Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 10th.

Monday. 12th.

Sunday. 11th. CFA


Sunday. 11th. CFA
Sunday. 11th.

The day clear but exceedingly warm. It seemed as if the Season was coming back upon us instead of advancing to Winter. My Wife felt the effect of it a good deal and was more languid and low spirited than at any time. Recovery in cases of this kind is so slow and accompanied with such a variety of trifling yet vexatious drawbacks that it is not wonderful if courage sometimes fails.

I employed my morning in reading Demosthenes. Attended divine service as usual and heard Mr. George Whitney, in the morning from John. 16. 12. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” The discourse was intended to illustrate the progressive improvement of the world, a very favourite theory with the present generation. Under the “many things” of the text the preacher considered as now able to bear when it was not at that time, he included a disposition to check War, the detestation of slavery, the decrease of the power of mere public opinion &ca. Yet if we look round the world does he not hug a delusion. Peace has lasted but fifteen years since a long and desolating War, and at this moment the elements of Civil Society are in greater confusion almost throughout the Christian World than they have been for ages. Slavery is not only no where checked, but it positively increases and that immensely in many parts of the world. As to the third opinion, it is somewhat original with the author in itself. He considers the omnipotence of public opinion as an evil. Most persons regard it as a blessing. The difference lies in the definition of the words. The preacher considers it as prejudice for good or for evil, slow to be moved and as quick to go under bad influences as good ones. He therefore thinks the world has improved from a superior susceptibility to the action of leading individual minds. That it is more susceptible is probably true. But so far from this decreasing the force of public opinion, I should think it had increased it a thousand fold. Whether this has not produced a considerable degree of habitual subserviency in leading minds I will not undertake to say, but this I will say, that you see less originality than you did. So much for Mr. Whitneys morning Sermon. It remains only to say, that his manner pleased me and that he displayed more ability than I gave him credit for.

In the afternoon he preached from Hebrews 2. 15. “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” 134In other words an exhortation to be prepared at all times for death. It was not particularly interesting.

On my return home I read as usual one of the Sermons of Massillon. Text. Matthew. 21. 5. “Behold, the king cometh unto thee, meek.” Subject—the dangers awaiting the piety of the great, 1st through indolence in piety and disinclination to perform the duties of their station, 2d through timidity and irresolution, 3d through prejudiced piety. On the whole very good, but Massillon’s style bears the stamp of too regular labour to last long agreeable. This Sermon is however very remarkable for the popular doctrine it addresses to the King upon his original right to the Crown.

Read Bacon’s Essay on Wisdom for a Man’s Self and Blair’s Lecture on Taste. A plain but a clear style.

Evening, working upon Cicero, and the Spectator.