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[Delivered at the Opening of the Connecticut Asylum for the
Education of Deaf and Dumb Persons, at the Request of the
Just two years have elapsed, since the first steps were taken towards the establishment, in this city, of an Asylum for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. Those who then embarked in this enterprize felt it to be their duty to commend its future prospects to the protection of that Arm which moves so easily the complicated springs of human action, and wields, with unerring wisdom, the vast machinery of Providence. Their united supplications ascended from the lips of one* whose venerable presence has so often filled this sacred desk, and whose spirit, perhaps, now witnesses the fulfilment, in some good degree, of his wishes, and the answer of Heaven to his requests. His voice no more guides our devotions, nor animates us in the path of duty : but his memory is cherished in our hearts,
* Rev. NATBAN STRONG, D. D. late Pastor of the Church in which this discourse was delivered.
and, on occasions like the present, while we mourn his absence and feel his loss, let it be a source of grateful consolation to us, that the undertaking, of which this evening is the anniversary, began under the hopeful influence of his prayers. It has met indeed with difficulties, and still labours under embarrassments, which are incident to almost all the untried efforts of benevolence. Yet, in its gradual progress, it has been encouraged by the smiles of a kind Providence, and is at length enabled to commence its practical operation.
At such a season, the Directors of its concerns have thought, that a remembrance of past favours, and a conviction of future dependence on God, rendered it proper again to unite in solemn acts of religious worship. These acts they have made thus public, from a grateful sense of the general interest that has been expressed towards the Asylum; and it is at their request that the speaker rises to address this respectable assembly.
He enters upon the duty which has thus devolved upon him, not reluctantly, yet with diffidence and solicitude, principally fearing that the cause of the Deaf and Dumb may suffer, and yet hoping that God, in whose hands the feeblest instruments are strong, will deign to make our meditations not only productive of benefit to the unfortunate objects of our pity, but of eternal good to our own souls. And, my friends, how soon would the apologies of the speaker, and the implored candour of his hearers, pass into forgetfulness, could we feel that we
are in the presence of Almighty God, and that the awful destinies of our immortal existence are connected with the events of this passing hour! May the Spirit of Grace impress these truths upon our hearts, while we take as the guide of our thoughts that portion of Scripture which is contained in
ISAIAH XXXV. 5, 6.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the
ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing : for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
These words depict a part of the visions of futurity which gladdened the eye of Isaiah, and irradiate his writings with so cheering a lustre that he has been called “ the evangelical prophet.” His predictions are assuming, in our day, some of their most glorious forms of fulfilment. For although they had a more direct reference to the time of our Saviour, by whose miraculous energy the ears of the deaf were opened, and the tongue of the dumb loosened, yet without doubt, as might be proved from the general scope and tenor of the prophetic writings, they equally allude to the universal diffusion of the Gospel in these latter ages of the church, and to its happy influence upon the hearts of all mankind. The same Saviour, who went about
doing good, is also the Lord of this lower creation. He once performed the acts of his kindness by the mere word of his power : he now is mindful of the necessitous, and makes provision for them, through the medium of his providential dispensations. It should be matter, therefore, of encouragement to us, that the establishment which is now ready to receive within its walls the sons and daughters of misfortune, however humble may be its sphere of exertion, is not overlooked in the economy of the Redeemer's kingdom ; that its probable influence is even shadowed forth in the sayings of prophecy; and that it forms one link in that golden chain of universal good-will, which will eventually embrace and bind together the whole family of man.
Let it awaken our gratitude to think, that our feeble efforts are not disregarded by the great Head of the church, and that we are permitted thus to cast our mite into his treasury.
In the chapter from which the words of my text are taken, the prophet has described the blessings of the Redeemer's kingdom, in the richest colours of Oriental imagery. He pourtrays by the strongest and boldest figures, the joy that will be diffused throughout the earth, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ shall have been proclaimed to all people, and its principles made the universal rule of thought and conduct. He would thus teach us the intimate connexion, even in this world, between holiness and happiness, and excite our efforts towards bastening on the latter-day glory of the church, by
placing before us the advantages that will result from it. Every exertion, then, of Christian benevolence, which forms a part of the great system of doing good, is entitled, so to speak, to the encouragements which the prophet holds forth. I shall not, therefore, depart from the spirit of the text, if,
present occasion, I attempt to describe some of the benefits expeoted to result from the exertions which are making for the improvement of the Deaf and Dumb, and thus shew how it will happen, that in this department of Christian benevolence, “in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert."
The whole plan of my discourse, then, will be to state several advantages likely to arise from the establishment of this Asylum, and to propose several motives which should inspire those who are interested in its welfare with renewed zeal and the hopes of ultimate success.
The instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, if properly conducted, has a tendency to give important aid to many researches of the philanthropist, the philosopher, and the divine.
The philanthropist and the philosopher are deeply interested in the business of education. The cultivation of the buman mind is paramount to all other pursuits ; inasmuch as spirit is superior to matter, and eternity to time. Youth is the season in which the powers of the mind begin to develope themselves, and language the grand instrument by which this developement is to take place. Now it is beyond all doubt,