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Every virtue and every act of duty in a good man, are a reproach to the wicked, powerfully tend to alarm their consciences, and persuade them to become christians.
It is a principle of our nature to become assimulated to the objects, which we contemplate. Familiar converse with objects, great and sublime, elevate the mind; familiarity with objects mean and low renders the mind base and vulgar. Hence memoirs of persons, who were great, and good, and wise, are read with advantage, their lives are in a sort renewed, their temper and actions impressed on the mind, and are powerful incitements to moral excellence. This species of writing is not the least useful part of the sacred scriptures. The book of God is enriched by numerous sketches of biography. What youth ever read the life of Joseph without feeling his mind fortified against temptation, and animated in christian duty? What real patriot ever read the life of Moses without being comforted and encouraged in the laborious services of public office? What gospel minister ever read the memoirs of St. Paul, his perils and multiplied labors, without being stimulated to go and do likewise?
The view of wicked men, pursuing their devious courses, is like the prospect of a dismal wilderness or a stormy ocean; all is confusion and wild destruction, danger, uproar and chaos. But a holy life is the "high way" of felicity, the path of glory. The land of promise opens, the river of life waters the pleasant fields, the gardens are forever decked with flowers and fruits, the inhabitants are blest.
The reverend Doctor WHEELOCK was born in Windham, Connecticut, April, 1711, and died at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New
hampshire, April 24th, 1779, aged 68 years. Few have accomplished more for the benefit of mankind, than this great and good man.
By the favor of heaven, on his individual exertions, he established a charitable institution, for the purpose of christianizing the Indians in North America, and bringing them to the knowledge of civilized life. By this means, those wandering children of depraved nature, have been illuminated with science and religion. Before his death he had the satisfaction to see Dartmouth College established by his persevering enterprize, on a permanent foundation, and a prospect of its increasing and extensive utility.
The plans and labors, he devised and prosecuted, the discouragements he surmounted, his unwearied perseverance, generous philanthropy, and pious zeal, will be exhibited in the course of these memoirs.
The ancestors of Doctor Wheelock were respectable. His great-grandfather, Mr. Ralph Wheelock, was born in Shropshire in England, in the year 1600. He was educated at Clare Hall, in Cambridge University, and became an eminent preacher of the gospel. With thousands of pious people, he suffered persecution for nonconformity to the established religion. He therefore, at the age of thirty seven years, determined on a removal to New England. The ship in which he embarked was once driven back by tempests, the voyage was long and distressing. While at sea his lady was delivered of a daughter. On his arrival, he settled in the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, thence he afterwards removed to Medfield, which was originally a part of Dedham. He became one of the principal proprietors of Medfield, where several of his nuinerous descendents now reside on land of their
ancestor. He declined taking the charge of any particular church, but preached occasionally in Medfieldand the adjacent new formed settlements. The residue of his life he passed in various useful labors, and principally in the instruction of youth. He was a wise counsellor in civil and ecclesiastical matters; such abilities and piety as he possessed, were much needed and employed in the infancy of the country. He lived to a good old age, universally beloved and respected, and deceased Nov. 1683, in the eighty fourth year of his age.
The Doctor's grandfather, Mr. Eleazar Wheelock of Medfield, afterwards removed to Mendon. In him were united the character of the christian and the soldier. He commanded a corps of cavalry, and was very successful in repelling the irruptions of the Indians upon the new settlements; and became extensively known and feared by those sons of violence and murder. He treated them with great kindness and humanity in peace, and frequently joining them in the chase, he reconnoitred the country, and discovered their retreats. During the war with the Indians his house in Mendon was converted into a garrison, to which the settlers in the vicinity resorted for safety. It was several times besieged and in imminent danger, but providentially preserved. (a)*
The Doctor's father, Mr. Ralph Wheelock, removed in early life to Windham, Connecticut, and married Miss Ruth Huntington, daughter of Mr. Christopher Huntington, of Norwich. He was an officer of the church in Windham, a respectable farmer, universally esteemed for his hospitality, his piety and the virtues that adorn the christian profession.
The Doctor being an only son, and discovering at an early age a lively genius, a taste for
* See appendix.
learning, with a very amiable and friendly disposition, was placed by his father under the best instructors, that could then be obtained. His grandfather, for whom he was named, left him a handsome legacy, for defraying the expenses of his public education. About the age of sixteen, while qualifying himself for admission to college, it pleased God to impress his mind with serious concern for his salvation. After earnest, prayerful enquiry, he was enlightened and comforted with that hope in the Saviour, which afterwards proved the animating spring of his exertions to qualify himself for usefulness, and his abundant labors to promote the best interest of mankind. He entered on his collegiate course, with a resolution to devote himself to the work of the gospel ministry. He was educated at Yale college, under the direction of the Honorable Rector Williams, who was a gentleman of eminent wisdom, learning and piety. His proficiency in study and his exemplary deportment, engaged the notice and esteem of the Rector and Instructors, and the love of the students. He, and his brother in law, the late Rev. Doctor Pomroy of Hebron, in Connecticut, were the first who received the interest of the legacy, generously given by the Rev. Dean Berkley, to be awarded annually to the best classic scholars of the senior class. He was graduated in 1733.
Soon after leaving college he commenced a preacher, and after giving a negative to a call from a town on Long Island, to settle in the ministry, he soon received a unanimous invitation from the second society in Lebanon, Connecticut, with which he complied.
Soon after his settlement it pleased God to favor New England generally, and many places in the middle and southern colonies, with wonder,
ful effusions of the holy spirit. This great work seemed first to commence in Northampton under the pastoral care of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards. Mr. Wheelock's congregation partook largely of that divine visitation, to the great joy of their pastor. From experience of grace in his own heart, and his knowledge of its effects on others, he became an excellent casuist and skilful guide of souls. The duties of the pulpit were, to him, delightful. That remarkable revival of religion through the land, about the year 1740, and succeeding years, animated him to the performance of great and astonishing labors in the gospel. He preached almost daily, either at home or in his travels, to numerous, attentive, solemn audiences. In those assemblies, while some opposed the surprising work, others were crying out with terror, under alarming views of divine wrath; while some earnestly supplicated mercy; others expressed by the serenity of their countenances the ardor of their love, their inward peace, and joy in the God of their salvation. He was wise and skilful in his addresses to each class of hearers, and gave to every one a word in due season. Distant towns called for his assistance, and in compliance with their requests he often left his people and itinerated through the country, preaching wherever invited. The word dispensed by him was mighty to awaken and convince the ignorant and secure, to conduct enquiring souls to Christ, to detect the erroneous, and to establish believers in their holy faith. Many pious and zealous ministers united with him in carrying on that great work, and God abundantly blessed their labors. was warmly attached to the celebrated Rev. Mr. Whitefield; and was fired with a kindred zeal for God and the salvation of men.