The Hickory Limb
A new-born babe is one of the most helpless, dependable creatures in the world and, at the same time, most interesting and lovable. It would be a cold, hard heart that would not respond to the plaintive wail of a baby. Left to itself, a babe would soon die; it requires most watchful care.
One of the first things a babe responds to is its sense of taste. For some time it is governed almost entirely by the tip of its tongue, rather than by its intelligence or conscience. So soon as it gets sufficient strength to exercise its members we notice that, when its elbow bends, its mouth flies open. It will eat stone coal as readily as it would angels’ food, or drink a deadly poison as quickly as it would drink nutritious milk.
So completely is a babe or child controlled by taste that it is constantly seeking for the pleasure it derives from tasting things; as a result, when its mother’s back is turned it slips its hand quickly, though slyly, into a convenient sugar-bowl. Young children are largely controlled by appetite and taste. In many large congregations I have asked that all men who did not steal sugar when small boys to stand up; I have not found one who could stand on that test. This sugar proposition covers a larger variety of appealing articles of food.
This petty pilfering is usually confined for a while to the tid-bits that can be slyly appropriated about one’s home. If this inclination is not properly restrained, it frequently falls into a habit that extends its field of operation, and soon the little thief is pilfering a neighbor’s apple orchard and melon patch; thus many a criminal record has been begun which has led to hold-ups, bank robberies, murders and the gallows or electric chair.
It is an interesting but sad fact that, in the criminal wave that has for a decade and more been sweeping over this nation, a very large per cent of those, guilty of violation of law are in their teens or early twenties. These crimes are by no means limited to minor offences, but are of a character formerly committed by hardened criminals. A community is often shocked by the murder of father or mother, sometimes both parents, by a son or daughter under twenty years of age, for no other reason than that the parent refused to gratify some whim, or oppose some improper conduct on the part of their offspring who, in a frenzy of hatred, without hesitation, shoots down its parents.
If you will make inquiry of grocery merchants in cities, towns and villages, they will tell you that many children have to be watched closely, or they will take advantage when a clerk’s back is turned, to snatch fruit or sweetmeats, and get away with anything they can lay their hands on; and this pilfering is not confined to children of the slums, or of the very poor. A brilliant writer, in a recent issue of `The Forum,’ one of our best monthly publications, tells us of a druggist who informed him that after basketball games, when the youngsters of the school were turned loose, he closed his store rather than suffer the break age and theft that poured in upon him. It is well understood that a child left to its natural inclination, without proper direction, restraint and correction by older persons, to have its will and way, will most certainly become a disturbing member of society. One of the great needs of the times is a revival of family government, where children are controlled and guided by the brains, the heart, and the experience of their parents, until they have developed intelligence and character of their own.
That teaching of scripture has been very largely ignored which says, “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Solomon further says, “Withhold notcorrection from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and save his soul from hell.” Prov. 23:13, 14.
This word beat sounds a bit harsh; let’s substitute for it chastise. The instruction of Solomon is quite in conflict with modern psychiatrists, writers and teachers who contend that any mode of corporal punishment is wrong. Sometime ago in conversation with one of the great preachers of the gospel in this country, he was telling me of how much he, owed to his saintly mother, of his early inclinations to waywardness, and how his mother prayed for him and “spanked the meanness out of him.”
Wide observation leads me to believe that children who grow up under kind, but strict discipline, sometimes enforced by the slipper, or rod, on a convenient part of the anatomy, not only make better citizens, but feel more respect and affection for their parents than those young people who grow up without restraint and correction.
This writer is confident that the teaching of evolution in the schools — that we came from brute: ancestors — has much to do with the beastly conduct of many of our young people. It is quite probable that philosophers, searching after the cause and cure of the vandalism, disobedience and crime among the youth of the land, have entirely failed in their diagnosis. It is likely that a large percent of this lawlessness comes from lack of intelligent, positive family government and, it may be, that an ounce of hickory limb, properly applied, would be better than ten pounds of a policeman’s billy later in life.
We can think of nothing more cruel and reprehensible than an angry parent beating a child unmercifully. One of the worst men I have ever known told me that when he was a lad fifteen years of age his father, who was a very strong man, in a heat of passion at some minor offense, seized a limb and beat him severely. He tried to explain; he begged; he plead for mercy; he fell upon his knees and entreated his father, who paid no attention to his cries, but continued to smite him in a most unmerciful manner. He said he rolled on the ground, foamed at the mouth, cursed his father with the most bitter oaths and turned into a demon. He said, “I ran away from home. I hated my father and I had murder in my heart. I have been a criminal for years. The cruel treatment of my father changed me from a very good sort of boy into a demon. I have lived a life of crime against God and humanity.”
Such parents are not fit to have the care and control of children. I know a family where the children grew up under wise but strict discipline; not tyrannical, but insisted upon obedience, guarded the children against falsehood, theft, discourtesy to neighbors and teachers, or imposition upon small children of other families. The rod was frequently used, without excitement or severity, but in such a way that its use was rarely necessary. Out of that family came a great doctor, one of the best dentists in a large city, a college professor, a fine gospel preacher, an excellent and prosperous farmer, who is a blessing to the social and religious life of his community, and two most excellent daughters.
It is impossible to train up a family of children to be honest, truthful, decent, and to make of them sober, intelligent, useful citizens, without intelligent family government that insists upon and has obedience in a way that brings the child to trust in and respect the wisdom and affection of those who have them in care and training.
After a long life and wide observation, I am fully convinced that one of the great needs of our times is a proper application of the hickory limb.