« ForrigeFortsett »
all others by moral ties. Thus, to put what I mean in the form of a question, he may be asked as follows:
T. Why should men have given to them by law the right of acquiring or of retaining property, or the right of entering into bargains with one another?
Ans. Without property, there could be no motive to be industrious, no use of our labor. The world would be a world of the most ignorant savages, if each man had not the use of his labor. This is, in fact, necessary to the existence of man on the earth, and to all his welfare. Besides, every man feels almost instinctively that he has a right to a reward for his labor, when it is rendered to others.
T. When a man has property, what obligation lies on other men toward him?
Ans. They are bound not to interfere with what belongs to him ; not to steal, not to defraud, not to make his property less valuable. Laws against stealing, and a great many other laws, are made to prevent such injuries.
Without pursuing this subject farther, I pass on to the duties of the citizen.
T. What ought he to do who is called upon to vote for public officers ?
Ans. He is to ask, first of all, whether the person to be chosen will discharge the duties of the office faithfully, and whether he is capable of doing what is required of him.
T. Must you vote for a particular person merely because your party has set him up, although you believe him to be an unfit man for the place?
Ans. By no means. It may be right for me in that case either not to vote, or to vote for some one else.
T. What ought the citizen to do, if he thinks that something wrong is required of him by law?
Ans. If by something wrong is meant something which he cannot do without feeling that he is doing wrong, he ought not to do it. If you mean, by something wrong, something which is impolitic or inexpedient, he is not in that case released from his obligation to obey the laws.
I cannot spare time for further specimens of what I mean. It is evident that if any instruction concerning political duties is given in schools, it ought to be given to boys of the most advanced class. That it will be found, if put into shape by a person skilled in teaching boys, to be above their comprehension, I can hardly believe.
With the teaching of morality must be associated the exhibition of those motives or considerations which ought to produce and secure moral conduct. I cannot see how a morality worth anything can exist without them. The prudential motives, drawn from the effects of conduct in the present life, ought to have in such teaching a very subordinate place. They make, if primarily appealed to, or if much stress is laid on them, a thoroughly worldly character; they foster a narrow selfishness, which is by no means as interesting and amiable as the profuse thoughtlessness of the spendthrift or the gay good-humor of the man of pleasure. The effects of wrong conduct, however, on character, as on the habits and power of receiving truth, on the conscience and on the highest interests of one's self or of one's fellow-men, are most legitimately and healthfully brought before any moral being. Can we go farther than this, or rather how can we not go farther ? Can we bring the boy or girl to feel that God is present, and acquainted with all action and all thought? Shall such a truth, which a Mohammedan would have no scruple in teaching, be left out of sight? We shall all, I trust, say no! You may call it religion, but so much religion as the recognition of a moral law-giver, of his abhorrence of wrong, of his spiritual nature and his omniscience, we cannot dispense with, if we would have any morality at all. One might better teach obligations between man and man, and ignore the existence of State law, than teach moral duties in general, and say nothing of divine law and of the great Divine Mind.
We are brought now most naturally to the painful and difficult question relating to the teaching of religion in the public schools. Painful, I say, because
it involves the painful subject of the jealousies of sects; and difficult, because any seeming violation of equal rights or religious preference is fitted to do great injury to the cause of education, to its efficiency and its stability. I do not propose at this time, and in a lecture devoted to another topic, to enter at large into this important subject; and yet its connections with my theme are such, that I cannot wholly avoid it. What I wish in brief to give forth as my opinion may be expressed under the following heads :
1. The teaching of morality, without those primary truths of general or natural theology to which I have referred, will be found to be a body without a head, or a carcass without life. So plain is this, that a theist can hardly be conceived of as giving instruction in practical morality without running for help and enforcement of his rules to such truths as the spirituality, omniscience, and rectitude of God, and the immortal existence of the soul.
2. The kind of moral teaching I have endeavored to commend, if it is to have any influence on the mind and soul, must elevate the moral standard, and at the same time awaken a sense of deficiency, or, to use religious language, a sense of sin. None, however young, can believe that he is responsible for the moral state of his affections, for his habits, for his qualities of temper, his purposes, and the use of his powers, without discovering that his attainments are vastly below his idea of right, — below his standard and his admission of duty; hence a sense of want, and, if such a standard can be retained, a self-reproach in reference to the past, and a self-distrust in reference to the future. Here such solemn things as the doctrine of God's omniscience and his retributive justice pour
in their tide to weaken rather than to encourage, to drive towards despair rather than to prompt to exertion. Now, such being the case, it is a moral absurdity that the system of truth should be cut off just at this point; that what is especially revealed truth, the doctrine of pardon in Christ, of gracious assistance by the Divine Spirit, – that this, which is the necessary complement of man's judgment against himself for his delinquencies; this, which alone can make him manly, hopeful, energetic, to cultivate and purify his character, should be hid to the eyes which are made ready to see it by a previous moral training. A public sentiment which can speak otherwise is a harbinger of moral ruin.
3. Vast is the moral and religious good which is derived from the personal influence of the best class of teachers, and from their self-prompted benevolence. But at present we need a system which is independent of teachers, which can supply their deficiencies when they fail or are slothful. I see no impossibility for the great denominations to unite, through their representative men, in preparing or