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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Saturday 12th

12 October 1861

Monday 14th

14 October 1861
13 October 1861
Sunday 13th

A clear, fine day throughout, a thing quite rare at this season. Mrs Adams and I took the opportunity to execute a plan we have entertained for some time back, which was to go across the river to attend Divine service at the great tabernacle at which the most popular preacher in London officiates. We were obliged to go an hour in advance of the service in order to get a chance of seats. As it was crowds were waiting at the doors. A hint had been given to me by the Misses Gelston that by special application at the side door, the police Officer might admit us. There is a magic power in liveried servants in similar cases here, and we found ourselves immediately in an immense hall, surrounded with two deep tiers of gallery. The seats however though empty at the moment all belonged to individuals by ticket just as rigidly as if it was a theatre. And I was beginning to despair when a civil plain looking man met us and offered two seats in the front gallery, vacant by reason of253 the nonattendance of two of his daughters this morning, which I accepted with pleasure. This position gave me the opportunity to see the entire audience after it was assembled, and the slow but steady process of accumulation until from top to bottom, including the very highest point under the roof not an empty place was to be found, not excepting any of the aisles or passage ways. It is estimated that the house can hold seven thousand people at the lowest. The spectacle was striking, for the people were evidently almost all of the pure middle class of England which constitutes the real strength of the nation, and yet which in religion relucts at the inanimate vacuity of the ministrations in the Established church, and grasps at something more vigorous and earnest than forms. Mr Spurgen is a short thick set man thoroughly English in matter and manner yet without physical coarseness, so common an attendant of the frame after youth. Here was no pulpit. He stood on a raised platform under the first gallery, projecting sufficiently to admit of several rows of seats behind, and between flights of steps on each side which led down to the body a table at one side and a chair. This was the appearance. The service was in the usual simple form of the dissenting churches. A rather short prayer. The hymns read aloud,and sung by the whole congregation without accompaniment. Then the sermon from the text 3 Ephesians XIV “Of when the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” He discussed upon this with great fluency, moving from time to time to one or the other side. His topics were drawn from the three significant words of his text. The link word as he called it which was Christ as referred to from the antecedent in the verse before; then the key-word, which was the family and lastly the password which comprised all its members. Every thing else however was grasped around the single centre of the family. The head and father, of the members living and dead, recognized by the name of Christ, no matter what the superadded denomination. There was breadth and grandeur in his images, not a little heightened by the mode of singing beforehand a Wesleyan hymn developing the idea of the solemn march of254 the host never breaking its ranks even in crossing the narrow river that separates this and the other world. The family continued one, going on to its reward for its faithful devotion to its chief— And although professing himself a Baptist and a Calvinist he disavowed all narrowness of sectarian bigotry, and compared the effect of the distinctions between them to that produced by the phenomenon among brothers and sisters. His division was lucid, and his treatment remarkably effective, of a few simple ideas. For there was no very characteristic thought nor moral reasoning. His power consisted in sympathy with the current of human feeling in all ages on the solemn topic of moral responsibility to a higher power both here and hereafter. During his whole address the attention was profound and the emotion at times considerable. How singular is the sway of the human voice when guided by a master of its tones! As the great multitude finally poured itself in a quiet, orderly channel out of the edifice I could not but speculate upon the new view of English Society that had here been opened to me. Here is visible the kernel that cracked the hard outer shell of conventional formalities in the days of the reformation— Here lie but partially awakened the elements of moral revolution whenever the corruption of the privileged classes shall have reached a point that renders submission no longer tolerable. This crowded auditory is the standing protest of the city of London against the monotonous vacuity of the teaching of the established Church. Well will it be for the safety of all if they never fall into hands more dangerous than these of Mr Spurgen. I confess I was very agreeably disappointed in this visit. At home. Mr Henry T Parker came in and paid me a visit. He asked me touching the truth of a story that I had been trying to buy some government ships here and had been refused. I told him he might contradict it in all its parts. Quiet dinner. of four. My son Henry dining out, and his place supplied by Brooks, who came in to spend Sunday. Continued Whitelocke’s Embassy.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA61d286