Imágenes de página

shameful disorders have been caused by bigotry, and the wrong direction of religious feeling! How much vice and inisery mistaken charity develops! What crimes and madness even love has occasioned, the most tender and benevolent of all the passions! All our affections, therefore, are alternately good or bad, salutary or hurtful, according to the direction we give them. It is the effect of virtue, and of those arts which bring it forth, to deprive them of what is evil by keeping them within proper limits. It is the peculiar property of those arts so to modify our inclinations as to induce us always to act in that way which is most conformable to our real good, and consequently to our happiness.

If they act usefully upon our passions, they do not exercise a less salutary influence on our reason. We have before observed, that it is possible to be well versed in the theory of morals, without being necessarily a moral man.

“ Postquam docti prodierunt, boni desunt.” “ Since learned men have abounded, good men are scarce," said an ancient moralist. Science, however, is not an obstacle to virtue; and Seneca is decidedly wrong in representing knowledge as the enemy of virtue, since our best feelings need to be enlightened to prevent vs from acting wrong. But although science is not opposed to virtue, we must allow that it is not sufficient to produce it. We know how conimon it is to see inen of learning who are deficient in morals ; men who are chaste in their conversation, and very irregular in their habits; men who are very liberal in theory, and extremely unjust and despotic in practice; men very lavish in all that concerns themselves, but cold and selfish in relation to the well-being of others.


This contrast of an enlightened understanding and uncultivated morals will always be the more striking among a people who have paid the greatest attention to the former, and have neglected the improvement of their habits in the same proportion as they have bestowed their time and care on the perfection of their reason.

This is precisely what we have done in the present day. It appears that the formation of morals was never less attended to than since we have been so zealously occupied in the diffusion of knowledge. It is this imperfection in our habits, compared with our extended information, which doubtless makes so many persons think that the progress of knowledge is injurious to well-regulated habits; a very unreasonable idea, it is true, but one which can only be removed by new methods of instruction founded on the science of moral education. It is the province of this art to remove that contradiction which is thought to exist between morals and knowledge, and, by taking as much pains to bend the will to the direction of the understanding, as other arts and other modes of instruction devote to the development of the understanding itself, to remove the anomaly of an enlightened mind which has no power over its own conduct; to teach reason what it has the capacity to learn, by making it acquire that power of will which gives the finishing stroke to its cultivation, and without which all it has learned only serves to make it feel its own weakness, and its natural and humiliating dependence on the passions.

The art which labours to make our desires agree with our knowledge, not only removes us from a very humiliating state, but also delivers us from a very painful one. What can be more painful than the war which

our reason and passions carry on within us—than the state in which our moi (self), as Buffon remarks, appears to be shared by two persons ; one of whom, namely, the reasoning faculty, blames what is done by the second, without being strong enough to counteract it; and the second, that is, the faculty of passion, does what the former condemns, without being able to escape from the judgment which its other half forms of this conduct, and which opinion embitters all its pleasures? What can be more miserable than a learned man who cannot govern himself-than a man whose judgment combats against a bad action, but is yet drawn on by his inclinations to do what his mind condemns? It would be better to be without either feeling or reason altogether, than to be thus tossed about by opposing faculties. But what is far better than being without passion or reason, is to possess at the same time the sensitive and reasoning faculties, when a good moral education has afforded us the requisite strength to submit the former to the guidance of the latter.

The art which gives us this power, the art which develops this class of faculties in us which we call virtues and moral habits, is undoubtedly that which procures for us the most perfect pleasures. All others want something: the pleasures of sense are gross and evanescent; those of passion are filled with trouble and anguish; those of the understanding are mingled with insipidity; the pleasures of virtue alone are perfect. These pleasures, without excluding others, exclude that which corrupts them; they are composed, above all, of that security, tranquillity, and elevated satisfaction produced by self-command, and the habit of only yielding to our affections that which an enlightened understanding approves.

Thus the art of the practical moralist, or preceptor, has not only the effect of creating an order of means indispensable to the freedom of all the rest, but gives us the most important of all instruction. Whilst the other kinds bring our physical organs to perfection, cul. tivate our imagination and affections, and enlighten our understanding, this teaches us to submit the faculties which move us to those which ought to direct us, and to make a judicious and moderate use of both. In this manner it preserves them all, and renders the various pleasures which they procure for us more lively and permanent; and this constitutes happiness, the thing which all desire and few attain.



(From the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. 14.) EARLY education comprises the elements of the future happiness or misery, virtue or vice, greatness or goodness, of the individual; a truth perhaps hardly sufficiently considered, otherwise education would be less frequently entrusted to the weak, the ignorant, or the injudicious. The stability of a building depends upon the firmness of its foundation ; the virtue of man upon the excellence of his early education. It is true, that the grandeur, beauty, or utility of the finished structure may alone be observable; but the judgment and skill of the architect must have been equally exercised in the foundation upon which the edifice is raised. Whether we believe children to be born with evil dispositions, or whether we consider all their ideas and dispositions to be acquired notions,-education must equally correct the one, or form the other.

The phrase "elementary education ” would seem, in its ordinary acceptation, merely to apply to instruction in reading and spelling; but the child who is unmanageable in the nursery will be unmanageable in the school-room, and activity of intellect will be fostered or deadened, according to the nature of the early discipline, before the child has learned to speak. It is impossible to separate moral from intellectual education; intellectual cannot be efficiently conducted independent of moral education, and we maintain the converse to be equally true. That development of the faculties, which

« AnteriorContinuar »