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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

A Hint to Parents

T. M.

From The Baptist Magazine, February 1817

DISSIMULATION, n. [L., to make like; like.] The act of dissembling; a hiding under a false appearance; a feigning; false pretension; hypocrisy. Dissimulation may be simply concealment of the opinions, sentiments or purpose; but it includes also the assuming of a false or counterfeit appearance which conceals the real opinions or purpose. Dissimulation among statesmen is sometimes regarded as a necessary vice, or as no vice at all. Let love be without dissimulation. Romans 12. (Webster’s 1812 Dictionary)

Dissimulation is an odious vice. In young persons this vice is peculiarly hateful, because in them we naturally expect to meet with truth and sincerity. Whatever maybe the complexion of their minds; whose dispositions have been moulded by a close and continued contact with a world full of selfishness, young people, who have not been exposed to similar temptations, should be patterns of simplicity and sincerity. Yet it is but too evident, that the minds of many, in the early years of life, are familiar with duplicity and prevarication.

If this remark were applicable to such only as are educated in irreligious families, or are left, unhappily, without any culture but what chance throws in their way, such a state of mind might be contemplated as the natural effect of a depraved heart. What else can be expected, when the thorns and thistles of native depravity are not plucked up, and the seeds of virtue and piety not attempted to be sown by a religious education! But the fact is that this vice not only exists, but occasionally exhibits a luxuriant growth in the minds of children, whose parents stand high in the world for Christian excellence.

If we wish to cure an evil, we must first inquire into its cause. What, then, is the origin of this vice is or, if its origin, in common with every other, evil, is to be found in the native depravity of the heart, what are those circumstances which may have contributed to its growth and maturity?

It replying to this question, I am sorry to find myself under the necessity of referring to the example set before children under the parental roof. I am not alluding to the example set by servants, who, if they are unprincipled, will, in order to ingratiate themselves with the children, most affectingly corrupt their moral feelings. It will therefore be proper, if the interactions between servants and children cannot be wholly suspended, that great care should be taken in their selection, and constant watchfulness be exercised over their conduct. But a much more pernicious example is that which, at times, is set by the parents themselves; because here the child has no one to guard it, and never suspects that it has any need to guard against anything which it observes in so beloved a relative. And probably I may be asked, I sit likely that any pious parent will set an example of duplicity and prevarication before a child? I will endeavour to explain myself.

It happens not infrequently that the husband and wife are not exactly similar in their tempers and dispositions. For instance, the father may be strict, harsh, and somewhat severe. The mother on the contrary, may be lenient and indulgent even to a fault. We will suppose a child to have committed an offence; it may be a slight one. The mother, in order to avoid the displeasure of the father, covers and hides, by partial statements and innuendoes, if not by direct falsehood, the transgression of her child.

What the child sees in a parent whom he tenderly loves, and what he is perhaps directed to do by that very parent to save himself from punishment cannot easily be conceived of as a vice by the child. Again, the father may be economical and prudent, bordering even upon parsimony. The mother may be generous and open-hearted even to extravagance. While a little family is growing up to maturity many occasions of difference in sentiment will arise, relating to dress, education, companions, &c. which, as they cannot be settled by private explanation between the parents, will issue in a system of petty fraud and deceit.

How many times has a weak mother said, “Here, my child, take this, but he sure not to tell your father," little considering that for a momentary, perhaps paltry gratification, she is doing her child a lasting and serious injury. A child should not be taught to conceal anything from a parent. It should always be directed to look to its father and mother as its best friends and guardians. But by the conduct we are censuring, the current of filial affection, the noblest flame next to divine love, is frozen to ice as it proceeds from the heart.

If such a line of conduct be pursued, it will be impossible to avoid at all times a dilemma from which mere address and prevarication will not be sufficient to extricate the child. A plain question, it may be unintentional, will require a plain answer. The truth it dares not tell, and a falsehood is substituted. Conscience, which slept whilst partial statements and prevarications served to deceive, new feels itself wounded a little. And is this salutary wound deepened by the reproof of that only parent who knows the sin? No, this she cannot do because an acknowledgment of the truth would have involved herself in censure. Thus she is obliged to connive at sin.

Let us follow the youth up into life who has thus been early taught to dissemble. No wonder if truth becomes a stranger in his heart, and insincerity and deceit become his constant companions. And it is very likely that his parents will have to reap the fruit of their own doings.

A vain and sinful mind will seek its proper aliment in pernicious books, such as novels, plays, and romances. These may have been prohibited by the parent, but they will be obtained by the same system of deception, concealed and read, perhaps at those seasons when it was hoped they were reading the Scriptures and calling upon God. The theatre and places of amusement will be visited, while some excuse will be framed to blind the eyes of an afflicted and anxious parent. Improper, and even dangerous connections, will be formed clandestinely, while the parent is deceived by contrary assurances till, perhaps, it is too late, and the most distressing and afflictive consequences ensue.

Those who have been accustomed to make observations of the state of society among us, will not, I am persuaded, say, that I have overcharged the picture which I have now drawn. I am fully convinced that the most enormous evils flow from the source which I have now endeavoured to lay open.

I would, therefore, most earnestly recommend to parents as they value the moral and religious character of their offspring, to be of one mind in their tuition and discipline. Should they on any subject have different views, let that be to themselves. Before their children, let them always act as with one council, one heart. Rather suffer any inconvenience, than have recourse to concealment and deception. Duplicity on your part will almost to a certainty ensure the want of sincerity in your child.

If on any occasion you should discover a propensity in your offspring to depart from truth and sincerity, let it meet with your marked disapprobation. Read to them the awful account of Ananias and Sapphira, who were struck dead by the judgment of God, for telling an untruth. Let them hear, out of the sacred volume, that the God of truth abhors deceivers. And that all "liars shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone."

Encourage them, as much as possible, to speak the truth. If they have done anything deserving of blame, and make a frank, open confession of it, let not that confession expose them to punishment, lest at another time they be tempted to hide it. Let your approbation of the temper that speaks the truth more than counterbalance your disapprobation of the error they had committed.

Should you succeed, under the divine blessing, in forming the minds of your dear children to the love of truth and sincerity, the hatred of fraud and dissimulation, you will have laid the basis of a character, which, heightened and improved by the graces of God's Holy Spirit, will be lovely in the eyes of heaven, and eminently useful among the sons of men.