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Discourse Delivered At The Dedication Of The American Asylum

Creator: Thomas Gallaudet (author)
Date: May 22, 1821
Publisher: Hudson and Co., Hartford
Source: American Antiquarian Society

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Note: It may be proper to remark, that the following discourse was delivered on the front steps of the Asylum; the audience being seated in the yard immediately before it.


"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."


THE faith of Paul in the promises of God, was an anchor to his soul, both sure and stedfast, amid all the sorrows and troubles of life. Experience had taught him not to look to human aid for support, nor to seek repose in earthly comforts; for both, he well knew, like the temporary shelter of a house, might fall beneath the arm of violence, or crumble into ruin from the natural progress of decay. He felt himself a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth; his home was in heaven, rendered sure to him by the declaration of his divine master; "in my father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you." To this final rest from all suffering and sin, Paul looked forward with such delightful anticipation, that even his affliction appeared but light and momentary, -- and he considered it as working out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The faith which enabled him to do this, he thus describes; "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."


By the expression, "earthly house of this tabernacle," I apprehend the apostle intended something more than the mere human body, and referred rather to our residence in this world, which from its transitoriness and uncertainty, might well be compared to a tabernacle or tent, and thus be fitly contrasted with the permanency and stability of the heavenly state. -- Thus you see what was the true source of the Apostle's consolation under affliction and of the zeal and hope which animated him in the midst of his trials; he regarded things temporal, as he would the accommodations of a house, which, with all its conveniences and comforts, is nevertheless destined to inevitable dissolution; he fixed his affections on things eternal, on his home in the heavens, on that building of God, whose foundation is sure, whose walls are imperishable, and the beauty, order, and magnificence of which, infinitely surpass all our conceptions. These sentiments of the apostle, and the spirit which dictated them, seem to me, my Brethren, peculiarly suitable for us to imbibe on the present occasion. We see before us a little group of our fellow beings, who are called in the mysterious providence of God to endure affliction. This affliction may become comparatively light to them, and, as it were, enduring but a moment; could it be made instrumental of working out for them a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory. -- They are just introduced into an earthly house well calculated for their accommodation; but it becomes both them and all of us, who feel interested in their welfare, to keep constantly in mind, that this goodly edifice with its various sources of instruction and improvement, is one of the things, which though seen perhaps with grateful satisfaction is still temporal, the worldly advantages of which may prove uncertain and must be transitory, and at which, therefore, we ought not to look with any sense of a strong and undue attachment, but rather, raise the eye of our faith, and persuade these sufferers to do so likewise, to a better home, to that building of God, the house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. When I say that the worldly advantages of this Asylum may prove uncertain, do not understand me as wishing to disparage their true importance and value. To do this would be alike unwise and ungrateful. It would be unwise; for Godliness hath the promise of this life as well as of that which is to come, and it is only a misguided enthusiasm which can aim to prepare youth for a better world, without, at the same time, training them up to a faithful discharge of all their duties in this. It would be ungrateful; for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving; and we might as well close our eyes upon the budding beauties of the season, which the kind Author of Nature is now unfolding to our view, as to shut our hearts against that general aspect of convenience, and that prospect of future comfort to the deaf and dumb, which the same Giver of every good and perfect gift, deigns to shed over the establishment which we wish this day to dedicate to Him who has thus far fostered and protected it, -- but the brightest hopes of spring sometimes fall before an untimely frost, and human establishment of the fairest promise, have often been so perverted from their original design, as to become the nurseries of error, or, so conducted in their progress, as to promote the views of personal interest; or so decked out with the pomp and circumstance of greatness, as to serve rather for the ornaments with which ambition would love to decorate itself, than as the plain and useful instruments which the hand of unostentatious charity would employ to dispense her simple and substantial benefits to the suffering objects of her care. -- Believe me these are the rocks on which this Institution may be shipwrecked. Its very prosperity should serve as the beacon of its danger.

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