Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Saturday. 16th. CFA Saturday. 16th. CFA
Saturday. 16th.

Morning cloudy but it afterwards cleared away. I went to the Office and passed my time in Accounts. I was also engaged in reading the Newspapers, but on the whole I cannot say that my morning was profitably passed. Went to the Athenaeum for the purpose of obtaining a new subject to read at my office but I did not succeed. I believe that my proper course would be now to commence my investigations into the history of our own Country. My principal difficulty is to know where to begin. The field is a tolerably wide one. And a vast deal of it is unknown to me. I must go over it faithfully.

Took a walk. In the afternoon read Anquetil finishing the third 31Volume. Evening, read to my Wife some of Croker’s Legends of Killarney, so poor a book that I do not think I shall be able to get through with it. Afterwards, read German. The little fables of Herder, which are pretty and easy.

Sunday. 17th. CFA Sunday. 17th. CFA
Sunday. 17th.

The snow now begins to disappear. A considerable body of it has been collecting gradually. Read Montaigne for an hour. His Chapter upon human inconsistency is admirable. I have not generally seen the merit of this Author, but that Chapter contains a deep insight into human nature.

Attended divine service all day. Mr. Frothingham preached, from John 9. 2. “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” He took upon himself to confute the idea that the Deity could be considered as punishing in the various dispensations which men in this world experienced—An idea which, he said, was familiarly cherished by the Hebrews and was even now somewhat entertained in the Christian world. With respect to the punishment of children for the faults of their fathers, I do not pretend to believe in it, although there is something in the apparent government of the Universe to cherish the idea. It would be exceedingly difficult however to convince me, that according to the laws governing man, he is not often made to pay the penance of his sin by his own suffering corporeal or mental, in this world. Even the hereditary complaints which are the consequences of vicious conduct most frequently, however they may seem to fall upon the innocent, fix no little mortification and suffering in the minds of the guilty persons. For myself, I must candidly confess that my own experience has shown me strongly the fact that I can not do wrong with impunity. Whatever intentional misconduct I may have been guilty of, has left no little of the suffering which has fallen to my share to atone for it. And on the other hand, the happiness of my life has invariably dated from the quiet performance of duty, not fully perhaps, but then not unwillingly.

Afternoon. Matthew 9. 8. “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” Text relates to a miracle, the performing of which has ceased. But the Sermon related to the power conferred ordinarily by the Deity upon man and divided it into five parts, the power over the productions of the earth, that over inferior creatures, that over the elements, over events and lastly the power of men over themselves.

32

On my return home, which was somewhat delayed by a visit at Mrs. Frothingham’s, I read a Sermon of Massillon’s for the occasion of the day of commemoration of the Virgin. Subject, Fidelity as exemplified in her, to be secured by measures of precaution, and by those of correspondence as he styles it, which I take to mean merely perseverance. The dangers of Fidelity under the first division are stated to be self weakness, the opinion of the world and the forgetfulness of grace, the measures of precaution are seclusion from and indifference to the judgments of men, and gratitude to be constantly cherished; under the second division, the dangers are from not pursuing as well as straying from the path of grace, both which must be avoided by perseverance. Quiet evening at home, finished Ruffhead and read Herder.