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The principles of Pestalozzi were founded on a knowledge of human nature, and a thorough acquaintance with the character of children. They are so simple and so consonant with good sense, that no doubt, to a certain degree, they have been carried out by many a judicious teacher, who knew nothing of the works of the Swiss philanthropist. But no one saw so forcibly as he did their importance, and to him we are indebted for a system of education, in which they are presented to the public in a definite form. Many years since, when I first heard of the Pestalozzian system of education, I was particularly struck with a remark, which, simple as it is, was then new to me; that education was like a ladder, and that we ought not to allow a child to proceed a step upwards till we have ascertained that his footing is firm on the step below.
In order to carry out this idea, that education should be systematically progressive, and that every advance should prepare for the next, it is necessary that the instruction given should be nicely graduated—the object not being to remove difficulties, but that difficulties should come in their right place, and that one should be mastered before another is attempted.
The following pages have been written with the view of applying this principle to the most important of all instruction—religious. They contain a course which commences with instruction adapted to the first dawning of the infant mind, and advanced progressively to children of the ages of nine or ten.
The lessons have this advantage, that they have not emanated from theories produced in the closet, but have been written as they have been wanted, and their value was immediately tested by being used in the school-room.
This graduated series consists of Four Steps. The object in the first is, to communicate to the infants' mind first ideas of God as the Creator of all things, their heavenly Father, to whom they owe love and obedience—whose eye
is ever upon
them—who knows all they do and say—and to whom they will have to render an account. A set of lessons for this purpose is given, and subjects are suggested which Teachers may carry out in a similar manner.
The infants of well-educated Christian parents gradually acquire some knowledge of the God who made them, and of their own condition as responsible beings; and no doubt the best religious instruction for such children is not the formal lesson, but that which the watchful parent draws from the ordinary circumstances of their lives. But it is quite different with the children of the poor : their minds have been little exercised on any subject; and, if they have heard the name of God, it has, in too many cases, been associated with anger and blasphemy. The task of the Infant-School Teacher is to produce the
first religious impression; and, when the state of the child is considered, and the exalted nature of the subject—it may readily be supposed, that it does not require little skill and judgment to make a good commencement ; in fact, no one who has not tried can have an idea of the difficulty of the task. It was the frequent failure of Teachers that called forth these first lessons in religion as a guide to direct them. It is an attempt to assist in feeding the lambs; which however feeble, will I humbly trust, be blessed by the great Shepherd, that good may result, and his name be glorified.
In the Second Step it is proposed to make the children acquainted with some of the precepts and elementary truths of the Bible through the medium of pictures. Forty scriptural subjects, which I suggested and superintended, were drawn on stone by a German artist of considerable talent, for the use of the Home and Colonial Infant School Society, and were published by Roake and Varty. Lessons on the first ten prints have already been before the public: as the edition is just out, they are republished in this work : to them are added ten skeletons of lessons on the remaining subjects of the Old Testament series. In the second volume of this work, it is proposed to work out the New Testament subjects in a similar manner.
In the Third Step, the children are more regularly taken to the Scriptures for instruction ; and pictures, which were employed when language could call
up but few ideas, are only occasionally used to illustrate some point, or excite flagging interest. The course of instruction embraces the history of the creation—of the fall of man-of the patriarchs—of the Israelites in the wilderness, with the delivery of the law-and of their settlement in Canaan. Between seventy and eighty skeletons of lessons on these histories are furnished, suggesting how the subject should be treated, the truths to be drawn from them, and the practical lessons to be enforced. At this pe