This letter was written by Rev. Samuel B. How (1790-Aft1860). Samuel was an 1813 graduate of the University of Princeton. In 1850, he was a minister of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Samuel wrote the letter to his brother, Rev. James Cole How (1798-1855). James was married to Letitia Hamill (1803-1883) in 1826 and by the time this letter was written in 1839, the couple had at least 8 children.
Addressed to Rev. James C. How, St. Georges [Hundred, New Castle County], Delaware
New Brunswick [New Jersey]
December 3, 1839
My Dear Brother,
Altho if I mistake not I wrote you the last letter, yet I had intended for three or four weeks past to write to you again as I have begun much to wish to hear from you. But a letter which I received from Mr. H. Hamill last week would have induced me to write to you immediately on the receipt of it had I not been greatly pressed by my engagements.
I was grieved & concerned to learn from W. Hamill’s letter to me that your salary is incompetent to your support & he expressed a wish that you should get a call from some other congregation. He wishes me to write & recommend you to the Reformed Dutch Congregation of Bedminster. Whether you have requested & authorized Mr. H. to write yo me or not, I do not know. But I hope that you have sufficient confidence in my affection for you to believe that you may entirely confide to me anything that concerns you, assured that I will use it only for your advantage & I would prefer hearing from yourself what your wishes are in relation to my writing to the people of Bedminster. I would, however, very decidedly say that your congregation is a more desirable situation than it. They give but six hundred dollars & no parsonage. They may probably besides give some few cords of wood a year, but of this I am not certain, & occasionally a giving visit. The congregation extends 3&4&5 miles in different directions — High Hills, & a ridge of mountains extend through it & the people are not as refined & intelligent as those among whom you live. They are plain, intelligent farmers generally & many among them are pious. It is, however, one of the best Reformed Dutch Country Congregations in these parts, & were you without a situation I should consider it a very desirable place for you. But there is a serious difficulty in the way of settling any one among them. Rev’d W. Fisher, their former pastor, lives among them. He is now unable to preach from bronchitis, but he has a large number of friends who wish to wait for several months or a whole twelve months in the hope that he may regain his health. He again settled among them. All these will be unfriendly to the settlement of any man at present among them. If, however, you wish to visit them & preach for them, I will introduce you to them. But my own opinion is that unless you are decidedly unhappy in your present charge, you had best not visit Bedminster.
I mentioned you to some of my Presbyterian friends in this city where they were vacant & got from one of the Elders a promise that if they did not call Mr. Birch, he would propose inviting you to preach for them. That opportunity did not occur. An objection was made against you on account of your going with the New School party. I replied to it that I was fully satisfied of the correctness of your doctrinal views & spoke strongly & highly in your favor. The salaries of clergymen generally in the county around are about $500 & $600. There are very few that give $700 or $800 so far as I know. In the cities such as Trenton, New Brunswick, Elizabeth town, & Newark, they give $1,000 or $1,200. Much may be done by economy & management & I find that my wife makes my salary go further than I ever imagined it could go. She is a pattern of frugality, economy, & good management. The salaries of clergymen are too small generally & I have felt what it is to be severely pinched. It certainly is very desirable to give our children a liberal education & I have often reflected with myself whether you could do so out of your salary.
I regret my frequent changes & am satisfied that they have operated injuriously to me. I would on no account change without necessity. It is better if we really suffer to speak confidentially to one or two particular & influential friends, & tell them our embarrassments than to complain of it frequently & openly. This last creates a prejudice in the minds of people against us. If they think that we are dissatisfied with them, the become bery naturally dissatisfied with us, & we may move, as I have done, without bettering our situation, but changing for the worse & also getting a character for iritability & fickleness.
Parden these remarks. They no doubt have occured often to you. I am fully satisfied that one reason why the clergy generally do not exert greater influence is because they study so little. The popular opinion is that for the clergyman to gain influence & the affections of his people, he must visit a great deal & that studying is of inferior importance. This I am satisfied is a great & fatal mistake. A minister ought to visit his people occasionally as a religious [paper torn] especially in sickness & affliction. But his visits will be valued according as he preaches on the sabbath. If he gives poor, unstudied trashy & unconnected sermons that have little thought in them, he will be considered by his intelligent hearers a weak man & they will lose respect for him & care little for his visits. If on the contrary he prepares his sermons well & with care & preaches ably on the sabbath, then his visits will be fewer, but they will be much more highly prized & he will be greatly respected. I believe, my dear brother, that the surest way for a minister to get his salary raised is to preach frequently, able & instructive sermons which he has prepared with much diligence &c. He will not be able to do this every week but he should so it frequently & aim constantly to do it.
Will you allow me to say to you that I think the surest way for you to get your salary raised if you need it & to do good & to gain influence is to be a hard student & often write good sermons (such as I heard you preach) with great attention & care. The calling of a clergyman compels him to sacrifice worldly prospects of gain. We must look for our reward hereafter. Let us pray to be faithful to the Lord we serve, to the duty of our people & to our own souls. Then all will be well.
Your sister Mary & Cornelia & Henry join me in our affectionate regards to sister Letitia, yourself & all your family, It would give us great pleasure to see you here. I hope you & Sister Letitia will visit us soon. If I can be of any service to you, rwite to me & I will with pleasure aid you all I can. May every blessing rest on you & yours.
Your affectionate brother, — Samuel B. How