« AnteriorContinuar »
the separation of the Congregational Church into two sects, - the Orthodox, holding to the old belief, and the Unitarian. A separation in society had followed, quite radical at first, from the conviction, on the part of the Orthodox, that the matter in dispute was of vital importance and affected the dearest interests of every man: they dreaded worldly-mindedness as leading to laxity of belief, and gave their adhesion to a code of manners which they considered as witnessing to their system of doctrine. The Unitarians, as a body, conformed to an outward state, opposing that of the Orthodox, and intended as a protest against it : accusing their antagonists of an unchristian rigor of life resulting from a narrow and slavish belief, they asserted for themselves what they called a more generous life, the offspring of a more liberal faith. In 1835 the two parties had been so long separated as to have in some measure escaped from the anger which followed the open rupture; the increased intercourse between them had disabused each of erroneous notions respecting the other, and the extension of fainily relations served still more to produce common feeling; but, after all, the antagonism remained, even if robbed of its harshest features; and a child born in a family holding decided views respecting the controversy, was likely to grow up under social influences representing and enforcing these views.
Our father was a firm supporter of the Orthodox belief, a prominent member of the Orthodox connection, and, as Deacon in Union Church, (Essex Street,) an active promoter of the interests of his church. The schools to which he sent his children were, with the exception of the public schools, under Orthodox direction; their amusements and occupations, when touching questions of moral advantage, were made to conform to the standard of Orthodox principles; and in all parts of their education a jealous care was exercised, lest they should become lax in religious belief and worldlyminded in their habits of life. In the conduct of the household, there was recognition of some more profound meaning in life than could find expression in mere enjoyment of living, while the presence of a real religious sentiment banished that counterfeit solemnity which would hang over innocent pleasure like a cloud. Yet, while this indicates the principles which governed in our home education, the informing life which saved the principles from producing formalism, or a violent repulsion, was the personal presence of our father.
He was the sunniest-minded of men as he was physically the heartiest: throughout a long life he had scarcely a day of sickness; and with equal truth it can be said that he never suffered in mind those bilious attacks which so few escape ; the sunshine within seemed to chase away morbid abstractions. He led a life of peace, which was no mere avoidance of difficulties, but a positive superiority to them; he suffered reverses and failures, he passed through grievous trials, but he kept his spirit in contentment; his mind was in perfect peace.
. There was a light within of holy love, which shone through the thin casement of his daily life with increasing brightness as he neared the end of his days. Life never became wearisome to him, for nothing was foreign from his concern. The generous instincts of childhood grew with the growth of his mind; and it is not easy to over-state the hearty pleasure with which he entered upon whatever engaged his attention; and these things were often the affairs of others, for he invited confidence by the readiness of his interest. No coldness, no indifference even, could last in his genial presence; his very smile was a benediction, and strangers were drawn to him by the irresistible charm of his
It may be judged how bright he made his home. It was a Puritan home; the “ Assembly's Shorter Catechism” was learned in it; the “ Sabbath was strictly observed," as the saying is ; there was no anxiety to meet the world half-way and shake hands with it; and yet, contrary to a general prejudice, there could have been no home where a merrier laugh went up, and more unaffected, abundant, rational enjoyment prevailed. There was seriousness indeed among the elders, for life seemed no trifling matter when they looked so confidently to a divided state in the world beyond, and graver tone existed than might have arisen had that belief received no outside assaults. The children could not but perceive this seriousness; and if that had been the burden of their elders' lives, they would likely enough have been utterly repelled from a religion so sombre. But if they looked in the father's face, they knew that religion had not spoiled his life: as they grew older, they saw that it had renewed and enriched it.
There were four older children in the family at the time of David's birth. Within three years, two more boys were added ; and, except that the oldest two sons were shortly after married and established in Boston, the family remained quite unbroken for twenty-five years.
The house in which David was born was in Temple Place, but his recollections of childhood centred chiefly about the one afterward occupied in Essex Street, near Lincoln. At that time the neighborhood was a pleasant one; directly opposite stood the Orphan Asylum with its open grounds, and the adjoining buildings, though plain, afforded decent company. Near the head of the street, at the corner of Rowe, stands Union Church, the ecclesiastical home of the family. The private school, to which David was sent when a child, was kept by Mrs. Lothrop and her daughters in the basement of the First Congregational Church, in the same neighborhood ; while in the opposite direction, at an equal distance from the house, was the East-Street Grammar School, where his public school-days were passed.
It was a simple but varied life that we led. There was comfort, without display, in the household economy, and pleasure was preferred when it brought the least worry. The family contained within itself abundant sources of enjoyment. The family connection, too, was large, and a constant interchange of visits took place; so that from one year's end to the other, new faces appeared or absent old ones reappeared, creating a brisk feeling in the house, and keeping alive that sort of hearty cheer which seems to result from a great deal of welcoming and shaking of hands. A city-life, under any circumstances, furnishes a fund of novelty to citizens and strangers alike; and as we were content with the more simple forms, ennui was unheard of. There always were concerts and lectures for the elders, shows and celebrations for the children; there were Whig torch-light processions, when the house was illuminated, and Democratic ones, when all the shutters were closed except one in the top story, where we stood huddled together to peep at the sight of what we would by no means countenance.
The church-relations, also, it may easily be inferred, gave character to the daily life. The children had less part here, but came in for a share of the interest. By what mysterious power was it that meetings of the Maternal Associations were exalted in our eyes to the dignity of state occasions, especially that yearly one at the minister's house when we received each an apple and a cake, invested by the ceremony with a superior nature, and eaten slowly, as if they were some exotic fruit? A more serious and thought-provoking occasion was the eventful day when we were graduated from the Maternal Association, with the diploma of book and note from the Secretary, telling us that we had now reached the limit of thoughtless childhood, and were thenceforth left somewhat to ourselves, though never beyond the reach of the circle of praying mothers. Surely, with a tender child a new feeling of responsibility is suggested by this simple ceremony, and it was desired in our Christian society to produce such a result.
If the seriousness, the habit of seeking for religious foundations in all enterprises, which held among the elders, was unconsciously transmitted to the children, whatever direction religious enthusiasm took in the church was even more quickly and more fully taken by the responsive enthusiasm of the children of the church. Thus was it with reference to the Foreign Missionary work, which at that time excited, perhaps, more lively interest from its intimate connection with the church-life in Boston. The missionaries to any point sailed from the city, and became individually known to the churches. Their visits were made the
. occasion for special fervor of feeling. The Scripture promise, of a multiplication of homes to those who