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REV. EDWARD C. MCGUIRE, D. D.-SKETCH OF
HIS LIFE AND LABORS.
THE subject of this sketch deserves a more particular and permanent notice than the usual obituary, if for no other consideration, because he was one of the small band honored by God, to begin and lead on the revival of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia. Its sad prostration has been so often and graphically described, that it is not necessary to reproduce the gloomy picture. There was a period when he who has been most signally instrumental in its resuscitation, seems to have relinquished the hope. By the General Convention the Church in Virginia was considered as extinct, and so recorded their opinion in their journal. But “God's thoughts are not as our thoughts.” The soil had been burnt over, and blackened, yet the process was not one of abandonment; it served to consume much that only cumbered the ground, and to prepare the way for breaking up the fallow, and scattering the good seed of the word, that the earth, receiving blessing of God, might drink in the rain oft coming upon it, and bring forth fruit for those by whom it was dressed. But, for this new and productive cultivation, other laborers were required, and of different spirit and action from those, through whose indolence and irregularities the field had become overgrown with “ thorns and briers.” And the merciful God did, in His gracious providence, raise up and send forth the men for the work. Among others who will be held in grateful remembrance, the Rev. Edward Charles McGuire, D.D., can not soon be forgotten. If this sketch serve to extend and perpetnate the knowledge of his worth, and the influence
of his singularly excellent example, it will accomplish a good work.
Edward Charles McGuire was born in Winchester, Virginia, on the 26th of July, 1793. He was the eldest son of William and Mary McGuire. The father was an officer in the army of the Revolution. After the close of the war he engaged in the practice of the law. For some time he held the office of Chief Justice of the territory of Mississippi. He died at Harper's Ferry, the fourth of November, 1820. In the diary of the son, this dispensation is thus noticed: “This is a most afflictive event to my heart, and to all his large family, who are now deprived of their earthly support. I have a good hope that he rests in heaven. I have much reason to love him. He was to me a kind friend, an affectionate father.”
Of his mother's death, which occurred in Winchester on the eighth of June, 1821, he makes the following affectionate record: “A day of sorrow and weeping. Received the sad and unexpected intelligence of the death of my dear mother, when I was hoping to hear that her health was in a fair way of being completely restored, and that an expected visit from her to me was to be realized. I have, however, a sweet consolation in the assurance of her complete happiness in the presence of God and the Lamb. She was a woman of rare excellence, the best woman in all the relations of life I ever knew. Her piety was gennine-her conduct as consistent and exemplary as that of any person in the world. Indeed, I do not know that she had a fault—that she was blamable in any thing, either towards God or man, that could be discerned by mortal eyes. She was to me (her firstborn) the most indulgent and affectionate mother. I shall remember her whilst I live with the warmnest gratitude and sincerest affection, and cherish the hope of meeting her in my Saviour's kingdom as one of my dearest and most precious privileges." A touching tribute of filial love and reverence for a devoted Christian mother; creditable both to the affection of the son, and the mother's excellence.
It would not be easy to exaggerate the privilege of a truly pious parentage. The promise runs “to you and to your
seed," and its verification is palpable in every age of the Church's history. Of this “large family," every child became a hopeful subject of divine grace. Three of the sons, and two sons of the eldest brother, are ministers of the Gospel, and all, till the recent death of that oldest brother, laboring in the Master's cause in the Diocese of Virginia..
Dr. McGuire received his academic education in Winchester, giving special attention to the ancient languages and mathematics. Having finished his preparatory studies, he appears to have decided without hesitation in favor of the law as a profession, and in 1811 we find him entered as a student in the office of Robert Page, Esq., of Frederick. Those who became acquainted with Mr. McGuire, after he had attained maturity, and when his temperament had been sobered by various afflictions, and chastened by the influence of religion, would scarcely be prepared to learn that in early life his natural disposition was gay, with a large infusion of the humorous. For a good anecdote, well told, he never lost his relish, and on appropriate occasions would himself indulge in amusing narrative, which was rendered more attractive by his own peculiar manner of relation. This it would be impossible to describe, unless we could paint his eye, and imitate his utterance, with its occasional hesitances, which seemed to be produced by superabundant fullness with his subject, and with its occasional brief repetitions, which, like the retouchings of an artist, improved the effect of his picture. In his younger days, the gayety of his spirit led him to seek for pleasure in worldly amusement, which, at a more advanced period of life, no one disallowed with more decision as inconsistent with Christian sobriety, and detrimental to Christian health. But though his unrenewed heart felt the attractiveness and yielded to the power of the world, he was not a stranger to strong religious impressions. This indeed is scarcely possible in one whose childhood had been blessed by the faithful instruction and example of a pious parent. The first “religious emotions” which he remembered, “were felt when he was about ten or twelve years of age.” “They were," he writes, “when my beloved mother was showing me a picture of the crucifixion of the Saviour, and was commenting on the awful event. These emotions, however, were transient."
The emotion subsided, but the pictorial impression, illustrated by the tender teachings of a devoted mother, was not effaced. It was received into the very texture of that living, immortal soul, in indestructible colors. The exhalations of a sinful nature dimmed it for a season, but it was not obliterated. Charmed by the fascinating objects of the outer world, the eye of the soul may have become averse to look within, but there, in the image-chamber, this sacred fresco remained, only requiring, like the drawings in the Egyptian temples, that the rubbish by which they had been obscured be removed, to reäppear as distinct in line, and in color as bright, as when first inwrought. Twenty years later, when he was a delegate to the General Convention in New-York, he enters in his diary : “Purchased some engravings representing the Crucifixion, the Burial of our Lord, the Last Supper.” An act very significant in the history of this impression. We may be pardoned the opinion that such impressions survive the dissolution of the earthly tabernacle-indeed, are indelible; that they go with the disembodied to their future abiding-place, to be gazed upon with agony by the lost, and contemplated with joy unspeakable by the redeemed. If so, what language can adequately express a mother's responsibility ? Her plastic touches on the spiritual nature of the child at her knee, are accomplishing work for eternity. It should be done diligently and truly, with intense solicitude, and instant, earnest prayer. Between this period and his seventeenth year, Mr. McGuire experienced several marked visitations of the Spirit of God, producing serious purposes, and some kind of effort to lead a religious life. But like the first, they all proved evanescent. “In my seventeenth year," he writes, “I was again more powerfully impressed with religious sentiments. I was led to pray earnestly, and I did so for several months. I was then overcome by temptation, and relapsed into a sinful course of life. I again, however, recovered, and began to seek the Lord anew."
Pending these successive but ineffectual struggles, what
advantage he would have derived from free conference with some experienced Christian, to whom he could communicate his conflicts, and who from his own history could explain to him their nature and design, the right manner of managing them, and the way of “victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But in those days professors of this spirit and capability did not abound within our borders. Such an earnest application for sympathy and guidance would have been misapprehended and discountenanced by not a few of those who wore the badge of Christianity; and even among its ministers it would not have been difficult to find some who would regard the inquiries of the awakened sinner as the incoherent utterances of a morbid mind, and either have advised diversified recreation, as to one mentally diseased, or have directed him to “take the sacrament, and do the best he knew how.” To this sad scarceness of competent counsellors Mr. McGuire affectingly alludes: “I experienced great inconvenience during this, (renewed effort to seek the Lord,) froin the want of religious society. There was no person to instruct, or in any way assist me in my religious career. I therefore fell often." These strugglings under the action of a roused conscience, and frequent relapses through the prevailing power of temptation, were painful and discouraging, especially with no man to guide him. The dispensation, however, was no doubt wisely ordered to bring him to a deeper acqnaintance with the workings of the natural heart, under the influence of pungent conviction ; its utter destitution of resources of its own at all adequate to its relief; and to teach him most impressively, through his own experience, that by “grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” He was thus under pupilage designed to prepare him in the most effectual way for ministering to others who might waver and lapse from the pressure of like temptations.
The decisive call which determined him to obedience, despite of the difficulties by which he had heretofore been beset and hindered, was received in his nineteenth year, not long after he had entered on the study of law. He shall describe it himself: