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Art. VIII.-SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE
Rev. Luther Hart.
In the unfeigned grief occasioned by the death of our late friend and fellow-laborer, the Rev. LUTHER Hart, an extensive circle of acquaintances have shared. Those of our readers to whom be was known, as the author of some of the most valuable articles in this work, cannot fail to sympathize with us, in the sadness which we feel, at the reflection, that his earthly labors are forever closed. There is scarcely any one on whom we had more depended to enrich our future numbers : but now, have only to stop for a moment, that we may look back on his course, and then gird ourselves for more decided earnestness in the work which may remain for us. To the beloved names of Evarts, Payson, Cornelius, and others, at home and abroad, who were lately companions in the same great cause, and who have successively fallen in the midst of the race, must now be added the name of Hart, as calling on us to lay open our minds to the inspiring declaration of Him, who, though always “about bis Father's business," yet, when life was more sensibly drawing to its close, said: “I must work the works of Him that sent me, wbile it is day; the night cometh wherein no man can work.”
LUTHER Hart was born in Goshen, Conn., July, 1783. His parents, David and Hannah Hart, who yet survive hiin, were exemplary in their general habits, though not until their latter years professors of religion. His mother is supposed to have been early pious; and now that age has palsied her powers of apprehension, it is not indecorous to say of her, as the acquaintances of her foriner days all assert, that she was originally possessed of a superior mind. She belonged to a family on Long-Island, by the name of Hudson, and her father is said to have been a man of
uncommon worth. Concerning the childhood of this favored son, we have received but few notices. He was distinguished by the samne fondness for books, and ready capacity for learning, which marked his subsequent years. He had also an uncommon taste and aptness for music, in which, likewise, he afterwards so niuch excelled. How greatly, till his last hours, be delighted in sacred music, and how much his familiar acquaintance with it contributed to his usefulness, will not soon be forgotten. This was bis customary exercise, to enliven his heavy hours, and compose and refresh his mind for laborious application, as well as to call forth and
express his pious emotions; while, too, it qualified him, as occasion required, to take the lead in this delightful part of social worship, and to form the taste, and direct, excite, and assist the endeavors of the people of his charge, in those exercises which are
preparatory to its proper performance. We mention this the more particularly, although we are anticipating the course of our narrative, because, as a qualification for the ministry of Christ, it is in general but too slightly valued. Why, in the long course of preparation for the sacred office, is so little attention ordinarily given to either the science or the practice of sacred song? Why, even in our common-schools, as it is in the improved system of primary education in Europe, is not the infant voice trained to the praises of God? What earthly consideration would persuade any one, and more especially a minister of the gospel, who has a tolerable skill in this heavenly art, to discontinue its use?
In the year 1799, there commenced the first general revival of religion enjoyed in New-England, after a dreary declension of more than half a century. Revivals in individual churches there had been, during this whole period, and more frequently than usual for seven or eight years, and the general tone of piety in the churches had been rising; but in 1799 and 1800, fifty or sixty congregations contiguous to each other, in Hartford and Litchfield counties in Connecticut, and in Berkshire county in Massachusetts, became one wide field of divine wonders; and as many more, in other parts of New-England, shared in the same gracious visitation. It was at the commencement of this revival, in the year 1799, that Mr. Hart was hopefully born again. He was then in his sixteenth year; and the same year he joined the church in Torrington, where the family then lived, under the pastoral care of Rev. Alexander Gillet. What were his particular exercises of mind at bis conversion, we have no means of learning. It is to be regretted, that neither then nor afterwards, so far as appears, he made any record of his experience. And the only remark that has occurred to us, as having dropped from his lips, concerning bis early religious feelings, was made upon his dying bed. That remark, however, was full of meaning. With allusion, it was supposed, to the period of his conversion, he said, “To the young christian Christ is precious.” Nosooner did he feel the love of Christ, than it awakened a distinct desire for participation in the work of the gospel ministry, and for a liberal education, preparatory to such an office. His father, however, considering himself unable to meet the expense, he quietly remained at hone, laboring with him after the highest of all examples, as a house-carpenter. Late in the year 1802, or near the beginning of 1803, he commenced his studies preparatory for college, with a few other young inen, who were also among the fruits of the same revival, under the instruction of their venerable pasior,--himself distinguished among the ministers of bis day, both for learning and piety. Thus we find him, at a period of life when many young men have finished their
college studies, having enjoyed no advantages for intellectual improvement, besides those which were afforded in a common-school, and by such few books and little leisure as he could command, in a retired country parish, aniidst the central hills of Litchfield county, more than thirty years since. There were then no sabbath-schools, or religious newspapers, and but few of the other manifold means for the diffusion of knowledge, and the incitements to mental activity, which are now so common.
Yet these first twenty years of his life were not lost. It may even be doubted, whether he could have been better trained in any other way,
for the sphere which Providence bad destined him to fill. He had received from the first a strictly religious education. He had become familiar and exact in the rudiments of common learning. He had been inured to habits of industry. His constitution, both of body and mind, had become vigorous and energetic. He had acquired an intimate knowledge of men and things, in the common intercourse and business of life. He had been converted to God at the commencement of one of the purest and most glorious revivals of religion which the world has ever seen; had entered into the spirit of that revival; had become well informed, and firmly established, in the christian faith; and for five years had been cherishing the feelings, and forming himself to the habits, of an active christian. From an early stage in the revival, till he entered college, he was one of a number of young men, partakers of the same grace, who conducted the religious exercises in a stated
young people's meeting; of whom it is remarkable, that four, about the same time, after the usual preparation, became ministers of the gospel, and continue till now, himself only excepted, esteemed and useful pastors. Nor is it unworthy of mention, that he had also acquired that mechanical skill, and capacity for productive labor, which prepared him to spend his vacations and intervals of study, till his death, as he was accustomed to do, in exercises by which he at once secured the ends of recreation, and employed the time for purposes otherwise useful. It is a tender subject of reflection to his family, that only a few months previous to his death, he had put his house in complete repair, and made various alterations for convenience; and had done this very much, at intervals, with his own hands: leaving it" set in order” to the now lonely partner of his years.
In the fall of 1503, he was admitted to the freshman class in Yale College. Here he soon outstripped many who had spent all their days at school; through the whole course, he sustained a bigh rank as a scholar, and was greatly esteemed as a man and a christian ; and at its close, received the highest honors of the institution, having the appointment of an orator. A single incident We mention, persuaded that, although it occurred in an unguarded
hour, it will throw no shade over his memory, in the view of one at all acquainted with his own history ; while it illustrates bis general conscientiousness, and may afford a useful lesson to others in similar circumstances. It was communicated by Judge — who was then a tutor in college, and occupied a room on the same entry with Mr. Hart. One evening, hearing a loud noise in the entry, and going out to still it, he perceived that it proceeded from Mr. Hart's room.
On entering the apartment, he found the inmates engaged in rude sports, which they had undoubtedly carried beyond their original design. He mildly requested them to cease, assigning, as the reason of his interference, that he was unwell, and about to retire to rest. To his great surprise, Mr. Hart replied abruptly, in rude and disrespectful language. Knowing the excellent character of the man, Judge H— passed over the conduct in silence ; confident that the morning would bring with it a satisfactory apology. Accordingly, Mr. Hart called after breakfast, and expressed his regret for what had taken place; and the whole subject passed out of Judge H—'s memory. Nearly thirty years afterwards, and only a short time before Mr. Hart's death, as Judge H-- was entering a store in Hartford, a gentleman addressed him, whom he did not at once recognize. “You do not know me, Judge H," said he, “but I have good reason to remember you. My name is Hart, and I have always wished, since I left college, to settle an account which I had with you there.” “I considered it as settled the next morning,” replied Judge H- recollecting at once an occurrence which he had for years forgotten. “I have never been satisfied," said Mr. Hart," with the apology which I then made. My conduct on that occasion has been to me, through life, a source of deep shame and regret. I ought to have been seriously reprimanded on the spot; but such was my state of feeling at that time, (I am utterly unable to account for it,) that if you had treated me as I deserved, I should certainly have replied with increased insolence, until my expulsion from college would have been inevitable. I consider your kind and unmerited forbearance as having saved me, in all probability, from the sacrifice of nearly all my usefulness for life; and I bare long wished to make you this acknowledgment.” When we think of the services which Mr. Hart lived to render to the church, and the entire change, in his whole course of life, which might have resulted from the infliction of a disgraceful punishment, the occurrence may be regarded as a very serious admonition, both to young men and their guardians, under similar circumstances. That impressive parenthesis
, too, “ I am utterly unable to account for it," well describes the feelings of other christians, in reflecting on various parts of their history, and may tenderly remind them of the occasion which they have, to take up the ac
knowledgment of the chief of the apostles, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” Certainly,” says Bishop Leighton, godly man is sometimes driven to wonder at his own frailty and mconstancy. What strange differences will be betwixt him and himself!"
The first year after he graduated, Mr. Hart spent as teacher of the academy in Litchfield, South-Farms. At the close of it, he began his theological studies, under the direction of the late Dr. Porter, at that time pastor of a church in Washington, Conn. Soon afterwards, the seminary at Andover was opened, and Mr. Hart removed to it, where he finished his preparatory course, and was of the first class of its graduates. After a short interval, he was invited to preach in Plymouth, in this state, and was ordained and installed as pastor of the Congregational church there, in Sept. 1810, where he remained, beloved and useful, more than most ministers of his time, till his death. Several preachers had been employed there before him, as candidates for settlement; for each of whom, as is common in such cases, different individuals had a preference; but whatever coldness, on that account, may have been felt towards Mr. Hart at first, it was soon exchanged for a warm and increasing attachment. In the course of the next year, he was married to Miss Minerva Potter, only daughter of General Potter of Plymouth, whose years have since been affectionately devoted to relieve him, as far as possible, from secular cares, and to afford him all the attentions which could subserve bis highest usefulness; and who now, a widow and childless, mourns the loss of one who returned her warmest love. Thus pleasantly settled, he gave bimself to his work. He would not be " entangled in the cares of this life.” He had no desire to “lay up treasures on earth.” One of his earliest objects was, to procure a good library. The books which he really wanted, he spared no expense or pains to obtain ; and in a few years, his collection became choice and extensive. Few so good libraries for a minister are to be found. Having furnished himself with books, he read them. Not only was he familiar with the divines of this country, but he drank deep, and with great delight, at the rich fountains of the seventeenth century. With history also, both secular and ecclesiastical, he was conversant.
Nor did he let go his hold upon the studies of his college life. He was particularly fond of mathematical science; and on the subjects of natural philosophy, astronomy and chimistry, had often at band, ingenious questions and difficult problems to propose to those whom he considered able and disposed to solve them. His knowledge, too, was remarkably his own. It was wrought firmly into the texture of his mind. He thought as well as read much; he thought independently; and, more than most men, was ac