Peter Thacher.

A sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 online

. (page 42 of 51)
Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 42 of 51)
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selves ; it is the gift of God." Salvation for lost men
has been procured by the most stupendous act of self-
sacrifice that could possibly be performed. There was
no glory like that which the Son of God laid aside, no
humiliation like that which he suffered for our redemp-
tion. But the sinner receives his own salvation, so
dearly purchased, as a free gift. He must accept it



without money and without price, or not at all. He
cannot buy the bread of life with gold. He cannot
win heaven by good deeds. The glory of the Chris-
tian religion is, that its blessings are above all human
valuation. They are the streams that flow 7 from the
fountain of infinite, unmerited love. Therefore, when
a man becomes a true Christian, however proud and
self-sufficient he may have been before, he speaks of
himself as a sinner saved by grace. He is a freedman,
a redeemed captive, who owes his liberty and his life
to the self-sacrifice of One who loved him, and gave
himself for his ransom. He is a brand plucked from
the burning by the hand of divine compassion, as won-
derful as it was undeserved. Now this doctrine of
free grace, and a gratuitous salvation, must produce a
practical principle of unselfishness in all who feel the
power of the Gospel on their hearts. And here is the
infallible test of genuine piety : " The love of Christ
constraineth us ; because we thus judge, that if one
died for all, then were all dead ; and that he died for
all, that they which live should not henceforth live
unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them,
and rose again." Thus true religion becomes the
brightest ornament of human character, and a Chris-
tian is recognized as the highest style of man.

Another element in the unselfishness of the religion
of Christ is the demand for self-sacrifice, which He
makes upon all his followers.

" If any man will come after me let him deny him-
self." When a man becomes a Christian, he ceases to
be his own in any sense whatever. He has abjured
all allegiance to the idol self, which, like Dagon, falls
to the ground broken and despised, and sworn fealty
to his Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who is henceforth



exalted on the throne of his affections. He ceases to
be his own master or his own slave. He was once
altogether selfish. He sought his own personal enjoy-
ment in all the relations of life. In business he labored
to amass a fortune in the shortest space of time, that
he might retire to revel in luxury and pleasure. As a
public man, he aspired to place and power for the
gratification of vanity, or ambition, or avarice. In his
profession he forgot all others in the one absorbing
effort to advance his own interests. But his eyes have
been opened, and he beholds himself as a miserable
idolater. A sense of shame, and guilt, and want,
drives him at length to the cross of Christ for relief,
and there he hears the demand which at first seems so
harsh — " deny thyself, take up thy cross." He sub-
mits to the Saviour's yoke, and soon discovers the
strange truth, which the world is so slow to learn, that
happiness must be found, not in self-indulgence, but
in self-denial, and henceforth his life becomes an un-
selfish, consecrated, living sacrifice to God.

A third element in the unselfishness of the religion
of Christ is the example of the Master, ivhich every
Christian is bound to follow.

Our blessed Redeemer not only died to secure for
his people a right to eternal life, but lived to give
them a pattern for their daily life on earth. And who
can contemplate the divine exa nple without feeling
the glow of admiration kindling into a strong desire
to imitate the faultless model. " He came not to be
ministered unto, but to minister. 17 He went about
doing good. The labor of his life was love. Through
self-denial, and weariness, and persecution, and suffer-
ing, and death, he accomplished the mission of mercy
for which he left the bosom of the Father. His career



on earth was one of unselfish devotion to the welfare
of man, and the glory of his Father. One thought of
self never entered his pure mind. Behold him at
Jacob's well, wearied, and thirsty, and hungry; yet
he seems not to hear the entreaties of his disciples,
who have brought food, and press him, saying, " Mas-
ter, eat," for his holy soul is burning with compassion
for the poor sinner before him, whom he came to seek
and to save. Such is the example which every Chris-
tian is bound by the most tender obligations to follow.
It is his duty, nay, more, it is his pleasure and his
heart's desire to grow into the likeness of his Redeemer ;
to manifest the lovely graces of his character; to walk-
in his radiant footsteps here on earth, expecting that
happy day when he shall " see him as he is," and be
" changed into the same image from glory to glory."
With such an exemplar before him, and such a motive
to copy it, how can a sincere follower of Christ live
unto himself? If he lives, he must live unto the Lord
who bought him.

And the close of an unselfish life, how beautiful !
The Christian dies unto the Lord. Consecrated in life
he is owned in death, for " precious in the sight of the
Lord is the death of his saints." They sleep in Jesus,
and shall awake in his likeness. '' Whether we live,
therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."

" Is that a death-bed where the Christian lies ?
Yes, but not his : 'T is death itself there dies."

I have chosen this theme as an appropriate intro-
duction to the sketch, now to be presented, of the life
and character of one who, in an eminent degree, illus-
trated in his whole career the beautiful words of our
text.

Jacob Rynier Wortendyke was born at Pascack,



10

Bergen County, N. J., Nov. 27, 1818, and died Nov.
7th, 1868. He was descended from a respectable
Holland ancestry, of which he was justly proud. From
early childhood he manifested a seriousness and solid-
ity of mind, and an eagerness in the pursuit of knowl-
edge remarkable for one of so tender an age. He sel-
dom played with other boys, preferring to be alone
with his books. Nor was this aversion to mere sport
owing to dulness, or a feeble constitution, for he pos-
sessed an active mind in a sound body, but it was a
characteristic of his nature which marked his whole
life. When a mere child he was often overheard at
prayer in his room, and he perused with delight those
works on practical religion in which very young per-
sons are not apt to be interested. This early serious-
ness was the germ of that vigorous Christian life which
afterward yielded such precious and solid fruit. His
love of knowledge led to a rapid mental development,
and at the age of thirteen he was placed in charge of
the district school at the Ponds, a position for which
he was selected by his teacher, and which, on account
of his extreme } 7 outh, he accepted only after the most
urgent solicitations. But a mind like his could not be
satisfied with the limited advantages afforded by the
country schools at that time, and he soon fixed his
heart on a college education. He found many diffi-
culties in his way, but he surmounted them all, and
entered upon a preparatory course of study in the
classics, which he commenced under the Rev. Isaac D.
Cole, at Tappantown, subsequently pursued in the
school of Mr. A. Dockson at Paterson, and finished at
home under the care of his pastor, the Rev. John
Manly. Mr. Manly says of him, that he was " a dili-
gent student, always prepared with his lessons, upright



11

and gentle in his behavior, serious and thoughtful,
characterized by frankness, truthfulness, and honesty
of purpose." In the fall of 1837, he entered the junior
class of Rutgers College, and -in due time graduated
with honor, bearing with him the respect and affection
of his classmates, and the high esteem of his instruct-
ors. As he had fixed his heart on a liberal education,
he did not slight his work or waste his time. One of
his college companions, and a life-long friend, states
that " whatever belongs to a good student was found
in Mr. Wortendyke. He was thorough, patient, per-
severing. He was not satisfied with dim views of a
subject, but worked at it until it became clear in his
own mind. He was an uncompromising enemy of the
superficial in education." His industry and conscien-
tious devotion to the duties of the college gave him a
high standing in every department, but he particu-
larly excelled in the severer studies of philosophy and
mathematics. His Professor in the latter branches,
the venerable Theodore Strong, LL. D., ever cherished
a warm regard for his favorite pupil, and when in-
formed of his death, pronounced a high eulogy upon
his character and attainments. Upon leaving college,
the ancestral farm invited him to the toils and rewards
of husbandry. His parents thought he had education
enough, and were very anxious that he should become
a farmer ; but he had tasted the sweets of classical
learning, and a professional career was the only one
that now presented for him sufficient attractions. He
selected the honorable profession of the Law, and being
now twenty-one years of age, he set out with a self-
reliant spirit to reach the goal of his ambition. To
acquire the necessary resources to carry him through
his professional studies, he devoted himself to teach-



12

ing, a work in which he became so deeply interested
that he continued in it a much longer time than was
required to attain the special object which at first he
had in view. He taught at Piermont, at Saddle River,
at Hackensack, and at Spring Valley, devoting in all
about ten years to the cause of education, during
which time he prepared many young men for college.
As a teacher, he was thorough and faithful, a rigid
disciplinarian, and withal popular. The youth of Ber-
gen County sought the benefit of his severe mental
training, and there are not a few in the various profes-
sions who attribute much of their success in life to his
instructions and example. This fidelity to his pupils
was ever afterward shown in the frequent and thor-
ough examinations with which he favored the law
students in his own office, and even in the carefully-
written preparations which he always made for the
youth whom he taught in the Sunday school. While
at Hackensack, engaged in teaching, and reading law
at the same time in the office of M. M. Knapp, Esq.,
he also undertook the study of the Hebrew language,
with the assistance of the Rev. John S. Mabon, a dis-
tinguished scholar and divine, and mastered it so far
as to translate the Book of Genesis into English. His
friend, Garret G. Ackerson, Esq., with whom he board-
ed, says that Jacob used to spend the most of his even-
ings in the study of Mr. Mabon, where he reveled in
the luxury of books. He remarked to his friend that
he never felt happier in his life than when he found
himself able to read the Old Testament scriptures in
the very words of inspiration.

Superficial students may ask, of what advantage is
Hebrew to a lawyer? Everything is of use to the
true scholar, who knows what to do with it. A strong



13

mental digestion will assimilate all kinds of intellect-
ual aliment. Mr. Wortendyke felt that whatever came
within the domain of knowledge belonged of right
to him. He laid his hand upon it and made it his
own. His aim was not to reach his profession with as
little study as possible, but to levy contributions on
all the sources of information within his reach. He
gathered the honey of truth from every flower that
grew along his pathway. It was doubtless owing to
this thorough intellectual preparation that he was
afterward enabled to rise so rapidly to eminence in
his profession, and to maintain that position which
was ever accorded to him by his brethren of the bar.
One serious fault of our times is an undue haste on
the part of young men in entering upon the responsi-
bilities of professional life ; and to this evil may be
traced the early failure of many an ambitious aspirant.
The laws of New Jersey wisely demand from regular
graduates of colleges a three years 1 course of reading,
and from others an additional year, before entering
upon the practice of law ; and this high standard of
qualification for admission has doubtless contributed
greatly to secure for the bar of our State that elevated
character which it has always maintained, and to fur-
nish from its ranks candidates for the judiciary who
have worn their unsullied robes with distinguished
honor, and enrolled their names among the most pro-
found jurists of the land.

Mr. Wortendyke might have found a shorter road
to the bar, but would he then have won for himself at
the age of fifty as solid a reputation and as wide an
influence as he enjoyed at the time of his death % The
years devoted to preparation for life's stern duties are
not thrown away. The moments occupied in the



14

athletic contest bear a small proportion to the months
which have been spent in training for it ; but it is the
training that secures the prize. " I care not," said
Milton, " how late I enter upon active life, so that I
am fitted for it."

On the 10th of December, 1850, Mr. Wortendyke
entered as a student the office of the Hon. A. O. Za-
briskie, in this city, with whom he completed the re-
quired course, and was admitted to the bar at the
February term in 1853. On the 2d of the following
June he was married to Susan Jane, daughter of Mr.
Nicholas Doremus, of Pompton Plains. He immedi-
ately formed a partnership with his late preceptor,
which continued until toward the close of his service
as a member of Congress. Owing to the interruption
in his professional duties occasioned by his absence in
Washington, he did not take his license as counsellor
until February, 1860. Thus at the ripe age of thirty-
five, with a mind thoroughly disciplined by classical
and mathematical studies, and liberalised by familiar-
ity with those grand principles of equity which lie at
the foundation of English and American jurisprudence,
and form the basis of social order and civil govern-
ment, with deep religious convictions, an enlightened
conscience and a laudable ambition, he entered upon
that battle of life for which he had been so long under
training ; and as might be expected success crowned
his entrance upon the arena. A large and lucrative
practice at once rewarded his exertions. He was not
under the necessity of seeking clients, they came to
him because they reposed confidence both in his abil-
ity and- his honesty, and he thus secured a business
which suited his tastes, and comported with the dig-
nity of his character.



15

Those qualities which made Mr. Wortendyke suc-
cessful as a lawyer, commended him also to respon-
sible positions in public life. He was elected an alder-
man of the city in the spring of 1856. In November
of the same year he was chosen to represent the fifth
district in the Thirty-fifth Congress, and took bis seat
in December of the following year. As a representa-
tive in the councils of the nation he manifested a
w r atchful interest in public affairs, served on impor-
tant Committees, and while realizing that he was a
legislator for the whole country, neglected no duty to
the people of his own State and district. While in
Congress he gained the respect and friendship of some
of the most eminent men of the country, who discov-
ered his solid qualities, and regretted his disappear-
ance so soon from the halls of legislation.

After his return from Washington he was elected a
Water Commissioner in the spring of 1860, and the
next spring was made President of the Board, which
position he held for about three years. He was again
appointed a member of the Board in 1866, and in
1868 made its President, and occupied this important
office at the time of his death. The people of Jersey
City can never fully realize the debt of gratitude they
owe to Mr. Wortendyke as a leading manager of this
great public work, upon which the comfort, health and
safety of our city so largely depend. For four years
his services were gratuitous, and the vast amount of
labor which he performed may be ascertained, in part,
from an examination of his official reports. He made
a thorough investigation into the financial affairs of
the Board from the very commencement of the works,
and placed them upon a sound and enduring basis.
He spent at one time the evenings of six consecutive



16

weeks in this laborious service for the public welfare,
without fee or reward.

In 1865 he was elected President of the Fifth Ward
Savings Bank, in which office he also rendered valua-
ble gratuitous service to the poor laboring people of
our city.

By an act of the Legislature, approved April 11,
1864, the Governor, by and with the advice and con-
sent of the Senate, appointed six Riparian Commis-
sioners to ascertain the property of the State in lands
under water. Of this commission Mr. Wortendyke
was made President. The duties assigned required a
great amount of labor and care, no small share of
which necessarily devolved upon him. His extensive
acquaintance with the legal principles, and the his-
torical facts bearing upon the questions at issue,
eminently qualified him for the position, and guaran-
teed a successful and satisfactory completion of the
work. A reference to the reports, maps, £.nd surveys
on file at Trenton will show the time and skill which
he must have devoted to this important enterprise,
which has added greatly to the material revenues of
the State. He was also at the time of his death one
of three commissioners, with Ex-Governor Haines and
Ex-Governor Olden, to determine the value of the
Harsimus Cove propert} 7 , in which so many important
questions and interests are involved.

Besides these valuable contributions of time and
labor to the material welfare of the community, Mr.
Wortendyke has rendered most important service in
the cause of education. His experience as an educa-
tor qualified him to become an efficient manager of
important institutions of learning, and Providence
called him to a sphere where he found ample scope



1Y

for his great abilities in this department of useful-
ness.

On the 8th of April, 1862, he was elected a mem-
ber of the Board of Trustees of Rutgers College. To
some men a position in such a body is almost a sine-
cure, but it was not such to him. His ability and
willingness to work always gave h'nn the laboring
oar. " For the benefit of the College," says President
Campbell, "he regarded neither his time nor his money.
In the endowment of the College he labored most assid-
uously ; a very considerable amount was raised by his
own personal solicitations, and his advice was asked
and constantly given in the prosecution of the work.
He was a most efficient member of that large and in-
fluential committee of gentlemen who managed the
business of the endowment, and to whose liberality,
wisdom, and unwearied diligence its success is attribu-
table, and of that committee no one will hesitate to
give Mr. Wortendyke a place among the most worthy.
He was a member of the Finance Committee which
has the whole charge of the moneyed affairs of the in-
stitution, investing all the funds, and preparing exhib-
its of its pecuniary condition. The responsibilities of
this Committee are immense, and its labors are ren-
dered gratuitously, and so successful have the affairs
of the College been conducted by them that it has
never lost a dollar by a bad investment. 1 ' He also
labored to make the course of instruction as extensive
and thorough as possible. He was at the same time
deeply interested in the State Scientific School in con-
nection with Rutgers College, and his aim, as I have
heard him say, was to make the curriculum of studies
in this institution equal to that at West Point.

He was also one of the Board of Managers of the
2



18

Geological Survey, and was appointed by the original
act of the Legislature. " Deeply interested," says
Professor George H. Cook, " in whatever concerned
the welfare of his native State, he thoroughly appre-
ciated the influence of this work, and gave his earnest
efforts and attention to it. With a comprehensive
view of the influence of New Jersey in the United
States, from its central location and its natural advan-
tages, he had high hopes and aspirations for it in the
future. And now, as this great public work was about
closing, he was planning w T ith a just pride to shape its
results so as to make it a lasting benefit to the State."
It will be very difficult to find a man who can fill Mr,
Wortendyke's place in the management of our literary
institutions in New Brunswick. " It is my impres-
sion," says Professor Demarest, " that useful as he had
already become to the College, his usefulness had only
just commenced. He was devoting a great deal of
time and work at the period of his lamented death to
the affairs of the institution. He was on most impor-
tant committees, and we all relied on him greatly. We
know that we shall miss him, but alas ! we cannot
tell how much. He loved his Alma Mater, and the
service he rendered her was a service of generous and
loyal affection."

In addition to his public duties Mr. Wortendyke
was entrusted with the settlement of many estates,
and the guardianship of numerous orphan children.
In the execution of these trusts he was accustomed to
go far beyond the strict demands of professional obli-
gation in acts of personal kindness. He manifested
more of the interest and care of a parent than of the
cold fidelity of a legal protector. Hence those who
had committed their affairs into his hands loved as



19

well as confided in him. The following extract from
a letter of condolence written to his widow by an in-
valid father tor whose child Mr. Wortendyke was
guardian, is but one of many similar outpourings of
grief over his loss : " In the death of Mr. Wortendyke
I have lost my dearest and best friend. I know not
whom to go to now for advice and consolation with
the same confidence I had in him. My dear wife dur-
ing her lifetime loved and respected him as a child
would a father, and in accordance with her feelings,
as well as my own, I appointed him my executor as
well as the guardian of my dear boy. I little thought
when he so generously accepted the trust that he
would be taken away so soon. Being a great invalid
I naturally thought that he would long survive inc.
His death is to me a great affliction. It was my
almost daily consolation to think that when I was
taken away I had a guardian and protector of my
child and my affairs in so good a man."

But with all his professional engagements, and his
public duties to the State and to society at large, Mr.
Wortendyke found time and strength to devote to
the service of the church. He made a public profes-
sion of religion in this church at the October Commu-
nion in 1858. The next spring he was chosen to fill
the unexpired term in the eldership of the lamented
Lewis F. Day. The following year he was elected for
the full term, and after an interval of two years w T as
again chosen for two successive terms, so that he has
served in this office nearly seven out of the ten years
of his connection with the church. It is seldom in
our branch of the Church that one is so soon appointed
to the eldership, or retained in that office so many suc-
cessive years. It is proof of the confidence his breth-



20

ren reposed in his intelligent Christian character. As
a church officer he was diligent and faithful, always
in his seat in the sanctuary and at the meetings of
Consistory, except when sickness or imperative duties
away from home necessitated his absence. His coun-
sels were most valuable, and his labor was cheerfully
performed. As an instance of his conscientiousness in
attending to his duties, I may mention that he came
to the last Consistory meeting that he ever attended
in great bodily suffering, but remained until the busi-
ness was concluded, when it was found necessarv to
convey him home in a carriage. It will ever be a
matter of pleasant reflection to his brethren that the
evening of his last working day on earth was spent
with them at the house of his pastor, in business per-
taining to the interests of this church. He was emi-
nently qualified for the office of elder, being well
versed in the Scriptures, the catechism and the con-
fession of faith, and cherishing an exalted idea of the
responsibilities and duties of church officers. He ruled
well his own house, trained his children in the fear of
God, and warmly co-operated with his pastor in their



Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 42 of 51)