Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

But fully to appreciate its efficacy we must look forward to the results it would produce, were it to work on uniformly throughout the kingdom for thirty or forty years. And when we consider the deep root it has in the institutions of the church, and the active energy it derives from them ; how strictly it is founded upon principle; how it begins by the removal of a gross scandal and inconsistency; how beneficially it would effect the human beart by the feelings of love and reverence; and how suited it is to the moral and social wants of our community, we can scarcely be wrong in entertaining the belief, that it would be one of the most useful instruments in the hands of Almighty God for the permanent welfare both of the church and of the nation,” (pp. 66-68.)

We cannot conclude our author's notice of this part of his subject without expressing a conviction that the equal suitability of the proposed plan to the most extensive or most limited sphere of operation is a peculiarly hopeful circumstance, and valuable, not only as encouraging its speedy adoption, but also as reconciling us to that adoption being in the first instance cautious and gradual. We can conceive nothing more likely to lessen the beneficial effect of the proposed plan, than its being taken up at the outset as a mere system under the notion that all will be accomplished, if sponsors who are communicants can but be procured. Its adoption, especially in the first instance by communicants in some measure qualified for the effective and judicious discharge of the office, must necessarily have a salutary influence upon the majority of those who may subsequently be induced to undertake it, and serve both to impress them with a due sense of their responsibility as sponsors, and to furnish them with some guidance when acting in that capacity. This mode of proceeding may have the effect of rendering the first adoption of the proposed plan more limited and gradual, but here, as in every other part of religious education growth, and not mere progress, should be our grand object. We would also remark, that the regulation by which the author proposes to apportion a certain number of godchildren to each communicant, will of course admit of any

modification that may render it most agreeable to the parents of the infant, on account either of the neighbourhood, friendship, or other circumstances of the communicant.

Our author in his concluding chapter, addresses himself to those who may approve of the proposed system in theory, and yet see almost insuperable difficulties in the way of its practical application. To the objection that we shall never obtain a sufficient number of communicants to effect our purpose, he replies that while the proposed plan is fitted for universal operation, and might employ the energies of every member of the church, it would be proportionably beneficial in the small

evidently produced the wholesonde result of an intelligent attention to the subject. None but communicants are admitted as sponsors: and all the sponsors are occasionally called together, as a body of office-bearers in the church to be instructed in their duties, and urged to the performance of them.' Appendix ii., page 31.

“ It is also an interesting fact, that the whole charge of providing sponsors for a parish in the south of Ireland, has been undertaken, with the happiest results, by the single family of a nobleinan who resides there."

66

est sphere, or with the most limited operation; that if but ten communicants could be found, it would be better that these ten should have each ten godchildren to care for, then that these 100 little ones should be left a prey to the destroyer. But” he adds “ the charity would rapidly extend itself. When it became known that none could be received as sponsors but those who were communicants, it would be a kind of tangible proof of the importance of receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper. Hence we may believe the number of communicants would increase, and the people would year after year become more able to supply themselves with proper godfathers and godmothers, without applying to the voluntary sponsors.

Another and a most interesting supply would be furnished by those young persons who had enjoyed the benefit of such superintendence, and who, it is to be supposed, would, after their confirmation, be most willing to supply to others the blessing which they had themselves experienced,” (pp. 70, 71.)

To the objection that the responsibility is greater than conscientious people would be willing to undertake, he answers, that if a city were dying of the plague, a man would be falsely scrupulous who should refrain from lending assistance, because he might omit some means of doing good ; that the smallest amount of spiritual superintendence would have its use; and that we should consider the utter ruin, the total depravity, to which many have been consigned by absolute neglect, and the important direction that might have been given to their minds, had they received a few lessons and warnings from some conscientious christian. Should it be further objected that if all communicants are allowed to act as sponsors, we might still have those who would undertake the work thoughtlessly, and would be unworthy to discharge it, to this he provides an answer by saying that “if even communicants might be unfit to discharge these duties, how much more non-communicants ! We do all we can to effect our object, when we go as far as our church directs us.

We can do no more. To the question," how far will the people submit to have sponsors not chosen by themselves ?” he

says “the people, we may reply with confidence, take them individually, are not unreasonable ; and if they had it fully impressed upon their minds that the church required the sponsors to be communicants, they would see the propriety of submitting to this regulation, and would willingly avail themselves of the sponsors provided for them by their christian brethren. It is,” he adds “the arbitrary and uncertain exercise of authority which is vexatious to the people. There is that in order and law which recommends itself to the minds of all men. Nor are we at all unwilling to have some weight and importance attached to the affairs which we engage in.” Should it be further urged that “ even though the parent might avail himself of the good offices of the voluntary sponsor, he might be unwilling to allow such sponsors to interfere in the education of his child,” the answer to this is, that “the christian offices which the church requires the sponsor to perform towards his charge, are not of a burthensome or obtrusive character. And the sponsor might have such an understanding with the parent before the baptism, as to make his way quite plain and easy afterwards. When the visits of christian

brethren are understood to be well intended, they are most commonly well received.”

The author next remarks, that if it should seem at first sight that the objects urged in his essay are superseded by the efforts which are now making to promote general school education upon the principles of the established church, on further consideration it will be seen that these efforts, and the success which, under the blessing of God, appears to be attending them, ought to operate, on many accounts, as an additional inducement to attempt the proposed restoration of sponsorial superin. tendence. For an abundant supply of school education will materially lessen the trouble and moral charge incurred by the sponsors ; while it by no means dispenses with their assistance, as the business of the master is to teach, not to seek out, the children who are to become the objects of his instruction. These considerations would therefore authorize us to begin the work with a smaller number of voluntary sponsors, but would be far from permitting us to neglect it altogether. It is also evident that there are portions of religious education which the school. master does not and cannot undertake. He deals with the understanding, not with the conscience of the child. His instructions are given at large to a whole class, not practically applied to its individual members, or illustrated by a reference to the particular circumstances and dispositions of each of them. The public character of his office, the great number of his pupils, his ignorance of their peculiar cases and characters, and the care and delicacy with which such personal dealings should be conducted, render it impossible to carry on this department of Christian teaching in a school. But it is precisely the one which falls most properly under the care of the sponsor. Thus, the schoolmaster may be said to undertake the theoretical, the godfather the practical and experimental part of religious training. What one omits the other supplies, and by their united labours they do far more than either of them could effect alone by redoubled exertions.

“Another objection that may be urged is, that according to the common notion, the sponsor, especially if he possesses superior wealth, is to befriend the child in temporal matters, and that this would consequently be expected from voluntary sponsors. If this is a prevalent notion, it is certainly one of those carnal ones, about which we do wrong not to disabuse the people.

It surely is time for them to know that these institutions are intended, not for their temporal, but for their eternal benefit. No doubt certain secular advantages would arise from such a system of things, but these would be incidental and collateral ; nor would the sponsor in the slightest degree be bound to confer any temporal benefit upon his godchild, further than he might be disposed to confer upon any other child in similar circumstances with whom he might be acquainted,” (pp. 71-77.)

The importance of the subject itself, and the practicability of the method suggested by our author have already tempted us greatly to exceed the limits within which we had intended to confine our notice of his work, we must therefore take leave of it by again referring our readers for further information to his own pages.

THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF DR. ARNOLD RECOMMENDED TO THE STUDY OF NATIONAL SCHOOLMASTERS.

Sir,-Few things can be more interesting to those who believe that “wisdom and knowledge are the stability of our time,” than to see the proofs your pages so often give of the earnest, thoughtful, practical, religious character of many of our English schoolmasters. If among such men—the readers of your Journal, no less than the writers in it-there are any not yet acquainted with the life and writings of Dr. Arnold, perhaps you will permit me to call their attention to them. It was foretold, when Dr. Arnold entered on the office of master of Rugby School, that he would effect a complete reformation in the public school education of England ; and his biographer gives proof, that competent judges are satisfied that that prophecy is being fulfilled ; that Arnold brought to light (not in the way of speculation or theory, but in the practical working of a great school) the meaning and the worth of our old English school teaching and school discipline, even in points where we were all just coming to the conclusion, that our ancestors were certainly at fault, and that our new and refined systems ought to supersede their rough old methods; and that the masters of our several public schools are at the present moment doing their work well and effectually, in proportion as they are carrying out the principles which Arnold first showed to be still living and life-giving, though well nigh forgotten for the last century or two. Nor-what it is my object to point out here, are these principles less applicable to the .management of the parish school, if the schoolmaster will thoughtfully study and apprehend them in themselves as principles, and not merely try to copy the particular arrangements proper to a school like Rugby or Eton. So studied they will become living germs in the master's mind, and will then grow up and bear good fruit suited for his own case, whatever it be. Thus, when he finds Dr. Arnold attaching great importance to the influences upon the boy's mind from the circumstances which lie around such a school as Winchester, with its venerable buildings, its connection with the cathedral, its famous founder and famous scholars, and then endeavouring to supply something of like influences for his own school, by help of painted windows and architectural art in the school chapel, and of medals or other marks of royal favour bestowed by the sovereign,- when the parish schoolmaster finds this, he will seek out all the solemnizing and elevating influences of a like kind, which are rarely wholly wanting in any parish, even in the humblest village. His school-house itself may have architectural beauty, his church will often have it in a very high degree, and will probably be also venerable with age; nor will historical associations, and the names of some man or men, great and good in their deeds, be often found wanting by those who look for them because they feel that they can be used as an aid in their daily work. Again, when Dr. Arnold dwells with such earnestness on the necessity of putting the elder boys in authority over the others, as the only channels through which a master can act effectually in a large school, and change from evil into good that inevitable ten

dency of the boys in every school to give themselves up to the control of a public opinion among themselves, which public opinion will be low or high, immoral or moral, according to the character of the boys who lead it,—then the national schoolmaster will see new meaning and new worth in the monitorial system, as a means not merely of teaching a large number of boys, or keeping them in order in school time, but also of exercising a strong and permanent moral and intellectual in. fluence upon the whole school through the monitors. So (to choose a last example of my meaning) the thoughtful national schoolmaster, whose chief school book must be the English Bible, will feel that, whether he contemplates it as the best specimen of pure English language and grammar, or as the collected literature and history of God's chosen nation, he has an instrument of education equally serviceable for his ends with the Greek and Latin classics which are used in the public schools.

But above all would I recommend the study of the man himself, of his whole life and character, as pregnant with instruction for every schoolmaster, from the highest to the lowest. Dr. Arnold was eminently the SCHOOLMASTER, — the Christian, English, schoolmaster. With manly depth of character, he united much of a boy-like disposition, which must have peculiarly fitted him to sympathize with boys, and which he showed alike in his hearty love of out-door sports, and his burning and vehemently uttered indignation at every thing that savoured to him of injustice or oppression. Law and order are cardinal points of school life, and of the relation between schoolmaster and schoolboy; and the most careless reader of Arnold's life cannot help seeing how thoroughly his whole mind and character were impregnated with the influence of these. We see this alike in the manner in which he enters into the spirit of Greek, of Roman, and of Hebrew history, and in the ardour and patriotism with which he takes part in the politics of his own day, and, by pamphlet, newspaper, and review, urges on his country. men the consideration of what, in his deep and sorrowing love for his country, he believes to be the only remedies for England's miseries and dangers. Nay, even if he errs (since not the best of men is without error) in any of these opinions, it seems to be from excess of national feeling,-as, in his so-much misrepresented plans of church reform, in which his object was not to weaken the church, but to give it (as he hoped) a resistless strength, by absorbing it into the state, that so the paramount business of the national parliament might be the promotion of religion, and piety, and Christian faith through the land. To those who have meditated on the analogy between a state and a school, who have learnt that national life and school life properly answer to each other, and that the very marrow of the schoolmaster's function is recognized by Herbert, when he says, “schoolmasters deliver us to Laws,"—to them there will be no inappropriateness in these observations on Dr. Arnold's personal qualifications for his work. And in conclusion let me commend to your readers his character as a Christian, not only in the saint-like close of his holy life, but also in its active working days, while he seems every hour to have been striving to undertake and to fulfil each duty in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am, &c. E. D. W.

« ElőzőTovább »