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DISCOURSE I.

(PREACHED IN SURREY CHAPEL, FOR THE LONDON BRANCH OF

THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE IN THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND, MAY 1825.)

ON EDUCATION,

PSALM xix. 7-9. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple : the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart : the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes : the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

THERE is no subject at present so prominent in the public eye, or which, in one way or another, engageth so much of the generous care of public spirited and religious men, as the education of the people, which hath, by various devices, new and old, proceeded within the last half century, and is now proceeding to a degree heretofore unexampled ;-insomuch that those who formerly opposed, are fain to be silent, or to adopt some mitigated form of the innovation; and every where new inventions are brought out and patronized,

whereof, during the last year, two well worthy of observation, schools for infants and schools for mechanics, have arisen, as by enchantment, over the face of the island. And, in foreign parts, a seminary of youth, conducted on enlightened principles, is deemed as worthy of being visited as heretofore a court would have been, and is wont to be written of in public journals, discoursed of in private companies, and tried by experiment at home. And the zeal of one party for liberal education hath stirred up the zeal of another for peculiar and more restricted education; each party perceiving of what a mighty engine they are either to gain or to lose the working. And at the same time, to carry the invention into the deepest and darkest recesses of our cities and towns, a plan of dividing them into local districts, with each a religious and benevolent man over it, hath been digested and recommended, and put in

practice by one of the most gifted men of the age ; and is already become universal in the chief cities of the north, and is making rapid way in these parts. And to indicate the effect which the spirit of zeal and invention to educate the people is producing, there hath sprung up like the summer fruits, and every where lie scattered like autumn leaves, works composed and digested for the infant and the youthful mind, as introductory to science, and literature, and history, and general knowledge; calculated for all conditions of the mind, from infancy to manhood. And periodical works which circulate amongst the people are multiplied a hundred-fold, and newspapers almost a thousand-fold within the last half century. And, in short, every source of information you

can appeal to, seems to testify with one voice, that the capacity of the country for knowledge, and its intellectual appetite hath increased beyond any other change, fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel concerning the latter days, “ that many should run to and fro, and knowledge should be increased.”

The question which naturally ariseth in the mind of every good man interested in the common weal, is : And what effect is this new element likely to produce in the midst of us? To the answering of which question, every considerate person is intent; for he is blind indeed, who perceiveth not that this is a most penetrating and restless power, which even already hath begun to change the face of many things. It hath brought the minds of thousands, of tens of thousands, yea of millions, and tens of millions (for we look also abroad), into communication with one another, who heretofore dwelt widely apart; and it hath put between men who dwell together, a revealer of thoughts within them, which would have dwelt unperceived for ever; and each man it hath lifted from the condition of an unknown, unfelt individual, to the high and dangerous pre-eminence of thinking upon the abstrusest subjects, and judging of the greatest men. It hath multiplied the power of the press to an unlimited extent, and begotten a new power, the power of public opinion, capable of controlling prince and people, governors and governed, and the press itself, (for the press is generally at the beck of public opinion,) to which it seems to me that almost every thing payeth court and defer

To this new influence I attribute the apparently improved policy of states, and character of men, the outward civility of manners, the

ence.

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