Page images


&c. &c.


Inadequate Attention to Religion in Education-Some of

its Causes.

Мост persons have occasionally met with a new mansion, showy in its appearance, and commanding a fine prospect, but destitute of that first of all requisites, good water. Captivated by the beauties of a favourite spot, and anticipating a long and happy residence in the midst of attractive domains, the gentlemen who build houses sometimes forget that there are certain necessaries of life, for the want of which none of its embellishments or honours can compensate. A similar disappointment, but of a more affecting nature, very frequently awaits the builders of that figurative house-a family of children. Their parents have taken the greatest pains to enable them to make a figure in the world; but they

have neglected to use the proper means for furnishing their minds with certain items in the catalogue of qualifications for a useful, respectable, and happy life-namely, religious principles and habits. The house is erected; but, alas, there is no water!-That those who despise religion. should not wish the minds of their children to be imbued with it, is natural and to be expected ;-and that those, who, while they ostensibly acknowledge the value of religion, yet hold that the heart of man is naturally good ; and that the evils which abound in the world may be ascribed to the prejudices of nurses, the reveries of enthusiasts, the craft of priests, and the tyranny of rulers; should deem religious education almost superfluous, is by no means surprising. However, such characters would slight all my admonitions, and therefore it is in vain to address them. Those, whose attention I would solicit, are decent and respectable parents, who wish to entertain those views of human nature, and of the duties of man, which the holy Scriptures exhibit. That such persons should venture to hope that their children will perform, in subsequent life, the duties they owe to God and their fellow-creatures, when little care has been taken to prepare them for this great work, is perfectly astonishing. Do we form such absurd expectations in other things? Does any man suppose that his son will be fit for any profession, or business, without substantial and persevering instruction? Does he venture to send him out into the world as a lawyer, a surgeon, or a tradesman, without a long preparation, expressly calculated to qualify

him for the line of life to which he is destined? And yet how many fathers expect their children to maintain the character of Christians, with very little appropriate education to lead them to conquer, through divine grace, their natural alienation from God, and to become new creatures under Christ their Saviour! God does not treat man in this manner, but furnishes him, in the Scriptures, with the most august and persuasive teachers, and the greatest variety of instruction and exhortation, calculated to turn him from darkness to light, and to induce him to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. But man, deaf to the divine voice, which says, " Go and do thou likewise ;" and deaf also to the call even of parental affection, not seldom suffers the early years of his offspring to pass without any systematic and adequate plan of instruction and discipline, expressly calculated for the attainment of those great ends.

But let us view this subject a little more narrowly. Is a son intended for a learned profession? He is sent to school. The father is earnest that the master should ground him well in grammar, give him a taste for classical literature, and call forth his powers in composition. Afterwards, when the youth is removed to the university, a college and tutor are selected with anxious care to promote his intellectual improvement. An earnest solicitude is felt that he should become a sound and elegant scholar; and inquiring friends are told what progress he makes in his literary pursuits.-Again: suppose that a more humble walk in life is chosen by the parent,

and that his boy is to be a tradesman: with what care does he select a master who perfectly understands his business, and will be likely to make the boy thoroughly ac. quainted with it. And as the years of apprenticeship draw towards their close, he is solicitous that his son should be instructed in all the higher parts of the trade, that he may be in no respect deficient, when he becomes his own master, and is to establish himself in life. Let any one who allows these to be just pictures of parental care in providing for the worldly interests of children, say how seldom their spiritual interests are the object of equal solicitude. Are masters chosen with the same care for the promotion of these interests ? In fixing on schools and colleges for boys destined to the higher professions, and on masters and counting-houses for those who are to move in a more humble line, is it a matter of prime consideration to select those which are known to be favourable to true religion? During education, is the progress of the boy in religion watched with unremitting solicitude, and promoted by all those measures which solicitude suggests? Are pains anxiously taken to remove all the obstacles in the way? And finally, is the boy himself removed (when that is possible) to a more favourable situation, if those obstacles are such as essentially to counteract his advancement in religious attainments? In most cases, I fear, even where better things might be hoped, these questions must be answered in the negative. The efforts made in favour of the religious iinprovement of youth are partial and unsystematic, and

generally cold and languid. But, even when accompanied by a considerable degree of earnestness, they very seldom evince a care and thought, at all proportioned to the greatness of the object. An attention to the externals of religion is enforced, and glaring sins are forbidden and punished; and perhaps also the leading principles of the gospel are occasionally inculcated ;—but are the temper, the taste and the habits narrowly watched? Is evil counteracted, not only in its commencement, but even before it appears, by guarding against dispositions and practices, which, though not wrong in themselves, are dangerous from their natural alliance with those which are so? Are the dawnings of good early descried and carefully cherished? Above all, is the youthful mind continually taught to raise itself to the only source of safety and strength; to be diligent in self-examination, penitence, prayer, and praise ? I fear it can seldom be said that a plan of this kind is followed earnestly, assiduously, and, with due allowance for casual interruptions, daily from youth to manhood? And yet earnestly, assiduously, and daily, is the child taught his reading and spelling; the schoolboy his grammar and classics; the academician his Euclid, Locke, and Newton; and the clerk or apprentice his master's business. Can we consult our experience on these points without exclaiming-What prudent care in human things! What negligence in divine! The result of such negligence may easily be anticipated, and is lamentably apparent in the character and habits of our young men.

« PreviousContinue »