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mote, in the highest degree, the prosperity and happiness of the people, I would answer, not mothers only, but teachers, well qualified and faithful teachers of youth, dispersed through the land, and liberally and honorably sustained in their office. Sure I am that it will never be well with our country till this most important desideratum is realized; and whoever contributes, even in the humblest measure, to the attainment of so great a result, deserves to be honored as a friend of his country, and a benefactor of his race. I would willingly cast my mite into the common treasury of influences, designed to bring about this most needed consummation; and I know not how I can better do this, on the present occasion, than by inviting the attention of my audience to some considerations, designed to illustrate the dignity of the teacher's office. This subject seems to me as appropriate as any other I could select, viewed as introductory to the exercises, which are to follow in the succeeding sessions of the American Institute of Instruction at this its annual meeting ; and though I may fail to add anything to what is already known, in regard to the details of teaching, it will, I hope, prove a useful service to magnify the office of teaching,— to hold it up in its true dignity and honorable
To the various useful occupations of life, we attach different degrees of honor and respect. He who cultivates the soil, and thus contributes to the means of human subsistence; he who devotes himself to the mechanic arts, or to manufactures and trade, and thus
multiplies our comforts and our luxuries; he who engages in the medical profession, and exerts his skill to heal our diseases; he who at the bar pleads the cause of the innocent, and vindicates the rights of the injured ; and he who devotes himself to the affairs of state, and aids in making and administering the laws of his country,— each and all of these are usefully and honorably employed, and in the discharge of their respective duties deserve well of the community. But he who devotes himself to the instruction of our youth, to the training of intelligent, immortal minds, is occupied in a business, which entitles him, I must think, to a distinguished place of honor and esteem among those to whose callings I have thus respectfully referred. One fact may suffice to show this. The oflice of the teacher is primary and essential, as a means of qualifying the several classes of persons referred to, and all others, to prosecute, with usefulness and success, their respective occupations. Exclude the teacher from our land, demolish our school-houses, our academies, our colleges, and leave our youth to grow up without instruction, and where would be your agriculture, your mechanic arts, your trade and commerce, and men to fill the different learned professions, and to make and administer your laws? They could no where be found, and society would sink back into a state of ignorance and barbarism. But this is a general view. We must descend to particulars.
Consider then, in the first place, the nature of the subject on which the teacher operates. This is not
matter, but mind, voluntary, intelligent mind; made in the image of God, capable of vast improvement, and destined to exist forever. Matter, whatever impressions we may make upon it, or into whatever forms we may mould it, or structures rear from it, is destined, after a few brief years, to decay and fall back into its original elements. Upon the material substance of the earth, we can make no permanent, enduring impression. Our proudest works are of a transient character. Time wears them away, and all that is of the earth is one day to perish. It is not so with mind, the material on which the teacher exerts his formative power. That is immortal ; the impressions made upon it are imperishable, and the character to which it is here trained is lasting as its being, and is to decide, eternally, its condition in that unknown hereafter to which it is destined, Such a mind dwells in the bosom of every human being, however rugged in exterior, or degraded in condition. In the little infant, lying in its mother's arms, or slumbering in the cradle, you behold an embryo angel. A spark of celestial origin has been kindled in its unconscious bosom, which is to glow forever; a mind is there, made for high and noble ends, and which is to outlive time and all its changes.
Now the office of the teacher is to take mind, in its youthful, tender and most susceptible age,
Tremblingly alive all o'er,
To each fine impulse ; and form it for the great purposes for which the Cre
ator brought it into existence. Truly this is a sublime and most dignified work, if aught beneath the sun' is worthy of this character. To train the body to vigor and robustness, to give beauty and strength to its form, and health and efficiency to its various functions, is justly regarded as an important and difficult work,- and this too is a part of the teacher's work, which he is by no means to overlook or neglect; - but how far does it sink below that other part of his work, which has to do with the mind, with intelligent, deathless, endlessly progressive mind ?
We may notice next the design of the teacher's office, the end at which it aims. It is a poor, unworthy conception of this office, to regard it, as many seem to do, as chiefly intended to teach the young how to read, write and cypher; or to qualify them merely for the ordinary pursuits of life, and thus enable them to pass, a little more respectably and comfortably, through the brief span of being allotted them on earth, O no; the teacher's office rises infinitely higher than this. Its great design is to evolve, invigorate and mature the faculties of the soul; “to unfold the power of thought — thought, which propagates itself forever; to discipline the will, the central principle of character, of all finite power, great or good. It is to nurse and mature the social and moral sensibilities of a spiritual and accountable being;” to bring the lower appetites, propensities, and sentiments under the control of cultivated reason and enlightened conscience; to inspire in the bosom the
love of truth, of virtue and excellence; in a word, to take the young immortal by the hand and train him up for time and eternity, for duty and for God; to realize in his person and character, Milton's admirable definition of a complete and generous education, " that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, in peace and war;” or we may add, all the offices which he owes to himself, to his fellow-men, and to his Maker. What object of enterprise more dignified and excellent than this? I speak of the office of teaching, not as it is often, and, perhaps, generally regarded, as involving a dull, uninteresting task, of little efficiency, fit to be committed to any hands, and to be gone through, with no hope of great results, but only for the little pittance of pecuniary compensation it may afford. Such a view of the teacher's calling, though a common one, is exceedingly low and degrading. I speak of that calling in its true and proper character as adapted and intended to educate and train up young and growing minds for the duties of life, and the scenes of eternity; and viewed in this light, is it not a calling at once “ beautiful and sublime,” even "worth ambition?" How little can the ordinary pursuits of life bear comparison with it? The man of business plans and toils that he may accumulate wealth, and provide for himself and his family what he deems a more comfortable or a more honorable mode of subsistence. The artist studies and labors year after year, that he may impress on canvas, or sculpture from the marble some