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SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE REV. DR,

SAMUEL WEST.

From the Anthology.

THE design of biography is to celebrate useful talents, to record patriotic labours, and to exhibit characteristic traits of virtue. The distinguished mental powers, the public spirit, and scientifical researches of the late Rev. Samuel West, of New Bedford, fully entitle him to biographical notice, and he may justly claim a place in the records of posthumous fame. Although the the atre on which he acted was retir ed, the spectators few, and his life spent with little diversity of event, yet his mind presented strong and prominent features: and, had he lived in Europe, his reputation and usefulness had fallen little short of that of Bux torf, Kennicot, Mede, Poole, &c. for his mind was doubtless equal to any exertions of these men, and, with their literary means, no common embarrassments would have presented obstacles retarding his progress to the summits of their theological eminence. Although his learned connexions were few, and his Vol. III. No. 12.

life spent among those incapable of comprehending many of his ideas, or profiting from his treasury of biblical information, yet were he to pass off the stage without any biographical notice, it would occasion regret to the religious, the grateful, and the learned, who knew his intrinsic merit, and were favoured with his friendship.

Father West was one of the first men in the New England congregational churches on account of his scriptural knowledge, skill in the prophecies, and a ready recollection of every text, which enabled him upon the shortest notice to collect and pertinently apply all the passages of scripture, connected with his subject, and conducive to the purpose of his argument. The epithet of Father above given, probably originated in the conviction of his judicious friends, that his sincere benevolence, his faithful and discreet counsels, might be safely relied on, while his literary pre-emiVou

nence, his treasures of criticism, wit, and historical information, justified the continuance of so respectful an appellation.

He was born in Yarmouth, Cape Cod, March 4th, O. S. A. D. 1730, and died at Tiverton, R. I. Sept. 24th, 1807, and was buried at New Bedford, where he had been pastor over a congregational church 43 years. His parents, though in moderate circumstances, were reputable, and he laboured with them till he had passed the 20th year of his age. During the earlier, as well the latter part of his minority, he discovered such uncommon traits of genius, and symptoms of a strong mind, as, together with his pre-eminent knowledge of the sacred scriptures, and those other few books thrown in his way, awakened the attention of the few intelligent and good men who happened to know him. They solicited, and finally obtained his father's consent, though at a late period, to fit him for college, which was completed in the short term of six months under the care of the Rev. Mr. Green, of Barnstable. His rapid improvement, while at the seminary in Cambridge, was such, as to give him a rank for genius and learning with the most distinguished of his

class.

After leaving college, his application to study was unremitted, and though devoted to almost every branch of science, yet Divinity was his main object; in this he peculiarly excelled.

In the later stages of life he is said to have applied himself to chemistry, in which it is testified by adepts, that he was a distinguished proficient. The year

1775 awakened his attention to politics, and he became a whig partizan, writing many forcible pieces in the newspapers, which animated the confident, and revived the spirits of the timid for the important contest. These speculations gratified his friends, and were highly applauded by the public. He also brought himself into a considerable degree of notice by decyphering Dr. Church's letter, which was written at the commencement of the revolutionary war, and exposed to a relation, who had joined the party of the enemy, the particular state of our army. The alarm which that letter occasioned is still remembered, and it was natural for every one to inquire who the person was that made it intelligible for the public eye. And it was acknowledged by the writer, that it was done very correctly.

Dr. West was a member of the convention for forming the constitution of this State, as also that of the United States. He was an honourary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences instituted at Philadelphia, and of that at Boston. He received from the university in Cambridge, the degree of Doctor in Divinity, A. D. 1793.

In the latter part of his life, his memory failed to that degree, that it was with difficulty he could recognize his most familiar friends. The vast treasure of his ideas began to vanish at the age of seventy years, and during the course of seven succeeding years, the great man disappeared, and it was an afflictive sight to his friends, and all who had known him in the glory of his understanding, to perceive he

had survived all his wit and learning.

Doctor West, notwithstanding his powers and knowledge, was not very popular, as a preacher, excepting upon particular oc

currences.

He used no notes in preaching, during the last thirty years of his ministry, unless upon some special occasion. He had so retentive a memory, and such perfect knowledge of every subject, that he could preach an hour upon any text without any premeditation, and yet with coherence and unity of design. It is to be regretted that he left behind him so little in writing. Had he, in several periods of his life, written more, and used more bodily exercise, he might have been useful much longer.

His publications were, a Sermon at the ordination of the Rev. Samuel West, of Needham; Sermon before the provincial convention at Watertown, 1776; Sermon at the anniversary of the Fathers' landing at Plymouth, 1777; Sermon at the ordination of the Rev. Mr. Allyn at Duxborough, 1788; a small tract on Infant Baptism, and Essays on Liberty and Necessity, in two parts, in which the arguments of William Edwards and others, for necessity, are considered. Printed at

New Bedford, 1795.*

This book was replied to by Dr. Edwards, and a rejoinder to him was promised by Dr. West to the public, and so far prepared that it might be

finished with a little exertion, if the public attention and liberality were to call for, and support the publication. It is desirable, that some person of science, and metaphysical acumen, would review Dr. West's Essays, in some of our periodical works.

Doctor West's style of writing and preaching had nothing in it peculiarly deserving imitation, though the matter of his discourses was pertinent and solid. They were always independent and commonly original in their form any defects in the tone and inflexion of his voice were always compensated by rich information and irresistible force of argument.

His manner of studying upon religious subjects was not wholly peculiar to himself, being similar to that of Mr. Locke, and Dr. Taylor; to this he adhered with strictness. Without any discoverable partiality for, or prejudice against the manner and systems of Calvin, or Arminius, Athanasius, Arius or Socinus, his appeal was always direct to the Bible, which he was often wont to say "was its own best interpreter." He was therefore more frequent in the use of a concordance than a commentator, and never had recourse to the latter but in cases of great obscurity. His common phraseology was, "Moses says, The prophet says-Our Saviour says-The apostles say," and while he substantiated his doctrines on words and phrases clearly defined plained, he would not lay much stress on particles, or ground an argument of the truth of an essential doctrine on the Greek article ò, or any other particle in the Hebrew, Greek or Latin languages.

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His method of teaching his pupils in divinity was always consonant with the protestant principles of free inquiry, and the sufficiency of the scriptures. He endeavoured to make his pu

pils understand before he required their belief. His primary lessons repected the habit of attention, love of the truth, zealous disposition or research; and instead of expecting from them to imbibe at once all he should teach, he was satisfied if they would only examine carefully what he had said. His pupils not only acquired historical and critical information, but principles of interpretation and reasoning, and no man was better able to convert the selfsufficient dogmatist into an elementary divine, and establish his faith on the basis of axioms, which he would never relinquish but from the impulses of folly and vice.

His opinions it would be improper to detail, without adducing express authorities from his writings. It may however be observed, that he thought a willingness to be damned was not a Christian exercise; that the evidence brought to prove a total depravity in mankind was defective and insufficient; that men possess a self-determining power, without which there could be neither freedom, virtue or vice, praise or blame; and of consequence he was opposed to the Hopkinsian, or rather Edwardisystem of ideas, with the supporters of which he was frequently in controversy.

His manners and domestic char. acter were peculiar. The former were indeed unpolished, but such were the charms of his conversation that he was an acceptable companion not only to literary men, but to all discerning people of fashion. His exterior figure, deportment and temper, resembled those of Dr. Johnson, if we may decide from the por

trait given of the latter by artists and biographers. In domestic affairs he was wholly unconcerned, till compelled to attention by imperious necessity. This deficiency was discreetly supplied by his assiduous, intelligent consort, and will be forgiven in studious men, by those who consider the incompatability of a detail solicitude in household matters, with a strong thirst for knowledge. No man can serve two masters. The reports circulated of Dr. West's eccentricities are most of them questionable, and all of them might pass without a smile in such as knew his substantial merits.

The subject of this biographical notice had his blemishes, and they are mentioned not to depreciate the dead, but to give an instructive hint to the living. A new book of merit, or the conversation of a sentimental friend, was devoured with an avidity, which absorbed his whole attention, and made him neglect the common rules of decorum. He could not readily forgive those, who doubted the truth of certain favourite opinions, or reminded him of any instances of credulity, in which he was deceived by his benevolence; and being wholly absorbed by the utility of the end, he became blind in discerning the means of attaining it. A stranger also might suppose, from the manner of his devotion, that he was less devout than his intimate ac quaintance knew him to be; for, to his friends, it was certain, that neither tone or gesture were any infallible criteria of faith or piety. He believed more than most men, and felt as much as any man, at those times, and

upon those occasions, when it was proper to loosen the reins of thought, and yield to the full control of sentimental emotions.

But truth and justice oblige us to compensate the mention of such failings, by saying that no man could accuse Father West of the wilful violation of any principle of moral rectitude and sincerity. By education, habit and grace, he sustained the character of strict veracity, steady patriotism and philanthropy, unshaken evangelical faith, and deserves to be enrolled as a Rabbi in the Christian Israel.

Without vanity, he was always gratified by attentions. Knowledge made him humble; and without any expressions of assurance, he always signified a modest hope that he had closed with the terms of salvation proposed in the gospel, and trusted he should enter into his Master's joy, believing that mortality would be swallowed up of life, and that saints will rise in the likeness of their glorious Redeemer.

Jan. 20, 1808.

EXTRACTS RESPECTING THE REV. J. BROWN OF HADDINGTON, SCOTLAND.

In learning, Mr. Brown's attainments were eminent, corresponding with the insatiable ardor of his mind after general knowledge. He was also eminent in piety. Prayer was his delight. In conversation, it was evidently his constant aim to reform and to edify. Through stedfast faith in the divine promises, he seemd to have attained such an even

ness of mind, as never to be much transported with joy, or much depressed with sorrow. During his last illness, he discovered a remarkably thankful frame of mind for the smallest favour; and so satisfied was he with the dispensations of Providence, that for three or four months before his death, he was not heard to utter a discontented or uneasy word. The following are some of his expressions during his last illness.

To

"If Christ be magnified in my life, that is the great matter I wish for. Often we read history as atheists or deists, rather than as Christians. read of events, without observing the hand of God in them, is to read as atheists; and to read and not observe how,all events conduce to carry on the work of redemption, is to read as deists. The doctrine of grace, reigning through righteousness, is good to live with, and good to die with. What a happy life a Christian might have, were he alway persuaded of the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Were there any such thing as exchange of learning, I would willingly quit all my knowledge of languages and other things, were it a thousand times more extensive, experimentally to know what that meaneth, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." I have met with trials, yet the Lord hath been so kind to me, that I think, if he were to give me as many years as I have lived in the world,

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