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gle with all ranks and classes of people, and to discharge all his duties as a Christian minister and a citizen, with dignity, acceptance, and usefulness. The lively interest he appeared to take, in whatever affected the happiness or increased the pleasures of his friends, the gentleness of his reproofs and the gratification he seemed to feel in commending others, united to his social qualities, endeared him to all who knew him.
The popularity of a preacher commonly declines with his years. Dr. Stillman, however, was a singular exception to this general remark. He retained it for upwards of forty-two years; and his congregation, which, upon his first connexion with it, was the smallest in the town, at the age of seventy, the period of his death, he left amongst the most numerous.
As a minister of Christ, his praise was in all the churches; and wherever his name has been heard, an uncommon degree of sanctity has been connected with it. His principles were highly Calvinistic, and all his sermons bore strong marks of his warm attachment to that system. The natural strength and ardour of his feelings, indeed, imparted zeal to whatever opinion he espoused, and activity to whatever duty he performed. Yet with all his quickness of perception, and acuteness of feeling, his temper was under admirable control, and he was always the thorough master both of his words and actions. Thus embracing what have been denominated the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, he explained and enforced them with clearness, and with an apostolic zeal and intrepidity.
On the leading principles of the gospel, he always preached and conversed as a Christian minister, who took a deep and hearty interest in their diffusion and establishment. But he did not depend for success on his zeal and fidelity. He knew that what he was, and what he was enabled to do in the cause of God, were wholly by his gracious influence. Whilst he realized his own entire dependence, and that of others, he was animated in duty, believing that the Lord meeteth all who rejoice and work righteousness, those who remember him in his ways.
A subject on which he often spoke with grateful adoration was, the true and proper Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ. His views of sin as an infinite evil necessarily impressed upon his mind this truth. He considered the Saviour as an infinitely worthy object of divine worship, and in consequence of this dignity of character qualified to make atonement for sin. On this foundation rested his hope of salvation; and if this were not a reality, he despaired of entering into glory, and believed the salvation of every sinner an impossible event. But having no doubt on this cardinal point, he was enabled to preach the gospel with clearness.
On the subject of the trinity and unity of God, he literally believed the declaration of John, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one;" but as to an explanation of the manner or mode of subsistence of the divine nature, he would say he had nothing to do; for revelation did not explain it. He only declared it as a truth to be believed on the divine testimony.
The total moral depravity of man was a principle on which he much insisted on all proper occasions. He had no idea that there was any latent spark of holiness in the heart of a natural man, which, as some suppose, can be kindled by the exertions of the sinner, and kept alive by the same means. This opinion he reprobated with all his heart, viewing it as a denial of that grace which is revealed in the gospel, and as having a natural tendency to take the crown of glory from the head of IMMAnuel. In contradiction of this error, he would often remark on this text as a motto congenial to the feelings of a believer, "Upon himself (Jesus) shall his crown flourish." So far was he removed from such mistake, that he believed the real Christian, though renewed by the Holy Spirit, was constantly dependent on God's immediate agency for the origin and continuance of every gracious exercise. Although he believed the entire sinfulness of the natural heart, he did not erroneously connect with it a license to sin, nor suppose that men are released from moral duties
because they are indisposed to them. From the fact that man is endowed with reason, will and affections, he ed his moral obligation to believe what God has revealed, and obey what he has commanded.
As his views of man's depravity were clear and distinct, he of consequence saw the necessity of regeneration by the free and sovereign agency of the Holy Ghost. That operation of God by which this change is effected, he did not consider as a mere circumstantial alteration or new modification of the sinful affections, but that a new disposition was given to the soul, well described by Paul as a new creation. In this change he supposed the person was brought to have entirely new views of moral subjects.
Respecting the atonement of Christ, his sentiments were honorary to truth. He considered it as an illustration of the divine perfections not discoverable by any other medium; exhibiting to all intelligent beings the odious nature of sin, God's love to holiness, and his unspeakable mercy to the guilty. He viewed the merits of Christ in his obedience and death, as having an infinite value, and as possessing a sufficiency for the salvation of every individual of the human race, had it been the will of God to make its application to the conscience so extensive; but from divine revelation he learned that its design was particular, respecting, in its application to the heart, the elect only. He did not, however, connect with this the erroneous idea of some, that all men were not under obligation to repent of their sins and believe the gospel; but whilst he believed the condemnation of sinners was by the moral law, he supposed that this condemnation would be greatly aggravated by a rejection of the gospel, and that they would be treated as those who despised God's grace.
His ideas of the faith which accompanies salvation were, that it was a belief of the gospel; a hearty reception of that plan of grace which is revealed in Christ Jesus, accompanied with holy love and every gracious exercise. He rejected the error, that the essence of faith consists in a person's believing that Christ died for him
in particular; no such proposition being contained in the word of God, and no one being warranted to believe this till he has good evidence of his regeneration. From his ideas of faith he naturally inferred that good works would uniformly follow. These he zealously enforced as an evidence of faith, but not as designed to originate it. Practical godliness was a subject on which he often preached, and which he urged on believers from the noblest gospel motives.
The purpose of God in his eternal election of a certain number of the human race to salvation, was a principle dear to Dr. Stillman, as a truth clearly revealed. Believing the carnal mind, or natural heart, to be enmity against God, he very justly concluded, that if any sinners were saved, their salvation must be effected by an influence extraneous from themselves. To imagine with some, that God had left it with depraved men to meet him in any conditions which they were to perform, he would represent as dishonorary to the Divine Majesty, who will not give his glory to another. Neither could he believe that any of God's designs originated in time; but that all his purposes were, like himself, eternal. This was his ground of encouragement to preach, knowing that God had determined by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, and that he had promised to make a willing people in the day of his power.
From his clear apprehension of eternal personal election, he was firmly established in the final perseverance to eternal glory of all those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God; and that the grace given is an incorrupti
The opinion that religious establishments are contrary to the New Testament, was defended by him. His ideas on this subject are plainly expressed in his sermon before the General Court of Massachusetts, in 1779. The interference of rulers, as such, in matters of conscience, he ever considered as an infringement of natural right. In this sermon he shewed that his own ideas on this subject were similar to those of the immortal Locke. He was a
cordial friend to religious liberty; and all his conduct in life towards Christians from whom he differed, manifested that he was heartily willing that every conscientious citi zen should worship in the manner which agreed with the dictates of his conscience, after a candid examination of the word of God.
He preached much to the feelings, and to the heart; and numbers on whose minds naked reason and simple truth could produce no serious effects, his powerful eloquence was a happy means both of touching and reclaiming. Nor was he only a preacher of righteousness. Few men ever exemplified more than he did, the virtues he recommended to others. Whilst he exhibited to his flock the various trials and comforts of Christians, whilst he guided them in the way to eternal life, he led them also by his own example.
His sermons were always ftudied, and it was his judicious practice principally to write them. Yet from his manner of delivery, a manner peculiar to himself, he always appeared as easy as if speaking extempore. Indeed it was his constant method to add at the moment such thoughts as occurred to his mind whilst speaking. These thoughts were as naturally connected with the subject as though they had been a studied part of it; and as they were usually delivered with much pathos, they had the happiest effect upon the audience.
As a public speaker, as a pulpit orator, he was second perhaps to none. Nature had furnished him with a pleasant and most commanding voice, the very tones of which were admirably adapted to awaken the feelings of an audience, and he always managed it with great success. His manner, though grave and serious, was peculiarly graceful, popular, and engaging. His remarkable animation gave additional interest to every subject he handled. Those who heard him might with propriety have said of him what was said of another eminent preacher-" This man is in earnest; he believes what he says, and says what he believes. Verily this is a man of God. Ten such men, and Sodom would have stood."