“Who was it that said, ‘Know thyself’ came down from heaven? It is quite true—true as Gospel. It came straight to whoever said it first.”—Life of Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
POSSIBLY we fail to give ‘effective moral training based upon Christian principles’ to young people because our teaching is scrappy, and rests mainly upon appeals to the emotions through tale and song. Inspiring as these are, we may not depend upon them entirely, because emotional response is short-lived, and the appeal is deadened by repetition: the response of the intellect to coherent and consecutive teaching appears, on the contrary, to be continuous and enduring. Boys and girls, youths and maidens, have as much capacity to apprehend what is presented to their minds as have their elders; and, like their elders, they take great pleasure and interest in an appeal to their understanding which discovers to them the ground-plan of human nature—a common possession.
The point of view taken in this volume is, that all beautiful and noble possibilities are present in everyone; but that each person is subject to assault and hindrance in various ways, of which he should be aware in order that he may watch and pray. Hortatory teaching is apt to bore both young people and their elders; but an ordered presentation of the possibilities that lie in human nature, and of the risks that attend these, can hardly fail to have an enlightening and stimulating effect. This volume is intended as an appeal to the young to make the most of themselves, because of the vast possibilities that are in them and of the law of God which constrains them.
The teaching in Book I. is designed for boys and girls under sixteen. That in Book II. should, perhaps, appeal to young people of any age; possibly young men and women may welcome an attempt to thrash out some of the problems which must needs perplex them. In the hands of the teachers of elementary schools, the book should give some help in the formation of character. If only half a dozen children in each such school got an idea of what is possible to them and what they should aim at, some elevation of character throughout the nation should be manifest in a single generation. In our moral as in our intellectual education, we work too entirely upon narrow utilitarian lines: we want the impulse of profounder conceptions. The middle and upper forms of a public school, and those indicated above, fairly represent the classes of readers the author has in view.
The two ‘Books’ are published separately in order that each may be put into the hands of the readers for whom it is designed; but, because parents and teachers should make a particular study of such moral teaching as they may offer to the young people for whom they are responsible, it seems desirable that the two volumes should form one of the ‘Home Education Series.’ Questions are appended for the use of more serious students. The more or less casual ordering of young people which falls to their elders might become more purposeful if it were laid down upon some such carefully considered ground-plan of human nature as this book attempts to offer. The scheme of thought rests upon intuitive morality, as sanctioned by the authority of Revelation.
The systems of morality formulated by authoritative writers upon ethics are, perhaps, expanded a little to include latent capacity for every kind of goodness in all normal human beings. Some attempt has been made to define certain limitations of reason, conscience, and the will, the disregard of which is a fertile cause of error in human conduct.
What is sometimes described as the ‘immanence of God’; the capacity of man for relations with the divine; and the maimed and incomplete character of the life in which these relations are not fulfilled, are touched upon, because these matters belong to a knowledge which is ‘the chief end of man.’ The allusions and excerpts which illustrate the text have been carefully chosen from sources that fall within everybody’s reading, because the object is rather to arrest the attention of the reader, and fix it, for example, upon the teaching of Scott and Plutarch, than to suggest unknown sources of edification. We are all too well content to let alone that of which we do not already know something.
AMBLESIDE, May 1905.
A somewhat arbitrary use has been made of certain terms—‘demon,’ for example—when such use appeared to lend itself to clearness or force in putting the case.