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is the example held out to us for correcting the exu. berances of passion and of language, by that divine vol. ume which furnishes us with the still more important rule of faith and standard of practice. Nor is the truth lowered by any feebleness; for with all this plainness there is so much force that a few simple touches and artless strokes of Scripture characters convey a stronger outline of the person delineated, than is sometimes given by the most elaborate portrait of more artificial historians.
If it be objected to this remark, that many parts of the sacred writings abound in a lofty, figurative, and even hyperbolical style ; this objection applies chiefly to the writings of the Old Testament, and to the prophetical and poetical parts of that. But this metaphorical and florid style is distinct from the inaccurate and over. } strained expression we have been censuring; for that only is inaccuracy which leads to a false and inadequate conception in the reader or hearer. The lofty style of: the Eastern, and of other heroic poetry does not su mis. lead, for the metaphor is understood to be a metaphor, and the imaginary 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 impresa ; sion of the thing it means to convey; and its very tropes and figures, though bold, are never unnatural or affect. ed. Even when it exaggerates, it does not misrepre. sent; 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.
On Religion. The necessity and duty of early instruc
tion 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 partic. ular, 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 en. courage free inquiry in religion ; but it has been pushed to the blamable excess here censured, chiefly by the new philosophers ; who, while they profess only an in. genuous 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 prin-, ciples we infuse into others, be such as we ourselves have well scrutinized, and not the result of our creduli. ty or bigotry; nor the mere hereditary, unexamined prejudices of our own undiscerning childhood. It
lf to recal more e
may also be granted, that it is the duty of every parent
le to inform the youth, that when his faculties shall have so unfolded themselves as to enable him to examine for
Sup himself those principles which the parent is now instil.
ibig ling, it will be his duty so to examine them.
But after making these concessions, I would most se riously insist that there are certain leading and funda. mental 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 expect 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 human pature.
Let it be observed here that we are not combatting 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 thèse ought to be inculcated ? That it telligi ought to be at an early period we have both the example and the command of Christ; for he himself attended his lemsel parents in their annual public devotions at Jerusalem during his own infancy; and afterwards in his public, but ministration encouragingly said, “Suffer little children, at # to come unto me."
But here conceding, for the sake of argument pure a what yet cannot be conceded, that some good rea, sons 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 and mo totally effaced by the subsequent corruptions of the heart and of the world; still I would illustrate the of that importance of early infusing religious knowledge, by an han for allusion drawn from the power of early habit in humane feet +
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 peri. od 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 bis 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 recal neglected ideas, he will resume slighted habits far more easily than he could now begin to acquire new
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 com. parison. Do they not find that these unhappy people bare no ideas in common with them ? that they possess no intelligible medium by which to make themselves anderstood ? that the persons to whom they are address. ing themselves iiave no first principles to which they can be referred ? that they are ignorant not only of the science, but the language of Christianity ? But at worst, whatever be the event to the child, hough in general we are encouraged, from the tenor
Scripture and the course of experience, to hope that dat event would be favourable, is it nothing for the pa. int to have acquitted himself of his prime duty ? And till not the parent who so acquits himself, with better tason and more lively hope, supplicate the Father of srcies for the reclaiming of a prodigal, who has wand. Mont of that right path in which he had set him for. ard, than for the conversion of a neglected creature, 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 endeavonrs 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 para. doxes* shall arrive; who can assure them that while they are with holding the good seed, the great and ever vigilant enemy, who assidulously 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 cer. tainly to be the case, that to them the promised peri: od ever shall arrive at all? Who shall ascertain to them that their now beglected child shall certainly live to reš ceive the delayed instruction ? Who can assure themi that they themselves will live to communicate it ?
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 youth prepossessions in favour of religion, to secure their prejudices on its side before you turn them adrift into the world ; a world in which, before they can be com. pletely armed with arguments and reasons, they will be assailed by numbers whose prepossessions and prejudic. es, far more than their arguments and reasons, attach them to the other side.