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of the Rev. Mr. Jonathan Edwards. The college, before he came,
had been in an unhappy situation; partly owing to the length of • that melancholy period between the death of president Burr and
his accession, and partly to the evil dispositions and practices of a few members of the society. President Burr died in September, 1757: and although Mr Edwards was elected a few days after, he did not take upon himself the government of the college till February, 1758; and about a fortnight after, took the small-pox, of which he died in March following. Mr Davies was not initiated in his office till the latter end of July, 1759; so that the college lay under the obvious disadvantages of a bereaved condition for almost two years. But the prudent measures taken by president Davies soon surmounted these disadvantages; so that in a few months a spirit of emulation in learning an' morality, as had been usual, evidently characterized the students of Nassau-Hall.
While he continued president his labours were great; and his application to study was necessarily more intense than that of his predecessors. For he came to this seat of the Muses when its learning, by the eminent abilities of president Burr, was advanced to a very considerable degree; and he had just emerged from a sea of ministerial labour in various places, wherein a common genius would have been able to have made but little improvement in academical learning. Besides, the speedy passage he made through the course of his studies, previous to his entering into the ministry, made his after-application the more necessary for so important and elevated a situation. He was determined not to degrade his office, but to be in reality what his station supposed him; and accordingly exerted himself to the utmost. The labours of the day seemed to him rather an incentive to study than to rest in the night; for he commonly sat up till twelve o'clock, and often later, although he rose by break of day. The success was proportionable; for, by the mighty efforts of his great genius, and by dint of industry, he left the college of New Jersey at his death in as high a state of literary merit as it ever had been in since its first institution.
There is reason to believe, that the intense application with which Mr. Davies attended to the duties of his office was one great cause of his death. The habit of his body was plethoric: and it is not to be doubted but that his health for some years had very much dependied upon the exercise of riding, to which he was necessarily obliged while he lived in Virginia, though even then he had several severe fevers, supposed to arise principally from his application to study in the intervals of riding abroad. When
he came to the college he scarcely used any bodily exercise, save What was required in going from his own house to Nassau-Hall, which is a space about ten roods, five or six times a day.
In the latter end of January, A. D. 1761, a bad cold seized him, and for his relief he was bled. The same day he transcribed for the press the sermon, which was soon after published, on the death of the late king, and the day after preached twice in the collegehall; by all which, the arın in which he was bled became much in. Named, and increased his former indisposition. On the Monday morning after, at breakfast, he was seized with a violent chilly fit, which was succeeded by an inflammatory fever, and, in ten days (4th February) brought on the period of his important life.
Although premonitions of death in the present state of the world are seldom, if ever, given to mankind; and they who are disposed to interpret ordinary occurrences into such premonitions, when, by something similar in the event, those occurrences would seem as if predictive, generally discover their weakness; yet the circumstances of the death of an eminent person are commonly very acceptable to the public; and for this reason it may not be amiss to mention an anecdote which Mr. Davies more than once took notice of in his last sickness.
An intimate friend of his, a few days before the beginning of the year in which he died, in conversation, told him that a sermon would be expected from him on the new-year's day; and, among other things, happened to mention that the late president Burr, on the first day of the year wherein he died, preached a sermon on Jer. xxviii. 16. Thus suith the Lord, this year thou shalt die! and after his death, the people took occasion to say it was preinonitory; upon which Mr. D. observed, that “ although it ought not to be viewed in that light, yet it was very remarkable.” When news year's day came, he preached; and the congregation were not a little surprised at his taking the same text of scripture. Upon bis being taken with his last sickness, about three weeks after, bo soon adverted to this circumstance, and mentioned it as remarkable that he had been undesignedly led to preach, as it were, his own funeral sermon.
It is much to bc lamented that the violence of the disorder, of which this excellent man died, deprived him of the regular exercise of his reason, the greater part of the time of his sickness, otherwise the public would undoubtedly have been gratified with his remarks on the views of an approaching cternity; and would have received another evidence of the superior excellency and power of that religion, which abɔne can support the soul, and
make the (otherwise gloomy) prospect of death cheerful. For the issues of this decisive period, his life had been eminently calcu.lated from his youth. It abundantly appears, that from twelve or fourteen years of age, he had continually maintained the strictest watch over his thoughts and actions, and daily lived under a deep sense of his own unworthiness, of the transcendent excellency of the christian religion, of the great importance of a public spirit, and the necessity of exerting it in promoting the general good. Even in his delirium his mind discovered the favourite objects of its concern, the prosperity of Christ's church, and the good of mankind: his bewildered brain was continually imagining, and his faltering tongue expressing, some expedient for these important purposes.
[In addition to the foregoing, we subjoin the character of president Davies, as drawn by his friend the Rev. David Bostwick. Perhaps the ardour of friendship animated the writer to give rather a high colouring to some parts of the portrait; yet those who were best acquainted with Mr. Davies, will bear testimony to the general truth and accuracy of the delineation.]
6 Mr. Davies was a man of such uncommon furniture, both of gifts and grace, and adorned with such an assemblage of amiable and useful qualities, and each shining with such distinguished lustre, that it is truly hard to say, in which he most excelled, and equally hard to mention one valuable or useful accomplishment in which he did not excel. A large and capacious understanding; a solid, unbiassed, and well-regulated judgment; a quick apprehension; a genius truly penetrating; a fruitful invention; an elegant taste; were all happily united in him, and constituted a real greatness of mind, which never failed to strike every observer with an agreeable surprise.
“ To this extraordinary natural capacity were added the improvements of a learned and polite education, which, though in the early years of his study it was embarrassed with many peculiar disadvantages, yet by the strength of his genius, and dint of indefatigable application, was cultivated to such a degree of elogance and refinement, that it attracted the notice and admiration of all the friends of science wherever he was known.
“ And as the powers of his mind were enriched with every valuable human accomplishment, so they were eminently im. proved by the influence and efficacy of sanctifying grace; in consequence of which they were all sincerely devoted to the service of God, and the good of mankind. In the early stages of bis life;
it pleased a sovereigo God to call him effectually from his natural alienation, to the knowledge and love of himself, to take a powerful possession of his heart, and seize all the faculties of his active and capacious soul for his service. Upon finishing therefore the course of his preparatory studies, he entered into the sacred employment of the gospel-ministry, and solemnly dedicated himself, with all his superior talents, to the work of the sanctuary.
“ In the exercise of this sacred office, his fervent zeal and undissembled piety, his popular talents and engaging methods of address, soon acquired him a distinguished character, and general admiration. Scarce was he known as a public preacher but he was sent, on the earnest application of the people, to some of the distant settlements of Virginia, where many of the inhabitants, in respect of religion, were but a small remove from the darkness and ignorance of uncultivated heathenism, and where the religion of Jesus, which he endeavoured to propagate, had to encounter with all the blindness, prejudice, and enmity, that are natural to · the heart of the most depraved sinner. Yet under all apparent disadvantages, his labours were attended with such remarkable success, that all opposition quitted the unequal combat, and gave way to the powerful energy of the divine Spirit, which was graciously pleased by his ministry to add many new subjects to the spiritual kingdom of our glorious Immanuel.
“ The work of the ministry was Mr. Davies's great delight; and for it he was admirably furnished with every valuable qualification of nature and grace. Divinity was a favourite study, in which he made a proficiency uncommon for his years, and yet he generally preferred the most necessary and practical branches of it, to the dark mazes of endless controversy and intricate disputes; aiming chiefly at the conversion of sinners, and to change the hearts and lives of men by an affecting representation of the plain, but most important, interesting truths of the law and the gospel. His talent at composition, especially for the pulpit, was equalled by few, and perhaps exceeded by none. His taste was judicious, elegant, and polite, and yet his discourses were plain and pungent, peculiarly adapted to pierce the conscience and affect the heart. His diction was surpassingly beautiful and comprehensive, tending to make the most stupid hearer sensibly feel, as well as clearly understand. Sublimity and elegance, plainness and perspicuity, and all the force and energy that the language of mortals could convey, were the ingredients of almost every composition. His manner of delivery, as to pronunciation, gesture, and modulation of voice, seemed to be a perfect model of the most moving and striking oratory.
“ Whenever he ascended the sacred desk, he seemed to have not only the attention, but all the various passions of his auditory entirely at his command. And as his personal appearance was august and venerable, yet benevolent and mild, so he could speak with the most commanding authority, or melting tenderness, according to the variation of his subject. With what majesty and grandeur, with what energy and striking solemnity, with what powerful and almost irresistible eloquence would he illustrate the truths, and inculcate the duties of christianity! Mount Sinai seemed to thunder from his lips, when he denounced the tremendous curses of the law, and sounded the dreadful alarm to guilty, secure, impenitent sinners. The solemn scenes of the last judgment seemed to rise in view, when he arraigned, tried, and convicted self-deceivers, and formal hypocrites. And how did the balm of Gilead distil from his lips, when he exhibited a bleeding, dying Saviour to sinful mortals, as a sovereign remedy for the wounded heart, and anguished conscience! In a word, whatever subject he undertook, persuasive eloquence dwelt upon his tongue; and his audience was all attention. He spoke as on the borders of eternity, and as viewing the glories and terrors of an unseen world, and conveyed the most grand and affecting ideas of these important realities; realities which he then firmly believed, and which he now sees in the clearest light of intuitive demonstration.
6 The unusual lustre with which he shone could not long be confined to that remote corner of the world, but soon attracted the notice and pleasing admiration of men of genius, learning, or piety, far and near: and therefore, on a vacancy at the college of New Jersey, occasioned by the decease of the two former presidents,* in a close and awful succession, he was elected to that important office in the year 1759.
« Distressing as it was both to him and his people, united in the strongest bonds of mutual affection, to think of a separation, yet a conviction of absolute duty, resulting from the importance of the station, from the various concurring providences, and lastly, from the unanimous advice of his reverend brethren convened in synod, determined him to accept the proposal. Great and pleasing were the expectations with which we beheld him enter into that exalted sphere of service; yet I may boldly say that they were vastly exceeded in every respect by the reputable manner
• The Rev. Mr. Aaron Burr, in 1757, and the Rev. Mr. Jonathan Edwards, who suceeeded lijm, ad died the winter following: