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A Memoir of Mrs. Breckinridge. In two parts online

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Part I. Memoir, anb> Funeral Sermon.,
Part II. Letters to iizr 'surviving Children.











R 1910 L

Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1830, by


in the office of the Clerk of the District Court, for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania.

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Introduction, 13

Chapter I.

Life of Mrs. Breckinridge, . . 17

Chapter II.

Additional Illustrations^ the' Life and Charai*

ter of Mrs. Breckinridge ? . , , . . 35

Her Religious Character, ....,,.. 42

Her dedication to the wcjrk p^qrj^ign.Mi^ioas, 46

Her Sacrifices for the Cnurch of'G'od, ' ' : 47

Her Last Sickness and Death, . . 54

Chapter III.
Closing Reflections, . 61

A Sermon by the Rev. A. Alexander, D. D. 69




Letter I.


Introductory, .... 5

Letter II.
Human Nature, .... 10

Letter III.
The Way of Salvation, ... 17

Letter IV.
The #iMe, ' "' .' ' >'i



. Lettei!

Prayer, .

*. : :. : :

*. ;

* TlFT-ftfR V



EETf er 'VI.
Cultivation of the Mind, ... 45

Letter VII.
Cultivation of the Heart and the Moral Habits, 6?

Letter VIII.

Manners, . . . .87


More than a year has now passed since
Mrs. Margaret Breckinridge, the belov-
ed subject of the following brief notices,
was taken from us into the saints' everlast-
ing rest. By that event, the little family of
which she was the joy and crown, was dis-
solved. The surviving parent felt that God
had committed to y \im the interesting but
mournful duty of preserving the memory of
so inestimable a friend. But it .is long after
such an event, befor.e the mind is sufficiently
tranquil to utter our thoughts and feelings
without excess. The peaceable fruits of so
dreadful a chastisement succeed, alas! but
slowly in our intractable hearts, to the dis-
traction of grief, and the desolation of the


It was in the midst of the deepest of his
sorrow, also, that the writer was hastened
(by a very kind Providence, as he now sees
it to have been) into the active duties of an
office which left no rest for body or mind
during almost an entire year. So that if
his feelings had allowed the attempt at pre-
paring a Memoir, his duty to the Church of
God forbade it.

In these trying and peculiar circumstan-
ces, he was permitted to call in the aid of
those honoured and venerable Friends, from
whose hands, in a happier day, he had re-
ceive'4 . the .lovely.' wife ;6f ;his youth. They
of all others knew her best, especially from
her birtli, -to .her . marriage. They had done
most, 'aneter.Grod) jo ; fit her for life's duties,
and its close; and to make her "worthy to
be had in everlasting remembrance." And
none were judged to be so well qualified to
do justice to her memory. To the one we
are indebted for the following interesting
Sketch, making the first chapter. To the


other for the valuable Letters to her surviv-
ing children, forming the second part of this

While all must admire the delicacy and
candour with which this sketch is drawn, it
is evident to those who knew the deceased,
that much remains to be said which ought
not to be omitted especially in regard to
that portion of her life, embracing more
than fifteen years, which passed between
the time of leaving the parental roof, and
her lamented death. In attempting to sup-
ply this omission, the writer felt the incon-
venience even awkwardness of returning
upon a narrative which seemed to have
been brought to an appropriate close. But
this was thought preferable to leaving the
memoir incomplete; or to breaking the
thread of the narrative given in the first

And moreover it was felt that the design
of the work which called for the additional
chapters, dispensed with form in the man-


ner of furnishing them. It is intended to
preserve the memory of the beloved dead
for her bereaved children, and her nume-
rous kindred and friends, rather than to
unveil her retiring character to the public
eye. The work being designed, not so
much for general circulation as for family
use, is rather printed, than published; and
all its imperfections will readily be over-
looked by those who will come to these
pages, as Mary went to the tomb of Laza-
rus "to weep there."



A narrative of the life of our departed friends,
bears some resemblance to the representation, on
canvass, of their persons and features ; it serves
to restore and collect our scattered thoughts, and
revive our affections; and prevents the hand of
time from obliterating entirely, their peculiar men-
tal and moral lineaments.

It was in consequence of the necessity of this
help to our natural infirmities, that our Lord gave
to his people the bread and wine, as a symbol of
his body and blood, and said, " Do this in remem-
brance of me." He knew too well our careless,
wandering hearts, to trust the recollections, even of
his great and lovely character, to our unfaithful
keeping, and established, as a help to his word,
the ordinance which was to continue unto the end
of the world, " as a memorial of him." And we
trust that his people are permitted to endeavour to
perpetuate the remembrance of each other by
means, which, however they may come greatly



short of the significant emblem ordained by him-
self, -will assist in enabling them " to love one
another as he also loved them."

In view of this encouragement, given us in the
Scriptures of inspiration, we would endeavour to
bring together, and exhibit, in the history of the
short life of Mrs. Margaret Breckinridge, some of
those graces of a Christian character, which lead
us to hope that the finger of the Lord had engraven
his name on her heart, and that his grace was car-
rying on the work, notwithstanding much infirmity
of flesh and spirit, until the body of sin and death
within her was rolled away, and a simple, undivi-
ded hold taken on the Rock of ages.

She was born September 29th, 1802, in New
York, and educated for several years under the
immediate instruction of the sanctuary, in a com-
paratively pure state of the Church, when the
name and influence of a few such venerable and
holy men as the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers, had
thrown a restraint on the vices of the world around
them, as well as on the constantly recurring dis-
orders of the Church, so that the very vagrants of
the street felt their presence.* Every pastor of a

* The appearance of these servants of God, in any
part of the city, seemed to make "iniquity hide its
head," and was often the means of dispersing an idle,
youthful group, in which profanity and disorder were
beginning their destructive career. Through their influ-
ence, in a great measure, the Sabbath was, at least


flock of Jesus Christ seemed to feel it his privi-
lege, as well as his duty, to feed the lambs of his
flock himself, and did not commit them to the
ever-varying, heterogeneous instruction of others.
The Scriptures, and the Catechism, it was his own
business to inculcate; and the same afternoon in
each week, had been for many years, in several of
the churches of the city, of various denominations,
the season for this instruction.

By these and other means, the Bible had taken
a systematic form in Margaret's mind, very early ;
and whenever she met, even in childhood, with a
scriptural scene or subject, she generally knew
where to place it, and was particularly animated
by it. And this peculiar skill, and taste, continued
and increased until childhood passed away, and
the pride and enjoyment of life opened a new
scene before her.

For a time it seemed as if every vestige of the
sensibility arising from religious instruction would
be swept away. She had friends who wished to
see her enjoying the innocent pleasures of youth;
especially as in person and mind there was a pro-
mise of peculiar adaptation to them. And there
was a will of her own very clearly developing,
which wanted more restraint than parents are

externally, a holy day, on which the public ways exhibit-
ed no crowd or bustle, but what was of necessity occa-
sioned by a church-going people.


generally willing to exercise. Many interpositions,
however, in providence occurred, which, though
sad in the view of her family, proved a real deliv-
erance to her frequently arresting her first deci-
sive step in folly.

At the age of eleven she was removed with her
family to Princeton, in consequence of a call
which her father received, to a Professorship in
the Theological Seminary in that place. Being
thus separated from many snares incident to a city
life, she began anew, as it were, to form habits
and connexions, which, although in some res-
pects, more dangerous and ensnaring than those
which she had left, had not " grown with her
growth, and strengthened with her strength;" and
were, on that account, more ready to yield, when
the follies of youth passed away, and the solem-
nities of this world, in view of another, opened
before her.

The want of a good school in Princeton, indu-
ced her parents to send her, at the age of about
fourteen years, to Philadelphia, for the purpose of
obtaining for her some finish to the education
which she had received at home. She remained
there nearly a year, residing with an aunt, and
attending a daily and Avell conducted school. In-
deed it was her privilege, as well as the privilege of
many others, to receive instruction from a teacher,
who not only was competent to every branch of
polite learning which adorns the mind of a female,


but desirous of having all which he taught so sanc-
tified as to reach the heart, and be made the means
of communicating spiritual and saving, as well as
intellectual instruction.*

The immediate effect of this experiment was
injurious to Margaret's disposition and deport-
ment. She returned to her parents with more
love for the world, and a better opinion of herself;
and of consequence was less docile. It was evi-
dent that the atmosphere of a city was not the
element in which her heart would receive the best

In a revival which took place in Princeton,
when she was about eighteen years of age, an
interest was excited in some of her pious fe-
male friends for her conversion. They concluded
to make her the subject of special prayer. Of
this she was entirely ignorant, until the evidence
appeared in herself of the verity of the promise, as
to the result of "fervent, effectual prayer." A
sermon of the celebrated President Edwards, read

* Many will probably have reason for everlasting- re-
joicing in the kind arrangement which placed them under
Mr. Jaudon's instruction. He was truly "a man of God,"
and the effects of his wise and holy instruction and discip^
line, we have no doubt are felt in the bosom of many fami-
lies, and in the hearts of many individuals in Philadel-
phia, to this day, who will, we trust, be prepared to meet
him, where, having turned many to righteousness, "he
shall shine as a star for ever and ever."


in a small, social meeting, arrested her attention,
and brought her to continued, deep, serious think-
ing, which ended, as she thought, in a new view
of everlasting things. With all the sanguine feel-
ings of youth, she judged herself prepared to be
united with the Church ; but owing to the unwil-
lingness of her parents to risk the possibility of a
premature profession of religion, this step was

In connexion with this period of her life, it
seems necessary to relate some circumstances
which took place with regard to a much loved sis-
ter of hers; not many years younger than herself.
They had been so closely educated together, as to
make them one in many of their views and feel-

Elizabeth, in giving an account of the exercises
of her own mind on the subject of religion, some
time after they took place, said, that she experi-
enced an irresistible feeling of contempt for the
concern which Margaret manifested, and concluded
that she was indulging a mere hypocritical affecta-
tion ; in consequence of which she was beginning
to make some observations to this effect, when, in
a moment, a deep conviction fastened on her con-
science, of the danger of resisting what might
prove to be the influence of the Holy Spirit.
This impression resulted in a real concern for
herself, and in views equally solemn with those
expressed by Margaret.


They both now made progress together in their
inquiries and experience, and were a mutual help,
rather than a hinderance to each other. Both soon
thought that they had obtained an interest in
" Him, whose blood cleanseth from all sin."

It appeared, however, soon after this, as if our
fears with regard to Margaret were but too well
founded. " Because of manifold temptations," she
seemed to be taking a new hold on the world ; but
a state of things about the same time, began with
Elizabeth, which disciplined and humbled her
spirit ; and she was soon enabled to realize all the
insufficiency and uncertainty of this world, as a

Many doubts with regard to the genuineness of
the change which Elizabeth trusted had taken
place in her heart, increased by the weakness
which rapidly declining health had induced, per-
plexed and troubled her, and made her more and
more unwilling to make a profession of religion.
She had witnessed some of the extravagances of
revivals, and felt the danger of being deceived, and
of "having a name to live whilst she was dead."

In January, 1823, Margaret was married to the
Rev. John Breckinridge, and returned with him to
Kentucky, his native State, in the spring of the
same year. In consequence of a call which her
husband received, to a church in Kentucky, (which
he accepted,) they were soon after this settled in
Lexington. Her departure from her early home


was her first real trial. For although, through the
course of several months, she had taken a prospec-
tive view of this arrangement, with much buoyancy
of spirits, as the time approached, every circum-
stance connected with a separation from all the
associations of her childhood and youth, seemed
to produce a new and deeper impression, and
seven or eight hundred mdes appeared at length,
as almost an interminable space. The sadness
which irresistibly overspread her countenance,
convinced her friends that when, in view of Mr.
Breckinridge's first destination, she had given her-
self unreservedly to a foreign mission, she, like
many others, little knew her own heart, and all
the sacrifices which such a destination involved.
And when it was seen expedient that this intention
should be relinquished by him, for a plan more
eligible in the view of his fathers in the ministry,
a release from this more enduring trial, formed no
small part of the considerations which assisted in
making her submissively bow to one so much
more lenient. And indeed, she had reason to say,
that goodness and mercy had followed her at eve-
ry step. For this very trial which sobered her
countenance, made her heart better, and prepared
the way for deeper self-examination, and probably
more fervent prayer ; and the result was, that with
a trembling confidence she united herself with her
husband's church in Lexington, a few months after
he took charge of it. From her letters, after this


event, we learned that her connexion with the
church took place at the same time it is thought
on the same day in which her sister Elizabeth,
having been delivered from the many doubts which
had clouded her mind, made a profession of religion
in the church in Princeton. This co-incidence in
providence, having occurred without any mutual
intercourse or understanding on the subject, seemed
so consistent with the plans of Him who " sees the
end from the beginning," and who, from their first
serious impressions, appeared to have united the
lines of their experience until they ended in one
gracious result, that it did much to confirm their
friends in the hope, that a good " work was begun
in them which should be carried on." They felt
constrained to say, "It is the Lord's doings and
wonderful in our eyes."

The kind and affectionate family in Kentucky,
of which she now made one, assisted much in alle-
viating the pressure of sorrowful recollections, and
in making the resolution which she had formed of
" learning in whatsoever state she was, therewith
to be content," more practical, and more enduring;
and when Mr. Breckinridge was called to Balti-
more in 1826, although she was pleased with the
prospect of getting nearer to her early home, she
felt that a new tie had been formed which could
not be broken, even partially, without much pain.
It was a source of much grateful recollection to her,
that she was not permitted to use any undue influ-



ence to lead her husband away from his congre-
gation in Lexington, to which she was indebted in
so considerable a degree, for the pleasant circum-
stances which surrounded her.

Her health was remarkably firm, especially for
one of her delicate appearance, for several years
after her marriage, and during all the time that her
husband had a settled charge. In Baltimore, to
which he removed from Lexington, she seemed to
realize with much gratitude, the particularly plea-
sant circumstances in which her family was placed.
Situated on the direct way between her husband's
relatives, endeared to her by so many pleasant
recollections, and the family of her youth, with
both of which she could have frequent intercourse,
and in the midst of a kind circle of friends, not
limited by the bounds of Mr. Breckinridge's con-
gregation, she was literally at home ; and when
the summons came to call him to another sphere
of labour in the Church, she was the last to be
persuaded that it was his duty to obey it, and
reluctantly yielded to the opinion of those whose
judgment she honoured.

From this time she may truly be said to have
been a sacrifice to the interests of the Church.
The unsettling of her domestic duties and habits, to
which her temperament was particularly adapted,
was, probably, directly and indirectly at the foun-
dation of those causes, which gradually but too
surely undermined her health, and prepared her


for a premature grave. Her last change of resi-
dence, which placed her in Princeton by the side
of her paternal family, and amongst many of her
youthful associates, seemed to her to fill up the
measure, as it regarded this world, of that provi-
dential goodness " which had followed her all the
days of her life;" and she said, not long after it
took place, with a humility which was in itself an
evidence of her gracious state, " I think, in view
of all my mercies, there is a thankfulness experi-
enced which is not the natural growth of my own
heart." To us who remain it is given to see, that
these unusual comforts were mercifully intended to
soothe the infirmities of a rapidly dissolving body,
and soften the approach of the last and most for-
midable enemy.

Several attacks of disease in the course of two
years, which threatened to be immediately fatal,
were, by the aid of skilful medical treatment, hap-
pily arrested, but not until their baleful effect had
fastened on her feeble body, and each had left her
" more a prey for death." And it was a cause of
much thankfulness to her friends, that instead of
one of those unexpected instant departures, which
so frequently occur, and which in her case it was
often feared would take place, the approach of
death was gradual and mild, so as to involve no
pain, and but little surprise.

The simplicity of her character appeared through
all her last days, especially after she ascertained


that her end was not far off. Her words were
few, because she studied to utter none but " the
words of truth and soberness ;" she seemed to feel
that there might be a parade even in dying.

After a short conversation in her room a day
or two before she departed, on the subject of the
unprofitableness of our best works, which we found
had deeply exercised her mind, she remarked with
much emotion, a tear starting to her eye, "I feel
the truth of these remarks ;" but, after a pause, she
said, " I have tried to do my duty as a wife and
as a mother; I have endeavoured to conduct the
affairs of my family with discretion, and to instruct
my children in the best things." She evidently
clung to this as an evidence of grace, (and not at
all as a cause of acceptance with God,) and as
affording some hope for her children, when relied
on in view of the promises of Him who says, that
if this precious seed is sowed, grace shall insure
the crop.

Her Sabbath evenings, after the good old way of
our puritan fathers, saw her with all her household,
over whom she had any authority, gathered around
her for the purpose of giving them that instruction
which, with the promised blessing, would save
them from the paths of sin and folly in this world,
and prepare them for enjoying the blessedness of
another. And through the distractions of an unset-
tled life, and the hinderances experienced in a large
boarding house, in which several winters were


spent with her family, she persevered as far as
possible, in the instruction of both children and
servants in the week and on the Sabbath, with a
determination which both she and her friends
thought had shortened her life.

In view of this peculiar faithfulness to her
domestic duties, we are the more willing to offer
an apology for what appeared to some of her
friends, an indifference to various extra means ;
which in these last times have been esteemed
needful for the awakening of a slumbering church.

When her mind began to open to this subject,
the glory of our revivals was beginning to be tar-
nished. " The enemy had begun to sow his tares."
The extravagance which so frequently attended
them, had produced in her no little disgust for
what she thought the mere machinery of religion.
In such circumstances, it is difficult to "choose the
good, and refuse the evil." The cast of her mind
was such, that parade in any thing, and especially
in the vital concerns, in which is involved our ever-
lasting destiny, irresistibly revolted her mind. And
the errors in principle and in practice, which had
been by these means insinuated into, and corrupted
the legitimate and professed doctrines and ordi-
nances of the Presbyterian Church, greatly im-
paired her confidence in what many good people
esteemed genuine revivals of religion. Subsequent
events have abundantly confirmed the wisdom of
her early and deep distrust.



After her constitution had been tried with another
violent and unusual attack, in March, 1838, which
prostrated nearly all her remaining strength in a
few hours, it was evident to many of her friends,
that recovery was no longer to be expected. Every
means, however, were made use of, that might in
any way prove salutary; many of which, as has
often occurred, were rather injurious than bene-
ficial. As a last resource, a journey was com-
menced, for the purpose of trying the Springs of
Virginia, so highly recommended to invalids. She
was not permitted, however, to go beyond Phila-
delphia. Her physicians there, judging so long a
journey very hazardous, gently arrested it, by pro-
posing a delay of a few days ; thus endeavouring
to obviate tbe effects of any disappointment which
she might experience. Her own views seemed,
spontaneously, to meet theirs, and a quiet acqui-

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Online LibraryA AlexanderA Memoir of Mrs. Breckinridge. In two parts → online text (page 1 of 10)