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PARENTAGE, BIRTH, AND EARLY EDUCATION-CONVERSION AND RELIGIOUS EXERCISES-REVIVAL IN SCHOOL.
He was born, September 25, 1824, at Parsippany, in New Jersey. His estimable parents were among the most respectable people in the rich agricultural region of Morris County. His mother was eminently a devout woman, full of faith and prayer, and consecrating her children with all the ardour of a mother's love, and the confidence of a firm belief in the promises, to the service of God.
All the children-there were two daughters and four sons-had the best opportunities of early education, and one of the sons studied a profession, and is a successful lawyer in the city of Newark, N. J.
Chester, in very early life, disclosed a fondness for books. Apt to learn, and ambitious of excelling, he made rapid attainments in learning. At the age of twelve he was sent from home to a classical school at Wantage, N. J., under the care of his uncle, Mr E. A. Stiles, where he pursued his studies with great success, and was fitted for college. One of his cousins, who was in the same family, has furnished me with a sketch of the character and progress of the boy, and it is so like the man that I must copy the portrait here: "Even then, when he was only twelve years old, were largely developed that fearless
assurance and determined purpose which distinguished him in after life, and formed him for action in so wide a field. After a few months' study here, the school was suspended; Chester returned home and remained there two years and a half, and when his uncle, Mr Stiles, resumed his school again at Wantage, Chester joined him, and remained under his instruction until he was prepared to enter college.
"During the second year of this period of study, a series of religious meetings was held in the Clove Church, about a mile from the school, by the Rev. T. S. Ward. The pupils were allowed to attend the services, or to stay at home, as they preferred. Righter was one of the few who attended them from the beginning regularly. The interest in the meetings increased. On the third evening all the teachers and pupils attended. The house was thronged, and the audience deeply solemn under the preaching of the word. Many were powerfully impressed by the truth and the Spirit. The next morning young Righter went to his uncle with the great question, 'What must I do to be saved?' That night, on retiring to his room, he found his brother, who was a teacher in the school, sitting at his table writing, and he exclaimed, 'O brother, how can you sit still and write while I am perishing in my sins?' His brother invited him to repent of his sins and turn to Christ with all his heart. He bade him kneel with him, and give himself up to the Lord Jesus Christ for time and eternity. They knelt, and prayed together; wrestled long and earnestly on their knees, till the awakened, anxious, convicted sinner submitted to God. Light broke in upon his soul. Peace was shed abroad in his heart. He arose a new creature in Christ Jesus.
"The next morning as he entered the parlour where family worship was to be held, his countenance reflected the calmness and joy of his soul. His teacher and uncle said to him at once
Chester, I trust you have found the Saviour?'
"Yes uncle,' he replied, 'I have given myself away to be His for ever.'
"The interest of the whole school in the subject of religion was so great, it was thought best to suspend the usual studies and hold a prayer-meeting in the parlour during the forenoon. Nearly all the pupils attended. Young Righter was called on to offer the first prayer. A mere boy of sixteen, in the midst of his companions, it might have been feared that he would hesitate when thus suddenly summoned to stand up as a Christian. But he was ready. With equal modesty and decision he rose and began with humble confession of sin, grateful acknowledgment of his joy and gratitude on account of sins forgiven, and then he prayed that all his associates might come to Christ without delay, and share in the blessings of salvation. His words were fluent, for he had ready command of language, and his prayer was heard with deep emotions by his companions, and, we may believe, in heaven also, for the work of grace went on, and others were brought in. With them he organised a prayer-meeting, which was held daily, at noon, behind a haystack, in the midst of the winter season. If the daily noon prayermeetings were held earlier than this, I have not seen any account of them. These boys kept them up, with great interest, regardless of the weather; their young hearts being warm, and their petitions earnest for more and more of the Holy Spirit. This was the beginning of our friend's
Christian life. In March of the same year, 1841, with thirty others, he made a public profession of religion, uniting with the Clove Church, in that neighbourhood. Now he was a professed follower of Christ, a soldier of the cross, young, but strong in the Lord. His face was set toward heaven, and so was his heart.
"Grace begun in his soul wrought a great and decided change. With the resolute will and energy which I have mentioned, he had also an irritable temper, and these traits of character made him often overbearing. He had been the leader in the sports of the school, and many had found him too fond of having his own way. But it is the testimony of those who knew him then, that from the time he became a child of God, he was indeed a new creature. Patient perseverance took the place of fitful haste, decision in the right succeeded to a desire to have things to suit himself. Moral courage was soon revealed in his unbending opposition to all that was wrong in the school, even when he was compelled to stand alone. His example was thus a powerful aid in the discipline of the school, and his influence was felt, in-doors and out, upon all who were with him. The secret of this great change, and the rapid progress of grace in his soul, was his invariable habit of prayer. Without ostentation, he led a life of constant communion with God; seeking, day by day, the help he needed to overcome indwelling sin, get the victory over himself, and to be qualified for the service of the Saviour.
"During a school vacation, he was at home. His father was not a professor of religion, but Chester was encouraged to conduct family worship, which he did with readiness. One morning he had made arrangements with a friend for
an excursion that required them to make an early start. The horses were at the door. His friend was impatient, and reminded him that his hurry seemed to be over, asking him why he delayed. Righter simply remarked that the family were not quite ready for prayers, and he would start as soon as they had had morning worship. This friend was a neglecter of religion, and never had been in the habit of attending 'family prayers,' but without saying a word, he took his seat and remained, apparently interested in the service.
"Such an incident serves to shew the early decision which Righter had made to be prompt and faithful in the performance of Christian duty, and the habit thus formed grew with him till it became a part of his sanctified nature, an abiding principle which governed him at home and abroad, on land and sea. He was a praying youth and a praying man. He obtained strength in prayer. Great trials and strong conflicts were before him. Few men have been so soon called to make such sacrifices as he made, and to endure such temptations; and if he had not been strong with God, the world and the flesh would have prevailed. Then this record had never been made."