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A Lesson from the McGuffey Reader
or, "We've come a long way baby..."

William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873), An American educator, was the president of Ohio University, professor at the University of Virginia and the department chairman at the Miami University of Ohio. He was responsible for forming the first teachers' association in that part of the nation.

Considered the "Schoolmaster of the Nation," McGuffey published the first edition of his McGuffey's Reader in 1836. This was the mainstay in public education in America till 1920. As of 1963, 125 million copies had been sold, making it one of the most widely used and influential textbooks of all times. Millions of American children learned to read and write from that reader. In the foreword to his reader, McGuffey wrote:

The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.

The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary.

In making [my] selections, [I have] drawn from the purest fountains of English literature.... For the copious extracts made from the Sacred Scripture, [I make] no apology.

Indeed, upon a review of the work, [I am] not sure but an apology may be due for [my] not having still more liberally transferred to [my] pages the chaste simplicity, the thrilling pathos, the living descriptions, and the matchless sublimity of the sacred writings.

From no source has the author drawn more copiously than from the Sacred Scriptures. For this [I] certainly apprehend no censure. In a Christian country, that man is to be pitied, who, at this day, can honestly object to imbuing the minds of youth with the language and spirit of the Word of God.

Lesson 31 in McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader is entitled "On Speaking Truth":

1. A little girl once came into the house, and told her mother a story about something which seemed very improbable.

2. The persons who were sitting in the room with her mother did not believe the little girl, for they did not know her character. But the mother replied at once, "I have no doubt that it is true, for I never knew my daughter to tell a lie." Is there not something noble in having such a character as this?

3. Must not that little girl have felt happy in the consciousness of thus possessing her mother's entire confidence? Oh, how different must have been her feelings from those of the child whose words cannot be believed, and who is regarded by every one with suspicion? Shame, shame on the child who has not magnanimity enough to tell the truth....

10. How awful must be the scene which will open before you, as you enter the eternal world! You will see the throne of God: how bright, how glorious, will it burst upon your sight! You will see God, the Savior, seated upon the majestic throne. Angels, in number more than can be counted, will fill the universe, with their glittering wings, and their rapturous songs. Oh, what a scene to behold! And then you will stand in the presence of this countless throng, to answer for every thing you have done while you lived.

11. Every action and every thought you ever had in your life will then be fresh in your mind. You know it is written in the Bible, "God will bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." How must the child then feel who has been guilty of falsehood and deception, and who sees it then all brought to light! No liar can enter the kingdom of heaven. Oh, how dreadful must the confusion and shame, with which the deceitful child will then be overwhelmed! The angels will all see your sin and disgrace.

12. And do you think they will wish to have a liar enter heaven and be associated with them? No! They will turn from you with disgust. The Savior will look upon you in his displeasure. Conscience will read your soul. And you must hear the awful sentence, "Depart from me, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

1. What is the subject of this Lesson?
2. What did the little girl do?
3. What did the company think?
4. What did her mother say of her?
5. How must the little girl have felt when her mother said she could not doubt her word?...

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