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when thou risest up.” But was this oral instruction all that they were bound to give? Was there no other mode of teaching enjoined 7 See what is added: “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes; and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates.” It scarcely needs to be observed that if parents were to instruct their children in God’s law, by thus writing it for them; it follows that both parents and children must have been able to read it when written, for otherwise the writing would have been comparatively useless. And when you consider that in those days the art of printing had not been discovered, and that great time and labor were required in order to write the contents of the inspired volume on the posts of their doors and on their gates, you may learn the importance which the Most High attributed to the ability to read, as a means of preparing a people for the intelligent and conscientious discharge of their respective duties. Accordingly we find it to be the uniform testimony of J ewish writers that the school was to be found in every district throughout the nation, and under the care of teachers who were honored alike for their character and their station.
Nor was this all. As the divine command plainly
implies, and as intelligent Jewish commentators interpret its meaning, it was not left to parents to decide whether their children should or should not be suitably educated. This duty was viewed as enjoined upon them by the authority of law ; and up to this point we believe that wise legislation should come in every commonwealth. A parent should be required to educate his children if he has the ability to do it, and if not, the state should do it for him. There is nothing in such a requirement which can be accounted unjust or unreasonable. It implies no violation of a parent's rightful authority over his own family. Parental duty may be, and is enforced by the laws of the land in other cases. If a parent neglects to provide food and raiment for his children, the civil authority compels him to do it if he has the ability; and if not, it takes them out of his hands and does it in his stead. And is the body of more value than the mind; or the animal wants of a people of more consequence to public welfare than the moral and intellectual 7 Apart from the benefits which such laws ensure to the young themselves, in securing them against the degradation of ignorance, every well-ordered state should feel that, as it values public safety, it must not allow its youth to grow up within its own bosom in a condition of ignorance that would render them incendiaries, and pests to all
Still farther, schools for the general education of the people were not the only institutions of learning among the Hebrews. To shed upon our earth the full and various illumination which it needs, there must be not only the lessér, but also the greater lights in the firmament; and it is from the greater that the lesser often derive their power to shine. The same laws prevail in the world of learning and of mind. The higher and greater seminaries of education are indispensable to a sound state of intellect in a people; were they to disappear, the common school would soon be shorn of its brightness. They are both parts of the same system, and they must exist and move together if the system is harmonious and complete. Accordingly there were higher institutions introduced and established among the Hebrews, under the title of “Schools of the Prophets,” by which are meant seminaries where were taught, not only theology, but also other branches of knowledge which were reckoned among the pursuits of learning in that day.”
These “Schools” were under the care of men who stood high for their own intellectual attainments and their ability to impart knowledge to their
* The term “prophet” is sometimes used in Scripture not
only for one who fortells future events, but also for one who is
employed in giving instruction. Num. 11:25, 27. Also, 1 Cor. 14 : 1, 3 4.
pupils. Even Samuel, notwithstanding the abundance of his public cares, seems at times to have sought the retirement which they afforded, to refresh his mind with a review of what he had studied in earlier life, and to take a part in teaching the young scholars of the nation, who were in aftertimes to be its leading men in both Church and State. The result of such a regard for learning was what may well be called the golden age of the Hebrews, in which the nation rose to a high point of intellectual distinction. Solomon and his court were in their day the great centre of attraction for those of all nations who loved and honored knowledge. “His wisdom,” we are told, “excelled all the wisdom of the children of the East country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. He spake of trees, from the cedar in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. His songs were a thousand and five, and his proverbs three thousand.” And while he excelled in the wide fields of natural science, poetry and ethics, the Temple, which still bears his name, stood before the world a monument of skill and taste, which rendered it in after ages the original model of grace, majesty, and grandeur
Such gifted luminaries in the intellectual world do not shine alone. They usually belong to a constellation, and the king who sets such an example is not likely to be without followers. There was indeed one cardinal feature in the Hebrew polity which was pre-eminently favorable, at all times, to the cultivation of knowledge. By divine appointment the whole tribe of Levi were set apart for the service of religion and letters; and while many were employed before the altar and in the temple, others were devoted to study; many of whom, especially in the reign of Solomon, reached a high name both for their attainments in the science of their age and the fidelity with which they made their learning available for the benefit of the people.* Thus was produced that happy con
junction in the history of knowledge, when learning
* Michaelis terms the Levites “a learned noblesse,” and speaks of them as “forming a counterpoise to the democracy of the nation.” Considering his views of civil government, it is perhaps not surprising that he should have been anxious to find something in the Hebrew State as an offset against its plainly democratic spirit. There was little of a “noblesse” among the Levites. While it is true, as he says, that “they were not merely a spirituality, but the literati of all the faculties,” and were generally chosen to offices of importance whether in church or state; this arose from their superior knowledge and general worth of character. His idea that they were not employed in teaching the people, is utterly inadmissible. Moses declares expressly of the Levites, as such, “They shall teach Jacob thy judgments and Israel thy law.” To