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In the instruction of persons whom we believe to be destined to survive the stroke of death, and to survive in happiness or in misery proportioned to the nature of their conduct in this short and preparatory scene of existence, the main object to be pursued is to inspire them with such views of things, to establish them in such principles and rules of action, as are calculated to render that future and most important state of being, a period of blessedness. Such would still have been the dictates of reason, had the result been likely to be unfavourable to happiness in the present life. How forcibly, then, do they press upon those who are convinced, as is the case with all who believe in the Christian Revelation, that “ godliness has the promise of the life s which now is, as well as of that which $ " is to come(c):" that the very fame views of things, the very fame principles and rules of action, which lead to never-ending
(c) 1 Tim. iv. 8.
felicity hereafter, promise in the common course of events a larger portion of external comforts than is attainable by any other means; and are accompanied by a serenity of heart, and by a cheerful sense of the protecting care of infinite Power, Wisdom, and Goodness, which far more than outweigh the collected amount of all other terrestrial enjoyments. The chief solicitude, therefore, of every one who is called to fulfil the duties of tuition ought to be this : to engage the understanding and the affections of the pupil in favour of piety and virtue, by unfolding the truth, the importance, and the inherent excellence of the Christian religion; and by inculcating the obligations of morality, not as ultimately resting on independent principles of their own, founded on the precepts and fanctions of the Gospel, and forming one branch of human duty to God.
Is the truth of this position universally admitted ? It is not. By some persons,
who, who, disdaining the maxims of what they style the vulgar herd of mankind, assert pretensions to superior intelligence; and by others, who, from thoughtlessness, from fashion, from humility, have acquiesced in the authority of the former ; an opinion precisely the reverse of this is maintained. We are told that the great business of Education is to guard the mind against the influence of prejudice: that of all prepoffefsions, those which respect religion are the most dangerous and the most enslaving; the most easy to be imbibed in childhood and youth; the most difficult, when once imbibed, to be shaken off in the maturity of the understanding: that religion is therefore a subject which ought never to be brought forward as a matter of instruction, but rather to be entirely kept out of sight during the course of education ; in order that the young person, when judgement shall have acquired sufficient strength, may weigh with unbiassed discernment the contending creeds, which divide the well-informed part
of inankind, and adopt that which shall be found conformable to reason and truth. Thus, it is afferted, and thus only, will belief be rational. Thus, and thus only, add fome of the patrons of this opinion, who disclose, intentionally or unintentionally, the secret sentiment as to religion which the majority of them entertain, will the world be enabled to shake off the fetters of delusion, priestcraft, and fanaticism; and children have a chance of being emancipated from the superstitions of their forefathers.
It will be proper to remove this obstacle before we attempt to proceed further.
The human mind in infancy has been compared, and in some respects justly compared, to a blank sheet of
paper. material point, however, the comparison fails. The sheet of paper, deposited on a shelf, or locked up in a drawer, continues a blank; it acquires no impression of characters until they are purposely imprinted by the hand of the writer. Is that the case with the youthful mind ? If you forbear to impress it with ideas and sentiments, can you prevent it from receiving impressions from the persons and the objects with which it is daily conversant? As well might you forbid the calm surface of the lake to reflect the woods and rocks of the impending mountains. The mind is originally an unsown field, prepared, it may be, for the reception of any crop. But if those, to whom the culture of it belongs, neglect to fill it with good grain, it will speedily and spontaneously be covered with weeds. If right principles of action are not implanted, wrong principles will sprout up; if religion be not fostered, irreligion will take root. The foil, in its natural state, favors the