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them. Nor can it be doubted that he meant to And this naturally leads
caution them against it. us to another inquiry:
II. How far emulation ought to be protested against, as it relates to education especially, and in various other respects, if we would not "be partakers of other men's sins?" For this seems one grand argument in the controversy: if it be evil, all should protest against it; or they are partakers of the guilt. The apostle, as we have seen, disapproved of the competitions, and desire of surpassing one another, which prevailed among the Corinthians: yet he does not follow up his caution by any vehement protest against the principle itself, or the perversion of it; but contents himself with pointing out to his Christian brethren" a more excellent way." This should be particularly noticed, in this part of the argument. Indeed, something analogous to it pervades the whole scripture, and constitutes a marked difference between the inspired writers, and those eager disputants, who endeavour to push every advantage against an opponent to the uttermost, and often attempt to expose his principles and sentiments to odium or contempt. But in the sacred oracles, even in those things which are most evidently wrong, and which scriptural principles lead all who are well acquainted with them to condemn, we see little of the disposition to outrage sentiments or practices. The writers deemed themselves bound to protest against whatever evil they observed in their own com
1 Cor. xii. 31; xiii. 4; xiv. 18-26.
pany: "For what have I to do, to judge them "also that are without? Do not ye judge them "that are within? But them that are without "God judgeth." They likewise gave rules, precepts, and maxims, subversive, in the event, of all the evil maxims, customs, and practices of the world: but, in general, they left these to the silent and gradual operation which the blessing of God would give them. The chimerical attempt of reforming the world by instruction, without the internal renovation of the heart, was by no means a part of their plan; and, had they attempted this in a vehement manner, they would have thrown immense impediments in the way of what they did undertake-even such obstacles as nothing but a succession of miracles could have counterbalanced. In this, I apprehend, they have left us a most instructive example.
Not to dwell on other instances, who can doubt that slavery, or the forced subjection of one unoffending man to another man, as his property; and that the slave trade, with which in all ages it has been connected, in various forms; are contrary to the law of " loving our neighbour "as ourselves?" Yet slavery subsisted, even among Christians: and not only were some Christians slaves, but some even possessed slaves. The apostles taught both these classes their several duties, which being carefully attended to, the worst effects of the system would be counteracted. But so far from openly protesting against slavery, and its attendant evils in the world at large, they
did not even require or exhort Christian masters to liberate their slaves: and yet I trust, we shall not venture to say, that they sanctioned all the evils of slavery and the traffic for slaves, and were partakers of the guilt. Had they been legislators or senators in a country, like Britain, professing Christianity, and possessing liberty; they would doubtless have done what their instructions have excited Christian senators and legislators most honourably to attempt, and in part to accomplish in our land, and which doubtless, the same principles will still lead them perseveringly to pursue to its completion. But they were ministers of religion: "the weapons of their warfare" did not admit the attempt to alter the laws and constitutions of the kingdoms of this world; and, where success could not be expected, vehement protests on the subject would only have rendered Christian slaves discontented; have prejudiced, most fatally, masters against the gospel; and have exasperated the rulers of the world to more determined and violent persecution. This suffices to shew, that circumstances of various kinds are to be considered in what we attempt; and that we should not impede the practicable good which we aim at, by useless, injurious, and unseasonable endeavours at those improvements which to us are evidently impracticable, and beyond our line of action.
Wrong motives may render sinful, even things most lawful and needful in themselves; and this the scripture intimates: "The ploughing of the "wicked is sin;" doubtless, because it is done
1 Prov. xxi. 4.
from selfish and worldly motives, and in an ungodly manner. "To them that are undefiled and "unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their "mind and conscience is defiled." The sacred writers did not however, enter any strong protest against the corrupt motives of those who cultivated the earth: nor did they refuse to partake of its fruits," asking no questions for conscience "sake:" yet surely they were not in this partakers "of other men's sins." Ministers and Christians, in their private capacity, cannot possibly influence the great mass of mankind: and without some special call, or prospect of good, it is best to avoid what must give great umbrage to no purpose. The same protest against emulation, as employed in educating young persons, which might be made in the opinion of many, against the Lancasterian method of teaching, would, in great degree at least, involve under condemnation all our public schools and seminaries of learning, and all methods used to train up men to eminence in the army and navy, or as physicians and lawyers, or in the senate; nay, I fear in the church itself; for the name of Christian does not at all change the character of those who bear it.
We may think, yea, prove, that “the ploughing "of the wicked is sin;" but we cannot communicate our views to the bulk of mankind. We may maintain, yea, demonstrate from scripture, that emulation of outstripping others is a corrupt principle; but we can never convince men in general that it is so; and, by too eagerly and violently
Tit. i. 15.
attempting it, we may prevent the good which otherwise we might do.
I am not competent to say, how far the Lancasterian plan of teaching more encourages this corrupt emulation than other plans do; I mean, plans where all concerned are not actuated by genuine Christian motives. Were I called to take an active part in such schools as are formed on this mode, or any similar to it, I should more carefully consider the subject than I have been hitherto led to do, and endeavour to counteract the tendency; but I do not think that I should enter any protest against them.
It is absolutely necessary, that vastly more corn should be grown than can be raised by truly pious husbandmen; and is it not equally necessary, that far more children should be taught to read, and even trained up in learning, than can, in the present state of things, be taught from genuine Christian motives? Alas! in far the greater part of Christendom, both the teachers and those to be taught are almost equally strangers to them: but is the world to be starved, because" the plough"ing of the wicked is a sin?" Is it to sink into barbarous ignorance, because the teaching in almost all places is connected with emulation? Must no Christian contribute to a Sunday school, or a charity school, or a Lancasterian school, because of this? On the other hand, must he acknowledge it as a right principle; and expressly sanction and adopt, and recommend it? I fear that I cannot wholly exclude emulation in teaching four or five children; but must they therefore not be taught? Or may I not say to my children or pupils, You ought to