Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

GREAT RESULTS IN HADLEY.

117

that Dr. Woodbridge has an opposer in town ;'" and added,

I have no evidence to-day that my answer was incorrect.” We have other unimpeachable witnesses to the universality and strength of this reciprocal attachment. And what were the results of a faithful ministry thus imbedded in the respect and affections of his people ? POWERFUL REVIVALS OF RELIGION ; A CHURCH EMINENT FOR SPIRITUALITY AND CO-OPERATIVE ACTIVITY, DIFFUSING THROUGH THE TOWN A HIGH TONE OF CHRISTIAN MORALITY, OF REFORMATORY ENTERPRISE, OF MISSIONARY ZEAL, OF BENEVOLENT SACRIFICE, OF EDUCATIONAL AND ÆSTHETIC CULTURE. NO CHURCH OR COMMUNITY IN THE VICINITY STOOD HIGHER IN THESE REGARDS IN 1830, WHEN DR. WOODBRIDGE CLOSED HIS FIRST TERM OF SERVICE AMONG THEM, THAN THAT OF Hadley. FEW MINISTERS HAVE LEFT NOBLER MONUMENTS.

CHAPTER IX.

HIS FIRST MINISTRY IN HADLEY, - CONTINUED.

BY WHAT MEANS AND MEASURES WERE THOSE REMARKABLE RESULTS SECURED ? *

SECTION 1.

CERTAIN GENERAL CAUSES, BOTH NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE,

CONTRIBUTED TO HIS INFLUENCE OVER HIS PEOPLE.

It was certainly not by any thoughtful care or predetermined aim to please his people. However desirable he may have felt their good-will to be, measures for securing it never much occupied his thoughts. These were centred on nobler objects. In his preparations for his sacred calling, his eye was rather on the throne than on the congregation to be convenienced. While they were hearing, he bore in mind that God would be hearing.

Some, who have taken upon themselves the solemn vows of the gospel ministry, have apparently deemed it incumbent upon them to manage the churches over which they were placed “with a cunning hand." Great cautiousness, a sharp-sighted shrewdness, bordering upon, if not identical with, worldly policy, has colored their parochial movements. They may not have been swayed by purely selfish motives. They may have believed themselves only following the divine

* We cannot suppress the conviction that this Chapter and its several Sections would be a profitable study, both to candidates for the ministry and to ministers themselves; as well as to those whose duty it is to choose the pastors of our churches.

[blocks in formation]

ness.

maxim, “Wisdom is profitable to direct.” But they have mistaken her voice ; they have had wrong notions of duty; have not given sufficient thought to the origin and true character of the ministerial office. While they have meditated much on the example of Paul in being “made all things to all men,” that he "might by all means save some,” they have meditated too little on his declaration, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel ;” too little on the command of God, “ Preach the preaching that I bid thee;" “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." They have thought much of the rights of the church, but too little of the rights of God. Consequently, the momentous fact, that the ambassadors of Christ appointed by him stand far above the churches, has become dim and shadowy; while the fundamental right of the churches to choose their pastors has stood out with noonday distinct

The thought that, as the pastor is chosen by the church, he is the creature of the church ; that as he is the servant of the church, he must obey the bidding of the church, has gained undue influence over them. IIe who takes this partial view may be easily led to believe that it is his great, almost paramount duty to please the church. He will be inclined to make the inquiry, Will this truth, or this mode of presenting it, please the leading members of the society ? Will it please the young? Will it please the worldly-minded? Will it please the fashionable? Will it please the multitude ? As he goes his round of parochial duties, he will move with extremest caution like one walking over ground strewn with precious things, which to touch is to destroy. He will look with furtive glances this way and that, step with greatest care, lest he hit some sore spot in some excitable parishioner, and the result be wincing, offence, opposition, removal. Like a skilful mariner he must dress his sails to the ever-changing breezes; and all this because policy to hold his people has assumed the position of a commanding duty.

Every element of Mr. Woodbridge's moral nature repelled him from such a course. The art of flattery he never learned. He had no disposition to insinuate himself into favor by any sinuosities of speech or conduct. To those who knew him best he could not be painted in an attitude more unlike him. self than seated in his study, with his Bible open before him, his sermon-paper spread out on his desk, and his pen in hand, soliloquizing thus : "What text shall I select, or what truth shall I present next Sabbath, and in what manner shall I present it, so as best to please Deacon A., or Deacon B., or Dr. C., or Esquire D., or Farmer E. ? Ilow can I enforce the divine message so as most to captivate the young, to fascinate the masses, or to call forth the admiring exclamation, What a splendid sermon !'" people, in all the fancied aspects in which they may have imagined him, never conceived him as occupying such a position. Ile could be kind, affable, courteous, familiar, at times enter heartily into the sympathies of his people; but sycophancy found in his heart no soil in which to germinate.

His thoughts were elevated, and fastened to what was worthy of his exalted capacities — Divine Truth. With his eye entranced, and his heart ravished with her form, he could say with the deepest sincerity,

“And truth alone, where'er my life be cast,
In scenes of plenty, or the pining waste,
Shall be my chosen theme, my glory to the last."

It might be said of him, as was said of Dr. Thomas Arnold, “ He could not draw a happy breath in the presence of falsehood, and the master-passion of whose spirit was the love of Law and of Truth.” As a preacher, his commanding aim was rightly to divide the word of life; his anxious inquiry, not what my people want, but what they need.

Nor did he gain this controlling influence by any premeditated efforts to captivate the asthetics of his hearers. He never stooped to cater to “itching ears by the announce

INDEPENDENT HONESTY.

121

ment of unusual or half secular subjects or strange texts, nor by any variety of the endless round of clap-trap too often resorted to by the ambitious and time-serving. He did not believe that such maneuvrings were any part of being "made all things to all men." True, he “sought out acceptable words;" he endeavored to plant the secds of truth at the lowest possible depth in the hearts of his people; he labored earnestly to nurture the springing germs of grace, and to secure the fullest developments of the Christian life. He was sometimes eloquent in the truest sense, eloquent in grandeur and pathos of thought, and in outbursts of strong, hallowed emotions. His susceptible nature, under the pressure of the stupendous truths he attempted to grasp and unfold, would not allow him to be otherwise. But he never resorted to any of those devices of a meretricious or sensational mode of address, so agreeable to the unregenerate and the lukewarm professor ; and which some wearing the robes of Christ's ambassadors condescend to adopt for the purpose of eliciting unprofitable interest, or of arousing storms of sympathetic feeling, as useless as they are impassioned and ill-directed.

But there were positive causes of his commanding influence over his people.

Mr. Woodbridge had in unusual measure that ministerial independent honesty which is the outflow of profound Christian humility, reverential submission, and cordial obedience ; all radically forming constituent parts of each other; all reciprocally receiving from, and imparting vitality and strength to each. It is the intellectual conviction, warm with the noblest sentiments of the heart, that one is not his own master; that with all his powers and opportunities he belongs exclusively to God; a conviction strengthened and touched with tenderness by the thought that he has been purchased by the blood of Jesus, and exalted to the office of Ambassador for him solely by his interposing grace. It is the spirit that sits reverently at the feet of the Great

« ElőzőTovább »