« AnteriorContinuar »
book the singing of which is one of the greatest comforts of my life. I have not been able to sing it with my whole heart since I was here. A part of it runs in this way :
"No foot of land do I possess,
No cottage in the wilderness;
“Take your title-deed,' he added; 'I had rather sing that hymn with a clear conscience than own America.
“There was another preacher of the pioneer class so intent upon his work that hunger and nakedness did not affright him. He was more scholarly than most of the preachers around him, and often sat up half the night, at the cabins of the hunters where he stopped, to study. These cabins were about twelve by fourteen feet, and furnished accommodations for the family, sometimes numbering ten or twelve children ; and, as the forests abounded in varmints,' the hens and chickens were taken in for safe keeping. Here, after the family had retired, he would light a pine knot,'stick it up in one corner of the huge fireplace, lay himself down on the flat of his stomach in the ashes,' and study till far into the night.
"Many a time was the bare, bleak mountain-side his bed, the wolves yelling a horrid chorus in his ears. Sometimes he was fortunate enough to find a hollow log, within whose cavity he inserted his body, and found it a good protection from the rain or frost.
“Once, seated at the puncheon dinner-table with a hunter's family, the party is startled by affrighted screams from the door-yard. Rushing out, they behold a great wild cat bearing off the youngest child. Seizing a rifle from the pegs over the door, the preacher raises it to his shoulder, casts a rapid glance along the barrel, and delivers his fire. The aim has been unerring, but too late,—the child is dead, already destroyed by the fierce animal.
“That same year he had a hand-to-hand fight with a bear, from which conflict he came forth victor, his knife entering the vitals of the creature just as he was about to be enfolded in the fatal hug.
“Often he emerged from the wintry stream, his garments glittering in the clear, cold sunlight, as if they had been of burnished steel armour, chill as the touch of death. During that twelvemonth, in the midst of such scenes, he travelled on foot and horseback four thousand miles, preached four hundred times, and found, on casting up the receipts,—yarn socks, woollen vests, cotton shirts, and a little silver change, —that his salary amounted to twelve dollars and ten cents.
“Yet he persevered, grew in knowledge and influence, became a doctor of divinity, and finally was made president of a university. He is known on the page of history as Henry Bidleman Bascom.”
Such were the pioneer preachers of the West; of simple-hearted piety, lofty faith, a fiery zeal, unwavering fortitude, and a practical turn of mind, through which they did a great work for God.
We have made this digression from the thread of our story to show what influences of the ministry were thrown around Abraham's early life. It is true the
preachers to whom he listened were not "circuit-riders," as travelling preachers were called. They were Baptist ministers, who lived within twenty miles, and who occasionally preached in that neighbourhood. During the first few years of Abrahain's residence in Indiana, there was one Jeremiah Cash, who sometimes preached in the vicinity, and the young listener became much interested in him. A few years later, two others came to that section of the country to live. Their names were John Richardson and Young Lamar. One of them dwelt seven or eight miles from Abraham's home on the north, and the other eight or ten miles to the south ; and both of them were wont to preach at Mr. Lincoln's cabin, and at other cabins, as they had opportunity. Sometimes they preached in the open air, as Mr. Elkins did the funeral sermon. This was always the case when more people attended than could crowd into a log-house.
Such was all the pulpit influence that reached the boyhood and youth of Abraham. Yet it left indelible impressions upon his mind. Though it was small and inconstant, apparently, in comparison with the pulpit advantages that boys enjoy at the present day, it imbued his soul with sentiments that were never obliterated. He was much indebted to the unpolished eloquence of those pioneer preachers, whose sterling piety caused them to proclaim the truth with fidelity and earnestness. This was one of the few influences that contributed to make him a remarkable man.
ABRAHAM deeply felt the change that death hai A wrought in his cabin home, and for weeks his mind was absorbed in his loss. Perhaps his oppressive sense of loneliness and his grief would have continued, but for an unexpected blessing that came to him in the shape of a book. His father met with a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress at the house of an acquaintance, twenty miles away or more, and he borrowed it for Abraham. The boy was never more happily surprised than he was when his father, on his return, said:
“Look here, Abe, I've found somethin' for you," at the same time exhibiting the book.
"Found it !” exclaimed Abraham, supposing that his father meant that he picked it up in the woods or fields.
"No, no ; you don't understand me. I meant that I came across it at Pierson's house, and I borrowed it for
"Pilgrim's Progress,” said Abraham, taking the book and reading the title ; "that will be good, I should think.” He knew nothing about the book; he had never heard of it before.
"I shall want to hear it,” said his father. “I heard about that book many years ago, but I never heard it read.”
“What is it about?" asked Abraham.
“You'll find that out by readin' it," answered his father.
“And I won't be long about it neither," continued Abraham. “I know I shall like it.”
"I know you will, too." “I don't see how you know, if you never heard it read." “On account of what I've heard about it."
And it turned out to be so. Abraham sat down to read the volume very much as some other boys would sit down to a good dinner. He found it better even than he expected. It was the first volume that he was provided with after the spelling-book, Catechism, and Bible, and a better one could not have been found. He read it through once, and was half-way through it a second time, when he received a present of another volume, in which he became deeply interested. It was Æsop's Fables, presented to him, partly on account of his love of books, and partly because it would serve to occupy his mind and lighten his sorrow.
He read the fables over and over until he could repeat almost the entire contents of the volume. He was thoroughly interested in the moral lesson that each fable taught, and derived therefrom many valuable hints that he carried with him through life. On the whole, he spent more time over Æsop's Fables than he did over The Pilgrim's Progress, although he was really charmed by the latter. But there was a practical turn to the fables that interested him, and he could easily recollect the stories. Perhaps his early familiarity with this book laid the foundation for that facility at apt story-telling that distinguished him through life. It is easy to see how such a volume might beget and foster a taste in this direction. Single volumes have moulded the reader's character and decided his destiny more than once, and that, too, when far less absorbing interest was