Train up a child in the way he should go. Out of the heart are the issues of life.
In all its many and varied forms, so much has been written concerning education that it would seem as if the subject were wholly exhausted. Taking literature as a guide, we cannot go beyond a time when it was being discussed. The book of Hebrew proverbs contains many sentences in praise of instruction, The Talmud says : “The world is saved by the breath of the school children.” In the Hindoo Scriptures we read: “The saddest condition is ignorance.” “Nothing purifies like knowledge.” “Let learning be gained in youth, for it is the only true riches.” Plato says: “An untaught boy is the most vicious of all wild beasts.” Socrates says : “They who provide much wealth for their children, but neglect to improve them in virtue, do like those who feed their horses high, but never train them to be managed.” Sir Thomas Moore says : “Those nations which suffer their children to be ill educated and their manner to be corrupted from infancy and then punish them for those crimes to which their ignorance disposed them, first make thieves and then hang them.” Gascoigne insists that “a boy is better unborn than untaught.” Referring to youth the all-seeing poet wrote :
“Now ’tis the spring, and weeds are shallow rooted;
Suffer them now, and they’ll o’er grow the garden,
And choke the herbs for want of industry.”
There is hardly any phase of our modern education that has not been debated in former times. Lessing, Rousseau, Richter, Spencer and many others of less note, in recent and in present years, have only continued the discussion of themes that have been in the world ever since man became a being of thought and aspiration, and has tried to bring his conduct into harmony with his ideals.
But the lack of originality is more than made good by the greatness and the interest of the theme. The best way of unfolding the human soul, so that all its powers will reach their greatest activity and highest use-fulness, can never become an outworn theme of study. As it passes across earth, each succeeding generation must hear new voices uttering the ancient truths upon this subject. These voices must find their inspiration in the knowledge that. although old, these truths are still alive and full of energy. So long as those who love mankind and toil for its welfare are confronted by unsolved problems, so long as there are multitudes dwarfed through violation or neglect of nature’s austere, but beneficient laws; so long as moral degradation hangs over such wide parallels of our beloved earth, dark and obstinate as an arctic night, so long there will be needed those to herald the truth that virtue is the final aim of all culture and to reiterate the well-known lesson that the only worthy success of life is attained when that truth is translated into practice. Education is for character. It is not alone to fit a youth to make a living; it is to fit him to make life worth living.
Nature suggests the method of culture. The first lesson of every life is how to use the senses. There are five gates through which personality goes out toward the world. Returning, it brings back a part of that which it has discovered. This becomes impressions and is the first treasure of knowledge. Ability to recall these impressions at will, is called memory. Power to direct attention to them is called thought. Assorting and classifying them and discovering their relations is science. When the information thus acquired is applied to the affairs of life in such way that the best results are accomplished, the thing called wisdom is attained. Then, when sensation, memory, thought and wisdom all combine to form a personality that plant and toils to effect only good for the world, the result is ethics. When this is accomplished the end for which life exists is reached. The blossom has be-come fruit.
In a true education, no one of these steps should be omitted. The senses must be trained to exactness, so that they take clear, strong, positive impressions of material things. Sour must not be mistaken for sweet, nor round for square, nor straight for crooked, nor rough for smooth, nor blue for green, nor a discord for harmony. Memory should be so kept in exercise that it will never weary of running to and fro upon the errands of the will. Unweariedly it must be ready to bring to the present moment a multitude of names, faces, colors, perfumes, strains of music, sentiments, poems ; and, when the intellect needs it, with equal speed will furnish an event of yesterday or one from the reign of Caesar or Semiramis. Thought should be able to find resemblances and differences among all facts and laws ; find the relations of phenomena and being; from a few given data pass to a universal principle; and, with orderly steps, proceed from an admitted premise to an inevitable conclusion. The will should act upon its strongest motive as instantly as heat follows the flame and persistently as a river flows toward the sea.
But these powers may all be present and yet culture will lack something of completeness. The end which should be kept steadily in view, all the way from the opening of the senses until the intellect is strong enough to look upon the face of pure truth and live, from the child reading a fairy story in a chimney corner to Kepler reading the laws of the planets under the midnight sky, is the crowning of virtue as queen of life. The training in the home, in the kindergarten, in the pubic schools, in the universities, the books that are read, the meeting with eminent persons, travel, friendships, the manifold experiences of years, all, all should conspire to form a noble character. That which is natural is first; after that the spiritual. But the first is preparation for the second. The spiritual is not optional. It is indispensable.
Many persons think that, in these States, public knowledge is increasing much faster than public morals. Not only the pulpits, but some of the magazines and even the daily prints are lamenting the decline of faith and reverence and the lack of regard for the familiar virtues. Whether our age in wickedness surpasses the generation in which our fathers were active, perhaps no one can tell. But no one will deny that there is more wickedness than there ought to be. Perhaps we have depended too much upon merely secular education to save society. If any one has assumed that all mankind would act better, as soon as it knew bet-ter, he is compelled to confess that he was partly mistaken. Ignorance of what is right is a sad condition, but it is not so hopeless as knowledge of what is right coupled with the intention to do wrong. Much of the historic and actual sin of earth has been and is being committed by those who are fully aware of the wrong in itself and the evil consequences of wrong doing. The prayer of Jesus in behalf of those who were committing a crime was based upon their ignorance : “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” For many national and individual sins that prayer could not be made. A more appropriate prayer would be : “Justice punish them, for they know very well what they are doing.”
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.”
Universal education is not able to control the giant it has reared. Every community is infested by a number of educated scoundrels. The great business corporations, some of which, if we may trust universal rumor, are as merciless as those pirates that once terrorized the Spanish Main, are composed of men who are educated. If, by universal education, we are placing edged tools in the hands of our American youth, we should instruct them when and how they are to be used. It seems sad that any one should live in a world of books and not be able to read them. But it is not as great a misfortune as to live in a world of moral beauty and not be able to see it.
“A creature Moving about in worlds not realized.”
Next in importance to learning to read, is learning what to read. To read is only valuable when it ministers to what is best. There is no use in reading a thousand poor novels merely to gratify curiosity and enlarge the field of gossip. Bacon says : “Much reading maketh a full man. But it depends upon what is read. Thousands of our new books, when they are all read, would not cause any fullness. They would produce an emptiness in the mind almost equivalent to a vacuum. Some persons would read good books did they not take all their time reading poor ones. Of course some reading is for diversion, but it is not all for this. A great part of reading is to free the mind from weak prejudices; to call into activity the highest emotions ; to refine the soul ; to make the whole life-current set steadily in the right direction.
After having learned to write, comes the important question: What shall be written? Shall the art be employed to give publicity to lies and obscenity? Shall it be used to ridicule the holiest instincts of the soul? Many books are written which, not only add nothing of value to the sum of knowledge, but they falsify life and stain the heart of the reader. They are not only useless ; they are vicious. It would have been better if their authors had never learned the art of writing. Ignorance may be a misfortune, but knowledge employed for evil is a crime. When a good book-keeping mind and a dishonest heart meet in the same person, the book-keeping accomplishment is a positive damage. It only increases the dishonest heart’s opportunities for evil. If we would have genuine culture, the three “Rs,” concerning which so much has been said, must be joined by another “R.” To Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic, Righteousness should be quickly added.
It is very desirable that our youth become good mathematicians, but it is no less desirable that they become good men and women. There are machines that will add columns of figures and solves mathematical problems, but there is no mechanical device that can take the place of a heart full of integrity and throbbing with benevolence. Our children should know some-thing of botany ; but to be able to analyze a flower and love it, and to be unable to analyze a wrong motive or act and hate it, makes an education seem absurd. Engineering and architecture are noble callings. But to be able to run a straight line through the country, or determine a gradient, or a curve, or plan and construct a great building, but to be unable to survey a right course of conduct, or determine a gradient to surmount moral difficulties, or find the radius to the curve of moral beauty, or to plant a life structure that rises grandly into the upper air, makes the study of technical engineering and architecture seem painfully inadequate. Chemistry cannot be neglected in our systems of education. But no one should be so absorbed in a- study of material salts and acids as to forget that spiritual science which transmutes right motives into noble deeds and cleanses the heart of its grosser passions. Professor Webster, who murdered his friend, was a good chemist. A Welsh proverb says : “Many are the friends of the golden tongue.” It was formed in praise of eloquence. But what if the golden tongue is coined into a rich currency and is flung abroad lavishly in support of a bad cause? When the lips are pouring forth great sentences as eloquently and as willingly in behalf of injustice, as they would if the cause were just, the heart back of the sentences is such as should not awaken much envy in our youth. It is a pity that, in learning his art, the orator does not always learn that for which alone his art should exist. The rules of rhetoric relate to life. Knowing a cause to be unjust, he who defends it, in proportion as he rises in eloquence, he sinks in moral worth. A falsehood cannot be decorated until it becomes a truth.
In pleading for the education of the heart, the claims of the intellect may not be ignored. It also should be trained. Unguided by a clear seeing mind, the heart will make many mistakes. But it is no less true that the intellect, if unwarmed by the emotions, loses half its power for good. The Testament writer says: “Faith without works is dead.” So, knowledge with-out moral passion, is a poor, dead thing. If inspiration has sometimes dashed hither and thither like a rudderless, storm-swept bark, intellectual culture has sometimes remained stationary and useless,
“As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.”
The era of the Borgian family in Florence was full of elegance and vice. Roderigo and Cesare and Lucrezia were all scholars andmurderers. Lorenzo was a lover of learning and a libertine. Cardinal Bembo helped make the city classical by bringing forward and making popular the Greek literature, but much of his own writing is stained by indecency. He discouraged the reading of the New Testament Greek because it was not the most elegant form of that noble language. He told his friends that it would spoil their literary style. He regarded purity of style as of much more importance than purity of morals. Into the midst of those elegant, but corrupt scenes came Savonarola. He, too, was a scholar, but a scholar plus moral inspiration. He could write like a Xenophon or a Plutarch, but he could love purity like a Christ and could pour forth a flood of persuasive or threatening eloquence in behalf of righteousness like a Paul.
It would be a misfortune if that page of history were repeated in our land. Scientific and literary and artistic, should not be permitted to crowd out ethical training. Perhaps we are too much emphasizing education merely as a means of success. It is to sharpen the wits, rather than to refine the taste and deepen the sympathies. Getting on in the world is no more necessary than getting up in the world. The financial rewards that lie at the end of the path of material success are much less valuable than the spiritual rewards lying at the end of the path which leads upward to moral heights. Many a philosopher, many a conqueror, many a millionaire had passed along the Appian Way. But there came a day, in the first century, when along that famous highway a new religion was moving toward the city. Then a new era began in Rome. The philosophers had learning; the warriors had power ; the millionaires had luxury. But that day there came one with moral earnestness. ‘ Thus we should love to have our education a great broad Appian Way. We should like to see many moving over it with learning and power and taste; but we should also love to see their faces all aglow with moral heroism.
In all the history of the world never were there more or greater fields of knowledge lying open and inviting the mind to enter them than are beheld in these passing years. Historians have spread all the past before us. Science has gone into the earth beneath, the air around, and the sky above, and, returning, has presented a rich collection of truths. Reflection has worked all these facts and laws up into a great philosophy. It is difficult to see how any heart can fail to be impressed by the great scene. Nevertheless, many do maintain much coldness and indifference in its presence. Many of the educated seem to be lacking in spiritual earnestness. As knowledge has risen, enthusiasm has declined.
Perhaps, therefore, there is nothing our age more needs than a form of education which, in addition to giving instruction in science and history and literature, will convey to the hearts of youth a moral fervor. It should teach that, when the heart is dull and careless, no great thing can be done. The moral sense should be trained until it can as quickly detect a wrong in conduct as the mind can detect an error in mathematics, a defective sentence in rhetoric, or a false quantity in a Latin verse. The heart should be as quick to find an untrue word or an impure motive as the eye is to mark a lack of harmony in color, the ear to detect a false note in music. By some means the lesson should be conveyed that the demands of the moral law are imperative and every act of neglect or disobedience is followed by a penalty. Readers may pass lightly over much of that literature which deals only with sense and the passing hour, that they may have more time to dwell with those great pages which deal with spiritual and eternal truths. Youth should be taught that the universe is not a lifeless machine, but a living palpitating organism ; that it is not a product of chemistry, but the work of a God. Each generaton should be often re-minded that the object of education is not to prepare man to become a mere money-making, power-seeking creature, but to form him into a being capable of great thoughts, exalted sentiments, and divine actions. Every youth should often be told that earth is not a mere pleasure garden or workshop, for a few early and later years, and then a grave; but rather he should be taught that it is a marvelous arena for the unfolding of the soul to fit it for high and still higher activities in some other province of God’s great empire.
We should like to have our youth come forth from the High Schools and Universities with a good knowledge of the great literature found in ancient and more modern times. But we should also like very much to have the noble thoughts and pure language of those masterpieces become a part of their mental and moral being. There is not much use in reading the ancient and modern classics in the class room if, in their inter-course with each other, young men speak a language so full of slang that only the initiated can understand it, and so full of profanity that “the army in Flanders” might sit at their feet as learners. Educated youth should know something of the forms of correct reasoning, but they should learn that there is a logic of morals as well as of the intellect. They should be able to reason thus:
“All matter gravitates :
Air is matter ;
Therefore air gravitates.”
“All objects are extended:
A stone is extended ;
Therefore a stone, is an object.”
But similar syllogisms should be employed in con-duct. Thus :
“All bad habits weaken and shorten life :
This is a bad habit;
Therefore it Will weaken and shorten my Iife.”
“A gentleman does not use obscenity or profanity:
I use obscenity and profanity;
Therefore I am not a gentleman.”
Our nation needs millions of young men and women who, having selected their premises from the great moral field, will not only argue their way, but will carry their lives forward toward a great nobility of character. Many are the doors opened to admit this army of American youth within the halls of learning. But unless other doors are opened to inner rooms, where goodness and wisdom dwell, many will miss the aim of life.
It is now generally conceded that schools maintained by the state have no right to teach any special form of religion. This prohibition is doubtless an act of justice. But the objection to giving a bias to the young mind may sometimes pass beyond the limits of reason. Only the other day an educated man in great anger took his little girl from a private school, because one of the teachers had been guilty of mentioning the word “God” in her presence. No one can deny his right to do this, but the inquiry is suggested whether, for the time, his prejudices may not have vanquished his reason. His agnosticism has led him into an in-tolerance as irrational and as bitter as that ever practiced by any churchman. We may all bring forward reasonable objections to the teaching of sectarian doe-trines in the public schools; and if we do not agree with those doctrines taught in private schools we are at perfect liberty to take our children away from them.
But there is a religion that is not sectarian. The moral law is no more denominational than are the axioms of geometry. There is the feeling of awe in the presence of the greatness of the world and the mystery of existence There is the sense of delight, a gladness almost to tears, called forth by some scene of great natural beauty. There is the uplift of mind and heart when, in reading, one comes upon. a great thought or listens to an exalted or pensive strain of music. These emotions are no more sectarian than are the laws of gravitation and the plays of Shakespeare. There is a religion which is the central fact of all great literature, the motive of all great art, whose demand is a high form of humanity, which has been the courage and solace of countless generations, has dispelled much of the gloom that hangs over the end of earth’s paths, and has planted flowers on the grave. Wherever and in whatever way it is learned, such a religion cannot harm our children. To teach music and not teach sympathy; to teach arithmetic and not teach justice; to teach drawing and not teach gentleness ; to teach correct forms of speech and not teach purity of heart, can only be a mistake. But it is no greater error than to teach all the facts and laws of the world and suppress all thought and all instruction concerning the infinite Power from which all facts and laws proceed. In after years no one ever complains that his parents, in childhood, taught him to love music and flowers or the beauty of a landscape or the mystery of a forest and the sublimity of a mountain. So there is a religion, the early belief in which, no one ever regrets. Even though some of us in childhood may have been taught a religion that was so involved with irrational and cruel doctrines that it did not bring much happiness, and, in after years, we were compelled to revise nearly all our beliefs ; yet there has never come any moment of regret that, in youth, we were taught reverence for holy things and loyalty to our spiritual impulses. Speaking from experience, there are those who dare say that it is bet-ter for youth to have religion, even though it may be corrupted with some superstition, than not to have a religion of any kind. There is a possible religion composed of faith, of love, of beauty, of all mental and moral grandeur, of spiritual exaltation, whose divine colors, seen dimly in childhood, become more and more brilliant as the experience of life brings an increase of reason and sentiment. Learned in youth, in old age the truths of such a religion become sublime.
Banished from the public schools, the teaching of religion comes with all the more obligation upon the home and the church. Of course not a great deal can be done in imparting religious instruction for one hour of each week. But something can be accomplished. It is with the certainty of doing some good in the way of awakening reverence and a love for the morally beautiful that Sunday Schools are maintained. It is for this end that a few earnest persons give their time and strength in this church, and for this end you have the privilege of contributing money today. Those who teach and those who give may cheer themselves with the thought that they are doing something to lead the children of this church in the ways of truth and love. In a few years they will be doing the work that we have tried to do. Our own experience tells us clearly that they cannot be too well furnished for their task. While in the secular schools they will find all that their intellects may need, in this half sacred school, they must find something to furnish their hearts. Here they must learn, in part at least, that knowledge should be equalled by goodness; that there can be no dishonest success ; and that the highway of righteousness alone leads to permanent glory. Here they may learn how sacred is friendship; how exalted is religion; how noble is Christ; how mysterious is existence ; how beautiful is our world ; and how great is our God!