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tion of the General Convention. The church, on their part, being convinced that the agitation of the subject in the Convention would give rise to much unpleasant debate, and that the result would be unfavorable to their wishes, urged their claims no further in that quarter, but came to the determination of resorting to first principles, and ordaining their minister themselves. Mr. Freeman was accordingly ordained by his society alone, as their rector and minister, by a solemn, appropriate, and interesting service, at the time of evening prayer, on the 18th of November, 1787. Forty-eight years afterwards, in that very desk where he stood up, firmly yet meekly, to receive the public sanction of his people's choice, and the Book of God which was placed in his right hand, and the blessing which was invoked upon his head,—was his funeral service performed.*
A greater outcry, from some quarters, was made on the occasion of this independent ordination,f than when the Liturgy was altered and the Unitarian faith was professed at the Chapel. But Mr. Freeman went on quietly in his former course, till its angry echoes died away on his ear. He addressed himself to the duties which were before him, being "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity;" "giving attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." Friends multiplied around him; he saw the opinions to which he had proved himself so true, spreading with a sure and healthy growth; and his days flowed on in usefulness, honor, and peace.
The character of Dr. FreemanJ was one, which in its its more prominent features, could not be mistaken. Honesty and truth the most pure and transparent, associated in happy union with gentleness and urbanity, unaffected modesty, and real kindness and good will to all men—these were qualities so distinctly marked on his every word and action, and even look, that no one could know him without reading them there. He was remarkably candid, but not, as it is sometimes expressed, candid to a fault. His consideration for the feelings of others, saved his candor from hardening into rudeness. He uttered nothing but the truth, but he did not utter it unseasonably or harshly. He always spoke what he meant, but he never meant to wound or to offend; and if, in a moment of excitement, he did wound or offend, he was ready to pour out his oil and wine to soothe and heal. This union of plainness and kindness, of truth and benignity, was observable in both his conversation and his writings. He was always explicit, but seldom controversial. He would rather defend himself, than attack others.
* November 18, 1835.
t See the account of this ordination, with its attendant circumstances, in the writer's History of King's Chapel.
$ He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity, from the University at Cambridge, in the year 1811.
He was truly humble, but he was above all the arts of deception and double-dealing; and he could not be awed or moved in any way from self-respect and duty. He made all allowances for ignorance and prejudice and frailty, but arrogance he would not submit to, and hypocrisy he could not abide.
Dr. Freeman possessed in a remarkable manner the virtue of contentment. You heard no complaints from him. He was abundantly satisfied with his lot;—he was deeply grateful for his lot. The serenity of his countenance was an index to the serenity of his soul. The angel of contentment seemed to shade and fan it with his wings. "I have enjoyed a great deal in this world," he would often say, "a great deal more than I deserve." "My life has been a very happy one," he said to a friend, after his constitution was broken, and he had been exercised for years with a painful disorder, "My life has been a very happy one; I have suffered nothing."
Great philosophical equanimity and self-command were naturally associated with his contented temper, and indeed made part of it. His dignified endurance of provocation, as I have before remarked, was exemplary. His patience under disappointment, was so steady and complete, that it was only the few who were acquainted with circumstances, who knew that he had been disappointed, and these few knew it only from sympathy, and not from any signs in him.
Dr. Freeman possessed strong feelings and affections, and was capable of ardent and lasting attachments. His general manner, especially in his preaching, was so calm, sedate, and rational, with even occasional abruptness, that a transient observer might have been led to suppose that he was not apt to be moved, or that he was even deficient in feeling. But this would have been a mistake. His heart was full of feeling, which not unfrequently rose up to his eyes and flowed out in tears. A similar mistake might have been made concerning his piety. He had seen so much external piety which was false and delusive, that he was induced to restrain the expression of his own religious emotions, as some might think, too carefully, and thereby permit it to be supposed that 'ihey did not exist. But his piety was real, vital, practical, ever-glowing. It was the sun of his internal world, which ripened the rich fruits of his life. All who knew him, knew that he was pious, truly and deeply so.
He was generous, though poor. He would cheerfully cancel a debt, on the debtor's plea of inability, and he valued money only as it enabled him to contribute to the comfort of those who needed his assistance.
He loved children, and loved to converse with and encourage them, and draw out their faculties and affections. His manners, always affable and kind, were never so completely lovely as in his intercourse with them. Naturally and insensibly did he instil moral principles and religious thoughts into their minds, and his good influence, being thus gentle, was permanent. The same sweetness and consideration were manifested toward all who were his juniors. Nothing seemed to give him so much pleasure as to see a virtuous, intelligent, and ingenuous youth. Toward young ministers and candidates for the ministry, his bearing was truly paternal. I have heard several of my brethren speak with grateful warmth of his early attentions to them; attentions which were valuable in themselves, and yet enhanced in value by their seasonableness.
Dr. Freeman was a just man; a man to be trusted. You could confide your property to him, and, a more delicate trust, your character. He was not blind to the faults of men, nor was he blind to any of their good qualities; and he would rather dwell on the latter than expose the former. He found something good in every one; and it was his pleasure to find it, and to point it out. No difference of opinion, no public rumor or clamor, could sway the course of this universal justice. If it was swayed at all, it was by his kindliness of heart, which sometimes led him to treat the demerits of an individual more leniently than the interests of strict morality and the demands of strict justice might seem to require. But this was because he was merciful to the sinner, and not because he was insensible to the sin. It was one of his favorite maxims, that a Christian should be indulgent to others, and severe to himself.
The mind of Dr. Freeman was one of great originality. It arrived at its own conclusions, and in its own way. You could not be long in his society, without feeling that you were in the presence of one who observed and reflected for himself. His opinions of books and of subjects, were not the echoes of public opinion, or of the paragraphs of a popular review, or of the judgments of a great man. They were his own, and were expressed with decision, yet without an attempt or a wish to dictate. He liked to hear the opinions of others, and heard them respectfully. What he said was often racy and pointed, and was sometimes even paradoxical; but his point was never envenomed, and he would allow so many exceptions and qualifications to his paradoxes, as the conversation proceeded, that they lost their startling guise, and took the aspect of sober truths.
Few men had more practical wisdom than the subject of this memoir; and when occasion called, he could bring it into effective use, and cause it to exercise its due influence. He was a member of the last Convention for amending the constitution of Massachusetts; and perhaps there was no man in that body whose opinion had greater weight, or was attended to with more marked respect, than his. A plan which he proposed, in committee, for reducing and equalizing the representation of the state, is thought by some who recollect its principle, to be the best which has yet been devised.
Dr. Freeman ranks high among the writers of our country. In early life he contributed a full share to the passing literature of the day—a literature which is called fugitive, but which often leaves a permanent impression on the mental and moral character of a people. The pieces which he published in the magazines and journals, were marked, as I have been told, by sprightliness and good-natured satire, and by purity of style.
Of a graver nature were the papers composed for the Collections of this Society, and printed for the most part in the eighth volume of the first series. These papers consist chiefly of historical accounts of towns on Cape Cod,—a part of the country to which he was peculiarly attached—and are signed by the letters r. s. denoting his office of Recording Secretary to the Society, which office was held by him from 1798 to 1812. These town histories may be regarded as models of this species of composition. In the volume above named there is a reprint of the Journal of Plymouth Plantation, commonly called Mourt's Relation, to which Dr. Freeman appended a body of notes. These notes, on account of the accurate local knowledge displayed in them, add much to the value of the ancient description, and enable the reader to trace with great distinctness the path of the Pilgrims, from their first landing on Cape Cod to their settlement at Plymouth.
But his reputation as a writer rests principally upon his published Sermons. These are highly and deservedly esteemed; and their author's mental and moral character is expressed in them more clearly than I can describe it. Their subjects are various, but their style is uniform; and that style is distinguished for its purity, simplicity, and perspicuity. We do not meet in them with the billowy swells of eloquence, or the lightning flashes of genius; but they abound in just observation, acute remark, lucid exposition, affectionate appeal, distinct and practical instruction, sincere and confiding piety, with passages of graphic beauty and quiet pathos. You see before you the holy Lake of Galilee, not disturbed by sudden storms, and tossing the terrified disciples on its wild waves, but bearing up their bark on its quiet bosom, while they sit in peace, and listen to the heavenly wisdom of their Lord. We of this Society especially, shall prize the sermons of Dr. Freeman for their own and for their writer's sake; and the volume which he caused to be printed and distributed among his parishioners a few years ago, in grateful acknowledgment of their liberality towards him, will be held precious by each individual possessor.*
* The first volume of sermons which Dr. Freeman gave to the public, passed through three editions, the first of which was printed in 1812, and the third in 1821. This volume was entitled "Sermons on Particular Occasions. By James Freeman." It contained ten Sermons and two Charges. The next volume which he issued, entitled "Eighteen Sermons and a Charge," was printed in 1829, but not published. It is the one which he printed at his own expense, and distributed among his parishioners and friends. In 1832 he collected the Sermons and Charges of these two volumes together, omitted some of the Notes, added one very brief but marrowy sermon on Necessity, and a free translation of one of St. Basil's homilies, and published the whole in one volume, with the title of "Sermons and Charges. By James Freeman. New Edition." It is probable that this volume contains all the sermons which he cared to leave behind him. I am acquainted with more eloquent volumes of Sermons, but with none more interesting than this.