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2. Next in importanoe to family instruction, is that of common schools. No friend of his country can ever be indifferent to this source of information. Large rivers may be of great utility in fertilizing, within certain limits, the adjacent fields. But the country in general is to be enriched and moistened by smaller streams. By the institution of schools, knowledge is diffused over a whole nation. Its streams are carried to every house, and to every cottage. They may be tasted alike by children of wealthy, and by those of indigent parents.
Nothing can be more consistent with republican principles, nothing more essential to such a government, than this equal and universal extension of knowledge. To a benevolent mind it is highly gratifying to reflect, that in a large community, there should be scarcely a child under the hard necessity of passing through life in profound ignorance. No man is in a situation so elevated, as to justify an inattention to such an object.
The advantages resulting to the public from school education, will obviously depend much not only on the knowledge, but also on the morals of those, who are employed to give instruction. Parents can scarcely do their children a more material injury, than to place them under the care of a profane, intemperate or licentious teacher.
3. Academies, or schools of a public nature are useful, just in proportion to the fidelity and accuracy with which they teach the principles of morality, science, and classical literature. And perhaps it may deserve the attention of an enlightened legislature, to determine, whether a moderate number of these establishments, with endowments competent steadily to maintain able instructors, would not as effectually subserve the interests of knowledge, as to give to a great number an existence, painful, precarious, and intermitting.
4. In the next particular we have doubtless been anticipated. The happy consequences resulting to society from more extensive literary establishments such as colleges and universities, have been so generally observed, as to render it unnecessary to offer either detail or proof. It has been a thousand times mentioned and ought never to be forgotten, that our ancestors were the friends of learning, as well as of liberty and religion. The university in this vicinity, originally dedicated “ to Christ and the church,"* stands as a durable monument of the enlarged views entertained by the fathers of New England. How well they judged as to the influence of knowledge, in giving stability both to the church and the Commonwealth, will appear doubtful to no one, who examines the long list of civilians, military commanders, or religious instructors, who, in different periods of our country, have defended its liberties, formed its political constitutions, or corrected its sentiments and morals. Of these illustrious names, he will find a large proportion in the catalogues of our older seminaries.
These views, I well know, are familiar to the audience, which I have the honor to address; to a legislature especially, which, recently by an act of noble munificence, gave public evidence of the interest, which it feels in the “ advancement of literature, piety, morality, and the useful arts and sciences.”+
But, of all kinds of knowledge, none is so important to human beings, as that, which relates to God, to their own present duty, and future prospects. No instructions are like his, who spake from heaven. Wherever the gospel is preached with clearness, and with a becoming mixture of zeal and knowledge, the eternal difference between virtue and vice is openly display. ed; sensibility of conscience is preserved, and its decisions respected; the general tone of morals is raised; and vice if not suppressed, is constrained to avoid observation and seek retirement.
* The motto on the seal of Harvard College is Christo et Ecclesiae.
† The Legislature of this commonwealth, at their last session, passed an act, granting and appropriating, for ten years, the tax, which the President, and Directors, and Company of the Massachusetts Bank are and shall be liable to pay to the Commonwealth, in the following manner, viz: ten sixteenths to Harvard College, three sixteenths to Williams College, and three sixteenths to Bowdoin College. One fourth, at least, of this sum is to be appropriated, according to the judgment of the respective corporations of said colleges, for the benefit of such students, as may apply therefor.-It is highly honorable to the Legislature, that this act passed both houses without opposition.
Quid munus reipublicae majus, meliusve afferre possumus, quam si juventutem docemus, et bene erudimus ?
In Christianity, the mind is assailed by motives, such as could not be drawn either from the stores of philosophy or from any other system of religion. A world is here opened on the imagination, absolutely without bounds or limits. The rewards of virtue and the punishments of vice are declared, by the Son of God, to be of such duration, as accumulated ages and millions of ages cannot diminish. The objects of this retribution are human actions in connexion with motives and dispositions.Nor, can it be, for a moment doubted, that the public preaching of such a religion throughout a nation, is calculated to arrest the progress of vice, to enliven moral feelings, to diffuse a general spirit of sobriety, and to create habits of deliberation, and religious forecast? But, if the advancement of good morals, by which the execution of laws is infinitely facilitated, be a fit subject of legislation, so must be every institution or practice, which most powerfully tends to such an issue. If ancient legislators were so thoroughly convinced of the value of religion in civil government, as to originate or countenance false pretences to Revelation, how much does prudence as well as duty require a Christian State to support a religion, which in truth descended from heaven..
It has now, we hope, been sufficiently shown, not only that the permanent prosperity of a nation is best secured by a union of knowledge, wisdom and the fear of God; but that the education of youth is, under divine Providence, the most powerful means of effecting this union.
In view of this subject, shall I be permitted briefly to address His Excellency, the chief magistrate of this Commonwealth?
At a crisis, when acknowledged talents, long experience in public affairs, unshaken integrity, conciliating and cautious manners, joined with decision of character, were qualities, infinitely important in one who should be selected to preside in our government, we recognize, with devout thankfulness, the
gracious hand of Almighty God, in again directing the public attention to your Excellency, and in directing your Excellency to consider the voice of the public, as the indication of duty. We rejoice to witness, in the supreme Executive of our State government, a rich assemblage of those republican and Christian virtues, which shone with so benign a lustre, in the purer ages of our country.
In the midst of those scenes and duties, which are connected with an office so highly responsible; while there are a thou
sand interests to regard, and a thousand temptations to resist; · while, on the one hand, there are solicitations to repel, and,
on the other, provocations to pass by and forgive, your Excellency, perhaps, needs not to be reminded, that there is scarcely a poor man among your constituents, whose situation, in regard to spiritual improvement, is less favorable, than your own. We implore for your Excellency a large supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, that, when all human beings shall appear, as trembling suppliants, before the Divine Tribunal, it may be your glory, not that you have been frequently called to preside over a free State, but that, by divine grace, you have been enabled to “ do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
His Honor, the Lieutenant Governor, will please to accept our respectful congratulations, that the second office in the gift of the people, has been again bestowed on him, in testimony of their high regard for the virtues of integrity, public spirit, and patriotism.
Notwithstanding the length of this discourse, I do entreat the attention of the Council, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, to a subject, intimately connected with the welfare of this State, and of our common country.
War is one of the severest calamities, by which the Sovereign of the universe dispenses punishment to guilty nations. The evils of our present condition are too sensibly felt by men of all descriptions and sentiments, to render a minute delineation of them, either expedient or necessary. As to their origin, it is attributed, by a portion of our citizens, to partial, feeble, and ill-judged policy
in our national administration ; by the rest, to an absolute necessity, resulting from the aggressions of a powerful and imperious nation. On this subject, it is not my present design to offer any opinion. I have no wish to add fuel io the flames of party zeal, which already rage with a heat so intense, as threatens to dissolve our political establishments. exist the immediate occasion of our unhappy condition, the ultimate cause is to be sought in our national character. The spirit of vice has diffused a deadly contagion throughout every State in the union. The infection is not unknown in this northern extremity, once so pre-eminently the abode both of private and of public virtue. The holy Sabbaths of God are extensively violated by men of all conditions in life, and of all political creeds. As temptations to this sin have been recently multiplied, the evil has become enormous and intolerable. The habitual prosanation of sacred things, but especially of the divine name and attributes, is as general as it is impious and demoralizing. The demon of intemperance is stalking through our country, wasting our property, consuming our health, and destroying our best hopes, both from objects of earth, and from those beyond the skies. The morals of men hang loosely about them, and are too frequently thrown off whenever an assault is made by individual or party interest.
On this subject, I make a respectful, but solemn appeal to the honored legislators of the Commonwealth. Do you believe, that any State, community, or nation can be powerful, tranquil, and permanently happy, if their morals are extensively depraved? Would not the most alarming depravation of morals result from a general disbelief of the Christian religion ? Would the happiness of families, would property or life be secure in a nation of deists? If Christianity is the most powerful guardian of morals, are you not, as civilians, bound to give it your support and patronage? Do you, in the least, question whether the institution of the Sabbath has an extensive influence in bringing to the view of men their dependence on God, the extent and purity of his law, the soul's immortality, and a day of judge Vol. II.