CORNELIUS ROOSEVELT DUFFIE was the son of Mr. John Duffie, a respectable merchant of this city. He was born on the 31st of March, 1789. Of his boyhood nothing more is known by the present writer, than the uniform and affectionate testimony of the elder branches of his family that the characteristic amiableness, modesty, purity, and seriousness, of his subsequent life, began very early to appear. Having; duly qualified himself under proper instructors, he entered the freshman class of Columbia College, in November, 1805.
At College, he distinguished himself for the uniform propriety of his conduct, for the industry with which he pursued his studies, and for the respectability with which he acquitted himself at the private and public recitations. When in the freshman class, he was among the founders of the Columbian Peithologian Society, one of the two associations of students of the College, which still contribute, in no small degree, to its reputation, and to their literary advancement.
Among his fellow students, he was, it is believed, universally esteemed and beloved; while he enjoyed, in the highest degree, the confidence, regard, and approbation, of the President and Professors.
[vi] Having passed, with great credit, through the regular College course, he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, at the commencement in 1809. He immediately began the study of the law under his distinguished relative, the Hon. Samuel Jones. In about a year after this, he had the misfortune to lose his worthy father. By the advice of friends, he then gave up his professional studies, and entered on the flourishing mercantile business which his father had left. He continued a merchant for several years. During the last war, he faithfully performed the share of military duty, which was then required of every citizen not legally exempted from bearing arms. The circumstance is here mentioned, simply because it afforded another among the many proofs, of the uniform excellence of his life, and how, in every situation, he endeared himself to all connected with him. Many are the testimonies to the respect, attachment, and in many instances, warm friendship, which were then formed for him by his brother officers; of the fidelity and punctuality with which he discharged all the duties devolving on him; and in how interesting a manner he blended the greatest kindness and courtesy of demeanour, with the most scrupulous resistance of all temptations to lose sight of the requisitions of religion and morality.
Although engaged in merchandise, he was not neglectful of literary pursuits, or of his privileges and obligations as an honoured son of his College. At the commencement in 1813, having complied with the requisitions of the statutes, he received the degree of Master of Arts.
In the year 1816, he formed a matrimonial connexion with Helena, daughter of Mr. James Bleecker, of this city. This, as long as it lasted, was to him a source of the purest happiness. Always, in joy and in sorrow, that excellent woman was, in every respect, an help truly meet for him. [vi/vii] During her life, it was obvious to all who knew them, as far as that knowledge can be shared, which personal experience only can impart in its blessed fulness, how truly she was, in the beautiful language of Addison, the "kind and faithful friend," in whom is "doubled all" our "store" of "worldly bliss," And when it pleased God to take her to himself, not by noisy and officious professions, but by a deeply settled remembrance of her virtues, piety, and excellence, and a dearly cherished meditation on her blessed change, and anticipation of being united with her in the kingdom of heaven, all who knew him intimately saw reason to say, with the greatest respect and admiration for affection so sincere and unbroken, Behold, how he loved her.
For a few years after his marriage, his lot in life seemed blessed indeed. Peculiarly domestic in his dispositions and habits, he loved his home, and had a home every way deserving of his highest love. His business prospered. And he had every earthly promise of a long, a successful, and a happy life.
That wise Providence, however, to whom he had looked and trusted, with the confidence of a child, and the faith of a Christian, thought proper to order it otherwise. He experienced in business the reverses which, at that time, occurred in our mercantile community, with such mournful frequency, and painful consequences. He was ultimately obliged to bring to a close every concern of that nature. And here, too, by the strict integrity and honesty, which, reaping their rewards in his prosperity, did not desert him in the dark hour of adverse fortune, he still farther illustrated the uniform excellence of his character and life.
About this time, in May, 1821, his mother was taken from him. This afflictive event entailed on him, towards an amiable and interesting family of orphan sisters, the [vii/viii] duties and obligations, winch he faithfully and affectionately discharged, of brother and of parent. About three months after his mother's death, on the 17th of August, in the same year, he was deprived of the object of his tenderest earthly affection--the beloved wife who had added so much to the joy of his prosperity, and taken so much from the grief of his misfortunes. She left four lovely children, one a babe but a few weeks old, now the only surviving son; the eldest, also a son, having followed his mother to the paradise of God, in June, 1824.
A few months after the death of his wife, Mr. Duffie, finally, and after much most serious and conscientious deliberation, and much earnest prayer for the divine guidance, determined to carry into effect an inclination and desire, long ardently cherished, of preparing for the holy ministry. And this seems to be a proper period for taking a distinct view of his history and character in that most excellent and valuable feature of them--his religion.
His parents were pious and respectable members of the Baptist communion; in the principles of which, of course, he was, in early life, instructed. And never could devout parents wish more gratifying and encouraging evidence of the blessed effects of early attention to religious instruction, than appeared in the seriousness, conscientiousness, and piety, of this excellent son, as soon as his mind was capable of manifesting any character. He became not a little tinctured with the ordinary prejudices against our Church, arising often from ignorance of her real character, and therefore conscientiously and honestly cherished. From the peculiarities of the Calvinistic system, however, it is believed, he differed, as soon as he knew what they were. The funeral service first drew his attention to the offices of our Liturgy. Soon he purchased a Prayer Book, and would often comment on the beauty of many of its [viii/ix] parts. He began occasionally to attend the services of our Church: and continued to do so, with gradually increasing frequency, while he remained in College. Having satisfied his mind that there were peculiarities in the system in which he had been educated, that would prevent his ultimately adopting it as the religion of his choice, he commenced, soon after leaving College, an inquiry into the distinctive principles of several religious denominations. The result was a deliberate conviction of the duty of connecting himself with the Protestant Episcopal Church. This was, indeed, for us, a most valuable conviction. It was the conviction of a mind deeply imbued with pious sentiments, and a just appreciation of religious responsibility; a mind which had been swayed by prejudices against us; and a mind, raised by natural strength, and the improvement of a liberal education, above the influence of any other motives, than the clear and deliberate decisions of an enlightened understanding. He connected himself, as a pewholder in St. John's Chapel, with the parish of Trinity Church, in this city, and soon gave to an early friend, then in orders, the high gratification of receiving him, by baptism, into the congregation of Christ's flock. This was, to him, far from being a matter of mere form, or cold dependence upon outward rites. He immediately; showed his sincerity and consistency by becoming a communicant of the Church; and as soon as opportunity offered, manifested his humble and faithful disposition to fulfil all righteousness, by receiving the apostolic ordinance of confirmation.
Such was the respect in which he was held, and the confidence cherished in him, that very soon after his connexion with the parish, he was elected a member of its vestry. In this station, also, he acted with his characteristic fidelity and conscientiousness. He ever bore in mind [ix/x] the spiritual character of the Church, and decided and acted with a view to that; while he was also, in the most exemplary manner, careful of the temporal trust committed to the corporation of the parish. He loved his pastors, both personally, and from a due appreciation of the character, importance, duties, and responsibilities, of their high and holy functions.
It was truly gratifying to know, that when, in his adversity and his sorrows, we saw in him the serious and pious Christian, faithful in the discharge of all the Christian duties, and alive to every view of Christian responsibility, he had been equally so when enjoying the bright beams of the sun of prosperity. This, of course, gave, at once, the highest confidence in the sincerity of his Christian professions; and prepared the way for cheerful acquiescence in the desire which he expressed, of connecting himself with the Christian ministry; because it was obvious that this was not the mere resource of disappointed prospects, and of a gloomy and joyless mind.
Having, of his own will, gone beyond the then ordinary term of candidateship, especially for persons of his age, previous attainments, and standing in the Church, and satisfactorily passed the canonical examinations, he was admitted to deacons' orders, by the Right Rev. Bishop Hobart, in Trinity Church, in this city, on Wednesday, August 6ill, 1823. Having a family dependent on him, he was under the necessity of declining the acceptance of several parishes, then vacant, which would have rejoiced in his ministry, and in one of which, but for the circumstance just mentioned, he would have gladly settled. While, however, he remained without any parochial connexion, a few gentlemen, anxious to have a parish established in the upper part of Broadway, in this city, solicited his consent to officiate in an apartment which they would [x/xi] obtain, and fit up for the purpose. His consent was given; and in a hired upper room, in a house at the corner of Broadway and Broome-street, and with the full approbation of the parochial Clergy of the city, he commenced his pastoral ministrations in the month of October, 1823. [This was rendered necessary by the 33d Canon of the General Convention of 1808.] The little congregation here gathered by his labours, experiencing such an increase in numbers, and attaining to such a character for respectability and efficiency, as to warrant the expectation of its permanency, was duly organized as St. Thomas' Church, on the following Christmas-Day. Soon after, the Wardens and Vestrymen of that parish elected, as its Rector, the lamented subject of this memoir. He continued to minister among them with the most exemplary zeal, devotion, and industry. By no arts of popularity, for he had too elevated and too honest a mind to have recourse to them; by no adapting of doctrine or ministration to popular sentiments and popular liking, for he had too Christian a conscience for this; and by no sacrifice of the most perfect consistency as a Minister of our own Church, for he understood too well, and prized too highly, her distinctive principles, in their connexion with the best interests of the Gospel of Christ; but by faithful devotion to the several functions of the ministry, and the commanding and winning excellence of his life and character, added to the manifestation of talents and learning of a superior order; he had the satisfaction of seeing his little flock growing daily in numbers, until, rejoicing in their ability and encouragement to commence so good a, work, they resolved to build an house of habitation for the Lord, where they might meet and enjoy him in the holy services and ordinances of his religion. The [xi/xii] result was that splendid monument of the divine blessing on his assiduity and success, which should never fail to recal his memory, and to excite devout thanksgiving for the spiritual blessings which attended his ministry--St. Thomas' Church. The corner stone of this truly beautiful edifice, was laid, in the absence of our own beloved Diocesan, on a voyage and journey for his health, by the venerable senior Bishop of our Church, the Right Rev. Dr. White, of Pennsylvania, assisted by several of his brethren in the Episcopacy, and in the presence of a large number of Clergy from various parts of the Union, then assembled in this city on the concerns of the General Theological Seminary. This ceremony took place on the 27th day of July, 1824.
While the Church was building, viz. on the 11th of October, 1824, in St. Luke's Church, in this city, Mr. Duffie was admitted to the holy order of Priests, by the Right Rev. Bishop Croes, of New-Jersey, acting for our still absent Bishop.
The mentioning of this event recals to mind one of the many evidences of the characteristic humility and conscientiousness of our deceased friend. Although he had been longer than the appointed time in Deacons' orders, and had been, for fourteen months, a preacher of the Gospel, and nearly a year a parish Minister, he trembled at the thought of receiving the solemn exhortations, and taking upon him the solemn obligations, prescribed in the "Ordering of Priests." With him who now relates the circumstance, he had a conversation on the subject, which filled him with admiration of traits of character that seemed to come nearer than any he had ever seen, to the most self-subduing and humbling requisitions of the Gospel.
On the 23d of February, 18-25, Bishop Hobart, restored, by God's blessing, in renewed health, to his Diocese and [xii/xiii] friends, consecrated St. Thomas' Church; and there Mr. Duffie then began those holy, unwearied, and faithful services, which ended but with the short malady that closed his life. Sunday, the 5th of August, 1827, was the last on which he ministered within its walls. Then, it being stated monthly communion day, he presented the bread of life, and the cup of salvation, to such as were present of more than 100 communicants of the parish, increased to that number from five, who, less than four years before, were all that belonged to his charge; and then he preached his last sermon, from a text which will henceforward have connected with it, in the minds of his friends, the most deeply interesting and affecting associations--"Here have we no continuing city; but we seek one to come," Heb. xiii. 14.
It is impossible, and would be unpardonable, to notice Mr. Duffie's ministerial career, without dwelling on the affectionate, parental, and unwearied care which he took of the lambs of the flock of Christ. He loved to bring little children to their Saviour, by making them acquainted, in the most interesting language, level to their comprehension, but still interesting to all, with God the Father who made them, God the Son who redeemed them, and God the Holy Ghost who sanctifieth them. His well known, and it is believed universally approved and admired, "Sermon for Children" preached at the anniversary of the New-York Protestant Episcopal Sunday School Society, is one of many which he wrote for the same truly interesting and vastly important object; and the good effects of which, it is reasonably to be expected, and devoutly to be wished, will be manifested in many whom he has left behind, as lambs of his flock, when they shall have taken the place of their parents, and be themselves responsible and influential members of society, and the Church. [A volume of these Sermons has been published distinct from the present collection.]
[xiv] Unhappily, we have hardly begun to speak of the very creditable and exemplary ministry of this faithful servant of the Lord, in the parish of his own forming, and the holy and beautiful house of his own rearing, before the afflicting call is made to notice the speedy and melancholy termination of that ministry in his early and unlocked for death. That death was calm, holy, peaceful, and triumphant; and calm, peaceful, and triumphant, not from the meagre and miserable motives which are the best that false philosophy can hold out, but from the sure and certain hopes of that Gospel to which true philosophy clings, as man's only guide, support, and comfort, in the natural yearnings of his heart for more of spiritual knowledge and happiness than worldly wisdom can impart.
He was seized on the week following the above mentioned Sunday, August 5th, with his last disorder, a bilious remittent fever. For several days of its progress, neither himself nor his friends felt any serious alarm. And it was not until the morning of Monday, the 20th, that they finally despaired of his recovery. The strength of his faith, and the firmness of his confidence, in the sure mercies and promises of God, were his support and consolation in that trying hour. He knew of no dependence but the grace and mercy of a crucified Redeemer, and of no merit but that of his Divine Advocate with the Father. He immediately solicited in his behalf those means of supporting, consoling, and animating grace, which are to be found in prayer, in the reading of the Scriptures, and especially in the reception of the eucharist. The means were blessed. In a holy, calm, and triumphant state of mind, he waited for the decisive moment. It arrived; and in the evening of Monday, August 20th, 1827, he entered into his rest.
His remains were, on the following day, in the presence of an immense assemblage of weeping friends, deposited in the Rector's vault, beneath the chancel of his Church.