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Revelation and Creation; God's word and God's works: these are the objective. You have also yourselves; your own minds and hearts; the world within : this is the subjective. You see, then, what you may know; what you ought to know; and what if you be rightly educated you will know to a certain extent.
9. Allow me to give you a plain illustration. We have a sheet of fair white paper before us. In how many states may it exist ? First, It may remain to be such as it is : nothing is written
it: it runs the risk of being soiled: at any rate, it is blank. But, secondly, it may have writing upon it: we read it, and we find it to be nonsense, or worse than nonsense ; and in that case we lament the abuse of the paper, and we cast it far from us. Again, thirdly, the paper has been written upon; we examine the writing; and we discover there to our joy what is good, wise, true, and useful.
10. The application which I would make of this image to the human mind must be obvious to you. You may walk over the stage of human existence in ignorance: or you may imbibe various errors and fancies; or you may obtain sound information: and in the first case, to take up another image, your breasts will be as dark dungeons unvisited with the cheerful light of the sun; and in the second case they will be as dungeons full of unclean beasts and birds ; but in the third case they will be as rooms that are full of light and order and beauty.
11. With regard to Education, two things demand especial notice; Matter and Manner; what we learn, and the way in which we learn it. What is known ? is one question: How is it known? is another: and both demand our best consideration. We may give our attention to subjects with which we have no concern, and disregard those which are of the greatest importance to us. Or, with respect to any subjects whatever, we may satisfy ourselves with crude, partial, and
superficial notions ; such as fill the heart with pride, and the lips with language, but which have no claim to the character of sound knowledge; for only true, distinct, clear, and sound notions, (however few they may be,) acquired by close thought, are deserving of that name.
12. Hence, therefore, I lay down the following rules. 1. Your attention must be directed to proper subjects. 2. Religion, the great and essential subject, must always have its own rightful pre-eminence; ruling and pervading the mind and heart in all your studies. 3. All subjects must be learnt, as far as it is possible, not vaguely and superficially, but closely, exactly, deeply, so that they may be really comprehended and understood. One sound idea of a subject is far more useful and valuable, than a hundred half ideas or quarter ideas about it. 4. The improvement of the heart and conduct must always be borne in mind as the design of knowledge. The more you know, the better you will be, if your knowledge be of the right sort, and if it be rightly improved.
13. Although much of what I have written, with a view to your welfare and happiness, relates to what may be called Human Knowledge, yet I wish to tell you distinctly, that Religion is the great concern of man; and if all his acquirements be not sanctified by it, they are far more likely to be his bane than his benefit. “ Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches : But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jer. ix. 23, 24.
14. This being premised, I think that we ought to banish ignorance from the community. She has swayed her leaden and ebon sceptre long enough over the abject myriads of God's intelligent creatures. I cannot think it to be His will,
that any of them should spend their days in unthinking and cheerless gloom; unacquainted with His word and with His works. It is but justice and benevolence, to give to all persons that which really deserves the name of Education; in order that not only our Counting-Houses may be filled with good arithmeticians, but that also our Churches may be filled with intelligent hearers.
15. It may be said, that Knowledge is dangerous : and I ask, Is Ignorance safety? It may be said, that knowledge is proud : and I ask, Is ignorance humble? It may be said, that from sciolism (or superficial knowledge) we have every thing to fear: and I ask, Have we not every thing to hope from sound Christian Education ? But I need not dwell on this subject; for the work is begun; the school-master is gone forth; and mental ferment and activity abounds. The waters flow: and our work is to see, that the cisterns be filled with pure and salubrious waters, and to guide them in their
Prevention is not in our power: selection and direction are the things to which we must attend, if we consult the welfare of mankind.
16. I make a marked distinction betwen sacred and human knowledge. The former may stand alone; but the latter is, at the very most, only a splendid nothing if it be without the former. If, therefore, any of our peasants are contented to read the Bible with reflecting minds and devout hearts, and and only to know their daily labours, I shall not think less highly of them because they do not know the diameter of the sun or the distance of Neptune. Nor is this all that I wish to say. While I advocate the diffusion of sound knowledge, I am perfectly aware that many may, or rather will, abuse the blessing. They will mistake a superficial and smattering knowledge for sound and sober knowledge: and hence we shall see many become proud and conceited; talkative, overbearing, and impertinent; idle and discontented. Much of
this sort of thing may be expected: for in this world we cannot obtain unmingled good: the best things are mistaken, abused, and counterfeited.—I cannot enlarge; but I speak so much in way of caution. It is painful, indeed, to see human beings living in ignorance: but is it less painful to see human beings proud of their knowledge, whatever it may be in kind or measure, and turning into poison what ought to have been healthful nourishment?
17. In advocating the cause of human knowledge, I am far from looking upon it as a cure for all our evils. I am no idolater of Intellect. I certainly admire true Philosophy; but that will never tell me, that the cultivation of the human intellect is sufficient to ensure excellence and happiness to its disciples. The tendency of all sound knowledge is, I think, to promote order, virtue, and decorum. It puts forth on the faculties of man a refining and elevating influence. A love of the pleasures of intellect may be expected to weaken desires after the pleasures of sense. It may thus add largely to the comfort of social life. Every thing of this sort is valuable. But the true happiness of man requires the renovation of his mind and heart: and he who expects this from human knowledge, might as well expect that a northern light, or a blazing meteor, is competent to invest a barren wilderness with all the bloom and beauty of a flourishing vegetation. It is the prerogative of the Gospel to be “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”
18. Thus you see that I assert the supremacy of religion : and I may well do it: for tell me, What will all knowledge avail at last, if Christ be unknown? Then, further, I advocate the diffusion of human knowledge; but I do not expect from it that which it cannot impart or accomplish. It has its legitimate province: and when it is wise, humble, and deep, we listen with pleasure to its voice: at the same time, we should account it folly to expect that healing and purifying virtue in
the waters of Abana and Pharpar which are only to be found in those of the Jordan. In a word, I hope that you will bear in mind, that Philosophy is from man, Revelation is from God; Philosophy dwells on God's works, Revelation discloses His mind and counsel; Philosophy reasons about Him, Revelation leads and unites us to Him; Philosophy or human knowledge is ornamental and pleasant, helpful and useful in various ways; but Revelation makes us “wise unto salvation."
19. I have thus given you my general view of Education: and it is time that I should now speak of the work which I have put into your hands. In that work I kept more especially in my view two classes of persons—our Village Schoolmasters, and our Village Peasantry.-With regard to the former, I wished to assist them in their good and arduous work of instruction: and I endeavoured, (how far I have succeeded I know not,) to put subjects before them in a clear order, and at the same time to unfold them with all possible simplicity. Nothing is more important than a clear view of first principles, whatever subjects we study. The value of a good foundation cannot be disputed. It will bear the weight of any superstructure that we may raise upon it. Those, undoubtedly, are the best teachers who store the minds of their scholars with first principles, with elementary rules. The process in such teaching may be slow: here in fact is the drudgery of teaching: but it may be added, as a sufficient commendation, that this is Teaching. With regard to the Peasantry, I supposed that there might be some young men who reflected on the folly of wasting their youth in a trifling and giddy manner; and who felt a desire to use their leisure hours in gaining knowledge. In the choice of subjects, I selected those which I accounted most worthy of their attention; omitting some as being unsuitable; and others, because my work was growing too large. In all my pages I have endeavoured to be plain and clear.—There may, possibly, be