Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/351

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
345
THE MINISTER'S SON

THE MINISTER'S SON
By The Rev. CLARENCE EDWARD MACARTNEY, M.A.

PATERSON, N. J.

A FEW months ago, Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey, stood in the little bedroom of the Presbyterian manse. at Caldwell. The reason for his pilgrimage to that village and to that particular house was the fact that there Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president of the United States, was born, March 18, 1837. Woodrow Wilson, himself the son of a Presbyterian minister, at Staunton, Va., paid a visit to the Presbyterian manse at Caldwell, out of which came a famous son. The one, now gathered to his fathers, was an oracle of the democracy, and the other is a possible democratic successor to Grover Cleveland at the White House.

The meeting of their paths at Caldwell is suggestive. Both were sons of the manse. It brings up the old question about the character of ministers' sons. Are they all sons of Belial? Are they all base fellows like the sons of Eli and Samuel? Are there none among them who do not belong to the order of Hophni and Phineas?

Charles Lamb wrote a number of essays on popular fallacies. Among the fallacies which he exposed are the following: "That a bully is always a coward"; "that you must love me and love my dog"; "that we should rise with the lark and lie down with the lamb"; "that ill-gotten gains never prosper," and "that enough is as good as a feast." We could wish that he had added one more—that ministers' sons are generally scoundrels. A long time ago Thomas Fuller wrote:

There goeth forth a common report, no less uncharitable than untrue, as if clergymen 's sons were generally unfortunate like the sons of Eli, dissolute in their lives and doleful in their deaths.

He goes on to make due allowance for "Benjamins" among the sons of ministers, that is, sons of their old age, and hence, "cockered" and humored by their ancient sires. But his conclusion is that "clergymen's children have not been more unfortunate, but more observed than the children of the parents of other professions." This last observation, coupled with a possible desire to disparage the ministry, is the sole basis for a gross fallacy, as contrary to reason as it is contrary to fact. We can all think of ministers' sons who were scallawags, no credit to a minister or to any other man. But if the general moral and intellectual standard of ministers' sons is not high, then all principles of heredity, education and environment are overthrown. Adam begat a son in his own likeness, and most ministers do the same.