Page images

as possible, the impressions which sorrow may have made. They little consider the natural buoyance of the mind, and the tendency of all feeling to pass away from a young * heart. My father was one of those who think that the solemn impressions of such a season should be deepened, and pains taken to make them lasting. He thought that much might be done to give right views of the value and purposes of existence, and to get ready that frame of mind which is best fitted to meet and endure the changes of the world. By bis conversation, therefore, and instruction, for a long period, be kept fresh the feelings to which this sad event had given birth. He did not converse a great deal in the formal way; it was not bis babit, and he rather avoided it, from a persuasion that it was not an effectual mode of addressing young persons. I do not think that he ever made a long harangue to his children upon any subject. His custom was to seize moments when their minds were cheerful and at ease, or when any remarkable event bad excited their attention, and by a few concise, pointed remarks, sometimes by only one single emphatic expression, convey the important lesson. He would then leave it to work upon their minds. And it would often happen that the words would sink down into their hearts, and never be forgotten. I can recal many examples of forcible sayings thus uttered, which were of great use to me afterward; but I am certain that the same sentiment, dilated into a formal speech of fifteen or twenty minutes, would have made no impression, and been altogether lost. Upon the present occasion, he pursued his customary

He spoke seldom; and because seldom, I dwelt the more upon what he did say. I forgot nothing. And as he directed my reading, and the whole occupation of my time, I was, for a long season, prevented from returning to the sports of my childhood, or regaining the frolicksome disposition of boyhood.

The education of his children now became the favourite employment of my father. His parish was in a small and retired village, and his parishioners of that humble class, who require nothing more of their minister than an affectionate interest in their welfare, and the plainest instructions in the plainest truths. His duties as a minister, therefore, were not burdensome, and afforded him ample time for the superintendence of his children's education. He was a


man of excellent understanding, and admirable love of learning; and well do I remember how delightful he made those years of instruction, by orally communicating the various knowledge with which his mind was full. It was the dear wish of his heart, that I should follow him in the ministerial profession; and while he strove to give me settled principles of religion and babitual devotion, he strove zealously also to store my mind with every variety of knowledge that could adorn and strengthen it. He had a great abhorrence of an ill-educated ministry, and kept me from college till I was eighteen, with the express design of teaching me many things which he thought I could not learn there. But I doubt not that he was, at the same time, influenced by the wish to gratify himself by so pleasant an occupation of his lonely and widowed time.

As the time approached when I was to go to college, it became necessary to provide some additional means for supporting me there. A country minister may manage with his children at home pretty well, for they may aid bim on his little farm. But it is not so easy to support them abroad. It was consequently necessary that I should try to earn sometbing for myself. A school was found for me in a town thirty miles distant, and I left home in November, to spend the winter in this new and anxious employment. My little wardrobe and a few books were tied together in a handkerchief, and slung over my shoulder with a stick, and so I trudged along, as many greater men have done.

This winter was an important one to me, as it left its traces upon my whole after life.

I was a very bashful young man, wholly unaccustomed to the society of men, and quite ignorant of the world. Great, therefore, were the sufferings I endured, both in school and out of school. I was anxious, from principle, to do my duty; but, from timidity and inexperience, I failed to give perfect satisfaction. My own anxiety exaggerated my deficiency to my own view, and often did I wet my pillow with the tears that were wrung from

my oppressed heart. Such trials, however, did me good, as they helped me in learning to face the world, and cast me more exclusively on my religious convictions for support and happiness. I have always found that seasons of removal to strange places and new duties, bave been those in which my faith and sense of duty have been most rapidly improved. When all others were strangers around me, I went the more frequently to God, as father and accustomed friend.

But what I remember particularly in this season, was the trial I underwent in learning the stress that was laid upon the differences among Christians. My father, as I have said before, lived in a retired village, to which the noise of the polemic world did not reach; and whose inhabitants, happy in the simplicity of good and holy lives, felt no interest in the questions of words, on which the faith and cbarity of so many are suspended. They read their Bibles, attended public worship, and lived soberly, righteously, and piously in the world. There was nothing among them of the pride either of orthodoxy or heresy. My father held, bimself, and was laborious to instil into his people, the most enlarged charity toward all. He was disgusted at the spirit of narrowness and bigotry, which he had always seen accompanying a vebement zeal for particular forms of faith. He therefore rarely alluded, either in preaching or in conversation, to the differences among Christians. He seldom even named the names of theological parties. And thus it happened, that, strange as it may seem, I grew up almost ignorant that there were parties in religion, entirely unacquainted with their badges of distinction, and with none of that prejudice for and against names, which is often the earliest lesson in religion. It had not escaped me in the books which fell in my way, that there had been divisions and strifes in the church; but I saw and beard nothing of them in the world around me, and I felt as though nothing of them existed.

On the evening of my arrival at my new quarters, I was greatly struck with the tone and language of my

host and hostess, in speaking of religion. It was different from any thing I had ever heard before, and it puzzled me. Mrs. Hilson was so frequent in her scriptural allusions, and phrases of piety, as to introduce them sometimes very improperly and irreverently; but in her husband there seemed a constantly half-suppressed sneer, and disposition to throw ridicule on the subject. Both were so different from the serious, manly, intelligible, and reverent manner, in which I had always seen the subject treated at home, that I was not a little perplexed to know what to think. One of the school committee, who was also deacon of the church, came in during the evening, to see the new master, and give his instructions. As I was too diffident to talk much, and the deacon had but little to say on the business of my profession; the conversation took a turn but little different from a catechetical lecture. After many common-place questions, such as an inquisitive stranger naturally puts first, deacon Lumbard inquired what were the opinions of my father. I felt ashamed not to be able to give a direct answer, and waited for him to put the question in a different shape. “I mean,” said the deacon, “is he Arminian or Calvinist?” This question was hardly more intelligible to me than the former; but thinking it would never do to say I did not understand him, and feeling tolerably confident that I should speak the truth, I replied, " I believe he is an Arminian." The deacon gave a hemof surprise-and walked across the room. Mrs. Hilson dropped her knitting, and fixed upon me a look of sad concern; and her husband stopped poking the fire, and turned round with a half merry stare, as if to know whether he had beard aright. I felt my face colour suddenly all over, and I thought I must bave made some dreadful blunder. No one spoke for some time. At length the deacon said—“An Arminian!—we don't think much of Arminians here.” The tone of his voice went to my heart, and the sound of it rung in my ears for weeks. I never had before witnessed this abhorrence of a name; and such a crowd of feelings rose within me, that I could do nothing but remain silent and confused. Mr. Hilson relieved me by saying, “ But, deacon, there may

be some good men amongst the Arminians.” 6. That's more than you know, or I either," said the deacon. “But think it's possible they may be saved, don't you?" rejoined my host. “ It is not promised," replied the deacon; “it is not in the covenant; and as they do not hold the true faith, they are certainly in a dangerous way. I should not expect I could be saved myself, if I was one of them.” “ But all things are possible with God," said Mrs. Hilson, mildly. “True," said the deacon; "and if any of his elect be in this error, he will spatch them from it before they die.”

The course which the conversation had thus taken, led to the statement of all the tenets of Calvinism, to which I listened with amazement, sometimes mingled with horror; for many things were so new and strange, so apparently contradictory, so repugnant to my most cherished feelings


of religion, that I seemed to be in some region of romance, rather than among Christians. Of one thing I felt certain, that if I had wrongly called my father an Arminian, at least he was not a Calvinist. But what is there so much an object of horror in an Arminian? why so difficult for him to be saved? I was lost in the perplexity of my own thoughts.

Before the deacon went, he proposed to join the family in prayer. He first read the eighth chapter of Romans, and then poured out a long and earnest prayer, of great vehemence and minuteness, in which I was made an object of special supplication. The loudness and fervour of this act of worship, so different from the calm and subdued tone of my father, thrilled and agitated me with a new feeling; and when the deacon, as he went out, put bis hand solemnly on my head, and, with an affectionate emphasis, wished me God's blessing and success in my new office, I was overpowered, and burst into tears. I cannot pretend to explain my feelings. They were a chaos of confusion. I was young, every thing was novel, my situation was such as to render me uncommonly susceptible, and religion was presented to me in a form altogether new, and with something inexplicably solemn in the manners of its professors. Those who have been ever placed in a situation in any measure similar, will understand something of the feelings which kept me many hours awake that night; and will easily perceive that I could come to no conclusion, except that of writing to my father as soon as possible, to inquire what was an Arminian, and wha he himself was. Being quieted by this determination, and comforted by my prayers, I at last fell asleep.

(To be Continued.)

On the Diffusion of Christian Unitarianism in Ireland.

It is bighly gratifying to witness the great accession of strength which Unitarianism is receiving in many parts of Ireland. Associations have been formed, which bave tended, in no small degree, towards awakening the dormant faculties of its professors, so long slumbering in inactivity, and a degree of warmth, activity, and zeal, is manifest, which was not formerly diffused amongst us. We no longer confine to our own breasts, the light of

« PreviousContinue »