Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

rightfully, as far as they will be taught, only because conscience declines the ulterior instruction.

Any education is nearly worthless that is not intelligent. The mind must be aroused to think for itself. Mental digestion alone produces mental life and health. Violent efforts of the memory often discourage even that lower faculty, without strengthening the judgment. Let children be taught the reasons of facts; and when this cannot be done, let them be shown how reasonable is the ground of conviction in their approved truth. Why is it ? how can it be? wherefore do you believe it ? are questions which will draw up the soul from its depths and liberate it from its fetters. This is the true praxis of education. Self-knowledge, self-control, selfexamination, self-culture, will follow as effects. You have caused him who was created, a thinking being, to think. You have done reverence to the Father of spirits in the evocation of that spirit.

We feel that something is wanted to raise the national mind. It is oppressed by hebetude and phlegm. We desire to bring it to a greater force and quickness. It stands in need of activity, perception, vigour. It has been long overborne by tyranny and besotted by ignorance. It has been bought by gifts and suborned by bribes. There is a natural love of justice and tone of generosity in it. It strongly inclines to independence. But it has been worn down by neediness and beaten down by rigour. It comprehends all the elements of greatness. It resembles some noble falchion, capable of keenest edge and brightest polish, uninjured in its temperament even now, but blunted, soiled, threatened to be corroded by its rust. It must be awakened to exertion and to greater confidence in itself. It must be drawn from the low amusements which have hitherto been its only recreation. It is ready for growth in knowledge. It invites, it even thirsts for, education. Stimulated by that discipline which we inculcate, it will rouse from sloth : possessing the motives for improvement, its inborn energy will vindicate itself. It will stand forth in its vivacity without lightness, in its strength without violence, in its stability without grossness, in its activity without lubricity, in its ascendạncy without disdain.

It is almost unnecessary to say, that the instruction of the child is as nothing, save as you imbue him with the taste, and furnish him with the means, of selfeducation. “Every man,” says Gibbon, “who rises above the common level, has received two educations : the first from his teachers,—the second, more personal and important, from himself.” Once inspired to think, wisely and religiously, it is not very probable that he will relapse. Study will be his habit, and piety his inner life. Should he never rise in society, he has already gained an honoured and a holy position. He carries with him a blessed charm to lighten toil, to assuage affliction, to purify attachment, to conquer death. He has been trained in the way in which he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

We would, therefore, when certain writers urge moral training, admit the idea, but at the same time greatly expand it beyond their ambition. We see clearly that education has hitherto scarcely touched the spiritual good of man. The higher principles of Christianity have found little access to the people's heart. In them is the power which is now wanted to regenerate society. General discipline may do much for the public mind, and even for the public morality, but there it stops. It leaves the real nature of man the same. Something more is required to stem the eager passions of its selfishness. Are the masters of intellect always the true reformers of the soul ? Do not the Titans assail heaven? Is mental process the invariable guide to virtue and piety? Is infidelity the mistake only of the ignorant ? Is war the exclusive delight of the rude? Is there not now an intense activity of mind labouring with all the prodigies of evil ? But in the gospel we possess the instrument which called into existence the first Christians. It is eternally the same. Yet with an ever-adapting faculty it anticipates the wants of each social condition. It belongs to all truth and to all goodness. It is the inheritance of every age. It is the friend of man in his every estate. It works by an assimilating action. It turns all into itself. What would a nation of Christians be? What would be a world? That is the ultimate design,—that the blessed reward, -- that the glorious victory,—of true Education !

However we be disposed, whatever may be our prejudice, the cause of knowledge must proceed in our country. Mechanical invention secures a thousand facilities. Where is now the buried village ? Where now the unvisited dale? Where now the unexplored neck of land ? Where now the inaccessible islet? By the powers of the Steam Locomotive we thread the most difficult track, and by our Steam Marine reach the most perilous coast : peculiarities of dialect and diversities of custom yield to a common standard: we live in one vicinity, and shall soon be a people undistinguished among ourselves. Privileges which were territorial are rapidly becoming independent of space. The element of metropolitan life diffuses itself through each province and assimilates it. There is scarcely favoured haunt. Light breaks forth with its proper universality. We are henceforth an intermixed race. Wings could hardly have given us greater power of speed : certainly not such sustained power of progress. And a beneficent State, in happy concert with all this apparatus of movement, has bestowed the means of a most perfect interchange of thought. At the cheapest cost the poor may all but live with their most distant relatives and friends : city talks to city: man spiritual, yet identical, is every where. What can restrain the tide of intelligence in such a country ?

CHAPTER V.

• ON THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THE EDUCATION

OF THE PEOPLE.

HOWEVER we may congratulate ourselves that the desirableness of Education is universally allowed, because it is not openly impugned, there are many symptoms of dissent. It is held by not a few, if held at all, with many qualifications. They yield, but with no small doubt and reluctance. They know that they are left behind in the progress of opinion, and shame seals their lips. They would, at heart, that the days of ignorance had not passed away. The hope has not quite died in them that those days shall yet return. They think, though the thought must not be revealed, that the evil will retrieve itself. The overflowing tide has struck the pole and may recoil. They hear of the benefits of knowledge, they even load themselves with certain epithets of reproach for their want of appreciating powers, and, having soothed themselves with their irony, whisper oracles which predict consequences of mischief and ruin.

Contemptuous language comes with an ill grace from many of these declaimers. Horace might speak

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »