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The other particular in which Mr. Gallaudet seems to us to have formed a correct judgment of the true principles on which a system of early education should be founded, is the inculcation of one thing at a time, and the continual repetition of the same idea, until it is completely understood. No fault is more common than the attempt to teach children too much at once; and this is connected with the passing from thing to thing in too much haste; by which means nothing is learned well, and a strange confusion of ideas is produced in the mind of the child. This fault our author has carefully avoided. He has proceeded upon correct knowledge of the state of the infant mind, and has attempted the inculcation of truth in a very gradual manner; and will not be hurried forward too rapidly even by the impatient curiosity of the pupil, until by a distinct knowledge of the primary ideas, the way is prepared for a further developement of the subject. This gradual and distinct method of conveying knowledge, is, in our view, of the utmost importance to the improvement of the human mind. In the whole of the first of these volumes, nothing further is aimed at, than to give the child a distinct idea of the soul, and how it is distinguished from the body; and in the second it is attempted to give him some idea of the leading attributes of God. This, upon the whole, is well executed, but we think is susceptible of improvement. The dialogues on the power of God are too much extended, and the subject is made to assume too abstruse a form for the feeble intellects of children. We are of opinion, that the simple idea of God as the Creator of the world, without much enlargement or explanation, would answer best. That everything must have a cause, is a truth which is apprehended by children as soon as any other; and from the fact that God made the world and all things in it, the idea of his power can be easily inferred. And we confess, that we were disappointed in not finding an allusion to the Saviour of sinners, in the whole of these two books. We entertain no doubt, but that the author intends to bring this subject forward distinctly in a future volume; but we should be better pleased, if this most interesting of all subjects had been presented to the mind of the child, in some aspect, before it has proceeded so far. But we may be here charged with a departure from our own principles, in requiring this part of the divine character to be exhibited before every notice is taken of his moral attributes, or of the moral law. Well, we will
agree to suspend our judgment on this point, until the author has proceeded further in his analysis; but we have a strong impression, that the best method of conveying to ignorant minds the true knowledge of God, is not to proceed systematically, but to rush, as it were, into the middle of the subject, and to present such ideas as are most likely to seize the attention, and engage the feelings. If light is let into the mind from any radiant point of divine truth, it will illuminate every other point which has any relation to the one which is the object of primary contemplation. Perhaps we have taken up this idea from the facts which have been reported by the Moravian missionaries, in relation to the methods of instruction which they found most successful in their attempts to instruct the ignorant heathen; and which have been generally pursued by other evangelical missionaries. But we are not sure, that this idea may not fairly be deduced from the
practice of the Apostles themselves, who made Christ crucified, the centre of all their preaching. Method is a very excellent thing, and knowledge, to be most useful, must be reduced to system, but we doubt, whether, in the earliest acquisition of knowledge, the systematic order of ideas is useful; we are rather inclined to the opinion, that it will often be found best to begin with whatever is likely to interest most, and to make the deepest impression.
The remarks last made, suggest to us what we believe will be found to be the most material defect in these elementary books. They will not be so attractive to most children as is desirable. This opinion we have formed, not merely from the nature of the subjects treated, but also from some trial with children of a somewhat volatile disposition, but fond of reading entertaining stories. They read these little volames without any manifest dislike, but did not seem to have their feelings much interested: and while some children of a serious, or contemplatiye turn will not only be
gratified but delighted with the dialogues, the majority will not be so much interested, as, of their ow
own accord, to read the work a second time. Now, we would respectfully recommend to the author, that he would study some embellishments or attractions, which might be interspersed through these books: and if anecdotes or narratives.could be introduced, which would bear to be connected with the didactic matter, it would be so much the better.
The truth is—and it is an important fact in education, as
well as in commerce, that there must be a want created before much exertion will be made to obtain a supply. As far as our experience goes, this desideratum is the main thing in leading children or adults to pursue knowledge with ardour. Now, a general sense of duty, or feeling of interest, is not strong enough to counteract the numerous temptations to idleness and sport, which are presented to all children. It is ne. cessary, therefore, to furnish books which will afford present pleasure; so that the child will prefer taking his book to read, to going to play. There is, no doubt, much danger lest this appetite should become morbid, and should crave unwholesome food. This danger cannot, however, be avoided by a rigid prohibition of all works of fiction and fancy; nor by attempts to keep children from all opportunity of looking into such books. Restraints of this kind may be maintained, while children are under the immediate eye of their parents; but when they are grown up, and go abroad, they will be in danger of resorting with uncommon avidity to this species of reading, as we have known to be the fact in more instances than one. While, therefore, we are deeply convinced that the great mass of fictitious writings have an injurious tendency, we are of opinion, that the only effectual remedy against this evil, is to furnish a substitute;—to prepare such books for children and youth as shall be entertaining, and, at the same time, moral and religious in their character. Why should it be supposed, that no books can be prepared which will captivate and delight the youthful mind, but such as hare a tendency to corrupt it? And why is it unlawful to avail ourselves of the disposition in children to become deeply interested in connected narrations? How far it is lawful or expedient to go in making fiction the vehicle of instruction and moral improvement, is a question on which there exists some difference of opinion, and it is a point which it would be out of place to discuss here. We are pleased, however, to observe, that those narratives which are founded in fact, do unceasingly gain a preference with the religious part of the community over works of fiction, however good and pious their tendency. And we believe, that if pains were taken to collect facts, narratives might be formed for the entertainment and instruction of youth, which would be as interesting as any of those fictitious stories which are found to be so fascinating to young persons. And such histories would, in one respect, possess a decided advantage. It always produces an unpleasant revulsion of feeling, when the reader comes to the winding up of a fictitious narrative, in which he has been much interested, to reflect, that there is no reality in the whole affair. But when we read what we have reason to believe is a true statement of facts, and a true description of persons, even if we were not so much interested while reading, as we might have been in some highly wrought fiction; yet, afterwards, the reflection on the scenes which have occupied our attention, will be far more agreeable, when we entertain the belief that they were real, than if we know them to have no foundation in fact.
We are not acquainted with Mr. Gallaudet's plan for future publications: but, as we hope that he will devote the remainder of his life to this important work, which he has commenced in the composition of these two little volumes; so we trust, that he will take a comprehensive view of the subject on which we have now made some remarks. Could not some well selected histories or anecdotes, be every where interspersed between the dialogues? And although they might not have a very close connexion with the subject discussed, this would make no material difference. What we want is something to attract and interest the minds of volatile children. We are persuaded, that the ingenious author, although he has probably thought much more profoundly on the subject of early education than ourselves, will readily pardon the freedom of our remarks, and the officiousness of our suggestions, in relation to the work in which he is engaged. The spark which is attended by the most momentous effects, is produced by the collision of different substances. If we should be so happy as to be able to suggest one new idea, or to confirm one truth by our remarks, we shall be satisfied with this as an adequate reward for what we have written.
ART. II.—THE CHARACTER OF THE GENUINE
This article which follows is a translation from the Latin of Witsius. The elevated thought and ardent piety of the whole, together with the manifest importance of the subject, and the known wisdom of the author, will suggest themselves to the reader as sufficient reasons for its insertion. As the original discourse is an Inaugural Oration, pronounced when Witsius assumed the theological chair at Franeker, there are local allusions which are entirely omitted. A few paragraphs have been passed over for the sake of brevity. The date of the discourse is April 16, 1675.
THE THEOLOGIAN, as I use the term, is one imbued with the knowledge of God and divine things, under the teaching of God himself; who celebrates his adorable perfections, not by words alone, but by the ordering of his life, and is thus entirely devoted to his Lord. Such, of old, were the holy patriarchs, the inspired prophets, the apostles by whom the world was enlightened, with some of those luminaries of the Primitive Church, whom we denominate the Fathers. Their knowledge consisted, not in the acute subtilities of curious questions, but in the devout contemplation of God and of his Christ. Their chaste and simple method of instruction did not gratify the itching ear, but by sealing the impression of sacred things on the heart, enkindled the soul with love of the truth. Their blameless life was apprehended even by their enemies, and being in correspondence with their profession, fortified their teaching with irrefragable evidence, and was a manifest token of intimate communion with the Most Holy God.
In contemplating the character of such a theologian, let us inquire, first, in what schools, under what teachers, by what methods, he attains to a wisdom so sublime; secondly, in what manner he may best communicate to others what he has thus acquired; and finally, with what habits of mind and excellence of life he may adorn his doctrine. Or, more concisely, let us view the genuine Theologian, with reference to