Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

They are only seen in their right place when subordinated to religion. This is the end and good of man. The moral nature then finds that which can satisfy it. It wields both reason and understanding, but as the instruments with which it seeks first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” This is the use of reason, this is the reward of understanding. Man is now himself. His essence is evolved. His immortality is ascendant. His spirit has overcome. We are not to be hampered in our view of the advantages attendant on education, by confining them to the present life. Let us think of man as religiously accountable to God, and follow him to the “great white throne.” The labouring classes find few opportunities of intellectual culture, and hear but feeble warnings of religion. Their too common condition not only disqualifies them for the pleasures of literary and philosophical attainment, but their habits leave them in ignorance of the Christian salvation. It is that “no vision” in which “the people perish:” it is that “lack of knowledge for which they are destroyed.” “To give knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,” must surely be our duty. This is the portion of the soul, of which it cannot be disinherited. We cannot begin too soon with the infant mind in these inculcations. Let him who would see another generation, not stubborn and rebellious, but setting their heart aright, and their spirit steadfast with God, impress the infancy of the childhood of this. “Whom shall we teach knowledge? and whom shall we make to understand doctrine 2 them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts."*

It is unjust to appeal to the present state of things, and to deduce from it the futility of the hopes which have been entertained as to the benefits of education. Education has not had its trial. Our people have not been taught. We can prove that, in the districts of this country where instruction most prevails, there are the fewest and the lightest crimes. No reasonable doubt can exist that this will be found equally true, wherever knowledge, Christian as well as lettered, spreads. The moral nature of man must remain the same. We see that the same may be affirmed of the most favoured classes. We expect not the cessation of evil from any such cause. But we must be permitted to protest against the supposed failure of an experiment which has not been made. As well might it be averred, that the diving-bell had not succeeded in its intention, notwithstanding that it had recovered as much of the sunken wreck as it could contain, because it had not swept all the depths nor exhausted all the treasures of the sea.

* Isa. xxviii. 9.

CHAPTER WI.

ON SABBATH SCHOOLS.

ExISTING under a modified form in Scotland from the period of the Reformation,-little needed among the Nonconformists of England, from the same epoch, a large portion of whose sabbaths was devoted to family instruction, —a system has arisen, among us, which we cannot too narrowly scan,—singular, original, and most potential. It is not the parole inculcation of religious truth, – in this practice of rote among its young disciples the Roman Superstition more than vies with all,—but a rudimental training, a mental development, -that in learning to read the Bible, religious instruction may not only be obtained but the capacity for acquiring it may be imparted. The plan is not uniform, but as generally adopted its purport is this: to explain, during some of the sacred hours, the art of reading as connected with that great means of grace and salvation, the study of the Scriptures. Yet this is but its lowest step. The warrant to do that which is chiefly mechanical is founded in its most religious end. God has given his Book to all, — to be read of consequence by all. The gift implies the privilege and the duty. If we thus “profane the sabbath,” we are “blameless.” It is obvious, however, that the obligation which we hold most strict, the right which we deem most clear, to teach the young the signs and sounds of an alphabet in order to give them access to the words of eternal life, might not be needed; and that the present necessity to do so may quickly cease. The question then would simply be, What is the best mode of conveying scriptural knowledge to the young? It is to be feared that the parents, who send their children to be taught the art of reading, cannot read themselves. But a much wider and more serious view may be taken of the knowledge which those parents possess. It is lamentable how little disposed are the pious to speak of religion to their children. It may not be concealed that the aptitude to teach does not always belong to a competent knowledge of the thing to be taught. The fitness and the disposition of this class of parents to instruct their offspring in these matters may be, therefore, without invidiousness, distrusted. As it was requisite for those who could not read themselves, to send their children to those who could, if they were to be taught that method; so, it is as indispensable for them who are uninformed in religion themselves to devolve upon others the task of informing their children, if they are to enjoy that boon. Is there but an equivocal advantage in the system, is it only a succedaneum,-until, in the universal power to read, and the as universal possession of the holy light, it may be superseded? We have no doubt that this is the judgment of many. Not only is their objection raised to the very preparatory character of its tuitions, but that it is a withdrawment from the domestic discipline. But surely this species of education has a valid claim to certain apologies as well as every other. Now there is a defence commonly set up for a very similar plan. It is contended that it is better,-the consideration of any incapacity apart, — for the young of the most opulent families to be removed for a time from home. Their education is argued to be conducted thus in a more concentrated manner. A juster oeconomy of time and attention is secured. A farther plea is adduced in favour of its being conducted among many associates. The principle of competition is awakened, and the knowledge of the world, at some time inevitable, is only a little anticipated while it is gradually gained. Even a public curriculum finds numerous advocates, and its nationalism is loudly extolled. Surely, then, this humble system cannot be wholly vicious. Its change from the parental roof, its class-mates, its uniformities, are not unworthy features. Yet there are evils in each of these arrangements. The separation from the tender vigilance and circle of the family does a wrong to the feeling of the child, which it cannot, at any future age, altogether forget and slight. It is life's first trial. It is the heart's earliest shock. To be thrown into the society of indifferent companions, for weeks and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »