Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and give the teachers stipends worthy their pains, that they may bring them up in grammar, in logic, in rhetoric, in philosophy, and civil law, and in that which I cannot leave unspoken of, the word of God.So, again, in the “Injunction” prefixed to the “ Catechism set forth by the King's Majesty's authority (Edward VI.) in 1563, for all schoolmasters to teach," the object of the Catechism is stated to be, “that the yet unskilful and young age, having the foundation laid both of religion and good letters, may learn godliness together with wisdom; and have a rule for the rest of their life, what judgment they ought to have of God, to whom all our life is applied, and how they may please God, wherein we ought, with all the doings and duties of our life, to travail. Wherewith being furnished, by better using due godliness toward God the Author of all things; obedience toward their King, the shepherd of the people ; loving affection to the commonweal, the mother of all; they may seem not born for themselves, but be profitable and dutiful toward God, their King, and their country.” Thus, again, in Archbishop Grindal's “Injunctions for the Laity,” given at York in 1571, it is directed—“that no schoolmaster shall teach, either openly or privately, in any gentleman's house, or in any other place, unless he be of good and sincere religion and conversation. He shall teach his scholars the Catechism and such sentences of Scripture, besides profane chaste authors, as shall be most meet to move them to the love and due reverence of God's true religion, and to induce them to all godliness and honest conversation.”

Whilst the education of young persons on scriptural and religious principles was thus cared for and promoted in England, the same object was zealously attempted in Ireland. For, by an Act passed in the reign of Henry VIII., (A.D. 1537,) an oath was to be administered “ to such as take orders, and to such as are instituted to any benefice, (in Ireland,) to keep, or cause to be kept, within his parish, a school for to learn English, if any children of his parish came to him to learn the same.” *

It may be doubted, whether this Act had any very direct bearing on the religious instruction of the youth of Ireland. But it was an important step, if it had been but duly followed up, to the advancement of general education in that country. In the twelfth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, (A.D. 1570,) an Act was also passed for the erection of free schools throughout the kingdom ; the preamble of which sets forth the occasion of the Act: “Foragmuch as the greatest number of this Your Majesty's realm hath of long time lived in rude and barbarous states, not understanding that Almighty God hath by His Divine laws forbidden the manifold and heinous offences which they spare not daily to commit and perpetrate, nor that He hath by His holy Scriptures commanded a due and humble obedience from the people to their princes and rulers ; whose ignorance in these so high points, touching their damnation, proceedeth only of lack of good bringing up of the youth of this realm, either in public or private schools," &c. And then ensues the enactment, in substance to the effect that there be thenceforth a free school within every diocese of Ireland ; that the school-house shall be erected in the principal shire-town, where school-houses are not already built; and that the Lord Deputy and Council shall appoint a convenient yearly salary, of which one third part shall be borne by the Ordinary, and the other two by the Clergy of the diocese. It is to be lamented that,

* Mant's History of the Church of Ireland, chap. ii., sect. I. + Ibid., chap. v., sect. 2.

some years afterwards, “ these schools, which might have been a means to season the youth in virtue and religion, were either ill-provided and illgoverned in the most part, or (which was worse) applied sometimes, underhand, to the maintenance of Popish schoolmasters, and to Popish uses generally,—especially during the reign of James II.”* But the intention of Elizabeth and her advisers was benevolent and Christian, and in harmony with the principles on which education was sought to be promoted in England.

It is to Scotland, however, that we must look for the most eminent example that has hitherto been given of the practical illustration and embodiment of the great duty of the church in reference to such matters; there having been no instance in which the general education of the people on scriptural principles has been more extensively and steadily promoted than in that country. On the occasion of what is called the First Reformation of the Church of Scotland, when the celebrated Book of Discipline was approved and ratified by the General Assembly,+ “education was very justly regarded as of the utmost importance, and deserving every possible encouragement. It was stated, as imperatively necessary, that there should be a school in every parish, for the instruction of youth in the principles of religion, grammar, and the Latin tongue ; and it was farther proposed that a college should be erected in every notable town, in which logic and rhetoric should be taught, along with the learned languages. It was even suggested that parents should not be permitted to neglect the education of their children ; but that the nobility and gentry should be obliged to do so at their own expense ; and that a fund should be provided for the education of the children of the poor, who discovered talents and aptitude for learning." At the Second Reformation, (A.D. 1638,) this benevolent provision was not only re-established, but still farther extended. For, in completing the restoration of the Presbyterian Church, the Assembly directed, amongst other things, “ that the Presbyteries should see that schools were provided in every landward parish, and such support secured to schoolmasters as should render education easily accessible to the whole population of the kingdom.And, in like manner, after the troubles occasioned by the Revolution, (A.D. 1695—6,) “the chief subject which occupied the attention of the Church was what ought always chiefly to occupy its attention,anxious care to promote in the most efficient manner the moral and religious welfare of the community. And in this important task the Church was not less successful than zealous ; and the happiest results began to appear throughout the kingdom. Some more direct countenance began to be given to the exertions of the Church by the King ; the most valuable proof of which was the Act of Parliament respecting schools, realising what had long and earnestly been sought by the Presbyterian Church, and by no other church in Christendom,-a school in every parish throughout the whole kingdom, so far supported by the public funds as to render education accessible to even the poorest in the community.

Some exception, as it would appear, is to be made, as to the general success of the Church of Scotland in the educational arrangements contemplated in the above-mentioned provisions; since, in a document presented to the Assembly in 1758 by the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, it is stated that there were then in the Highlands no less than one

* Mant, chap. vii., sect. 4 ; chap. X., sect. 1.

+ January, 1561.

hundred and seventy-five parishes where there were no parochial schools, and where the heritors neglected or refused to provide them, notwithstanding the urgent entreaties and remonstrances of the Society. But this deficiency was owing to causes very closely analogous, and in part precisely similar, to those by which, up to the present time, the course of Christian education has been obstructed in Ireland. “The greater part of the Highland heritors were both Papists and Jacobites, and consequently had no love for the propagation of religious knowledge, and as little for the extension of the Presbyterian system, which paralysed their rebellious tendencies, as they themselves had formerly owned in their complaints against new churches and schools.”* The result of this appeal to the Assembly was a supply, in part, of the deficiency complained of; and since that time it may have been still farther remedied.

The facts which thus present themselves to our attention in the past history of the church, besides serving to illustrate and confirm the general position which constitutes the ground-work of these observations, bring out very prominently to our view the significant and instructive conclusion, -that there is nothing substantially new in the principles now generally prevailing on that subject in this country; the present educational movement being, in its general character, simply a revival of the spirit and practice of the church in the beginning and in succeeding ages ; the principal, if not the only, novelty (if we except the modern plan of training schoolmasters) being found in the proceedings of certain parties, who plead for the establishment of public schools in which religious teaching shall be avowedly excluded from the system of school-instruction ;-a grave innovation, truly, which may be farther noticed in the course of the succeeding observations.

Meanwhile, to Wesleyan Methodists at least, it will be interesting to remark the close parallelism, and on some points the absolute identity, of the principles adopted on the general question by the Wesleyan-Methodist Connexion, with the principles definitely embodied and exemplified in the foregoing instances.

1. After the example of the church in various ages, the Wesleyan Committee of Education, acting under the direction of the Conference, regards it as a fundamental and unalterable principle, that an inculcation of scriptural truth, with a view to the personal salvation of young people, is not merely an integral part, but the great basis and the all-pervading object, of a proper education; and that on this ground mainly rests the duty of the church to interpose its direction and assistance therein, to the utınost of its power. In very many instances there is a peculiar necessity for such direction and assistance, arising from the circumstance that the children are not likely to receive at home the religious instruction which their age requires ; nor can their need be adequately met by the amount of religious instruction which the Ministers of religion generally might be expected to address to them. And,-even in those cases in which young persons are the most favourably circumstanced, with respect to opportunities of such instruction at home,-as the work of the schoolmaster cannot supersede the duty of the parents, so neither can the work of the parents supersede the duty of the schoolmaster. It was on this principle that Richard Baxter regarded his Book on the “ Catechising of Families” as being equally adapted to the use of schoolmasters; with respect to whom

* Hetherington's History of the Church of Scotland,

he makes the following appropriate remarks:“I am past doubt,” says he, “that it is a heinous crime in the schoolmasters of England, that they devote but one hour or two in the week to the learning of the Catechism, while all the rest of the week is devoted to the learning of Lilly, Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Livy, Terence, and such like. Besides the loss and sinful omission, it seduceth youth to think that common knowledge (which is only subsidiary and ornamental) is more excellent or necessary than to know God, Christ, the Gospel, duty, and salvation ; besides which, (further than it helpeth or serveth this,) it is but fooling and doting, and as dangerous diversion and perversion of the mind as grosser sensual delights. He is not worthy the name of a Christian schoolmaster, who maketh it not his chief work to teach his scholars the knowledge of Christ and life everlasting.On the same principle Mr. Wesley prepared his “ Lessons for Children,” and his “ Instructions for Children,” for the use of “all schoolmasters," as well as of "all parents ;" and, in the establishment of the school at Kingswood, his “ first point was, to answer the design of Christian education, by forming the minds of the scholars, through the help of God, to wisdom and holiness, by instilling the principles of true religion, speculative and practical, and training them up in the ancient way, that they might be rational, scriptural Christians," --in conformity with the prayer so happily expressed in the following characteristic stanzas :

“Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

To whom we for our children cry ;
The good desired and wanted most,

Out of Thy richest grace supply ;
The sacred discipline be given,

To train and bring them up for heaven.
“ Error and ignorance remove,

Their blindness both of heart and mind;
Give them the wisdom from above,

Spotless, and peaceable, and kind;
In knowledge pure their minds renew,
And store with thoughts divinely true.
“ Unite the pair so long disjoin'd, -

Knowledge and vital piety :
Learning and holiness combined,

And truth and love, let all men see,
In those whom op to Thee we give,

Thine, wholly Thine, to die and live." And this “ ancient way of training,” thus aimed at by Mr. Wesley, is precisely that which is also aimed at by the Wesleyan Committee of Education : the fundamental principles of the schools which are established under their sanction requiring “ that the schools shall be of a distinctively religious character; that a certain portion of every day, at least half an hour each morning and afternoon, shall be set apart for the devotional reading of the holy Scriptures, with explanations by the teacher or visiter ; that the authorised Wesleyan Catechisms shall be used in all the schools, except in any special case wherein the parent or guardian of a child shall express a decided objection ; that, in addition to the use of our printed Catechisms, in order that the understanding as well as the memory of each child may be exercised in the elements of sacred knowledge, the interrogative or conversational mode of teaching shall be employed in communicating

religious instruction ; that Christian psalmody shall form a part of the daily exercises ; and that the school duties shall uniformly begin and end with prayer.”

2. A second point of strong resemblance between the practice of the church in days gone by, in the best instances, and that of our Connexion at the present day, is found in the scrupulous regard which its Educational Committee invariably pays to the religious character and experience of those who are recommended as teachers for the week-day schools established under its sanction, as well as to their orthodoxy. The absolute necessity of attention to this point is a necessary consequence of the peculiar character of the great object which they are intended to secure. And the importance attached to it by Mr. Wesley, with respect to his arrangements for the school at Kingswood, is thus strongly and most justly stated :*“I had such advantages as few besides, in being acquainted with every part of the nation; and yet I found it no easy thing to procure such [masters] as I desired. For I was not satisfied that they had learning sufficient for their several departments, unless they had likewise the fear of God, producing an unblamable conversation. I saw none would answer my intention, but men who were truly devoted to God; who sought nothing on earth, neither pleasure, nor ease, nor profit, nor the praise of men, but simply to glorify God, with their bodies and spirits, in the best manner they were capable of.” A statement this which would appear to intimate that, according to the author's estimation of the matter, a devotedly spiritual character is scarcely less essential to the schoolmaster than to the Minister. With somewhat less of reason for complaint, perhaps, than Mr. Wesley had, his spiritual children are yet equally concerned and anxious to act upon the same conviction as he did. It is, accordingly, amongst the fundamental principles the education which they are desirous of promoting, that “every teacher employed in the day or infant schools, or trained for them, shall be of a decidedly religious character, and in connexion with the Wesleyan-Methodist Society ; and, previously to his or her actual appointment, shall be examined by the General Committee of Education,” with a view to satisfaction on this point, as well as on the question of " general ability."

3. There is, also, a resemblance between the doings of the church in former days, and the project now cherished and hopefully commenced by the Wesleyan Conference and its Committee of Education, as to the range of the field which that project is designed to occupy. For as, in several of the cases above specified, it was regarded as a settled principle, that there should be a school connected with every church or parish ; the same principle, in an equally comprehensive application, is distinctly contemplated (to the extent to which it may be practicable) in the present educational movement of the Wesleyan-Methodist Connexion. “If,” says the Committee, “there be any truth or justice in the principles which form the basis of the Committee's general scheme of operation, no chapel in our Connexion, having attached to it a considerable Society and Congregation, and having therefore also in its vicinity a considerable amount of population, can now be considered as being complete in all the great practical objects for which chapels are or ought to be intended, unless there be found, in immediate connexion with it, an efficient week-day school, in which the children of the poorer members of the Society and Congregation, and the

poor

children

* Plain Account of Kingswood School. Works, vol. xiii., p. 259.

« AnteriorContinuar »