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CHOOSING A PROFESSION-STRUGGLES AND DECISION
REV. GEORGE E. HILL-FIRST PREACHING.
RIGHTER was now at a point in his history where the choice of a profession or pursuit must be made. In the ardour of his first love for Christ and His cause, we would expect him to look at the ministry as his field, and that he would throw himself, heart and soul, into the work of preparation for that high and holy calling. Why should he not?
There were two reasons, at least, that he must meet and answer before he could decide the question that now pressed itself home on his conscience.
He was naturally of a jovial disposition. Fond of fun and frolic when a boy, he did not lose his love for innocent amusements when he forsook all that he knew were sinful. This was now in his way when he thought of entering the hallowed walks of the ministry. His fondness for pleasantry might degenerate into levity. Certainly he was now far from having that sobriety of manner which befits the clerical profession. If he should become a minister, and then dishonour the name and office by his inconsistent deportment, to the injury of the cause and the ruin of souls, it were better that he had
never been born, or that he had turned the current of his life into some channel where his example would be less conspicuous, and so less injurious. But this was not a fatal objection. He had found, by his own experience in the divine life, that grace could overcome nature, and his own good sense assured him that cheerfulness was far more desirable than austerity in the minister of the gospel. He was willing to trust God for help to subdue all that was positively wrong. While he would be a joyful Christian, he did not wish to appear to be anything else. This objection was, therefore, laid aside, but there was one more serious.
The father of Righter, if a Christian, was reserved in regard to his feelings, and made no profession, even to his nearest friends, of being interested, personally, in religion. Possessed of an ample property, and being largely engaged in business, he was a man of the world. Safe in his judgments, but enterprising and successful, he had several distinct branches of business, agricultural, mercantile, and manufacturing, in which he was engaged, with the aid of his sons. It was against his wishes that his son, Chester, began to turn his thoughts toward the ministry. It would be far more to the father's taste if the son would enter into business with him. It was easy for Mr Righter to set before his son inducements of a worldly nature, that would compel him to pause, and think twice and long, before he threw them aside, as unworthy of his pursuit and love. Righter has told me that this was a temptation and trial. While he justly regarded the gospel ministry as the wide field for usefulness that he burned to enter, he was not ignorant that he must sacrifice the prospect of wealth and future ease.
But the trial was greater when he saw his father advancing in years, and earnestly anxious to secure him in such pursuits as would make his son the companion and comfort of his old age. To become a minister, he must leave houses and lands, father and mother, for Christ's sake. This was the alternative. He has assured me that he was able without much of a struggle to forego the attractions of the world, but he desired greatly to please his father, and his mind was long in the balances of doubt as to what was duty in these circumstances. But the Lord was calling him, and the call proved to be irresistible. To his young and buoyant spirit no pleasure on earth was more alluring than the joy of publishing glad tidings of salvation. No wealth was more precious in his sight than the unsearchable riches of Christ, which one who called himself less than the least of all saints was permitted to preach to perishing men. And when he saw in the gospel that, in this very connexion, he was told by his Master to leave father and mother for the sake of the work to which he was called, he resolved, in the dew of his youth, to give himself to the ministry of reconciliation.
With this purpose once formed, he went forward steadily to realise the desires of his soul.
In the autumn of 1842 he entered Yale College, and after completing his course of study there and graduating with honour, he pursued the study of theology at New Haven and Andover. One of his classmates in college, who was afterwards an intimate friend, and our companion in travel, the Rev. George E. Hill, has given me a few memoranda of his literary career, which I here employ.
"He entered college with high resolutions to lead a life
MR HILL'S LETTER.
of devotion to study, and to such discipline of heart as would prepare him for the profession which he sought. He was regarded by his associates as exceedingly reserved and diffident. His reputation was that of a diligent student, rather than a social companion, and rarely did he mingle in the sports of college life. With his fine talents and this exemplary diligence, it was a matter of course that his standing as a scholar was high. Modest and retiring, but always a gentleman in his bearing and address, he was universally respected and esteemed. Indeed, I never knew that he had an enemy.
"We were together again in the closing year of our theological studies, and then, for the first time, I began really to know the value of our friend. He was still the same diligent student, but his soul was now glowing with a warm ambition to be useful in the service of Christ. His former reserve had melted away. He was ready to speak for his Master, and earnestly engaged in winning souls for Him. This strong desire was seen and felt in his labours in a Bible Class connected with the Centre Church, New Haven.
"I well remember, too, the ardour with which he entered upon our first preaching enterprise, in the little brick school-house at Hampden, five miles east of the city. Here we held religious service every Sabbath evening, in the winter's cold; but we were warm, for our hearts burned within us as we walked by the way. It was then and there, in speaking for the first time as an ambassador of Christ to his fellow-men, that his tongue was really loosed, and his whole soul glowed in his earnest face as he besought men to be reconciled to God. How often on the vessel's deck, and in strange lands beyond the sea, as we
have sung together those familiar songs of Zion, has he spoken of the meetings in the brick school-house, as among the happiest memories of his student life.
"Of the subsequent character and career of our friend and brother I have no need to write to you, for you knew him afterward, even better than I. But his uniform benevolence, his unselfishness, his tender regard for the interests and the feelings of others; his unaffected modesty, coupled with a manly heroism that despised danger and never felt fear; his fervent and consistent piety; his powers of endurance, and his willingness to do and to suffer in the service of his Master,-all this and more you know, and will portray, if you put your pen to the delightful work of perpetuating the memory of our beloved Righter."