« AnteriorContinuar »
quent development of the faculties, that in the first instance gave rise to the question of the respective merits of the active and speculative pursuits; and we find the same principle discussed, in different forms, from the earliest period of intellectual culture down to our own day.
"We find it," says our author, "among the ancient Greeks ting a rivalry between music and gymnastics: under which two heads was comprehended all that belonged to a perfect education, or one in which both mind and body had received due culture-music including whatever fell under the superintendence of the muses; all the exercise and discipline of mind: gymnastics training the body to activity and strength. Now we find that there were among the Greeks themselves some of uncultivated minds disposed to give the active life an almost exclusive preference; and using nearly the same arguments that are employed in our day to decry studies, of which the practical results are not at once perceived. That afterward among the Romans, a far less intellectual and polished people, Cicero should have found it necessary to contend with a like prejudice in the minds of his countrymen against speculative studies, will, therefore, occasion no surprise. At a still later period, the wide extension of monastic institutions, into which so many, assuming the garb of religion, withdrew from the cares and business of the world, revived, under a somewhat different form, the ancient controversy between the active and the contemplative life; and added greatly to its interest and importance. And lastly, descending to our own age and time, we find that the advocates of gymnastics against music among the Greeks; the enemies of philosophy at Rome; the champions during the middle ages of the active against the contemplative life, are represented among us by a class of reformers actuated by a spirit of hostility to letters, and a jealous preference of studies which have, as they allege, a closer relation to the business of life, and yield more plentiful and immediate fruits."
Another trait of character which tends to produce a spirit of hostility to ancient literature consists in that disposition which renders some men unhappy when they see others enjoying a benefit or blessing of which themselves are destitute. Those who have never made any advancement in the higher walks of literature themselves, can often find in that fact alone sufficient reason for deprecating its advantages, and decrying it to others. They are grieved at the thought of being without the benefits which such studies confer, and seek to mitigate their grief by underrating those benefits. Like the fox in the vineyard, they affect to despise what they secretly pine for. "It is natural," says a judicious writer, "that men should be inclined to soothe their vanity with the belief, that what they do not themselves know is not worth knowing; and that they should find it easy to convert others, who are equally ignorant, to the same opinion, is what might also confidently be presumed." Still the opposition of such persons is of but little account. The cause of classical studies will never experience serious injury from a hostility which is the mere dictate of envy. Men who oppose a branch of learning in which they are not versed, who are spurred to opposition by a sense of their own deficiency, and who reason (so far as they resort to argument at all) against their own convictions, need not expect to accomplish much.
There is, however, a more numerous (and therefore more formidable) class of persons, whose want of knowledge or want of capacity renders them incapable of appreciating these pursuits, and who oppose them, not from a secret conviction of their importance, and a sense of their own destitution, but from a natural proneness to condemn what they do not, or cannot, comprehend. It has been truly remarked by the writer last quoted, that "the higher and more peculiar the ultimate advantages and pleasures of these studies-the more they educate to capacities of thought and feeling which we should never otherwise have been taught to know or exert-and the more that what it accomplishes can be accomplished by it alonethe less can those who have had no experience of its benefits, ever conceive, far less estimate their importance." That the inability of such persons to appreciate classical literature should be the cause of their condemning it, is natural enough. Men who are prevented by lack of inclination or of intellect from forming their own judgment upon a controverted question, and who only have opinions as they derive them from the dictum of another, are commonly the most ambitious to appear as partisans, the most zealous in parading their sentiments, and the most tenacious in adhering to them. Those who are too stupid to do their own thinking, are ever the most dogmatical in maintaining a point, and the last to yield it. Possessing no resources in themselves-without the requisite qualifications for arriving at an independent conclusion, they are compelled to draw from extraneous sources. Their articles of faith are taken at second hand, and when they have once come into possession of an opinion, they will cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye sooner than part with it. Such persons usually adopt the sentiments of those whose aim and interests are most nearly allied to their own, and whose capacities and modes of thinking, though indeed of a higher order than theirs, are similar in kind. They take their cue from some kindred spirit who happens to be endowed with more brains than themselves, but who rarely excels them in dogged conceit or obtrusive insolence. When the gravest questions are discussedquestions on which they, in common modesty, ought to remain silent, they are usually the first to decide upon the merits. Arrayed in the garb of borrowed opinions, they start into new importance, and claim to be wiser than those who can render a reason. They make up in zeal what they lack in persuasion; assurance is the cloak of ignorance, and clamor supplies the place of argument.
The opposition of this class of persons to the encouragement of ancient literature, so far as sustained by reason or argument, amounts exactly to nothing. And their influence might be set down at zero, except for their numbers;-their name is legion-they make up in multitude what they want in rationality;-they swell the ranks to which they join themselves, and give popularity to the cause they espouse-and that, in these days, is more than half the victory.
In addition to the original and inherent sources of hostility to classical learning, some of which we have enumerated, there are others of a local character, which, though more limited in extent, are no less intense in their operation. Of those peculiar to this country, perhaps the most important is the influence of its political institutions. A slight consideration of the practice and tendency of
our government will show how little benefit and how much injury the cause of good literature derives from that quarter.
In the first place, it is observable that the direct patronage in behalf of the higher departments of learning, which characterizes the governments of most enlightened countries, is almost entirely wanting in our own. The state legislatures have indeed made liberal provisions in favor of common-school education, and the benefits resulting to the people at large from such legislation can scarcely be overrated. But while the diffusion of elementary learning has been viewed by most of our statesmen in the light of its true importance, the interests of the higher literature have been almost wholly overlooked. How few and unimportant are the positive enactments for the protection or encouragement of liberal learning which our statute-books record! How few of our literary institutions have been either founded, sustained, or encouraged by government appropriations! We do not say how far this ought or ought not to be We do not contend that it is the duty of government to found literary establishments; nor are we discussing the question to what extent such objects may be legislated for compatibly with the spirit of our institutions. We are merely assigning the causes which exist de facto, for the low state of classical learning among us.
The absence of patronage is, however, but a negative evil at most. There are others of a positive character. One of these is the simplicity of our government, which renders it susceptible of being administered by men of very limited literary attainments. Not only is the knowledge of the dead languages deemed a needless qualification for office, but even those branches of an English education which have no necessary connection with public duties are held, for the most part, equally superfluous. If the character of the government were such as to require well educated men to discharge its offices, this would prove the high sense entertained by the nation of the importance of liberal studies. It would in some sort stamp them with the national estimate of their value, and would operate as a public premium upon good literature. If there were a single official station of such a character that, of two candidates, the one being a classical scholar, and the other a comparatively unlettered man, the former would, cæteris paribus, be most likely to succeed-such a fact would be invaluable to the cause of ancient learning. The want of some palpable evidence of the political importance of these studies is, in this country, easily converted into an argument against them. Qualification for office is too apt to be regarded as necessarily including a fitness for all the duties and relations of life. And hence whatever is not found to be indispensable for the magistrate, is held to be equally unnecessary for the man.
Another and perhaps greater evil tendency in our institutions is one that arises from their most democratic feature. The fact that the offices of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are accessible alike to all the citizens, lays the foundation for a widelyextended aspiration after political distinction. The spirit thus propagated is extremely inimical to literature. The contest for principles-the zeal for party-the desire for promotion, are all too intense and absorbing to admit of either leisure or inclination for literary pursuits; and these are the more neglected in proportion as they are considered unnecessary for political or party purposes.
Those whose impulses lead them into the arena of public life, (and they are a numerous class,) knowing that a wide range of liberal studies of varied and extensive acquirements, and in particular that an acquaintance with the ancient classics is not a condition of success in their intended sphere of action, are too apt to overlook them. 'hey are unwilling to encounter the labor of acquiring what they do not consider essential to the end which they propose to themselves. Believing that practical qualifications are the most essential and almost exclusive requisites for the attainment of their object, they neglect to lay the surest foundation for usefulness and distinction-a liberal and a thorough education.
We are not now canvassing the merits of democracy. If the evil tendency here ascribed to our political system be admitted, (which it must be,) it only proves that that system is not perfect. Our government may still be the most free from evils of any that exists, although its influence upon sound learning be positively injurious. We have only endeavored to illustrate the reason of our literary inferiority (of which even our vanity cannot make us insensible) to the cultivated countries of Europe, where it is a part of the national policy to foster and protect literary establishments.
There is another pervading influence at work in this country, and peculiar to it, which affects injuriously, not only the interests of literature, but the national morals in an equal degree. We allude to the money-making spirit. The physical resources of the country, the facilities for production and commerce, in proportion as they render easy the acquisition of wealth, and place it within the reach of the mass, give extension and intensity to the spirit of accumulation. The consequence is, that devotion to the pursuits of gain is now regarded as the pre-eminent characteristic of our nation. The whole country seems engaged in one pursuit-aiming at one end— affluence. The all-absorbing question is, how to acquire the greatest amount of wealth in the shortest space of time. This inquiry is pursued with intense enthusiasm, and to the exclusion of nearly every thing besides. It engrosses the attention of all classes, ages, and conditions. The powers of genius are taxed, the resources of science are laid under contribution, for a solution of the problem. Time and labor are contributed without grudging, and no sacrifice is spared that will forward the one great end. "In this country the desire of acquisition is excessive. It is restless, insatiable, boundless-unhallowed and unredeemed by better influences, by a superior and pervading respect and love for higher and nobler objects. For along with this increase of wealth has come a prodigious growth of luxury-an infinite multiplication of the means and refinements of physical enjoyment; and we are hurrying on with prodigious strides to a state of excessive civilization without due cultivation-of luxurious indulgence and the refinements of pleasure, without a proportionate growth of intellectual and moral culture, without a lively and respectful regard for the less material and less vulgar interests of life."*
We We are not inclined "to quarrel with this development of the physical resources of our land," nor with "the natural desire of acqui
* Discourse of Professor Henry before the Phi Sigma Nu Society of the University of Vermont.
sition;" but we deplore the spirit to which these united give birth. We regret that either the pursuit of wealth or the desire of political preferment should be so eager and absorbing as seriously to check the literary spirit of the nation.
To the united effects of these-to the influence of politics and of party on the one hand, and to the mercenary spirit on the other, is to be ascribed, more than to any thing else, the erroneous view so generally entertained among us on the subject of education, and the consequent slow development and progress of the intellectual principle. Every system of education and every applied principle of mental culture seems to have especial reference to political or mercenary ends. The prevailing notion is, that a certain amount of schooling is necessary for the purposes of life, and all beyond is superfluous. This opinion condemns every course of intellectual training which requires a longer period than that which itself has prescribed. When a lad has reached a certain age, it transfers him at once from the school-room to the world. To be employed in the cultivation of the mind after the elements of learning are acquired, and the physical frame is sufficiently developed for encountering the bustle and business of life, is accounted sinful. The mental capacity of the individual and his destination in life are scarcely taken into view. The routine of study necessary for occupying his early years must be regularly gone through, though he be the veriest dunce. Beyond that point he must not go, though he possessed the genius of a Newton. They who hold this opinion do, many of them, vainly believe that the modicum of learning which they would mete out to the rising generation comprises all that is useful. And this would indeed be true enough, if men were only born into the world to acquire riches or political honors. If wealth and office were the only ends of our being, "then, indeed, the scale of what is termed utility would be the true standard by which to estimate the value of all studies and attainments;" but if there he higher considerations than these, if the improvement and perfection of our better nature be an object of paramount importance, then, "in proportion as mind is superior to matter, should be preferred that plan of study which is best calculated to develop and improve its powers."
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
ART. IX.-SKETCHES OF METHODISM.
ITS RISE AND PROGRESS ON MONTGOMERY CIRCUIT, BALT. CON. By J. H. Young, Junior Preacher for 1837.
THAT system of doctrines, morals, and usages, commonly denominated Methodism, is, perhaps, on the whole, the most perfect likeness of primitive Christianity in existence; and it has ever been, from its earliest dawn in England to the present time, under the direction and superintendence of a special Providence. Its distinguishing doctrinal tenets are as prominently developed in the Bible as they are characteristic of a particular class of Christians. Its morals are pure and consistent; and its usages are, at once, simple