George Barrell Cheever.

Memorabilia of George B. Cheever, D. D. : late pastor of the Church of the Puritans, Union square, New York, and of his wife, Elizabeth Wetmore Cheever ; in verse and prose online

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Online LibraryGeorge Barrell CheeverMemorabilia of George B. Cheever, D. D. : late pastor of the Church of the Puritans, Union square, New York, and of his wife, Elizabeth Wetmore Cheever ; in verse and prose → online text (page 3 of 31)
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the Gospel be taught, but never without them,
never under the rule of the exclusion of the Scrip-
tures. When that ungodly power of irreligious
prepossession is granted by popular vote to the
despotism of our rulers, our piety and our inde-
pendence will have ceased, and we shall be a
mockery and contempt throughout the world.

"What, my dear cousin," exclaimed my be-
loved wife, in one of her affectionate letters to her
dearest relative in Europe, — " what can be more
beautiful than a united, happy family; and what a
foreshadowing of that home in heaven, where all
is love and joy unending, unalloyed! I am so
glad you are so happy in your loved ones."

The writer proceeds with warm expressions of
afTectionate sympathy in their uninterrupted friend-
ship and love, and delight in the continuance of the
happiness of those so dear to her, and in the assur-
ance of their reciprocal attachment, and then refers
to some possible mistaken impressions that might


have been received in regard to the discipHne and
education of a family.

" In one of your letters, dear cousin, I thought
you seemed to have received some erroneous im-
pressions of my habit of imparting knowledge
and instruction to my servants, as if the habit
were a singularity and weakness, and an uncalled-
for stretch of benevolence. This could never be !

" I was led to it by reflecting on the neglect, al-
most universal, of Christian families to provide
their servants, whom God had committed to their
care, with spiritual and mental food for the eleva-
tion of their immortal natures. In many cases
servants are left entirely uninstructed and un-
guarded, as if they were not responsible beings.
This is especially the case with Roman Catholic
servants, who are left to the entire dominion of
their priests, who keep them in ignorance of the
Bible, and of the Lord Jesus Christ their only

Concerning an impression that seemed to have
been entertained as to the kind of reading and
information with which my dear wife endeavored
to instruct her household, she says : " The sup-
posed fiction and poetry that some would have me
drop, dear cousin, are such books as would make
important spiritual and historical truths attractive,


— such books, for example, as those vohimes of
' Hebrew Heroes,' by A. L. O. E., and biographies
of eminently happy and useful Christian men,
women, and children in their pilgrimage through
an earthly life of mutual enjoyments and trials,
blessings and duties ; creating a taste for something
higher and better than the mass of dime novels
now flooding the country, and with which the
servants are abundantly supplied, and conse-
quently, for want of better reading and instruction,
are in many cases allured and corrupted both in
morals and manners.

" I have learned recently, to my great gratifi-
cation, in perusing the large ' Memorial Ancestral
Volume of the Wetmore Family,' that some of my
good ancestors in early days were in the habit of
rearing and instructing their servants in the prin-
ciples of the Gospel, and by those teachings were
instrumental in making their lives good and useful
here on earth, and preparing them for the life to
come in heaven. I think I may have inherited the
desire from them to be thus usefiil, and hope I may
be as successful in my own efforts for such results.
" For I feel happy in so laboring, and I think
their example worth following. The good and
gifted Aunt Whittlesey, my grandfather's half-
sister, and Fred. Chauncey's grandmother, was an


example, and her household was esteemed a model
Christian home, and she was treated by the ser-
vants with the greatest deference and respect. I
wish you could see the volume to which I have,
referred; for it dates far back, and gives a most
interesting account of Colonial times, and of the
early settlers in the Connecticut Colony."

In the same volume (pages 320 to 324) there is
a record of the life of Judge William Wetmore, of
Middletown, Conn., who, with his wife and four
children, emigrated to Ohio in June, 1804: "The
Indians were then very numerous in that section
of the country; but Judge Wetmore's conscien-
tious dealings with them made them his faithful
friends. It was his practice always to have the
Indians, in a trade, name their own terms. If the
terms suited, he would conclude the bargain; if
not, he would not ; never allowing himself to ban-
ter with them. In this way he retained their con-
fidence, and avoided the charge of ' cheating poor
Indian.' As might be expected, he enjoyed their
friendship and esteem ; so much so that they con-
sidered it a crime to steal from him.

"At the commencement of our war with England
in 1812, a British officer, in the disguise of an In-
dian, came to the chief of the Indian village
situated on Lake Pleasant, not far from the resi-


dence of Judge VVetmore, and proposed to the
chief to join the EngHsh, and for such services
they would restore all the land that the American
Government had bought from them, to which they
assented. But when they were told it was neces-
sary for them to massacre Judge Wetmore and
other Americans in the neighborhood, the chief
and his warriors refused, saying that he ' had been
good to poor Indiaji . '

" Up to the time of his death he was a general
counsellor in matters of the law, especially for the
poor, although he never appeared at the bar as an
advocate. His counsel was always gratis, and was
in effect generally for his clients to keep out of the
law and settle amicably,

" He was much respected in Northern Ohio, and
like his brother Seth, was truly conscientious, never
pursuing the wrong when he knew the right.
Among other enterprises the Judge was engaged
in was that of distilling. On a certain Sunday
morning he was observed by his family to be
reading a tract with much apparent interest.
After dinner he returned to a perusal of the
same, and at supper-time his assiduity in perusing
the tract was explained. Soon after sitting down
at the tea-table the Judge said, ' Boys ! ' address-
ing his sons, 'what sort of a sheep-pen will the


still-house make if moved upon the rising
ground?' The question puzzled his sons, but
after a little conversation it was explained, and
it was decided to commence the following morn-
ing removing the still-house for the purpose of a
sheep-pen, instead of lighting the fires at midnight,
as was the custom. This was brought about, as
the sequel proved, by the Judge having been
engaged during the day in reading the now an-
tique tract entitled * Enquire at Deacon Giles's
Distillery.' "

The reading of that very tract proved afterwards
one of the providences on which depended so
greatly the future happiness and usefulness of my
whole life. It led to my first acquaintance with
Miss Wetmore, through the circumstance of her
becoming — by the friendship of her very dear
friend Mrs. Washington — a pupil with a class of
young ladies attendant on a course of lectures by
myself, on the History of English Literature from
Alfred and Wycliffe and Tyndale and the Reform-
ers and Kunyan and Sir Walter Raleigh and the
poets and prose-writers, down to Addison and Irv-
ing and Goldsmith and Burke. The preparation
of those lectures was a constant delight to me.
But who could have imagined that it might be-
come the determination of my happiness through


life ! I am reminded of Cowper's beautiful poem,
so exquisitely beautiful and true!

" Mysterious are His ways, whose power

Brings forth that unexpected hour,

When minds that never met before,

Shall meet, unite, and part no more.

It is the allotment of the skies,

The hand of the Supremely Wise,

That guides and governs our affections,

And plans and orders our connections;

Directs us in our distant road.

And marks the bounds of our abode.

So day by day, and year by year,

Will make the dark enigma clear ;

And furnish us perhaps at last.

Like other scenes already past,

With proof that we and our affairs
• Are part of a Jehovah's cares.

For God unfolds, by slow degrees,

The purport of his deep decrees.

Sheds every hour a clearer light.

In aid of our defective sight.

And spreads at length before the soul ■

A beautiful and perfect whole,

Which busy man's inventive brain

Toils to anticipate in vain.

Say, loved one, had you never known

The beauties of a rose full blown,

Could you, though luminous your eye.

By looking on the bud, descry,
Or guess, with a prophetic power,
The future splendor of the flower ?



Just so the Omnipotent, who turns
The system of a world's concerns
From mere minutiae can educe
Events of most important use,
And bid a dawning sky display
The blaze of a meridian day.
The works of man tend, one and all,
As needs they must, from great to small ;
And vanity absorbs at length
The monuments of human strength.
But who can tell how vast the plan
Which this day's incident began ?
Too small, perhaps, the slight occasion
For our dim-sighted observation.
It passed unnoticed, as the bird
That cleaves the yielding air unheard ;
And yet may prove, when understood,
A harbinger of endless good."

A deep, exquisite, grateful delight in the beau-
ties of natural scenery was always a source of
happiness in my dear wife's habitual traits of char-
acter. She enjoyed the cultivation of a sense of
the beautiful and grand in the opening minds of
children. The love of Nature was a ruling element
of her own creative imagination, — a power which,
in whatever degree it may be possessed, is an origi-
nal endowment of the soul, a divine gift, along with
that of the idea and sense of Eternity, and com-
bining, for its highest exercise, clearness of percep-
tion, purity and power of conscience, judgment.


refinement of taste, and deep religious veneration.
It is thus a faculty greatly dependent for its devel-
opment on careful discipline, example, and instruc-
tion, but always essential to the highest genius,
and a source of the purest intellectual and devo-
tional pleasure.

A delicate, judicious perception of the qualities
of excellence in literature and art is more de-
pendent upon this mental and emotional en-
dowment, and its careful education, than almost
any other possession. Besides being essential to
the perfection of a moral and religious nature, it
is a pure and life-long fountain of domestic
happiness, and will always take a commanding
authority among all the means of usefulness in
our earthly state. It is next to a spiritual ac-
quaintance with the word of our Heavenly Fa-
ther, when we have learned to look through
Nature up to Nature's God. In neither case
could we have done this, unless God had origi-
nally set the idea of his own eternity in the hu-
man mind and heart. There could never have
been the idea of God without the Idndred idea
of eternity.

The following stanzas are in my dear wife's
handwriting, and were the simple expression in
brief of her own feelings : — •


How thankless art thou,
Child of Man,

For favors that abound !
Thy God hath given thee eyes to scan

The glory all around.
Yet seldom for this priceless sight
Hast thou been heard to praise aright.
This world 's not all a fleeting show.

For man's delusion given ;
For, from his station here below,
Bright prospects rise, high duties flow,

That show him heir of heaven !

Writing immediately afterwards to some dear
correspondent, appreciating her own delight in
the beautiful scenes unfolding all around her, she
adds her own experience, as follows : —

" I cannot tell you how I enjoy this rural life.
To me beautiful fields and flowers and May weather
and lovely walks are almost as intoxicating and
reviving as they were in early youth ; and the far
brighter sun of another life seems to illumine all.
In every sweet and lovely view I sit and look
over the leafy woods, the running stream below
sweetly murmuring in my ear. A peace and rest
mingled with sadness, even my lonely rambles and
revellings in the luxuriant beauty of these lanes
and fields, how soothing, how enchanting ! How
I wish you could see the loveliness of Nature all
around ! At this time one always fancies every


spring more beautiful than before, but surely it is
so this spring. The perfume of the flowers, the
birds among the trees, their morning notes and
evening ! To-day is perfectly lovely ! Alone here,
in this peaceful nook, with the cloudless sky above,
and the sweet new-mown grass, and the thousand
birds warbling in one's ears, and bright flowers
around, it makes the soul bound upward with
delight. The gleams of sunshine playing through
the dark foliage, and the beautiful dawning of the
summer mornings, and the glorious sun that sheds
its light on all around, seem truly the outward
types of the blessed resurrection, always renewed
that it may be habitual in our view. The scenery
is surpassingly lovely. It combines all I could
wish to enhance this quiet, peaceful life. What if
the thread of our existence were snapped asunder,
and the thinking soul translated to the realms of
light before it had become conscious of darkness !
How the endearing ways of children twine them-
selves around my heart ! I cannot refrain from
sending you a small offering at this season, when
I have so much cause for thankfulness. Marriage
is a type of the union between Christ and his
Church, as being the closest and most enduring
of all those relations which God has appointed
here below."



The Right of the Bible in our Common Schools. — Estab-
lishment OF the Home for Friendless Boys in New-
York City. — Visits to the Poor Women in the City
Prison. — The Power of Sympathy. — Recollections
AND Portraitures of Mrs. Cheever's Character and
Life by some of her dearest Friends.

MY dear wife's convictions were heartfelt and
profound in regard to the necessity and
blessedness of a prevenient, foreseeing, forewarning
religious education of children from the earliest
infancy, as being both a gift from God and a
primal duty and divine heritage for every house-,
hold and community.

In her view, such a protecting, preoccupying
education belonged only to God's benevolence
and mercy to reveal and command; and it was
accordingly entailed in his law as the first duty of
parents to their children, and the first claim of
the little ones, in the name of God. It was God's
offer of his own covenant of eternal wisdom and
love when he said : Ye shall teach my Word to
your children, and your children to theirs, and to


the end of time, the next generation to the next;
so that they may never Hve nor die in ignorance
of the law and love of their Heavenly Father, nor
of the way of salvation. Obedience to this bliss-
ful law of the prepossession of every new-born soul
with the knowledge of God's truth and love in the
Gospel would speedily have made the whole world
holy and happy in Christ, and on the way to

For this purpose "Set your hearts unto all the
words which I testify among you this day, which
ye shall command your children to observe to do,
all the words of this law. For it is not a vain
thing for you ; BECAUSE IT IS YOUR LIFE '■
(Deut. xxxii. 46, 47).

How great, then, is the cruelty, and how blas-
phemous the crime, that would forbid the freedom
of God's Word, or deny the duty and necessity of
providing it as an inalienable possession from the
earliest childhood, in our common schools!

In the Old, as well as in the New Testament,
God has declared, "All souls are mine; as the
soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is
mine ; " given to the parents on earth, to be brought
up, from earliest infancy, in the knowledge and
love of their divine Redeemer. It is impossible to
begin too early with a baptism in the experimental


knowledge of a Saviour's love. That is the first
injunction from God in the Hebrew covenant, as to
the teaching of his Word from generation to gene-
ration; and the same is in the Law of Love by our
blessed Lord Jesus, — " Suffer the little children
to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such
is the kingdom of heaven." (Compare Ps. Ixxviii.
6, and cxxvii. 3; Is. xxxviii. 19.)

But how are the children to be gathered into
our common schools, and how can the merciful
provisions in the commandment of the Saviour be
secured and fulfilled in the teaching of each gen-
eration? This problem had been discussed more
and more carefully in our churches ; and because
of the attempted exclusion of the Scriptures,
friends of the ragged and neglected little ones in
the streets were soon found, who would undertake
its heavenly solution.

The work began in a quiet and lowly form of
benevolence, that soon became a delightful attrac-
tive magnetism, and a power of social Christian
efTort, like that which resulted from the first insti-
tution of Sabbath-schools. It was a benevolence
both giving and receiving; laden, as the trees of
Paradise by the River of the Water of Life, with
fruits of perpetual life-giving mercy.

And yet, to this_day, the right of the Bible


to be taught in our common schools, with prayer
to God for his blessing, is denied ; and its exercise
is affirmed to have been an oppressive violation of
the law of love and of the freedom of conscience,
under a human government !

Government, it is asserted, (and even by some
ministers of the Gospel,) has no authority or right
to teach religion to the children, or to see that
they are educated in the knowledge of God, and
taught the way of salvation. As the children are
born and cradled without the interference of gov-
ernment, so the common school must take them
and bring them up in freedom to choose for them-
selves what religion they please, if indeed they
come to the knowledge of any. Perhaps nine
tenths of the children in the United States get
their only education in the common schools;
where, by edict of the Government forbidding the
Bible and prayer, and all instruction in regard
to Christ, their only Saviour, they necessarily
become infidels.

Yet, on the pretence of guaranteeing the rights
of conscience in respect to religion against en-
croachment, it is now affirmed that the State has
the right, and is under obligation by the Golden
Rule, to guarantee the schools and the children
against any instruction from the Bible in religion.


But the exclusion of instruction in religious truth
can be nothing less than a usurpation of God's
authority, and a violation of the rights of conscience
towards him. " The secret things belong unto the
Lord our God ; but those which are revealed BE-
that we may do all the words of this law " (Deut.
xxix. 29).

If religious liberty is the liberty of going with-
out religion if we please so to do, it is equally the
liberty of choosing and proclaiming for ourselves
and our children the religion of the Bible; and the
right of maintaining such teaching is as much
more sacred than the right of forbidding it, as the
freedom and obedience of truth are more sacred
than the privilege of living and dying in ignorance
and crime.^

1 In connection with this, one should read the insolent and des-
potic edict issued under authority of our Govermnent, by which
the Commissioner of Indian Affairs has undertaken to exclude the
Dakota language from the schools maintained by missionary soci-
eties on the Indian reservations: "The Dakota language must
neither be taught nor used." The entire Bible has been trans-
lated into that language, and is printed at the Bible House. And
yet the Government, undertaking to make good citizens of the
Dakota Indians and to educate them in virtue and morals, ex-
cludes every Dakota book from the public schools, and forbids
the missionaries to teach the Ten Commandments to the children
in the only language they understand. Even the native teachers
are forbidden from teaching the Gospel of Christ in Dakota, — the


With these views, Mrs. Cheev^er became, a fc v
years after her marriage, an originator of the
earhest asyhim for the education and care o '
poor friendless boys in New York; and, with the
encouragement and bounty of Messrs. Morris
Ketchum, Gilman, Phelps, Boorman, Harper, and
other generous friends, succeeded in establishing
what resulted in one of the most useful and truly
benevolent institutions in the city.

" In the year 1849 o^ 1850 [y^'^ quote from the record
of May I, 1883], after a discourse from yourself in the
Church of the Puritans, Mrs. Cheever, together with
several other ladies, organized a movement for the rescue
of vagrant cliildren in this city, and opened a Home for
Friendless Boys in Bank Street. In 1851 or 1852 this

only language they know, and their only medium of communica-
tion with the children.

A description of this edict may be read in the June, August,
and .September numbers of the American Bible .Society Record,
where will be found clearly traced the wickedness, cruelty, and
papal despotism of such an intolerant decree on the part of the
United States Government; — thus closing up and sealing the
Century of our Dishonor, through hundreds of sacred treaties
broken with the Indians, by an act of violence unequalled, all
things considered, in any so-called civilized nation at this day.

If our social anarchists could have their way, it is plain enough
that never a child in Christendom, educated in the public schools,
should get a glimpse of the divine light and love in the face of
Jesus Christ, the knowledge of whose radiance of mercy and
grace might become their heaven.


was merged in the New York Juvenile Asylum, with Hon.
Luther Bradish as its president, and a board of directors
composed of some of the best names in the city.

" It has occurred to some of us that it might be grati-
fying to Mrs. Cheever and yourself to witness the present
magnitude of the Institution, after the lapse of more than
thirty years. Certainly it would be regarded as a great
pleasure to us if you can favor us with an acceptance of
the accompanying invitation for Friday the i8th instant."

These dates and records are of interest as to the
gradual yet rapid progress of some of the many
benevolent charities established and successful,
and so greatly needed in so vast a city of in-
creasing immigrations from the whole world.
Blessed beyond measure are they who were per-
mitted to lay the foundations of such charities,
deep and secure, in and for the training of the
children in the knowledge of the Gospel and the
love of Christ !

From one of her dear friends and co-laborers in
this work Mrs. Cheever received the following
letter, congratulating her on the success of her
efforts in accomplishing the establishment of this
charity by charter from the Legislature of the

Dear Mrs. Cheever, — I see, by the morning paper,
that your petition for the Charter has passed the Legisla-


ture. Will you allow me to congratulate you on the fru-
ition of your hopes? I know, with your elevated feelings,
the praises of your fellow-creatures are but a small con-
sideration, but I cannot refrain from expressing to you
my veneration and respect. To your unfaltering efforts
alone do these poor children owe their preservation from
ruin and misery. How often have you said to me, There
is no end to the good we may do, if we succeed ! How
happy, how enviable, must your feelings be ! I will not
say more ; you will understand me. But let me, for the
bright example you are ever setting me, and for your kind-
ness to my litde Annie, offer you the grateful thanks of

Your sincere friend,

Marie L. Coles.

Mrs. Cheever was also one of the earliest and
most active directors and managers of the Woman's
Orphan Asylum, always taking a great interest
in the poor colored children. By her tenderness
and gentleness she won the hearts of all the little

In the training of the children committed to
her care nothing could be more attractive and
beautiful than the mingled tenderness, winning
affection, and prayerful watchfulness, combined
with childlike simplicity and exquisite playful
humor entirely her own, in the sportive and yet

Online LibraryGeorge Barrell CheeverMemorabilia of George B. Cheever, D. D. : late pastor of the Church of the Puritans, Union square, New York, and of his wife, Elizabeth Wetmore Cheever ; in verse and prose → online text (page 3 of 31)