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THE

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.

No. 1.

JANUARY, 1818.

For the Christian Disciple.

NOTICE OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF REV. THOMAS

PRENTISS.

We trust that the impressions made upon the public mind by the death of Mr. Prentiss were not of so transient a kind, as to render an apology necessary for introducing into this miscellany the following memoir of his life. His friends take a melancholy pleasure in recalling the memory of one, who was associated with them in many interesting scenes.

Vol. VI.

Some of them remember the years of his childhood and youth, and had opportunity to witness the gradual development of those intellectual powers and moral qualities, which made him the object of so many affections and hopes. It was our privilege to be reckoned in the number of his earliest friends. We saw him in every stage of his progress, and had his sympathy in all our sorrows and joys. It is painful, alas! to reflect that the friend, endeared by so long an intimacy, is removed from our side, and that we are left to pursue our journey alone.

But we must not indulge onr private sorrows. It is our wish Vol. VI.-No. 1.

to embody the recollections, which are now so vivid, of his amiable and excellent character, not only as a just tribute to his memory, but as affording an example most worthy of the imitation of others.

It was the happiness of Mr. Prentiss, to spend the first years of his life in a situation most favourable for the growth of virtuous principles and good habits. His father, the Rev. Dr. P. of whom a brief notice was given in the second volume of the Christian Disciple, page 237, was universally esteemed a man of eminent piety and worth. Under his instructions, he acquired the elements of learning, and the principles of religion.

It was no common privilege to spend the important and critical period of childhood and early youth in such a school of virtue, and he has often expressed to me his deep sense of obligation to his beloved and revered father. Indeed his fil-, ial piety was one of the distinguishing traits of his character: to his parents he was every

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thing which could gladden a parent's heart.

Having finished his preparatory studies, he was entered as a student in Harvard University at the early age of fourteen years. Here he maintained the character of a good scholar, a pleasant companion and an amiable and virtuous youth. He received the honours of college with the class, which graduated in 1811, being then in his 19th year. From this period his friends saw in him a growing seriousness and manliness, which procured him the respect as well as the love of the wise and good, wherever he was known. He spent the first year, after the close of his collegiate life, in the office of instructer of youth in Brookline in this state. Here it was that he first devoted himself to the ministry, and commenced his theological studies. In the autumn of the following year, he removed his residence to Cambridge, and engaged with much zeal and hon esty, and perseverance, in the various branches of study connected with the profession he had chosen,

1t may be proper here to mention a circumstance which reflects much eredit on the memmory of his excellent father. No sooner was be made acquainted with the resolution of his son to enter a profession, which he himself loved so well, than he took an early opportunity to impart to him his counsels and wishes. After other interesting remarks, to which the nature of the interview led, his father observed in words to this effect: "You know, my son, the views, which I have

long entertained of the great doctrines of Christianity. But I would not have you embrace them on my authority. It would indeed afford me pleasure to know that your views accordedith mine, on a subject of so vast concern; but I do not wish you to be influenced in the least by this consideration. Take the scriptures for your only guide, and endeavour, witr humility and prayer, to discover their true meaning.'

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Nothing could have afforded Dr. Prentiss sincerer pleasure, than to see his son zealously engaged in preparation for the Christian ministry. And he saw him thus engaged; and the good man's heart was filled with joy and hope. But he was denied the privilege, with which we have been indulged, of witnessing the auspicious commencement of his pastoral life: For God removed him, in the ripeness of a good old age, while his son was still pursuing his studies with ardour and success. He died in February,

1814.

There is a propriety in the mention of this event, as it undoubtedly had no inconsiderable influence in forming the character of our friend. He was with him during his whole sickness, and saw with what composure and hope a Christian could die. The discipline of affliction he had scarcely ever experieneed till now; and the effect of it was such as we could desire to

see.

In a letter written soon after this event, he unbosomed his whole soul. His heart was softened with grief, and he sought consolation in the sym

pathies of friendship and the hopes of religion. "Oh, my friend," he writes, "you who well knew my almost adored father, will not think my grief excessive, but will bear with my melancholy and dejected mind. But let us not be overcome with over-much sorrow,' as he told us during his sickness, my children, you are not willing that the Lord's will should be done.'

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In September of that year, Mr. Prentiss was approbated to preach by the Boston Association of Divines, and immediately entered upon his public labours. He was listened to, from the first, with great and very general satisfaction; and was almost constantly employed as a candidate till his final settlement at Charlestown in March last. During this interval, he applied himself with exemplary diligence to his theological studies, and acquired distinction among his fellow students by a general acquaintance with the best writers in divinity.

He was remarkably cool and deliberate in forming his opinions, and never was suspected of taking them upon trust. Sometimes indeed he has been thought to carry his caution to excess; but it should be remembered, that hasty judgements are frequently erroneous; while those, which have been formed slowly and calmly, in the love of truth, are likely to be correct. But though he was slow and cautious in forming his opinions, he was open and honest in declaring them; and, when he viewed them to be of sufficient importance, he gave

them his willing and warm support.

We shall always look back with interest and pleasure on this part of the life of our friend. It was now that his character was more fully developed, and his worth more generally appreciated. Those, who have not known him for the three last years of his life, can scarcely be said to have known him at all. During this period, we remarked in him, at least in a higher degree than before, an uncommon union of seriousness and cheerfulness, which endeared him to us as a most agreeable companion at all seasons and in all places.

It was during this period also, that we saw and admired that prudence and practical good sense, which are so important to the success of the Christian minister, and of which he possessed a more than common share.

In these, and in several other traits of character, he bore a striking resemblance to his excellent father, which, to those who knew them both, was every day becoming more and more evident.

Mr. Prentiss was accustomed to look forward to his life as a minister with deep and lively interest. He entertained correet views of the holiness of the pastoral office, and never for a moment allowed himself to view it merely as the means of obtaining temporal support. While employed as a candidate in the several towns, where he was called to preach, he had opportunities of cultivating an acquaintance with mankind, which he studiously improved.

Perhaps few men of his years could have been consulted with so great advantage, on any of the prudential affairs of church or people. Men of the first respectability, who knew him during the few last months of his life, strongly testify. that they have seen him in various trying and perplexing scenes, and have never known him rash or unguarded, in word or deed.

He had formed and matured many plans for doing good, long before he entered the pastoral office. He joined with many other good men, in lamenting the very general neglect of christian ordinances which is observable especially among young people of our sex.

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Cannot something be done,' he observes in a letter written several months previous to his settlement, "to take away this reproach Or, rather let me say, to convince young men that they have an equal interest in this salvation, and that they may derive an equal benefit from an attendance on the holy supper, with persons of the other sex? It is a subject, which often passes through my mind, when I look forward to the ministry. It must be, to a minister, who is himself in earnest, a most painful sight, when at the close of the ordinary services, he sees families separating, and the mother with her daughters gathering round the sacred table, to receive the consecrated elements, while the father with his sons turn their backs upon this most interesting rite "

We come now to the last and most interesting part of his life. Having, in Dec. 1816, received

nearly an unanimous invitation from the third Congregational Society in Dorchester, whieh he felt it his duty to decline, he soon after had an unanimous call from the second Congregational Society in Charlestown; and, on the 26th of the following March, was duly introduced to the pastoral office in that place. We well recollect the interests and hopes excited by that solemn and impressive occasion. He had now reached the summit of his earthly ambition. Situated in the immediate vicinity of the capital and of our university, favoured with the friendship of learned and pious divines, with whom he might hope long to associate on the most intimate terms, surrounded by a kind and affectionate people, who testified their esteem by every mark of approbation, he felt, that his was a privileged lot. He also felt the obligation to evince his gratitude for these mercies, by zeal and engagedness in the work, to which he had devoted himself.

He was not satisfied with doing merely what was expected and required. The interests of his people lay near his heart, and he was instant in season and out of season, that he might make full proof of his ministry.

He devoted much of his time and thoughts to the younger part of his charge. He improved every opportunity, by familiar instructions on the Sabbath, and on other days of the week, to lead them to a knowledge of the doctrines and duties of religion, and to excite in them the love of God and of goodness. He was instrumental in introducing to their acquaintance

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