« AnteriorContinuar »
a more powerful and extended influence, and therefore sought and obtained one in November or December of this year.
Though feeble in health, his exertions both as an instructer of youth, and as a preacher during the winter and spring of 1816-17, were earnest and uninterrupted, and remarkably blessed of God. Never can the writer forget with what sensibility, Mr. Ashmun, at a time when darkness covered all his prospects, and the tossings of the ocean beneath him, seemed tranquillity compared with his fortunes, alluded to the effects of his labours at Hampden, and soothed his troubled spirit by the thought, that He who had once so graciously smiled upon his efforts, would never utterly withdraw from him the light of His love.* In a masterly Essay, found among his papers, designed to show the importance of the Seminary rising under his care, he observes: “The Holy Ghost, in less than six months after the establishment of it, converted the desert spot upon which it had been seated, into a spiritual Eden; and in less than a year, from the stones of the wilderness, reared up a living Church of more than thirty members, into which the members of the School were immediately incor'porated.”
It was obvious to Mr. Ashmun, that efficient measures must be adopted to place the Maine Charity School upon a broad and durable foundation, or it must utterly fail to supply a number of ministers adequate to the demands of the large and rapidly increasing population by which it was surrounded.He saw the necessity of elevating it at once to the rank of a
We may judge something of Mr. Ashmun’s labours, at this time, from the following extract of a letter dated March 10th, 1817, addressed to him by a venerable Clergyman, one of the Trustees of the School: “You have preached 25 times in two months ; that is, 15 times more than you ought to have preached. You do right to tell me your faults, and I shall do right in reproving you. Hear me, then. If you will persist in preaching at such a rate, your race will be short. You ought to begin as you can hold out. Preach only when duty. calls, and attend more to a regular course of studies. Count me not your enemy, because I thus write. It is not the language of hatred, but of love."
Theological Institution, endowed with Professorships for its various departments. While, therefore, he preached frequently; attended, weekly, numerous religious meetings, and instructed the students under his direction, in every branch of their literary, scientific, and theological studies; the energy of his thoughts was principally directed to the great object of so exhibiting to the public, the importance of the Seminary, and so recommending it to their regard, as to secure for it general and liberal patronage. He presented to the Trustees such a view of the immense benefits to be expected from it, as inflamed their zeal and elevated their hopes. The manuscript Essay now before us, affords evidence that he had considered the remote and less obvious, as well as the nearer and more palpable advantages, which it, well-founded and sustained, would confer not on the people in its immediate vicinity only, but on our country and the world. It proves how comprehensively he was accustomed to survey, at this early age, human nature and human affairs.
In April, 1817, he accepted the appointment of Missionary, for the period of two months, under the authority of the Trustees of the Maine Missionary Society; and subsequently, during his residence at Hampden, as his circumstances would permit, engaged in the service of that association.
Through his efforts, mainly, it is believed, the Trustees of the Maine Charity School were enabled, in November, 1817, to appoint a Professor of Theology, a Professor of Classical Literature, and a Tutor to superintend the Academical studies in the Institution; to state to the public, that they were ready to provide for an additional number of students; that the plan of their Seminary combined the principal features of the Hoxton Academy in England; and that it was their intention to render its advantages equal to those of the best English Seminaries. They published an exposition (probably from the pen of Ashmun), comprising a brief history of the origin and progress of the Seminary; a view of its design, plan of
Government, course of studies; enumerating the advantages expected from it, and concluding with an impressive appeal to the whole Christian community, urging them to sustain it, as involving interests of universal concern. Mr. Ashmun was elected the Professor of Classical Literature.
His studies at this period were various; and he sought knowledge from every scene and character he observed. His Journals and other writings of this date, show that no means of information were neglected, and not an hour lost. He grasped at every thing which he thought might contribute to render him a wiser or a better man.* His zeal for the cause of Missions continued intense; and he sought the counsel of distinguished Clergymen, as to the propriety of forthwith placing himself under the direction of some Missionary Society.
The embers of a former affection were now re-kindled; and with confession that he had wrongfully attempted to extinguish them, Ashmun sought to renew correspondence with her who had long held the first place in his esteem. To one or two letters addressed to her early in 1818, kind answers were received; but such as left unrevealed her precise sentiments towards him. His former tenderness towards her, however, revived; he declared that he had never found such a friend as he had lost by the forfeiture of her confidence and affection; and that he seldom thought of her, but with tears.
While in this state of suspense, a vision of singular brightness rose upon his sight, and an image, to him, of unrivalled loveliness became enshrined in his heart. He felt the captivating effect of charms surpassing what he had imagined of beauty or excellence in woman. The chain that had been worn uneasily, was exchanged for the golden links of enchantment; but alas! Honour and Religion soon bade him sever the bond which he wished to be eternal.
*Among his compositions of this day, are Sermons, Theological Essays, Lectures on Biblical History and Chronology, a Journal of a visit to Boston and Andover, full of remarks on the country, men, and things, remarks on his own religious character, &c.
He had declared his purpose of again offering himself to the acceptance of the lady who had first shared his love-had promised to meet her in the autumn in New York; and yet in ignorance of her views, had rashly given his heart to another.*
"Into what,” he exclaimed in August, 1818, "an ocean of perplexities and sorrow have I precipitated myself and friends, by taking a few steps in 1816, without asking · counsel of the Lord or depending on His guidance. I wish 'to forget myself, and to have my C. forget me also.”
From Boston, in September, he wrote: “I sometimes almost wish that I might sink out of existence, and va'nish from the memory of all my friends and the world " at once and forever. 'Tis presumptuous ! But what can I do? If I live, I fear I shall only widen the breach I have already occasioned in the happiness of my friends, and sully "the character of my God's Religion.— I know not with what emotions I shall meet you—or what will be the result of that meeting—there is a bottom to this tempestuous ocean, where we so often sink below our depth; and God knows, though we may not, where that bottom is. Before me all is * dark as the abysses of night, except when Faith catches a gleam from the throne of Him who spake the promises.”
He recognized the sacredness of his early professions, and determined, whatever might be the consequence, to vindicate their sincerity, their truth, and their honour.
His marriage to Miss C. D. Gray, took place in N. York, on the 7th of October, 1818.
Having spent a short time in New York, and visited Philadelphia to solicit funds for the Maine Seminary, it was concluded that Mrs. Ashmun should occupy, for a few months,
-“ for love is a flattering mischief, that hath denied aged and wise men a foresight of those evils that too often prove to be the children of that blind father,-a passion that carries us to commit errors with as much ease as whirlwinds remove feathers”.
IZAAK WALTON's Life of Donne.
her former situation in North Carolina, while he discharged the duties of his Professorship at Hampden. But vague and injurious rumors preceded him on his return, and the event of his marriage was found to have alienated his friends and irritated many who stood ready to take up weapons against him. Slander was busy, suspicion was afloat, and his conduct the common topic for remark and censure throughout a large portion of the country. "I have lost my influence, he observed, and blotted my character
character as a Christian in public opinion throughout all the Eastern States.” The students of the Seminary sought to be excused from attending his Lectures; the confidence of the Trustees in his character,* was, to some extent, weakened, and all his prospects of usefulness blighted. “The Foreign Missionary Society," he remarks, "I am certain, would not at present, admit me into their service, should I apply to it. No Society which I
know, would at present, employ me to preach.” Thus cast out from the good opinion of a community so deeply indebted to his labours, he resigned his situation April 7th, 1819, and embarked for the South with no treasure but a lofty mind—no guide but Him who often leads his servants through dark and unknown ways to the honours of His kingdom.
We attempt not to justify, or even excuse Ashmun, for conduct which injured both himself and others, and which excited in his own mind repentance not less painful thán sin
But his sin was rather against prudence than integrity. It sprang from morbid sensibility and an undisciplined judgment, not from the calculations of a hypocritical, or the baseness of a selfish and malicious soul. Young, rash, selfconfident, enthusiastic, a passionate admirer of the graces of the female character, he forgot the precepts of wisdom, and while plunging darkly into a perilous abyss, trusted for safety rather to some remarkable interposition, than to the usual and settled order of Providence.
* See Appendix 2.