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other heroic poetry does not so mislead, for the metaphor is understood to be a metaphor, and the imagery is understood to be ornamental. The style of the Scriptures of the Old Testament is not, it is true, plain in opposition to figurative, nor simple in opposition to florid; but it is plain and simple in the best sense ; it raises no false idea ; it gives an exact impression of the thing it means to convey ; and its very tropes and figures, though bold, are never unnatural or affected. Even when it exaggerates, it does not misrepresent; if it be hyperbolical, it is so either in compliance with the genius of Oriental language, or in compliance with contemporary customs, or because the subject is one which will be most forcibly impressed by a bold figure. The loftiness of the expression deducts nothing from the truth of the circumstance, and the imagery animates the reader without misleading him.
Ox Religion—The necessity and duty of early instruction shewn by analogy with human learning.
IT has been the fashion of our late innovators in philosophy, who have written some of the most brilliant and popular treatises on education, to decry the practice of early instilling religious knowledge into the minds of children : it has been alledged that it is of the utmost importance to the cause of truth, that the mind of man should be kept free from prepossessions; and in particular, that every one should be left to form such judgment on religious subjects as may seem best to his own reason in maturer years. This sentiment has received some countenance from those who have wished, on the fairest principle, to encourage free inquiry in religion; but it has been pushed to the blameable excess here censured, chiefly by the new philosophers; who, while they profess only an ingenuous zeal for truth, are in fact slily endeavouring to destroy Christianity itself, by discountenancing, under the
plausible pretence of free inquiry, all attention whatever to the religious education of our youth. It is undoubtedly our duty, while we are instilling principles into the tender mind, to take peculiar care that those principles be sound and just ; that the religion we teach be the religion of the Bible, and not the inventions of human error or superstition: that the principles we .infuse into others, be such as we ourselves have well scrutinized, and not the result of our credulity or bigotry; nor the mere hereditary, unexamined prejudices of our own undiscerning childhood. It may also be grant-ed, that it is the duty of every parent to inform the youth, that when his faculties shall have so unfolded themselves as to enable him to examine for himself those principles which the parent is now instilling, it will be his duty so to examine them. But after making these concessions, I would most seriously insist that there are certain leading and fundamental truths; that there are certain sentiments on the side of Christianity, as well as of virtue and benevolence, in favour of which every child ought to be prepossessed ; and may it not be also added, that to cxpect to keep the mind void of all prepossession, even upon any subject, appears to be altogether a vain and impracticable attempt an attempt which argues much ignorance of huIman nature. I.et it be observed here that we are not combating the infidel; that we are not producing evidences and arguments in favour of Christianity, or trying to win over the assent of the reader to that which he disputes; but that we are taking it for granted, not only that Christianity is true, but that we are addressing those who believe it to be true. Assuming, therefore, that there are religious principles which are true, and which ought to be communicated in the most effectual manner, the next question which arises seems to be, at what age and in what manner these ought to be inculcated : That it ought to be at an early period we have both the czample and the command of Christ; for he himself attended his parents, in their annual public devotions at Jerusalem during his own infancy; and afterwards in his public ministrations | 2
encouragingly said, “Suffer little children to come unto me.” But here conceding, for the sake of argument, what yet cannot be conceded, that some good reasons may be brought in favour of delay; allowing that such impressions as are communicated early may not be very deep; allowing them even to become totally effaced by the subsequent corruptions of the heart and of the world; still I would illustrate the importance of early infusing religious knowledge, by an allusion drawn from the power of early habit in human learning. Put the case, for instance, of a person who was betimes initiated in the rudiments of classical studies. Suppose him after quitting school to have fallen, either by a course of idleness or of vulgar pursuits, into a total neglect of study. Should this person at any future period happen to be called to some profession, which would oblige him, as we say, to rub up his Greek and Latin ; his memory still retaining the unobliterated though faint traces of his early pursuits, he will be able to recover his neglected learning with less difficulty than he could now begin to learn; for he is not again obliged to set out with studying the simple elements; they come back on being pursued; they are found on being searched for ; the decayed images assume shape, and strength, and colour; he has in his mind first principles to which to recur; the rules of grammar which he has
allowed himself to violate, he has not however forgotten ;
he will recall neglected ideas, he will resume slighted habits far more easily than he could now begin to acquire new ones. I appeal to Clergymen who are called to attend the dying beds of such as have been bred in gross and stupid ignorance of religion, for the justness of this comparison. Do they not find that these unhappy people have no ideas in common with them : that they possess no intelligible medium by which to make themselves understood that the persons to whom they are addressing themselves have no first principles to which they can be referred 2 that they are ignorant not only of the science, but the language of Christianity ? But at worst, whatever be the event to the child, though in general we are encouraged, from the tenor of Scripture and the course of experience, to hope that that event would be favourable, is it nothing for the parent to have acquitted himself of his prime duty : And will not the parent who so acquits himself, with better reason and more lively hope, supplicate the Father of mercies for the reclaiming of a prodigal, who has wandered out of that right path in which he had set him forward, than for the conversion of a neglected creature, to whose feet the Gospel had never been offered as a light And how different will be the dying reflections even of that parent whose earnest endeavours have been unhappily defeated by the subsequent and voluntary perversion of his child, from his who will reasonably aggravate his pangs by transferring the sins of his neglected child to the number of his own transgressions. And to such well-intentioned but ill-judging parents as really wish their children to be hereafter pious, but erroneously withhold instruction till the more advanced period prescribed by the great master of splendid paradoxes” shall arrive; who can assure them that while they are withholding the good seed, the great and ever vigilant enemy, who assiduously seizes hold on every opportunity which we neglect, may not be stocking the fallow ground with tares : Nay, who in this fluctuating scene of things can be assured, even if this were not certainly to be the case, that to them the promised period ever shall arrive at all 2 Who shall ascertain to them that their now neglected child shall certainly live to receive the delayed instruction ? Who can assure them that they themselves will live to communicate it 2 - * It is almost needless to observe that parents who are indifferent about religion, much more those who treat it with scorn, are not likely to be anxious on this subject; it is therefore the attention of religious parents which is here chiefly called upon; and the more so, as there seems, on this point, an unaccountable negligence in many of these, whether it arise from indolence, false principles, or whatever other motive. But independent of knowledge, it is something, nay, let philosophers say what they will, it is much, to give - * Rousseau.
youth firehossessions in favour of religion, to secure their firejudices on its side before you turn them adrift into the world; a world in which, before they can be completely armed with arguments and reasons, they will be assailed by numbers whose prepossessions and prejudices, far more than their arguments and reasons, attach them to the other side. Why should not the Christian youth furnish himself in a good cause with the same natural armour which the enemies of religion wear in a bad one : It is certain that to set out with sentiments in favour of the religion of our country is no more an error or a weakness, than to grow up with a fondness for our country itself. Nay, if the love of our country be judged a fair principle, surely a Christian, who is “a citizen of no mean city,” may lawfully have his attachments too. If patriotism be an honest prejudice, Christianity is not a servile one. Nay, let us teach the youth to hug his prejudices rather than to acquire that versatile and accommodating citizenship of the world, by which he may be an infidel in Paris, a Papist at Rome, and a Mussulman at Cairo. Let me not be supposed so to elevate politics, or so to depress religion, as to make any comparison of the value of the one with the other, when I observe, that between the true British patriot and the true Christian, there will be this common resemblance : the more deeply each of them inquires, the more will he be confirmed in his respective attachment, the one to his country, the other to his religion. I speak with reverence of the immeasurable distance ; but the more the one presses on the firm arch of our constitution, and the other on that of Christianity, the stronger he will find them both. Each challenges scrutiny ; each has nothing to dread but from shallow politicians, and shallow philosophers; in eachintimate knowledge justifies prepossession; in each investigation confirms attachment If we divide the human being into three component parts, the bodily, the intellectual, and the spiritual, is it not reasonable that a portion of care and attention be assigned to each in some degree adequate to its importance? Should I venture to say a due portion, a portion adapted