Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 23d.

Monday. 25th.

Sunday. 24th. CFA Sunday. 24th. CFA
Sunday. 24th.

The morning was very clear with a hot day following it. I passed an hour after breakfast in continuing Aristotle, and a little while reading Viger on the Greek Idioms,1 a very excellent Book if I may judge of the whole from a part.

Attended divine service all day, and heard in the morning Mr. Emerson, in the afternoon, Mr. Frothingham. I began today my intended practice of examining the Bible from the Texts of the Preachers. Mr. Emerson’s Sermon was from 1. Corinthians, Chapt. 2. Verse 14. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He drew from this the distinction existing between soul and body. He objected to the prevailing habit of forming opinions from effects produced on the senses, exhorting to a greater cultivation of mind and leading to an increase of faith and hope and trust. He spoke of the custom of judging of all things by the method in which they sensibly affected us, instancing the ideas commonly formed of Heaven. What he said was true, but if man cannot be allowed to reflect upon the future in the way that comes most naturally and indeed in the only way he can realize any idea of advantage, is not there danger that he will cease to think at all, and then be without a stimulus to good conduct? Mr. Emerson should look at the thing practically. The spirit of the Chapter from which his text was taken is the humiliation of man’s powers when compared to those coming from the Spirit of God. Inspiration is to be sure the most unfailing guide. But our degeneracy has deprived us of it. And if human wisdom is liable to error, (as it most certainly is), yet it is the most desirable thing we can attain. A distinction however can be drawn between human wisdom, and worldly wisdom. Mr. Frothingham’s Sermon was from Matthew 18 Chap. 10 verse: “Take heed that 97ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their Angels do always behold the Face of my Father which is in Heaven.” This is a lesson of humility to Man. The Saviour frequently inculcates innocence through the medium of these living examples. Their helplessness, their freedom from the passions and consequent sins of manhood and their increased natural good feelings, afford to us, the strongest possible illustration to affect us. The moral is beautiful. Mr. Frothingham however drew only that arising from God’s care of Children. I therefore thought the Sermon a failure. Returned home and consumed the afternoon in reading one of Massillon’s Sermons which I intend in this way to go through.2 I began with the Petit Careme. Luke C.2. v:34. This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. The course were addressed to Louis 15th during his minority, and were designed to give him some advice upon the conduct he should pursue when King. This first is upon the influence of example either as holding out encouragement to virtue, or taking off restraint from vice. As a lesson to a King, it was bold. And the strong dissuasion from War which forms its most eloquent Passage is in singular contrast with the praises bestowed in the close, upon the character of his Grandfather. How little did the whole avail. Louis the 15th was the age of most unbounded private licentiousness instigated by the practice of the Monarch himself.

The day was very warm. In the evening, Dr. and Mrs. Stevenson called to pass half an hour. I was pleased with him as an intelligent and well informed man. They left us and I consumed the remainder of the Evening in reading Mr. Pye’s Commentary on Aristotle, many opinions in which do not strike my fancy, and the Spectator.

1.

François Viger, Greek Idioms ... translated by Rev. J. Seager, London [1828].

2.

At MQA are two editions owned by JQA of the Sermons of Jean Baptiste Massillon: one in 5 vols., Paris, 1748; the other in 13 vols., Paris, 1763–1769.