I answered: "I am not prejudiced at all, Ada, but I feel that all of us, you especially, should keep our eyes and ears open. Wait! is all I say." I know my own faults, for I have always believed that one is never too old for character-building, and I know that being prejudiced is not one of them.
Everything we see having a form is built around a mental image either the mental image of some man, some animal, or of the Absolute. This is the rule of the universe, and in the matter of character-building we but follow a well established rule. When we wish to build a house, we first think of "house" in a general way. Then we begin to think of "what kind" of a house. Then we go into details.
If he has seemed, at times, to those jealous of the best things for their race, to decry the higher education, it can easily be borne in mind that his career is bound up in the success of an industrial school; hence any undue stress which he may put upon that branch of education may safely be ascribed to the natural zeal of the promoter, without detracting in any degree from the essential value of his teachings in favor of manual training, thrift and character-building.
We could if we chose take many hints from it, as regards the disciplining of the attention, the correct use of suggestion, the teaching of meditation, the sublimation and direction to an assigned end of the natural impulse to reverie; above all, the education of the moral life. For character-building as understood by these old specialists was the most practical of arts.
All honor to the men and women of character and ability who, as Home Missionaries, are devoting their lives to such fields the most difficult in the world where no picturesqueness of scenes or people relieves the strain where sordid sin, monotony, crudity, and newness prevail, but where the returns in character-building contribute to the life of a nation whose mission is the world.
Only the act of recollection, the constantly renewed retreat to the quiet centre of the spirit, gives that assurance of a Reality, a calmer and more valid life attainable by us, which supports the stress and pain of self-simplification and permits us to hope on, even in the teeth of the world's cruelty, indifference, degeneracy; whilst diligent character-building alone, with its perpetual untiring efforts at self-adjustment, its bracing, purging discipline, checks the human tendency to relapse into and react to the obvious, and makes possible the further development of the contemplative power.
This is precisely the claim to be made for the Bible, as against the exaggerated notions cherished about it. It is good for all forms of character-building. Its inspiration is ethical and spiritual. The test of the inspiration of any writing in it is its efficacy to inspire life with goodness. The Bible carries the refutation of this claim upon the face of its writings.
You will be less prone to constant scolding, and threatening, and forbidding, by which many parents induce a chronic irritation, in a foolish hope that they will thus make their children what they should be." In conclusion, the rules that may be safely followed in character-building may be summed up thus: Recognize that the object of your training is to help the child to love righteousness.
General Armstrong saw, as few people did, the moral and intellectual value of industrial training aside from its merely economic importance. He founded a school on an entirely different basis from any that had been known before the basis of character-building through practical education, industrial training, and self-help.
Find them: for once convinced of the continuation of life beyond the grave, and of the necessity to earn its privileges, by self-conquest and character-building, humanity will rise "from the lowly earth to the vaulted skies," and will realize that this earth is but the anteroom to larger spheres of usefulness.