The Value and Influence of Literary Pursuits.
It is refreshing to see, when the Bible is driven by the voice of authority from common schools, colleges rising like this, patronized by the people of God, and in some measure under ecclesiastical supervision. It is carrying out the plans of our fathers. It is giving a guaranty, at least, that here, far away from the corruption of the city, learning and religion shall go hand in hand, and that in the midst of a people who honor God, there shall be an institution for the rearing of their youth, where heathenism shall be spoiled of its learning and refinement, and they shall be made tributary to the inculcation of a sound morality, and the promotion of true religion. Honored men who have founded this institution! and ye who have stood by it in the dark hours of its struggles and adversity! be encouraged to persevere. A kind Providence watches vigilantly over your rising Seminary, and will provide for its future advancement. Do but be faithful to the trust committed to you, set your standard of Education high, and imbue your youth with virtue and piety, and you are obliged to succeed.
The day will come, and may be not far remote, when your College shall obtain a commanding eminence, from which it may wield a powerful influence in favor of learning and truth.
Whether aware of it or not, you have fallen upon a heaven appointed method of providing for the religious and moral training of your youth, while you discipline their minds and store them with human learning. The tribe of Levi was dispersed in Israel of old, and their 48 Levitical cities were so many seats of learning to God’s chosen people. The schools of the prophets and the scribes and the schools of the primitive church at Alexandria, Caesarea, Ephesus, Smyrna, and elsewhere, to the principal of which tradition gives an apostolic origin, are additional evidences that it is by a divine appointment that the church should take under her own supervision the education of her youth. And it may yet prove that the Teacher in the Christian Church, who is acknowledged in all European Confessions of Faith of the Presbyterian denomination to be a permanent officer of the Church, and was so regarded by the reformers, is really as much of Divine appointment as the Pastor, and that as the synagogue and school were connected in the Jewish church, so the church and school should be in the Christian. The Universities of Scotland were once under the immediate supervision of the church, and were annually visited and examined by a commission from their ecclesiastical bodies; they were, in their inception, and through a long period of their history, institutions ecclesiastical rather than civil. And in our own country, the earliest and best universities and colleges were founded by religious men for religious purposes, and were filled by officers who were pious in heart, and who were pledged to teach the youth the doctrines and duties of Christianity. The Hebrew Bible was for years read at morning prayers, by students and teachers at Harvard and Yale, in the days of our fathers, and I am not unwilling to see the custom again introduced, and our youth led daily to the well-spring of all sacred knowledge, the inspired scriptures in the Greek and Hebrew tongues.
There might then be some hope that our young men would be truly learned, and that with this learning they would imbibe a respect and reverence for the book of God, the earliest portions of which were written more than 3000 years ago, and more than 600 years before the earliest authors of Greece; which, like the gnarled oak, breasting the storms of a thousand winters, has stood the shock of revolution, and the attacks and scorn of men; which has survived every empire and dynasty but the last, and is itself one day to be the law-book of the world, the rule of duty between man and man, and nation and nation. Pursue then the path you have chosen, and heaven shall add its smiles upon your enterprise. Over these hills and valleys, among these mountains and rivers, there shall live a noble and virtuous population, sanctified by a religion such as old Greece and Rome knew nothing of, guided by oracles far different from those of the old oak of Dodona and the priestess of Delphi, and softened, refined, and ennobled by a Literature which shall throw into the shade that which spread its loved charms through Cicero’s retreat at Tusculum, over the sweet vales of Attica, or resounded in Ionian melody through the Greek cities of the Lesser Asia. For that which the bard of Mantua unknowingly sung, must yet be fulfilled:
“Ultima cumaci venit jam carminis aetas;
Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo,
Jam redit et Virgo, Redeunt Saturnia regna;
Jam nova progenies coelo demittitur alto.”
Or, as our Christian poet [i.e, William Cowper, in Book Vi of The Task] has more beautifully expressed it, with heartfelt anticipation of the blissful season, of the morning heralded by so many prophets; The time shall come when
One song employs all nations; and all cry
“Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!”
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy:
Till nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosannah round.