He is a little man, with quick darting movements, a twinkling bright eye, an altogether unaggressive voice, and a manner that is singularly insinuating and appealing. As it is impossible to think of a blustering or brow-beating mouse, or a mouse that advances with the stride of a Guardsman and the minatory aspect of a bull-terrier, so it is impossible to think of Dr. Selbie as a fellow of any truculence, a scholar of any prejudice, a Christian of any unctimoniousness. Mildness is the very temper of his soul, and modesty the centre of his being.
He is a Hebrew scholar who has advanced into philosophical territory and now is pushing his investigations into the field of psychology. Modest and wholly unpretentious he sets up as no original genius, and is content with his double role of close observer and respectful critic. He is rather a guide to men than a light. He has nothing new to say, but nothing foolish. His words are words of purest wisdom, though you may have heard them before. You feel that if he cannot lead you to the Promised Land, at least he will not conduct you to the precipice and the abyss.
Above everything else he is a scholar who would put his learning at the service of his fellow-men. Education with him is a passion, a part of his philanthropy, a part of his religion. It is the darkness of man, not the sinfulness of man, that catches his attention. He feels that the world is foolish because it is ignorant, not because it is wicked. And he feels that the foolishness of the world is a count in the indictment against religion. Religion has not taught; it has used mankind as a dictaphone.
He has spoken to me with great hope and confidence of the change which is coming over the Church in this matter of religious teaching. Dr. Headlam, the Regius Professor of Divinity, has lighted a candle at Oxford which by God’s grace will never be put out. There is now a fairly general feeling that men who enter the ministry must be educated not to pass a test or to prove themselves capable of conducting a service or performing as rite, but educated as educators—apostles of truth, evangelists of the higher life.
Religion, according to Dr. Selbie, is something to be taught. It is not a mystery to be presented, but an idea to be inculcated. The world has got to understand religion before it can live religiously.
But all education stands in sore need of the trained teacher. Our teachers are not good enough. They may be very able men and women, but few of them are very able teachers. The first need in a teacher is to inspire in his students a love of knowledge, a hunger and thirst after wisdom. But, look at our schools, look at our great cities, look at the pleasures and recreations which satisfy the vast masses of the population! As a nation, we have no enthusiasm for education. This is because we have so little understanding of the nature and province of education. We have never been taught what education is.