網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

ised to obey. I do not mean that there occurred no violations of law, or that every transgressor was duly punished. Such perfection has never been attained in any school or community, or under any systemi of government or administration. It is enough to say that we all fully believed that if we neglected our duties, or committed any offence, we should certainly be dealt with according to our deserts; and that all reasonable vigilance was exerted, both to prevent and detect every species of delinquency or disorder. We regarded the Doctor as a firm, resolute, fearless, and decided man, who would not wink at crime or folly,—but who, nevertheless, cherished towards us the most kindly and paternal feelings. My present deliberate opinion is, that he was one of the ablest and most successful disciplinarians of any age. I speak of him as he was in his best days; and these alone ought to testify as to his capacity and conduct.

Some time after graduation, I returned to Princeton, when as a tutor in the college, and student of theology, (from 1807 to 1810,) I became more intimatelyacquainted with Dr. Smith: and again, from his resignation in 1812 to his decease in 1819, my intercourse with him continued without interruption. Dr. Smith officiated as Professor of Theology, during the whole period of his presidency, with the exception of two or three years, (from 1803 to 1806,) when that chair was occupied by the Rev. Henry Kollock, D.D. The “Divinity Class” consisted, in my time, of some eight or ten young men, including the College Tutors,-to whose instruction he devoted two evenings of the week. He generally read a portion of his Lectures or notes as he called them, and then dilated upon the topics, in a free colloquial style, and always much to our edification. He directed our course of reading, heard our essays, and suggested subjects for investigation, dissertation, or oral disputation. The course included systematic Theology, ecclesiastical history and polity, pastoral duties, the Bible, and a large range in the fields of classic and general literature. He also attended and presided over an association, composed of the above and other resident graduates, who used to meet once a week for mutual improvement. This was a kind of philosophical as well as debating society. Here too, the learned President in exhibiting the pro and con of controversy, in disentangling a knotty question, in distinguishing the real and practical from the cloudy and incomprehensible, in exposing error and sophistry, in sustaining truth and sound logic, or in “summing up,”—was the “great master,” and the liberal umpire in all our wordy battles.

It will be seen from what has been said, that he must have been a working man. The stated preacher and pastor, the indefatigable teacher, (of sciences, too, usually distributed among several Professors,) the author of his own text-books and of not a few others, the responsible Head and Governor of a College, which he had twice re-edified, the regular attendant and a most efficient member of the judicatories of the Church which he loved, -and more frequently invited or constrained to the performance of special and honourable

VOL. III. -42

services than any of his contemporaries, — verily he seldom could have laid aside his “harness" or known the comfort of repose.

Of his published works, though numerous and diversified, I shall take no further notice than to add the remark that few men, in any situation, have written so much and so well. These, however, do not fairly portray the man. Of their literary merit the critical reader will judge for himself. His philosophy and biblical exegesis, in some particulars, may be questioned or disallowed; but all will concede to him candour, honesty, habitual reverence for truth and righteousness, and great ability in the exposition and defense of his theories. He was a diligent, persevering student through life. He knew how to employ usefully every leisure moment with pen or book. He was conversant with the literature, science, philosophy, and politics, of ancient and modern times. He was a classical scholar in the highest and best acceptation of the phrase. He was master, not merely of the mechanism and grammar of the Greek and Latin languages, but was deeply imbued with the spirit of the great authors. His delicate and cultivated taste enabled him to discriminate and to relish the finest and most exquisitely wrought passages, as well as the more obvious beauties and sublimities, of the poet and the orator. He wrote and conversed in Latin with great facility, and was a first rate prosodist. In these accomplishments I have rarely met his equal.

He was not a recluse. His varied duties, public and professional, required him to be much abroad in the

world, and to mingle with all sorts and classes of people. His house was frequented by the good, the great, the wise, the intelligent; and humble merit was always welcome at his board and fireside. He was not ambitious, except in the apostolic sense. Instead of any leaning to covetousness, the tendency of his benevolent nature was rather to the opposite extreme. He was free from envy, and jealousy, and resentment. Of these I could never detect in him the slightest indication. He had enemies, and he knew them. He was often misrepresented, and sometimes grossly slandered. But he uttered no words of complaint, or anger, or unkindness. I believe he forgave them and prayed for them. He was an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile. He appeared incapable of deception, or intrigue, or crafty management, for any purpose. He was no bigot or dog. matist. He cheerfully conceded to others the same liberty, with all the rights of conscience and judgment, which he claimed for himself. He would defend his own creed or opinions without arrogance or bitterness. He could demolish error or heresy, without abusing or denouncing men, or sects, or parties.

In the General Assembly, Synod, and Presbytery, of his Church, he was confessedly primus inter parés,—-or at least second to none,-if report and tradition may be credited. But as my observation did not extend to these, I shall attempt no description. There was a wide difference in the character of his eloquence, between his early and later years. I happened, while on a visit to Virginia in 1810, to meet with several elderly persons who had heard him preach, when a young man. They spoke of him as an impassioned orator,-like Whitefield or their own Davies and Henry. They spoke, too, of his patriotic speeches at the beginning of the Revolution, and of their marvellous effect upon the people. Now I never witnessed anything of this sort. He had long before my day been disabled for such efforts. In the pulpit, when I heard him, he was comparatively calm and subdued in manner,—though the most dignified, graceful and impressive of preachers.

At the age of sixty-two, he was compelled, by ill health, to relinquish all public employments. During the remaining seven years he lived in retirement. This was perhaps the most beautiful and instructive period of his life. It often looms up before me like a bright, blessed, glorious vision, —such as we dream of, but never realize. It seemed as though all the Christian graces and virtues, freed from every human imperfection, had now clustered around him, and blended together, like the colors of the rainbow, into a living form of chastened, hallowed, radiant loveliness.

His person, presence, and carriage were so remarkable that he never entered the village church or college chapel, or walked the streets, or appeared in any company, without arresting attention, or creating a sensation, not of surprise or wonder, but of pleasing, grateful admiration,-a kind of involuntary emotion and homage of the heart-a tribute as cordially yielded

« 上一頁繼續 »