Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ployed. Education can alone prepare him for it. To the uneducated, its gross occupation would be far more exhausting and demoralising than the excess of labour. Who does not rejoice in the weekly half-holiday, wherever it is allowed ? In the earlier closing of shops ? In the limitation of the hours of business? It furnishes an opportunity of mental improvement. But were it to respect the uneducated, those who scorn all education, -important as we might deem it in itself, we could not but dread its constant abuse. We can conceive of a nation so full of mechanical auxiliaries, that its labourers need not work more than six hours in the day: we can conceive of that nation occupying itself in mental and virtuous activity: but we could not trust even Britain yet!

The unfolding of the moral principles of our nature is a necessary part in the highest education, and nothing inferior to this purpose can we desire for our poorer countrymen. For though we think literary knowledge is a boon,-though we would all were thus enlightened,—though we abhor and scorn the doctrine, that were this all, it were better to withhold it altogether, — we shrink not from the avowal, that this would be most imperfect. It would not be the discipline of the proper mind, the true soul, of man. It would be slight and disparagement of that which covers him with his greatness. Reason, in him, is not supreme and final. His understanding is not himself. These are solely the means of something higher. 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 ? 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.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

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 æconomy 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 months and years, incurs no small hazard of moral infection. Where there is also but one general treatment, the individuality of original temperament will often be destroyed. From such dangers this system is exempt. It seizes the good alone. The child is still the inmate, though not without the shifted scene, of the habitation where its infancy was reared. Its most frequent, though not exclusive, companions are brothers and sisters. Its return, after the few hours of absence, reinstates it in all its freedom of idiosyncrasy and development. There seems no consistency in any objection which the educationist can raise against the Sabbath School.

But the valuable influence of these institutions, because of their unpretending character, has often been depreciated. The jeer has been raised against them, that the knowledge which they convey is so circumscribed. It has been forgotten, or concealed, that the knowledge was descriptive, that it was the most important, and that the agency employed in communicating it was precisely adapted to the knowledge itself. For none have boasted that this was, in a large sense, an education: all that has been asserted is, that scriptural knowledge may be, and that it is, in this manner, impressed most appropriately and most efficiently on an order of minds, which must be otherwise wholly unblessed with the knowledge of Divine truth, utterly untrained to the practice of Christian virtue. When a substitute can be found

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »