« AnteriorContinuar »
MERCERSBURG QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.-SPIRIT OF THE AGE.*
In obedience to your call, I am here this evening to share with you in your first anniversary festival in this city, in honor of the distinguished Scholar, whose name as a Society you bear. And you will allow me first of all, to congratulate you in view of the circumstances of promise and hope under which we are assembled, and your deliverance from the dangers and anxieties incident upon your transplantation to this place. For one, whose hopes have been long and largely invested in the College with which you stand connected, as also in the Societies subject to her maternal care, their history for the last four years has been to me the object of untiring yea, increasing solicitude. I have rejoiced with their friends, as it passed through its brighter phases, and have shared in the common despondency which attended its darker transits. And now that the night of uncertainty is past and the dayspring of a prosperous future has begun to arise, I
may mitted to render with you, my tribute of rejoicing, and praise to the merciful Dispenser of all our prosperity—that wise Restorer of order and harmony, out of the deepest discords of confusion and noise.
Yet to one whose home is in the past history of your Society, the greetings of this evening are not unmingled with the gentler sentiments of sorrow. For how can he forget his part
* An Address delivered before the Goethean Literary Society of Franklin and Marshall College, at its first Anniversary in the city of Lancaster, Pa., on the 29th of August, 1853.
ners in the joys and sorrows of other days. How, amid the festivities of this occasion, is his spirit prone to steal back within itself, and wander away to the scenes made glad by the communion of those who now are scattered and far
To me, this very anniversary meeting is largely freighted with melancholy associations. For with the rapadity of thought, it bears me over a nine years interyal, and places me where then I stood surrounded with countenances lighted up with joy, a witness to the laying of the corner stone of the proudest monument of your history as a Society. And even now I seem to be there, and live over again the happy 28th of August, 1844. That was a day of gladness to us. To us—you will allow me to say; for though I was but an adopted son of the Gæthean Society, I found her an affectionate mother, and I early learned to love her. To us it was a happy day. For we reached its rejoicing through the labors of many a weary day and anxious night. Even now again I seem to see those youthful laborers, as relief after relief toiled out their allotted hours, that the sweat of their own brows might attest their zeal and selfsacrificing energy. I wander again in that overshadowing and now deserted grove; I listen to the entertainments of that day; and I hear once more the click of the builder's hammer. But now methinks, all is quiet and desolate. And I may not leave that much loved spot, without once more paying my tribute at his lonely grave, to the memory of the loved, but not lost—the lamented Dr. Rauch.
Gentlemen : This page of your Society's history stands graven upon the hearts of that generation of her membership. You may have valued that edifice, for its beauty, its convenience, and the honor it reflected upon the Goethean name. But they loved it as the fruit of their toils, the monument of their sacrifices and the glad consummation of their cherished hopes. You will not, therefore, think it strange, that they still delight to ponder over the history of that deserted hall, and lament the necessity which required you to abandon it. As a homestead becomes doubly dear in virtue of the almost sacred associations of earlier years, so that hall is to them, as the home of their youthful affections.
We would not have you suppose, however, that these feelings of attachment to the associations of other days, bespeak a reprobation of the policy which has transplanted Marshall College and her Societies to this city, as unwise and extravagant. The sacrifices which have been incurred, were not only unavoidable in their circumstances, but are to be regarded as the necessary results of their expanding history. The essential interest is preserved—is more than preserved; and finds itself conducted to an advanced stadium in its onward progress. The substantial living idea, is that for which we are at all times bound to be concerned, in all institutions. This, in obedience to the laws of a growing history, must ever actualize itself in the world, in the form of some outward organization; and appropriate to itself such instrumentalities as may be necessary for its living activity, from the general store-house of nature. The outward form of organization is always, however, conditioned by the stage of development to which the idea or inner life, may at any time have attained. Hence the form is never commensurate with the idea, unless all historical progress has been completed, and absolute perfection reached. At any given period then of this evolution, the outward form is expected to subserve the life as a temporary instrumentality merely, to be thrown aside or superceded by a higher form of organization, as this may be rendered necessary by its fuller development. Any institution of whatever character, involves an idea including all that can ever be evolved, and in most cases vastly more than is ever realized in fact. At first, its outward organization will correspond with its infantile state. As this is transcended—as its powers are drawn out, the existing appliances become inadequate to its wants, and an organization commensurate with its growth and expanding faculties, becomes indispensable. The infantile must give place to a more mature and developed form, else must the institution itself suffer injury for want of facilities to give exercise to its extended powers of activity.
Marshall College, as also her literary Societies, in the earlier phases of their history, found the organization under which they then existed, for the most part commensurate with their powers and necessities. But as these in a short time far outstripped in their growth, their outward circumstances—it being found impossible to secure means and instrumentalities adapted to their increasing inward resources and outward difficulties—it became most painfully apparent to their friends, that they must fall back and languish in their infantile state, and thus fail to accomplish the mission manifestly allotted to them, or in their attempt to advance in the prosecution of this, without the necessary means, meet with a most disastrous failure and final overthrow. They were cramped by the want of an organization equal to their powers and responsibilities; and this want could not be met under the circumstances by which they were held bound. They were like a frail bark cast into the midst of a stormy ocean, where no resources of skill and experience could compensate for its weakness, and its insufficiency for the wild waves with which it was tossed. It must either put back at the expense of its intended enterprise, or rush forward to inevitable destruction. Though that bark may be endeared to us by many an association of toil and anxiety—by many a season of rejoicing and many a realized hope, yet would it bespeak weakness to refuse its exchange for one better suited to the necessities of its mission. As a Society, together with your twin sister, you have it to lament for the sacrifice which is required of you; for you resign the noblest monument of your labor and spirit of enterprise. Yet are you enabled to rejoice in the possession of all that they revealthe spirit, the resolution, the all concluding and living idea, raised superior to your former embarrassments, with facilities for the ultimate realization of all, may we not hope, to which in vain you might else have striven to give expression.
But it is not meet that I consume your time in leafing over the history so familiar to you all. We rejoice together in the position which you occupy this day, and as is now more befitting, let us turn for a short season to the contemplation of a subject, which, while it will afford us an opportunity for the practical application of the principles, and mode of thought in which you have been instructed, will also prove suggestive of the duties which devolve upon you, as candidates for the active relations of life. You will allow me accordingly to offer for your consideration, a few thoughts bearing upon the character of the times in which we live, and the dominant tendency which has come to obtain around us in the world, in the form of the Spirit of the Age.
To arrive at a correct judgment of the significancy of any given phase of history, it is necessary that it be contemplated in its relations to the general stream in which it flows. And this general stream too, must find its meaning in the unity of its ultimate tendency and design. The world from its beginning to its end, is the embodiment of a comprehensive plan, concluding and gathering all things in one. Its movements and counter-movements, its ebb and flow, its gentler meanderings of peaceful life, and the torrent waves of its revolutions, are all held tributary to an onward progress—all steadily minister to the accomplishment of its controlling idea and intention. At times indeed does the sun seem to go back upon the dial plate. History seems to flow back upon itself and lose all power for onward movement. But yet is not such its real character. Obstacles may be thrown into its channel, and retard for a while the progress of its waters. But this very
delay, is but the accumulation of its powers—the gathering of its energies, before which at length, the hinderance must give way or be overwhelmed and destroyed. At such times the waters may overflow their banks, and spreading far inland work sad devastation and ruin, but so soon as the conflict is ended, and the opposition surmounted, do they rush back to their allotted channel and course onward to their ocean home.
History is the ever growing revelation of God's will concerning humanity. This revelation, however, as we discover it in the world around us, finds its occasion only in the disturbing element of sin. But for this, no place could have been found for it in its existing form. God's designs in his creation would have been reached without the painful experience to which humanity is, and to the end of time will be subjected.