Imatges de pÓgina

were his native forces, how they operated upon the world, and how, in turn, the world operated upon them. We shall thus know what he was, and then we can learn something by seeing how he developed this inward life in outward action by finding out what he did. From the book before us we can do these things-not, indeed, perfectly, or as far as we might wish; that, no biography could afford to us; but better, perhaps, than if this life of a man, constitutionally prudent and reserved, whose thoughts were not to be fathomed by every passing stranger, had been written by any other than his own son; especially, since, as we have already said, the son's reverence for the father, great and deserved though it may be, is no blind idolatry.

Let us look at the first great act of his life. His father, evidently a good man, but stern and unyielding, designed him for the bar, and had him educated accordingly. He entered upon the practice of the law at an unusually early age, with the fairest prospects of success. But the young man's mind had received another bentnew impulses were given to him from above, and he felt that he must obey them. He resolved to abandon his profession and devote himself entirely to the work of the ministry. "It was on the ninth of October, 1809," he writes, "that I made a covenant on my knees, wrote and signed it, to give up the law, after much reading, prayer, and meditation, and on the tenth I did so, though my father was very unwilling." This act, and the spirit that animated it, will afford a clew to his entire character. It was not so great a thing in itself, this mere giving up of good worldly prospects to become a preacher of Christ; if that were all, we might say that he had done no more than many others; nay, that he had done less. It is not so great a sacrifice, after all, for a man of any elevation of soul, to throw aside trifles for realities; a man altogether worldly and selfish might not understand such an act; but for a noble spirit, the far greater sacrifice would be to crush its heavenward tendencies, and suffer them to be trampled in the dust, by ambition or avarice, in the great highway of life. But the significance of the act lies in this, that the conflict, in the bosom of this youth of twenty, was not merely between worldliness and self-devotion, but between the high claims of a duty whose voice of authority he had implicitly obeyed from his childhood, and which had grown with his growth until it was interwoven with every fibre of his being, and the higher claims of a destiny newly unfolded to him and foreign from the early plans and training of his life. He revered his father as a wise and good man; nay, he loved him with an affection that had not been weakened by severity or alienated

by unkindness, for he owed every thing to his father's love; he had been used to look up to him for advice, and to render the ready obedience of a dutiful son; and now, in the great turning-point of his career, he was called upon to disobey! That little lawyer's office in Centreville was the scene, night after night, for months, of a mighty struggle. Often have we contemplated it thus: It is his duty to preach. He feels the fire within him, and he cannot extinguish it-the flame of love to God and man. And yet it has not free course; sometimes he even thinks it is dying away, and he longs to give it vent in its natural channels. The world lies before him in its wickedness. Men are rushing toward the precipice of destruction, and he knows that God has made his arm strong to pluck them from the awful brink. He sees moral evil, in its varied forms of malignant power, battling with the right and the true; a warrior's spirit is in him, and he longs to stand in the thickest of the fray. The life of a man is before him, and he longs to fill it with good deeds. His vision embraces even other and further scenes. He recollects not only how nobly great souls have spent themselves in life, but how nobly, too, they have triumphed in death, and he looks forward to the hour, when, after his work is done, he too shall achieve that final victory. He is ready to go! But he looks even beyond the grave, and there gleams before his spirit-vision the crown of eternal life, all radiant with gems-immortal souls saved through his instrumentality-stars that are to shine for ever in his coronet of glory. He must go, though all the world oppose him. But let the world speak. It tells him of his talents, and the brilliant prospects before him-wealth, distinction, a high name among men. It tells him of the poverty, the obscurity, nay, it even dares to say, the shame that must come upon him if he change his course. More forcibly, it tells him that he has mistaken his way, and that he can be more useful as a weighty citizen or honest statesman than as a wandering preacher. Is this all? These petty sophisms cannot deceive him; his eye is too keen for that. Not that he is unambitious; but that he is all too ambitious to limit his undertakings to so narrow and temporary a sphere. If this be all, then, the struggle is over. But, ah! the real conflict has yet to come. His very virtues are in arms against him. His filial love is pointed, an enemy's weapon, against his own bosom. His long habit of obedience binds him with chains of iron. His father's judgment he has always trusted, and can he pronounce it incorrect now? Certainly it is not altogether unreasonable; his health is so feeble that he has to relax his studies, and he needs the comforts of home, rather than the toils of a circuit. Can we

wonder that he was sorely tried? Could we have blamed him for a different choice? Blame him we might not, but he would assuredly have blamed himself. Had John Emory yielded to his father, his integrity and honor would have been fearfully shaken; thereafter he could not have trusted himself. But his integrity and honor remained unshaken then, as they did in all after time, forming the very basis of his manly character. The decision was made according to the dictates of his conscience, and even then, virtue was not without its heavenly witness and reward. "The moment," says he, "I entered into this covenant upon my knees, I felt my mind relieved, and the peace and love of God to flow through my soul, though I had before lost almost all the comforts of religion. And ever since I have enjoyed closer and more constant communion with God than before."

We have spoken of this one act of Emory's life at length, because, as we have said, it throws light upon his entire character. His integrity we have seen triumphant here, and we believe no man ever doubted it afterward. It was written upon every lineament of his strongly marked countenance; it spoke in every word that fell from his lips; and it was manifest in every action of his life. Known and read of all men as it was, it is almost superfluous to commemorate the honesty of John Emory. Ambition could not tempt it; difficulties could not shake it; gold could not bribe it. He adopted his opinions cautiously, because he would receive none without the fullest assurance of their truth; and when they were adopted, he maintained them manfully, because he believed them to be true. It mattered not to him who was his opponent. Except that his modesty and tenderness of feeling were wounded by the trial, his opposition to Bishop M'Kendree was as vigorous as it would have been, if, on the same subject, he had been contending with a junior preacher like himself. No disputant could be more thoroughly upright in the conduct of a debate than he; sound and legitimate reasoning he would employ against any man, sophistry he never deigned to use at all. He never committed the fatal error of maintaining a good cause by bad arguments. His was not that flexible conscience which bends with circumstances. And though he was prudent, as we shall see, almost to a proverb, we do not believe that an instance could be found, in his whole life, of his sacrificing the true to the expedient. In the early stages of the presiding elder question he incurred the imputation of radicalism by his bold advocacy of what he believed to be a necessary change; and in its later days, he was liable, in the eyes of some, to the charge of inconsistency, because he opposed the excesses of per

sons with whom he had before been partially connected. In both cases he knew the risk he was running; in both he made up his mind as to what was right, and unflinchingly pursued it.

2. We notice next the strength of will which Mr. Emory exhibited in obeying the call of duty in opposition to his father's wishes. We have seen that the parent was unbending: he found the son worthy of the sire in this same iron trait, which he manifested, not merely in the decision, but in adhering to it through two whole years of gloom, in which his father refused to hear him preach, or even to receive letters from him. What a weight to rest upon the young itinerant, in addition to the cares inseparable from his new position! "It would, doubtless," says the author, "be an instructive and affecting lesson to peruse the private diary which he kept at this period." It would, indeed, have proved a precious relic; but even without it, we can appreciate the firmness of his conduct in this early day of trial, and his subsequent history showed a full development of this powerful element of character. Nor could it ever be mistaken for obstinacy, that "stubbornness of temper which can assign no reasons but mere will for a constancy which acts in the nature of dead weight rather than of strength, resembling less the reaction of a spring than the gravitation of a stone." Knowing the purity of his own intentions, confiding in his own judgment, and perceiving his superiority to most of the men around him, he was rarely to be found in that miserable state of suspense which seems to form the common atmosphere of men of muddy brains and feeble wills. It was surprising to see how such men would fall back and clear the way for his coming. It was known that he was a wise and thoughtful man, but if it had not been known also, that his will was not to be baffled, he never could have attained the power over men which he possessed. The great secret of heroism lies, indeed, in this strength of will. A man may be as honest as the day and as clear-headed as Lord Bacon, but if his will be imbecile, he will be thrust aside in the day of trial by men of far humbler pretensions. One Mirabeau, in a French revolution, is worth a score of Neckars. We are no idolators of mere energy of mind, and yet we are too well assured of the immense power it confers on its possessor not to honor it, when we find it combined with inflexible integrity and directed to noble objects. In Bishop Emory it was exhibited not only in that promptness of action which we call decision of character, but also in that well-sustained steadfastness which is perhaps more rare, consistency. No one doubted that when the time came for action he would be prepared; no one expected to find the deed of one day nullified by that of the next.

3. Many strong men keep us in constant fear lest they should make some false step. When in possession of power they are watched by a thousand anxious eyes. With unimpeachable honesty and Roman firmness, they are so destitute of prudence that their power is wasted in the endless strifes which they excite by the wayside, instead of being treasured up for great emergencies. Not so Bishop Emory. He disobeyed his father, it is true, but not without foresight on his own part, and wise counsel from his friends to fortify his decision. Afterward he was proverbially a prudent man. Dr. Bangs says, "that he was always desirous to have his errors corrected before they should be exposed to the multitude for indiscriminate condemnation." This combination of discretion and firmness is so strongly marked, that we should be tempted to illustrate it at length from the biography before us, did our limits allow. It must suffice for us to point to his success in his very first station, where his remarkable prudence fully justified the reply of Bishop Asbury to some who doubted his qualifications for the post, "Never mind, he has an old head on young shoulders;" to his conduct in his delicate mission to England; to his defense of the institutions of the church; to his management of the Book Concern; and, lastly, to his performance of episcopal functions. We have traced him through the whole of this career, and found him often placed in circumstances of perplexity and even of peril, but never once have we found his firmness shaken or his discretion at fault. We are aware that this is high praise, and that some have tried to impugn his conduct, in certain instances, as indiscreet, to say the least; but we are firmly convinced that in no case, even the most difficult, could he have done less than he did without sacrificing that steadfastness of purpose which he would have died sooner than relinquish. He could not have been more discreet, even in appearance, without being less firm. But there have not been wanting those who considered his very caution a fault; and we have heard him charged with a morbidly scrupulous care for his own reputation. A newly published book was once under discussion in the presence of one of our living bishops, and several errors, evidently the result of carelessness, being pointed out, the bishop remarked, "Brother Emory would have worked his finger nails off before such inaccuracies could appear in a publication of his." The remark was no exaggeration. No man could be more conscientious as an author than John Emory. So great was his anxiety that all his compositions should be finished, that we have known him, after correcting and recorrecting until his manuscript had become the plague of the compositors, to make free with the VOL. II.-5

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