Page images
PDF

habits and manners, distinct from each other, like all those enumerated, in many particulars, though for the time bound together by a common government, and the ties of common interest.

When, in addition to this evident reason why a given description of " men and manners" which may be a true picture when applied to one corner of the country, must be inapplicable to another, the unsettled state of a large proportion of the

Sopulation, the advantages enjoyed by one portion for the attainment of a high egree of civilization, and the disadvantages under which another may labour, are all admitted, who would expect that any description of character or manners were to be considered national? Yet, neither foreigners, nor, it might be surmised, the Americans themselves, appear aware of this.—Vol. I. pp. 66, 67.

The English have not, as a nation, whatever may be supposed by those who gather their estimate of national feeling from the Reviews, much sympathy with this kind of sensitiveness. We have arrived at that happy pitch of national self-esteem, and our national pride is so little disturbed by unwelcome surmises or suspicions, that in this or that particular we are really emulated or surpassed by our neighbours, that we calmly set down any one who comes amongst us, and tells us that in certain matters John Bull is surpassed by other nations, or an object of ridicule to them, as an ignorant or spiteful twaddler at once, and do not suffer the national temper to be ruffled. Having now, for so many years, been accustomed to have justice done us by our neighbours on all main points, however unwillingly, we can even afford to be satirized, or as we would say, caricatured, in some minor particulars, and can magnanimously laugh at the same. But not so with America. She feels, and with reason, that justice has not always been done her in essentials, and by Britain in particular. She knows that there has been a spirit abroad having a tendency to keep the truth and her real praise away from the eye of the world, shrouded behind a vein of coarse ribaldry, and detail of vulgarities, which, if not positively untrue, were at least so invidiously chosen, and so confirmatory of prejudice, and so far caricature, when applied to the people as a mass, as almost to bear the stigma of untruth. She has felt that the progress made in a very limited period of time, and amidst many disadvantages, in reclaiming an immense continent from the wilderness, in covering it with innumerable flourishing settlements; her success in the mechanic arts; her noble institutions in aid of charitable purposes; the public spirit of her citizens; their gigantic undertakings to facilitate interior communication; their growing commerce in every quarter of the globe; the indomitable perseverance of her sons; the general attention to education, and the reverence for religion, wherever the population has become permanently fixed; and the generally mild and successful operation of their government, have been overlooked, or only casually mentioned, while the failings, rawness of character, and ill-harmonized state of society in many parts; the acts of lawless individuals, and the slang and language of the vulgar, have been held prominently forward to excite scorn, provoke satire, and strengthen prejudice. In short, she has felt that her true claims upon respect and admiration have been either unknown or undervalued in Europe, and that especially the nation with whom she had the greatest national affinity, was inclined to be the most perseveringly unjust

Hence partly arises, it may be surmised, the querulous state of sensitiveness, to which allusion has been made, and also that disposition to swagger and exaggerate, which has been laid to the charge of many Americans, not without reason.

As long as the national temper maintains this morbid tone, I have become more and more convinced that it will allow the justice of no criticism; and that no individual, however honest and striving against prejudice, however conciliatory, however sincerely regarding the people and their institutions with respect, however convinced that he who foments the ill-will and prejudice that may exist between the two countries, ill serves his own, the cause of humanity in the world, or the nobler ends of travel and observation—I say, no one will write a book, depicting the state of things in the United States, as they arc, with all their unavoidable crudities and anomalies, and give the public mind in that country satisfaction. Moreover, it is to be doubted whether any great good is ever to be effected by foreign criticism, especially in a case like that before you, where the criticised puts himself without the circle in which European rules and deductions, whether political or otherwise, would be deemed decisive. America must correct her failings by the free course of her own native good sense, and I believe will do it where correction is needful. One thing is certain, she professes to have no more patience with our opinions, or respect for our gratuitous advice, than a painter would have for that of a circle of critics, who surround his easel, to pass judgment upon his projected chef iTaeuvre, of which nothing but the preparatory shades of the ibauche appear on the canvas.—Vol. I. pp. 68—71.

These sentiments appear to be founded on a correct knowledge of human nature; and they certainly are infinitely more pleasing to a thinking reader, than the low violence of vulgar pretension that affects to see every thing wrong, that is not measured by its own paltry standard of ridiculous authority. America is not the only country which has been thus misjudged: we have often heard remarks similar to those to which Mr. Latrobe's are opposed, made respecting Greece and Belgium, countries which are united in exactly the same way, though under a different form of government, as are the States of America. Judging from 'some instances of fraud and wickedness amongst the islands of the Archipelago, the Greeks of the continent, (who have nothing in common with their insular brethren, as to origin, or national pride,) are condemned, as unworthy of trust, as truce-breakers, and every thing that is bad. So the Belgians are ridiculed every where by persons who know little about them, under the ironical term, "Craves Beiges," because a Dutch colonel, (now a general,) ran away at Waterloo, and a set of ragged, unarmed, unshod labourers, summoned from the harvest-fields by beat of drum to oppose organized cavalry and artillery, did the same thing at Louvain, in 1831. Yet these same runaways expelled the Dutch from Brussels ten months before. We name these things, as having had proof, as eye witnesses, of the facts themselves, not to introduce subjects foreign to our object, but as illustrations of the principle upon which Mr. Latrobe has passed judgment on Americans, and their critics, and of the principle upon which all men ought to pass judgment upon any subject,—the principle of investigating circumstances before recording an opinion. And to this end, we say, further, that Belgium being composed of different people, and not having any national character, the Belgians have no claim to be condemned, or praised, wholesale, as " Craves;" since the history of the Netherlands every where records the cowardice of one class of people in Belgium, and the bravery of others; and it is notorious, that all the really courageous acts of the Belgians during their late disgraceful Revolution, were accomplished by persons who have nothing in common as to national feeling, spirit, or even language, with the other provinces of their new kingdom. But we must defer such observations as these to more particular remarks; yet it is the impression which they leave, which leads us not to consider America in the general, but New England in the present, review.

We have seen both Mrs. Butler and Mr. Latrobe bearing testimony to the favourable character of New England, as that district in America where good principles have been most at work, and good results have followed. In that testimony, we have however dealt in generals. The work which heads the list before us, introduces us to the inner workings of the system which bears so pleasing an appearance in the abstract. Our chief inquiry will, however, be respecting the ecclesiastical institutions, &c. of New England: and the work by " One of her Sons," may be well relied on for general accuracy upon these points.

We take the introduction to the second chapter, as necessary to our object.

A stranger riding through New England has his attention arrested by the multiplicity of churches, or meeting-houses as they here are called. Almost every village has its two or three: not unfrequently as a little cluster of houses appear in sight, you see the two spires which mark the houses of God, rising side by side, either one of which appears large enough to contain double the population of the whole village. This is perhaps more invariably the case in the eastern part of Massachusetts, than in any other section of the country.

"What denominations of Christians worship in those houses ?" you inquire of some passers-by.

"The Unitarians, Sir," it is answered, " worship in the old house there, and this new one belongs to the Orthodox."

"Are there any other sects here 1"

"Yes, Sir, the Baptists meet in the house there, without any steeple, and the Methodists hold their meetings in the school-house; only once a month the Universalists take their turn."

Such would be substantially the information you would receive in very many of the villages of New England. This, however, is by no means universally the case. Occasionally, you will enter a town in which nearly all the inhabitants are united under one pastor. And throughout the New England states generally, the Orthodox Congregationalists compose the principal society. They embrace the mass of the community, as to numbers, and the strength of the community, as to wealth and intelligence. And most frequently, when the naked fact is stated, that there is a small town of but a few hundred inhabitants, which is yet divided into three or four religious societies, an erroneous impression is conveyed to the mind. For in most such cases, there is one substantial society, and the others hardly deserve the name. Perhaps there will be in one town a Congregational and a Baptist church. They are both respectable in numbers, and abundantly able to support the institutions of the gospel. There is also a Methodist society, because there are half a dozen Methodists in the place, and a Methodist preacher occasionally gives them a call, as he goes the round of his circuit. When it is notified that there will be a Methodist preaching in the school-house, a respectable number, from curiosity or better motives, flock to hear. There is also, perhaps, a Universalist society, because some two or three individuals have associated themselves as a society, and occasionally they have preaching. In some places in New England, there are large and highly respectable Methodist societies. There are also some Universalist societies which are strong in numbers. In the eastern part of Massachusetts, in the principal towns, the Unitarians embrace most of the wealth, and literary and political influence. But their influence is hardly felt except in a few counties around Boston. In most of the principal towns there are highly respectable and influential Episcopal societies; but you find none in the country, unless here and there some single individual, by his own personal influence, retain one in struggling existence. The Orthodox Congregationalists and the Baptists compose the two principal sects of the New England states. Taking the whole of the United States, the Baptist denomination is the most [numerous; but in New England, the Orthodox Congregationalists embrace the great mass of the community.—Pp. 21—23.

The manner in which a church is organized in a new district is stated thus :—There may be perhaps fifteen or twenty individuals, members of churches in other places, who have settled in a given town; a home missionary comes occasionally to preach, in a private dwelling, when one reads a chapter in the Bible, another a sermon from some author, and another makes an address. In time, two or three of these communities unite; they consult a minister, he draws np a creed or covenant; a meeting is called, the creed presented and discussed, and alterations proposed, "to suit the peculiarities of the various individuals:"—it is at last assented to; a council is convened; the scriptural basis examined; a sermon is preached, a prayer offered, the creed and covenant read; such as assent, stand in the aisle, (they are supposed to have adjourned to a church,) new members are admitted by baptism.

The following are samples of these creeds and covenants. "As every church is, however, independent of every other, there is almost an infinite variety in the mode of expression."

CONFESSION OF FAITH.

1. We believe that there is one God, the Creator and rightful disposer of all things,—existing as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that to these three persons, as the one God, all Divine perfections are to be equally ascribed.

2. We believe that the Bible was given by inspiration of God, as the only unerring rule of faith and practice.

3. We believe that mankind are fallen from their original rectitude, and are, while in a state of nature, wholly destitute of that holiness which is required by the Divine law.

4. We believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, became man, and by his obedience, sufferings, and death, made an atonement for the sins of the world.

0. We believe that they, and they only, will be saved in consequence of the merits of Christ, who repent of sin, and believe in him.

6. We believe that although the invitations of the gospel are such, that all who will, may come and take of the water of life freely, yet the wickedness of the human heart is such, that none will come unless drawn by the special influences of the Holy Spirit.

7. We believe that the sacraments of the New Testament are Baptism and the Lord's Supper: Baptism to be administered only to believers and their households; and the Supper only to believers in regular church standing.

8. We believe that God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world, when there will be a resurrection of the dead, and when the righteous will enter on eternal happiness, and the wicked will bo sentenced to eternal misery.

THE COVENANT. You do now, in the presence of God and men, choose the Lord Jehovah to be your God and Father; the Lord Jesus Christ to be your only Saviour; the Holy Spirit to be your Sanctifier. You dedicate yourself to God, unreservedly surrendering all that you have and are to his sovereign disposal—engaging, by his assistance, to live henceforth to him, and not to yourself, and to aim, whatever you do, to do all to his glory. You cordially join yourself to this church, and engage to be subject to its discipline, so far as it is conformable to the gospel; and to walk with the members thereof, in love, watchfulness, and purity.

I then in the presence of God and these witnesses, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, pronounce you a member of this branch of his visible church, and engage to treat you as such: to watch over you in love; praying that we all may become more and more conformed to't lie example of our Divine Master, till we come to the perfection of holiness in the kingdom of his glory.— Pp. 28—30.

"The next thing is to obtain a pastor." Candidates are assembled to preach,—if any one is preferred, he is invited to stay, and a salary raised of about 1002. sterling. "There are not ten Clergymen in New England, whose salaries exceed 2000 dollars, (about 400Z.) a year." (P. 30.) If the pastor accepts the invitation, he is examined by the council, as to his qualifications, and then ordained, by pastors and delegates from other churches. En et ecce the form of ordination!

The several parts in the public services, were then assigned as follows:—

Rev. Mr. , to make the introductory prayer.

Rev. Mr. , to preach the sermon.

Rev. Mr. , to make the ordaining prayer.

Rev. Mr. , to give the right hand of fellowship.

Rev. Mr. , to give the charge to the pastor.

Rev. Mr. , to make the concluding prayerVoted, that the council do now adjourn to the meeting-house to attend to the public services, and that subsequent to these services, the council be dissolved.

Signed Moderator,

—— Scribe.

The solemnity of ordination is very simple. The pastor elect enters the pulpit, in which there are usually three other Clergymen, to unite in the imposition of hands. They then place their right hands on the pastor's head, while one lends in the prayer, which ceremonially consecrates him to his most solemn charge.—Pp. 31,33.

This is much after the system pursued at " happy Birdbush," noticed

in our 15th Vol. p. 261. Now we may pause a moment to point out

that in New England, the people make their own belief "suitable to

their own peculiarities," and when done, look about for a man to preach

it to them, who is, of course, bound to preach nothing else but what they

have agreed to believe already, who, in fact, receives from them his

tone, and who, if he has a mind to throw conscience aside, may preach

what pleases, for the sake of the dollars that are paid by his spiritual

masters and pastors; and who, if he has not a mind to do so, is quicklv

sent to the right-about; for as our author tells us, a few pages further

on—

The minister enn by law recover the salary voted at the regular parish meeting; but the parish can, at any time, rtfuse to vote the salary fur another year. This course is sometimes adopted, to get rid of an unacceptable pastor. Sometimes they meet and vote his dismission, sometimes the church are

« PreviousContinue »