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somewhat disappointed by its scantiness. Long intervals pass over without any note, except what may be afforded by the delivery and publication of an occasional discourse. It should be remembered however, that the preparation and delivery of bis discourses was the great employment of his life, and that the most industrious and useful ministry may be spent without affording subject for public notice, or the records of history.
He was born in 1731, and having lost his father in infancy, his childhood and early youth were spent under the care of an affectionate mother. He was not wholly exempted from the straits and embarrassments, which have been the lot of some of the most distinguished men in our country in their preparation for professional-service; though with the aid of a small patrimony, and the kind offices of his father-in-law, to whose good sense, fidelity, and affection, he bears an honourable testimony, he was not called to a long or painful struggle with them. He received his first degree at Yale College, in 1754; and while instructor of a school at Springfield, commenced his theological studies under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Breck, the minister of that place, who was distinguished for some of the same qualities, that were afterwards so prominent in his pupil, discretion and success in the “ divine art” of peacemaking. Having commenced preaching with the recommenda. tion of an association of clergymen in the neighbourhood, he received an unaninous call from the parish in West Springfield, to the pastoral charge of which he was ordained in August 1756 ; it being the only place in which he preached as a candidate, and to which he ever after devoted his long and faithful service.
The meditations and resolutions, which he formed and committed to writing, on his entrance upon his ministry, mark a deep and tender sense of obligation, and the most just and enlarged views of ministerial duty. Such resolutions and plans are indeed frequently formed; but too seldom fulfilled. In the freshness and ardor of a new pursuit, with the excitements of new situation, and of the sympathies and hopes of friendship, it is easy to propose large schemes of usefuloess and virtue ; and it is not till experience of the difficulties we meet from ourselves and others bas compelled us to compare the ease of making with the difficulty of keeping our resolves, that we become humble and self-diffident. Hence a man's diary or journal, in which he is careful to record his good intentions, and to note down his impressions of piety, as they rise warm from his heart, becomes a very flattering picture of his real character. The resolutions may be wise, the plans may be admirable, and there may be en
tire sincerity in forming them. But it takes not many moments to record them; and days and weeks and months may pass without witnessing the fulfilment of one of them. This indeed affords no good reason, why we should not purpose well; for he, who has ceased to resolve, takes from himself one of the helps of virtue, and the advantage of at least reflecting upon his duty. All, that we would imply is, that such records are not to be regarded in themselves as evidences of the particular graces, for which good desires are expressed, or even devout aspirations uttered. In the subject of this memoir, however, there was a vigour of principle, a fidelity to his own convictions, which converted his purposes to acts, and made his plans the history of his conduct; so that when we find bim in bis diary, at his entrance on his ministry, determining to preserve a sacred regard to truth in his words, and to justice in his conduct; to be tender of characters; meek under injuries ; condescending in cases of difference ; courteous and peaceable to all men ; to attend on his ministry even though he might incur worldly loss ; in things indifferent, to make not his own will and humour, but the common peace and edification the rule of his conduct ; in all his religious inquiries to make the sacred oracles his guide, and never to receive for doctrine the commandments of men; to speak that only, which might be profitable, and to keep back nothing, that was so; to choose out acceptable, but upright words; and to cultivate in his heart, and to exemplify in his life the religion he had undertaken to preach ;we read in fact a catalogue of the very virtues, which made his character as a minister so interesting and venerable.
The following passage shows us an important rule, which he had prescribed to himself in preaching, and affords at the same time an instance of the wisdom and felicity, with which he could detect and silence the impertinence of a censorious spirit, vehemently intent against trifles.
“My steady aim in preaching has been to promote real religion in temper and practice, and to state and apply the doctrines of the gospel in a manner best adapted to this end. Keeping this in view, I have avoided unprofitable controversy. I have been careful not to awaken disputes, which were quietly asleep, not to waste my own and my hearer's time by reproving imaginary faults, or indifferent customs. Among these I have reckoned the fashion of dress. I was once requested to preach against prevailing fashions. A remote inhabitant of the parish, apparently in a serious frame, called upon me one day, and pressed the necessity of bearing my testi. mony against this dangerous evil. I observed to him, that as my people were generally farmers in middling circumstances, I did not think they took a lead in fashions ;-if they followed them, it was
at an humble distance, and rather to avoid singularity, than to en courage extravagance ;--that as long as people were in the habit of wearing clothes, they must have some fashion or other, and a fash. ion, that answered the ends of dress, and exceeded not the ability of the wearer, I considered as innocent, and not deserving reproof. To this he agreed ; but said, wbat grieved him was to see people set their hearts so much on fashions. I conceded, that as modes of dress were trifles compared with our eternal conrerns, to set our hearts upon them must be a great sin. But I advised him to consider, that to set our bearts against such trifles was the same sio as to set our hearts upon thew ; and as his fashion was different from those of his neighbours, just in proportion as he set his heart against their's he set his heart upon his own. He was therefore doubly guilty of the very sin he imputed to others ; and I desired bim to correct his own fault, which he could not but know, and to hope, that his neighbours were less faulty than himself, and less faulty than he had uncbaritably supposed them to be. I could not bot reflect, how easily men deceive themselves, beholding the mote in their brother's eye, and considering not the beam in their own.'
-pp. 19, 20.
We remark the same good sense and discrimination on the subject of revivals in religion, and with respect to the profusive multiplication of religious services, by which such events in a community are usually produced, or with which they are accompanied. On this and on some kindred topics there is, we are persuaded, much misapprehension ; and it is desirable, that more just and rational views with respect to them should be entertained. We are exceedingly distrustful of any permanent good resulting from the raptures and extravagancies of the new convert. In some instances, there may be excited a deep and solemn impression of the solemnities of religion, the guilt and consequences of sin, and of the powers of the world to come : but the danger is, and the fact, we are persuaded, too often is, that these strong emotions are followed by extreme indifference. A man becomes satisfied with having been the subject of powerful excitement, and recurs with confidence to the day or hour of bis conversion, as in itself a sufficient seal of his spiritual state and hope ; without remembering, that religion demands perpetual watchfulness ; that vanity, pride, selfishness, and every form of earthly passion may find their way again into the heart, that had but lately been melted, or transported with the ardors of fresh resolution. The history of churches, in which large and sudden accessions have been made at a period of what is termed awakening, affords melancholy examples of the danger of estimating character by any degrees of fervency or zeal, that may at such seasons be expressed.
I have endeavoured, says Dr. Lathrop, to guard my people against an error too common, where religious conferences are much attended; I mean, substituting these in the place of divine institutions, and making them a kind of thermometer, by which to prove the degree of heat and cold in religious zeal. When we hear of a revi. val of religion in any place, the unusual frequency and the general attendance of lectures and conferences by day and by night are adduced as decisive evidences of it. When these meetings become less frequent or less full, it is said, “ religion appears to be on the de. cline.” We ought always to place religion, where the scriptore has placed it, in holiness of heart and life, and to regard devotioval duties as instrumental to this end. We are never to place the essence of religion in things, which are but the means of it. A serious man from a neighbouring parish being one evening at my house on secular business, took occasion to inform me, that there was a great revival of religion in bis vicioity. I expressed great satisfaction in the intelligence, but asked him wherein the happy revival discovered itself; whether the people appeared to be more humble, more condescending, more meek and peaceable, more kind and charitable, better united in their social relations, more virtuous in their manners, &c. He could not answer particularly with respect to these things ; but said, “ people were much engaged in attending religious meetings ; they had private lectures as often as any transient preacher could be obtained, and they had conferences very frequently-almost every evening." I observed to bim that an attendance on the word preached was highly important, and a hopeful indication ; but asked him, how it was on the Lord's day; whether they attended on the instituted worship of that day better than they used to do ; (for I knew they had been shamefully negligent of that duty.) Why-Do"'-said he" we don't go to meeting on the Sabbath.'— What, I inquired, do you neglect God's institutions to observe your own. The prophet marks this as a token of DECAY in religion.”
Occasional meetings and private conferences may be very useful, if properly conducted ; but they are matters of christian discretion, not of divine institution. I know of no apostolic precept or example, which elevates these to a place among the institutions of God.'
But the view, in which the character of Dr. Lathrop is to us most interesting, and in which he has bequeathed a most valuable example, is to be found in bis candour and catholicism. Whatever may have been his own opinions—and they probably retained through life the direction they received from early education-he never arrogated to himself the exclusive praise of right thinking, and regarded with indulgence and respect the views of others. He was a decided enemy to every form of bigotry and fanaticism; and deemed it as absurd and fruitless as it is audacious to sit in judgment upon another man's conscience. He freely admitted to his friendship and confidence men whose speculations differed widely from his own; and did not hesitate to express his disapprobation of that narrow and exclusive spirit, which has been too prevalent in our country, and which he regarded as fatal to the best interests of the church. On the subject of ministerial intercourse his principles and practice were grounded on the most enlarged charity: A very satisfactory evidence of this he has furnished in a Protest, which he wrote several years since, to the recommendation of the General Association in Connecti. cut; and which may be adduced, both as an instance of his own sound judgment, aud as supplying the only true principle for an important branch of ministerial conduct. We shall take some opportunity of preserving it in the pages of the Christian Disciple.
Dr. Lathrop was no less distinguished by his virtues as a Pastor, than by his attainments as a theologian. He exhibited through his long ministry a most affectionate and faithful devotion to his people, entering with prudence and tenderness into their interests, and willing to make personal sacrifices for their union and prosperity. He declined an honourable appointment in a literary institution rather than quit his charge at a period, when he thought a vacancy might endanger their harmony; and some instances might be adduced of the generosity and disinterestedness, with which he could resign his undoubted claims in the benevolent desire of preserving peace. No christian society should indeed wish or accept such sacrifices. It is theirs un. doubtedly to render them unnecessary. But the spirit, that would make them, is worthy of distinguished praise.--At the time Dr. Lathrop was deliberating upon the acceptance of the Professorship of Divinity in Yale College, he was advised by some of his friends to improve the advantage then in his hands of obtaining an augmentation of his salary. But I feared, said he, that to have stated such a condition of continuance with my people, when, even without it, duty seemed to require my continuance with them, would be too near an approach to duplicity. Besides, I have always valued those favours highest, which proceed from liberal, or at least from grateful sentiments.'
Dr. Lathrop's memoir of himself closes with the sixtieth year of his ministry; from which period to his death, an interval of somewhat more than four years, an interesting account is given by a friend of his last public services, and of the composure, piety, and faith, with which he expected and met his dissolution. A faithful and eloquent delineation of his character is given in an extract from the discourse delivered by his colleague and suc cessor on the day of his interment.