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Rev. Henry Van Dyke of New York, delivered the baccalaureate sermon to the Senior class in Appleton Chapel yesterday afternoon, taking for his text, Matthew 5; 13, "Ye are the salt of the earth."
The sermon was one of the best that has been heard in Appleton Chapel for a long time, and had a powerful and stirring effect upon its auditors.
He said: The figure of speech is plain and pungent. Salt is savary, purifying, preservative. Christ was not paying compliments to his disciples. He was giving a clear and powerful call to duty. Were they to make their influence felt on earth for good? Men of privilege without power are waste material. Men of enlightenment without influence are the poorest kind of rubbish. Men of intellectual and moral and religious culture who are not active for good in society are not worth what it costs to produce and keep them. They were meant to be the salt of the earth and the first duty of salt is to be salty. Harvard men are men of privilege whose education and training call them to active duty in the seasoning, the cleansing, the saving of the world.
Half the troubles of mankind come from an ignorance which consists less in not knowing things, than in wilfully ignoring known things. Certain great political and social plagues exist for which men of thought should be an antidote. What I plead for today is the wider, nobler, unpaid service which an educated man renders to society simply by being thoughtful and by helping others to think. Passion, as well as ignorance, is dangerous. Educated men should oppose war when avoidable but when it becomes inevitable they should be its most vigorous advocates. No man ought to be too much educated to love his country, and, if need be, to die for it. The culture which leaves a man without a flag, is only one degree less miserable than that which leaves him without a God.
Among the poor and wretched, in respectable society, in business, forces are at work about which it is not enough to say, "Touch not the unclean thing." On the contrary we must touch it, as salt touches decay, to check and overcome it.
Religion ought to play a great part in the purifying, preserving and sweetening of society. The loftiest reach of reason and the strongest inspiration of morality is religious faith. The test of the reality of a religion is its power to cleanse life and make it worth living.
The services closed with the singing of the baccalaureate hymn written by W. H. Porter '98.
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