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gross self interest will be the ruling principle of his life. It is but the giving a writer the liberty of calling any action by any name that he pleases to bestow upon it, and he will find no difficulty in arriving at any conclusion he may desire. When was it ever heard that a premium was sought on account of its pecuniary value? I have witnessed the effect of employing premiums to excite to exertion upon the most extended scale in the whole empire, (14) and that for more than half a century, and I never knew an instance in which the premium would not gladly have been exchanged for a mere certificate that it had been deserved, but that regulations existed, which prevented its being given to a person who had obtained one within the course of the preceding year.
Those who now object to encouraging good conduct by rewards, are not aware that they are making use of arguments which were employed in the beginning of the last century, by one of the most artful enemies of Christianity, who maintained, that the religion which professed to influence human conduct by the rewards and punishments of a future life, was injurious to morality. The writer, to whom I allude, is Lord Shaftesbury, who tells us, “that virtue has been made so mercenary a thing, and its rewards have been so
much talked of, that one can hardly tell what there is in it, after all, worth rewarding. For to be bribed only or terrified into an honest practice, bespeaks little either of real honesty or worth.” And again, he says, “ that the principle of self love, which is naturally so prevailing with us, being no way moderated or restrained, but rather improved and made stronger every day by the exercise of the passion in a subject of more extended self interest, (the rewards and punishments of a future life,) there may be reason to apprehend, lest the temper of this kind should extend itself in general through all parts of life:” and on the whole he maintains, “ that the hope of future reward and fear of future punishment is utterly unworthy of the free spirit of a man, and only fit for those who are destitute of the first principles of common honesty; as being miserable, vile, and mercenary (15).” We can estimate the value of the arguments used against the encouragement given by premiums at our examinations, from seeing that they rest upon principles which, if followed to their full 'extent, must lead us to question whether man is not degraded by becoming a Christian.
But to return to the more direct consideration of our subject. Mischief, it is urged, may be done by the public exhibition of children for the purpose of examination and adjudication of premiums. Undoubtedly it may, and I agree with this writer, that the examinations should be conducted with simplicity and comparative privacy. Nothing should be done for display and ostentation. But if the children are to be examined, they must be brought together, and examiners must be collected, and the friends of the children must not be excluded. I have seen many hundreds of children collected to be examined, and I never witnessed any thing that could be construed into a display capable of exciting vanity in any one of them.
But we are told, that.“ emulation is an evil passion;" and how is this proved? Why by defining it to be “the desire to make advance by the failure of others.” That is, by giving to emulation the definition which belongs to envy. Where could the writer have learned the art of juggling thus with the meaning of words ?
His applications of Scripture are as unhappy, as his definitions of words: we are warned, he says, that “whosoever shall exalt himself, shall be abased.” Is a boy's obtaining a premium exalting himself in that sense in which the phrase is used by our blessed Lord? But even the ordinary practice of boys taking places in their several classes, in consequence of good answering, is brought within the censure pronounced against those who endeavour to sit down in the
highest room. In the former quotation, we had the words of Scripture misinterpreted, here we have a passage garbled to fit it for a meaning which the part omitted directly refutes. The parable proceeds to represent the Host as saying, friend, go up higher, and does not direct that the honour thus offered shall be refused.
The children who were misled by the false reasoning thus easily refuted, are stated to have refused to continue the practice of taking places of each other, when subsequently desired by their master so to do. I confess, I do not see in their thus assuming to know their duty better than their instructor, that submissive simplicity of mind, which I should wish to see in children. The narrative certainly had the ef. fect of recalling to my recollection, that the most deplorable instance of vicious vanity which I ever met with, was exhibited by a boy taught in a school from which premiums were excluded; and arose from the operation of that very system.
But what means are, according to this writer, to be used in order to excite children to that diligence, to which they certainly are not naturally inclined ? “ By engraving on their minds the fear and the love of God, in the first place.” This is a summary way of disposing of the difficulty, and it needs but to remark,
that the writer has forgot to tell us how to excite those dispositions of mind, previous to a child's obtaining that knowledge of the law and of the Gospel, necessary to produce them. The next instrument is, “the tender solicitations of the parent.” It seems to be forgotten, that the system of premiums belongs to instruction in schools. That it is no objection to its utility, that a wise and pious parent might possibly instruct a well-disposed child without the use of premiums, and in the absence of the excitement of emulation--it may be observed, however, that this is only a possibility ; that it is applicable only to the case where there is but one child to educate ;(16) and that the general experience of mankind pronounces it improbable, that a child so educated, should have advantages over those whe are trained in a different manner. Whether the cause of failure so general in such cases, is to be sought in the unfitness of the parent or the untowardness of the child, it matters not to inquire, cases of such private education having no relation whatsoever to the question under consideration.
But " a feeling of affection towards their instructors, will cause children to value their approving smile as a high reward, and the being seen by them behaving ill, as a severe punishment.” Now, besides that the disposition which