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THE INTELLIGENT, THE MOST CANDID HEARERS.
taught him what elements of mind and of heart appreciate, and what undervaluc, an able gospel ministry. With his just views on that point as expressed in mature years, we close this chapter:
“I would remark, in general, that I have commonly found intelligent Christians among the most candid, in estimating the services of their pastor. Extreme ignorance is undiscriminating in its praises and its criticisms, while it often assumes airs of uncommon wisdom and selfcomplacency. Petulance, discontent, and fault-finding are the natural progeny of a mean and selfish jealousy. They who are least able to appreciate the anxieties and weariness of unceasing mental application, may be among the first to exhibit their captiousness in the censure of everything in a preacher above the level of their ordinary trains of thought and of feeling. He who has himself been accustomed to literary effort or scientific investigation, can hardly help perceiving the difficulty of constant and respectable preparation for the pulpit, and discerning the evidences, where they exist, of faithful and well-directed study. The dunce may mistake bombast for eloquence, or whining sentimentality for kindness of heart, or the obscurity of sophistry for the profundity of reasoning. Plain common-sense, without any of the parade of jubilant vanity or meretricious ornament, is far more likely to satisfy a wise man, than to secure the approbation or even gain the attention of the frivolous and unreflecting."
HIS PASTORATE AT BRIDGEPORT, CONN.
In 1837 Dr. Woodbridge left the troubled scenes of New York, where, amid various successes, disappointment had seemed to hover over him at almost every step, obstructing his way, defeating his plans, blasting his hopes, corroding his sensibilities, — and was installed over a Congregational church in Bridgeport, Conn. This was not a change from the hard to the easy ; from the boiling surf to placid waters. It was rather a summous to the thickest of the fight. God knows where to put his most valiant soldiers. Truth at that time demanded just such champions in Connecticut. His pastorate in Bridgeport was indeed stormy; but happily for him it was short, continuing but eighteen months. His daughter says:
“My father's residence in Bridgeport was short and stormy. Most of his congregation, so far as they were anything, were adherents of Dr. Taylor. They hated the Calvinistic doctrines with a bitter hatred which they did not undertake to disguise. His congregations there were large and eagerly attentive, but some of them left the house with flashing eyes and angry gestures. He saw, almost from the first, that his stay would be short; so he determined to give them as much gospel truth as possible, while he could."
He himself says :
“In Bridgeport I encountered strong prejudices existing in the minds of certain leading individuals against some of the most important doctrines of the Calvinistic system.”
In this conflict he was cheered by a few of his own church who sympathized with him ; by almost the entire membership of the other Congregational church in the city, then
OPPOSED FOR PREACHING THE TRUTH.
under the pastoral care of Dr. Hewitt; by nearly all the clergymen in the vicinity, and by some distinguished laymen. IIon. Roger Sherman, of Fairfield, was his warm supporter.
When his successor was installed, this outside sympathy strongly manifested itself. Dr. Gardner Spring, of New York, preached the sermon.
His theme was,
The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God." His object was to show that the great doctrines of salvation are the essential teachings of the gospel, and constitute its glory. In conclusion he exclaimed in the most emphatic tones,“ Woe unto that minister who does not preach these doctrines ; and woe ! woe unto that people who will not receive them !” Mr. Kant, a Scotch clergyman, delivered the charge to the pastor. He began in this way: Brother, you have here three sorts of people to deal with, — the first are infidels ; the second are hypocrites ; the third, a few, devout Christians.”
At the close of the public services the clergymen present came in a body to the house of Dr. Woodbridge, to show him their respect and to express their sympathy.
A few years subsequently, after the smoke of the conflict had passed away, Dr. Woodbridge visited Bridgeport, and had the happiness to learn that beneficial results had followed his labors there ; that even "some of his opposers had become convinced that he was right, and they were wrong."
While here, he wrote his review of President Day’s “Enquiry respecting the Self-determining Power of the Will," and a review of that work in the “Christian Spectator," the writer of which had endeavored to show that President Day was in essential agreement with Dr. N. W. Taylor and his associates. It was published in the "Literary and Theological Review.” It is a very fair specimen of his metaphysical power.
Dr. Lyman H. Atwater, who has been for several years Professor in Princeton College, New Jersey, was, at the
time of Dr. Woodbridge's residence at Bridgeport, pastor of the church in Fairfield, and was very intimate with him. The following is his estimate of him as a man, as a preacher, and as a theologian :
“Rev. John Woodbridge, D. D., became pastor of the North Congregational Church, in Bridgeport, Conn., during the earliest years of my own pastorate in the adjacent parish of Fairfield. I became well acquainted with him, and our relations were somewhat intimate and confidential. I will now briefly note some of his characteristics which impressed themselves deeply on my mind. “ Dr. Woodbridge in his personal appearance and physique was no
Wherever seen, whether in the pulpit, the deliberative body, the social circle, or walking in the streets, his commanding form and countenance arrested attention, and inspired respect and reverence. His vigorous frame, massive forehead, projecting eyebrows, quick pen. etrating eye, — in short, his whole physiognomy, were fit exponents of the great soul that shone through them, and stamped him as one of Nature's noblemen.
“ He was a man of mighty intellect. His powers of perception, intuition, reasoning, imagination; of memory, application, and acquisition; of logical and eloquent discourse, were very great. They were assiduously cultivated. He was a thorough student, of scholarly habit, and high accomplishment. In any company he would be speedily and universally acknowledged as of pre-eminent intellectual endowments a star of the first magnitude.
“In his emotional nature he was a man of warm sensibilities, in which the tender, the gentle, the benignant, the earnest and impassioned were beautifully blended.
“His moral constitution was, in its natural mould, as well as by the grace which supervened, the very incarnation of uprightness, unflinching integrity, and a courage that never feared the face of clay.
“As a Christian, his religion was profoundly experimental and spiritual, evincing the deepest humility and penitence, with strong faith and joyful hope, great zeal, devotion, and self-sacrifice, unfaltering decision, steadfastness, and perseverance unto the end.
“As a preacher and pastor he was able, faithful, and successful. Few congregations have been so thoroughly instructed in divine things as were his. Few have been made so mighty in the Scriptures, or blessed with such powerful revivals of religion. His sermons were elaborate, solid, discriminating, rich, vivid presentations of divine truth to the heads and hearts of his hearers, and delivered with fervid and kindling oratory. During his short pastorato in Bridgeport he established a high reputation as a preacher among all classes, especially the public men of the county and state.
DR. ATWATER'S LETTER.
" Dr. Woodbridge was eminent as a theologian. When I knew him he was, as he ever had been, a warm adherent of the Old, and opponent of the New, New England Theology. He was strongly Calvinistic, with a tinge of Hopkinsianism. He took the deepest interest in the theological discussions and controversies of his day. He believed the questions involved to be of supreme importance. Neither in these nor other matters did he ever utter an uncertain sound. Never was man more thoroughly frank, transparent, guileless, faithful and true, at whatever cost or sacrifice. I am not sure about his publications. He published an able article in the · Princeton Review' against Perfectionism.
“ A great and good man has passed away. The memory of the just is blessed. “ Yours in haste,
LYMAN H. ATWATER.” " Rev. S. D. CLARK.”