Abbildungen der Seite

was at liberty to enrich his experience by an ample survey of our domestic manners. Yet there is much in his appearance and in his character to disarm the fears of even a sensitive mind. We forget the keenness of his mental eye, when we perceive that his bodily vision is imperfect without the aid of spectacles. His wisdom seems no longer premature or alarming, when we observe the venerable complexion of his hair. His language may be stern and severe, but his voice, soft and pleasant, is incapable of giving due expression to any but kindly sentiments. And in revenge of an intellect so powerful and scrutinizing, Nature has given him a warm and generous heart, that will not suffer him, like other satirists, to poison the arrows which he sends with such unerring aim.

Art. X. — Writings of Prof. B. B. EDWARDS ; with a Me

moir, by EDWARDS A. PARK. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co. 1853. 2 vols. 12mo.

We give a hearty but sad welcome to these literary remains of a thorough and modest scholar, and one of the purest and best of men, whose decease, somewhat more than a year since, deeply afflicted not only a large circle of private friends, but the lovers of sacred and liberal learning throughout the country.

The sermons, essays, and reviews contained in these two volumes are but a small part of the numerous productions of a pen which, for twenty-five years, was hardly a moment idle. They have been collected in obedience to the wishes of numerous friends, and contain a fair, though of course not a complete, nor in some respects an adequate, exhibition of that mind whose activity produced them.

The life of a student, a teacher, a man of letters, an author, offers few salient points of interest. He performs no brilliant exploits, achieves no startling victories, makes no display, attracts from the crowd no notice. Yet for the little that is said of his outward life, there may be ample compen

sation in the larger sweep and power of thought to which he may have attained, and the intimacy with which he may come home, by his works, to the “ business and bosom ” of every intelligent man. And yet, far within those outer limits of intellectual authority which are reserved for the favored few, are there lesser circles, distinguished as by “light within light," where move and shine those whom the world could ill afford to spare. By the ordering of Providence, a great genius appears but rarely; otherwise, it would not be a genius, since that which constitutes it such is just that in which it differs from and excels all other men. Yet every age is fortunately favored with its men of finer mould, of more delicate sensibility, of ample and exact learning, of rare patience, and courage, and faith, without whom how dull, and cold, and motionless, and retrograde it would be.

In our country, and perhaps in every free country, the tendency towards politics is so strong, and the temporary honors of office so engrossing, that we are all the more glad to see placed before us, in its full attractiveness, the record of the unobtrusive but honorable life of a quiet and retiring scholar. He may not stand among the commanding thinkers, any more than among the restless actors of his time; but it is none the less true that his mind may be fresh and original in its action, and his services to his generation and his race amply deserving a permanent record.

Bela Bates Edwards was born in Southampton, Massachusetts, on the 4th of July, 1802 ; and it in some degree indicates the character of his mind, to say that he ever shrunk from the publicity which seemed to be implied in the coincidence of his birthday with that of the nation. His early life was quiet and secluded, marked by no striking incident, yet by its quiet discipline, its familiarity with rural scenes, and its intellectual privileges, it was a fit preparation for the responsibilities and labors to which he was afterwards called. At the age of eighteen, he entered Williams College, and having spent one year there, followed President Moore to Amherst, where he was graduated in 1824. His college life was marked by the same diligence and scrupulous fidelity which characterized his after years. A classmate and room

mate speaks of him as a “model student, - quiet, assiduous, modest, and eminently successful.”

It was during his residence at Amherst that his intellectual conviction of religious truth gave place to a deep sense of its personal necessity, and he was led to a thorough and serious purpose of holy living. Yet no one was more averse than he to any thing which might seem like a parade of religious feeling. He shrank with instinctive delicacy from making his innermost and profoundest emotions the subject of familiar conversation. What he thus carefully guarded in himself he as fully respected in another; and he always approached a human spirit, in the hours of its solicitude, with a gentleness and tenderness as beautiful as they are unusual.

In less than a year after receiving his first degree, he entered the Theological Seminary at Andover.

His course there, however, was interrupted at the close of a year, by an invitation to a tutorship at Amherst, the duties of which sometimes unwelcome office he discharged for two years with singular fidelity and success. During the latter part of his residence at the college, he was elected Assistant Secretary to the American Education Society, which devolved upon him the duty of editing its quarterly journal; and about the same time, he was solicited to become an Assistant Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Nor was this all; for while his mind was divided upon these questions, there came another request, to add to his perplexity, in the form of a proposition to prepare himself for a Professorship at Amherst. All the considerations which led him to accept the first of the above-mentioned offers, do not appear in the Memoir; but we find him, in the autumn of 1828, residing at Andover, performing the duties of Secretary to the Education Society, and at the same time pursuing his theological studies. It was an effort which demanded of him unremitting and severe labor, and imposed duties which he himself afterwards thought incompatible with each other. Yet it was a mistake which many an ardent student in each of the learned professions has made, in the attempt to gather up, within the shortest time, the advantages of many studies, or to unite with the labors of acquisition the satisfaction of

The way

conferring a practical good. In his own case, the effect was to diminish the healthy tone of both body and mind, and to produce for a time gloomy and despondent feelings.

After leaving Andover, in 1830, he spent nearly six years in Boston. These were among the most laborious, yet happy and hopeful, years of his life. He had been married to one whose tastes and acquisitions were like his own. was thus open to that profound domestic tranquillity and enjoyment, from which he derived so much strength and hope. The years spent in Boston were marked by literary plans and labors. The American Quarterly Register, established at first as the journal of a benevolent society, assumed, under his guidance, an entirely new character, and became the depository of a vast amount of information on all topics connected with education, literature, and the progress of society. Besides a large amount of statistics, every number contained biographical sketches and essays of permanent value. It is easy to see, in glancing over the volumes, each one becoming more ample than its predecessor, what an unusual amount of editorial labor must have been required in the preparation of them. He says, in one of his letters, “ My wrist gets worn out with my continual use of the pen;" and in another, “ I have written eight hours to-day — four sheets of literary notices;" and in another still, “ It has been an immense labor to prepare the statistical tables of the Register. This devolves on me chiefly. I have spent six hours to-day in correcting one page of a proofsheet.” For a time, the space devoted to statistics in this Quarterly left a wrong impression on the minds of most who read it, concerning the character of its editor, as if he were a mere antiquarian, a collector of facts, to whom one fact was about as valuable as another. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fine poetic element, the love of all noble and inspiring truth, was not even held in abeyance, much less smothered, during this period of drudging toil. But he had a distinct idea, which he wished to carry out in the Register, and which involved large labor with small reward and much self-denial.

“ I have a strong hope,” he once wrote, “ that the Register may be

made what no work in the English language has ever been, and that it may be more valuable for posterity than for the present age. I am ready to give up my life for coming generations. But I cannot succeed in making this publication what it ought to be, the best in Christendom, unless I become very parsimonious in regard to my time. All the men who have been very useful in the world, have taken sacred care of their minutes. Indeed, I now feel very unhappy if I am long away from my appropriate employment. Idleness, or simple visiting, even with those whom I love most, has very few charms for me. I have had vacations for ten years, and they are now closed. The sources of my pleasure must be deep, or I shall enjoy very little. Visiting disqualifies me for prayer and meditation. Therefore I must renounce it, where it has no useful purpose, and find my pleasure in my duty.” Again he wrote: “ The Register will give an opportunity to speak to an audience of twenty-five hundred ministers and scholars, who will carry an influence to two millions of other minds.”

Vol. i. pp. 78, 79. Mr. Edwards had an insatiable love of knowledge in every department and branch, and stored his mind with an everaccumulating mass of facts, but only that he might use this knowledge in the furtherance of his literary and benevolent projects. While engaged laboriously upon a publication demanding such constant and careful oversight, he attempted, also, to establish another periodical, of a different and higher character. The first number of the American Quarterly Observer appeared in July, 1833. Its object was to occupy ground common to various religious denominations, and to discuss the subjects of politics, philosophy, literature, and morals, on the most enlarged basis, as connected with the development of Providence, and the well-being of the whole human race. He meant, by bringing the great truths of Christianity to bear directly upon the various topics proper for such a work, to elevate and purify literature, while, at the same time, he might do something to enlarge the scope of thought, to refine and elevate the taste of those by whom the work would be most largely supported. It has been regretted that this plan, conceived in so catholic a spirit, promising enough of the popular in the subject and mode of discussion, and as much of the profound and exhaustive as could be obtained from a wide circle of able contributors, could not

« ZurückWeiter »