תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the time in preparation for the pulpit, which was required even by the Morris county Presbytery.

Certain it is, that shortly after this time, a proposition . was made to the Presbytery of Philadelphia, to take Mr. E. on trial for the gospel ministry, without the literary acquisitions usually required in such a case. The minute of this Presbytery on the subject is not before the writer; but the following minute of the Synod of New-York and Philadelphia will show that the case had been referred to the Synod by that Presbytery. The name of Mr. Eastburn was indeed omitted, and no doubt with design, in the record; but there is no question that the reference was to him. In the minutes of the Synod,* at their sessions in May, 1783, the following entry appears :

• Through the committee of overtures, it was requested by the First Presbytery of Philadelphia, that the Synod declare to them their sense on this point, viz. whether a person without a liberal education, may be taken on trial or licensed to preach the gospel? The question being put, it was carried in the negative.”.

It was mentioned to a friend of the writer, by Mr. Eastburn himself, not long before his death, that the influence of the Rev. Dr. Witherspoon in the Synod, was chiefly instrumental in obtaining this decision. However that might be, and whatever might be the number of those who voted in opposition to the majority, the cause of Mr. E. had, it appears, but one open and active advocate. A daughter of the Rev. Dr. Sproat, now living, has within a few hours assured the writer, that she well remembers the emphasis with which her father said, on returning to his family from the Synod—“ I have had to stand alone, in pleading the cause of Mr. Eastburn :" and then added, that he believed Mr. E. might do more good in preaching the gospel than some others who obtained license. The memorialist feels himself bound to state facts as he finds them; but it is not to be understood that he means to give an opinion, in opposition to that of the Synod on this occasion. It will appear hereafter in

* It will be recollected that this was before the formation of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church; and that this Synod was then the supreme judicature of that church.

what manner he did think and act, when called in Provi. dence to take a part in authorizing Mr. E. to assume the character of a religious teacher. In the mean time, this decision of the Synod seemed to terminate all hopes in the mind of Mr. E. that he would ever be permitted to preach in the Presbyterian church. How much influence it had, or whether any, in turning his views to another communion, the memorialist is not prepared to pronounce. The facts are, that not long after this decision, an intimacy, which had not previously existed, took place between him and some brethren of the Baptist church; and that, in the issue, he received from a minister of that church rebaptization in the form of immersion. This took place at Southampton, about 17 miles to the north of Philadelphia.

The known conscientiousness of Mr. E. ought to prevent or remove all suspicion that, in this transaction, he did not act under a full conviction of duty. But whether that conviction was the result of due deliberation, and of enlightened views, is another matter. His purpose of doing what he did in this concern, appears to have been concealed, both from his wife and his beloved pastor and friend, Dr. Sproat. It is certain that he was never enrolled as a member of the Baptist church; and it is believed that he never communed in that church, even in a single instance. To satisfy his aggrieved wife, (for she was deeply grieved on this occasion,) he promised her that he would not leave the church to which they both belonged, while she remained in life; and he not only fulfilled this promise, but showed as little disposition to leave it after her decease, as he had done before.*

* Mr. Hiram Ayres, whose signature appears at the close of the first of the following letters, very kindly consented, at the request of the writer of these memoirs, to endeavor to obtain authentic information from Southampton, in regard to Mr. E.'s rebaptization there. The foregoing account was just finished, when the following letters were received.

Philadelphia, March 21st, 1828. DEAR SIR,—In compliance with my promise, I wrote to Southampton for information concerning the late Rev. Joseph Eastburn,

CHAPTER III.

Mr. Eastburn enters into partnership-character of his

partnersituation of his workshop, and conversations in ithis long and unabated struggle with adverse worldly circumstances-his conduct and sufferings in sederal seasons of pestilencehis kind attentions to the afflicted family of Dr. Sproatthe way providentially opened for his deliverance from worldly embarrassment, and for his becoming a religious teacher-plan for his services in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia-he departs from that plan, and remarks on the subject.

Near the time of his being rebaptized, Mr. Eastburn entered into partnership, in the cabinet-making business, with Mr. Peter Lesley. A brief notice of this worthy

and after considerable delay, received the following information from two different persons, one of whom was present at the baptism, and whose testimony is conclusive as to time, &c. He thinks it was in the summer of 1788, that Mr. Eastburn was baptized, and states that the ordinance was administered by the Rev. David Jones. But for your greater satisfaction, I bave given the paper accompanying this, which you will perceive contains the information above stated; also some interesting circumstances—all of which is at your service. The other person to whom I wrote gives a corresponding statement; says it was between the years 1786 and '92, that he was baptized, and by the same person, and at the same place, as above stated. It appears from both the letters I received, that no record was made of the transaction in the church book. Since receiving those letters I have heard it said, that the Rev. Thomas Fleeson, of Blockley, was possessed of information concerning the subject of our inquiries. I accordingly wrote to him, but have not yet received a reply.

I am yours, &c.

HIRAM AYRES,

No. 14, South Twelfth Street. Rev. A. GREEN, D. D.

The letter to Mr. Ayres, to which his note refers, is as follows:

Southampton, March 17, 1828. “ DEAR Cousin,-You wrote some time since, requesting such information from Southampton as could be come at, concerning

man ought to have a place in these memoirs. He was not only the partner and particular friend of Mr. E., but the remembrance of him is too grateful to the writer to admit of passing him by, without some memorial. During the six and twenty years, in which the memorialist sustained the pastoral relation to the second Presbyterian church of Philadelphia, Mr. Lesley was the sexton of that church. He was a man of great modesty, integrity, industry, and piety. His industry and prudent management of his

Mr. Joseph Eastburn. I do not recollect the precise time, but think it was some time in the summer of 1788, that Mr. Eastburn came to Southampton, where he gave a very pleasing and satisfactory relation of his religious experience, before the church-dated his first religious exercise among the Methodists—but afterwards, becoming dissatisfied with their way, left them, and gave himself a member among the Presbyterians; said the Lord's presence was among them, and that he had enjoyed many precious seasons in their society; but to satisfy a scrupulous conscience, he had come to Southampton to be baptized by immersion-which ordinance was administered by Mr. David Jones. What I have now written I remember perfectly well, being present at the time.

66 ELIAS YERKES. " Mr. HIRAM AYRES."

“Mr. Eastburn did not give himself a member of the church at Southampton, his residence being in Philadelphia; therefore the church-book is silent about him. He was baptized only upon a profession of his faith in Christ, and went on his way rejoicing."

It will be observed that the statement which had been prepared before these letters were received, is not invalidated by them, in any thing except the date of the transaction to which reference is made. This date is in itself of little importance. Yet it may not be improper to remark, that it is incorrectly assigned to the summer of 1788. At that time the writer had been settled as co-pastor with Dr. Sproat for something more than a year; and he is well assured that the rebaptizing of Mr. Eastburn had taken place before his settlement, which was in April, 1787. Mr. Yerkes, the venerable member of the Baptist church at Southampton, who wrote the second letter, says explicitly—“I do not recollect the precise time.” After the lapse of more than forty years, although facts may be distinctly remembered, dates can seldom be fixed, without some other aid than that of mere memory. The information given by Mr. Yerkes, as to Mr. Eastburn's views in seeking baptism by immersion, is a valuable addition to the previous account.

99

affairs, enabled him, under the divine blessing, to provide, in a very reputable and comfortable manner, for a numerous family; and by a careful attention to the duties of his station, and a uniform disposition and endeavour to oblige, he acquired a respect and esteem, which men of a more elevated rank do not always merit or obtain. The piety of Mr. L. was marked by simplicity and humility; he was 6an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.” Such were his lowly thoughts of himself, that he sometimes needed counsel and encouragement to preserve him from despondence. He was truly devout; and no other neglect of his duties as sexton is recollected to have been ever laid to his charge, than that he was, occasionally, so engrossed by the services of the sanctuary, that he did not sufficiently notice the strangers who entered the church. If there was truth in this charge, of which the writer is doubtful, who that knew the cause, would not readily excuse, if they did not commend the man, whose devotion to his God produced a temporary forgetfulness of his fellow-worms? This humble and exemplary Christian, died in the faith and hope of the gospel, March 31st, 1816, at the advanced

age Mr. Eastburn was, for a long time, the clerk of the church of which Mr. Lesley was the sexton; and a small wooden building, in front of, and connected with, the base of the steeple, by which the church edifice was then adorned, furnished the workshop, in which these partners in manual labour pursued their occupation, with unceasing activity. The number of hours in the day, during which they toiled at their trade, was greater than usual. Mr. Eastburn once told the writer, that a man, who valued himself on his skill in the cabinet-making business, came from the country to the city, under the idea that city mechanics had easier times than their country brethren. He applied to Messrs E. & L. for employment as a journeyman. Employment was offered him, on condition that he should work the same number of hours in each day as his employers. The offer was gladly accepted; but in less than a week, the journeyman declared that she could not stand it to work as they did," and left their service. This workshop was, for several

of 79 years.

« הקודםהמשך »