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On the Relations of Free Knowledge to Moral Sentiment

On the Relations of Free Knowledge to Moral Sentiment

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Excerpt from On the Relations of Free Knowledge to Moral Sentiment: A Lecture Delivered in University College, London, on the 13th of October, 1847, as Introductory to the Session of 1847-8

Lord's Supper was compulsory on the students. If the' modern race of university-men has improved, it is not be cause these institutions have adopted a new creed or new Observances, but because they enforce more diligence in study, and because a more moral and religious spirit is abroad through society. We admit and maintain that the promo tion of right sympathies is of the first importance; but there is no formula of teaching by which this can be brought about, whatever the name -of the study, whether science, history, morals, or theology. It cannot be fixed in a printed prospectus, secured by the rules of a committee or by act of Parliament. It depends on the living contact of Spirit with Spirit, and refuses to abide permanently under any prescribed exterior.

So again, as to the formation of good habits, it avails nothing to declaim upon the value of this as an end. The habits prevailing in every old university depend from year to year on the young men themselves, and are absolutely unaffected by divinity-lectures and such like apparatus; yet, in the course of a generation, they are most sensibly affected by the state of literary study within and by the tone of society without. Thus Oxford and Cambridge de pend for their morals and their sentiments, not on those formalities which they uphold and which we have declined, but on those circumstances which belong to them and to us in common. College-lectures do not swallow up the whole life of a college-student. He is far more in?uenced by his equals in, age and associates, or by his family and connexions; and in the real world has to earn for himself amoral culture which we do not engage to bestow in a lecture-room. Openly to decline that responsibility is more honourable; to undertake it, even with a systematic and notorious neglect of the duty, would very often be more profitable.

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