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MEMOIR OF MRS. SARAH L. SMITH.
Memoir of Mrs. Sarah LANMAN Smith, late of the Mission
in Syria, under the direction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. By EDWARD W. Hooker, Pastor of the First Congregational Church, Bennington, Vt. Boston. Perkins & Marvin. 1839. pp. 407. 12mo.
Saran Lanman HUNTINGTON was the daughter of Jabez Huntington, Esq., and was born in Norwich, Conn., June 18, 1802. Her paternal grandfather, Gen. Jedidiah Huntington, was an officer in the American army in the war of the Revolution. Later in life he earnestly devoted himself to works of Christian benevolence. He was among the early and efficient members of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Miss Huntington was a lineal descendant, on the mother's side, of the Rev. Joseph Coit, of Preston, Conn., a clergyman of eminent piety. The Rev. Joshua Huntington, pastor of the Old South Church, in Boston, was a half brother of her father. It may, also, be mentioned, though it is not alluded to in the Memoir, that she was a direct descendant of John Robinson, the Puritan of Leyden, in Holland, whose catholic sentiments and self-denying zeal have immortalized his name. These facts are mentioned, not that she was any better in the sight of God, or necessarily any more useful to men, from ihe fact that she was thus honorably descended. Dependence on mere ancestral excellence is a mark of a feeble and degenerate mind. There is, in human nature, a strong tendency to glory in a name, where the personal character of the boaster may be negative or greatly deficient. A wise man, who claims an alliance to “earth's best blood,” will be slow to proclaim the fact. He will rather study to be modest and unassuming, and will strive to deserve, rather than publish, his honorable descent. Marked degeneracy or notorious wickedness, in such circumstances, will meet with a terrible sentence from an indignant community. The immoralities of the youngest son of one of our most distinguished divines, of a former day, will not soon be forgotten. Aaron Burr has descended to the grave with “heavy curses on his head," because the prayers and the faith of his father and mother, and of his maternal grandfather and grandmother, are known to all his countrymen, in contrast with his own ungodliness. Mrs. Smith appears to have regarded this matter of distinguished descent in its true light. The following sentence shows that she looked above the adventitious circumstances of birth, and had little relish for that family self-complacency which is so common. “If the numerous 'Huntingtons are useful to their generation, it is of little consequence whether they are conspicuous. The applause of the world is but a breath, and valueless on many accounts. In the first place, the standard is very imperfect; adulation, also, is often insincere; and our Vanity attaches even more to what is said than was meant.”
Some of the most delightful passages in the volume are descriptions of natural scenery. She had a true eye and a feeling heart for the glorious works of God. Wherever she journeyed, wherever she abode, we perceive the same practised judgment, the same delicate perception, the same quick sensibility. The ocean was not a barren waste of waters. The monotonous plain was not destitute of beauty, if it only nurtured one lowly flower to its Creator's praise. Like Henry Martyn, she could find comfort in a dry leaf, for it was full of creative skill and love. The sublime in nature seems to have had peculiar attractions. The top of the White Hills; the morning sun resting on the expanse of the sea ; the prospect from Lebanon of the distant hills of Galilee, or of the sun setting on the Mediterranean, excited feelings in her breast akin to those of the holy seers and songsters of old. This original tendency of her mind was, doubtless, much affected by the place of her birth and education. Norwich is one of the most attractive towns in New England. Its combination of water scenery, precipitous rock, verdant plain, winding roads revealing unexpected beauties, must deeply interest an imaginative mind. Its society, also, as we have been informed, is not without decided charms for a person of taste and refinement. The influence of external scenery and of congenial companionship in early life never fades away. It becomes incorporated with the character.
The youth, and even childhood, of Miss Huntington were strongly marked. When but three years of age, she received from a lady the appellation of “ Madame Buonaparte.” The epithet “high-spirited,” delineates her early character better, perhaps, than any other term. She was never contented with ordinary attainments, with moderate aims, or with an indifferent performance of the tasks assigned her. Vigor, independence, warmth of feeling, bold plans, began to characterize her in the very morning of her existence. These were united, however, with singular delicacy of feeling and manners, with fond affection for friends, and with a noble disinterestedness which won the hearts of all who came within the sphere of her influence. Long before she became personally religious, she took an active interest in various objects of Christian benevolence, particularly in Sabbath schools. Owing to the death of her mother, to a severe sickness when she was about six years old, and to very injudicious treatment in a school, her temperament was rendered nervous, and her sensibilities excessively quick.
Miss Huntington became hopefully possessed of personal piety at the age of eighteen. In the year 1820, special religious meetings were held in Norwich by the pastor of the church, the Rev. Alfred Mitchell. Miss Huntington was by no means indifferent to the salvation of her soul. At various times, the claims of the Redeemer to her heart had awakened anxious solicitude. She did not, however, attend these meetings, lest, by declaring herself an inquirer, she should excite the hopes of her friends only to disappoint them. An intimate friend, in returning from a prayer meeting, one evening, took occasion to speak to her plainly of her spiritual state. She wept, and disclosed the feelings of her heart. On the following day, she entered into conversation with some friends respecting the submission of the sinner to God. Among other observations, she remarked, that a clear understanding of the nature of submission would ensure the act. In the evening of the next day, she attended the regular conference meeting. Before leaving home, she earnestly prayed that it might be the evening of her submission to the Saviour. It was so. While the assembly were engaged in prayer, she consecrated herself to God. She did it in the full exercise of her understanding, and felt then, and afterwards, that it was peculiarly a rational act. This was on the 10th of August, 1820. Her feelings, on the next day, were those of intense sorrow for her sins, and ardent desires for deliverance from their power. She went again to her Saviour and found permanent relief.
These feelings were not transient, nor uninfluential. She became thenceforth identified with the cause of Him who had called her from bondage into his glorious freedom. She felt that she was not her own. Love to an unseen, but most gracious, Saviour prompted her to enter immediately, without conferring with flesh and blood, on a life of self-sacrifice. Many individuals experienced the benefit of her prayers and of her faithful and affectionate admonitions. The spiritual interests of her three brothers, particularly, two of whom were younger than herself, were watched over with the tenderest affection. The various memorials of her sisterly love, contained in the volume, are extremely interesting. Her letters to her brothers respecting their salvation, are not more remarkable for depth of feeling than for sound judgment, tact, and a delicate sense of propriety. Near relatives are sometimes exceedingly ill fitted to perform the office of spiritual reprovers and counsellors. Their honest, fervent, but untimely efforts produce the very effect which was not intended. They repel and harden the heart of the beloved object of their solicitude. But in the present case, every thing was so frank, honorable, heartfelt, dignified, that the desired result was commonly gained. The heart was taken captive. At length, the whole family rejoiced in the common possession of redeeming grace.
Miss Huntington's youngest brother was a graduate of Yale College. He appears to have been a youth of uncommon sweetness of disposition, of engaging manners and of good promise. After leaving college, he engaged as a private tutor in a family in Natchez, Mississippi. “Every cloudless evening," his sister writes to him, “in which I am called out, my eye turns towards the 'north star. It was a sweet reflection to me that you took the pains to look for it, while you were penning your letter. Often notice it, my beloved brother, and whenever you do, send a petition to the throne of the Eternal, for our mutual steadfastness in the path of wisdom; and I will do the same.” “I think of you every day with the most tender affection, particularly in my retired moments, when, I trust, we hold a communion more endearing than earthly relations can furnish. I delight to dwell upon the thought that you and I, dear brother, may take sweet counsel together in a heaven of purity and love. Washed and sanctified, perhaps, we may be united in performing embassies of love for our adorable Redeemer.”
The health of this brother, at length, failed, and his sister had the melancholy satisfaction of devoting herself exclusively to watch over his declining days. After the closing scene, she writes to her sister, “For a few moments after that languishing head was at rest,' I felt somewhat like David, who arose and washed himself, and his countenance was no more sad. I rejoiced for him. His lifeless form was very dear to us, until it was consigned to its narrow house. Our first mournful pleasure in the morning, and the last at night, was to visit the lovely remains, which now seemed almost like an angel's dwelling. Our hearts were knit together by uncommon ties. We had no cares or preparation to distract our minds, and during the whole of that week, we could sit down together and talk of the sainted spirit who had gone to mingle its celestial sympathies with its angel mother and its blessed Saviour.” Many passages might be quoted from the volume which present Miss Huntington to great advantage in the character of a consoler, especially after the death of her brother. That event seems to have unsealed the inmost fountains of feeling in her bosom. On several occasions, when she was in a foreign land, she refers to it in the most touching manner. The mention of the word “brother," was enough to fill her eyes with tears.
It has been before remarked, that her constitutional tendencies led her to perform what most of her sex would never think of attempting. The following passage illustrates this remark. It relates to a visit to the White Hills of New Hampshire: ,