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hereafter with the wretched sacrifice of decayed appe. tites and the worthless leavings of almost extinguished affections.
For one cannot believe that there is scarcely any one, except he be a decided infidel, who does not consider religion as at least a good reversionary thing; as an object which ought always to occupy a little remote corner of his map of life; the study of which, though it is always to be postponed, is however not to be finally rejected ; which, though it cannot conveniently come in, to his present scheme of life, it is intended somehow or other to take up before death. This awful deception arises, partly from the bulk which the objects of time and sepse acquire in our eyes by their nearness ; while the invisible realities of eternity are but faintly discerned by a feeble faith, through a dim and distant medium; and partly from a totally false idea of the nature of Christianity, from a fatal fancy that we can repent at any future period, and that as amendment will always be in our own power, it will be time enough to think of reforming our life, when we should only think of closing it.
But depend upon it, that a heart long hardened, I do not mean by gross vices merely, but by a fondness for the world, by an habitual and excessive indulgence in the pleasures of sense, is by no means in a favourable state to admit the light of divine truth, or to receive the impressions of divine grace. God indeed sometimes shows us by an act of his sovereignty, that this won. derful change, the conversion of a sinner's heart, may be produced without the intervention of human means, to show that the work is his. But as this is not the way in which the Almighty usually deals with his crea. tures, it would be nearly as preposterous for men to act on this presumption, as it would be to take no means for the preservation of our lives, because Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.
On the manner of instructing young persons in Relig
ion. General remarks on the genius of Christianity.
ULD 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 ?" Let the best part of the day, which with most people is the earliest part, be steadily and ina variably dedicated to this work by your children, before they are tired with their other studies, while the intellect is clear, the spirits light, and the attention unfatigued.
Confine not your instructions to mere 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 supremely consecrated to that subject · which is most worthy of their full exercise ? The mis. fortune 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 surrounding 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. 6. For the doc. * trines of the Bible," as the profound and enlightened Bacon observes, "are not proposed to us in a naked log"ical 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 uplettered 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, scholastie disquisitions. Now those audience's 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 pre. serve him from an insipid and freezing mode of instruc. tion. He will moreover, like his great Master, always carefully keep up a quick sense of the personal interest the pupil has in every religious instruction which is im. pressed upon him. He will teach as Paul prayéd, so with the spirit, and with the understanding also ;" and in imitating this great model he will necessarily avoid the opposite faults of two different sort of in. structors : 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 puz. zles and bewilders the youthful understanding. In all Deedful and indispensable points of knowledge the dark. ness of Scripture, as a great Christian philosopher* has observed, “ is but a partial darkness, like that of “ Egypt, which benighted only the enemies of God, 66 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 cal. culated for the youthful and uninformed as for any other class; and as it was never expected that the great. er 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 of assent 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 poet, historian, or orator does not,) the teacher may address to him the words which Christ addressed to Peter, “What I do, thou Cknowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”
* 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 ad. dressed, 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 ted to rejoice at the countenance given by such high authority to the revival of excellent, but too much neglected, practice of lectures.
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 lit. tle 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 emancipa. tion 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 specific 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 ;
* Mr. Boyle.