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into. I wish to confine these few observations to the present state and prospects of our schools.
4. We assemble, then, in our schools large numbers of boys, newly come from their homes, with all sorts of characters, corresponding with the varieties of their early training. They generally go to school at seven or eight years of age. Most frequently, they first go to a preparatory, and afterwards to a more advanced school. With one, or two, or sometimes more changes, they commonly (those of them particularly who are destined for the Universities) remain under school training for ten or eleven years, from the age of seven or eight to eighteen or nineteen. What then is the provision, and what are the means, whereby the tendencies of moral evil in these assemblages of boys are to be prevented? How are we to infuse the religious principle into these communities in such manner and degree as to check, and by degrees to control the effects of contagious sin? What course can be laid out, whereby the well-trained boys may be helped forward in a continually strengthening habit of holiness, and the ill-trained boys be put under a
new and sound religious training, so as to find truer fathers in their teachers than in their natural parents? It is impossible to deny that there is no general course of training of this kind. It is beyond a question, that great as is the care taken of boys in particular schools, by the personal piety and conscientiousness of individual schoolmasters, there is not, nor has been (at least for a vast number of years), any general, uniform, effective system recognized and pursued, under which the whole of our youth has been regularly and religiously trained. For many years it was held that such training, at least in schools, was unnecessary, perhaps undesirable; and the fear of enthusiasm or melancholy among young people, and the danger of methodistical principles of doctrine growing among them, if they should be early turned to thoughts of religion, were sufficient to check all efforts to help them in gaining the strong personal piety which was requisite to keep them clear of youthful sins. The teacher threw the responsibility upon the parent, and the parent threw it back upon the teacher. The sort of
doctrine current in our pulpits during the same period fell in with these tendencies. Religion being treated as a matter "between a person's conscience and his God" lost so many of the true helps, which God's goodness had provided for it in the Church, that it languished, and, to a great extent, lost its hold upon the generation.
5. As I have already said, I believe that the true remedy for these great mischiefs is a very deep one: that it must be applied by the true Church piety of fathers and mothers, in the secret inward government of their infant children; and that until this absolute reformation, with all the other changes that it involves, takes place among us, we shall still be, in great degree, the self-satisfied, unhumbled, superficial people that we now are; who allow sin and irreverence to be rampant and unchecked among us, who will not put up with, nor bear the discipline which Christ hath ordained to keep His Church pure, who refuse the faithful voice of holy preaching, who will have imperfection for our standard, and worldly maxims for our rule of life, and who, meanwhile, boast of ourselves
as the purest, the truest, the holiest, the model Churchmen of Christendom.
I would, however, venture to suggest that we have already one means in our hands, which is capable of being used with much more power than it is used now, and which might at once, and without disturbance or difficulty, be restored to very great efficacy and importance. I mean Confirmation. Confirmation might be, and may be (what in the later ages of the Church it has been designed to be), THE STRENGTH OF BOYHOOD. Separated in time from holy Baptism by an adequate authority and consent of the Church of God, it has been set, as it were, to occupy the very ground, and to meet the very dangers, of which I have been speaking.
It is not my duty to speak of our towns and villages, our rare Confirmations, our troops of young people making holiday from distant parishes, the sadness of our Clergy at such times;— (did ever a careful Clergyman come away from a Confirmation, as now administered, otherwise than sad and fearful?),-I would only say, that I believe these words to be most fully and truly
applicable to these cases also; but I wish to speak only of our schools, our public schools, our schools for the upper classes; and of them I confidently say, that great benefit would at once ensue, if Confirmation, and the preparation for it, were, under Episcopal sanction, made to be a much more prominent, characteristic, and important subject of school interest than heretofore.
6. Infancy may be called the age of Baptism. Newly come from the font, and still under the care and instruction of their parents (and long may it be before the spreading of infant-schools among the higher classes of society dries up the fountains of filial love and Christian morality in our families!) little children are fitly surrounded with the lessons and thoughts which belong to their Baptism. If I may venture to adapt the beautiful language of the most thoughtful of poets,
"Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do they come
Heaven lies about them in their infancy!