« ZurückWeiter »
sinks into a state of calm brutality—the other, with frenzy in his brain, resembles more a savage and maddened animal rushing upon his own destruction, but dangerous to all who are in his way. Both are guilty in the same kind, though not in the same degree. They destroy the chief talent committed to man, and they degrade and dishonour his nature.
It has already been remarked, that the higher and nobler faculties of man will not exist in subjection to his sensual nature. They decline, decay and perish, unless they are allowed to exercise the authority allotted to them by a wise Providence. The moment their just empire is successfully invaded, they begin to languish-resistance becomes gradually more feeble, until at length they are overpowered and destroyed. And what then is the condition of the individual? Wisdom and virtue are synonymous, and happiness in their attendant reward. Folly and .vice, on the contrary, not only lead to misery, but are sure to be accompanied by it at every step. In their first efforts to shake off the wholesome restraints of reason and conscience, they have to maintain a painful conflict with the accusers within, which constantly mars and disappoints their expected enjoyment. The poison is manifest in the cup, and they feel that it is there. They may throw off the rein of reason and conscience, but they will still suffer from the lash! When they have gained the victory, (as it must be admitted they may,) they have subverted the natural empire which providence had intended should be established; and in the wild misrule which follows, the conquerors are sure to be the victims of the disorder and confusion they have created.
Vicious indulgence destroys the body as well as the soul. It brings to an untimely end the very capacity for enjoyment. Its food is its deadly poison. Does the sluggard enjoy his sloth? It is impossible. There is no rest without labour. Unbroken idleness is more irksome than severe exertion;
and it has no relief. The diligent man has delight in his honest occupation, even though it be wearisome; and he rejoices in the repose which he earns by it. He, and be alone, can duly estimate the force of the truth, that the sabbath is made for man! He is thankful for the refreshment and rest it affords him; while the habitual idler finds that it only increases his weariness. Has the drunkard or the debauchee any enjoyment? He has scarcely taken one step in the delirious path, before he begins to totter, and finds that by associating with vice, he has made a companion also of disease. They fasten upon him together; and however he may for a while be deluded, he soon becomes their conscious and degraded slave, the contempt of mankind gradually settling upon him, and his own reason approving the justness of their sentence. The base chains he wears are of his own forging. His own are the pain and the disgrace they inflict,
Self-denial and discipline are the foundation of all good character—the source of all true enjoyment—the means of all just distinction. This is the invariable law of our nature. Excellence of every sort is a prize, and a reward for virtuous, patient, and well directed exertion, and abstinence from whatever may encumber, enfeeble or delay us in our course. The approach to its lofty abode is rightly represented as steep and rugged.--He who would reach it must task his powers-But it is a noble task! for besides the eminence it leads to, it nourishes a just ambition, subdues and casts off vicious propensities, and strengthens the powers employed in its service, so as to render them continually capable of higher and higher attainments.
What mean the cheers which greet the ingenuous youth, when he arrives at the high honours of a seminary of learnsng? Why do the hearts of his parents swell with unusual gladness, and tears burst forth to relieve their almost suffocating joy? Why is this epoch in life marked, as it
every where is, with such intense and unabating interest ? The race is not ended—it is only begun. One stage is reached, but another not less critical succeeds—and even when that is passed in safety, the whole way of life is beset with temptations and dangers, which require all our exertion, with the constant aid of a gracious Providence, to resist and avoid. Why, then I repeat, this heartfelt rejoicing? It is not merely that he has acquired the portion of learning which is taught in a college ; though that is of inestimable value. It is that the youth, whose powers have thus been put forth and tried, has given a new earnest of character, and a new assurance of hope. His habits are measurably formed—his nobler faculties expanded—and his future elevation, in some degree indicated, by the strength of pinion displayed in his first flight.
As the mother's eye marks with inexpressible delight the first steps of her child, and her ear catches, with thrilling rapture, the music of his earliest efforts to utter articulate sounds, imparting her joy to the whole household, and making as it were a family jubilee—so is the attainment of the honours of a college naturally and justly regarded with deep emotion. It fixes an important period in what may be termed the infancy of manhood, demonstrating the existence of a capacity for usefulness, and for further 'and higher honours. Happy are the youth who enjoy the opportunity of a liberal education-happier still are they who diligently and successfully improve it!
It is not the design of this discourse to speak of education in general—but only to make a few remarks upon what is denominated a liberal education—that system of instruction which is adopted in the higher seats of learning, and leads to learned honours. Institutions of this description are rapidly increasing in every quarter of our country. If the establishment of numerous seminaries of learning is to be regarded as an evidence of a corresponding increase of de
mand for liberal education, founded upon a proper knowledge of its nature, a just appreciation of its advantages, and a fixed determination to uphold and even to elevate its standard, this circumstance must afford the highest satisfaction to the scholar, the patriot, and the philanthropist. It will promote the cause of sound learning—it will advance the honour of our country, and it will increase the happiness of mankind. That such may be its effect, every one must ardently desire.
But it must be obvious at the same time, that these advantages are only to be gained by maintaining unimpaired, and in all its integrity, the true character of the higher seminaries of learning. It is not their object to teach the simpler elements of knowledge. These must be first acquired elsewhere, as an indispensable preliminary to admission. Nor do they profess, as a part of the collegiate course, to qualify individuals for particular employments in life. This is a matter of subsequent acquisition, frequently not decided upon till after the college studies are ended.
The design of a college, as it has been well said, is, “ to lay the foundation of a superior education;" not to teach fully any particular art or science, but to discipline the intellectual powers, and to store the mind with such knowledge as may lead to further attainments, and be useful in any of the occupations or pursuits which are likely to be the lot of those who have the advantage of a collegiate education. In a word, to place distinctly before the student the high objects to be aimed at—to teach him how they are to be attained-to stimulate him by worthy motives—and, after unfolding to him his own powers, and the mode of employing them, to send him forth with a generous and well directed ambition, and an instructed and disciplined mind, to follow out the course in which he has thus been trained.
Such a system, it must be evident, admits of no concession to individual views or inclinations. It works by gene
ral means, and for a general end. It proposes the same instruction for all; the same discipline; the same rewards ; proceeding upon the assumed basis, that the plan thus adopted is in itself the best calculated to produce the desired general result
In Sparta, the education of youth was a public concern. At an early age, children were taken from their parents, and placed under the care of masters appointed by the state, to prepare them, according to their notions, to become good citizens. The ancient Persians and the Cretans adopted a similar plan. With them too, education was a matter of public regulation. Among the Athenians and Romans, youth were not thus detached by law from the authority and care of their parents. But their education was justly deemed to be a matter of the highest importance, and conducted, no doubt, upon a general system, adapted to their manners and circumstances. Whatever opinion we may entertain of the methods they adopted, and the end they proposed—however different may have been the character intended to be formed, by the institutions of the Spartans and the Persians, from that which modern education proposes to cultivate-yet there is one point which has the sanction of their authority as well as the authority of succeeding times—that the education of youth having reference to a determined end, ought to be conducted upon a general plan, and that plan the best that is attainable for the end proposed, and carried to the highest perfection of which it is susceptible. It is not meant to be contended, that in modern times, and in large communities, when there is so great an inequality in the condition of men, the highest education is, or ever can be within the reach of all, or even of a very considerable number. In our own country, favoured as it is by the bounty of Providence, with advantages such as no nation has ever before enjoyed, how many are there to whom the benefits even of the humblest education are not extend.