Text. – Schools, Academies and Colleges, are the inexhuastible fountains of true piety, morality and literature.
The text, in substance, occurs as frequently in the constitution, laws, usages, governors’ speeches, and election sermons of Massachusetts, as the phrase, “And the Lord spake unto Moses,” does in the pentateuch. But I am as hard put to it, to find anything like it in the New Testament, as I am to find out who Cain’s wife was, or where Tubal Cain got his first hammer to work with. If I do not believe it, I shall be called a Diest; and, if I do believe it, as far as I have yet seen, I must believe without evidence. Instead, therefore, of dividing my text into propositions, I shall, in the first place, examine its divinity. The authenticity of the text is questions, on the following grounds:
First. It is contrary to evident fact. The absolute precepts of Jehovah have varied with the times and dispensations in which men have lived, but the essentials of piety have always been the same. A dedication of the heart to God, and obedience to his voice, have been, now are, and ever will be, the quintessence of piety. That righteous Abel possessed this true piety, is certain; and who can imagine that schools, academies and colleges, were in existence in the days of Abel. Yet, according to the text, they must have been the fountain whence the steams of piety flowed to the first martyr.
But further, when Christianity was introduced among men, John was the harbinger – Jesus the King, and the apostles were heralds and ambassadors. John was brought up in the wilderness – Jesus, (as the Jews said,) was not learned – the apostles, for the most part, were ignorant Galileans. And was there no true piety in them? No morality in the system which they taught? The questions answer themselves.
The primitive Christians were not only without the aid of law and the assistance of the schools, but had to combat both, for about three hundred years; during which period, more true piety and morality was seen among them, than has ever been at any period since, which could not have been the case, if the text is true.
Second. True piety proceeds from a fountain, distinct from schools of learning. That true piety in the heart is the gift of God, all confess, who possess it; and every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights. “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, whereby ye know all things. I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh,” &c. Who can read such passages, (which abound in the scripture,) and believe them, and at the same time believe that schools of learning are the fountains of true piety?
Third. The text, with its usual comment, defeats itself. Individuals, associations, and legislatures, are said to found such schools from pious views. Now, if the founders have true piety in their hearts before the academies or colleges are founded, how can such schools be the fountains of all true piety? Piety before schools, and schools before piety. Strange logic.
Fourth. That seminaries of learning are preservatives and improvements of literature, is true; but to call them the fountains of it, is not proper, without there was a seminary to instruct the preceptor who established the first seminary, which would not have been possible. But why should true piety and literature be classed in the same grade, when they are radically different in their natures? The greatest scholar, is often at the greatest distance from true piety; and the most pious saint as far from the embellishments of literature. Science informs the mind in things of this life – piety gives knowledge of, and prepares the soul for the life to come. And as well may cold iron and hot be welded together, as piety and literature. It is true, a man may possess both; but if he does, he knows they proceed from different fountains – have a different tendency to different ends.
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First. By way of enquiry. What are those people to do, in this state,who have a regard for the civil and religious rights of men, and are borne down by a hierarchal clergy – a despotic judiciary – an aristrocratic host of lawyers – a great majority of the presses – the influence of the colleges – and the superstition of the ignorant?
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Second. A word of advice. Evils in government had better be borne with, as long as they are sufferable, than to make government too changeable: but the representation of this state is so large, that it loudly calls for a constitutional reform. Should the legislature make and appeal to the towns, either to choose a convention for, or prescribe, in their municipal capacities, a revision of the constitution, it is hoped that they will not be restricted to the article of representation only. It is believed that one hundred and fifty representatives, would be better than six hundred; and that, if the judges were made a little more responsible to men, they might feel themselves a little more accountable to God; and that the third article of the declaration of rights, should be blotted out, taking the constitution of the United States for a pattern in this particular. If these amendments could take place, with the addition of a new article, similar to the fifth article of the United States constitution, my advice would be answered.
Third. Some observations. Nothing is more plain, than that the Almighty has set up the government of the United States in answer to the prayers of all the saints, down from the first proclamations of the gospel. The earth, at last, has helped the woman. Had such a government existed, from the beginning of the Christian era, what rivers of blood – what shocking havoc – how much imprisonment, confiscation, exile, torture and burning, would have been prevented! “Rome was not built in a day.” Great events arise from small beginnings. The notion of excluding religion from legislation, first arose in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in their colonial capacities; and has, since the revolution, been interwoven in the government of the United States. The clergy in New England, were champions in the revolution; but, to justify the separation from Great Britain, they were obliged to establish maxims, (respecting the rights of men,) which they are now loth to abide by.
Fourth. A word of experience. When I was about twelve years old, I constantly attended the preaching of Mr. H., one of the standing order, so called. On every Sunday afternoon, in his prayer, (which was about fifty-nine minutes long,) he would repeat the following words: “Pity Mahomedian imposture – pagan idolatry – Jewish infidelity – papistry and superstition: bring the downfall of anti-Christian tyranny to a period.” I knew not the meaning of the words, but I heard them so often that I committed them to memory, and have not yet forgotten them. My minister was in the habit of changing with other ministers, of the same faith and order, to economise upon notes, (as was supposed,) to save the time of writing so much. These changelings (not hirelings) used the same expressions in their prayers, or what amounted to the same, with Mr. H. Many admonitions were given me, in those days, about the tyranny and wickedness of the Pope, and the papal clergy. All was awful! all was true! because their high reverences said so.
But now, since the French Revolution began, and the Pope is humbled, and the papal clergy set at nought; how the note is changed among the clergy in New England. Their present language is this: “We did not mean so; the Lord has not understood our prayers: We meant, that the papists should all turn congregationalists, as we are; having no Pope over them, but the collective clergy over the people; and that our national and state governments, might all be Christian governments; and not deistical to leave every man at liberty, as is now the case, except in three of the New England states; and even in them, the clergy are not honored and implicitly believed, as they once were. O tempora! O mores!!!”
Fifth. Encouragement. Nearly all the states are, at this time, republican: indeed the atmosphere south and west of the North River, is mild and friendly to the growth of representative democrats. Religious liberty has no manacles in those extensive regions. Population, and of course representation, will ever place the balance where it now is: and the New England old Grin, RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY, will gnaw his galling bands, in his small cavern, until his teeth are broken. Upon his decease, I volunteer myself to preach his funeral sermon, and publish his biography, gratis. He is yet living, and struggling for existence.
Conclusion. My text contains six prominent words, viz:
Schools, Academies, Colleges,
True Piety, Morality, Literature.
On which I have made six strictures, and six articles of improvement; which, added together horizontally, make the number six hundred and sixty-six. Here is wisdom – here is understanding – the number of the beast is counted, and it is the number of a man. I will not say that my text is the beast, of which so much is said in the Revelations: but I do not hesitate to pronounce it one of his claws. Some divines, by the beast, understand Louis XIV. Others find his name in the Pope; a third class believe that Napoleon is the beast; while others believe it to be the transformation of the Christian church into a tyrannical body, in the year six hundred and sixty-six. All of them have to divide, multiply, subtract, and add perpendicularly and horizontally too, as well as myself, to make out their beast. If these divines, who differ so much in opinion, can obtain the degree of Doctor of Divinity, it is to be hoped that the exposition, here given, will not prevent the author from the same diploma, provided he can get money and friends enough. Should that ever be the case, then with little thoughts and copious extracts, he could form a body of divinity, to adorn the shelves of libraries and eternize his own name. Amen.
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 408 – 412