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Pages From an Old Volume of Life by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)

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looked upon. How much truth there was in it all I will not pretend
to say, but I seem to remember stamping over every rock that sounded
hollow, to question if it were not the roof of what was once Basil's

The sun was getting far past the meridian, and I sought a shelter
under which to partake of the hermit fare I had brought with me.
Following the slope of the hill northward behind the cemetery, I
found a pleasant clump of trees grouped about some rocks, disposed so
as to give a seat, a table, and a shade. I left my benediction on
this pretty little natural caravansera, and a brief record on one of
its white birches, hoping to visit it again on some sweet summer or
autumn day.

Two scenes remained to look upon,--the Shawshine River and the Indian
Ridge. The streamlet proved to have about the width with which it
flowed through my memory. The young men and the boys were bathing in
its shallow current, or dressing and undressing upon its banks as in
the days of old; the same river, only the water changed; "The same
boys, only the names and the accidents of local memory different," I
whispered to my little ghost.

The Indian Ridge more than equalled what I expected of it. It is
well worth a long ride to visit. The lofty wooded bank is a mile and
a half in extent, with other ridges in its neighborhood, in general
running nearly parallel with it, one of them still longer. These
singular formations are supposed to have been built up by the eddies
of conflicting currents scattering sand and gravel and stones as they
swept over the continent. But I think they pleased me better when I
was taught that the Indians built them; and while I thank Professor
Hitchcock, I sometimes feel as if I should like to found a chair to
teach the ignorance of what people do not want to know.

"Two tickets to Boston." I said to the man at the station.

But the little ghost whispered, "When you leave this place you leave
me behind you."

"One ticket to Boston, if you please. Good by, little ghost."

I believe the boy-shadow still lingers around the well-remembered
scenes I traversed on that day, and that, whenever I revisit them, I
shall find him again as my companion.


The priest is dead for the Protestant world. Luther's inkstand did
not kill the devil, but it killed the priest, at least for us: He is
a loss in many respects to be regretted. He kept alive the spirit of
reverence. He was looked up to as possessing qualities superhuman in
their nature, and so was competent to be the stay of the weak and
their defence against the strong. If one end of religion is to make
men happier in this world as well as in the next, mankind lost a
great source of happiness when the priest was reduced to the common
level of humanity, and became only a minister. Priest, which was
presbyter, corresponded to senator, and was a title to respect and
honor. Minister is but the diminutive of magister, and implies an
obligation to render service.

It was promised to the first preachers that in proof of their divine
mission they should have the power of casting out devils and talking
in strange tongues; that they should handle serpents and drink
poisons with impunity; that they should lay hands on the sick and
they should recover. The Roman Church claims some of these powers
for its clergy and its sacred objects to this day. Miracles, it is
professed, are wrought by them, or through them, as in the days of
the apostles. Protestantism proclaims that the age of such
occurrences as the apostles witnessed is past. What does it know
about miracles? It knows a great many records of miracles, but this
is a different kind of knowledge.

The minister may be revered for his character, followed for his
eloquence, admired for his learning, loved for his amiable qualities,
but he can never be what the priest was in past ages, and is still,
in the Roman Church. Dr. Arnold's definition may be found fault
with, but it has a very real meaning. "The essential point in the
notion of a priest is this: that he is a person made necessary to our
intercourse with God, without being necessary or beneficial to us
morally,--an unreasonable, immoral, spiritual necessity." He did not
mean, of course, that the priest might not have all the qualities
which would recommend him as a teacher or as a man, but that he had a
special power, quite independent of his personal character, which
could act, as it were, mechanically; that out of him went a virtue,
as from the hem of his Master's raiment, to those with whom his
sacred office brought him in contact.

It was a great comfort to poor helpless human beings to have a
tangible personality of like nature with themselves as a mediator
between them and the heavenly powers. Sympathy can do much for the
sorrowing, the suffering, the dying, but to hear God himself speaking
directly through human lips, to feel the touch of a hand which is the
channel of communication with the unseen Omnipotent, this was and is
the privilege of those who looked and those who still look up to a
priesthood. It has been said, and many who have walked the hospitals
or served in the dispensaries can bear witness to the truth of the
assertion, that the Roman Catholics know how to die. The same thing
is less confidently to be said of Protestants. How frequently is the
story told of the most exemplary Protestant Christians, nay, how
common is it to read in the lives of the most exemplary Protestant
ministers, that they were beset with doubts and terrors in their last
days! The blessing of the viaticum is unknown to them. Man is
essentially an idolater,--that is, in bondage to his imagination,--
for there is no more harm in the Greek word eidolon than in the Latin
word imago. He wants a visible image to fix his thought, a scarabee
or a crux ansata, or the modern symbols which are to our own time
what these were to the ancient Egyptians. He wants a vicegerent of
the Almighty to take his dying hand and bid him godspeed on his last
journey. Who but such an immediate representative of the Divinity
would have dared to say to the monarch just laying his head on the
block, "Fils de Saint Louis, monte au ciel"?

It has been a long and gradual process to thoroughly republicanize
the American Protestant descendant of the ancient priesthood. The
history of the Congregationalists in New England would show us how
this change has gone on, until we have seen the church become a hall
open to all sorts of purposes, the pulpit come down to the level of
the rostrum, and the clergyman take on the character of a popular
lecturer who deals with every kind of subject, including religion.

Whatever fault we may find with many of their beliefs, we have a
right to be proud of our Pilgrim and Puritan fathers among the
clergy. They were ready to do and to suffer anything for their
faith, and a faith which breeds heroes is better than an unbelief
which leaves nothing worth being a hero for. Only let us be fair,
and not defend the creed of Mohammed because it nurtured brave men
and enlightened scholars, or refrain from condemning polygamy in our
admiration of the indomitable spirit and perseverance of the Pilgrim
Fathers of Mormonism, or justify an inhuman belief, or a cruel or
foolish superstition, because it was once held or acquiesced in by
men whose nobility of character we heartily recognize. The New
England clergy can look back to a noble record, but the pulpit has
sometimes required a homily from the pew, and may sometimes find it
worth its while to listen to one even in our own days.

From the settlement of the country to the present time, the ministers
have furnished the highest type of character to the people among whom
they have lived. They have lost to a considerable extent the
position of leaders, but if they are in our times rather to be looked
upon as representatives of their congregations, they represent what
is best among those of whom they are the speaking organs. We have a
right to expect them to be models as well as teachers of all that
makes the best citizens for this world and the next, and they have
not been, and are not in these later days unworthy of their high
calling. They have worked hard for small earthly compensation. They
have been the most learned men the country had to show, when learning
was a scarce commodity. Called by their consciences to self-denying
labors, living simply, often half-supported by the toil of their own
hands, they have let the light, such light as shone for them, into
the minds of our communities as the settler's axe let the sunshine
into their log-huts and farm-houses.

Their work has not been confined to their professional duties, as a
few instances will illustrate. Often, as was just said, they toiled
like day-laborers, teasing lean harvests out of their small
inclosures of land, for the New England soil is not one that "laughs
when tickled with a hoe," but rather one that sulks when appealed to
with that persuasive implement. The father of the eminent Boston
physician whose recent loss is so deeply regretted, the Reverend Pitt
Clarke, forty-two years pastor of the small fold in the town of
Norton, Massachusetts, was a typical example of this union of the two
callings, and it would be hard to find a story of a more wholesome
and useful life, within a limited and isolated circle, than that
which the pious care of one of his children commemorated. Sometimes
the New England minister, like worthy Mr. Ward of Stratford-on-Avon,
in old England, joined the practice of medicine to the offices of his
holy profession. Michael Wigglesworth, the poet of "The Day of
Doom," and Charles Chauncy, the second president of Harvard College,
were instances of this twofold service. In politics their influence
has always been felt, and in many cases their drums ecclesiastic have
beaten the reveille as vigorously, and to as good purpose, as it ever
sounded in the slumbering camp. Samuel Cooper sat in council with
the leaders of the Revolution in Boston. The three Northampton-born
brothers Allen, Thomas, Moses, and Solomon, lifted their voices, and,
when needed, their armed hands, in the cause of liberty. In later
days, Elijah Parish and David Osgood carried politics into their
pulpits as boldly as their antislavery successors have done in times
still more recent.

The learning, the personal character, the sacredness of their office,
tended, to give the New England clergy of past generations a kind of
aristocratic dignity, a personal grandeur, much more felt in the days
when class distinctions were recognized less unwillingly than at
present. Their costume added to the effect of their bodily presence,
as the old portraits illustrate for us, as those of us who remember
the last of the "fair, white, curly" wigs, as it graced the imposing
figure of the Reverend Dr. Marsh of Wethersfield, Connecticut, can
testify. They were not only learned in the history of the past, but
they were the interpreters of the prophecy, and announced coming
events with a confidence equal to that with which the weather-bureau
warns us of a coming storm. The numbers of the book of Daniel and
the visions of the Revelation were not too hard for them. In the
commonplace book of the Reverend Joel Benedict is to be found the
following record, made, as it appears, about the year 1773:
"Conversing with Dr. Bellamy upon the downfall of Antichrist, after
many things had been said upon the subject, the Doctor began to warm,
and uttered himself after this manner: 'Tell your children to tell
their children that in the year 1866 something notable will happen in
the church; tell them the old man says so.'"

The "old man" came pretty near hitting the mark, as we shall see if
we consider what took place in the decade from 1860 to 1870. In 1864
the Pope issued the "Syllabus of Errors," which "must be considered
by Romanists--as an infallible official document, and which arrays
the papacy in open war against modern civilization and civil and
religious freedom." The Vatican Council in 1870 declared the Pope to
be the bishop of bishops, and immediately after this began the
decisive movement of the party known as the "Old Catholics." In the
exact year looked forward to by the New England prophet, 1866, the
evacuation of Rome by the French and the publication of "Ecce Homo"
appear to be the most remarkable events having Special relation to
the religious world. Perhaps the National Council of the
Congregationalists, held at Boston in 1865, may be reckoned as one of
the occurrences which the oracle just missed.

The confidence, if not the spirit of prophecy, lasted down to a later
period. "In half a century," said the venerable Dr. Porter of
Conway, New Hampshire, in 1822, "there will be no Pagans, Jews,
Mohammedans, Unitarians, or Methodists." The half-century has more
than elapsed, and the prediction seems to stand in need of an
extension, like many other prophetic utterances.

The story is told of David Osgood, the shaggy-browed old minister of
Medford, that he had expressed his belief that not more than one soul
in two thousand would be saved. Seeing a knot of his parishioners in
debate, he asked them what they were discussing, and was told that
they were questioning which of the Medford people was the elected
one, the population being just two thousand, and that opinion was
divided whether it would be the minister or one of his deacons. The
story may or may not be literally true, but it illustrates the
popular belief of those days, that the clergyman saw a good deal
farther into the councils of the Almighty than his successors could
claim the power of doing.

The objects about me, as I am writing, call to mind the varied
accomplishments of some of the New England clergy. The face of the
Revolutionary preacher, Samuel Cooper, as Copley painted it, looks
upon me with the pleasantest of smiles and a liveliness of expression
which makes him seem a contemporary after a hundred years' experience
of eternity. The Plato on this lower shelf bears the inscription:"
Ezroe Stiles, 1766. Olim e libris Rev. Jaredis Eliot de
Killingworth." Both were noted scholars and philosophers. The hand-
lens before me was imported, with other philosophical instruments, by
the Reverend John Prince of Salem, an earlier student of science in
the town since distinguished by the labors of the Essex Institute.
Jeremy Belknap holds an honored place in that unpretending row of
local historians. And in the pages of his "History of New Hampshire"
may be found a chapter contributed in part by the most remarkable
man, in many respects, among all the older clergymen preacher,
lawyer, physician, astronomer, botanist, entomologist, explorer,
colonist, legislator in state and national governments, and only not
seated on the bench of the Supreme Court of a Territory because he
declined the office when Washington offered it to him. This manifold
individual was the minister of Hamilton, a pleasant little town in
Essex County, Massachusetts,--the Reverend Manasseh Cutler. These
reminiscences from surrounding objects came up unexpectedly, of
themselves: and have a right here, as showing how wide is the range
of intelligence in the clerical body thus accidentally represented in
a single library making no special pretensions.

It is not so exalted a claim to make for them, but it may be added
that they were often the wits and humorists of their localities.
Mather Byles's facetie are among the colonial classic reminiscences.
But these were, for the most part, verbal quips and quibbles. True
humor is an outgrowth of character. It is never found in greater
perfection than in old clergymen and old college professors. Dr.
Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit" tells many stories of our
old ministers as good as Dean Ramsay's "Scottish Reminiscences." He
has not recorded the following, which is to be found in Miss Larned's
excellent and most interesting History of Windham County,
Connecticut. The Reverend Josiah Dwight was the minister of
Woodstock, Connecticut, about the year 1700. He was not old, it is
true, but he must have caught the ways of the old ministers. The
"sensational" pulpit of our own time could hardly surpass him in the
drollery of its expressions. A specimen or two may dispose the
reader to turn over the pages which follow in a good-natured frame of
mind. "If unconverted men ever got to heaven," he said, "they would
feel as uneasy as a shad up the crotch of a white-oak." Some of his
ministerial associates took offence at his eccentricities, and called
on a visit of admonition to the offending clergyman. "Mr. Dwight
received their reproofs with great meekness, frankly acknowledged his
faults, and promised amendment, but, in prayer at parting, after
returning thanks for the brotherly visit and admonition, 'hoped that
they might so hitch their horses on earth that they should never kick
in the stables of everlasting salvation.'"

It is a good thing to have some of the blood of one of these old
ministers in one's veins. An English bishop proclaimed the fact
before an assembly of physicians the other day that he was not
ashamed to say that he had a son who was a doctor. Very kind that
was in the bishop, and very proud his medical audience must have
felt. Perhaps he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Luke, "the beloved
physician," or even of the teachings which came from the lips of one
who was a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter. So a New-Englander,
even if he were a bishop, need not be ashamed to say that he
consented to have an ancestor who was a minister. On the contrary,
he has a right to be grateful for a probable inheritance of good
instincts, a good name, and a bringing up in a library where he
bumped about among books from the time when he was hardly taller than
one of his father's or grandfather's folios. What are the names of
ministers' sons which most readily occur to our memory as
illustrating these advantages? Edward Everett, Joseph Stevens
Buckminster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Bancroft, Richard Hildreth,
James Russell Lowell, Francis Parkman, Charles Eliot Norton, were all
ministers' boys. John Lothrop Motley was the grandson of the
clergyman after whom he was named. George Ticknor was next door to
such a descent, for his father was a deacon. This is a group which
it did not take a long or a wide search to bring together.

Men such as the ministers who have been described could not fail to
exercise a good deal of authority in the communities to which they
belonged. The effect of the Revolution must have been to create a
tendency to rebel against spiritual dictation. Republicanism levels
in religion as in everything. It might have been expected,
therefore, that soon after civil liberty had been established there
would be conflicts between the traditional, authority of the minister
and the claims of the now free and independent congregation. So it
was, in fact, as for instance in the case which follows, for which
the reader is indebted to Miss Lamed's book, before cited.

The ministerial veto allowed by the Saybrook Platform gave rise, in
the year 1792, to a fierce conflict in the town of Pomfret,
Connecticut. Zephaniah Swift, a lawyer of Windham, came out in the
Windham "Herald," in all the vehemence of partisan phraseology, with
all the emphasis of italics and small capitals. Was it not time, he
said, for people to look about them and see whether "such despotism
was founded in Scripture, in reason, in policy, or on the rights of
man! A minister, by his vote, by his single voice, may negative the
unanimous vote of the church! Are ministers composed of finer clay
than the rest of mankind, that entitles them to this preeminence?
Does a license to preach transform a man into a higher order of
beings and endow him with a natural quality to govern? Are the laity
an inferior order of beings, fit only to be slaves and to be
governed? Is it good policy for mankind to subject themselves to
such degrading vassalage and abject submission? Reason, common
sense, and the Bible, with united voice, proclaim to all mankind that
they are all born free and equal; that every member of a church or
Christian congregation must be on the same footing in respect of
church government, and that the CONSTITUTION, which delegates to one
the power to negative the vote of all the rest, is SUBVERSIVE OF THE

The Reverend Mr. Welch replied to the lawyer's attack, pronouncing
him to be "destitute of delicacy, decency, good manners, sound
judgment, honesty, manhood, and humanity; a poltroon, a cat's-paw,
the infamous tool of a party, a partisan, a political weathercock,
and a ragamuffin."

No Fourth-of-July orator would in our day rant like the lawyer, and
no clergyman would use such language as that of the Reverend Moses
Welch. The clergy have been pretty well republicanized within that
last two or three generations, and are not likely to provoke quarrels
by assertion of their special dignities or privileges. The public is
better bred than to carry on an ecclesiastical controversy in terms
which political brawlers would hardly think admissible. The minister
of religion is generally treated with something more than respect; he
is allowed to say undisputed what would be sharply controverted in
anybody else. Bishop Gilbert Haven, of happy memory, had been
discussing a religious subject with a friend who was not convinced by
his arguments. "Wait till you hear me from the pulpit," he said;
"there you cannot answer me." The preacher--if I may use an image
which would hardly have suggested itself to him--has his hearer's
head in chancery, and can administer punishment ad libitum. False
facts, false reasoning, bad rhetoric, bad grammar, stale images,
borrowed passages, if not borrowed sermons, are listened to without a
word of comment or a look of disapprobation.

One of the ablest and most conscientiously laborious of our clergymen
has lately ventured to question whether all his professional brethren
invariably give utterance to their sincerest beliefs, and has been
sharply criticised for so doing. The layman, who sits silent in his
pew, has his rights when out of it, and among them is the right of
questioning that which has been addressed to him from the privileged
eminence of the pulpit, or in any way sanctioned by his religious
teacher. It is nearly two hundred years since a Boston layman wrote
these words: "I am not ignorant that the pious frauds of the ancient,
and the inbred fire (I do not call it pride) of many of our modern
divines, have precipitated them to propagate and maintain truth as
well as falsehoods, in such an unfair manner as has given advantage
to the enemy to suspect the whole doctrine these men have profest to
be nothing but a mere trick."

So wrote Robert Calef, the Boston merchant, whose book the Reverend
Increase Mather, president of Harvard College, burned publicly in the
college yard. But the pity of it is that the layman had not cried
out earlier and louder, and saved the community from the horror of
those judicial murders for witchcraft, the blame of which was so
largely attributable to the clergy.

Perhaps no, laymen have given the clergy more trouble than the
doctors. The old reproach against physicians, that where there were
three of them together there were two atheists, had a real
significance, but not that which was intended by the sharp-tongued
ecclesiastic who first uttered it. Undoubtedly there is a strong
tendency in the pursuits of the medical profession to produce
disbelief in that figment of tradition and diseased human imagination
which has been installed in the seat of divinity by the priesthood of
cruel and ignorant ages. It is impossible, or at least very
difficult, for a physician who has seen the perpetual efforts of
Nature--whose diary is the book he reads oftenest--to heal wounds, to
expel poisons, to do the best that can be done under the given
conditions,--it is very difficult for him to believe in a world where
wounds cannot heal, where opiates cannot give a respite from pain,
where sleep never comes with its sweet oblivion of suffering, where
the art of torture is the only science cultivated, and the capacity
for being tormented is the only faculty which remains to the children
of that same Father who cares for the falling sparrow. The Deity has
often been pictured as Moloch, and the physician has, no doubt,
frequently repudiated him as a monstrosity.

On the other hand, the physician has often been renowned for piety as
well as for his peculiarly professional virtue of charity,--led
upward by what he sees to the source of all the daily marvels wrought
before his own eyes. So it was that Galen gave utterance to that
psalm of praise which the sweet singer of Israel need not have been
ashamed of; and if this "heathen" could be lifted into such a strain
of devotion, we need not be surprised to find so many devout
Christian worshippers among the crowd of medical "atheists."

No two professions should come into such intimate and cordial
relations as those to which belong the healers of the body and the
headers of the mind. There can be no more fatal mistake than that
which brings them into hostile attitudes with reference to each
other, both having in view the welfare of their fellow-creatures.
But there is a territory always liable to be differed about between
them. There are patients who never tell their physician the grief
which lies at the bottom of their ailments. He goes through his
accustomed routine with them, and thinks he has all the elements
needed for his diagnosis. But he has seen no deeper into the breast
than the tongue, and got no nearer the heart than the wrist. A wise
and experienced clergyman, coming to the patient's bedside,--not with
the professional look on his face which suggests the undertaker and
the sexton, but with a serene countenance and a sympathetic voice,
with tact, with patience, waiting for the right moment,--will
surprise the shy spirit into a confession of the doubt, the sorrow,
the shame, the remorse, the terror which underlies all the bodily
symptoms, and the unburdening of which into a loving and pitying soul
is a more potent anodyne than all the drowsy sirups of the world.
And, on the other hand, there are many nervous and over-sensitive
natures which have been wrought up by self-torturing spiritual
exercises until their best confessor would be a sagacious and
wholesome-minded physician.

Suppose a person to have become so excited by religious stimulants
that he is subject to what are known to the records of insanity as
hallucinations: that he hears voices whispering blasphemy in his
ears, and sees devils coming to meet him, and thinks he is going to
be torn in pieces, or trodden into the mire. Suppose that his mental
conflicts, after plunging him into the depths of despondency, at last
reduce him to a state of despair, so that he now contemplates taking
his own life, and debates with himself whether it shall be by knife,
halter, or poison, and after much questioning is apparently making up
his mind to commit suicide. Is not this a manifest case of insanity,
in the form known as melancholia? Would not any prudent physician
keep such a person under the eye of constant watchers, as in a
dangerous state of, at least, partial mental alienation? Yet this is
an exact transcript of the mental condition of Christian in
"Pilgrim's Progress," and its counterpart has been found in thousands
of wretched lives terminated by the act of self-destruction, which
came so near taking place in the hero of the allegory. Now the
wonderful book from which this example is taken is, next to the Bible
and the Treatise of "De Imitatione Christi," the best-known religious
work of Christendom. If Bunyan and his contemporary, Sydenham, had
met in consultation over the case of Christian at the time when be
was meditating self-murder, it is very possible that there might have
been a difference of judgment. The physician would have one
advantage in such a consultation. He would pretty certainly have
received a Christian education, while the clergyman would probably
know next to nothing of the laws or manifestations of mental or
bodily disease. It does not seem as if any theological student was
really prepared for his practical duties until he had learned
something of the effects of bodily derangements, and, above all, had
become familiar with the gamut of mental discord in the wards of an
insane asylum.

It is a very thoughtless thing to say that the physician stands to
the divine in the same light as the divine stands to the physician,
so far as each may attempt to handle subjects belonging especially to
the other's profession. Many physicians know a great deal more about
religious matters than they do about medicine. They have read the
Bible ten times as much as they ever read any medical author. They
have heard scores of sermons for one medical lecture to which they
have listened. They often hear much better preaching than the
average minister, for he hears himself chiefly, and they hear abler
men and a variety of them. They have now and then been distinguished
in theology as well as in their own profession. The name of Servetus
might call up unpleasant recollections, but that of another medical
practitioner may be safely mentioned. "It was not till the middle of
the last century that the question as to the authorship of the
Pentateuch was handled with anything like a discerning criticism.
The first attempt was made by a layman, whose studies we might have
supposed would scarcely have led him to such an investigation." This
layman was "Astruc, doctor and professor of medicine in the Royal
College at Paris, and court physician to Louis XIV." The quotation
is from the article "Pentateuch" in Smith's "Dictionary of the
Bible," which, of course, lies on the table of the least instructed
clergyman. The sacred profession has, it is true, returned the favor
by giving the practitioner of medicine Bishop Berkeley's "Treatise on
Tar-water," and the invaluable prescription of that "aged clergyman
whose sands of life"----but let us be fair, if not generous, and
remember that Cotton Mather shares with Zabdiel Boylston the credit
of introducing the practice of inoculation into America. The
professions should be cordial allies, but the church-going, Bible-
reading physician ought to know a great deal more of the subjects
included under the general name of theology than the clergyman can be
expected to know of medicine. To say, as has been said not long
since, that a young divinity student is as competent to deal with the
latter as an old physician is to meddle with the former, suggests the
idea that wisdom is not an heirloom in the family of the one who says
it. What a set of idiots our clerical teachers must have been and
be, if, after a quarter or half a century of their instruction, a
person of fair intelligence is utterly incompetent to form any
opinion about the subjects which they have been teaching, or trying
to teach him, so long!

A minister must find it very hard work to preach to hearers who do
not believe, or only half believe, what he preaches. But pews
without heads in them are a still more depressing spectacle. He may
convince the doubter and reform the profligate. But he cannot
produce any change on pine and mahogany by his discourses, and the
more wood he sees as he looks along his floor and galleries, the less
his chance of being useful. It is natural that in times like the
present changes of faith and of place of worship should be far from
infrequent. It is not less natural that there should be regrets on
one side and gratification on the other, when such changes occur. It
even happens occasionally that the regrets become aggravated into
reproaches, rarely from the side which receives the new accessions,
less rarely from the one which is left. It is quite conceivable that
the Roman Church, which considers itself the only true one, should
look on those who leave its communion as guilty of a great offence.
It is equally natural that a church which considers Pope and Pagan a
pair of murderous giants, sitting at the mouths of their caves, alike
in their hatred to true Christians, should regard any of its members
who go over to Romanism as lost in fatal error. But within the
Protestant fold there are many compartments, and it would seem that
it is not a deadly defection to pass from one to another.

So far from such exchanges between sects being wrong, they ought to
happen a great deal oftener than they do. All the larger bodies of
Christians should be constantly exchanging members. All men are born
with conservative or aggressive tendencies: they belong naturally
with the idol-worshippers or the idol-breakers. Some wear their
fathers' old clothes, and some will have a new suit. One class of
men must have their faith hammered in like a nail, by authority;
another class must have it worked in like a screw, by argument.
Members of one of these classes often find themselves fixed by
circumstances in the other. The late Orestes A. Brownson used to
preach at one time to a little handful of persons, in a small upper
room, where some of them got from him their first lesson about the
substitution of reverence for idolatry, in dealing with the books
they hold sacred. But after a time Mr. Brownson found he had
mistaken his church, and went over to the Roman Catholic
establishment, of which he became and remained to his dying day one
of the most stalwart champions. Nature is prolific and ambidextrous.
While this strong convert was trying to carry us back to the ancient
faith, another of her sturdy children, Theodore Parker, was trying
just as hard to provide a new church for the future. One was driving
the sheep into the ancient fold, while the other was taking down the
bars that kept them out of the new pasture. Neither of these
powerful men could do the other's work, and each had to find the task
for which he was destined.

The "old gospel ship," as the Methodist song calls it, carries many
who would steer by the wake of their vessel. But there are many
others who do not trouble themselves to look over the stern, having
their eyes fixed on the light-house in the distance before them. In
less figurative language, there are multitudes of persons who are
perfectly contented with the old formulae of the church with which
they and their fathers before them have been and are connected, for
the simple reason that they fit, like old shoes, because they have
been worn so long, and mingled with these, in the most conservative
religious body, are here and there those who are restless in the
fetters of a confession of faith to which they have pledged
themselves without believing in it. This has been true of the
Athanasian creed, in the Anglican Church, for two centuries more or
less, unless the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tillotson, stood alone in
wishing the church were well rid of it. In fact, it has happened to
the present writer to hear the Thirty-nine Articles summarily
disposed of by one of the most zealous members of the American branch
of that communion, in a verb of one syllable, more familiar to the
ears of the forecastle than to those of the vestry.

But on the other hand, it is far from uncommon to meet with persons
among the so-called "liberal" denominations who are uneasy for want
of a more definite ritual and a more formal organization than they
find in their own body. Now, the rector or the minister must be well
aware that there are such cases, and each of them must be aware that
there are individuals under his guidance whom he cannot satisfy by
argument, and who really belong by all their instincts to another
communion. It seems as if a thoroughly honest, straight-collared
clergyman would say frankly to his restless parishioner: "You do not
believe the central doctrines of the church which you are in the
habit of attending. You belong properly to Brother A.'s or Brother
B.'s fold, and it will be more manly and probably more profitable for
you to go there than to stay with us." And, again, the rolling-
collared clergyman might be expected to say to this or that uneasy
listener: "You are longing for a church which will settle your
beliefs for you, and relieve you to a great extent from the task, to
which you seem to be unequal, of working out your own salvation with
fear and trembling. Go over the way to Brother C.'s or Brother D.'s;
your spine is weak, and they will furnish you a back-board which will
keep you straight and make you comfortable." Patients are not the
property of their physicians, nor parishioners of their ministers.

As for the children of clergymen, the presumption is that they will
adhere to the general belief professed by their fathers. But they do
not lose their birthright or their individuality, and have the world
all before them to choose their creed from, like other persons. They
are sometimes called to account for attacking the dogmas they are
supposed to have heard preached from their childhood. They cannot
defend themselves, for various good reasons. If they did, one would
have to say he got more preaching than was good for him, and came at
last to feel about sermons and their doctrines as confectioners'
children do about candy. Another would have to own that he got his
religious belief, not from his father, but from his mother. That
would account for a great deal, for the milk in a woman's veins
sweetens, or at least, dilutes an acrid doctrine, as the blood of the
motherly cow softens the virulence of small-pox, so that its mark
survives only as the seal of immunity. Another would plead atavism,
and say he got his religious instincts from his great-grandfather, as
some do their complexion or their temper. Others would be compelled
to confess that the belief of a wife or a sister had displaced that
which they naturally inherited. No man can be expected to go thus
into the details of his family history, and, therefore, it is an ill-
bred and indecent thing to fling a man's father's creed in his face,
as if he had broken the fifth commandment in thinking for himself in
the light of a new generation. Common delicacy would prevent him
from saying that he did not get his faith from his father, but from
somebody else, perhaps from his grandmother Lois and his mother
Eunice, like the young man whom the Apostle cautioned against total

It is always the right, and may sometimes be the duty, of the layman
to call the attention of the clergy to the short-comings and errors,
not only of their own time, but also of the preceding generations, of
which they are the intellectual and moral product. This is
especially true when the authority of great names is fallen back upon
as a defence of opinions not in themselves deserving to be upheld.
It may be very important to show that the champions of this or that
set of dogmas, some of which are extinct or obsolete as beliefs,
while others retain their vitality, held certain general notions
which vitiated their conclusions. And in proportion to the eminence
of such champions, and the frequency with which their names are
appealed to as a bulwark of any particular creed or set of doctrines,
is it urgent to show into what obliquities or extravagances or
contradictions of thought they have been betrayed.

In summing up the religious history of New England, it would be just
and proper to show the agency of the Mathers, father and son, in the
witchcraft delusion. It would be quite fair to plead in their behalf
the common beliefs of their time. It would be an extenuation of
their acts that, not many years before, the great and good
magistrate, Sir Matthew Hale, had sanctioned the conviction of
prisoners accused of witchcraft. To fall back on the errors of the
time is very proper when we are trying our predecessors in foro
conscientace: The houses they dwelt in may have had some weak or
decayed beams and rafters, but they served for their shelter, at any
rate. It is quite another matter when those rotten timbers are used
in holding up the roofs over our own heads. Still more, if one of
our ancestors built on an unsafe or an unwholesome foundation, the
best thing we can do is to leave it and persuade others to leave it
if we can. And if we refer to him as a precedent, it must be as a
warning and not as a guide.

Such was the reason of the present writer's taking up the writings of
Jonathan Edwards for examination in a recent essay. The "Edwardsian"
theology is still recognized as a power in and beyond the
denomination to which he belonged. One or more churches bear his
name, and it is thrown into the scale of theological belief as if it
added great strength to the party which claims him. That he was a
man of extraordinary endowments and deep spiritual nature was not
questioned, nor that be was a most acute reasoner, who could unfold a
proposition into its consequences as patiently, as convincingly, as a
palaeontologist extorts its confession from a fossil fragment. But
it was maintained that so many dehumanizing ideas were mixed up with
his conceptions of man, and so many diabolizing attributes embodied
in his imagination of the Deity, that his system of beliefs was
tainted throughout by them, and that the fact of his being so
remarkable a logician recoiled on the premises which pointed his
inexorable syllogisms to such revolting conclusions. When he
presents us a God, in whose sight children, with certain not too
frequent exceptions, "are young vipers, and are infinitely more
hateful than vipers;" when he gives the most frightful detailed
description of infinite and endless tortures which it drives men and
women mad to think of prepared for "the bulk of mankind;" when he
cruelly pictures a future in which parents are to sing hallelujahs of
praise as they see their children driven into the furnace, where they
are to lie "roasting" forever,--we have a right to say that the man
who held such beliefs and indulged in such imaginations and
expressions is a burden and not a support in reference to the creed
with which his name is associated. What heathenism has ever
approached the horrors of this conception of human destiny? It is
not an abuse of language to apply to such a system of beliefs the
name of Christian pessimism.

If these and similar doctrines are so generally discredited as some
appear to think, we might expect to see the change showing itself in
catechisms and confessions of faith, to hear the joyful news of
relief from its horrors in all our churches, and no longer to read in
the newspapers of ministers rejected or put on trial for heresy
because they could not accept the most dreadful of these doctrines.
Whether this be so or not, it must be owned that the name of Jonathan
Edwards does at this day carry a certain authority with it for many
persons, so that anything he believed gains for them some degree of
probability from that circumstance. It would, therefore, be of much
interest to know whether he was trustworthy in his theological
speculations, and whether he ever changed his belief with reference
to any of the great questions above alluded to.

Some of our readers may remember a story which got abroad many years
ago that a certain M. Babinet, a scientific Frenchman of note, had
predicted a serious accident soon to occur to the planet on which we
live by the collision with it of a great comet then approaching us,
or some such occurrence. There is no doubt that this prediction
produced anxiety and alarm in many timid persons. It became a very
interesting question with them who this M. Babinet might be. Was he
a sound observer, who had made other observations and predictions
which had proved accurate? Or was he one of those men who are always
making blunders for other people to correct? Is he known to have
changed his opinion as to the approaching disastrous event?

So long as there were any persons made anxious by this prediction, so
long as there was even one who believed that he, and his family, and
his nation, and his race, and the home of mankind, with all its
monuments, were very soon to be smitten in mid-heaven and instantly
shivered into fragments, it was very desirable to find any evidence
that this prophet of evil was a man who held many extravagant and
even monstrous opinions. Still more satisfactory would it be if it
could be shown that he had reconsidered his predictions, and declared
that he could not abide by his former alarming conclusions. And we
should think very ill of any astronomer who would not rejoice for the
sake of his fellow-creatures, if not for his own, to find the
threatening presage invalidated in either or both of the ways just
mentioned, even though he had committed himself to M. Babinet's dire

But what is the trivial, temporal accident of the wiping out of a
planet and its inhabitants to the infinite catastrophe which shall
establish a mighty world of eternal despair? And which is it most
desirable for mankind to have disproved or weakened, the grounds of
the threat of M. Babinet, or those of the other infinitely more
terrible comminations, so far as they rest on the authority of
Jonathan Edwards?

The writer of this paper had been long engaged in the study of the
writings of Edwards, with reference to the essay he had in
contemplation, when, on speaking of the subject to a very
distinguished orthodox divine, this gentleman mentioned the existence
of a manuscript of Edwards which had been held back from the public
on account of some opinions or tendencies it contained, or was
suspected of containing "High Arianism" was the exact expression he
used with reference to it. On relating this fact to an illustrious
man of science, whose name is best known to botanists, but is justly
held in great honor by the orthodox body to which he belongs, it
appeared that he, too, had heard of such a manuscript, and the
questionable doctrine associated with it in his memory was
Sabellianism. It was of course proper in the writer of an essay on
Jonathan Edwards to mention the alleged existence of such a
manuscript, with reference to which the same caution seemed to have
been exercised as that which led, the editor of his collected works
to suppress the language Edwards had used about children.

This mention led to a friendly correspondence between the writer and
one of the professors in the theological school at Andover, and
finally to the publication of a brief essay, which, for some reason,
had been withheld from publication for more than a century. Its
title is "Observations concerning the Scripture OEconomy of the
Trinity and Covenant of Redemption. By Jonathan Edwards." It
contains thirty-six pages and a half, each small page having about
two hundred words. The pages before the reader will be found to
average about three hundred and twenty-five words. An introduction
and an appendix by the editor, Professor Egbert C. Smyth, swell the
contents to nearly a hundred pages, but these additions, and the
circumstance that it is bound in boards, must not lead us to overlook
the fact that the little volume is nothing more than a pamphlet in
book's clothing.

A most extraordinary performance it certainly is, dealing with the
arrangements entered into by the three persons of the Trinity, in as
bald and matter-of-fact language and as commercial a spirit as if the
author had been handling the adjustment of a limited partnership
between three retail tradesmen. But, lest a layman's judgment might
be considered insufficient, the treatise was submitted by the writer
to one of the most learned of our theological experts,--the same who
once informed a church dignitary, who had been attempting to define
his theological position, that he was a Eutychian,--a fact which he
seems to have been no more aware of than M. Jourdain was conscious
that he had been speaking prose all his life. The treatise appeared
to this professor anti-trinitarian, not in the direction of
Unitarianism, however, but of Tritheism. Its anthropomorphism
affected him like blasphemy, and the paper produced in him the sense
of "great disgust," which its whole character might well excite in
the unlearned reader.

All this is, however, of little importance, for this is not the work
of Edwards referred to by the present writer in his previous essay.
The tract recently printed as a volume may be the one referred to by
Dr. Bushnell, in 1851, but of this reference by him the writer never
heard until after his own essay was already printed. The manuscript
of the "Observations" was received by Professor Smyth, as he tells us
in his introduction, about fifteen years ago, from the late Reverend
William T. Dwight, D. D., to whom it was bequeathed by his brother,
the Reverend Dr. Sereno E. Dwight.

But the reference of the present writer was to another production of
the great logician, thus spoken of in a quotation from "the
accomplished editor of the Hartford 'Courant,'" to be found in
Professor Smyth's introduction:

"It has long been a matter of private information that Professor
Edwards A. Park, of Andover, had in his possession an published
manuscript of Edwards of considerable extent, perhaps two thirds as
long as his treatise on the will. As few have ever seen the
manuscript, its contents are only known by vague reports.... It is
said that it contains a departure from his published views on the
Trinity and a modification of the view of original sin. One account
of it says that the manuscript leans toward Sabellianism, and that it
even approaches Pelagianism."

It was to this "suppressed" manuscript the present writer referred,
and not to the slender brochure recently given to the public. He is
bound, therefore, to say plainly that to satisfy inquirers who may be
still in doubt with reference to Edwards's theological views, it
would be necessary to submit this manuscript, and all manuscripts of
his which have been kept private, to their inspection, in print, if
possible, so that all could form their own opinion about it or them.

The whole matter may be briefly stated thus: Edwards believed in an
eternity of unimaginable horrors for "the bulk of mankind." His
authority counts with many in favor of that belief, which affects
great numbers as the idea of ghosts affected Madame de Stall: "Je n'y
crois pas, mais je les crains." This belief is one which it is
infinitely desirable to the human race should be shown to be
possibly, probably, or certainly erroneous. It is, therefore,
desirable in the interest of humanity that any force the argument in
its favor may derive from Edwards's authority should be weakened by
showing that he was capable of writing most unwisely, and if it
should be proved that he changed his opinions, or ran into any
"heretical" vagaries, by using these facts against the validity of
his judgment. That he was capable of writing most unwisely has been
sufficiently shown by the recent publication of his "Observations."
Whether he, anywhere contradicted what were generally accepted as his
theological opinions, or how far he may have lapsed into heresies,
the public will never rest satisfied until it sees and interprets for
itself everything that is open to question which may be contained in
his yet unpublished manuscripts. All this is not in the least a
personal affair with the writer, who, in the course of his studies of
Edwards's works, accidentally heard, from the unimpeachable sources
sufficiently indicated, the reports, which it seems must have been
familiar to many, that there was unpublished matter bearing on the
opinions of the author through whose voluminous works he had been
toiling. And if he rejoiced even to hope that so wise a man as
Edwards has been considered, so good a man as he is recognized to
have been, had, possibly in his changes of opinion, ceased to think
of children as vipers, and of parents as shouting hallelujahs while
their lost darlings were being driven into the flames, where is the
theologian who would not rejoice to hope so with him or who would be
willing to tell his wife or his daughter that he did not?

The real, vital division of the religious part of our Protestant
communities is into Christian optimists and Christian pessimists.
The Christian optimist in his fullest development is characterized by
a cheerful countenance, a voice in the major key, an undisguised
enjoyment of earthly comforts, and a short confession of faith. His
theory of the universe is progress; his idea of God is that he is a
Father with all the true paternal attributes, of man that he is
destined to come into harmony with the key-note of divine order, of
this earth that it is a training school for a better sphere of
existence. The Christian pessimist in his most typical manifestation
is apt to wear a solemn aspect, to speak, especially from the pulpit,
in the minor key, to undervalue the lesser enjoyments of life, to
insist on a more extended list of articles of belief. His theory of
the universe recognizes this corner of it as a moral ruin; his idea
of the Creator is that of a ruler whose pardoning power is subject to
the veto of what is called "justice;" his notion of man is that he is
born a natural hater of God and goodness, and that his natural
destiny is eternal misery. The line dividing these two great classes
zigzags its way through the religious community, sometimes following
denominational layers and cleavages, sometimes going, like a
geological fracture, through many different strata. The natural
antagonists of the religious pessimists are the men of science,
especially the evolutionists, and the poets. It was but a
conditioned prophecy, yet we cannot doubt what was in Milton's mind
when he sang, in one of the divinest of his strains, that

"Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day."

And Nature, always fair if we will allow her time enough, after
giving mankind the inspired tinker who painted the Christian's life
as that of a hunted animal, "never long at ease," desponding,
despairing, on the verge of self-murder,--painted it with an
originality, a vividness, a power and a sweetness, too, that rank him
with the great authors of all time,--kind Nature, after this gift,
sent as his counterpoise the inspired ploughman, whose songs have
done more to humanize the hard theology of Scotland than all the
rationalistic sermons that were ever preached. Our own Whittier has
done and is doing the same thing, in a far holier spirit than Burns,
for the inherited beliefs of New England and the country to which New
England belongs. Let me sweeten these closing paragraphs of an essay
not meaning to hold a word of bitterness with a passage or two from
the lay-preacher who is listened to by a larger congregation than any
man who speaks from the pulpit. Who will not hear his words with
comfort and rejoicing when he speaks of "that larger hope which,
secretly cherished from the times of Origen and Duns Scotus to those
of Foster and Maurice, has found its fitting utterance in the noblest
poem of the age?"

It is Tennyson's "In Memoriam" to which he refers, and from which he
quotes four verses, of which this is the last:

"Behold! we know not anything
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last,--far off,--at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring."

If some are disposed to think that the progress of civilization and
the rapidly growing change of opinion renders unnecessary any further
effort to humanize "the Gospel of dread tidings;" if any believe the
doctrines of the Longer and Shorter Catechism of the Westminster
divines are so far obsolete as to require no further handling; if
there are any who thank these subjects have lost their interest for
living souls ever since they themselves have learned to stay at home
on Sundays, with their cakes and ale instead of going to meeting,
--not such is Mr. Whittier's opinion, as we may infer from his
recent beautiful poem, "The Minister's Daughter." It is not science
alone that the old Christian pessimism has got to struggle with, but
the instincts of childhood, the affections of maternity, the
intuitions of poets, the contagious humanity of the philanthropist,
--in short, human nature and the advance of civilization. The pulpit
has long helped the world, and is still one of the chief defences
against the dangers that threaten society, and it is worthy now, as
it always has been in its best representation, of all love and honor.
But many of its professed creeds imperatively demand revision, and
the pews which call for it must be listened to, or the preacher will
by and by find himself speaking to a congregation of bodiless echoes.

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