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" the system of large national schools, the object of which is, contrary to the spirit of the Church, to impart sacred knowledge without any of this training (i. e. the moral discipline of Aristotle) as coinciding with it, except in a very limited way, and to inculcate knowledge without adequately instilling a sense of its practical importance.” “By their fruits ye shall know them ” is the test which our blessed Lord has given us, in order to distinguish between true and false prophets. Apply this test to Mr. Williams's tracts.
The system of Christianity is expansive and Catholic. The system “of reserve in communicating religious knowledge” is narrow, anticatholic, and exclusive. “Go ye and teach all nations," is the language of Christianity. Beware how you teach any, is the language of Mr. Williams. Christianity, true to the divine impulse which gave motion to all the powers of the natural and moral world, is following the law of its existence, is building churches, is circulating the Scriptures, is establishing schools, is preaching the Atonement. Mr. Williams would arrest its onward progress, and stay it in its mid career.
We tremble not for the general result, although we must tremble for our own Church, when we see her authorized ministers setting forth and upholding such monstrous principles. The sure word of God predicts the triumphs of the gospel over every form of opposition, and teaches Christians to look forward to a time, when the knowledge of the gospel shall be everywhere diffused. A vain philosophy may inculcate its systems of reserve, and may erect its feeble barriers; but we laugh them to scorn, convinced that they are utterly powerless to check the tide of Christianity, which is flowing onward in obedience to a mighty impulse, a movement of the human mind, which is deep, holy, and resistless. And why are we thus confident ? Because in opposition to Mr. Williams' theories, we have been taught to regard the Spirit as a present God in his Church—to ascribe all that is done there to his almighty energy—to expect that the promises of Scripture will be fulfilled through his blessing bestowed upon human means—that the prayer of faith will be answered, and the preaching of “ Christ crucified,” will continue to be “the power of God unto salvation.” Because, in one word, we have learnt, while contemplating the present aspect of Christianity, and comparing it with the glorious future---what is, with what shall be what we see accomplished, with what has been revealed to look upward with faith and hope, and to rejoice that we are not alone ; but that it is the Spirit of God, which even now moveth upon the face of the waters.
1. THE LITTLE COUSINS: a Book for Young Children.
London: Burns. 1841. 2. THE WINTER'S TALE: to which is added, Little Ber
tram's Dream. London: Burns. 1841. 3. LITTLE MARY. Oxford: Parker. 1841. 4. BOOKS FOR CHILDREN. Burns' Series. 1841. 5. CONVERSATIONS WITH COUSIN RACHEL.
Parts 1, 2, 3. London: Burns. 1841. 6. RUTILIUS AND LUCIUS; or, Stories of the Third Age.
By ROBERT ISAAC WILBERFORCE, M.A., Archdeacon and
The list before us sends our memory back to times not yet beyond its reach; to the nurseries and school-rooms of other, but not far distant days; and when we observe how short the space has been in which so much was done that seems likely, with equal rapidity, to be undone, an awed and thoughtful wonder fills our minds, at what may be the meaning of this haste. We remember without difficulty our own first proprietorship of A BOOK : too auspicious a moment to a book-doomed child to be easily forgotten. It was “ The Adventures of a Mouse," whose appropriate name “ Bright Eyes,” whose delights were in the closet, and his wrongs, a trap. The blindness of fortune, the injustice of cats, and the impossibility, by craft or virtue, to escape the final destiny of mice, were the truths most obviously inculcated; the moral deduction being determined by the special character of the reader, whether it were better not to covet, or not to be found out; to be bold or cautious, artful or confiding: to deep-thinking readers, such as we remember to have been, the abiding impression was, that all are the victims of an unjust fate. There was no mention of religion, of things to come, or things unseen, in our week-day books. Of graver lore, provided for Sunday-reading, our farthest memory is of some little square books, with paper covers, called “ Scripture History; ” but oh, how dull they were, compared with the spiritstirring perils of the mouse; and how we longed for Sunday to be gone.
The disconnected facts and cold morality of the adapted statements could wake no sympathies in a childish heart. Nobody told us what deep interest we had in them; what they were more to us than other stories : we found them only duller and more improbable. We say not this in lightness; our hearts are most deeply impressed with gratitude the while—first to Almighty God, and next to those who, under his gracious guidance, have wrought so great a change in early education, especially in early reading. Children are born with soul, as well as body and mind, and are therefore capable of receiving the aliment Almighty wisdom has adapted to it. They are very early susceptible of the deepest interest in the things of another world ; an unseen present and an unknown future—a God invisible and a life beyond the grave; because there is in them an immortal part, respondent to the interests thus set before them, and whose capabilities can be sufficed on nothing else.
We may keep the soul slumbering; we may keep it starved ; as reptiles immured in walls remain alive, unconscious of their powers of sight and motion ; but we cannot awaken its sensibilities or sustain them, with any other stimulants than those appointed for it, and suited to its nature. The soul can feed only on religion; on God, and the things of God. Things temporal, things sensible, addressing themselves merely to the moral and intellectual sense, are not designed for it, nor it for them; they may immure and stupify, even to unconsciousness, the immortal thing; but it cannot taste, it cannot feed, it cannot care for the cold aliment of this world's banquet ; good and wholesome and pleasant as it may be to the mental and physical affections. Hence, the Bible History, deprived of all that is essentially spiritual in it, and reduced by adaptation, as it is falsely called, to a mere moral lesson of good or bad example, awakens no feeling in the bosom of a young child; and even Joseph and his brethren, the fiery furnace and the lion's den—the most favoured pages of our Sunday books, had no such fitness for our early appetency as the misadventures and misdoings of the poor “ Bright Eyes," whom we hoped to see, or feared to see in every corner, in no very remote fellowship with our own desires and vexations.
With religion in its own distinctive characters, the case is quite otherwise; there is in the first waked feeling of a child, we can scarcely say how early, something that responds to its affecting interests, and yields fixed attention to its representations. Under good instruction, without supposing any work of special grace, one of the first troubles a child is conscious of, is the pain of being naughty, and the failure of all its resolutions and efforts to be good, whether impelled to them by conscience, love or fear. Then its wants and dangers; something which parents cannot provide for or prevent; the sickness, and pain and death, from which, it very soon learns, by observation or experience, no loving hand can shelter it. However the knowledge of God must wait his revela
tion of himself, we believe the need of a God is the soul's inborn feeling, which other things may stifle, but nothing else can satisfy. This inborn want religion meets and acts upon ; and we need only observe the progress of education in the last half century, to perceive how easily children may be brought to listen to its details, made personal by application to their wants. A Father in heaven, and a world all good; the unseen who sees and the unheard who hears; followed up by the knowledge of sin's origin and remedy ; of one who intercedes, atones for, and makes good; the tales of Jesus' love and man's ingratitude ; of angel friends above and wicked foes beneath :—they know very little of children who do not know how absorbing and affecting all these things are, when really adapted and addressed to the indwelling consciousness of more than mortal need. The catalogues of our School Libraries now, whether for the village or the castle, bear practical witness to the fact. We made mention of undoing; but can we indeed go back to where we began-to our Tom Thumbs, and Cinderellas, and Red Riding-hoods? This is impossible. The mothers still live whose young affections and sympathies were engaged by better things; and whether the spring-time seed is now bearing its summer fruits, or has been dried up and withered for lack of root, they will not forego for their children the benefit of religious instruction, and early familiarity with its sacred language; our young readers will not return to the useless, aimless trash of other days. Satan knows this as well as we do ; he is too wise to turn the wheel against the current: he does not design to shiver in pieces this mighty machinery of our spiritual progress; he means to take possession and use it for himself; so stealthily, so cautiously, that while the vessel seems progressing in its wonted course, no one shall perceive that the helmsman has been changed. But never, while one faithful soldier of Jesus Christ is left upon the watchtower, may such attempts be allowed to pass unchallenged.
Long used, as we have been, to his wiles, we have seldom had so sad a task as that imposed upon us now; to expose the real character and design of this collection of children's books, with their very common names and unalarming title-pages-Cousin Rachels and Little Marys, and whatever else—their broad margins, and fine paper, and pretty vignettes; common explanations of very common things ; first lessons of utility, morality and religion; all about flowers and play-things, the calendar and the ten commandments; how to be good at lessons, and how to behave at church;
intended for nothing, of course, but the innocent amusement of very little children.
We warn every careful parent otherwise. This is not their in
tention. It is a design systematically pursued, to mix with popish corruptions the first impressions of the Christian faith, to counteract the first Protestant predilections, and fix the affections by early association upon something else. The poison is administered, indeed, upon homeopathic principles, and it requires no common scrutiny, in some cases, to detect the dangerous infinitesimals. We have read through a little story, and found, perhaps, but a single sentence; but there it is, a dose duly but cautiously increased as the age of the reader advances.
The first on our list is addressed to children before they can read, and supposes itself to be read to them. After having wondered with the author why the baby hero of the tale preferred the picture of Haggai, “who had been sent to tell the Jews to rebuild * the temple, which was a building something like a great church,” and wondered by ourselves why all the "thirty pictures” were characters out of the Old Testament without any reference to the New; and why the easy word, the short and precious name of Jesus, never once occurs; and that of the cross occurs only in explanation of the shape of the "Bishop's own Church," amid the very hard names of transept, and choir, and surplices, and choristers, with no further explanation of itself than, that it was " set up there" (on the east end of the roof) “as a sign of our religion, and to remind us of our duty as Christians ; " wanting also perception on our own part why the godmother writes to the child of two or three years old, that one gentleman in the parish, for reasons unexplained, does not approve of building a new church, or care to attend the old one: we might consign the innocent negation to the week-day shelf of our own early reading, did we believe the “ Little Cousins ” done with. But we feel assured there is, or is to be, a part the second, to finish, at least, the building of the new church, of which the walls have not yet risen to the windows, and nothing is well defined but the “east end, where the altar is to be.” There is nothing in all this to alarm the watchful critic: neither was there anything in the first laid stone of Babel, had no second been intended, to offend the vision of the Most High.
But we have another, so like in form and decoration, and all outward seeming, we feel impelled to place them next each other ; notwithstanding the prescribed unities are lost, by a distance of some seventeen centuries of time. Many other things are also changed; plain Rose and Phillip into Perdita and Gwineth ; dolls and wooden horses into spears, and wolves, and coracles; the foundations of the new church into the ruins of Stonehenge. Godmama Henrietta is exchanged for the royal wife of Cymbeline; Mr. Palmer for Father Aidan, and the “Bishop's church” for a little Peranza