Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ever its quality or force, this radical power or worthiness, inherent in the man by nature or inspired by grace, has its seat in the lowest depth of the soul, and gives character to its manifestations, circulating like the blood of the heart through the whole mental structure. Or more frequently, it is an ASSEMBLAGE of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual excellences, which, by their harmonious inter-action, develop into the well-balanced or brilliant and effective character.

The first object of the biographer is to seize fast this governing characteristic; or, what truth oftener demands, to determine the assemblage of germinal principles, which give individuality to his subject; to bring them into analytical clearness; to ascertain their single and associated power; to see how they attract or repel, modify or vitalize all the other faculties and susceptibilities of the soul; and, by an equally sharp analysis, to learn how these last, in proportion to their respective strength, throw back a reciprocal influence upon the more dominant principles, energizing and directing them in turn. By this process he will be enabled to hold in clear vision the diversified play of each and all, working out the grand result -- unity of life. This principle would individualize Memoirs; render them far more racy and life-like; enhance their value, as a class of literary productions, tenfold. Each would have a character of its own, as distinct as the handwriting of the Creator on the mental tablets of their several subjects. On this principle it bas been our endeavor to construct the ensuing Memoir.

[blocks in formation]

Dr. Woodbridge had marked gifts both of nature and of grace, and in that grandeur of proportion which renders him worthy of a memorial among the great and devout, who deservedly stand on the page of history, diffusing afar their light; elevating and refining not only their own, but succeeding generations.

We regard strength, profundity, acuteness, as the deepest, the most pervasive constituents of his intellect, which was pre-eminently metaphysical, capable of seizing, analyzing, and arranging the most abstract ideas and the subtlest mental phenomena. Hence as a biblical student he was a penetrating, far-reaching, and clear theologian. Surface thought could never satisfy him. His leading moral qualities we believe were great depth of emotion, conscientiousness, rev. erence, boldness, firmness. Hence, as a divine, honest and searching, prayerfully ascertaining his ground, he planted himself immovably; as a preacher, he was equally decisive and determined. No just biography of him can be written, which does not exhibit him as a metaphysician, a profound and steadfast theologian ; which does not give an analysis of his theology as developing itself from the deepest thought of the moral universe the Divine glory as shining forth in Christ, -and his profound love of that glory as its informing spirit. His theological controversies must also come under review. As he shared in that which grew out of the Stoddardean

departure" from the principles and practice of the Puritans; which grew out of the Unitarian defection;

out of the rash pretensions of Universalism; out of the unfounded claims of Perfectionism, and revivalistic measures; and as he contended earnestly against what were called the “ novelties” of Dr. N. W. Taylor and his coadjutors, the course of his biography will unavoidably lead to a brief history of New England theology; at least, to a sketch of its most important periods.

The Memoir bas, therefore, been designedly, and we believe appropriately, thrown into the philosophical or theological form. The narrative has been interspersed with disquisition; the radical and living truths, which the subject of it so honestly, resolutely, and practically illustrated during a ministry of fifty years, having been thought fittingly brought into transient review and their bearings indicated.

The biographer has had a further design than to give a full-length portrait of Dr. Woodbridge, or to sketch bis distinctive views in theology. He has wished also to hold up before this generation a specimen of New Lngland clergymen fifty or sixty years ago; to give a sample of their work, their zeal, their faithfulness, and their success in churches theologically sound and devoutly active ; in stable parishes, in intelligent and moral communities ; above all, in precious revivals which were often appropriately called " wonders of Divine grace."

They were pre-eminently a generation of BIBLICAL THEOLOGIANS. They read theology ; they wrote theology; they preached theology; they talked theology in social visits, and discussed theological questions in ministerial associations. Their object was not to form philosophical

[blocks in formation]

theories, or to start hypotheses; but, by ascertaining the EXACT THOUGHTS of Revelation, to trace them to their underlying principles; and, by finding their common centre, to arrange them, as a vital organism, in one consistent whole. With them theology and the EXACT TEACHINGS of Scripture were identical. Their theology also walked hand in hand with Christian Experience; Christian Experience in their conception being but the feelings and sentiments, which scriptural truths, in connection with the operations of the Spirit, are fitted to inspire. Holding the truths of the gospel thus in systematic form, in their just proportions and relations, they wielded them with great spiritual power. Some of them may have been rough in manners, unskilled in elocution and the seductive arts of oratory ; but they were men "endued with power from on high," and reverently esteemed by the robust and manly Christians of their day. We admit that they were not always what the churches now denominate and demand, "smart men.” But what is far better, as an order of preachers, they were sound men, well-balanced men, decided, earnest, praying men; instructive, pungent, discriminating heralders of gospel truth; carefully separating the chaff from the wheat; habitually preaching as if they realized that they were ambassadors for Christ; standing before those who must soon stand before the Judge ; often preaching amidst the ascending incense of the churches, and " in the demonstration of the Spirit.”

While in their pulpit discussions they not unfrequently sounded the depths and explored the mines of

B

gospel thought, bringing forth from these treasures “ things new and old ; " yet their sermons were by no means dry, metaphysical disquisitions or jejune exhibitions of what ought to inflame every hallowed emotion of the preacher's soul. By no means. As a class, their sermons were living presentations of living things; not. perhaps, glowing with the gorgeous workings of imagination, nor sparkling with the varied beauties and startling coruscations of genius, which charm those who go to the house of the Lord with no higher or more cultivated taste; yet not unfrequently were they enlivened with forcible, though homely illustrations, and always instinct with the fires of God's word. They were now the tender unfolding of the Saviour's love and his redemptive work; and then the solemn enforcement of law and obligation and reproof, which kindled to a blaze the slumbering consciences of their hearers, and warmed their hearts with the decisive purpose to "flee from the wrath to come."

Such preachers could not fail to be in the best sense eloquent; and some of them are acknowledged to have been such by the highest culture of the present age. They were by no means all rude men ungraced with æsthetic refinement. Who now occupying New England pulpits manifest more of the substantial and vital elements of sacred oratory than did Drs. Worcester, Griffin, Lyman Beecher, Hewitt, Nettleton, Humphrey, Porter, Cornelius, Wisner; than did Rev. Carlos Wilcox and Thomas Williams, Drs. Edward Payson, Bennet Tyler, M. Tucker, R. S. Storrs, Justin Edwards, Nathan Lord, and

« ElőzőTovább »