Imágenes de páginas

antecedents. But repetitions are then avoided by a simple reference; though the reader would often gladly be saved the trouble of turning over the pages in order to find the quotation. Now, our course of language is not a literary work, and cannot therefore be subjected to the rules prescribed by delicacy of taste : it may be classed among scientific works, but then it is science as adapted to children. On this ground frequent repetitions are not only allowable, but indispensable, because the pencil must often go over the same stroke if we would leave a deep and permanent mark. It is then no defect in a course of language, that it should often recur to the same thoughts, and particularly to those which are distinguished by their importance and by the train which they bring along with them per favour of the natural association of ideas. We wish to give our pupils a certain mode of thinking, and we act upon the great maxim, “Repetition is the very soul of instruction.”

Besides, we have not only to cultivate memory, but intelligence. The truths which we wish to inculcate will appear at first but in twilight; and as the mind is developed by exercise, light will stream in upon them. Who among us does not remember, for example, how the words of the Lord's Prayer have gradually conveyed to him a deeper and more and more profound and comprehensive signification ?

Teachers very generally complain of meagreness in the compositions of their pupils. But have they any right to wonder at it when they have not taken the trouble to impress upon them, by frequent repetitions, the materials out of which they are to select and to combine ? Without, however, looking so far forward, in our course of language the pupil is called upon throughout to pronounce an opinion upon what is laid before him, or to invent something of his own. And for both these processes he must draw on the funds of his own mind, but he will only find what has been inscribed in indelible characters by frequent repetitions.

Forestalling There will be much of this in our course of language, and this objection will rot be overlooked by the advocates of system. In the exact sciences, it is imperative that all the truths of which they are composed should form one progressive chain, in which there should be neither anticipation nor entanglement. We also follow this rule as far as we can, that is to say, in syntax, with respect to the developement and form of thoughts, but not as regards their subject or contents. We endeavour, indeed, to base our direct instruction on reason; but truths often appear before their proofs, which are to follow, and we appeal consequently to the faith of our pupils.

We are reproached with forestalling. But do we not continually meet with anticipations in this world, and are they not of the greatest advantage to human nature which is sustained and nourished by them. Aristotle, or some writer assuming his name, has said that the Author and Lord of the universe has been brought to the knowledge of man by tradition; and this is true, for we must, by means of science, which is tardy in its operations, know of the existence of a world, before we can place one God above it. Here then is a sublime anticipation. The young Sintenis had got as far as the sun, attracted on one hand by the splendour of that orb, which, to all outward appearances, is alone of its kind; and urged, on the other hand, by the longings of his heart, which was yet fresh, and tender, and grateful. Then science came, and spread desolation in his soul, until his father revealed to him the God of the Gospel.

And is not this Gospel, to the nations which it has gradually enlightened, a mild but magnificent anticipation of the developement of natural knowledge, which in general advances slowly and amidst many dangers ? For how true are those words of the Apostle, I. Corinthians (i. 21.) Children who come to our course of language are already believers. Their kind nurse has hastened to instil into them the elements of Christianity as far as she herself knew them, or as they could receive them. They have learnt by heart the Lord's Prayer and the Belief; that Belief which begins with God the Father Almighty, who made heaven and earth; then passes on to Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for us—and ends with the Holy Ghost, and with Life eternal. They can also repeat the Ten Commandments. But they are far from comprehending the full meaning of the words they repeat. Nevertheless they do understand them in some degree, and their heart fails not to derive some nourishment from them. Conscience will also act upon them; but we would say, with Christian freedom, that we would rather turn their attention to the two great precepts of the Gospel than to the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law, which are not and cannot be our whole code*.

And what will our course of language do with regard to this instruction which our pupils have received under the paternal roof? Shall we overlook it, and begin afresh; setting out from the first elements, and going through the whole logical train, in order to arrive, after this long journey, at the very point which the children had long ago reached, by a much shorter road, and one far better adapted to their feeble capacity, which finds its natural support in faith?

With respect to language, we connect our lessons with that which our pupils bring, and why should not we do the same as regards the direct instruction which we have in view ? Our general object will be to develope, to rationalize and improve what has been already prepared for us by tradition. We shall take childhood as we find it, for this is the duty of education ; and we shall act in harmony with it, and with the parents, who, even if they were not Christians themselves, would wish their children

If we were ill advised enough to conform in this instance to systematic requirements, in order to avoid all anticipations, we should be at variance both with the past and the present. Let us remember that, by means of Christian faith, though very imperfectly apprehended, our pupils are, in their range of thought, far above

to be so.

* Vide the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. V.-vis.

heathen antiquity, and many of the great nations which now cover the earth, to say nothing of the savages who are as yet strangers to the light of civilization. And shall we, in order not to anticipate proofs which will come afterwards in proportion to their growing strength, shall we, I say, disregard the faith which they bear in their hearts; and deal with them as if the light of the Gospel had never shone upon them, as if they were yet strangers to the way of Life ? Again I say, we must take them as we find them, and lead them forward. Our course of language can do so, and its power is the measure of its duty.

Need we add, that this traditional faith must serve, in regard to morals, as a guardian angel to our children through the path of life which is opening before them? But is it feared that at their age they will form false ideas on divine subjects? We also dread error on such subjects above all others; and for this very reason we would, by means of faith, anticipate the time when we shall be able to explain what it teaches. As our course of language has to do, not with pupils such as the Emile of the romance, or the young Sintenis of real life, but with children who have received from their parents and neighbours moral and religious ideas, both true and false, our lessons will connect themselves with the former, in order to dispel the latter. In outward form, our direct instruction will not be a regular system like that of the exact sciences; nevertheless, by means of it we shall produce in our children that clearness, connection, and sequence of thought which are required ; and this suffices.

SECOND CLASS. The objections we have hitherto considered bear entirely upon the form of our teaching, in which we wish to unite two things apparently incompatible; a direct instruction, which ought, it is said, to be strictly systematical, and lessons in language which oppose all the requirements of system. Those which we are now going to answer, apply to the principle itself; some of these censure the combination of our direct instruction with lessons of language in general; others the intellectual developement at which we aim.

Combination of Direct Instruction nilh Lessons in

Language. This combination has been much censured. On one hand it has been stigmatized as an undue encroachment on the holy office, to which alone it belongs (say some), to teach evangelical truths. This objection has appeared to me all the more strange, because our catechisms enforce this instruction as the most sacred duty of parents to their children; whilst our preachers continually reprove those who neglect it. Now we must be consistent if we would be reasonable. Is it not true that the master receives his pupils from the hands of their parents, that he may act in their stead, and continue and complete what they have begun? How then should he be guilty of any encroachment on the province of others, if he merely makes his Grammar one of ideas as well as words, and adapts these ideas to the truths of the Gospel? Did the child cease to be a human being and a Christian, when he passed from the hands of the parents into those of their substitute, and shall the latter deal with him as if he were neither the one nor the other ?

“ Instruction in language," it is said, “must keep within its own province, that of expressions and their diction. It is a profanation of religious instruction to combine it with any thing of so inferior a nature. The result must be evil; for children will be accustomed to set no higher value on religious subjects than on ordinary ones; and this familiarity will only tend to confusion.”

This objection, which is based on a praiseworthy feeling, carries with it a resemblance of truth; but not the reality.

To profane holy things, is to degrade and pervert them. But how can this abuse be imputed to a course of language which hastens to impart evangelical truths to children, whilst their hearts are still malleable and capable of receiving deep and durable impressions? Far from

« AnteriorContinuar »