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ishing Christianity, not only as that instrument, which conveys to good men the heavenly inheritance, but as forming a fundamental part of the civil constitution, under which they live.
Permit me, Gentlemen, to close, by reminding you and myself of what we ought never to forget. Whatever is to be done for society, for the interests of virtue, and for the honor of God, must be done speedily. This consideration is forced upon our minds, by the recent and much lamented death of that distinguished citizen, * who first presided in this society ;-a citizen, whose powerful and splendid talents were exciting interest, not only in this Commonwealth, but in the centre of our confederated republic. The Lord hath taken away “the honorable man, the counsellor, and the eloquent orator.”+ Let us heed the solemn warning, and look forward to the day of eternal retribution. “Behold, I come quickly,” saith the Divine Author of our religion, “my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his works shall be.”
* Hon. Samuel Dexter.
† Isaiah 3: 3.
THE DANGERS OF A COLLEGE LIFE, AND ITS
I am not solicitous, that the present should be termed a theological lecture. It will have for its immediate object no individual doctrine of Christianity; but that general regularity of life, which, as students in science and literature, and believers in revealed religion, you are bound to maintain.
I shall first enumerate some of the dangers of a collegial life; secondly, consider in what way you may obtain the greatest security in the midst of them.
Under the first division, I observe, that one of the dangers to which literary youth are exposed, arises from the opinion, that the standard of morals is not to all persons the same, and that in regard to the students of a college, the laws of revealed religion are either repealed, or rendered more lenient. That such a sentiment, if not avowed, is secretly entertained, appears from this circumstance, that practices, which in other situations are universally condemned as immoral, are sometimes viewed by associated literary young men with little or no displeasure.
If such a sentiment is cherished by any, I fear indeed that the error is invincible. That want of thought which gave rise to it, will probably render ineffectual any efforts of mine for its removal. It is doubtless true that the external duties of a statesman are different from those of the soldier-that the external
Although this Lecture and the following one formed a part of the regular theological course, yet their character justifies their being introduced in their present connexion.
duties of the physician are different from those of the artificer; that is, the same moral principle, piety to God, and benevolence to man, would require different actions of persons, whose conditions in life were so various; because the virtue and happiness of the great mass may be most effectually advanced by sedulous attention to their respective employments. But persons in neither of the situations mentioned, can be at liberty to lose sight of these great objects. The artificer is as really bound to relieve a neighbor in distress, as the physician to administer cordials. And if the soldier has no right to turn his arms against the State, neither has the politician to concert plans for its ruin.
The obligations of veracity, justice, and temperance, are on all equally binding. The statesman and the soldier are not less the creatures of God, than the artist or the cottager. They have the same origin, and the saine relation to their Creator. The same dispositions towards the Deity and his creatures are required of both. If the soul of one man is immortal, the soul of another is not less so. If there be a retribution, which reason reoders probable, and revelation makes certain, it must in relation to all men, proceed on the same principles.
These remarks, which relate to persons in different employments, are equally applicable to those in various stages of life. Whenever we acquire such intellectual powers as render us accountable, the obligations of morality can neither be violated nor neglected with impunity. If our opportunities for mental cultivation be somewhat more favorable than those of others, our relations and consequent duties may be better known, and all immorality is the more irrational, criminal and dangerous. There is the same standard of morality to the rustic youth, inured to manual labor, and to the young gentleman, whose better fortune is opening to him the treasures of science and literature; with this difference, that the obligations of morality are more easily, and more accurately known in one case than in the other.
It may be added that collegial pursuits give no assurance of long life; so that if it be in general a matter of prudence, to look beyond the narrow limits of our earthly existence, and to consider the eternal consequences of virtue and vice, such anticipations imperiously demand a place among those varied employments which occupy your time. While you have the honor to be ranked with the intelligent and immortal part of the universe, and while you recollect that no revolutions of years or ages will be able to extinguish that intellectual spark, which the Creator has placed within you, do not forget that this spark will soon kindle into the clear and resplendent glow of the seraph, or into those Aames of hatred, and malice, and rage, that will eternally torment the reprobate.
Another danger to which students in a public semioary are exposed, arises from the want of firmness, independence, and a sense of individual responsibility. By firmness I do not mean a pertinacious adherence to opinions hastily formed by independence I do not mean a disregard to reason, just laws, and sober maxims. All this, instead of indicating an independent mind, gives evidence of abject servility. The laws of fitness and reason are obeyed by the most excellent, the most powerful and the most happy beings in the universe. Not only the best and wisest men, and superior created intelligences, but God himself acts under their influence. He never adopts a measure merely because he has power to effect it, but solely because his wisdom and goodness require its adoption. All which renders the character of God lovely, consists in his uniformly and perpetually regarding the laws of benevolence and reason. This is the noblest, the most exalted, and most perfect character of which we can form any conception; and is therefore attributed to the Supreme Being. On the contrary, intellectual nature can pever appear in deeper degradation, than wben those who possess it are slaves to inclination-perpetually obedient to the blind impulse of passion.
That want of independence of which I speak, and which I conceive is by no means uncommon in public seminaries, is displayed in too great a regard to the practices and opinions of others, when one's own judgment and convictions are on the other side. This is in fact, for an individual to annihilate himself as a distinct being, and to attach himself, as a kind of excrescence, to the general mass. It would be easy to show that such compliance is morally wrong, that it is dangerous and impolitic.
That must under all circumstances, be morally wrong, which is inconsistent with our own convictions of duty. If I perform an action, convinced that it is wrong, I intend to do a wrong action. And though it should afterwards be shown that the action was in itself right, and though it might have been innocently performed by another, my intention makes it wrong in me, and of course brings guilt upon the conscience. How much more, if the action be obviously and decidedly inconsistent with that sobriety and virtue which our Creator demands.
Such a compliance is not only wrong in a moral view, but is peculiarly dangerous. The public interest is in a most precarious and threatening state, when there are not among those who are best informed, men of stable, unyielding principle, men who will stand erect, whether the pressure of public opinion bear light or heavy. But characters of this compact, unyielding texture are not formed in a moment. They are the result of principle confirmed by habit. These habits must commence at an early period If persons at the age of fifteen or twenty, allow themselves to proceed, subservient to the dictates of others, in opposition to their own conviction of right and duty, they will probably have the same compliant morality at the of twenty-five or thirty. If a youth is ready to sacrifice consciere to the habits of that little community which exists in a college, what should prevent him from making the same sacrifice, when he mixes with the world and engages in employments of more import to the public?
Further, this yielding temper of which I speak, is not only dangerous, as it contributes to a habit of acting without principle; it is likewise impolitic. This want of independence is, in truth, the want of integrity. It is possible, indeed, for a man to be greatly dependent on others for his opinions, through diffidence of his own judgment. This is hardly what we should expect from persons of strong intellect; but it may be perfectly consistent with