Page images

receiving license. During this time, he continued to retain hiš connection with the college ; still officiating as tutor, and preaching 10 his congregation at the same time. But he soon found, that he could not attend to the duties of boil these offices, and accordingly ceased to instruct in the college, and yave up his connection with it. In 1806, the first attempe was made to lay a foundation for a theological seminary, in connection with the college, by collecting soine funds for a library, and to aid indigent pious students; and Mr. Rice was appointed to solicit the requisite funds for these purposes. He entered at once and warmly into the design; and until bis valuable life closed, he was the most active and efficient individual in founding and building up what is now the Union Theolovical Seminary, in Prince Edward county, Virginia. In 1812, be received his “call” to take charge of a new congregation at Richmond, the metropolis of his native state. His pastoral relation to the people of his previous charge baving been duly dissolved, he accepted the call, and soon removed to that city, to enter upon the duties of his new location. Here he found, of course, an arduous task committed to his hands. A congregation was to be collected; the first Presbyterian congregation was gathered in that place. A house of worship was to be erected, and sunds procured for that purpose. Every thing, in short, was to be done. His labors, it is easy to see, must have been arduous. But he triumphed over all difficulties, and succeeded in building up a larye and respectable church and congregation, by his energy, bis talents as a preacher, and the power of his piety. In July, 1815, we find bim undertaking new labor, and issuing the first number of a weekly religious newspaper, called the Christian Monitor, the first periodical of the kind ever printed in Richmond. The year following, 1816, he was present, as a delegate from the Virginia Bible Society, at the meeting of gentlemen from various parts of the country, wbich assembled at New York, to organize our National Bible Society, and took a warm interest in that event. In the beginning of 1818, he was engaged in originating another and larger religious periodical, entitled the Virginia Evangelical and Literasy Magazine, an

octavo pamphlet of forty-eight pages, to be issued every month at Richmond. In May of the following year he was delegated to attend the General Assembly, and was elected moderator of that body. In the course of the same year, we find bim conceiving the project of forming a closer union between the Presbyterian church of Scotland and the Presbyterian church in this country. To see what could be done on this subject, August, 1819, he addressed a long and friendly communication to the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, D.D., of Glasgow, the object of which was, to learn bis views in relation to the expediency of attempting to establish a regular and friendly correspondence between the church

Vol. VIII.

of Scotland and the Presbyterians of the United States,-an idea which, upon a larger scale, has since begun to be carried into execution, by the interchange of visits from delegates mutually appointed on both sides of the Atlantic, by several different denominations of christians,-a measure froin wbich we anticipate the happiest results. In 1820, having attended the meeting of the American Bible Society, he returned to Pliiladelphia, and was again an active niember of that body, and preached the annual sermon at the opening of the session. During this tour, he also visited Washington, and preached in the national capitol on sabbath morning. Respecting this service, he has made the following memorandum : "The hall [of representatives) is certainly the finest church that I ever preached in ; but, between you and me, I think that I have preached, before now, to audiences quite as intelligent as the one I had here. This, I suppose, would be heresy in Washington, but it will be truth in Richmond." In 1822, we find him again attending the General Assembly, as a delegate from the Presbytery of which he was a member, and from thence, going on to ihe General Associations of Connecticut and Massachusetts, and paying a friendly visit to the professors at Andover. In September, of the same year, he was elected president of Nassau Hall College at Princeton, and in the following November, he was appointed by the trustees of Hampden Sydney College, a professor in that Institution. The appointment from Princeton, honorable to him as it was, he, after mature deliberation, felt it his duty to decline, and with a noble disinterestedness, characteristic of him, accepted the appointment to the professorship of divinity in the college of his own state. The active duties of the pastoral office he now, of course, resigned, (although he seeins still to have retained, voninally, his pastoral relation to his people in Richmond,) and took another journey to New-York, Boston, Andover, &c. principally for the benefit of his health, and to collect funds for the seminary now placed under bis care. On his return from this lour, he removed bis family froin Richniond to Prince Edward, and entered upon the duties of his professorship in form, being regularly installed into his new office on the 1st day of January, 1824. He now bad leisure to devote himself more entirely and exclusively to his favorite object of building up, in the institution over which he had been placed, a southern theological seminary, whose influence should be felt, not only in Virginia, but in the states farıber south and south-west. accomplish this object, so dear to his heart, he had an immense amount of toil, and care, and discouragement, to encounter. In the spring and summer of 1827, he again visited Philadelphia, New-York, Albany, and other northern cities, and was quite successful in procuring aid for his seminary,—from thirty-five to forty

But to

thousand dollars being the avails of bis visit. In March, 1830, he thus writes to a friend in New-York: “The progress of our seminary is good; we have this winter thirty-five students; and a very fine spirit of piety among them. The number of our friends, and the infuence of our institution, are growing. I do not think the liberality of New-York ever did a better thing than when it gave us a professorship.” About this time he commenced publishing, in the Southern Religious Telegraph, a paper printed at Richmond, a series of letters addressed to the ex-president Madison, the object of which was, “to show that our politicians and patriots, should favor the progress of the christian religion among the people, on account of its happy influence on all the interests of our country.” In the spring of 1830, he again attended the religious anniversaries in New-York, and went up the river as far as Albany. This was his last journey to the north. During the ensuing summer, he continued his letters to Mr. Madison, and was also employed in preparing his part of the memoir of James B. Taylor, (since published, and read by many with great profit,)--an engagement, however, which he did not live to complete. He also sent, in the following spring, an overture to the General Assembly, respecting a proposed plan of action, for the Presbyterian church in this country, on the subject of foreign missions, which plan has since been substantially adopted by that body, whether advantageously, or not, for the cause of missions, remains yet to be seen. We hope that it will do well. His health, which had previously, and for some time, been feeble, had now sunk very low, and his valuable life was, in fact, fast drawing to a close. He lived only to the following September, (1831.) His mind was calm and happy, in view of the approaching king of terrors. His last words were, "mercy is triumphant," and he fell asleep; death, the last enemy, was conquered!

Having given, from the book before us, the foregoing brief account of the most important incidents in the life of Dr. Rice, we now proceed to draw out and place before our readers some of the more prominent traits of his character. His most characteristic and peculiar excellence was his warm-hearted piety. This it is, which breathes forth every where in his correspondence; which is evinced in his various plans for doing good; which gives him such a power over the minds of others, in turning their thoughts to consolatory topics in affliction ; which reconciles bim to disappointment in his own case, when bis plans do not work as favorably as he had expected; and which enables him to persevere in bis undertakings in cases where, but for his ardent piety, he must have been discouraged and abandoned the enterprize. There was in his heart a deep fountain of happiness, fed perpetually by the hidden spirit of regard for his Maker's will, which kept his mind

from sinking under discouragements, and which led him on with untiring step, through all the difficulties of his way. His piety was of a calın, rational, elevated, cheerful cast: it was so, because it sprung from a heart, which, in every trouble, was accustomed to look directly to God for help, and to rely upon his promises in the darkest hours. This is a source of support and consolation, which, to any man who truly embraces it, will never fail, under any disheartening circumstances through wbich he may be called to pass. This, in the beautiful language of the bible, is the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. Now, if we have rightly read the character of Dr. Rice, and understood the finer feelings of bis soul, this was the cast of his piety: it was pre-eminently of a sweet, cheerful, happy stamp. And any analysis of his character, which leaves this fact out of view, and attempts 10 account for, at least, many things in bis life, by a reference to the ordinary principles of human conduct, will present but a very partial and imperfect delineation of this excellent man. His views, respecting the great essentials of the gospel, (or those common principles os revealed religion, upon which all evangelical christians, of every denomination, can ineet and harmonize,) were of a large and truly catholic stamp. Hence the ardor with which he entered into the plan of the American Bible Society, and assisted in the formation of that noble institution. Hence, too, his friendly and affectionate correspondence with clergymen at the north, whose views on some points, connected with the organization and government of the church, were known to differ from his own.

His confidential friends and correspondents were not only to be found among such men as the professors at Princeton, but also among the professors at Andover; Congregationalists, no less than Presbyterians, were numbered among his most intimate bosom friends, from whom he was accustomed to seek counsel in difficulty, and to whom his heart was ever open, and ready to unburthen all its hopes and its fears, on any great subjects of interest to the church which came before him. We love to see this trait of character in any man: it is, wherever found, to our apprebension, a delightful exhibition of the true and proper spirit of christianity. Especially is it grateful to see it in men occupying conspicuous stations in the church and in the community. Most welcome of all is il, to find this spirit characterizing the professors in our theological institutions, to whom is committed the training of the rising ministry in this land, and upon whom, of course, there devolves such an overwlielming burden of responsibility. There are, undoubtedly, truths in religion which are essential; truths, without holding to which, no man can be a real christian ; and these truths, moreover, possess very great importance,-an importance, indeed, equal to that of christianity itself; because, when these truths are

taken away, the essence of christianity is destroyed. But it is equally certain, that the great distinguishing truths of the gospel are sew and simple. About these there need be, and among enlightened christians there will be, no serious disagreement. There are, however, a great many subordinate points, as there are also, a great many different theories for explaining essential doctrines, which inay, or may not, be held to, and still every thing that is essential in the system be retained. For example, there have been loud and long debates as to the modus operandi in a sioner's regeneration, and as to the precise nature of that change, -what, and how much, is done by the sinner himself, and what, and how much, by the Spirit of God: while all agree in the necessity of that change, and all ascribe it to the unmerited grace of God. And so of a great many other points, more or less important, but not involving any of the essential things in religion. Now must men forever stand aloof from each other, and call each other hard names, and treat each other with coldness and suspicion, if not with positive hostility, because they cannot agree on all the subordinate questions which minds trained to babits of nice philosophical investigation, will raise on the subject of speculative theology? It has long been matter of regret and surprise to us, that so many instances are to be found, in which men, holding to all the great and fundamental doctrines of the bible, are, nevertheless, willing to contend warmly with each other, on minor points of difference between them, and who feel towards each other, (whatever they may profess to think to the contrary,) all the coldness and distrust of decided and fixed alienation. They cannot be induced to meet amicably together, and converse and pray over these points of disagreement. They studiously avoid each other, and keep on assaulting, and hurrying the assault, through the press, and thus widening, further and further, the breach between them, till both they and their friends are wearied out with the contest, and it is at length dropped; not because it is amicably adjusted, but because the parties and the public are tired of it. Whereas, one half hour's frank and friendly conversation toyether over the subjects of difference, would have placed the matter on its right foundation; that is, they would either have seen alike, or would have agreed to differ, and their mutual confidence in each other would not have been disturbed.

Now we must enter our most decided protest against the notion, and the practice under it, that christian brethren must separate froin each other, and treat each other coldly, and use their influence to form parties against each other, and to promote distinct interests, merely because they do not think alike on some few of the unessential points in theology, or, if one pleases, on all the unessential points in theology. We dislike, exceedingly, such a spirit,

« EelmineJätka »