It is known to the whole world how weak and impotent the Russian army
was when it had no regular instruction, and how incomparably its strength
was increased and became great and terrible when our august monarch, his
Imperial Highness Peter the First, instructed it in a proper manner. The
same is true of architecture, medicine, political government, and all other
But, most of all, that is true of the government of the Church: when there is not the light of instruction, the Church cannot have any good conduct, and impossibly can there be avoided disorder and superstitions that deserve a great deal of ridicule, as well as strife, and most foolish heresies.
Many foolishly assert that instruction is the cause of heresy. But the heretics of ancient days, the Valentinians, Manichaeans, Catharists, Euchites, Donatists and others, whose stupid acts are described by Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Augustine, Theodoret and others, raved, not through instruction, but through arrogant foolishness. And did not our own dissenters rave so deliriously through their lack of culture, and ignorance ? Though there are some heresiarchs, such as were Arius, Nestorius and a few others, yet their heresies arose not through instruction, but from an imperfect understanding of the Holy Writ, and they grew and were strengthened through malice and false pride which did not permit them to change their wrong opinion after they had discovered the truth, and against their conscience. And though their instruction gave them the power to use sophisms, that is, cunning proofs of their elucubrations, yet he who would want to ascribe this evil simply to instruction would be compelled to say that where a physician poisons a patient, his knowledge of medicine was the cause thereof, and where a soldier valiantly and cunningly strikes down the enemy, military art is the cause of killing. And when we look through history, as through a telescope, at the past ages, we shall discover more evil in the Dark Ages than in those that were enlightened through culture. The bishops were not so arrogant before the fifth century as they were afterwards, especially the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, because before there was learning, and afterwards it grew less. If learning were dangerous to the Church and State, the best Christians would not study themselves, and would forbid others to study.; but we see that all our ancient teachers studied not only the Holy Writ, but also profane philosophy. Besides many others, the most famous pillars of the Church have advocated profane learning, namely: Basil the Great in his instruction to the studying youths, Chrysostom in his books on monastic life, Gregory the Theologue in his sermon on Julian the Apostate. I should have a great deal to say, if I were to dwell on this alone.
Good and thorough instruction is the root and seed and foundation of all usefulness, both for the fatherland and the Church. There is, however, a kind of instruction which does not deserve that name, though it is deemed by certain clever but not well-informed men to be the real instruction.
Many are in the habit of asking in what schools such and such an one has been educated? When they hear that he has been in rhetoric, philosophy and theology, they are prone to place him very high, for the sake of those names, but in that they frequently err, for not all get good instruction from good teachers, one on account of his dulness, another on account of his laziness; how much is that the case when the teacher is little, or not at all, proficient in his subject!
It is important to know that from the sixth to the fifteenth century, that is, for nine hundred years, all learning in Europe was of a very meagre and imperfect character, so that we see in the authors who wrote at that time great sharpness of wit, but small enlightenment. With the fifteenth century there began to appear better-informed and more skilful teachers, and by degrees many academies acquired a greater importance than in those ancient Augustan times; many other schools, on the contrary, stuck fast in their ancient slime, preserving, indeed, the names of rhetoric, philosophy and other sciences, but in reality having none of them. Different causes have led to this, but space does not permit their mention here.
People who have received, so to say, an empty and fantastic education in these institution- are generally more stupid than those who have received none at all. Being themselves in the dark, they deem themselves to be perfect, and imagining that they have learned all that there is to be learned, neither have the desire, nor think it worth while to read books and study more. On the other hand, a man who has received the proper schooling is never satisfied with his knowledge, and never stops learning, even though he has passed the age of Methuselah.
But this is the greatest misfortune: the above-mentioned imperfectly instructed people are not only useless, but also very harmful to society, State and Church. They humble themselves beyond necessity before the authorities, attemptin- through cunning to appropriate to themselves favours, and crawl into higher places. They hate people of the same standing as themselves, and if anyone is praised for his learning, they use their utmost endeavour to depreciate and denounce him before the people and authorities. They are prone to take part in rebellions, hoping to gain advantages for themselves through them. When they take to theological discussions, they cannot help falling into heresies, for, being ignorant, they easily fall into error, after which they will not change the opinion they have uttered, for fear of appearing not to have known all. But wise men have this proverb: " It is the property of a wise man to change his opinion."