صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

1847.]

Rev. William B. 0. Peabody.

273

the Divine presence, made real and effective to the minds of men by faith in Jesus Christ. To some it might seem that many of his sermons were so spiritual, so far removed from the ordinary and worldly view of things, that a majority of his congregation could hardly be expected to sympathize with them, or even fully to understand them. It may have been so to a certain extent; but those who do not like sermons for this reason must feel, nevertheless, that they ought to like them. Besides, the best effect of preaching is not to gain sympathy or impart knowledge, but to induce in the hearer a sense of moral deficiencies, and an aspiration for something better, which he is made to feel that others possess. other advantage resulting from his method of preaching, we may observe that he succeeded beyond most others in satisfying all parties as regards the moral reforms of the day, and other agitating questions. Seizing the principle as it stood in the mind of Christ, above the point of divergency among Christians, and urging it with a clearness, simplicity, and earnestness not to be distrusted, all parties felt that he had the truth. After all that has been said about applying principles, he showed that Christian principles, if rightly inculcated and enforced, would apply themselves; and that this constitutes the principal difference between a living and a dead faith. For the same reason, he had no inclination to what is called controversial preaching; but on this point we must be allowed to cite once more his own account of himself.

fore me.

“ As soon as I took charge of the pulpit, a question rose up be.

Should I consider it my duty to explain and extend Liberal opinions, or should I devote myself to the personal im. provement of the members of my society, trusting that the truth with respect to doctrines would make its own way in the public mind? In pursuing the former course I should have struck the key-note of the general feeling ; zeal of this kind excites a ready sympathy, and the want of it is regarded as tameness ; such a course would have added more to our numbers than any other, and many plausible reasons might have been given to show that it was the right one. It would have been easier also for myself. I remember being told by a distinguished physician, that he was seldom consulted by controversial preachers; their sermons were written without any of that labor of mind which wears students down. But I could not persuade myself that this was the way of duty. I knew, that, as fast and far as party passions are excited, devotion and charity are apt to forsake the breast ; I was

[ocr errors]

pp. 6, 7.

well aware that many are made Unitarians, Calvinists, Baptists, and sectarians of every name, without being made Christians by the same conversion. I therefore determined,' if it is not presumption in me to use the words, “I therefore determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified'; since men were sent into the world, not to put on the livery of a party, but to lay the foundations of character in preparation for immortal life.”

All his discourses were marked by the peculiarity of his mind, which was poetical, rather than logical. He did not deduce one truth from another, but illustrated one truth by another ; accordingly, it was apiness and wealth of illustration which constituted at once their excellence and their charm. Hence much of his success in the exposition of the Scriptures, in which by all accounts he was singularly happy ; so much so, that he was frequently importuned to prepare a popular commentary for the press, and appears to have entertained favorably the purpose. Had he carried it into effect, his object would have been not so much to define and justify the sense of Scripture by learned criticism, as to reproduce it in the mind of the reader ; and this, too, for the most part, by leading him to regard it under a right moral and spiritual point of view.

After all, what interests us most in Dr. Peabody is the almost unequalled respect and reverence with which he inspired his parishioners for his ministerial character and labors; the more so, when we consider that this was done in the face of great natural disadvantages. Never was a man less fitted, physically speaking, to become what is called a popular preacher His voice was feeble and monotonous ; his countenance, and person, and action were generally stiff and inexpressive ; so much so, that he seemed at times to be speaking out of his body, rather than with it. Then as to his mind : originally imagination, and not reason, was the master faculty; and this is apt to beget fastidiousness, and this again indifference, and perhaps self-indulgence. All these difficulties and tendencies he had to overcome ; and he did overcome them, by the force of character, by the power of conscience and of faith. Hence the solemn and profound experiences which often made his preaching so searching and so wise ; hence the confidence and veneration with which he was everywhere regarded by those who knew him intimately; hence, finally, in his last days, when God's judg1847.]

Rev. William B. 0. Peabody.

275

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ments fell in such quick succession on his house, he was not unprepared.

Whoever writes the life of Dr. Peabody will have much to say of her who was not only, as he beautifully expressed it, “the queen of his heart,” but “a guardian angel, to whom he owed more than tongue can tell.” In 1843 she died. The blow was unspeakably heart-rending. seems, said he, when he next addressed his people, seems a long time, my friends, since I spoke with you last. It seems as if winters of desolation had been crowded into a few short stern days of misery since I spoke with you last.” Yet, before he was done, he could say, " It is but natural that I should now look back upon the consolations which I have offered you in your sorrow, and I find that I have not dwelt sufficiently on that one which embraces all the rest ; I mean, the blessed thought of God. I am not conscious now of deriving my support from the thought of meeting my best friend again. It is a blessing, but it is not the support; the support is the sympathy of God and the Saviour, and their sustaining presence in the soul. I feel that they are with me. My heart desires no more.

I have not a single wish to recall her who was the light of my life ; my will is in perfect harmony with my Father's. Naturally fearful and distrustful though I am, there is no darkness before me, there is no darkness round me, — all is divinely bright above me. Without a single misgiving or doubt, I shall take my shoes on my feet, and my staff in my hand, and go in the way of duty, desolated though it is, I trust with more faithulness than ever, so long as it pleases God.”

The next year brought with it another calamity ; the daughter, who had supplied the place of her mother, was laid by her mother's side. To borrow the words of the Funeral Discourse,

“ He seemed to stand among us a monument of the desolation which may come upon the dearest children of God. The wife of his bosom and the daughter of his hope were taken, — she who had been as constant in her love as she had proved herself noble in character, and she whose excellence unfolded itself so rapidly beneath the chastening hand of God, that it filled him with admiration, and, as he himself said, made him seem to realize an experience like that of the wanderer, who, when falling upon the mountain-side, grasped a small plant for support, and thus brought to light the rich mines of Peru.' She, too, vanished from

לל

his sight. But the faith which he had shown in his former trial he exhibited now, only with an added meekness of resignation that made his example almost strangely beautiful. It seemed now as if he felt himself standing between the two worlds of be. ing, and looking into heaven, that he might speak of its visions to those by whom he was surrounded on earth. His manner of address became more earnest and affectionate; his desire to bring you into an acquaintance with your own higher capacities and relations, more ardent. He spoke freely of himself, of his outward and inward experience. And if he did not speak with effect, it was not from a want of whatever constitutes the loftiest quality of sacred eloquence. I know of nothing in the whole range of pulpit discourse, written or unwritten, which in tenderness of feeling, solemnity of purpose, or exquisite beauty of sen. timent, surpasses the address which he made in this place after the death of the daughter whose light had so revived his stricken heart.”

One so tried, so purified, so "ready to be offered," could not be long for this world. For several months his bodily health and strength were declining ; but his mind, meanwhile, was never more active or more productive, as if conscious that the time was short, or perhaps because in constant and useful occupation he found a refuge from the thought of his desolation. At length the pen fell from his hand, and, after being confined to his bed for a few days, he died, on Friday night, May 28, 1847, in the forty-eighth year

The bitterness of life and the bitterness of death are past ; and though we cannot but regret that so much excellence has left us, we are glad to believe that he is with those whom he most loved, and that the faith in that mysterious Presence which supported him here is turned into sight.

J. W.

pp. 26-28.

of his age.

Art. X. - THE CATACOMBS AND THE CHURCH OF ROME.

We take in connection the two works the titles of which appear at the foot of the page, partly from a principle of 1847.]

* 1. The Church in the Catacombs : a Description of the Primitive Church of Rome, illustrated by its Sepulchral Remains, By Charles Maitland, M. D. London. 1846. 8vo.

pp.

312 2. Rome, Pagan and Papal. By an English Resident in that City. London. 1846. 12mo. pp. 272.

The Catacombs.

277

66 the

resemblance, but still more from that of contrast. They both relate to Rome, one of them to the buried Church, Church in the Catacombs," - the other to the Church as at present existing there, in her “rites and ceremonies ". more Pagan than that which sleeps, or, till modern explorers disinterred it, slept, in the subterranean city, - the Church of the primitive ages.

In our notice of M. Didron's work (Iconographie Chrétienne), in the number of the Christian Examiner for November, 1846, we introduced some remarks on the value of ancient monuments and inscriptions as throwing light on the development of thought and the history of theological and religious opinions and usages in the different ages of the Church. . Of the justness of these remarks Dr. Maitland's researches furnish ample illustration. His work affords much curious and interesting information relating to the Church as it existed in Rome during the first three centuries and part of the fourth, through which period the Catacombs were resorted to for purposes of concealment in times of persecution, for the performance of religious rites, and for the burial of the dead. From the termination of the period just named to the sixteenth century, these subterranean galleries, with few exceptions, were neglected, and access to them was rendered difficult or impossible by masses of accumulated rubbish. They were, then reopened, and their contents, which had reposed in silence and darkness for more than a thousand years, restored to the light of day.

" It is difficult," says Dr. Maitland, “now to realize the impression which must have been made upon the first explorers of this subterranean city. A vast necropolis, rich in the bones of saints and martys; a stupendous testimony to the truth of Christian bistory, and, consequently, to that of Christianity itself; a faithful record of the trials of a persecuted Church;. such were the ob. jects presented to their view; and so great was the enthusiasm with which they devoted themselves to the research, that two of the earliest writers on the Catacombs of Rome, Bosio and Bol. detti, occupied thirty years each in collecting materials for their respective works, which in both instances remained to be edited by their survivors.

“We must now have recourse to the museums of Rome, and the works of antiquarians, in order to understand the arrangement of the Catacombs at the time of their use as cemeteries. From the removal of every thing portable to a place of greater

« السابقةمتابعة »