« PreviousContinue »
contrition have been their bitter fruits. At the prospect of shame, dishonor and infamy, your spirits would shudder within you.
4 Not only are you free, as yet. from the slavery of sinful passions, but the virtuous principles of your constitution, aided by the holy spirit of God, maintain a decided preponderance over those which incline you to evil. Your heart dilates with secret emulation and delight, when you hear recounted any generous and noble deeds which have been performed by others. Your moral feelings are alive to all the claims of duty.
5 The doctrines of the gospel interest and touch your heart, while its moral precepts recommend themselves by an irresistible evidence to your understandings. You cannot walk abroad and contemplate the wonders of creation, without feeling a sacred glow of gratitude and love to their beneficent Author.
6 Such, at this time, my young brethren, in all probability, is your moral condition, and such are your views, feelings and principles of action. It is a happy and most precious moment of your lives, could you but be rendered sensible of its full importance. This is to you emphatically the accepted time, this is the day of salvation.
7 From the days of infancy to those of boyhood, and from those of boyhood to those of youth, no determinate plans are formed, and scarcely ever any definite character impressed upon the mind. Through this portion of the journey of life, almost all of us pass with equal thoughtlessness and frivolity, and when arrived at youth find ourselves at the same stage and pursuing the same road.
8 Not so, however, when we have attained to youth and manhood. From the moment in which you commence an intercourse with the world on your own account, and mingle amongst its actors, entering into its interests, its sympathies and its conflicts, the paths in which you walk begin to diverge from each other. Some of them will lead you to respectability, peace, honor, fame, immortality; while others will conduct you in a downward course to shame, disgrace, misery and everlasting contempt.
9 You stand, my young brethren, upon the point from which this divergence begins.-Does it not infinitely concern you to give heed to the steps which you shall take next, to pause seriously, reflect and deliberate before you precipitate yourselves into unseen dangers, and begin to contest with
enemies with whose strength and wiles you are unacquainted?
10 Hitherto amidst the levity and heedlessness of younger years, reflection and seriousness were more difficult to be attained by you; but it is now time, that you should be susceptible of the impressions of truth and duty, and should imbibe the lessons of wisdom and sobriety.
11 It is fearful to reflect upon the changes which often take place in the fortunes and conditions of young men, immediately after that period of life to which you have now attained. How many opening prospects of youth are soon clouded or sunk in perpetual night! How many hearts of parents and friends are wrung with anguish at the sudden disappointment of those hopes which they had long and fondly cherished!
12 You yourselves are entirely unapprised of the severity of that trial to which you must be subjected in making your way through the world-what evil communications will essay to corrupt your good manners. What blasphemies and impieties will incessantly assail your ear and insinuate a secret poison into your hearts!
13 And it is to be remarked as an awful admonition, on this head, that the progress which our unruly appetites and passions make towards subjecting us to their despotism, is imperceptible; and that the demands which they make upon us are increased by every indulgence which we grant them. We are subjected to their yoke before we are aware; and then, of all the criminal desires, it may be truly said, that increase of appetite doth grow by the very aliment they have fed upon.
14 How precious, in this point of light, is the period of youth, and how infinitely important the restraining influence of religion, to save it from the miseries it may bring upon itself!
15 My young brethren, you may now be awake to every virtuous and noble sentiment, and susceptible of the tenderest impressions of religion-and yet, a little familiarity with -scenes of guilt, may diminish your sensibility in this respect, gradually harden your heart, and vitiate your thoughts and principles of action.
16 Vice insidiously spreads its contamination through the youthful mind; and when once it is deeply imbibed, where is the antidote that shall check its fatal progress ?-What an impressive lesson does this consideration teach you, to cultivate an early piety, which is the only effectual expedient by which you shall be saved from the evils to come!
17 The next consideration which should lead you to seek the grace of early piety, is, that it furnishes you with the best provision for a long and happy life.
18 But if virtue has sometimes to encounter persecutions and be tested by its trials, it never fails ultimately to contribute to our welfare, and promote our true enjoyment. Vice, on the other hand, by the tumult and inquietude which it awakes in the bosom, never fails, not only to imbitter our pleasures, but also to abridge the term of our present lives.
19 The wicked shall not live out half their days.—Intemperance, debauchery, avarice, inordinate ambition, revenge, all the wild and lawless passions, hurry their victims to untimely graves. Do you not perceive that righteousness exalteth to honor, but that sin sinketh down to shame ? Are not the good, although not always, yet, for the most part, the prosperous upon earth?
20 Do they not find that while the name of the wicked is allowed to rot in public estimation, a good name is to them better than great riches, and loving favor than silver and gold?
21 Their meekness and gentleness of disposition conciliate the esteem and affection of others, their soft words extinguish wrath,-their patience and forbearance under provocations and injuries disarm resentment and revenge,their blameless lives and scrupulous integrity attract universal confidence, their habitual intercourse with God, both by internal and external acts of homage, purifies their minds from all unholy desires, and quells the turbulence of unruly passions, while that ardent love of mankind which springs out of the pure fountain of religion in the heart, prompts them to those benevolent, humane and disinterested exertions, which never fail to reward the performers of them with the gratitude and attachment of their fellow-men.
Selections from the first Message of Governor Thomas, to the Legislature of Delaware, Jan. 7, 1824.
1 I would earnestly press upon your attention the propriety of adopting some plan, by which the means of education may be accessible to every member of the community. This is a subject of primary importance, and I trust it will receive from you that serious consideration to which it is justly entitled. The school fund is gradually increasing; but if permitted to remain untouched, it would require at
least twenty or thirty years before it would be sufficient to carry instruction into every family.
2 If nursed with the most assiduous care, one generation must pass away before it would be productive of any benefit to the community. In these portentous times, it seems rather a hazardous experiment to permit one generation to sleep in ignorance, in order that light and knowledge may be extended in the succeeding. The best way to secure the blessings of education to the next generation is to confer them upon the present.
3 Ignorance cannot appreciate what it never enjoyed: they alone who have been favored with the blessings of education, can estimate them at their proper value; and they alone will be anxious to transmit them, unimpaired, to their posterity.
4 If the rising generation is permitted to remain in ignorance, there is little security that the treasures you design for their children will not be directed into some other channel but if we bestow upon the rising youth those benefits which flow from virtue and knowledge, it seems a needless apprehension to suppose that they will be less solicitous than we are, to transmit to their descendants those blessings from which they themselves have derived such sensible comforts.
5 I would, therefore, recommend to your consideration the propriety of calling the school fund into active operation, and of supplying its deficiency to promote the object for which it was originally designed, by a school tax. Such a tax would be a blessing to the people, rather than a burden, for it would tend to relieve them from the most intolerable of all burdens, the burden of immorality and ignorance.
6 In a country like ours, where all power, directly or indirectly, flows from the people, it is a matter of astonishment that the diffusion of knowledge and the extension of religion and morality among the people were not the first object of public patronage. Some of our sister states have wisely extended the arm of public protection over the education of the poor. I trust that you will not be backward in following this example.
7 No longer satisfied with passing laws to punish bad habits, let us unite our efforts in the enactment of laws to prevent their formation. If the fountain is permitted to remain open, it is a useless labor to throw barriers across the stream. It is in vain that we swell our penal code, if every rising generation is permitted to be raised in ignorance and
In vain do we boast of our elective franchise, and of our civil rights, if a large portion of our citizens are unable to read the tickets which they annually present at the polls.
8 Some men may think themselves free, but in fact they are slaves. Ignorance always has been, and always will be, the slave of knowledge. If information is generally diffused among a people, that people will always be their own masters-they will always govern. An enlightened people never has been, and never can be, enslaved. But, if the door of knowledge is closed upon the poor, who are always the great mass of the people; if education is confined to the circles of the rich, the few will govern.
9 The people may, for a while, be flattered with the idea that they are free, and rest contented under the delusion; but this dream will vanish, and they will soon openly be constrained to wear the chains which their own ignorance forged.
10 The unhappy situation of foreign nations induces me, thus urgently, to press upon you the subject of education. What but ignorance, and its necessary accompaniment, vice, have reared that disgusting spectacle of moral debasement which Europe at present exhibits? Sensible of the incompatibility between knowledge and slavery, the masters of the old world have closed every avenue against the people, and openly declared that a nation, to be kept.in chains, must be kept in ignorance.
11 The circulation of all books that advocate political liberty and civil rights, has been suppressed, and the freedom of the press is totally destroyed. If we would avoid these effects, let us avoid the cause. Human nature is the same in every clime, and in the same circumstance with the same causes pressing upon it, will always produce the same effects.
12 Every page of history exposes to us the shoals upon which other nations have shipwrecked their liberty, and the present state of Europe dreadfully confirms the lesson. Enlighten the people-open schools for the instruction of the poor, and our liberty will be perpetual. But, if we close our ears against the admonitions of history, and shut our eyes against the light of experience, the fairest prospects that ever opened upon the world will be blighted, and the hopes of humanity, and the prayers of the pious, will be fruitless and unavailing.
13 I would also earnestly recommend to you the abolish