Images de page

He told them they must build a bridge over a river they had always been accustomed to ford. "How can these things be done!" they exclaimed. “Come and see,” said Oberlin. Taking a pickaxe and other implements, he set them an example of their use. When they beheld him selecting the most difficult work for himself, they willingly exerted themselves, and the industry which he taught them was a new bond of affection.

Soon a neat bridge was constructed, and a good road opened from Waldbach to Strasburg, which was also extended to each of the five hamlets, or little villages, where he ministered. The force of his religious instructions was not impaired by his efforts to make them comfortable; but, on the contrary, his influence extended and deepened through these proofs of his love.

He found them deficient in many of the mechanic arts which seem necessary to civilization. There were neither blacksmiths to furnish tools for the laborer, nor masons to build chimneys to their houses. He procured several youths to be sent to Strasburg, as apprentices, who, when they had obtained their respective trades, returned and became teachers of others.

His people had lived in hovels, built of rocks, against the sides of the mountain, without cellars or chimneys. He taught them how to build neat and commodious cottages, to make gardens, to rear vegetables, to plant fruit trees. Soon this desolate region, as if by magic, was adorned with pleasant habitations, each surrounded by its little orchard and garden.

Amid all these labors, the pastor remitted not his care for the souls of his people. Especially were the interests of education dear to him. He instructed such promising young people as were will. ing to become teachers, and caused school-houses to be built in each of the five little hamlets.

Perceiving that while the older children were engaged in their studies, the little ones lost much of their time, he collected them together, and had lessons adapted to their comprehension. His wife, joining her exertions with his, procured two female teachers for each school; one taught lessons from books; and the other, to spin, to knit, and to sew; that useful employment and intellectual knowledge might advance hand in hand.

When the pupils were wearied with work or study, the kind teachers told them stories from the scriptures, and showed them drawings of animals and plants, explaining their nature and uses. On one day each week the scholars assembled, and their good pastor examined them in their different lessons, and added his own instructions. Joy beamed on their faces when he came among them; and they called him their father, or sometimes in their affectionate manner, “Our dear papa, Oberlin."

He sometimes distributed books among them as rewards, or lent them, requiring an account of their contents when they were returned. Every Sabbath, also, he collected the children in the church, heard them recite their Bible lessons and sing hymns, and gave them paternal religious instruction.

Thus in the secluded region of the Ban de la Roche, we perceive the institution of Infant Schools, Normal Schools, Sabbath Schools

and Sabbath School Libraries, all originating in the active benevolence of one man; and he unprompted and uncheered by intercourse with the philanthropic spirits who afterwards-diffused those blessings over Europe and America.

In the year 1784, when Mr. Oberlin was more than forty years old, he was afflicted by the death of his excellent wife, who had been bis helper in these efforts to do good. Though deeply mourn. ing, he bowed himself to the divine will. He praised God for the holy life she had been enabled to lead, and for the faith that taught him that she was now happy in heaven.

He had received into his family a young girl to bring up. After the death of Mrs. Oberlin, she extended to her seven motherless children the care and tenderness which she had herself received. She engaged in the same works of charity which she had seen performed; and, with the most disinterested zeal, took charge of the pastor's house, refusing to receive any compensation for many years of service.

It would seem that Oberlin's people strove to imitate his virtues'. Their sympathy for orphans was peculiarly conspicuous. When a poor family were thus bereaved, there was always some one ready to receive them. Some households had two or three orphans, maintained like their own children. One poor woman supported ten by her labor. Their religion taught them that such charities were acceptable to God.

During the distresses of the French revolution many fled to these remote villages, and Mr. Oberlin received them into his house until they could find other refuge. His home, though simply furnished, was the abode of comfort and happiness. No luxuries were seen upon his table, but his plain fare was shared with others in free and true hospitality.

Every thing in his house and about his grounds was neat and in order. The walls of his apartments were covered with maps and drawings of natural history. Appropriate texts of scripture were placed over the several doors. At the entrance of the dining room was written, “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

He encouraged his people to be constantly industrious. Through his agency they were taught to spin cotton, to dye cloth, to plait straw, and to weave ribands. So prevalent was his example, and influence, that scarcely an idle person or a beggar was seen among them.

He not only instructed them in agriculture, horticulture, and the mechanic arts, and was their pastor and school-master, but their physician also. Early in life he had devoted considerable time to the study of the theory of medicine, and now he climbed the steepest mountains in the night as well as the day, and at all seasons of the year, to visit and prescribe for the sick.

These services made him most dear to the people. Nor did he forget to preserve their regard by his affectionate manners. He never met either man or woman among them, without taking off his hat, and saying some words of kindness. Every child he took by the

hand, and showed some little mark of attention, adding often some pleasant advice.

His own manners were imitated by his people; so that from having been rude and uncouth, they became insensibly gentle and courteous. It was remarked by strangers who visited them, that, though very poor, they were exceedingly polite and happy.

They sought in every way to express their gratitude to their be. loved pastor. On one occasion, a son of his, who was travelling in France, in the service of the Bible Society, was taken sick. He desired to reach home, that he might die there, but he could only get within nine miles of his father's house.

Twelve of the villagers set out to bring him those nine miles on a litter. But finding that he was not able to bear the open air, they placed him in a covered carriage, and as they went slowly along, removed every stone from before it, that no rude motion of the wheels might disturb the sufferer. His death was peaceful and happy, and they mingled their tears with those of the father, with the most affecting sympathy.

The five villages, to whom Mr. Oberlin ministered, were considerably distant from each other. He therefore preached in each by turns. As he kept no horse, an inhabitant of the parish where he was to officiate brought one for him every Sabbath morning. He took his dinner with some of the families, and then conversed with every grown person and child belonging to it, on the great concerns of their sou's.

In his sermons there was an affecting eloquence, and a striking adaptation to the wants of his people, for he was intimately acquainted with them all. He usually preached in French, because this language was spoken by the majority of his parishioners. But on every Friday evening he had service in German, as there were some who understood it better than French.

This service was of a most sweet and paternal character. After some explanation of a portion of scripture, he would say, “My children, are you weary?" They almost invariably replied, that they desired to hear more. The females brought their knitting work, for it did not interrupt their attention, and he loved to see them usefully employed.

T'he eyes of the people sparkled with delight when they saw their good minister. He was as a guardian spirit watching over them, and guiding them both for this world and the next. In his instructions to the young in natural history, he was careful to inculcate a knowledge of the nature of plants, and a love of flowers, as a means of softening and refining the character.

He taught them to cultivate in their gardens many wild plants from the woods, and also to draw and paint flowers. Some of his pupils marked their affectionate remembrance of his seventieth birth-day by gifts of beautiful wreaths and garlands. He expressed his thanks in a pious, paternal letter, in which he says, “The beautiful flowers with which the great Creator has adorned our country, gave you the means of presenting me with this token of your united love. These sweet garlands will soon fade, but I shall never forget the happy feelings they have awakened; and I earnestly pray that you may become unfading flowers in the Paradise of God."

He lived in the simplest manner that he might have the more to give to those who needed. A visitor to his house found there four or five families, who had lost their habitations by fire; to whom he was distributing food, clothing, utensils of industry, and pictures for the instruction of their children.

“His family,” said an English traveller, "do not have as good or delicate food on their table as our poor people in England; but they are the happiest Christians, and it is delightful to be here. He treats the poorest, even the children, with affection and respect. It is wonderful to see how changed they all are since he came among them. They were then very barbarous, but now are gentle and polite, and their good minister, now more than eighty, is one of the handsomest men I ever saw.”

Notwithstanding his great age, he continued to instruct and labor for his people; and when he was no longer able to preach, he bore them day and night on his prayers. His last sickness was short. He said, “Lord Jesus, take me speedily: nevertheless, thy will be done.” A few hours before his death, he joined in an act of devotion, his hands clasped, and his heaven-raised countenance, beaming with faith and love.

He died on the first day of June, 1826, at the age of eighty-six, having lived in his parish of Waldbach more than sixty years. The grief of his people was affecting. From every part of that rocky district they gathered, in the midst of a heavy rain, to gaze on the lifeless remains of their pastor and their friend.

The funeral procession stretched from the door of his house to the mouth of his sepulchre, a distance of two miles. Every cottage poured out its inhabitants, and the children of the schools walked two and two, chanting mournful hymns. They paused at the church, in whose burial ground he was to be laid, and a minister ascending the pulpit, read from a paper, the farewell address of their venerated sire.

We have room for only a few of his parting words:—“O my dear parish! God will not forsake thee. Only cleave thou unto him. Forget thou my name, if thou wilt, but remember that of Jesus Christ, whom I have preached to thee. O friends! pray that you may become the beloved sheep of his pasture. Dedicate yourselves to him.

“Adieu, dear friends, adieu! I have loved you much. God reward you for your services, your good deeds, the respect and obedience which you have shown to me, his poor unworthy servant. O my God, let thine eye watch over this dear people. Let thine ear hear their prayers. Let thine arm be extended to help and protect them. And grant that young and old, teachers and scholars, ministers and people, may all, in due time, meet together in thy Paradise!"

The grave was dug beneath the shade of a drooping willow. Great was the weeping when the body of the beloved pastor was let down into its silent depths, and when they realized that they SERIES II.- VOL. V.


should see his face no more. Then they treasured up with earnest affection the words he had spoken to them, and the prayer rose up from every cottage home, as from a bereaved household, that they might be re-united with him at the resurrection of the just.

DISCIPLINE.-No. IX. We might push our researches still farther into the dim regions of Antiquity, and disclose other reasons for rejecting the arrogated superiority of Bishops over Presbyters; but what is writ must suffice. No one, we are sure, in the face of what has been presented, can adopt the opinion that these were two distinct officers, unless it is one who desires to make it so; and, with such, neither argument nor authority could avail any thing. But at the same time we think it manifest that, in apostolic days, so such distinc. tion prevailed: it must be conceded, that very early in the history of the church, even so soon as the latter part of the second century, the two titles began to be applied to different officers, and the apos. tolic style of using them synonymously was gradually but entirely changed. This was but a natural consequence of human ambition, taking advantage of natural and apostolic order to exalt itself to a lordly pre-eminence, and pervert that which was designed for social profit and the general good into personal aggrandizement and the special honor of aspiring selfishness. We think there can be good and satisfactory, though I confess not incontrovertible reason, for believing that this broad and unauthorized distinction, grew graduly and at first without suspicion of the churches, out of a natural, necessary, and, we scarcely doubt, apostolic order, which must have prevailed from the beginning, and by which special respect and prominence were given to the most efficient member of an eldership or presinjtery.

We call this order natural, because all human government, not imposed by conquest, has been imposed in this way; necessary, because it is scarcely possible to proceed efficiently without itį and apostolic, because there is strong probable evidence that it was sanctioned by the founders of our spiritual temple. When men come together for mutual wants, to organize and submit to a society, if they institute a body legislative, it must have from among its own members a President or Chairman; if they appoint a plurality in the judiciary, these must select one to take the lead in, and peside over, their deliberations; and as necessity dictates this

« PrécédentContinuer »