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ON THE KIND OF EDUCATION ADAPTED TO
Whatever religious knowledge may be necessary for one human being, must be essential for all. The ground on which this knowledge rests, cannot be changed to any. We are in equal need of salvation, though our social circumstances are most unequal. The monarch and the peasant are in one moral dilemma of guilt and depravity: they are addressed by the same gospel. Nor can they receive it in different ways: personal conviction is the only medium for both. We know that we here combat a prejudice. It is supposed that the religion of the poor must be adopted on some State-dictate,—upon the authority of some living, docent, tribunal,—upon an indirect, mediate, power of earth which may overawe the popular mind. How, it is asked, can the humbler orders investigate the question? How can they understand it? Must they not leave themselves in the hands of others? Is not individual responsibility lost in their actual position? But we may reply,—Suppose that they must be abandoned to the dogmatic instructions of some such guide, which guide ought it to be? Have all Churches the same claim? How are they to determine between the better, and the worse, supported title? Here is, then, the original difficulty,— the selection of the Guide. If man must not choose his religion, he must at least select the party which shall teach a religion to him. He will find this far more perplexing than to decide upon the true religion. However this argument be put, it obviously is circular and vicious. But another difficulty starts into view. Until persuaded in his own mind, it is not religion. So long as he leans on ecclesiastical or popular assumption, his faith is in the wisdom of man and not in the power of God. He must believe from the heart, on the credibility of the gospel testimony as a Divine record; he must believe for himself. The Christian evidence, in this its greatest department, is as applicable to those of narrow, as to those of ample, learning. For its most convincing argument is in its correspondence to the wants of our nature. It meets our case. Its "words do good." They detect, they rebuke, they heal. "He who believeth hath the witness in himself." The poor may close with this "demonstration of the Spirit." It is the internal, or more properly, the experimental proof. The philosopher and the mechanic must appreciate it in like manner. The one has little advantage over the other. To speak, therefore, of giving a religion to the poor,—of doling only so much of it as their humble mind can receive, or lowly lot may require, —of calling for their assent on the simple requirement of others who think themselves more enlightened,—of shifting accountability from them to those who undertake and enforce their stewardship,—savours of the most profane usurpation, and is "the merchandise of the souls of men." What right has any man, or has any community of men, thus to bring conscience into subjection, thus to arrogate dominion over the faith of their fellows, thus to grasp the "things which are Gods?"
The Religious Education necessary for the poor is, therefore, very much the same as that which is wanted for the affluent classes: it is "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." It is not our secular position which is the ground of this exigency: we require it as men, as sinners, as immortals. They who form the debasing view of religion, that it is more needed by the poor, and that it is the fitting engine of a vile policy to perpetuate their depression, deserve no other reply but our indignant scorn. Religion is a mock-word on their lips. But we see in it the birthright and the discipline of an immortal soul: to all souls it is consequently alike indispensable. "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent!"
That all knowledge should be accompanied by Christianity, is only saying, that Christianity is so important that it should give temper to all our pursuits. To say that all knowledge should be based on Christianity, is little short of absurd. Almost every province of science lies out of the field of Revelation. Both possess independent grounds. The Scripture was no more intended to teach us science, than science can be qualified to take the place of Scripture. It is sufficient to remark, that any education is most seriously deficient to which true religion is not attached as its best motive and consecrating element.
It would be impossible to trace the extent of injurious influence upon the public mind of certain prospectus of education. Religion has been prominently placed and urged. With this we can have no dissatisfaction. Christianity, the religion of salvation by the Cross of Christ, cannot be made too public and disciplinary in moral training. But it is deeply to be deplored that this has been frequently recommended, not for its high purpose and proper end, but as the source of "peace, order, and social happiness." This is to convey an impression that the ease and quiet of a government are principally sought. It seems to imply that an unenquiring and compliant people is all that is desired. Man is not set out in these proposals as any thing more than the humble, if not abject, creature made for the state. Where is the recognition of his immortality? Where is the consulted benefit of the individual man? He is confounded as is the drop with the sea. Nor is it to be less regretted that
the strongest advocacy of Christianity, as a portion of instruction, has often been urged as a corrective of knowledge. Lest the human mind should too suddenly open, too soaringly rise, this was to be the regulating principle, if not the powerful check. What was this but to insinuate that knowledge was a danger? Little would this conciliate the opponent of Christianity. What was this but to place our holy faith as the centinel and gaoler over knowledge? Little would this accredit Christianity to the world.
But should we be told that, if religion do not attend and direct the teachings of the human mind, general knowledge must be injurious, we instantly declare against the sentence. We see in the spread of sound information, and in the enlargement of human faculty, a great antidote of vulgar errors and crimes. We are sure, all things being equal, that the least tutored mind will be most addicted to the grosser vices. Knowledge, like every blessing, may be abused to evil: ignorance can never be turned to good. If knowledge may be, in its perverse misapplication, an uncertain good; ignorance is, in every way, only a necessary evil. Give any knowledge, worthy of the name, without, if you cannot give it with, religion. You secure a great present advantage. Religion would have made it perfect and eternal.
We think that deplorable mistakes have been committed in the religious instruction of children. Their infancy has been taught what their youth has been