Imágenes de páginas

Therefore the principal part of sound discipline will consist generally in sound manners, of which sincerity is the chief; and particularly in the sound and sincere practice of every particular calling in which mere seeming and formality is not the main business; as among players, courtiers and others, including milk and water preachers. But in the general part or the common, of which we are considering, there should be beside sincerity, the modesty, simplicity, candour, humility—“ worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,"—the submission and trust or confidence toward superiors, toward One especially; as the Apostle says, “ And such trust have we through Christ to Godward” (Cor. II. iii. 4 ;)—with the friendship and charity, or habitual kindness, toward equals—in short every good characteristic of its class toward all, which may here be expected, and rather here than elsewhere: till the subjects leaving the wide range of common discipline, their first life with limits, or their first remove from the savage state,-begin some of them, to take to stricter measures in the various parts and professions of the second or more particular circle. And that circle every one will necessarily enter with the greater advantage for being well grounded in this; as may be conceived by the beautiful picture that is given of it from the Decalogue in two short paragraphs of our short catechism. For here we have beautifully condensed the substance of our duty to God and our neighbour: which is as much as properly belongs to common discipline; the duty toward ourselves being merged in the last mentioned, as only a subordinate object in respect of discipline, though a principal in respect of private righteousness.

There are no other principal matters of Christian discipline in general beside these. But there are other matters inferior and subordinate to these in the common circle of discipline; and common matters too, we may call them in that respect, being at the same time embellishments to its sphere, and to the discipline likewise as far as embellishments can here be required. For among these inferior and subordinate matters, as I call them, is to be found all that class of well ordered movements which belong to the notion of propriety, all that class of minor modes which belong to the idea of politeness and equality, the class of good breeding and courtesy-order, decency, nobility, gentility, and others of the same inferior, but not unimportant quality ; being, as the apostle says, 66 whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise.” (Phil. iv. 8.) And when he adds, “think of these things," I presume that he means not merely as matters of speculation ; but as fit to be adopted with a view to practice, and to the embellishment of our common discipline ; that we may, as he says likewise, “ adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things;” (Tit. ii. 10 ;) not forgetting (I may add) any of the forementioned principal matters or properties, nor yet a general good behaviour,-a social complex sort of righteousness, if it be not actual discipline: there is as much room even for these inferior matters of common discipline among the common sort of people as among their betters, among the labouring class as among the class that can, if they do not always live without labour. And for its presence, I think there may be quite as much of them, with quite as good a feeling toward any common cause, like discipline, among labourers of either sex, as among lords and ladies, though it may be what they never heard of.

What makes most against the prevalence of a good inferior discipline among the higher classes in some of the forementioned respects, is their early seclusion from the lower, and their mistaken views in the respects alluded to. But a part which I shall presently venture to recommend would go far toward correcting these evils or inconveniences, if it might. For in treating more particularly on the subject of common discipline, I propose to divide it into two

sections or degrees which severally occur first at school, and next in after-schooling and are accordingly denominated as aforesaid. And as I proceed with the first of these two sections, I shall have occasion to notice the part alluded to ; by means of which the different classes of society may be brought nearer together-as they had need, and as Christian classes ought to be nearer than savages—in their early discipline and so be united to the end, if they can only steer clear of one great cause of savagism and indiscipline. For I have seen a gentleman looking as savage as a stuck pig before now, and all without any cause or provocation but his inherent PRIDE, the cause alluded to: all the mistaken views, and all the mischief, and all the nonsense that tears up Christian discipline and absolutely hinders its benevolent progress, is pridepride increasing perpetually by ignorance, as ignorance increases by pride. The vices or faults of this foundation are so stubborn and incorrigible as hardly to admit of a remedy; they are desperate almost. Yet we are not allowed to despair in our office; and there is no knowing ever what may be done, without a trial, when the cause itself is good, by a quiet and steady perseverance. So in this case the old feudal notions of extrinsic worth, as barbarous and unphilosophical as they are antichristian and heterodox, may wear away in some measure by degrees; men may begin to be respected more for themselves, than for what they have or for what they may be called, and women likewise: the doctrine of equality will begin to be better understood, and the foundation of superiority to be -not money-but man; as aforesaid: but the honour of our Christian calling is what will be thought most of, till at length, and by degrees, as I said, and by one thing and another, people shall begin to think something of worth intrinsic in the subject, but derived from that source (our Christian calling) in opposition to pride. Thus a mighty revolution will begin and spread through Christendom that may lead to a joyful millennium ; or if to ten, it were

better, and all from so humble a beginning as that of the part alluded to, which I may now state to be a common education, and the importance of which, humble as it may seem, has never, perhaps, been highly enough estimated.

I. This part is contained, as I have already signified in the first section or degree of common discipline, as I

proposed to divide it, being that of discipline at school; a process, of which I am to notice some particulars, after having cleared the way by querying another point or two, as e. g.

5-Whether a general schooling be desirable in reference to common Discipline ?

To render this question in our own way, it should be asked, Whether the common, savage life-and not only savage but lost, which all men have to live, or rather die -by nature, should be reformed by discipline generally, if possible, “that they might live and not die;" or whether it be more desirable that the bulk of a population or community should pass their present life, not only in a state of savage ignorance, but in the same lost condition in which it began, and finally be, as it is said, “ destroyed for lack of knowledge ?” (Hos. iv. 6.) Being all of us born alike, as little naked savages and infidels, however our prospects in life may differ, it will require something more than swaddling clothes or baptism either, as before signified, to make us only rational creatures, to say nothing of new and innocent: and that something, I contend, is Christian discipline. For one should be inclined (with deference) to wonder almost however the Creator could take an animal of our savage class—“so foolish and ignorant, even as it were a beast before him "

so inferior at his birth to one of those pretty songsters before mentioned, and make him have dominion of the works of his hands;" even of “all sheep and oxen," those useful, interesting creatures and he such a ferocious animal ! if it did not occur to one at the same time, that the Creator having so wisely and benevolently blended the interests of high and low, that man cannot be cruel only to a sheep without hurting himself,—might choose to show in this instance, what was to be done by discipline in reforming such a savage. May that discipline, therefore, be desirable for all ? or, in other words, Is it desirable for all to be better than savage and lost? Because, the end being supposed, the necessity of the means will follow, of which this schooling, or early discipline would seem to be the most direct when duly guarded or guaranteed by baptism, which has been before observed to be its necessary beginning. But the advantage of being somewhat better than savage and lost, is what no man in his right senses, perhaps, but assuredly no man of a right principle, would presume to oppose or deny. Indeed, only to question, whether it be desirable for all men to be rational creatures might seem an absurdity ; much more, whether creatures who lie under a natural condemnation and must suffer accordingly, be they rational or not, without a new life-whether they should be reclaimed by the only means of discipline and education. I say, it would seem absurd almost, only to question concerning so obvious a fact : but it is not an unusual way of arguing so as to supersede one question by raising another seemingly more unreasonable. And it may seem unreasonable enough in any to deny the premises while they hold their foundation ; the fall of man from a better state and his proneness to worse being a sufficient ground both of the necessity and hoped success of discipline through the divine goodness. Yet I am sorry to observe, that there are those who can admit the doctrine and deny the inference; or who, if they do not directly deny such inference, yet contrive to neutralize its effect by a practical contradiction.

So that upon further consideration, the question of a general schooling might not seem altogether so absurd as it would at first sight; while its affirmative being generally allowed in theory even where it is denied in practice, the same will

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »