« PreviousContinue »
at last reached the eminence on which he now stands. Fortunately for him, his Father directed his attention to the historical parts of the Bible, which much interested him, and inspired him with a desire to peruse the whole. In consequence of this desire, the perusal of other books, and the conversations of his Father, his mind was enlightened; for these were, to say the least, among the means employed for his cordial reception of divine truth. And though this extraordinary character often lamented that, with him, “ childhood and youth had too much vanity,” he never forgot how greatly he had been indebted to the restraining power of parental instruction and example. Hence, even in old age, he published the sense he still entertained of his obligations to these divinelyappointed guardians of his infancy. Among his homely “poetical fragments," we find him referring to his Father and Mother in the following lines :
“My Parents here thy skilful hand did plant,
Free from the snares of riches and of want.
Hall, Bishop of Norwich, the English Seneca, not only felt himself, throughout life, under singular obligation to his Mother, but, if eloquent at any time, it was when referring to her. “How often,” says he, “have I blessed the memory of those divine passages of experimental divinity which I have heard from her mouth! Never any lips have read to me suclı feeling lectures of piety; neither have I known any soul that more accurately practised them than her own. Shortly, for I can hardly take
off my pen from so exemplary a subject, her life and death were saint-like."
DR. DODDRIDGE.—A Bohemian female, the daughter of a worthy minister, who had been compelled to forsake his native country, in consequence of persecution, took refuge in Britain, and so she became the Mother of this excellent and useful man. Nor was this the only notable circumstance in regard to his origin: Dr. Doddridge having been the twentieth child, and the only surviving Son of his Mother. As the children, with the exception of one daughter, had all died in infancy, young Doddridge had been actually laid aside as dead soon after his birth; but some motion being observed, and having been nursed with great care, his earliest years were consecrated, by both his Parents, to the acquisition of religious knowledge ; nay, before he could read, his Mother taught him the history of the Old and New Testament by means of some Dutch tiles, in the chimney-corner of the room where they resided. On these histories she was in the habit of making her own judicious reflections to the little child; and thus impressions were made on his mind, which subsequent years never could obliterate. In his thirteenth year he was deprived, by death, of his father, and soon after of his affectionate Mother, of both of whom he always spoke in terms of the greatest respect and affection. Hence, in his own character as a Parent, we see their influence extended and improved. Not only was he an affectionate husband to an affectionate and pious wife, but to the education of his children he paid great attention ; and their moral and religious characters he endeavored to form and improve, by example as well as precept.
JONATHAN EDWARDS of America, the only brother of ten sisters, the Child of Parents eminently pious, was
greatly indebted to them in his earliest years; and what is singular, he could distinctly look back on his own progenitors, in a regular chain, to his great-great grandfather, a minister in London, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The family of his Mother (a singular woman, who, surviving him, died at the age of 90) was equally distinguished for their Christianity and attention to family religion. When Jonathan Edwards, therefore, is admired as a prodigy in the religious or metaphysical world, and well he may, he cannot be regarded as we do a lily among thorns, or, to use another Scripture metaphor, “as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood.” He appears before us as the offspring of an extended line of pious ancestors, and as especially indebted to his immediate Parents; as well as the spring-head of a posterity who yet survive to benefit and bless the world; for the Parent of the Mother of President Dwight must again be noticed.
DR. Dwight, another character, but recently deceased, is a name with which the reader is doubtless familiar. His Mother 66 possessed uncommon powers of mind, and for the extent and variety of her knowledge, has rarely been exceeded by any of her sex in this country (America). Though married at an early age, and a Mother at eighteen, she found time, without neglecting the ordinary cares of her family, to devote herself, with the most assiduous attention, to the instruction of this Son, and her numerous family of children, as they successively claimed her regard. Perhaps few instances can be found, in which this great duty has been performed with more scrupulous fidelity than in the case now under consideration. With a mind originally vigorous and discriminating, she had been accustomed, from infancy, to the conversation of men of literature, who resorted, in great numbers, to her
Father's house, and thus was forcibly taught the importance of that learning, the effects of which she had so often had opportunity to witness. It was a maxim with her, the soundness of which her own observation through life fully confirmed, that children generally lose several years, in consequence of being considered too young to be taught. She pursued a different course with her Son ; she began to instruct him almost as soon as he was able to speak; and such was his eagerness, as well as his capacity for improvement, that, before he was four years old, he was able to read the Bible with ease and correctness.' -“. With the benefit of his Father's example constantly before him, enforced and recommended by the precepts of his Mother, he was sedulously instructed in the doctrines of religion, as well as the whole circle of moral duties. She taught him from the very dawn of reason to fear God; to be conscientiously just and kind; affectionate, and charitable, and forgiving; to preserve, on all occasions, and under all circumstances, the most sacred regard to truth; to relieve the distresses and supply the wants of the poor and unfortunate. She aimed, at a very early period, to enlighten his conscience; to make him afraid of sin; and taught him to hope for pardon only through the righteousness of Christ. The impressions thus made were never effaced.”
“A great proportion of the instruction which he received, before he arrived at the age of six years, was at home with his Mother. Her school-room was her nursery. Here he had his regular hours for study as in a school; and twice every day she heard him repeat his lesson : here, in addition to his stated task, he watched the cradle of his younger brothers. When his lesson was recited, he was permitted to read such books as he chose. Being previously familiar with the historical parts of the Bible, his Mother turned his attention to Josephus and Prideaux,
and the more modern history of the Jews. After this he read Rollin and Hooke; the histories of Greece and England: the history of New England, and their wars with the Indians. All his knowledge, in short, both of grammar, and geography, and history, was thus acquired; and few persons have a more accurate acquaintance with either than he had. This domestic education rendered him fond of home, and of the company of his Parents, and saved him from the school-boy coarseness and effrontery.
His Father being particularly fond of the society of men of education and intelligence, they were to the Son most welcome, and their conversations with his Father excited in him the first desires after excellence and eminence of character.” His story need not be further pursued: suffice it to add, that, until his twelfth year, his education was conducted under the roof of Parents, to whom he was so much and so deservedly attached.
It is remarkable, that Dr. Dwight was no less favored than President Edwards with regard to his progenitors. The first ancestors of his Father's family in America came from Dedham in England, and settled in Massachusetts in 1637. From him Dwight was descended in the oldest male line; and he was able to refer to each individual in that line, including five generations, and reflect, that he was not only a member of the church of Christ, but had a fair reputation for piety
Richard Cecil of London, when but a young man, had pursued a bold and determined career, till sunk in sin, hardening himself in infidelity, and instilling the same principles into others, there seemed no prospect of any change. His excellent Mother, however, had performed her part, and still remembered that it was good, not only to pray always, but not to faint, or desist upon any account.