« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Curiosity is a useful spring of knowledge : it should be encouraged in children, and awakened by frequent and familiar methods of talking with them. It should be indulged in youth, but not without a prudent moderation. In those who have too much, it should be limited by a wise and gentle restraint or delay, lest, by wandering after every thing, they learn nothing to perfection. In those who have too little, it should be excited, lest they grow stupid, narrow-spirited, self-satisfied, and never attain a treasure of ideas, or an aptitude of understanding.
Let not the teacher demand or expect things too sublime and difficult from the humble, modest, and fearful disciple : And where such a one gives a just and happy answer, even to plain and easy questions, let him have words of commendation and love ready for him. Let him encourage every spark of kindling light, till it grow up to bright evidence, and confirmed knowledge.
Where he finds a lad pert, positive, and presuming, let the tutor take every just occasion to shew him his error: let him set the absurdity in complete light before him, and convince him by a full demonstration of his mistake, till he sees and feels it, and learns to be modest and humble.
A teacher should not only observe the different spirit and humour among his scholars, but he should watch the various efforts of their reason, and growth of their understanding. He should practise in his young nursery of learning, as a skilful gardener does in his vegetable dominions, and apply prudent methods of cultivation to every plant, Let him, with a discreet and gentle hand, nip or prune the irre. gular shoots, let him guard and encourage the tender buddings of the understanding, till they be raised to a blossom, and let him kindly cherish the younger fruits. · The tutor should take every occasion to instil knowledge into his disciples, and make use of every occurrence in life to raise some profitable conversation upon it; he should frequently inquire something of his disciples, that may set their young reason to work, and teach them how
to form inferences, and to draw one proposition out of another.
Reason being that faculty of the mind which he has to deal with in his pupil, let him endeavour, by all proper and familiar methods, to call it into exercise, and to enlarge the powers of it. He should take frequent opportunities to shew them when an idea is clear or confused, when the proposition is evident or doubtful, and when an argument is feeble or strong. And by this means their minds will be so formed, that whatsoever he proposes with evidence and strength of reason they will readily receive.
When any uncommon appearances arise in the natural, moral, or political world, he should invite and instruct them to make their remarks on it, and give them the best reflections of his own, for the improvement of their minds.
He should by all means make it appear that he loves his pupils, and that he seeks nothing so much as their increase of knowledge, and their growth in all valuable acquirements; this will engage their affection to his person, and procure a just attention to his lectures.
And indeed there is but little hope that a teacher should obtain any success in his instructions, unless those that hear him have some good degree of esteem and respect for his person and character. And here I cannot but take notice by the way, that it is a matter of infinite and unspeakable injury to the people of any town or parish, where the minister lies under contempt. If he has procured it by his own conduct, he is doubly criminal, because of the injury he does to the souls of them that hear him: but if this contempt and reproach be cast upon him by the wicked, mali. cious, and unjust censures of men, they must bear all the ill consequences of receiving no good by his labours, and will be accountable hereafter to the great and divine Judge of all.
It would be very necessary to add in this place, (if tutors were not well apprised of it before), that since learners are obliged to seek a divine blessing on their
studies, studies, by fervent prayer to the God of all wisdom, their tutors should go before them in this pious practice, and make daily addresses to Heaven for the success of their instructions.
CH A P. II.
Of an Instructive Style. The most necessary and the most useful character of a style fit for instruction is, that it be plain, perspicuous,
And here I shall first point out all those errors in style, which diminish or destroy the perspicuity of it, and then mention a few directions how to obtain a perspicuous and easy style.
The errors of a style, which must be avoided by teachers, are these that follow :
I. The use of many foreign words, which are not suffi. ciently naturalized and mingled with the language which we speak or write. It is true, that in teaching the sciences in English, we must sometimes use words borrowed from the Greek and Latin, for we have not in English names for a variety of subjects which belong to learning ; but when a man affects, upon all occasions, to bring in long sounding words from the ancient languages without necessity, and mingles French, and other outlandish terms and phrases, where plain English would serve as well, he betrays a vain and foolish genius unbecoming a teacher.
II. Avoid a fantastic learned style, borrowed from the various sciences, where the subject and matter do not require the use of them. Do not affect terms of art on every occasion, nor seek to shew your learning by sounding words and dark phrases : this is properly called pedantry.
Young preachers just come from the schools are often tempted to fill their sermons with logical and metaphysical terms in explaining the text, and feed their hearers with sonorous words of yanity. This scholastic language, per
haps, may flatter their own ambition, and raise a wonderment at their learning among the staring multitude, without any manner of influence toward the instruction of the ignorant, or the reformation of the immoral or impious : these terms of art are but the tools of an artificer, by which his work is wrought in private ; but the tools ought not to appear in the finished workmanship.
There are some persons so fond of geometry, that they bring in lines and circles, tangents and parabolas, theorems, problems, and postulates, upon all occasions. Others who have dealt in astronomy borrow even their nouns and their verbs, in their common discourse, from the stars and planets; instead of saying, Jacob had twelve sons, they tell you, Jacob had as many sons as there are signs in the zodiac. If they describe an inconstant person, they make a planet of him, and set him forth in all his appearances, direct, retrograde, and stationary. If a candle be set behind the screen, they call it eclipsed ; and tell you fine stories of the orbit and the revolutions, the radii and the limb, or cir, cumference of a cart-wheel.
Others again dress up their sense in chemical language; extracts and oils, salts and essences, exalt and invigorate their discourses : a great wit with them is sublimated spirit; and a blockhead is caput mortuum. A certain doctor in his bill swells in his own idea when he tells the town that he has been counsellor to the counsellors of several kings and princes, and that he has arrived at the knowledge of the green, black, and golden dragon, known only to magicians and hermetic philosophers. It would be well if the quacks alone had a patent for this language,
III. THERE are some fine affected words that are used ; only at court, and some peculiar phrases that are sounding
or gaudy, and belong only to the theatre ; these should not come into the lectures of instruction : the language of poets has too much of metaphor in it to lead mankind into clear and distinct ideas of things : the business of poesy is to strike the soul with a glaring light, and to urge the passions into
a flame by splendid shews, by strong images, and a pathetic vehemence of style ; but it is another sort of speech that is best suited to lead the calm inquirer into just conceptions of things.
IV. THERE is a mean vulgar style, borrowed from the lower ranks of mankind, the basest characters, and meanest affairs of life : this is also to be avoided; for it should be supposed that persons of a liberal education have not been bred up within the hearing of such language, and consequently they cannot understand it: besides, that it would create very offensive ideas, should we borrow even similies for illustration from the scullery, or the dunghill.
V. An obscure and mysterious manner of expression and cloudy language is to be avoided. Some persons have been led by education, or by some foolish prejudices, in a dark and unintelligible way of thinking and speaking, and this continues with them all their lives, and clouds and confounds their ideas. . Perhaps some of these may have been blessed with a great and comprehensive genius, with sublime natural parts, and a torrent of ideas flowing in upon them; yet for want of clearness, in the manner of their conception and language, they sometimes drown their own subject of discourse, and everwhelm their argument in darkness and perplexity. Such preachers as have read much of the
mystical divinity of the Papists, and imitated their manner of expression, have many times buried a fine understanding under the obscurity of such a style.
VI. A LONG and tedious style is very improper for a teacher, for this also lessens the perspicuity of it. Some learned writers are never satisfied unless they fill up every sentence with a great number of ideas and sentiments: they swell their propositions to an enormous size, by explications, exceptions, and precautions, lest they should be mistaken, and crowd, them all into the same period; they involve and darken their discourse by many a parenthesis, and prolong their sentences to a tiresome extent, beyond the reach of a