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have been laid at a very early period, in the blessing of God on a course of faithful parental efforts. His mind was imbued with a knowledge of the great truths of the gospel, as soon as its faculties were sufficiently developed to admit of comprehending them; and at a very early period, it is not easy to say how early, these truths, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, seem to have become the commanding principles of his conduct. And here we cannot but remark in passing, that there seems at this day to be too little importance attached to a direct parental influence in securing the early sanctification of children. We are most cordial well-wishers to the cause of sabbath schools and bible classes, and to all other judicious means which the church has so successfully brought into operation, for the religious improvement of the young; but we greatly fear, that in many instances this has been made an apology for relaxing parental vigilance; and that thus the most important part of the education of children-that which has the most direct bearing upon their eternal destiny-passes out of the hands of those who are appointed by Providence to take the oversight of it, and is turned over almost exclusively to the teachers of sabbath schools. The legitimate design of sabbath schools, is not to supersede, but to assist parental effort; and every christian parent ought to regard himself as the responsible person in this great concern; and while he cheerfully and thankfully avails himself of all the aid he can command in training up his child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, he ought to expect the blessing chiefly in answer to his own prayers and his own faithful efforts. If there were at this day, under the advantages of sabbath school instruction, more watchful restraint, more believing and earnest prayer, more looking and inquiring after the blessing on the part of christian parents, we doubt not that there would be many more plants of righteousness to diffuse their fragrance through the garden of the Lord.
But to return. Though Dr. Mason's conversion is not, so far as we can learn, dated to any precise period, yet he is said to have been the subject of deep religious impressions at the age of ten years. He once incidentally remarked concerning himself, that, at that early period, he used sometimes to go into the garret, taking along with him Ralph Erskine's work entitled "Faith's Plea upon God's word," and as he read it, to weep in view of his sins and humbly supplicate God's mercy. At seventeen, his religious views and feelings were so matured and settled, that he made a public profession of religion, and was received to the communion of the church of which his father was pastor.
From the time of his leaving college, and probably at an ear
lier period, his views seem to have been directed towards the christian ministry. His course of preparation for the sacred office was begun and continued for a while under the direction of his venerable father; and it was during this period, that he became so familiar with the original languages of the bible, especially the Greek ;-a circumstance which he afterwards turned to great account, in his expository labors. But after having passed a year under his father's instruction, he crossed the ocean in 1791, with a view to complete his theological course in the university of Edinburgh. Here he was honored with the respect and friendship of many distinguished men, among whom were Dr. Hunter and Dr. Erskine, who rendered him marked attentions and continued his cordial friends through life. Here also, he became associated as a student, with several individuals with whom he formed an enduring intimacy, and who have since risen to the highest respectability and usefulness. It was during his connection with the university, that his intellectual character seems to have been more fully brought out, in all its wonderful brilliancy, and strength, and originality; and though he was constantly brought in contact with vigorous and noble minds, his own intellectual efforts lost none of their lustre by being compared with those of his most distinguished associates. There was a comprehensiveness of intellect, a lightning-like rapidity and energy of conception, a power of severe abstraction and rigid analysis, united with a glowing and commanding eloquence, which were witnessed with delight and astonishment, as well by his instructors as his fellow students; and which seemed to mark out before him, the brilliant path to which he was destined. While he was thus distinguished by his intellectual powers and efforts, every thing that he did, evinced a most cordial attachment to evangelical truth. He was extremely jealous of the least attempt to rob the Redeemer of his glory, or to substitute any thing else in place of the Lord Jesus Christ, as all in all; and hence it is said of him, that on being called upon by his professor to comment on an exercise of one of his fellow students, which had exhibited much talent, but had been marked by a striking destitution of evangelical sentiment, he rose, and after having given full credit for the exhibition of taste and imagination and power of argument, added that "there was one thing wanting in the discourse-it needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to entitle it to the name of a christian sermon."
One of the most important advantages which Dr. Mason seems to have derived from his connection with the university, was the admirable facility which he acquired at extemporaneous speaking. He possessed an original talent for this in no common de
gree; and here he had an opportunity to cultivate it, which at that time he could scarcely have enjoyed in an equal degree, any where else. Connected with the university, there was a theological society composed of students, which held its meetings every week, for the purpose of mutual improvement; and the exercises of this society, consisted to a considerable extent, in extemporaneous debate. In these exercises, Dr. Mason took a prominent part, and while he was always listened to with admiration of his superior powers, it was by this means no doubt, that those powers became developed and matured, and that he ultimately held a rank among the first extemporaneous preachers of the age.
Towards the close of the year 1792, Dr. Mason's course in the university was suddenly interrupted by his receiving the afflictive intelligence of the death of his father, and his being invited to take the pastoral charge of the church with which his father had been connected. Considering that this was the church, in the bosom of which he had been born and educated, and that he was now but little more than twenty two years of age, this might have seemed at first view, a hazardous experiment; but the knowledge which they had of his talents and piety, and their conviction that he was destined to eminent usefulness, led them unhesitatingly to direct their eyes towards him as their spiritual guide. The event proved, that their confidence was not misplaced. In compliance with their wishes, he returned immediately to this country, was licensed in November, 1792; and after preaching for them a few months, was installed in April, 1793, as their pastor. In this relation, he continued rising in respectability and usefulness for seventeen years. It is probable that during this period, he realized the richest fruits of his ministry.
One important service which Dr. Mason rendered to the church, especially to the denomination with which he was connected, a little before the close of the century, was the publication of his "Letters on frequent Communion." Up to that riod, it had been the practice of the Associate Reformed Church in this country, to celebrate the communion but once, or at most, twice a year; and to precede it by a day of fasting, and follow it by a day of thanksgiving. The Letters to which we have referred, were addressed to the churches of that denomination, and were designed to bring them to a more frequent celebration of the ordinance, and to lead them to view it more in its scriptural simplicity. This pamphlet was extensively circulated, and produced a powerful, and to a great extent, the desired effect; for it was followed on the part of most of the churches by a gradual, and
ultimately, an almost entire relinquishment of the ancient practice, and by the practical adoption of the views which the Letters were designed to recommend. While referring to this pamphlet, which is now republished in the author's works, we cannot forbear to say that it is characterized by uncommon strength of argument, and a most comprehensive view of the whole matter to which it relates; and we should hardly know where to direct our readers for a more edifying, quickening, elevating view of the general subject of the communion than its pages present, notwithstanding it was written for a specific purpose.
We may notice in this connection, though somewhat out of the order of time, another publication of Dr. Mason's at a later period in life, which was designed to take away the unnatural, and as we believe in common with him, unscriptural barriers, which certain denominations, of which his own was a signal example, had thrown around the table of the Lord. In this work he defends, with great learning and eloquence, the principle of catholic communion; and maintains that no church has any scriptural ground for repulsing away from the Lord's table, any who profess their faith in his doctrines, and give evidence of having been renewed by his Spirit. This was regarded by the denomination to which Dr. M. belonged, as a gross infringement on the established order of the church, and was met by many of them, as might have been expected, with that spirit of bold resistance, which is always sure to be the result of contravening any long established religious prejudice. But notwithstanding all this opposition, there was in the book so much of reason and scripture, of life, and spirit, and strength, that it awakened general attention, and ultimately, to a great extent, accomplished its design. Dr. M. had himself, during the early part of his ministry, doubtless from the influence of education, adopted the principle of exclusive communion; but his soul was never made to be trammeled by the little peculiarities of sect; and when his attention was directed to the subject, he became satisfied that the exclusive principle was inconsistent with the whole genius of christianity; and that he had a fair warrant from the Master, for administering the communion to any who gave evidence of being his followers. The result of this effort in favor of open communion, was not merely an extensive change of practice on this subject in the denomination with which he was connected, but a general impulse in favor of christian catholicism. among different denominations on both sides of the Atlantic. The work has been printed and circulated extensively in Great Britain, and has been regarded there as a most efficient auxiliary to the cause, which more than almost any other, awakened the interest and drew out the matchless powers of Robert Hall.
As Dr. Mason had known by experience, the advantages of thorough theological education, he was exceedingly desirous no only that the standard of qualification for the ministry in this coun try should be elevated, but that young men destined to the sacre office, should enjoy better opportunities for theological improve ment. This led him about the beginning of the present century to project the plan of a Theological Seminary, to be established by the authority, and subject to the direction, of the General Sy nod of the Associate Reformed Church. This plan he succeeded in carrying into effect in 1801; and the result was, the establishment of the first theological institution in the United States. Of this institution, he was himself the very life and soul; he was ap pointed its first professor, and continued to discharge the duties of that responsible office, in connection with his various other of ficial duties, through a succession of years, until, by the gradual decay of his constitution, he was admonished to retire.
To aid in the accomplishment of this favorite object-the establishment of a theological seminary,-Dr. Mason again visited Great Britain for the purpose of procuring a library. We do not know exactly how successful he was in the object of his mission, though we believe Providence smiled upon the enterprise; but we do know that he left behind him an impression of his greatness, which remains vivid on many minds to this day. Some of the most eminent clergymen and statesmen in England, rendered the highest possible tribute to his genius and eloquence; assigning him a rank among the very first preachers of the age. It was during this visit that he preached in Edinburgh, his famous sermon, entitled "Living faith ;" and in London, his sermon before the London Missionary Society, entitled "Messiah's Throne;" both of which were published, and are justly reckoned among the noblest efforts of his mighty mind. The London missionary sermons, have generally been preached by men of the first distinction, and have been published with few or no exceptions to the present time. We were looking them over not long since, as a matter of curiosity; and though we found among them many of distinguished excellence, we found none, in our own estimation at least, superior in power of reasoning, or force of eloquence, to the one of which we have just spoken. Indeed we doubt whether any Missionary Society has ever listened to a discourse, which has thrown more of heavenly majesty and attraction around the cause of missions, or which has made infidelity both feel and look more contemptible.
In the year 1806, his fertile and active mind projected the plan of the Christian's Magazine ;-a periodical which he conducted for several years, furnishing not a small part of the matter