Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his acquaintance by letter, invited him to distant places at their own expense, and seemed to vie with his particular friends in efforts to promote his honor and happiness.

Within the circle of his acquaintance, his warmest opponents, both in politics and religion, became his friends and admirers. While they were careful to guard against committing themselves on the subject of his opinions, they would often express an unqualified approbation of his character; and seemed delighted with the honesty, decision and firmness, with which he had uniformly carried out his convictions. The esteem in which he was held was not the partiality of private friendship, or the interested feeling of any party attachment. Nor was it merely the homage which is sometimes paid to splendid talents, or mighty deeds. It was rather a deep conviction of personal worth; a feeling which arises spontaneously in view of strict, unbending integrity, maintained amidst all the vicissitudes and temptations of a long and laborious life. The profoundest homage that has ever been paid to the character of Dr. Einmons, has arisen, it is believed, in view of the courage and independence with which he has proclaimed his own convictions of truth, regardless of the frowns and flatteries of the world. From a sense of duty, he uniformly submitted to opposition and reproach. This trait of his character ultimately secured him a degree of respect, which could have been obtained by no other means. Nor is there any thing unnatural or mysterious in the fact. Human nature is such that it must pay homage, either voluntary or involuntary, to strict integrity of character. It will be seen by the following extract from an oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Brown University, September 4, 1832, by Hon. Theron METCALF, Reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, that the trait of character named above was, among others, a particular object of his eulogy: “ It might occur, one would think, to the discretion of all men, and especially to clerical men, that the only way in which lasting respect can ever be acquired, is in the pursuit of worthy ends by worthy means. Indeed, as a matter of immediate popularity, a clergyman would find his account in the bold and faithful discharge of his sacerdotal functions, without anxious regard to applause or censure. I need not refer to Massilon, and Oberlin, and other honored dead, in proof of this suggestion. But I cannot resist the impulse which inclines me to allude to an eminent living divine, personally known to many of you; whose plain and unshrinking enforcement of his own views of truth; whose fearless reprehension of wickedness in high places and in low; and whose entire devotion, for more than fifty years, to the duties of

his profession; have secured for him a most extensive and reverent respect, no less sincere and profound in the many who reject his peculiar opinions, than in the few who adopt them. I desire to be grateful, that in the place of my nativity, such an example of clerical dignity, fidelity, and contempt of the popularity which is run after,' was constantly before my youthful eyes; and that such an example of the popularity which follows' is still before the eyes of the public."

Few, indeed, seem to be aware of the fact that the highest honor is destined to follow those who sacrifice their own interest, pleasure or popularity, in obedience to the calls of duty. Their own observation, however, might teach them that this is the order of divine providence, and present before them numerous examples by which it is strikingly illustrated. But if they saw no instances of its ruth within the ircle of their observation, they might derive a knowledge of the fact from the express testimony of the word of God. “ They that honor me I will honor," is a declaration which corresponds in its language and import with many others. It ought to be better understood than it now is, that the only way to acquire true and permanent honor, even from men, is to secure the approbation of God; who can turn their hearts to whom he pleases, and make their affection and esteem the means of any amount of good which he may see fit to confer upon his friends. Let the movements of divine providence with respect to Dr. Emmons, impress upon the minds of Christian ministers the truth and importance of the Saviour's declaration : “ If any man will serve me, him will my Father honor." Let them learn from his experience the perfect safety of preaching the truth out fully and plainly, however offensive it may be to the carnal heart. Let them be encouraged by this example before them, to reprove sin in all its forms, whether their rebukes fall upon the rich or poor, the high or low; or whether the present effects of their faithfulness be the approbation, or the frowns of the world.

[merged small][ocr errors]

HIS FAINTING IN THE PULPIT, - RESIGNATION OF HIS OFFICE. —

SETTLEMENT OF HIS COLLEAGUES.

[ocr errors]

Dr. Emmons thought much upon the subject of old age. Long before he manifested any of its infirmities, he seemed to have made it a subject of familiar reflection and deep study. As his years increased, he wrote and preached a great many sermons upon old age; and often made it a topic of conversation with his friends. Finding himself in the enjoyment of good health at the age of sixty and seventy years, he doubtless had some anticipations that he night be spared far beyond the common limits of human life. He often expressed the dread which he felt of the infirmities and trials of old age. Sometimes he would say to his younger friends, “ By and by I shall be thrown behind the door, and you have no idea what a dreadful thing it is to be laid aside as good for nothing." But there was one thing which he appeared more afraid of than any degree of suffering or neglect which he might endure from the infirmities of age. It was the continuance of his public labors beyond their usefulness. On the thirteenth of May, 1327, while delivering his sermon in the pulpit, he fainted. Those near the desk went immediately to his relief and carried him home. When he had recovered from his fainting turn, he was found to be very unwell, and continued so for several weeks. He did not,

, it is believed, immediately determine upon retiring then from his labors. But finding he did not recover his strength so soon and so fully as he hoped, he was inclined to regard this providential interruption of his labors as an intimation of the will of God that he should now retire from the active duties of his office. The result of his reflections on this subject, appears in the following communication:

"FRANKLIN, MAY 28, 1827.

66
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH AND TO THE MEMBERS OF THE

RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF THIS PLACE :

“Brethren and Friends, – I have sustained the pastoral relation to you for more than fifty years, which is a long ministerial life. The decays of nature, the increasing infirmities of old age, and my present feeble state of health, convince me that I must now retire from a field of labor which I am no longer able to occupy to my own satisfaction or your benefit. I therefore take the liberty to inform you that I can

no longer supply your pulpit, and perform any ministerial labors among you; and at the same time, that I renounce all claims upon any future ministerial support; relying entirely upon your wisdom and goodness to grant, or not to grant, any gratuity to your aged servant during the residue of his life.

NATHANAEL EMMONS.

This step was unexpected by his people. Except the increased lowness of his voice, in consequence of which some were unable to hear him distinctly, there was no perceptible failure in his public performances. As a general thing, he was as acceptable as a preacher, both at home and abroad, when he resigned his office, as he had been for years before. The step, which he now thought it his duty to take, deeply affected the people. Many were in tears; and some could hardly be reconciled to the thought, that they were never to hear him preach again. But as he was now in his eighty-third year, the more considerate of his people, however they might lament the change, could not but admit that the step was on the whole judicious. With unabated attachment to him as a man, with a grateful recollection of his past faithfulness, and under a deep sense of the loss which they now sustained, they yielded their consent to his wishes, and took measures for the supply of the pulpit which he had vacated.

There are two things in the manner in which Dr. Emmons retired from the duties of his station, which are characteristic of the man. The first is, his retiring at once before his failure was, to any extent, perceptible. He had noticed that old rninisters generally hold on too long, and continue to officiate when their services have become unacceptable and useless. He determined, both for his own sake and that of his people, to avoid this mistake. He therefore took the first decisive indication of a weakness too great for his labors, to retire from his work. He did recover his health after this attack, and no doubt he always hoped he should. But he now felt that no reliance was to be placed upon his future strength, that at the longest it could continue but a short time, that he needed the remainder of his days for repose, and that he could probably do more good in his retirement than in the active duties of the ministry. But the greatest thing of all, which operated to deter him from resuming his labors, was the fear that he should continue them too long. To a gentleman who sometime afterwards congratulated him upon his green old age, and expressed a doubt whether he did not retire too soon from the ministry, he replied with his accustomed promptness, “I meant to retire while I had sense enough to do it.”

ry.

The other thing in his manner of closing his labors, characteristic of the man, is the voluntary relinquishment of his sala

If any man ever had claims upon a people, he had upon his. His salary had always been small. And his labors had been unremitting for more than half a century. He was now between eighty and ninety years old, and his companion, although somewhat younger than he, was a cripple, and had been so for nearly ten years. If in these circumstances, he had insisted upon the people's doing something in a pecuniary way to smooth his passage to the grave, there could have been no just ground of complaint.

But although he knew they were his debtors, he was disposed to leave the question of future support entirely to their sense of justice and propriety. This was the same trust in God, and confidence in his people, which he had always manifested. He was never disposed to contend with his people on the subject of support; and least of all would he do this at a time so solemn and affecting both to him and them, as the closing up of his earthly labors. The parish voluntarily granted him an annual stipend of one hundred and fifty dollars during his life, and to this the church added fifty dollars a year from the avails of their fund.

No sooner had he relinquished the duties of his office than he appeared deeply solicitous to see a good man settled in his place. He evidently felt for his people the attachment of a father to his children. While they were destitute, there was no one object that seemed to occupy his attention, and interest his feelings so much, as the settlement of the right man as his successor. After being supplied by different individuals for the space of more than two years, the church and parish united in the choice of Rev. Elam Smalley as their pastor and teacher. With this choice Dr. Emmons was pleased. The day of Mr. Smalley's ordination, although attended with associations peculiarly solemn to this aged servant of God, was nevertheless one which he appeared to enjoy very highly. He rejoiced in the union which now prevailed among his flock; in the joy and satisfaction which they appeared to feel in view of their prospects; and in the hope which he himself indulged, that the transactions of that day would be the means of lasting good to the people in whose spiritual welfare he felt the liveliest interest. He was now in his eighty-fifth year. He had not opened his lips in the desk since the day he fainted in the delivery of his last sermon. A deep silence and a most intense interest pervaded the great assembly when he arose to give the charge to his colleague. In a low and tremulous voice, he thus began :

« AnteriorContinuar »