help each other to love what is good and true. Each one is alive with love from the Lord, and exercises it towards all his or her companions. Every one in the little circle of home stands between all the others and the Lord, and communicates that love to them in a form peculiar to himself. Each one is like a choice flower in a bouquet, which gives a new color, a new perfume and a new beauty to the whole.
We must not think of these angelic children as all cut after one pattern, as an assemblage of negatives and insipid proprieties. heaven is, not a perpetual Sabbath in the Puritan sense. It is a state of glowing and ever-varying activity. The innocent affections of the children are called into constant play. Education is not repression. It is what it truly signifies, the drawing forth of all the intellectual faculties into harmonious and joyous play. The most of the commandments in this world are negative: They begin with "Thou shalt not." In the other life they become affirmative. They are laws of life leading to good. There are no negatives in the heavenly language. There are no such words as "must not," and " do not.". Education is direction, not restraint. The faculties of the spirit unfold from within, like a blossom. The affections are primary, and lead and give form to the thoughts. The thoughts are forms of the affections. There is no separation between the will and the understanding. Every truth springs from the heart, and is learned by heart, in the true sense of the term. Thus education is life itself, a lovely, harmonious, beautiful, happy life.
It may be difficult for us to conceive what one child can do for another when each one has all its natural wants supplied. But we must remember that everyone not only preserves his or her individuality in the other world, but becomes more distinctly themselves. heaven is not sameness, but constant variety. Nor is it composed of opposites, but of homogeneous natures. This harmony of varieties gives endless scope to the exercise of affection and thought. Each one receives the Divine life in a different form from another. There is something novel to all in every one; there are perpetual and interesting surprises. As everyone in heaven loves all others better than him or herself, they are more interested in what another says and does than in their own thoughts and affections. This, as every one can see, would open an exhaustless field for communion. When two children came together each would be interested in the other's form of thought. They would find the other a complement of their own. Thus, the greater number of persons a child was brought into contact with, the more complete would be their own life, the more they would find to give, and to receive. Thus by heavenly methods they learn truth for heavenly uses, and they use it as they learn it. Knowledge is simply the means of attaining their ends for the time. Every step is a clear and distinct attainment. It is an advance of the whole nature. The head does not outstrip the heart, nor the heart the head. All the faculties unfold in true order, and keep equal pace. There is a roundness and fullness and, completeness of culture in every stage of progress. Every day is bright with joys because knowledge is simply the way to attain them. The knowledge of every day is equal to their wants. So there is satisfaction and contentment in what they learn and do, and a constant enjoyment and peace. They live in the present. Their whole being is so absorbed in what they learn and do and enjoy that they have no care for the morrow, no regret for the past. Their whole life is an eternal now, and an eternal joy.
I have heretofore spoken more of the general principles which control and regulate the lives of children when they enter the other world. I think it will interest you, and give you a clearer idea of their life, to carry these general principles out to their legitimate consequences; to mention some of the particular things which they do, and the particular influences which must be continually operating with a silent but ever-active power, to develop their affections and strengthen their minds.
They are committed to the care of those who understand their natures, and know how to teach and guide them. Such is the perfection of purely spiritual conditions that those who are best adapted to each other, and can be of the most use to each other, are brought together. Thus every child is committed to the care of those who, of all the innumerable hosts of heaven, are the best fitted to its peculiar nature. The Lord provides for them the best educators in the universe. The children are committed to the care of those who understand their peculiar genius, and know how to touch the secret springs of their natures and call forth their affections in due order and form. They know how to enter into their motives and life, and to adapt means to their particular wants.
We know how impossible it is always to find such teachers in this world. Parents themselves do not know how to manage their children. How few of us fully understand our children. How few have the wisdom to choose the best methods of government and instruction, or to apply them when selected. We have not the skill; we have not the patience; we are wanting in that spiritual love which looks only to the spiritual good of the child. We constantly make mistakes, sometimes from weakness and importunity; granting indulgence when we should withhold it, and at other times acting with too much severity from anger. How often do we see our children taking the first steps in an evil course and feel that we are powerless to prevent it. How often from ignorance or folly or selfishness do we help them on in the development of the loves of self and the world.
Our children are gathered in such great numbers in schools that there is no possibility of knowing their individuality of character and peculiar mental genius. The same instruction, the same methods, the same motives are applied to the bold and timid; to the quick and slow of apprehension; the active and the indolent. The consequence is that all must suffer more or less.
The teachers will also have their likes and dislikes. It cannot be otherwise. The children, too, will have theirs. They grow out of their natures. Neither are to blame for it. If, to this want of knowledge and skill and natural adaptation, we add the evil influences to which they are exposed, we can form some faint idea of the difference of condition between our children in heaven and on earth.
But let us look for a moment at one. The natures of the children are open and ingenuous. Their minds are transparent. They have no concealments. They have such entire confidence in those to whose care they are committed that they lay bare their inmost souls to them; not from a sense of duty, but from a sweet ingenuousness and innocence - from that perfect love which casts out fear. Their motives are as open as their faces. What freedom this absence of all fear and apprehension must give them. What rest and peace will mingle with all their delights. They will love those who take care of them, and the love will be fully reciprocated. Thus the child and the angel-guide will be interiorly united, and happy in what is given, and received. Life will be a flow of delight. Their natures will unfold as blossoms do in spring-time. They have perfect teachers. Think of it. Perfect in every quality of head and heart.
Their homes are perfect in every quality and form; what we may call their outward conditions, their surroundings are perfectly adapted to their genius and all the wants of their natures. They are all instrumental in calling forth the affections and educating the intellect. The law is the same which is in universal operation in this world, but it is carried out to perfection there. Every parent who loves their children desires to provide them with a comfortable home, and to surround them with objects whose silent but constant influence will tend to elevate and ennoble their characters. The desire and love of doing this comes from the Lord; it is the result of His providential care for His children while in this world. He has made the whole world beautiful and attractive for this purpose. But matter is so hard and difficult to deal with, and people in our world are so selfish and perverse, and so eager to lavish everything upon their own lusts, that it is impossible to provide beautiful homes for all, or to make beautiful homes contribute to the spiritual culture of all those who dwell in them.
But in heaven it is not so. There are no hindrances to carrying into perfect effect the desire of the Lord to have all His children surrounded with everything which can in any way contribute to their comfort, culture, and delight.
Such is the nature of spiritual substances that the homes of everyone in the spiritual world can be specifically and exactly adapted to all the wants of their natures - to their highest spiritual and intellectual, as well as to their lowest natural, wants. Food, clothing, and habitation are given to every one in the other life by the Lord. There is, therefore, no want of means, or of wisdom, or power to make them perfect; that is, perfectly adapted to the nature, tastes, and wants of every one.
These three necessities demand the greatest share of our care and labor in this world, and they constitute the most efficient means of moral and intellectual culture. Let us look at them for a moment, and see what they must be in the other life, and how effectively, they must serve the ends of the Lord in communicating delight.
First, let us consider the subject of dress. We all know what a powerful influence dress has upon the minds of children, and adults too, in this world. What attainment in after life ever fills the heart of the child so brimful of delight as the first trousers, or the first pair of boots, or the first dress which marked a stage in the progress of the child towards girlhood or womanhood. No colors in after years are ever so bright, no pattern so beautiful. After supplying the wants of the body for protection and comfort, dress reaches the mind and clothes it with ideas, and stimulates its affections. How much it cultivates the taste, and in the selfish and worldly nature develops pride and fills the mind with vanities.
In the other world, the clothing its inhabitants wear means far more than it does here. It is the embodiment and expression of their ideas. The dress which each one wears has a personal fitness which it is impossible to attain in this life - a fitness of color, of form, of texture and material. It fits the affections and thoughts and the taste and the whole mind as well as the body. Every child will be clothed in a dress which represents its innocence, and intelligence, and individuality of character. It will feel its fitness; it will perceive its beauty, and it will rejoice in it. Every ornament will have a meaning; it will be an exponent of the child’s thought and affection, and consequently it will be constant source of delight. It will always be new and fresh, and a source of new pleasure. Recall. the greatest delight you ever felt on the attainment of any new article of clothing, and you may gain some faint idea of the pleasure which our children in the other life constantly derive from their dress.
But although their clothing is beautiful beyond the power of language to express, and is a source of constant delight, it does not minister to any evil passion. It does not beget pride or foster vanity. They see the fitness and admire the beauty, not only of their own garments but of those of their companions, and this perception calls forth their affection for their companions and for those to whose care they are committed. They take as much or more delight in the beauty of their companions' dress as they do in their own. They regard it as a gift of the Lord also, and thus it calls forth and elevates their affections to Him. So it becomes an instrument of culture and delight.
According to the same law, the house they live in is adapted to their tastes, to their, minds, and nothing is wanting that can in any way contribute to their good. It is the embodiment of all their desires. The first or most essential use of a house is protection from storm, from heat and cold, and to serve as common center in which the whole family can gather, and a place where expression can be given to the more interior, personal, and private affections. Spiritual beings have the sense of these wants. They need a common center, and privacy for the free play of the more interior, personal and delicate affections. They need a home as much as we do; and it is impossible to conceive of home without a house, or of a house without rooms, and the more excellent the house the more various the apartments.
Applying the general principle that the Lord provides houses for those who dwell in heaven, and keeping in mind the perfection of spiritual substances, we necessarily come to the conclusion that the homes of our children in heaven must be beautiful and pleasant beyond our powers of conception. They must surpass the most beautiful dwellings on the earth, more than they surpass the most wretched hovels of savage tribes.
They are built of more excellent materials, as spiritual substances are more excellent than matter. There are earths, and all things of the mineral and vegetable kingdoms in the spiritual world, as well as in this. They exist, indeed, in much greater variety. There are precious stones and the most beautiful woods and materials for garments, as silk and wool. The earth is as solid to the tread of spiritual feet as this earth is to the tread of ours. But still all these things are spiritual in form and substance.
Swedenborg describes some of the dwellings which he was permitted to see. He says their form is the embodiment of architecture. It is an expression of the art itself, that is, in size, form, proportion, materials, location, ornamentation, and arrangement within and without; all the parts are perfectly fitted to each other, and to those who dwell in them. They are the embodiment of their affections and thoughts. There is not a single thing in them which is not of some use, and which as not a beauty according to use; nor is there anything wanting which could in any way gratify the taste or contribute to the happiness of those who dwell in them. Every child and adult has the room of his or her choice. He or she finds everything in it they want. It is as large as their thought; it is as beautiful as their tastes. Everything in the furniture and ornaments, in bed and closet and wardrobe, in color and material; in light and shade and form, perfectly corresponds to their wants - not merely bodily wants, but to the wants of the child’s whole nature. The same is true of everything without the house. The street, the lawn, the grove, the garden, the orchard, the landscape.
Take the garden for an example. It will contain those flowers, and fruit-bearing vines, and shrubs, and trees, which would most delight the children. There would be nothing which did not interest them, and there would be nothing wanting which could in any way gratify any taste or contribute any delight. Every plant would speak to them. Its form, color, fragrance, its leaves and fruit, would be the embodiment of some affection and some form of thought. It would be a mirror in which some phase of interior life would be variously and perfectly reflected.
The outward beauty, grandeur and glory which surround them is only a small part of its value. It is their sympathy with it; its connection with their inward lives. It does not oppress them. It is not a cold artificial splendor which merely dazzles. It is warm with the life of the heart; it is natural. They feel at home in it, as we feel at home in the scenes of our childhood. It is as though all the associations of the past with any sense were gathered into one moment; and went thrilling through affection and thought:
But notwithstanding this familiarity, this sense of rest and contentment in these scenes of beauty and grandeur, the familiarity and commonness does not dull the edge of curiosity, or diminish the zest of delight. They are ever new. They give the unfolding natures of our children continual surprises. Not startling and unpleasant ones, but surprises which are the fulfillment of dim prophecies within them. Thus they never tire of their homes.
But the supreme excellence of the richness and beauty of their outward world consists in the fact that its whole influence elevates and purifies their affections, draws out their love for each other, and opens their hearts more fully and interiorly to the Lord. It is a constant reminder to them of the Lord's goodness to each one of them. It not only begets in them a knowledge of their dependence upon the Lord, but a growing delight in being dependent, and in feeling that they are.
The natural person cannot bear much prosperity in this world. The natural person is prone to settle down in useless and destructive luxury, if they can command the means of indulging their appetites. If they have power, they become tyrannical; if they have knowledge and genius, they are proud, and claim admiration and indulgence. So we have to be beaten, and crossed, and pinched with want, and to make our way through mountains of difficulty. Like some plants, we have to be continually clipped in, or we should not bear any spiritual fruit. Indulgence spoils our children.
But in the other life it is not so. Loving what is good and true, the more they indulge their affections and tastes the better they become.
We must not think of their life, however, as one of luxurious indulgence and sensuous gratification. They have their uses, which tax their powers to the utmost. I say uses, not tastes, or duties, because we associate with these words something of constraint and arbitrary force. Children in this world delight in exercising their powers to the utmost verge of endurance, where led by their delights.
Infants in the other life are sent to infants in this, and they take great delight in associating with them, and perform an important use in the development of their innocent natures. I have no doubt that the spiritual sight of infants and little children in this world is often opened, and that they see their heavenly companions, and the beautiful spiritual scenery which surrounds them. It is not merely from an internal influence that they crow and laugh, and the whole body seems to be moved with delight. It is not merely a poetic fancy that
"heaven lies about us in our infancy."
It is a beautiful reality. Our little ones see beings invisible to our grosser sight, and their tender natures become imbued with something of their heavenly sweetness and purity.
Those who have a taste for it learn to play on instruments of music, and to sing songs which perfectly express their heavenly affections. They have not only harps, but instruments of every kind; and their music is incomparably grander and more joyous and elevating than any upon earth. Indeed, our noblest songs in this world are only some broken chords and snatches of the harmonies of the other life, which have floated down and been caught by the sensitive ears of the great masters of song in this world.
Boys are boys there as well as here. They have masculine tastes, a boy's love of action. They are enterprising, confident, and daring. They love competition. They delight in sports which test their strength and skill, and give free play to all their bodily and intellectual faculties. But they are guarded and guided with such wisdom by their heavenly teachers that they engage in those pastimes only which serve as a relaxation, and which tend to beget and cultivate generosity and kindness of nature, strength and dignity of bearing, and grace of movement.
According to the same law, girls are girls. They delight in those offices and recreations which are feminine, but not effeminate. They grow up into a lovely womanhood, and gain its strength and beauty and grace and innocence by the exercise of those qualities in their daily lives. They are gay and joyous; their happiness flows forth in song and laughter and innocent sports, and in the free and orderly play of every feminine grace.
Boys and girls associate with each other, and influence each other for good. The girls soften and subdue the natural robustness of the boys, and tone down their tendency to wild force. The boys in turn give strength and dignity to feminine gentleness. They give variety and completeness to social life. Thus they grow up in the midst of influences which tend to cherish the good, the beautiful, and the true in their natures. They breathe an atmosphere of love and purity. They walk in paths of wisdom, and they find them ways of pleasantness and peace. They grow towards the perfection and prime of an eternal manhood and womanhood. Every faculty unfolds in true order and harmony: Their characters are well balanced, and complete at every step; and yet they admit of continual advancement.
Such is an imperfect view of what our doctrines teach us concerning the condition of those who pass into the other life in infancy. It is not a mere idle fancy. It is based upon the nature of the spiritual world and well-established laws of human nature. It is well calculated to comfort those whose little ones have passed into that life. It assures them that it is well with their children, and shows how the Lord's goodness and mercy may be as fully shown in taking the lambs from our flock into His own fold as by giving them to us at first. Blessed innocents, they are safe from all the temptations and trials of this life. They will never suffer hunger or cold or fatigue or pain. They will never be pinched by want. They will never be tormented by fear or stung by pangs of remorse. They will never want any good. They will go on from step to step in the knowledge of truth, and in the attainment of wisdom and happiness for ever. The cup of life will always be full of the richest joys they are able to receive from the Lord, and its capacities will continue to enlarge to eternity.