Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 28th.

Monday 30th.

Sunday. 29th. CFA Sunday. 29th. CFA
Sunday. 29th.

Another cold and rainy day. Attended divine service after spending the morning partly in overlooking the Mathematics studied by Hull yesterday, partly in pursuing my Catalogue. Heard Mr. Frothingham preach a very good Sermon in the morning from John 12. 6. “Not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief.” The subject was the tendency of substituting some plausible cause for the real one when a man commits any fault. There was much penetration into human nature in it. More especially when he touched upon the course of politicians and of zealots. Undoubtedly there is nothing in which we experience more of error in the substitution of sophistry for sound reasoning where self interest impels it. And there is a greater tendency that way as the powers of the intellect are improved. The path of life is an easy one where it runs through quiet spots, but upon entering the tempestuous scenes, Man manifests his feebleness prodigiously.

The Afternoon’s Sermon was preached by Mr. Emerson. Proverbs 10. 9. “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” It was an attempt to show the folly of hypocrisy, because the character of a man cannot be concealed. He endeavoured to sustain this position by an argument showing that the general reputation of a man is the correct one. This like all other general propositions is partly true and partly false. A Man’s whole character is rarely known, and in many cases the substitution in public opinion of certain leading traits occasions an entirely mistaken estimate. A man may be warmhearted in nature yet cold in his general manners. He is called haughty.1 He may be ostentatious in his distribution of Money, and be reputed generous. The fact is that hypocrisy cannot be altogether attacked on that score alone. It is undoubtedly true that the world can sometimes, though it may not always, be deceived. The objections to it must rest upon somewhat higher grounds.

On my return home I read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon Death. I 289think as I go on I relish these more. This is undoubtedly powerful. His Text from Luke 7. 12. “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” His division twofold. The uncertainty of the hour of death produces a foolish and illgrounded confidence. The certainty of its happening at some hour, leads to a dread of considering the subject at all. Upon these he descants, showing the necessity of constant readiness and therefore of immediate attention. There is some common place in this effort, but I have not the same horror of that which some entertain. There are but few new ideas in the world, and whether we know it or not,2 we do in fact only ring the changes upon old ones.

Passed my evening quietly at home and read some Chapters of the Bible to my Wife. I. Hull went to Medford this morning to see his Sister and did not return tonight. I am out of work now in the evening so that for a night or two I have taken up Sismondi, but he is very dry. Began tonight a famous Chapter upon the evidences of Christianity a part of which is noticed by my Father in his Letters.3

1.

An application to CFA’s own case seems to have been intended.

2.

MS: it.

3.

That is, JQA’s Letters on the Bible, concerning which see entry for 2 Aug. 1831, above.