« ForrigeFortsett »
in seasons of excessive morbid reáction. Sanity and vigor of mind, not less than health of body, and conditions of moral life and action; as is sadly manifest when we advert to those unhappy cases in which there has been an overthrow or obscuration of the god-like power of reason itself. Insanity, whether in the form of mental aberration or delusion, is competent not only to impair, but to obliterate, the distinctive mental and moral attributes of man. The enlightened humanity of our day mitigates by genial, and sometimes, successful treatment, the sufferings of our nature, when reduced to such deplorable conditions; and its kind offices are crowned with yet more marked success, in its endeavors to raise the idiotic and the feeble minded to a comparatively healthy intellectual and moral level. It is one of the highest tributes paid to moral culture—we may observe in passing—that such replacements of depressed human nature are generally recognized as owing their success to the purely moral measures adopted in effecting them, whether in cases of insanity or of idiocy. Culture essential to Intelligence, and therefore, to Moral Elevation.— Gross ignorance, and utter absence of mental culture, are proved to be, in general, fruitful sources of crime, and of moral evil in every shape. It is not enough that a sane mind and sound judgment be taken into the account, as, indispensable elements in the production of legitimate moral results in action and character. The intellect beclouded and darkened by ignorance and its attendant hosts of error and prejudice, or benumbed by neglect and disuse, is incapable of the clearness and activity which belong to the normal states and conditions of the human mind. A pure, intelligent, and loyal adherence to principle and to conscience, can not, in such circumstances, be expected to exist. The character indicated in sacred scripture, “a brutish man” who “doth not know,” may not have chosen his condition; but, while in it, he is disqualified for every proper exercise of man's reflective and moral nature. The density of ignorance to which some classes of the population of European cities, and the majority of the slave population of our own country, are sunk, shows, in its deplorable depression, and its nearly hopeless extinction or absence of conscience, how important the daylight of knowledge is to a pure atmosphere in the human soul. Evils of eccessive Cultivation.—Morality necessarily implies a certain degree of intelligence and of culture. But, unhappily, there is, as is too plainly apparent in the forms of civilized and city life, a condition in which a moral inefficiency of mind is attributable not to the absence, but to the injudicious excess of cultivation; and the pale and emaciated features of school children and students, too generally indicate the incompatibility of sedentary life and close, studious application, daily sustained, with a natural, healthy condition of body. The parental complaints against schools, as undermining the temper and vivacity of childhood, confirm the truth that the “much study" which “is a weariness of the flesh,” impairs, also, the healthy vigor and freshness of the spirit. Genial influence of appropriate early Culture.—Were early
education what it should be, a course of invigorating, life-giving .
observation of nature and its products, and a succession of healthful, inspiring exercises, alternating with soothing relaxation and cheering recreation, and a strictly limited and very moderate exercise of pure intellection; culture and intelligence would cease to be, as now, too often purchased at the expense of a healthy tone of mind and habit. Iłut, as we must recur to this branch of our subject when we come to the discussion of educational methods, we must leave it, for the present, with this postulate, that a sound, clear, vigorous, and well trained understanding, capable of correct and decisive judgments, is as important as the possession of reason itself, to constitute man a responsible, moral agent. In other words, that his rational faculty is a moral power. . 3. AEsthetic Culture: its Moral Influence on Imagination and Taste.—Among the intellectual sources of moral life and power, a prominent place must ever be assigned by the judicious educator to the moulding and directing efficacy of imagination and taste. If these influential faculties are untrue or impure in their action and character, the tendency of the whole moral being is “only evil, and that continually.” If they are sound, healthy, pure, and vigorous, they become sure safeguards, faithful guides, and genial companions of the youthful spirit. They, also, rise to the rank of powers in the moral domain of humanity. Moral influence of the impressions of Sublimity and Beauty—In that commingling of intuition, feeling, and imagination, and, sometimes, even of reflective judgment, by which the soul is at once overawed, and delighted, and exalted, in the contemplation of the vast, the sublime, the majestic in nature or in thought, or in that only less elevating influence which is inspired by the blending effects of greatness and grace in the grandeur of nature or of noble art, or even in that delighted and admiring love which is elicited by the presence of beauty in the myriad forms and hues with which the Creator has invested the living and ever-varying aspects of nature, which man delights to imitate in art;-in all these relations of mind is involved a moral element of power, by which man's nature is ennobled and purified, and prepared, as in the vestibule of a sanctu
ary, for those yet higher and more effective influences which list awe into adoration, and attract the soul to the beauty of holiness. Such at least, we know, is the natural tendency of unperverted mind, and the experience of every soul on which the true Light shineth. The mind which, under the purifying influence of genial culture, enjoys the refining emotions and clear perceptions of a true “taste,” (relish,) for those pursuits which lead to the admiring contemplation of naturé, and to the practice of those arts which enable man to express his admiration of nature—possesses, in its love of the beautiful, a natural preparation for the reception of all those salutary impressions which, in a higher relation, are stamped upon the heart by the irresistible power of every trait of loveliness of disposition and character embodied in the daily beauty of a pure and amiable life. The Graphic Arts which embody and repeat and perpetuate such impressions, are not to be overlooked in an enumeration of man's capabilities of refining and elevating culture, even in its strictly moral and spiritual relation. The dumb statue, by its perfect symmetry and grace, or its touching beauty, makes the heart eloquent inwardly with delight and love, with admiration, or with tenderness and sympathy. The portrait which recalls the image of the lost and lovely, the good and the true, the noble and the worthy, speaks most touchingly tous, from the spirit of the departed, in the language of the heart. The landscape which skillful art presents as a microcosm of glorious nature, conjured from dead, material means and. implements, by a concentration of man's inventive genius and educated hand, deepens, at once, our love of this our earthly home of palatial grandeur and finished beauty, benignantly assigned us by the great Father, for our preparatory abode, and our admiration of the powers with which He has endowed the beings created in his image. The art which at once refines and elevates, does a noble preparatory work in rendering more vividly susceptible those faculties by which the soul, when awakened to the consciousness of its highest relations, is yet more effectually purified and ennobled. But Music—that art which God has been pleased to consecrate for His own special service in the offices of human devotion, and which may be employed in the humble station of a peculiar minister to man's enjoyment, as a sentient being, capable of ever new and ever pure gratification from the concord of sweet sounds, is, in its influence on the soul, an element of singular moral efficacy, in its power to inspire with reverence, with joy, with ecstatic delight, to calm and soothe the agitated spirit, to touch the heart with sympathy for sorrow, or to mingle the humanizing emotions of brotherhood and companionship. Rightly cultivated and rightly practiced, it affects
with a pure and benign influence both mind and heart; and happily, of late years, has it taken its appropriate place in schools, among the effective means of moral culture not less than aesthetic. It is no undue enlargement in the enumeration of the moral capabilities of humanity, to include within its sphere the whole range of those arts by which man's conceptions of grandeur and beauty are rendered more definite in themselves, and more effective in their influence on his character. 4. SENsibility, as an element of Moral Life.—In our preceding observations, we have adverted to health of body and mind, and to intellectual and aesthetic culture, as determining, in degree, man's moral capabilities; since a normal physical and intellectual state is the natural condition of normal moral action. Proceeding to the further consideration of the moral capacities and powers, the next element in our enumeration will be that Sensibility which, by Creative ordination, links man, by the sense of pleasure and pain, to the outward world, establishes a sentient world within himself, and gives birth to the vital elements of love and aversion, in all the varied forms of appetite, instinct, desire, feeling, affection, passion, and emotion, by which man is attracted or repelled, by which he is prompted to action and expression, and which consequently determine his morality, (manner of action.) 5. The INSTINCTIVE TENDENcies, as Moral Incitements—(1) Appetite, the natural primal craving for satisfaction, which implies a sense of want and a desire of gratification, more or less definite according to the degree of intellectual development and definite consciousness, secures, by Divine appointment, the perpetual renovation of vigor, health, and life, of comfort and complacency. In the natural sympathy of mind and body, it tends, also, to generate the genial dispositions and emotions, and to diffuse the moral element of happiness. The intelligent educator recognizes it as a moral power, in its influence on habit and character. He well knows that, in its pure and healthy conditions, it is an effective promoter of serenity and tranquillity and cheerfulness, and favors the exercise of the benevolent affections; that, when neglected, it brings on an irritative reáction, too strong, if extreme, for the control of the guardian power of conscience; and that, when glutted by excess, it imbrutes the whole being, and leads to those degrading habits by which humanity is desecrated or ruined. (2) The natural Love of Activity.—One of the earliest manifestations of instinct is the restless desire of action, which is seen even in the involuntary and spontaneous motions of the muscular frame in infancy, in the insatiable thirst for exercise in childhood, in the irrepressible tendency of boyhood and youth to active exertion, in the indefatigable industry of adult man; and not less in-the instinctive craving for intellectual action, and the inextinguishable curiosity of the young mind, in the eager appetite for knowledge on all accessible subjects, and the earnest desire to investigate the problems of our being and destination, which impel the maturer mind, at every stage of life. The same desire of activity is marked in the child's natural craving for sympathy and affection, and in that desire for esteem and approbation which mark the dispositions of youth and manhood. All these impelling powers, as they tend to enlarge the sphere of life to the individual, and prompt him to fill it by corresponding exertion, become vital elements of moral life and character. (3.) The natural Aversion to Pain.—This instinctive principle, which makes the sentient nature a provisional guardian of the safety and welfare of infancy, and, in degree, of humanity, throughout the course of life, operates, at first, with more obvious reference to the protection of organic life and health. But, as the mental powers progressively unfold themselves, and conscious sympathy becomes a source of pleasure or of pain, the instinct becomes a moral sentiment, and leads its subject to avoid whatever seems fitted to excite painful or disagreeable emotions in the consciousness of his fellow beings. It advances as self consciousness becomes more fully developed, to that moral rank which places it in alliance with conscience, and warns us to shun the foreseen pain of evil doing, and the reproaches of that faithful monitor which Divine wisdom has implanted in the bosom of man to represent its own jurisdiction. It rises, at length, to that fear of God which deters from sin, under the dread of His sovereignty or the apprehension of his displeasure, and which, in its truest and most genial form of filial awe, forbids the very thought of offense. The power of this instinct is most impressively shown when, as in some deplorable instances, its first monitory warnings have been disregarded, and its terrific reaction drives reason from the throne of intellect, or haunts a death-bed with horrors. (4.) The desire of Enjoyment—which, in infancy and childhood, tends to seek for gratification in the sphere of the sentient nature in its animal relations, rises to intellectual and moral action, with progressive development, in subsequent stages of life and character, till it becomes the conscious pursuit of even the highest happiness of humanity, exalts successively the aims and endeavors of man to his utmost elevation of moral action and character, and stamps itself as one of the most powerful agents in the advancement of his being. (5.) The desire of Power.—No attribute of his nature more distinctly marks the character of man as a progressive being, than that love of power which actuates the very infant in his attempts to stand,