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A Poem, on the pleasures and advantages of True Religion: delivered before the United Brothers' Society, in Brown University, on their Anniversary, August 31, 1819. By REV. DANIEL HUNTINGTON, A.M. Providence: 1819. pp. 24.
A POEM in the measure of Spenser, and upon a subject exclusively religious, delivered on the anniversary of a literary society, is quite a novelty. It is almost a novelty from the press; and we therefore take it up, that we may give our pages a variety which they cannot often have. We are the more ready to do this, as we are persuaded that the extracts we shall make will give pleasure to our readers. For although the poem contains no very lofty flights of imagination, nor descriptions and bursts of feeling that stir and overpower; nor is free from obvious blemishes; yet it is a pleasant, chaste, and respectable production; commendable for its easy flow of harmonious versification, and passages of occasional vigor and beauty. It is, as the title indicates, entirely religious. No digression breaks its unity or interrupts its impression. The solemn majesty of the stanza is well adapted to the seriousness of the subject. Mr. H., in spite of its difficulty, manages with considerable felicity; except that he appears imperfectly to understand the structure of the closing line.
The introduction contains an apology, or reasons, for the choice of such a subject. We give our readers the third
"Not mine the aim a vacant mind t' amuse,
Well might the wise and fair a song refuse,
To her my humble off'ring let me bring,
In measure that bespeaks her sober sway,
The while a weak and trembling hand I fling
O'er Spenser's ancient lyre, with long resounding string."
The pleasures of religion, both in retirement and in action, are depicted in the following stanzas.
New Series-vol. I.
"O happy hours to pure devotion giv'n,
Nor less the pious pleasures that attend
Who, like his heav'nly Master, Man's best Friend,
A nobler aim his kindly deeds confess :
Sweet is the musick of a grateful voice,
In whose soft accents grief and gladness blend;
To act as Heav'n's kind almoner, and send
And calm the swelling breast, and hush the voice of wo?"
The description of the religious cottage may be read with pleasure.
"Seest thou yon lonely cottage in the grove-
Forth to his honest toil he cheerful hies,
Nor yet in solitude his prayers ascend ;
To Him whose bounty clothes the smiling plain,
Who spreads the beauties of the blooming spring,
These extracts sufficiently show the unaffected and unambitious character of the poem; which is not to be noticed as making pretensions to uncommon display of splendid genius; but simply as an exhibition of religious truths in an engaging form;-which leads us to regret, that we do not meet with more publications of the same kind.
EVANGELICAL MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
THIS Society was formed in 1807. It was originally confined to the counties of Worcester and Middlesex. Its purpose was to provide the destitute inhabitants of our own country with the means of Christian instruction and moral improvement. Its means were furnished by the annual subscription of its members, the contributions of particular Churches, the donations of a number of Female Cent Societies, and by specific sums given by pious and charitable individuals. To secure the permanent existence of the society, and provide a source for an emergency, $1000 were early funded, and the interest has annually been added to the principal.
The design of the institution was to be accomplished by the employment of Missionaries and School masters, and by the
distribution of religious and moral publications, school books, &c.* The Trustees commenced their official duties in the conviction, that the utility of charitable Societies depends on the manner in which their purposes are carried into execution, and they adopted their plan on the result of serious deliberation. They supposed, that the ordinary effects of Christianity are to be expected from the stated ministrations of the gospel. In assigning, therefore, the services of their Missionaries, they did not embrace a large district of country and thereby induce the inhabitants of a number of towns to depend merely on occasional preaching; but they selected suitable places, and to these confined the labours of those whom they employed; and they authorized their Missionaries to assure the people, who attended on their ministrations, and who manifested a disposition to maintain the public institutions of our religion, that the Society would aid them in gathering a Church, and supporting a minister. This aid was given in the hope that a Christian society thus assisted, realizing the benefits resulting from the regular administrations of the word and ordinances, would become more united among themselves, and more able and willing to bear the expence of a preached gospel.The Trustees indulged the expectation, that, by Divine blessing, they might be instrumental in gathering regular Churches, and establishing evangelical ministers in succession among people, who without their assistance must long have been destitute of these blessings. In granting aid to schools, it was the aim of the Trustees to impress the minds of the people of our new settlements, with a just sense of the importance of the literary and Christian education of their children, and to hold up the prospect of assistance to those, who were disposed to make proper exertions for themselves.
In pursuance of this system of measures, the Trustees sought for Missionaries of established reputation, and of a catholic spirit, who in their preaching would dwell on the fundamental doctrines of revelation, and on the unchangeable duties of the Christian character. Several individuals of this description were sent into different places in the District of Maine. These were received with respect; their ministrations attended upon with apparent seriousness, and the warm expressions of gratitude, which were returned, led the Society to believe that good was produced; but for the want of union among the people themselves, no permanent settlement of a minister was effected.
*It has also a committee to receive and appropriate such monies as shall be contributed in aid of foreign missions.
The Town of Ellsworth, and the Plantations of Jackson and Washington, gave a brighter illustration of the advantages of the Evangelical Missionary Society. By the representations of Mr. Brewer, who first preached at Ellsworth, and at the earnest request of that people, the Trustees were induced to make that place the object of particular attention. In 1810, Mr. Peter Nurse, a candidate for the ministry, engaged in a mission to Ellsworth; and at the solicitations of that people, he united the business of a school master with the labours of a preacher. The beneficial effects of his assiduous application to his vari ous duties, soon became apparent in the increasing attention to the institutions of the gospel, in the more general manifestation of the Christian spirit, and in the elevation of the tone of public morals. In his school, Mr. Nurse engaged the love and respect of his scholars; and their improvement rewarded him for his unremitted endeavours. Under his care, numbers both of males and females were educated to become instructers in English schools.
A respectable committee of the town of Ellsworth, in a letter directed to the society, observed, "As your views are disinterested, your highest reward will be to know that your endeavours to do us good are crowned with success; and the extraordinary success of Mr. Nurse's labours among us, is an indisputable test of the utility of confining the labours of one Missionary to one society or neighbourhood. It is our deliberate opinion, that Mr. Nurse has done more good the past year, than ten such Missionaries would have done travelling in the usual manner.' ""
The people of Jackson and Washington Plantations, were assisted by the Society in the support of Mr. Silas Warren, their candidate. His faithful services in the pulpit and the school house, were attended with similar, if not equal success to those of Mr. Nurse. In 1812, the executive committee of the year, by the desire of those interested, made a journey into Maine, and assisted in gathering a Church and ordaining Mr. Nurse at Ellsworth, and Mr. Warren at Jackson. The people of Ellsworth now raised among themselves the greater portion of the salary of their minister, and by the Divine benediction, peace and prosperity continue to attend his ministerial labours.* An act of incorporation being deemed expedient, was obtained from the Legislature of the Commonwealth.
* In 1816 a house of worship was erected at the sole expence of a respectable and liberal minded parishoner, Melatiah Jordan, Esq. It is remarkable that the first services performed in it were the obsequies of the lamented founder.