Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 84 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 84 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

education to the child, though in genera} we *aj«
encouraged from the tenor of Scripture and the
course of experience to hope that the event will
be favourable, and that * when he is old he will
not depart from it.* Is it nothing for the parent
to have acquitted himself of this prime duty 7
Is it nothing jo him that he has obeyed the plain
command of * training his child in the way hm
should go 7* And will not the parent who so
acquits himself, with better reason and more
lively hope, supplicate the Fatlier of mercies for
the reclaiming of a prodigal, who has wandered
out of that right path in which he has set him
forward, than for the conversion of a neglected
creature, to whose feet the Gospel had never
been offered as a light 7 And how different will
be the dying reflections even of that parent
whose earnest endeavours have been unhappily
defeated by the subsequent and voluntary per-
version of his child, from his who will reasons,
biy aggravate his pangs, by transferring the sins
of his neglected child to the number of his own

And to such well-intentioned but ill-judging
parents as really wish their children to be here-
after pious, but erroneously withhold instruction
till the more advanced period prescribed by the
great master of splendid paradoxes* shall arrives
who can assure them, that while they are with-
holding the good seed, the great and ever vigi-
lant enemy, who assiduously seizes hold on every
opportunity which loe slight, and cultivates
every advantage which lee neglect, may not be
stocking the &llow ground with tares? Nay,
who in this fluctuatmg state of things can bs
assured, even if this were not certainly to be the
case, that to them the promised period ever shall
arrive at all? Who shall ascertain to them that
their now neglected child shall certainly live to
receive the delayed instructions 7 Who can as-
sure them that they themselves will live to com-
municate it 7

It is almost needless to observe that parents
who are indifferent about religion, much more
tho«e who treat it with scorn, are not likely to
he anxious on this subject ; it is therefore the
attention of religiou$ parents which is here
chiefly called upon ; and the more so, as there
seems, on this point, an unaccountable negU-
^nce in many of these, whether it arises from
mdolence, false principles, or whatever other

But independent of knowledge, it is some-
thing, nay, let philpsophers say what they will,
<t IS much to give youth preposaesBiont in favour
of religion, to secure their prejudieet on its side
before you turn them adrift into the werld * a
world in which, before they can be completelj
armed with arguments and rea80|]8, they will be
assailed by numbers whose prepossessions and
prejudices, far more than their arguments and
reasons, attach them to the other side. Why
should not the Christian youth furnish himself
in the best cause with the same natural armoof
which the enemies of religion wear in the worst?
It is certain that to set out in life with

Digitized by




ments in favoor of Uie religion of our country is
no more an error or a weakness, than to grow
up with a fondness for our countrj itself. If the
love of our country be judged a fair principle,
surely a Chrbtian who is * a citizen of no mean
city,* may lawfully have hi$ attachments too.
If patriotism be an honest prejudice, Christi.
anity is not a servile one. Nay, let us teach the
youth to hug his prejudices, to glory in his pre.
possessions, rather than to acquire that versa-
tile and accommodating citizenship of the world,
by which he may be an infidel in raris, a Papist
at Rome, and a Mussulman at Cairo.

Let me not be supposed so to elevate politics,
or 80 to depress religion, as to make any com.
parision of the value of the one with the other,
when I observe, that between the true British
patriot and the true Christian, there will be this
common resemblance : the more deeply each of
them inquires, the more will he be confirmed in
his respective attachment, the one to his coun-
try, the other to his religion. I speak with re-
verence of the immeasurable distance ; but tbe
more the one presses on the firm arch of our
constitution, and the other on that of Christi-
anity, the stronger he will find them both. E^ch
challenges scrutiny ; each has nothing to dread
but from shallow politicians and shallow philo-
sophers ; in each intimate knowledge justifies
prepossession; in each investigation confirms

If wo divide the human bein^ into three com-
ponent parts, the bodily, the mtellectual, and
the spiritual, is it not reasonable that a portion
of care and attention be assigned to each in
some degree adequate to iu importance ? Should
f venture to say a due portion, a portion adapt-
ed to the real comparative value of each, would
not that condemn in one word the whole system
of modern education ? The rational and intel-
lectual part being avowedly more valuable than
the bodily, while the spiritual and immortal
part exceedd even the intellectual still more than
that surpasses what is corporeal; is it acting
according to the common rules of proportion ;
is it actingr on the principles of distributive Jus-
tice ; is it acting with that good sense and right
judgment with which the ordinary business of
this world is usually transacted, to give the
larger portion of time and care to that which is
worth the least ? Is it feir that what relates to
the body and the organs of the body, I mean
thoee accomplishments which address them-
selves to the eye and the ear, should occupy al-
most the whole thoughts ; while the intellectual
part should be robbed of its due proportion, and
tlia spiritual part should have almost no propor-
tion at all ? Is not this preparing your cnildren
for an awful disappointment in the tremendous
day when they shall be stripped of that body, of
those senses and organs, which have been made
almost the sole objects of their attentions, and
•hall feel themselves lef\ in possession of nothing
but that spiritual part which in education was
scarcely taken into the account of their exist-

Surely it should be thought a reasonable com-
promise (and I am in fact nndorvaluinj^ the ob-
|e<!t for the importance of which I pload) to
suggest, that at least two-thirds of thut time

which is now usurped by externals should be
restored to the rightful owners, the understand-
ing and the heart ; and that the acquisition of
religious knowledge in early youth should at
least be no Zess an object of sedulous attention
than the cultivation ot human learning or of
outward embellishments. It is also not on.
reasonable to suggest, that we should in Christi
anity, as in arts, sciences, or languages, begin
with the beguming, set out with the simple
elements, and thus * go on unto perfection.*

Why in teaching to draw do you begin with
straight lines and curves, till by gentle stept
the knowledge of outline and proportion be oo
tained, and your picture be completed; never
losing sight, however, of the elementary lines
and curves? Why in music do you set out
with the simple notes, and pursue the acquisi-
tion through all its progress, still in every stage
recurring to tbe notes f Wh;^ in the science of
numbers do you invent the simplest methods of
conveying just ideas of computation, still refer-
ring to the tables which involve the fundamen-
tal rules ? Why in the science of quantity do
men introduce the pupil at first to the plainest
diagrams, and clear up one difiiculty before they
allow another to appear 7 Why in teaching
languages to the youth do you sedulously infuse
into his mind the rudiments of your syntax ?
Why in parsing is he led to refer every word
to its part of speech, to resolve every sentence
into its elements, to reduce every term to its
original, and from the first case of nouns, and
the first tense of verbs, to explain their forma
tionS| changef, and dependences, till the prin-
ciples of language become so grounded, that, by
continually recurring to the rules, speaking and
writing correctly are fixed into a habit? Why
all this, but because you uniformly wish him to
be grounded in each of his acquirements 7 Why.
but because you are persuaded that a slight,
and slovenly, and superficial, and irregular way
ofinstruction will never train him to excellence
in any thing 7

Do young persons then become musicians,
painters, linguists, and mathematicians by early
study and regular labour ; and shall they become
Christians by accident 7 or rather, is not this
acting on that very principle of Dogberry, at
which you probably have oflen laughed 7 Is it
not supposing that religion like reading and
writing comes by nature 7 'Shall all those ac-
complishments, * which perish in the using,* '
be so assiduously, eo systematically taught?
Shall all those habits, which are limited to the
thin^rs of this world, be so carefully formed, so
persisted in, as to be interwoven with our very
make, so as to become as it were a part of our-
selves ; and shall that knowledge which is to
make us •.wise unto 8al\'ation' be picked up at
random, cursorily, or perhaps not picked up at
all ? Shall that difficult divine science which
requires Mine upon linr, and procopt npon pre-
cept,* here a little and there a little ; that know-
led^^e which parents, even indor a darker dis-
pcnsation, were required to teach their children
dilig^cnlly^ and to talk of it when Ihoy sat iu
their house, and when they walked by the way,
nnd when they lay down, and when they rose
up,* shall this Knowledge be by Christian parents

Digitized by




Qinittod or deferred, or taught slightly ; or be
fupersoded by things of coropdratively little
worth ^

Shall the lively period of youth, the soft and
impressible season when lasting habits are form-
ed, when the seal cats deep into the yielding wax,
^nd the impression is more likely to be clear,
and sharp, and strong, and lasting ; shall this
warm and favourable season be suffered to
«Ude by, without being turned to the great pur-
pose for which not only youth, but life and
breath, and being were bestowed? Shall not
that ' faith without which it is impossible to
please God;* shall not that * holiness without
which no man can see the Lord ;* shall not that
knowledge which is the foundation of faith and
practice ; shall not that charity without which
all knowledge is * sounding brass and a tinkling
cymbal,* be impressed, be inculcated, be enforc-
ed, as early, as constantly, as fundamentally,
with the same earnest pushing on to continual
progress, with the same constant reference to
first principles, as are used in the case of those
arts which merely adorn human life 1 Shall we
not seize the happy period when the memory is
strong, the mind and all its powers vigorous and
active, the imagination busy and all alive ; the
heart flexible, the temper ductile, the conscience
tender, curiosity awake, fca: powerful, hope
eager, love ardent ; shall we Lct seize this period
for inculcating that knowledge, and impressing
those principles which are to form the character,
and fix the destination for eternity 7

I would now address myself to another and a
still more dilatory class, who are for procrasti-
nating all concern about religion till they are
driven to it by actual distress, and who do not
think of praying till they are perishing like
the sailor who said, * be thought it ^was always
time enough to begin to pray when the storm
began.* Of those I would ask, shall we, with
an unaccountable deliberation, defer our anxiety
about religion till the busy man and the dissipa-
ted woman arc become so immersed in the cares
of life, or so entangled in its pleasures, that they
will have little heart or spirit to embrace a new
principle 7 a principle whose precise object it
will be to condemn that very life in which they
have already embarked: nay, to condemn almost
all that they have been doing and thinking ever
since they first began to act or think 7 Shall we,
I say, begin now 7 or shall we suffer those in-
structions, to receive which, requires all the con-
centrated powers of a strong and healthy mind,
to be put off till the day of excruciating pain,
till the period of debility and stupefaction 7
Shall we wait for that season, as if it were the
most favourable for religious acquisitions, when
<he senses shall have been palled by excessive
gratification, when the eye shall be tired with
seeing, and the ear with hearing? Shall we,
when the whole man is breaking up by disease
or decay, expect that the dim apprehension will
discern a new science, or the obtuse feelings dc-
light themselves with a netv pleasure? a plea-
sure too, not or.ly incompatiblo with many of the
liithorlo indulged pleasures, but one which car-
ries with it a strong intimation thut those plea-
suros termin:itc in i^e death of tJie soul.

But, not to lose sight of the imiwrtant analogy

on which we have already dwelt so much ; how
preposterous would it seem to you to hear any
one propose to an illiterate dying man, to set
about learning even the plainest, and easiest
rudiments of any new art; to study the musical
notes; to conjugate a verb ; to learn, not the firs*
problem in Euclid, but even the numeration table
and yet you do not think it absurd to postpone
religious instruction, on principles, which, if
admitted, at all, must terminate either in igno
ranee or in your proposing too late to a dying
man to begin to learn the totally unknown
scheme of Christianity. You do not think it
impossible that he should be bronght to listen to
* the voice of tliis charmer, when he can no
longer listen to * the voice of singing men and
singing women.* You do not think it unreason
able that immortal beings should delay to de-
vote their days to heaven, till they have *no
pleasure in tbem* themselves. You will not
bring them to offer up the first fruits of their
lips, and hearts, and lives, to their Maker, be-
cause yon persuade yourselves that he who has
called himself a * jealous God,* may however be
contented hereafter with the wretched sacrifice
of decayed appetites, and the worthless leavings
of almost extinguished affections.

Wo can scarcely believe, even with all the
melancholy procrastination we see around us
that there is any one, except he be a decided in-
fidel, who does not consider religion as at least
a good reversionary thing ; as an object which
ought always to occupy a little remote corner
of his map of life; tho study of which, though
it is always to be postponed, is however not to
be finally rejected ; which, though it cannot con-
veniently come into his present scheme of life,
it is intended somehow or other to take up be-
fore death. This awful deception, this defect
in the intellectual vision, arises, partly from the
bulk which the objects of time and sense acquire
in our eyes by their nearness; while the in-
visible realities of eternity are but faintly dis-
cerned by a feeble faith, through a dim and dis-
tant medium. It arises also partly from a to-
tally false idea of the nature of Christianity,
from a fatal fancy that we can repent at any
future period, and that as amendment is a thing
which will aiways be in oar power, it wiH be
time enough to think of reforminpr oar life, when
we should think only of closing it

But depend upon it, that a heart long harden-
ed, I do not mean by- gross vices merely, but by
a fondness for the wond, by an habitual and ex-
cessive indulgence in the pleasures of sense,
will by no means be in a favourable state io
admit the light of divine truth, or to receive the
impressions of divine grace. God indeed some-
times shows us by an act of his sovereignty, that
this wonderful change, the conversion of a sin-
ner's heart, may be produced without tlic inter-
vention of human means, to show that the work
is flis. But as this is not the way in which the
Almigkty usually deals witli his creatures, it
would bo n-jarly as preposterous for men to act
on this presumption, and sin on in hopes of a
miraculous conversion, as it would be to take
no means for the preservation of their lives, be-
caiHe Jesus Chnst raised Lazarus from the

Digitized by





On the manner of instructing young pertons in

religion. — General remarku on the geniuB of


I WOULD now with ^reat deference addrees
those respectmble chmractera who are really con-
cerned about the best interests of their children ;
those to whom Christianity is indeed an impor-
Unt consideration, but whioee habits of life have
hitherto hindered them from giring it its doe
deme in the scale of education.

Begin then with considering^ that religion is a
part, and the most prominent part, in your sys.
tem of instruction. Do not communicate its
principles in a random, desultory way; nor
scantily stint this business to only such scraps
and remnants of time as may be casually picked
up iVom the gieanhofs of other acquirements.
* Will you brin? to God for a sacrifice that which
costs TOO nothmg?' Let the best part of the
day, which with most people is the earliest part,
be steadily and invariably dedicated to this work
by your children, before they are tired with their
other studies, while the intellect is clear, the
spirit li^ht, and the attention sharp and unfa-

Confine not yoor instrtictions to mere verbal
ritoaU and dry systems, but communicate them
in a way which shall interest their feelings, by
lively images, and by a warm practical applica-
tion of what they reiad to their own hearts and
circumstances. If you do not study the great
but too much slighted art of fixing, of command-
ing, of chaining the attention, you may throw
away much time and labour, with little other
^effect than that of disgusting your pupils and
'wearying yourself. There seems to be no good
reason that while every other thing is to be made
amusing, religion alone must be dry and unin-
viting. Do not fancy that a thing is good merely
because it is dulL Why should not the most
entortaioing powers of the human mind be su-
premely consecrated to that subject which is
most worthy of their fiill exercise ? The mis-
fortune is, that religions learning is too oflen
rather considered as an act of the memory than
ef the heart and affections ; as a dry duty, rather
than a lively pleasure. The manner in which
it is taught difiers as much from their other
learning as punishment from recreation. Chil-
dren are turned over to the dnll work of getting
by rote as a task that which they should get
fi'om example, from animated conversation, from
lively discussion, in which the pupil should
learn to bear a part, instead of bemg merely a
passive hearer. Teach them rather, as their
blessed Saviour taught, by interesting parables,
which, while they corrected the heart, left some
exercise for the ingenuity in the solution, and
for the feelings in their application. Teach, as
He taught, by seizing on surrounding objects,
passin^^ events, local circumstances, peculiar
characters, apt illusions, just analogy, appropri-
ate illustration. Call in all creation, animate
and inanimate, to your aid, and accustom your
roong audience to
Rnd lon(ruo« in trees, books in the running brook?,
Bennonii in stones, and good in every thing

Even when the nature of yotir subject makes it

necessary for you to be more plain and didactic;
do not fail frequently to enliven these less en
gaging pflurts of your discourse with some int^
dental imagery which will captivate the fancy
with some affecting story with which it shall be
associated in the memory. Relieve what would
otherwise be too dry and preceptive, with some
striking exemplification in point, some touching
instance to be imitated, some awfiil warning ts
be avoided; something which shall illustrate
your instruction, which shall realize your posi-
tion, which shall embody your idea, and give
shape and form, colour and life, to your precept
Endeavour unremittingly to connect the reader
with the subject by making her feel that what
you teach is neither an abstract truth, nor a
thing of mere general information, but that it is
a business in which the hereelf is individually
and immediately concerned ; in which not only
her eternal salvation but her ^eseiU happiness
is involved. Do, according to your measure of
ability, what the Holy Spirit which indited the
Scriptures has done, always take the sensibility
of the learner into your account of the faculties
which are to be worked upon. * For the doc-
trines of the Bible,' as the profound and enlight-
ened Bacon observes, * are not proposed to us in
a naked lo^ttTform, but arrayed in the most
beautifbl and striking cok>urs which creation
affords.* By those a&cting illustrations used
by Him 'who knew what was in man,* and
therefore best knew how to address him, it was,
that the unlettered audiences of Christ and his
apostles were enabled both to comprehend and
to relish doctrines, which would not readily have
made their way to their understandings, had
they not first touched their hearts ; and which
would have found access to neither the one nor
the other, had they been delivered in dry scho-
lastic disquisitions. Now, those audiences not
being learned, may be supposed to have been
nearly in the state of children, as to their recep-
tive faculties, and to have required nearly the
same sort of instruction ; that is, they were more
capable of being moved with what was simple
and touching, and lively, than what was elabo.
rate, abstruse, and unaffecting. Heaven and
earth were made to furnish their contributions,
when man was to be taught that science which
was to make him wise unto salvation. Some-
thing which might enforce or illustrate was
drawn from every element The appearances
of the sky, the storms of the ocean, the birds of
the air, the beasts of the field, the fruits of the
earth, the seed and the harvest, the labours of
the husbandmeni the traffic of the merchant, the
season of the year ! all were laid hold of in turn.
And the most important moral instruction, or
religious truth, was deduced from some recent
occurrence, some natural appearance, some or-
dinary fact

If that be the purest eloquence which most
persuades and which comes home to the heart
with the fullest evidence and the most irresisti-
ble force, then no eloquence is so powerful as
that of Scripture ; and an intelligent Chriplian
teacher will be admonished by the mode of
Scripture itself, how to communicate its trmhe
with life and spirit; 'while he is musinj?, the
fire bums •* that fire which will preserve him

Digitized by




firom in iiuimd and freezing mode of ioiInK- ,
tioii. He will noreter, as wu said ak>re, al-
wajt carefuHj keep op a quick weam of the
penonal interest the papil has in every religioos
instmction which is impressed upon hiok He
will teach as Panl iR^yed, * with the spirit, and
with the onderstanding also f and in imitating
this great nwdel, he will necessarily avoid the
opposite fiiolts of two diffinmt sorts of instroe*
tors ; ibr while some of our divines of the higher
class have been too apt to preach as if mankind
had only intellect, and the lower and more po-
pular sort as if they had only p a ssi o ns , let him
borrow what is good from both, and address his
papils as beings com p o on ded of both under-
ftanding and affisctions.*

Fancy not that the Bible is too difficult and
intricate to be presented in its own naked Iwm,
and that it pozzies and bewilders the youthful
understanding* In all needful and imuspensa-
ble points of knowledge, the darkness of Scrip,
tnre, as a great Christian philosopberf has c^-
aerndt * >• but a partial darkness, Hke that of
Egypt, which beni^^hted only the enemiee of
God, while it left his children in clear day.' It
is not pretended that the Bible will Jimd in the
young reader dear views of God and of Christ,
uf the soul and eternity, but that it will gite
them. And if it be really the appropriate cha-
racter of Scripture, as it tells us itself that it is,
* to enlighten the eyes of the blinds* and * to
make wise the §impUt^ then it is as well calcu-
lated for the youthlnl and uninformed as for any
other class ; and as it was never ezpected that
the greater part of Christians should be learned,

00 is learning, though of inestimable value in a

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 84 of 135)