Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

prehension. For he neither expressed, nor formed an opinion rashly. He knew that the human understanding is of limited capacity, and is liable to err. He reflected, he examined, before he came to a conclusion: but having decided, he seldom found occasion (at least in the later years of life) to alter his opinions.--As he judged correctly, so he acted wisely. Both in public and private life, he conducted with consummate prudence; a virtue, not always found connected, either with genjus, or piety. But the centinel at the door of his lips was always at his post. He never ceased to ponder the path of his feet, nor could it ever be said of him, that there was no judgment in his goings. Yet his feelings were ardent, his spirit was resolute and commanding. He united caution with firmness, and zeal with discretion.

In the year 1800 he was married to Miss Elizabeth Means, daughter of Hon. Robert Means of Amberst N. H. In her he found a friend, worthy of the connexion, which, for nearly twenty years, so happily subsisted between them. They had six children; three sons, and three daughters. The youngest child, a son, was very suddenly taken from them, when three years old, in October, 1817. The other five children are still living.

That Mr. Appleton stood high in public estimation, was made evident in 1803, by his being selected, as one of the two principal candidates for the professorship of theology in the University at Cambridge. A few years after he received both from Harvard and Dartmouth the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Upon the death of Dr. McKeen, the first President of Bowdoin College, Dr. Appleton was chosen his successor. After much serious deliberation, he accepted the appointment, and was inaugura ted in November, 1807.

For the office of presiding over a Literary Institution, he was admirably qualified. In his character was united the spirit of command with those qualities that conciliate; and he was sure to gain the affection and respect, both of the students, and of his associates in the government. The responsibility, attached to his bigh station, he deeply and constantly felti and with singular firmness, discretion, diligence, and success, he performed its du

ties. With wisdom did he conduct himself in perplexing circumstances ; and when at any time bis measures were misunderstood, and his fidelity was requited with resentment and reproach, he exhibited a genuine magnanimity. He was never indeed, unmindful, that the beings, placed under bis care, were endued with reason, and he did not wish to govern them by mere authority and power. Whenever he rejected their petitions, he sought at the same time to convince them, that it would be wrong to do otherwise; to their complaints and remonstrances they always found him willing to attend; and, if they could not prevail to alter his determinations, it was because he had proceeded with deliberation and sound judgment in forming them. He expected, from the first, to meet with difficulties. But, “O, my God," bis prayer was, "enable me to aet uprightly, prudently, uniformly, resolutely, and with love to thee: Then, let come of it wbat will, by thy grace, I will endure it all ** The prayer was answered; and the resolution, connected with it, was accomplished. Like the glorious sun in the heavens, he swerved not from his course ; and, if the mists of passion and prejudice ever obscured his brightness, they were soon dissipated, and he shone forth with new and augmented splendor

The interest, which he felt in the prosperity of the institution, could not be exceeded. It was a solieitude, that never slumber. ed. Toward those, who successively became its members, he possessed and manifested the feelings of a father. In administering reproof he was unrivaled. There was such a solemnity in his manner, and pungency in bis rubukes; the guilt, baseness, and ill consequences of vicious conduct were so plainly and forcibly represented, that the delinquent must have been hardened indeed, if his mind were not overwhelmed with shame and re

It is known, that in many instances the effects of his admonitions were salutary and permanent.

As an instructer, President Appleton was most attentive and assiduous. Though it formed no part of his official duties, he prepared and delivered, for the benefit of the students, upwards of fifty theological lectures, in which he treated of the being, attributes and providence of God, the necessity of a revelation, the

morse.

* Extracted from a little MS. containing pious thoughts and meditations.

evidences, and several of the more important doctrines, of christianity. To the composition of these lectures be devoted much time, thought, and study. Truth is exhibited in them with great clearness of illustration, cogency of argument, and frequently, when the subject would admit, with very powerful application to the conscience and heart.

The benefits, resulting from bis Presidency, as well to the community, as to the College, it is not easy to appreciate. To his wisdom and fidelity must be attributed, in no small degree, the high rank of Bowdoin College among the literary institutions of our country. The deep inierest, wbich he felt in the temporal and eternal welfare of the students, and the happy tendency of bis instructions to promote it, were exhibited, in the most impressive manner, at the annual Commencements. One could not witness on these occasions his dignified, graceful demeanor; nor, listen to his prayers, so pertinent, solemn, and fervent; to his addresses, so full of sentiment, eloquence, and feeling, without strong emotions of admiration and delight.

Those habits of intense application, which he bad formed, while the minister of a small country parish, it was not to be expected, that he would relinquish, when placed at the head of one of our first seminaries of learning. He still continued to be " a close and uniform student.” He was much adduced to philological researches; more especially in reference to our own language. The principles of grammar, the laws of pure, classical composition, and of correct pronunciation, were subjects of his exact and critical attention. It has been said, that "he excelled in ethecal inquiries;" and it may be added, that he was well versed in metaphysical disquisitions. It was one effect of his acquaintance with subjects of this nature, that on certain points, in regard to which others have imagined, that they saw clearly, and were authorized to speak positively, he was far more cautious and doubtful. He knew so much about them, as to know, how liitle can be known.

Theology was ever his favorite study: and not without reason was he accounted one of the first divines in New England. He was far from indulging the spirit of controversy; but he lored to agitate important subjects, and his mind was richly furnish.

ed for such discussion. “No man,” said a distinguished divine of the Hopkinsian school,* “knows better, how to ask a question, than Mr. Appleton." It is believed, that others not unskilled in theological science, have had occasion to feel the correctness of such an observation.

The services of President Appleton in the pulpit were universally, and in a high degree, interesting. In the best sense of the expression, he was more, than most others, a rational preacher. His ideas were exhibited with great clearness, and in a manner peculiarly convincing. If the important truths, which he uttered, did not always reach the hearts of his hearers, yet, like the great apostle of the Gentiles, he coinmended himself to every man's conscience. It was difficult for those who heard him, not to feel, that they were accountable beings; that their Creator had a perfect right to their love and obedience; that by their transgressions they had incurred His just displeasure; and that it must needs be a fearful thing to fall into His hands. Religion appeared most evidently a reasonable service; and the sinner often found himself convicted, at the bar of his own mind, of the most egregious folly. He portrayed the scenes of futurity, as one who knew and felt them to be real; and who earnestly desired to produce in the minds of others a conviction, deep and influential, as his own, of the value of the soul, and the certainty of eternal retri. butions.-His eloquence was his own. It was such, as became •ó a legate of the skies.” There were no tricks of oratory. But there was the eloquence of truth, of reason, and of feeling. His manner of writing was distinguished by strength and energy ; his manner of speaking, and I may add, his very looks, were singularly solemn and impressive. On hearing him preach, and, if possible, still more, on hearing him pray, one naturally thought of applying the epithet apostolic.

That his public services were very highly valued, was made sufficiently evident by the frequency, with which they were solicited. Within a few years, he was invited to preach, not only before the Bible, Missionary, Education, and Peace Societies, of Maine, and, on more occasions than one, at meetings of citizens, associated to suppress immoralities, and to promote the better obscrvance of the Sabbath ; but also before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, of which he was a member; before the Legislature, at the annual election; and the same year, before the Convention of the Congregational Clergy; before the Massachusetts Society for the suppression of Intemperance; and had his health permitted, he would in the year on which he died, bave addressed the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. His discourses, on several of these occasions, are already before the public.

* The Rev. Dr. Spring of Newburyport.

Those, who were not particularly acquainted with President Appleton, might, in some instances, inter from the reserve and gravity, which they witnessed, that he did not relish society. Such an inference would be erroneous. Of the pleasure found in social intercourse, he was peculiarly susceptible. To his friends he uniformly gave a most cordial reeeption, and discovered a strong and generous attachment. His dwelling was the abode of hospitality. His politeness and courtesy were not the substitute, but the expression of real kindness." He had an uncommonly nice sense of propriety in conduct; and treated, with the utmost delicacy, the opinions and feelings of those, with whom he was conversant. He was scrupulously observant of truth; especially in reference to the sentiments, words, and actions of others; and often lamented the prevalence, particularly in the religious world, of misrepresentation and slander. He was not disposed to look, through a magnifying medium, at the errors, or the sins, of his fellow-men. There were those, whom he viewed, as embracing unscriptural and pernicious sentiments : but he was not fond of opposing them by positive assertions, or barsh epithets. He believed that men are accountable to God for their religious opinions ; but he did not wish to see the eg. tablishment of ecclesiastical tribunals; and was jealous of any encroachment upon freedom of inquiry.

President Appleton was, in truth, a man of an excellent spirit. The more intimately you kne w bim, the more plainly you perceived, that he possessed real humility, meekness, and candor. The law of christian kindness was in his lips, and the spirit of christian benevolence governed his conduct. Nor were bis virtues of doubtful origin. They were plainly the fruits of vital piety. God had written His law upon his heart, and had put

С

« AnteriorContinuar »