« AnteriorContinua »
proofs to an alarming extent, and sometimes to throw down whole paragraphs and pages after they had been set up. Shall we call this a fault, and thus sanction that lazy confidence which enables some writers to utter their crude thoughts in careless language to the disgrace of the church and the injury of good letters? By no Rather let us praise the sternness of principle which governed the man even in such matters, and the prudence which caused him so anxiously to strive for correctness in all things. The lima labor is not so common that we can afford to stigmatize it as a weakness.
4. Such were some of the prominent traits of Bishop Emory's character. Less known, of course, were the strength and tenderness of his affections. How touchingly beautiful are the letters written to his mother, at the time of trial to which we have referred! How carefully he avoids any allusion to his father's course, and how tenderly he speaks of him afterward! The opinion seems to have gained ground, in some quarters, that he was cold and repulsive; and some, observing the stern severity of his manner in the performance of public duty, have judged that his heart was formed in the mold of austerity. Those thought differently who knew him well. The volume before us shows him to have possessed a depth and gentleness of feeling which, we must confess, surprises even ourselves. In the account, given in his own language, of his wife's death, every word is fraught with feeling; and never was there a nobler expression of human love than is found in the closing passage of a letter to his mother-in-law on that mournful occasion: "I think, sometimes, that I could brave death to see her only." The letters to his family and near friends, especially in times of sickness, trial, or death, literally breathe the spirit of love.
But there was some ground for the opinion that he was not remarkably affable; certainly he was not as accessible as he might have been without any detraction from his dignity. This remark, however, can only apply to his business intercourse with others. When he gave himself to the enjoyments of the social circle he was delightfully easy; there, and there only, did his heart find its full play. His friendships, too, were sincere and steadfast, and they could not be otherwise in a nature of so much depth and constancy as his. His biographer tells us that "his heart was too warm and generous not to seek some kindred spirits with whom to hold sweet converse; though even with these, his most unreserved intercourse never descended to any thing unbecoming the Christian or the minister." We think it may be said, in addition to this, that he was not communicative even to his best friends. He was
not accustomed to indulge the entire heart in the gushing flow of sympathy; his soul did not utter itself, as some men's do, in all their fullness; nor did he "delight in the detail of feeling, in the outward and visible signs of the sacrament within-to count, as it were, the pulses of the life of love." His affections were always, and perhaps too much, under the control of his judgment.
5. To attempt a regular analysis of Bishop Emory's mind, is a task to which we dare not address ourselves. No man can trace his history and read his writings without perceiving that accuracy was one of his highest aims. This resulted not only from the character of his mind, but from his mental habits, formed early in life. He could never be satisfied with partial views of any subject. "In boyhood," says his biographer, "whether the subject of inquiry was the pronunciation of a word, or a question of science or religion, he could not be content with conjecture, when certainty might be attained."-P.298. And, in after life, he studied thoroughly whatever he undertook to examine at all, and in setting forth the result of his labors, he surrounded his subject with an atmosphere of light. He had the clearness of Guizot, though without his eloquence. Indeed, the most prominent feature of his mind, it seems to us, was its method. When he spoke, you saw that every sentence was thought out, and present to his mind as a whole, before he uttered a syllable. In writing, too, he always took care to see the end from the beginning. Good logic was natural to him; a sophism grated on his mind very much as discord annoys a musical ear. A difficult question fell to pieces before his power of analysis just as a compound substance is decomposed by chimical agents. Nor was his method mere arrangement, that empty counterfeit which cheats some men into the belief that they have well-ordered minds, as if to build up a science were the same thing as to make a dictionary. It consisted, first, in the natural clearness of his understanding, and, secondly, in his habitual reference of the species to the genus-the subordination of the parts to the whole-the contemplation of the relations of things as well as of the things themselves. His associations were principally made under the law of cause and effect; the principle involved in any phenomenon, and not the mere attendant circumstances of time and place, took root in his mind, so that his memory was eminently philosophical. Add to this his methodical industry, and you have the secret of his extensive knowledge, his readiness in debate, his admirable selfpossession as a presiding officer, and even the versatility which enabled him to excel in all that he undertook. He understood most thoroughly the value of the old maxim, every thing in its
place, a maxim for which genius itself can find no substitute. Coleridge says truly, that "where this charm is wanting, every other merit either loses its name, or becomes an additional ground of accusation and regret. The man of methodical industry organizes the hours and gives them a soul; and that, the very essence of which is to fleet away, and evermore to have been, he takes up into his own permanence, and communicates to it the imperishableness of a spiritual nature. Of the good and faithful servant, whose energies are thus methodized, it is less truly affirmed, that he lives in time, than that time lives in him." Bishop Emory was, to a remarkable degree, this good and faithful servant.
We do not hesitate, therefore, to say that he was a man of great talent. But he was not a man of genius. Every subject had to be brought within the scope of his understanding, and when there, he was perfectly master of it; but in the outer region of the imagination he was comparatively a stranger. No poetry has been found among his remains, and for a very good reason; he did not possess "the vision and the faculty divine." It was not for him to clothe his thoughts in
"The light that never was on sea or land,
for the light that was in him, and which he poured forth in a flood of radiance upon every subject properly within his sphere, was the light of the understanding, and not of the imagination. That he would have been a greater man if more richly endowed with this highest of human gifts, we cannot doubt. His preaching would have been more attractive, his writings more fervent and glowing, and his whole character more ardent. The powers that he possessed qualified him admirably, however, to discharge the duties that devolved upon him, and he worked better, perhaps, with his diversified talents, than a man of genius could have done in the same circumstances. What we have said of him, thus far, amounts to this: that he was eminently a practical man. Without knowing the extent of his studies in modern philosophy, we can easily imagine the contempt in which he would have held transcendentalism. German metaphysics must have been all cloudland to him. He would have placed Kant and Schelling upon the same shelf with Jacob Behmen and Baron Swedenborg. Even Cousin could have found no favor with him. To some this will seem high praise; to others, just the reverse; but, at all events, we believe it to be true.
Dr. Emory was a deeply pious man, in the highest sense of the word. Religion, with him, was not merely a matter of principle
and habit, but had its root deep in his heart, and gave worth and dignity to his entire being. He was not much given to talk about his personal religion; the stream was too deep for that; but his communion with God was, we doubt not, uniform and abundant. Equally removed from formality and enthusiasm, his piety purified his affections, elevated his intellect, and controlled his life.
Such were some of the elements of John Emory's character. To say that we have gained a complete view thereof, would be absurd; even those who were admitted to his closest intimacy, his biographer not excepted, could only obtain glimpses. From his writings, from the book before us, and from our own knowledge, we have tried to present a sketch of his character; any further attempt would have been presumption. We turn now to our second question, and in answering it, shall endeavor to set forth his prominent services to the Methodist Episcopal Church; to show the effect which one master spirit produced (to use his biographer's language in the preface) "upon the institutions, the economy, and the action of an entire denomination."
The constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church sprung from the brain of no system-builder. The bishops said truly, in their notes to the Discipline, that "the whole plan of Methodism was introduced, step by step, by the interference and openings of divine Providence." In obedience to this principle, the presiding elders' office was fully instituted by the General Conference of 1792, which vested the power of appointing them solely in the bishops. Doubts arose at an early period in regard to the propriety of this last provision, and finally, there arose a large party in favor of making the office elective. Mr. Emory fell into the ranks of that party, and exerted himself actively in behalf of the proposed change. It can be productive of no beneficial result at this time to revive the controversy upon this subject, or to rescue from oblivion the circumstances attending it, which were more or less painful to some who are now with God, and others who still linger upon the shores of time. But, in the General Conference of 1820, and subsequently, Dr. Emory made unflinching opposition to what he conceived an assumption, on the part of a portion of the episcopacy, of a right to veto the acts of the General Conference. His construction of the course complained of was indeed disclaimed, and we are happy that no such power has since been assumed or claimed by any bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
But if Dr. Emory stood up manfully in opposition to what he believed to be an unauthorized claim of episcopal power, he was
no less useful as a defender of the episcopacy itself, in a subsequent day of trial. It is hard to realize, now, the dangers which menaced the church during the memorable years of the radical controversy. But shall we consider the danger to have been trifling, because the church triumphed? Because the noble ship came out of the storm with every mast, and spar, and rope unharmed, shall we say that there was no tempest? Rather let us adore the Power that rides upon the whirlwind-and give due praise to the gallant pilots, who, under his protection, withstood its fury. We should judge of its fierceness, not by what the result was, but by what it might have been had there been no capable steersman at the helm. Who can say but that the desire of change, always a powerful one, and at that time intensified into a passion in some leading minds, would have spread through the church with revolutionary rapidity, and convulsed it from one end of the land to the other, had it not been arrested in its inception? "There never was a period," says our author, "in the history of American Methodism, which required such prudence in counsel, such firmness in action." Ungrateful, indeed, would. it be to forget those who then stood up in defense of our noble institutions; and our right hand shall sooner forget its cunning than we refuse to honor their names and commemorate their deeds. We have no desire to exalt one man unduly above another, but we hardly suppose that any will find fault with us for giving the foremost place among the champions of the church out of the itinerancy to Dr. Thomas E. Bond, of Baltimore, whose "Appeal to the Methodists," published in 1827, by its luminous exposition of our system of government, especially with regard to the itinerancy, by its forcible arguments in defense of that system, and by its eloquent appeals to the best feelings of the Methodist community, produced a powerful effect, both in confirming many wavering minds and in preventing the sophisms of the malcontents from leading others astray. This pamphlet, with the "Narrative and Defense," forms part of the history of the controversy. While Dr. Bond was thus acting the part of an able attorney-general, the wisdom and firmness of Rev. James M. Hanson, with whom rested the responsibility of the administration in Baltimore in those perilous times, erected a defense of another sort, no less legitimate, and perhaps no less effective, against the assaults of the innovators. But while these brethren had the danger, and the honor, of fighting the battle in the very district where the enemy's chief strength lay, their efforts were called forth by local circumstances, and some general defense of the church was needed, which should vindicate the fame of her