Изображения страниц

ments of their learning constructed? By graduates,— the most of them; and the rest of them, by such as received their impulse and suggestions from the sources which had been laid open by that class. Without the facilities, and general scholarship, and the scientific spirit that flow down to us from those fountain-heads, and pervade all ranks, neither the text-books nor the other means of Common Education would ever have existed, such as they are. Even the teachers, especially of our NormalSchools, and High-Schools, and Academies, which train and fit the other teachers,-I would ask who they generally are? Graduates again; who transmit the influence of the College to their pupils, and send it out, though in still feebler force, to every master and mistress in the remotest districts of our country. It beats like a pulse through all the arteries and veins of the educational system, giving life and growth and direction to the whole.

And yet this all-pervading process is unnoted; just as healthful organic action is commonly unnoted everywhere. In fact, so little is it ordinarily recognized, that men of considerable shrewdness in certain respects, have some. times appeared to regard the College rather as a bloated excrescence,an excrescence of a head, that absorbed the nourishment which ought to be diverted to our Common-Schools; and have counselled accordingly. But certainly a suicidal counsel; to which the old apologue of Menenius Agrippa is more justly applicable than it was to the policy rebuked at Mons Sacer, in the Roman history. A sad day will it be to the cause of our Common-Schools, when their interests shall be set in conflict with the interests of the College,-a day of darkness and the shadow of death! Set the welfare of the members against the welfare of the head; and what will ensue! If we could paralyze the College,-or, which is the same thing, if all the intellectual life and direction it is exerting in our Common-Schools, could be withdrawn from them to-day, it would rob them at once of the very excellences, in praise of which the voice of the whole community is now so loud; and in a short time they would die, from the stopping of the wonted circulation by which they have grown up.

A course of remark somewhat similar to the one we have thus followed out, might be pursued with respect to that other Institution, which educates the world in the highest of all its concerns,-I mean the Institution of the Church, including the Sacred Ministry. It is true that the holy influences of the Church and Ministry do not origi nate in any secular schools; but, for the most part, they pass through them, and are impregnated by them. Speak ing in general terms, the form that is given to the preva lent religious doctrines, the dress in which they are clothed, the learning by which they are defended and illustrated, and the rhetoric and logic with which they are urged home on the convictions of people, are to a great extent the product of the College, and of other seminaries integrated with it. Again: from the same sources, more or less remotely, comes a large part of the Religious Literature of the day; which is read in your families, and in all fami lies, and thus dispenses a perpetual ministration of its own, sending out nearly as wide an influence as that of the preacher himself. It is but little else than the College working on the world through this medium. Most of the labored Treatises on Theology, that are held as standard works in their respective communions, and that serve either as directories of faith and practice to millions, or else that serve as stimulants to new thought and research among the leading minds,are written by men whose power was informed and tempered in academic halls; and the reader who peruses them is unconsciously drinking in, from every page, elements that retain the savor of the schools through which they have passed. Even the uneducated divine, who perhaps thinks himself free from all such influences, is nevertheless guided in his work, to some degree, by that general intelligence and learning, which the same institu. tions have spread abroad. He is not beyond the charmed circle, though he may think that he is. He reads his very Bible in the Translation that was made by scholars; he relies on the criticism, and philology, and archæology, which the race of liberally educated scholars have furmished, or which they have given him the means of constructing for himself. They are virtually present with him in the whole course of his inquiries, and he uses their aid at every step, even when he is the least conscious of it.

Turn to whatsoever quarter you will of the religious world, you find the College at work there, steadily and universally affecting the results that are obtained! In all our older Denominations of Christians, it has the momentous charge of educating the multitude of preachers and pastors a numerous host, who go forth from the College, and, scattered over all the face of the land, become so many radiating points as it were, whence its influence is diffused abroad through their congregations, through the families they visit, and through the parishes and towns where they preside.

We have thus endeavored to trace out the actual operations of this powerful and far-reaching agent, in two of the grand divisions of human concerns: in the system of Common Education or Common-Schools, and in the sphere occupied by the Christian Church and Ministry. It can hardly be needful to proceed farther with this course of illustration. Were we to carry the survey onwards over all the other departments of our social and public life, such as that of law, medicine, the lyceum, the judiciary, civil government, bringing out distinctly the part that liberal studies perform in each of these,-especially were we to look into their action in the vast provinces of General Literature and Science, you are already sensible how the matter would at once appear. We should then have a tolerably adequate view of the thousandfold workings of the College, that are constantly going on,-not in one or two departments only, but in all the governing forces of the world, and in all the choicer, dearer interests of our life.


[ocr errors]

May I hope that the unfinished survey we have made of the field which it occupies, will serve to impress us more deeply with the importance, seldom appreciated in full, the solemn importance of an Institution that acts abroad on so universal a scale. And now, let us keep in mind-let it never be forgotten-that in proportion to the vast extent, and momentous character, of its results, is the responsibility of those who are engaged in establishing it, or in managing its concerns. Let them consider, that their seasonable aid or stinted parsimony in its behalf, is not for a day nor a year, no, nor for any limits of time or space or interests, which mortal man can measure. Their

[ocr errors]

generous bounty, their wisely directed efforts, their energetic, persevering fidelity to their trust, and the conscientious integrity with which they discharge their respective duties, will be felt in the effects through all the channels of intercourse among men, till time shall be no more.

There is another train of considerations which it may be proper to introduce, as a sequel to what we have said. Important as the part is, that any efficient College performs in the innumerable relations of civilized society at large, it still has a more special agency with respect to the particular community, or body of people, who, in common language, call it their own; among whom it arose, and by whose responsible care it must be, to a considerable extent, sustained. True, it may reasonably hope for a degree of patronage from all quarters, if it have the requisite merit; but then, the old proverb respecting the issue of "everybody's business," holds good here: it must be the immediate charge of some community of persons sufficiently large to supply its wants, and therefore of some very widely extended community, whose quickened sympathies will not suffer it to dwindle, and whose sense of self-respect is involved in its prosperity. Under the present condition of public sentiment in this country, all institutions of the kind are virtually in charge of some specific denominations, or classes of men, who feel that their own success and reputation are identified with the success and reputation of their respective seats of learning. Our Colleges are not indeed generally sectarian in their regulations and conduct; they cannot very well be so, for any long period; there is something, in the very tendency of liberal studies, opposed to a narrow bigotry. Narrow, clannish prejudices, exclusiveness, and a liberal course of learning, will always be found irreconcileable. One must kill out the other. And yet, all our Colleges in New England belong to sects, in the unobjectionable sense that we have indicated. Nor does this happen by accident; it does not arise from any fault; it results from the constitution of society among us,-from the paramount sway which the religious element holds, and from the strength of religious organization. Complain of it as much as we please, it is what must be, so long as the subject of reli

gion continues to maintain the highest place in the conscience of our people, and while they at the same time continue to differ in their views of it.

If we were to overlook this peculiar state of things among us, and view the matter abstractly, without reference to what is practicable under existing circumstances, it might seem, from the considerations we have been illustrating, that there could be no sufficient occasion for opening a new college; since those already in operation act upon the whole mass of society, and diffuse more or less of their benefits universally. Yes, but so does a preacher, of a village or town, in the same way, act more or less on all the citizens of the place, whether they attend his congregation or not;-probably saves even the non-attendants from complete heathenism at the least. Is it, therefore, never desirable that any other ministry should be opened there, after one has been established? This would be like a great deal of clever logic, that we hear; it may look well enough on paper, but does not answer for practical life, it is so extremely short-sighted, and so given to culling its premises. Let me ask you to mark that qualifying phrase, "more or less;" more or less of the benefits of those institutions are universally diffused; not their full amount; not so much as is desirable. And, in justice, it must be added, that the portion of these benefits which is thus diffused, necessarily retains the peculiarities of the quarters whence they came, and are, therefore, attended with certain side-influences, that we may think unfavorable to other important interests, and for which we may wish to substitute such as are different. We may desire to have the benefits in a more direct way, and in greater amount, than we can have them without the peculiar side influences.

But there is not time at present, nor is this the occasion, to go into a prolonged exposition of this point. We shall confine our remarks to one general consideration, which will throw light enough on the urgent demand for the movement we have here begun. That class, of Christians, at whose desire this institution arose, and under whose auspices it is to fare, needed it. They needed it for the improvement of their own body in the higher acquisitions of sound learning; while they wished also to do their

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »