Page images
PDF
EPUB

under cover of perversions and suppressions of avowed beliefs, of misconstructions of declared sentiments and imputations of directly disclaimed conclusions, such as recent publications from this prolific source have given us, we shall soon have the hypochondriac's fantasy realized, who imagined that his head had been taken off, and reset on his shoulders facing backwards. We decline this very delicate operation for ourselves, being satisfied with our present outlook. We intend to protest against it for those who are not here to do it for themselves. Why are not the representatives of the Westminster divines entitled to the same liberty of self-interpretation as the Franklin disputant ? Pages of this volume are taken up in exonerating him from the charges of fatalistic and Antinomian heresies by arraying quotations from other of his writings which go as far the opposite way. Thus, by a sort of theological chemistry, the oxygen and acid are thrown into a neutral salt which, under the present manipulation, is in some danger of losing its savor. Suppose such authors as Owen, and Griffin, and Woods, might be suffered to explain themselves with the same fulness, and that a fair compendium of what they really taught could thus be put into the hands of our readers of divinity as an exposition of genuine Old School doctrine ? One thing is pretty certain that the Neo-Calvinists among us, who are levying such mighty war in Introductions and Quarterlies and Treatises for a faith which shall give Reason its proper place, would be compelled to admit that this has long ago been done much more scripturally than they are likely to do it, and that, like the valiant Moor's, this particular occupation" of theirs would be “ gone."

This volume suggests more queries than we have space or power to satisfy. Is it, for instance, to be taken as a virtual installation of the Franklin divinity, with eclectic variations, upon “

the “ Abbot Foundation ?We have heard this conviction expressed, with some surprise, by friends of the biographer. But then, again, are not the “ variations” so serious as to quite adulterate the genuineness of the product? We fancy the “ dozen or so " original Emmonites yet surviving would hardly taste the pure flavor of their vintage in this compound. We have a considerably clear idea of what the Franklin doctor held as Christian doctrine. He never used words to conceal his thought. We devoutly wish that all his professed admirers would as fearlessly lift the veil.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

BROUGHAM once said that it was his confirmed belief that mankind had learned half they ever knew before they were seven years old. The school-room is entered at the age of four or five, and left at the age of fifteen or sixteen. A considerable portion of both halves of the knowledge to which the statesman refers must be secured after the school-days have begun, and before they are ended. This makes the question concerning an appropriate school-culture very important. That culture must principally relate to what are commonly called the intellectual powers. For the school-room is not directly meant to make stout men and women, or whole-souled and consistent Christians. Its chief design is to make scholars. So that legislators, boards of education, school committees, and teachers deserve to be impeached if they do not guard the school-room against everything which prevents the right opening and happy maturing of the intellect, with as much care and zeal as the mariner protects his compass against substances which shall keep it from guiding him to safe seas and desirable havens.

How shall these intellectual powers be drawn forth and exercised ? Some have given the lead to a mental faculty which more properly follows, and acts upon the materials its forerunner has gathered. This is to violate nature instead of copying it. The culture of the school-room will be right, when the powers of the mind are passing to their maturity in the order which nature designs; just as the culture of the farm will be right, when the preparation of the seed, deep ploughing, thorough

!

harrowing, and careful drilling have the relation to each other, that a wise experience dictates.

There is what may be called the period of the memory in human life, that is to say, a time when the culture of the memory is the easiest. This period comes early, covers a large portion of school-life, and precedes the age of judgment. It is the season in which the materials for the future action of the judgment are to be gathered. If we should attempt to mature this before we have ripened the memory, we are running as much in advance of nature as the so-called philosophers, who declared the laws of the physical system before they had noticed the facts from which these laws were to be generalized. A metaphysician of considerable distinction has said, “We cannot form abstract notions independently of the aid of the memory; we can neither exercise the power of reasoning nor of imagination without it.” It follows, that when the memory is well developed, the chances for the proper and large growth of the reason become more sure. So that it is doubtless safe to say, that in many cases the judgment may lie comparatively unexercised, and yet a school-room culture be right. There is a suitableness to the structure of the human mind in the phrase — "getting the lesson by heart.” It may be labor. This labor may be the best medium through which we shall reach the result which Scripture intended, when it said, “ It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Old Candace said that “she felt it in her bones,” when anything had become a real fact in God's government, instead of a reverie of the fancy. So must the child feel it through his bones, if he is ever to grasp the great ideas of intelligence, in distinction from merely dreaming about things. There is no wing of a seraph to bear him along. The pilgrims who took an accommodation line of coaches to the celestial city, always were set down close to the dangerous rapids. But those who took the “Bunyan route,” who met the difficulties and overcame them, came out farther up the stream, where there was a beautiful and safe crossing.

Religion and the highest literature are alike in this, that the violent take them by force. There are certain books widely circulated, that have been called “ Improving Books.” They may be improving” in this, that they repeat in a simple way

[ocr errors]

what most persons knew before. But a generation that is to push itself out into the wide realm of knowledge, that is to advance itself and advance the race, needs more "improving books" than these simplified manuals. The law of improvement is but another name for the law of labor. Drill is no more necessary for the soldier than the scholar. The simplification necessary is that which makes the progress gradual and sure, so that the child shall not overleap any of the rounds of the ladder ; but never that miserable help which brings the rounds so near that it is not needful for him to climb. Pressing through difficulties which must crush or be crushed, prepares for an easy and triumphant course of strong thought and action, as going through systematically arranged discords brings us to the sweetest and highest harmonies. There is a heroism of the school-room as

well as of the battle-field. There may be benefit in the reception and retention of things, the reason of which we are not competent to see. Augustine used to say that he “believed in order to know.” And when he had fastened upon certain points of faith, whose metes and bounds he could not accurately define, then he careered away into those luminous ranges of truth which his strengthened eye could survey. This Augustinian maxim seems to be adopted by Sir William Hamilton, and is the leading line to that pyramidal system of thought which rises above the desert a German rationalism was making, and draws attention to itself as the intellectual wonder of the age. In this period of memory, many a thing is stored away which might be marked with this Augustinian and Hamiltonian label, and which leads to a large knowledge of other things, and finally to a knowledge that is very clear of itself. To neglect this period is to reduce greatly the chances of an accurate scholarship. The good scholar comes not often from those who begin to study late in life. The reason is not that he has not sufficient time, but that he has passed through what we have called the period of the memory without laying the foundations that belong peculiarly to it. The good scholar is not often from those who have squandered this season in forcing the judgment, or brightening that imagination which Stillingfleet calls “a shop of shadows.” For he is putting the last first and the first last, which God may do, who is able to bring something out of nothing ; but which none of his creatures must attempt who hope for a finished intellectual culture.

Johnson used to say of Garrick, “ Davy always makes his Latin from the meaning, and not his meaning from the Latin." He was just such a scholar as the play-reader of early life would be likely to be. The proper teacher for the school-room is one who gets his meaning from his books, and is not content with fastening a sense of his own upon them. He is the servant of his text-books, because they are so much better authority than he ever could be, when left to his own notions. He uses the key that opens

their treasures. He pours forth the fire from his own soul to give to their clouds the silver lining. He freights the memory with golden stores, while others, who dimninish the value of this noble faculty, care only to see it laden with cheap wares. He is the helper through the “Sloughs of Despond ” which lay along the early path of the pilgrim scholar. He is to watch carefully the period of the memory, and make it a working one, that the pupil may naturally and easily advance to the period of judgment which often begins to act spontaneously. It is said that Rufus Choate, no matter how pressing his business, used to commit, even to his latest day, some choice literary lines. He could never have done this had he not employed earlier life in making his mind the retentive storehouse of such precious things. The astonishing power of Edward Everett over his audiences is traceable to the school-rooms of Dorchester, where he was engaged, not so much upon comparative philology, as upon words themselves; where he acquired such an accuracy of memory that it is to him like the “charity which never faileth ; " where the exactness of translation fitted him, in these late periods, to translate the life which Americans so greatly value into those glowing words, in which it shines and burns and captivates even more than upon the field of contest, in the halls of a Continental Congress, or upon the slopes of Mount Vernon. He left the University unusually young; but so systematic was his scholarship, while there, that he could repeat pages of Locke at any time. He is an admirable representative of that eminent scholarship to which the appropriate discipline we have spoken of leads. The celebrated Richard Bentley was the pride of England's erudition. In the branches

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »