Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

these things be tanght? Is it practicable, by any process which inan can devise, to render mind a fitter instrument for discovering, applying, and obeying the laws of his Creator? We shall proceed, in the next place, to show that all this is practicable.

1. It is practicable to train the mind to greater skill in discovery. A few facts will render this sufficiently evident.

It will not be denied that some modes of thinking are better adapted to the discovery of truth than others. Those trains of thought which follow the order of cause and effect, premises and conclusion, or, in general, what is considered the order of the understanding, are surely more likely to result in discovery than those which follow the order of the casual relations, as of time, place, resemblance, and contrast, or, as it is commonly called, the order of the imagination. Discovery is the fruit of patient thought, and not of impetuous combination. Now it must be evident that mind directed in the train of the understanding, will be a far better instrument of discovery than if under the guidance of the imagination. And it is evident that the one mode of thinking may be as well cultivated as the other, or as any mode what

And hence has arisen the mighty effect which Bacon produced upon the world. He allured men from the weaving of day-dreams to the employment of their

Just in proportion as we acquire skill in the use of our reason will be the progress of truth.

Again; there can be no doubt that, in consequence of the teaching of Bacon, or, in other words, in consequence of improvement in education, the human inind has, in fact, become a vastly more skilsul instrument of

soever.

reason.

!

discovery than ever it was before. In proof of this, I do not refer merely to the fact, that more power has been gained over the agents of nature, and that they have been made to yield a greater amount of human happiness to the human race, within the last one hundred years, than for ten tiines that period before. This, of itself, would be sufficient to show an abundant increase of intellectual activity. I would also refer to the fact that several of the most remarkable discoveries have been made by different men at the same time. This would seem to show, that mind, in the aggregate, was moving forward, and that everything with which we are now acquainted must soon have been discovered, even if it had eluded the sagacity of those who were fortunate enough to observe it. This shows that the power of discovery has already been in some degree increased by education. What has been so auspiciously begun can surely be carried to far greater perfection.

Again ; if we inquire what are those attributes of mind on which discovery mainly depends, I think we shall .find them to be patient observation, acute discrimination, and cautious induction. Such were the intellecual traits of Newton, that prince of modern philosophers: Now it is evident that these attributes can be cultivated, as well as those of taste or imagination. Hence, it seems as evident that the mind may be trained to discovery, that is, that mind may be so disciplined as to be able to ascertain the particular laws of any individual substance, as that any other thing inay be done.

2. By application or invention I mean the triving of those combinations by which the already discovered laws of the universe may be rendered avail

con

able to the happiness of man. It is possible to render the mind a fitter instrument for the accomplishment of

this purpose.

In proof of this remark, I may refer you to the two first considerations to which I have just adverted ; namely, that some trains of thought are more productive of invention than others, and that, by following those trains, greater progress has, within a few years, been made in invention, than within ten times that period before.

It is proper, however, to remark, that the qualities of mind on which invention depends are somewhat dissimilar from those necessary to discovery. Invention depends upon accuracy of knowledge in detail, as well as in general, and a facility for seizing upon distant and frequently recondite relations. Discovery has more to do with the simple quality, invention with the complex connexions. Discovery views truth in the abstract; invention views it either in connexion with other truth, or in its relation to other beings. Hence has it so frequently taken place that philosophers have been unable to avail themselves of their own discoveries ; or, in other words, that the powers of discovery and of invention are so seldom combined in the same individual. In one thing, however, they agree. Both depend upon powers of mind capable of cultivation ; and, therefore, both are susceptible of receiving benefit beyond any assignable degree, by the progress of education.

3. The mind may be rendered a fitter instrument for obeying the laws of the universe. This will be accomplished, when men, first, are better acquainted with the laws of the universe; and second, when they are better

disposed to obey them. That both of these may be accomplished, scarcely needs confirmation.

For, first, I surely need not consume your time to prove, that a much greater amount of knowledge of the laws of the universe might be communicated in a specified time, than is communicated at present. Improvement in this respect depends upon two principles :first, greater skill may be acquired in teaching; and second, the natural progress of the sciences is towards simplification. As they are improved, the more proximate relations of things are discovered, the media are rendered clearer, and the steps in the illustration of truth less numerous. As a man knows more of the laws of his Creator, he can surely obey them better.

And secondly, those dispositions which oppose our meek and humble obedience may be corrected. Candour may be made to take the place of prejudice, and envy may be exchanged for a generous ardour after truth. This a good teacher frequently accomplishes now. And that the Gospel of Jesus Christ does present a most surprising cure for those dispositions which oppose the progress of truth and interfere with our obedience to the moral laws of our being, no one who, at the present day, looks upon the human race with the eye of a philosopher, can with any semblance of candour venture to deny.

It would not be difficult, did time permit, by an examination of the various laws, physical, intellectual, and moral, under which we are placed, to show that the principles which I have been endeavouring to illustrate are universal, and apply to every possible action of the most eventful life. It could thus be made to appear that

all the happiness of man is derived from discovering, applying, or obeying the laws of his Creator, and that all his misery is the result of ignorance or disobedience; and hence, that the good of the species can be permanently promoted, and permanently promoted only, by the accomplishment of that which I have stated to be the object of education.

I have thus far endeavoured to show, from our situation as just such creatures, namely, under laws of which we come into the world ignorant, and laws which can only be known by a mind possessed of acquired power, that there is, in our present state, the need of such a science as that of education. I have endeavoured to show what is its object, and also to show that that object may be accomplished. I will now take leave of this part of the subject with a few remarks upon the relation which this science sustains to other sciences.

1. If the remarks already made have the least foundation in truth, we do not err in claiming for education the rank of a distinct science. It has its distinct subject, its distinct object, and is governed by its own laws. And, moreover, it has, like other sciences, its corresponding art,—the art of teaching. Now if this be so, we would ask how any man should understand this science, aný more than that of mathematics or astronomy, without ever having studied it, or having even thought about it? If there be any such art as the art of teaching, we ask how it comes to pass that a man shall be considered fully qualified to exercise it without a day's practice, when a similar attempt in any other art would expose him to ridicule ? Henceforth, I pray you, let the ridicule be somewhat more justly distributed.

2. The connexions of this science are more extensive

« AnteriorContinuar »