Lyman Beecher.

Autobiography, correspondence, & c. .. online

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written tolerably well, or pretty well. The world is full of
such writing, and would experience no great loss if it were
emptied of it all. There are a few minds that see clearly,
and speak directly and energetically to the point. These
are the writers I love to read, and whom I can never too
much admire or commend. They create no envy, and afford
me unmingled pleasure. But I must acknowledge that my
pleasure in reading such a work has been greatly heighten-
ed lately by the consideration that it came from your hand.
Possibly you may have felt as if I did not pay to what you
have published before the tribute of patental regard which
you might justly have expected. I have now explained the
reason. They were good, but not good enough for one of
your capacity to write, or, rather, not good enough to ac-
quiesce in as having attained.

*^ You have now given a specimen of vigorous writing,
which, in the pending polemics, enrolls your name among
the threes, and leaves the way open to find a place among
the first three.

** I have read the sermon, which is the prating of a young
religious coxcomb, knowing not what he says nor whereof
he affirms, and you have done him ample justice, i" * *

*^ Allow me to inquire about myself and the first part of
my reply to Walker.

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COSBSSPOKPSirCE, 1824-5. 21

*^ Am I a Calvinist, do you think, and will mj claim be ad-
mitted as proved, and will Walker and his friends feel as if
my gon was loaded deep enongh for the first shot, and will
the orthodox think I have done so far sufficient execution ?
I ask not this as food to my vanity, for I should abide by
my own judgment, let the world think what they will. Still,
as the game is out of sight, I must depend on those who are
near to tell me what are the effects of the first fire. I hope
the man is not dead, for I have some terrible things in re-
serve that I should not like to hurl at a dead man. I can
not but think myself that, since the controversy opened be-
tween us, it has moved on with singular power and sue*
cess c«i our part, and that, though Unitarianism, intrenched
in Cambridge, and Boston, and Salem, with little redoubts
all around, has had a better chance, on the score of talents,
learning, wealth, and popular favor, than ever in the world
before, these aU will be of no avail in this enlightened com-
munity, but that gradually and at no distant day the victory
will be achieved, and Unitarianism cease to darken and pol-
lute the land.''

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On the following letter was endorsed by Dr.Beecher, un-
der date September, 1856, the following explanatory state-
ment: ^'This letter was written to arrest, and get time to
quench, the first spark which was struck in the controversy
between Goodrich and Taylor, of New Haven, and Nettle-
ton, Tyler, and Dr. Woods; but, before I had time to write
and send the letter, the fire was in the leaves, and outran all
efforts to quench it. The parties on both sides were my
special friends, and my labors were unceasing to explain and
mitigate, and prevent explosions in the churches of Connec-
ticut and Massachusetts.^'

Dr. Beecher to Beo. A, Hooker.

<< Litchfield, March 18, 1825.

"Dbab Brother, — I have understood in several ways
that some of the brethren were alarmed and dissatisfied in
some points in the examination of Leavet ; that the dele-
gates, also, were alarmed ; and that fears have been express-
ed that Brother Taylor is Leavetical.

^' Will you have the goodness to state to me what were
the points in the examination of the candidate which create
uneasiness, and will you allow me to express my earnest
hope that nothing will be said or done which shall have a
tendency to exasperate brethren, or to alarm the communi-
ty, or to commit us, at this time, with the insupportable ca-
lamity of a theological controversy among ourselves ? The

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COBBB8P02n>BNCB, 1825. 23

reasons for avoiding a public controvei-sial sohLsm in Con-
necticut are obvious and powerful. We are watched by en-
emies within and without, and our condition is critical. Sec-
tarians without and heretics within would gladly see us fall
out by the way, and avail themselves of our confusion to
put down our Theological Seminary, our College, and our
churches; and I really fear that our triangular brethren at
the South would not^ut on sackcloth should we come into
troubled water. The strength and glory of our Church has
been and now is the cordial and efficient co-operation of the
clergy, and our plans for self-defense and the augmentation
of strength which are in operation and in a course of prep-
aration are noble, powerful, and certain, if we fall not out by
the way. The Spectator^ the Observer^ the Domestic Mis-
sionary Society, with a system for evangelists, for tracts, and
for the improvement of our common schools, can not, with
our revivals, fail of glorious results. But a controversial
spirit, corroding the heai-ts and diverting the minds of min-
isters and churches, would, I have no doubt, put an end to
our revivals, and leave us without strength in the presence
of an insolent enemy. They have tried in vain to bind us
with cords and withes ; but still we have waxed valiant in
fight, putting to flight the armies of the aliens. Evangelical
doctrine, and peace, and love are the secrets of our Nazerite-
ship, and it is only a controversial spirit, with its alienating
and diverting influence, which can cause our glory to depart,
and make us weak as other men. The reformation was
stopped by the sacramental controversy ; and the orthodox
in the eastern parts of Massachusetts begin to have revivals
only as they begin to dismount their hobby-horses, and to
love one another and act in concert.

^' I have said our churches are in a critical situation. We
have just passed, or are, rather, now passing through a rev-

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olution, the object of which was, by withdrawing the sup-
port of law, and creating &cilities and temptations to with-
draw from our societies, to scatter and destroy us. And a
great effort has been made to shake the confidence of the
community in the clergy, and, if this could, be done, I know
not what would save us. But a controversy which would
produce so much feeling, and such action and reaction as
must attend the attack and the defense of such a man in
such a station as Brother Taylor, could not be carried on
without impairing the confidence of the public in the minis-
try. Inevitably we should first or last walk naked, and they
would see our shame.

^'K there are exceptionable points in Brother Taylor^s sys-
tem which need to be modified and guarded, that at pres-
ent is, I have no doubt, entirely practicable. But we know
what human nature is, even when partly sanctified, and how
easy it is to confirm a man in his opinion by a course of
treatment which to him shall appear precipitate or unkind.

^'If I had the confidence of my good brethren sufficiently
to render the pledge of any avail, I should not hesitate to
pledge myself to produce statements and explanations from
Brother Taylor on every point entirely satisfactory. I do
not mean statements in which every brother would concur,
for perhaps no two of us would explain ourselves entirely
alike ; but I mean statements which would release the mind
of every brother from the apprehension of any dangerotis

^'I have heard that a brother has said that Brother Tay-
lor ^ is a Socinian, and would avow himself to be so in a
year,' and that the charge of heresy had been either made
or insinuated by others. I presume such things, if they have
been said, lutve been said inconsiderately, and perhaps under
the influence of momentary excitement, as it would be an

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obvioQB Tiolation of Goepel mle to make or to insiiiTiate Budi
charges before any steps had been taken t^ convince and re-
daim, and as sudi liberties taken by ministers who differ
with each other's chturaoter wonld tear ns all to pieces.

^ I have nnderstood, also, that it is supposed by some that
I am opposed earnestly to Brother Taylor on the subject of
original sm. I hare known«his opinions perhaps for ten
years, and have agreed in part, and in part differed with him,
without supposing for a moment that his views or mine set
aside the doctrine of original sin. The point on which I
have differed with the most earnestness has respected two
or three terms, with the view of preventing just -such nus-
apprehensions and alarms as have now probably happened.
If any one supposes that I have regarded Brother Taylor as
fimdamentally erroneous on the subject of original sin, thdr
impression is without foundation. J have regarded him as
adopting one of the half a dozen ways in which orthodox
men esq)lain and defend that difficult doctrine^ and I have
censured him only as changing phraseology needlessly in a
few particulars.

^But, in respect to the entire doctrine of original sid,
though I believe it ex animo^ I have long been of opinion
that the policy is unwise of making that doctrine the hinge
of controversy^ between the orthodox and Arminians, be>
cause, as it respects the character and destiny of in&nts, it
gives to the enemy the advantage of the popular side ; be-
cause the discussion carries us unavoidably into darkness
and depths where the ^lemy have as good a chance as our-
selves, and where both must return to terra firma or be

^ Original sin, in respect to infimts, is to be held so far as
rei^>6cts the existence in them of a nature which makes it
certain that whenever they act accountably they sin. But

Vol. it.— B

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the doctrine of man's entire depravity from the commence-
ment of his accoimtable agency, leaving it for God to de-
cide when, that is the battle-ground. On this foundation
the superstructure of Calvinism stands unshaken by any
diversity of speculations. That nature in infants which is
the ground of the certainty that they will be totally, actual-
ly depraved as soon as they* are capable of accountable
action — which renders actual sin certain, I call a depraved
nature ; and yet I do not mean by ^ depraved nature' the
same exactly which I mean by the term as applied to the ac-
countable sinful exercises of the hearts of adult men. Nor
does Edwards or Bellamy. Edwards calls it ^ a prevailing
effectual tendency in their nature' to that sin which brings
wrath and eternal undoing ; but he does not consider it as
being sin in itself considered, in such a sense as to deserve
punishment, for he says, ^ Infants would be sinners in no oth-
er way than in virtue of Adam's transgression.' "

Dr, Beecher to Edward,


^^I am gratified that my review is satisfactory. There
will be two numbers more, and, if I do not misunderstand
their effect, they will make for Unitarians work for repent-
ance, and, I hope, for reformation.

^' I was much comforted by William while at home. He
affords, as I conceive, great evidence of a change of heart,
and yet something is not right with him. He does not see
his evidence, nor rely on what he does see— is forever hunt-
ing after feeling, feeling, feeling, when he has had so much
of it already as to shatter bis nerves. I did something to
correct his views on that subject, but he is not wholly recov-
ered from worrying himself about want of feeling produced
by feeling."

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CiXthaTine to JBSwaird.

« April 20, 1825.
^You can not imagine how much I enjoy this visit at
home. Yon know how happy it makes ns to be with father.
His society seems always to give a new impulse to the affec-
tion of the heart, and to every inteUectnal power. He is
now very much engaged in finishing off his answer to the
review, and I think his last will make all smoke again."

Mra^Beecher to JSSward.

"July 19, 1825.

^^ I thonght last evening onr street presented the most sol-
emn scene I had ever witnessed. I left the house of the dy-
ing saint (Mrs. S ) about nine o'clock. Many persohs
were hanging about the doors and yard in perfect stillness.
I crossed the street, and stepped softly into the anxious
meeting, where a hundred poor sinners were all on their
knees before God, and your father was in the midst, plead-
ing with strong cries and tears for the mercy of God upon
them. Around the doors were a number of people, solemn
as death. I Ttould not but say, * How awful is this place!
This is none other than the house of God and gate of
heaven I'

^^ We thought the revival assumed a deeper appearance
than at any former period.''



"How different wiU Litchfield be! We hope ,

and , and , and are bom again. * It is

the Lord's doing, and is marvelous in our eyes.' The atten-
tion is spreading to Bradleyville and Goshen. Father's

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health is tolerably good. Few ministers exert themselves
so much for the salvation' of their people as he does. I fear
after the call for effort is over he will sink.''

WiUiam to Edward.

^^The revival goes on steadily. Father works as hard
and harder than ever. His health is just so that he can keep
about. He is going to Danbury for the Church."

Dr.Beecher to WtUiam.

''October 26, 1825.

"The pressure of business has rendered it extremely dif-
ficult for me to write.

" Catharine recovered so as to be in her school examina-
tion, which surpassed in the number, respectability, and in-
terest of those present any preceding one. The prpspects
of a winter school are good.

"Edward has been a great help to me and a great com-
fort. His piety and talents demand our united thanksgiv-
ings to Gh>d. His labors have been well received by our
people, as also were yours.

" But for his and your aid much must have been omitted
which I have been able to accomplish.

" Gborge returns this week on Monday. He is impressed
considerably, but has no hope. The revival continues, and is
becoming now for six weeks more and more prosperous.
The subject is pressing hard upon a number of young men,
of whose ultimate conversion we entertain some hope. The
Church is more extensively acquainted with the revival by -
inspection, and feeHng, and prayer. Six were admitted to
the Church last sacrament; twenty-four now stand pro-
pounded, among whom are Mary and Harriet. * * * *

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May Jesns watch oyer you, and all of ns, and give ns favor
and usefolnesB before man and God."

The Same.

"November 1,182^.
** This has been a good day ; twenty-five have been added
to the Choroh, and the work of awakening and conversion
moves on and increases, on the whole, both here and in Mil-
ton. We have been this three weeks in a state of deep
sympathy for Qeorge, whose distress precluded sleep, al-
most, for many nights, and his voice of supplication could be
heard night and day. But to-day, and especially this even-
ing, he seems to be very happy, and, so far as I can judge
by conversation, on good grounds. He is now with the
girls, singing louder than he prayed* What shall we render
to the Lord ! Mary and Harriet communed to-day for the
first time, and it has been a powerful and delightful day.'*

The Same.

« ♦ ♦ ♦ George seems to be one of the happiest crea-
tures ever I saw. All his quickness and characteristic ardor
seems now to be heightened by the contrast of joy with re-
cent distress. He talks rapidly, and with much and unaf-
fected simplicity, and is exceedingly interested now in the
meetings, and begs he may stay a little longer to enjoy them.
* * * God has done for me exceeding abundantly in giv-
ing me such children as he has, and in giving me their hearts,
as well as taking them himself."

The Same.

*^ Our family concert of prayer was held in the study, on

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Thanksgiving day — your mother, Aunt Esther, Henry, and
^ Charles. It was a most deeply solemn, tender, and interest-
ing time. The prayer which your mother made exceeded
ahnost any thing which I hear of supplication from the lips
of any one. She is a holy woman, and eminently gifted in
prayer. I trust the results of the concert will not be tran-
sient, but will be seen in time and in eternity.

*^ Henry and Charles have both been awakened, and are
easily affected and seriously disposed now. But as yet it is
like the wind upon the willow, which rises as soon as it is
passed over. It does not grapple, but t^e effect is good in
giving power to conscience and moral principle, producing
amendment in conduct."

Dr. Beecher to Br. Taylor {after tJie DarJmry Council).

« Litchfield, December, 1825.

" Deab Bbotheb, — ^I have been at home only just long
enough for my brain to get still after the whirl it was in
while we were together, and for my intellectual eye to see
clearly after the smoke passed away which filled the atmos-

" As it seems not improbable that we both may be csdled
again to act as counsel in this wicked world — though I hope
not on opposite sides — I have concluded to volunteer for
your consideration several of the maxims which have regu-
lated, and I believe, in time to come, will continue to regu-
late my conduct.

" I will never undertake the defense of a cause which I do
not believe to be founded in truth and equity.

*^ As a general rule, I will confine my advocacy to the de-
fense of ministerial innocence, and the assistance of the
churches in the administration of discipline.

^^ As a general rule, I Vfrill not undertake for individuals

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against the pastor and the Church. The presumption is that
the pastor and the Church are right, and, if not, the injured
may obtain lay counsels ; and it is better for the unity of
the cause that ministerial counsel be for the Church, and not
against her.

^ I have never felt myself at liberty to go into another
man's parish, and interfere directly or indirectly with a case
of 4infinished discipline, or to break up a settlement already
made. This would lead to much evil, and call forth a gen-
eral disapprobation justly unfavorable to my influence in the
churches. Though we got along marvelously well in our
treatment of each other, and in our temper as advocates, it
is my firm resolution to get along still better, if ever called
to manage a cause again.

^I am resolved to atoid all indication of impatience, and
all tokens of my light estimation of an argument, and to use
always only the language of candor and dispassionate cour-
tesy, and to maintain and express only kind and Christian
feeling. Doubtless I shall come short, but certainly less
than if I had not a high rule, and strong resolution to con-
form to it."

A very pretty anecdote has been sent to the editor con-
cerning the mutual relations of Dr.Beecher and Dr. Taylor
when engaged on opposite sides in a certain famous eccle-
siastical councO. The feeling waxed so high in the place
that the opposing parties would not speak to each other,
and it was supposed their respective advocates would share
the same feeling. They were lodged each respectively with
the leading family of the party they represented. When
dinner-time came the first day neither of the doctors were
to be found, and search was made far and near, till a little

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girl found them quietly sitting in an orchard, with their arms
thrown oyer each other's necks, concocting their plan of op-
erations together. Such a beginning ended in peace in the
parish. Our informant is the little girl who found them.

Dr.Beech&r to JSclward,

*<I>ecember80, 1825.

^^ Henry and Charles have both had slight awakenings,
^ which have increased the power of conscience, but promise i

no immediate saving results. Mr. L has been £uthful
with Henry, and, I trust, successful. He says in a letter,
*' His observance of my regulations relating to study has be-
come exact and punctual. His diligence has all along grad-
ually increased, and I think he has arrived at that full pur-
pose which will insure his making a scholar. My method
of instruction for beginners is a system of extended, minute,
and reiterated drilling, and the make of his mind is such as
fits him to receive benefits from the operation.'

*^ I have given all my time to the CoriTiectieia Observer^
and, including my pastoral labors, have never labored more
entirely up to the line of possibility in my life, minding al-
ways not to step over. Do you read the Observer? It
would take away part of my pleasure in writing if you do

" The revival — ^I have never said it, or allowed myself to
think it or feel it — ^is probably, for the time, nearly concluded.
There are one or two districts where I shall make an effort,
and then the whole ground will have been gone over, and
will probably yield no more fruit at present ; so I shall soon
organize the Bible-class, and endeavor to make the most of
what we have gained, and to prepare the way for another
onset as soon as new materials shall rise up, which will not

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be long. It is never worth while to chase a revival after
it is gone by. The laws of mind and of divine sovereignty
are in nnison, and after the greater stimnlas has been ap-
plied and failed, it will do no good to apply the less. After
one battle and victory, it remains to clear the decks and pre-
pare for another. This I shall attempt to do. As to my
prospects here I shall say bat little. If the society here
would not hinder, but would co-operate with me, I should
desire no better situation ; but, for a year past, they have oc-
casioned me much trial and discouragement, and raised in
my mind doubts about my duty which I never expected to
feeL At such a crisis in my own mind, rumors are floating
here from Boston of the purpose of the Hanover Society
to give me a call ; and it has been said they would do it if
they knew I would accept. On that point I can not speak
to any one, can not even decide for myself; and yet, if I am
to see it my duty to go hence, that, perhaps, is the place to
which, above all others, I should prefer to go. But I dare
not stir ; so I have made up my mind to do my duty here,
and leave the event to God, believing that, if he has any
thing for me to do here, he will make my way prosperous,
or, if elsewhere, he will open the door himself, and not leave
me to push it open. My people, with the exception of two
or three, are, I doubt not, cordial, and whether they would

some things lately

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The occasion which called forth, these sermons is thus de-
scribed by Dr. Beecher : •

^^ There was a neighborhood about four miles out, called
Bradleysville, where I used to preach on Sabbath afternoon,
and have a lecture in the week. The first time I went it

was connected with a revival of religion, and

and his wife became pious. He was nearly the first male
convert I had after I went to Litchfield, and was always
most affectionate and kind. 'Twas my home there when I
went out to preach and spend the night. He gave me more
presents than any two or three, and was one of my most
useful and excellent young men. The meetings, about this
time, had been discontinued for some cause for a time. On
setting them up. again, I preached at his house as usual, but
it did not go as it used to, and the second time the same.
After lecture I went out doors a few moments, and when I
came in, found he was abed, and his wife was weeping. I
felt a shock of presentiment. I drew up my chair by her
side and said, ' What is the matter ?' * Oh, matter enough,'
said she. * Who is it ? Is it your father ?' I knew he had
some liabilities that way. She told me it was her hus-
band too. ^ Is it possible ? is it possible V ^ Yes, it is pos-
sible I' ♦

^' I thought to myself as I rode home, ^ It is now or never.
I must go about it immediately, or there is no chance of
their salvation.' These sermons I had projected early. I

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rather think it was at East Hampton that I struck ont a con-
siderable skeleton. They were laid by to be finished when

Online LibraryLyman BeecherAutobiography, correspondence, & c. .. → online text (page 2 of 42)