Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 4th. CFA Sunday. 4th. CFA
Sunday. 4th.

This was another fine day though a little more cool. I attended divine service all day and heard Mr. Frothingham’s Sermon in the morning from 2. Corinthians 5. 15. “That he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.” It was upon that particular feature of the Christian doctrine which manifests an abandonment of self for the sake of others. One remark of his I was particularly struck with, that if we were to judge of the mass of men by the rigid justice of this Rule, we should find exceedingly few who lived up either to the letter or the spirit of it. Selfishness is the characteristic of the race. But I lost the trace of the discourse generally for which I am the more sorry as it was a good one. The text of the Afternoon has also escaped me though its subject was the character of the Deity as a Judge, the dispensation of rewards and punishments here and hereafter. He considered it probable that this was much more equally done even in this life than our limited faculties can form an idea of, but he did not deny that there were still inequalities which could only be explained consistently with our idea of the Deity, by a state of compensation in future.

On returning home I read Massillon though superficially so that I was obliged to read him at night again. Matthew 15. 8. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” He considered the nature of the true worship of God. Dividing the subject into two parts. First, the neglect of all formal worship and the reasons assigned for so doing. He considered these to be what in fact they most often are mere excuses for neglect of all religion. He thought some attention to external devotion beneficial on various accounts, the strongest of which is the effect upon other and weaker members. But second he took up the idea that attention to form was very injurious when it was made to take the place of real piety, when as in the text the lips speak but the heart is hard. A very good Sermon.

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I felt depressed as the Child seemed unwell. Mr. Blake called and spent a couple of hours very pleasantly.

Monday. 5th. CFA Monday. 5th. CFA
Monday. 5th.

Heavy rain and apparently a disperser of our snow and ice. I went to the Office and read Gibbon. Beginning the sixth volume and the decline of the Roman Empire in the East. A thing that never had any solid foundation of it’s own. A man may on the whole feel very grateful with us that he has been placed where he is. Perhaps the pleasantest period for life may be considered to have taken place during the last half of the last Century in England, and the first half in France. Though the thing may admit of some consideration. I am speaking of the pleasure of life to an educated man. In these days we are all educated.

Although it stormed hard, I attended the Meeting of the Directors of Boylston Market and they transacted the business expeditiously. They are pretty practical men all of them and understand the business of building. There is something to be got from almost every body in this world.

Returned home. The Baby was so unwell I sent for the Dr. She has been now in a poor condition for a month past. I know no anxiety equal to this. Read a part of Goethe’s Memoirs to my Wife. Afterwards I finished Grahame’s second Volume, and read some account of Dryden, but I cannot easily read over and over.

Tuesday. 6th. CFA Tuesday. 6th. CFA
Tuesday. 6th.

A gloomy day. Besides the want of rest caused by the fretfulness of the Child, our anxiety about her was very considerable. She shows every symptom of illness and we feel it the more as we are so little accustomed to it. My time was passed at the Office in reading Mr. Clay’s Speech upon the Tariff which strikes me as rather above the usual character of his writings, and only defective in prudence.1 It took the whole of my time.

Afternoon. Read the first Book of the Aeneid with great ease and much pleasure. The pictures are graphic, the versification smooth and the language elegant. In short about as good as one can imagine a thing of the kind.

Evening. My Wife retired so early that I devoted two hours and a half to the diligent study of Montesquieu upon the greatness and the decline of Rome.2 A book containing a great fund of reflection. He studied History as it should be studied, for the sake of the general 255conclusions he could draw to instruct the human race. But though both in this work and in the spirit of the laws he seems to have much method, in fact his books are but bundles of thoughts irregularly spread.

1.

The speech delivered in the Senate by Henry Clay on 2, 3, and 6 Feb. “In Defence of the American System” was printed by the Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot on 6 March as a 4-page extra section. Also published separately, CFA had a copy in his pamphlet collection (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 326). See also, above, entry for note.

2.

In the edition of the Ceuvres of Montesquieu at MQA which CFA used (above, entry of 1 May 1831), “Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des romains, et de leur décadence” is in vol. 6.