« PreviousContinue »
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 manhood; 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, SouthCarolina, who died the latter end of September or beginning of October, A. D. 1777, about thirtyseven 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.
The lady, with some hesitation 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
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
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 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 an, ecdote is given, of the truth of which the writer was a witness,
Mr. Tennent was passing through a town in the state of New Jersey, in which he was a stranger, and had never preach, ed, 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, cover? ed with dust, wearing an oldfashioned 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 af ter 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, or with the wish of your church of
ficers, you are guilty of the greatest folly imaginable, as you had much better have staid at home, and earned your three shillings and six pence.* But if your minds are indeed impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, and you are really desirous of humbling yourselves before Almighty God, your heavenly Father, come, join with me, and let us pray." This had an effect so uncommon and extraordinary on the congregation, that the utmost seriousness was universally manifested. The prayer and the sermon added greatly to the impressions already made, and tended to rouse the attention, influence the mind, command the affections, and increase the temper, which had been so happily produced. Many had reason to bless God for this unexpected visit, and to reckon this day one of the happiest of their lives.†
At that time, the stated price for a day's labour.
The writer, having requested of the present Rev. Dr. William M. Tennent a written account of an aneedote relative to his uncle, which he had once heard him repeat verbally, received in reply the following letter:
Abington, Jan. 11th, 1806.
"During the great revival of religion, which took place under the ministry of Mr. Whitefield, and others distinguished for their piety and zeal at that peried, Mr. Tennent was laboriously active, and much engaged to help forward the work; in the performance of which he met with strong and powerful temptations. The following is related, as received, in substance, from his own lips, and may be
considered as extraordinary and singularly striking.
"On the evening preceding public worship, which was to be attended the next day, he selected a subject for the discourse which was to be delivered, and made some progress in his preparations. In the morning, he resumed the same subject, with an intention to extend his thoughts further with a temptation that the Bible, on it, but was presently assaulted which he then held in his hand, was not of divine authority, but the invention of man. He instantly endeavoured to repel the temptation by prayer, but his endeavours proved ued, and fastened upon him with unavailing. The temptation contingreater strength, as the time advanced for public service. He lost all the thoughts, which he had on his subother subjects, but could get nothing ject the preceding evening. He tried for the people. The whole book of God, under that distressing state of mind, was a sealed book to him; and to add to his affliction, he was, to use his own words, "shut up in prayer. A cloud, dark as that of Egypt, oppressed his mind.
"Thus agonized in spirit, he proceeded to the church, where he found a large congregation assembled, and waiting to hear the word: and then it was, he observed, that he was more deeply distressed than ever, and especially for the dishonour, which he feared would fall upon religion, through him, that day. He resolved, however, to attempt the service. He introduced it by singing a psalm, during which time his agitations were increased to the highest degree. When the moment for prayer commenced, he arose, as one in the most perilous and painful situation, and with arms extended to the heavens, began with this outcry, Lord, have mercy upon me! Upon the utterance of this petition he was heard ; the thick cloud instantly broke away, and an unspeakably joyful light shone in upon his soul, so that his spirit seemed to be caught up to the
dealings of God with him, and the deep contemplations of his mind. He was attending the duties of the Lord's day in his own congregation as usual, where the custom was to have morning and evening service with only a half hour's intermission to relieve the attention. He had preached in the morning, and in the intermission had walked into the woods for meditation, the weather being warm. He was reflecting on the infinite wisdom of God, as manifested in all his works, and particularly in the' wonderful method of salvation, through the death and sufferings of his beloved Son. This subject suddenly opened on his mind with such a flood of light, that his views of the glory, and the infinite majesty of Jehovah, were so inexpressibly great, as entirely to overwhelm him, and he fell, almost lifeless, to the ground. When he had revived a little, all he could do was to raise a fervent prayer, that God would withdraw himself from
heavens, and he felt as though he saw God, as Moses did on the mount, face to face, and was carried forth to him,
with an enlargement greater than he had ever before experienced, and on very page of the Scriptures saw his divinity inscribed in brightest colours. The result was a deep solemnity on the face of the whole congregation, and the house at the end of the prayer was a Bochim. He gave them the subject of his evening meditations, which was brought to his full remem brance, with an overflowing abundance of other weighty and solemn matter. The Lord blessed the discourse, so that it proved the happy means of the conversion of about thirty persons. This day he spoke of, ever afterwards, as his harvest day.
him, or that he must perish under a view of his ineffable glory. When able to reflect on his situation, he could not but abhor himself as a weak and despicable worm, and seemed to be overcome with astonishment, that a creature so unworthy and insufficient, had ever dared to attempt the instruction of his fellow-men in the nature and attributes of so glorious a Being. Overstaying his usual time, some of his elders went in search of him, and found him prostrate on the ground, unable to rise, and incapable of informing them of the cause. They raised him up, and after some time brought him to the church, and supported him to the pulpit, which he ascended on his hands and knees, to the no small astonishment of the congregation. He remained silent a considerable time, earnestly supplicating Almighty God (as he told the writer) to hide himself from him, that he might be enabled to address his people, who were by this time lost in wonder to know what had produced this uncommon event. His prayers were heard, and he became able to stand up, by holding the desk. He now began the most affecting and pathetic address, that the congregation had ever received from him. He gave a surprising account of the views he had, of the infinite wisdom of God, and greatly deplored his own incapacity to speak to them concerning a being so infinitely glorious beyond all his powers of description. He attempted to show something of what had been discovered to him of the astonishing wisdom of Jehovah, of which it was impossible for human nature to form
"I am yours with esteem, "WILLIAM M. TENNENT."
adequate conceptions. He then broke out into so fervent and expressive a prayer, as greatly to surprise the congregation, and draw tears from every eye. A sermon followed, that continued the solemn scene, and made very lasting impressions on all the hearers.
The great increase of communicants in his church was a good evidence of his pastoral care and powerful preaching, as it exceed ed that of most churches in the synod. But his labours were not confined to the pulpit. He was indefatigable in his endea vours to communicate in private families a savour of the knowledge of spiritual and divine things. In his parochial visits he used regularly to go through his congregation in order, so as to carry the unsearchable riches of Christ to every house. He earnestly pressed it on the conscience of parents to instruct their children at home by plain and easy questions, so as gradually to expand their young minds, and prepare them for the reception of the more practical doctrines of the gospel. In this, Mr. Tennent has presented an excellent example to his brethren in the ministry; for certain it is, that more good may be done in a congregation, by this domestic mode of instruction, than any one can imagine, who has not made the trial. Children and servants are in this way prepared for the teachings of the sanctuary, and to reap the full benefit of the word publicly preached. He made it a practice in all these visits to enforce practical religion on all, high and low, rich and poor, young and old, master and servant. To this he was Vol. II. No. 2.
particularly attentive, it being a favourite observation with him, "that he loved a religion that a man could live by."
Mr. Tennent carefully avoided the discussion of controver sial subjects, unless specially called to it by particular circumstances, and then he was ever ready to assign the reason of his faith. The following occur. rence will show the general state of his mind and feelings in regard to such subjects. A couple of young clergymen, visiting at his house, entered into a dispute on the question, at that time much controverted in New England, whether faith or repentance were first in order, in the conversion of a sinner. Not being able to determine the point, they agreed to make Mr. Tennent their umpire, and to dispute the subject at length before him. He accepted the proposal, and after a solemn debate for some time, his opinion being asked, he very gravely took his pipe from his mouth, looked out of his window, pointed to a man ploughing on a hill at some distance, and asked the young clergymen if they knew that man on their answering in the negative, he told them it was one of his elders, who, to his full conviction, had been a sincere Christian for more than thirty years. Now," said Mr. Tennent, "ask him, whether faith or repentance came first, what do you think he would say?" They said they could not tell. "Then," says he, "I will tell you: he would say that he cared not, which came first, but that he had got them both. Now, my friends," he added, " be careful that you have both a true faith, and a sincere repentance,