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"honour." It is honourable to excel even in the most trifling species of knowledge, in those which can amuse only the passing hour. It is more honourable to excel in those different branches of science which are connected with the liberal professions of life, and which tend so much to the dignity and well-being of humanity. It is the means of raising the most obscure to esteem and attention; it opens to the just ambition of youth, some of the most distinguished and respected situations in society; and it places them there, with the consoling reflection, that it is to their own industry and labour, in the providence of God, that they are alone indebted for them. But, to excel in the higher attainments of knowledge,—to be distinguished in those greater pursuits which have commanded the attention, and exhausted the abilities of the wise in every former age,-is perhaps, of all the distinctions of human understanding, the most honourable and grateful. When we look back upon the great men who have gone before us in every path of glory, we feel our eye turn from the career of war and of ambition, and involuntarily rest upon those who have displayed the great truths of religion, who have investigated the laws of social welfare, or extended the sphere of human knowledge. These are honours, we feel, which have been gained without a crime, and which can be enjoyed without remorse. They are honours also which can never die,—which can shed lustre
even upon the humblest head,-and to which the young of every succeeding age will look up, as their brightest incentives to the pursuit of virtuous fame.
II. But whatever may be the attractions of wisdom, or the rewards which the Almighty hath given to its pursuit, it is still farther to be remembered, that it is at best only a means to an end; that knowledge of every kind supposes some use to which it is to be applied; and that, in the simple language of the gospel, it is a talent, (though a talent of the noblest kind,) for which the possessor is finally to account. I would to God, my brethren, that the history of science had rendered this observation unnecessary. Yet, you all know, that there are shades which darken the history of human improvement; that there have been, and even now, alas! are, men who have employed genius and knowledge to the most fatal purposes; who have employed them to corrupt the morals of private life; to undermine the foundations of social order; and, with a still more gigantick malignity, have turned the powers which Heaven gave them against itself, and endeavoured to wrest from the family of God, that belief in his providence, and that hope in his mercy, which are necessary ingredients in our being, and which alone can animate the exertions, or console the woe of humanity. Far, O God! from us, and from the young of our people, be these fatal delusions! Yet it is wise in
you, my young friends, to confirm these natural feelings by principle, and, in preparing yourselves to employ your knowledge, to consider the great ends, which, in this employment, both God and man demand of you.
1. The first end to which all wisdom or knowledge ought to be employed, is to illustrate the wisdom or goodness of the Father of Nature. Every science that is cultivated by men leads naturally to religious thought, from the study of the plant that grows beneath our feet, to that of the Host of Heaven above us, who perform their stated revolutions in majestick silence amid the expanse of infinity. When, in the youth of Moses, "the Lord appeared to him in Horeb," a voice was heard, saying, "draw nigh hither, and put off "thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where "thou standest is holy ground." It is with such a reverential awe that every great or elevated mind will approach to the study of nature, and with such feelings of adoration and gratitude, that he will receive the illumination that gradually opens upon his soul. It is not the lifeless mass of matter, he will then feel, that he is examining,
it is the mighty machine of Eternal Wisdom: the workmanship of him, "in whom every thing ❝lives, and moves, and has its being." Under an aspect of this kind, it is impossible to pursue knowledge without mingling with it the most elevated sentiments of devotion ;-it is impossible to
perceive the laws of nature without perceiving, at the same time, the presence and the Providence of the Lawgiver:-and thus it is that, in every age, the evidences of religion have advanced with the progress of true philosophy; and that science, in erecting a monument to herself, has, at the same time, erected an altar to the Deity. The knowledge of nature, however, you know, my young brethren, is not exhausted. There are many great discoveries yet awaiting the labours of science; and with them, there are also awaiting to humanity many additional proofs of the wisdom and benevolence "of Him that made us." To the hope of these great discoveries, few, indeed, can pretend :-yet let it ever be remembered, that he who can trace any one new fact, or can exemplify any one new instance of divine wisdom or benevolence in the system of nature, has not lived in vain; that he has added to the sum of human knowledge; and, what is far more, that he has added to the evidence of those greater truths, upon which the happiness of time and eternity depends.
2. The second great end to which all knowledge ought to be employed, is to the welfare of humanity. Every science is the foundation of some art, beneficial to men; and while the study of it leads us to see the beneficence of the laws of nature, it calls upon us also to follow the great end of the Father of Nature in their employment
and application. I need not say, my brethren, what a field is thus opened to the benevolence of knowledge I need not tell you, that in every department of learning there is good to be done to mankind: I need not remind you, that the age in which we live has given us the noblest examples of this kind, and that science now finds its highest glory in improving the condition, or in allaying the miseries of humanity. But there is one thing of which it is proper ever to remind you, because the modesty of knowledge often leads us to forget it,—and that is, that the power of scientifick benevolence is far greater than that of all others, to the welfare of society. The benevolence of the great, or the opulent, however eminent it may be, perishes with themselves. The benevolence even of sovereigns is limited to the narrow boundary of human life; and not unfrequently is succeeded by different and discordant counsels. But the benevolence of knowledge is of a kind as extensive as the race of man, and as permanent as the existence of society. He, in whatever situation he may be, who, in the study of science, has discovered a new means of alleviating pain, or of remedying disease; who has described a wiser method of preventing poverty, or of shielding misfortune; who has suggested additional means of increasing or improving the beneficent productions of nature, has left a memorial of himself, which can never be forgotten; which will commu