Page images

friends and promoters of that which is true. Yet a certain author having very innocently mentioned "a "C philosophical divine," as a character that might be supposed to exist, without any contradiction implied, the historian of the Roman empire is pleased to represent such a supposed being as a STRANGE CENTAUR, a composition absurd and monstrous, half man and half brute. According to his own ideas, however, the representation may be just enough; for a philosopher, as we have too much reason to apprehend, in his acceptation of the word, is an unbeliever; a divine is (and, let us hope, will always continue to be) a believer. Wisdom, it seems, was born with the infidel, and will die with him. We will take the liberty, notwithstanding, to say-because it is true-that whatever learning may at any time have been brought to the attack, there has never hitherto been found a deficiency of it for the defence of religion; neither will there be found any such deficiency, we trust, in time to come, while our schools and universities, (chiefly under the management and direction of clergymen) shall continue to exist and flourish. From considering the nature of that wisdom we are in the text exhorted to acquire, this leads us to bestow some reflections, Secondly, on the best method of acquiring it. Learning is that which may be learned. As wisdom is not communicated by inspiration, so neither is it born with us. We come into the world without principles of any kind, because without ideas of any kind. This opinion was long controverted, as being Vol. ii. p. 369.

thought to militate against religion. But the apprehension appears to have been groundless. The doctrine is established, and religion has received no detriment.

It is still, nevertheless, imagined that a man may make wonderful discoveries by the exercise of his own powers. But the first step in the process has been sometimes unaccountably overlooked. It has been forgotten, that those powers must be elicited and formed by cultivation; that every man must be taught by some one how to use them, or that he will discover nothing. A truth, when it has been proposed and explained to us, appears clear and evident; all the truths contained in the propositions of Euclid appear so: but surely it follows not that, without information, we should have discovered them, or have once thought concerning them. This is a fallacy, by which mankind of late have been greatly misled. No instance can be produced, from Adam to the present hour, of a single human being, brought up apart from all instructors, who ever spoke or reasoned. The state indeed is unnatural, and one into which man cannot fall but by accident. In the common course of things, Providence has been pleased to ordain that he should be born in society, and have those about him, who never fail to teach him as much as they themselves know; their language, and the notions current among them. These he learns; and if he be taught no more, he knows no more.

Our countrymen sent, in quest of a new continent, to visit the extremities of the old ones, and



the distant isles of the South Sea, have returned with accounts which confirm what has been said, and may serve to convince us, "that man is born," as the Scripture expresses it, "like a wild ass's "colt ;" and, without education, will continue such: that he is born with capabilities only, and is in reality what he is made by instruction. These accounts should produce in us a sentiment of pity for our fellow-creatures, whose condition is so truly deplorable; and one at the same time of gratitude to our heavenly Father, who has cast our lot in a fairer ground. Some modern philosophers seem to think the rocks of Patagonia, and the deserts of New Zealand, to be the only schools in which human nature can be studied to advantage. But surely we might as well expect a statuary to accomplish himself in his art, by looking all day at a block of marble, because out of that block a statue may be formed. Shall we judge of a plant, by contemplating the seed from which it is to spring? No: let us view the tree, its root fixed in the earth, and drawing moisture from beneath; its trunk fully grown, its branches expanded, and drinking in the dew of heaven from above; the whole invested with its foliage as a beautiful garment, and crowned with its fruit in the season. Let us not frame our ideas of human nature by surveying an infant or a savage. Show us the man completely formed and perfected by a liberal, a learned, and a religious education.

From the mountains of Switzerland a voice has

с Job, xi. 12.

been heard, proclaiming that we are all mistaken; and that to teach (in matters of religion and morality) is to prejudice; and, therefore, infuse, says this philosopher, no principles into the minds of youth; let them adopt their own when they come to years of discretion.

But still, it is an indisputable fact, that men must learn and they who do not learn betimes, will learn with far more difficulty, when advanced in years. The soil stiffens and hardens by continuing untilled. The ground must be broken up, and good seed must be sown, by him who expects to see valleys covered over with corn at the time of harvest. Weeds and thistles only will be the spontaneous and unhappy produce. If children are not early conducted into the paths of truth and virtue, they will be found, at a maturer age, in those of error and vice. We cannot, I am afraid, prevail upon the world, the flesh, and the devil, to stand neuter, during the experiment; an experiment which whoever shall make once, without pretending to the spirit of prophecy, we may venture to predict, will find no encouragement to make it again. The truth is, we must teach children the best we can while they are young, leaving them to alter and correct afterwards, if they shall see occasion. The nature of the thing admits of no other method consistent with the dictates of reason and common sense.

Instruction being thus necessary, we are to consider through what hands it may be most advantageously conveyed. Through those, perhaps it will be said, of the parents. One should certainly imagine

so at first sight. But then, all parents are not able to instruct, having not been themselves sufficiently instructed. Those of them who are able, may not be willing to submit to the task; while many, both able and willing, cannot find leisure from their necessary business to undertake it. The fault of Mr. Locke's treatise is, that it supposes none of these cases to happen, but that a father shall always be at liberty to take care of his son's education. The same fault is chargeable on the plan of a very sensible and agreeable instructress of a neighbouring kingdom. With great force of genius and goodness of heart, she describes two persons of noble birth as giving up the world, and retiring, for a course of years, from public life, that they might devote their time and fortune to the education of their children. Undoubtedly, the design is praise-worthy. They were excellently well employed. Would to God, that many of their rank were so employed in every kingdom upon earth. But all cannot do it; the scheme can never become general.

There is, besides, another difficulty in the way. The partiality and fondness of the tutor, when that tutor is a father, may often do the pupil an injury, the effects of which will go with him through life. To prevent this, the Spartans, by a law of the state, took children, at a certain age, out of the hands of their parents, and placed them under other masters. The Hebrews had their schools of the prophets, the Greeks and Romans their academies and gymnasia;

Theodore et Adele, par M. la Comptesse de Genlis.

« EelmineJätka »