By Jay Rogers
Published April 10, 2008
Look to the Northeast College Campuses!
The academic institutions of the Northeast, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and several others, are “lynchpins” in the American university system. Philosophies which are born and bred in the classrooms of these schools are later transferred to every other university in America and often the world. God himself is concerned with these schools; He had a hand in bringing them into being. He always honors His covenants with men and virtually every college in this area was founded with the purpose of bringing glory to God.
A brief survey of American history will show that the colleges and universities in the northeastern corridor have always been used of God to unlock the heart of the nation. The spiritual condition that characterizes the northeastern colleges and universities reflects the spiritual condition of the rest of our society. This should come as no surprise to those who are aware of America’s Christian history. For good or for evil, for the past 370 years, northeast colleges and universities have been the spiritual focal point of America.
The politics and ethics of the United States were birthed in the northeastern cities of Boston and Philadelphia. The spiritual climate of the United States has also been deeply affected by this area. The most significant event of 1700s, barring the American Revolution, was the Great Awakening, which began among young people in Northampton, Massachusetts. The World Missions Movement was begun at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts as the result of a prayer meeting held by three students.
In the early 1800s, the Northeast was a center for sporadic spiritual revivals on many of the college campuses. The spiritual, moral, social and political foundations of the United States had their beginnings in the Northeast.
Reverend John Harvard gave half his property and his entire library to start this world renowned institution. Harvard’s original motto was: “For Christ and the Church.” The goal of a Harvard education was to establish Christian principles in the minds of students according to the Word of God. In addition to ministers, Harvard also produced some of the greatest statesmen of the 1700s, such as, John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.
“After God had carried us safe to New England, and had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government: one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”
This 17th century passage is familiar to all Harvard undergraduates, the words being inscribed on the northern panel of the Johnson Gates leading into Harvard Yard. This passage is taken from New England’s First Fruits, published by Samuel Eliot Morrison. It is the earliest account of Harvard which appeared in London in 1643. This same document cites the rules and precepts of Harvard:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3 and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
Yale was patterned after the design of Harvard. The founders of Yale were authorized to create an institution where “youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences who through the blessing of Almighty God may be fit for employment both in the Church and Civil State.” Three Yale graduates were: the inventor Eli Whitney; the educator and author Noah Webster; and the patriot Nathan Hale who just before being hanged by the British said, “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
In the 1700s, the First Great Awakening came to an end because of the influx of rationalistic thinking from Europe in the form of literature. Revival waned because books containing the philosophy of the Enlightenment were disbursed on the college campuses by the ton. Books containing rationalistic principles which mocked the Bible, such as Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, were given freely to the students.
Dr. Timothy Dwight, then the President of Yale College, described the literature as “the dregs of humanity vomited on us … the whole mass of pollution emptied on this country.” Students looking for an excuse to rebel against Christianity embraced rationalism. Bible colleges became centers of skepticism. Students formed societies calling themselves by the names of the French philosophers of the Enlightenment. Students took control of entire campuses. Students held mock communion services. One group forced the resignation of a Bible college president. Another group attempted to blow up a campus building.
But God had a surprise in store. Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, became the president of Yale in 1795. Under his administration the whole moral and religious atmosphere of the college was changed for the better.
He met the students on their own ground and in a series of frank discussions in the classrooms treated subjects such as, “The Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy” and “Is the Bible the Word of God?” He gave a notable series of lectures in which he grappled with the principles of deism and materialism. Soon he had the admiration of the students. In 1802, a revival began in which a third of the student body professed conversion and was followed at frequent intervals by other awakenings. The “Infidel Movement” was checked and the resulting awakening became the impulse for the founding of numerous academies and colleges.
Amherst was founded and for many years maintained with the aim of educating young men to serve God. The school’s Latin motto, “Terras Irradient,” is translated, “Let them enlighten the lands.” In the early years of the school, frequent and powerful revivals often resulted in the salvation of many young men. An eyewitness of one revival relates this account:
“The meetings of literary societies were turned to prayer-meetings, and frequently the instructors united with their classes in prayer in their recitation rooms. At these meetings, which were well attended, the impenitent were warned and urged to accept the Savior by those who had formerly been their companions in sin. It was a deeply affecting scene to witness the love of Christ. Many of the subjects of this work have been those who were farthest from God and all good, not only unbelieving, but wild and reckless. About nine tenths of the Senior and Sophomore classes are now the hopeful subjects of renewing grace.”
For the next 50 years, spontaneous moves of the Holy Spirit came frequently to Amherst College, attested to by many other accounts. The results of these revivals included the emergence of the world missions movement, the temperance movement, and the anti-slavery movement. Graduates of Amherst College have included the radical social reformer Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe) and Daniel W. Poor, the pioneer missionary to Ceylon.
Yale graduate Eleazar Wheelock founded Dartmouth as Moor’s Indian Charity School in Columbia, Connecticut, but it was later mover to Hanover, New Hampshire. In the beginning, it was a reflection of the early settlers’ zeal to share the Christian faith with the Indians and to educate young Native Americans in the spirit of Jesus and the Bible. The school’s motto, “A Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness,” describes the prophetic calling that is firmly ingrained in Dartmouth’s foundation.
“Learning, Virtue, and Piety” is the motto of one of the finest of the many learning institutions in Boston. Today, Boston University is perhaps the most strategic school for Revival in the United States since it has more international students than any other University. Many of these internationals are being trained to move into positions of leadership in their native lands. An Awakening among international students at Boston University would impact the entire world.
Founded in Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College has always been considered to be one of the finest women’s colleges in the world. Smith is located in an geographical area that has traditionally been associated with powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit. The First Great Awakening began in the 1730s in a Northampton Congregational church pastored by Jonathan Edwards. The western part of Massachusetts was also the site of many revivals in the Second Great Awakening.
Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke seminary for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts. This institution was among the first of its kind and was a product of the social reforms of the Second Great Awakening. Mary Lyon sought to promote the rights of women and trained more than fifty women who later became foreign missionaries.
One of the most beautiful of the American colleges founded in the 1800s, Wellesley was patterned after the system of education at Mount Holyoke. Wellesley College’s charter declared its foundation to be “distinctly and positively Christian in its influence, discipline and instruction.” From its beginning, Wellesley has enrolled many international students.
First chartered as Rhode Island College, Baptist followers of Roger Williams founded the school “to train ministers and educate youth properly in the Christian faith.” The rapid increase of Baptists in New England in the 1700s led to the need for a better educated leadership. Rhode Island College was the first of many educational projects begun in the American colonies as a result of the First Great Awakening.
The first publicity for the non-denominational college declares it to be Christian without imposing “on the scholars the peculiar Tenants of any particular Sect of Christians; but to inculcate upon their tender minds, the great Principles of Christianity and Morality, in which true Christians of each Denomination are generally agreed.”
Reverend Jonathan Dickson, Princeton’s first president, once said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.” Established during the First Great Awakening, the college was a direct result of spiritual revival and a recommitment of the early colonies to further a degree of excellence in education. Later, under President Jonathan Edwards, the school took on a missionary zeal to minister to the American Indians. Early Princeton graduates included James Madison, Aaron Burr and six members of the first Congress.
Originally founded by Quakers under the Morill Act, the University of Pennsylvania is primarily a residential campus located in the heart of central Philadelphia. Known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia is one of the cradles of liberty and was greatly affected by George Whitefield’s ministry during the First Great Awakening in the early 1700s. The University of Pennsylvania stands today as a key to unlocking awakening in our nation. The university has “recognized that the future of the city and its own future are one and the same.”
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