Page images

made me feel reverence, as he mentioned the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' My mother was a woman of conscientiousness and prayer,

and she made me fear God and reverence the Sabbath. I thought, when I said, 'Our Father,' etc., that I was speaking to the Invisible One. My heart was totally depraved, but I was restrained from open sin. I had a dread of God, his thunder, his signs in the heavens, and the judgment. Fear kept me from wicked company, and from the ways of evil. In March, 1799, I began to feel conviction of sin. I atteuded an evening meeting with Dr. Strong in IIartford, and felt that I must look to another world. Many old and young were awakened to a concern for the soul, and there sprung up a great revival. The first sermon I heard with application was from Dr. Perkins: “Remember now thy Creator," etc. I resolved on a life of Christian faith and prayer. I heard Rev. Samuel Blatchford preach Tuesday, June 18th, 1799, on “There is therefore now no condemnation,' etc. I thought the new birth passed upon me, and that the Spirit of God had changed my soul. I aban. doned all youthful pleasures, amusements and company, and took up a life of religious reading, Christian meetings, and dedication to God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I believe not a day has passed, from that time to this, without my praying to God in the name of Christ, and I have made it my care to live every

hour in the fear of God. I betrok myself to the Bible. My reading began with Baxter, Bunyan, and Edwards. July 21st, 1799, I was admitted to the church in West-Hartford. I felt that I was reconciled to God through the blood of his Son, and I was happy in giving myself to God in the everlasting covenant. According to the advice of Doddridge, I made a written form of giving myself to the Father, Son, and Spirit, for life and for eternal life. I gave my soul to God in the Gospel for eternal communion, and presented my body to him a living sacrifice. I asked him to give me a heart to live according to his will, to depend on God for prosperity, to make him my support in adversity, and in Jesus Christ to receive him as my trust and my portion forever. Without any difficulty I received the doctrines of grace, and I esteemed it a privilege and honor to consecrate myself to a Christian life.. I received the Bible as the inspiration of God; I adored the Trinity as the one living and true God; I rested on the blood of Jesus Christ as the only atonement for sin ; I received the eternal purpose of God as working all things after the counsel of his own will; I felt the power of the Holy Ghost in the regeneration of the soul; I felt that my services bad no merit, and acknowledged that my whole reliance was on the righteousness of Jesus Christ for justification.

"I can not remember when I could not read. I went to school from three years old to twenty-two years. I can not remember

when I had not a conscience of the Sabbath-day. In the latter part of 179.) there sprung up in my mind, rather unaccountably, a desire for a public education. I wanted to be prepared for the Christian ministry. In November I began to be a school teacher. An aged friend advised me to study for college. Dr. Perkins had several students, and he encouraged me. My mother consented. This was a joyful era to me. I loved Latin better than play or food. By a wonderful providence I found Latin and Greek books in the family of Mr. John Whitman, wbich I enjoyed free of expense. I prayed that God would carry me through and make me a faithful minister of Jesus Christ.

"In October, 1800, I went to live in Yale College. On this change of life and association, I was afraid of company and temptation, and therefore I set myself upon the strictest life of prayer, watchfulness, and self-observation. I became secluded, unsocial, and somewhat over-scrupulous. I was so resolved on escaping conformity to the follies of the world, that I endangered the proper cheerfulness of the Christian life, and vexed myself with the apparent levity which poured itself all around me. I resolved to walk with God every hour of every day, and on the Sabbath to shut myself out entirely, and not speak a word to any body if I could help it. I have always been disturbed at the follies of mankind, and have exposed my feelings to the opposite sins of severity and censoriousness : so difficult it is to walk uprightly! While I was in college I wrote largely, and almost every day, of my thoughts, duties, and trials; but I have committed those notes to the fire. I had a scrupulous and anxious mind, which was continually struggling for purity and freedom. I meant to be on the golden mean. I quote one sentence from Monday, September 7th, 1801: 'Be more earnest and solemn, at every period, in preparing for the Sacramental communion. The Christian life is a straight and narrow yet pleasant path. On the one hand, we must be careful that we do not settle down into a cold and lifeless state, and be ashamed of the cause which we profess to defend and make our own; and on the other we must avoid a false zeal and a proud temper of mind, in manifesting our attachment to the cause of religion : not be hypocritical nor enthusiastical; not light and airy nor sad and gloomy; steady, sober, cheerful, able to command ourselves from lusts and sinful appetites, from flights of joy and from fits of melancholy, overcoming every evil disposition and movement within us, and living to the glory of our Master.' I bad taken the impression of one's going to college as throwing himself into imminent perils and temptations, and therefore had resolved to seclude myself as much as possible from every exposure.

I intended to avoid every idle word and every trifling thing. I had felt the power of Baxter's chapter of a heavenly life, and I was striving to live without sin, in temper, word, and

[ocr errors]

deed. The more strict my observation, the more evident the workings of evil passions and temptations. I had no thought of working up a rigliteousness for my justification, but I meant to be in the presence of God all the day long. I sometimes misjudged of things, and brought upon myself sore trials; but I have to say that I was happy in the college course. I loved and revered Dr. Dwight. I enjoyed the great revival of religion, 1802, in which so many of the students became ministers. I found great advan. tages every way from my four years in college. My great and continual fear of company and temptation dampened the joys of Christian life, and made my whole course somewhat dejected. "How reasonable it is that I should live a serious, sober, steady life; and yet how light I am! Lord, teach me my duty, and enable me to do it. Make me feel my sins in a due manner, and make me hate sin with perfect hatred. Let me see it in such a light as thou seest it, and may it appear to me the worst thing in all the universe.' I was much impressed, in my college course, with the uncertainty of life, every year and every day, although my health was entirely good. How little I foresaw what God had laid out for me! I loved life; I wanted to enjoy prosperity, to be settled in the world, to have a competency, to live a life of usefulness and happiness."

He received the honorary title of D.D. from Williams College in 1854. On the 16th of January, 1855, he preached his Fiftieth Anniversary Sermon and resigned the active duties of his charge, still retaining the pastoral relation. Well do we remember the day and scene, an occasion seldom surpassed in interest and solemnity. That half-century sermon conveys to you more of the simple, real character of the man, than can be found of any other man in the same conipass, within the limits of my knowledge. Since that time Dr. Brace has been living at Pittsfield with his children, in the enjoyment of good health, often engaged in preaching in the region, cheerful and alive to all that is good. In his new residence he gained the respect and love of the people to a wonderful degree, and which he cordially reciprocated. He spent most of his time for the last six years in studying the Scriptures, meditation and prayer. His love for the Word of God exceeded that of any man I ever knew. He daily read it in different languages, in five of which he was nearly perfect. He has sometimes read the Bible through in seventy days, and that not superficially, but with the most earnest attention. He began the

study of Hebrew at forty-five, and for the last thirty-five years has had a familiarity with that language seldom equaled. During his last sickness, when the mind was clouded on other subjects, the Scriptures lay in his soul like a well of pure, deep waters, every few moments gushing up with unrivaled beauty. He would even then mention a verse in English, and then put it into Greek, and next into Hebrew, with entire accuracy. Mention the first Hebrew word in a verse, and he would instantly give you the whole verse. In prayer he brought in the Scriptures so appropriately and beautifully, that it seemed like weaving a cloth of gold, without the coldness of the brilliant metal; and I have often been astonished to hear him take such passages as the Hebrew names in the Chronicles of Judah, and use them in prayer most natạrally and instructively. You seemed to feel that the very thorn-bushes were loaded with fruit, and wondered that you had never seen the fruit before. He received the Word of God with all the confidence of a child, and bowed before it with a deep, holy reverence. Where others see rocks shooting up and the waters of doubt surging and boiling around them, he sailed in waters which were lifted up by piety above every such rock.

I look upon Dr. Brace as one of the best specimens (we have but few such left) of a Puritan minister, and the pastor of a Puritan people for fifty-six years. He began his ministry when a little more than twenty-three years old. He never knew, never desired but one thing—to be a good minister of Jesus Christ. To him his people committed the church, their schools ; and the church and the schools were what he made them. He knew every soul of his flock for five generations, and the greater portion from their infancy. He was their counselor in trouble, their friend and

pastor in sickness. He often wrote their wills. He was their model in the education of their families. He was ever with them, a pillar that never moved, however hard they might lean against it. This Puritan minister was a learned man, never superficial in any thing he undertook to study. His sermons were very unlike some which we hear of in these days, and which contain almost every thing except the plain message of mercy to sinners. He studied theology but a short time before he began to preach; but he studied it most faithfully, almost sixty years afterwards! His day was before theological seminaries. In these institutions we expected to raise up able and expert warriors—a sort of spiritual cadet system of training. Our design in them was to give to our churches abler pastors. I do not feel sure that this has been the result. It seems to me that the object which God had in their origin, was to prepare men to go out to the heathen world and make new translations of the Bible. This has been the result, and this is one of the greatest benefits of our Theological seminaries. The Bible has been translated into fourteen heathen languages by students trained at Andover; and one hundred and thirty-four foreign missionaries, and three hundred home missionaries, have gone out from this single seminary. Ilis sermons were plain, unadorned, simple, scriptural

, and doctrinal. He seldom used a figure or an illustration in his sermons, though in conversation he would often use figures of almost matchless strength and beauty.

The fountain of his thoughts gushed up, not in jets and sparkles and rainbows, but in pure waters of the river of life. It was to me an unaccountable fact, that when his pen was in his hand, his mind worked in a drier atmosphere than when speaking without writing. Hence in the multitudes of his little school-house meetings, he often poured out his richest thoughts and his most beautiful conceptions. His sermons were distinguished for being brief, condensed, practical, and unexceptional. But when you think of his devotional exercises, his prayers, so original, so scriptural, so comprehensive, you are thinking of one of his rare gifts. We seldom, if ever, heard his equal in prayer. We have heard others pray as earnestly, as ten- . derly, and as fluently; but we never saw the man who was his equal in lifting an audience up to the very throne of God, and holding them there till they felt the dews of heaven falling fast and cool upon them. His prayers seemed like the tread of the heavy battalion moving on to assured victory. No small part of his instruction which his people received, was through his devotional exercises. Occupying a small, beautiful field of labor, he found it in the rough when he came, and left it a garden when he with. drew from

it. The pastor of a small flock is their model. They think like him ; they pray like him. They grow up, reverencing his character from their very infancy. On the wide prairie there may be many enlarged prospects, and many brilliant flowers; but if you want a garden, you must fence off a small corner. This Puritan pastor had a long ministry. Over five generations has he poured his love and his prayers. The impress of one great, balanced, good mind upon these successive generations, is worth that of a dozen who come and go, and touch the springs of moral character slightly. It has always seemed to me that the work which Paul did during the three years which he spent at Ephesus, was among the most valuable of his life. And I am strongly impressed, and the more so the longer I live, that the short ministries, and the frequent changes of our day, is one of the greatest calamities that could befall our churches. The man who has made a deep impression upon five generations--an impression which will go down to future generations, and like the echoes among the mountains, be repeated over and over again, till lost to the ear-has done a great work. And a beautiful provision of the Great Head of the Church it is, that men are unlike in their gifts and talents. Had Solomon been a warrior like David, the nation might have become mere marauders. Had Peter had no boldness, we had not known the power of courage. Had not John possessed his own loveliness, we had not the silver light of his character. One man is a Boanerges, and his thunder echoes far and wide ; another is an humble, untiring pastor, who is content to lead his

« PreviousContinue »