« PreviousContinue »
of submissive reluctance. This disposition could not but extort my approbation, even when it shocked me as an omen of my going; and it endeared the agreeable companion of my life so much more to me that so long an absence from her will if possible, be still more painful. The various opportunities I may have of personal improvement, and that in things in which a pedant and a recluse is most deficient; the various friendships that may be contracted which may tend much to the honour and security of dissenters here, who stand so much in need of patronage, are also considerable excitements.
I observe a strange concurrence of events happens to engage me in the embassy, and at once to hint my insufficiency for it alone and clear the way for Mr. Tennent's going too. Had providence removed his wife and mother a little earlier, before the Trustees had pitched upon me, they would undoubtedly have applied to him only; as I am convinced nothing but necessity could have caused them to make application to me, at so great a distance, and so unfit (alas ! I feel myself so) for the business. Had his wife and mother died sometime after, it would have been too late for him to go ; and I must have gone alone. If I had only written per post, and not sent a messenger with my answer immediately, they would have looked upon my delay as a denial, and consequently employed Mr. Tennent alone. These and sundry other circumstances, I think I may without a tincture of enthusiasm, look upon as providential dispensations, adjusting matters so as to order my going, yet not alone, which I am fully convinced, would be injurious to the affair.
Then I consider that there is so much need to make some attempts for the security and enlargement of the privileges of the dissenters in Virginia, and that if I were obliged to undertake a voyage for that end alone, at the expense of the congregation, it would be very burdensome to them and me; I cannot but conclude that it is with a view to this that Providence has directed the Trustees to make application to me; for considering my known want of qualifications, and the little acquaintance the most of the Trustees have with me, their vote appears to me utterly unaccountable, without supposing such a providential direction. This is the more remarkable; as this seems, on many accounts, the most proper crisis to do something in behalf of the dissenters here; as Mr. Tennent's influence in conjunction with mine, will probably be of great service in the affair; and as it will not carry so selfish and irritating an aspect to be managed, by the by, as if it were made the sole business. I am also encouraged from the reflection that my congregation will not probably suffer in my absence; as Mr. Wright, I expect, is well accomplished for the place; and my cautious and prudent Rev. Mr. Todd, will be so near at hand to assist in cases of difficulty. The Commissioners for Indian affairs, will be glad of this opportunity for the propagation of the religion of Jesus among the poor savages; and it is likely we shall succeed in raising contributions for that end. And oh ! how transporting the thought, that these barbarians may be cultivated by divine grace, in the use of the proper means, and polished into genuine disciples of the blessed Jesus. For this alone, it would be worth one's while to spend and be spent. On these accounts I do generally conclude it will be my duty to undertake the embassy, unless Providence evidently acquit me of the obligation, by laying some insuperable obstruction in my way.
As to the temper of my mind, under this conviction of duty, I have found frequent reasons of resignation to the Divine pleasure, and a willingness to follow the calls of duty to the ends of the earth. At other times I have been eager for the undertaking, and afraid of a disappointment. At others I have been extremely intimidated, and shrunk away from the prospect; the dangers of sailing, and the difficulty of the mission, the pain of a separation, and the anxieties of so long an absence from my people, my parents, my children, and especially my dearest creature, have sunk my spirits into the depth of despondency, so that my thoughts, night and day, were hardly ever fixed upon anything else. My principal difficulty, at present, arises from the languishing state of my dear wife, which I am afraid has some tendency towards a consumptive illness. I think I could break through the strongest complicated ties of the paternal and filial relation, and cast my helpless family upon the care of Providence: but the thought that my wife should pine away in my absence, without the satisfaction my company would afford her, or that by the anxieties of separation, her constitution should be injured, this thought seems utterly insupportable, and alarms all my tender and anxious passions. That which at present appears duty to me is this, that I should go upon the mission with this liberty reserved, that if I hear of my wife being dangerously ill, I may immediately return. O! thou God of our life, with all the importunity so languid a soul is capable of exerting, I implore thy grácious protection for her, that she may be supported in my absence, and that we may enjoy a happy interview again. My temporal affairs are much embarrassed, and if I should be removed into the eternal
world in this voyage, I know not how my poor helpless family could possibly subsist; and none but such as have felt the anxieties of the father, the son, and the husband, in such a circumstance, can conjecture what I feel at times under this timorous apprehension. But I would check it as arguing a diffidence in Divine Providence, and not well-grounded, for I am mortal at home, as well as abroad. My present anxieties are collected into one point, viz., my wife's indisposition. She was so languishing, and attended with such threatening symptoms of a growing consumption, the day before yesterday, that I have been in the utmost perplexity ever since, till to-day that I have set down to state the affair, and come to the conclusion before mentioned, to go with this liberty reserved, that I may return immediately, in case my wife's disorder is become dangerous.
July 11.--Through the indulgence of Divine Providence, my tenderer half, animae dimidium meae, has been considerably better for some days; and my Billy and Johnny, that have been disordered, are recovered; which encourages me to undertake the voyage.
But alas! my conscience is this day burdened with guilt, and I cannot apply to the pacifying blood of Christ, which alone can purge the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.
July 13.-Mr. Wright arrived here by order of Presbytery-to know whether I intended to undertake the voyage. I was exceeding glad to see my former friend and pupil invested with the sacred character, and advanced to the honour of an ambassador for Jesus; but it cast me into considerable perplexity to find that it was his opinion there was no necessity for my going to Europe in behalf of the College, since Mr. Tennent was going ; and that he was very unwilling to stay here any time to supply my pulpit, and absolutely refused to stay all the time of my absence, as it would deprive vacant congregations of his labours, and him of an opportunity to look out for a settlement, for a considerable time. I was at length freed from my perplexities, and determined to go, by considering --That the Trustees are the best judges of the necessity of my going with Mr. Tennent, and they are very eager for it, otherwise they would not continue their application to me; for my voyage, ali things considered, will probably cost the college more than Mr. Tennent's, ---That Mr. Wright's judgment may be something perverted by his reluctance to stay here so long,—That the affairs of the dissenters in Virginia would alone be sufficient reason for my going; and possibly I might be obliged to go soon, upon this account alone, if I should not take this opportunity, --- And that Mr. Todd, who, I
will be uneasy in the absence of his friend, and who knows the state of affairs here, is fully convinced that it is my duty to go. On these accounts I resume my former conclusion, that it will be my duty to undertake the embassy, though I am PERPLEXED to know how my congregation can be supplied in my absence, unless Mr. Wright determines to stay here, at least till next spring.
September 3d, 1753.-This inorning I felt the painful rupture of the tender relative ties which bind my heart to Hanover. I took my leave of some thousands yesterday, in public: and to-day I parted with some of my select friends, and my dear, dear spouse, my honoured parent, and three helpless children, and left them in a flood of tears. To thee, O Lord, I then solemnly committed them, and now I renew the dedication, I know not if ever I shall see them again ; but my life and theirs are in the hands of divine Providence, and therefore shall be preserved as long as is fit. My tender passions were melted into a flood of tears at parting ; but now through the goodness of God, they are subsided into a calm, though at times I am twinged with a sudden pang of anxiety. Rode in company with my kind friends Mr. Morris, Mr. Brame, and Mr. Todd, who is to go along with me to the Synod.
I have been uneasy for some time, to find that sundry in my congregation were not pleased with Mr. Wright's preaching. But now, to my unspeakable satisfaction, I find they are generally engaged to him in a tolerable degree; and I hope his ministrations will be of more service than mine, during the time of his continuance here; though he has met with such occasional shots as may occur in conversation, which may deserve to be recollected. Mr. Finley told me he had lately almost imbibed a notion which he formerly rejected, viz. That compassion proceeds from a selfish principle. Because both persons in the extremity of înisery--and that know nothing of misery__are incapable of it.
Saturday. As the committee is to meet at Mr. Finley's next Wednesday, I intend to stay here till then. To-day, the hurries of my journey being over, my thoughts can find leisure to make frequent excursions to Hanover, and tenderly hover around my dear wife and family. Ah! what pangs of anxiety I frequently feel! May the Lord bless all that are dear to me, and favour me with a happy return to them !
Sunday.--Preached at Mr. Finley's on Deuteronomy x. 13, & sermon which I preached in Hanover with great satisfaction and prospect of success; but alas! I have lost the spirit with which it was first delivered; and indeed I can but very
AT MR. FINLEY'S_MR. TENNENT'S.
rarely retain the spirit of preaching in the hurries of a journey. The materials of the sermon were very solemn, and nothing appears to me a more unnatural incongruity, than to speak the most solemn truths with a trifling spirit. Indeed, the incongruity appeared to me so great, that I was obliged to omit sundry things, though written before me in my notes, for want of a heart to express them with suitable tenderness and fervour. There appeared some small solemnity among the hearers; but oh! how far short of what I have seen in this place, in the days of the right hand of the Most High. Conversed with my ingenuous and dear friend, Mr. Finley, in the evening; and communicated to him my sentiments upon the great influence which the body has to deprave the soul, which I apprehend is much greater than is generally supposed : which appears from the frequent use of the metaphor flesh in the Scriptures to denote moral depravity; which supposes that the flesh, literally taken, has a special causality in it; otherwise there would be no ground for the metaphor, but it would be as proper to denote sin by the term spirit or soul, from the different inclinations of the soul according to the different states of the body, and as the variety of bodily habits may be the occasion of a variety of sinful inclinations, so the habit of the body may be constantly such, amid all its changes, that it may perpetually influence the mind to sin in general.
Tonday, September 10, 1753.-Continued at Mr. Finley’s--Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home rush on my heart”-and I can find no relief from them but either in thoughtless levity, or in devotion. Read some part of the appeal in favour of the Candid Disquisitions; and never was more pleased with the candour, impartiality, and moderation of an author. How becoming, how graceful, how advantageous is such a spirit to the cause of truth and its advocates ! May I deeply imbibe it! Alas, I have been perplexed this day with the vigorous insurrection of sin in my heart; but my resistance and humiliation has not been proportioned. Oh! wretched man that I am.
Tuesday.-Mr. Roan and Mr. Smith met in committee, and Mr. Finley and I in conjunction with them revised and corrected a draft, drawn up by Mr. Blair, of a warning or testimony of the Presbytery of New Castle against several errors and evil practices of Mr. John Cuthbertson, a Scotch bigot, ordained by one Mr. McMullen, who was deposed by the General Assembly of Scotland, and subscribed the deposition with his own hand; and one Mr. Nairn, who was one of the seceders, and afterwards excommunicated by them. The errors on which the Presbytery animadvert, are these That God has made over Christ and all his benefits to all that hear the gospel, by a deed of gift (as he affects to speak) so that every sinner that hears the gospel offer, ought to put in a claim of right to him as his Saviour in particular--That saving faith consists in a persuasion that Christ is mine and that he died for me in particular--That Redemption is universal as to purchase--That civil government, both heathen and Christian, is derived from Christ as Mediator.
Wednesday.--Continued revising the testimony against Mr. Cuthbertson. Preached a sermon on Rev. i. 7, and acted the orator; but alas ! I had not the spirit of preaching. Enjoyed pleasing conversation with my dear brethren; but ah! I am still stung with the thoughts of home. My dear wife frequently enters my mind, and raises a passionate commotion there.
Thursday. In the forenoon assisted in the review of the testimony against Mr. Cuthbertson. Rode in the afternoon to Mrs. Blair's, in company with Mr. Smith, and enjoyed much satisfaction in the free mutual communication of our Christian and ministerial exercises. How happy am I in having so many valuable friends in various parts! The sight of Mrs. Blair and my old walks about her house in the happy days of my education, raised a variety of tender and solemn thoughts in my mind. When I passed by the meeting-house where I so often heard the great Mr. Blair, I could not help crying, “Oh! how dreadful is this place! this is no other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Friday.-Rode from Mrs. Blair's to Chester. And as I was generally alone, my spirits were very low, and my mind anxious about my dear family, my congregation and my approaching voyage. “ Lord I am oppressed, undertake for me."
Saturday.-Rode into Philadelphia, was kindly received by Mr. Tennent, and my friends there. I visited Captain Grant, and was surprised with the clause in a letter from Mr. De Berdt of London to him, “ That the principles inculcated in the College of New Jersey are generally looked upon as antiquated and unfashionable by the dissenters in England.” A dismal omen to our embassy, and I fear to the interests of religion.
Sunday.—Heard Mr. Tennent preach an excellent sermon on-Deliver us from evil,” or as he justly rendered it " from the evil one” tovegou; in which he exposed the wiles and devices of Satan in a very judicious manner. I preached two sermons, one in the afternoon and one by candlelight on Rev. i. 7. In the first, I was cold hearted and abashed with the fear of man; but in the last I had some freedom and boldness. I esteem the least degree of liberty and solemnity in preaching
the gospel a very great blessing in the hurries of a journey. In conversation was much pleased with the pious simplicity of my spiritual father, Mr. Tennent.
Monday, September 17.-Went with Mr. Tennent to wait on the Governor and Secretary; but they were not at home. Waited on three Lutheran ministers, and Mr. Stanter, a Calvinist; and was not a little pleased with their candor and simplicity. How pleasing is it to see the religion of Jesus appear undisguised in foreigners! I am so charmed with it, that I forget all national and religious differences; and my very heart is intimately united with them.
Tuesday.—Rode solitary and sad from Philadelphia to Trenton. Spent the evening with Mr. Cowel, an agreeable gentleman, of the Synod of Philadelphia ; but my spirits were so exhausted that I was incapable of lively conversation, and was ashamed of my blundering method of talking.
Wednesday.-Rode on, and came to Mr. Spencer's, at Elizabeth Town, where I was most kindly received, and my spirits cheered by his facetious conversation.
Thursday.-Came to Newark, and was received with much affection by the worthy President. Was honoured with a visit and free conversation with his excellency the Governor. Was uneasy to find that the Trustees seem to expect that I should furnish myself with clothes in this embassy. With what pleasure would I do it were it in my power, but alas! it is not; and therefore, notwithstanding all the pliableness of my nature, I must insist upon their providing for me in this respect, as one condition of my undertaking the voyage.
Friday:-Waited on his Excellency, in company with the President and his lady. Was kindly received, and the Governor insisted that I should preach for Mr. Spencer next Sunday come se’en night, that he might have an opportunity of hearing
0! that I may be enabled to shake off the fear of man, and preach with the simplicity and boldness of an ambassador for Christ. Conversed with Mr. Ross, who informed me of the spread of Arminianism among the ministers in New England.
Saturday.-Was employed in drawing up a petition from the Synod of New York to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in behalf of the College. Conversed with Mr. Hoit, a pious youth at college. Was much depressed in spirit at the prospect of the voyage, and the thoughts of home. May the God of my life support me.
Sunday.--Heard the President preach a valedictory sermon to the candidates for a degree, who are to leave the College this week. His subject was, “And now my son, the Lord be with thee, and prosper thee.” And I was amazed to see how readily good sense and accurate language flowed from him extempore. The sermon was very affecting to me, and might have been so to the students. Preached twice in the afternoon, and in the last sermon my heart was very solemn and tender; and there appeared some signs of concern among the hearers. In the evening I had a little dispute with the President about the truth of one proposition, which I principally laboured to prove, “ That persons in this age may be said virtually to have crucified Christ, because they have the same temper with the Jews, and because their conduct towards Christ, is as like to that of the Jews as their circumstances will allow."
Monday, September 24, 1753.—My drooping spirits were exhilarated by free conversation with the President. Spent the most of the day in finishing the petition from the Synod of New York to the General Assembly. Attended in the evening on a meeting for Psalmody, and was much charmed with the power of harmony. Amid the variety of new objects that draw my attention, my thoughts often take a sudden flight to Hanover, and hover round my Chara, and my other friends there. O may indulgent heaven preserve and bless them.
Tuesday.-Was confined with a sore leg which was a little hurt by a fall out of my own door, a day or two before I left home; and though then but a slight wound, and I took little notice of it for two or three weeks, it has been so inflamed and irritated by travelling, preaching, &c., that I think it is now dangerous; and sometimes look upon it as a providential obstruction in my way of undertaking the voyage.
Wednesday.—This day I delivered a thesis, (personales distinctiones sunt æternæ,) and vindicated it in a public dispute against three opponents; and afterwards was honoured with the degree of Master of Arts. Dined with the Governor and Trustees. Heard Mr. Todd preach an honest sermon in the evening.
Thursday.--Received eighty pounds proc. from the treasurer, to bear the expenses of the voyage. Went to New York in company with Mr. Hoit, a promising young man, and I had agreeable conversation with him upon original sin, the influence of the flesh upon the spirit to incline it to sin. Arrived at New York in the evening; and lodged at my good friend Mr. Hazard's. Was sorry to find the Presbyterian congregation there in such confusion.
DAVIES-NEW YORK-THE INDIANS—THE SYNOD.
Friday.-Was confined to the house by my sore leg, and took physic, &c. I had some dangerous and gloomy apprehensions of the consequences. Mr. Pemberton, Mr. Cumming, and Mr. Van Horn paid me a visit. In the evening took the advice of the Honourable William Smith, Esq., upon the affair of the dissenters in Virginia. His opinion was that the reversing the order of the County Court for a meeting-house, by the General Court, would be a sufficient ground of complaint in England.
Saturday.-Waited on Mr. Cumming; sailed to Elizabeth Town with Mr. Woodruff. Was pleased with the company of my Br. Mr. Spencer and Mr. James Brown.
Sunday.-Preached in Elizabeth Town according to his Excellency's order, on Jer. xxxi. 18, but had very little freedom or solemnity.
Monday.-Took my leave of his Excellency. Rode with Mr. S. and Mr. B. to Mr. Richards', a pious minister under the deepest melancholy and temptation, harassed with perpetual suggestions to cut his own throat. I gave him my best advice, and gave an account of my own melancholy some years ago. Lodged at Mr. Brainard's, the good missionary among the Indians, and was pleased with his account of the progress of religion among them, though now they are scattered by reason of their land being fraudulently taken from them.
Tuesday.--Took a view of the Indian town; and was pleased at the affection of the poor savages to their minister, and his condescension to them. Rode on towards Philadelphia, and spent the time in pleasing conversation, principally on the affairs of the Indians, with Messrs. Spencer, Brainard and Brown.
Wednesday.--Came into Philadelphia-Mr. Treat opened the Synod with a sermon in these words : “ Who was faithful to him that called him, even as Moses also was faithful in all his house." Saw my dear friend Mr. Rodgers and many of my brethren.
Thursday. Attended on the Synod. Friday.-Did the same. Heard Mr. Bostwick in the evening preach an excellent sermon on Acts ii. 11. He has, I think, the best style extempore of any man I ever heard.
Saturday.-Was informed that Mr. G. T. had taken some offence at my conduct as too forward and assuming ; but it was soon removed by a free conversation. Attended on the Synod and used my utmost endeavours to obtain some supplies for my poor people, beside Mr. Wright; and succeeded so far that Messrs. Brainard, Rodgers, Henry, Bay, Blair and J. Finley were appointed to go there four or six weeks each. I hope this will turn to the benefit of my dear congregation. O that God may go with his messengers thither! The commissioners from New York made application to the Synod for the redress of their grievances; and a committee was appointed to go there for that purpose-of which Mr. Rodgers and I (much against my will) are to be members. Heard Mr. Bostwick in the evening on “Godliness is profitable for all things, &c.," and was not a little charmed with both his matter and language.
Sunday.-Had the happiness of sitting as a hearer for one Sabbath, a privilege I have often desired and needed, but could seldom enjoy. Mr. Horton preached in the morning an honest judicious sermon on 6 Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.” Mr. Bay in the afternoon on 6 Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” He was much daunted and confused. Mr. Bostwick in the evening on - When Christ who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” My pleasure under his sermon was renewed and even increased.
Monday, October 8th.--Preached a sermon in the morning from Isaïah lxvi. 1, 2. -and through the great mercy of God my heart was passionately affected with the subject; and what tended not a little to increase my affection was my observing the venerable Mr. Tennent weeping beside me in the pulpit. Spiritual poverty and humility appeared very amiable and charming to me.-Humility is not that gloomy sullen mortifying thing which it is generally accounted ; but a most sweet and pleasing grace. O it is no small ingredient of the happiness of a penitent, and a most congruous ornament to a mean degenerate creature. Visited the academy in company with sundry of my brethren, and entertained with a view of what was remarkable in it. Heard some of the little boys declaim; and though I was pleased with their distinct and accurate pronunciation, I thought in delivering some of the orations, especially those of Brutus and Anthony, they were extremely languid, and discovered nothing of the fire and pathos of a Roman soul. Indeed this is one defect of oratory; a defect 'few seem sensible of, or labour to correct. Rode in the evening as far as Chester on my way to the Presbytery. Sat up late, and wrote letters to my Hanover friends, particularly to my dear spouse, full of anxieties. How strongly does she attract my heart !