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Faith makes us, and not we it; and faith makes its own forms. All attempts to contrive a system are as cold as the new worship introduced by the French to the goddess of Reason,—to-day, pasteboard and filagree; and ending, to-morrow, in madness and murder. Rather let the breath of new life be breathed by you through the forms already existing; for, if once you are alive, you shall find they shall become plastic and new. The remedy to their deformity is—first, soul; and second, soul; and evermore, soul. A whole popedom of forms, one pulsation of virtue can uplift and vivify. Two inestimable advantages Christianity has given us; first, the Sabbath, the jubilee of the whole world, whose light dawns welcome alike into the closet of the philosopher, into the garret of toil, and into prison cells; and everywhere suggests, even to the vile, a thought of the dignity of spiritual being. Let it stand for evermore a temple, which new love, new faith, new sight, shall restore to more than its first splendour to mankind. And secondly, the institution of preaching,—the speech of man to men, essentially the most flexible of all organs, of all forms. What hinders that now, everywhere, in pulpits, in lecture-rooms, in houses, in fields, wherever the invitation of men or your own occa
sions lead you, you speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation?
I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty which ravished the souls of those Eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews, and through their lips spoke oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also. The Hebrew and Greek Scriptures contain immortal sentences, that have been bread of life to millions; but they have no epical integrity,—are fragmentary,—are not shown in their order to the intellect. I look for the new Teacher, that shall follow so far those shining laws, that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their rounding complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the soul; shall see the identity of the law of gravitation with purity of heart; and shall show that the Ought, that Duty, is one thing with Science, with Beauty, and with Joy.
AN ORATION DELIVERED BEFORE THE LITERARY
SOCIETIES OF DARTMOUTH COLLEGE,
July 24, 1838.
QENTLEMEN,—The invitation to address you this day, with which you have honoured me, was a call so welcome, that I made haste to obey it. A summons to celebrate with scholars a literary festival, is so alluring to me, as to overcome the doubts I might well entertain of my ability to bring you any thought worthy of your attention. I have reached the middle age of man; yet I believe I am not less glad or sanguine at the meeting of scholars, than when, a boy, I first saw the graduates of my own College assembled at their anniversary. Neither years nor books have yet availed to eradicate a prejudice then rooted in me, that a scholar is the
favourite of Heaven and earth, the excellency of his country, the happiest of men. His duties lead him directly into the holy ground where other men's aspirations only point. His successes are occasions of the purest joy to all men. Eyes is he to the blind; feet is he to the lame. His failures, if he is worthy, are inlets to higher advantages. And because the scholar, by every thought he thinks, extends his dominion into the general mind of men, he is not one, but many. The few scholars in each country, whose genius I know, seem to me not individuals, but societies; and, when events occur of great import, I count over these representatives of opinion, whom they will affect, as if I were counting nations. And, even if his results were incommunicable; if they abode in his own spirit; the intellect hath somewhat so sacred in its possessions, that the fact of his existence and pursuits would not be without joy.
Meantime I know that a very different estimate of the scholar's profession prevails in this country, and the importunity, with which society presses its claim upon young men, tends always to pervert the views of the youth in respect to the culture of the intellect. Somewhat mediocre and sordid has polluted the image of this great duty. It is not sought with enthusiasm. Its higher courts,—
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of philosophy, of poetry,—are thinly peopled, and the intellect still wants the voice that shall say to it, "Sleep no more."
Hence the historical failure on which Europe and America have so freely commented. This country has not fulfilled what seemed the reasonable expectation of mankind. Men looked, when all feudal straps and bandages were snapped asunder, that Nature, too long the mother of dwarfs, should reimburse itself by a brood of Titans, who should laugh and leap in the continent, and run up the mountains of the West with the errand of genius and of love. But the mark of American merit in painting, in sculpture, in poetry, in fiction, in eloquence, seems to be a certain grace without grandeur, and itself not new but derivative; a vase of fair outline, but empty,—. which whoso sees, may fill with what wit and character is in him, but which does not, like the charged cloud, overflow with terrible beauty and emit lightnings on all beholders; a muse which does not lay the grasp of despotic genius on us, and chain an age to its thought and emotion.
I will not lose myself in the desultory questions, what are the limitations, and what the causes of the fact . It suffices me to say, in general, that all particular reasons merge themselves in this,