self approved unto God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Possibly there were some things in him that one could wish were otherwise. He had the imperfections of a man ; but no one could lament those imperfections more than he did. Indeed, I could not name them. For myself I must say, I HAVE RARELY KNOWN ONE WHO MIGHT MORE SAFELY BE HELD UP AS A MODEL OF A GOSPEL MINISTER, MORE WORTHY OF IMITATION."



Providence often whispers of coming events in the still recesses of the soul, or dimly writes them in outward experiences, which, like prophetic symbols after the foreshadowed events have occurred, seem clear and intelligible.

Early in 1830 Dr. Woodbridge began to feel very seriously the effects of his close application to study and of his arduous parochial labors, which had rested upon him, as an unrelieved burden, for more than two decades of years. His constitution, which seemed specially fitted for the endurance of sedentary labors, and his health generally firm, save occasional seasons of indigestion and nervous irritability — gave more decided indications of failure. His overtasked and jaded mind, refusing its wonted activity, cried out for some remittance of toil. He felt that he must seek rest. In this state of body and mind, soon after he had delivered his Murray-Street Lecture, which had given him reputation at home and abroad, he received a call to become pastor of the Bowery church, New York. It came unsolicited. He could but regard it as an indication of Providence. With his accustomed ingenuousness he laid it before his people, telling them that he had personally no wish to leave them, or to break the tie which he felt had been strengthening for so many years ; “his desire was to live and die with them." Ilis people expressed a reciprocity of friendly feelings, and voluntarily raised his salary to an amount which they supposed satisfactory. Indeed, the act of separating himself from such an affectionate people seemed to him replete with



solemn responsibilities. He could not readily entertain the thought. The call was declined. About the same time he received an invitation to supply the pulpit of the Rutgers Street Church, New York, then vacant. This he also declined.

Such invitations and declinatures were not a new experience to Dr. Woodbridge. While he had a great disgust for “ministerial coquetry," or a pastor ostensibly holding himself open to calls, perhaps actually seeking them, he often, during his long ministry, received overtures looking towards a new settlement which were quietly declined. Some of these were places of importance. “ Soon after his first settlement in IIadley he was invited by a member of the Van Rensselaer family to Albany to preach in their then vacant church. If he had been actuated by worldly ambition, he would have accepted, as it was a far more desirable position than the one he then occupied. But he seems not to have thought of it for a moment, considering that his recent settlement in Hadley made it wrong even to give the subject his consideration."

A short time before he went to New York he received a letter from Dr. Griffin, then president of Williams College, inquiring if he would accept a professorship in that institution, with an ultimate view to the presidency, as he, Dr. Griffin, expected to retire before long. “He promptly declined the overture, remarking to his family, to show his appreciation of the Christian ministry, that he would not leave it for any presidency in the world.'”

But now circumstances were changed; other tokens were in the horizon. IIis health was precarious ; his mind had lost its wonted tone ; he felt that he was overworked. The necessity of relief for a season pressed itself strongly upon him. Mrs. Woodbridge shared the conviction. It sometimes caused her wakeful hours when her wearied frame craved repose. One night it took such possession of her thoughts that it disturbed her long and anxiously, till she came to the

conclusion that her husband must at once obtain relief by asking dismission from his people, and, perhaps, take a vog. age to Europe. The very next day a committee from the Bowery Church arrived in Hadley to lay before Dr. Woodbridge a second call to become their pastor. The coincidence could but deeply impress the minds of both Dr. and Mrs. Woodbridge, who were in a special condition to watch the hand of Providence. The committee represented the pastorate of that church as promising a rich field of usefulness both from its location and the materials upon which it was designed to operate. A much larger salary was offered him. It was on this occasion that one of his parishioners told the committee that this consideration would not prevail with Dr. Woodbridge. “Show him that duty calls him to New York, and you may succeed.” His whole character and all his antecedents prove the truth of this remark. It was not money nor popularity, which have allured so many from the country to the city, from smaller churches to larger, that weighed with Dr. Woodbridge at this turning point in his history. It was the naked question of duty: What is the Lord's will ?" This was as true of Mrs. W. as of himself. They thought, they prayed, and asked counsel of friends. The Doctor communicated this second call to his people as frankly as the first.

But there was no response. None spoke to him about it. It seemed to him that the love of his people had cooled. Regarding the renewal of the call as significant of the earnest desire of the Bowery Church for his services, and taking into consideration all the coincidences and circumstances of the occasion, he thought he heard the voice, “Depart; your work here is done.” He decided to accept the call, and asked a dismission from his charge with this intent. His people were taken by surprise and "sadly disappointed." They told him the reason of their silence during the pendency of the question, was not coldness or indifference, but the thought that they had offered him every inducement in their power to remain with




them, and that further remark or effort would be unavailing. Besides, they had not believed that, knowing their attachment to him, he would accept the call. On learning this, Dr. Woodbridge expressed regret, but felt that he had gone too far to retrace his steps. Accordingly, an ecclesiastical council was convened Sept. 15, 1830, to which he submitted the question of his dismission. The council decided that it was his duty to go to New York. Soon after, on the Lord's day, he preached his farewell

It was an occurrence of great interest. The large church was filled to its utmost capacity. People flocked in from the neighboring towns. It may have been a time of exhilaration to some from abroad who love the excitement of such occasions, but it was a time of sorrow and tears to the church in Hadley.

On the morning of his departure the people gathered about the house, filling the yard and standing in groups, to give him and his family the parting hand, and look upon their familiar forms once more as they rode away under the great trees for their new home. Though no longer their pastor, their love and prayers went with him. We will let one of his daughters, whose young heart was then beating with hope and joyous with the novelty of the scene, describe the journey and the arrival :

“In the latter part of September the family set out for New York. The frosts had just begun to touch the maples of the beautiful Connecticut valley with the pomp of autumn, when, taking leave of weeping friends and the quiet charms of country life, they turned their faces toward the great metropolis.

“It was decided that they should take the stage för Albany, and from thence a steamboat for New York. Mrs. Woodbridge had now a mother's delight in pointing out to her children the variegated scenery on that wild mountain road, over which the stage then passed, and which was to them so new; and the day following, the blue waters of the Hudson, with its picturesque and classic shores.

"A child's first glimpse of the world, outside his home, is a thing to be remembered. Those who have travelled far and long have almost ceased to marvel and enjoy. Novelty itself is to them no longer new.

« ElőzőTovább »