Thomas Jackson.

Christian biography .. online

. (page 14 of 18)
Online LibraryThomas JacksonChristian biography .. → online text (page 14 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


table, and particularly those of the fifth command-
ment, all bear him witness in, that upon several
texts, for a long time together, he most faithfully
instructed his people in relative duties, (than
which none indeed are more momentous, and
less observed,) and most sharply reproved the
guilty for their failures therein ; in all which
relations, their duties, and defects, he particu-
larly, and with much zeal, insisted. Witness
also his great grief and indignation, which he
frequently conceived, and with great vehemence
expressed, in lamenting over and reproving
some professors of religion, for their wretched
neglect and breach of second-table precepts ;
the scandal and dishonour of which to religion
and the religious how he resented, none but
God and his own soul did thoroughly know.
He vehemently detested that impious and hel-
lish design of putting asunder, in this matter,
what God hath joined together ; namely, those
connnands respecting God and our neighbour ;
both which he hath equally appointed to us as
rules of direction and judgment. He was neither
legalist nor solifidian ; neither ritualist nor en-
thusiast ; not so much above in the mount with
God as not also to come down to his neighbour,
whom he did accost as Moses with both tables
in his hand, on which his life and doctrine did
constantly and excellently comment.


As it respects his great industry and happy
labours in the ministry, together with his great


prudence and compassion, in applying himself
to the souls of his flock, according to their most
pressing needs, there are none who knew the
former but must also confess and admire the

1. His Prude7ice in them.

His prudence in apportioning, as well as de-
signing, the most suitable and seasonable in-
structions to his people, was most apparent, in
that he was still (after he had finished a fore-
going text or discourse) even at a loss, as he
hath often expressed himself to some of his
friends, what subject most advantageous and
seasonable to his auditory he should next insist
on ; so far he was from aiming or shooting at
random in his divine instructions and exhorta-
tions. And so loath he was to labour in vain,
and to pass from one discourse to another, as
one unconcerned whether he had sown any
good seeds or not in the hearts of his hearers,
that in the close of his application on any text,
(which sometimes he handled for a considerable
while,) he ever expressed his great unwilling-
ness to leave that subject till he could have
some assurance that he had not fought in that
spiritual warfare against sin as one who beateth
the air ; when also he expressed his great fear
lest he should, after all his most importunate
warnings, leave them as he found ihem. And
here with how much holy rhetoric did he fre-
quently expostulate the case with impenitent
sinners, in words too many to mention, and yet


too weig^hty to be forgotten ; vehemently urging
them to come to some good resolve before he
and they parted, and to make their choice either
of life or death.

2. His Compassion on Souls,
His compassion toward all that were com-
mitted to his charge was most manifest, espe-
cially toward the ignorant, those that were ont
of the way, and those that did move heavily mi
in the way.

(I.) On the Ignorant^ in instructing and
catechising them.
To the ignorant. And here knowing that
without knowledge the heart is not and cannot
be good ; and considering also how too success-
fully the evil one, by sowing evil seeds betimes
in the hearts of youth, does ever after defeat the
most laborious endeavours for their recovery and
salvation, ho was in nothing more industrious,
and in nothing more happy and successful in
exerting his industry, than in an early sowing
those blessed seeds of divine knowledge in the
hearts of all the youth that he could reach in
person or otherwise ; by which they were ex-
ceedingly formed to receive all good impres-
sions. During the time of his public ministry
on every Lord's day in the afternoon he con-
stantly catechised, before a great congregation,
the youth of each sex by turns, among whom
were several, both young men and women,
sometimes five or six of the chief scholars of


the free school, sometimes five or six of the
apprentices of the town, some of whom, though
of man's estate, accounted it not a disgrace to
learn, (according to the guise of this mad world,)
but to be ignorant. Sometimes, of the other
sex, five or six young gentlewomen, who were
under his wife's tuition, (and so his domestic
oversight,) kept their turns, of whom she had
not a few, and those the daughters of gentle-
men of good rank far and near, whose laudable
emulation, and love to their father, (as they
styled him,) and to the work, was the cause
\vhy they were not so over bashful as to de-
cline so advantageous a course ; by which, to-
gether with domestic instructions and example,
even all received a tincture of piety and religion,
and many a thorough impression : besides these,
several virgins also, and among these the daugh-
ters of some of the chief magistrates in the town,
kept their turns. In this his course he drew
out, on the short answers in the Assembly's
Catechism, an excellent discourse on all the
points of the Christian theology, which he
handled successfully, reducing his discourse to
several heads, which he also proved by perti-
nent places of Scripture ; which done, he gave
both the heads and proofs written at length, on
a week day, to those whom he designed to
catechise on the ensuing Lord's day, which,
besides the short answers in the Catechism,
and the annexed proofs, they committed to
memory, and rendered on the afternoon of the
day aforesaid. Throughout all which course


he approved himself to be a most substantial

M either did his catechistical labours rest
here, but also on Thursdays in the afternoon,
as I remember, he catechised in the church,
street by street, whole families, excepting the
married or more aged, in order : which exer-
cise, I suppose, he designed as preparatory to
his Lord's-day work. Besides this, on Satur-
days in the morning, he catechised the free
school of that place, instructing them in the
points of Christian doctrine, and excellently
explaining the answers in the Assembly's Cate-
chism, discovering a mine of knowledge in
them, and in himself. How excellent was his
design, and great his labour, besides all this, in
going from house to house, and instructing both
old and young, is elsewhere abundantly de-
clared. Neither was this his labour in vain,
but became even as successful as laborious ;
for there are few but have gratefully acknow-
ledged that by this means they were either led
into the knowledge, or induced to the belief,
choice, and practice of that which is of sove-
reign advantage to them to this day. And how
happy and likely a course he took herein to
advance reiijrion in the nation, on the hearts
and lives of mvn ; and how far less successful
and probable all other means are, aiming at this
end, without this initial work, it is left to all
pious and considering men to judge.


(2.) On those that err, hy reproving and reducing

He had not only compassion over the igno-
rant, but also over those who were out of the
way: witness his faithful and effectual dis-
charge of that great duty of giving seasonable
reproofs, of which his great faithfulness there
is abundant mention elsewhere. And by so
much the more did his excellent discharge
hereof speak forth his high praise, by how
much the more difficult he ever apprehended it
aright to apply it. He hath been heard often
to say, that it was far more difficult to him to
give than to take a reproof, considering how
great wisdom, courage, compassion, self-denial,
&;c., is required in order to its right discharge.
And though he was so rarely passive, and often
active in this work, yet the frequency of his
giving a reproof never made it so easy as to be
less difficult than to receive it. But ever this
work was to him, not only an act of the greatest
self-denial, but also (he result of a strong con-
flict within, betwixt his indignation at the sin,
and compassion on the sinner. And yet the
consideration of the difficulty was not to him
an argument to forbear, but rather a stronger
motive to undertake it ; who ever delighted to
converse in, and conquer, the difficulties of
Christianity, both in doing and suffering. Small
difficulties here were not his match, and there
were no noble achievements in religion to which
he attained not, or vigorously applied.


As it is said of Themistocles, that famous
Athenian captain, that the acts of Miltiades
broke his sleep ; so as truly may it be said of
this blessed saint, that the acts and monu-
ments of the famous worthies mentioned in the
Hebrews, and of those of the same achieve-
ments with them in all ages of the world, even
broke his sleep, by impregnating his soul with
high designs of aspiring after their perfections.
Oft therefore he hath been heard to excite
Christians so long to move in the sphere of
difficulties, till the sweet severities of Chris-
tianity, as he often called them, were subdued,
and even made familiar; encouraging them with
this consideration, that then they would highly
approve their divine love and sincerity, and con-
ceive a pleasure in those difficult acts, which
would equal, yea, exceed the pleasure of their
natural actions.

(3.) On the Doubting j by resolving and releasing
Neither had he only compassion on those
that were out of the way, but also on those who
moved heavily on in the way. How he hath
often raised and rectified desponding Christians,
who are too prone to account doubting, which
is their sin, to be their duty and virtue ! At
once he hath often unloosened them from the
strailness of their needless fears and disquiets,
and undeceived them by discovering the latent
unbelief that lay lurking in such despondings,
assuring them in theso words, that, under a sly


pretence of humility, they did call in question
God's veracity.


As it respects his singular piety, all who
knew him can say much, and yet all but little,
considering how much more hath escaped the
most tenacious memory, observant eye, and at-
tentive ear. Yet he must be wretchedly unob-
servant who, amid so many and great instances
of it, can make no reflections.

How much he conceived it as his own and
others' greatest interest, ornament, and felicity
herein to excel, will be manifest by his exhorta-
tion which he gave to a young scholar ready to
depart to the university, in words to this pur-
pose : " I know that you will labour to excel in
learning; but be sure to excel as in that, so also
and especially in holiness, which will render
you one of the most useful and amiable crea-
tures in the world. Learning will render you
perchance acceptable to men, but piety both to
God and men. By that you will shine only on
earth, to the clods thereof, and perhaps in some
obscure corner of it ; but this is an orient pearl,
which will shine in you on earth and in heaven,
both to God, angels, and men." How much he
dwelt on this exhortation, and these apprehen-
sions, will be evident by a pious letter which he
sent to the person forenamed, some years after,
wherein his words are these : " O study God,
and study yourself closely; and pursue holiness
more than learning, though both these together


make a happy constellation, and are like Castor
and Pollux, which, when they appear together,
do ever presage good to the mariners."


Happy is the man that can but learn this.
When once a man is arrived hereto, he is above
the world's reach, and hath attained to the true
heroic mind, so as that no external commotions
will be able to disturb his tranquillity; neither
will the comforts or crosses here below make
any j^reat accession to or diminution from the
serenity of his spirit. And, indeed, nothing was
more conspicuous in this blessed saint than that
generous contempt of the world, that true lofti-
ness and yet profound humility of spirit, (of
which the lessons afore mentioned are but so
many instances,) which he recommended to
others. He was much a stranger on the earth,
like the kinjily prophet ; not because, with old
Barzillai, he could not, but would not, taste or
comi)ly with its pleasures and delights ; but he
was ciiielly induced, liy a forced exilement from
his desired and delectable habitation, to think
on his state of banishment from his heavenly
country while here militant upon earth, and to
solace his thoughts under so great a grievance
by such divine considerations as those which
ho mentions in the following words of his fore-
named letter : — " That is worthy of a saint in-
deed, to account liimself always in a state of
banishment while in the state of mortality, hke
the worthies that sojourned even in the land of


promise, as in a strange country. Such a so-
journer I wish both myself and you to be ; and
may the moveableness of our present state fix our
desires upon that kingdom which shall never be
shaken !''


He declared his piety to be genuine and ex-
cellent by its vmiversal regard and extent, as to
all God's commands, so to all man's converses
and employments : witness his earnest and fre-
quent exhortations, whereby he daily called
upon his people to a constant uniform care over
their hearts and ways. Nothing did he more
passionately dt-hoit them from, than from that
undoing fraud unto their souls, namely, con-
lining their religion to their closets, upon the
supposal that in so doing they had there put in
sufficient security for their after conversation,
and had bidden fair for the divine favour ; as
if religion had taught men only to kneel, and
not how to work ami walk ; as if it were soli-
tary or deformed, loving only to move in the
private path and narrow circle of our morning
or evening devotions, and so ever before and
after to appear least in sight ; or as if it were a
fury, and so to be limited, and not to be intrust-
ed with the univer.sal conduct of our lives and
actions. For many there are who think fit
rather to make religion their vassal than undi-
vided companion ; to command it, rather than it
should command them ; and therefore they make
it to keep its tinies and places, its postures and


due distance, and think not good that it beloivg
to their company, or appear in their words or
actions, unless when it may serve the uses of a
cloak and cover of hypocrisy and iniquity.


These his forementioned momentous exhort-
ations, attended with most excellent motives,
were desigDed chiefly to direct them how well
to begin and end the day in the fear, and as
in the presence, of God, by hallowing their
thoughts, and (as his words were) setting their
ends aright in the moniing, (then making their
resolves, and piously forecasting the work of
the day followincf.) and by an impartial survey
and examination, in the evening, of their com-
pliance or noncompliance with their foregoing
prescriptions unto themselves, whether they ob-
tained their designs and ends, and how they
acquitted themselves in the day foregoing.

Thus, by pointing at the two extremes in each
day, he happily secured the middle. He tacitly
convinced them by his own example and great
growth in piety hereby, and expressly by many
other eminent instances, how advantageous a
course he had recommended to them. To this
end he much applauded those two no less ex-
cellent than common books, the " Practice of
Piety," and " Scudder's Daily Walk." By this
course he had tauglit himself and others, as by
constant though sjnall gains, \o arrive to great
attainments in Christianity, by constant and
short accounts the more accurately to know the


State of their souls, and the more easily to dis-
cern their progress or declinings ; so as the
more to rejoice in and promote the one, and
the sooner to put limits to and redress the other.
Also he much inculcated on each Christian that
important duty of foreappointing and fixing his
ends, not only in the general, but as much as
might be particularly and explicitly before each
action of the day, but especially each solemn
action, revolving and conceiving such a thought
and resolve as this in his mind : — " This or this
will I do for God,*' &c. By which heedful
course, he assured the observer, that he would
hallow all his actions, and reap this treble ad-
vantage, (to say no more,) both of espousing the
divine direction and blessing, and of obtaining
a surer testimony of his sincerity, and also a
stronger motive to diligence, and an awful cir-
cumspection in the right discharge of what he
undertook. In compliance with this his excel-
lent exhortation to others, he knew not a day
wherein he arose without some heavenly design
of promoting God's glory and the good of souls,
accounting it a shame that the covetous should
arise v/ith such anxious projects of compassing
his desired wealth, the ambitious his airy honours
and grandeur, the voluptuous his vain pleasures;
and that the religious, who have so glorious a
prize and trophies before their eyes, should be
men of no projects or designs. If of any, it
may be affirmed of him, that according to his
frequent and vehement exhortation thereunto,
he made religion his business : which worthy


advice, in the same words, he did so often in-
culcate, that a t^entleinan meeting a plain honest
countryman, and discoursing of Mr. Alleine,
cavilled at this passage which he had often heard
from him. as appearing unto him absurd and un-
intelligible, not knowing how any thing (as he
said) could be called a man's business, unless
that which is secular : so foolishly ignorant of
the just interest and power of religion is an un-
hallowed heart, and so apt to quarre^l with that
wholesome advice, and loath to be in earnest
in any thing, unless in the pursuit of vanity or


Neither did the frequent and faithful perform-
ance of the two great difficulties of Christianity,
namely, reproof and self-examination, (consist-
ing of so many complicated self-denials,) exclu-
sively proclaim and improve his great piety,
but also his great acquaintance with the delight-
some work of heavenly meditation. A speci-
men of his protilablo management of this work,
and his srreal heights herein, he often gave in
some of his most excellent devotional and con-
templative discourses, both dropped from his
mouth and committed to writing. And as was
his delight, so were his converses with those
authors who increased his contemplative plea-
sure ; but particularly he delighted in Mr. Bax-
ter's platform of meditation on the heavenly feli-
city, in the close of his Saint's Everlasting
Rest ; a great part whereof he so digested as


often to cite it with pleastjre, prefacing his cita-
tions with these words : " ]\Iost divinely saith
that man of God, holy Mr. Baxter,'' &e. And
indeed had not his zeal for God's glory, and the
salvation of souk, engaged him so much to an
active life, he could have even lived and died
wholly in divine contemplation and adoration ;
so much did he delight to shrink within himself,
and to abandon the view of the desperate ad-
ventures and antic motions of a mad world, that
so being shut to these, he might only open his
soul to God and glory, displaying it to the glori-
ous beams of the Sun of righteousness. There-
fore did he often delight in his devotions to con-
verse with the fowls of the air and the beasts
of the field, since these were more innocent and
less degenerate than man.

With streams and plants did he delight to
walk ; and ail these did utter to bis attentive
ear the praise and knowledge of his Creator ;
and in his unsettled sojournings from place to
place he did often (to use his own words) look
back with sweetness and great content on the
places of his former pleasant retirements, set-
ting, as it were, a mark upon those which had
marveliousl}' pleased him in his solitudes, by
administering to his contemplative delight.


His gTeat perfection in holiness was mani-
fest, in that he loved so much, and Hved a life
of praise and thanksgiving. Being arrived at
some perfection » he desired and designed to an-


tedate the work and son^s of spirits made per-
fect. Thus David much proclaimed his per-
fection in piety, by his great heights in this
heavenly employment. And it is evident that
saints most devoted to this heavenly repast are
most perfect ; because the more men adore
and praise, the less they want ; (for sad and
constant complaints, and pensive thoughts,
are the attendants of great wants ;) and
the less men want, the more is their per-
fection. His exhortations to Christians were
frequently designed to raise them to that sub-
lime life of praise and thanksgiving. Often
hath he reproved Christians, charging them with
the greatest folly and ingratitude in so much
neglecting this so pleasing and profitable duty,
and in using it so little in their religious exer-
cises. He much condemned them for that too
general practice in thrusting so large a part of
their devotions into so narrow a room as only
the close of their prayers : especially did he
excite Christians to this duty on the Lord's
day, as the most proper work for so divine a
festival : shaming them with the excellent ex-
ample of the primitive Ciiristians, who welcom-
ed in the sun that brought so glorious a day as
the Christian Sabbath, with their heavenly
hymns to their Creator and Redeemer : and re-
proving them for so little considering and
observing the proper end of its institution. But
in respect to his own practice, a great, yea, and
sometimes the greatest part of his prayer was
thanksgiving ; and indeed he was never so


much in his element, either in prayer or in
preachino-, as Avhen he was extolling and adoring
the love of Christ, and marvelling at God's in-
finite goodness in the gift of his Son our Sa-

Neither did he so gaze upon and adore
Christ, his Redeemer, and his redemption, as to
forget to sound forth the praises of God the
Creator ; for often he hath been heard, with
admiration and praise, to take notice of the
divine power and wisdom in the works of
creation ; and therefore in the open air, in the
private retirement of some field or wood, he de-
lighted to address himself to God in praise,
that his eyes might affect his heart and awake
his glory. And here often he hath been heard
to say, that " man was the tongue of the whole
creation, appointed as the creatures' interpreter,
to speak forth the praises which they but
silently intimate."

He much delighted in vocal music, and es-
pecially in singing psalms and hymns ; particu-
larly Mr. Barton's : witness his constant prac-
tice after dinner elsewhere related. In him it
may be said, in as high a degree as of most saints
on earth, that each thought to him was a prayer,
each prayer a song, each day a Sabbath, each
meal a sacrament, a foretaste of that eternal re-
past to which he hath now arrived.


That he might effect all the excellent purpo-
ses of a holy life, he set a high value on time,


and did with so wise and holy forecast each
day redeem and fill it up, that he did not only
do nothing, hut also not little, though in a short
time. All companies heard him proclaim the
price of time ; and how excellently and advan-
tageously he did it in public before his ejection,
in several most useful sermons on Ephesians v,
16, many that heard him to this day, to their
great comfort and profit, remember. xVnd the
more remarkable was this his holy thrift, because
prophetical of his short abode here on earth.

His diligence and holiness in this his sphere
of action were a presage of his speedy transla-
tion, as with Enoch, to the sphere of vision and
fruition, for a reward of his singular piety ; it

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18

Online LibraryThomas JacksonChristian biography .. → online text (page 14 of 18)