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invited to preach in the town of Hampton N. H. where in February, 1797, he was ordained to the pastoral care of a church and parish.
In this new and important situation, he proved a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Much of his time was devoted to study: to study, not in name, but in reality. For "he had that first requisite of all true and durable greatness, the habit of patient, long continued attention." Nor was his industry rendered fruitless by the want of system. He knew the advantages of method, and he conscientiously availed himself of them. There was an order, a regularity in his various pursuits, that beautifully corresponded with the stricture of his mind, and the symmetry of his character. As the result of his inquiries he adopted religious opinions, differing considerably from those, which he at first entertained. At the time of his settlement his views were in accordance with the system of Armenius. Those, which he afterwards cherished, the attentive reader will find developed in this volume. The change was not hastily made, nor was it owing to any undue influence of the opinions of others. "For authorities without proofs he had but little reverence." He thought for himself and sought after truth with the most careful, laborious research; always accompanied, as there is good reason to believe, with fervent prayer for Divine illumination.
His sermons, though free from all elaborate display of learning, were written with uncommon care and accuracy. Established in a country village, he found it necessary, if he would be understood, to use great plainness of speech. Superior to a foolish pedantry, and solicitous to be useful, he uniformly studied simplicity and perspicuity of expression. But his simplicity never degenerated into vulgarism. At an early period of his ministry, his discourses were distinguished by richness of sentiment, by strength and purity of style. It was his practice to write but one sermon a week, and to finish that before Saturday.
He was very attentive to his people, visited them often, and "always, as a minister." Frequently when visiting his parishioners, and when visited by them, he spent a portion of the time, in reading some religious book; such as Doddridge's Rise and Progress.
It does not appear, that his ministry was uncommonly successful. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. That he felt very deeply the importance of the trust committed to him, and assiduously and ably performed its duties, was doubted by no one that knew him. In all his intercourse with his people he was prudent, faithful and affectionate. Whether be ministered in the sanctuary, or taught from house to house, or dispensed instruction to children (a service, in which he peculiarly delighted) or conversed and prayed with the sick and afflicted, they were convinced, that he loved them, and earnestly desired their temporal and eternal welfare. They were not wanting in affection to him. Of this they gave abundant proof, while he dwelt among them; and after his removal, when he visited the place, they gathered round him, like children round a father. His coming occasioned universal joy: and they wept at every new parting. It has been said, that some of them were scarcely able to speak of him without tears.
He was much beloved by his brethren in the ministry; and was active in every effort to promote ministerial fidelity and improvement. At his suggestion, several clergymen in the vicinity were accustomed, quarterly to meet at each other's houses, for the purposes, of private fasting and prayer, and of free conversation upon theological inquiries and official duties. At his suggestion also, a periodical work was published, entitled the Piscataqua Evangelical Magazine, to which he contributed several valuable essays, under the signature of Leighton.
He was regarded with peculiar respect by all the churches and congregations in the neighborhood; and, though at the time of his settlement, and during the continuance of his ministry, there was much unhappy division and animosity between the two societies then existing in Hampton, yet in view of both parties Mr. Appleton was constantly rising in estimation.
It has been remarked by one, who was with him on several ecclesiastical councils, and on some occasions, when the cases, under deliberation, were unusually difficult, that "his discernment, discretion, and decision were always conspicuous." By these qualities, indeed, he was uniformly distinguished. A superficial observer might not always have thought him very quick of ap
prehension. For he neither expressed, nor formed an opinion rashly. He knew that the human understanding is of limited capacity, and is liable to err. He reflected, he examined, before he came to a conclusion; but having decided, he seldom found occasion (at least in the later years of life) to alter his opinions. As he judged correctly, so he acted wisely. Both in public and private life, he conducted with consummate prudence; a virtue, not always found connected, either with genius, or piety But the centinel at the door of his lips was always at his post. He never ceased to ponder the path of his feet, nor could it ever be said of him, that there was no judgment in his goings. Yet his feelings were ardent, his spirit was resolute and commanding. He united caution with firmness, and zeal with discretion.
In the year 1800 he was married to Miss Elizabeth Means, daughter of Hon. Robert Means of Amherst N. H. In her he found a friend, worthy of the connexion, which, for nearly twenty years, so happily subsisted between them. They had six children; three sons, and three daughters. The youngest child, a son, was very suddenly taken from them, when three years old, in October, 1817. The other five children are still living.
That Mr. Appleton stood high in public estimation, was made evident in 1803, by his being selected, as one of the two principal candidates for the professorship of theology in the University at Cambridge. A few years after he received both from Harvard and Dartmouth the honorary degree of Doctor of - Divinity.
Upon the death of Dr. McKeen, the first President of Bowdoin College, Dr. Appleton was chosen his successor. After much serious deliberation, he accepted the appointment, and was inaugurated in November, 1807.
For the office of presiding over a Literary Institution, he was admirably qualified. In his character was united the spirit of command with those qualities that conciliate; and he was sure to gain the affection and respect, both of the students, and of his associates in the government. The responsibility, attached to his high station, he deeply and constantly felt; and with singular firmness, discretion, diligence, and success, he performed its du
ties. With wisdom did he conduct himself in perplexing circumstances; and when at any time his measures were misunderstood, and his fidelity was requited with resentment and reproach, he exhibited a genuine magnanimity. He was never indeed, unmindful, that the beings, placed under his care, were endued with reason, and he did not wish to govern them by mere authority and power. Whenever he rejected their petitions, he sought at the same time to convince them, that it would be wrong to do otherwise; to their complaints and remonstrances they always found him willing to attend; and, if they could not prevail to alter his determinations, it was because he had proceeded with deliberation and sound judgment in forming them. He expected, from the first, to meet with difficulties. But, "O, my God," his prayer was, "enable me to aet uprightly, prudently, uniformly, resolutely, and with love to thee: Then, let come of it what will, by thy grace, I will endure it all.”* The prayer was answered; and the resolution, connected with it, was accomplished. Like the glorious sun in the heavens, he swerved not from his course; and, if the mists of passion and prejudice ever obscured his brightness, they were soon dissipated, and he shone forth with new and augmented splendor.
The interest, which he felt in the prosperity of the institution, could not be exceeded. It was a solicitude, that never slumbered. Toward those, who successively became its members, he possessed and manifested the feelings of a father. In administering reproof he was unrivaled. There was such a solemnity in his manner, and pungency in his rubukes; the guilt, baseness, and ill consequences of vicious conduct were so plainly and forcibly represented, that the delinquent must have been hardened indeed, if his mind were not overwhelmed with shame and remorse. It is known, that in many instances the effects of his admonitions were salutary and permanent.
As an instructer, President Appleton was most attentive and assiduous. Though it formed no part of his official duties, he prepared and delivered, for the benefit of the students, upwards of fifty theological lectures, in which he treated of the being, attributes and providence of God, the necessity of a revelation, the
Extracted from a little MS. containing pious thoughts and meditations.
evidences, and several of the more important doctrines, of christianity. To the composition of these lectures he devoted much time, thought, and study. Truth is exhibited in them with great clearness of illustration, cogency of argument, and frequently, when the subject would admit, with very powerful application to the conscience and heart.
The benefits, resulting from his Presidency, as well to the community, as to the College, it is not easy to appreciate. To his wisdom and fidelity must be attributed, in no small degree, the high rank of Bowdoin College among the literary institutions of our country. The deep interest, which he felt in the temporal and eternal welfare of the students, and the happy tendency of his instructions to promote it, were exhibited, in the most impressive manner, at the annual Commencements. One could not witness on these occasions his dignified, graceful demeanor; nor listen to his prayers, so pertinent, solemn, and fervent; to his addresses, so full of sentiment, eloquence, and feeling, without strong emotions of admiration and delight.
Those habits of intense application, which he had formed, while the minister of a small country parish, it was not to be expected, that he would relinquish, when placed at the head of one of our first seminaries of learning. He still continued to be "a close and uniform student." He was much adduced to philological researches; more especially in reference to our own language. The principles of grammar, the laws of pure, classical composition, and of correct pronunciation, were subjects of his exact and critical attention. It has been said, that "he excelled in ethecal inquiries;" and it may be added, that he was well versed in metaphysical disquisitions. It was one effect of his acquaintance with subjects of this nature, that on certain points, in regard to which others have imagined, that they saw clearly, and were authorized to speak positively, he was far more cautious and doubtful. He knew so much about them, as to know, how little can be known.
Theology was ever his favorite study: and not without reason was he accounted one of the first divines in New England, He was far from indulging the spirit of controversy; but he loved to agitate important subjects, and his mind was richly furnish