Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

connected with different denominations, to be more imaginary than real; and so far as they are real, we believe they ought to be regarded as contrary to the spirit of Christ, and discreditable to the Christian name. But we do not believe that different denoininations, as societies, as corporations, can coöperate. Christian coöperation is individual, not corporate.

If, then, American Protestantism cannot devise a better platform for a Seminary of learning than either of those we bave thus far spoken of, we must conclude that the prospects of liberal learning among ns are rather gloomy. Indeed, the considerations thus far presented do show this, if nothing else, that the difficulties to be encountered in laying satisfactory foundations for Institutions of learning among the heterogeneous elements of our Western States, and amid the jarring passions, the conflicting views, the rival interests of so many sects, must be great and appalling. We are persuaded, also, that a practical acquaintance with that problem would greatly increase the depth and solemnity of that conviction. Still we do not believe the case hopeless. A better platform is possible, and the present is the time when all enlightened good men should take their place upon it. It is not new; our fathers erected it amid the primeval forests of New England. It is not untried; it has been subjected to the test of experiment for generations, and that noble galaxy of New England Colleges is the result. With such an experiment, we are satisfied. Let those who are moved to test some new model, pay the cost of the experiment; we are not inclined to share it with them. We do not mean that the New England Colleges are perfect; the age of perfect social institutions is, we apprehend, far off in the future. But the New England Colleges are manifesting, in every year of their history, a sober, conservative tenacity in adhering to the good which has been attained, combined with a ready capability of all needed changes and improvements. Nobly have they done their work in the past; nobly are they doing it now; and nobly will they adapt themselves to coming exigencies.

We deny that these Colleges are in any proper sense Denominational. They are for the most part controlled by independent Boards of Trust, owing no obligations, expressed or implied, to any denomination or ecclesiastical power. They are under obligations to founders, to society, and to God, to perform their sacred trust“ Christo et Ecclesiæ,for Christ and the Church universal; to consecrate the Institutions under their care to sound learning and Evangelical Faith, and to nothing else. It is not important, it is not relevant, even, to inquire whether a candidate for a chair of instruction in Yale College believes in the Congregational, or the Presbyterian theory of the Church. If the venerable Corporation of that Institution were to descend to such folly, we should expect the spirit of the sainted Dwight to haunt their dreams.

Such a constitution, and only such, do we demand for the Colleges which Christian liberality is founding in the new States of the West. Does any one suggest that this will do very well for New England, but will not do for the West? We think we have shown how well those things are likely to do, and are doing, which it is proposed to substitute for this, at the West. And what reason is there to suppose that this plan will not work well at the West? Is it suggested that the denominational spirit is so much more prevalent at the West than in New England, that more regard must be had to it in constituting our Colleges? We reply, that the effort to satisfy the spirit of sect in laying the foundations of liberal learning, seems to us not unlike the attempt to satisfy the drunkards and the rum sellers in the constitution of a Temperance Society. If it is meant that the enormous prevalence of the spirit of sect in the West is a very formidable obstacle to the success of Institutions of liberal learning, we surely do not need to be told that. But if it is meant that the spirit of sect can suggest any modification of this broad New England platform, which enlightened friends of learning can afford to adopt, we have yet to be convinced of the truth of the proposition.

There is, indeed, one condition on which, were it fulfilled, we shonld be compelled to admit that unsectarian Colleges in the West are impossible. If it shall prove true that this same spirit of sect, this “esprit du corps," as it has been called by way of euphemism, is so strong as to overcome the moral integrity of good men, so that when intrusted with the management of literary Institutions, founded on this coöperative and liberal basis, they will betray their trust, merge the guardian of liberal learning in the sectarian, and employ their influence and their corporate votes to usurp the control of the Institntion in behalf of their sect; if, we say, the spirit of sect is strong enough to induce men thus to vio. late their faith and their moral integrity, then, indeed, should we despair of undenominational Colleges. But then, it seems to us, we must equally despair of the Church itself. The salt has lost its savor.

But we have faith in the moral integrity of Christian men, and believe that if such crimes are sometimes attempted, or even committed, their recurrence will be only at long intervals of time. And those usurpations which for a time seem successful, will be only temporary, and the perpetrators of them will meet with merited rebuke from an enlightened and Christian public opinion. The Trustees of a College will be found, on the whole and in the long course of events, to desire its prosperity; and they cannot help seeing and feeling the necessity of bringing it into sympathy with the most enlightened, influential and religious portion of the community around it. A little knot of Congregational. ists in the midst of a numerous, enlightened, and wealthy Presbyterian community, or a little knot of Presbyterians in the midst of a similar Congregational community, will hardly succeed in permanently keeping an exclusive denominational control of a Seminary of learning thus unrighteously usurped. We think that in relation to questions of this sort good people place too little confidence in one another, and too little in an overruling Providence, and in coming generations.

We are confident that in a long course of years the great currents of Providence will be found to favor Colleges on a liberal and coöperative basis, rather than those on a Denominational basis. There are two causes now discernible, which will in a great degree compel us to place our reliance on the former, rather than on the latter.

One of them, is the tendency of sect, if allowed to exert its influence on the question, to reduce all our Colleges to feebleness and starvation, by multiplying them beyond the demands and necessities of the community. The inconveniencies and evils resulting in this country from attempting to erect many Colleges when there is room for but one, are felt and acknowledged by all men who are well informed on this subject. Two causes are chiefly influential in producing this state of things—local interests and passions, and the zeal of sect. These causes operate in all parts of our country, and have produced in all more or less of inconvenience and feebleness. But they act with far greater power in the new States of the West, than in the New England and Middle States. If now it could be shown that by means of a sectarian centralization it is possible in a good degree to overcome the localizing influence of men's private interests and passions, and secure a broader coöperation, we might be willing to accept of Denominational Colleges as the less of two evils, and seize on the ambition of sect, as the most effective weapon with which to combat individual selfishness. But even this poor advantage cannot be fairly claimed for sect. To such an extent has that localization which is characteristic of everything American, pervaded all our Protestant denominations, that in relation to the subject under consideration they will be found quite destitute of any centralizing power, and even coöperating with all those local and private interests and passions which found Colleges when they are needed for no other purpose than to swell the price of town lots and farms adjacent. Men wishing to secure a profitable outcome of a speculation in real estate, if left to themselves would hardly be able to make a plausible show of a College without costing them more than it would pay. But some Denominational interest is at hand, and an appeal to that will be likely to be successful. The feeling is that within each section of very moderate extent, each denomination should have its College, and each therefore allies itself with the local interests of some flourishing village, for the purpose of securing it. Sect consents to help out the speculation, and speculation agrees to aid the sect, and a College is the result, which is detrimental rather than beneficial to the real interests of learning. Thus Colleges are multiplied to an indefinite extent, without the slightest regard to the real wants of the community, or its ability to support them. It is difficnlt to say, in this insane rage for College building, which is most selfish and reckless of the real interests which alone ought to be consulted, the spirit of sect, or the spirit of speculation. There is a phrase at the West, that people are “running a thing into the ground.” If anything is in danger of being " run into the ground,” it is College building at the West.

There is but one remedy for all this. The very spirit and principle of Denominationalism must be abjured in our Colleges. We must found them upon a broad and comprehensire platform of Evangelic Faith. We must coöperate in sustaining them as Christians, and not as Sectarians. We innst cherish them not as belonging to our sect, but to Christ and the Church universal. We must esteem them precious, not as the instruments of aggrandizing our Denomination, but as blessings to our country, to mankind, and to the distant future. We think it requires no prophetic power to predict, that if any truly noble Institutions of liberal learning are to be reared up in the West, and stand there in strength and beauty in distant generations and ages, this only is the foundation on which they are to be reared. The spirit of sect, if it is to be consulted in the premises, will only multiply feeble and starveling enterprises, to destroy one another by their mutual rivalships. If any man believes that any one of our Western States can thoroughly found and efficiently sustain all the Colleges, which sect originates, supply them with the requisite endowments and instruments of instruction, and sustain in them Facnlties composed of men who by vigorous and varied talent, large and generous culture, are qualified for their high position, especially that it can furnish to each of them a respectable number of students, affording fit employment for men of such talents and attainments; if any man, we say, believes this, or does not see that such multiplication of Colleges renders it nearly impossible to raise any one of all the number to this truly dignified position for generations to

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »