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verse. If, however, there should be found any tendency in such studies to produce the effect dreaded by our author, the remedy is in the learning and genius of those whose labours are devoted to spiritual subjects. They may render the topics to which they are devoted, attractive and awakening; they may fit them for the wiso as well as for the uninformed; they may combine science with eloquence in handling the weighty matters intrusted to them; and, above all, they may overcome all repugnance to hear their exhortations and receive their lessons, by candidly allowing its just value to that sound learning, which, albeit of a secular kind, is found not only compatible with devotional feelings, but eminently calculated to keep them alive, by engrafting them upon the imperishable stock of reason.
Dr Shuttleworth's doubts (for they hardly assume a more positive form) of the expediency or safety of the extensive efforts now making to diffuse scientific information, class themselves under three heads ;-the risk of making the learners superficially acquainted with important subjects—the exclusion of moral science from popular education-and the neglect of religious instruction. We might perhaps more correctly say, that these are the points discussed by a respectable class of persons to whom Dr Shuttleworth belongs, and who, without any enmity to the cause of education, have certain alarms upon the success of a new and vast experiment, as they deem it, and are sincerely desirous to have so important a subject considered in all its bearings. Dr Shuttleworth deals with it in such passages as the following, which we extract, both in justice to him and those who think with him, and also to show that they are sceptics, rather than dogmatists, upon the question :
“The fact is, that there are disadvantages and inconveniences unavoidably accompanying the attempt to convey the more abstruse discoveries of science to persons whose otherwise laborious occupations must necessarily render such knowledge to a great degree superficial, which attach but slightly, if at all, to the professedly literary classes. It may seem invidious and paradoxical to say, that the road to science may be made too easy ; but such is undoubtedly the fact. It will be acknow. ledged by all who have reflected upon this important subject, that it is not so much the ultimate physical truths elicited by the process of experimental investigation, as the disciplining of the understanding, by the exercise which it acquires in the progress of the research, which constitutes the true value of a scientific education. And, accordingly, it is to this habitual exercise of the intuitive faculties that we must at. tribute that practical acuteness in men of real science, which enables them, with a seemingly instinctive readiness of perception, to elicit from each experiment upon the various operations of nature, its exact and legitimate influence. The mind which thus proceeds step by step from
discovery to discovery, combating with difficulties as it advances, and learning, by mortifying experience, that what the vulgar consider as demonstrable knowledge, is often but a plausible, or at the best a probable surmise, will generally be too well aware of the infinitude of the subject-matter of science to be very dogmatical, even with regard to those opinions which it conceives to be most firmly established. But he, who, by the aid of popular compendiums and desultory instruction, arrives at the possession of the ultimate discoveries of learned men, without having himself toiled through the painful process of gradual investigation, will not unfrequently find such an acquisition more than courterbalanced by the moral, and even intellectual, disadvantages attending knowledge so ill assimilated. Unaware from that painful experience, resulting from frequent disappointment, how many are the aspects of plausible falsehood and error ; how many lurking fallacies may be sheltered under an attractive and apparently simple theory; and consequently how natural it is for an eager and inexperienced mind to overrate its strength ; such a person is too frequently more impatient in the pursuit of discovery than the circumstances of man's nature would warrant. To a mind thus excited, the first bursting gleam of knowledge appears nearly equivalent with its final consummation : and accordingly, whilst under the influence of this impression, every existing institution, and almost every established opinion, appears as a remnant of antiquated prejudice, which the human reason, shaking itself from its slumbers, must be eager to disavow; the countervailing caution, on the other hand, which suggests how rarely the result of any great change has come up to the sanguine expectations of its first movers, is contemned as coward, ly and dishonest.
In addition to the desultoriness and incompleteness of the actual knowledge conveyed, a want also of adaptation to the peculiar habits and intellectual wants of the parties whom it is intended to instruct, must, I think, be admitted to form one of the objections to the benevolent attempts which have been recently made to familiarize the labouring classes with the abstruser departments of philosophy. That the main faculties of their minds will often be rather unsettled than strengthened, by these ostentatious acquirements, may, without any breach of charity, be sur. mised. But this is not all. From an idea which our carnal notions of policy and expediency too readily dispose us to take up, that the word science is to be applied almost exclusively to the investigation of the phenomena of the material world, the enumeration of the departments of knowledge requisite for the supposed adequate instruction of individuals, as regulated by public opinion, has, in one respect at least, become fearfully deficient. And hence, whilst every study which has reference to our mere bodily wants, is pursued with the most unremitting attention, that infinitely more important, and, as all who have made themselves acquainted with the labyrinths and perversity of the human heart will readily acknowledge, that far more difficult branch of wisdom, the science of morals, is apt to be treated with neglect, as what will come spontaneously; or with contempt, as what may be neglected with impunity. .
Not so, however, thought our equally laborious, though despised, forefathers: and not so thought the wisest part of even heathen antiquity.
Darkened as were the minds of the latter to all which is truly sublime in religion and morals, even they considered the great questions which have reference to man's duty as a moral and responsible agent, as affording the noblest topics of conversation which could exercise philosophers in their retirement. But as society advances in fancied refinement, there is a worldliness and selfishness which creeps into and mixes itself, as with every thing else, so with the most vigorous exertions of the intellect. Knowledge, in a luxurious and ambitious age, soon begins to be estimated according to our hastily formed notions of its usefulness; and that usefulness is again itself measured by its reference to our bodily wants, conveniences, and pleasures : and thus an undue preponderance is given to the interests of our carnal nature over our spiritual, by those very studies and pursuits which appear, at first sight, particularly adapta ed for the elevation of the latter."
Upon each of the three topics alluded to, rather than discussed, in these passages, we must be allowed to offer a very few remarks, principally to set the objectors, or doubters, right, upon the matter of fact.
First, as to the mischief of superficial knowledge: This assumes the form sometimes of an apprehension that the community will only know a little of what ought to be known profoundly; sometimes of a dread that ill effects will arise from such imperfect knowledge. To us, we confess, both fears seem equally unsubstantial. That it would be far better to know the whole than a part; to learn science as philosophers learn it, than as the bulk of mankind must ever, from mere want of time, be content to learn it, even in the utmost state of refinement to which they can be imagined to reach, is a proposition too obvious to require proof. But it by no means follows that something may not be known, and usefully known, because much more remains unknown to us. They who cry out against the superficial learning which alone the people are likely to imbibe, forget that all of us are necessarily superficial upon by far the greatest portion of our acquirements. It is well if, among the common run of welleducated persons, each knows some one branch of some one science, or department of literature, thoroughly, and has with the others a slight and general acquaintance. The greater probability is, that very few of even these classes know any one subject deeply and completely. Nay, among professed philosophers, how rare is it to find one who is perfectly conversant with all that is to be learned, on any one branch of knowledge? But the comparison is to be made between the bulk of the community, the middle and working classes, who have their time occupied in gaining their bread, and the generality of those whose time, both in youth and in after life, is much at their command, and who form the body of what are called well-educated persons.
It is quite certain, that the former may learn enough at their leisure hours, by reading and by attending lectures, to make it absurd for the latter to despise their acquirements as superficial. Compared with the knowledge of professed cultivators of sci*ence, both classes will always know superficially; but the one are just as likely to understand accurately, and recollect distinctly, what they learn, as the other. Then, as to the hackneyed topic of a little learning,' so often sung and said to be dangerous—there is a greater danger surely in learning nothing at all-a danger, too, that is the longer the worse; whereas the other risk is sure to lessen, as hardly any person ever made one acquisition in knowledge without being led on to make another. We need not surely stop to refute the idle notion so often exposed, that slight knowledge makes men conceited and ungovern*able; to which figurative illustrations are added, about people staggering in the twilight, fully as inapplicable to the argument as Pope's singularly unhappy one about drinking, though not perhaps so contrary to the fact, as that lamentable piece of false logic and false metaphor.* The mistake in all these cases, is, to charge knowledge with the sins of ignorance. The twilight is inconvenient, not because it is half light, but because it is halt dark; the slight knowledge does harm only because it is by the supposition confined to a few ; for if it were general, it would cease to be a distinction, and to cause any uneasy feeling in its possessor, except an impatience of ignorance, and a desire to remove it by learning more.
The supposition that scientific education must confine the ideas of the people to physical science, and fix their thoughts upon objects of sense, is, if possible, still more groundless. It is not true, in point of fact, that those who are anxiously devoting themselves to the education of the community, are only bent upon teaching physics. Dr Shuttleworth appears most unaccountably to suppose, that science means natural philosophy only. We will venture to say, that if he attends to any of the proceedings either of societies or of individuals engaged in this great and good work, he will find them as much occupied in preparing for the diffusion of moral as of physical science. It is impossible to do all at once; and, undoubtedly, if the principles of morals, and of political learning, had been first of all expounded to the working classes, there would have been (beside other obvious inconveniences) the risk of exciting prejudice and clamour
among the enemies of education. Dr Shuttleworth, and those who think as he does, are far too candid and too well-informed to raise such cavils; but others would not have been slow to cry out, and the educators would have been charged (perhaps not unjustly) with beginning at the wrong end. However, we entirely agree with our author, that a system of instruction is most imperfect into which the philosophy of morals does not enter as an important branch.
The last objection, or doubt, is, that religious knowledge may be kept too much in the back ground, while secular learning assumes an exclusivo share of popular attention. We have, in part, answered this already; but it is connected with matters of such extreme importance, as to require a little further discussion; and we cannot proceed a step, without perceiving bow much the alarm is founded on a mistatement of facts; a misapprehension of some, and an overlooking of others.
It is not true—it is not any thing like the truth that the present age is distinguished for its efforts in promoting secular, to the neglect of religious improvement. There never was a period in the history of the church, when a greater, we might say, when so great a number of persons took a lively interest in disseminating the knowledge of practical divinity. Witness the unprecedented exertions made for the diffusion of the Scriptures, and of religious tracts—witness the number of associations for promoting religious knowledge-witness the Sunday schools, in connexion with the Established Church, every where planted, and at which 550,000 children are taught, beside all those in connexion with various classes of dissenters, perhaps equally numerous. Indeed, we might take into this account the day-schools taught on the national plan, because the doctrines of the Church are there inculcated, and her liturgy used. But as something beside religion is taught in the schools, of whatever denomination, and in Sunday as well as day-schools, let us look only to the many societies whose objects are confined to the diffusion of religious knowledge, and the large funds at their disposal, devoted to this great purpose; and let us reflect, that all these efforts are confined to religious instruction exclusively. Surely, it can no more be contended, that those who labour to propagate the love of science, and to place the means of learning it within the reach of the community at large, are obstructing the progress of religious knowledge, because they confine their exertions to the worldly sciences, than it can with justice be charged against religious associations, or the individuals who co-operate with them, that they are keeping men ignorant of all things save theology, because they only disseminate the Bible and religious books.