« PreviousContinue »
teacher's exclusive duty. To rouse the slumbering energies of the mind; to excite a thirst for knowledge that will not rest un. gratified; to make the pupil feel his own strength, and be satisfied with no present attainments,—this is a teacher's duty.
It has been said that a skilful artist sees the statue in a block of marble, and by vigorous strokes of the hammer and chisel, he causes the form of beauty to stand before him, like a thing of life. In like manner, the teacher sees in the youth before him the elements of a character, fitted, it may be, to regulate the affairs of nations, and he makes every exertion to bring the statesman out. And there is as much persevering toil, intense devotion, and all-absorbing love for the work, in the one case as in the other, and a joy at the result as much greater as a living man is better than a senseless stone.
In accomplishing this, a judicious teacher will not allow the mind of the pupil to be distracted by a multiplicity of studies, nor discouraged by being too severely tasked. It may be said, that such is the natural indolence of many, and such their aversion to study, that there is but little danger that any will injure themselves by too close application. But that such is the fact we have the most painful evidence, and many a talented youth, too much encouraged by the vanity of the parent and teacher, has fallen a victim to his own ambition and desire to excel.
But whilst the physical education belongs to the parent, the intellectual, to the teacher, there remains the training of the moral nature, the cultivation of the heart, which, belonging equally to both, receives too little attention from either.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum and substance of religion. In teaching this, we are not required to teach any particular set of doctrines, or system of theology. The religion that we want is that which will give the young enlarged and correct views of God as our Father; that will make them better sons and daughters, better brothers and sisters, and that will make them better citizens when they go out from home to act for themselves.
How can such a religion be taught in school? In the first place, the teacher must himself be a man of refinement, of enlarged benevolence, and ardent piety. Here, as in the sciences, he must himself know what he would teach. The Bible must be his text-book. We are aware that some parents object to this. They do not believe it themselves, and they have no desire that their children should be taught its truths. Concerning such, we have nothing to say. Bet whilst we only pity their blindness, and indulge the deepest sorrow for their children, we will continue to regard the Bible as the best, the only guide to true happiness.
In using the Bible as a text book, it is not necessary that a
portion of scripture should ever be given to a pupil to be learned as a punishment. This is not teaching religion.
It does not require that the Bible should be put into the hands of a young child as a reading book, as soon as he can put three letters together; neither does it require the teacher to give an extended lecture once a week on religious subjects. All these may be done, and the end not attained.
A teacher, wishing to discharge his duty in this particular, was in the habit of spending one hour every Saturday morning in enforcing some religious truth on the minds of bis pupils. Besides this, they learned a passage of scripture every day, to recite at the opening of the school. These verses were selected with particular reference to a system of theology which the teacher had adopted. But one day he departed so far from his system as to give the following passage to be learned :
"Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
After giving a word of explanation, alluding briefly to the long winter rain of a tropical climate, the teacher remarked, that poetry more beautiful could not be found in any other book.
A little thoughtful girl, who had in her own composition all the poetry of feeling, though she had not language to express it in measured verse, listened in silence, but with the deepest attention. The weekly lectures had been heard with ill-concealed indifference; the passages of scripture had been learned and recited like any other task, and the system of theology was never understood, but the sweet melody of Israel's illustrious king touched a chord that produced the most delightful harmony. Since that time, the birds, the flowers, and the cheerful sunlight of a returning spring, fill her heart with a gladness before unknown; and she can scarcely refrain from uniting her voice with the joyous carol of the birds, as she wanders in the fields, or walks by the way-side, for she can sing with more understanding than they, “Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone."
Another teacher had before him a class of boys. They were reciting a lesson in Ancient History, the topic for the day being the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan, under Joshua.
The teacher alluding to the stratagem of the Gibeonites, as it is recorded in the Bible, one of the class inquired where that was to be found, and said that he had never read it. On being told, as soon as the recitation was over, he found the story, and read it with as much avidity as he had ever perused the fictitious tales which constituted his library.
At another time, the lesson for the day was that part of the history of France, relating to Napoleon and his unparalleled suc
cess as a general. The lesson, having been recited as usual, the teacher said cheerfully, “ Boys, I can tell you how you can be greater than Napoleon.” Every eye was fixed on the teacher, who said quietly, “ He that ruleth his own spirit is better than he that taketh a city,” giving his authority for the assertion. It was said for the purpose of giving a lesson to the youngest boy of the class, whose flushed countenance, flashing eye and angry words, whenever his actions were restrained or his plans thwarted, plainly showed that he had not yet learned to control his own spirit. The lesson was understood, and the mcekness with which it was received equalled the kindness with which it was given.
Others of the class understood its application, and they afterwards went of their own accord to their teacher, requesting him to give them a motto or verse applicable to them. Glad of the opportunity thus to convey counsel or encouragement, he willingly complied. To one who frequently boasted of the ease with which he acquired a lesson, how little explanation he needed, how much more rapidly he could advance than some older member of his class, was given, “Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth ;" another, whose persevering diligence had won approbation, was encouraged by the truth, that " The hand of the diligent maketh rich;” to another, whose natural abilities were of a high order, but whose recklessness of conduct had caused his teachers and friends much anxiety, was given, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” : This last afterward went to the teacher, frankly confessing that the selection of that verse had given him pain. The teacher encouraged him by telling him that the verse referred not more to the misery which is sure to follow an evil course, than to the prosperity and happiness that are the reward of well-doing.
Shortly after they all left school, and are now engaged in active business. The teacher does not know that the boy of the violent temper has become more meek; the self-conceited egotist, more humble; the diligent boy, rich; or if the reckless youth continues to “ sow the wind to reap only the whirlwind ;" but he does know that in giving such instruction, he was obeying one wiser than himself, who says, “ In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand : for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”
Imagine such a teacher as has been described ; one who, with intellectual attainments that fit him to be an instructor, has also a heart warm with love to God and love to man. Go with him to the school-room. The clock has struck nine. Every scholar is in his seat, with a Bible in his hand. The teacher mentions a portion of scripture to be read, adding a few words in explanation of its meaning. A devotional hymn is sung; then the
selected verses are read in concert. The books are closed, and every head is bowed with reverence, whilst the teacher addresses Him from whom all our blessings come, humbly imploring that He who had given them health and intellect would also bestow upon each one a grateful beart, and a disposition to improve the advantages he enjoys.
The Bibles are laid aside and the usual recitations commence. But through the day the teacher embraces every opportunity to impart such knowledge as will influence the conduct of his pupils, and render them conscientious and faithful in all their duties. He does it, not by quoting scripture on every trifling occasion, for this is nothing less than profanity, but by the silent influence of his own example, and in some way that his own judgment may suggest, if not in a manner already described, he will endeavor to lead his pupils to read the Bible for themselves, so that they may become familiar with its interesting biography, its beautiful imagery, and learn to obey its divine precepts.
Such a teacher cannot but feel a deep interest in all who are placed under his care. He sees in the group before him, not here and there one whose brilliant talents promise much for the future, but he knows that in every form, however uncouth and disagreeable the exterior, there lies a gem of priceless value, an immortal spirit, constantly receiving impressions from his own example, and he is exceedingly watchful that in that example there shall be nothing unworthy of imitation. Happy are they who are blessed with the instructions of such a teacher, and who have been led by him to learn lessons of meekness, wisdom and holiness, of Christ, the “ Great Teacher.” They are then prepared to enter upon life's duties.
Cheerfully trusting in an overruling Providence, knowing that in the perilous voyage of life, his “ Father's at the helm," fearing nothing but wrong-doing, and ever cherishing the determination to discharge the duty that lies nearest to him promptly and faithfully, any youth will be successful. Sickness, disappointment, and bereavements may overwhelm him for a time, but they can have no power to crush such a spirit. They will only act as fire to the gold, and refine what they cannot consume. But there are many who enter upon the business of life as ignorant of that Blessed Book, given expressly to be their guide, as they are of the Koran. They put to sea without a pilot, without a chart, without a compass. What wonder is it, if the first storm leaves them stranded on the rocks, henceforth to be tossed on the tumultuous wave till it closes over them forever. This picture, too painful to dwell upon, would be less melancholy, were it in any degree imaginary, but the fate of many a talented youth proves its truthfulness.
It is only by the cultivation of right principles of action in the ica principles ple who hen, that
young,—this moral training, that our civil and religious liberty can be preserved.
Politicians tell us that such is the perfection of the whole machinery of our government, that it will move on of itself, and that it makes but little difference who is placed at the head.
The fact, if it be one, certainly may afford consolation to those of us who, from our position, must remain quiet spectators in a political struggle like that now approaching. But if there is truth in the assertion, is it not owing to the fact that they who framed our constitution, who made our laws, were men that feared God ? that they were made for a people who had been taught to control themselves by the principles of a pure religion ?
The Revolution gave to America her freedom, her glory, and an exalted position among the nations of the earth. But what did a similar revolution give to France ? Nothing but a deluge of blood. What caused the difference? If America had her Washington, France had her La Fayette. If there were many in America who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor," in the cause of liberty, so there were in France, and heroic enthusiasm and readiness to die for their country, distinguished as many in the one as in the other. Did not the difference in the result lie mainly in the different religious education of the people ?
The French were a nation of atheists. “No God” stood out in bold relief at the entrance of the Tribunal, and thousands, guilty of no crime, were sent to the guillotine.
“No God” was inscribed on their halls of learning, and the scholar was taught that “ Death is an eternal sleep.” “No God” waved on the tri-colored banner over every place of amusement, and the prison was converted into a ball-room, the thoughtless inmates literally dancing on the brink of the grave.
An occurrence in our own beautiful valley affords an apt illustration of the progress and fate of the French Republic. Soon after the opening of the Western railroad, a train of cars left Boston for Springfield. The cheers of the multitude were heard as the engine moved steadily forward with its precious freight. But several miles before it reached its destination, its velocity became alarmingly increased. In vain the engineer endeavored to retard its movement. The machinery was made to work in a contrary direction, but that did not diminish the momentum which it had acquired. Men looked on with blanched cheek, and breathless fear, as they say the line of light, like meteoric fire, on the icy rails behind. Massive brick walls formed no barrier to its progress, but on it dashed with tremendous fury till it found a lodgment on the banks of the Connecticut. Not unlike this was the progress of the Revolution in France. Its action at first steady, though powerful, the Republic moved on