Imatges de pÓgina


in an oar.” Again he says: I know not what to do. On one hand the arguments in favor of Calvinism are strong; and what is more to the point, I feel that most of them must be true; and yet there are difficulties, strong difficulties

in the way." Ibid., p. 40.

The hiatus, indicating an omission in this last paragraph, is, to say the least, discreditable to the biographer. It looks suspicious. Did the original read, insuperable difficulties in the way?

As Payson observes, Calvinism is a very comfortable doctrine for the elect. Hence its peculiarities are carefully concealed from the individual, at least as a general thing, until he has obtained a hope that he himself is one of that number. Then the comforts of the creed and his reason are placed in opposing balances. They remain in equipoise a longer or a shorter space according to the temperament of the individual. “I know not what to do.” Selfish. ness is then thrown into the scale with comfort, and Calvinism triumphs. Did the reader ever know a man professing to believe the peculiarities of Calvinism who did not also believe that he had a hope that he was one of the elect?

In alluding to these things it is far from our purpose to question Mr. Payson's sincerity, or to intimate any doubts respecting the strength of his reasoning faculties. We can only regret that with his powerful intellect he did not grapple with the “strong difficulties” of the Calvinian creed before he united with that branch of the church; and that, even after that event, he did not, to use his own expression, allow his “reason to put in an oar.” Even then, in his hands, it might have sculled him—to pursue the metaphor-clean through his difficulties into the broad sea of God's impartial love. That infinite Being to whom man is indebted for his reasoning faculties never gave him a revelation, or invented a system, that contradicts his reason. The same fountain doth not send forth sweet water and bitter.

Payson's Calvinism, however, seems to have been of the more moderate sort; and, if we may judge from the volumes of his sermons before us, the peculiarities of that creed made but a very small part of his pulpit exhibitions.

His mind appears to have been exercised with reference to his call to the ministry while engaged in the duties of his school-in which, as we gather from his journal, he had the happy faculty of blending religious with literary instruction. He was in the habit of lecturing his pupils on subjects connected with Christianity, and some of these lectures were protracted in length to three quarters of an hour--an admirable preparative for the more public duties of the sanctuary, to which he soon after devoted himself. The ordination sermon at his installation as associate pastor of the Congregational church at Portland was preached by his father; and though, as a literary production, it is not remarkable, yet from the rather unusual circumstance of a venerable parent's thus officiating at the most important era of his son's glorious career, it possesses derable interest. We copy a few of the concluding sentences:

“In laboring to form your mind to ministerial fidelity, may I not hope for some assistance from that active principle of 'filial affection which has ever rendered you studious of a father's comfort? I can think with calmness, nay, with a degree of pleasure, of your


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suffering for righteousness' sake; and, should the world pour upon you its obloquy, its scorn and reproach, for your fidelity to your Master's cause, a father's heart would still embrace you with, if possible, increased fondness. But to see you losing sight of the great objects which ought to engage your attention, courting the applause of the world, infected with the infidel sentiments of the day, and neglecting the immortal interests of those now about to be committed to your care,--this, O my son, I could not support. It would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. But is it possible that in such a cause, with such motives to fidelity, and with prospects, may I not add, so peculiarly pleasing as those which now surround you, you should, notwithstanding, prove unfaithful ? It is possible; for there is nothing too base, too ungrateful, or destructive of our own most important interests, for human nature to commit: and unless the grace of the Lord Jesus preserve you, the glory of God will be forgotten, your Saviour will, by you, be crucified afresh, and his cause exposed to shame; your sacred character will beconie your reproach, and, instead of the blessings of many ready to perish, you will accumulate the curses of perishing souls upon your head. May your preservation from this awful fate be the theme of our future eternal praises.

But I must set bounds to the effusion of feelings which have, perhaps, already exhausted the patience of this assembly. Receive, my dear son, word, the sum of all a father's fond wishes : 'Be thou faithful unto death."

These fond anticipations of a father's heart were fully realized. Popularity, not always indeed the test of faithfulness, attended the young pastor from the commencement of his efforts i a popularity not coveted by himself, but the unavoidable result of talents well employed, and zeal and fidelity increasing and ever visible. Over the same church in which, as we have seen, he was ordained, he continued to exercise the pastoral oversight even unto death. In the course of his life he received several “calls," as the technical phrase is, to leave the church in Portland, and accept other charges. Some of these “calls,” particularly one from the Cedar-st. church, in New-York, were long and loud. But he heeded them not, show. ing himself “not greedy of filthy lucre," and desirous to abstain from even the “appearance of evil.” Alluding to these repeated calls, in a letter to his mother dated Jan. 25, 1826, he says:

“A removal would be death to my reputation in this part of the country--I mean my Christian reputation; and, what is far worse, it would bring great reproach upon religion. At present my worst enemies, and the worst enemies of religion, seem disposed to allow that I am sincere, upright, and uninfluenced by those motives which govern worldly minded men. But had I gone to Boston, and, much more, should I now go to New-York, they would at once triumphantly exclaim, 'Ah! they are all alike; all governed by worldly motives. They preach against the love of money, and the love of applause, but they will gratify either of these passions when a fair opportunity offers.' Now I had much rather die than give them an occasion thus to speak reproachfully. It would be overthrowing: all which I have been laboring to build up. Indeed, I can see no reason why God should suffer these repeated invitations to be sent to me, unless it be to give me an opportunity to show the world that Vol. IX.--Oct., 1838.


all ministers are not actuated by mercenary or ambitious views. I have already some reason to believe that my refusal to accept the two calls has done more to convince the enemies of religion that there is a reality in it than a thousand sermons would have done." Memoir, p. 263.

The preceding extract shows, in an amiable light, his jealousy for the interests of his Master's cause. It exhibits, also, in vivid colors, the inherent evils of the “call” system. Under what other system would the world need evidence that “all ministers are not actuated by mercenary or selfish views ?" It is true, and we take pleasure in bearing testimony to the fact, that the responses to these "calls” are not, in every instance, evidence of mercenary or ambitious views; but it is equally true, as Mr. Payson hints, the world thinks they are, especially when the “call” is from a less to a more honorable and lucrative station; and the converse is seldom given, and still seldomer complied with. But the ill effects of the system are not seen only in this way. The opinions of the gainsayer and the scoffer might be deemed of little import. The effects of the system are positively and palpably injurious to the church. At any moment the ties which bind a faithful minister to the flock who are perfectly satisfied with their pastor are liable to be severed. And this because some other flock, who are better provided with this world's goods, think proper to give him a “call.” Thus pulpit eloquence, like that of the bar, is made a marketable commodity; zeal the standard of salary; and the gifts of the Holy Ghost are exercised at the “call” of the highest bidder. “To the poor,” said Christ, "the gospel is preached;" but, on this system, it is most evident that unless the supply of laborers is fully equal to the demand, the poorer portions of God's heritage must go untilled.

The troubles and commotions arising in the flock of Christ even from the prospect of the operations of this system are, we were going to say, ludicrous, and they are so, but at the same time they are lamentable. Take the following specimen :

“When Park-street church, in Boston, was left vacant by the removal of Dr. Griffin, Mr. Payson's charge had unpleasant apprehensions of losing their beloved pastor. It is in allusion to this time that he says in a letter: "We have been kept in a fever here all this winter by perpetual alarms from Boston. Because I do not refuse before I am asked, and exclaim loudly against going, some of my people suspect I wish to go.

No application has yet been made from B., though much has been said about it. doubtful whether any will be made. I feel very easy about it myself, but the church are in great tribulation.”Memoir, p. 261, seq.

It is not quite clear that the tribulation which the Saviour forewarned his followers awaited them was to arise from any such source, though we are willing to admit, on the strength of Mr. Pay. son's assertion, seeing he had the best right to know, that the tribulation of the second church in Portland was on this occasion great.

History has given us no hint of any afflictions of this nature in the early ages of the Christian church. It is nowhere intimated that the Ephesians were in any “fever” lest some wealthier church should succeed in robbing them of the services of Timothy by holding out to him a prospect of greater usefulness in the shape of a larger salary.



It is very

While on this subject it occurs to us to remark here, for the spe. cial benefit of those who are continually harping on the authority of bishops, and the vested rights and powers of conferences, that in perusing the memoir before us we have been forcibly struck with the unequal and one-sided nature of the contract called a settlement or installation. Had Mr. Payson been the very reverse of what he was; instead of being popular had he been disagreeable to a large majority of his people; nay, after his instalment had he proved utterly deficient, and the church unanimously desired his removal, there was no power by which it could be effected against his will. The contract bound them, and left him free. Nothing short of death, or detection in gross immorality sufficient to deprive him altogether of church membership, can cut the knot with which installation ties the people to the pastor. To him it is a thread of gossamer; to them a cord of perdurable toughness.

“I have much new cause for gratitude,” says Payson in a letter to a friend, “since I left home. The minister at -, a smooth, liberal preacher, has been long intemperate, and lately fell from his horse into a slough, on his way to meeting. He was, on this, dismissed ; and as he was not the first bad minister this people had been cursed with, they have contracted a strong prejudice against the Congregational clergy."--Memoir, p. 162.

We have made this extract for the sole purpose of illustrating the point before us. This man, it seems, had been long intemperate; but had he not fallen from his horse in consequence, and thus given evidence of his besetment, sufficient to fix the charge conclusively upon him, he might, for all that appears to the contrary, have still been the people's pastor, and had a legal demand upon them for his support. We leave this subject--it is not a pleasant one--for the consideration of our brethren of the Evangelist and the kindred genus of mote-spiers.

Borne on the full tide of popularity, from the first hour of his pastoral labors at Portland, Mr. Payson's experience coincided with that of others who have been similarly circumstanced. Popularity, although it afforded him the means of extending his usefulness, cost him dear. “No one,” says he, “can conceive how

dearly it is purchased; what unspeakably dreadful temptations, buffetings, and workings of depravity are necessary to counteract the pernicious effects of this poison."

It is an exceedingly subtle question, how far a desire for popularity may lawfully extend on the part of an ambassador for Christ. On the one hand, a reputation for learning and eloquence may, in many cases will, extend a minister's prospective usefulness, and in this respect it is doubtless desirable ; yet, on the other, there is unspeakably great danger that popularity may be sought for its own sake, and, when obtained, efforts be made to extend and perpetuate it not warranted by the simplicity of the gospel. What may be lawful as a means becomes sinful as an end. It were well if those who are ambitious of a popularity like that of Payson would ask themselves a question similar to one proposed to his disciples by the Lord Jesus on a certain occasion: "Are we able to drink of the cup that he drank of, and to be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with ?" and not rashly to answer,

66 We are able." The blast that shivers in fragments the lofty cedar passes harmlessly

over the more humble and therefore more useful shrubbery. A few extracts from his journal, written for his own eye alone, and in a character which cost his biographer much pains to decipher, will abundantly evidence that popularity is not a flowery path, nor eminent reputation a bed of roses.

Feb. 2, 1807.--Was amazingly given up to wandering imaginations. If I attempted to pray, in a moment my thoughts were in the ends of the earth. If I attempted to read the Bible, every verse almost afforded ground of doubt and caviling. This fully convinced me that Satan is able to make me doubt even the existence of God.”

March 7.–Were it not for the promised help of my Saviour, I would think no more of preaching; but labor for daily bread."

June 18.-Suffered more of hell to-day than ever I did in my life. O such torment! I wanted but little of being distracted. I could neither read, nor write, nor pray, nor sit still."

Jan. 1, 1824.--Rose early and tried to pray; but a weak, languid frame crushed me down. I have, however, reason to bless God that he allows such a wretch as I am to serve him at all. Groaned and struggled with my weakness before God. Read a number of passages in my diary, especially what is recorded under date of December 16th, 1815. Am glad I kept a journal. I had otherwise forgotten much of what I have done against God, and of what he has done for me. Was confounded at what I read. My words are swallowed up. My life, my ministry, has been madness, madness! What shall I do? where shall I hide? To sin after I had sinned so much, and after I had been forgiven! But I cannot write! I cannot think! and if my sins appear so black in my book, how do they appear in God's!”

A few extracts from his epistolary correspondence will farther elucidate this point:

“My other chief besetting sin, which will cut out abundance of work for me, is fondness for applause. When I sit down to write, this demon is immediately in the way, prompting to seek for such observations as will be admired, rather than such as will be felt, and have a tendency to do good."

Again, writing to his mother he says:

"I am harassed with such violent temptations from morning to night, and from night till morning, with scarce a moment's intermission, that I am utterly weary of life, and ready to despair. It seems as if I must one day perish by the hands of this accursed Saul which seeks to destroy me. O my dearest mother, do pity me, and pray for me; for I am sifted like wheat.”

And again, under a subsequent date:

“ After telling you that religion thus flourishes among us, I am ashamed to complain; for what reason of complaint can a minister have while he sees the cause of Christ triumphant? Nor do I complain of any thing except myself. Every earthly thing is imbittered to me, and the enjoyments of religion are kept far above out of my reach. I am overwhelmed by one wave of temptation after another."

The following extract shows the severity of these temptations, not uncommon to eminent ministers. The late Robert Hall, in his day perhaps the most popular preacher in England, suffered from the same source: and Haliburton, whose memoirs have been lately

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