Dr. Poole And The New England Clergy -- By: Z. Swift Holbrook
BSac 57:226 (April 1900) p. 282
Dr. Poole And The New England Clergy1
Among the distinguished sons of Essex County whose portraits grace the walls of this Institute, and whose names are ever held in grateful remembrance by the people of this Commonwealth, it is eminently fitting that the portrait of William Frederick Poole should occupy a conspicuous place. He was born in Salem, December 24, 1821, and was buried here in Harmony Grove, March 4, 1894. The donor of this portrait, his eldest daughter, was also born in Salem. Her abiding affection for her father, her respect for his memory, and her kindly regard for the place of his and her birth, have led her to intrust this portrait to your permanent custody.
It is preeminently fitting that this presentation should come in Salem, for Dr. Poole was almost the first to state to this century the facts of history in relation to the sad tragedies enacted here three centuries ago. He was the sturdy defender of the Puritan character, and especially of the clergy who in the early days of the colonies were supposed to have exercised such an unhappy influence upon the people and to have used that influence oftentimes for selfish or personal ends.
To understand or appreciate the Puritan character, one
BSac 57:226 (April 1900) p. 283
must know the fashions of thought that prevailed in the century in which they lived, and one must not judge them by standards of excellence that existed a century or more later, especially when those standards were the outgrowth of the very influences they started in motion.
If civil and religious liberty were the outcome of Puritan teachings, although, like all the children of men in their day and generation, the Puritans themselves may have been intolerant and superstitious, then we must exercise a wise charity for their failure to teach truths that were the discovery of a later age. It is hardly fair to turn the electric light upon their tallow dips and blame them for their feeble rays.
Dr. Poole was singularly gifted to interpret the Puritan character, and to correct the popular errors that existed relative to witchcraft and its causes. By heredity and education he was in possession of those qualities of mind and heart that are requisite to understand and appreciate the men of the seventeenth century. The faults and the virtues of the Pilgrim and the Puritan have awakened by turns, and in an almost equal degree, the pity and the admiration of those who have inherited their characteristics, but who have too often used their strength to judge unjustly, by the religious and ethical standards of to-day, the men who were far in advance of their own times yesterd...
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