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republished by our Book Agents, had a similar experience, expressing himself in nearly the same terms:
"Dec. 5, 1823.—I have been sick, and laid by from preaching on thanksgiving day and two Sabbaths, but am now able to resume my labors. But O the temptations which have harassed me for the last three months! I have met with nothing like them in books. I dare not mention them to any mortal, lest they should trouble him as they have troubled me."
We have nothing to say on the apparent discrepance between the theoretical and practical doctrines of Calvinism as developed in the preceding extracts. Payson, though he held, as we suppose, to the theory of the perseverance of the saints, yet here gives practical evidence of the great and increasing difficulties himself had to contend with in order to make his calling and election sure. His sentiment in other words is, If I do not persevere and overcome these yearly increasing difficulties I shall fall. This, though from a Calvinist, is Arminianism.
Payson, however, did persevere, and obtained a complete and glorious victory over these temptations; and to this circumstance he was indebted for the readiness and skill with which in the course of his ministry he was enabled to administer consolation to those of his flock who labored under circumstances of peculiar trial. Like his great Master, "in that he himself suffered, being tempted, he was able to succor them that were tempted." In this department of ministerial duty he was eminently faithful and successful; visiting from house to house; exhorting, admonishing, reproving, comforting. As a preacher he was great, but greater as a pastor. The union of the two rendered his success in winning souls to Christ so remarkable.
He had a most happy faculty of conducting a religious conversation, leading the minds of those with whom he associated directly to the main object for which they ought to live. He made no visits of mere ceremony, nor was ever guilty of those witticisms and levities which are so destructive of ministerial usefulness, and are sometimes exercised and dignified by the title of-ministerial relaxations. He was never known
"To court a grin when he should woo a soul."
"The following imperfectly described rencounter with a lawyer of Portland, who ranked among the first in the place for wealth, and was very fluent withal, will serve to show Mr. Payson's insight into character and his power to mold it to what form he pleased, and at the same time prove, what might be confirmed by many other instances, that his conquests were not confined to weak women and children.
"A lady who was the common friend of Mrs. Payson and the lawyer's wife was sojourning in the family of the latter. After the females of the respective families had interchanged several 'calls,' Mrs. was desirous of receiving a formal visit from Mrs. Payson; but to effect this, Mr. Payson must also be invited, and how to prevail with her husband to tender an invitation was the great difficulty. He had been accustomed to associate experimental religion with meanness, and of course felt or affected great contempt for Mr. Payson, as if it were impossible for a man of his religion to
be also a man of talents. He knew, by report, something of Mr. Payson's practice on such occasions, and, dreading to have his house the scene of what appeared to him a gloomy interview, resisted his wife's proposal as long as he could and retain the character of a gentleman. When he gave his consent, it was with the positive determination that Mr. Payson should not converse on religion, nor ask a blessing over his food, nor offer a prayer in his house. He collected his forces, and made his preparation, in conformity with this purpose, and, when the appointed day arrived, received his guests very pleasantly, and entered, at once, into animated conversation, determined, by obtruding his own favorite topics, to forestall the divine. It was not long before the latter discovered his object, and summoned his powers to defeat it. He plied them with that skill and address for which he was remarkable. Still, for some time, victory inclined to neither side, or to both alternately. The lawyer, not long before, had returned from Washington city, where he had spent several weeks on business at the supreme court of the United States. Mr. Payson instituted some inquiries respecting sundry personages there, and, among others, the chaplain of the house of representatives. The counselor had heard him perform the devotional services in that assembly. How did you like him?' 'Not at all. He appeared to have more regard to those around him than he did to his Maker.' Mr. Payson was very happy to see him recognize the distinction between praying to God and praying to be heard of men, and let fall a series of weighty observations on prayer, passing into a strain of remark which, without taking the form, had all the effect on the lawyer's conscience of a personal application. From a topic so unwelcome he strove to divert the conversation, and, every few minutes, would start something as wide from it as the east is from the west. But, as often as he wandered, his guest would, dextrously, and without violence, bring him back; and, as often as he was brought back, he would wander again. At length the trying moment which was to turn the scale arrived. The time for the evening repast had come; a servant had entered with the tea and its accompaniments; the master of the feast became unusually eloquent, resolved to engross the conversation, to hear no question or reply, to allow no interval for 'grace,' and to give no indication by the eye, the hand, or the lips, that he expected or wished for such a service. Just as the distribution was on the very point of commencing, Mr. Payson interposed the question, 'What writer has said the devil invented the fashion of carrying around tea to prevent a blessing being asked? Our host felt himself 'cornered ;' but, making a virtue of necessity, he promptly replied, 'I don't know what writer it is; but, if you please, we will foil the devil this time. Will you ask a blessing, sir? A blessing, of course, was asked, and he brooked, as well as he could, this first certain defeat, still resolved not to sustain another by the offering of thanks on closing the repast. But in this, too, he was disappointed. By some well-timed sentiment of his reverend guest, he was brought into such a dilemma that he could not, without absolute rudeness, decline asking him to return thanks. And thus he contested every inch of his ground till the visit terminated. But at every step the minister proved too much for the lawyer. He sustained his character as a minister of religion, and gained his point in every thing; and that, too, with so admi
rable a tact, in a way so natural and unconstrained, and with such respectful deference to his host, that the latter could not be displeased, except with himself. Mr. Payson not only acknowledged God on the reception of food, but read the Scriptures and prayed before separating from the family-and did it, too, at the request of the master, though this request was made, in every successive instance, in violation of a fixed purpose. The chagrin of this disappointment, however, eventually became the occasion of his greatest joy. His mind was never entirely at ease till he found peace in believing."-Memoir, p. 243, seq.
With the high and the low, the ignorant and the educated, the rich and the poor, he was equally at home, and could discern the specific spiritual maladies of those he conversed with, and suggest the remedy with as much readiness and certainty as the skilful physician can those of bodily disease. And why should not every pastor, at least in some degree, be enabled to do the same? Studying sermons and preaching eloquently are not the whole, nor yet the most important of a minister's qualifications. One man in a thousand has the faculty of acquiring fame by his eloquence. Not one of the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine, if called to labor in this vineyard by the great Head of the church, and imbued with his Spirit, but may become a faithful pastor, and secure the affection and love of all within the circle of his influence—a circle, under our economy, continually widening its diameter. Just as it is in the natural world, the things most essential, and which ought therefore to be the most desirable, are the most readily attained. Gold, and pearls, and precious stones are hidden in the bowels of the earth, or the depths of the ocean. A few, by toil and danger, may obtain them. On the other hand, water, that first of necessaries, flows spontaneously everywhere. Bread, the staff of life, and alí the other kindly fruits of the earth, are within every one's reach who will put forth the hand of even moderate industry. God's benevolence to the children of men is most wonderfully displayed by the fact to which there is scarcely an exception in the kingdoms of nature or of grace-the things most desirable are most easily obtained.
Mr. Payson was also remarkable for the regularity and method of his pastoral visits. We were going to say the Methodism of his visits; but it strikes us, that although the latter is a derivative from the former, it does not, in all cases, convey, as it ought, the same idea as its primitive. Soon after his settlement in Portland, he divided his whole charge into districts, and gave public notice of the time when each family might expect a visit from their minister. The result was, that in most instances he found the family at home; and, spending no time in idle gossip or unmeaning chitchat, he was enabled, in the short space of half an hour, to converse with each individual, to suggest hints for their spiritual improvement, to give advice adapted to the peculiar circumstances of each, and to lead the devotions at the family altar. This practice he continued until his health and strength failed him. No wonder he was popular, or that his memory among that people is even to this day like ointment poured forth; and where is the minister who, if so disposed, might not imitate him in this respect?
One of Mr. Payson's distinguishing peculiarities was the remark
able spirit of prayer which he possessed. His public addresses to the throne of grace were models of excellence. Combining fervor with simplicity, and breathing in sublimest strains his wants and wishes into the ear of the Almighty, it seemed as if, like Moses of old, he was indeed permitted to hold converse with him face to face. "That, sir," said one of his constant hearers to a stranger visiting the church in which he officiated, soon after his death, "that, sir,” pointing to the pulpit, "is the place where Payson-prayed." There was no part of his pulpit exercises which so forcibly struck the ear of strangers as his manner of addressing the throne of grace. Rich, varied, copious, and at the same time simple, and unadorned save with the sublimest thoughts and language of the sacred writers, he presented, in this exercise, a most striking contrast to that stiffness and formality so common among those who, to use his own language, instead of praying, "make a prayer." He has left a delightful essay, which, were it not for its length, we should copy, on the question, "What are the principal excellences which should be cultivated, and the defects which should be avoided, by ministers of the gospel, in the performance of their public devotional exercises?" We commend this essay to the study of the young minister, and regret the less that from its length we cannot copy it entire, because from the memoir before us we are enabled to gather the secret of his peculiar felicity in this part of divine service. It was by his uninterrupted daily retired practice that he became so skilful and prevailing a pleader with his God. The essay alluded to unfolds the theory; his closet, the practical secret of his greatness in this
Another element of his character, to which we have indeed already briefly adverted, was the consistent uniformity of his conduct. He never forgot, under whatever circumstances he might be placed, that he was an ambassador for Christ. The most worldly minded stranger could not be in his company for ever so short a time without being aware that he was in the presence of a man of God. And in all this there was nothing like austerity, or any thing that at all savored of that pharisaic haughtiness which seems to say, Stand by, for I am holier than thou. It was a happy union of Christian humility always ready to impart, and a childlike docility ever willing to receive instruction. His eloquence in the pulpit spoke not more loudly, nor made deeper impressions upon the consciences of his hearers, than his conduct out of it. He appears to have been deeply imbued with the sentiment of a celebrated French prelate, whom, as we observe, he quotes upon one occasion. "In vain," the author referred to, "in vain do we preach to our hearers. Our lives, of which they are witnesses, are, with the generality of men, the gospel; it is not what we declare in the house of God; it is what they see us practice in our general demeanor. They look upon public ministry as a stage, designed for the display of exalted principles beyond the reach of human weakness; but they consider our life as the reality by which they are to be directed." "Should a physician," says Payson himself, in an address to his clerical brethren, "should a physician assure a number of his patients that their symptoms were highly alarming, and their diseases probably mor tal, and then sit down and converse on trifling subjects with an air of quiet indifference or levity, what would be their inference from
his conduct? Would they not unavoidably conclude either that he did not really consider their situation as dangerous, or that he was grossly deficient in sensibility and in a proper regard to their feelings? So if our impenitent hearers see us, after solemnly assuring them from the pulpit that they are children of disobedience, children of wrath, and momentarily exposed to the most awful punishment, mingling in their society with an apparent unconsciousness of their situation; conversing with earnestness on secular affairs, and seldom or never introducing topics strictly religious, or embracing private opportunities to warn them of their danger, what must they suppose? If they reflect at all, must they not unavoidably conclude either that we do not believe their situation to be such as we have represented it, or that we are totally devoid, not only of benevolence, compassion, and religious sensibility, but even of the common feelings of humanity? It is needless to remark, that either conclusion would be far from producing favorable ideas of our sincerity, or ministerial faithfulness. If, then, we wish that such ideas should be entertained by our people, we must convince them by our conduct that we never forget our character, our duty, or their situation."
The lesson taught in the foregoing extract cannot be too forcibly inculcated, and must commend itself to the conscience of every faithful minister.
Mr. Payson's pastoral labors did not at all interfere with his pulpit duties. He was in the habit of preaching, or doing what was at least as laborious, six nights in a week. Some definite idea of the amount of these labors may be gathered from the fact, that he was confined, during the whole course of his ministry, to one and the same people, and that most of his sermons were written out at full length. This was not, indeed, his invariable practice, as he sometimes prepared in his study merely the outline of his discourses, and he has left, in a letter to a friend, this memorable observation: "I find that when any good is done, it is my extempore sermons which do it."
We had designed giving some extracts from the volumes of his sermons before us, but our limits forbid, and a few general observations upon the peculiarities of his style must bring this article to a close.
The discourses, it will be remembered, were not written for the press, but were selected from his manuscripts after his decease, and published for the benefit of his widow and children. They, of course, have none of them the advantage of the author's finishing polish. For ourselves, however, we confess they are the more valuable on this account. There is a freshness and a vigor about many of them, a directness of aim, and an apparently studied absence of ornament, that involuntarily remind the reader of the writings of Wesley. His favorite mode of dividing his subjects, and in which he excels, is what is termed that of continued application. Many of his discourses resemble throughout a continued and well directed fire from a battery of heavy artillery. All his sermons are remarkable, to a greater or less extent, for the unity of design by which they are characterized. In each of them he sets before his hearers one object, which is never lost sight of from the commencement to the close; and instead of frittering away his energy, and giving, in every sermon, an epitomized body of divinity, as the
VOL. IX.-Oct., 1838.