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And Isaac went out to meditate in the field, at the eventide.
THE month of October assumes the soberness of Autumn.-There is an eventide in the day, an hour when the sun retires, when the shadows fall, and when nature assumes the appearance of repose and silence. This hour is favourable to reflection.-There is an eventide in the year; a season which tenderly touches the heart-a season when the sun withdraws his strongest beams, when the leaves fall, and when the harvest is gathered. It is a season for religious contemplation.-God and nature are addressing man.
I. Autumn tends to wean us from the possessions of the world. This evening of the year assures us, that the strong and rapid pulse of youthful vigour must gradually sink, and then stop forever. It tells us of the steady advance of time. A few weeks ago, the summer was glorying in its power and the sun was rejoicing in his ascendant; but, now the chill air of autumn alarms us of the approaching winter. Whatever may be the passions which society has awakened, we pause amid the hastening desolations of nature. We set down in the lodge of the way-faring man in the wilderness, and we feel that all we witness is an emblem of our own fate. We rise from our meditations with hearts softened and subdued.
II. Autumn brings a general though pleasing melancholy. It is useful, because it is not an individual remonstrance. Nature does not, like some men, insult while she instructs. Yet a few years we think, and all that now bless, or all that now convulse humanity, will also have perished. The mightiest pageantry of life will pass; the loudest notes of triumph will be silent in the grave; the wicked wherever active, will cease from troubling, and the weary, wherever suffering, will be at rest. Under impressions so profound, the hatreds and cares of life sink unperceived from our bosom. Every unkind passion falls, with the leaves which fall around us ; and we return slowly to our homes and to society, with the wish only to enlighten and to bless them.
III. Autumn enjoins trust in God. The laws of nature are God's continued agency, and their effects are the exhibitions of his providence. We are about to witness the decays of the year. Amid these impressions we need support, and there is support for us. We lift our desponding eyes, and we see above us ONE, "who is ever the same," and who, amidst all earthly vicissitudes, "has no variableness or shadow of changing." We feel that there is a God; and, from the tempestuous sea of life, we hail that pole-star of nature, to which a sacred instinct has directed our eyes, and which burns with undecaying ray to lighten us among all the darkness of the deep.
IV. Autumn illustrates the value of the promise of a resurrection. Nature yearly perishes; but is yearly renewed. The same sun which, by its receding ray, brings the autumn, will, by its growing heat, call forth the spring. Under such convictions, hope dawns upon the sadness of the heart. The melancholy of decay becomes the herald of renewal. So shall it be with the dead. We see beyond the grave, a greater spring, and with calmness we surrender ourselves to death. While the sun of mortality sinks, we hail the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and, in the hours, when all the honours of nature are perishing about us, we prostrate ourselves in deeper adoration before Him who "sitteth on its throne."
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
THE same mind, the same principles, the same conduct may be in us, which were in Christ Jesus. I have given you,' he says, ‘an example, that ye should do, as I have done to you.' Having left us an example, that we should tread in his steps, he considers us able, and he would make us willing. "He learned obedience by the things which he suffered." "He was made perfect through suffering.”— An example, to be truly such, must be level to our nature and condition. To be above or below these, destroys its applicability, and, of course, its binding power. If the Saviour was tempted differently from us, his resistance by superiour power is an impossibility with Jesus Christ has thrown over his religion the well known, complete and beautiful illustration of his own life. He possessed the same nature, and was placed in the same condition with ourselves; and his example, therefore, being human, exhibits to us the same kind of virtues, practised in the same manner, and under similar circumstances of difficulty and temptation, as belong to ourselves; and thus naturally affects our minds with a far more insinuating and engaging force, than different instances of virtue or even the same, in a different nature. In this view the example of perfect angels or even of the Deity could not be so suitable, so complete, or so encouraging to us: it could not enforce those duties, which are proper to embodied and imperfect, to guilty yet immortal creatures. In all things it behoved Christ to be made like unto his brethren. He was subject to the same infirmities and passions, to the same troubles and temptations, as well as to the same general ties of duty. His example also takes in a very great compass of virtue. It is so wonderfully ordered, as either directly to exemplify, or strikingly to enforce the duties of almost every station and relation of human life. Filial piety towards both his earthly parents and his heavenly Father shone in his early and private life. He condescended to teach us contentment and industry in our various secular callings, however mean and laborious, by following the mechanical employment of his reputed father. By submitting to a poor, dependent, and suffering mode of life, and ever feeling and behaving suitably to it, he has rendered his example exceedingly precious and useful to the bulk of mankind, whom Providence places in a humble or trying condition. By his gentle, discreet, yet authoritative government of his own family of disciples, by carrying the same wisdom and authority into all his public ministrations, and thus holding both the people and their rulers in awe, he gave instructive hints of the true spirit and model of government in domestic, civil, and sacred departments. Though he could not literally exemplify the conjugal and parental duties, because he never sustained these relations; yet he is really our example here to the greatest advantage, on account of that spiritual relation to the church, which he fills with corresponding affections and acts. In a word, his conversation was so free, so open, and affable; it preserved such a happy medium between affected singularity and unlimited compliance, between rigorous austerity and unbecoming levity, as rendered it at once the most endearing, and admirably fitted it for general imitation.--If we are prosperous, let us remember Christ used the world without abusing it--if afflicted, let us remember he went up to his Father's throne by the steps of suffering.
RELIGION THE FIRST OBJECT IN EDUCATION.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
THE general object of education is evidently to qualify men to appear to advantage in future life, which can only be done by communicating to them such knowledge, and leading them to form such habits, as will be most useful to them hereafter and in this, the whole of their future being, to which their education can be supposed to bear any relation, is to be considered. If I was a parent and knew that my child would die when he had attained to the age of five or six years, and that his existence would then terminate, I should certainly make no provision respecting him for any thing beyond that term, but endeavour to make him as happy as I could during the short period in which he could enjoy any thing. I would, for the same reason, provide for him only such gratifications as his infant nature was capable of relishing.
Again, if I knew that he would attain to the age of manhood, but that then his existence would not be prolonged any farther, I should endeavour, as well as I could, to qualify him for acting such a part as would be useful to himself and others in that period, but should never think of extending my plan so far as to enable him to pass a happy old age, a term of life to which I knew he would never arrive.
For the same plain reason, a man who believes that the whole period of his existence, and that of his offspring, is confined to the present life, would act very absurdly if he should train up his children with a view to a future life, except so far as he should think that such a further, though chimerical object, might be subservient to his proper conduct in the present life.
These are obvious considerations, which ought to have their weight with all rational beings; and according to them, the mere man of the world must allow, that a christian, who, as such, believes that himself and offspring are destined to exist in a future life, and that the principles and habits that we form here have a decisive influence on our happiness hereafter, would act irrationally, if he did not use his utmost endeavours to give his children such principles and habits, as would secure to them an interest in a future world.
Moreover, since a christian regards this life, principally, as it is subservient to another, which is of infinitely more value, he must consider the duties of religion as the first thing to be attended to by him, and must be taught to disregard all authority that would enjoin upon him a conduct which would be detrimental to his greatest and ultimate interest; because he will gain more by his steadiness in his regard to a higher authority, than he can lose by opposing an inferiour power.
The first thing, therefore, that a christian will naturally inculcate upon his child, as soon as he is capable of receiving such impressions, is the knowledge of his Maker, and a steady principle of obedience to him; the idea of his living under the constant inspection and government of an invisible being, who will raise him from the dead to an immortal life, and who will reward and punish him hereafter according to his character and actions here.
On these plain principles I hesitate not to assert, as a christian, that religion is the rational object of education. Whatever might be the fate of my children here, I would, if possible, secure a happy meeting with them hereafter.
RIDICULE DANGEROUS IN EDUCATION.
Let your communication be yea yea, nay nay.
WE must endeavour to adapt our means of moral culture to the general character of the mind, whether arising from physical temperament, or from the actual progress made in the acquisition and cultivation of the different moral dispositions and habits. But this is extremely difficult, and we cannot be too cautious in the employment of temporary means of moral culture. Children early learn to ridicule each other? How this habit is to be guarded and subdued, is an important question. To employ it in education, is to play with edge tools; and to consider it as not deeply affecting children, is to overlook a common fact. But when, through necessity, we feel it expedient to employ, in the way of motive, those dispositions and habits which eventually must be modified or greatly restrained, we must be careful that we do not give them power in the mind, to the permanent injury of the moral character, and of the individual's happiness.
We are strongly impressed with the importance of this last remark, in connection with the sense of ridicule, which so often furnishes to the thoughtless and dissipated, the means of confounding moral distinctions, of weakening the influence of parental authority, of rendering the peculiarities of religious profession irksome if not absolutely painful, and by degrees destroying the impression and perhaps the belief of the grand principles of religion, which had been early instilled, and long cultivated and even judiciously cultivated, and employed as the motives of action. That the mind will be exposed to such influence in intercourse with the world, should induce us to avoid, in the early periods of education, communicating principles of morals and religion, the grounds of which do not appear to ourselves fully satisfactory, and forming unnecessary connections of those we do communicate, with peculiarities in manners, dress, &c.; it should induce us, as the progress of the mind will permit, to show the reasonableness and foundation of those principles, and while we point out their importance and mutual relations, to confine the fundamental principles of belief and practice, within as narrow limits as possible, and to make our conclusions from them appear as inferences, the incorrectness of which will not affect the truth of those fundamental principles; in short, to cultivate the understanding while we are cultivating the affections, to habituate to discrimination and to sound reasoning, and to give habitual influence to higher motives of action but at the same time it powerfully urges us to avoid giving undue strength to the sense of ridicule, by employing it frequently and unnecessarily as a motive; by making it much felt, and consequently much feared; by connecting it with serious expressions of displeasure; to cultivate that firmness of mind, which, if it do not directly lessen the dread of it, will do so, indirectly, by lessening its influence as a motive; to accustom the mind to appreciate the justness of expressions of ridicule; and to make any instance of firmness in opposition to them, for the sake of adherence to any principle of filial obedience, truth and uprightness, a ground of peculiar approbation, and, on the contrary, any instance of submission to it, in opposition to such principles, the subject of pity, of disapprobation, and, if the case requires it, even of contempt.
PRIDE AND VANITY AS CONNECTED WITH EDUCATION.
But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.
By pride we understand, an unjust feeling of superiority over others, or of elevation in the scale by which the individual estimates honour; by vanity, an excessive desire of the praise or good opinion of others. The former indicates an unfounded opinion as to the title to honour; the latter is generally accompanied with some opinion of that kind, but does not necessarily imply more than an eager de
sire of honour.
It is difficult to form a comparative estimate of the injurious effects of pride and vanity. When the soil is good, both may produce good fruit; perhaps, however, pride presents the most effectual obstacles to improvement, and vanity tends most to render that improvement ineffectual. In the early periods of life, the good opinion of others is, in most cases, the highest stimulus which the mind can receive; and well-directed, it has its full effect in prompting to the attainment of moral and mental excellence. The circle at first is narrow: the few friends on whom we depend for the various comforts and enjoyments of life, are those whose good opinion forms our first object. If these are correct in their appreciation of worth, their good opinion is the source of future excellence; it prompts to the formation of the most valuable habits; and lays the foundation for that desire of honour, which afterwards raises the mind to Him whose approbation is happiness. If they make their approbation depend upon right conduct, and do not lavish their praise or their censure, but give it only where, justly estimated, praise or censure is due, the result is valuable if they teach to value the praise of the wise and good only, vanity will, in time, be brought within proper limits: but they do not do all, if they do not teach, that the pleasure which they at present receive from the approbation of their friends, is afterwards to be chiefly sought for, in that of their best friend; that his approbation is to be made the criterion of excellence; and that by this they must appreciate the worth of all other sources of honour.
If indiscriminate vanity be not thus checked, the mind which seeks the good opinion of others, will fall into the opinions and practices of others; and unsteadiness of principle and of conduct must be expected, for that on which they are founded is as variable as the wind. The stimulus of praise becomes necessary to happiness: and the mind is incapable of exertion where that praise is not to be obtained; is incapable of acting in opposition to the opinion of those whose censures it deems among the worst of evils, whose praise it regards as an important good. The excessive desire of the good opinion even of the wise and good, is injurious to the mind. It enervates its powers of action; it renders it fickle and inconstant ; it prevents efforts leading to high utility, where those efforts may be misinterpreted; it checks the attention which should be paid to superiour honour; and it obstructs that ardent desire for the highest approbation, which should be made, as far as possible, the primary object of pursuit.
To deserve the praise of God, should be the great point impressed in education. The eager desire of the praise of men debases the motives, weakens the mental powers, and produces corroding inquietude.