• Clark Brown 1771-1817

The importance of the early and proper education of children


MANY wise and excellent proverbs have been established, by men of the most eminent worth and value, as useful and important. Among which, not any have a more just claim to preeminence, than those of the wise and learned King of Israel. Perhaps not one, among the great variety to be found in his writings, is more useful and excellent, than that which we have chosen for the theme of our discourse.

THIS, above all others, is verified in most instances. It cannot be reasonably expected, that it should be strictly confirmed in every particular instance; as there are but very few, if any, rules, proverbs or maxims, but what admit of some few exceptions. In most of the instances where this proverb, contained in the text, is thought not to prove strictly true, yet if they should be carefully examined, there would be found some defect in not having strictly attended to the proverb, rather than in the proverb itself. We may, therefore, safely receive this proverb, as one of the most general, useful and important proverbs or maxims, any where known, either verbally among mankind, or upon record.

"TRAIN up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it."

As this proverb is so generally verified, so useful and important, a strict attention to the exhortation contained in it, which is, "Train up a child in the way he should go," is of the highest moment: for in so doing, the happy consequence, will, according to the proverb, naturally follow, which is, "And when he is old he will not depart from it."

FROM the Exordium, the question which will afford matter for the sequel of the discourse, naturally ariseth, How or in what manner are CHILDREN to be trained up? Both reason and revelation, are ready to give an answer.

REASON answers, Train up CHILDREN in that way, in which they will make valuable members of a community; and in that way also, which will secure to them, joy, peace and happiness of mind as long as they continue to exist. REVELATION is ready to aid and confirm the voice of REASON, by saying, "And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD."

IF CHILDREN, according to the passage now cited, are trained up in the nurture & admonition of the LORD, they will become useful ORNAMENTS of society, happy in their own minds, and will, beyond the short span of human life, be completely happy in the enjoyment of their CREATOR.

THIS, in various places in the sacred oracles, is evidently confirmed. Those that are trained up in the way of true christian virtue, will be adopted as the true children of God, such being chosen through Christ, as heirs of a joyful immortality. Unto such, the Gospel assures us, all things, which God in his consummate wisdom and goodness, sees will best tend to advance their everlasting peace, joy and happiness, shall be abundantly added.

THIS is the language of the GOSPEL, "Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD, and his righteousness, and all these things shall he added unto you."

THAT this most happy consequence, resulting from training up children in the way they should go, might take place, they must, while budding to bloom in youth, be properly educated.

THE education of children, is an interesting concern, to all those that are possessed of sentiments of love and compassion for them; as also to all such as have any regard for the well being of mankind, especially of the inhabitants of the community, to which they belong.

THE peace and happiness of children in the future periods of their existence, and likewise of their place of residence, as also of mankind in general, eminently depend upon their being rightly educated.

IF their education should be neglected, they will step forth upon the stage of action, ignorant, rude and barbarous, unfit rightly to serve and worship their CRE∣ATOR; and likewise unqualified for the company of the polished and well informed part of mankind.

SHOULD, therefore, the education of children become generally neglected, superstition, misery and destruction, would inevitably be the awful consequences. Intellectual pleasures, or those of a mind refined by celestial virtue, and illuminated by the emanating rays of divine love, could then never be experienced in all their purifying and pleasurable effects. But few other joys and pleasures, would be known, but those which are sensual, proceeding from hearts defiled, like contaminated streams, issuing from impure fountains. Victory and triumph, would consist, as they now do among the savages of the wilderness; while the honor of obtaining a victory over their own passions would be unknown, and the joys of a happy triumph over the powers of darkness never possess their hearts. Their virtue and morality, would be none other, than that which was conformable, however ridiculous, to the place in which they had been trained up. Such are the deplorable consequences of ignorance, every one will readily acknowledge, who has but superficially examined the history of mankind; and but with indifference, surveyed the great variety of practices and customs of some of the many states, kingdoms and nations of the earth. By such, it will be acknowledged, that those actions or practices, which, in some places among the ignorant and unpolished, are esteemed as virtuous and honorable, are indeed ridiculous and impious; and which, among the truly virtuous and well informed, would be thus es∣teemed. According, therefore, as children are educated, will be their notions, ideas and practices, when they shall have come forth upon the theatre of time. Truly is the proverb contained in the text, verified,— "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it."

BY contrasting ignorance with knowledge, it will still be thought to have a more glaring and odious appearance. Innumerable are the happy consequences resulting from a general diffusion of useful knowledge.

THOSE that have early had their minds refined by a good education, can rise, upon the wings of science, far above the sordid pleasures of the ignorant and unpolished. With their aspiring minds, they can soar on high, even from earth to heaven, and from pole to pole, contemplating with exquisite delight, the majestic works of creation and the beauties of nature, which, with pleasing astonishment, every where strike the enlightened mind.

LEARNING not only capacitates the mind for scanning with pleasure the works and beauties of creation: but renders it a fit recipient and a proper repository of consistent ideas of God, the great Creator and Upholder of all things.

THOSE minds, which remain deformed by ignorance, have very inconsistent ideas of God, his perfections natural and moral, and of his dealings with his intelligent creatures. To the truth of this assertion, both history and our own observations, will bear testimony.

KNOWLEDGE obtained from useful learning, imprints on the mind many important ideas; prepares, if rightly improved, those, whose minds are thus expanded, to act their parts right and well in the world; and to them, points out the way, that leads to the happy abodes of the blessed, where fountains of know∣edge, springs of peace, rivers of pleasure and streams of joy, in one incessant prospect for ever rise, making glad the hearts of the myriads of its elysian inhabitants. It is knowledge, which teaches us to assert the sovereignty of our nature; and to assume that dignity in the scale of being, for which we were created.

THOUSANDS of utilities, elegancies, joys and pleasures, owe their birth and being to it, without which, existence itself would be but an insipid enjoyment.

SUCH are the happy consequences, privileges and advantages; which wholly depend upon the right education of children.

THE real worth or superiority of mankind, above the beasts of the forest, appear only, by rightly cultivating, replenishing and polishing their minds, with knowledge received from learning's source.

LEARNING or education, does for the mind, the same that the polishing hand of the artist that works on rich and precious GEMS, does to ONE taken from the earth, as it there laid in its hidden recesses.

THE mind originally, as in children upon their entrance into the world, is destitute of all ideas, excepting such as they immediately receive from sensation.

THE mind or understanding, seems not to have any original ideas imprinted on it, but appears rather to be destitute of the least glimmering of all innate knowledge.

"A CAREFUL examination of the minds of young children, says a learned and ingenious Writer, will sufficiently convince us, that they bring not many original ideas into the world with them."

IF there were any original ideas in the mind, which in its first being it receives, those ideas most certainly would be universally known, and acknowledged by all mankind as incontestable truths; which we sufficiently know has never been the case, even with respect to the most self evident propositions and necessary existences.

THIS, therefore, is sufficient to convince us, that the mind originally is similar to white paper, being void of all innate characters.

AS God has neither made nor done any thing in vain, it would be impertinent to suppose that the mind had any ideas or characters engraven on it in its first existence: for as we are endowed with such noble powers and faculties by which we are capacitated, to obtain all the ideas necessary for us to have, to suppose this, would be to suppose a superfluous operation of the divine agency.

IT is therefore, only by improvement, and that by degrees, that the mind comes to be stored with any fund of useful knowledge. At first, the senses let into the mind, particular ideas, called the ideas of sensation. After which, the mind, begins to exercise its own powers, by abstracting and compounding the ideas it received from sensation; and by a certain progression, learns for each of its ideas both simple and complex, particular and general names with their use and design. The ideas received from the perception of the operations of the mind, are the ideas of reflection; which operations are the source, from which proceeds all our useful knowledge, respecting virtue and morality, in which is included our duty both towards God and man, as well as our joy, peace and happiness. This is the way or manner, in which the mind is furnished with ideas and the use of language; and by which it is enabled to exercise its discursive faculties. It, therefore, eminently depends upon the right education of children, respecting their future prosperity, knowledge and usefulness in the world. It is educa∣tion, which raises one above another in real worth and merit.

THE divine portion of genius is diffused among the rich and the poor, the high and the low; and requires only the polishing hand of education, to make it shine in each with distinguished lustre.

THE great disparity among mankind, arises not so much from the want of gifts, as from the want of a proper education. Among crowds of the untutored, real evidences of a bright genius, may often plainly be discovered. Many of those, who traverse America's deserts, to whom no other joys and pleasures are known, "but the chase and the pipe"—have as great if not greater natural abilities, than those, who among the civilized, fill distinguished stations of usefulness and honor.

"MAN, by nature, says ONE, is like a piece of marble just taken from the quarry; and 'tis education which gives the use, the form and the polish."

MANY of those, who have been raised to dignified stations of honor and usefulness, have been taken from the most humble situations in the world, and advanced to them, by means of their education with great dignity and reputation. A striking instance of this, we have in the life of MOSES. Reflect a moment,—"How great the contrast between Moses in the marshy weeds," and MOSES the Commander of the people and armies of the GOD of hosts! Behold him at one time in an Ark of bulrushes, floating upon the river Nile; and at another as a most noble Commander under the supreme KING of kings, standing upon the banks of the Red Sea, safely conducting the chosen of the Lord, through the paths of the watery element! Whence, therefore, may the question be justly asked, was this strange surprizing reverse of fortune? Was it wholly owing to his being taken from the Ark of bulrushes, upon the banks of a dangerous river? No! For notwithstanding he was thus saved from the very jaws of death; yet his eminence and worth, are to be attributed to some greater CAUSE. It was his education, under the superintending providence of God, which prepared him to be such a pattern of meekness; such a blessing to the chosen of the Lord; and to commence the performer of such a scene of wonders, as "must astonish the world to the latest ages." Had it not been for his education, his genius and latent seeds of meekness and virtue, together with his great usefulness to generations gone, to the present and to those that are yet to come, would, like a lump of unwrought gold, never have appeared according to their true value; but would have been concealed by the impenetrable shades of ignorance.

PHARAOH'S daughter is worthy of a high eulogium, for her kind assistance to Moses, a poor forsaken child; for snatching him from a watery grave; and for what is yet greater, providing him with the means of education. "As soon as his age and capacity would admit, says a celebrated DIVINE, he was sent to school, where under the most improved instructors, he made uncommon proficiency in his studies." "He was learned, saith an inspired WRITER, in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds."

BY educating this child, O Thermutis! thou didst perform great service to mankind; and didst heap upon thyself exalted encomiums. This benevolent act, gave thee more joy, than all the gay pleasures of a splendid life; added more charms to thy person than sparkling eyes, blushing cheeks, and curling trusses.

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