Puritan RecordTomorrow is commencement at Harvard. Their commencement hymn, which I believe they still sing, assumes those who have studied there have ‘deepen’d the streams/That make glad the fair city of God’, and prays ‘Let not moss-covered error moor thee at its side/ As the world on truth’s current glides by’, and urges the graduates to ‘Be the herald of light, and the bearer of love,/Till the stock of the Puritans die.’

No doubt many of the graduates hold fast to the biblical principles which guided those who founded the school, but they didn’t learn them there, and nor did anyone who came there without having learned them. (‘There’ being the institution itself; no doubt there are some wonderful campus ministries and local churches bringing students to faith.) As far as Harvard is concerned, the stock of the Puritans is already dead.

John Harvard was a Church of England clergyman, a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, founded during the English Reformation for the express purpose of training preachers. He took 400 books with him when he sailed for Massachusetts, and served briefly as a minister at Charlestown. He died of consumption after only a year in the new world, leaving his books and half of his capital to the school being organised not far away. Since that bequest tripled the seed money for the proposed college, it was named after him.

In 1638, the year of his death, many of its clergy, even those serving in the plantations, still hoped that the Church of England would complete or return to its reformation, depending on how they read the history, Emmanuel graduates especially. It is those who still have that hope for the Church of England’s daughter in the new world that are Harvard stock, and they are not dead.

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