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interest of religion to endeavour to lay all those passions asleep, which surely God implanted in our hearts to serve the religious as well as the civil life, and which, after all, will probably be employed to some very excellent or very pernicious purposes."
He thought it a part of ministerial prudence to take public notice of remarkable providential occurrences, affecting the nation, the town, or any considerable number of his hearers; any uncommon appearances in nature, or other events, that were the subject of general conversation; the seasons of the year and especially the mercies of harvest; and he endeavoured in his discour ses to graft lessons of wisdom and piety upon them.-He chose to preach funeral sermons for most of those who died in communion with his church, even the poorest; and for others, where there was any thing remarkable in their character or removal. He imagined the minds of their relations and friends were at such times more disposed, than usual, to receive advice, and would need and drink in the consolations of the gospel. These discourses were also generally attended by the acquaintance and neighbours of the deceased persons, who were not his stated hearers; and he endeavoured to improve such occasions for conveying some useful impressions to their minds. He never had a stated assistant, but constantly preached twice every Lord's-day, when his health permitted; except some of his senior pupils, who had entered on the ministry, were disengaged, and then they performed the services of one part of the day. But even then, so solicitous was he not to do the work of the Lord negligently, that he often preached in the evening. A set of sermons against popery, the last of which, viz. on "the absurdity and iniquity of persecution," is published, and his discourses on Regeneration, were in the number of his evening lectures. Whatever services he had performed on the Lord's-day, when there was no evening lecture, he repeated his sermons to his own family, and as many of his people and neighbours as chose to attend, at his own house; and then sometimes entered into a few critical remarks on his text, and learned reflections on his subject, for the benefit of his pupils, which would have been unprofitable to a popular auditory.It was his usual custom, on a Lord's-day morning, before sermon, to expound some portion of the scriptures, and draw practical instructions from it; directing his hearers, at
This is the language of wisdom. True eloquence consists in the union of the rational, the forcible, and the pathetic; and to address to the affections, as well as to the reason of mankind, is the dictate of the soundest philosophy. The cold and feeble conclusions of many discourses from the pulpit, are as disgusting to a just taste, as they are unprofitable with regard to religious improvement.-K.
the same time, in what manner they should read and reflect upon the word of God.-He had an extraordinary gift in prayer, cultivated with great diligence; and upon particular as well as common occasions expressed himself with ease, freedom and variety, with all the evidences of a solid judgment, amidst the greatest seriousness and fervour of spirit. In the administration of the Lord's-supper he was remarkably devout and lively. He endeavoured to affect the hearts and excite the graces of his fellow christians by devotional meditations upon some pertinent passages of Scripture; that the substance of what he had said might be more easily recollected. He took the same method in administering the ordinance of baptism.The hymns which he composed to assist the devotions of his congregation, have been published, and are another instance of the pains he took to promote their piety.
Besides his stated work on the Lord's-day and his lectures preparatory to the Lord's-supper, he maintained a religious exercise every Friday evening at his Meeting-place, or his own house, as the season of the year, or the circumstances of his health, rendered most convenient. On these occasions he went through the psalms in a course of exposition; afterwards the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the Messiah and his kingdom; the promises of scripture; and sometimes repeated sermons he had formerly preached, as his friends particularly desired or might best tend to keep up an agreeable variety. For several winters he preached a lecture, every Thursday evening, at another Meeting-house in the town, which lying nearer the centre of it, was more convenient than his own. There he preached a set of discourses on the parables of Christ; and another on the nature, offices and operations of the holy Spirit. As a great part of his congregation caine from the neighbouring villages he used to go once or twice a year to each of them, and to some oftner, and preach among them. He chose to make these visits at the usual festivals and their respective wakes, as the inhabitants at those seasons had leisure to attend his services, and were in some peculiar danger of having their sense of religion weakened. At these visits he had opportunities of conversing and praying with the infirm and aged, who could seldom attend his labours at Northampton. When any of them died, he chose to preach their Funeral-sermons in the villages where they had lived, that their neighbours and acquaintance might have the benefit of them.
While I am mentioning his abilities, diligence and zeal as a preacher, I would add, that he was much esteemed and very
popular. He had an earnestness and pathos in his manner of speaking, which, as it seemed to be the natural effect of a strong impression of divine truths upon his own heart, tended greatly to affect his hearers, and to render his discourses more acceptable and useful, than if his delivery had been more calm and dispassionate. His pronunciation and action were, by some judges, thought rather too strong and vehement; but to those who were acquainted with the vivacity of his temper and his usual manner of conversation, they appeared quite natural and unaffected.
He was very exact in the exercise of christian discipline, and in separating from the church those, who were a reproach to their christian profession. To this painful work he was sometimes called, and a congregational fast was kept on the sad occasion. When the work of religion seemed to be at a stand; when few or none appeared to be under serious impressions and convictions, or there was a visible coldness and remissness among his hearers, his heart was much affected; he laboured and prayed more earnestly, both in public and private; and days of prayer were set apart by the church, in order to obtain of God an effusion of his Spirit to revive religion among them.
He had a deep concern and affectionate regard for the rising generation. Besides an annual sermon to young persons on new year's day, he often particularly addressed them in the course of his preaching; and in his conversation also, discovered that sense of the importance of the rising generation, which he hath expressed in his sermon upon that subject, and which he hath so warmly exhorted parents to cultivate, in his Sermons on the Education of Children. He much lamented the growing neglect of ministers to catechise the children of their congregations; and to this neglect imputed many of the irregularities, which are to be seen in youth. Many parents are hardly capable of it; and many, who are, neglect it. He therefore looked upon this, as a most important part of his pastoral work, and pursued it, during the summer-seasons, through the whole course of his ministry, notwithstanding his many avocations. He was so sensible of the usefulness of this work, and the skill and prudence necessary to conduct it, that I find this, among other resolutions, formed at his entrance on the ministry, 'I will often make it my humble prayer, that God would teach me to speak to children in such a manner, as may make early impressions of religion upon their hearts.' He had much satisfaction in these pious attempts. Several children, who died while they were under his catechetical instructions, mani
fested such a deep sense of religion, such rational views and lively hopes of glory, as were delightful and edifying to their parents and friends. -He established and encouraged private meetings for social prayer; especially religious associations among the young persons of the congregation, who used to meet weekly for reading, religious discourse and prayer; and entered into engagements to watch over one another in the spirit of meekness, and to animate and encourage each other in their christian course. These societies were formed according to their different ages; and sometimes one young person of the greatest knowledge and humility was a kind of president, who kept up the order of the society, and gave the pastor hints by which he might be led to establish those who were wavering, and encourage those who were timorous in religion. There was one society of young men, in which some of his younger students were joined, to which he used to propose some practical question weekly, and they returned an answer in writing the next week. These answers he threw together, enlarged upon and delivered on Friday evening, instead of his usual exposition or sermon as above-mentioned. He found the advantage of these associations in many respects; particularly in the readiness, with which those, who had belonged to them, set up the worship of God in their own families, and the honourable manner, in which they conducted it.—He was very solicitous to bring sober and serious young persons into communion with the church, and obviate their objections against it. His reasons for this, and the arguments by which he urged it, may be seen in his discourse to young people, entitled, "Religious Youth invited to early Communion."
To those who were acquainted with the large sphere of service in which he was engaged, it was matter of surprise, that he could spare so much time, as he did, for pastoral visits; as there were few days in which he was not employed in visiting the sick and afflicted, and other persons, with a view to their spiritual interest. He knew the value of time too well, to spend it in formal, unprofitable or long visits. He was careful, when he went into any family, to turn the discourse into a religious channel and leave an impression of piety behind him. He seriously exhorted heads of families to mind religion as the main concern, to guard against the love of the world, and to command their children and household to keep the way of the Lord. He took notice of the children and servants in families, gave them hints of advice and encouragement, proposed to them some texts of scripture to remember and reflect upon, and furnished
them with bibles and practical books. He visited the cottages of the poor, and addressed them with so much condescension and familiarity, that they would be free in their conversation with him upon religious concerns and the state of their souls. No visits gave him more satisfaction than these; and he often expressed his wonder and grief, that any ministers should neglect such persons, out of too much regard to those who were rich, or to any studies not essential to usefulness.—But finding that, with his utmost diligence, he could not visit all the families in so large and scattered a society, so often as he wished, he, on December 4, 1737, proposed to the congregation to chuse four persons of distinguished piety, gravity and experience to the office of elders; which they accordingly did. He thought there was a foundation for that office in scripture; at least, that the circumstances of some pastors and churches rendered it expedient, that there should be such officers chosen; who should inspect the state of the church, and assist the pastor in some part of his work. These elders divided the congregation among them, visited and prayed with the sick, took notice of and conversed with those, who seemed to be under religious impressions or were proposed to communion; and were sometimes employed in admonishing and exhorting. They met together weekly, and he generally attended them; that he might receive the observations they had made, and might give them his assistance and advice, where cases of peculiar difficulty occurred. These meetings were always concluded with prayer. He found great comfort and advantage from their services, and the church thought itself happy in them.
It was a grief to him to find, that the children of some of his hearers had never been taught to read, through the ignorance or poverty of their parents. Therefore, in 1738, he persuaded his people to concur with him in establishing a charity school. To this end, they agreed to contribute certain sums, weekly or yearly, as their respective circumstances would admit. He had the satisfaction to find, that this benevolent design met with so much encouragement, that there was a foundation laid for instructing and cloathing twenty boys. These were selected and put under the care of a pious skilful master, who taught them to read, write and learn their catechism, and brought them regularly to public worship. An anniversary sermon was preached and a collection made for the benefit of the school. Several of the Doctor's friends at a distance, often gave gene