Изображения страниц


The fervent prayer which every parent offers is, that whatever poverty, destitution, pain or misery, his children may be called upon to bear, God will mercifully grant that they may preserve their purity, and all be found at last worthy to be reunited in that kingdom prepared for the just, beyond the grave.

The faithful teacher, occupying as he does, for a time, the parent's place, must feel a similar anxiety, as he looks round upon those placed under his charge. His situation is inferior in responsibility only to that of the parent. Indeed, since so many parents neglect their duty in this respect, his influence upon those who continue for any length of time under his charge, is probably not surpassed by that of any other class of men in the community. He must often seriously ask what will be the lot of those committed to his trust. Could the veil with which Heaven conceals the future be removed, would he behold this noble and ingenuous boy, with heart full of aspirations after all excellence, still rising higher and higher, or would he behold him descend from the lofty heights of honorable renown, and become dishonored, degraded, and corrupt? This fair girl, with the light of Heaven in her eye, and its purity surrounding her as with an atmosphere of holiness, would she be seen still the same in her spotlessness and innocence, or would the light be extinguished, the glory have departed, and nothing remain but the wreck of what was once so lovely and so promising?

It is related that an Eastern prince once offered a prize to be given to the most beautiful boy in all his dominions. Many were presented for the premium, but it was bestowed, by acclamation, upon one for his transcendent and angelic loveliness. So beautiful a boy had never been seen upon the earth before. Some years after, the same prince again offered a prize--but this time it was for the ugliest man to be found in all his possessions. Diligent search was made; many exhibited themselves to view, of all kinds and degrees of ugliness, but among them it was difficult to make a choice, until one day there was brought into the royal presence a being, if he could be called a man, so hideous, so loathsome, so bestial, that the people shuddered while they gazed upon him. Sin had stamped its polluting mark upon every feature; from every wrinkle in that horrible face stared out a vice. Upon inquiry, it was ascertained that this frightful and disgusting wretch had been the attractive and lovely boy. A life of intemperance, sensuality, and iniquity, had made the awful change. God save our pupils from any and all the causes tending to produce so terrible an alteration.

In view of the great responsibility pressing upon every teacher to do all in his power to train up his pupils to a life of virtue and excellence, I invite your attention to some remarks upon the importance of Moral Instruction. I have a fear that some few teachers (I know they must be very few) may think their duty done if they preserve good order in the school, and give instruction to their scholars in the course of study prescribed. But no teacher, who has an *Read before the State Teachers' Institute, Sept., 1862.

adequate sense of the responsibilities devolving upon him, can entertain this opinion. His duty is not performed by merely cultivating the intellect. He must also educate the heart. No parent would consider any teacher fit for his post, who not only did not check even the slightest infringement of morality, but who did not endeavor to elevate his whole school to a high standard of moral excellence. To think otherwise is a great mistake-and the popular notion of education falls in with and confirms this mistake. Talk about giving a young man the advantages of education, and the thoughts immediately run on what is taught in schools and colleges. Speak of giving a young lady a finished education, and almost every one wishes to have the seminary pointed out where she can accomplish, in the shortest space of time, botany, French and Italian, music, and drawing, besides a few of the ordinary branches. As if what is taught in schools and seminaries were able, of itself, to make one either great, or good, or happy.

The truth is, my friends, that hitherto, all over the world, the cultivation of the head has been regarded as the principal thing, while the cultivation of the heart comes in only incidentally. Speak of any school, and most probably the conversation will be upon who is the best scholar in the school. Talk about college, and a certain young man is pointed out to you as the first scholar in his class. Ten prizes are offered for intellectual, to one for moral excellence. The student who can make the best Greek verses, or run through a complicated mathematical demonstration, or write the most flowery oration, or deliver it in the most eloquent manner, is the recipient of the honors, while one, perhaps infinitely his superior in moral character, but not possessing his precocity or assurance, is passed by unnoticed. Now this is surely wrong. Now this is surely wrong. The heart is of more importance than the head. The essence of greatness, always and everywhere, is a great spirit. Acquisitions and attainments are not the man; they are mere additions to him. Intellectual talents are not the man; they are merely the instruments he uses. The man himself is behind them all, and he may use them either for good or for evil. The spirit with which a man works, the motives which prompt his conduct-these show us and constitute the man, and these are moral qualities, springing from and dwelling in the heart. The character is the man; the life, in its every particular, which one lives, is the man; and what is it that makes life what it is but the man's motives, his moral qualities, his heart. Therefore we are told that God judgeth the heart; that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; that out of that, and out of that alone, "are the issues of life." And, therefore, I repeat, the heart is more than the head.

Sir Walter Scott says: "We shall never learn, and feel, and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves. to consider everything as moonshine, compared with the education of the heart." When, after his fruitless journey for health, he had returned to Scotland and to Abbotsford, as he was near his end, he said to his son-in-law, "Lockhart, I may have but a minute to speak with you. My dear, be a good man; be virtuous, be religious; be a good man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here."

"Here was a man," remarks a writer, "who had won the highest prizes of life; had gained the most splendid literary reputation; had been honored, flattered and caressed as few men have ever been; and yet, at the last moment, falls back for support on moral and religious faith that possession which all may earn."

Horace Mann, as the shades of death were gathering around him, was heard to utter the words, "God--man-duty"--and shortly after, bidding all near him "Good night," sank quietly into that last, deep sleep, which knows no waking in this world. But who that witnessed his peaceful and joyful end would not say, with the poet,

"That deeper shade shall fade away,

That deeper sleep shall leave his eyes;
Thy light shall give eternal day,

Thy love the rapture of the skies."

The formation of an honorable, upright, Christian character, is the great business, the great success of life. This must be done, or nothing is accomplished. Do this first; do this at any rate; do this even if everything else is left undone; though that sacrifice is not required of us. What parent would not prefer his child should leave school with good principles, well settled, his heart in the right place, even though he might be deficient in knowledge, to seeing him adorned with all the accomplishments taught in the schools, if, at the same time, he fears that he is compelled to distrust the soundness of his moral character? What man or woman does not demand of his friend that he shall first be true, sincere, hearty, whether possessed or not of any remarkable intellectual penetration or sagacity? Now, I am not decrying intellectual attainments--I value them highly—but I am only placing them on their true level, namely, below moral attainments. It is a matter of great importance that the pupils in our schools should be well instructed in the branches taught in them; and any teacher who succeeds in so doing has accomplished a great good. But it is of the highest consequence, it is absolutely necessary, that we should all become good men and good women. For that purpose, infinitely above all others, we were sent into the world. For that purpose, the world and all that belongs to it were created. For that purpose, the sun shines upon man, the winds ininvigorate his blood, the rains descend upon his fields, society surrounds him with its blessings, and wife and children warm his heart and strengthen his arm to action. For this purpose, above all others, the school-house, as well as the house of God, was reared.

I see no proper use of language in those who speak of the godlike intellect of such a man, or of another as having a gigantic understanding. We have all heard the observation, "Sir, he is the most remarkable man in America." You may be certain that man is not remarkable for moral qualities. A godlike, a gigantic intellect ascribed to a mere creature of an hour! When the more we know only shows us the immensity of our ignorance. How true it is, also, that purely great intellectual achievements cannot be understood by the great majority of mankind! I suppose there are not one thousand persons in the world that can go through the steps of the reasoning by which Leverrier proved the existence of the new planet,

and determined its position. But the triumphs of goodness are at once felt and acknowledged by all. We are through them made personally acquainted with the individuals by whom they are accomplished. Howard and Florence Nightingale are household words. Every deed of true heroism, of self-sacrifice, of devoted patriotism, of love to brother man, thrills the heart of the world. The heart is quicker, and keener, and truer in insight than the head.

"One touch of goodness makes the whole world kin."

The best eulogy ever pronounced upon George Washington was that which declared him to be first in the hearts of his countrymen. I do not intend to go into detail upon the best methods of imparting moral instruction to the young. Here again the heart is of more worth than the head. Every teacher who really and earnestly feels the importance of this work, will instinctively select and adopt the best methods. One thing, however, may be said—that moral instruction cannot commence too early. Its essence lies in training children to do right; and they understand the difference between right. and wrong even before they can talk. An essayist-commenting on the fact that sometimes a man, characterized by genuine piety during early and late manhood and into old age, has, when he fell into second childhood, broken out into profanity, and manifested evil habits that surprised, if not shocked his friends-says that second childhood is but a repetition of first childhood, and that the follies, bad habits, and vices, which were allowed to pass unchecked in childhood, will be likely to reappear in dotage. If this is so, it shows us of what great importance is careful and judicious moral instruction. in early life. The lessons then received are never entirely obliterated. It is in the morning of life that the seeds of good principles must be planted. Do not be disappointed if you do not meet with immediate or speedy good results. Think how slowly the world is improving. A higher morality, even more than a higher intelligence, is frequently a plant of slow growth. I suppose there is nothing which makes a greater demand upon the parent's or teacher's patience than the slowness with which a wayward and obstinate child improves.

Sometimes, perhaps for years, the course appears to be all down hill. But persevere; still exercise love, patience, and hope. Years after, when the child has long since left your care, when the good seed which you sowed seems to have been lost forever, and the ground choked up with rank and noxious weeds, a tempest of affliction may rush over the place and sweep off the brambles and thistles, and then may appear, "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear," until the fields are white with an abundant harvest, fit to be gathered into the granary of the Lord. Moral instruction is not to be conveyed to the ing or lecturing. It is a work to be performed. in the way he should go," says the Good Book. be diligent in seeing that the child acquires good habits-habits of obedience, order, punctuality, method, neatness, studiousness, gentleness, courtesy, respect for elders, reverence for the law, and a love and devotion for his country, which knows not and never can

young by preach"Train up a child The teacher must

know " a shadow of turning." Teach him to check the first symptoms of envy, jealousy, cruelty, arrogance; to be honest in word and deed; to think the truth, to speak the truth, to act the truth, and to shrink from using a profane word as he would from touching his tongue to red-hot iron. Show him that the brave man never brags; that true courage is in daring to do right; that the man of high and noble spirit will forgive an injury rather than avenge it, because he infinitely prefers to suffer rather than to do wrong. And finally, impress him with the conviction that the greatest victory is not over one's enemies, but over one's self; that the sight upon which Heaven smiles is that of the good man relieving and comforting his fellow-man in distress; and that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." * I have said that the influence of the faithful teacher is not surpassed by that of any other class in the community. Listen to Martin Luther's words:







"The diligent and pious teacher, who properly instructeth and traineth the young, can never be fully rewarded with money. If I were to leave my office as preacher, I would next choose that of schoolmaster, or teacher, for I know that, next to preaching, this is the greatest, best, and most useful vocation; and I am not quite sure which of the two is the better; for it is hard to reform old sinners, with whom the preacher has to do, while the young tree can be made to bend without breaking.

A distinguished educator remarks:

"Next in rank and efficacy to that pure and holy source of moral influence, the mother, is that of the schoolmaster. It is powerful already. What would it be if, in every one of those school districts which we now count by annually-increasing thousands, there was to be found a teacher well-informed, without pedantry; religious, without bigotry; proud and fond of his profession, and honored in the discharge of its duties? How wide would be the intellectual, the moral influence of such a body of men?"

This is the opinion of every enlightened man upon the nature of the teacher's office. Let us endeavor to justify it in every particular, and then we shall elevate our vocation to the true position which it ought to occupy.

In the remarks I have made upon the propriety and necessity of moral instruction, based upon our duty to God, I do not mean that there should be any formality, any affected sanctity, or any pretensions to superior holiness on the part of the teacher. God forbid. I would have him as pleasant, and cheerful, and honest, as a summer's day. I would not have the moral lessons occupy too much time, or crowd out the other indispensable studies of the school. But I would have them receive all the share of attention which their importance demands. The judicious teacher will avail himself of the favorable moment for making the right impression upon the minds of his scholars.

I am conscious that I have very imperfectly presented this subject to your consideration. But I do not exaggerate its importance. If I have said anything which is true, anything which really bears upon the most important question which can be submitted to any human

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »