Abbildungen der Seite

their influence. It is necessary to leave the sufferings of the poor to be relieved only by such aid from time to time, as necessity may demand. Any other mode of providing for them diminishes the stimulus to industry, and permanently aggravates the very evil it was designed to relieve.

One of the noblest and most blessed charities is, to aid in sustaining and disseminating the Christian religion in the world. This Journal is not to be suspected of any lukewarmness towards Christian Missions, either domestic or foreign. We cannot help regarding with some degree of amazement many men of large intelligence, and high pretensions to the spirit of active philanthropy, who yet manifest no sympathy with the endeavor to impart the knowledge of Christian truth to those portions of the human race who are destitute of it. We think such men egregiously mistaken. They fail to recognize and sympathize with one of the most beautiful and noble manifestations of the spirit of Christianity, which this age has witnessed. Every man, whether rich or poor, should coöperate in this good work, and aid it by regularly contributing to it some portion of his annual income. It is by such annual contributions, from the rich according to the abundance of their incomes, and from the poor in such sums as they can spare from their scanty resources, that our system of evangelization, home and foreign, is to be sustained. And while those noble associations, by the agency of which this work is carried forward, rely on such annual contributions, their revenues will have much of the regularity of seed time and harvest.

It may be doubted, moreover, whether a large legacy to one of these institutions, or a large donation out of the ordinary and regular course of annual income, is not about as likely to injure as to benefit the cause. The people, on learning that one of our Missionary Societies, for example, has received a large donation or legacy, will regard it as just so much less dependent on its regular income, and will feel just so much less the necessity of contributing to it to the extent of their ability. In this way there is reason to fear that a large donation, out of the ordinary course, may on the whole injure a society more than it benefits it, by diminishing those annual streams of munificence, which are its surest reliance for support; just as a church has often been enfeebled, by having one rich man, whose mistaken liberality has for a time in a great measure relieved the rest of the people from the annual burden of supporting it.

By far the most natural, the safest and most trustworthy reliance for the maintenance and propagation of the Christian religion in the world, is on that regular, systematic beneficence which springs from the love of Christ. It is a force as permanent and universal as the influence of the gospel on the hearts of those who embrace it, and will always be found adequate to any undertaking, which the pious zeal of the church may prompt her to engage in.

But while a mind that has thought the matter through, perceives that the relation of our higher seminaries of learning to our efforts to propagate Christianity in the world, is by no means less important than that of Societies for Home and Foreign Missions, it is still not possible to place those seminaries in any such relation to the annual pecuniary contributions of Christian people. To the masses they seem more remote, more secular, and therefore having less claim to those gifts, which are prompted by self-denying love to Christ. For this reason a seminary of learning cannot be sustained as our great Missionary Associations are. There are but two ways in which they can be endowed and rendered efficient; they must either become the beneficiaries of the State, or they must derive their needed resources from the generous liberality and the dying bequests of the wealthy. In this country the former cannot be hoped for. The latter is then for the most part the only hope of the cause of learning. This should be known and seriously considered by every man to whom God has given wealth, which he is willing to spare for the good of mankind; and especially by the man of wealth who is thinking about surrendering his stewardship, preparatory to giving in his final account. Could we stand by one's side at such a moment, we should surely whisper in his ear, with more than ordinary earnestness -- Why not confer on some institution of learning the means of serving that noble cause with greater efficiency, long

after you are dead? If you leave a legacy to that noble missionary institution, you give it indeed to a worthy object; but there are other streams which are filling that treasury, and they are as regular and as permanent as Christian faith and charity. But there neither are, nor in the nature of the case can be, any such streams supplying the needed resources to the cause of learning. Why not then exercise your liberality in a field which others are leaving almost to you alone ; where at least you can accomplish a noble work, which, unless you do it, will be very likely to remain undone perhaps for generations?

We commend to the wealthy this mode of disposing of a portion of their estates, as one of the best provisions they can make for their own posterity. Under our democratic institutions, no man can constitute any lasting bond between his estate and his family. He cannot hand down his wealth to his distant descendants. His heirs will acquire the same entire control over his fortune, which he himself possesses, to enjoy and to use it as they please; and what is to become of it, will depend on their characters, their tastes, their frugality or their prodigality, their wisdom or their folly. Two or three generations generally suffice so to mingle the largest fortune with the mass of the nation's wealth, that the descendants of him who amassed it shall have no special interest in it. It is therefore only to a very small extent, that a man can provide for his descendants by transmitting to them his property by inheritance.

But one's country is an inheritance, which he hands down to his posterity with little danger that their right in it will ever be alienated. They will share it, indeed, with all the millions of their fellow-citizens. But it is none the less precious to each individual, because shared in and enjoyed by so many. And it is a matter of unspeakable importance to our posterity, down to the latest generations, whether we leave to them a country in the enjoyment of every facility for mental culture, and the most powerful auxiliaries to an ever advancing civilization, or one in which mind stagnates for the want of the means of culture. If then any one would provide for his posterity, let him liberally appropriate of the wealth which God has given him, to enlighten and adorn that country, which is the only inheritance which he can with any certainty transmit to the successive generations of his descendants. Let him beware of leaving his children with all the doubtful and dangerous advantages of great wealth, in a country but meagerly supplied with the means of mental and moral culture. We can never think that parent wise in providing for his own household, who prefers overgrown wealth for his children, rather than to add to the permanent sources of his country's civilization, enlightenment, and strength. That country which is enjoyed in common with all our fellow citizens, is infinitely more important to the happiness of our posterity, than the amount of private fortune which we may leave to our children.

We do not feel it to be improper to remark in concluding this Article, that a generous and wise liberality to the cause of learning is the noblest monument which any man can rear to his own memory. It is not wrong: it is accordant with the nature which God has given us, to desire the good will and loving esteem of the men of our own day and generation. It is one of the rewards which God ordinarily bestows on a life usefully and virtuously spent, and is justly reckoned among the choicest of earthly blessings. But if it is honorable to desire the good will of the men of our own times, it is no less honorable to desire that our names should be rescued from the oblivion of the grave, and remembered and spoken with respect and affection, in coming generations and ages, by the men and women who shall behold these aspects of nature, till these fields, dwell in these houses, and worship in these sanctuaries, long after we shall have passed away from earth, and been numbered with the dead. The unrivaled eloquence of the great leader of American radicalism, cannot invest the name of Phillips with so bright a luster, as that which it derives from the schools of learning which men of that name have founded. Four of the foremost colleges of New England are adorning, by their ever growing fame, and bearing down to posterity, the names of illustrious benefactors; and what name will be spoken with more affection by the men who in after times shall walk amid the classic shades of New Haven elms, than that of Sheffield! We confess, that in this country, where no man can call his lands by his own name, or if he does

SO, it will only be writing his name on the sand to be washed out by the incoming wave,-where the wealthy man has scarcely a better prospect of being remembered than the laborer that toils for his daily pittance of bread, and where no man can with any certainty transmit his fortune to the third generation-in such a country we confess we marvel that more men are not ambitious to transmit their names to the grateful remembrance of posterity, as the generous benefactors of the cause of learning. What thoughtful man that now walks in the classic shades of Yale or Harvard, and thinks of the men that laid those foundations, does not feel, mingled with the gratitude which his heart pays to their memories, a rising ambition to share in the honors which they have won for themselves, by their far-reaching foresight, and their liberal provision for the mental and moral culture of coming generations !

They did well, did nobly, and richly deserved the honor in which they are held. But their work is yet only begun. It is our privilege to enlarge and complete what they so nobly conceived and attempted; to furnish institutions of a like spirit and aims, on a scale sufficienty large, with facilities sufficiently ample to meet the wants of a greatly advanced state of civilization, not alone for New England or the coast of the Atlantic, but over our whole country, so as effectually to provide for the education of a great continental people.

If, then, men of wealth wish to call their estates by their own names, and to send those names down the stream of time, buoyed above the current of forgetfulness; if they wish them to be spoken with an honest exultation by their posterity; let them become the generous benefactors of learning; let them faithfully care for that higher instruction, which divine Providence has so committed to their care, that unless they provide for it, endow it with their wealth, it must almost necessarily lie neglected and waste.



« ZurückWeiter »