« PreviousContinue »
"Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
MAN boasts of being the child of reason! but how few there are among mankind who use that godlike faculty! One great end of education ought to be to lead children to use their reasoning powers in every thing. What is reason? The infidel boasts of it as inherent; he sets up his imaginary phantom; fancy heightens its powers, and the madman falls down and adores the shade which his ignorance hath created.
Reason is that power of the mind by which man compares one thing with another, and from it draws a just inference. Beasts have reason; but the exercising of it is confined, because their knowledge is contracted: all their ideas are received by the exercise of the senses of sight, of touch, of hearing, and of smelling. The senses are local, they are liable to deception; hence their reason is confined, and their inference incorrect; but the gift of speech, the peculiar glory of man, enlarges his ideas, enables him to exercise the powers of his mind, to weigh his own experience, and his acquirements from the experience. of others, and, from the well weighing of the whole, to form a just judgment of the subject under his consideration.
Early in life to teach the manly art of thinking justly, by correctly weighing our own thoughts, actions, and words, and passing upon them a just sentence, is indeed a most valuable part of education, and perhaps easier to be acquired than at first may be imagined. It is by rendering it easy, necessary, and habitual, that it is to be done. Are the children of the Asiatic Jews possessed of stronger mental powers than the children of the European sons of Israel? If not, how comes it that, whilst the last scarcely ever speak, at man's estate, one language correctly, the children of the former commonly, at a very early period of life, speak three or four languages. It is not education, but habit. Necessity lays them under an habitual intercourse with various nations, and habit makes each language their own. So would it be found to be with the exercise of the reason, as well as the memory; not restraint but situation making it necessary; custom would train up the youthful disciple into the art of thinking, and necessity would constrain him to think justly.
The apostle observes, that the law was given on account of the transgression of idolatry, teaching man, by the example of God, that
laws ought to be suited to the evil that is to be corrected. Now the evil to be corrected in children is ignorance; it is this that is the source of every vice, as wisdom is the fountain of every virtue. Children have no ideas but as they acquire them by the exercise of their senses; how necessary, therefore, is it that they should acquire just ideas of their moral, their social, and their relative duties! Upon these, therefore, the laws should be formed: and as their minds are weak, to overburden the memory with many laws, whilst it rendered the mind a cripple for life, would, at the same time, prevent that exercise of the reason which is so well calculated to strengthen it.
The situation in which man is as the creature of God, a being formed for his glory, appointed to be the high-priest of creation, naturally calls for reverence to the name and character of the Deity; and to implant this reverence in the infant mind, it is rational there should be a law, declaring that speaking disrespectfully or irreverently of God, should be punished as an affront offered to man, in speaking disrespectfully of the Creator of mankind.
It is by mutual wants that society is united together; like the links of a chain every part of society is appointed to depend upon each other. Hence necessity produces assistance, and gratitude, arising from benefits received, occasions exertions of body and mind to manifest itself. A want of gratitude is a want of virtue. It is
"Of vices first,
The most detested, most accurst."
The destroyer of generous sentiment, the parent of every evil principle. Ingratitude, therefore, when proved, should be declared punishable. This would teach children to consider why, and would insensibly lead them to feel the blessings of social virtues, and to the possession of those grateful sensations which ennoble mar in the eyes of God and of his fellow creature.
Man is not born for himself, but for the world at large; hence there is a necessity frequently to call back the rising pride of the assuming tyrant, and to bring him down to the level of the rest of mankind, by teaching him, by law, that it is his duty and his interest to do unto others as he would have others do unto him.
Man is appointed by the Supreme governor of all to be his vicegerent here below; hence the necessity of a law to teach him how to govern this lower creation, by making impatience and cruelty towards any of them punishable.
Man, as lord of the universe, has a vast family to provide for; hence the need for careful economy, that nothing may be lost; therefore law should teach that wastefulness is a sin pernicious to society and derogatory
When we consider the springs of action, few laws are necessary; witness the laws of God; few in number, but fit to make a nation happy as well as an individual; because they touch the secret springs that regulate the inward and outward conduct of mankind. Hence there would not be a necessity for a law punishing theft, because it would
come under the law which said, "Whatever that you would that men
Neither would there be occasion for a law to punish idleness
But whatever be the law, nothing like the will of the master should be the foundation of it. It should be solely founded on a design to inculcate every virtue, and to correct or prevent vice.
The advantage of man in the exercise of his reason is, that he possesses
HINT ON PERSEVERANCE.
RRACHION was an eminent wrestler, who, in the former Olympiads, had already gained two crowns, and was now to encounter with the last of his antagonists for the third; but this man having perhaps observed, by his former combats, in what the superiority of Arrachion consisted, and thinking it better to prevent him, rushed on him, and, twining his feet about him, seized him at the same time by the throat, which he griped with both his hands. Arrachion, having no other means, either of disengaging himself, or annoying an enemy, who was thus got within him, and had almost strangled him to death, broke one of his toes; through the extreme pain of which, the other was compelled to resign the victory at the very moment that Arrachion gave up the ghost. Arrachion, though dead, was proclaimed conqueror, and the crown of olive was accordingly placed upon his head. See West's Dissert. on Olympic Games.
What a pity is it that this wrestler, who thus resisted unto blood, should be superior in courage and perseverance to many that enter the lists for a crown of glory that fadeth not away.' Arrachion was careful to win a corruptible crown, which brought him to his death-many, calling themselves Christians, are careless, and lose an incorruptible crown, whose attendant is eternal life.
MR. ROLLIN, in his Belles Lettres, speaking of the difference study makes between men in regard to their improvement, after having shewn the proof of his assertion by instances from history, makes the following observations.
"But, without recourse to history, let us only cast our eyes upon what ordinarily passes in nature. From thence we may learn what an infinite difference cultivation will make between two pieces of ground which are otherways very much alike. The one, if left to itself, remains rough, wild, and over-run with weeds and thorns. The other, laden with all sorts of grain and fruits, and set off with an agreeable variety of flowers, collects into a narrow compass whatever is most rare, wholesome, or delightful, and by the tiller's care becomes a pleasing epitome of all the beauties of different seasons and regions.
And thus it is with the mind, which always repays us with usury the care we take to cultivate it.. That is the soil, which every man, who knows for what great ends he is designed, is obliged to manage to advantage; a soil which is rich and fruitful, capable of immortal productions, and alone worthy all his care.
E that keeps himself from great sins is as he that hath a prosperous voyage; he that repents, as he that saves himself upon a plank.
Repentance begins in the humiliation of the heart, and ends in the reformation of the life.
Defer not repentance till another day: he that hath promised pardon upon thy repentance, hath not promised life till thou repentest.
If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in,
TO MY SISTERS,
On finding some of their School Copy Books among the Lumber in the
September 3, 1789.
THE clock struck nine”—and breakfast o'er,
Where lumber, canker'd o'er with rust,
To every tale, a moral is annex'd:
In fable, animals, birds, trees ean preach;
That with my sisters, I myself may teach.
Few meditations will more profit yield,
Than deep reflections on the lapse of time:
Replete with subjects, or of prose, or rhyme.
Then let us on these youthful times reflect,
And take a serious, retrospective view :--
Of learning) could their frowning aspect shew.
High health and spirits, class'd with sweet content,
To furnish riper age, a grateful theme.