Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

MEMOIR.

The sermons, which compose the following volume, are selected from a number of discourses written without any expectation of publication in the regular course of the of ficial duties of the author. The objections to offering to the world writings left under such circumstances are obvious, and certainly not inconsiderable. The disadvantages of all posthumous works, which have not received the author's last corrections, are exceedingly great; but especially of those of a pulpit orator. A very different degree of attention will usually be given by every writer to compositions intended only for the ear of a miscellaneous audience, and those, which are to meet the eye of a cool and, perhaps, fastidious reader. It must, also, often be incident to one, who is tasked to be ready to speak at a given hour, that amidst the glow and hurry of composition, sentiments will be struck out, which are not sufficiently weighed, or not carefully limited, or not perfectly consistent with each other, or which, perhaps, are unconsciously supplied to him by memory, instead of invention. It is obvious, too, that many great improvements, and a certain finish and perfection will be suggested by a last revision, which the author himself-while his discernment is quickened by the anticipation of the public tribunal, before which he is about to stand-alone can give. These, and other similar considerations, seem to establish the propriety of a general rule, which shall forbid the publication of posthumous writings, except where the author has directed it, or, at Jeast, appears to have, in some degree, prepared for it.

Powerful, however, as these considerations undoubtedly are, they have yielded, in the present case, to a conviction of the very extraordinary merit of these discourses. The mind of Mr. Buckminster was so singularly and habitually accurate, that, though these sermons have a claim to all the indulgence, which is due to posthumous writings, there are few which have so little need of it. It seemed, therefore, to his friends that it would be unjust to him, to his country, which is interested in his fame, and even not consistent with what we may believe to be the purposes of Providence, in committing to him such powers for the support of religion and virtue, that all their beneficial effects should be confined to the small circle of his immediate hearers. surely would not be right, that a mind so richly and splendidly endowed should be suffered to pass away, after shedding a momentary warmth and lustre around it, without leaving any permanent proof of its salutary and benignant influence.

Of the propriety of this decision the public have, in this volume, the means of judging.-As it was believed, that few will read these sermons without a desire of knowing something more of the author, the office of giving some particulars of his life and character has been committed to one of his friends, who may advance that claim to the confidence of his readers, which is given by an unreserved and affectionate intercourse with Mr. Buckminster of many years.

JOSEPH STEVENS BUCKMINSTER was born May 26, 1784, at Portsmouth, New-Hampshire. His ancestors, both by his father's and mother's side, for several generations, were

It

[ocr errors]

clergymen. His paternal grandfather was the author of several tracts of some celebrity in their day, in defence of a mitigated form of Calvinism. . Dr. Stevens of Kittery, his maternal grandfather, is yet remembered, as a very learned, judicious and pious divine ; in short—to use the language of the very high authority* from whom I received this account>" he was a man, of whom one may say every thing, that is good.” His father, the late Dr. Buckminster, was for a long time a minister of Portsmouth, and was esteemed one of the most eminent clergymen of that state, His mother, I find, all accounts unite in representing as a woman of a very elegant and cultivated mind; and though she died while her son was yet in early youth, it was not till she had made many of those impressions on his mind and heart, which most deeply and permanently affect the character.

Mr. Buckminster was a striking example of the early development of talents. There is some diversity in this respect in the accounts, which are given us of eminent persons.

As far, however, as the intellectual differences of men arise from differences in their original constitution, from greater sensibility, greater capacity of exertion, or superiour susceptibility of external impressions, these differences, we should think, would be more or less clearly displayed in every stage of the mind's progress.

When, therefore, nothing remarkable is remembered of the youth of a man of genius, the cause may probably be traced, either to a want of attention, or a want of philosophical discrimination in the observers. The instances of the early display of the powers of Mr. Buckminster were very extraordinary. There was no period, after his earliest infancy, when he did not impress on all who saw him, strangers, as well as friends, a conviction of the certainty of his future epinence. It seemed as if the early opening of a mind sa fruitful and so fair was intended to prepare, and in some degree to compensate us for its sudden and premature loss. An account of some of the peculiarities of his youth will be found in the following extract of a letter. It was given me, I presume, with the expectation, that the facts it contains would be interwoven with my own narration; but, as it must evidently be injured by any alteration, I shall venture to give it in the form in which it was received.

* The late Chief Justice Parsons,

“ From the birth of my brother, our parents intended him for the ministry, and took the greatest delight in cultivating a mind, whose early promise gave them reason to hope he was to be a blessing to the world. I do not know how soon he was able to read; but at four years old he began to study the Latin grammar, and had so great a desire to learn the Greek also, that my father, to please him, taught him to read a chapter in the Greek Testament by pronouncing to him the words. As early as this he discovered that love for books and ardent thirst for knowledge, which he possessed through life. He was seldom willing, while a child, to leave his books for any amusement, and my father was so much afraid, that close application would injure his health, that he used to reward him for playing with boys of his own age, and would often go with him to persuade him, by example, to take part in their sports. I have no recollection, that, when we were children, he ever did any thing that was wrong. He had always the same open, candid disposition, that marked his manhood ; nor can I recollect any time, when I did not feel the same confidence, that whatever he did was right; the same affection and respect, which made the last years I spent with him, so happy. From the time he was five, till he was seven years old, it was his practice, to call the domestics together on Sabbath morning, and read to them one of my father's manuscript sermons, repeat the Lord's prayer, and sing a hymn; and he performed the service with such solemnity, that he was

« PreviousContinue »