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our being right in one thing, which will prove that our state is right in the sight of God: on the contrary, we must ever remember, that, while some defect in the exercise of the Christian graces will always attend us in the present life, the total absence of any one such grace is inconsistent with real godliness. Whenever we engage in this duty, we should particularly pray that we may be enabled to keep in view the mediation, sacrifice, and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may not be immoderately depressed or discouraged. A clear perception of the infinite and abiding merit of our Saviour, and a firm reliance on the all-sufficiency of his grace, will not only preserve us from sinking into despondency, but inspire us with holy hope and confidence in the Divine mercy. In examining ourselves, we should not fail to observe what is right in our hearts and conduct, in order that we may give God the glory, and derive thence encouragement and comfort to our souls. It is no part of true humility to overlook or undervalue what Divine grace has accomplished on our behalf. It is, however, a still more essential part of this scrutiny to detect and mark whatever is wrong; that we may be duly humbled on account of it,
and turn from it with penitence and contrition of soul. And here let us never forget, that all sins which are not forsaken may be considered as sins of which we have not repented; and that our confessions of such sins, and professed sorrow on account of them, if unaccompanied by constant watchfulness against them, and a vigorous resistance to them, must be insincere. If this duty be properly performed, we shall frequently find it necessary to retrace the steps we have already taken, and to repeat our earliest and most solemn engagements with which we commenced our religious course, and to commend ourselves afresh, as depraved, destitute, and guilty creatures, to the infinite mercy and grace of God through Christ, that we may be redeemed from all evil, sanctified wholly in body, soul, and spirit, and saved with an everlasting salvation*. G. B.
*The following Scriptures may be consulted with advantage in reference to the duty of self-examination, viz. –Matt. v. 44, and vi.
24. John xiii. 35. 1 Cor. vii. 31, and xvi. 14. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Heb. iii. 13, and x. 4, and xi. 10, and xii. 15. Col. iii. 2–4.
Philip. iii. 20. Titus ii. 11, 12. 1 Pet. ii. 12, and iv. 7. 1 John ii. 15, &c. &c. See also the Christian Observer, Vol. I, pp. 692, and 693. Vol. II. pp. 205, 401, and 653. Vol. IV. p. 716. Vol. V. pp. 341 and 541. Vol. VI. p. 439, and Vol. X. p. 352.
hood, man is scarcely at all a subject of moral discipline or spiritual blessings. We have, indeed, reason to bless God, that we have not yet in general aspired to so courageous and enlightened a resolution, as that of withholding from our offspring in their early years the very name of religion: we are desirous to have them baptised as soon as possible; we require them to say the Lord’s Prayer, and perhaps some other prayers, morning and evening; and we teach them to repeat the Catechism with accuracy. Beyond this, however, we proceed but a little way: it is scarcely ever made a matter of serious inquiry, whether they understand any part of those great elementary truths which their tongues recite. Thus the religious career of the future scholar is somewhat inauspicious in its beginning. From the care of his mother, (for to the fair sex are we in general indebted for whatever piety is instilled into our infant minds), he is removed to some introductory school; where, perhaps, he reads through the whole Bible from beginning to end, without ever being taught to reflect upon the awful subjects through which he passes, and to which he is almost as insensible as the brute animal, pacing the same dull weary round, to the mechanical principles of the work which he is employed to set in motion. What shall we say to these things? Can any man, who really considers his children in a more interesting light than as amusing playthings, or mere objects of natural affection; who seriously contemplates them as heirs of human corruption, but designed, through the infinite mercy of God, to be made partakers of redemption by a spiritual renovation of their fallen nature:–can any man, believing these momentous truths, fail to perceive that the very commencement of the great work of education is commonly controuled and directed by other principles than the wisdom that is from above, and the doctrine that is according to godliness; that the divine sacrament of baptism is
treated as a mere ceremony, an insulated act, unconnected with the daily principles in which the child is brought up ; and that from the first the form of godliness is taught, while the power of it is neglected But let us follow the child to his seminary of classical instruction.—If he be trained up here in the nurture and admonition of his Saviour, it is not, I fear, to be ascribed to the precaution and selection of his parents. If the situation recommend itself to them by cheapness, salubrity, the prospect of good connections, and the master's reputation for general ability, they have satisfied their conscience, without ever making it a subject of minute inquiry, whether sound religious principles be habitually instilled into the minds of the scholars. But what is the general fact what,for example,is the general impression left upon the mind, with respect to our great systems of public instruction ? Do they strike us in any other light than as processes whereby a competent skill is acquired in the Latin and Greek languages We are accustomed to speak of effect in specimens of art. In like manner, in contemplating our methods of education, the effect, if I may be allowed the expression, seems barely literary, scarcely moral, much less religious; though, occasionally, considerable attention may be paid to religion. This is an argument that Christian piety is not the prevailing concern, the pervading principle, the spirit that influences and gives a character to the whole system. If we enter more into detail, little care appears to be taken fully to secure a conscientious observance of the Lord’s-day. All the boys, it is true, are obliged to attend public worship with the strictest punctuality; and to the honour of some, I fear not all, of our great seminaries, it must be remembered, that an outward decorum is observed in their behaviour there:-but are they not suffered to enter the house of God without being habitually taught even the nature of that preparation of the heart, without which the prostration of the body does but mock the purity of Heaven? That quick sense of the evil of sin, that ardent love of the Redeemer, that profound veneration of God’s presence in holy places, that longing desire of the influence of the Spirit, which alone constitute the Christian's fitness for entering the house of prayer, are so rarely made the subjects of admonition, that the master who should harangue them warmly and repeatedly on such points, would perhaps strike them at first, as St. Paul at Athens did the philosophers, as an enthusiastic setter-forth of strange doctrines. During the intervals of public worship, the chief employment of youth consists either in composing an exercise on a classical, or a copy of verses on some scriptural, subject. Expositions of Scripture, or some other religious book, appear to be required only in some few instances. Concerning the pursuit of any mere classical study at such times, there can be but one opinion, with those who make it their delight to honour God upon his own day, by giving him then all their time, except what unavoidable necessity withholds. The plan of writing Latin verses on some sacred subject, appears to me in the awkward light of an attempt to effect a compromise between the service of Jehovah and secular study. I remember, a humorous writer of the early part of the last century “, among the expedients which he ironically suggests for making an English Poet, recommends the careful perusal of the poetical parts of the Bible. Every one sees the impiety, or at least the want of piety, implied in such an expedient. And is not the practice we refer to, adopted in a similar spirit? For what is the manifest purpose with which the young scholar consults the Book of Life? To improve himself in the art of versification. The knowledge of redemption, and the sanctification of his soul, are only subordinate, inci. - * Dean Swift,'
dental objects, or rather, I fear, no objects at all. Now, though it would be absurd to assert that the Bible ought never to be opened but with an immediate view to the salvation of ourselves and others; yet it must be strenuously maintained, that this should be exclusively our main and predominant design in studying it, and especially on the Sabbath; otherwise it is in vain to profess a belief in its inspiration. And what is the effect produced upon the mind of the youth His idea of the Bible is insensibly associated either with the painfulness of vexatious composition, the toil of school-drudgery, and the smart of punishment, which are calculated to provoke a disrelish of the sacred volume; or with classical refinements of style & pagan representations of virtue—a taste for which, if not most judiciously regulated by reflection, and chastised by devotion, is perhaps incompatible with an unreserved reception of evangelical truth. All those subjects in the Scripture, which are calculated to be useful to him as a Christian, are unpropitious to him as an imitator of Catullus, Virgil, or Horace. Where shall he find expressions, in the whole vocabulary of heathen poets, that approach at all near to the Christian sense of the words sin, holiness, humility; to say nothing of justification, sanctification, redemption ? He is reduced to the painful alternative of either mixing barbarous phrases with the polished diction of the Latin muse, or of degrading, by inadequate representations, the immutable truths of the word of God. It is easy to anticipate which course he will pursue. On ordinary days, the principal methods used for inculcating religion, as I apprehend, are the occasional construing of the Greek Testament (accompanied, in some few instances, by expositions on the part of the master, and examination of the class by question and answer), and forms of prayer morning and evening, and sometimes at other seasons of the day. As far as the Greek
Testament is employed as a taskbook, in order to perfect the scholar in his conjugation of Greek verbs, and his application of the rules of syntax, the interests of religion are perhaps injured instead of being promoted by this process. The inveterate force of early associations is a matter of universal experience, and many Christians, who at an advanced period of life have been awakened to a deep sense of their guilt in neglecting the living oracles of God, have long experienced inconvenience from such associations, even after their influence has ceased to predominate in the mind; as a man, who has carried a burden, seems to feel the pressure of it, even after it has been removed. Nor does it appear that the principles of the Gospel are habitually applied, in the various lessons and exercises of the school, to amend the perverted or defective views of virtue, which are found in every part of the most sublime schemes of pagan philosophy. On the contrary,the introduction, into themes written upon moral subjects, of examples and illustrations from the word of God, though in some schools permitted, is in none warmly encouraged, and in others expressly prohibited. Why the latter step has been taken, it is not easy to conceive. If the great Apostle of the Gentile world had been informed in his days, of a seminary professedly Christian, of the highest eminence for the education of the first youth in the land, in which all reference to the cross of Christ was formally prohibited from admission into their moral exercises, there can be little doubt but he would have addressed the conductors of it, and indeed the British nobility and gentry in general, in the same strain of indignant reproof which he applied to the foolish Galatians; “who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you?” If any of the advocates of this practice should assign as a reason for it, what has been assigned in defence of a
similar conduct in most of our moral writers who try to establish their systems independently of the great Christian sanctions and motives— namely, that many propositions in morals are true on the foundation of expediency or some other foundation of their own, not much insisted upon in the Scriptures; that the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel are sufficiently detailed there, and in books directly theological; and that, therefore, philosophical accuracy requires morality to be treated of as an entirely distinct science;—it must be answered, that we would by no means erclude those grounds of moral truth which are independent of revelation, but we maintain the necessity of always viewing them in connection with the peculiar doctrines of the one Mediator between God and man; which doctrines do assume an absolute right of interference with every branch of human duty, and were intended to cast a totally new light on every maxim in the moral system of his disciples. To this we may add the words of a late Essayist, in whose hands taste and genius have been made eminently subservient to the interests of pure Christian devotion. “This” (says he, speaking of morality founded on independent ground) “was not the manner in which the last divinely inspired instructors of the world inculcated moral principles: it is found to have very small practical efficacy among mankind ; and I am convinced from observation, that this mode of presenting the system of morals, rather in the form of pure philosophical theory than of evangelical precept, tends to produce an oblivion in the writers, and a dislike in the readers, of the Christian style of moral speculation.” With respect to school prayers, the fact of their being regularly used will, it is hoped, admit of no dispute. The very learned and much respected author of a pamphlet, expressly written in vindication of the plan of religious instruction adopted in one of our great schools, clearly shews that they are administered there with a frequency in the course of the day, by the statutes, which perhaps some might even think excessive. But to read prayers is not to pray. The difference between real prayer, and the form of it, is the same as the difference between a man and a statue: the form is but a cold, lifeless, spiritless representation of the reality. The essence of prayer consists in the earnest longing of a penitent heart, humbled by a deep sense of sin, for an interest in the covenant of grace, of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator. Take away this, and what remains is a vain oblation. Now the mature and necessity of this essential part of prayer is almost entirely forgotten. It must indeed be mentioned, to the honour of the emiment author of the pamphlet already alluded to, that, in order to qualify his elder scholars for the Lord's Supper, he was accustomed to admonish them upon the great subject of internal religion, and did occasionally deliver to some of them familiar and impressive exhortations to religion in general. But is any endeavour made to implant and cherish from time to time, in the minds of all the boys, as their capacity will allow, (in order to prepare them for those acts of worship in which the whole school is called upon to join) a clear, lively, and habitual conception of the distinction between the form and spirit of prayer? It seems, moreover, to be forgotten in the instruction of our youth, that Christian piety is the private and personal concern of every individual, the soul's intimate traffic with Heaven, the result of habitual self-examination, secret prayer, and a practical self-appropriating study of the word of God. If we have a Creator and Redeemer to be remembered in the days of our youth, why are not these indispensable methods of drawing nigh to him, more inculcated upon us at that impressible season of life It must be observed too, that the love of fame and emulation are generally held forth to boys, as the
best and noblest motives of exertion, without any limitation or restriction; whereas the Scripture expressly condemns the love of human praise, if it be not subordinate to the love of God, and puts emulation in the same class with envy; not meaning to explode all virtuous emulation, but to intimate that there is a species of emulation which, though it may fall short of envy, yet, being unsubdued by the love of God, is to be considered as sinful And if it be so, that the manners and sentiments of schoolboys are incompatible with such expedients for holding communion with their God, can any thing shew more decisively, to every real Christian, the necessity of more urgent and repeated efforts, on the part of the instructors, to revive a declining cause, and make the voice of the Son of man to be heard within those classic walls which have hitherto resounded chiefly with the din of elementary rules, or the harmonious, but certainly not holy, accents of Greek and Roman eloquence 2 Upon the whole, though it would seem very unjust to repeat the charge, that in our public schools there is a studious and systematic neglect of religion; yet it must be reluctantly admitted, that they do not manifest a studious and systematic attention to it. The overwhelming interests of eternity, the peculiarities of the Gospel scheme, its marked contradiction to heathen morality, its practical application to all the motives and pursuits of the human breast, do not meet the young candidate for eternity at every turn of his classic walk; are not habitually brought back to his recollection; do not decidedly govern his taste for human literature; are not repeatedly pressed upon him, as the most interesting and attractive subjects of private meditation. Is it any wonder, then, that vice should prevail, where the only principles that can purify the fountain of it, the human heart, are so much slighted? That the licentiousness of a profli