« AnteriorContinuar »
ed for such discussion. "No man," said a distinguished divine of the Hopkinsian school,* "knows better, how to ask a question, than Mr. Appleton." It is believed, that others not unskilled in theological science, have had occasion to feel the correctness of such an observation.
The services of President Appleton in the pulpit were universally, and in a high degree, interesting. In the best sense of the expression, he was more, than most others, a rational preacher. His ideas were exhibited with great clearness, and in a manner peculiarly convincing. If the important truths, which he uttered, did not always reach the hearts of his hearers, yet, like the great apostle of the Gentiles, he commended himself to every man's conscience. It was difficult for those who heard him, not to feel, that they were accountable beings; that their Creator had a perfect right to their love and obedience; that by their transgressions they had incurred His just displeasure; and that it must needs be a fearful thing to fall into His hands. Religion appeared most evidently a reasonable service; and the sinner often found himself convicted, at the bar of his own mind, of the most egregious folly. He portrayed the scenes of futurity, as one who knew and felt them to be real, and who earnestly desired to produce in the minds of others a conviction, deep and influential, as his own, of the value of the soul, and the certainty of eternal retributions. His eloquence was his own. It was such, as became "a legate of the skies." There were no tricks of oratory. But there was the eloquence of truth, of reason, and of feeling. His manner of writing was distinguished by strength and energy; his manner of speaking, and I may add, his very looks, were singularly solemn and impressive. On hearing him preach, and, if possible, still more, on hearing him pray, one naturally thought of applying the epithet apostolic.
That his public services were very highly valued, was made sufficiently evident by the frequency, with which they were solicited. Within a few years, he was invited to preach, not only before the Bible, Missionary, Education, and Peace Societies, of Maine, and, on more occasions than one, at meetings of citizens, associated to suppress immoralities, and to promote the better observance of the Sabbath; but also before the American The Rev. Dr. Spring of Newburyport.
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, of which he was a member; before the Legislature, at the annual election; and the same year, before the Convention of the Congregational Clergy; before the Massachusetts Society for the suppression of Intemperance; and had his health permitted, he would in the year on which he died, have addressed the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. His discourses, on several of these occasions, are already before the public.
Those, who were not particularly acquainted with President Appleton, might, in some instances, iuter from the reserve and gravity, which they witnessed, that he did not relish society. Such an inference would be erroneous. Of the pleasure, found in social intercourse, he was peculiarly susceptible. To his friends he uniformly gave a most cordial reeeption, and discovered a strong and generous attachment. His dwelling was the abode of hospitality. His politeness and courtesy were "not the substitute, but the expression of real kindness." He had an uncommonly nice sense of propriety in conduct; and treated, with the utmost delicacy, the opinions and feelings of those, with whom he was conversant. He was scrupulously observant of truth; especially in reference to the sentiments, words, and actions of others; and often lamented the prevalence, particularly in the religious world, of misrepresentation and slander. He was not disposed to look, through a magnifying medium, at the errors, or the sins, of his fellow-men. There were those, whom he viewed, as embracing unscriptural and pernicious sentiments: but he was not fond of opposing them by positive assertions, or harsh epithets. He believed that men are accountable to God for their religious opinions; but he did not wish to see the establishment of ecclesiastical tribunals; and was jealous of any encroachment upon freedom of inquiry.
President Appleton was, in truth, a man of an excellent spirit. The more intimately you knew him, the more plainly you perceived, that he possessed real humility, meekness, and candor. The law of christian kindness was in his lips, and the spirit of christian benevolence governed his conduct. Nor were his virtues of doubtful origin. They were plainly the fruits of vital piety. God had written His law upon his heart, and had put
His fear and love within him. In the perfect character, in the righteous government, of Jehovah, he had strong confidence; in every event he acknowledged His hand; and in conformity to His will sought to regulate his actions, words, and thoughts. His sense of religious obligation was strong and constant; he appeared to live, as seeing Him who is invisible. He was eminently a man of prayer. His devotions in the family, in the College chapel, and in the sanctuary, were those of one, who lived near to God; and his habitual deportment evinced that he cultivated, with uncommon assiduity, an intercourse with heavIf there are those, who make their prayers a substitute for the discharge of moral duties, it was not so with him. There was in him, in constant, vigorous exercise, a genuine principle of integrity; and he aimed at universal rectitude of feeling and of practice. Hence in every relation and circumstance, he exhibited, with singular uniformity, the christian temper and deportment. His domestic character was a lovely exhibition of Christianity. He was the last man, of whom it could be said, that, although apparently a christian abroad, he was negligent of duty, and the slave of bad passions, at home. Toward all around him there was an unintermitting flow of the sincerest good will and kindness; at times, he indulged in sallies of wit and humor. In the government of his children he happily united affection with authority. He did not allow them in sin; he did not permit them to be disobedient; but his control was that of a father and a friend. He interested himself in their pursuits and pleasures: amidst the cares and avocations of an arduous station, he found leisure to superintend their studies, and, by frequently conversing and praying with them, to seek their salvation.
As President of a College Dr. Appleton manifested to a high degree the influence of a christian spirit. Punctual and diligent in performing the common duties of his office, he sought, with untiring assiduity, the literary improvement of the students; but, with a still more fervent zeal, he sought their eternal welfare. Of this they could not but be convinced: and such an influence was given to the truths, duties, and sanctions of religion by his character, instructions, and prayers, as to occasion the remark, "It is impossible to go through Bowdoin College without receiv
ing serious impressions."-He ever rejoiced, when the students made proficiency in science; but as for himself,* so also for them, it was the great object of his wishes, that they might know God their Maker, and Jesus Christ their Redeemer. Many a sleepless night did he pass, on hearing, that any of them were vicious; and often was his soul cast down, and disquieted within him, on observing little or no evidence of vital piety among them. But when the character of the students, in this respect, was changed, and some of them were thought truly pious, "it is," said he, "a great and glorious thing. It is what we have long been praying for. The mercy of the Lord toward us has been unutterable. Praise, everlasting praise, be rendered to His name.”
His benevolence was not confined within narrow limits. He loved his country, and his species. He earnestly desired the universal diffusion of christian truth and virtue. Whatever menaced evil to the church of Christ, he viewed with alarm; whatever appeared conducive to its extension aud prosperity, he hailed with delight. He considered it a peculiar favor, that he lived in so glorious an age, and was permitted to witness events, so auspicious to the best interests of mankind. Exertions for the distribution of the scriptures, for evangelizing the heathen, for educating pious young men for the Gospel Ministry, for promoting the principles and spirit of peace, for preventing and suppressing vice, he beheld with lively interest, with devout thankfulness and joy; and as opportunity presented, was ever ready to aid them, by his counsels, charities, and labors.
The life of such a man, in such a station, might well be considered peculiarly valuable. But my ways, saith the Lord, are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts.
About the time of his losing a very dear child, October 1817, he took a severe cold; and although he was enabled, for many months to attend to his customary duties, he did not, at any time afterward, enjoy his usual health. In the month of May 1819, he became more indisposed; and was not able to officiate at the
* "One week of tender, lively, and prayerful views of God, Christ, and the gospel, is better, than years of intellectual research, that has no near connexion with Jesus and his religion. Oh God, make me spiritual."
From the MS. before refrered to.
College exhibition. His complaints were a slight cough, great hoarseness, and debility. It was thought a journey would prove serviceable. He left home, on the 20th of May, travelled as far as Amherst, (N. H.) and returned in about a month, not essentially benefited. About the middle of July, a voyage to Boston was contemplated. But, the design being relinquished, he remained with his family. About the last of September, or the first of the month following, he seemed to be gaining a little strength; and the hope was entertained, at least by some of his friends, that he might yet be restored. But on the 12th of October, a profuse hemorrhage taking place, all hope of his recovery was, from that time, abandoned.
It was mercifully ordered, that his illness should not be attended with severe pain; and that, until the last few days of his life, he should be in the perfect possession of his understanding. During that long and trying period of feebleness and apprehension, which preceded his dissolution, his christian graces appeared unusually clear and bright; he enjoyed in a greater degree, than in health, the consolations and hopes of the gospel, and ripened rapidly for glory. Peculiarly apparent were his humility and deep sense of unworthiness. "Of this," he often said, "I am sure, that salvation is all of grace." "I would make no mention of any thing, which I have ever thought, or said, or done; but only of this, that God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. The atonement is the only ground of hope." To a friend, that desired to know the state of his mind, he gave the following account. "In general, I am quite comfortable; but not uniformly, though I have seldom what may be called distress, or great anxiety. I have sometimes sweet views of God's holy providence. But I am, indeed, a poor sinner, lying at the foot of sovereign mercy. Most emphatically, and from my soul, do I renounce all hope, in any thing done by myself, as a ground of justification. I fly, I fly with my whole soul, to the blood of a crucified Saviour." A devout and thankful frame of mind was very conspicuous. He frequently spake of the goodness of God in ordering the various circumstances of his sickness; and uniformly mentioned every comfort, as a mercy from his hand, The latter part of the time, until his mind was disorder