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sitely the tranquil delight inseparable from the indulgence of conjugal and parental affection; and as he will be more respectable in the eyes of his family than he who can teach them nothing, he will be naturally induced to cultivate whatever may preserve, and shun whatever would impair, that respect.
He who is inured to reflection will carry his views beyond the present hour; he will extend his prospect a little into suturity, and be disposed to make some provision for his approaching wants; whence will result an increased motive to industry, together with a care to husband his earnings and to avoid unnecessary expense. The poor man who has gained a taste for good books will in all likelihood become thoughtful; and when you have given the poor a habit of thinking, you have conferred on them a much greater favour than by the gift of a large sum of money, since you have put them in possession of the principle of all legitimate prosperity. | I am persuaded that the extreme profligacy, improvidence, and misery which are so prevalent among the labouring classes in many countries are chiefly to be ascribed to the want of education. In proof of this we need only cast our eyes on the condition of the Irish compared with that of the peasantry in Scotland. Among the former you behold nothing but beggary, wretchedness, and sloth: in Scotland, on the contrary, under the disadvantages of a worse climate and more unproductive soil, a degree of decency and comfort, the fruit of sobriety and industry, is conspicuous among the lower classes. And to what is this disparity in their situation to be ascribed except to the influence of education? In Ireland the education of the poor is miserably neglected ; very few of them can read, and they grow up in a total ignorance of what it most befits a rational creature to understand : while in Scotland the establishment of free schools* in every parish, an essential branch of the ecclesiastical constitution of the country, brings the means of instruction within the reach of the poorest, who are there inured to decency, industry, and order.
Some have objected to the instruction of the lower classes, from an apprehension that it would lift them above their sphere, make them dissatisfied with their station in life, and, by impairing the habits of subordination, endanger the tranquillity of the state ; an objection devoid surely of all force and validity. It is not easy to conceive in what manner instructing men in their duties can prompt them to neglect those duties, or how that enlargement of reason which enables them to comprehend the true grounds of authority and the obligation to obedience should indispose them to obey. The admirable mechanism of society, together with that subordination of ranks which is essential to its subsistence, is surely not an elaborate imposture, which the exercise of reason will detect and expose. The objection we have stated
* In the “Edinburgh Christian Instructor" for 1816, the slight mistake which occurs above, in reference to "free schools” in North Britain, is thus corrected. "The truth is, that free schools could never have effected that improvement in the manners and intelligence of the lower orders in Scotland for which they are so remarkable ; and we have reason to bless the judicious liberality of nur ancestors, who contented themselves with bring og education within the reach of the lower orders, by allowing limited salaries to the schoolmasters, in aid of the school wages, instead of going to the hurtful extreme which tends to render leachers careless and parents indifferent."-ED.
implies a reflection on the social order, equally impolitic, invidious, and unjust. Nothing in reality renders legitimate governments so insecure as extreme ignorance in the people. It is this which yields them an easy prey to seduction, makes them the victims of prejudices and false alarms, and so ferocious withal, that their interference in a time of public commotion is more to be dreaded than the eruption of a volcano.
The true prop of good government is opinion, the perception on the part of the subject of benefits resulting from it,-a settled conviction, in other words, of its being a public good. Now, nothing can produce or maintain that opinion but knowledge, since opinion is a form of knowledge. Of tyrannical and unlawful governments, indeed, the support is fear, to which ignorance is as congenial as it is abhorrent from the genius of a free people. Look at the popular insurrections and massacres in France: of what description of persons were those ruffians composed who, breaking forth like a torrent, overwhelmed the mounds of lawful authority ? Who were the cannibals that sported with the mangled carcasses and palpitating limbs of their murdered victims, and dragged them about with their teeth in the gardens of the Tuilleries? Were they refined and elaborated into these barbarities by the efforts of a too polished education ? No: they were the very scum of the people, destitute of all moral culture, whose atrocity was only equalled by their ignorance, as might well be expected, when the one was the legitimate parent of the other. Who are the persons who, in every country, are most disposed to outrage and violence, but the most ignorant and uneducated of the poor? to which class also chiefly, belong those unhappy beings who are doomed to expiate their crimes at the fatal tree ; few of whom, it has recently been ascertained, on accurate inquiry, are able to read, and the greater part utterly destitute of all moral or religious principle. Ignorance gives a sort of eternity to prejudice, and perpetuity to
When a baleful superstition, like that of the church of Rome, has once got footing among a people in this situation, it becomes next to impossible to eradicate it; for it can only be assailed with success by the weapons of reason and argument, and to these weapons it is impassive. The sword of ethereal temper loses its edge when tried on the scaly hide of this leviathan. No wonder the church of Rome is such a friend to ignorance; it is but paying the arrears of gratitude in which she is deeply indebted. How is it possible for her not to hate that light which would unveil her impostures and detect her enormities.
If we survey the genius of Christianity, we shall find it to be just the reverse. It was ushered into the world with the injunction Go and teach all nations, and every step of its progress is to be ascribed to instruction. With a condescension worthy of its Author, it offers information to the meanest and most illiterate ; but extreme ignorance is not in a state of mind favourable to it. The first churches were planted in cities (and those the most celebrated and enlightened), drawn neither from the very highest nor the very lowest classes; the former too often the victims of luxury and pride, the latter sunk in extreme
stupidity ; but from the middle orders, where the largest portion of virtue and good sense has usually resided. In remote villages, its progress was extremely slow, owing unquestionably to that want of mental cultivation which rendered them the last retreats of superstition; insomuch that in the fifth century the abetters of the ancient idolatry began to be denominated Pagani, which properly denotes the inhabitants of the country, in distinction from those who reside in towns. At the Reformation, the progress of the Reformed faith went hand in hand with the advancement of letters ; it had every where the same friends and the same enemies, and, next to its agreement with the Holy Scriptures, its success is chiefly to be ascribed, under God, to the art of printing, the revival of classical learning, and the illustrious patrons of science attached to its cause. In the representation of that glorious period usually styled the Millennium, when religion shall universally prevail, it is mentioned as a conspicuous feature, that men shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. That period will not be distinguished from the preceding by men's minds being more torpid and inactive, but rather by the consecration of every power to the service of the Most High. It will be a period of remarkable illumination, during which the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as that of seven days. Every useful talent will be cultivated, every art subservient to the interests of man be improved and perfected ; learning will amass her stores, and genius emit her splendour ; but the former will be displayed without ostentation, and the latter shine with the softened effulgence of humility and love.
II. We have hitherto spoken of the advantages of knowledge in general ; we proceed to notice the utility of religious knowledge in particular. Religion, on account of its intimate relation to a future state, is every man's proper business, and should be his chief care. Of knowledge in general, there are branches which it would be preposterous in the bulk of mankind to attempt to acquire, because they have no immediate connexion with their duties, and demand talents which nature has denied, or opportunities which Providence has withheld. But with respect to the primary truths of religion, the case is different ; they are of such daily use and necessity, that they form not the materials of mental luxury, so properly, as the food of the mind. In improving the character, the influence of general knowledge is often feeble and always indirect; of religious knowledge the tendency to purify the heart is immediate, and forms its professed scope and design. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. To ascertain the character of the Supreme Author of all things, to know, as far as we are capable of comprehending such a subject, what is his moral disposition, what the situation we stand in towards him, and the principles by which he conducts his administration, will be allowed by every considerate person to be of the highest consequence. Compared to this, all other speculations or inquiries sink into insignificance; because every event that can befall
us is in his hands, and by his sentence our final condition must be fixed. To regard such an inquiry with indifference is the mark not of a noble but of an abject mind, which, immersed in sensuality, or amused with trifles, deems itself unworthy of eternal life. To be so absorbed in worldly pursuits as to neglect future prospects is a conduct that can plead no excuse until it is ascertained beyond all doubt or contradiction that there is no hereafter, and that nothing remains but that we eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. Even in that case to forego the hope of immortality without a sigh,—to be gay and sportive on the brink of destruction, in the very moment of relinquishing prospects on which the wisest and best in every age have delighted to dwell, is the indication of a base and degenerate spirit. If existence be a good, the eternal loss of it must be a great evil : if it be an evil, reason suggests the propriety of inquiring why it is so, of investigating the maladies by which it is oppressed. Amid the darkness and uncertainty which hang over our future condition, Revelation, by bringing life and immortality to light, affords the only relief. In the Bible alone we learn the real character of the Supreme Being; his holiness, jus
and truth; the moral condition of man considered in his relation to Him is clearly pointed out; the doom of impenitent transgressors denounced, and the method of obtaining mercy through the interposition of a divine mediator plainly revealed. There are two considerations which may suffice to evince the indispensable necessity of scriptural knowledge.
1. The Scriptures contain an authentic discovery of the way of salvation. They are a revelation of mercy to a lost world; a reply to that most interesting inquiry, What we must do to be saved. The distinguishing feature of the gospel system is the economy of redemption, or the gracious provision the Supreme Being has thought fit to make for reconciling the world to himself, by the manifestation in human nature of his own Son. It is this which constitutes it the Gospel, by way of eminence, or the glad tidings concerning our Saviour Jesus Christ, on the right reception of which, or its rejection, turns our everlasting weal or wo. It is not from the character of God as our creator, it should be remembered, that the hope of the guilty can arise; the fullest development of his essential perfections could afford no relief in this case, and therefore natural religion, were it capable of being carried to the utmost perfection, can never supersede the necessity of revealed. To inspire confidence, an express communication from Heaven is necessary: since the introduction of sin has produced a peculiarity in our situation and a perplexity in our prospects, which nothing but an express assurance of mercy can remove.
In what manner the blessed and only Potentate may think fit to dispose of a race of apostates is a question on which reason can suggest nothing satisfactory, nothing salutary: a question, in the solution of which, there being no data to proceed upon, wisdom and folly fail alike, and every order of intelleci is reduced to a level, for who hath known the mind of the Lord, or, being his counsellor, hath taught him? It is a secret which, had he not been pleased to unsold it, must have
for ever remained in the breast of the Deity. This secret, in infinite mercy, he has condescended to disclose: the silence, not that which John witnessed in the Apocalypse, of half an hour, but that of ages, is broken; the darkness is past, and we behold in the gospel the astonishing spectacle of God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing to them their trespasses, and sending forth his ambassadors to entreat us in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. To that strange insensibility with respect to the concerns of a future world which is at once the indication and consequence of the fall must we ascribe the languid attention with which this communication is received; instead of producing, as it ought, transports of gratitude and joy in every breast.
This, however we may be disposed to regard it, is unquestionably the grand peculiarity of the gospel, the exclusive boast and treasure of the Scriptures, and most emphatically the way of salvation, not only as it reveals the gracious intentions of God to a sinful world, but as it lays a solid foundation for the supernatural duties of faith and repentance. All the discoveries of the gospel bear a most intimate relation to the character and offices of the Saviour; from him they emanate, in him they centre; nor is any thing we learn from the Old or New Testament of saving tendency, further than as a part of the truth as it is in Jesus. The neglect of considering revelation in this light is a fruitful source of infidelity. Viewing it in no higher character than a republication of the law of nature, men are first led to doubt the importance, and next the truth of the discoveries it contains; an easy and natural transition, since the question of their importance is so complicated with that of their truth in the Scriptures themselves, that the most refined ingenuity cannot long keep them separate. It gives the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins, through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. While we contemplate it under this its true character, we view it in its just dimensions, and feel no inclination to extenuate the force of those representations which are expressive of its pre-eminent dignity. There is nothing will be allowed to come into comparison with it, nothing we shall not be ready to sacrifice for a participation of its blessings and the extension of its influence. The veneration we shall feel for the Bible, as the depository of saving knowledge, will be totally distinct, not only from what we attach to any other book, but from that admiration its other properties inspire; and the variety and antiquity of its history, the light it affords in various researches, its inimitable touches of nature, together with the sublimity and beauty so copiously poured over its pages, will be deemed subsidiary ornaments, the embellishments of the casket which contains the pearl of great price.
2. Scriptural knowledge is of inestimable value on account of its supplying an infallible rule of life. To the most untutored mind, the information it affords on this subject is far more full and precise than the highest efforts of reason could attain. In the best moral precepts issuing from human wisdom, there is an incurable defect in that want