Page images

Do we not every day seè men determine positively against religion, who are known never once to have thought of it in earnest ; and attack it by all the unfair arts in the world, whilst they themselves are declaiming against such arts? Do we not see them even triumph in the thought of its being false, though the everlasting happiness of every good man depends upon its truth? And are these the worthy spirits to whose tutoring young persons are to be delivered over in their native ignorance, for fear of prejudices? Or is it not on all accounts wise and fit, that the mind, whilst untainted with evil communication or vice, should have the most important of all truths confirmed to it by proper arguments; and be formed to the right and happy temper, of cheerful obedience to the greatest and best of beings, the Father and God of our lives * ;

Since therefore instruction of youth in religion, virtue, and knowledge, appears attended with so many advantages; it follows, * II. That all persons concerned should endeavour with united care, in their several stations, that these advantages may be effectually obtained; especially in the places dedicated to that purpose. · The public care, in this respect, we must ever gratefully own, continued through a long succession of our princes; and flourishing still in its height, under the administration of a king, zealous for the happiness of his people, and resolute to maintain all the rights of all his subjects. Next to whose assured and experienced protection, we cannot but gratefully acknowledge the gracious munificence of his royal consort; therefore bountiful to religion and learning, because she most intimately knows their value, and most affectionately esteems them.

Ecclus. xxiï. 4.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Secure then of the public favour to whatever is connected with the public good; we have only their attention to solicit who are personally interested : parents, or whoever supply their place; the conductors of education; and, the young persons to be educated.

To you who are parents, nature itself hath given a tender concern for your children's welfare, as your own; and reminds you justly, that, as you have brought them into the dangers of life, your business it is to provide, that they get well through them. Now the only provision commonly attended to, of wealth and honours, can never produce happiness ; unless the mind, on which all depends, be taught to enjoy them properly. Fortune, without this, will but lead them to more abandoned sallies of extravagance; and rank expose them to more public cen

Education then is the great care, with which you are entrusted ; scarce more for their sakes than your own.

You may be negligent of your son's instruction : but it is on you, as well as himself, that his ignorance and contemptibleness will bring both reproach and inconvenience. You may be regardless of his morals: but you may be the person, who will at last the most severely feel his want of them. You may be indifferent about his religion: hut remember dutifulness to you is one great precept of religion: and all the rest promote such habits, as you may bitterly repent, when it is too late, your omission to cultivate in him; and live and die miserable on his account, whom timely care would have made your joy and honour.

Parents therefore should always be friends to education, and to places of education: should wish well to them; and never, without great reason, think ill of them. The enemies of religion and virtue, an in


creasing number, will of course be enemies to those who teach them; and the more so, the more carefully they teach them. The enemies to either part of our happy constitution, will look with an evil eye on establishments, designed for the support of botha More private motives will excite injurious treatment of them from some persons. And even those of better meaning may be engaged, by misinformations and prejudices, to pass harsh judgments and say unfriendly things. But reasonable men will always distinguish, by what person, on what grounds, with what temper and what views, disadvantageous characters are given, or reports raised. They will also consider that the unhappy divisions of this nation cannot but have caused, on all sides, in length of time, some degree of wrong opinion and wrong conduct towards one another; mutual jealousies and misunderstandings between those, whose interests, and whose intentions, were in general the same: differences, which it must be ruinous to heighten, dangerous to continue, useless to pass judgment in; but most important to reconcile, by such conduct on every hand, as may give no suspicion of ill design, but all proofs of good. Friendly methods will not fail to unite the hearts of men; and make them susceptible of mutual advice and improvement, assistance and benefit. Whoever will view the seats of learning, with these considerations present to his mind, will judge favourably concerning them; and not only admire the pious bounty of our ancestors, who dedicated these delightful retreats to knowledge and virtue, founded these beautiful structures, enriched them with such amazing treasures of literature, and provided so nobly for the accommodation of fit persons to enjoy and communicate the instruction of them; but be thankful for the many and great blessings, which they have conveyed to every age, and will, we hope, derive to latest posterity.

Ideas of perfection are visionary things: but look into fact, and where will those, who inveigh against the education of our universities, recommend a more improving one? The indulgent softness of the parent's family is apt, at best, to give young persons a most unhappy effeminateness; the governor, if he hath abilities, hath scarce ever authority to enforce diligence; want of rivals keeps the mind languid : and upon the whole, seldom any thing considerable comes out. If now the contrary method be taken, of sending them, raw and uninstructed, to visit foreign countries; what improvement will minds unprepared for improvement make there ? As to religion; the disuse of frequenting its exercises, and the daily view of its corruptions, will be in danger of effacing all regard to it. With respect to morals; in the midst of so great temptation, so little restraint, and so general bad example, it must be a high degree of virtue, that can keep itself in countenance. Then for such opportunities of instruction, as different laws, manners, and customs, may be supposed to give; these require a mind trained up beforehand to attention and judgment. On all others they will be just as likely to make wrong impressions as right, if they make any: but indeed what impressions of all kinds are usually made, and how far the improvements brought home answer the national expence for them, lies within the compass of daily observation.

If then, in the next place, we compare at least foreign universities with our own: is their theology worthier of God, more conformable to reason and primitive Christianity; is their philosophy juster and more solid, less full of imagination and hypothesis ; than that of our great countrymen, whose names I need not suggest ? Will the ornamental rewards of learning be more fitly bestowed, where no time previous to the application for them is required? Will industry be more universal, without any inspection over it; behaviour more regular, without any rule set to it; than where young persons are formed into orderly societies, distinguished by proper habits, restrained to proper hours, obliged to proper studies, and watched over with continual care ? Miscarriages, after all, will happen in such numbers of such an age.

But the general good order that reigns here, to most foreigners, not the worst judges in this case, appears incredible when related, and very surprising when seen. It remains only to wish, what there never was more hope of; that, as our universities have long excelled all others, they may continually improve upon themselves.

But still, parents must not expect their children's improvement should be great, unless they contribute their own share to it. If indolence and luxury be taught them by bad example, or prejudice against every thing serious and praise-worthy by bad conversation, before they come hither; if they come with little or no charge given about regularity and application, but licence be claimed for them in proportion to their quality; or if, after the mere form of a short confinement here, they are let immediately loose, to wear off by negligence and profligateness, the few slight good impressions that could be made ; what room hath the parent to hope for improvement, or complain if none be found ?

But let him be careful in his own duty first: then the

persons to whom he commits his child after

« PreviousContinue »