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he continued till the year 1750, when he entered Yale College. While an under-graduate, he was distinguished, it is said, for the versatility of his genius, and the diligence with which he pursued his studies. In 1754 be received his first degree; soon after which he was engaged, as a grammar school master in Springfield, and at the same time cominenced the study of theology in the family and under the direction of Rev. Mr. Breck of that place. In Jan. 1756, he received approbation, as a candidate for the ministry, and on the 25th day of the following August he was ordained in West-Springfield, where with few interruptions from ill-health, or any other cause, he continued to supply the pulpit for 62 years, after which, a partial bereavement of sight induced him to relinquish the office of preaching, though he generally attended public worship, and occasionally officiated in prayer till a short time before his death. This blindness, which was so great as to render him incapable of reading, was attributed to a paralytic affection, which impaired the vigour of his health, and in some measure the vivacity of his mind.
Beside many occasional sermons, Dr. Lathrop published at different periods in his life six volumes, containing in the whole 175 sermons. The first volume was published in 1793, the second in 1796, the third in 1801, the fourth in 1806, the fifth in 1807, and the sixth in 1812. All these volumes have passed a second edition. It is needless to add that they have been well received.
In the character of Dr. Lathrop were combined in a remarkable degree the various qualities, which command at once our love and veneration. The native powers of his mind were probably far above the common lot of humanity; and by regular discipline and persevering exertion they were brought to a state of improvement, that is rarely surpassed. His apprehension was quick, his discernment clear, his invention fruitful, his imagination lively, his memory tenacious, and his judgment of course remarkably correct. He was characterised by the habits of observation and reflection; habits, which seem to have been early formed, and were continued through life, and which are of unspeakable importance in forming a useful or a great Hence every thing was instructive to himself, and in his preaching and conversation was rendered so to others. He copied with peculiar felicity one of the most distinguishing traits in the preaching of Him, "who spake as never man spake," that of interesting his hearers in moral and religious subjects by allusions to surrounding scenes and passing events.
Dr. Lathrop, as appears from his journal, had serious impressions of the importance of religion about the age of fourteen; though from remaining scruples he delayed a public profession till about the close of his collegiate life. Of the sincerity of his religious profession no one acquainted with bis subsequent life could entertain any reasonable doubt. He drank deeply into the spirit of the gospel. In all his greatness he was meek, mild, and unassuming. It seemed to be no self-denial in him to refrain from every thing in air or conversation, that would remind others of his superiority to them. He united most happily the sincerity of the Christian with the courtesy of the gentleman, and the gravity of age with the vivacity of youth.
In the character of Dr. Lathrop, as a Man, as a Christian, and as a Minister, firmness and candour, zeal and moderation appeared in delightful harmony. He claimed the right of thinking and acting for himself, and that right he as readily conceded to his brethren. He was decidedly opposed to the intolerant and separating spirit of the times, and freely admitted all ministers of a regular standing and good character into his pulpit, though widely differing from him in religious speculations. His sentiments on this subject may be found in many of his sermons, but particuJarly in one, which he delivered in Boston, May, 1812, on the text, "we saw one casting out devils, &c." where among many excellent remarks, we find the following: "There are some, who lay too great weight on
certain peculiarities, which discriminate one sect from another, and denounce as hypocrites, fools and blind, all who cannot adopt the same. This illiberal spirit is often more injurious to true religion, than the errors which it reprobates. There are errors of opinion, which are inconsistent with religion; and we usually see their effects in a licentious and immoral life. Against these we should contend earnestly. But, errors which have no tendency to corrupt the heart, and vitiate the manners, and which do not appear to have this effect, ought to be treated with tenderness and candour.
"Our Saviour here instructs the ministers of his religion to maintain a conciliating candour toward one another, and toward all who profess to be his friends. His immediate disciples he was now training up to be public teachers. While he gradually opened to them the scheme of his religion, he inculcated upon them humility, gentleness and prudence, as necessary to success in the work, in which they were to be employed. The man in our story, not being so fully instructed in the doctrines of Christ, as they were, had not light to follow them in every step, but still he was a friend to Christ. If they wished him to follow them, they should have invited him into their company by a winning and attractive charity; not have kept him at a distance by a repulsive pride and intolerance. We may think a brother has imbibed certain errors, unfavourable to religion. What shall we do? Shall we separate him from our company, and deny him all brotherly and ministerial intercourse? No; this will disgust him. This will excite in him, a prejudice against us. This will place him at a greater distance from us. Every man loves society, especially the society of those who are in the same profession. If he cannot enjoy it in one place, he will seek it in another; and perhaps he will mingle with some who will confirm him in his errors. By our friendly intercourse and united labours, we may be fellow-helpers to the truth; but by reciprocal criminations and reproaches, we shall weaken the common cause, and give advantage to the common adversary."
In sermon 6th, vol. iii. we find the following passage: "If because we imagine ourselves more pure, more wise, or more sound in faith, than our brethren, we exclude them from our charity, bid them stand by themselves, and warn them not to come near us in acts of holy communion, our temper is utterly unlike that of the blessed above."
In religious speculations Dr. Lathrop has been supposed a Trinitarian, and what has generally been called a Moderate Calvinist. In the first sermon of his first volume, he argues that Christ was not a creature, from the fact of his having been employed in creating the world; and in several places in the 3d volume he may be thought to admit and even to vindicate some of the most exceptionable doctrines of the Calvinistic Creed, and among others those of Election and total depravity. But it is apparent from many other passages, that he did not even in speculation carry these points to the greatest extreme. Commenting on the parable of the tares, sermon 7th, vol. iv. he observes of the servants of the proprietor, “They ask, as was natural, ・whence came the tares?' They never once suspected, that their master sowed them, as some servants have since suspected." In another place, vol. iii. sermon 3d, he says, "Whatever doubts we may have concerning our own election, we may make it sure, by adding to our faith the virtues and works of the gospel.' Again, sermon 7th, it is said, "Let no one imagine, that the prayers, the reformations and endeavours of awakened sinners, are abomination to God; for he who hath wrought them to these things is God, who hath given them the convincing and awakening influences of his spirit." And again, sermon 10th, "It is often asked whether the unregenerate can do any thing of themselves, which has a tendency to their conversion? But the answer is, They who enjoy the gospel are not left to themselves. If you suppose a man under the power of vicious inclinations, and at the same time destitute of all means
of religious knowledge, and without any influence from the spirit of God, you then have the idea of a sinner properly left to himself. But this is not your case. You have the gospel in your hands, and it is daily proclaimed in your hearing. There is an agency of the divine Spirit attending it; and you have been, and, we hope, still are in some degree the subjects of this agency. With these advantages, there is something which you may do."
But whatever Dr. Lathrop might believe in regard to the doctrines, named above, he did not consider them as the grand essentials of the gospel. He did not adopt them, as the controlling principles of interpreting the scriptures. Far from this; in his exposition of the text-" Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved;" (Vol. ii. sermon 49,) he gives substantially the same view of the faith, required in regard to this point, which Mr. Locke in his Reasonableness of Christianity has given. In enumerating the most efficacious doctrines of the gospel, (sermon 27th, vol. ii.) he does not mention one of those, which are peculiarly Calvinistic. In all the volumes of his sermons, excepting the third, these doctrines are almost entirely omitted, and most of the sermons in the third, in which he professedly gives the whole Christian system, relate chiefly to the spirit and practice of religion. It is remarkable too, that his half century sermon, as also those of his sixtieth anniversary, which might be considered, as solemn valedictories to his people, were wholly of a practical nature.
Dr. Lathrop was decidedly opposed to that exclusion of reason from religions inquiries, which has been a source of numberless errors. "Reason and revelation," says he, sermon 31, vol. ii. “ choose to walk hand in hand; and nothing can be more unkind than to set them at variance.”
The principles of religion are not indeed to be settled by human authority. But the name of such a man, as Dr Lathrop, will have influence; and hence it becomes a matter of importance, that this part of his character should be rightly understood.
Dr. Lathrop's sermons are perhaps the richest treasure of the kind, this country has yet produced. It cannot be supposed, that 175 sermons from the same pen should all be of the highest order. Many of them however will bear an honourable comparison with the best English compositions, and will probably be transmitted to the latest posterity, in which the language is known. They abound in important and original thoughts; are almost always instructive, and often impressive. In point of method and style, with few exceptions, they are among the best models that can be proposed for imitation. Their style is distinguished for simplicity, perspicuity and neatness; and they well deserve a place in every considerable library, public or private.
Dr. Lathrop was remarkable for his habits of industry, as appears from the fact; that while he was respectable for the extent of reading, he left in manuscript about FIVE THOUSAND sermons. This industry is worthy of admiration, though to a person of less genius than be, the particular mode, in which it was exerted, could not be recommended.
To a late period in life he retained his native vigour of body and mind. For many years he waited with cheerful expectation the dissolution of nature, hoping for the mercy of God through Jesus Christ unto eternal life. "Blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord; for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
We have on hand a great number of communications of very various merit, to some of which we shall give place, but of none is it necessary to speak particularly.
END OF NO. I. VOL. III.
NEW SERIES-No. 14.
For March and April, 1821.
The laws and history of Moses. How to read and regard them both, to separate and to connect them. Michaelis' "Commentaries on the Laws of Moses," Jerusalem, Doederlein, Lilienthal. Hints of song collections in the Mosaic history. A fountain song, and an exulting triumphal song.
THE poetical parts of the first book of Moses, about which you question me, must not be forgotten: but first let me go on with the general view of his facts. With the beginning of the second book comes the history of Moses himself, of his people, and of his legislation. To read them aright you must preserve the same point of view as before; and in the first place distinguish between his laws and his history.
His LAWS stand out prominently enough; and seem to have been recorded fragment-wise in the order in which they were promulgated. After the general description, (Exod. xix. 3–6,) follow the words which God himself spake from the mount, (chap. xx.) and the laws which He prescribed, (chap. xxi–xxiii.) The rest is a sketch of the tabernacle, and of what pertains to it, (chap. xxv-xxxi.) At the second retiring of Moses to the mount, (xxxiv. 10-26,) there is an addition of several laws, which it was important for every Israelite to know; and now the plan of the temple is executed. The whole third book of Moses seems to be a text-book for the priests; according to which they regulated the worship of God; decided upon clean and unclean, leprosy, degrees of consanguinity; appointed the seasons of festivals; adNew Series-vol. III.
judged penalties, &c. These also are given fragment-wise and appended one to another, as the beginning and end of the several portions, often show. The consecration of Aaron and the fate of his sons naturally belong to this priestly code, partly as an example, and partly as a salutary warning. In the fourth book we have supplements of various kinds, and more particular appointments-no doubt as time and occasion called for them: these are intermingled, as in the second book, with historical passages, army rolls, &c. which show them to have been gradually put together in the latter years of the journey through the wilderness. The fifth book is, as its name imports, a moving repetition and last review of the laws, by the law-giver himself little before his death. He illustrates what needs explanation, supplies what is incomplete, and takes a noble leave of his people. Song and benediction (chap. xxxii. xxxiii.) are still the living memorials of his service and life; the mightiest of men, the greatest of lawgivers, dies on the borders of the untrodden, far-descried land.
It is not without reason that I have called your attention to this situation and shape of his laws. Suppose for a moment, that against certain circumstances of his history, of the leading forth of his people, of his marches and journeyings, unanswerable doubts might be suggested; still they would relate only to such circumstances; they would not affect the great essential of these books, the records of the Mosaic legislation. In behalf of these, their genuine singleness, their simple fragmentary form, is a witness of their having been gradually composed, thus joined together, and judicially, as it were, attested. No band dared to lay itself on these remains of the man of God, to bring them into any other order, or to dispose them in any other shape than those, which the original circumstances of their formation had given them. It appears to me that this primitive poverty and want of arrangement are the greatest possible attestations to the authenticity of every individual portion. Learn to regard Moses first in this point of view, as a lawgiver; and begin with reading his history merely as an illustration of that point: then will appear to you the expansion and sublimity of his spirit, his almost superhuman patience, fortitude and worth. Were nothing true of his miracles or his divine commission; were all this but the poetical embellishment of later times to the long past and really remarkable history of their fathers; still the study of his laws and sentiments, his designs and deeds, would point out to you a man, who surpasses Lycurgus and Solon; and who in some respects laid the corner-stone of the fabric of pure reason and philanthropic law, on which the most enlightened nations of the