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such imperfections should have been held up to view, from what quarter could he expect any return more acceptable, than neglect'? To Church of Englandists he and his criticism would be objects of blind aversion,-to all but Church of Englandists, (but for some such awakening conjuncture as the present,) objects of indifference.
§ II. On Religion—in a Christian Free-School—the
· Bible the only fit Lesson-Book.
In the sort of school in question, the arts to be taught are -- besides Arithmetic, those of Reading and Writing. For furnishing lessons for this purpose, a book-one book at least is necessary. If one book alone, whát shall this book be? If more books than one, to which of them shall the preference in the first place be given?
To both these questions' one and the same an: swer may serve—the Bible. :
On this occasion, as on every other, for proof of the position, which is advanced, the broader the ground is that is laid, the better : the broader the ground--in other words, the greater the number of the persons, at whose hands, by means of the proof, the position may reasonably be expected to obtain acceptance.
The Bible then--the Bible, were it only in consideration of its being that book which, in this
country, has, beyond comparison, more readers, as well as more hearers, than any other, might, even from this circumstance alone, be naturally regarded as presenting an indisputable claim to preference and precedence.
To the preference thus proposed, from any person by whom the religion of Jesus is believed in, could any such objection come ? No, surely:
—unless perhaps it were on account of the immature state of the intellectual faculties, at the time of life, at which, on a subject so fraught with mystery, instruction will, on the supposition in question, be endeavoured to be administered.
But assuredly, so long as, in the matter, of which the book in question is composed, a sufficient quantity can be found, of that which, with reference to the mind in question, is sufficiently clear; so long, from the obscurity of any part not employed, no valid objection can be derived against the employment of any part of it, which, being clear, is employed accordingly.
Nor,--supposing the clouds, which hang over the import, whatever they may be, sooner or later dispelled, will the existence of it,- howsoever, at the commencement of the course of instruction, and even for a considerable time thereafter unquestionable,-be, upon due reflection, found to constitute any sufficient objection to the employing of it to this purpose. For some time indeed, by the supposition, it is without being ac-,
companied by the ideas which they are meant to designate, that the signs present themselves to the conception, and lodge themselves in the memory. Be it so. But, at any rate, the signs are there : and, for the purpose of grammatical instruction, which, in the order of time, is the first purpose,they serve as well as any others: thereupon, as the faculties of the mind acquire maturity, and the storehouse of the mind receives its stock, little by little, the desirable and desired ideas drop in and attach themselves to the signs.
In a place of instruction, designed, as are the schools in question, for children, to whom, in so large a proportion, but for the means thus afforded, instruction on religion would not in any shape whatever be afforded,--the reason for taking, for the source of instruction in reading and writing, that same book, which is the source of instruction in religion, operates with a degree of force far beyond any with which it can apply in another situation:in any situation, in which, whether the means here in question were or were not employed, instruction in religion might reasonably be expected to flow in from other sources.
Thus much as to believers. And even the few in whose eyes either religion in general, or the religion of Jesus in particular, is not conducive, but prejudicial, to real happiness and useful morality, and by whom religious instruction is accord.
ingly regarded as worse than useless, even these, so long as no school, from whence all religious instruction is excluded, were to be found, might still find it not inconsistent with their views to send their children to a school in which the book containing the religion of Jesus is taught: inasmuch as the same instrument, viz. the art of reading, which, in the first instance, will thus have been employed in the implanting of the supposed mischievous instruction, might, at a succeeding period, be equally made to serve in the eradicating of it:--might, -and, in their view of the matter, naturally would,-and with more than equal promise of success.
Thus much then being considered as settled, viz. that the book containing the religion of Jesus is the most proper book, from which the first lessons in the arts of reading and writing can be extracted, the next question is in that same whole, of what description are the parts, from which they may with most propriety be extracted. • Neither in this does there seem much difficulty.
The religion of Jesus--and not the religion of any other person-is the religion to be taught. But the religion of Jesus-in whose words shall it be sought for, but in the words of Jesus ?
Here then we have two bodies of doctrine, to which, by an altogether indisputable title, the precedence and preference seems to be due : viz.
the “ Discourses'* at large, (headed by the “SERMON on the Mount');* these « Discourses" and the “ Parables."* .9.!
Next to these, in the conjunct order of authenticity and importance, and thence in the order of preference, come those, in which is contained the description of the acts of Jesus, as delivered by the same biographical historians to whom we are indebted for his Discourses : and among these acts, a prominent place is naturally occupied by the miraculous ones in one word, the “ Miracles."* · Thus, in a direct way, the determination, on the question, which of those parts are most proper, being made, if so it be, that, for the purpose in question, in the place of instruction in question, at the time of life in question, this portion of the religion of Jesus, to which no believer in the religion of Jesus does or can object, is sufficientand it seems difficult to say, why, in that same place, and at that same time of life, it should not be sufficient-every such invidious task as that of inquiring, whether, in the consecrated miscellany, in the composition of which, in an age of darkness, the band of the bookbinder, under the rod of the to us unknown ruling power, took so large
* Under these same names, these are the lists of books, recommended and said to be employed in their central School, by the National Society. See Part II. in which that part of the Report, made by that Society, is animadverted upon.