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The elements of intellectual strength are generally mingled in the human character with ardent feelings and powerful passions. The talents which render men capable of great and noble actions, may, if perverted, cover them with all the disgrace and infamy of crime. Ashmun was naturally selfconfident, proud, ambitious. His imagination was warm, his passions ardent, his sensibility extreme. He became a Christian; but his religious sentiments at this time, were deeply tinged with a romantic enthusiasm which pervaded the constitution of his youth. In allusion to this period, he some years after observed: “My genius and habits, much of the time, 'were decidedly of the ascetick cast. I determined not only to 'forsake the gay, but even the civilized world; and spend my ' life among distant savages. And from long dwelling on this 'prospect, and naturally directing my inquiries and reading by it, I came to acquire a passion for the sacrifice.”
An attachment formed in 1815, to the lady whom he asterwards married, exerted a powerful influence on the course of his future life. Wholly engaged in preparing himself for Missionary labours among the Heathen, his own reflections and the advice of friends, convinced him of the propriety of seeking a connexion with some lady who would cheerfully forsake her country and kindred, to co-operate in his benevolent design of imparțing the knowledge 'and hopes of Christianity to Barbarians. A sublime devotion, a burning zeal to forsake all the delights of home, and all the enjoyments of civilized society, for the cause of the Redeemer, and the benefit of the miserable Pagans, were to him most admirable and attractive in the female character. Towards a lady, in whom he thought he perceived an almost perfect similarity to his own, of views, feelings, solicitude, and sentiments,” he professed to cherish a deep and tender affection. “I praise,” said he, to her, “the glorious Giver of all our blessings, for what He has conferred upon me, and I trust upon the Pagan nations (whose cause I must always plead), in disposing you to regard them with so much tenderness, and even me in the favourable light you do." But he spoke this in much ignorance of the character of her whom he addressed, and in more perhaps of his own. Happy for both, had the delicate, nicely proportioned and naturally allied qualities of the mind and heart, contributed equally with the harmony of their religious principles and purposes, to preserve the constancy of their mutual love.
From some cause, not well explained, the course of this affection was, in January, 1816, suddenly chilled and interrupted; and for nearly two years after, the question of his marriage to this lady, appears to have been regarded by both, as unsettled. They were soon widely separated from each other— he having accepted the situation of Principal in the Maine Charity School, established at Hampden in that State, and she having become a Teacher in the family of a respectable Clergyman in North Carolina.
Mr. Ashmun now occupied a station well adapted to deve
lope his enterprise and energy of character. In 1810, an association of gentlemen had been formed in Portland, Maine, under the denomination of the "Society for Theological Education," with the design of aiding indigent young men to prepare for the Christian Ministry. Some hundreds of congregations in that State and the contiguous parts of New Hampshire, were destitute of any regular religious instruction, and vigorous measures to increase the number of educated ministers, seemed indispensable to relieve the moral wants of the community.In February, 1812, this association obtained a charter, and a year afterwards, a Committee of the same, were incorporated with the title of the Trustees of the Maine Charity School. Their number was restricted to fifteen, and they were invested with all necessary powers for laying the foundations of a Theological Seminary. In October, 1816, these Trustees resolved, with the small amount of funds at their command, to open a Charity School at Hampden, and direct their efforts towards securing to it such patronage as might finally elevate it to a level with most of the Literary and Theological Institutions of our country.
In entering upon the discharge of his duties as Principal of this school, Mr. Ashmun was far from abandoning his long cherished purpose of devoting himself to the cause of Foreign Missions. The motives which governed him, are clearly revealed in a letter addressed in April, 1818, to a friend who proposed to accept for a short time, a commission of agency to promote the interests and resources of the infant Seminary:-“With this, he observes, you will probably receive credentials from the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of this Institution, appointing you their Agent. I am grateful to you, but far more to God, for your offer. I ought to have no motive for tarrying, connected as I am with the Seminary, but to glorify the God of Missions, by assisting in the establishment of the Institution, expecting to quit it the month it can dispense with my services, and shall have acquired strength and cohesion
of parts enough to bear a transfer, safely, to other hands. Do not, dear brother, hence imagine, that I regard myself the principal or benefactor of the "Maine Charity School. Procul talis cogitatio esto. But I offered my services in the capacity in which I act, at a crisis which, between the want of · funds and encouragement on the part of its original projec
tors and the number and influence of its decided opposers in Maine and Massachusetts proper, it would not otherwise have + been able to survive. I was willing to risk more than any other person, who could have been procured to supply my place-if there can be any risk'in duty; darkness rested on the Institution's prospects; it had no Professor of Divinity-its want of funds prevented any suitable candidate for that important post from hazarding a connexion with the Seminary. I took my ground, and assured the Trustees and public, that I would not abandon my post, till I saw the School established. When it was seen that it had an actual existence, it obtained patronage. Professor W. offered at the same time to share his part of the hazard, on condition that I renewed my engagement to persist in my connexion until the condition of the Seminary should authorize my resignaition. Thanks be to God, His smiles begin to brighten up our sky. Every cent obtained, you see, is so much to shorten the period of my confinement. Come, dear Brother, and help me off; help me to fulfil my engagements to the School, and thus obtain my release. But I am shocked!! Perhaps the consideration just named, ought to be no motive for you to stir an inch. The salvation of 150,000 souls in Maine, however, MAY. There is another. How many ages will elapse before all the Andovers and Princetons which ever will exist in America, will not only supply our present, but all our increase of population with Ministers from the Academician Groves? Institutions on the foundation on which the ‘Maine Charity School is built, have for ages
flourished in Great Britain. It is well known what
names brighten the catalogue of their graduates, and have · kindled an inextinguishable radiance on the dissenting communion of that Island. Why may not these Seminaries, if God has made such an honourable and extensive use of "them in England and Scotland, be serviceable in America? Serviceable? But, dear Brother, if we would not witness the alternative of the perdition and lasting Paganism of the peo‘ple of half our immense territory, are not Institutions on this plan indispensable? Astonishing! that the attempt to erect Seminaries of this description, has been so long delayed. ' Can we rationally doubt that our example will be followed
as soon as the beneficial operation of the Seminary shall have been seen? I almost see an Institution rise in the
centre of the State of New York—in the western parts of · Pennsylvania and in Virginia— in Maryland—the Carolinas, and before the lapse of many years, in the whole range of the Mississippi States. Whoever undertakes the patronage of a truly valuable enterprise, must expect delays, opposition, and discouragements of every description. Let us both set our shoulders to the wheel, and make the establishment of the Maine Charity School,' our great and principal * domestic work, before we go to serve Christ abroad."
When Mr. Ashmun took charge of this School in October, 1816, there were but six students, dependent upon him alone, for instruction. The village of Hampden had no settled Minister and no organized Church. He saw that every thing was to be done for the Seminary, and much for the religious interests of the community in which it was founded. Though he had but just completed his studies at College, and had never enjoyed the usual advantages of a theological education, yet the doctrines of religion had long been subjects of his habitual reflection, and his course of reading such as to render him familiar with the methods of illustrating them, and the arguments mainly relied on for their defence. He believed that a license to preach the gospel would give him