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On the manner of instructing young persons in Religion. General remarks on the genius of Christianity.

o I would now with great deference address those respectable characters who are really concerned about the best interests of their children ; those to whom Christianity is indeed an important consideration, . but whose habits of life have hindered them from giving it its due degree in the scale of education. Begin then with considering that religion is a part, and the most prominent part, in your system of instruction. Do not communicate its principles in a random, desultory way; nor scantily stint this business to only such scraps and remnants of time as may be casually picked up from the gleanings of other acquirements. “Will you bring to God for a sacrifice that which costs you nothing f" Let the best part of the day, which with most people is the earliest part, be steadily and invariably dedicated to this work by your children, before they are tired with their other studies, while the intellectis clear, the spirits light, and the attention unfatigued. Confine not your instructions to merc verbal rituals and dry systems; but instruct them in a way which shall interest their feelings; by lively images, and by a warm practical application of what they read to their own hearts and circumstances. There seems to be no good reason that while every other thing is to be made amusing, religion alone must be dry and uninviting. Do not fancy that a thing is good merely because it is dull. Why should not the most entertaining powers of the mind be oupremely consecrated to that subject which is most worthy of their full exercise : The misfortune is, that religious learning is too often rather considered as an act of the memory than of the heart and feelings; and that children are turned over to the dry work of getting by rote as a task that which they should get from example and animated conversation. Teach them rather, as their blessed Saviour taught, by interesting parables, which while they corrected the heart, left some exercise for the ingenuity in their solution, and for the feelings in their

application. Teach, as HE taught, by seizing on stirrounding objects, passing events, local circumstances, peculiar characters, apt allusions, just analogy, appropriate illustration. Call in all creation, animate and inanimate, to your aid, and accustom your young audience to

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

Do, according to your measure of ability, what the Holy Spirit which indited the Scriptures has done, always take the sensibility of the learner into your account of the faculties which are to be worked upon. “ For the doctrines of the Bible,” as the profound and enlightened Bacon observes, “are not proposed to us in a naked logical form, but arrayed in the most beautiful and striking colours which creation affords.” By those illustrations. used by him “ who knew what was in man,” and therefore best knew how to address him, it was, that the unlettered audiences of Christ and his Apostles were enabled both to comprehend and relish doctrines, which would not readily have made their way to their understandings, had they not first touched their hearts; and which would have found access to neither the one nor the other, had they been delivered in dry, scolastic disquisitions. Now these audiences not being learned, may be supposed to have been nearly in the state of children, as to their receptive faculties, and to have required nearly the same sort of instruction; that is, they were more capable of being affected with what was simple, and touching, and lively, than what was elaborate, abstruse, and unaffecting. Heaven and earth were made to furnish their contribution, when man was to be taught that science which was to make him wise unto salvation. If that be the purest eloquence which most persuades, then no eloquence is so powerful as that of Scripture ; and an intelligent Christian teacher will be admonished by the mode of Scripture itself, how to communicate its truths with life and spirit; “ while he is musing, the fire burns;” that fire which will preserve him from an insipid and freezing mode of instruction. He will moreover, like his great Master, always carefully keep up a quick sense of the personal interest the pupil has in every religious instruetion which is impressed upon him. He will teach as Paul prayed, “with the spirit, and with the understanding also;” and in imitating this great model he will necessalily avoid the opposite faults of two different sort of instructors: for while some of our divines of the higher class have been too apt to preach as if mankind had only intellect, and the lower and more popular sort as if they had only passions, do you borrow what is good from both, and address your pupils as beings compounded of both understanding and affections.”

Fancy not that the Bible is too difficult and intricate to be presented in its own naked form, and that it puzzles and bewilders the youthful understanding. In all needful and indispensable points of knowledge the darkness of Scripture, as a great Christian philosophett has observed, “is but a partial darkness, like that of Egypt, which benighted only the enemies of God, while it left his children in clear day.” And if it be really the appropriate character of Scripture, as it tells us itself that it is, “to enlighten the eyes of the blind,” and “to make wise the simple,” then it is as well calculated for the youthful and uninformed as for any other class ; and as it was never expected that the greater part of Christians should be learned, so is learning, though of inestimable value in a teacher of theology, no essential qualification for a common Christian ; for which reason Scripture truths are expressed with that clear and simple evidence adapted to the kind ofassent which they require. He who could bring an unprejudiced heart and an unperverted will would bring to the Scriptures the best qualification for understanding and receiving them. And though they contain things which the pupil cannot comprehend, (as what ancient

* The zeal and diligence with which the Bishop of London’s weekly lectures have been attended by persons of all ranks and descriptions, but more especially by that class to whom this little work is addressed, is a very promising circumstance for the age. And while one considers with pleasure the advantages peculiarly to be derived by the young from so interesting and animated an exposition of the Gospel, one is further led to rejoice at the countenance given by such high authority to the re

* vival of that excellent, but too much neglected, practice of lectures, f Mr. Boyle.

poet, historian, or orator does not,) the teacher may address to him the words which Christ addressed to Peter, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” Young people who have been taught religion in a dry and superficial way, who have had all its drudgeries and none of its pleasures, will probably have acquired so little relish for it, as to consider the continued prosecution of their religious studies as a badge of their tutelage, as a mark that they are still under subjection; and will look forward with impatience to the hour of their emancipation from the lectures on Christianity. They will long for the period when its lessons shall cease to be delivered; will conclude that, having once attained such an age, and arrived at the required proficiency, the object will be accomplished, and the labour at an end. But let not your children “so learn Christ.” Apprize them, that no spe

-cific day will ever arrive on which they shall say, I have

attained; but inform them, that every acquisition must be followed up; knowledge must be increased ; prejudices subdued; good habits rooted ; evil ones eradicated; dispositions strengthened; principles confirmed ; till,

going on from strength to strength, they come “to the

measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” But though serious instruction will not only be uninteresting but irksome if conveyed to youth in a mere didactic way, yet if their affections are suitably engaged, their hearts, so far from necessarily revolting, as some insist they will, often receive the most solemn truths with

alacrity. It is the manner which revolts them, and not

the thing. As it is notorious that men of wit and imagination have

been the most formidable enemies to Christianity; while

men, in whom those talents have been consecrated to God, have been some of her most useful champions, take particular care to press that ardent and ever-active power, the imagination, into the service of religion; this

bright and busy faculty will be leading its possessor into

perpetual peril, and is an enemy of peculiar potency till

it come to be employed in the cause of God. It is a li

on, which though worldly prudence indeed may chain so K 2

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as to prevent outward mischief, yet the malignity remains within; but when sanctified by Christianity, the imagination is a lion tamed ; you have all the benefit of its strength and its activity, divested of its mischief. God never bestowed that noble but restless faculty, withoutintending it to be an instrument of his own glory; though it has been too often set up in rebellion against him: because, in its youthful stirrings, while all alive to evil, it has not been seized upon to fight for its rightful Sovereign, but was early enlisted with little opposition under the banners of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Religion is the only subject in which, under the guidance of an holy and sober-minded prudence, this discursive faculty can safely stretch its powers and expand its energies. But let it be remembered, that it must be a sound and genuine Christianity which can alone so chastise and regulate the imagination, as to restrain it from those errors and excesses into which a false, a mistaken, an irregular religion, has too often plunged its injudicious. and ill-instructed professor. To secure the imagination therefore on the safe side, and, if F may change the metaphor, to put it under the direction of its true pilot in the stormy voyage of life, is like engaging those potent elements, the wind and tide, in your favour. In your communications with young people, take care to convince them that as religion is not a business to be laid aside with the lesson, so neither is it a single branch. of duty; some detached thing, which like an art or a language is to be practised separately, and to have its distinct periods and modes of operation. But let them understand, that common acts, by the spirit in which they are to be performed, are to be made acts of religion that Christianity may be considered as having something of that influence over the conduct which external grace has over the manners; for as it is not the performance of some particular act which denominates any one to be graceful, grace being a spirit diffused through the whole system which animates every sentiment, and informs. every action; as she who has true personal grace has it "uniformly, and is not sometimes awkward and sometimes elegan: ; does not sometimes lay it down and sometimes

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