« VorigeDoorgaan »
ciencies. Nor was his hope disappointed: the work was completed without much encroaching on his funds; its advantages grew so manisest that, in a few years, a similar building was furnished in each of the other four villages; and the inhabitants at length came forward voluntarily and took upon theinselves both the trouble and the expense attending the establishments. While these accommodations were in progress, Oberlin was engaged in training the masters and qualifying them for their stations. His ever active mind, fertile in schemes of improvement, conceived the design of infant schools ; and it is probably to him that we owe the origin of these useful institutions, which were afterwards introduced at Paris, and since in England and America. All the schools, from the lowest to the bighest, were under his constant superintendence; and in order to bring them into one general system, as well as to promote the spirit of emulation, he established a weekly meeting of all the scholars, besides assembling them every Sunday to recite the religious lessons they had committed, and to receive the exhortations or admonitions of their common father. By the contributions of his wealthier friends at Strasburg, he was enabled to print a number of school-books and elementary treatises for the use of the district, to establish a library, to make a collection of indigenous plants, to procure a small philosophical and mathematical apparatus, and to award prizes both to the masters and to the scholars, who excelled. The effect of such a remarkable course of enterprise, so unwearied and so well applied, may be readily apprehended : the clouds of ignorance and barbarism, which had so long rested on this secluded part of the country, were gradually dispersed by the increasing light of knowledge and the influence of Christian education; presenting a scene which, compared with the rude state of former years, seemed the work of miraculous agency.
But wonderful as were his achievements in improving both the external circumstances and the intellectual character of the people, it was probably as a minister and as a religious man that he excelled. All his deeds of usefulness, even the most minute, were with him religious duties. Industry, economy, the planting of trees, the repairing of highways, the cultivation of the lands, the providing of conveniences of all kinds, in short, whatever conduced to human comfort, was resolved into an obligation arising from the great principles of the gospel. As such he felt it in his own practice, and as such he enjoined it on his parishioners. If there was somewhat of enthusiasm in his religion, there was nothing of superstition or bigotry. His natural temper was, perhaps, considerably touched with melancholy ; but the incessant activity of his life counteracted that constitutional tendency, while his ardent and cheerful piety, and his hopes bright with immortality, filled his breast with an equable and placid delight. The sustaining force of such sentiments was strongly evinced in those affictions which he from time to time experienced in common with most whose lives are protracted to their full length. He was called, very suddenly, to part with his wife, just as the moral wilderness around them began to 'bud and blossom as the rose.' At first, the unexpected blow almost deprived him of sensation ; but after a short interval of stupor, he returned thanks to God for his abundant mercy to the deceased, and seemed again to live in her society, looking forward to a re-union in the mansions of our Father's house. At a later period, be lost a son in battle; and afterwards another by consumption, who had already become known for his enterprizing benevolence, and in whom the father anticipated an assistant and successor in his pastoral office. These bereavements served only to spread a chastening influence over his habitual serenity: he and his surviving children spoke of the departed, not as of the dead, but as those who had gone before then to hearen, where they confidently hoped, sooner or later, to meet them again.
The same fertility of invention and energy of purpose which characterized all his other schemes of improvement, marked, in perhaps a still higher degree, his care of the spiritual concerns of his people. His sermons and public addresses were distinguished for their direct, unceremonious application to the individual cases of his hearers. Boldness in reproving sin, however, was united with prudence in avoiding just cause of offence. In his common conversation, he was peculiarly happy in drawing religious admonitions from every circumstance or topic that arose ; and all his labors, so multiplied and so various, naturally took a bearing towards the great primary subject of his thoughts. This subject pervaded the schools, the agricultural pursuits and the amusements of the place; not indeed with the constrained and gloomy air which religion is sometimes made to assume, but with a cheerful confidence in God, and a sacred regard for his laws. He supplied the families with the Bible, either in whole or in part; be had appropriate texts and little cards of religious advice printed for constant distribution; he formed societies for prayer and christian watchfulness; he established a course of donations, among the poor peasants, for charitable and pious objects. Whatever we may think of the missionary schemes and Bible societies, so called, as they are conducted in our own country, there can be no doubt that it was on the genuine principle of universal benevolence that Oberlin was one of the first ainong the Protestants of Europe to engage in these enterprizes. He parted with nearly all his plate as a gift to the cause of missions ; and established a Bible society, the first in France, as auxiliary to that in London.
The doctrines which he held, were for the most part such as are called orthodox in the reformed churches. To Universalists it will be a gratification, however, to know that he enjoyed a belief in the final salvation of all mankind. His biographer, who pronounces this doctrine fanciful and mistaken, and unwarranted by the Scriptures, reluctantly confesses that,
• He seemed to hope that the passage, 1 Cor. xv. 28, where it is said that,' all things' shall be subjected unto the Almighty, and the Son also himself shall be subjected, 'that God may be all in all,' might include not only the little flock of Christ's immediate followers, but, ultimately, at some almost indefinite period, through the boundless mercy of God, and the blood of Jesus, which was shed for the sins of the whole world, all the race of mankind. And he was strengthened in this belief by understanding in another than the ordinary sense, that as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.' p. 200.
The biographer, however, asserts, with the view perhaps to extenuate Oberlin's heresy, that the doctrine of universal salvation, appeared very little in his preaching.' That he was actuated to a very great degree by its catholic and benignant spirit, is sufficiently manifest from the narrative already given. But a more striking proof may perhaps be found in the circumstance, that with all his zeal in the cause of religion, he was free from its usual concomitant, sectarian prejudice. His tolerance,' says a writer, for some time a resident in his district, was almost unbounded. He administered the sacrament to Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists at the same time; and because they would not eat the same bread, he had, on the plate, bread of different kinds, wafer, leavened and unleavened. In everything the same spirit appeared; and it extended not only to his Catholic but also to his Jewish neighbors, and made him many friends among them all.'
Obscure and secluded as was the chosen sphere of this good man's enterprise, it was impossible that mountains and rocks should long conceal a phenomenon so extraordinary from the notice of the surrounding world. The wonders that were doing in this neglected spot, were at length rumored abroad. Numbers from all parts of Europe came to witness the novel scene; and the peasants were affected with surprise and gladness to learn that the name and the deeds of their 'good father,' as they called their pastor, had excited a warın emotion in distant countries. He himself shared in their surprise, but seemed elated neither with the extent of his renown, nor with the honors paid him. He became a correspondent and agent of the British and Foreign Bible society; in 1818, the Royal and Central Agricultural Society of Paris deputed the Baron de Gérando, Counsellor of state, to present him with a gold medal for his extraordinary services, and Louis XVIII awarded him the decoration of the Legion of honor.
Such is but an imperfect sketch of the character and life of this remarkable man.
The volume from which this account has been gathered, can scarcely be read without tears of admiration, notwithstanding the feebleness and prolixity of its style.
Oberlin died on the first of June 1826, in the eighty-sixth year of his age, after an illness of two or three days.
It would be impossible to describe the grief which his loss occasioned:
: sorrow was depicted on every countenance; and not only in his own house, but in every cottage throughout his extensive parish, was his memory embalmed by the tears and regrets of those who had participated in his labors of love or enjoyed the benefit which his unremitting kindness afforded .. .. During the four days that intervened between his decease, and the simple and affecting ceremony which consigned his
remains to their last home, heavy clouds rested on the surrounding mountains, and the rain poured down in incessant torrents. This circumstance did not, however, prevent the inhabitants of the Ban de la Roche, of all ages and conditions, nearer or more remote, from coming to pay a last tribute of respect to the remains of their · Cher Papa,'[Dear Father,] whose venerable countenance they were permitted to see through a glass lid, which, under the direction of Mr. Legrand, covered the coffin, which was placed in his study.' pp. 266, 270.
On the day of interment, a vast concourse assembled, consisting indiscriminately of Catholics and Protestants. The funeral procession reached two miles. Throughout the immense multitude, one general expression of grief prevailed. Sectarian feelings can hardly be said to have been suspended on the mournful occasion: they had long before been eradicated. Even the Roman Catholic women surrounded the burial place, all dressed in mourning, and kneeling in silent prayer; and several Roman Catholic priests, habited in their canonicals, took their seats among the members of the Consistory, and evidently participated in the general afficțion.
H. B. ed.
Nature, Magnitude, and Duration of Sin. In the present article I propose to offer a few thoughts on sin. That the subject is a trite one I am not insensible. It has, I am aware, been the theme of numberless disquisitions. It has not however been so far exhausted as to have lost its interest as a topic of inquiry. This result can never occur, till an entire unanimity of opinion with respect to sin shall pervade the world. Nothing like this however has as yet been obtained. The sentiments of mankind, and even of Christians, with regard to this subject, are as widely dissimilar now as they ever were. Two hypotheses, differing infinitely from each other, are still cherished by different classes of the community. According to one of these, sin is infinite in its nature, and will