Page images

that great improvement has been made in the mode of instructing children in the use and power of language. To what extent these improvements may yet be carried, time alone can determine. The very singular condition in which the minds of the Deaf and Dumb are placed, and the peculiar means which are necessarily employed in their instruction, may furnish opportunities for observation and experiment, and the establishinent of principles, with regard to the education of youth, which will not be without essential service in their general application. How much light also may in this way be thrown upon what are supposed to be the original truths, felt and recognized to be such by the mind, without any reasoning process! Many speculations, too, which now are obscure and unsettled, respecting the faculties of the human mind, may be rendered more clear and satisfactory. How many questions, also, may be solved, concerning the capability of man to originate, of himself, the notion of a God and of a future state; or, admitting his capacity to do this, whether, as a matter of fact, he ever would do it! What discoveries may be made respecting the original notions of right and wrong, the obligations of conscience, and, indeed, most of the similar topics connected with the moral sense. These hints are sufficient to shew, that beside the leading and more important uses of giving instruction to the Deaf and Dumb, their education might be made to subserve the general cause of humanity, and of correct philosophy and theology.

But I pass to considerations of more immediate advantage ; and one is, that of affording consolation to the relatives and friends of these unfortunates. Parents, make the case your own! Fathers and mothers, think what would be your feelings, were the son of your expectations, or the daughter of your hopes, to be found in this unhappy condition ! The lamp of reason already lights its infant eye ; the smile of intelligence plays upon its countenance; its little hand is stretched forth in significant expression of its wants; the delightful season of prattling converse has arrived ; but its artless lispings are in vain anticipated with paternal ardour; the yoice of maternal affection falls unheard on its ear; its silence begins to betray its misfortune, and its look and gesture soon prove, that it must be forever cut off from colloquial intercourse with man, and that parental love must labour under unexpected difficulties, in preparing it for its journey through the thorny world upon which it has entered. How many experiments must be made before its novel language can be understood ! How often must its instruction be attempted before the least improvement can take place ! How imperfect, after every effort, must this improvement be! Who shall shape its future course through life? Who shall provide it with sources of intellectual comfort ? Who shall explain to it the invisible realities of a future world ? Ah! my hearers, I could spread before you scenes of a mother's anguish, I could read to you letters of a father's anxiety, which

would not fail to move your hearts to pity, and your eyes to tears, and to satisfy you that the prospect which the instruction of their deaf and dumb children opens to parents, is a balm for one of the keenest of sorrows, inasmuch as it is a relief for what has been hitherto considered an irremediable misfortune.

The most important advantages, however, in the education of the Deaf and Dumb, accrue to those who are the subjects of it; and these are advantages which it is extremely difficult for those of

us, who are in possession of all our faculties, duly to appreciate. He, whose pulse has always beat high with health, little understands the rapture of recovery from sickness. He, who has always trod the soil, and breathed the air of freedom, cannot sympathize with the feelings of ecstacy which glow in the breast of him who, having long been the tenant of some dreary dungeon, is brought forth to the cheering influence of light and liberty,

But there is a sickness more dreadful than that of the body; there are chains more galling than those of the dungeon--the immortal mind preying upon itself, and so imprisoned as not to be able to unfold its intellectual and moral powers, and to attain to the comprehension and enjoyment of those objects, which the Creator has designed as the sources of its highest expectations and hopes.Such must often be the condition of the uninstructed Deaf and Dumb! What mysterious darkness must sadden their souls ! How imperfectly can

they account for the wonders that surround them! Must not each one of them, in the language of thought, sometimes say, “ What is it that makes me differ from my fellow-men? Why are they so much my superiors ? What is that strange mode of communicating by which they understand each other with the rapidity of lightning, and which enlivens their faces with the brightest expressions of joy? Why do I not possess it; or why can it not be communicated to me? What are those mysterious characters, over which they pore with such incessant delight, and which seem to gladden the hours that pass by me so sad and cheerless ? What mean the ten thousand customs, which I witness in the private circles and the public assemblies, and which possess such mighty influence over the conduct and feelings of those around me? And that termination of life; that placing in the cold bosom of the earth, those whom I have loved so long and so tenderly; how it makes me shudder !—What is death ?- Why are my friends thus laid by and forgotten ? Will they never revive from this strange slumber? Shall the grass always grow over them? Shall I see their faces no more for ever? And must I also thus cease to move, and fall into an eternal


And these are the meditations of an immortal mind-looking through the grates of its prisonhouse upon objects, on which the rays of Revelation shed no light, but all of which are obscured by the shadows of doubt, or shrouded in the darkest

gloom of ignorance. And this mind may be set free ; may be enabled to expatiate through the boundless fields of intellectual and moral research; may have the cheering doctrines of life and immortality, through Jesus Christ, unfolded to its view ; may be led to understand who is the Author of its beingwhat are its duties to him-how its offences may be pardoned through the blood of the Saviour-how its affections may be purified through the influences of the Spirit—how it may at last gain the victory over death, and triumph over the horrors of the grave. Instead of having the scope of its vision terminated by the narrow horizon of human life, it stretches into the endless expanse of eternity ;instead of looking, with contracted gaze, at the little circle of visible objects, with which it is surrounded, it rises to the majestic contemplation of its own immortal existence, to the sublime conception of an Infinite and Supreme Intelligence, and to the ineffable displays of his goodness in the wonders of redeeming love.

Behold these immortal minds! Some of them are before you ; the pledges, we trust, of multitudes who will be rescued from the thraldom of ignorance. Pursue, in imagination, their future progress in time, and in eternity, and say, my hearers, whether I appreciate too highly the blessings which we wish to be made the instruments of conferring upon the Deaf and Dumb.

For the means of anticipating these blessings the Deaf and Dumb owe much to the liberality of gen

« PreviousContinue »