Page images

but eight scholars. It was without name, without funds, without buildings, without even an act of incorporation. Many felt that the burden was too heavy, the difficulties too formidable to be undertaken. And probably, had all the trials and difficulties been foreseen, few would have dared to make the effort. No one, who has not been through the labor, can conceive of the difficulties to be overcome. But this work—to raise up and establish a new College-one that must compete with the old institutions so long growing up—was to be the great work of his life; and Mr. Humphrey threw himself into the work with his whole soul. Year after year, time after time, saw bim calmly asking the State to in. corporate the College. The whole prejudices of the State had to be lived down or conquered. Few men could or would have toiled on, year after year, as he did. Slowly the walls went up, as did the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah ; and after a toil of twenty. two years—a toil that seldom has a parallel, and without stopping an hour, save once to basten across the Atlantic when worn down and ready to perish—he came to the place where he must stop. Loving labor more than food, and loving his College with the love of a father, he saw that it was the will of God that he should now lay down the burden and retire. It then seemed as if he could never rally, and that he inust die soon. What had he done? He had gathered around him a noble Faculty of teachers--he had raised new buildings as fast as needed—be had gathered around the College the confidence and the sympathy of the Christian community-he had gathered funds and friends that would sustain the institution in full vigor-he bad placed it among the brightest luminaries of the land-he had got it incorporated and made it to be respected-- he had superintended the education, and seen graduate under his own eye, 795 young men, sent out to leave their

mark upon the world, of whom 430 he saw become ministers of the Gospel-and of these, 84 are numbered as pastors in Massachusetts at this hour--and 39 were sent abroad as missionaries of the cross. Sixty-eight of these young ministers have passed away, and were on the other side of the river to welcome their beloved instructor. Some of them were bright and shining lights. He being dead, yet liveth and speaketh through all these-and they, to tens of thousands—and onward and downward the influences roll to the end of time. What the results are, and will be in this world, no tongue can tell; nor will they cease forever. The hallowed influences which have been impressed upon other minds and hearts, are so many cords of love and mercy, which remain to draw souls to Christ. And many a poor boy, and many a poor schoolmaster, will grow strong, and be lighted up in hope and courage, as he tries to prepare himself for usefulness, by knowing that the great and the good Heman Humphrey was once a poor boy and a poor schoolmaster, urging his way up to one of the highest posts of usefulness in the land!

After leaving Amherst, worn down and feeble, he came back to spend the sabbath of life in this community, where he was most warmly welcomed by a people who have ever felt it an honor and a blessing to have him reside among them. When the city of Edinburgh was about opening a new cemetery, and it was known that Dr. Chalmers had taken a lot and would lay his dust in it, there was a great rush for lots, as if all felt that there would be a safety in having their bones laid near his. So we feel that it will be a rich legacy to our children that they can walk through our beautiful cemetery and point the finger and say: "There sleeps Dr. Humphrey !"

In speaking of the character of this father, I should fear to express my honest convictions in full, among any people who did not know him as you have done. I certainly have had good opportunities to read his character, and I may speak with the reverence of a son, and the frankness of a friend. And I honestly and deliberately say, that though it would be weak and wicked to call any man perfect, yet I have never known a man who, in my estimation, came so near being faultless as Dr. Humphrey. High praise, you will say; and yet there is not a man in this commu. nity who would dissent from it. And as to the results of his life, if he had done nothing but what he accomplished during the sixteen years that he was a pastor and a preacher—if he had done nothing but what he did with his pen-if he had done nothing but train up and give to the world his family—if he had done nothing but what he did for the temperance cause—if he had done nothing but rear up a young College, and make it like the well of Jacob, to send up fresh waters in all future time-if he had done nothing but let the light of his beautiful example shine through a long life-he had done a great work, and had been a benefactor to his race! If he had done but one of these works, we should have honored him. What shall we say, then, when he hath done more than all these, without any drawbacks! Are we in danger of estimating the character too highly?

As a writer, Dr. Humphrey held a ready, though not a rapid pen. He was a thinker rather than a writer. His thoughts rose, one after another, connectedly, never flashing, never riding in swelling language, never seeking to startle by unnatural originality, or eccentricity. He would often, however, in a simple, plain figure, embody an illustration that was laden with meaning, and which you would never forget. All his writings are characterized by a common-sense view of the subject, that is manly, clear, never misunderstood, and not easily dissented from. He never surrounds you with a fog, leaving you to guess where you are. He


never produces common thoughts in transcendental magnificence. He never attempts to carry Goliath's spear, nor to wear Saul's

The smooth stones of the brook are his weapons. He is no comet with its blaze, but a clear, pure, silver star, that is never dim. Neither with the pen nor the voice was he so popular as to be intoxicated by flattery, and never tempted to become singular that he might be notorious.

He was the only man whom I ever knew so well, whom I never heard make a foolish remark. His pen never lay idle. The number of sermons, pamphlets, articles in magazines and papers, which he wrote, would make, if collected, very many volumes. Up to the very last his pen was busy, and never more busy than during the past winter. "He seemed to act as if he had a presentiment that he was doing his last work. Among his writings are prominent the following, each of which is a volume of perhaps about 400 pages, namely :

Discourses and Reviews, published in 1834.
Letters from Europe, 1838.
Letters to a Son ia the Ministry. 1842.
Memoir of Prof. N. W. Fiske, 1850.
Memoir of Rev. T. A. Gallauder, 1858.
Revival Sketches, 1859.

I have given you but a faint conception of what he wrote. He was always sowing beside all waters, and never withholding his hand when there was a prospect of doing good to any body and on any subject that was worthy.

In summing up the traits of Dr. Humphrey's character, the most prominent were:

1st. That his character and faculties were remarkably balanced and symmetrical.

I mean by this, that his faculties were such, that none were wanting, none unduly developed, none played out of time, none were dwarfed, none weak, and none refusing to act. This made his old age so bright and so beautiful. This

prevented any decay in his faculties that was hardly perceptible. It sometimes, in. deed, seemed to take longer to get the mill at work than it used to do, but when once a-going, it produced the finest of flour.

The aged man commonly looks back and sees how much better former times were than these, so that what is new in the forms of vice must be worse than the old forms, and what is new in good. ness must be only error under a false name. Dr. Humphrey kept himself abreast of the age, was posted up in every department of humanity, was fresh in all that is moving among men, and never unwilling to adopt what was new, if it was good. There was nothing like fossil about his mind, or taste, or heart. And yet bis moral perceptions were so true that you might pour over him a load of theories and opinions, and he would instantly pick out the true from the shams.

2d. He was distinguished for great practical wisdom.

Wisdom, in its fullest sense, is the highest quality of man. He may have cunning, which Bacon calls « crooked wisdom," and it is to real wisdom what vivacity is to wit, or what gravity is to thought, but it is not wisdom. He may have shrewdness, which is such a power to read and know men, as the scholar has to read books. But wisdom embraces prudence, which merely keeps us from doing wrong, without making us do any thing. It embraces sagacity, which is seeing what might be done. It is the soul in action without making mistakes. A rare thing it is to find a man who has lived more than four-score years, always in action, who has said and done so few unwise things as President Humphrey. It is an original gift. Those who have gone to him for counsel, those who have acted with him on committees or on ecclesiastical councils, those who have wrestled with him in deep discussions in ininisterial meetings, those who have sat under him as an instructor or pastor, have all, without dissent, accorded to him the appellation of " a wise man.” On all moral questions, his instincts were quick and unerring. Though he made no pretensions to far-reaching views, yet all well knew that to follow his advice was to walk in safety. I never knew an instance where it was disregarded, when the mistake was not most manifest sooner or later.

3d Dr. Humphrey was a man of great integrity of character.

In dealing with men, he acted as if he had never met the word fraud, and we should as soon expect to hear that he had committed highway robbery, as that he had defrauded a man of a farthing. There was no shrewdness manifested in money matters, and no shield but the good providence of God was between bim and defrauders.

But there is a higher order of justice than that of bargains. And one of the hardest things for poor human nature to do is to put, I will not say a charitable construction, but even a just one, on the actions of our fellow-men. If a man fails in business, how difficult to feel that he is not to blame, rather than that he is un. fortunate! But our friend could see that there might be good motives and good results, in the actions of men, where others could see nothing of the kind. His estimate of an action, a character, or a book, I will not say was unerringly correct, but he held the scales of justice true and firm.

4th. He had great simplicity of character.

When you met his sweet smile on the sidewalk, when you heard him in the prayer.meeting, when he stood in the pulpit, when he presided at Commencement, and when he spoke at our great missionary anniversaries, you always felt that he had a simplicity of character that was like a child's, honest, sincere, and not self-seeking. I have heard it said that when he entered Col. lege a rough farmer's son, this simplicity was mistaken for something else, till they met him in the recitation and the debating room, when they found that what seemed a noiseless instrument, lacked nothing of power. It never became any thing of the simplicity of King Lear in second childhood, but it was the habit of the soul through life, and a part of his character.

5th. Dr. Humpbrey had great magnanimity of character. Generosity and humanity are qualities of the heart. Magnanimity pertains to the mind. It lifts and holds the soul up above what is mean, sordid, contracted or envious. It is something which commands admiration, whether seen in the lion sparing his prey, in the school-boy who can congratulate his rival on his success, in the general who will take no unmanly advantage of his enemy, and in the public man who is above envying his compeers. In all our intercourse with Dr. Humphrey, we never heard him depreciating a man, a town, a college, or a body of men.

On two occasions, since I knew him, I thonght he was treated uncourteously and most unkindly by men. And, when most men would have stood aloof in offended dignity, or mourned in sullen silence, or complained loudly and publicly, and though when I spoke to him in regard to it, tears for a moment stood in his eyes, yet the smile came back at once, and I never heard him make a remark indicating the least resentment, the least hardness, or that he knew there was such a thing as wrong done to him. On the contrary, by special acts of kindness, and those long continued, he showed not only that the meek and lovely spirit of Christ was his, but also that the angel of love had never left his heart even for an hour.

A man that can step down from a lofty position into private life, and pass through all the vicissitudes of a long public life, and feel that his race is run and that he must decrease, and yet never remember aught against his fellow-men, must be a magnanimous character.

6th. Great humanity and benevolence was a characteristic of Dr. Humpbrey.

Benevolence embraces the good of any thing than can suffer or receive benefit. Old men in Fairfield to this day will tell you how Mr. Humphrey used to visit the schools of that town, and wben he saw little children sitting on benches without any backs to them, and so high that their little feet could not reach the floor, he insisted upon the unheard-of thing of having the benches alters ed, and many a little back was saved its achings. And humanity was taught to the whole town! And all the way through life, he carried this trait. It sought the salvation of a world, the good of

« PreviousContinue »