Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

instruction of this large family; and he established a weekly meeting of all the scholars at Waldbach. The inhabitants of Strasbourg and of the neighboring towns from which the Ban de la Roche had been recently cut off, came to look upon the wonders which one man had effected. Subscriptions poured in upon the disinterested pastor; endowments were added. Well did he use this assistance. He founded a valuable library for the use of the children; he printed a number of the best school-books for their particular instruction; he made a collection of philosophical and mathematical instruments; and established prizes for masters and scholars.

Thus did this extraordinary man strive to raise the intellectual standard of his parishioners, whilst he labored to preserve the purity of their morals and the strength of their piety. Never did religion present more attractive features than in the secluded districts of the Ban de la Roche. The love of God was constantly inculcated as a rule of life; but the principle was enforced with no ascetic desire to separate it from the usefulness and the enjoyment of existence. The studies in which these poor children were trained, contributed as much to their happiness as to their knowledge. They were not confined for years to copying large text and small hand, to learning by rote the spelling-book, to hammering at the four rules of arithmetic without understanding their principles or their more practical applications. While they paid due attention to these, they were taught whatever could be useful to them in their pastoral and agricultural life, and whatever could enable them to extract hap

piness out of their ordinary pursuits. They were incited to compose short essays on the management of the farm and the orchard; they were led into the woods to search for indigenous plants, to acquire their names, and to cultivate them in their own little gardens; they were instructed in the delightful art of copying these flowers from nature; it was impressed upon their minds, that, as they lived in a district separated by mountains from the rest of mankind, and moreover a district naturally sterile, it was their peculiar duty to contribute something towards the general prosperity; and thus, previously to receiving religious confirmation, Oberlin required a certificate that the young person had planted two trees. Trees were to be planted, roads were to be put into good condition, and ornamented, to please Him " who rejoices when we labor for the public good.”

Surely, a community thus trained to acquire substantial knowledge, equally conducive to individual happiness and general utility, were likely to become virtuous and orderly members of society, contented in their stations, respectful to their superiors, kind to each other, hospitable to the stranger, tolerant to those who differed from them in opinion. Oberlin lived long enough to see that such conduct was the real result of his wise and benevolent system.

In 1784, Oberlin lost his excellent wife. There was a servant in his family, an orphan, named Louisa Schepler, who had been brought up in his schools, and was afterwards one of the conductrices of the infant establishments. After being the nurse of Oberlin's children for nine years following the death of their mother, this poor girl wrote to her master, to beg that she might be allowed to serve him without wages.

“ Do not, I entreat you,” she says, "give me any more wages; for, as you treat me like your child in every

other respect, I earnestly wish you to do so in this particular also. Little is needful for the support of my body. My shoes and stockings, and sabots, will cost something; but when I want them, I can ask you for them, as a child applies to its father."

In the course of twenty years, the population of the Ban de la Roche had increased to six times the number that Oberlin found there when he entered upon his charge. The knowledge which their pastor imparted to the people, gave them also the means of living, and the increase of their means increased their numbers. The good minister found employment for all. In addition to their agricultural pursuits, he taught the people straw-plaiting, and dyeing with the plants of the country. In the course of years, Mr. Legrand, of Basle, a wealthy and philanthropic manufacturer, who had been a director of the Helvetic republic, introduced the weaving of silk ribands into the district.

The people of the Ban de la Roche for eighty years had been in dispute with the seigneurs about the rights of the forest, to which each party laid claim. This dispute was carried on sometimes with furious violence, but habitually with expensive litigation. In 1813, Oberlin persuaded his flock to come to an accommodation, which should at the same time have respect to the claims of the owners, and

due

ecure

portion of their own proper privileges. He convinced them that this ruinous contest was the scourge of the country, and that it was the duty of all men to live in peace. The parties agreed to an accommodation advantageous to both sides ; and the pen with which the deed of pacification was signed, was solemnly presented to him by the mayors of the canton. It was for that pen to record, as clearly as facts can speak, that an educated people are the truest respecters of the rights of property!

Oberlin died in the year 1827, when he had attained a very great age. The difficulties which he surmounted, and the actual good which he did, should be a lesson of encouragement to all. He doubtless made great personal sacrifices; but he had a reward amply compensating his self-denial. In the fulness of his heart, the venerable man, looking round upon the valleys which he had filled with the peacefulness of contented industry, and upon the people whom he had trained to knowledge, and to virtue—the best fruit of knowledge-exclaimed, “ Yes! I am happy!” And when he died, he was followed to the grave by an entire population, upon whom he, a poor but industrious and benevolent clergyman, had showered innumerable blessings.

P

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

JOHN GUTTENBERG, to whom the honor is due of having invented the art of printing, was born at Mayence, or Mentz, in Germany, in the year 1400. Of the early part of his life nothing is now known. There is reason to suppose, however, that he possessed a genius for mechanical pursuits, and was not deficient in the elements of literature, as his professional avocations sufficiently testify. Up till the period in which he appeared, printing was unknown. All books were written and circulated on a limited scale in manuscript, and were sold at immensely high

« AnteriorContinuar »