[Page]
[Page]

A SERMON, Preached at WESTFIELD, JANUARY 1, 1800. At the DEDICATION of the ACADEMY in that Town. By JOSEPH LATHROP, D. D. PASTOR of the FIRST CHURCH in WEST-SPRINGFIELD.

SUFFIELD, PRINTED BY EDWARD GRAY, M,DCCC.

[Page]

At a legal meeting of the Board of Trustees of Westfield Academy, Jan. 1st. 1800.

Voted, that the Board of Trustees present their thanks to the Rever­end Dr. Lathrop, for his sermon delivered this day, at the dedicati­on of the Academy, and request a copy for the press.

True copy from the Records,
ABEL WHITNEY, Secretary.
[Page]
PSALM CXLIV, 12.That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones polished after the similitude of a palace

IT is natural for us to look forward with the hope of future good. This anticipation of futurity is one evidence of our immortality. We weary ourselves to find happiness in this world: but our labours are baffled, and our expecta­tions disappointed. We are never at rest, until we are settled in the firm belief, and filled with the cheerful hope of happiness in the world to come. In youth, while we are climbing the hill of life, we amuse ourselves with the pros­pect which opens before us: but when we have passed the summit, and are treading the downward path, the worldly prospect shortens—and shortens, the shadows stretch over us, and we find ourselves, at every step, sinking into the dark­some vale of infirmity and age. Our earthly prospects are now in posterity: Our brighter prospects are in God.

THE parent rejoices to see his children rising to virtuous dignity and usefulness. The hope that he shall live in them—that his labours will contribute to their happiness—that their worthy conduct will embalm his name and rescue it from oblivion, consoles him in the melancholy thought of his hastening dissolution.

THE patriot has much the same feelings toward his coun­try, as the parent toward his family. He delights in its present prosperity—he seems to share in its distant glory—he appropriates the happiness it will enjoy after his connection with it shall cease. It is this anticipation which prompts his exertions for the advancement of arts, learning and reli­gion. When David, in the psalm before us, prayed that God would deliver the people of Israel from the invasion of foreign enemies, who were strangers to the true God, he had regard not only to the present, but to succeeding generations.

[Page 4] Rid me and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and whose right hand is a right hand of false-hood, that our sons may rise like young flourishing trees, until they attain their full stature and strength; and our daughters adorned with virtuous manners, may stand like pillars of polished marble, which beautify and support a palace.'

HE deprecated the admission of foreigners, the worshippers of false gods, into his country, lest succeeding generations should be corrupted in their principles and manners, and thus the sentiments of piety and virtue should be banished from the land.

HENCE then we learn the sense which David had of the importance of the rising generation. This is the thought which I intend to illustrate and improve.

GOD has appointed the human race to be continued by succession; and each generation is an essential link in the chain.

THE Creator has framed a universe, and peopled it with an endless variety of beings, rising in a gradual scale from the borders of nothing upwards to a degree of perfection be­yond our present conceptions. In this scale the human spe­cies holds an important place. However small we my appear in comparison with angels; yet, considered as rational and immortal beings, designed for an endless existence, and capa­ble of continual improvement in knowledge, virtue and hap­piness, we are of vast importance.

THE particular regard, which the Creator has shown for us in providing a world for our habitation, in spreading around us bountiful supplies for our wants—in appointing his angels to be our ministers and guardians—in giving his Son to re­deem us from the ruins of our apostacy—and in furnishing us with the necessary means of scientific, moral and religious advancement, shews that we are beings of distinguished im­portance in his universal plan, and that by means of our race some grand and glorious purposes are to be answered.

IF our race is so important, we are not to look with indif­ference on the generation which is rising after us. They are rational and immortal beings—they are in a state of pro­bation—they are a part of that species which the Son of God [Page 5] came to redeem—and they are the persons on whom the con­tinuance of our race depends.

THEY are of particular importance in the families to which they belong.

WHEN our children are young, we observe with pleasure the gradual opening of their tender minds toward reason and maturity. We promise ourselves still greater satisfaction, when we shall one day see them acting a worthy part on the stage of life. Our labour and expence in their support and education are encouraged by the expectation of their present improvement and future usefulness; and amply repaid, when this expectation is realized.

MANY of the services necessary to the support of human life call for the vigour, activity and enterprize of youth, and must be entirely neglected, if none were found but such as have past this sprightly period. It is the rising generation which must be our support and comfort in that evil day, 'when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves—when the doors shall be shut in the streets, and they that look out at the windows shall be darkened—when we shall rise up at the voice of the bird and fear shall be in the way.' In the prospect of this uncomfortable season, it is a relief to hope that we shall be strong in the vigour, and secure in the virtue of those who are growing up under our care. In this view, children are an heritage of the Lord, and as arrows in the hands of the mighty.'

THE rising generation are of great importance in civil so­ciety. The defence of the state in a time of war, and the promotion of arts in a time of peace, depend chiefly on them. As we advance toward old age, our spirit for enterprize, our resolution to meet danger, and our ability to sustain hard­ship, sensibly decline. In this languid period, our exertions are prompted by the spirit of our children, and strengthened by our regard for their interest. Were it not for their lively ambition, and our parental affection, we should languish out the latter part of life in a dull pursuit of the old beaten track. It is the ardour of the son, which gives activity to the expe­rience of the father. The ambition of the former, directed by the prudence and checked by the caution of the latter, operates to useful improvements, and keeps the world in progress.

[Page 6] THEY who are now young are soon to take into their own hands the great affairs of society; and general peace, or con­fusion will be connected with the part they act. By their virtue and prudence, they will diffuse happiness around and transmit it to the next succeeding age; or by their folly and vice they will spread general misery and entail it on those who shall come after them.

ON the rising generation will depend the continuance and increase of useful knowledge.

THE present advanced state of the mechanical and liberal arts by which life is embellished, and the mind enlarged is the work of many ages. The early condition of mankind was rude and uncultivated. Their first occupations were such as necessity dictated, and piety prescribed—the culture of the ground for food, and the keeping of sheep & cattle for cloath­ing and for sacrifice. Their labours in opening the ground for pasturage, and in mellowing the soil for corn, must, for want of instruments, have been difficult and slow. We have no account of the use of iron and brass until the eighth gene­ration from Adam. For a long time mankind had much dependence on the spontaneous productions of the earth. Their first cloathing was made of the skins of beasts. The manufacture of wool and other materials was a subsequent invention. These probably were first wrought, not by the contexture of threads, as they are now among us; but by the contusion of the mass until the natural fibres were incorpo­rated; as is still the method among some savage tribes. About the time that brass and iron came into use, was invented the construction of tents, and the formation of musical instru­ments. It was a long time before the strength of beasts, the impulse of wind, the weight of water-falls, and the mechan­ical powers of the wheel and the pully, were applied to re­lieve the weakness and lighten the labour of men. The long­evity of the first generation, was favorable to improvement. But while the art of writing was unknown, the progress of invention must have been very moderate, and its communi­cation much confined. Geography would scarcely extend beyond the limits of their own travels—mathematicks would be little more than the enumeration of their flocks and herds—astronomy would be only such an observation of the stars as was necessary to guide them in their journey, and direct them in their husbandry. The first writing was by the pic­tures [Page 7] and symbols of things; which would be but few, and these often of doubtful signification. It is a question wheth­er alphabetical writing can be traced higher than the time of Moses. If letters were known earlier, probably they were of the nature of our numerical figures, the signs of ideas, rather than of sounds. Alphabetical writing greatly facili­tated the progress of learning, which has since been much improved by the invention of printing. The diffusion of knowledge has been greatly assisted by the art of navigation, which has opened an easy communication among the nations of the earth. Mankind are still making progress; and a few generations hence may have the benefit of arts as much un­known to us, as were the magnet and printing type, a few centuries ago; or some late invented engines in the beginning of the present century.

OUR elevation in arts and refinement is the acquisition of ages. If this were by any means lost, ages and ages must pass away before it would be again recovered: And it is doubtful whether mankind could survive the loss. The ris­ing generation are the depositaries of these treasures of science. Into their hands we are to commit them: And they, in their turn, must convey them, with their own additional improve­ments, to the generation which shall succeed them.

Religion is a matter of still higher importance. With this the present prosperity and future felicity of mankind are es­sentially connected. The care God has taken to impart to us the knowledge of it by the ministry of his own son, and of holy men inspired with his own Spirit, demonstrates our infinite concern in it. He taught it to former ages in a su­pernatural way. In these ages he leaves it to be conveyed on from one generation to another by means of a standing re­velation and an instituted ministry. If religion should be ge­nerally neglected, revelation exploded and the ministry discon­tinued in one age, the next would come forward in ignorance of the truth and in depravation of manners; and of conse­quence would experience all the miseries of prevailing wick­edness in this world, and stand exposed to its more dreadful effects in another.

WE are placed under a government the most liberal and happy of any known among the nations of the earth. But our government rests on the basis of religion, and with­out [Page 8] out it cannot be sustained in its present form. There may, indeed, be government without religion; but it will be a go­vernment of terror and force; not of reason & justice. When Israel was without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without the law, there was no peace to him, that went out, not to him that came in; but great vexations on the in­habitants. The experiment of government without religion has lately been made in Europe; and its effects have been too disastrous to justify a repetition. A man must be either blinded by enmity to truth, or very careless in his observa­tions on the tendency of things, not to have seen, in the course of a few years past, the connection of religion with the hap­piness of society, and the operation of infidelity to produce missery and confusion. On this subject experience and ob­servation have thrown such light, as human reasoning could not have displayed. And there is ground to hope that reli­gion has received some additional support in this land from the attempts to undermine it in another. As we wish to leave with our children the privileges of a free government, we must train them up in the faith and obedience of the gos­pel. The present youth are the persons by whom religion is to be preserved and communicated in the world. If in their hands it should be lost, there is no reason to expect a new re­velation to restore it: But the ignorance and irreligion be­gin in them will run on and spread round, how far, and how wide, none can tell. Such is the corruption of human na­ture that its tendency is not to amendment, but to increasing depravation. This will be the effect, when restraints are cast off, and the means of knowledge and virtue are thrown aside. Hence God threatens, that he will visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him. Not that he will punish the obedient for the iniquities of their fathers; but he will punish these iniquities in the children who retain them and continue to hate God as their fathers have done before them. The threat­ning is grounded on a natural presumption, that the children, from one generation to another, will adopt and practise their fathers' sins.

WHEN we consider, that the virtue, liberty and happiness of many generations will depend on the youth who are now coming forward, and that unborn millions will be happy or miserable here and for ever, according as these shall support [Page 9] or neglect religion, we must regard them as beings of mighty consequence to the world and feel ourselves bound to treat them accordingly.

OUR preceeding observations fully evince, that the educa­tion of youth is an object which demands our most zealous attention. There is no way in which we can so essentially promote the great interests of humanity, as by training up this young generation to industry, science and religion. Hap­py will be our nation while their sons are as plants grown up in their youth, and their daughters as corner stones polished after the similitude of a palace. The structure of society must not be an unshapely pile of rude stones promiscuously thrown together, as they are taken from the quarry; but a compact and well proportioned edifice of regular pieces, fitted each to its place, polished by the tool of education, and close­ly united by the cement of benevolence and virtue. The for­mer, horrible while it stands, will soon tumble into ruins; the latter, beautiful in its appearance, will be permanent in duration.

THE education of youth must be begun in the families in which they are placed. But it cannot be completed here. As they are growing up to be members of a larger society, some publick provision ought to be made for their obtaining a more elevated education, than can be given them within their native walls.

IN the settled state of the Jewish nation, seminaries were early erected, and liberally endowed for the education of young men to publick usefulness, especially to offices in the church. To preside in these schools, persons eminent for their wisdom, learning and sanctity were appointed; and into them were freely admitted such young men as discovered a taste & aptitude for useful knowledge. To these schools Solomon probably alludes in the beginning of the IX Chapter of Pro­verbs. ‘Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the highest places of the city.’ And this is her cry; ‘Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither. Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish and live; and go in the way of understanding.’

[Page 10] ‘THE early Christians,' says Dr. Mosheim, took all pos­sible care to accustom their children to the study of the holy scriptures, and to instruct them in the doctrines of their holy religion. For this purpose schools were every where erected, even from the commencement of the Christian church. Besides the schools destined for children, there were Academies erected in several large cities, in which persons of riper years, especially such as aspired to be pub­lick teachers, were instructed in the different branches of human learning and sacred erudition. And we may un­doubtedly attribute to the Apostles themselves and their injunctions to their disciples the excellent establishments, in which the youth destined for the holy ministry received an education suitable to the solemn office they were to un­dertake.’

THE legal institution of schools in their several grades is a privilege which commenced with the settlement of New-En­gland, and which has had the most happy effects. By means of this institution our children are early formed to the love of knowledge, to sentiments of virtue, to decency of manners, to habits of subordination, and to a preparation for publick usefulness. To this it is greatly owing that knowledge is so generally diffused, and that civil society is in so orderly and peaceful a state.

THE ordinary schools maintained in our several towns are well adapted to the object of their institution. But it is ne­cessary there should be some in society, who have an educati­on superior to that which these schools are competent to fur­nish. For this purpose our colleges are founded. But a regular collegiate education is beyond the reach of of many happy geniuses who wish to rise above the education of an ordinary school. Therefore certain intermediate semina­ries are instituted by authority, & endowed by publick grants and private benefactions, that with moderate expense the lov­ers of learning may obtain an education which will gratify their literary taste, and lay a good foundation for farther im­provements and for more general usefulness.

OF this kind is the WESTFIELD ACADEMY, which we, this day, dedicate to the purpose of erudition, and commend to the blessing of Providence.

IN consequence of an application from the citizens of this [Page 11] town, the legislature of our Commonwealth have here in­stituted an Academy, endowed it with competent priviledges, and appropriated for its use a valuable tract of land, which, with the addition made by the town, will we hope, soon prove a fund competent to the purposes of the institution. By a farther grant of the town and the subscriptions of particular Gentlemen in it, an elegant and capacious edifice is erected for the accommodation of students, and now prepared for their reception; and a gentleman of approved ability and character is procured, and is now present to whose immedi­ate government & instruction the students will be committed.

THE object of the institution is to train up youth of both sexes in virtue and science. Reading, writing, arithmetic, elegant composition, and graceful speaking will be here taught. Such as aspire to a higher education will be assist­ed in acquiring a knowledge of the learned languages, geo­graphy, mathematicks, and such other branches of erudition as are taught in our universities. Particular attention will be given to the morals of the youth; and instruction in the principles and duties of religion will not be neglected. With a view to these objects the Trustees will ever be careful, that the preceptors and teachers in this Academy be men of dis­tinguished learning and exemplary conversation, and that they be the professed friends of piety and religion.

A STRICT government will be necessary in the Academy. But this will be maintained, not by corporal or necessary punishments; but by means better adapted to influence in­genuous minds. Offenders, on whom such means are unsuc­cessful, will be deemed unworthy of a place in the Academy; and they must retire.

THE expense of tuition will be as moderate as the support of the institution will allow; and as soon as our funds come into operation, we hope this expence will be reduced.

THE funds and donations already committed, and such as may hereafter be committed to the Trustees, will be faithful­ly appropriated; the will of benefactors will be religiously obeyed, and a strict oeconomy will be observed. We anticipate the time, when this institution will become respectable for numbers, order, virtue and science, under the care of able in­structors and the patronage of liberal benefactors. We hope, [Page 12] from the proceeds of our funds and from the munificence of the friends of science, soon to see the Academy furnished with a necessary philosophical apparatus, a useful library, and a valuable collection of curiosities, to stimulate the enquiries and assist the improvements of the students. But an infant institution must have time for growth and maturity.

THE progress, reputation and usefulness of this Academy will much depend on the wisdom and virtue of the people, & especially of the influential characters of the town in which it is placed.

WE commend the zeal and liberality of the town in the cause of learning and religion. We applaud the generosity and publick spirit of those gentlemen, who, in addition to the grant of the town, have largely contributed to the erection & completion of the edifice, which we this day dedicate to vir­tue and science. But remember, gentlemen, your work is only begun. If it stop here, your labor and expense are lost, and the laudable purpose of your exertions is defeated. You have done much in pecuniary contributions: You have still much to do in another line. There is a duty which you owe and which you will continually owe to this institution. As it is placed among you, so on your virtuous influence its respectability; yea, its existence will principally depend. Had we the remotest idea, that the youth who become its members, would here be contaminated in their principles and depraved in their manners, and go abroad to spread the cor­ruption among others, we should by no means have given it our countenance, nor this day have assisted in its dedication. Should this unhappily prove to be the case, no virtuous pa­rent will send a son or daughter to it for an education; and it will, of consequence, expire in disgrace. With a regard to the usefulness of the institution, the interest of its mem­bers, the good of our country and the honor of religion, we expect—& we shall require, that the pupils be restrained from impiety, profaneness, dissipation, riot and gambling—from mingling with licentious company, and resorting to places of temptation. Let there then be nothing of this kind among you. We expect—and we shall require, that they here be nurtured in the principles of religion, in sentiments of piety, in habits of virtue, in a love of order, in decency of behav­iour, [Page 13] in sobriety of manners, in a reverence for, and attend­ance upon the instituted worship of God. Among you let these things be conspicuous. You easily see, that the ob­tainment of our object will materially depend on the wise & virtuous conduct of the citizens and youths of this town. It will be difficult—it will be impossible for the immediate gov­ernors of the Academy to preserve order and virtue among their pupils amids counter examples; but amidst concurrent examples their task will be easy.

WILL not my age, my trust, my appointment for this day excuse me, and entitle me to your attention, my young friends while I exhort you, in regard to your own reputation and safety—in regard to the honor of this infant institution—in regard to the youths who shall seek an education here, to shun and detest those evil communications which corrupt good manners? Let it never be reported abroad, or known here, that any of you are profane, disorderly, riotous, gamblers, sabbath-breakers, scoffers at religion, lovers of sinful plea­sures, and enticers to evil. Let it appear, and let it every where be spoken to your honor, that you are sober, virtuous, godly, obedient to domestic order, and observant of religious worship. Then our sons and daughters, who come to reside among you, will from your example learn the things which are virtuous and praise worthy, the things which are lovely and of good report. Then you will not only feel a conscious pleasure in your own virtue, but enjoy an additional satisfac­tion in having diffused its influence far around.

YOU who are masters of families are always under sacred obligations; but now you will be under new obligations, to watch over your children and domestics, and to maintain or­der, virtue and religion in your houses; for you will thus render a most important service to the children of your bre­thren abroad. In some of your families our children must reside. Let them there hear nothing, but what deserves their attention—see nothing but what is worthy of their imitati­on. Let them see peace and harmony, government and sub­ordination, a reverence for God's word and an observance of his worship. Let them hear nothing impious and profane, disrespectful of the scriptures, or contemptuous of divine insti­tutions. Treat our children as your own; at least so far as to give them seasonable cautions and rebukes. We feel a [Page 14] solicitude for our children, when they are removed from un­der our eye. A persuasion that they are placed in orderly and religious families and under the inspection of our pious and faithful friends, greatly relieves our anxiety.

I BEGIN to fear, I shall be thought to have stepped over my line. Your goodness, however, will excuse the trans­gression. I speak not these things from an apprehension of any peculiar danger in this town. I honour you as the friends of order, virtue & religion. But in regard to this infant academy, and to the youth who may seek an education in it, I felt an impulse of duty, which I could not easily repress, to hold up to you some salutary cautions. In expressing my own feelings, I am sure, I express those of my brethren of the board.

TO the preceding cautions I will add another, which more immediately respects rhe officers, magistrates, and influential characters in the Town. Will it not, Gentlemen, be parti­cularly incumbent on you to use the authority and influence which you possess, I will not say, for the suppression, for I know not that such things exist here; but for the prevention of the evils which have been mentioned; profaneness, gamb­ling, sabbath-breaking, and whatever would tend to vitiate the manners, fully the reputation and defeat the intention of this academy? Will it not be your duty to countenance and encourage the religious observance of the Lord's day, and a regular and general attendance on the worship of God's house; that the students, from the example which they behold, may receive deep and permanent impressions of the sacred impor­tance of these divine institutions?—I shall not enlarge—You will judge of yourselves what is right.

THIS day introduces a new year—the year which closes the 18th century from the era of your redemption. On this day we are assembled to dedicate to God and commit to his blessing this infant seminary, hoping, that here our sons will be as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters as corner-stones polished after the similitude of a palace—that here formed to useful knowledge, pious sentiments and vir­tuous manners, they will bring honour to God, do service to men in their day, and transmit to another generation the pious principles and the excellent wisdom, which they here [Page 15] imbibe. That God may accept this offering at our hands, let us join piety with our charity, like the Mecedonian Chris­tians, who, in preparing a benefaction for the saints, first gave themselves to the Lord. In vain we pretend to honour him with pompous offerings, while we deny him the affecti­on of our hearts and the obedience of our lives. Let us, with this new year, lament our own follies, and recognize God's mercies in the past. And with the dedication of this new seminary, let us present ourselves living sacrifices holy and acceptable to him, and serve him the remainder of our days in newness of life. When our bodies shall be forgotten in the dust, and our names no longer mentioned on earth, may this institution live and flourish, and be a blessing to the children of those who shall then occupy our place. In the mean time our prayers shall commend it to God, and in his attendant smiles our hearts shall rejoice. Having closed this mortal scene, may we all rise to the world of light, where we shall see, not thro' a glass darkly, but with open face, and shall know, not merely in part, but as we are known.

FINIS.
[Page]

DEDICATION SPEECH. By the honorable SAMUEL FOWLER, Esq. President of the Board of Trustees.

GENTLEMEN and Fellow Citizens.

WE have Assembled this day for the delightful pur­pose of dedicating, and setting apart this building for the important design of education, that the rising generation may be instructed in the various branches of human and sa­cred erudition.

WE rejoice that this happy lot has fallen to us, and that we have an opportunity to impart a small portion of our proper­ty in laying the foundation of so useful an Institution.

The attention of the Citizens of this Commonwealth to the education of the rising Generation affords a most pleasing prospect of the future support of religion science and morality. These are the Grand Pillars, on which this Country has been raised to its present opulence and splendor, and on which the principles of our most excellent Frame of Government must be continued and supported. Having compleated this Aca­demic Edifice, and procured an instructor for the education of those Children and Youth of both sexes, who may be commit­ted to his care; having also received ample testimony of his literary and moral character; to introduce this Gentleman into his important office is what now remains for us to do.

I therefore, by the direction of this Honorable Board of Trustees, deliver to you, Sir, this Key, in token of your in­vestiture with the office of Preceptor in this Academy.

UPON your exertion aided with ours, we conceive the fu­ture prosperity of this Seminary very much depends.

IT is our ardent wish, that you may answer our just expec­tations, in forming the minds and manners of the Children and Youth, that may be placed under your instructions.

PERMIT us, Sir, on this occasion, to suggest to you the im­portance of carefully inspecting the morals and behaviour of your Pupils; and of frequently instiling into their tender minds the great principles of the christian religion: The rest we leave to your own good sense.

WE look forward with pleasing satisfaction to some future Period (far distant) when you shall resign this Key and Office of preceptor, with honor to yourself and reputation to this Seminary.

MAY this institution long flourish; may it become more and more reputable for virtue and science; & may it continue to afford an opportunity for acquiring every branch of learing which is useful to the individual and beneficial to the Community.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.