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served in regard to those whose sentiments differ from his own. Before this time, indeed, Mr. Payson had read some of the most eminent divines of our own and other countries, whose works were then accessible; and these, doubtless had exerted some influence in forming his religious opinions; but he was obviously wedded to none. To none did he feel the attachment of a partisan; he had not arrived to that state of mind, which made him feel interested to defend an opinion, because any human master had said it. The polluting and disorganizing tendency of loose opinions on the one hand, and the scarcely less deplorable effects of dogmatism on the other, which could not have escaped his observation, not less than the spirit of religion and his constitutional independence of mind, conspired to lead him to a just estimate of the value of human authority in matters of religious belief, and to consummate his reverence for the "sure word of prophecy," and his confidence in Revelation, as an adequate foundation for his faith, and an infallible guide in duty.
"Here is firm footing—all is sea besides."
Most men, however discordant their principles, profess to have derived them from the Scriptures; but with Mr. P. this was something more than pretence. The Bible was with him the subject of close, critical, persevering, and, for a time, almost exclusive attention, his reading being principally confined to such writings, as would assist in its elucidation, and unfold its literal meaning. In this manner he studied the whole of the Inspired Volume, from beginning to end, so that there was not a verse on which he had not formed an opinion. This is not asserted at random. It is but a few years since, that, in conversation with a candidate for the ministry, he earnestly recommended very particular and daily attention to the study of the Scriptures, and enforced his counsel by his own experience of the advantages, which would accrue from the practice. He observed, that, before he commenced preaching, he made it his great object to know what the Bible taught on every subject and with this purpose investigated every sentence in it, so far as
to be able to give an answer to every man who should ask a reason for it.'*
In this way he acquired his unparalleled readiness to meet every question, on every occasion, whether proposed by a caviller, or a conscientious inquirer, which it is well known, he usually did, in a manner as satisfactory as it often was unexpected. The advantages hence derived were, in his view, beyond all computation. It secured for him the unlimited confidence of people in the common walks of life, as a man mighty in the Scriptures." It gave him great influence with Christians of other denominations. It enabled him to confound and silence gainsayers, when they could not be convinced; as well as to build up the elect of God on their most holy faith. It furnished him, too, with ten thousand forms of illustration, or modes of conveying to ordinary minds the less obvious truths, with which he was conversant in the exercise of his ministry. He believed "all Scripture to be given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness;" and he was himself a most striking exemplification of its competency to render " the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work."
Of Mr. Payson's devotion to the Scriptures there is evidence of a different nature from that which has just been given. Among his papers has been found a small manuscript volume containing "Notes" on most of the books of Scripture. It is among the few interesting relics of this period of his life. The manuscript ends with re
* It is not here alleged that Dr. Payson comprehended all that is contained in the Scriptures, much less that he arrogated to himself such knowledge; for though "the word of Christ dwelt richly" in him, he doubtless continued to "increase in the knowledge of God” by every perusal of it, how often soever repeated, till the last-and even then saw as through a glass, darkly, compared with the visions of heaven. Some truths cannot be fully comprehended, and may have various relations, which never will be known on earth. Many things respecting unfulfilled predictions, can be known by no man till after their accomplishment.-But he had made every passage a distinct object of attention: and, if "hard to be understood," he could state to the inquirer the causes of the obscurity, and in the very fact find a powerful motive to humility, diligence, and prayer for divine illumination, thus rendering the darkest texts "profitable."
marks on 1 John V. 8. Whether they were continued in another volume to the end of Revelation does not appear. These notes are short in themselves, and much abbreviated in the form of expression; but bear marks of a kind and extent of investigation highly creditable to his learning and judgment, as well as to his diligence and fidelity. Discrepancies are accounted for and reconciled, figures are explained; chronology, philosophy, topography, natural history, ancient languages, are made to contribute to the elucidation of Scripture. Against prophecies which have received their completion, are found references to the historical characters and events, in which they are supposed to have received their fulfilment. It is difficult to characterise these notes by any general term, except that they are exegetical, in distinction from practical and experimental. Those on the New Testament are professedly collated, in part; and though the same should, on examination, be found true of the rest, the manuscript is evidence of his careful study of the Scriptures; and for this purpose it was introduced to notice.
To learn more fully Mr. Payson's estimate of the Scriptures, the reader should peruse in this connection his sermon, entitled "The Bible above all price." In that discourse the preacher is much at home; he treads on ground where he delighted to linger. He explores a field, with whose riches and beauties he was familiar. He clusters together its excellencies with a dexterous and bountiful hand, and describes its efficacy like one who 'spoke that which he knew, and testified that which he had seen!' His familiarity with the Scriptures was strikingly apparent in his pulpit addresses generally; not so much by long quotations, as by their general spirit, and the sacred associations he was continually awakening. They bore prominent traces of the divine model he so faithfully studied; not in matter only, but in the manner of exhibiting it, so plain, that his hearers could not but see it,— enforced by considerations so reasonable and moving,
* To what extent Dr. Payson was familiar with the original language of the Old Testament, the writer is not informed. That it was among the objects of his attention at this time, there is evidence in his own hand writing; but none very conclusive, that his acquaintance with Hebrew was minute and critical.
that they must feel self-condemned for rejecting it. They were not the cold abstractions of a speculative mind, but the doctrines, which are according to Godliness, clothed in the fervid language, which affection dictates. They were not truths merely; but truths uttered by one, who had felt their power and experienced their consolations, under the influence of that Spirit, who, to use his own expressive language, “lives and speaks in every line.'
But there is another part of his example more difficult to imitate than the one just sketched. He prayed without ceasing. Aware of the aberrations, to which the human mind is liable, he most earnestly sought the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit. He felt safe, nowhere, but near the throne of grace. He may be said to have
studied theology on his knees. Much of his time he spent literally prostrated, with the Bible open before him, pleading the promises-"I will send the Comforter-and when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." He was especially jealous of his own heart, and, to conquer its evil propensities, subjected his body as well as his mind to the severest discipline. No man ever strove harder to "mortify the flesh with the affections and lusts." It is almost incredible, what abstinence and self-denial he voluntarily underwent, and what tasks he imposed on himself, that he might "bring every thought into captivity to the obedienee of Christ." He allowed himself only a small part of the twenty-four hours for sleep*; and his seasons of fasting were injuriously frequent. So far did he carry his abstinence from food, that his family were alarmed for his safety. Often has his mother, whom he most tenderly loved and reverenced, and whose wishes were law to him, in every thing besides his religious principles, and intercourse with his Maker-in every
* The following division and appropriation of his time was entered in his diary, about five weeks after his return to his father's: "Oct. 5.-Resolved to devote, in future, twelve hours to study; two, to devotion; two, to relaxation; two, to meals and family devotions; and six to sleep." But this did not long satisfy him. His rigid notions of duty led him to subtract two hours, from the six devoted to sleep, and to multiply his seasons of fasting to a degree which the human system could not long have sustained. A weekly fast, however, was habitual with him, from this time till his last sickness.
thing, in short, which did not bind the conscience-often has his mother, or a favorite sister, stood at the door of his chamber, with a little milk or some other refreshment equally simple, pleading in vain for admission.
The expediency or duty of such severe mortification, turns on the question of its necessity to the attainment of the object, for which, in this instance, it was practised. If the subjection of the heart and mind, with all their powers, to Christ, could not otherwise be effected, he was unquestionably right; for no sacrifice or suffering, which is requisite to this, can be too great. "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off; if thine eye cause thee to offend, pluck it out." It is moreover true, that the most eminent saints of ancient and later times have devoted frequent seasons to private fasting and prayer; and the practice may, therefore, be ranked among the essential means of rapid and extensive growth in grace. It were well for individuals, it were well for the church, if the practise should revive and become common. So far from weakening the charities of life, or diminishing the amount of active, social duties, it would greatly enhance them. We should witness a more vigorous and determined piety, a more diffusive and efficient benevolence.
Still the religion of Christ enjoins no needless austerities. It has at times called, and may again call, for the sacrifice of health, and life, and treasure; for the renunciation of friends, and home, and all its endearments. But in ordinary circumstances, 'Godliness is profitable unto all things-to the life that now is, as well as that which is to come.' It did not require injurious excess of abstinence and mortification in one situated as Mr. Pay
*There are some distinguished laborers in the vineyard of our Lord, who practise the essential duty here recommended, not so much by totally abstaining from food beyond the accustomed intervals, as by denying themselves,' at every meal, and using a spare and simple diet, at all times,-a course well adapted to preserve both mind and body in the best condition for biblical research, and devotional exercises. This modification of the duty was much practised by Mr. Payson, and strongly recommended by him to the members of his church. He would have them, when fasting on their own private account, not "appear unto men to fast;" but to come to the table which was spread for their families, with a cheerful countenance, and partake sparingly of its provisions.