PRACTICAL AND DOCTRINAL,
BY THE LATE
Elijah Parish, D.D.
PUBLISHED BY CROCKER & BREWSTER,
No. 50, CORNHILL.
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DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, to wit:
District Clerk's Office.
BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty-eighth day of April, A. D. 1826, in the fiftieth year of the Independence of the United States of America, Moses P. Parish, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, to wit:
"Sermons, Practical and Doctrinal. By the late Elijah Parish, D. D. With a Biographical Sketch of the Author."
In Conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, intitled, ‘An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies, of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to an act, intitled, "An act supplementary to an act, intitled, An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical, and other prints."
JNO. W. DAVIS,
Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.
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THE remark, which Addison, in the first number of the Spectator, has so playfully made, that a reader never peruses a book with satisfaction until he knows the personal qualities of the author, seems to be peculiarly true when applied to orations and sermons. In reading a spoken composition, our recollections of fancy naturally recur to the speaker. We either remember his manner and read every sentence in connexion with it, or, if we have had no knowledge of the author, we supply the deficiency by a picture of the imagination. We hear, in the ear of the mind, the fervour and eloquence with which he poured forth his thought. His cadence, his mien, his gestures accompany every period, and mingle with every sentiment. In cases, therefore, in which the imagination must be busy, it is important that it should he guided by truth; and since these Discourses will not suffer from the
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reader’s possessing the most vivid conception of the author’s utterance and character, we shall prefix to them a short account of his life. We write not a biography, but a sketch.
ELIJAH PARISH was born in Lebanon, Con. Nov. 7, 1762. His parentage was respectable; but like most other scholars in New-England, he was obliged to struggle with difficulties in obtaining a classical education. In political history, it has long been observed, that the founder of a dynasty may be distinguished, by his superiour vigour of mind, from one born in the purple and inheriting a throne. The same is true of two classes of scholars. The superiority is always found among those who have acquired energy, by conquering difficulties. Man must be goaded to exertion by the scourge of necessity. He was graduated at Dartmouth College, 1785. He chose the study of divinity for his pursuit. It is probable at this time, that religion had made an impression, salutary and lasting, on his mind and heart. On this subject he was remarkably unostentatious. He laid claim to no vivid hopes or powerful excitements. The story therefore of his progress in personal religion is now unknown. But we need not lament the loss. The only piety which be taught, or professed to prize, was such as could be attested by the fruits.*
In his youth there were no Theological Seminaries in this country. He pursued his studies under the direction of Rev. Ephraim Judson, of Taunton, Mass.
* Since writing the above, testimonies have been received from Mr. Pemberton, his early instructer, and Rev. Mr. Kellogg, of Portland, to his early piety and scholarship.
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If, Dr. Parish rose to eminence in his profession, his merit can never be appreciated, unless we consider the obstacles of the times, in which he came forward. Young theologians can have no conception of those difficulties, as they are now taught in richly endowed seminaries, partaking of the prosperity of the country. In his youth, war, confusion, national distraction and poverty disturbed the seats of science, and opposed the young candidate’s progress both in the paths of learning and religion. In the year 1787, Dr. Parish was settled in Byfield, a parish in the town of Newbury, Mass. His early settlement affords probable evidence of his youthful popularity.
The life of a humble preacher of truth, placed in a peaceful village and engaged in a circle of duties, which, though arduous, are still similar, cannot be supposed to be crowded with events which sparkle in narrative. The calling of Dr. Parish was honourable: he made it laborious; and he appears to have experienced in his ministry that blessing, which is prayed for in the formula of the English church, that God would pour upon his people the continual dew of his blessing. It was not his aim in preaching to make an impression on his people, which should adorn a narrative in a newspaper. He was a gradual builder, but his materials were solid stone. The continual dew of divine blessing is an expression, which best describes the effect of his instruction. Yet twice in his ministry a peculiar solemnity pervaded his parish. In the earlier part of his life, he encountered difficulties among his people,—when he died, there was not a more united parish in the state. He was indeed a
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man peculiarly fitted to act in those scenes which try men’s souls. Decided in his views and firm in his spirit, he walked in the path of danger with an undaunted heart. It is a rare event in modern times that a clergyman is called to give such specimens of Christian courage.—He boldly took his stand on the pedestal of duty, nor was it the threats, or sneers of an opposing world, that would induce him to leave it. This was courage of the noblest kind; it is the very resolution which a minister’s profession requires.—. Thousands, who have faced the dangers of battle, have been timid here. The teachers of religion, if they mean to fill their station, must copy our departed father, and to a holy heart add an independent mind.
He was a diligent and successful student. Judging from effects, we should conclude that Dr. Parish was a man that seldom found an idle hour. He had a mind which was uncommonly vigorous, and he was uncommonly diligent to cultivate it. He was not one of those ministers who close their books when they leave the college, and who, if they can satisfy their people, are satisfied themselves. His learning, as was to be expected, was of the last age rather than this; yet as a student, few were ever more industrious. Many of his works are before the public, and of these it is not necessary to speak. His most striking quality was his eloquence. In his happiest efforts, few equalled, and none could surpass him. Without those thrilling tones, which sometimes make sound supply the deficiencies of thought, and the most flimsy performances pass for excellence, he led the intelligent
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ear from sentence to sentence, in which religion was recommended by beauty, and instruction increased by delight. He riveted attention to his theme; the friends of truth were confirmed in their views, and those who rejected his arguments, acknowledged his power. His style was vivid; abounding in expressions which sunk on the memory, and illustrations, which reached the heart. Every object of usefulness, or sublimity, which he. presented, was more than recognized, it was seen and felt. Nothing was cold—nothing languid. He was an orator in the highest sense of the word. The impression which he made on the hearers in publick, was, repeated on the reader in his closet. He came nearer to Massilon than to Whitefield. He could not have melted the colliers of Bristol; nor arrested the attention of the commonalty of Scotland; but in a refined auditory, few could speak to more acceptance, or leave a deeper impression on the heart.
But he is gone—that eloquent tongue shall speak to us no more—or rather he speaks. to us in another language.. He tells us in the dialect of the dead, that gifts are nothing without graces—that in the world, to which he has departed, they ask not what talents a mortal has possessed, but how he has used them.
This venerable and departed man was a faithful minister—the best evidence, in his profession, of his being a true Christian; and let me add, that he formed an extensive conception of what faithful preaching is. He left no part of duty untouched, no sin uncensored. He endeavoured to occupy the whole ground, displayed in the bible; and to make his
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instructions as extensive as the wants of man. Though belonging in his youth, and perhaps in his age, to a theological school, which has been charged with dwelling too exclusively on a few favourite points, he was not a narrow preacher. He could reason and feel; Comfort the Christian or alarm the sinner; inculcate faith, or insist on good works. His mind was replenished with the fulness of the gospel. In this respect I hardly know his equal. If the narrowness of controversial divinity makes this mode of preaching almost an experiment in religion, we may say the experiment was peculiarly happy. Dr. Parish was the instrument of turning many to righteousness.
In his person, he was below the middle stature. His eye was keen and piercing; and left on the observer, at the first interview, an impression of. sarcasm and severity. It is true, no man could give a quicker reply, or had a repartee more at command, than Dr. Parish. He could be severe, when severity was necessary; yet in friendly intercourse he always softened into an intelligent and agreeable companion. In his conversation, there was opposition enough to call forth conflicting opinions; and urbanity enough to make the conflict not unpleasant.
When he mounted the pulpit to speak, he so far resembled Ulysses, as to awaken no high expectation in the mind of’ the stranger. His commencing utterance appeared rather monotonous; and, in the first verse of the hymn, or the first sentence of the discourse, there was a tone which savoured of senility. But as he proceeded, warmed by his subject, every vestige of this fault vanished—he became
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animated, emphatic, glowing. He was fired himself, and never failed to fire his audience. Yet there was nothing of that overstepping the modesty of nature by which some popular speakers acquire their eminence. There was nothing disproportionate in his speaking; of the truth of which, this is a proof; that young preachers, who studied under him, never gave the distorted features of his eloquence in disgusting imitation
As he was a decided man, he was obliged, like all other decided men, in some parts of his life, to wade through the waters of opposition. His activity in polities acquired for him many enemies. Whether was right in taking such a prominent stand on a subject not ‘immediately connected with religion, we shall not say. He shewed, at least, his decision. It is proper, however, to reveal the whole truth; in the latter part of his life, he wholly renounced all concern with political affairs. To a friend, who once spoke to him on the subject, he replied, "Politics is like the variolous contagion, no man catches it a second time."
With respect to the religious suspicion and obloquy, to which he was, for a time subjected, we may speak with more confidence. It arose from his independence of character; from his refusing to bow down to the popular idols of the day. He was a friend to religious liberty; he would have the human mind assailed by no arms but those of persuasion and truth. This makes his loss almost inestimable. In this age, when some good men seem to have forgotten the purpose for which our fathers crossed the ocean, and
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erected, with infinite hazard, these western churches, on principles as free as the spirit of benevolence itself,—his influence and example seem peculiarly necessary. He found the happy medium of mixing decision of sentiment, with candour to those who differed from him. In his mind, as in that of the great Watts, orthodoxy and charity were beautifully combined. The truths embraced by our fathers, he believed to be infinitely important to the happiness of man; yet he was cautious of judging of intentions. In declaring opinions, he spoke with confidence; but persons he left to the tribunal of God.*
He considered both the great parties which now divide our country as, in many respects; wrong; yet he always boldly said that the genius of christianity resided with the orthodox. Unitarianism, in his mind, was a system, not without its plausible pretensions to a speculative mind. If man had no sins,
* To illustrate our manners, if ever this book should fall into the hands of a foreigner, let me mention in a note, a circumstance which is certainly unworthy of a place in the text. In Massachusetts, for a few years past, all ecclesiastical measures have been prepared in a certain conclave, nobody knows who they are, or where they are,—invisible beings,—congregational cardinals, to whose decrees every orthodox clergyman and church is expected to pay unlimited deference and submission. But as they are wholly destitute of power, they have found out a singular way of executing their laws. The clergyman, who hesitates, or dates to think, or act for himself, suddenly finds himself surrounded by the whisper, that he is becoming an Unitarian. It is not easy to conceive the horrour and dismay, that this suggestion occasions. It is caught from mouth to mouth, and whispered from ear to ear, and every ghastly relater increases the terrours of the tale. The poor, affrighted victim must either return to the bosom of the church,—the popular measure of the day,—or be denounced a heretic, worthy of all the flames that detraction can kindle: for, in this country, we burn heretics in no other. I will only add, that this state of society is rather amusing; to say nothing of the magnanimity of the great men, who condescend to use such weapons, it is singular enough to see to what useful purpose the Unitarians may be put; they not only serve as whetstones, on which staunch polemics may sharpen their weapons, but they make excellent bugbears to keep naughty boys in order. 0 the follies of the wise!
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no sorrows, neither sickness, nor death, he might sit and admire the schemes of modern innovators, as the traveller admires the morning rays refracted around the ice and snow of some mountain’s top; but these beams, though bright, awaken no vegetation; he considered this system as wholly inadequate the wants and agonies of a mind really awake to eternal things. Faith wishes to repose on something more substantial. He always said, however, that the mode of opposing this system was not the best. Whilst it is a novelty, and whilst therefore its advocates can avail themselves of the ambiguous ground that lies between innovation, and improvement, he said it might prevail. But it would soon become the old religion; and have to drop its accidental pretension, and encounter all the obstacles with which the old religion has now to contend, without any of its advantages. It could then no longer be said, "See what improvement we are making; see what old we are overthrowing." Falsa satiabunt. The cloud is temporary, the sunshine eternal. Refrain from these men, and let them alone. Acts v. 38.
Dr. Parish was married to Miss Mary Hale, in 1796, by whom he has children; three of
whom survive him. In the year 1819, be was called to bury a very amiable daughter, a heavy affliction. This event was never spoken of afterward but with the deepest sympathy.
He was frequently called to preach on public occasions. Before the legislature in 1810, the Election sermon; before the convention 1821. This last sermon will be found in this collection.
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In his last sickness, he was seen by the writer of this biographical notice. His intellect was partially clouded, but not entirely lost. He was a sufferer, but patient, tranquil, serene. He had always, in his healthy days, expressed an opinion that death was an event not to be trifled with; and he doubted whether the indifference with which some good men professed to regard it, is not the result of ignorance rather than grace. He pronounced himself never to be above fear. Yet when he was asked, on the day before his expiration, what were his views, he replied, "For reasons which appear to me to be just, I rather wish to live; yet I leave the event with God. Not my will, but his be done." He died October 15th, 1825; and was followed to the grave by the esteem of his friends, and the tears of his people.
Besides occasional sermons, the works by which he has already appeared before the public, are: The Gazetteer of the Eastern continent, the History of New England, Modern Geography, and Gazetteer of the Bible.
These discourses are now presented to the public, to pass that wider test of criticism, which results from a general perusal. In the vicinity of the author’s ministrations, they have been heard with great approbation and delight. It was always an exhilaration to an audience of taste, to see the author of these discourses enter the pulpit. Expectation was highly raised, and seldom disappointed, It was remarked, in several places, where some of these longest sermons were preached, that the hour was almost
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annihilated in the interest it excited. It is true, in different spheres, an author meets with different competitors, and is therefore estimated in a different manner. How this volume will be received by the world, we cannot say; but we should feel little solicitude, if its reception should be according to its merits.