« PreviousContinue »
O LORD, our Heavenly Father, we implore thine especial blessing upon all Schools and Seminaries of religious and useful Learning; that in those and all other places more immediately dedicated to thy honour and service, whatsoever tends to the advancement of true religion and useful learning may for ever flourish and abound. Grant this, O Father, for the glory of thy name, through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Eph. vi. 4.
UP IN THE NURTURE AND ADMONITION OF THE
“TRAIN up a child,” said Solomon, “in the way that he should go; and, when he is old, he will not depart from it.” To put this precept into practice is the great duty of parents in the education of their children; and, to touch upon a few particulars, in which this requires children to be taught, the present discourse is to be devoted Education, then,
, is to be applied to beings passing through this life,
and intended for another; a truth which, however obvious, seems to be in practice too commonly overlooked, or at least only half adopted. Many educate their children as though they were intended only for this life; while others, though fewer in number, with an indiscreet zeal, treat their children as though they had no connexion with this life, and could be made to absorb their whole attention, and affection, in the pursuit of another. Both these systems must be attended with failure in very important points, inasmuch as they are both based upon false and defective foundations, and therefore can never form a solid or useful superstructure. Education, to be conducted profitably, must proceed upon true principles; it must regard man, not as we would wish him to be, but as he is a member of God's family on earth, as well as an aspirant to a place in God's family in Heaven. He has duties to perform, and necessities to supply, here, as well as interests to secure, and a crown to strive for, there. And all these interests must be contemplated by that parent who would educate his children to any practical purpose. God has provided all his creatures with powers which, by proper exertion and direction, may enable them to accomplish what is necessary to themselves, or due from them to others. And, in rational beings, the province of education is, to give those powers their proper stimulus and direction, for the attainment of such objects, present or future, as both their station and necessities in this life, and their hopes in the next, may require. In the attainment also of these objects, regard must be had to the means by which they may be accomplished, and to the capacities of those who are to be educated. It will be as well, therefore, in treating of the education of children, to class our remarks under the head,
I. Of those means and appliances which come under the denomination of education, in the sense of mere worldly instruction.
II. Of those lessons which may be comprehended under the phrase of religious education.
I. Then with respect to education, in what is generally called mere worldly knowledge, I shall confine myself to that department of it which, in common conversation, is usually considered to be expressed by the term "education,” namely, instruction in reading, writing, languages, and sciences. When I speak of these as merely worldly education, I do not wish to be understood as denying, that they are capable of application, as means to an end, in the promotion of spiritual improvement. On the contrary, I should wish this application of them always to be kept in view, and to be regarded by parents as the primary object for which these acquirements should be imparted to their children. But though this spiritual improvement may be the primary object, yet there are secondary objects connected with this life, to which they may be beneficially applied, and which no parent. is justified in
66 tells us,
despising. “ Xenophon,” says Tillotson, that the Persians, instead of making their children learned, taught them to be virtuous; and, instead of filling their heads with fine speculations, taught them honesty, and sincerity, and resolution ; and endeavoured to make them wise and valiant, just and temperate. Lycurgus also, in the institution of the Lacedæmonian commonwealth, took no care about learning, but only about the lives and manners of their children: though I should think, that the care of both is best; and that learning would very much help to form the manners of children, and .to make them both wiser and better men. And therefore, with the leave of so great and wise a lawgiver, I cannot but think, that this was a defect in his institution; because learning, if it be under the conduct of true wisdom and goodness, is not only an ornament, but a great advantage to the better government of any kingdom or commonwealth.”
It is due, therefore, both to our country, to mankind at large, to our domestic circle, and to our children personally, that parents should educate their offspring in those branches of knowledge which may be suitable to their state of life, and attainable according to our respective means. It is not our province here, to enter into a discussion upon the best modes of education, with reference to the different fortunes and circumstances of parents; but we may observe, that whether a rich man begrudge
his children the cost of a liberal education, or a poor man neglect to profit by the public means of education offered to his children, both are depriving them of advantages, which may minister to rational pleasure, as well as to temporal profit, and even spiritual advancement; and at the same time are doing an injury to their country, and to the community at large. There is certainly one source of anxiety connected with this department of education, which may, not unreasonably, engage the attention, and often excites the apprehensions, of well-disposed parents; and that is, the danger of contamination and vicious example, to which their children must be exposed in their attendance at school.
I do not question their duty to be careful in this respect; nay, indeed, I would strongly urge that, in the selection both of masters, and also of schools, they should endeavour to select those whose character stands highest, not only for learning, but also for morality and religion. Yet, without meaning to enter upon a controversy on the relative merits of public and private education, I cannot but think that too sensitive a fear of public schools is often entertained. As man is intended for society, one great purpose of early education is to prepare him to bear his part in it; to accustom him in early life to those varieties of dispositions, to discipline and inure him for encountering those shocks and temptations, and to bring him to that habit of adapting himself to those compliances, and to those