« EelmineJätka »
REV. WILLIAM NEWELL, D. D.,
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
THE name of Andrews Norton has long been widely known as that of one of the ablest theologians and most accomplished critics of our time; standing, in his department of service, at the head of the Unitarian movement in this country. His memory will be ever admiringly cherished by those who sympathized with him in his religious views, and who knew him in the fulness of his fine powers, as it will be honored by all who are ready to do homage to a true man, wherever he may be found; by all who in a generous spirit can reverence sincere piety and virtue, rich genius and learning, patient industry and independent thought, consecrated to the highest aims, in whatever quarter of the Christian camp their light may shine.
When such a man passes away, we cannot but pause at his tomb, and hearken to the voices that
come up to us from the receding past, louder and louder, as we listen, speaking of his labors and virtues. Both for the instruction of the living, and in justice and gratitude to the dead, we must glance, if we can do no more, over the scenes through which he has moved and the work which he has done. We propose to give a brief, though necessarily an imperfect, sketch of the life, character, and services of this faithful and gifted servant of Christ and of God, with a full appreciation, we trust, of his high merits, but in that spirit of simple truth which he loved so well, and which was one of the marked characteristics of the whole
Mr. Norton was a native of Hingham, Massachusetts. He was a direct descendant of Rev. John Norton of that town, who was a nephew of the celebrated John Norton, minister of Ipswich, and afterwards of Boston. His father, Samuel Norton, was a well-known and much respected citizen of Hingham, often employed in its public trusts, whose agreeable conversation and manners are spoken of by those who remember him. He was educated in the tenets of Calvinism, but, as he grew older, the views which it presents of the character and government of God were so revolting to him, that for a time he was almost driven. into utter unbelief, until, under the light of truer and brighter views, he found faith and peace. He was a man of great devoutness of mind, delighting to see and to speak of the Creator's wisdom and love in all his works. He died in 1832, at
the advanced age of eighty-eight. He married Miss Jane Andrews, of Hingham, a sister of Rev. Dr. Andrews, for so many years the minister of Newburyport. Another of her brothers died from a wound received at the battle of Brandywine. She lived to the age of eighty-five, and died
Andrews Norton, the youngest child of his parents, was born December 31, 1786. From childhood he was remarkable for his love of books and his proficiency in his studies. Having completed his preparatory course at the Derby Academy, in Hingham, in 1801 he entered the Sophomore class in Harvard College, and was distinguished throughout his academical career for his high scholarship and correct deportment. He graduated in 1804, the youngest of his class, at the age of eighteen. The natural seriousness and religious tone of his mind determined him at once in the choice of his profession, and led him, on leaving college, to commence his preparation for the ministry. He became a Resident Graduate at Cambridge, but not being in haste to preach, he quietly pursued a course of literary and theological study, and laid the foundation of that high mental culture and large erudition which afterwards distinguished him. In this scholastic, but not idle nor fruitless retirement, he continued for a few years, residing partly at Cambridge, partly at his father's house in Hingham, until, in October, 1809, after preaching for a few weeks in Augusta, Maine, he accepted the office of Tutor in Bowdoin College.
Here he remained a year, and some of the friendships which he then formed lasted through life. After this he returned to Cambridge, which henceforward became his fixed and chosen residence. In 1811, he was elected Tutor in Mathematics in Harvard College, but resigned his office at the close of the year. Mr. Norton had now reached that point in his career at which the rich fruits of genius and scholarship, that had been so long ripening in the shade, were to be brought before the public eye, and to receive their due appreciation. It will be remembered that his entrance on his theological studies was nearly coincident with the breaking out of the controversy between the orthodox and liberal parties in theology, occasioned by the election, in 1805, of Rev. Dr. Ware, then minister of Hingham, to the Hollis Professorship. Without going into the history of that controversy, it is sufficient to say, that it was amidst the strong and constantly increasing excitement which it produced, that Mr. Norton's early manhood was passed. The atmosphere of the times and the character of his associates contributed, no doubt, to strengthen the decided bent of his mind towards the theological and metaphysical questions which formed the subjects of discussion of the day. In the society of such men as Buckminster, Thacher, Channing, Eliot, Frisbie, Farrar, Kirkland, and others of kindred opinions and spirit, his attachment to the principles of the liberal school must have received added impulse and strength. In 1812, he undertook the publication of "The Gen
eral Repository and Review," a work "in which," to use his own words, "the tone of opposition to the prevailing doctrines of Orthodoxy was more explicit, decided, and fundamental than had been common among us." Its straightforward boldness in the expression of opinions which then seemed new and heretical, while it was admired and approved by some, startled others, even of the liberal party, who thought that the time for it was not yet ripe. It was conducted with signal ability, but after the second year was discontinued for want of support. It was too bold, and probably somewhat too learned, to win general favor. But it did its work and left its mark. In 1813 he was appointed Librarian of the College. He discharged the duties of his new office with his accustomed fidelity and judgment, ånd under his direction much was done during his eight years' service towards improving the condition of the library, then in many points, as in some now, lamentably deficient. He relinquished the charge of it in 1821; but he always retained a warm interest in its welfare, and was a generous contributor to it through life. In 1813, the same year in which he became Librarian, he was also chosen Lecturer on Biblical Criticism and Interpretation, under the bequest of Hon. Samuel Dexter. The revered names of Buckminster and Channing stand associated with his, as his predecessors elect in this office. Eminent as they were, it is not too much to say, that their successor did not fall below even their mark; that in a peculiar