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It is not surprising, that after so affecting an account, strong solicitude should have been felt for further information as to the words, or at least the subjects of praise and adoration, which Mr. Tennent had heard. But when he was requested to communicate
and the people separated. During this interval many means were made use of to discover, if possible, some symptoms of life, but none appeared excepting the tremor. The doctor never left him for three nights and three days. The people again met to bury him, but could not even then obtain the consent of his friend, who pleaded for one hour more; and when that was gone, he pleaded for half an hour, and then for a quarter of an hour; when, just at the close of this period, on which hung his last hope, Mr. Tennent opened his eyes. They then pried open his mouth, which was stiff, so as to get a quill into it, through which some liquid was conveyed into the stomach, and he by degrees recovered.
"This account, as intimated before, Mr. Tennent said he had received from his friends. I said to him, Sir, you seem to be one indeed raised from the dead, and may tell us what it is to die, and what you were sensible of while in that state.' He replied in the following words: As to ding-I found my fever increase, and I became weaker and weaker until, all at once, I found myself in heaven, as I thought. I saw no shape as to the Deity, but glory all unutterable" Here he paused, as though unable to find words to express his views, let his bridle fall, and lifting up his bands, proceeded, 'I can say, as St. Paul did, I heard and I saw things all unutterable! I saw a great multitude before this glory, apparently in the height of bliss, singing most melodiously. I was transported with my own situation, viewing all my troubles ended and my rest and glory begun, and was about to join the great and happy multitude, when one came to me, looked me full in the face, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and said, 'You must go back.' These words went through me; nothing could have shocked me more; I cried out, Lord, must I go back! With this shock I opened my eyes in this world. When I saw I was in the world I fainted, then came to, and fainted for several times, as one probably would naturally have done in so weak a situation.'
"Mr. Tennent further informed me, that he had so entirely lost the recollection of his past life, and the benefit of his former studies, that he could neither understand what was spoken to him, nor write, nor read his own name. That he had to begin all anew, and did not recollect that he had ever read before, until he had again learned his letters, and was able to pronounce the monosyllables, such as thee and thou. But, that as his strength returned, which was very slowly, his memory also returned. Yet, notwithstanding the extreme feebleness of his situation, his recollection of what he saw and heard while in heaven, as he supposed, and the sense of divine things, which he there obtained, continued all the time in their full strength, so that he was continually in something like an ecstacy of mind. And,' said he, for three years, the sense of divine things continued so great, and every thing else appeared so completely vain, when compared to heaven, that could I have had the world for stooping down for it, I believe I should not have thought of doing it.”
these, he gave a decided negative, adding, " You will know them, with many other particulars hereafter, as you will find the whole among my papers;" alluding to his intention of leaving the writer hereof his executor, which precluded any further solicitation.*
The pious and candid reader is left to his own reflections on this very extraordinary occurrence. The facts have been stated, and they are unquestionable. The writer will only ask, whether it be contrary to revealed truth, or to reason, to believe, that in every age of the world instances like that which is here recorded, have occurred, to furnish living testimony of the reality of the invisible world, and of the infinite importance of eternal concerns?
As soon as circumstances would permit, Mr. Tennent was licensed, and began to preach the everlasting gospel with great zeal and success. The death of his brother John,† who had been some time settled as minister of the Presbyterian church at Freehold, in the county of Monmouth, New-Jersey, left that congregation in a destitute state. They had experienced so much spiritual benefit from the indefatigable labours, and pious zeal of this able minister of Jesus Christ, that they soon turned their attention to his brother, who was received on trial, and after one year, was found to be no unworthy successor to so excellent a predecessor. In October, 1733, Mr. Tennent was regularly ordained their pastor, and continued so through the whole of a pretty long life; one of the best proofs of ministerial fidelity.
It was so ordered, in the course of divine Providence, that the writer was sorely disappointed in his expectation of obtaining the papers here alluded to. Such, however, was the will of heaven! Mr. Tennent's death happened during the revolutionary war, when the enemy separated the writer from him, so as to render it impracticable to attend him on a dying bed; and before it was possible to get to his house, after his death, (the writer being with the American army at the Valley-Forge) his son came from Charleston, and took his mother, and his father's papers and property, and returned to Carolina. About fifty miles from Charleston, the son was suddenly taken sick and died among entire strangers; and never since, though the writer was also left executor to the son, could any trace of the father's papers be discovered by him.
†The following entry in the records of the church at Freehold, shows the opinion of that church with regard to Mr. John Tennent's usefulness. "Lord's day, April 23d, 1732. The Reverend and dear Mr. John Tennent departed this life between eight and nine o'clock this morning. A mournful providence, and cause of great humiliation to this poor congregation, to be bereaved in the flower of youth, of the most laborious, successful, well qualified, pious pastor this age afforded, though but a youth of 25 years, 5 months and 11 days of age."
Although his salary was small, (it is thought under 100%) yet the glebe belonging to the church was an excellent plantation, on which he lived, and which, with care and good farming, was capable of maintaining a family with comfort. But his inattention to the things of this world was so great, that he left the management of bis temporal concerns wholly to a faithful servant, in whom he placed great confidence. After a short time he found his worldly affairs were becoming embarrassed. His steward reported to him that he was in debt to the merchant between 207. and 30l. and he knew of no means of payment, as the crops had fallen short. Mr. Tennent mentioned this to an intimate friend, a merchant of New-York, who was on a visit at his house. His friend told him, that this mode of life would not do, that he must get a wife, to attend to his temporal affairs, and to comfort his leisure hours by conjugal endearments. He smiled at the idea, and assured him,' it never could be the case, unless some friend would provide one for him, for he knew not how to go about it. His friend told him he was ready to undertake the business; that he had a sister-in-law, an excellent woman, of great piety, a widow, of his own age, and one peculiarly suited in all respects to his character and circumstances. In short, that she was every thing he ought to look for; and if he would go with him to New-York the next day, he would settle the negociation for him. To this he soon assented. The next evening found him in that city, and before noon, the day after, he was introduced to Mrs. Noble. He was much pleased with her appearance; and, when left alone with her, abruptly told her, that he supposed her brother had informed her of his errand; that neither his time nor inclination would suffer him to use much ceremony; but that if she approved the measure he would attend his charge on the next sabbath, and return on Monday, be married and immediately take her home. The lady, with some hesitation and difficulty, at last consented, being convinced that his situation and circumstances rendered it proper. Thus, in one week, she found herself mistress of his house. She proved a most invaluable treasure to him, more than answering every thing said of her by an affectionate brother. She took the care of his temporal concerns upon her, extricated him from debt, and, by a happy union of prudence and economy, so managed all his worldly business, that in a few years his circumstances became easy and comfortable. In a word, in her was literally fulfilled the declaration of Solomon, that " a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, and that her price is far above rubies." Besides several children who died in infancy, he had by her three sons, who attained the age of man
hood; John, who studied physic, and died in the West-Indies when about thirty-three years of age; William, a man of superior character, and minister of the Independent church in Charleston, South-Carolina, who died the latter end of September or beginning of October, A. D. 1777, about thirty-seven years old; and Gilbert, who also practised physic, and died at Freehold before his father, aged twenty-eight years. Few parents could boast three sons of a more manly or handsome appearance; and the father gave them the most liberal education that the country could afford.
Mr. Tennent's inattention to earthly things continued till his eldest son was about three years old, when he led him out into the fields on a Lord's day after public worship. The design of the walk was for religious meditation. As he went along, accidentally casting his eye on the child, a thought suddenly struck him, and he asked himself this question: "Should God in his providence take me hence, what would become of this child and its mother, for whom I have never taken any personal care to make provision? How can I answer this negligence to God and to them?" The impropriety of his inattention to the relative duties of life, which God had called him to; and the consideration of the sacred declaration, "that he who does not provide for his own household, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," had such an impressive effect on his mind, that it almost deprived him of his senses. He saw his conduct, which before he thought arose entirely from a deep sense of divine things, in a point of light in which he never before had viewed it. He immediately attempted to return home, but so great was his distress, that it was with difficulty he could get along; till, all at once, he was relieved by as suddenly recurring to that text of scripture, which came into his mind with extraordinary force, "But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance, the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance." Such, however, was the effect of this unexpected scene on Mr. Tennent's mind and judgment, that ever afterwards he prudently attended to the temporal business of life, still, however, in perfect subordination to the great things of eternity, and became fully convinced that God was to be faithfully served, as well by discharging relative duties in his love and fear, as by the more immediate acts of devotion. He clearly perceived, that every duty had its proper time and place, as well as motive; that we had a right, and were called of God, to eat and drink, and to be properly clothed; and of course that care should be taken to procure those things, provided that all be done to the glory of God. In the
duties of a gospel minister, however, especially as they related to his pastoral charge, he still engaged with the utmost zeal and faithfulness; and was esteemed by all ranks and degrees, as far as his labours extended, as a fervent, useful, and successful preacher of the gospel.
His judgment of mankind was such as to give him a marked superiority, in this respect, over his contemporaries, and greatly aided him in his ministerial functions. He was scarcely ever mistaken in the character of a man with whom he conversed, though it was but for a few hours. He had an independent mind, which was seldom satisfied on important subjects without the best evidence that was to be had. His manner was remarkably impressive; and his sermons, although seldom polished, were generally delivered with such indescribable power, that he was truly an able and a successful minister of the New-Testament. He could say things from the pulpit, which if said by almost any other man, would have been thought a violation of propriety. But by him they were delivered in a manner so peculiar to himself, and so extremely impressive, that they seldom failed to please and to instruct. As an instance of this the following anecdote is given, of the truth of which the writer was a witness.
Mr. Tennent was passing through a town in the state of NewJersey, in which he was a stranger, and had never preached, and stopping at a friend's house to dine, was informed, that it was a day of fasting and prayer in the congregation, on account of a very remarkable and severe drought, which threatened the most dangerous consequences to the fruits of the earth. His friend had just returned from church, and the intermission was but half an hour. Mr. Tennent was requested to preach, and with great difficulty consented, as he wished to proceed on his journey. At church the people were surprised to see a preacher, wholly unknown to them, and entirely unexpected, ascend the pulpit. His whole appearance, being in a travelling dress, covered with dust, wearing an old fashioned large wig discoloured like his clothes, and a long meagre visage, engaged their attention, and excited. their curiosity. On his rising up, instead of beginning to pray, as was the usual practice, he looked around the congregation, with a piercing eye and earnest attention, and after a minute's profound silence, he addressed them with great solemnity in the following words: "My beloved brethren! I am told you have come here to-day to fast and pray; a very good work indeed, provided you have come with a sincere desire to glorify God thereby. But if your design is merely to comply with a customary practice,