Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

We have bad satirists with nothing of Dryden but his vulgarity, and of Churchill but his malice; wits, who got drunk, because Addison was not always sober; liquorish writers in imitation of Sterne ; and others foul from the pages of Swift. We have had paradoxes and confessions in the style of Rousseau, without any of bis genius, and freethinkers innu. merable of the school of Voltaire, who could not afford to be at once wits and christians. In a more barmless way, we have had sterile writers, whose veins would flow only at particular seasons; puny moralists, talking big like Johnson; orators, with nothing, as one may say, of Tully but his wart, and of Demosthenes but his stammer; in short, my friends, we have had enough of “the contortions of the Sybil, without her inspiration.”

The infirmities of noble minds are often so consecrated by their greatness, that an unconscious imitation of their peculiarities, which are real defects, may sometimes be pardoned in their admirers. But to copy their vices, or 10 hunt in their works for those very lines, wbich, when dying, they would most wish to blot, is a different offence. I know of nothing in literature so unpardonable as this. He who poaches among the labours of the learned only to find what there is polluted in their language, or licentious in their works'; be who searches the biography of men of genius to find precedents for bis follies, or palliations of his own stupid depravily, can be compared to nothing more strongly ihan 10 the man, who should walk through the gallery of antiques, and every day gaze upon the Apollo, the Venus, or the Laocoon, and yet, proh pudor! bring away an imagination impressed with nothing but ihe remembrance that they were naked.

But I must pursue this subject no further. My friends! you who are now to enter into the world with the fruits of your education here, and

you too

who bave for many years made learning your em. ployment, permit me to remind you, ibat all our acquisitions are due to that country, which gave us birth, to that society, wbich protects and encourages us, to those parents and friends, who have aided our progress, and to that religion, which is the strength of our excellence, and which alone promises eternal life and satisfaction to the mind of man panting after truth. Truth, truth is indeed the ultimale object of human study; and though the pleasure of learning is often in itself a sufficient motive and reward, yet are we not to forget that we all owe something to society. That well known tendency of men

of letters to inertia and repose must, therefore, be resolutely counteracted. You must tear yourselves away, my friends, from the noctes caenaeque Deorum, where you hold converse with the fine spirits of former days, and inquire what you may do for mankind. Learning is not a superfluity; and utility must, after all, be the object of your studies. The theologian, like Paley, who makes truth intelligible to the humblest; the preacher, like Fenelon, who imparts the divine warmth of his own soul to the souls of his readers; the moralist, like Johnson, who

gives ardour to virtue and confidence to truth ;" the jurist, like Mansfield, who contributes to the perfect administration of justice; the statesman, who stems the torrent of corruption, and directs the rising virtue of an indignant people ; tbe pbilosopher, who leaves in bis writings the pregnant germs of future discoveries; the historian, and the poet, who not only preserve the names of the great, bui, in words that burn, inflame us with the love of their excellence, are of more value to the community, than a whole cabinet of diletlanti, and more worthy of your imitation than Magliabecbi, reposing on the ponderous tomes of bis library, a mere corpus literarum.

.

You, too, who are about to enter upon the business of manly life, should koow, that literature, whether it be her pride, or her misfortune, will disdain to divide the empire of your heart. She scorns to enter into partnership with the love of money, or the ambition of noisy distinction, or with any otber inordinate affection. Hardly will she submit to be encumbered with the common worldly anxieties, much less to follow in the train of lust and corruption. Genius, it is true, sometimes bursts though all these impediments; and in the midst of vice and dissipation, and even in the embarrassments of love, has been known to plant bis standard on the top of Parnassus. But in general, and especially in our own country, nothing is more just than the remark of Quinculian : Quod si agrorum nimia cura, et sol. licitior rei familiaris diligentia, et venandi voluptas, et dati spectaculis dies, multum studiis auferunt, quid putamus facturas cupiditatem, avaritiam, invidiam ? Quis inter haec literis, aut ulli bonae arti locus ? Non, bercle, magis quam frugibus, in terra sentibus et rubis occupata.

Indeed, my friends, it is time to have done with our short cuts to reputation. Let us no longer think of finding a royal road to learning. It is time that our libraries were better furnished, our presses less prolific, and we not so impatient of being unknown. If there is any thing which particularly distinguishes the literature of the seventeenth century from that of the present times, it is, that then the men of letters were willing to study, and now they are in haste to publish. That was the age of scholars ;

* If a solicitous care of our estates, and the love of sporting, and a passion for the theatre, subtract so much from our studies, what can be expected from a mind engrossed with cupidity, avarice, and evil passions? lo such a life what place is there for letters, or any honourable pursuit ? Indeed, we might as well expect a harvest from a field overgrown with briars and brambles! Quinctiljan. Inst. Orat. Lib. 12.

a

сар. 1.

this of readers and of printers. The great men of that age were formed like the trees of a hundred years growth, by perpetually drawing nutriment from the soil, and at the same time drinking in the pure air of beaven; while we, like the ivy, slender and rapid in our growth, and full of leaves, are, I fear, of short continuance, except as we learn- to cling around them.

I should be unfaithful to myself and to the subject, if I should leave it, without mentioning it as the most solemn of our obligations as scholars, to take care that we give no currency to error or sanction to vice. Unfortunately, there is enough of corrupt literature in the world; and when the mind has once begun to make that its poison, which ought to be its medicine, I know not how the soul is to be recovered, except by the power of God in his word. Scbolars ! I dare not say, that the cause of religion depends upon the fidelity of the learned; but I do say, that gratitude and every motive of virtue demand of you a reverence for the gospel. Protestant christianity has in former times given learning such support, as learning never can repay. The history of Christendom bears witness to this. The names of Erasmus, of Grotius, of Bacon and a bost of luminaries of science, who rise up like a wall of fire around the cause of christianity, will bear witness to this. They cry out in the language of Tully; 0 vitae dux! o virtutis indagatrix, expultrixque vitiorum ! quid non modo nos, sed omnino vita hominum sine te esse potuisset. Without this for the guide and terminus of your studies, you may “ but go down to bell, with a great deal of wisdom." My friends, infidelity has had one triumph in our Jays; and we bare seen learning, as well as virtue, trampled under the hoofs of its infuriated steeds, Jet loose by the hand of impiety. Fanaticism, too, has bad more than one day of desolation ; and its consequences have been such, as ought always to put learning on its guard. Remember, then, the place where we have been educated, and the pious bounty which has enriched it for our sakes! Think of the ancestors who have transmitted to us our christian liberties! Nay, hear the voice of posterity, pleading with you for her peace, and beseeching you not to send down your names, stained witb profligacy and irreligion. Do you want examples of learned christians? I could not recount them all in an age. You need not to be told that

* See Dr. Jortin's first charge, entitled “Christianity the preserver and supporter of Literature." Serm. Fol. 7. p. 353.

† Tusc. Quaest. Lib, 5. 2.

Learning has borne such fruit in other days,
Oo all her branches ; piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer
Has flowed from lips wet with Castalian dewe.*

Yes, it has! We have known and loved such men, and, thank God, have been loved by them. There is now present to my mind the image of a scholar, whom some of you knew, (for he was one of us,) and those who knew him well will say with me, he was as pure a spirit as ever tasted the dew of Castalia ! How would Waltek lave delighted in this anniversary! He would have heard me! we, who am pow left to speak of him only, and ask for him the tribule, the passing tribute of your grateful recollection! He would have heard me! It may be, ibat he now bears me, and is pleased with this tribute.

-Manibus date lilia plenis; Purpureos spargam flores, apimamque amici

زم

* Cowper's Task, Book iij.

« AnteriorContinuar »