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But she did not know her heart. Her beloved child was sick—and she stood anxious and agitated over her pillow, very far from showing a cordial willingness that God should rule. She was afraid—very much afraid that her child would die. Instead of having that practical belief in the divine sovereignty, and that cordial confidence in God, which would have given her, in this trying hour, a calm and happy acquiescence in the diyine will, she was restless and uneasy,-her soul had no peace morning nor night. Her daughter sunk by a progress which was slow, but irresistible, to the grave, and for weeks that mother was in utter misery, because she could not find it in her heart to submit to the divine will. She had believed in the universal power of God as a theoretical truth. She had seen its abstract beauty,-she thought she rejoiced in God's superintending power, but it was only while all went well with her. As soon as God began to exercise that power which she had so cordially acknowledged and rejoiced in, in a way which was painful to her, her heart rose against it in a moment—and would not submit. The trial brought out to her view, her true feelings in regard to the absolute and unbounded authority of God. Now there is a great deal of such acqui. escence in God's dominion as this, in the world, and a great deal of it is exposed by trial every day." p. 253.
Our readers may be amused with our author's mode of illustrating the importance of mental culture, as distinct from knowlege acquired in the process:
“Suppose, for example, that when Robinson Crusoe on his desolate island, had first found Friday the savage, he had said to himself, as follows :
“This man looks wild and barbarous enough. He is to stay with me and help me in my various plans, but he could help me much more effectually, if he was more of an intellectual being and less of a mere animal. Now I can increase his intellectual power by culture, and I will. But what shall I teach him?"
On reflecting a little farther upon the subject, he would say to himself as follows.
“ I must not always teach him things necessary for him to know in order to assist me in my work, but I must try to teach him to think for himself. Then he will be far more valuable as a servant, than if he has to depend upon me for every thing he does."
Accordingly some evening when the two, master and man, have finished the labors of the day, Robinson is walking upon the sandy beach with the wild savage by his side, and he concludes to give his first lesson in mathematics. He picks up a slender and pointed shell, and with it draws careful. ly a circle upon the sand.
" What is that ?" says Friday.
“ It is what we call a circle, says Robinson, "I want you now to come and stand here, and attentively consider what I am going to tell you about it.”
Now Friday has, we will suppose, never given his serious attention to any thing, or rather has never made a serious mental effort upon any subject, for five minutes at a time, in his life. The simplest mathematical principle is a complete labyrinth of perplexity to him. He comes up and looks at the smooth and beautiful curve which his master has drawn in the sand with a gaze of stupid amazement.
** Now listen carefully to what I say," says Robinson," and see if you can understand it. Do you see this little point I make in the middle of the circle ?"
Friday says he does, and wonders what is to come from the magic character which he sees before him.
“ This," continues Robinson, is a circle, and that point is the centre.
Now I draw lines from the centre in any direction to the outside, these lines will all be equal."
So saying he draws several lines. He sets Friday to measuring them. Friday sees that they are equal and is pleased, from two distinct causes; one, that he has successfully exercised his thinking powers, and the other, that he has learned something which he had never knew before.
I wish now that the reader would understand that Robinson does not take this course with Friday because he wishes him to understand the nature of the circle. Suppose we were to say to him, “ Why did you take such a course as that with your savage ? You can teach him much more useful things than the properties of the circle. What good will it do him to know how to make circles? Do you expect him to draw geometrical diagrams for you, or to calculate and project eclipses ?”.
“ No," Robinson would reply. " I do not care about Friday's understanding the properties of the circle. But I do want him to be a ihinking being, and if I can induce him to think half an hour steadily and carefully, it is of no consequence upon what subject his thoughts are employed. I chose the circle, because that seemed easy and distinct,-suitable for the first lesson. I do not know that he will ever have occasion for the fact that the radii of a circle, are equal, as long as he shall live,—but he will have occasion for the power of patient attention and thought, which he acquired while attempting to understand that subject.”
This would unquestionably be sound philosophy, and a savage who should study such a lesson on the beach of his own wild island, would forever after be less of a savage than before. The effect upon his mental powers, of one single effort like that, would last, and series of such efforts would transform him from a fierce and ungovernable but stupid animal, to a cultivated and intellectual man.
Thus it is with all education. One great object is to increase the powers, and this is entirely distinct from the acquisition of knowledge. Scholars very often ask when pursuing some difficult study : “ What good will it do me to know this ?” But that is not the question. They ought to ask : “ What good will it do me to learn it? What effect upon my habits of thinking, and upon my intellectual powers will be produced by the efforts to examine and to conquer these difficulties.” pp. 288--9.
Our author, in showing the kind and degree of evidence to be expected on the subjects of practical religion, adduces these familiar, but forcible examples:
A merchant receives in his counting room a newspaper, which marks the prices of some species of goods, at a foreign port, as very high. He imme. diately determines to purchase a quantity and to send a cargo there. But suppose, as he is making arrangements for this purpose, his clerk should say to him,"
Perhaps this information may not be correct. The correspondent of the editor may have made a false statement for some fraudulent purpose, or the communication may have been forged ; or some evil minded person having the article in question for sale may have contrived by stealth to alter the types, so as to cause the paper to make a false report, at least in some of the copies."
Now in such a case would the merchant be influenced in the slightest degree by such a sceptical spirit as this? Would he attempt to reply to these suppositions, and to show that the channel of communication between the distant port and his own counting room, could not have been broken in upon by fraud, somewhere in its course, so as to bring a false statement to him ? He could not show this. His only reply must be, if he should reply at all: “The evidence of this printed sheet is not perfect demonstration, but it is just such evidence in kind and degree, as I act upon in all my business. And it is enough. Were I to pause, with the spirit of your
present objections, and refuse to act whenever such doubts as those you have presented might be entertained, I might close my business at once, and spend life in inaction. I could not, in one case in ten thousand, get the evidence which would satisfy such a spirit.”
Again. You are a parent I suppose. You have a son travelling at a distance from home, and you receive some day a letter from the Post Office, in a strange hand-writing, and signed by a name you have never heard, informing you that your son has been taken sick, at one of the villages on his route, and that he is lying dangeronsly ill at the house of the writer, and that he has requested that his father might be informed of his condition, and urged to come and see him before he dies.
Where now is the father, who, in such a case would say, to himself, “ stop this may be a deception. Some one may have forged this letter tó impose upon me. Or there may be no such person. Before I take this journey, I must write to some responsible man in that village, to ascertain the facts.
No; instead of looking with suspicion upon the letter, scrutinizing it carefully to find marks of counterfeiting, he would not even read it a second time. As soon as he had caught a glimpse of its contents, he would throw it hastily aside, and urging the arrangements for his departure to the utmost, he would hasten away, saying, " Let me go, as soon as possible, to my dying son."
I will state one more case, though perhaps it is so evident upon a moment's reflection, that men do not wait for perfect certainty in the evidence upon which they act,—that I have already stated too many
Your child is sick, and as he lies tossing in a burning fever on his bed, the physician comes in to visit him. He looks for a few minutes at the patient-examines the symptoms,---and then hastily writes an almost illigible prescription, whose irregular and abbreviated characters are entirely unintelligible to all but professional eyes. You give this prescription to a messenger,--perhaps to some one whom you do not know,--and he carries it to the apothecary, who from the indiscriminate multitude of jars and drawers and boxes, filled with every powerful medicine and corroding acid, and deadly poison, selects a little here and a little there, with which, talking perhaps all the time to those around him, he compounds a remedy for your son. The messenger brings it to the sick chamber, and as he puts it into your hands, do you think of stopping to consider the possibility of a mistake? How easy might the physician by substituting one barbarous Latin name for another, or by making one little character too few or too many, so alter the ingredients, or the proportions of the mixture, as to convert that, which was intended to be a remedy, to an active and fatal poison. How easily might the apothecary by using the wrong weight, or mistaking one white powder for another precisely similar in appearance, or by giving your messenger the parcel intended for another customer, send you, not a remedy which would allay the fever and bring repose to the restless child,—but an irritating stimulus, which shonld urge on to double fury the raging of the fever, or terminate it at once by sudden death.
How possible are these, but who stops to consider them? How absurb would it be to consider them! You administer the remedy with unhesitating confidence, and in a few days the returning health of your child, shows that it is wise for you to act, even in cases of life and death, on reasonable evidence, without waiting for the absolute certainty of moral demonstration.
Now this is exactly the case with the subject of the Christian religion. It comes purporting to be a message from heaven, and it brings with it just such a kind of evidence, as men act upon in all their other concerns. The evidence is abundantly satisfactory; at the same time however, any one who dislikes the truths, or the requirements of this gospel, may easily, like the sceptical clerk in the case above mentioned, make objections and difficulties in abundance. A man may be an infidel if he pleases. There is no such irresistible weight of argument that the mind is absolutely forced to admit it,
as it is to believe that two and three make five. In regard to this latter such is the nature of the human mind that there is not, and there cannot be in the whole human family, an individual who can doubt. In regard to Christianity, however, as with all other truths of a moral nature which regulate the moral conduct of mankind, there is no such irresistible evidence. The light is clear, if a man is willing to see, but it is not so vividly intense, as to force itself through his eyelids, if he closes them upon it Any one may walk in darkness if he will. pp. 111-114.
These extracts will suffice to exhibit the leading characteristic of the work before us, and to illustrate in part the author's mode of instruction. Our limits will not allow us to say all that has occurred to us on the utility of this method of teaching, when successfully adopted, nor all that we might say on the the necessary care and caution with which it should be adopted; but we will suggest a few hints, and we hope that the intelligent reader will give the subject a thorough and satisfactory investigation for himself.
This method of instruction, then, is founded on the first principles and laws of mind. Nature fitted us for particulars, not for generalities. Our senses, the inlets of all our knowledge, are conversant only with particulars. cannot see an abstraction ; the ear cannot hear an abstraction ; the tongue cannot taste an abstraction. None of our senses can give us any idea of an abstraction. It is a creature of our own, an offspring of education, a result of mental discipline, a product of art and effort. It costs the nascent intellect years of training and toil to form one of those etherial evanescent abstractions; and then it is kept in the mind like an exotic in a hothouse, or a bird from the tropics in a cage. Whenever we wish to form a distinct idea even of an abstract truth, we must make some particular thing represent it; and after all the purest abstractions are only particulars put for a whole class of the same sort. Who thinks of a man in general, or a creature in general, or a being in general ? Not Aristotle himself. Who conceives the principle proved in the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, without recalling the figure employed to demonstrate it? So with the most sublimated abstractions in science and philosophy. Nature clings to her own particulars, and forces the profoundest thinker to use thein in representing his most comprehensive generalities.
But whatever we may think on this point, none can doubt how the mind proceeds in acquiring its first ideas, and forming all its opinions and habits. It begins with particulars; it uses particulars to the last ; and its largest abstractions are only names put for a bundle of particulars. Look at a child. He learns to see by scrutinizing one object at a time, and examining its parts in successessive detail. So with all his other senses.
How does he learn to walk ? By taking steps in general ? How does he acquire the wonderful art of speech? He is compelled practically to analyze sound into its simplest elements, and make one at a time, till he accustoms his organs to a correct, distinct and easy utterance of them all. He takes at first a single syllable, or articulate sound of the simplest, easiest kind, and thus proceeds till he masters all the elementary sounds in the language. In the same way every acquisition is made ; and all the boasted abstractions of a Newton or a Locke, are only scientific terms used to represent the particulars they had themselves learned by a process not unlike that of the child gathering up, one by one, the elements of all its practical knowledge in physics, morals and religion.
To this course we are impelled in teaching new truths.Should an astronomer discover a new planet, how would he communicate the result of his discovery? By calling it a star, a comet, or some other general name? No; he would tell us its magnitude, its motions, its distance from the sun, and all the other properties and facts requisite to distinguish it from the rest of the heavenly bodies. Should a chemist detect another gas, he would not dream of describing it merely by a name hitherto unknown in the vocabulary of his science. Should you find a new mineral or flower, how would you teach others to recognize it? By giving it a name still harder than any to be found in the semi-barbarous nomenclature of minerology and botany? No; you would analyze it, and describe each of its peculiar properties.
So with every thing that is to be taught. You must take it to pieces, and show the particulars of which it is composed. There is no other possible way of communicating any new truth. If you wish to teach a child what is meant by government, nation, or church, would you not be obliged to resolve each into its component parts, and show him by particulars what the term implies ? Each is only a bundle of particulars, tied up by a word; and before he can understand the full and exact meaning of that word, you must untie the bundle, and let him examine its contents in detail.
Such is also the process of discovery and invention. It begins with particulars, and results in the detection of some new principle, or in some new application of an old one. The highest philosophy is only an induction of particulars ; and the profoundest inquirer into the secrets of nature, seeks only to observe, classify and name these particulars. Every school-boy is familiar with the origin of Newton's grandest discovery. He