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An Incident in the Life of a Presbyterian Minister

The Living Age, Volume 26, Issue 326, , 1850, pages 299-300

From the St. Louis Presbyterian.

IT is a common remark, how personal intimacy with members of another religious denomination often modifies one's views of their doctrines, and the effect of their doctrines upon the religious character. As an illustration of this remark, read the following:

Six years ago, I was on shipboard, just ready to sail for Havana, when a young invalid made his appearance on hoard. I inquired of the captain his name. He replied, "Rev. Mr. Carey." Can this, thought I, be the Rev. Arthur Carey, about whom I have lately read and thought and talked so much?

It was he. His ordination, and the consequent war in the Episcopal Church, had occurred but a short time previous, while I was a student in theology, and it may easily be imagined that I was not much prejudiced in his favor. Several days elapsed before Mr. C. was well enough to appear upon deck, but on a fine, sunny day, I had opportunity to make his acquaintance, and we almost immediately engaged in conversation upon a subject in which he and I were almost equally interested. It would be improper to mention all that was said, as the names and conduct of persons still living were freely spoken of.

Having told him that, according to my understanding of the matter, his expressed views agreed very well with the Liturgy of his church, and that therefore ordination in that church was his indisputable right; he seemed pleased that a person of another denomination should admit so much, and to my questions gave free and prompt answers.

I found him to be a man of clear, philosophical intellect, and logical views. Wherever he had doubts he expressed them frankly; as, for instance, on the purgatory question. But, in general, he was decided as to the abstract truth of what we call the "High Church" views. But on the nature and manner of justification, which, in my opinion, was the only practically important doctrine discussed by us, I could discover no difference between us. He emphatically denied believing that any man could be saved by the merit of his works; and when I came to ask for explanations of his views on the other points, I found that the difference between us, in many cases, was the difference between "tweedledum and tweedledee;" and though I was well aware that a less difference than that had often startled the theological virus in my newly inoculated system, my heart was so engaged by his amiable manners ,that I determined it should be no cause of quarrel between us now. He manifested both his amiableness and the practical character of his religion, by frequently, in the course of our interviews, speaking of the Sunday school children and the congregation which he had left with regret.

After a few days, the weather growing stormy and the sea rough, he became weaker, and was confined to his berth, and expressed doubts of his living to reach port. He expressed a perfect readiness to die, but said, of his own accord, that he had no great joys or raptures, as some had, in the thought of death.--I then asked him, "Do you expect to be saved by the atonement of Christ alone?" He fixed his large, dark eye steadily and calmly upon me, as if to ascertain the exact cause of such a question being put to him, and replied, "Of course I do."

He thanked me when I offered to read to him. I asked, "What shall I read now?" meaning what book. He, as if there was but one book, replied, "Read in St. Paul's epistles, for I am most familiar with them."

[300] I read and finished the thirteenth chapter of the First Corinthians, which he said was a beautiful chapter, and then I asked, "Shall I read on?"

"No," said he, "the next chapter is not of much importance."

On the day before the arrival of our vessel in Havana, his spirits were considerably revived, and he thought that when once comfortably on shore, he should be better; but even while we were in sight of the palm trees and plantations on the island, he was seized, for the first time I believe, with a violent hemorrhage from the lungs. We brought him into the cabin, and made his bed on the table. While his fellow-passengers ministered to him with faces of deep anxiety, the expression of his eye never once changed. I shall never forget the unearthly calmness of that face, even to his last struggling breath--even while he looked on me, as I held the bowl to his mouth to receive the last drop of his life's blood, the bright but placid gleam of his eye changed to the glassy glare of death.

If we carried the dead body into Havana, it was thought by the captain and experienced passengers that we should be subjected to a tedious quarantine: nevertheless, the passengers unanimously expressed their willingness to undergo it, if it was the wish of the afflicted and agonized father, who was with us. But he, knowing the state of the case, and, also, that for a foreigner and a Protestant to bury his son in Havana, would cost a great deal of delay, trouble, and expense, decided to commit his body to the sea.

In the morning, about nine o'clock, when within three miles of Moro Castle, the foretopsails were backed, and all hands called aft to bury the dead. The body was brought upon deck, sewn in a canvass winding-sheet, and a weight of iron attached to the feet of the corpse, which was laid upon a plank, one end of which rested upon the railing of the quarter-deck.

The solemn burial service of the Episcopal Church was read by myself, the crew and passengers standing uncovered around. At the words, "We therefore commit his body to the deep," the inner end of the plank was raised, and the corpse shot quick into the bosom of the deep blue sea, and was out of sight in a moment. For some time we continued gazing into the water, as if hoping that we might discerning the lost one reposing on his bed of coral below. Among those "hollow wreathed chambers" he found a tomb more gorgeous than any that human hands could have erected over him in Greenwood or Auburn.

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