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God sometimes affords to his people in the time of their necessity, and such the manner in which he leaves them to feel their own weakness when that necessity is past, that all the praise may be given where alone it is due?
The writer sincerely rejoices, that though a number of the extraordinary incidents in the life of Mr. Tennent cannot be vouched by public testimony and authentic documents, yet the singular manner in which a gracious God did appear for this his faithful servant in the time of that distress which has just been noticed, is a matter of public notoriety, and capable of being verified by the most unquestionable testimony and records.
This special instance of the interference of the righteous judge of all the earth ought to yield consolation to pious people in seasons of great difficulty and distress, where there is none that seems able to deliver them. Yet it ought to afford no encouragement to the enthusiast, who refuses to use the means of preservation and deliverance which God puts in his power. True confidence in God is always accompanied with the use of all lawful means, and with the rejection of all that are unlawful. It consists in an unshaken belief, that while right means are used, God will give that issue which shall be most for his glory and his people's good. The ex. traordinary occurrence here recorded may also serve as a solemn warning to the enemies of God's people, and to the advocates of infidelity, not to strive by wicked and deep laid machinations to oppose the success of the gospel, nor to attempt to injure the persons and characters of those faithful servants of the Most High, whom sooner or later he will vindicate to the unspeakable confusion of all who have persecuted and traduced them.
Mr. Tennent was a man of the most scrupulous integrity, and though of a very grave and solemn deportment, he had a remarkably cheerful disposition, and generally communicated his instructions with so much ease and pleasantry, as greatly to gain the confidence and affection of all with whom he conversed, especially of children and young people. In all his intercourse with strangers and men of the world, he so managed his conversation, that, while he seldom neglected a proper opportunity to impress the mind with serious things, he always made them covet his compan;, rather than avoid it; well knowing that there is a time for all things, and that even instruction and reproof, to be useful, must be prudently and seasonably given.
An instance of this disposition occurred in Virginia. The late Rev. Mr. Samuel Blair and Mr. Tennent were sent by the synod on a mission into that province. They stopped one evening at a
tavern for the night, where they found a number of guests, with whom they supped in a common room. After the table was cleared, our missionaries withdrew from it. Cards were then called for, and the landlord brought in a pack and laid them on the table. One of the gentlemen very politely asked the missionaries if they would not take a cut with them, not knowing that they were clergymen. Mr. Tennent very pleasantly answered, “ With all my heart, gentlemen, if you can convince us, that thereby we can serve our master's cause, or contribute any thing towards the success of our mission.” This drew some smart reply from the gentleman, when Mr. T. with solemnity added, “ We are ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We profess ourselves his servants; we are sent on his business, which is to persuade mankind to repent of their sins, to turn from them, and to accept of that happiness and salvation which is offered in the gospel.” This very unexpected reply, delivered in a very tender though solemn manner, and with great apparent sincerity, so engaged the gentlemen's attention, that the cards were laid aside, and an opportunity was afforrled, and cheerfully embraced, for explaining in a sociable conversation, during the rest of the evening, some of the leading and most important doctrines of the gospel, to the satisfaction and apparent edification of the hearers.
Resignation to the will of God in all his dispensations, however dark and afflictive, was among the excellent graces that adorned the character of this man of God. He had been tried in the course of God's providence in various ways; but domestic afflictions, as yet, had not been laid upon him. The time, however, was now come when his character was to be brightened by a severe test of his resignation and obedience, a test attended with many peculiarly distressing circumstances. His youngest son, who was one of the handsomest of men, had just come into public life; had commenced the practice of physic; was married, and had one child. To the great distress of the parents, he discovered, though possessed of the sweetest temper and most agreeable manners, no regard to the things that belonged to his eternal peace. Wholly negligent of religion, he indulged without restraint in the gaiety and follies of the world. The pious father was incessant at the throne of grace in behalf of his dissipated son; and was continually entertaining hopes that God would, by the influences of his Spirit, arrest him in his career, and bring him into the church of Christ, before his own summons should arrive; that he might die in peace, under the consoling hope of meeting this dear child in a better world. God, however, had determined otherwise; and the son, while engaged in inoculating a number of persons, in a house he had obtained for the purpose, near his father's neighbourhood, was seized in an unusually violent manner, with a raging fever. With the disorder, he was brought to a sudden and alarming view of his lost condition by nature, and the grievous transgressions of his past life. His sins were all set in dread array against him. A horrible darkness, and an awful dread of the eternal displeasure of Jehovah, fell on him, so as to make him the dreadful example of a convinced sinner, trembling under the confounding presence of an angry God. The affectionate and pious father was constantly in prayer and supplication, that God would have mer. cy upon him. He seldom left the side of his bed. For many days the fever raged with unabated fury; but the immediate distresses which it occasioned, were lost or forgotten in the severer pains of an awakened conscience. Such was the height to which his anguish at last arose, that the bed on which he lay was shaken by the violent and united convulsions of mind and body. The parents were touched to the quick; and their unqualified submission to God, as a sovereign God, was put to the most rigorous proof. But in due time they came out of the furnace, as gold tried in the fire. God, in his infinite and condescending grace and mercy, was at last plased, in some measure, to hear the many prayers put up by the parents, and many pious friends, for the relief of the poor sufferer. His views of the lost state of man by nature; of the only means of salvation, through the death and sufferings of the Saviour; of the necessity of the inward regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, became clear and consistent, and the importance of a practical acquaintance with these things was deeply and rationally impressed on his mind. He now saw that salvation, which he had deemed almost or altogether hopeless to him, was possible. His mind became calm, and he attended to religious instruction and advice. In a short time he began to give as much evidence of a change of heart as a death-bed repentance (farely to be greatiy relied on) can easily afford. He sent for his companions in iniquity, and, notwithstanding his disorder, exerted himself to the utmost to address them, which he did in the most solemn, awful, and impressive manner, as a person, who, by the infinite mercy of a prayer-hearing God, had been delivered from a hell gaping to receive him. He besought them, by all the terrors of everlasting destruction; by all the love they ought to bear to their own immortal souls; by the love of a crucified Jesus, who poured out his soul unto death, that they might live for ever; by his own awful sufferings and terrible example; that
they would repent and turn to God. This happy change was a
Scarcely had Mr. Tennent got over this heavy affliction, and
duct. The following extract from a letter, written at this time to the writer of this narrative, will show the temper of his mind in his own language. “ Freehold, March, 1776. My dear sir, Perhaps before this comes to hand, you will be informed, that He who gave me the honourable epithet of a father, has, in his wise and unerring providence, written me childless.* My son is dead. This account I had yesterday from a letter written to a friend; the account is so straight (though not circumstantial) that I cannot doubt its truth. The tender mother has not heard it, nor do I intend she shall, until authenticated. This I mention as a caution to you, in case you should write me before the matter is published. Let the dear heart have all possible ease, before the load, which it is likely will try her life, falls upon her. I know her attachment to that child; his conduct has been such as greatly endeared him to us. Our pains and expense in his education have been great, but infinitely short of what God has done for him. He has, therefore, the best right to him. Should we then, were it in our power, obstruct his taking full possession of his own property? God forbid! This, sir, through God's goodness, is not only what I say, but it is the temper of my soul, for which God only deserves the honour. It is now above fifty years since my soul resigned itself to God in Jesus Christ. I had then neither son nor daughter; I was completely satisfied with him, and, blessed be his name, I am so now. Have I then reason to cry out as if ruined? 0! no: on the contrary, I have the utmost reason for thanksgiving, that he has not, in righteous judgment, deprived me of himself, in whom all fulness dwells. My wife and myself are now hastening to childhood; if spared a few years, we shall need one to lead us; and we shall look to you under God. All the benefit you can expect from so doing, will consist in the satisfaction of your own mind, that you have helped two old people through the last steps of their pilgrimage.”
Thus did this pious man turn every event of life, however afflic- tive, to the praise and glory of God, and he seldom omitted an opportunity of inculcating the same disposition on all his acquaintance.
* He seems, in the depth of his distress, to have forgotten, that he yet had one son left, although he was 800 miles distant from him.
[To be continued.]