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Roche and its environs, was beginning to be attended with the most cheering results.* A blessing also attended Stouber's discourses in the pulpit, for they were admirably adapted to the capacity and situation of his hearers. He endeavored in the simplest language to lead their minds to a knowledge of the happiness enjoyed by the people of God, and the means of attaining that happiness; and to convince them that, notwithstanding the poverty of their external circumstances, the Almighty would protect and bless them if they earnestly sought to do his will: He then brought them to consider the all-important doctrines of the Cross, that we can only be regenerated by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that we must rely solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and redemption. In 1756, when he had resided about six years at Waldbach, he was appointed pastor to the market town of Barr on the other side of the Vosges, His parishioners, who, though still wild and uncultivated, had begun to feel the value of his instructions, expressed the greatest regret at his removal, as his intended successor was little more enlightened than his predecessors had been.
* For one singular instance, among many others, of the avidity with which the Bible was sought at this period, See a letter of Oberlin's, Chap. VI.
Four years afterwards Steinthal again became vacant; and M. Stouber, notwithstanding the reproaches and contempt cast upon him by many of his friends, who could not understand the principle of the love of Christ which constrained him to exchange a very profitable and respectable living in a town for a physical and moral wilderness, felt impelled to return to his beloved Steinthal. The pleasure with which this intelligence was circulated through the valley was extreme; the inhabitants of the different villages, both young and old, went to the top of the mountain, which had separated him from them, to witness his arrival and to bid him welcome with tears' of grateful joy.
It was during this latter part of his residence in the Ban de la Roche, that M. Stouber's ministerial labors were so peculiarly successful, and that, under the blessing of God, a general improvement appeared to take place.
He had resided altogether more than fourteen years in this spot, actively engaged in promoting the welfare of his flock, when he had the affliction of losing a wife to whom he was tenderly attached, and who, animated by the same spirit as her husband, had warmly participated in all his labors of love. She was buried in the churchyard of Waldbach, and the following touching
epitaph adorned her monument, until it was destroyed, with many others, at the time of the Revolution :
During three years of marriage,
Minister of this Parish,
peaceable and useful life, The delight of her benevolent heart, and, in her first
confinement, the grave of her youth and beauty. She died August 9th, 1764, aged twenty years.
Near this spot Her Husband has sown for immortality all that was
mortal ; Uncertain whether he is more sensible of the grief of
Three years after this afflictive dispensation, which he bore with Christian fortitude, and just when he was beginning to rejoice in the happy transformation effected by his exertions, he was offered the station of pastor to St. Thomas's Church, at Strasbourg. He accepted it, and it was greatly feared that the Ban de la Roche would relapse into its former melancholy condition.
Oberlin perceived the emergency of the case; his benevolent mind strongly felt the importance of such a field of labor; it was a sufficient in
ducement for him to undertake its duties that others disdained them, and the very misery and moral degradation which had to be remedied, rendered it in his eyes the more interesting; he therefore left a spot in which the brilliance of his mental powers might have attracted universal homage ; and led, as he conceived, by the hand of Providence, became the successor of M. Stouber in this retired and desolate scene of exertion.
JOHN FREDERIC OBERLIN was born at Strasbourg, on the 31st of August, 1740. His father, a man of considerable attainments and respectability, though not in affluent circumstances, held an office in the Gymnasium of that city, and devoted his hours of leisure to the instruction of his nine children, to all of whom he was most tenderly attached. They in return looked up to him with devoted fondness, and acquiesced in his wishes rather from motives of sincere affection than filial duty, ever anticipating his desires, and anxiously promoting his happiness by every means in their power.
Notwithstanding the scantiness of his income, he was in the habit of giving each of his children a present of two pfenninge * every Saturday to spend as pocket-money in fruit or cakes ; and the following pleasing anecdote, in allusion to this circumstance, is related as an early trait of the little Frederic's character :- When the tailor's or shoemaker's bills were brought home on a Saturday night, as he knew that his father, who was a man of remarkable integrity and punctuality, always liked to discharge them immediately to their full amount, without deducting, as the tradesmen frequently wished him to do, and as is the usual practice, the odd pence, he used to watch his countenance, and if he imagined from its downcast expression that he was in want of money, to run to his savings-box and return in triumph to empty all his little store of weekly pfenninge into the hands of his beloved parent.
But this was only one among the thousand instances of generosity and benevolence for which he was, even from his earliest infancy, so peculiarly distinguished. Self-denial ever seemed his ruling principle; and he was never so happy as when an opportunity of relieving the oppressed,
* The smallest copper coin in the country, and not equal in value to an English farthing.