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Memoir of Rev. Alvan Hyde, D.D. of Lee, Mass."
"This volume represents to the public the diary and letters of one whom the Lord honored as useful laborer in his vineyard. As it was very remote from his feelings, while living, to seek his own glory, or to take any pre-eminence among his brethren, so it is no part of the design of the compiler of these papers, to exhibit him before his readers as an extraordinary man. In his diary, which is but little more than a brief notice annually, of some of the providences of God toward him and his family, with his reflections upon them, are such feelings expressed as every man, under similar circumstances, may be supposed to indulge; and his letters are such, as grew out of the occasions that called them forth - the effusions of faithful friendship, or parental kindness.
"It was at first designed to arrange all his letters according to the time in which they written, but on examination, it was thought better to let his communications to his children, occupy a separate portion of the volume."
HIS DIARY, GIVING AN ACCOUNT OF HIS PARENTAGE -- HIS COLLEGIATE LIFE -- HIS LETTERS WHILE IN COLLEGE -- TEACHES A SCHOOL IN NORTHAMPTON -- HIS SICKNESS WHILE IN THAT PLACE.
It has been sometimes thought that there is no propriety in writing a memoir of any man unless he has been so distinguished as to impress his character upon the age in which he has lived - been of larger stature than his contemporaries - and struck out some new trains of thought. They who have been thus distinguished, ought indeed to have some memorial left of their greatness: but are there no reasons why men of common stature, who have with usefulness filled humble stations, who have delighted in doing good, without being renowned, and been patiently attentive to every-day duties, should also have some memorial of what the Lord was pleased to do by their instrumentality? Few can follow the brilliant path of the great, while multitudes may have a sympathy with such as moved in more ordinary spheres, and may find in examples within the reach of their imitation, motives, which from that very circumstance, come home more effectually to their hearts. It is not even questionable, whether the cause of vital religion has derived most benefit from the recorded history of the great men who have laid their splendid talents and acquisitions at the feet of Jesus, or from the unpretending memorials of eminent piety in the common walks of life.
Such a work as the Biography of Hallock, or Payson, or Emerson, is a blessing to the world, and will be read by ministers with as much profit as if the subjects of them had given shape to the ecclesiastical history of the times in which they lived. If that heavenly principle does possess an intrinsic value, superior to that of the most shining talent or profound erudition, why should not the pure gold be thought worthy of preservation and become a part of the circulating medium which enriches the world?
The reader will find in the following extracts from the diary and letters, some of the prominent incidents in the life of him who wrote them, and all who were acquainted with the writer, will see, in the simplicity and unfeigned humility breathing through the narrative, the likeness of the man.
"Records of the providences and mercies of God experienced in my life, with some reflections occasioned by them.
"I, Alvan Hyde, was born at Norwich, in Connecticut, February 2, 1768. My father, Joseph Hyde, was a farmer of a reputable character in that town, a friend to religious order and religious institutions, a constant attendant on public and family worship; but not a professor of religion. From him I received much good advice in my early years, which by the blessing of God had great influence on my conduct. I loved him with tender affection, and felt myself bound to obey all his commands. Of my mother I have but a faint recollection, as she died when I was but six years old.
6, 1783, I commenced the study of the enjoyment of the learned languages,
and began to prepare for admission into college under the instruction
of the Rev. Samuel Nott,* the worthy clergyman on whose ministry my father
attended. About a year after I began to prepare for college, and when
my heart was much engaged on having a public education, it pleased God
to deprive me of my health. My complaints were such that my life was considered
in imminent danger for a number of months. In the time of this sickness
I had a sight of the vanity of this world and of my lost and ruined condition
as a sinner. I sought the Lord with many cries and tears, but with an
unhumbled heart, being ignorant of the nature of religion. These
serious impressions were continued and increased after my health was restored
and I had resumed my studies.
"September, 1784. After being examined, I was received as a member of Dartmouth college. This was a year of great trials, occasioned by want of health and the expectation of being obliged to relinquish my beloved pursuit: but I have every since viewed it as a memorable year of my life, the of my spiritual birth. I then cherished a hope that my trials were sanctified to me, and that, vile as I found myself to be, I had become a partaker of the grace of God."
Brief extracts from his letters, written during his residence at college, will here be inserted, showing his trains of thought at that early age, and illustrating the characteristics of that hope which he then cherished.
"Dartmouth University, Dec. 17, 1785
"While opportunity offers, I cannot forbear writing to you, whom gratitude bids me esteem as a friend. Although I have delayed writing so long, yet I assure you it is not without reason, and I doubt not your ingenuous mind would forgive me should you know the reasons - the one is for want of health, and the other for want of an opportunity.
enjoy at present a good degree of health; although I have been very sick
and was brought almost to despair of life for several days. It was trying
to me to be sick from home, but I endeavored to reconcile myself to my
lot, and be resigned to the will of heaven.
"Dartmouth College, June 2, 1788
"Your letters arrived in safety, and the perusal of them gave me peculiar satisfaction - the last informed me of your better health. May God perfect his begun goodness to you, above all things may he grant you those spiritual blessings which shall never fail, and may you be made a true subject of divine grace.
"My journey was very agreeable. I was accompanied by Messrs. J. and S. I found my circumstances at college more favorable than I expected. I have a good room and an agreeable room-mate. With regard to religion, I believe the vacation was not friendly to it, for since the return of the students many have shown their attachment to this world who before were under very serious impressions. M. is still without hope of his good estate. He is now under great concern of mind, he talks much of the vanity of this world, and says that the enjoyment of the whole would not make him happy without an interest in the Redeemer's kingdom. For my part I think he is in a much better way than those who feel secure in sin. There are a number who really make a business of religion, and by their conduct give great evidence, of their being true disciples of Christ. We have conferences every Sabbath after meeting, and every Thursday afternoon, beside on Saturday we write and talk upon questions of divinity. Dear sir, do you not admire our privileges? Do you not desire to participate with us? We are truly distinguished. Heaven grant that we may make a good improvement of our opportunities, and that they may not serve to increase our condemnation."
These letters show what subjects and what associates interested this youthful member of college at the time he was laying the foundation of his usefulness in the profession he had chosen. His diary will afford further proof.
"July, 1786, I made a public profession of the religion of Jesus Christ, and solemnly dedicated myself to the service of my Maker. Being in college, I united with the church which was connected with it, of which one of our professors was the pastor. During the whole of my collegiate life, I attached myself, from choice, to those students who were of a religious character; and was forward to encourage religious meeting in college.
"September 17, 1788, I was honored with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Being now disconnected from college, I went into the wide world, not knowing what would befall me. With respect to a profession, I had never been wavering. My eye and my heart were fixed upon the ministry, for which I ardently hoed, in God's own time, to be prepared.
"November 6, 1788. Having been previously engaged, I commenced instructor of the town school in Northampton, where I continued about ten months. I had not been in my school more than a month, before I vas violently attacked with the pleurisy, and was brought even to death's door. This sickness, though distressing, was, by a kind and gracious Providence, overruled for my good. It occasioned my having many more friends in the town than I should otherwise have had. Many religious persons came to see me in this time of trouble, whose readiness to minister to my body and soul, I desire ever gratefully to remember. I feel an obligation particularly to record the daily attention and unwearied kindness of Mrs. Strong, whose pious instruction and counsel were, by the blessing of God, of great service to me. I experienced tokens of her friendship as long as I continued in the place."
The following extract from a letter gives a more particular account of the sickness to which he alludes in this diary.
"Dear Friend and Benefactor,
"Both of your letters came safely to hand. Mr. B., the bearer of the former, tarried with me over night. Mr. K. I did not see. Nothing but reasons peculiar could have prevented my writing to you at a much earlier period. Be assured then that my situation has been such since I came here, that at the relation of which, you will rather be excited to pity, than curse me. I have much to communicate to you, but must be content with an abridgement. Before I begin my narrative, let me tell you I have a song of salvation put into my mouth.
"I had scare been in this town a month, before I was violently seized with the pleurisy - was soon deprived of my reason, and rendered a helpless, miserable object. The disorder was so very irregular in its progress towards a crisis as almost entirely to baffle the skill of my physician. My life was despaired of by all who were spectators of me. In the meanwhile I thought myself sometimes out in the woods, exposed to the roughness of the weather, abandoned by my friends, being not insensible of my weakness, and talked accordingly. In this situation I more than once yielded to death, and even thought myself expiring. But how faint and inadequate were my ideas of that great change through which I have yet to pass! In my then weak and irregular state of mind, death appeared with far less horror. When at the poorest, I one night jumped out of my bed and inquired of my watchers, if on Hyde did ont live there, and appeared to be anxious about his health as a near friend. The time I recollect, for I thought myself, I know not how, to be friend G., inquiring after my other self. This is truly paradoxical, but I have thought much of it since it was told me that I really asked after myself as another person. Much more I have to say relative to my illness, which must be deferred for the present. I only add that I have been led to experience much of the kindness of my heavenly Father's care. How soon Providence may again frown, I know not. Heaven grant that I may be prepared for the various scenes through which I have yet to pass, and that I may not be allowed to complain under those sufferings which are inseparable from the present state of man. My health is now good and situation agreeable - have been successful in my school, &c. Do write again, and it shall be esteemed a peculiar favor by your much obliged friend."
COMMENCES HIS PROFESSIONAL STUDIES - LICENSE TO PREACH - HIS FIRST LABORS AS A PREACHER - HIS CALL TO SETTLE IN WEST STOCKBRIDGE - PREACHES AT CLINTON, NEW YORK - HIS ORDINATION IN LEE.
"Oct. 9, 1789, I placed myself under the instruction of the Rev. Charles Backus, of Somers, Connecticut, as a student of divinity. With him I continued until the first of June 1790, when I was licensed to preach the gospel by the association of Tolland county, in the State of Connecticut. After preaching two years as a candidate in different places, I was ordained, June 6, 1792, to the pastoral care and charge of the congregation in Lee, Massachusetts. while preaching on probation, at Lee, I resided a part of the time in the family of Rev. Dr. West, of Stockbridge, with whom I pursued my theological studies. This situation was peculiarly favorable to my improvement, and I trust, was truly beneficial to me in obtaining a more correct and thorough knowledge of the system of doctrines contained in the word of God."
It may be suitable to insert in this place, some sentences from his letters written between the dates contained in the last extract from his diary, affording a more particular history of his labors as a preacher previous to his ordination.
"Bennington, Sept. 10, 1790.
"At length the long wished for time has arrived, and I am once more permitted to send my friend a few lines. I know you will be glad to hear the history which I am about to give. I have been conversant with the new scenes, have had new trials, and have shared in pleasures which have arisen from new sources. Since I left you I have not failed preaching a single Sabbath. My health has been poorer this summer than usual. The influenza affected me more than I was aware. To keep journeying I found was the only remedy for the disorder to which I was exposed. At Sunderland I tarried four Sabbaths, then visited my friends at Northampton, and preached for Mr. W., since which time I have been constantly employed in vacancies in the county of Berkshire. The people to whom I have preached have generally manifested great kindness and friendship towards me. I have received from them many more favors than I have deserved. It appears to me that I meet with a chosen few in every town in which I form acquaintance. This gives me great satisfaction, I take courage from it. I love to preach where people are attentive. A faithful minister cannot be dull and lifeless while his bearers discover a fondness for truth. In many of the towns in Berkshire county there is an uncommon attention to religion. The churches of Christ in this quarter are enlarging; sinners feel uneasy, many I hope are inquiring the way to Zion. I am now visiting my friends in Bennington, propose to preach here next Sabbath; shall then go on to Tinmouth, where I have an invitation to tarry a few weeks. Thus I have given you a short narrative of what has taken place since I left you. Remember me to all friends, and believe me, as usual, yours."
"Lenox, August 9, 1791.
"This letter begins where the last left off. I repaired to the pesthouse the same Saturday which I proposed. But as Providence designed it, the infection put into my arm had not taken. I was therefore inoculated a second time, but it was as ineffectual as in the first instance. Mr. R.'s by this time began to break out, and my anxiety was great lest I should take it the natural way. But the third time the doctor took fresh matter from Mr. R.'s arm, which operated very soon and very favorably. After I came out of the hospital, being not very well, I was determined to go and see what friend A. was about, though at the distance of thirty miles from Nobletown. I found him unable to preach, afflicted with fever and ague, and something low in his spirits. My visit was seasonal, he appeared to be glad to see me, and shook off some of his melancholy. I tarried a number of days with him, and preached for him. He is among a kind people, though exceedingly stupid and ignorant of the doctrines of the gospel. They are much attached to him, and wish him to be their minister.
"While I was in Nobletown, the church and congregation at West Stockbridge gave me a second call to settle. I assure you, sir, it was hard to deny them, but the difficulties appeared so great, that I have done it a second time. I have now preached three Sabbaths in Lenox, they urge me to stay longer, but I feel obligated to go to Clinton. This morning, by the leave of Providence, I propose to set off on my journey. Notwithstanding I am going into the wilderness, at a great distance from my friends and from all ministers, yet I am pleased with the prospect which is before me - my heart is much set upon it. They need preaching in that country, it is rare that candidates launch out so far. Mr. West proposes to go up in September for the purpose of forming a church. I hope God may use me as an instrument of doing good, that he will enable me to be faithful, and that I may not bestow on them labor in vain. In the hands of God the cause of Zion is infinitely safe. He is able to show himself superior to all opposition."
State of New York, Sept. 21, 1791.
June 5, 1792.
" Honored Father,
"But my thougHts are more employed about the greatness of the work in which I am about to engage, than the manner in which I shall be supported. The work of the ministry appears greater and greater to me. I am sometimes almost ready to sink under it, and to cry out 'Who is sufficient for these things?' But these words, 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' are sometimes comforting. The burden on my mind, at the present time, is very great. To-morrow is appointed for my ordination, and I have solemn and affecting scenes before me. It is a great thing to take the pastoral office over a church, and be set as a watchman. I need the prayers of all God's people. I hope you, sir, will remember me at the throne of grace.
want to see you, and to talk with you on the subject which was introduced,
at the time when we last parted. I feel inexcusable that I have said so
little to you on that subject. The thought affects me - it greatly affects
me, that you should be the parent of so many children, and never dedicate
them to God. It is your indispensable duty. The word of God points it
out to you in a very plain manner. I feel afraid that you will pass through
life without ever complying with the ordinances and institutions which
Christ hath appointed for his followers, and in which all Christians take
delight. I can do no less than to call up your attention to this subject.
I hope, sir, you will think of it with seriousness and candor."
REVIVAL SOON AFTER HIS ORDINATION - HIS THEOLOGICAL SENTIMENTS - HIS MARRIAGE - HIS LETTERS TILL 1800.
Such were the feelings with which the youthful pastor entered upon his work. The church, over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer, had been some years destitute of a pastor - had been greatly opposed and sorely tried; and the religious aspect of the community not the most encouraging. But the minister, as appears from an examination of his sermons written at that period, commenced his labors by a very plain and full exhibition of the discriminating doctrines of the Bible; those, too, which are most offensive and trying to the natural heart. In his diary recording the mercies and providences of God towards him, we find the following account.
"In a few weeks after my ordination,it pleased God to excite a very general and solemn attention to the things of religion, among the people committed to my charge. The Spirit of God came down upon us, and, in its effects, was like a rushing, mighty wind. There was great consternation among the people. Some were in distress, some were filled with joy; but the finger and power of God were so clearly evinced in the work, that none presumed to make opposition to it. This revival of religion was long continuance, and exhibited marks of great purity. It occasioned an accession to the church of more than one hundred persons. I record this as a token of the rich and astonishing mercy of God."
The following very brief extracts from his letters, written during the progress of this revival, contain all the additional particulars which have been collected from his own pen, except what are contained in his general view of the revivals during his ministry, published with Dr. Sprague's Lectures.
"Lee, Dec. 4, 1792.
"There is a continuation of the religious awakening among us, though it has considerably abated. The number of those who entertain hopes of their being brought out of darkness into marvelous light is large. More than seventy of this description have come to my knowledge; with most of whom I have had some conversation. Since my ordination, fifty-two persons in this town have made a public profession of the religion of Jesus, and joined the church of which I have the charge. You will easily see that this must make my labor great; for our mode of admission is by examination before the whole church. God hath done great things for us in this place, and the glory is al his due. What demands are made on us for grateful hearts!"
"My dear Friend,
"Since my last letter I have been in good health. My labor is very hard. The serious attention is not yet wholly abated, though it is much less than what it has been. The number of the church is continually increasing. We have now received into our communion since my ordination, about ninety. There are a number more who propose to join. Happy event if all endure to the end."
Dr. Griffin, the president of Williams College, in a sermon preached September 2, 1828, at the dedication of the New Chapel, has the following paragraph, which may, with propriety, have a place in connection with this revival in Lee.
"The year 1792, it has often been said, ushered a new era into the world. In that year, the first blood was drawn in that mighty struggle, which, for more than twenty years, convulsed Europe and began the predicted destruction of the apocalyptic beast. In that year, the first of those institutions which modern charity has planned and which now cover the whole face of the protestant world, arose in England. And in that year, commenced that series of revivals in America, which has never been interrupted, night or day and which never will be, until the earth is full of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. * * *
"For many years
I supposed I had been permitted to see, in my native neighborhood and
in my father's house, the first revival in the series. But it was with
many deeply affecting associations, that I learned the other day that
the vice president* of the college, now in office, was allowed to take
part in two revivals that same year; one of which was certainly earlier
that that which I witnessed."
From these brief sketches of that period of his labors, it appears that while the pastor of the church of Lee was yet in his youth, and without any experience as a minister, and early, if not the earliest in that series of the wonderful works of God by which New England was more richly blessed than it had previously been for half a century, the Lord was pleased to bring upon him responsibilities immensely great. With what feelings he met these responsibilities, and engaged in these labors, his letters and his sermons show. he came to his work trembling in view of his unfitness, and putting all his trust in almighty grace. Perhaps it is an act of justice due to the memory of a man whose theological tenets have been much spoken against, to say, that the articles of faith in the church in Lee, were drawn up by Dr. Hopkins, and that it was under the preaching of these doctrines, that this church, and several others of the most prosperous churches in Berkshire county grew up; and if we are to look for the causes, which, for a long period of time, rendered that county one of the fairest and most fruitful fields of Zion, we are compelled to refer it to a course of religious instruction, which it is very much the fashion of the present day to represent, as calculated only to shut souls out of the kingdom of heaven.
The pastor of the church in Lee fed his flock with the sincere milk of the word. The entire depravity of the natural heart - the necessity of being born again - the fullness and freeness of salvation through the atonement made by Christ - the sovereignty of God in the application of Christ's blood to those who become interested in it - and the duty and obligation of sinners to comply immediately with the terms of the gospel, were themes on which he dwelt with great plainness and frequency.
In his preaching, and all his efforts, especially in his own example, there was nothing calculated to excite a periodical, fitful state of feeling. He remembered that his hearers had understandings which needed to be enlightened, as well as passions to be moved, and that the great truths of revelation were the facts which God had given for both these objects.
He commenced at that period a series of labors which he continued with very little variation for more than forty years. Weekly meetings were attended in different section of the town, and familiar expositions of scripture, where the auditors were encouraged to make inquiries and state their views, were among the labors most pleasant to himself and instructive to his people. All parts of his parish were thus visited by the pastor every few weeks, during the whole of the time in which he as connected with it. He watched for souls. In the early part of his ministry, the irregularities of the new-lights, as they were then called, had excited such a reaction from the more stable and enlightened part of the community, that there were suspicions respecting the measures he adopted. Attempts were made to dissuade him from being righteous over much; and he was told that so many conferences would diminish the interest in the Sabbath.
But by the blessing of God upon his persevering labors, all objections soon subsided; he acquired the confidence of those for whose salvation he was striving, and secured it, not by any brilliant efforts, or by substituting paroxysms of deep feeling, for religion, but by the discharge of every-day duties; in a still and unobtrusive manner. There was no attempt made to be thought great in the sight of men; but a course was pursued which impressed all acquainted, that the minister walked humbly with God, and expected to give an account for his ministry before his judgment seat.
"April 25, 1793. I was married to Miss Lucy Fessenden, daughter of Mr. Benjamin Fessenden, of Sandwich, and granddaughter of the Rev. Benjamin Fessenden, who was pastor of the church in that place. She was born Nov. 16, 1770.
"Dec. 17, 1793. Having built me a house, I moved with my wife into it, and began to live in family state, resolving to acknowledge God in our house, and to be constant in the morning and evening sacrifice."
In connection with this short extract from his diary, a few words may be added respecting his seasons of family devotion. The resolution thus made on the day he entered his new dwelling, "to acknowledge God in his house," was note a mere theory, but a part of the delightful business of his subsequent life. There was a rate combination of excellences in his deportment at the family altar. No one could have been an inmate in the circle assembled there, without having this impression made, that the head of the household was peculiarly to happy himself in leading the minds of those around him to the mercy seat, and fixing their attention upon the invisible realities presented to the eye of faith. It was his family altar which eminently constituted his home. There were no appearances of raptures in these exercises, nothing which could be marked as distinguished for originality; but there was a sweet, childlike, reverential fellowship with heaven, which seemed to open that world and bring it very near. The devotional exercises were neither hurried through as a form, or prolonged so as to become tiresome to those who joined in them. By brief remarks upon the portions of scripture, forming the morning and evening lessons, by questions proposed to the children and to others occasionally present, and by an indescribable charm in the manner, while making distinct though delicate allusions to the condition of every individual, all took a part in the exercises, and none could have the impression that they were insulted, or could remain as mere spectators. This was a peculiarity in the prayers and praises in the family, commenced as the above extract intimates. God was enthroned in that family, and homage of the heart was rendered to him.
"June 18, 1794. We received a great blessing from the hand of God, in the birth of a son.
"July 27. We dedicated our son to God in baptism, and called his name Alvan."
In expressions conveying sentiments resembling the above, the birth, and dedication to God, of the eleven children which the Lord gave the parents, are noticed in his diary. It was considered a great event to receive such a treasure from the hand of the Lord; and the earnest and ceaseless prayer offered to God in behalf of the immortal being committed to their care, formed a striking feature of family worship in that household.
The following extracts from a correspondence with a brother in the ministry, whose theological speculations, on several points, were not, at that time, in exact accord with his own.*
(* It is believed that a very cordial friendship subsisted between the correspondents, from their first acquaintance, till the last day of Dr. Hyde's continuance in the church militant.)
"Lee, April 30, 1794.
"Rev. and dear Sir,
"Your obliging letter by Mr. S., I received and read with peculiar pleasure. The candor with which it appears you perused Mr. B's manuscript dissertation, and your approbation of the leading sentiments it contains, more than rewarded me for the trouble of transcribing it. I am now confirmed in what I fondly hoped was true from conversation I had with you at Sandwich, viz. that you are a believer in the doctrine of divine agency, in the Hopkintonian sense of it. The observation you made, that 'there is a peculiar pleasure in finding the ideas of others meet our own,' from my own experience I know to be just.
"In page 12th of the dissertation, the author says, 'Hence we see God's foreknowledge is founded upon his decrees.' The propriety of the sentiment conveyed in these words, you call in question. I am inclined to think you did not notice a distinction which was here in the author's mind, and which he meant should be obvious to the reader. The term, foreknowledge, strictly speaking, cannot be applied to a being who has no succession of ideas, and with whom there is no such thing as past or future time, as is clearly represented to be the case with God, in the dissertation. When Mr. B. spoke of God's foreknowledge, he did not mean to be understood in a sense, which, in any measure, admits of your objection. He evidently introduced this, and some other terms, in condescension to the weakness of man's capacity. You are, no doubt, sensible that there are some, who believe in the foreknowledge of God, or that he hath a perfect knowledge of every thing which is future, and yet deny his decrees. To combat the notion of such, was probably his aim in making the observation on which you have remarked . The foreknowledge of Goad, as mankind use the term, is evidently founded on his decrees; for how could he possibly know beforehand that an event would take place, which was undetermined, or which was uncertain? Shall we assert, that he foreknows what will take place by chance? To such a sentiment, I am confident, you will not accede; for it effectually takes the government out of his hands. When the author used this term, which he did only in condescension to the common notion and language of mankind, he meant to keep up a distinction between that and simple perception. You have compared his words from page 12th, with others from page 11th, with a view to make him appear inconsistent. In page 11th he says, 'A determination of mind implies something, respecting which the mind is determined; or upon which the determination is fixed,' &c. Here he was speaking of the simple perception of an object, in distinction from foreknowledge as the term is used, which distinction he meant should be obvious to the reader. You have also compared the same words with what he says in page 2d, 'Rational exercises must exist, previous (in the order of nature if not of time) to voluntary exercise; and we cannot love or hate an object before it exists or is perceived.' I cannot see the least propriety in your adverting to this passage, and querying whether it is ont inconsistent with what you before remarked upon; for here he as not speaking of diving agency, but of what moral agency of which mankind, are possessed. Thus I have defended the author as well as I have been capable.
"I am sorry it has not been in my power to procure you the loan of Mr. Jones's treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity. I know of but one in the country, and that belongs to a library-company in this town, the rules of which are such as renders the lending of books, to non-proprietors, impracticable. It is very probable that this treatise may be obtained at Thomas & Andrews's bookstore in Boston, for it is a modern production, and but severn years since it was printed in London. I feel, perhaps, as much satisfied with the arguments of this author in support of the doctrine of the Trinity, as you can with those of ---, in support of his favorite doctrine. But, in regard to this point, I may be wholly in the dark, and so full of prejudice as to be unwilling to come to the light. However, I really wish to make it a subject of more strict inquiry and examination, than I have heretofore done, and shall be thankful for all the aid and assistance which you may see fit to afford me. * * * That the present is an age in which no subject is thought too sacred for free and candid discussion,is truly matter of rejoicing to me, no less than it is to you. I consider it as one of the greatest blessings of the present happy age. * * *
"You requested me to remark on the Catechism you have lately published. -- To enable myself to do it, I have perused it a second and a third time, and still have not many remarks to make upon it, at least by way of objection. I think it ingeniously executed, and to contain the first principles of piety and morality, thrown into a very natural and happy arrangement,, and brought down to a level with the capacities of those for whose benefit it was more immediately designed. The ideas which you have exhibited in it, of God's character and government, of the character and work of the Mediator, and of the duties we owe to God and each other, appear to be just and scriptural. Had you made a small addition to the number of pages, and in regard to some doctrines been more particular, it appears to me you would have increased the real value of the performance. -- You may wish to know what those doctrines are, which as I suppose, are not clearly enough exhibited in your Catechism. I will mention two, viz. the character and state of man by nature, and the terms of acceptance with God. A knowledge of these is important, and peculiarly calculated to prevent self-deception and hypocrisy. It is true you have opened a door to exhibit light on these points in some of the questions to which no answers are annexed, in the fourth part, particularly the 14th and 16th, and perhaps that was the best way you could have done. I should have been highly gratified, in reading your answers to the last proposed questions, as I view some of them very important, but, if you are led to do it, as you catechise, in a way more profitable to those for whose benefit the book was immediately designed, the end is answered, and all room for objections is excluded. * * * In sum; the more I have attended to this little publication of yours, the more merit I find in it. I heartily wish it may prove a blessing to the lambs of your flock, and that it may be a mean, in the hands of God, of promoting the knowledge of the truth, wherever it may be sent."
Lee, Dec. 9, 1794.
"Rev. and dear Sir,
"Much more time has elapsed since your letter, by Mr. Dillingham, came to hand than I intended should, before it was answered. My apology for this delay is multiplicity of business, and the many unavoidable avocations to which I have been subjected.
"You request me to confine my observations in this letter, principally, either to the question concerning divine agency, proposed in the first part of your letter, or to the subject which occupied the last pages of it. On both of these subjects, I have some thoughts, which I am not backward to communicate, though it possible they may be altogether erroneous. * * *
"You were so good, in your last letter, as to draw, under four particulars, what you consider the great outlines of our Lords's character, as mediator. To the ideas suggested under the three particulars, I fully accede; but from those expresses under the first, I frankly own, that I dissent. * * *
"The question concerning divine agency, remarks on which I intended should have occupied a part of this letter, must, for want of room, he postponed.
"Our difference of opinion on some doctrinal points is so far from giving birth to the least desire in me to drop the correspondence, that it is a real motive, in my mind, for its continuance. From a man of reading and thought, who differs from me, I shall be more likely to receive benefit, than from one who walks exactly in my path. Had I not undoubted evidence of your candor, these last observations would not have dropped from my pen.
"Imploring the divine blessing to, rest upon yourself, your lady, and the people of your charge, I subscribe myself,
"Your fellow-laborer in the vineyard of Christ."
The following extracts from letters to his parents and other friends, may illustrate his affection and fidelity towards those with whom he corresponded.
"Lee, Jan. 25, 1796.
" From your much obliged son."
"Jan 7, 1798.
"Dear and honored Father,
"I have heard that you have had a second and violent attack of the pleurisy since I saw you. From Mr. P's information, who tells me he saw you, I am led to hope you may now be in good health again; but am not without great anxiety. Oh, my father, how true it is that we must all die, and how important that we be prepared! An interest in the Savior is worth ten thousand worlds. He can bestow upon us that peace of soul which the world can neither give nor take away. I hope and trust your thoughts are much upon these things. * * *
"From your son."
* * * "Religion is in a low state. The great things of eternity do not lie with that concern upon our minds, which answers, in any measure, to their vast importance. I hope, sir, the things of religion have the most important place in the meditations of your heart. It is a great thing to live upon the mercies of God. It is a great thing to be prepared to exchange this world for an eternal state. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. O let us choose him for our portion, while the precious opportunity lasts. Wishing you the blessing of God, whose favor is life and whose loving kindness is better than life, I subscribe myself as ever,
"Your affectionate son."
"April 4, 1800.
"My family, through the great mercy of God to a sinner, has been favored with unusual health from the first beginning of it. I have often wondered it should be so; and I have reason to be very humble, that my improvement of the mercy has been no better. I have now the same number of children which my mother left when she died. I find there is great need of wisdom, prudence, and patience, to bring up children. When I look upon my children, I am led often to think of the trials of mind, which I may have occasioned you in my younger years.
"This people are about to build a new meeting-house, and have already drawn the timber. I fear it may be a mean (sic) of breaking up the harmony of the town. We have been unusually happy in this town for a number of years; what is to be in future we know not."
In a letter to another correspondent, an event not uncommon in a pastor's experience is thus described:
"June 15, 1800.
"Through the great mercy of God to a sinner, I found on my return from F. my own family in usual health,; but all my neighbors, and I may say almost all the town, were pained on account of the distress and anguish of poor E.W. In a few moments after I entered my house, I went to see her. THe house was thronged with people who had come to see her die. She knew me, but Dr. L., her attending physician, was very unwilling that she should attempt to speak, though she uttered a few words. The next morning I conversed with her fifteen or twenty minutes, and her language was most moving. SHe lamented her stupid, vain, and irreligious life - she was afraid to die, and had no heart to ask for mercy. She lived till about 4 o'clock, and expired. The scene was enough to melt the heart of a stone. In this event let us hear the voice of God's providence, and be excited to prepare to meet God."
SECOND REVIVAL - HIS LETTERS - DEATH OF HIS FATHER - LETTER OF CONDOLENCE TO HIS MOTHER - OTHER LETTERS.
At the close of the year 1800, the following sentences were inserted by him in his diary.
"This year, I enjoyed with my people another season of refreshing from the Lord. It was indeed a precious season. It pleased the Lord to make this display of sovereign grace soon after the setting up of a weekly conference with particular reference to the young people, and it was noticed that the subjects of the work were confined almost wholly to those who attended this conference. God appeared to indicate in his providence that he owned and blessed this new effort for the salvation of souls. The great body of the people were not affected and solemnized as they were in the first awakening; but the convictions of the awakened were clear, rational, and pungent; and those who received comfort, appeared understandingly to embrace the soul-humbling doctrines of the cross, and exhibited satisfactory evidence of having passed from death unto life. This little revival occasioned an accession to the church, in the space of one year, of twenty-one persons, the most of whom were between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four."
"April 10, 1802.
"The last information I had from you was by a letter from my friend J. G., dated in February. He gave me an affecting account of the death of J. B. O, what an uncertain world is this! - how important to be prepared for our great and last change! I find that if life be spared a few years longer, I shall be an old man - I shall be where you are now. I hope the great change which awaits you and all of us, lies with weight upon your minds. He that believeth, shall be saved. He that believeth not, is condemned already.
"Wishing you the comforts of religion which consist in the holy enjoyment of God, I subscribe myself your affectionate son."
"April 26, 1802.
"I have heard indirectly by way of Mr. W., that you have had another turn of the pleurisy, but have not had particulars. This intelligence has made me often think of you, and has increased my desire of seeing you. The measles are again spreading in these parts, and as I never had the disorder, it is probable I may now have to encounter it. We live in a dying world and have no abiding place on the earth. We are also sinful and sinning creatures, and must perish unless God is pleased to forgive us. We have no claims on him for the least favor. What a display of mercy will God make, if any of us were subjects of the gospel salvation?"
The foregoing extract was the last communication to his father.
In his diary is the following record.
"May 28, 1802, I was taken sick with the measles and was kept from preaching three Sabbaths. Previously to my having this disorder, I had never been prevented from discharging the public services of the sanctuary, nor from preaching any lecture which I had appointed, from the time of my ordination, which was a period of ten years I note his as a monument of the great goodness of God to the very chief of sinners.
"August 11, 1802, my honored father departed this life at Franklin, formerly Norwich, after an illness of a little more than two days. He attended public worship on the Sabbath, in his usual health, and died the Wednesday following, having just completed sixty-six years. I am now deprived of both my earthly parents. May this providence be sanctified to me and my family; and may the Lord, of his infinite mercy and through the teachings of his Holy Spirit, give me to feel more than ever, the importance of putting my whole trust in him."
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