Books of the Rectors – Part 1 – McGuire’s Spiritual Diary

From the Puritans onward, books written by American ministers are an important contribution to the story of America.

There have been at least 4 works published as books by St. George’s rectors:

1. McGuire’s Spiritual Diary.
2. Randolph’s Day of Fasting and Prayer address on June 13,1861.
3. Several works collectively by John J. Lanier in the early 20th century.
4. Thomas Faulkner Gospel for the 21st Century.

Of the books written by St. George’s rectors this is the earliest.

Quenzel used this work in his history and lists it in his bibliography:

McGuire, Edward Charles. A Spiritual Diary Commenced January 1st, 1819 to May 23, 1831
363 pp. Property of W. A. Smoot, Alexandria.

The first 32 pages of the 363 pages have been transcribed and are in the Virginia Theological Seminary library.

W. A. Smoot is William Allen Smoot, Jr. His relative James Egerton Smoot, the youngest of four brothers who left Saint Mary’s County, Maryland during the early nineteenth century. By 1822 they were involved in the sale of lumber.   Smooth’s father fought for Stonewall Jackson. He established is own waterfront lumber mill at the end of the Civil War, in partnership with John Perry, and expanded sales to coal, salt and plaster. Much of the interior woodwork of the Masonic Memorial was supplied by W. A. Smoot &Co.

The connection to McGuire was through his wife, a Washington. William Jr. was great-great-grandson of Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington’s sister.   McGuire was married to Judith Lewis.

The whereabouts of the rest of the book are unknown. Quenzel borrowed it directly from the Smoot family and certainly returned the book and through the death of the owner the book’s location is undetermined.

The diary began Jan 1, 1819 and for McGuire is a “record of my religious experience as a disciple and Minister of my Lor d and maker. ”  At one point he says the diary is about “recording the exercises of his mind.”

Before the diary begins in chronological order he tells his spiritual story.

He recalls that with the study of law he was visited by the Holy Spirit who came as  a “flash of lightning”.  He dates  April, 1812  when “I experienced a “joy and peace in believing.” As a result he began a study of religion with the future Bishop Meade then at Christ Church, Alexandria in 1812 and then in Sept 1813 received the call to St. George’s. At age 20 he described being received by people “with very little cordiality.” He commented on the ‘work of grace that quickly commenced in the church.”

Bishop Moore ordained him a deacon in 1814.  He was married to Judith Lewis in 1816 one who came to the church after the beginning of the ministry.

However, he experienced a period of “spiritual depression.” However, Sept. 1817, he was filled with a “joy unspeakable and full of joy”.  His wife had their first child in Jan., 1818.

The diary portion begins in 1819.  He was concerned of the conduct of his congregation.  On Feb., 13, he recalled that he was “much harassed by sinful and malicious conduct of others from whom I should expected better things.”  He was pained “by the disorderly walk of some of my  members.”

There are asides that say much about St. George’s  and religion at the time:

  1. The number of services seemed to stretch from morning to night. Mentions preaching to 400 to 500 people.
  2. He comments on a Sunday school on a farm – “57 scholars – all perfectly unlettered til they entered  the school  – now many of them read the New Testament. What an important institution!”
  3. The Colonization society was organized in Fredericksburg at St. Georg’es. The colonization society had great hopes – “ A great and magnificent design.”  After the meeting in St. George’s organizing it – “Some warm in the opposition to the scheme.”  He followed with an entry o f his “mind still distressed – cast down.”

He speaks his own beliefs – “plain doctrines of the cross “ which include the “depravity o the human heard”, “the necessity of being born again by the influence of the Holy Ghost”, the “doctrine of the atonement in all of its fullness and  extent.”

“Happiness  I feel deeply convinced is intimately connected with the faithful and active discharging of every duty, a commendation of the wise advice of the Bishop Wilson that the Christian cultivate the “piety which is active rather than which is only contemplative.”

“I have not however I sensibly attained to that ____ to sense and that complete control over my affections and ____ which holiness requires of me. O that God would strengthen me and my soul and enable me to regard his will supremely and die to self.’

“My chief joy is to do his blessed will – I have had some individual sorrows, but trust to find joy springing from the source which produced them.”

After Nov., 1819, the diary breaks for a year to Nov., 1820 due to “bad health and much business.” He says he has enjoyed  a “pretty general peace”  He had a fever in Sept and then 5 relapses, lost his father  and from that “more alive to the things of Eternity.’

Then after Nov., 1820, it goes to June, 1821. He had not continue since he was in a “a similar state of mind.”

He speaks of good things in the congregation – “Evidence of grace in congregation. Lord has brought “several from darkness to light.”

His mother dies in this period.  He was  “humbled “ one Sunday – could not “give much effort to the word.”

On July 3 he writes fatally “have a realizing conviction of the brevity of human life. Feel that it is rapidly hastening to a close with me.”  McGuire would not die until 1858.

The diary skips to 1822.  He feels that he congregation is progressing but he has a different frame of mind.

He is more convinced of the corruptness of human nature . He is not experiencing as much spiritual joy. He talks about suffering from temptation .  But He mentions the “work of grace still progressing in the congregation. Many are anxious about salvation.”

The diary moves to Jan, 1823.

“The work of grace begins to assure every appearance of a genuine revival. The concern of many is becoming deeper and their anxiety about their spiritual state is becoming more intense and painful.”  People are meeting 6 to 7 times a week.

This is a very personal work which shows McGuire’s struggle with both his congregation and himself. The transcribed portion of the Spiritual Diary from Virginia Theological Seminary is below:

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