Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday 7th.

Monday. 9th.

Sunday. 8th. CFA


Sunday. 8th. CFA
Sunday. 8th.

The day was cold and raw. I arose quite late. Attended divine Service all day and heard Mr. Frothingham preach. His Text in the morning was from Luke. 2. 32. “A light to lighten the Gentiles.” A Commemoration of the Epiphany, or manifestation of the Saviour. He considered it as giving distinction to three points of his history. The adoration, the baptism and the first Miracle of Cana. The afternoon was from John’s 1st Epistle. 3. 2. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” The subject the disposition of mortality to know futurity and the fortunate limit that is set to our knowledge. I cannot follow his Sermons in detail. They are hard to take in from the disconnection of the reflections.

After my return, I read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon final impenitence. Text from John. 8. 21. “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.” His division was this—1. The impossibility of an effectual repentance at the last moment from the state of the Creature 2. from the will of the Creator.1 The state of the creature might be owing to a sudden death, to a fear occasioned by remorse or to physical inability from disease. The will of the Creature to a total alienation from the abuse of every blessing and indulgence. The Text explains more clearly than the Preacher. For the latter in the second branch of his subject imputed to the Deity so many human and unworthy passions, that a pure mind must shrink with disgust from the idea of so singular a Divinity. Indeed this is the principal fault of Massillon. His zeal and his Oratorical exaggeration present to the imagination dreadful shapes. He sketches out an avenging being full of vengeance and destruction instead of the awful image of Justice and of Mercy. One other peculiarity I noticed in this Sermon. He says distinctly that each man bears stamped on his forehead at his birth the character he afterwards assumes, and that it is seen and formed by the Deity then. If so, how is man responsible for his faults and why 217should he be eternally condemned to torment for what no act of his could foresee or prevent? Such a faith does not suit me.

Evening. My Wife wrote to Washington2 and I read Articles in the North American and Quarterly. With some of which I was pleased. Afterwards I read over the seventeenth book of Pope’s Homer containing the battle for the body of Patroclus. The translation is wonderfully spirited. I wish it would not take too much time to read the original. Finished my Evening as usual with two numbers of the Spectator.


The sentence’s initial difficulty derives partly from the placement of the numerals, partly from the word “Creator.” The two sentences following in the text provide the beginning of an explanation of the meaning. From them it seems clear that “the impossibility of an effectual repentance at the last moment” is owing 1. to the state of the Creature 2. to the will of the Creature. However, beyond the two explanatory sentences, the text reveals that the confusion in the writing reflected CFA’s view that Massillon himself in the second section had confused “Creator” and “Creature,” or made them all but identical. A sentence with a meaning congruent to the whole passage on the sermon might then read: “His division was this—The impossibility of an effectual repentance at the last moment 1. from the state of the Creature 2. from the will of the Creature and of the Creator.”


Letter missing.