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THE REV. JOHN LATHROP, a minister of Barnstable, in England, arrived at Scituate, 28th Sept. 1634, with several sons. He settled in the ministry at Barnstable, a town in Massachusetts, so called from the town of the same name in England. A number of his former flock came and settled in the same town.
Samuel, his youngest son, came to Norwich in Connecticut, and there settled in a family state. He was my great grandfather. He, and my predecessors after him, all lived and died in that town. There I was born, Oct. 20, 1731, O. S. My father's name was Solomon. He married Martha, the eldest daughter of Deacon Joseph Perkins. She was then the widow of Thomas Todd of Rowley, with whom she had lived but about four months. He died without issue.
My father died May -, 1733, aged 27. He left a daughter older than myself, who died a few weeks after him. From memoirs which he left, and from letters which he wrote to his his particular friends, and which I have seen, I have formed an opinion of him, as a person of early and eminent piety, of good natural talents, and of more than a common education for that day. This idea has been confirmed by information from some of his contemporaries.
In his writings I have seen very serious and grateful acknowledgements of the wonderful preservation of his life in a moment
of imminent danger, when he was a youth. The town of Norwich was building a bridge over Shatucket river, near to which my grand-father lived. The bridge was high, and designed to be strengthened by geometrical works above. The people had made some progress in raising the structure, when, by some inattention in the managers, the whole work gave way and fell in a general crash. My father, who, at that moment, was on the top of one of the highest posts, nearly forty feet from the water, fell with the bridge. He was taken up as dead, and laid on a stick of timber. Indications of life soon appearing, he was taken off and carried home. home. He was much injured; but in a few weeks was restored to health and soundness. Several, though apparently in less danger, were more grievously wounded; and, I think, one was killed. I have seen in my youth a printed narrative of the catastrophe; but many circumstances are now lost to my recollection.
My situation was remote from cool; but my mother paid particular attention to my education. She instructed me in reading and writing, and in the principles of religion. She was a person of exemplary piety.
In the year 1739, when I was in the eighth year of my age, my mother married to a Mr. Loomis, of Bolton, with whom I lived till I became a member of college. He was a sensible, good man; he treated me with much kindness; nor could I ever accuse him of undue partiality in favour of his own children. At the age of fourteen, I chose him my guardian, nor did I err in my choice.
About this time there was a general attention to religion in the country, and it reached the vicinity in which I lived. Many youths were exceedingly agitated with religious terrors for a time; and then were wrought into high comforts and joys. My mind was not wholly unaffected with what I saw and heard; but it
was calm and unruffled. I often wished to experience the strong sensations which some others seemed to feel, but could not attain to them in the same degree. My mind, however, was serious and attentive. I often retired for secret prayer, read much, thought I found benefit in reading pious books, such as Alleyn's Alarm, Stoddard's Safety of Appearing, and some of Bunyan's works, &c. (and I have never lost my relish for Bunyan.) I hoped that religion was radically formed in my mind. But, alas! I have found reason to lament that my subsequent life came so much short of my early resolutions.
At the age of about sixteen I felt a strong desire of a public education. I realized the difficulty in my way. My patrimony lay chiefly in lands, and none had power to sell them for the purpose which I contemplated. I ventured, however, one evening, to propose the matter to my step-father, who gave it a more favorable attention than I expected: but said, that for certain reasons, of which I felt the force, the business must be delayed for a few months. After a little time, it was agreed between him and an uncle of mine in Norwich, that they would sell a part of my lands, give a bond for a deed, and take on themselves the risk of my life and fidelity. This was a generous action. I secured them as soon as I was legally able.
I prepared for college under the tuition of Rev. Mr. White, of Bolton, an accurate linguist and able instructor. I entered Yale college in 1750, being then in my nineteenth year, and graduated in 1754. While I was a member of college, I had two fits of sickness; but by the good hand of Providence was carried safely through both. In my last year, I fell into a languid state, which continued for some months; but by returning home and applying myself moderately to the labours of the field, I regained my usual health. At college I had too much neglected bodily exercise, which is absolutely necessary for the health of students.
In the course of this year, there were some deaths in college, which deeply impressed my mind with a sense of the uncertainty of life, the necessity of religion and the importance of a good hope. I felt a conviction of my sinfulness, lamented it before God, sought His mercy, and seemed to myself, as if religion was my choice; but was much discouraged by an apprehension, that I was one of the non-elect. I spent much time in secret exercises. As I was walking and meditating, one day, in solitude and anxiety, I reasoned thus with myself. "A Saviour has come to open a way of salvation for sinners. Salvation is offered, and the terms are stated. The offer is to all, and the terms are the same for all. In God there is no insincerity. To Him belong secret things; things only which are revealed belong to me. There can be no decree, which frustrates the Divine promises. If I comply with the terms, the benefits promised are mine. God has chosen men to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. It concerns me to make my election sure by adding to my faith, virtue, &c. By faith and patience I may inherit the promises.'
By thus arguing with myself, my anxiety was relieved, my mind composed, and my hope strengthened. Soon after this I made a profession of religion in the church in Bolton; and there, for the first time, I came to the Lord's table.
After I had taken my degree, I came to Springfield, first parish, to teach a grammar school, and was admitted a boarder in the family of Rev. R. Breck, the minister of the parish, who kindly assisted me in my professional studies. I had the happiness of the company of Mr. Whitney,* a licensed candidate, who then resided in the family.
*The Rev. Dr. Whitr of Brooklyn, Conn. The friendship which commenced between them at this early period was mutually cherished, till the close of Dr. L's life. Doctor W. survives his venerable friend, and it is understood that he is now at the advanced age of 90, in comfortable health, and in the pos session of a good degree of intellectual vigour.
In January, 1756, by advice of Mr. Breck, I offered myself as a candidate for the ministry, to an Association of ministers then sitting in Suffield, who examined, approved and recommended me.
In March following, in consequence of advice from neighboring ministers, I was invited by the parish, of which I am now the pastor, then vacant by the death of Rev. S. Hopkins, to preach as a candidate for settlement. In July I received an unanimous call, and in August received ordination. This was the only vacancy, in which I preached as a candidate, and I was the only candidate employed by the parish.
Some time after my ordination, realizing, from a little experience, the greatness of my work and my own insufficiency for it; considering how much might depend on my fidelity in it, and fearing I had undertaken it presumptuously, I set apart a day for secret devotion, having a special regard to my ministerial work. My meditations and resolutions on that day I committed to writing for my future use and benefit.
After invoking God's presence and assistance, I called to mind the mercies which I had experienced from my childhood to that time, more particularly marking such as had been distinguished. I acknowledged my high obligations, lamented my unworthy returns, sought forgiveness of sins past, and implored grace for the time to come.
I then made a fresh dedication of myself to God, with resolutions of future obedience to His will, and of fidelity in His service. My resolutions were, in substance, as follows:
With regard to my devotions, I resolved,
That I would direct my morning thoughts to God, and spend some of my earliest moments in conversing with Him-That at evening I would recollect the sins and errors of the day, seeking God's mercy for pardon, and His grace for future security, and would review occurrences in Providence with suitable reflections