Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his views, expressed in his clear, logical, and forcible manner; and if these failed to produce satisfaction in their minds, they always made them feel that they had obstacles to overcome in opposing him, which were too formidable for them to encounter. This, it is apprehended, was the great secret of his success. But besides the influence exerted in this way, he was able to do much on all occasions by the weight of his character, and the strong attachment which the people cherished towards him. His people generally desired to gratify him as far as they could, without too much sacrifice of personal feeling or interest. Another thing which tended to prevent difficulty, from the enforcement of his peculiar views on any subject, and to secure him general success, was, he knew just how far to push these things, and when to stop. He never attempted to push any measure beyond the convictions and feelings of his people. After having proposed one, and given his reasons for it, in a plain, faithful, and affectionate manner, he left it with them. He would not tease, reproach, or threaten them, if they declined acting as he proposed; but with the distinct understanding that the responsibility was now theirs, he would submit to the result, and proceed with his work with his accustomed industry and cheerfulness. Though he was peculiarly decided, he was never overbearing, nor obstinate.

CHAPTER II.

CHARACTER OF HIS

PIETY.-HIS TEMPERANCE.

DEVOTION TO

HIS WORK AND INDUSTRY IN IT.

Dr. Emmons was opposed to ostentation of every kind. Any thing which approaches this in writing or speaking, was an object of his hearly dislike. Though he was an admirer of true greatness in all its forms, and never more delighted than when he witnessed an easy and natural exhibition of talents, for any important purpose; yet he could never endure an affected smartness, or a mere show of eloquence, in a public speaker. He was simple, unaffected in his own style and manner of address, and these were always objects of his approval in others. But his aversion to every thing like affected piety, or mere show in religion, was peculiarly strong. He never spoke on this subject merely for the sake of showing his piety. He never appeared more serious, more heavenly minded, or more interested in the subject of religion, than he really felt. He seldom talked much on the subject of his own feelings; and it was his opinion, that christians stand in the way of their own improvement, by making their own feelings so much the direct object of their conversation, instead of those truths of the gospel which are the proper objects of holy feeling, and the contemplation of which is the most effectual means of producing it. In examining candidates for admission to the church, and in conversation with others with a view to know their spiritual state, especially those who had recently begun to entertain hopes of their conversion, he inquired with great particularity into their feelings; and with singular discrimination pointed out to them, the difference between true and false affections. But in his efforts to raise the tone of feeling in the christian's heart, to promote his growth in grace, and to quicken him in duty, he aimed to lead him to the contemplation of those truths which exhibit the proper objects of holy affection, and the appropriate motives to Christian effort.

Though unostentatious, his piety was deep, uniform and consistent. Like David, he “set the Lord always before him." The glorious attributes and perfections of the divine character were the abiding objects of his contemplation. No man ever thought more about God than he. And it is well known that with him mere speculation was not religion. He gave himself, as he gave every one else, credit for genuine piety, no farther than his heart was right with God. It was a part of his daily labor to keep himself

in the love of God. For this purpose he had his hours of secret meditation and prayer, which he observed with singular exactness and punctuality. It was known to all who resided in his family, and to many others who were occasionally there, that at certain times no one could enter his study, unless there was something special to call them there. He made the word of God his constant companion. He studied this, not merely as his text-book, or the source whence to draw his subjects, and materials for his sermons, but as the means of purifying and quickening his feelings and assisting his devotions. He took pains to shut the world out of bis heart. He dreaded its intrusion as he did the most deadly foe; and that it might not exert an undue influence over him, he guarded against the pressure of its cares and the fascination of its enjoyments. To him the Sabbath was a delight. Its sacred hours he devoted exclusively to the services of religion, and not only taught but required all his household to do the same. He would keep no one in his employ who openly profaned the Sabbath, or neglected the public worship

He gave

of God, or refused a prompt and respectful attendance upon the devotions of the family.

Nor did he neglect the duties which he owed to his fellow creatures. The great principle of disinterested love on which he so much insisted in his public discourses, he in a good degree carried out in his practice. He was remarkably devoted to the spiritual interests of his people. He viewed his consecration to the work of the ministry among them as a very significant and solemní transaction, the weighty import of which he could never forget or disregard. He aimed to give them the avails of his time, his talents, and his learning. In all his dealings with men, he was proverbially just and honorable. He was among the few, who never use any kind of deceit or management with a view to gain an advantage over others, and who are never charged with any thing little or mean. liberally of his substance not only for the spread of the gospel abroad among the destitute, but for the promotion of religion at home. He was a well known friend to the poor, and his hand was always open for the supply of their wants. The distressed of every description within the circle of his acquaintance, would resort to him for sympathy and advice. His house was a favorite resort for that unfortunate class of people, who were occasionally deprived of their reason. The tenderness and compassion with which he was known to treat them, seemed to inspire them with a confidence in him which they reposed in no one else. It is difficult to say which was the more manifest, his faithfulness to God, or his friendship to man.

There was a remarkable uniformity in his religion. He was not conspicuous for some of the Christian graces, while others of equal loveliness and importance found no place in his heart; nor did he allow himself in the neglect of a part of his practical duties, while he was full of zeal in the discharge of others of comparatively less importance. The extent and accuracy of his knowledge of Christian doctrine and duty, prepared the way for a beautiful symmetry in his religious exercises and practice. Though he was, as all christians are, the subject of some vicissitude of feeling, wbich no doubt occasionally had an influence upon his conduct, yet he was on the whole remarkable for his constancy in religion. It was not his habit to be highly excited one day, and cold and languid the next. He was not active and faithful in the discharge of his duties for a little season, and then for an equal or a longer time, negligent and unfaithful. From week to week, from month to month, and from year to year, he was the same spiritual, devoted and active minister of the Lord Jesus, the same burning and shining light in the church of God.

The strict temperance which marked his character deserves a record. He was ever mindful of the fact, that his body as well as his soul might be presented as an acceptable sacrifice to God; and this he considered “as his reasonable service.” “He kept under his body and brought it into subjection; lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away.” He took care of the body as the tenement of the soul, and as “the temple of the Holy Ghost.” It might in truth be said that he was "iemperate in all things.” Though he was remarkable for his industry, yet he always took care that his work should be done in season. He did not allow himself to study late at night. He usually retired by ten o'clock, and arose at all seasons of the year, before the sun, and in the winter by day light. He was resolute and fearless. No weather could keep him in, when duty obviously called him abroad; but he always took care not needlessly to expose himself to storms, to evening air, or to excessive cold or heat.

Though he lived at a period when the use of ardent spirits was universally fashionable, yet he was always essentially a total abstinence man. He seldom tasted a drop of any kind of ardent spirit or wine; and whenever he did, it was either in obedience to a custom which had become imperative, or as a medicine for some disease for which it was then thought useful. Old people, especially when they have arrived at their eightieth or ninetieth year, are generally afraid of innovations, and disposed to doubt the utility of modern improvements. But Dr. Emmons at this great age, hailed the temperance reformation as a harbinger of good, and cheerfully gave his name to be enrolled with those who were pledged against the use of ardent spirit as a drink. It gave him great pleasure to see, near the close of his life, the people generally embracing substantially the same views, on this subject, which he had entertained all his days, and zealously engaged in carrying them into practice.

His temperance in respect to the use of food was quite as remarkable as his abstinence from intoxicating drinks. He would eat nothing which he found by experiment was likely to injure him. Though he ordinarily said nothing on the subject, and made bis meals of what was set before him, yet he was always careful to choose the most simple food, and to partake of this in a very sparing manner. He once told the writer, that it was his uniform practice, and had been from his youth, to leave off eating with a good appetite. He seldom drank coffee; would take a cup of tea in the morning, and also in the evening, if he were in company with those who used it; but he chose milk for his supper, and when at home, always took it, until a very short time before his death. There is good reason to believe that his rigid temperance, both in eating and drinking, contributed essentially to the good health which he uniformly enjoyed; to his extraordinary capacity for study; and to the continuance of his life to the great age at which he arrived.

He was early taught to respect the ministry. In his childhood, he viewed it as a peculiarly high and holy calling. He entered upon it very soon after his conversion, while his heart was warm with his first love. He seems then to have made an entire consecration of his time, talents, attainments and influence, to this great work. The strength of his attachment to his calling, and the sincerity of his devotion to it, are manifest from the fact, that no occurrence of his life ever did divert his attention from it. And let not the reader suppose that his temptations to neglect the work of the ministry were not as strong as those by which others are actually drawn aside. Few clergymen of the present generation ever find themselves in circumstances in which it is more difficult to devote themselves exclusively to their work, or which would seem to present a beiter excuse for devoting much time to their secular concerns, than those in which he was placed in the early days of his ministry. According to the custom which prevailed at that time among country clergymen, and which was doubtless a good one for the time, he purchased him a farm at the commencement of his ministry. The one which was, in the providence of God, thrown into his hands, and which, all things considered, appeared to be the most eligible, was large, and out of order. The buildings were old and dilapidated, and the fences lay in ruins. Before he could settle upon it, the buildings at least must undergo a thorough repair. In these circumstances, most young ministers would have felt themselves justified in attending to these things, at least for a time, until a suitable tenement could be prepared for their future residence. But Emmons, that he might give his attention, as well as his time, wholly to the ministry, not only hired carpenters to do the necessary work upon the buildings, but put the entire oversight of it into other hands. And although he boarded within sight of his own house, and frequently passed it while under repair, he never allowed himself to see its interior, until it was finished. This fact, which was told by himself to several of his friends, a short time before his decease, whether it be considered indicative of wisdom or the want of it, certainly evinces one thing; and that is, a determination of no ordinary character, to keep himself free from the entanglements of the world. There are other facts, indicative of the same thing, equally striking in their character. Amidst the distresses of a long and bloody war; under the pressure of a heavy debt; with a salary VOL. I.

8*

« AnteriorContinuar »