Harvard & Yale: Solid Foundations

The first college founded in America was Harvard. It got its name from a Puritan settler, John Harvard, who donated his library to get it started. Its motto, as depicted on its seal, is “Veritas,” the Latin word for “Truth.” The first rules and precepts adopted by Harvard stated,

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 3:17 and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him.

It can’t be clearer: Jesus Christ is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. That’s a pretty good start for any educational endeavor. But that’s not all:

That they eschewing all profanation of God’s name, Attributes, Word, Ordinances, and times of Worship, do study with good conscience carefully to retain God, and the love of his truth in their minds, else let them know, that God may give them up to strong delusions, and in the end to a reprobate mind.

The warning is obvious: deny God’s truth and you will fall away from the faith; your thinking will become anti-Christian.

Someone once sent me this. It’s what is stamped on a Harvard diploma. In the background you can see the “Veritas” seal shown above, but there is something extra: Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning Christ and Church. That is still on Harvard’s current diploma. Yet how many of those who teach at Harvard believe that? How many of the students receiving their diplomas notice it . . . or even care?

Then there’s Yale.

Its first seal and motto can be seen here: Lux et Veritas, meaning Light and Truth. Notice also the open Bible with Hebrew letters. My Hebrew is not good enough to translate (half of one semester as an auditor hardly makes one a Hebrew scholar), but the implication is clear: education brings light and truth, and that truth is Biblically based. Yale’s rules were similar to Harvard’s:

Every student shall consider the main end of his study [is] to know God in Jesus Christ and answerable to lead a Godly, sober life.

All scholars shall live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word,  diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth; and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret. Seeing God is the giver of all wisdom, every scholar, besides private or secret prayer, whereall we are bound to ask wisdom, shall be present morning and evening at public prayer in the hall at the accustomed hour.

So Harvard and Yale were Christian colleges. At the beginning they understood where all knowledge and wisdom were to be found. Today, at both universities, we see more of the reprobate mind they warned against than the Christian mind they sought to develop.