Henry W. (Henry Whitney) Bellows.

The christian merchant : a discourse delivered in the church of the Divine Unity, on the occasion of the death of Jonathan Goodhue online

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Online LibraryHenry W. (Henry Whitney) BellowsThe christian merchant : a discourse delivered in the church of the Divine Unity, on the occasion of the death of Jonathan Goodhue → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Christian JlUrcl)ant.

















CHRISTIANITY suffers from nothing so much as from
the want of examples. The great argument which
men have against it, is its impracticableness. While
its advocates are unable to put their hands upon
shining illustrations of its power and spirit, they want
both the means of exemplifying its doctrine and
precepts, and of confounding the skepticism which
deems it visionary. It was the life of Christ that
originally gave authority to his teachings, and the
Gospel owed its magnificent and rapid triumphs during
the first century to the self-denying, consistent and
holy lives of its confessors and martyrs. The cause
of religion has been sustained in the world since,
mainly by the testimony of the faithful few who have
borne its divine fruits in their life and conversation.
Every resuscitation of its languishing interests has
come in the form of a quickened spirit of obedience.
The periods of infidelity have been seasons when
luxury, pride and sloth, when prosperity, or war, when
worldliness in some shape has dimmed the virtue of its

professors, and thus obscured the only evidence which
is practically potent and unanswerable.

A common and favorite form of evading the demands
of the Gospel, is to maintain their incompatibility with
the necessary conditions of human life. Under other
and more favorable circumstances, we inwardly reason,
the Christian life might be possible ; and under almost
any others than those beneath which we ourselves
are struggling, less difficult ; while our own providential
lot seems directly hostile to, if not absolutely irre-
concileable with, the spirit and conduct required by
Christ. Nothing but examples of the Christian life,
under all varieties of circumstance, and amid the most
trying and disadvantageous scenes, can adequately
silence objections like these. The world needs to see
men springing up in its busiest and most exposed paths,
walking amid the flames of its most devouring passions,
handling its most seductive and betraying objects, in
contact with its most poisonous evils, and yet main-
taining there, principles which are above the sphere
in which they move aims that stoop not to the level
on which they stand ; a purity that is not to be
contaminated; a character above suspicion or reproach.

In a community like ours, there is especial danger
that the Christian standard will decline, and with it
the confidence of the public in the reality of Christian
faith and virtue. We live confessedly in the midst
of great temptations and seductions. There is nothing,
perhaps, concerning which men doubt each other more
than in regard to their power to withstand the temp-
tation of money. That " every man has his price,"
is a received maxim of terrible import, whose practical

disproof concerns the interests, and even the credibility
of the Gospel, more than tongue can tell. It is to this
" trial by gold," that we are called in this commercial
metropolis : a trial more to be dreaded than the old
trial by fire. Amid the competitions and collisions of
mercantile enterprise, pressed by the necessity and
the difficulty of speedily succeeding, in order to main-
tain the expensive position here assumed ; surrounded
by examples of crowds, whose confessed and only
object is accumulation ; supported in lax practices by
the maxims of the careless ; tempted now by the
glittering prizes of rapid success, and then by the
imminent perils of sudden failure ; excited by the tri-
umphant speculations of the adventurous, and dazzled
by the social splendors of the prosperous ; conversant
all the day long, for at least six days in the week,
with the plans and projects, the conversation and spirit
of money-making, what wonder is it, that riches come
to stand for the principal thing, and that the laws and
spirit of Christian virtue are so often found to be
withes of straw in the fires of worldly ambition and
business enterprise ?

What we particularly need, then, is the example of
men who are thrown into the hottest part of this
furnace, and yet come out unscathed ! Men who
enter into the arena of business, seek its rewards,
wrestle with its competitors, experience its temptations,
taste its disappointments and its successes, its anxieties,
and its gratifications ; pass through its crises of panic,
and of bubble-prosperity, and yet through all, uphold
a character and reputation for unspotted honor and
integrity, for equanimity and moderation, and for


qualities of mind and heart, to which worldly success
is manifestly and completely subordinated. The world
may well be suspicious of an untried virtue ; of the
worth of an integrity which sustains itself in seclusion,
and never measures its strength with the temptations
of life ; of a professional goodness, which is hedged
about by the restrictions of public opinion ; of a talking
piety, that mistakes the glow of beautiful and exalted
sentiments for the earnestness and vigor of moral
principle ; of the graces which merely reflect the
circumstances that surround them ; as for instance, die
humility of the low in station, the amiableness of those
whose natural temperament is equable, the self-control
of the unimpassioned, or moderation of desires in those
who are without opportunity or hope of advancement
What we need to confirm our faith in virtue, to reprove
and stimulate our consciences, is to see the triumph of
tempted integrity, the victory of a spirit that feels the
force of the passions and desires that agitate our own
hearts, and yet controls them ; that is subjected to our
own trying circumstances, and turns them to the
account of goodness.

It is no uncommon thing to hear men, as it were,
fortifying their own moral resolution by assailing the
ordinary objects of human desire ; denying the desi-
rableness of fortune ; charging the necessary principles
on which business is conducted with intrinsic immo-
rality, and attributing to wealth itself all the evils which
come from the passionate "love of money." When
these words proceed from the mouths of the unsuc-
cessful, or from those withdrawn from the walks of
trade, they indicate a very suspicious kind of past

experience, and a very doubtful sort of unworldliness.
The truth is, the business of this world must be carried
on, and there must be commercial centres, where
wealth, with all its responsibilities, perils and advan-
tages, will be concentrated. Merchants, in the largest
use of that word, are a necessary and most important
class a fixed, indispensable, and permanent class in
the divisions of society. There is no prospect what-
soever that the pressure of care, the competitions of
trade, the increase of wealth, or the growth of private
fortunes, will diminish in a place like this. Just here,
this work which you are doing, is to be done will
remain to be done ! and you and your successors will
be subjected to whatsoever dangers and disadvantages
to the moral nature belong to it. It by no means
follows because a post is dangerous that it is to be
deserted, or that it is wrong to occupy it ! It by no
means is true that things are unimportant or to be
dispensed with, because they are morally perilous.
Commerce is dangerous precisely because of the mag-
nitude of the interests involved in it. Money is "peril-
ous stuff," just because it is the representative of all
other physical and of much intellectual and moral
value. This community of business interests and
business men is a dangerous and difficult place to
dwell in, because those exclusively occupied in dealing
with that, which most nearly and universally touches
the present welfare and immediate necessities of mil-
lions, feel the passions and wants of the nation
pressing back upon them, and shaking with convulsive
energy the nerves which they themselves are. You
feel here, in the commercial heart of this country,


the heat and passion of the whole body. You fulfil
an indispensable function. It is a dangerous one.
The fireman who feeds the furnace of the steam-
engine is exposed to certain death if the boiler burst ;
but he is the last man that can be withdrawn from
his post. Let it be understood that the merchant
occupies a post of peril ; that he handles a most
dangerous substance ; that he is, of all men, most
exposed to the evils of worldliness ; that his principles
are destined to fearful trial; that he is to live in
constant excitement, with anxiety, hope, fear, adven-
ture, risk, as his stormy element ; that mercantile
misfortune has its imminent moral perils, and com-
mercial success equal and peculiar dangers ! Let
the merchant understand that he places himself, for
the sake of certain valuable and not unworthy consi-
derations, in a position in which he is to expect little
tranquillity of mind ; small control of his own time,
and little direct opportunity for cultivating tastes
and pursuits usually regarded as protective to the
moral nature. Let him understand that he is, more
than any other man, to deal directly with what is, by
general consent, the most seductive, exciting, and
treacherous commodity in the world ; that which most
tempts integrity, moves the baser passions, absorbs the
faculties, chills the humane affections, and dulls the
spiritual senses: that which w r as the object of our
Master's most emphatic warning. But let him, at the
same time, recognize the Christian lawfulness and
providential importance of his calling, and appreciate
the force of the truth that the possible moral advan-
tages of a position are proportioned to its moral perils,


so that no man's opportunities of forming and exem-
plifying the Christian character in some of its most
commanding attributes, are so great as those of the
merchant. In no man is superiority to worldliness
so much honored ; no man's integrity is so widely
known or so much venerated ! Honor, uprightness,
brotherly kindness, purity and singleness of purpose,
moderation and essential superiority to worldly maxims
and ambitions these qualities, if they exist in the
merchant at all, exist in him in spite of daily trials
and temptations. If any man's principles require to
be sound to the core, it is his. They do not exist
by the forbearance or felicity of circumstances. They
are not passive graces. They need to be positive,
active, aggressive qualities ; opposing to the perils and
assaults of his circumstances a rugged and stern resist-
ance. As such they are recognized and honored ;
and no man occupies a more commanding moral
position, displays a more useful character, or wins a
more sincere and compulsory reverence, than the Chris-
tian Merchant ! And what does the community need
so much, what can it so ill spare, as the example of
such men 1

My brethren, we have had such an example before
us, in a distinguished merchant of this community,
and an honored member of this Christian Society,
recently departed from among the living. The wide
commentary which the character of Jonathan Goodhue
has drawn from the press, makes it too late to pay
any original tribute to his virtues, as it removes the
apprehension of offending the delicacy of kindred and
friends by public notice. Yet it is due to ourselves


not to allow the grave to close upon so respected
and beloved a member of our Society, without a
special commemoration, for our own benefit, of his
upright and benevolent life. Let the characteristic
modesty and moderation of the man we contemplate,
be honored in the chastened hues in which we deli-
neate his moral features.

Jonathan Goodhue, the son of the Hon. Benjamin
Goodhue, Senator from Massachusetts, came to this
city about forty years ago, and entered upon mer-
cantile life. The public know him only as a Merchant.
He has filled no political offices, nor made himself
conspicuous in any philanthropic causes. He has
originated no large and striking speculations, nor dis-
tinguished himself by brilliant success. Except in his
commercial capacity, we have not been accustomed
to hear his name in the mouth of the public, nor to
see it in the columns of our newspapers. No man's
life had fewer incidents of an exciting character, or
offers more meagre matter for the biographer. We
have not seen him in attitudes of trial or temptation
peculiar to himself, or in crises fitted to call forth the
public sympathy and to arrest the public attention. He
is identified with no special movements, whether civil,
commercial, or philanthropic, that might give lustre
to his name. His life has been as private as an
extensive business would allow ; his career as ordinary
and common-place in its history as any man's among
us of similar age and commercial relations. He is
but one among a thousand in our community of equal
wealth, similar connexions in business, and like rela-
tions with the public. Indeed, more than almost any


other citizen of similar intelligence, experience and
standing, might he be styled a private person.

Why then is it, that with an almost unequalled
demonstration of sorrow and bereavement, this com-
munity gathers about his grave, and testifies, in the
sincerest and heartiest forms, its reverence and love 1
Whence this burst of admiration, respect and affection,
coming simultaneously from every portion of the public;
uttered through the resolutions of commercial bodies ;
speaking from the lips of the press ; and, above all,
falling in tones of tenderness from private tongues in
all classes of society ? It is as if every one had lost a
friend, a guide, an example ; one whom he is surprised
to find has been equally the object of respect and
affection to ten thousand others ! No concert of action,
no mutual understanding, has marked this expression
of public feeling ! We hardly knew that we had a
man among us in whom such regards united ; and
no one beforehand could have predicted the impression
his death would make upon the community. He filled
so quiet, so unobtrusive, and so steady a place among
us, that our thoughts were never directly or abruptly
fixed upon him. We felt, we knew, his worth and
his influence ; but we did not make it the frequent
theme of our remark, nor w r eigh it against that of
others ; and therefore, I repeat, we are almost taken
by surprise, when forced, by general testimony, to
acknowledge that no man could be taken from this
community amid such general regrets, possessing such
universal confidence, or filling a larger place in its
affections and respect.


My brethren, it is the recognized worth of private
character which has extorted this homage ! It is not
what he has done, but what he has been, which thus
attracts the gratitude and respect of this community.
Jonathan Goodhuc had succeeded, during a long and
active life of business, in which he became known to
almost all our people through the ordinary relations
of trade and commerce, in impressing them with a
deep and unquestioning sense of his personal integrity
and essential goodness. Collecting its evidence from
a thousand untraccable sources, from the unconscious
notice of his uniform and consistent life, from the
indirect testimony of the thousands who dealt with
him, from personal observation, and from the very
countenance and manners of the man, this community
had become penetrated with the conviction of his
changeless virtue, of his spotless honor, of his secret
and thorough worth. Other men might have equal
integrity, but he had the power of making it indubitably
apparent. Other men might have his general worth,
but he somehow manifested it in a way to place it
beyond cavil, jealousy, suspicion or indifference. He
occupied, what is ever to be viewed as the greatest of
all earthly positions, that of a witness to the reality
of virtue, and one whose testimony was accepted.
Brethren, do we know the greatness of this office ?
do we recognize that which it supplies, as the pro-
foundest need of society ? that which it accomplishes
as the most useful and sublime service rendered to
men and communities ? If we ask ourselves what
the public is now so gratefully contemplating in the


memory of Jonathan Goodlme, we find that it is not
his public services, not his commercial importance, not
even his particular virtues and graces. It is the man
himself: the pure, high-minded, righteous man, with
gentle and full affections, who adorned our nature,
who dignified the mercantile profession, who was
superior to his station, his riches, his exposures, and
made the common virtues more respected and vene-
rable than shining talents or public honors; who
vindicated the dignity of common life, and carried
a high, large and noble spirit into ordinary affairs ;
who made men recognize something inviolable and
awful even in the private conscience, and thus gave
sanctity and value to our common humanity ! Yes,
my brethren, this was the power, this the attraction,
this the value of Jonathan Goodhue's life. He has
made men believe in virtue. He has made them
honor character more than station or wealth ! He
has illustrated the possible purity, disinterestedness,
and elevation of a mercantile life ! He has shown
that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven.
He stands up, by acclamation, as the model of a
Christian Merchant.

Here perhaps I might better pause, as having said
all that needs to be set forth on this occasion. But
you will suffer me to dwell with a little discrimination
upon so interesting a subject of contemplation. The
distinguishing moral traits of Mr. Goodhue were purity
of mind, conscientiousness, benevolence, and love of
freedom. Perhaps the first was the most striking
in a man in his position. Originally endowed with


a sensitive and elevated nature, and educated among
the pure and good, he brought to this community, at
mature age, the simplicity and transparency of a child,
and retained to the last a manifest purity of heart
and imagination. I think no man ever ventured to
pollute his ear with levity or coarse allusion, or to
propose to him any object or scheme which involved
mean or selfish motives. He shrank, with an instinc-
tive disgust, from the foul, the low, the unworthy ;
and compelled all to feel that he was a " vessel made
to honor," which could admit no noisome or base
mixtures in its crystal depths. His purity of mind
was still further evinced in the difficulty with which
he conceived of bad motives or wrong intentions in
others. He had an unaffected confidence in his
fellow-creatures, growing out of his own ingenuousness.
He was the apologist of all men, seeking explanations
of their misconduct which would relieve them of
utter condemnation, and often clinging to them when
deserted by most others. It was remarked by one
who enjoyed his daily and familiar intercourse, that
he never heard him speak in decisive scorn of any
man but in one instance. His purity of mind mani-
fested itself in the childlike character of his tastes,
manners, and pleasures. He retained through life
the playfulness and the simplicity of a boy, and was
as an equal among his own children. His mind
seemed to have no fuel for the fiercer passions of
manhood. He had no taste for notoriety, influence,
social conspicuousness, exciting speculation, or brilliant
success. His purity shrank from the soil contracted


in such positions and pursuits. And thus he main-
tained the equanimity, elasticity, and spontaneous
cheerfulness of his youth, even to his latest days.

Probahly concientiousness would be first named,
by this community, as Mr. Goodhue's characteristic
quality. Duty, I doubt not, was the word, if not
oftenest upon his lips, most deeply stamped upon
his heart. He was accustomed to refer his conduct,
in little and in great things, to the court of con-

Nor was this sense of duty in him the stern and
narrow principle it is sometimes seen to be, even in
the good. He had the nicest sense of justice a most
tender and solicitous regard for others' rights, and
was ever on the watch to learn and to fulfil his
obligations in the least particular to every human
creature. His conscientiousness was not more mani-
fest in the undeviating rectitude of his mercantile
and commercial career, than in social and domestic
life. He was careful to pay honor where honor is
due ; to lose no opportunity of manifesting respect
for worth and virtue ; to avoid the least trifling with
the feelings or the reputation of others ; and to give,
at all times, the least possible trouble on his own
account. How lofty a sense of honor how pure and
strict an integrity what high-minded principles he
carried with him into business, you are far better
able to estimate than I. But if the testimony of the
commercial world is to be taken, his counting-room
was to him a sanctuary in which he offered the daily
sacrifices of justice, truth, and righteousness, and sent
up the incense of obedience to that great precept,


" Do unto others as you would that they should do
unto you." It was the pervading control and influence
of this sense of duty, which enabled him to say at
the very close of his life : " I am not conscious that
I have ever brought evil on a single human being."

And this suggests another characteristic of Mr.
Goodhue his benevolence ; which, when I mention
it, seems, as each of his other traits does, the most
striking of all. Kindness of heart was joined in
him with purity of feeling and loftiness and rectitude
of conscience. It did not in him take the form of
a public philanthropy, although for thirty years he
was most assiduous and deeply interested in the duties
of a Trustee of the Savings' Bank, and a Governor
of the Hospital offices which he would not relinquish
even amid the infirmities of his few past years, because
he loved the intercourse of the sick and the poor.
His benevolence was rather a constant and unwearied
desire to make all within his reach happy. He loved
his race. He was uneasy if cut off, for ever so short
a time, from the intercourse of his fellow-creatures.
The human face was dear to him, and his heart
overflowed with tenderness and good-will towards
every creature that bore it. Perhaps no man in the
community had a livelier interest in man simply as
man. It mattered nothing what his station, condition,
faith, country, or color, he loved his kind ; loved to
make the human heart rejoice ; loved to call up even
momentary feelings of satisfaction in the breasts of
those with whom he had only a passing intercourse.
Who so scrupulous as he to discharge the little
courtesies of life with fidelity; whose eye turned so


quickly to recognize the humblest friend ; whose smile
and hand so ready to acknowledge the greetings of
a most extensive circle of acquaintances ? I know
nothing of his more substantial services to the suffering
and the needy. He was not a man to allow his
left hand to know what his right hand did ; yet, who
can doubt that his charities were as large as his heart
and his means ? But can we over-rate the worth
of that beaming goodness which over-leaps the barrier
of station and wealth, and makes for its possessor
a place in the heart of the humblest and most obscure 1
Love creates love ; and the unbounded measure of
affection which this community poured out to him,
shows how freely he had given his heart to his
fellow-men ! I dare not speak of the exemplification
his benevolence found in the domestic circle, where
he knew how to preserve the most manly dignity,
while he lavished a woman's heart.

The love of freedom was the most conspicuous
mental trait in Mr. Goodlme. He was the earnest
advocate of political freedom, of religious liberty, and
of free-trade. Possessed of a large understanding,
cultivated by careful reading, and early impressed with
the principles that moved our republican fathers, he
had exercised himself upon all the political, religious,
and commercial questions of his time, and upon most
had worked himself out into the largest liberty and


Online LibraryHenry W. (Henry Whitney) BellowsThe christian merchant : a discourse delivered in the church of the Divine Unity, on the occasion of the death of Jonathan Goodhue → online text (page 1 of 2)