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At the shrine of an ancient Eastern divinity, a rich man brought his gold, a mighty man his fame and his power, a learned man his wisdom, and a certain poor man an honest heart and a penitent sigh. Each left his gift upon the altar, and went his way;—and lo! when the orient morn, “from out the starry sphere,” upon the temple broke, the gold lay all untouched; the power was unheeded; the wisdom was despised; but, behold! the true heart and the penitent sigh rose on a sunbeam, and mingled in with Heaven !
MR. PRESIDENT, AND
GENTLEMEN AND LADIES OF THE INSTITUTE, I feel, at this point, that I shall hardly be thought to be consistent with my own defence of a courteous bearing and a tender regard for the feelings of others, if I do not apologize to you, for detaining you so long. It is the cause that must plead for and
my cuse shall be phrased, with some small change of a well-known couplet,
Brief I had been,-yet if prolonged " in aught,
“ The love I bear to Learning is in fault.” * It is the cause in which I speak that moves my inner heart. All my best sympathies are with it; and shame to me were it otherwise. Long years of patient toil, I spent within the four walls of the schoolroom, and many hours and scenes of happiness do I
, recall. And now that I have left them forever,-now that they are as the misty shadows of days that fled away with each setting sun, my heart exclaims: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget
* Goldsmith’s “ Deserted Village.”
her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,-if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."
Yet why should I longer plead the cause of a widely-diffused education, of sound learning, and high mental culture, of deep religious feeling, of pure morality and of refinement of manners, before so intelligent a jury? The verdict swells upon your lips, and bursts upon mine ear. You are not content that the world shall stand still, and that the men and the women and the children thereof, shall be, and continue to be, as darkened and benighted, as they were before the flood. If the stand-still theory were the right one, why then “you and I and all of us,” like the savage tenants whom our fathers found upon these shores, might still be taking our food, and putting it into our mouths with our fingers, from off a big shell or a piece of bark, and the knife and fork, and the chop-stick and the plate, be matters uninvented. If things were well enough as they were, the camel and the dromedary, the horse, and the ox, and the ass, would be quite sufficient for purposes of travel, and that great and terrible iron-courser, with his thundering tread, his hissing-hot breath, his shrieking whistle, his fiery trail, and his hurricane speed, as he dashes though your hills, would be as much unknown, as if iron had never been disembowelled from the earth, and water had never been boiled.
If things were well enough as they were, then the simple and frail canoe of
-the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind,”– were sufficient for the navigation of the seas; and
those giant monsters of the deep, those huge leviathans of modern commerce, which, freighted with the multiform productions of men's wits and men's hands, and with men themselves, drive with resistless energy, against wind and wave, bringing into proximity people and nations, whom ocean vainly divides,--these matchless trophies of human skill and human daring, would be yet to burst upon the sight of an astonished world!
If things were well enough as they were, men would be still writing with the end of a reed, upon a perishing piece of bark, or on a liquescent table of wax,—and parchment and paper, and the gray-goose quill, and the steel and golden pen, be still beyond our grasp; while the leaden type, and the wiry telegraph, and the iron and steam printing-press, and, in fine, all the powerful appliances and engines of modern civilization, be as unknown to us, as was the steam-ship itself to the mariners of Noah's ark, all matters for posterity, or nobody, to think about !
If things were well enough as they were, then war, and human slavery, and intemperance, those dread " Spirits of the nethermost abyss,
Besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,". horrible monsters, which curse and have cursed the fair face of earth almost since
" Man's first disobedience Brought death into the world, and all our woe,”
" these may continue their accursed work, and never return to that deep, dark and demoniac nativity, of which alone they are congenial spirits !
No, my friends! I am persuaded, that with a doctrine so admirably adapted to chill the glowing spirit of the world's progress, to check all effort at improving the moral and intellectual character of the age, you, as men who love their fellow men, can have no sympathy. Your efforts, I am persuaded, will be in the opposite direction, and will be put forth to sustain a nobler cause. It is to promote that cause, that you have congregated here, joining heart with heart, and hand in hand. You have a great vocation before you, the high office of strengthening and improving “the instrument upon which, and with which, Education herself labors to fulfil her mission, to expand the powers, to enlarge the grasp, to sharpen the perceptions of the intellect." *
It is yours to excite in the mind a love of learning. It is yours to develop and invigorate the powers by which all learning shall be attained, and your first successful step, either in the training of yourself, or of others, is the sure and unmistakable prognostic of all future success.
Let the mind be but once awakened to the beauties of science; let it but once imbibe a draught of that delicious stream, which, with perennial waters, wells forth from wisdom's sacred fountain, and it can never suffer its appetite to be satiated. The acquisition of knowledge begets the desire for more. Like Jealousy, "it makes what it doth feed on.” And to awaken this desire, to incite this appetite, to quicken and invigorate all the powers of the intellect in the pursuit of food with which to supply this appetite, constitutes the great business of Education.
The time has indeed been, when philosophy and
* J. R. Young.
all learning was a sealed, and unknown, nay, almost an unseen book, to the great mass of mankind. A few individuals, whose inclinations, whose seclusion from the world, whose freedom from harassing cares and life-supporting toil; whose means and whose minds were all propitious to the favored possessor, and, fortunately for him, propitiously disposed for the work, attempted to achieve the undertaking, and to surmount the obstacles, which the ancient method of study and of education delighted to throw in the way of the scholar. The disciples of Plato listened to the instructions of their master five long years, before they were considered wise enough even to ask a question; and the novices of Druidism, the ancient religion of our primitive British progenitors, spent the longer period of twenty years in mastering the obscure and mysterious versification, under which all the profound learning of the Druidical priests was enveloped. But a brighter day has dawned. The temple of learning is no longer obscured by impervious clouds, and denied to the vision of those who would seek to enter and worship at the altar of the Divinity enshrined within. She herself is the uncompromising foe of all mystery and concealment, abhorring all pedantry and conceitedness of learning, and all the vain folly of intellectual pride. She holds out persuasive and substantial allurements to all men, of every grade and name, to enter her hallowed precincts. Unlike the fabled divinities of Grecian and Roman and Northern Mythology, she takes no votive offerings from her worshippers, but loads them all with precious gifts, in just proportion to the sincerity of their devotion. None are rejected, none unreward