supposed. He was so careful of his words that some imagined he had no thoughts. But the reverse was true. He has left on record his opinion of Southern men and institutions.

In 1824 he wrote in his diary, "The population at the South are totally indifferent to the subject of religion, and many who profess it are very poor examples of its power. If I were to state what appeared to me the prominent failure of professing christians at the South, I should say it was an extreme attention to the things in themselves indifferent, and neglect of the weightier matters of the law,the broad principles of christian charity and love. Consequently the cut of a coat or the trimming of a bonnet are viewed as important as a christian grace or virtue.

"Of the morals of the people, generally speaking, there is a want of punctuality in the transactions of business and a disregard of the sacredness of a promise.

"The great cause of this laxity of morals in that country is slavery. This destroys industry, hardens the heart, embitters domestic life, and is the scourge of society."

The fact that this was written more than forty years ago, before the subject of slavery had been agitated, shows a power of discrimination in advance of that day, but which subsequent events have abundantly confirmed.

3. Mr. Savage was a very accurate scholar. He commenced in childhood, and gave to the pursuit of learning his undivided attention. He excelled, perhaps, in the classics, but was familiar with the best models of his native tongue. His habits thus early formed, shaped his whole life. He wrote in a style at once clear, beautiful and impressive. There was no redundancy of words and never an inelegant expression; even in extemporaneous address, his language was select. He frequently enriched his ser

mons from the best English authors. His library, not large, was well read.

Still, though he regarded a thorough education of such high importance, yet, in his judgment, there was another still more so. After listening to a sermon from a brother who had not enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education he wrote, "I wish to feel more deeply that it is not learning nor great talents that God uses to do good, so much as humble piety. The excellency of the power is of God and not of man."" It is a happy thought that these brethren, we trust, have now met in that presence where the inequalities of human learning are lost in the knowledge of Christ Jesus.


4. As a preacher, Brother Savage was practical and impressive. He did not dwell so much on the distinctive doctrines of the gospel as many preachers. He did not preach theology as a system. Yet he preached salvation only by the cross. But its doctrines were mingled with precept as the leaven pervades the mass in which it is hidden. They appeared not as the veins penetrate the marble, but as the painter's color shades the whole.

In the early part of his ministry he wrote his sermons and read them. I think he seldom extemporized. But the manner of his reading was so free, so unlike reading, so far removed from monotony and uttered with a voice of so wide compass, and which even in a whisper would fill the house, that he was always interesting and impressive.

I attended his ministry for years, but never knew him dull in the utterance of his sermon. He felt an interest in it himself, and threw that interest into the hearts of his hearers. Indeed, I have long regarded him as one of the most eloquent speakers to whom I ever listened.

One already quoted, says, "My earliest recollections of

Mr. Savage go back to the first years of his ministry in Bedford. The impression that he made on my young heart in his exchanges with my pastor was that he was a powerful and pathetic preacher. He lodged his texts, subjects and manner firmly in my memory. They are as fresh as the things of yesterday. In the revivals of thirty years ago I remember him as one of the most active of laborers. He never seemed more at home, and joyous, than in the enquiry room. So earnest, affectionate and persuasive was he that he drew all our hearts towards himself and his Savior." He further adds, "He strongly preferred to dwell on the bright side of things. He was no complainer, no misanthrope. Under God he was ever hopeful. His spirit and experience were sunny. Who can ever forget his interest in the Psalms of David, in the glowing words of Paul and John, and the profound emotion with which he read them?"

Another clergyman whose acquaintance ran back more than a quarter of a century, in summing up his character both as a christian and minister, says, "He was one of the brightest examples of christian cheerfulness, hopefulness, buoyancy, courtesy and kindness that it was ever my privilege to know.

"It was these natural virtues and depth of sensibility, refined by his education and piety, that gave to his public utterances, at times, a most tender and melting pathos. I have often listened to Brother Savage when he seemed to have lifted the floodgates of his heart and poured upon his audience the whole tide of his own refined sensibilities, without one particle of reserve, carrying us along with the strong current of his emotions.

"It was here that his strength as a preacher lay. It was this fullness of experience that gave a freshness and rhetorical force to all he said.

"He was well versed in all that kind of literature which dealt with the sensibilities of the heart. His expressions were therefore often choice and touching. He breathed out his own emotions in the most classic language of the ages."

Another speaking of Mr. Savage, both as a christian and minister, remarks, "As pastor of a neighboring church and co-Presbyter, I knew him well, and knew but to love him. His great kindness of heart, uniform urbanity and complete transparency of character, I appreciated highly. "An Israelite indeed in whom is no guile," may emphatically be said of him. "Thinketh no evil," was one of his prominent characteristics. Diffusing sunshine around him, he was ever welcome in the private study, social circle, and ecclesiastical body. Rejoicing in the happiness of others, he was forgetful of self.

"With nice discrimination and memory faithful, he was accustomed, both in and out of the pulpit, to draw at will from a wide range of learned authors, and in this it may be truly said:

He all his peers in beauty did surpass.'

[ocr errors]

It may be proper to add that although Mr. Savage excelled as a classical scholar, and though he quoted freely, yet in public, it was always from English authors.

5. Brother Savage loved the work of the ministry. He often speaks in his diary of finding increasing delight in the service, and of the great importance of being prepared, both by study and the discipline of the heart, for the pulpit. And most certainly in one very important respect, he gave himself wholly to it. He knew nothing but what was essential to the office. And after he became a pastor he did nothing else.

Indeed, it was a matter of surprise how a man could live seventy years, and be pastor of a country church forty, and know so little about the affairs of common life.


It was this love to the ministry, the importance which he attached to the work and his singleness of aim in its prosecution, together with his varied learning and retentive memory, which summoned at the moment the best thoughts of our best authors, which often gave peculiar adaptedness to his sermons, and frequently made him most happy in extemporaneous address. A startling thoughta terse sentence-the line of a hymn-or a text of scripture, would often drop in a manner both to surprise and delight the hearer.

As an example of this power, take the following fact: Near the close of his ministry, when on an exchange with a neighboring pastor, he spent the season between the services with an old friend. The great changes which had occurred in the church and the ministry was the subject of remark. The fading nature of all things carthly inpressed him. Eternity was brought near. The sermon for the afternoon received its shade from this train of reflection. He took for his text, "We all do fade as a leaf." From these words he discoursed upon the law of change— its certainty-its silence-its progress-its results.

"Change is the divine law, the only earthly permanence ; the pencil that paints the autumn leaf is silent as the dew of evening. The seasons move on,-the furrow which mars the cheek of beauty completes its work." His eye then swept around the field where his companions had lived, labored and died. "The fervid Merrill-the decided Cutler-laborious Parker-earnest Smith-the strongminded Burgess—logical Whiton-and the urbane Bradford with others of like devotion, had all faded like the leaf, at the touch of the frost king.'

[ocr errors]

Then with a power and a pathos peculiarly his own, he said

« VorigeDoorgaan »