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Home School Education in the Nineteenth Century

They are still being used today! McGuffey Readers, that is. But what an important force they have had from the early days of our land up to the present. In a day when modern textbooks are known to tear down what is right about America and Christian values, the McGuffey Readers would instead reflect the values of hard work, industry, honesty, loyalty, Sabbatarianism, and temperance, or in other words, exactly what is needed today in our modern society.

Their name comes from William Holmes McGuffey, who was born on September 23, 1800. From an early age, he demonstrated a prodigious command of both languages and literature.  Educated by his mother in their home and schooled in Latin, as was the practice then, by a Presbyterian minister, William committed large passages of the Bible to memory. Eventually he studied at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) which was an early Presbyterian college. He graduated with honors from the college in 1826.

William McGuffey was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and although we cannot find his name associated with any local church, he preached regularly, delivering some 3000 messages by his own account.  His ministry was in education, serving as president and professor at five different colleges and universities.

He would be remembered primarily for his Eclectic Readers, though afterwards those readers were more commonly called by his name, and they had a profound influence on American public education for over two centuries. He died in 1873, but like the prophets of old, being dead, he yet speaks through these remarkable readers for young ages.

Words to live by:  The proverbs of old told us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV – Proverbs 22:6). That is as true today as it was when it was first written down in holy Scripture. The Hebrew word for “train up” speaks of “across the roof of.” It referred to the practice of birthing when the midwife would spread the olive juice across the roof of the mouth of the just born infant, teaching that infant how to draw milk from the mother’s breast. It therefore came to mean “create a desire for.” Christian dads and moms, you are to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit to create a desire for spiritual things in the hearts and minds of your children.  By being faithful to do this, you can then claim the general promise of this favorite text.

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The Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., LL.D. (April 17, 1772 – Oct. 22, 1851)

AlexanderArchibaldThe Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander was born near Lexington, Va., on April 17, 1772. His classical and theological studies were pursued under the direction of the Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, afterward Washington College. He was licensed to preach the gospel at the early age of nineteen. After spending a year or more in missionary labor according to the rules of the Synod, he was ordained and installed pastor of Briery Church, November 7, 1794. In 1796 he was chosen President of Hampden-Sydney College at the age of twenty-four. On May 20, 1807, he was installed pastor of the Pine Street Church, Philadelphia. In the same year, being thirty-five, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and in his sermon made the suggestion of a Theological Seminary. In 1812 he was appointed Professor in the Theological Seminary just established at Princeton. Here he remained for the rest of his life.

Dr. Alexander was seized with his final illness in the summer of 1851. He died on October 22, 1851.

Dr. Alexander’s published writings are too numerous to recite here. We may only mention “History of the Colonization Society,” “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” “Thoughts on Religion,” “Counsels to the Aged,” “Practical Sermons.” He also published numerous tracts and was a frequent contributor to the Princeton Review.

Words to Live By: Our Lord calls us to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life, giving evidence of the reality of our saving faith in Christ. We are not saved by our faithfulness, nor by our works, but if our trust in Christ as Savior is real, there will be evidence of that reality in our lives. We will die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness.

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Home School Education in the Nineteenth Century

They are still being used today!  McGuffey Readers, that is.  But what an important force they have had from the early days of our land up to the present.  In a day when modern textbooks are known to tear down what is right about America and Christian values, the McGuffey Readers would instead reflect the values of hard work, industry, honesty, loyalty, Sabbatarianism, and temperance, or in other words, exactly what is needed today in our modern society.

Their name comes from William Holmes McGuffey, who was born on September 23, 1800.  From an early age, he demonstrated a prodigious command of both languages and literature.  Educated by his mother in their home and schooled in Latin, as was the practice then, by a Presbyterian minister, William committed large passages of the Bible to memory.  Eventually he studied at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) which was an early Presbyterian college.  He graduated with honors from the college in 1826.

William McGuffey was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and although we cannot find his name associated with any local church, he preached regularly, delivering some 3000 messages by his own account.  His ministry was in education, serving as president and professor at five different colleges and universities.

He would be remembered primarily for his Eclectic Readers, though afterwards those readers were more commonly called by his name, and they had a profound influence on American public education for over two centuries.  He died in 1873, but like the prophets of old, being dead, he yet speaks through these remarkable readers for young ages.

Words to live by:  The proverbs of old told us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV – Proverbs 22:6)   That is as true today as it was when it was first written down in holy Scripture.  The Hebrew word for “train up” speaks of “across the roof of.”  It referred to the practice of birthing when the midwife would spread the olive juice across the roof of the mouth of the just born infant, teaching that infant how to draw milk from the mother’s breast.  It therefore came to mean “create a desire for.”  Christian dads and moms, you are to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit to create a desire for spiritual things in the hearts and minds of your children.  By being faithful to do this, you can then claim the general promise of this favorite text.

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“Old Rex”

In 1812, the Synod of Virginia resolved to establish within its boundaries a theological seminary. Thus began Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. To lead the school, the Rev. Dr. Moses Hoge was unanimously chosen to serve as the first professor of the fledgling institution, and he served faithfully in that capacity until his death in 1820. Then with Hoge’s death, the school languished for several years until the appointment of John Holt Rice, who began his duties on behalf of the Seminary in the latter half of 1823. In turn, Dr. Rice died early in September of 1831, and it is at this point that we turn to E.H. Gillette’s always lively, if somewhat ebullient, history for an account of Holt’s successor as head of Union Theological Seminary.

“But a permanent successor of Dr. Rice as Theological Professor, one well worthy to wear his mantle, was found within the bounds of the Synod, and inaugurated April 11, 1832.

baxterGeorgeAddison_225w“At the head of Liberty Hall–Washington College–stood, at the time of Dr. Rice’s death, a man who in the qualities of intellectual and moral greatness had scarcely a superior in his native State. This was George Addison Baxter, a graduate of the institution [i.e., Washington College] in 1796, and a theological pupil of the rector, William Graham. After laboring as a missionary for some time, he took charge of New London Academy, from which in 1798 he was called to the Professorship of Mathematics at Liberty Hall. Upon the death of the principal, Mr. Graham, in the following year, he was chosen to succeed him; and in this post he continued–officiating at the same time as pastor of New Monmouth and Lexington churches–until 1829.

“Few men, for the same period of time, have undertaken so much; and fewer still have accomplished what he achieved. [And he performed his duties with great Christian love and magnanimity. His students at Washington College affectionately called him “Old Rex.”] In seasons of revival he was known to spend five hours each day in his college duties, and to preach every night for weeks together. His desire to devote himself exclusively to pastoral labor led him to relinquish his connection with the college; and two years afterward, in the autumn of 1831, he was called as Theological Professor to succeed Dr. Rice.

“The Seminary at the time was in an embarrassed state, and the several vacations of the institution were devoted by Dr. Baxter to soliciting pecuniary aid on its behalf. Until his death, in 1841, he continued almost uninterruptedly to devote himself to the duties of his office. The successor to Dr. Baxter upon his death was Dr. Samuel B. Wilson, who for more than twenty years had been settled at Fredericksburg.

“With a mind exceedingly well balanced, an understanding vast in its powers of comprehension and eminently profound and lucid, a judgment accurate and discriminating, and a memory remarkably retentive, he combined an amount of fervent emotion which in his pulpit utterance “sent forth his great thoughts in burning and melting masses.” Always clear, he was almost always convincing. He seemed to grasp a difficult subject and apprehend all its bearings almost by intuition. His power of condensation, moreover, was remarkable. Few ministers whose sermons, like his, extended to three-quarters of an hour, have been requested, as he was by his hearers, to preach longer. His prayers were brief but comprehensive. He rarely used the pen, and wrote but few of his lectures. In the pulpit he scorned the aid of even the briefest outline. Yet his words were well chosen and weighty. Nor were they made less impressive as the hearer gazed upon his tall, manly frame, and the expanded, massive brow on which the very majesty of mind seemed enthroned. He had imagination, and he had pathos; and in his preaching he not rarely had to struggle powerfully to suppress his emotions. His mind was more rapid than his words, and his heart kept pace with his intellect.

“His modesty was equal to his merit, and in a strange pulpit he was as easily embarrassed as the humblest and plainest student fresh from the seminary. Yet, while he seemed to shun notice, his abilities were equal to the highest position.”

Words to Live By:
In William Henry Foote’s Sketches of Virginia [p. 262-3], we read that Rev. Baxter’s mother “left among her descendants a memory precious for her exemplary piety and prudent conduct as a wife and mother, in situations calling every day for the exercise of Christian graces, and seldom offering occasion for the lofty display of any accomplishment. The lives of her children were her best eulogy. George Addison was the second son, and the third of eight children, all of whom he survived. Vigor, frankness, uprightness, and industry characterized all the members of the family, reared in the simplicity and hardships of a frontier life. The mother laid the foundations of morals and religion in her children while they were young; and expressed the most decided unwillingness to part with any of them till their faith in Christ was established. Her unremitting attention to the spiritual concerns of her children was followed by the unspeakable reward of seeing them all consistent professors of religion, according to the faith she trusted for her own salvation. The Bible, the Sabbath, the Assembly’s Catechism, the preaching of the gospel, family worship and private instruction were things of solemn interest to the family from the earliest recollections; and connected indissolubly with the memory of their parents, the influence was tender and perpetual. The image of the mother stood before the children rejoicing when their faith triumphed, and weeping when they sinned.” Blessed is the mother that knows her God-given power to raise covenant children.

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