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been spent in its service. Mr. Price too joined with them in opposing the wishes of his colleague, at the same time that he admired the delicacy of feeling that prompted him to decline his income.
In the commencement of the year 1737 the circle of Watts's intimate acquaintance was broken by the death of Mrs. Rowe, whose piety, talents, and amiable qualities caused her loss to be universally deplored. She died suddenly, on Sunday morning, Feb. 20th, leaving in her cabinet letters for the following friends, whom she held in high esteem : Dr. Watts, the Countess of Hertford, Mr. James Theobald, the Earl of Orrery, and her mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah Rowe. The doctor's letter was accompanied with the manuscript of her“Devout Exercises” in several loose papers, which she requested him to publish, after having subjected it to a careful revision. These devotional meditations were published in the September following, with a preface written by himself, and a dedication to the Countess, as an “intimate friend” of the deceased. During an intimacy of nearly thirty years, he had enjoyed ample opportunities of estimating the merits and defects of Mrs. Rowe; and the opinion of her character, expressed in his prefatory letter, is remarkably just and dispas. sionate. Far from joining with her admirers, who almost elevated her into a divinity, he get meets the severe animadversions of her impugners; and finds an apology for the transports and raptures which marked her experience in an ardent temperament and vivacious imagination. The frigid calcula. ting formalist, familiar with the theory, but strange to the power of godliness the worldling, upon whose heart no spark of devotion has yet fallen -- may turn from her pages with disgust, or by an unwonted stretch of candour regard her as an amiable visionary ; but he who has been warmed by the same heavenly fire, will be able, in some degree, to sympathise with her devout aspirations. “It was much the fashion,” says Watts in his preface, “even among some
divines of eminence in former years, to express the ferrours of devout love to our Saviour in the style of the Song of Solomon; and I must confess, that several of my composures in verse, written in younger life, were led by those examples unwarily into this tract.” It may be questioned, whether such a mode of expressing religious feelings, the natural product of an eastern clime, is judicious; for men of corrupt minds, in an earlier period, “turned the grace of God into lasciviousness ;” and an impure imagination and an unsanctified heart, will connect carnal and sensual ideas with the employment of such imagery. Be it, however, remembered, that the taste of the age in which Mrs. Rowe lived was essentially vitiated; the adoption of a tumid passionate style was necessary to pamper the popular appetite; and, hence, the sickly sentimentalism of Sterne, and the bloated effusions of Hervey, which are now justly discarded, were, at a period not much posterior, not only tolerated but admired. Her mind was tinctured not only by the prevailing taste, but by the mystical writers she had read; but he who on this ground alone would unsparingly condemn her compositions, gives ample room for others to suppose, that he is a stranger to the “devout exercises" in which she delighted--that he has light but not lore — and that however clear his head, his heart is cold.
A few months previous to the publication just noticed, Dr. Watts sent forth a treatise entitled “Humility represented in the character of St. Paul,” dated from his retreat at “Newington, March 25.” It consists of various papers which he tells us had lain by him in his desk for several years.
The tract is founded upon Ephesians, iii. 8, “less than the least of all saints;" and exhibits in an impressive manner, the advantages invariably attendant upon the cultivation of a similar temper to that which the passage expresses. Though written in an exceedingly plain and homely style, it is by no means deficient in striking remark, and lively delineation of charac
ter. Bishop Gibson commends it for its fidelity, point, and individuality, for which the author had thought it necessary to apologise. The habit of generalising has been in every age the besetting sin of the ministry; and the fastidious politeness of modern times, has rendered it too much a characteristic of the pulpit addresses of the present day. To illustrate important axioms in morals and religion by the events of domestic life; to descend from general exhibitions to the delineation of individual character, in the way the bishop approved, would shock the taste and alarm the sensitiveness of a fashionable audience, and sound harsh and inviduous to “ears polite." And yet to “declare the whole counsel of God,” it is necessary to advance painful and unpalatable truths; and much more efficient and useful would the ministry be, if less deference was paid to the prejudices of hearers, and more attention to the treatment which their circumstances demand. A maxim of Christian morals may frequently be best enforced by the miseries attendant upon its neglect; and no ideal representation, no declamatory harangue, is so directly calculated to convince as those illustrations which come home to the consciences and every-day experience of an auditory. In clear and evangelical exposition of truth the present age may perhaps exceed any of the preceding; but in its plain and pointed application to the state and character of the individual it is lamentably deficient. The skilful operator is often obliged to probe the wound in order to cicatrise and heal; and he who would be a physician to the souls of men, must unveil, examine, and expose the foulness of the stain he would remove.
The attention of Dr. Watts was powerfully arrested at this period by an extraordinary revival of religion in New England, of which he was informed by his trans-atlantic correspondents. A small district of about thirty miles' compass, on the banks of the river Connecticut, containing twelve or fourteen towns and villages, was the scene of one of the most remarkable out-pourings of the Holy Spirit since the apostolic
age, during which multitudes of young and old were brought under a serious concern, and turned to the Lord with “weeping and with supplication.” In the town of Northampton, favoured with the ministry of that master in moral and metaphysical science, Jonathan Edwards, the “cloud” arose, at first little as “a man's hand,” but which, gradually spreading over New Hampshire and the Massachusetts, descended in showers of holy influence upon the churches embosomed in their tracts of wood and wilderness. For several months the sanctuaries were unable to contain the crowds that thronged unto them; the houses of the ministers were besieged with contrite and anxious inquirers; and every day witnessed some thoughtless prodigal reclaimed or hardened heart subdued. The expatriated puritans compelled by persecution to seek a quiet home and peaceful altar across the waters, had diligently “sowed,” and their descendants now " entered into their labours :" the devotion of the pilgrim fathers was rewarded, and their prayers were answered in abundant blessings upon their children. The season of heavenly light and hallowed influence which visited the western wilds, was not evanescent as the early dew: for several successive years, under the ministry of Gilbert Tennant, Whitfield, and others, the power of divine truth was exemplified in awakening numbers of the most careless and profane. The tidings of colonial revival speedily reached the mother country, and elicited various opinions as to its cause, its permanence, and its merits. By the wisdom of this world it was pronounced the result of enthusiastic excitement - a cold and heartless philosophy attributed it to the influence of social sympathy men of taste and refinement formed an unfavourable judgment, from the occasional irregularities that marked its progress whilst not a few in professedly religious circles treated it as the offspring of error and extravagance. But the spiritual phenomena exhibited were too extraordinary to be accounted for upon natural principles; and the chief actors in the work
were men too intellectually acute to be themselves deceived, and far too upright to propagate deception. Dr. Watts, therefore, hailed it as an instance of gracious visitation from on high — from contention and decline at home, he gladly turned to the brighter prospect that opened in the aboriginal forests of America - and attentively traced the rise and watched the progress of the “time of refreshing." He wrote to his friend Dr. Colman of Boston for information, who forwarded his wishes to Mr. Williams, a minister in the neighbourhood where the revival commenced. This application coming under the notice of Mr. Edwards, produced his “ Faithful Narrative of the surprising work of God, in the conversion of many hundred souls in Northampton and the neighbouring towns and villages of New Hampshire,” which he sent as a letter to Dr. Colman. Mr. Edwards observes, “Having seen your letter to my honoured uncle Williams of Hatfield, of July 20, wherein you inform him of the notice that has been taken of the late wonderful work of God in this and some other towns in this country, by the Rev. Dr. Watts and Dr. Guyse of London, and the congregation to which the last of these preached on a monthly day of solemn prayer; as also of your desire to be more perfectly acquainted with it, by some of us on the spot; and having been since informed by my uncle Williams, that you desire me to undertake it, I would now do it in as just and faithful a manner as in me lies."
The manuscript of Mr. Edwards's narrative was sent by Dr. Colman to England, and published under the direction of Dr. Watts and Dr. John Guyse in the year 1737. The editors remark in their preface,
“The friendly correspondence which we maintain with our brethren of New England, gives us now and then the pleasure of hearing some remarkable instance of divine grace in the conversion of sinners, and some eminent examples of piety in that American part of the world. But never did we hear or read, since the first ages of Christianity, any event of