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centration of his entire being on this one subject, day and night, it is not easy to say. If, in the original structure of his mind, in his very deep and thorough convictions of sin, in his favorite studies, his marked religious character, and his strong desire for the salvation of souls, amounting to a holy passion, we see God making him great for the work of his high mission in particular, the fact need not excite our wonder. For, under a wise Providence, no man is great at all points, and for all purposes.
While the subject of this Memoir was yet in his prime, his work of promoting revivals was suddenly brought in a measure to a close. The manner we find stated in pp. 165, 6. “For ten or eleven years, Mr. Nettleton had been laboring almost constantly in revivals of religion. During this time, he preached, generally, three sermons on the Sabbath, and several during the week, besides spending much time in visiting from house to house, and conversing with individuals on the concerns of their souls. How he could endure such accumulated labors, was a mystery to many.” “It appears, from a memorandum among his papers, that on Oct. 5th, 1822, he visited a sick person in South Wilbraham, before breakfast, and took the typhus fever. He was sick at Bolton, at the house of his friend Mr. Parmele. He was brought so low, that his life was despaired of, both by himself and by his friends. His mind was composed and peaceful. As he afterwards remarked, the scenes of the revivals, in which he had been engaged, and the countenances of the young converts, were constantly before him; and the hymns and tunes in which he had been greatly interested, were running in his mind, particularly these words:
*Soon shall I pass the gloomy vale,
“From this sickness he never entirely recovered. He was never af. ter able to engage in arduous labor.” Yet his Lord and Master did not, at once, take him to himself. While other bright suns, as Brainerd, Mills, Martyn and Cornelius, have often been removed from human view to a higher sphere, at their mid-day of earthly usefulness or before, our merciful Father spared Dr. Nettleton for many years, and allowed his friends still to enjoy the sight of him, as a luminary in a partial eclipse, or obscured somewhat behind a cloud of various density, down to the natural evening of human life. During this period of diminished activity, the Memoir presents him—as the compiler of the Village Hymns, a work of extensive circulation and usefulness, especially in revivals and in social meetings, as a defender of gospel truth and of pure revivals of religion,-as attended still by the powerful influences of the same divine spirit, while using his feeble strongth, in Bethlem and Enfield, Conn.; in Brooklyn and Jamaica, on Long Island; in Taunton and Monson, Mass.; in Albany, Durham and Lexington Heights, N.Y.; in Newark, N. J.; in Virginia and North Carolina.
In the following extracts from one or two of his letters, in 1826, to the pastor of the church in Taunton, we see his master-passion still strong— too strong for his enfeebled frame. The first is dated at Jamaica, L. I. “My head, heart and hands are so
full, and health so feeble, that I have
dispensed with every business, except what was absolutely indispensable. Since you left us, we have been much employed in listening to the relation of Christian experience by the young converts, preparatory to a public profession of religion. For a few weeks past, we have attended to little else. Had you been present, you would have been interested, if not delighted. On the 2d of July, we held our communion, and seventy two were added by profession and three by letter. The assembly was full and very solemn. Eighteen were baptized. Since that day, the revival has received a new impulse. Many were awakened, who have since come out joyful. It has often been observed, that it seemed like the judgment day. We have had but few meetings of inquiry, since you left us. At our last, including young converts, there were about one hundred and forty. The work was never more interesting than at this moment. A number of strangers from other towns have visited us, and have gone home rejoicing in hope, and others are in deep distress. If I continue longer in this place I think of appropriating one evening in the week to visiting a circle of strangers. You would be delighted with our assembly. We have long since been crowded out of our session house. Our meetings are now generally held in the church. Many professors, as well as young congerts say, “We never knew what there was in religion before.’” The next extract is dated at New York. “Not a day, or a might has passed, since I parted with you, when those interesting scenes in which we mutually shared, of sorrows and joys that are past, have not been fresh in my mind. Brother, these are scenes never to be forgotten. I was pleased with the solemn stillness, the readiness to act, the apparent interest, and the decision of the members of your church. Were I present I would affectionately say to them—be humble—be thankful for what God has already done—“keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’—pray much and fervently for the continued outpouring of the Spirit—do not feel satisfied with what has already been done. Brethren, pray for us—for your pastor, that the word of God may continue to have free course and be glorified. “I can not forget that interesting
circle which used to meet to consult on the great concerns of the soul. Often have I fancied myself seated in the midst of the same circle— some weeping—and some rejoicing in hope. Their countenances are all familiar to my mind. With what feelings of affection and solemnity, have I bowed together with you, my friends, around the throne of grace. While thus employed, often have I thought, shall we ever meet in heaven, around the throne of God and the Lamb & Shall we be companions forever, in that world of unclouded glory? The thoughts of such a meeting seem almost too much for such sinners as ourselves. But I know it is possible; and the vilest of sinners are invited. Some of the chief of sinners will repent, and be pardoned and saved; and why not such sinners as ourselves?
“I can not forget those anxious souls, who are still out of Christ. With joy have I heard the tidings of many, whom I left anxious for their souls. But I have the names of a number before me, of whom no such good tidings have been told. Where are they P. Have they gone back to the world? My dear friends, if you have not already given your hearts to Christ, once more, from this far distant region, would I lift up my voice, and warn you by the worth of your souls to flee from the wrath to come. I entreat you not to rest, till you find rest in Christ. I have not forgotten you. I shall still remember you at the throne of grace, till the joyful tidings of your repentance have reached my ears; or the sorrowful tidings that you have dropped the subject of religion, and gone back to the world.” pp. 178–81.
Our readers are referred to the Memoir for notices of his visit to England, Scotland and Ireland in 1831–2; of his interest in the Theological Institute at East Windsor— of his doctrinal views—of his last painful sickness, and his peaceful death.
In conclusion, we venture to express the gratitude of the Christian public for this memoir, for its prompt appearance, and for the gratification it promises to afford the friends of the deceased. We think it a very timely book in this season of wide, deep, sorrowful declension in Connecticut, in New England, and throughout our whole land. We are not without hope, that the Head of the church may employ it, as he formerly did the man whom it so well describes, as an honored means of greatly advancing his cause. We rejoice in the prospective happiness of many thousands yet alive, who date their conversion to Christ and their hope of heaven from the revivals in connection with Dr. Nettleton's labors. Whether they regard the Memoir as a sort of friendly farewell from their spiritual father, as if, unable to call at their dwellings on the eve of his departure from his work to his reward, he left them this remembrancer with his parting blessing; or whether they consider it an early visit from his new and happy home, we trust it will be alike timely to bring fresh to their remembrance the revival scenes in which they enjoyed his presence, and to waken in their hearts strong desires and prayers to God for the return of his Spirit, and of those days of heaven on earth. We felicitate the many aged ministers of Christ, who rejoiced, and wept, and preached, and prayed, in the revivals of those memorable ten years, in which this servant of Christ labored more abundantly than they all. the attention of our younger brethren to a rare example of humble activity, practical wisdom, and signal success in preaching the blessed gospel.
We understand that the urgent call for the work has recently exhausted the present edition, and that a second is soon to be issued from stereotype plates. If its wide cir
culation be suitably accompanied by the prayers of the church, God may yet render it a far richer blessing to the world, than even the man whom it presents before us—who, “being dead, yet speaketh” most solemnly and persuasively to the children of men on the great salvation.
We have been favored by a respected correspondent, with the foregoing summary of the contents of this memoir—an outline of the life and labors of Dr. Nettleton, and a general estimate of his talents, character and usefulness. We may perhaps publish in some future number, what may be considered a more thorough, philosophical, and minute analysis of the man—exhibiting the true extent of his claims as a scholar and thinker, and the sources of his power as a teacher of the gospel. At present, we only add our own judgment respecting the manner in which Dr. Tyler has discharged the office of biographer.
Dr. T. had evidently a responsible task to fulfill—yet not a task attended with any great difficulty to him, except in one point of view. He had from the commencement of Dr. Nettleton's career to the close of his life, an acquaintance with him; and during a great part of the time, they were in habits of daily and confidential intercourse. No one ever had a better opportunity of knowing another's character, opinions, and manner of life, than he enjoyed in respect to Dr. Nettleton. The friendship which subsisted between the parties from the first, and which was cemented by the identity of their views in a subsequent theological controversy, and their mutual devotedness to the theological institution under the biographer's care, were guarantees to Dr. Nettleton and his friends, that no injustice would be done to him in the Memoir, and that if any false impression should be conveyed to the public, it would be by a careful suppression of his foibles, by kind and tolerant allusions, if any allusions were made, to measures which others might pronounce injudicious, and by exalting unduly his talents and his usefulness. And we think that most readers will decide with us, that if our biographer were under any bias, it was the amiable bias of friendship. Besides the familiar knowledge which Dr. Tyler had of the subject of his memoir, he was supplied with an abundance of materials in the papers and correspondence of Dr. N. for the compilation of an interesting work. With these means of accomplishing his task, we expected from Dr. Tyler's practiced pen, a rich, instructive, useful book—and we are not disappointed. Although Dr. Tyler's task was easy to him, yet, as we observed above, he had one serious difficulty to encounter. Both he and Dr. Nettleton had been from the first, strenuously opposed to certain theological, or rather philosophical theories, embraced by many ministers in New England, of which Dr. Taylor of New Haven was a prominent expounder and advocate. In that controversy Dr. Nettleton took an earnest, though not a very public part. This afforded his biographer an opportunity, and presented a strong temptation to make the Memoir a vehicle of influence against the other party in the controversy —thus rendering it offensive to Dr. Taylor and his friends, and to all who think that the controversy referred to had better sleep—and by the same means unfitting the work for exerting that influence in favor of pure revivals of religion, which obviously was the only natural and important end to be accomplished by a biography of Nettleton. Dr. Tyler has avoided this danger with commendable dexterity. He has made a work free, with one exception at most, from the error to which he was so liable. He has made a
book which Calvinistic theologians of every grade will approve, and which is adapted to accomplish but one end—the end which the biographer undoubtedly had in view—the promotion of such revivals of religion as appeared under the preaching of Nettleton. We spoke above of one exception—we hardly know whether to call it an exception or not—we refer to a letter from Dr. Nettleton to Dr. Taylor, written about six months before the writer's decease. A short period before this letter was written, Dr. Taylor made a visit to Dr. Nettleton at East Windsor, when they had a very affectionate and melting interview. It afterwards probably occurred to Dr. Nettleton, that this brotherly parting would leave the impression on the minds of Dr. Taylor and others, that his hostility to Dr. Taylor's speculations was very much softened, if not entirely subdued. For this or some other reasons, he wrote the letter alluded to, directing it to be forwarded to Dr. T. as soon as he himself should be in a dying state. This letter Dr. Tyler has inserted in the Memoir; and as a part of the life of Nettleton, it may deserve such a place. The biographer appears not to have intended by its publication, to prop up and strengthen by the authority of Dr. Nettleton's name, his own views of Dr. Taylor's theological opinions, for he virtually acknowledges in a passage in which he speaks of his motives for publishing the letter, that he did not employ it as an argument against the correctness of Dr. Taylor's views. Indeed, as a man of sense he could not thus employ it. Dr. Nettleton's opinion, when his mind was weakened by disease, could not have more weight and authority on metaphysical points of great difficulty, than the same opinion when entertained in his better days. This fact taken in connection with another very extensively known, namely, that Dr. Nettleton was never known to state Dr. Taylor's views correctly, or so that Dr. Taylor or his friends would acknowledge them to be his, strips his dissent, however solemnly uttered, of all force. For the doctrines constantly imputed by Dr. N. to Dr. Taylor, were rejected by the latter gentleman, with as much abhorrence as Dr. N. himself could feel. Having such a misapprehension of Dr. Taylor's real sentiments, his opinions and declarations respected, not Dr. Taylor's real views, but the conceptions of his own imagination. We therefore think that Dr. Taylor and his friends need not apprehend from the publication of this letter, any danger to what they consider the cause of truth. On candid minds it will exert no influence ; and if we may judge from the strict impartiality, candor, and spirit of conciliation which Dr. Tyler manifests in every other part of the Memoir, we must conclude that the motives which he professes led him to the publication of the letter, were his real motives. These motives are thus stated on p. 301 : “This letter is inserted here, not to prove that Dr. N. was right in his theological views, and his breth
ren wrong; but to correct two false impressions which have been made, to some extent, on the public mind. One is, that Dr. Nettleton felt a bitter hostility towards those brethren from whom he differed. The other is, that in the near approach of death, his views underwent an important change in respect to the tendency of those speculations which had caused him so much solicitude. Neither of these impressions is correct, as this letter fully evinces.” However the publication of this letter from these motives may strike others more immediately interested than ourselves, our present impression is, that none need apprehend any injurious influence from the book, or doubt that it will accomplish one single object—that intended by the author—the promotion of active and productive piety in the churches ; and that therefore Christians of every shade of opinion, may heartily unite in giving it a wide circulation. We conclude by acknowledging our obligations to the publishers of the Memoir, for the gratuitous use of their engraving of Dr. Nettleton, by which we are enabled to place his portrait at the head of this article.
* Mr. Webster's Plea in favor of the Christian Ministry and of the religious instruction of the young, before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Stephen Girard's Will, Feb. 10, 1844.
Vol. III. 12
It is hard to say which his forte is, because he has so many strong points—whether he shines most, in the senate, in the cabinet, at the bar, or in the popular assembly. To us, we confess, Daniel Webster seems to be about equally great at Plymouth, at the foot of Bunker Hill monument, in the cradle of Liberty at Boston, in the senate chamber, the department of state, and the Supreme court-room at Washington, and amid the deafening cheers of thronging multitudes, wherever