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by their light to the regions of eternity. There are two or three persons among the Unitarian Ministers, whom I have the pleasure to know, who might conduct such a work with the greatest effect. To any one of them I should be glad to render whatever assistance the weakness of my health might allow. But, in regard to the principal difficulty of the case the pecuniary funds absolutely necessary to start the work I propose–1 feel perfectly helpless, both mentally and economically.
Yours ever affectionately,
J. B. W.
Sept. 25, 1836. My dear Friend, I promised to give you a somewhat detailed view of Mr. Gallaudet’s Child's Book ON THE Soul, and I will devote a few pages to that purpose. Had you yourself read the whole performance, there would be no occasion for my criticism, for the errors with which the book abounds are too glaring to escape the observation of any one who, like yourself, is free from the mischievous prejudices which a false view of Christianity has inseparably connected with our systems of education. But Mr. Gallaudet has assumed a philosophical air, which will most certainly deceive any liberal man who contents himself with reading a few of the early pages in the Child's Book on the Soul; and as not many persons, besides mothers, will take the trouble of thoroughly examining such a book, it is desirable that its true character should be known, in order that such members of the amiable class just mentioned as may possess sufficient strength of mind to think for themselves, may, at least, hear that there exist some important objections to the pretending little work, on which it is very probable that they will incautiously pin their faith.
Mr. Gallaudet is one of those men who have a great power of arguing, but none of investigating. That class of men is unfortunately numerous. They are the most popular of preachers, and, if Nature could be supposed to intend the perpetuity of any kind of evil, it might be contended that she had formed them to be ministers of the various religious establishments (no matter their tenets) which are still thriving on the face of the earth. The most attractive quality of such minds is what people mistake for clearness. This delusive perspicuity has its source in mere shallowness. Where there is no depth, every thing will appear obvious: where a man looks on the commonest prejudices with all the confidence which unquestionable axioms would inspire, there is no danger that any obscurity will remain between his assumed principles and his conclusions. One syllogism suffices for the demonstration; and even that might be spared. This is what happens to the author of the Child's Book on the Soul. The well-meaning man has not the slightest idea of the difficulties with which his subject has been found beset ever since mankind began to reflect upon it. With a simplicity which would be excusable only in his infant readers, he informs the instructors of childhood that the task to which he wishes to train them, is by no means abstruse or difficult. The parent or tutor has only to inform a pupil, at the early age of five years, of “one simple truth; that he (the child) has a soul distinct from the body, which will survive it and live for ever.” (P. vii.) Having laid down, as a simple truth, a proposition in which it is difficult to separate a certain portion of truth, which is by no means simple, from a monstrous mass of error and unproved assumption, the author comforts the instructor of childhood with this assurance : “You have laid the foundation for teaching him (the child) that there is a God, in whose hands is his eternal destiny ; and that there is a Book, in which he can learn all that it is important for him to know with regard to the will of God, and his own happiness and duty." (P. viii.)
The Gods of Homer could take most prodigious steps, but Mr. Gallaudet exceeds them. What a world of mental and historical science he has gone over in a glance! Here we have the physical distinction of soul and body settled at once; and as its direct consequence, not only the immortality of that separate soul, but the existence of God, and the inspiration of the Bible. The author, of course, is one of that unhappily immense multitude who believe it the right and the duty of all parents to seize upon their children's minds, at the earliest period, and shape them entirely after the model of their own. “ Shall we forbear (he says) to teach religious truth and the truths of Revelation too, because at that early age they (the children) must receive and believe them on the mere testimony of the parent? Shall we hope to secure them against what some may call prejudice, by withholding from them this instruction? If so, they must be removed from civilized society, and from all social intercourse. Are there none but religious prejudices ; none in business, in morals, in politics?” (2nd Part, pp. 118, 119.) Such is the reasoning of our philosophical Divine! You cannot keep a child entirely unprejudiced; therefore you should prejudice bim to the utmost of your power. I do not mention this reasoning for the purpose of refuting it; for whoever can for a moment think it valid, must be totally out of the reach of conviction. My object is to convey to you at once the certainty that Mr. Gallaudet is not qualified to give instruction upon the difficult subject which he has chosen for his book. I assert this, putting aside, of course, the question concerning the truth of his doctrines. That is not the point at present. Whether the soul resides in the body as a temporary occupant, or not, is a question as unimportant to the doctrine of man's immortality, as it is out of our power to gain any positive information about it, either by reasoning or revelation. But our Reverend Divine ought to have been aware, not only of this, but of the whole state of the subject which he has undertaken to popularize so as to make it fit for children five years old. Now, to any one well acquainted with the philosophico-theological question on the Soul, it must be evident that Mr. Gallaudet has a most confused notion of it. He is not aware that the separate existence of the soul cannot be demanded as a condition of the belief in the immortality supposed to be implied in the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection. He can have read little and thought less (at least to any useful purpose) on the point which he feels bound to inculcate upon his own authority, on every helpless child which Providence, trusting in man's justice and reasonableness, may commit into his hands. Nothing but the most unjustifiable selfishness, nothing but a tyrannical love of power, under the garb of religious duty, could induce people to take such an advantage of the unsuspiciousness and ignorance of their children, as is now in universal practice. Nothing short of the power of those treacherous passions could blind them to the practical consequence, that if the right which each parent assumes be universal, error has all the advantage. But I will not debate this hopeless point at present. I only
wish to call your attention to the presumption with which an individual assumes a sort of divine right to implant in the tender mind, not the acknowledged doctrines of the majority of Christians, not the tenets of some established denomination, but his own imperfect and confused notions. Mr. Gallaudet's children, and the children of all those whom his little book will probably mislead, are to believe, on that gentleman's authority, that the separate existence of the human soul is a doctrine unquestionably connected with Christianity. Surely the absurdities of Popish Protestantism (and such Mr. G.'s unquestionably is) surpass in mischief those of genuine Popery. That a man who believes in the infallibility of the Church should not hesitate to impart the doctrines of the Church to his children, is more than excusable; that even those who take the collective faith of a fully established body of Christians, as their rule, not on the ground of infallibility, but as highly probable, should act in a similar manner, is natural ; but that individuals of all ranks of intellect and knowledge should be taught that it is their bounden duty thus to convey their mental crudities into the minds of their children, is quite monstrous.
It is obvious that Mr. Gallaudet possesses knowledge far above that of the vulgar and uneducated; but I would rather that the most ignorant old woman of his flock would undertake to instruct a child of mine, than see him trained in the theological philosophy of that Reverend Divine. A sensitive, nervous child might pay dear for such instruction. The model-pupil of Mr. G.'s story is made to reflect on the dead body of one of his playfellows, as well as on his own soul, in a manner which could not be without danger to the poor innocent's brain. But observe the profound philosophy which the child obtains at that risk. “ You saw