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minations patronized by the Association for promoting the knowledge of the Christian Religion, offers the best mode of assisting those efforts. It is unnecessary for me to enter into the detail of that system, as it has long been universally known. But I feel it important to prevent some objections to it, which lately have been revived, from spreading to its disadvantage. Examinations, it is said, rest upon emulation, and are calculated to encourage it, and emulation is an unchristian principle. This summary objection I shall beg leave to put at once out of the way, by a single verse from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, c. xi. v. 14: “If by any “ means I may provoke to emulation them which
are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Who, after being reminded of these words, will venture to say, that emulation is an unchristian principle? (12) Yet I am obliged to answer these objections more at length, as the subject has been formally discussed in a tract which is widely circulated, and attention has been particularly drawn to it within the last month, in a publication which may have influence upon some of those who hear me (13).
The exciting children to exertion, we are there told, is sometimes attempted by the distribution of rewards addressed to their ava
rice or their vanity. To prevent expense, tickets of very small value are given for every well said lesson, for every performance of an act of common duty; and thus, it is objected, those very instructors who in theory teach this principle, that if man had done all his duty, he would still be an unprofitable servant, are made, by a practical inconsistency, to treat every performance of duty as deserving a reward.
There is really in this objection a confusion of ideas to which it would be difficult to find a parallel. That children might be tempted to diligence by improper rewards is quite certain, -but does that prove that no proper rewards can be found for them ? An article of luxury might tempt,-does that make it improper to supply the defects of necessary clothing ? The writer himself admits that it does not, for he afterwards classes such articles among the rewards which may with advantage be bestowed. A book of idle amusement might entice to diligence,-does that prove that it would be mischievous to bestow a Bible ?
But “though we do our best, we are unprofitable servants, and therefore we should not receive rewards.” What a strange mixture of ideas is here! Man can never do any thing by which the Deity can be advantaged, and therefore can never have a right to call upon the Deity for payment of his services. True ; but what objection can be derived from this, to the giving a child a book as a reward for diligence and good conduct. The child knows perfectly well, that it is not a debt which he has any other right to claim, than that which arises from the voluntary kindness of the giver, to whom his diligence has been of no possible advantage. He is so far from being in danger of considering the giving that book as inconsistent with his being unprofitable, that nothing can be better calculated to impress upon his mind the idea of a reward, as a free gift, distinct from payment to which he has a right. Nothing can be better calculated to supply the instructor with an illustration of that infinite goodness, which we are to look to for every good and perfect gift.
But after these objections to rewards, which if they were worth any thing, or had any rational foundation, would prove that no rewards of any kind should be given, what is the very next sentence we meet with ? “Reward, in its proper place, is a legitimate agent, and recommended by the highest authority. It constituted part of the Divine economy under the Jewish dispensation !” And this sentence, and the argument against giving any reward, as being an act inconsistent with the doctrines of Revelation, lie upon the same page!
We go a little farther, and we find occasion to remark still greater confusion of ideas. We are told that “a well disposed boy finds sufficient inducements to exertion in his sense ofits necessity, in the esteem of the master, the good opinion of his fellows, the delight of his parents.” Now, as to the boy's sense of the necessity of his exertion, what is it necessary for ? It must be to avoid some evil, or to obtain some good, to escape punishment, or to obtain reward. The esteem of his master-will the boy value that, if it never manifests itself, and if it does manifest itself, must it not be by some distinction between him and others,—that is, by some reward ? The good opinion of his fellows—will that be esteemed, if bestowed alike upon all, and is not such good opinion a reward ? The delight of his parentshow is that to be shewn without making a distinction between him and his brothers, or between the conduct of his parents towards him, and the conduct of other parents towards children, who have misconducted themselves. But what do we find next ? “Reward, when it is thought proper, should come to him as a reward, not be presented to him as a motive.” Truly, this is a marvellous contrivance; it should be so managed, that children who are good and diligent shall receive rewards, and not know of their connexion with that goodness and diligence ! In truth, the sentence is absolute nonsense, for the word reward means a recompense for good performed, and reward had been acknowledged by this writer as a legitimate agent: How could it act, if no expectation preceded the giving of it?
The writer seems to have had extraordinary powers of abstraction. He separates the reward from the conduct for which it is given. He then supposes it to be so given, that the child shall believe it never can be repeated, for if it leads him to expect a repetition, then the next reward is of promise ; and he goes still farther, and having blotted out the transaction from the memory of the child immediately concerned, he supposes it so managed, that no other child shall ever come to the knowledge of it; for if it be known to other children, then the fact of a reward having been given, operates as a promise that such rewards will be given, under similar circumstances, to them also.
We proceed a step farther, and he tells us, that if a child be trained by the principle of gross self interest, it is probable that