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Among the plans in which Mr. Cornelius was interested, while residing in Litchfield, was the formation of a society in the female school in that place “for doing good.” Once a week he delivered a lecture to this association. The members of the school belonged to various parts of the northern States, and some of them were natives of regions which were very destitute of religious instruction. Facts were collected from many towns on the subject of instituting societies for benevolent purposes, a small library was formed, and other means for doing good devised. In this way a number of individuals were prepared to engage intelligently, and with zeal, in various enterprises in behalf of their suffering fellow-creatures.
In nearly all the letters of Mr. Cornelius, which were written during this period, allusion is made to the Hawaiian youth, and the Foreign Missionary School. It was a subject in which his benevolent heart was most thoroughly engaged. We think that the evidence is decisive that to him, as much as to any other man, the deep interest which was felt in that object, is to be attributed.
His mind had been for some time greatly interested as the reader has already learned from one of his letters, in a plan for exploring the Atlantic States, after the manner in which the regions west of the Alleghany mountains had been surveyed by Messrs. Mills and Smith. The objects, which his comprehensive mind had sketched, were the following: To furnish candidates for the Christian ministry with the necessary information respecting those districts of country which were in the greatest need of religious instruction; to form Sabbath schools in every city or considerable village through which the tour should be made ; to aid the American Bible Society, by learning the facts in regard to the destitution of Bibles, and by establishing auxiliaries; to circulate religious intelligence by preaching missionary sermons, conversing on the
MEMOIR OF CORNELIUS.
subject, obtaining subscribers for religious newspapers, with a view to awaken Christians to exertions demanded by the present state of the world; to raise a fund by direct solicitation for the liberal support of the heathen school; to ascertain the condition of the slaves in the southern States, in respect to their want of religious instruction; and in general to execute a commission of the most enlarged character, as preparatory to specific labors.
LEANS-MARRIAGE-AGENCY FOR RAISING A FUND FOR
On the fourth of June, 1816, Mr. Cornelius was licensed to preach the gospel by the South Association of Congregational ministers, in Litchfield county, Connecticut. The readers of this memoir will be gratified to learn the opinions which were entertained of him at this time by an individual who had every facility for forming a correct judgment. “I have forborne to say all I think of Mr. Cornelius and his prospects as a popular preacher in the best sense of the term, and as a missionary of great enterprise and prudence, lest, upon experience, some deficiency, unperceived by me, might be discovered. But the successful manner in which he has conducted the enterprise in which he is now engaged, (that of raising funds for the support of heathen children in the schools at Bombay,) and the influence he has exerted upon all classes of people, young and old, good and bad, and the confidence reposed in him by all the ministers and churches around us, make me feel as if it was safe and as
if it was duty to state freely to you my opinions and views. Mr. Cornelius has been as signally blessed in promoting revivals of religion, as in soliciting charities. I have never known a young man of such ardent feeling and ardent piety, and so much maturity of judgment and prudence, and who combines so many advantages to influence, as a public speaker, and in private conversation, the minds of men.”
Notwithstanding the eminent advantages which Mr. Cornelius possessed from the God of nature and grace, it may admit of a doubt, whether a somewhat different and a more exact theological discipline would not have increased his powers for doing good. Considering the circumstances of his own character, and the peculiarly excited state of the Christian community at that time, in respect to benevolent exertions, when the attention was first aroused to the subject, it is evident that he was exposed to peculiar danger of premature entrance on the great work of the Christian minister and missionary. He was possessed of a vivid imagination, and of a ready elocution, which, added to active habits, exposed him to fall into a loose and prolix mode of preaching. He was certainly capable of reasoning and writing in a concise and logical manner, of methodizing his ideas on all subjects upon which he reflected, and of unfolding them in proper order, and without circumlocution. Such a “ chosen vessel” should have had every possible polish. A little more vigorous discipline, and a somewhat closer attention to taste and accuracy in composition, would have considerably increased his singular ability in the service of his Lord. We allude to these things from a desire to give an impartial view of his character, and also from the knowledge that, in subsequent life, he himself regarded the subject in the light in which we have presented it. Very few men judged of their own character and attainments with more accuracy and real humility than Mr. Cornelius. None desired more earnestly, all those qualifications which would have enabled him, by the grace of God, to confer eminent blessings on his fellow-men.
The following incident, while it illustrates the preceding observations, will show a very uncommon attainment in one of the most difficult of the Christian graces. We relate it in the words of the excellent individual who communicated it to us, and who is now, as we do not doubt, partaking of the blessedness of the saints in light.
“In the year 1816, soon after Mr. Cornelius became a preacher, he received a commission, to solicit benefactions for foreign missions. Under this commission he preached with great acceptance, in several places in the no hwestern parts of Connecticut. Many individuals went from town to town to hear him ; some of them exclaiming, 'he is a second Whitefield.' It was my privilege to listen to him at Norfolk. His text was Psalm lxxiv. 20. "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. His discourse was in itself excellent. He gave a most striking account of the wickedness and woes of heathenism. His manner was still better.
Without any appearance of wild-fire, he was wholly inflamed with his subject. Soon the flame seemed to spread through the house, and kindle every hearer. The effect was most happy. The people contributed much more than he requested. Still his discourse was probably less instructive, and less useful, than if it had been more regularly arranged, and more accurately composed. And now the question with me was, Shall I tell my young brother of his defects ? Can I ex ect that thus borne onward by such a tide and torrent of popularity, he will be willing to stop and listen to chilling criticisms from me, upon points of comparatively small importance? I concluded, how