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A Remarkable Child Post by :Easyhome Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :3091

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A Remarkable Child

The child of whose virtues and attainments the following pages give but an imperfect sketch, was the son of the late Dr. J. Smyth Rogers, and born in the city of New York, on the 28th of January, 1825. The beauty of his infancy struck every observer, and this continued to increase as added intelligence lighted up his noble features. As his brilliant mind expanded, amiable and generous dispositions were revealed, clothed with peculiarly winning manners. It would seem also that these graces and virtues, like wreaths of bright buds, and clusters of rich fruit, sprang from the best of all roots: a truthful and pious heart.

At the early age of three years, his excellent mother was suddenly taken away. That mournful event made a deep impression upon his unfolding character. For three years she had been permitted to watch over this fair opening flower; in three more it was to be laid on her bosom in heaven.

The night after the death of this beloved parent, his deportment was remarked as evincing a degree of reflection and sensibility to the magnitude of his loss, surpassing what is usually seen in infancy. It was Sabbath evening, the period in which she had been accustomed to gather her little ones around her, and impart religious instruction. Now, at the fireside, the happy circle was broken: the blessed mother's seat vacant. He yearned for her sweet smile, the sound of her tuneful voice. Turning from the other children, he walked long by himself with a slow and noiseless step; often fixing his eyes on his bereaved father with an expression of the deepest commiseration. No attitude of grief escaped his mournful notice, and it seemed as if he restrained his own sorrow that he might offer consolation to his afflicted parent. That mingling of perfect sympathy with the exceeding beauty of his infant countenance, neither pen nor pencil could adequately describe.

But the early maturity of his heart was fully equalled by the development of his intellect. Before acquiring the elements of reading, he listened so attentively to the recitations of an elder brother and sister, as to become master of much correct information. His desire for knowledge was insatiable. He was sensible of no fatigue while employed in attaining it. Though fond of amusements, he was always happy to quit them when the allotted hours for study arrived. The rudiments of science he acquired with astonishing rapidity. Before the completion of his fourth year he could read any English book with ease, and also with a propriety and understanding of the varieties of style, not often discovered by students at twice his age. At this period he was expert in the simple rules of arithmetical calculation. With the geography of his own country, and with the outlines of that of the world, he was intimately acquainted. At five years old he was well versed both in ancient and modern geography. In mental arithmetic, many problems requiring thought even in mature and long disciplined minds, he solved readily, and as if with intuitive perception. Of the history of his own country, his knowledge was well digested and chronologically arranged. At the age of six years, he could with the greatest fluency give a judicious abstract of it, placing in due order the events connected with its discovery and settlement, the period of its several wars, their causes, results, and the circumstances by which they were modified. From the characters who were conspicuous in its annals, he evinced discrimination in selecting those most worthy of admiration. The biography of the celebrated John Smith he related with animation, often mentioning their similarity of name. In repeating his feats of heroism and endurance, he seemed to identify himself with the actor and to partake of his spirit. But he regarded with still higher enthusiasm the illustrious Pitt. When rehearsing his speech in favour of America, he would involuntarily add the most bold and graceful gestures. These lofty and noble sentiments seemed to awaken a warm response in his bosom, and to rule, as if with congenial force, the associations of thought and feeling.

In the science of geometry he displayed a vigorous and highly disciplined mind, by the ready demonstration of some of its most difficult propositions. But in no attainment was the superiority of his intellect more clearly defined than in his acquisition of the Hebrew language. He commenced this pursuit when four years of age, at the suggestion of a cousin older than himself, to whose recitations he had attentively listened. Having been restrained by modesty for several days from mentioning his wishes, he at length ventured to ask his preceptor if he might be permitted to study Hebrew. Happy to gratify such a desire, he called him to his side, intending to teach him two or three letters, when he discovered, to his surprise, that he already knew the whole alphabet. From that time he continued to study the language with perseverance, and constantly increasing fondness. Soon, without aid, except from the grammar and lexicon, he could read, translate, and parse the Hebrew, with an elegance that might have done honour to an adept in that sacred language. Before his death he had read more than fifty chapters; and so great was his ardour and delight in prosecuting this study, that after having received two exercises daily, throughout the week, he would often be found on Sabbath with his Hebrew Bible, earnestly engaged in reviewing passages by himself. On one occasion, when his tutor was to be absent for a few days, he inquired, "How will you spend your time?" The prompt reply was, "In studying Hebrew." In Greek, also, he made such proficiency as to read the original of the New Testament with accuracy and ease. On every attainment, however difficult or abstruse, his genius seized, and almost without effort rendered it his own; so that this infant student seemed to adopt the sentiment of the great Bacon, and to "take all knowledge to be his province."

Yet with these astonishing acquisitions there mingled no vanity, no consciousness of superior talent, nor distaste for the simplest pleasures of childhood. He had all the docility and playfulness that belong to the first years of life. In the delightful country residence where the family were accustomed to pass the summer months, those who saw him only at the period allotted to sport and exercise, would have remarked him as an exceedingly beautiful, vigorous, light-hearted boy, without imagining him possessed of accomplishments that might have put manhood to the blush. Amid a flow of animal spirits that were sometimes deemed excessive, he was never regardless of the feelings of others. During the active sports of childhood, if he received unintentional injury from his companions, he was anxious to assure them, by an affectionate kiss, of his recovery and reconciliation. He possessed the most lively and amiable sensibility. This was fully depicted upon his countenance, so that the most careless observer could scarcely have mistaken its lineaments. He ardently participated in the joys and sorrows of those around him. His love for his friends was testified by the most tender care for their accommodation and comfort. He was found one evening in a flood of tears, because he feared his teacher had gone out in the rain without great-coat or umbrella. So great was his generosity, that whatever was given him he desired to share with another. He seemed incapable of selfish gratification. When from delicacy of health his appetite had been long subjected to restraint, if a small portion of cake or fruit was allowed him, he was never satisfied until he had imparted it. He would even urge the domestics to participate in his gifts. On one occasion, after a period of abstinence from fruit, four grapes were given him. Two of these he ate, and saved the remaining two to give to his nurse. The merit of this self-denial was enhanced by the circumstance often remarked by the servants, that the nurse was far less fond of him than of his elder brother, who, from being more immediately under her care, was the object of her partiality. But there was nothing of vindictiveness in his nature. His generosity was as disinterested as it was unbounded.

One morning his father testified approbation of his conduct by saying, "You may go into the garden and gather twelve strawberries." "And may I divide them equally?" he inquired with great animation. Amid a profusion of the finest fruits, for which he had an extreme fondness, and which he was accustomed to see hospitably dispensed to numerous guests, he would never transgress a prohibition to partake, or a limitation with regard to quantity. Obedience had been taught him from the beginning, and his fidelity in keeping the law of those who directed him, whether they were present or absent, was one of his prominent virtues. In the indispositions to which he was occasionally subject, he would cheerfully take the most unpleasant medicines, and submit to the most irksome regulations, if simply told that his father had desired it.

Openness and integrity of character were conspicuous in him. He seemed to have nothing to conceal. He had no disposition to practise mischief, or to devise means that any thing which he had done should be kept secret from those who had the charge of his education. As his course of instruction was pursued entirely at home, he was preserved from the contagion of bad example, and from many temptations to deceit. The little faults which he committed he confessed with the utmost ingenuousness, and complied with the precept which had been early impressed upon him by parental care, to solicit the forgiveness of his Father in heaven, if he hoped to obtain that of his best friends on earth. When he received any punishment, he made immediate returns of penitence and affection. He considered it as the appointed way in which he was to be made better, and so far from indulging in complaint or sullenness, was inclined to think it lighter than he deserved.

A tender and true piety pervaded his heart, and breathed its fragrance over a life as beautiful and transient as the flower of the grass. Accustomed from infancy never to neglect his prayers, morning or evening, and to keep the day of God sacred, he delighted in these exercises. To lay aside all implements of light amusement, and to read or hear only books adapted to that consecrated day, had been required of him from his earliest recollection. He was grieved if he saw any violate these injunctions. There seemed to have been laid in his heart a firm basis of Christian principle, on which he was beginning to rear a noble superstructure. He never discovered more ardent delight than while listening to the inspired pages, or greater brilliancy of intellect than when conversing on their doctrines and practical illustrations. The life and sufferings of the Redeemer, and the hopes held out to sinners through his mercy, were his treasured and favourite subjects. He often with great earnestness solicited instruction respecting them, and his absorbed and delighted attention would survive the endurance of his physical strength. Of religious books he was particularly fond. He conceived the strongest attachment for 'Doddridge's Family Expositor.' He would voluntarily resort to its perusal with the greatest apparent satisfaction. Observing that his cousin and sister received weekly lessons from that excellent volume, in the explanation of difficult passages, he said to his instructor with a mournful air, "You give the elder children a lesson in Doddridge, but you don't let me recite with them." He was told that it was probably too difficult an exercise for him, and that therefore he had not been permitted to join them. On being asked what he understood as the meaning of the expression, where John is said to come in the "spirit and power of Elias," and to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children," he gave without mistake the two interpretations to which he had listened some time before. Thus, while this infant disciple was pursuing religious knowledge as a delightful and congenial study, he was also cherishing a lively sense of the obligations that it imposed. He received the truth in its love and in its power. It began to be within him a prompting and regulating principle. Whenever the full flow of childish spirits became excessive or ill-timed, they were restrained by suggesting a precept drawn from the Scriptures.

Among his modes of recreation, riding on horseback in the freshness of the morning was highly enjoyed and prized. One morning, when the usual period for this exercise had been somewhat delayed, his tutor asked, "Would you like to take your ride?" and he replied, "I am afraid we shall not be back in time for prayers. So I would rather not go."

Of his departed mother his recollections were tender and vivid. He delighted to speak of her as the habitant of a world of joy. His affectionate spirit seemed content to resign her that she might be with Christ. To a beloved relative, whose efforts for his religious instruction were unceasing, he said, soon after the death of his mother, "Aunt, do you not wish that the judgment day was come?" "Why, my son?" she enquired. "Because then I should see my dear mamma and my blessed Saviour."

The religious exercises of Sabbath evening were to him a season of high enjoyment. After the catechism and other appropriate duties, some book of piety was read, and the children indulged in such discourse as its contents naturally elicited. Piety, disrobed of gloom, was presented to them as an object of love, and by his heart was most fondly welcomed.

On Sabbath evening preceding the Christmas of 1831, he was observed to enter with extreme ardour into the conversation that flowed from the perusal of 'Parlour Lectures,' an analysis of Sacred History adapted to juvenile minds. His father, whose labours in the pious nurture of his children had been as untiring as successful, being absent from the city, he drew his chair as near as possible to his aunt, listened eagerly to every remark, poured forth the rapturous pleasure that filled his breast, and desired to protract the enjoyment beyond its usual period. It was to be his last Sabbath on earth. In the course of the ensuing week he became a victim to the scarlet fever, and on Friday, December 24th, 1831, went to his Father in heaven.

Thus passed away, at the age of nearly seven years, a being formed to excel in all that was beautiful, intellectual, and heavenly. Precocity in him was divested of the evils that are wont to attend it. All his associations of thought were healthful and happy. There was no undue predominance of one power at the expense of the rest. No one department of character eclipsed the other. The mind and the heart pressed on together with equal steps, in a vigorous and holy brotherhood. The soul, like a lily, fed with dews of Hermon, breathed its first freshest incense in piety to God.

That he was highly gifted by nature none can doubt. That he owed much to education is equally certain. It would be difficult to define the precise point where the influence of the one ceased and that of the other began; so finely did their hues and pencillings blend in the flower thus early offered to its Maker.

Strict obedience to his superiors, and the duty of stated prayer, were so early impressed as to be incorporated with the elements of his character. Simple habits, rural tastes, control of the animal appetites, and correct deportment to all around him, were carefully inculcated, while a thorough course of classical instruction under his father's roof protected him from the dangers of promiscuous association and sinful example. The most favourable results might reasonably be anticipated from a system of culture so vigilant that temptation could not assail from without, nor spring up within, without being detected; so judicious that wealth had no power to enervate either the body or the mind; so affectionate that the tendrils of the heart were free to expand in innocent happiness; so faithful in its ministrations to the soul, that the Divine blessing seemed visibly to descend upon it. This wise discipline combining with the Creator's exceeding bounty, rendered him what he was: a being to be loved by all who looked upon him, and to be held in lasting remembrance by all who knew him.

To borrow the expressive language of one who had long superintended his education, and was intimately acquainted with his mental and moral structure, "So insensible was he to all those passions which prompt to self-defence and self-protection, and so entirely under the influence of that forgiving spirit which being smitten on the one cheek would turn the other also, and that overflowing generosity, which, after the cloak is taken, would give the coat likewise, as utterly to unfit him for the society of selfish, avaricious, overbearing men, whence I have fondly thought, that he was thus early invited to a mansion where he might enjoy the communion of more congenial spirits."

(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Remarkable Child

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