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OBITU AR Y.
HIS ELDEST SON.*
BIOGRAPHICAL anecdotes of persons deceased, who have exemplified the power of religion, though their lives have not been marked with any uncommon events, are acknowledged to have a beneficial tendency. The utility is increased, when the subjects of these anecdotes have manifested the influence of divine grace during the season of youth. When the service of God is then preferred to the gratifications of sense, and the love of Christ predominates amidst scenes of temptation, we cannot doubt that the heart is truly renewed after the image of him that created The following narratives may not, therefore, be thought unworthy of a place in your useful Miscellany.* It must be remembered, however, that they are the narratives of a father, whom it has pleased the all-wise God to deprive of four children in the bloom of youth. He wishes to divest himself of parental partiality, and to give a faithful account of those whose conduct he describes. He is aware, that true religion is not to be estimated by sudden transports, or rapturous expressions; yet, when it pleases God to afford comfort and holy joy, under trying circumstances, to those who have fled to Christ for refuge under a deep sense of their own sinfulness, and who have dedicated themselves to the service of God, we ought with thankfulness to adore the divine goodness.
* Richard Hey, of whom a short account is given in the Life of Mr. Hey.
My eldest son, of whom I now purpose to give you a short account, had not manifested any remarkable religious impressions in his childhood, though there was often evident in him a strong contest between a sense of duty and the natural corrupt temper of his heart. This he expressed to me at one time in striking terms, when I was reasoning with
This was first printed in the Christian Observer, October, 1802.
him on the impropriety of his frequent relapses into a fault of which he had often been warned. He replied to my remonstrances by saying, “ Indeed, papa, I would be good, but the devil will not let me.”
During the time which he passed at a public school, a circumstance occurred, which I shall briefly relate, as it may afford some instruction to parents, and others employed in the education of youth. A theft had been committed at the school, which was laid to his charge by one of his school-fellows. He declared that he was innocent of the crime; but some things relative to the affair casting a suspicion upon him, though no proof of his guilt could be adduced, his declarations were disregarded, and he was considered as guilty. As soon as I heard of this affair, I desired a serious friend of mine to make a strict inquiry into it, and report to me his opinion. He concurred with the master in thinking it proper to urge my son, by the most powerful arguments they could devise, to make a confession of his guilt. He still denied the charge. But at last, being urged with the assurance, that nothing but a confession would ward off my displeasure, the effect of which was represented to him in the strongest manner, he confessed the fault laid to his charge. In his last illness, among other things, in which he opened his mind with great freedom, he solemnly declared, that he was wholly ignorant of the theft which he had confessed, and that he was induced to make this criminal confession, by the terror which the apprehension of my displeasure excited in his mind, and which he was assured could not be avoided but by a confession. He added with great apparent humility, that it was right he should suffer by the false accusation of one, whose sinful example in another instance, he had followed.
If a digression on this subject will not be thought tedious, I would beg leave to remark, that I conceive it to be, in general, an imprudent step, eagerly to solicit a confession of guilt from young persons accused of any crime which they deny, and which cannot be proved. If they are guilty, they are often hereby led to inhance their guilt by strong asseverations of innocence. If they are innocent, their minds are hurt by a disregard to their declarations. It seems to them of less consequence to obey, when obedience cannot insure the good opinion of their friends, nor prevent them from being classed with the guilty. In such cases, it may be the most prudent method, to remind them of the all
seeing eye of God, and of the righteous unerring judgment which will soon take place; and at the same time to manifest a readiness to believe them free from that falsehood, which could only increase their condemnation.
But to return.--Soon after my son had completed his fifteenth year, he returned home, and remained at my house till he arrived at adult age. In this period the happy change took place, which was followed, after a few years, by a triumphant death. I observed, when he was about nineteen, a manifest alteration in his deportment.
A growing attention to the concerns of his salvation was then very apparent; and his whole conduct soon became decidedly religious. In his last illness, he attributed, in a considerable degree, the powerful impressions made upon his mind at this period, to the perusal of “ Adams's Evangelical Sermons,” of which a pious friend had made him a present.
When he was twenty-one, be made a solemn dedication of himself to God, in the manner, and agreeable to the form proposed by Dr. Doddridge in his “Rise and Progress of Religion," a book which he read with great attention, and which cannot be too strongly recommended. This transaction was,