Curtis Dahlgren
What if the Apostle Peter, or the president of Yale, gave your commencement address?
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 19, 2021

Note: Republished from May 18, 2018

"Let me solemnly warn you that if you intend to accomplish anything you must take your side. There can be no halting between two opinions." – Timothy Dwight

IF YOU GRADS THINK YOU'RE SO SMART, do you know who Timothy Dwight was? He was the president of Yale, 1795 to 1817, and he was also the pastor of the campus church. Only four or five students were members of the church when, in 1801, he preached the sermon abbreviated below. He challenged the student body to take the side of God. "So great was his conviction and so burning his appeal, that they responded as if it were a call to the colors."

[Quote] AMONG THE AGENTS in the American Revolution were many natives of France – men of ardent minds and daring speculations, who either imbibed here the new sentiments of liberty, or ripened those which they had already adopted at home. These men, returning to their own country, spread the enthusiasm which they had cherished here, and thus hastened the crisis France was approaching. Attacks on the crown and on the clergy were encouraged by infidels, who artfully and with complete success blended their own cause with that of liberty.

The door thus opened, infidels entered in mass and labored with a zeal unrivaled since the days of the apostles. In every possible instance they possessed themselves of every office of honor and power, of instruction and influence. They secured the literary society and the secret club. They engrossed the press and stage. . . . [sound familiar yet?]

A part of their labors has been presented to the world under the form of new systems of philosophy; which, if believed, are utterly subversive of Christianity, but in which no direct attack is made on Christianity. These have been mere theories of the closet, often ingenious, but always unsupported by fact or evidence. The terms employed are so wholly abstract, and the phraseology so mysterious and perplexed, that the reader is lost in a mist of doubtful expressions and unsettled sentiments.

From the highway of common sense he is invited into bypaths where nothing worthy of his curiosity is ever seen, but where he is continually informed that something of vast importance is in due time to be seen. The common people never honored by Voltaire with any higher title than "the rabble" or "the mob," but they suddenly [were beheld as upholders of their "rights"].

While they [the infidels] laughed at the very distinction between right and wrong, they proclaimed themselves the asserters of justice and champions of truth. While they cursed God and converted a realm into a Bastille, they trumpeted their attachment to liberty. Encircled with three million corpses [blood ran ankle-deep at the guillotines], they hung themselves over labels of philanthropy. Two of their philosophers, independent of each other, have declared that to establish their favorite system, the sacrifice of all the existing race of man would be a cheap price. Infidelity has been formed into a regular school to plunge a world into ruin.

It was soon discovered that the liberty of infidels was not the liberty of New England, and that France, instead of being free, merely changed through a series of tyrannies, at the side of which all former despotisms whitened by comparison. It has been said that man unrestrained by law and religion is a mere beast of prey; that the restraints imposed by equitable laws and by the religion of Scriptures were far less burdensome and distressing than the boasted freedom of infidels.

Even sober infidels began to be alarmed, and to wish that other men might continue still to be Christians; while Christians saw with horror their God denied, their Savior blasphemed, and war formally declared against Heaven . . .

[TO BE CONTINUED, END QUOTE. Student membership in the campus church went from five to about 80 within the year 1801. Yale was saved from false "rationalism" and the embers of the Second Great Awakening were lit up like a bonfire.]

P.S. More to come, but has any of this so far sounded familiar to today's philosophies of Higher Education? I sure hope so.

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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