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CHARACTER OF THE HON. RICHARD CRANCH.
THE following sketch of the character of Judge Cranch, is abridged from a sermon, delivered at his funeral, by the Rev. Peter Whitney, of Quincy.
The Hon. Richard Cranch was born at Kingsbridge, in England, in October, 1726. He was descended from reputable parents, who were of that class of Christians, called Puritans. The religious sentiments of his parents were of a more rigid cast than to meet his cordial reception : but their piety and sincere attachment to what they conceived to be truth, were always the subject of his admiration. At the age of nineteen he embarked for America. Upon his arrival, he resided several years in Boston. In 1750, he removed from Boston to the North Parish in Braintree, now Quincy. Circumstances soon led him to remove to Weymouth, where he formed a conjugal relation, which was, through a long life, a source of much happiness. In a few years he returned again to Quincy, where he spent the greater part of the residue of his days. Here he died, October 16th, 1811. His amiable wife died the next day, and they were both buried at the same time. They had lived together nearly half a century.
The mind of Mr. Cranch was naturally vigorous and compre prehensive, thoughtful and inquisitive. His friendship was sought by the wise and virtuous, and in their society he laid a foundation for an honourable and
useful career. Though he was not favoured with an early classical education; yet, by unwearied application, he soon acquired a competent knowledge of those languages which are taught in the University.
Christian theology arrested his first regard. The study of the scriptures was his most delightful employment. With the truth of the Christian religion, founded upon the prophecies of scripture, he was forcibly impressed; and this led him to a course of reading, which might throw light on this interesting portion of the Bible.
His talents and his virtues soon recommended him to the confidence of the people. He was repeatedly chosen to represent the united parishes of Braintree in the General Assembly of this state. He frequently received the suffrages of the people as a senator; and was appointed a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, in the county of Suffolk. Impressed with a conviction of his merits, the University at Cambridge conferred upon him an honorary degree.
Among all his excellencies, his piety perhaps was the most prominent. A profound veneration for the Supreme Jehovah pervaded his life. He felt in his actions, that he was in the presence of God, and accountable at his tribunal. In his family devotions, he was uncommonly fervent; and in his life, were as few aberrations from the strictest
integrity, as have, perhaps, ever marked the character of man. On the publick offices of religion he was, until prevented by infirmity, a constant and serious attendant; and, as a professor of Christianity, he adorned the doctrines of the Saviour. With him vice could find no shelter; but was frowned from his presence. Though pleasant and cheerful as a companion, his cheerfulness never degenerated into levity, nor in the moments of greatest relaxation did he forget his character as a Christian. His conversation was entertaining, and replete with the richest fund of intelligence. The wise delighted to associate with him, and could always find some addition to their own treasures from the full stores of his mind. With the clergy he was in high estimation. Having devoted a considerable portion of his life to the study of theology, he might, with propriety, be denominated a sound divine. Few, even of the clerical profession, have surpassed him in their knowledge of Christian theology.
Of his enlarged mind, catholicism was a natural consequence. He beheld in every different shade of the Christian faith, men of sincerity and real virtue. Apprized of his own imperfections, he never erected himself into a standard for others; but was willing to believe, that however widely Christians differ in their conceptions of the less important articles of their faith, there might be in them all that honesty and fidelity in their in
quiries, which would recommend them to God; and he delighted to look forward to that period, when the upright of every country and every religion, would meet together in heaven.
In his last interview with the minister who delivered the discourse, from which this sketch is extracted, the good man observed, "For more than sixty years, I have felt the value of early religion, and of an early profession of Christianity. At a period when no worldly considerations could be supposed to influence my conduct, I made a publick profession of religion. I have never found reason to lament this part of my conduct. It has always given me pleasure on reflection, and brightens my prospects into futurity."
In the domestick relations he displayed every desirable virtue: While his loss is therefore most sensibly felt in his own family, it is a consoling reflection, that the virtues which endeared him to their affections on earth, are the surest ground of hope, that he is now united to pure and happy spirits in heaven.
All his faculties, except that of hearing, he retained in great perfection, till the Saturday preceding his decease. He was then seized with a lethargy. But while his relations had reason to lament, that they were deprived of his useful instructions on the bed of death, they were comforted by the consideration that his illness was short, and that, without much distress, he “fell asleep in Jesus."
Such are the principal things recorded of this eminent man, in the sermon delivered at his funeTo the preacher we are
indebted, not only for the facts and sentiments, but also, in general, for the language in which they are expressed.
ON THE USE OF REASON IN RELIGION..
THERE cannot be a stronger evidence of the goodness of any cause, or, at least, of the upright intentions of those who defend it, than that they submit the argument they urge in its favour, to the free and unrestrained inquiry and examination of mankind. This open and ingenuous disposition was never more visible, than in the whole behaviour of Christ and his Apostles. They held no secret doctrines, which they imparted with mysterious caution to their immediate disciples, and other doctrines which they promulgated to the people. They had no sinister views or double meaning. They placed all the truths they delivered either on their internal excellence, or a divine testimony which accompanied them, and they invited all their hearers to consider, soberly and impartially, what was offered to them, and to act according to conviction. Our Lord not only took all proper occasions of bearing "witness to the truth," and of publishing the gospel to the world, but he appealed to the understandings and consciences of his hearers, that what he said was worthy of credit and approbation, "and "and why, even of yourselves, judge
ye not what is right." Here is no claim to implicit faith,-no demand, that because he affirmed of himself, he was a divine messenger, they were to receive the message without examination. He spake the words of God; nevertheless he desired not to lead his followers blindfold into any new principles, but merely that they would divest themselves of all corrupt principles, and give him a fair hearing.
The apostles wrote after this copy. They laid before the world the great truths of the gospel, but were desirous, that all they delivered should be freely and impartially weighed by others before they received it. The apostle Paul, in his speech before Agrippa, tells him, he knew that he believed the scriptures, and therefore he appealed to them. Just as our Saviour had told the Jews, that "had they believed Moses, they would have believed him, for he," says he, "wrote of me." This apostle received the knowledge of the gospel by an extraordinary revelation. He delivered only what he first received, and he had the power of working miracles to prove his divine commission, but he submitted the vali
dity of his credentials, and the nature and force of all that evidence which accompanied his preaching and writing, to the reason of those he addresses, and appeals to their enlightened understandings for the confirmation of his doctrine. "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say." Some persons have almost deified human reason, and have exalted its natural strength to a degree, which history and experience will not justify; whilst others, with a view to do honour to revelation, have derided and vilified reason, as if it were of heathenish extraction, not considering that it is of divine original,the inspiration of the Almighty, which hath given us understanding." Such wide and unwarrantable extremes, like most other extremes, have been productive of very fatal consequences. Where reason has been unduly magnified, revelation has been proportionably despised. Men have indulged to a degree of pride and vanity in their encomiums on our natural powers, inconsistent with the present state of human nature, and with their obligation to God for the light of divine revelation. This supposed omnipotence of reason has been the cause of men's spurning at divine revelation, as the offspring of credulity and superstition, without sufficiently considering the evidence on which it is founded, and the uses, to which it may be applied.
On the other hand, some of the warmer and weaker votaries of the gospel have treated reason as a rebel and conspirator against
divine revelation, and, in the heat of their zeal, have opened a wide door to enthusiasm and superstition, and disarmed themselves of the only weapon, by which ignorance and errour can be combated with success.
To avoid these two extremes of making reason our idol, sufficient for every thing on the one hand, and on the other, totally decrying it as sufficient for nothing, it may not be an unprofitable inquiry in what instances it is necessary to make use of our reason in religious matters.
Without a revelation from God, it cannot be denied, that the reason of mankind is their only guide, how imperfect and erroneous soever. And before the publication of the gospel, it had been vigorously exercised in the construction of a variety of systems of natural religion. What unassisted reason could do, it has done; but it was found an insufficient guide to those truths, which are of chief importance for man to know. It becomes us, therefore, highly to prize that divine revelation, which aids the efforts of reason, and supplies its defects. It becomes us to acknowledge, and with exalted gratitude let that acknowledgment be made, that we, who enjoy the benefits of a revelation from God, are far better able to determine the real value of reason, respecting these important subjects, than they were, who enjoyed no higher instructor. Blessed be God, we have a better light. He hath revealed his will to us, and we cannot act as rational beings, unless we make
use of our reason, in inquiring into the evidences of revelation, and in understanding what it contains.
They who imagine, that reveJation is granted to supersede the use and exercise of reason, run into a like absurdity with that man, who would argue, that light entirely sets aside the use of the organs of sight, whereas, without the latter, the former would be of no advantage. Christianity is founded on argument. Revelation stands on the foundation of reasonable evidence, and it is absolutely necessary to use our reason to discover the truth of revelation and understand its meaning.
Here reason is suitably employed in reviewing and examining the evidences which belong to this great question, whether they be of an historical or moral kind, and to receive impartially and faithfully the volume, which comes so attested.
On this head we shall only observe, that if the writers of the sacred volume, who brought with them the most striking testimonials of a divine mission, asserted that they were commissioned from God; if wonderful works were performed under the sanction of God himself, for proving what they related to be true; if events, which they foretold, have actually taken place, if their doctrine, unsupported and often opposed by human authority, has spread round the globe by its own native energy, and, especially, if it has been the instrument of forming the minds of those who sincerely Vol. IV. No. 12.
embraced it, to a resemblance of the moral purity of God himself, then surely reason may infer that Christianity is of God, and that whatever is contained in a book, stamped with such authority, must be divine.
But perhaps it will be admitted, that reason is rightly exercised, in judging of the evidence of revelation, but when the truth of revelation is once established, the office of reason ceases, and it is wholly resigned and in subjection to faith.
I acknowledge we must receive implicitly whatever doctrines we perceive to come from God. But then we must first understand the true sense and meaning of those words and phrases, which are supposed to contain the doctrine, to interpret which, is the office of reason. It is doubtless the proper employment of this faculty of the human mind to "compare spir itual things with spiritual," to judge of the meaning of particu lar parts of the word of God, by comparing them with other parts. Thus prophecies are illustrated by their accomplishment; precepts receive light by the reasons in which they are founded; and doctrines are no doubt to be understood and explained in their connexion with each other.
The books of the Old and New Testament, abound with allusions to certain customs and popular opinions of those ages in which they were written, which allusions cannot be perfectly understood without a competent knowledge of those customs and opinions. Difficulties, more or