for themselves and their children on the productive soil, had forsaken the educational and religious privileges of their fathers. Many of them were members of churches, not a few true Christians, who, having severed themselves from institutions which they still held sacred, were now scattered like sheep upon the inountains without a shepherd. Their brethren who still dwelt around their New England hearth-stones and by their youthful sanctuaries, affectionately remembered them; and often sent them for a season their own pastors or such other ministers as could be obtained, to preach to them the Word of our common salvation. This was the work of love in which Mr. Woodbridge now engaged. It was a fitting school in which to train himself for the pastoral office. In coping with the difficulties of new settlements, he learned to “ endure hardness as a good soldier.” In personal conversation with Christians who had been long deprived of the ministry of the Word, and who joyfully opened to him their doors and their hearts, in some instances even with tears of gladness, he not only became acquainted with different shades of Christian experience and the proper methods of instruction, varying with individual wants, but learned to open his own heart in reciprocal sympathy, - to rejoice with the rejoicing, and to weep with the weeping. He had reason to believe that the Lord-smiled upon his efforts; and it was a pleasing incident to him in after years to meet a lady, who trusted that his preaching at that time had been the means of her conversion.

Returning from his missionary tour, he still felt unwilling to settle in the ministry without greater mental cultivation and further acquaintance with men and the world. With the view, therefore, of increasing his stores of information and of enlarging his sphere of personal observation and experience, he determined on a journey to Philadelphia. This was deemed quite an undertaking both by himself and his friends; a thought in these days of steam-travel almost creating a smile. In accordance with the custom of the

time, he performed the journey on horseback Ile made brief stops at the larger places, and enjoyed much clerical intercourse. Several days were agreeably passed at New York. He was introduced to Dr. Samuel Miller, then a pastor in the city, afterwards professor at Princeton. IIis kind and unassuming manners and gentlemanly bearing won the esteem of the youthful traveller. Ile had the gratification of hearing him preach in his own pulpit. His subject was the “ Divine Omniscience.” The sermon was delivered with much simplicity and unction, as became the solemnity of the theme.

He was also introduced to Dr. John Rodgers, the venerable pastor of Wall Street Presbyterian church, then in his eighty-second year, and much enfeebled by age. Mr. Woodbridge preached half a day in his pulpit, and in his presence. He afterwards dined at his house. IIe was much impressed with the sanctity of his manners and the good sense of his conversation. He records the following incident as indicative of character. When walking home from church, Dr. Rodgers observed several boys diverting themselves in the street; stopping, he reproved them in a very fatherly manner for breaking the holy Sabbath. One lightly exclaimed in reply," 0, we are not Christians." Dr. Rodgers made no answer, but sighed deeply, as grieved for the sin of the inconsiderate boy, and distressed in view of his eternal prospects. Two years afterwards the venerable divine was called to surrender his stewardship in the sixty-third year of his ministry.

The longest pause Mr. Woodbridge made in his journey was at Newark, N. J.; and the most interesting ministerial acquaintance he formed was with Dr. E. D. Griffin, then pastor of the Presbyterian church there. This acquaintance ripened into an enduring friendship. Dr. Griffin was in his thirty-ninth year, and the full maturity of his powers; he was also at the height of his great usefulness and unbounded popularity. Mr. Woodbridge spent several days with him.



His church had just been refreshed with a copious shower of grace ; some two hundred or two hundred and fifty had been hopefully renewed. The successful pastor was full of the hallowed theme, and his conversation teemed with that richness of thought and force of illustration, which one knowing his comprehensive views, prolific imagination, and wide Christian experience, might have anticipated in such interesting circumstances. Highly instructive and fervent, it could not fail powerfully to influence one constituted as was Mr. Woodbridge in pursuit of practical acquaintance with the critical work of winning souls to Christ. Its effects were, indeed, as lasting as his ministry. Mr. Woodbridge was also invited to be present at a meeting of the session of the church for the examination of candidates for admission, and listened with pleasure to the narratives of their first Christian experience. Dr. Griffin was about starting on a preaching tour of a few days among the neighboring churches and waste places. Mr. Woodbridge joined him, and heard several of his most effective sermons delivered with uncommon distinctness and energy.

He then proceeded to Philadelphia, where he was introduced to a number of clergymen of character and notoriety, and passed several days there very pleasantly. He was entertained by a gentleman of Scotch descent and of great excellence, Mr. Sheepshanks,-a name he would not be likely soon to forget. Ile preached in the city only once during this transient visit. But soon after his return to New England he received an invitation from the congregation worshipping in what was called “ The Independent Tabernacle," to supply their pulpit. He complied with the request; and after preaching to them some three months, was invited to become their pastor. He took the invitation into prayerful consideration, but was convinced, after much deliberation and many vain endeavors to adjust preliminaries to mutual satisfaction, that it was not his duty to accept. The congregation was in a divided state ; some of its members

were of foreign birth, whose opinions and habits were exceedingly uncongenial to an independent thinker, who had always breathed the free atmosphere of New England thought; and the extreme views of independency entertained by the church gave little promise that a pastor of his years could mould it into any possible working sympathy with the Presbyterians by whom it was surrounded.

“ The Independent Tabernacle” was one of those mushroom churches and congregations which spring into being and rapidly mature under the auspices of some popular preacher. The life of such a body is liable to be so bound up with the life of the man, instead of being vital with the life of Christ, that his death or departure, certainly his defection, is the signal of disintegration, and sooner or later of dissolution. The centre around which “ The Independent Tabernacle” had gathered was Rev. John Iley. He was an Englishman, and began his labors as a preacher under the patronage of that noble benefactress of the church, Selina, Countess of Huntington. Soon withdrawing from her circle of preachers, he became the pastor of an independent church in Bristol, England. After occupying that position a short time, and achieving great popularity, he determined to emigrate to this country. His arrival in Philadelphia was greeted as an event most auspicious to the interest of the Redeemer in that city. Effort was at once made to collect for him a congregation. This was easily done. His apparent evangelical sentiments, his extraordinary pulpit talents, his brilliant imagination, his voice of peculiar melody and strength, and his mellifluous flow of words which seemed unlimited, charmed the multitude. Indeed, he won admirers from all classes of society.

But from this height of popularity and apparent usefulness he fell into gross sins. The worldly part of the congregation were chagrined; the devoted, but deluded, wept; the profligate around mocked and exulted. Christianity received a severe wound, not only by the crimes of the fallen pastor,



but by the indiscretion and false taste of those who, by allowing themselves to be fascinated by the mere external qualities of the preacher, had assisted in elevating him to that signal height, from which his fall carried with it a more sweeping ruin. A solemn warning this (and there have been many such), admonishing the churches to fix their eyes more intensely on deep piety, self-forgetful piety, thorough Christian experience, as the first and indispensable qualification of a pastor. When will the churches take this lesson into their “ heart of hearts,” resolutely and undeviatingly act upon it as one of the most solemn obligations which membership in the visible body of Christ imposes

an obligation which they owe alike to themselves as individuals, to their families, and to the community at large. When will they realize that the holy Saviour de. sires none but holy men to stand up in this apostate world as his ambassadors; and that they are as solemnly bound to choose HOLY men for pastors as to choose pastors at all ? This responsibility their crucified Lord has placed upon them, and he will never relieve them from its pressure till he calls them to himself. Every effort to throw it off will return upon themselves like a blast from the pit to wither

upon them?

their graces.

Yet such is the fascination of the esthetic principle, so elevating are the emotions and sentiments which its excitement produces, that those of little discrimination often mistake its enjoyment for the enjoyment of religion itself; and multitudes eren of intelligent Christians are so entranced by its bewildering power, that they are easily led captive by the brilliances of a species of pulpit eloquence, which is as destitute of the illumination and warmth of Christ's spirit, as the icicle which the winter's frost suspends glittering from the frozen ledge of the mountain. Consequently, with a vision bedimmed with asthetic enchantment in selecting a pastor, they go rather to their unsanctified tastes for counsel than to their renovated affections; and are often

« ElőzőTovább »