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ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS. 1899.
DR. DICK, in his work, On the Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind, thus alludes to the old spelling and lessonbooks:-"They exhibit scenes and sentiments which ought not to be familiarized to the minds of children, and which are repugnant to the spirit and practice of genuine Christianity. In almost every page, both of the prosaic and the poetic extracts, the war gong is ever and anon resounding in our ears, and the confused noise of the warrior, with garments rolled in blood.' The Cæsars, the Alexanders, and the Buonapartes, of ancient and modern times, instead of being held up to execration as the ravagers and destroyers of mankind, are set forth to view as glorious conquerors and illustrious heroes, whose characters and exploits demand our admiration, and applause. And if, at any time, the minds of the young imbibe the sentiments which pervade their lessons, it is generally when they breathe a warlike spirit, and exhibit those desolations and ravages which ambition and revenge have produced in the world; and when they themselves are trained to speak at an examination, and arrayed in warlike habiliments, with guns, or spears, or darts, to ape the revengeful exploits of a Norval and a Glenalvon. I have beheld the young, when engaged in such exhibitions, eulogized and applauded by their examinators and surrounding spectators, more than on account of all the other scholastic improvements they had acquired. To this cause doubtless, as well as others, is to be attributed the spirit of warfare and contention, which still reigns in the theatre of the political world, and which has desolated and disgraced, and demoralized every nation under heaven. I have known a teacher, who has turned over page after page, in some of the works now referred to, in search of a passage worthy of being committed to memory, and who could not in conscience fix upon any one in a long series of extracts, on account of its being imbued with this antichristian spirit !!"
Ir is a circumstance deeply to be regretted, and one which calls for an immediate and effective remedy, that the education of the higher and middle classes of the people in this and most other countries, is such as tends to cherish rather than discourage the love and admiration of war.
How are we to account for the fact, that war, absurd and foolish as it is, as well as savage and horrible--in the highest degree disgusting and distressing in its details, and enormously destructive in its general results-continues to be practised by nations called Christian, without remorse, and to be popular among a large proportion, even of the educated classes of civilized mankind? The true solution of this enigma is to be found in the prevalent tendencies of education. Worldly honour and glory are held up to the view of young people, by example and practice, if not by precept, as the objects of a legitimate ambition. They are taught to dwell with delight on the hardihood and prowess of the heroes of our race, who have led their
fellow-men from one scene of blood and misery to another, and who have conquered or perished with them on the field of battle. These qualities are at first perhaps admired only in those who have acted in the defence of their country, or in the deliverance of the oppressed-objects right in themselves, but not to be pursued, as we think, by the use of carnal weapons.
But the feelings of admiration which such qualities excite, are soon and imperceptibly transferred to the Alexanders, the Cæsars, the Napoleons--those lawless aggressors against the peace and happiness of mankind, the splendour of whose achievements is equalled only by the wickedness of that lust of conquest and of arbitrary power in which they originated.
The young student of Livy and Tacitus, of Xenophon, Thucydides and Homer, if he is not carefully guided and guarded in the study of these writers, will easily imbibe that military ardour, and that high estimate of the dispositions and talents necessary to success in war, which, although they may never carry him into the field, will nevertheless engage his feelings, and even his opinions, in the support of a system of revenge and bloodshed. The prejudices of his education will be found, all his life long, on the side of skill, courage, sagacity, and patriotism, as they are displayed, from time to time in war, and therefore, in spite of reason, humanity and religion, on the side of war itself. Nor are these effects to be traced only in classical students; -the very same seductive and dangerous lessons will be impressed on the young mind, if good care be not taken to prevent it, as the pages of modern history
pass under its review. How many a boy of England has felt his bosom glow with unhallowed delight, when the wondrous feats of a Black Prince, a Marlborough, a Nelson, or a Wellington, have engrossed his attention, when Cressy, Agincourt, Blenheim, Waterloo, or Trafalgar has been presented, by the pen of modern history, to his intelligence and his imagination! How many a boy of France, has been equally excited, since the days of Napoleon, by the story of Marengo, Wagram, or Austerlitz!
In making these remarks, we are not pleading for ignorance. We would have our young people whose circumstances allow of it, well-grounded in a knowledge both of the Latin and Greek classics, and of modern history; but we would have the better parts of the best writers selected for their use; and we would urge on all the teachers of the rising generation, the necessity of a constant Christian guard in the direction and practical application of the studies of their pupils. We would have them constantly bear in mind for themselves, and for those under their care, the great apostolic precept, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: do all for the glory of God."
Acting on this general principle, the Christian tutor will find it his duty, not only to guard his pupils against those impressions which tend to the encouragement of war, but also to make specific efforts to embue their minds with a deep sense of the importance of meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, and charity; -above all, of the return of good for evil.
Now such efforts can scarcely be made too early. Even very little children may, by example and precept, be taught the lessons of Christian love; and as the intellectual powers advance, useful knowledge and influential practical principles on the side of Peace, may by judicious training, in dependence on divine aid, be easily communicated to the ingenuous and uncorrupted mind of youth. No words can express the importance of such endeavours. The seed-time must indeed call for close watchfulness, daily diligence, and above all, fervent prayer. But abundant will be the reward of that harvest of charity-of that wider dissemination and deeper reception of the principle of universal peace, which, we trust, will adorn and distinguish generations yet to come.
Should the Peace Reading-Book now offered to the public, for common use in schools and families, be found in any degree efficacious in promoting these great ends -the object which those concerned in its production have in view, will be fully answered; and they will have great cause for thankfulness to Him, without whose blessing, all their efforts in this good cause must be entirely in vain.