Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

glected by some, and burlesqued by others? Is not the newspaper substituted for the bible on Lord's days, yea, at church? What will the end of these things be? Blessed be God, through Jesus Christ, he is for a sanctuary."

Mr. Tennent was on a visit, within less than twenty miles of New-York, when a British frigate attempted to pass the batteries, and to proceed up the North River, while general Washington lay with the American army in the city. A very heavy cannonading took place, which was mistaken by the surrounding country for a general attack on our army. Mr. Tennent was deeply affected, and after a violent struggle within himself, he turned to a friend or two present, and said, “ Come, while our fellow citizens are fighting, let us retire to prayer.” They, accordingly, went up into his room, where he most devoutly poured out his soul for about half an hour, in the most fervent prayers, wrestling with God in behalf of his suffering country.

In the winter of 1776-7, the British overran great part of the state of New Jersey, and particularly the county of Monmouth, where a number of the inhabitants were in the British interests. Such was their apparent power, and the distressed situation of the American army, retreating before them, that it was generally supposed by the people in the country, that the dispute was almost at an end, and that all hopes of successful opposition were nearly extinguished. A British party arose in the county, who seized their fellow citizens, and dragged them to a British provost, where they were treated in the most cruel manner, as rebels and traitors. Even citizens from other parts of the state, who had taken refuge in the county, depending on the known hospitality of the inhabitants, were not respected. In this situation Mr. Tennent very justly thought himself in great danger; but having no place to flee to for safety, he remained at home, committing himself to the protection of almighty God. In the month of Dec. 1776, a number of the inhabitants came to his house, and insisted that he should go to Princeton, without delay, and take the benefit of Gen. Howe's proclamation, offering a pardon to those who should seek it within a limited time. He refused, till he found himself in danger of being taken off and committed to a British provost, which he well knew, was but another word for a lingering death. He also found that, in his present state, his usefulness as a minister of the gospel was at an end, unless he complied with the wishes of the people, most of the whigs of influence having fed. Concluding, that present duty enforced the request which was thus urged upon him, he promised to go to Princeton. On his way, he lodged at the house of a young clergyman, and, on rising in the morning, he seemed greatly oppressed in spirit. On being asked what troubled him, he answered, with a heavy sigh, “ I am going to do a thing for conscience sake, directly against my conscience.” Soon after his return home, to the surprise of every body, the British quarters at Trenton were beaten up, and a British regiment taken at Princeton; the American army again advanced, and took a strong position at Morristown, by which the British in their turn, were obliged to retreat and contract their lines to Brunswick and Amboy. The Americans again got possession of the county of Monmouth, where the whigs returned in force. Mr. Tennent's mind was greatly oppressed with his untoward situation, and he severely blamed his untimely submission.

About the latter end of February, or beginning of March, 1777, Mr. Tennent was suddenly seized with a fever, attended by violent symptoms. He sent for his family physician, who was in the act of setting off for the legislature of the state, of which he was a member. He called on his patient on his way, but could spend but a few minutes with him. He, however, examined carefully into Mr. T.'s complaints, and the symptoms attending the disorder. With great candour the physician informed his patient, that the attack appeared unusually violent; that the case required the best medical aid, and that it was out of his power to attend him. He feared that, at his advanced age, there was not strength of nature sufficient to overcome so severe a shock, and that his symptoms scarcely admitted of a favourable prognostic. The good old man received this news with his usual submission to the divine will; for, as he had always considered himself as bound for eternity, he had endeavoured so to live, that when the summons should come, he would have nothing to do but to die. He calmly replied, “ I am very sensible of the violence of my disorder, that it has racked my constitution to an uncommon degree, and beyond what I have ever before experienced, and that it is accompanied with symptoms of approaching dissolution; but, blessed be God, I have no wish to live, if it should be his will and pleasure to call me hence.” After a moment's pause, he seemed to recollect himself, and varied the expression thus : “ Blessed be God, I have no wish to live, if it should be his will and pleasure to call me hence, unless it should be to see a happy issue to the severe and arduous controversy my country is engaged in ; but, even in this, the will of the Lord be done."

During his whole sickness, he continued perfectly resigned to the divine will, until death was swallowed up in victory, on the 8th day of March, 1777. His body was buried in his own church, at Freehold, a numerous concourse of people, composed, not only of the members of his own congregation, but of the inhabitants of the whole adjacent country, attending his funeral.

Mr. Tennent was rather more than six feet high; of a spare thin visage, and of an erect carriage. He had bright, piercing eyes, a long sharp nose, and a long face. His general countenance was grave and solemn, but at all times cheerful and pleasant with his friends. It may be said of him, with peculiar propriety, that he appeared, in an extraordinary manner, to live above the world, and all its allurements. He seemed habitually to have such clear views of spiritual and heavenly things, as afforded bim much of the foretaste and enjoyment of them. His faith was really and experimentally “ the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen.” Literally, his daily walk was with God, and he lived “ as seeing him who is invisible.” The divine presence with him, was frequently manifested in his public ministrations, and in his private conduct. His ardent soul was seldom satisfied, unless he was exerting himself, in some way or other, in public or private, in rendering kind offices and effectual services of friendship, both in spiritual and temporal things, to his fellow-men. Take him in his whole demeanor and conduct, there are few of whom it might more emphatically be said, that he lived the life, and died the death of the righteous.

He was well read in divinity, and was of sound orthodox principle. He professed himself a moderate calvinist. The doctrines of man's depravity; the atonement of the Saviour; the absolute necessity of the all-powerful influence of the Spirit of God, to renew the heart and subdue the will; all in perfect consistence with the free agency of the sinner, were among the leading articles of his faith. These doctrines, indeed, were generally interwoven in his public discourses, whatever might be the particular subject discussed. His success was often answerable to his exertions. His people loved him as a father; revered him as the pastor and bishop of their souls; obeyed him as their instructor; and delighted in his company and private conversation as a friend and brother. He carefully avoided making a difference between his doctrines publicly taught and his private practice. Attending a synod, a few years before his death, a strange clergyman, whom he never had before seen, was introduced to the synod, and asked to preach in the evening. Mr. Tennent attended, and was much displeased with the sermon. As the congregation were going out of the church, Mr. Tennent in the crowd, coming up to the preacher, touched him on the shoulder, and said, “My brother, when I preach, I take care to save myself, whatever I do with my congregation.” The clergyman looked behind him with surprise, and seeing a very grave man, said, “ What do you mean, Sir?” Mr. Tennent answered, “ You have been sending your whole congregation, synod and all, to perdition, and you have not even saved yourself. Whenever I preach, I make it a rule to save myself," and then abruptly left him, without his knowing who spoke to him.

At Mr. Tennent's death, the poor mourned for him, as their patron, their comforter and support; and the rich lamented over him as their departed pastor and friend. The public, at large, lost in him a firm assertor of the civil and religious interests of his country. He was truly a patriot, not in words and pretences, not in condemning all who differed from him to proscription and death, but in acting in such a manner, as would have rendered his country most happy, if all had followed his example. He insisted on his own rights and freedom of sentiment, but he was willing to let others enjoy the same privilege ; and he thought it of as much importance to live and act well, as to think and speak justly.

To conclude these imperfect sketches. May all who read the memoirs of this amiable and useful man, fervently and constantly beseech that God, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, that their life may be that of the righteous, so that their latter end may be like his: and that the Great Head of the church, while he removes faithful and distinguished labourers from the gospel vineyard, may raise up others, who shall possess, even a double portion of their spirit, and who shall be even more successful in winning souls unto Jesus Christ, the great bishop of souls.

SERIES OF LIVES.
[Continued from page 109.)

THE LIFE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.

Saul, better known by the name of Paul, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and was on that account entitled to the franchises of the imperial city. He was the son of a pharisee of rank and competence, and was trained carefully from childhood in the principles of that proud and austere sect. It is probable, that he was early initiated into Greek learning at Tarsus, and while yet a youth was sent to Jerusalem, to prosecute his studies under the tuition of the celebrated Gamaliel. In that school he applied bimself with uncommon assiduity and success, greatly excelling his equals, particularly in the knowledge he acquired of the religion of the Jews. Even at this dangerous period of life, he was distinguished no less for his decorous conduct and religious zeal, than for his talents and learning; so that, on the whole, he may justly be selected as a fair specimen of the utinost height to which the morals and religion of a pharisee could be carried.

At the time he is introduced to notice in the Acts of the Apostles, there is reason to believe he was about thirty-three or thirty-four years of age. For if bishop Pearson be right in placing Stephen's death in A. D. 34, and Dr. Lardner in dating the epistle to Philemon in 60; then, as in that epistle the apostle styles himself Paul the aged, an expression which gives the idea of a man of sixty, it is more probable that he was thirty-four than twentyfour, when he began to act so public a part. Indeed, it is hardly conceivable, that the sanhedrim should invest a youth, raw from the seclusion of the schools, with the formidable powers of an inquisitor-general; or that our Lord, who paid so strict a regard to decorum, and abstained from the exercise of his own ministry until he was thirty years of age, should place a young man of twenty-five in the apostolate, in which he was to act a part so very extraordinary.

There is no reason to believe that he resided at Jerusalem during our Lord's personal ministry. It is natural to think, that his studies having been finished, he had then returned to Tarsus, where he probably continued, following his occupation of a tentmaker, with the exception, it may be, of occasional visits to Jerusalem, until after Pentecost. If this were the case, something may be pleaded in extenuation of his criminal conduct; and light is cast on his own declaration, that he persecuted ignorantly in unbelirf. It is also observable, that in all his writings there is no allusion to any transaction of the ministry of Jesus Christ, which implies his personal knowledge of it. The appearance of our Lord, as he was in the way to Damascus, he speaks of in terms, which indicate that he had never seen him before; but had he resided at Jerusalem, this could scarcely have happened. Is it credible, that a man of his inquisitive and eager zeal should never have been among the many pharisees, whose curiosity or malice induced them to attend Christ's ministry? How public was our Lord's conduct at the last passover; entering the city in triumph,

11

« VorigeDoorgaan »