wonderful display of divine grace. Nor was he unmoved. He was in a sense willing to receive good. He was a discriminating and affected hearer of the word. After listening to a vigorous and faithful sermon by Rev. Daniel Waldo, then of West Suffield, Conn., afterwards at a very advanced age chaplain in Congress, he says: “I returned from the sanctuary much moved, and felt myself constrained to seek a private apartment in my father's house, and there recollect, and meditate, and weep aloud with many tears." But he found no peace in pardon ; his “ foolish heart was darkened." No ray of holy lore entered it. He met with

many difficulties. The " troubled sea" was a fit emblem of his mind. As his entire sinfulness, the greatness and glory of God, the immutable Sovereign, whose perfect character alone gives him a right to occupy the throne and dispense his blessings as he will; and his own absolute dependence as a free, moral being in connection with his personal obligation to bow at once to the yoke of Christ and to trust his pardoning blood, were urged upon him, his heart revealed its hidden hostility. He could see no justice in God's creating a race of accountable beings, and then fixing them with moral certainty in sin to be rescued only when, and in the manner, his own mere good pleasure should decide. He contended with the Almighty. The doctrine of immutable decrees and electing love were specially revolting to him. His pastor and others reasoned with him ; but there he stood, anxious to become a Christian, yet quarrelling with the only scheme of free grace by which he could be saved.

Among other co-workers Mr. Gould invited Rev. James Davis, a man of kindred theological sentiments with his own, who had devoted himself for some years to revivalistic labors, to assist him for a few days. He was a man of marked simplicity and “godly sincerity.” He enunciated the searching truths of the gospel with great distinctness. They were living things in his hands. The Spirit of God seemed to attend bis labors wherever he went.

Such sea


sons of mercy were to him the element of life and joy. His preaching in Southampton strongly moved Mr. Woodbridge. He also addressed him personally with much kindness and fidelity. IIe urged his immediate attention to the concerns of his soul by the prospect of future usefulness, and especially by the fact of his entire dependence on God. Once with much solemnity he said to him, “You are in the hands of God, and you can never get out of his hands," remark which, fastened like a nail by a master in Israel, was never forgotten. In his pulpit addresses Mr. Davis“ dwelt much on terrific subjects, and exhibited the doctrine of future and eternal punishment, as if he had himself witnessed the tortures, and heard the shrieks of the damned. In this respect he resembled the Puritans, the elder Edwards, and the Buells and Tennents of other days. It was not by appeals to the imagination that this extraordinary man sought to rouse a sleeping world. The endless misery of the lost was represented by him as the just recompense, and necessary consequence, of impenitent transgression." These fearful exhibitions of truth deeply affected Mr. Woodbridge ; for they were made with so much scriptural argumentation that the sinner was constrained to feel that he justly deserved all that God had threatened.

In this state of serious reflection and anxious inquiry he remained for months. He might have felt some secret yieldings of will, some sweetness of acquiescence, but be expressed no hope of acceptance.

It was at length decided that he should begin the study of theology. Ile made application to Rev. Asahel lIooker, of Goshen, Conn., who was in the babit of conducting the education of young men preparatory to the ministry, to join his "school of the prophets." His application was successful; and at the time arranged, after having spent months amid the scenes of God's mighty power to save, and received impressions which attended him to the close of his ministry on earth, and which will doubtless give joy to his



beatificd spirit forever, he set out in company with his father for Goshen. His mother, wearied with toil and care, with a bursting heart and yearning for sympathy in her supplications, sought her praying friend, Mrs. Edwards, to unite with her in committing this son of the covenant to a covenant God. Those wrestling mothers ! A scene for the painter. Did not angels hover delighted over them ?

Mr. Hooker was a man of marked mildness and decision. A happy combination of suavity and dignity in manner won at once respect and love. As a thinker he was clear and logical. In theology he was strictly Calvinistic. Man's entire depravity; the absolute sovereignty of God; regeneration by the Holy Ghost; the supreme divinity of Christ; salvation alone through his blood ; the immutability of the divine law, and the free accountability of man, were the controlling truths of his system. He regarded unconditional submission to the Sovereign of the universe, and unselfish love to his holy character as essential elements in the regenerate life. IIe laid great stress on soundness in doctrine. No man had less sympathy with religious error, or a more fixed dislike to that indifference to revealed truth falsely called charity. He was ever ready to defend the most humbling and hated peculiarities of the gospel against all assailants. He was a kind and sympathetic pastor; a plain, instructive, and pungent preacher. Preaching what he had himself experienced, he of course preached from the heart. His family was a model of order and decorum, of refined and affectionate intercourse. In all his associations he was urbane and courteous. Ilis conversation at table and elsewhere was graced with such a delightful infusion of Christian thonght and persuasive piety, that his company was both instructive and agreeable. It was indeed a favoring providence which led Mr. Woodbridge, in his then state of mind, into the Christian family, and placed him under the theological instruction and faithful ministry of Mr. IIooker.

Among his fellow-students at Mr. IIooker's " were Rev.

IIeman Humphrey, D.D.; Rev. B. Tyler, D.D., late of East Windsor ; Rev. Joshua Huntington, of Boston, who died before he had reached the meridian of his days; Rev. Caleb Pitkin, of Ohio ; Rev. Thomas Punderson; Rev. A. McLean ; and Rev. Frederic Marsh."

The being and perfections of God were the first themes of investigation and composition in his theological studies. Not long after commencing these trains of profound thought he wrote the following letter to his father. It is dated May, 1806 :

my soul.

“I hasten to inform you of my feelings. Will you be surprised when I tell you that I indulge, not without many fears, the idea that I have become a subject of Almighty grace? O God of mercy, assist me to relate the undissembled sentiments of my heart without self-flattery and without exaggeration ! I am not sensible of any particular time in which the light of divine glory was first ushered into

If I am a child of Jesus, I was first adopted into his family without my own knowledge or desire. This may surprise you. Yet I solemnly believe that the redemption of a single soul displays the glorious sovereigntøy of divine grace. It is true, if we possess an inclination, we can repent and embrace the offers of mercy. But didst not thou, O blessed Immanuel, groan and expire on Calvary in order to make thy people willing in the day of thy power ?? If neither the pollution of my own heart or the wiles of Satan have deceived me, I experience delight in the perfections of Deity, in the divine omniscience and sovereignty. Do I not love a God of holiness and purity? Do I not detest my sins those sins which overwhelmed the Redeemer's soul in an ocean of his Father's wrath ? Sometimes I think I can repeat with rapture, The Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice.' At this moment I feel that my tongue is eager to proclaim the praises of Jehovah."

This letter is of golden value. It furnishes the key to unlock the innermost workings of Christian experience; to lay bare the first germ of the Christian life. It shows that

[blocks in formation]

conversion, in its ultimate analysis, is unconditional submission ; that the first step in the narrow way is obedience to the injunction of the apostolic exhortation, “ Be ye reconciled to God.” This was true of Paul's conversion ; — he hated Christ intensely; after having been smitten down in the way by the Spirit, he loved him as intensely. This is the case radically with all who are born of God. We have, therefore, in this letter, taken in connection with the fact that Mr. Woodbridge had been for months contending with some of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, particularly “ with divine sovereignty, decrees, and election," a striking illustration of this primary exercise in Christian experience. It proves that when he surrendered his heart to God, he bowed to him as the sovereign Disposer of events, and the sovereign Dispenser of grace. It was the abandonment of selfishness; the humiliation of a proud spirit which had gloried in its intellectual might; the rising of the will into harmony with the divine will; a rejoicing in the divine government; a consecration to the divine glory. IIe yielded himself to Christ as Saviour; but to a Saviour whom God in sovereign love because he “ so loved the world” - had provided. He cast himself as utterly defiled and helpless on Christ's atonement for pardon ; an atonement unsought by those for whom it was made ; the dictate alone of self-moved, unoriginated love. Thus in his first religious experience, “Coming to Christ” had a profound significance he never ceased to feel.

The phrase, “ Come to Christ,” as it flows glibly from the lips in exhortation and appeal, not infrequently conveys little meaning; and the act by which it is supposed to be complied with, is often too superficial to carry with it the whole being. But its proper scriptural import is comprehensive and profound. It is to become one with him in affection and interest ; to be united to him in such a sense as to be forever after in him ; and to be in Christ is to be “ a new creature." It implies a change in the very root

« ElőzőTovább »