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What a sublime indifference to the limits of the savage intellect and the capabilities of aboriginal speech is here ! and what a reckless faith in metaphysics! The Christian literature of New England has outgrown the day when anything like this was possible; it exhibits art and skill and a capacity for self-adjustment, and, above all, it has clothed itself in a beautiful utility. See how it extends into every domain of life ; see how it grapples with every social and scientific problem ; see how it is imbued with the spirit of reform and of progress; see how it covers the wide field of ethics and politics, of parish work and missions, of amusements and labor, of education and art!
Along with this change from the technical and narrow to the broad and practical, from the provincial to the cosmopolitan, in the character of our Christian literature, has come a change in its outward form, revealing the same law of progress. I refer to the change by which it has become so largely periodical, becoming thereby all the more wide-spread and popular. In the seventeenth century, an author had no vehicle for his opinions save the pamphlet or the book. But in the year 1704 there came from the press the first newspaper, . the News-Letter of Boston. The Connecticut Gazette was established in 1755; and in 1775 there were in all the Colonies thirty-seven newspapers. In due time the religious world had its periodicals—the Evangelical Magazine of Hartford, in 1800; the Religious Intelligencer of New Haven, in 1817; the Christian Spectator, two years after ; the Christian Sentinel in 1838 ; the New Englander in 1843; and beyond the limits of Connecticut many others, some of them now defunct, and some still living,—an army of journals and magazines, carrying Christian truth in an endless variety of forms into the homes of the people. Much of this literature is certainly superficial, crude and worthless; but upon the whole it is able, pointed, honest, and helpful to mankind.
Of the multitude of Connecticut people who have visited the International Exhibition at Philadelphia, some, no doubt, must have observed in the department of American education
the “exhibit” of books written by the alumni of Yale College. Shelf above shelf, in the Connecticut division, was filled with their works—the fruit of the flourishing tree planted at the center of this provincial town, so many years ago. The collection is one which does honor to Yale College and to Connecticut. And it suggests these facts, among many: first, that a genuine literature is an exponent of the life of the people—partaking, so to speak, of the flavor of the soil ; secondly, that universities and colleges are ever the fountains whence the best literatures flow; and lastly, that a good literature, in a free land like this, is almost unlimited in its scope and in its diffusion, and unmeasured in its beneficent influence.
We are here to-night, at the close of a Conference which has been largely retrospective, to nourish in ourselves the spirit of thankfulness. As we recall our occasions for gratitude, let us not fail to take account of the function of human speech, and the invention of letters and of printing. And let us give thanks for this, that New England men have ever been bold to speak and skillful to write, that the freedom of the press has never been denied to us, and that in all our history those who have sought the companionship which is found in good books—whether for the light which they shed upon the mind, or the consolation which they bestow upon smitten hearts-have not sought it in vain. So may it ever be !
THE INFLUENCE OF NEW ENGLAND IDEAS ON
THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY.
AN ADDRESS BY PROF. CYRUS NORTHROP.
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The first New England charter.” That solemn compact of government signed in the cabin of the Mayflower, Bancroft pronounces “the birth of constitutional liberty.” He asserts that “democratic liberty and independent Christian worship at once existed in America as the Pilgrims landed.”
We may safely assume, then, that liberty, in State and in Church, or, to use a much-abused term, "local self-government,” is a New England idea; and even the most cursory glance at our history, political and ecclesiastical, reveals the fact that this idea has been most steadily cherished and most carefully guarded. In our local town governments, and in our Congregational churches throughout the country, the idea is most happily illustrated. The extent to which this idea has been propagated may be most readily seen by following the lines of New England emigration. Within these lines we find New England ideas triumphant. Outside of these lines other ideas, modified more or less by New England example, seem to prevail. From the older New England States Vermont was settled. Then a New England emigration peopled Western New York. Then from New England and New Englanders in New York in the next generation, Northern Ohio, and to some extent the rest of the State was settled. Then Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas, were successively occupied. And finally, even Calinia, Oregon, and the intervening region received a large emi
gration of people of New England origin. On the other hand, Indiana was hardly affected by New England emigration, Pennsylvania and Kentucky dividing the honor of forming the character of that State. Lower New York and New Jersey were never controlled by the New England element. But all the vast territory largely peopled by persons of New England origin has been uniformly faithful to the New England idea of democratic liberty; and even in the cities of the older States, where a more recent emigration from Europe has materially changed the character of the population, the essential New England ideas have not yet been dethroned.
A second New England idea is universal education. The early organization of Harvard and Yale, and the establishment of schools in every hamlet where there were children to be taught, furnish most conclusive evidence of the high estimation in which our fathers held the intellectual culture of the young. Though living themselves in the rudest loghouses, they took care to provide comparatively comfortable school-houses, in which their children could be educated. Their school-houses were not such buildings as now adorn our cities and principal towns, nor was the education therein gained such as may now be acquired in even our common schools; but the instruction given was adequate to the wants of the time, and developed noble and intelligent men and women, who were most serviceable to the State and to the Church. Nor was it alone in New England that the power of this education was felt. The boys and girls trained by it became the founders of new commonwealths in the West, and they carried with them everywhere the New England system of common schools. The admirable school system of many of the States of the West and Northwest, and the liberal support given to it, are the fruits of New England ideas transplanted and germinating in a most fertile soil. That the West, for the last half century, has not been as dark, intellectually, as some other parts of our country, is due to the fact that New England and not Virginia molded its institutions and furnished the controlling elements of its civilization.
A third New England idea was that religion consists more in a life of faith and obedience than in a connection with any church organization ; that the tie which binds the individual believer to Christ is stronger and more important than the tie which binds him to any given number or any given class of believers as a church. They valued their churches highly, but most of all for the freedom they secured to individual believers, and their exemption from outside influence unauthorized by the Word of God. The church existed for the strengthening and edification of believers, and not the believers for the glory of the church. Hence there resulted great freedom from
narrow and bigoted sectarianism. Hence that readiness shown everywhere and always by Congregationalists to co-operate with Christians of any name in carrying forward the work of Christ without regard to their own denominational preferences. Hence that readiness to join other churches, where a church of their own polity could not be found. Hence that liberality of our great missionary organizations in founding and sustaining churches not ongregational Hence that noble spirit of charity in which Congregationalists have contributed most bountifully to a great variety of enterprises for the benefit of the world, without the slightest prospect of advantage to distinctive Congregationalism.
This New England idea may be briefly stated as preferring the substance to the form. The value of this conciliating element in combining other more inflexible and rigid elements in a new country for Christian work, can hardly be overestimated, and the influence for good which it has exerted in the West has been incalculably great. If now you tell me that the New Englanders were severe in their beliefs, and that they lived in an atmosphere of gloom, I say of them as Paul said to the church at Corinth: “What carefulness it wrought in them, what clearing of themselves, what earnestness, what fear, what zeal.” The godly sorrow or the severe belief which produces such results cannot be very bad. We live in a time when brighter views of God's government are entertained; but the sterner beliefs of the