« PreviousContinue »
words. It tells man, that he is a sinner, but leaves him without help, with “no eye to pity and no arm to save," yet lends its power to confirm the divine authority of the gospel, and sends the sinner there to learn, believe, obey, and be saved. Never is it to be raised above revelation, to become a substitute for it, or deemed sufficient without it; but on the other hand, never is it to be deemed superfluous, or contradictory and uncongenial in spirit, or a profane blending of human and divine science,-an unhallowed mingling of philosophy with religion. Never is the attempt to be made, with sacrilegious hand, to divorce the one from the other. God's works and word harmonize,and he meant that they both should subserve the ends of his moral government.
" From the things that are made, are clearly seen his eternal power and Godhead.” And when he commissioned prophets and apostles, and Christ himself came in human flesh to reveal the will of God more perfectly, he clothed the revelation with such exhibitions of niraculous power, and filled it with such manifestations of its foreknowledge, that from what we knew of God by bis works, we could not doubt, that this message was from him, and that it was in love and kindness to our race. Here is the true position for natural theology. Here God designed it to stand and subserve his glory. It confirms beyond dispute, the record of his Son, “ bringing lise and immortality clearly to light.” We read and examine tbat record,-compare it with the works of God, and see the impress of the same band,—we trust its promises, commit our souls to its grace, and die triumphant, for “ we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.”
ART JI.-SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF
Hon. STEPHEN Mix MITCHELL, LL.D.
In the autumn of the year 1835, the last member except one, as is supposed, of the congress of the United States, previous 10 the adoption of the constitution, departed this life at Wethersfield, Connecticut. This was the Honorable Stephen Mix Mitchell, late chief justice of this State, and long known as a distinguished and useful citizen. His life was extended far beyond the usual period assigned to man, having been but little short of ninety-two years. In the last triennial catalogue of Yale College, published in the summer of 1835, it appears, that he was then the living sen
*Among the associates of Judge Mitchell in that body, were John Hancock, William S. Johnson, Alexander Hamilton, Rufus King, Theodore Sedgwick, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Treadwell, and several other eminent civilians, who have all, it is believed, been called from time, with the single exception of Mr. Madison.
ior alumnus of that institution. He was not, however, more venerable for years, than for his patriotic services, and moral worth; and much as he was honored with public testimonials of regard, he was still more endeared to a large circle of friends and acquaintances in private life.
Judge Mitchell belonged to that generation of men, who commenced, sustained, and perfected, the independence of their country, who molded its civil and religious institutions, and 10 whom the nation, on these accounts, is under the deepest obligations of gratitude. Very few of them remain to receive the homage of their countrymen, or to enjoy the reward of their arduous services in the cause of freedom and humanity. The rapid diminution of their number, would naturally, we should suppose, if not from a principle of curiosity, yet from a sense of propriety and justice, call forth the increasing attention of their juniors towards them. The relics of so noble a race, deserve our consideration for many reasons. As benefactors of mankind, and especially of their country, as patriots, and in many instances, as models of civic virtues and christian excellence, they deserve the lasting respect, as well as careful imitation of their successors and descendants. Their principles of conduct, as developed in civil life, and in an attention to the duties of piety, are worthy indeed of our most diligent study. Too much importance cannot be attached to their political and religious doctrines, constituting as these do, the basis of their character: and doubtless the best manner of learning them is from the living voice and example. We have still an opportunity from such a source, of acquiring information of more value to our country, than the experience of all the states of antiquity can supply. A few years, at most, will bear beyond our personal inspection or intercourse, all those, who, either in a civil or military capacity, acted a part in the interesting scenes of our revolutionary struggle. The generation is in embryo who will know these worthies, only in the story of their achievements. We can lose no time, then, in cherishing with a lively regard, those specimens of a class of our fellowcitizens 10 who we are so much indebted; and as the chief among them from time to time disappear from the list of the liviny, we should feel it a privilege to record, in a passing tribute at least, our sense of their merits and services. It is with these views, that we propose to occupy a few pages of this work in giving a sketch of the lise and character of the eminent citizen already named.
Stephen Mix Mitchell, was born at Wethersfield, in the county of Hartford, Connecticut, Dec., 20th, 1743. He was a son of James Mitchell, who emigrated in early life, from Paisley in Scotland, and settled in the town above named.* His mother was a
* James Mitchell first came to Boston, but not being pleased with the country,
daughter of the Rev. Stephen Mix, of Wethersfield. She was grand-daughter to the Rev. Solomon Stoddard, of Northampton, and of course, cousin to the first president Edwards. She was a second wife to James Mitchell, and died, leaving her son Stephen Mix, the subject of the present sketch, about four years old, her only child. The father of Stephen, died the first year of the revolutionary war, charging his son on his death bed, never to desert the cause of their adopted country. He had lived to see the latter settled in the world, and happily entered on bis professional career.
At a suitable age, young Stephen commenced his studies preparatory to admission into college. His principal teacher who was a Scotch yentleman, by the name of Beveredge, and who had been sent for to this country for professional purposes of this kind, perfectly understood bis business. He was not only a man of learning, but a disciplinarian of no ordinary character. His young charge in the present instance, soon ascertained, that mistakes in the recitation of his lessons, would be atoned for only by a severe corporeal infliction. The fear of such a consequence, for the most part, overcame the carelessness or indolence of youth. Lessons were well learned, and long remembered, or if blunders at any time were made, these were remembered still longer. To so strict and severe a discipline, however, Mr. Mitchell afterwards felt not a little indebted. He entered college in 1759, and graduated in 1763, when he was nearly twenty years of age. He distinguishied himself by his talents and proficiency while in college; and though bis course there was not without danger for a time, the influence exerted over bim by a class-mate of excellent character, afterwards the Rev. Ebenezer Baldwin, was of a most salutary kind. Jo 1766 Mr. Mitchell was chosen a tutor in that institution, in which office he continued three years.
It was while he was in this situation, that he repaid to a pupil obligations which he owed to a class-mate. It was a case in which he manisested that benevolent interest, which he took in the welfare of others, and which marked bis whole subsequent course in life. It deserves a particular notice from the importance of the result. Timothy Dwight, afterwards president of Yale College, was his pupil as well as kinsman. The loose opinions and corrupt practices which then extensively prevailed in the country, had, to some extent, affected that institution. This state of things operated unfavorably on the noble and ingenuous mind of young Dwight. He had not directly fallen into vice, but the fascinating amusement of gambling, though he never staked money in play, had begun to occupy bis attention, to the exclusion of his studies. Mr. Mitchell perceived his danger and desired to rescue him from so hurtful a course. Accordingly he administered a rebuke to bis pupil, as he bappened to meet the latter without the walls of college. Young Dwight was only irritated by what was said, and so far indulged resentment, as to withhold from Mr. Mitchell, the customary marks of respect due from students to an officer of the institution. Mr. Mitchell, however, could not suffer the affair to pass off in this manner. He sent for young Dwight to his room, and there by appealing to various motives calculated to operate on a susceptible and conscientious mind, (for the feelings inspired by a religious education were still strong,) be effected the change which he wished to see in his pupil. This was a memorable era in the life of Timothy Dwight, who ever afterwards felt and acknowledged his obligations to bis tutor. It was a source of the purest satisfaction to Mr. Mitchell, that he had been instrumental in rescuing so fine a mind, from an illusion which had begun to pervert it, and in saving, in all probability, to the church and to the world, a youth who afterwards proved to be one of the greatest and most useful men in modern times. Vast as is the good which has proceeded already from this one act of faithfulness to the subject of it himself, and through him to hundreds whom he trained io virtue, it is probable, that as yet we see and know but a small part of its expanding amount. Let those who have the care of bright and ingenuous youth, be encouraged to the faithful performance of their duty, as soon as the latter are observed to deviate from the paths of rectitude, since they may add not one gem merely to the Redeemer's crown, but a great multitude, which, through a successive instrumentality, shall be fixed and sparkle there.
and receiving an invitation to go by water to Connecticut, he soon left the place to seek a new home. Passing up Connecticut river, it is said he saw noining that reminded him of the beauty of his native Clyde, until he arrived at Middletown. Encouraged by the prospect, he continued his sail until he reached the rich and beautiful lands which constituted the towns of Wethersfield and Hartford. He stopped at the latter place, but after having lived there for a time, be removed to Wethersfield, where he spent the remainder of his days.
It was during the period of Mr. Mitchell's tutorship, as far as can now be ascertained, that his mind became more especially interested in the subject of personal religion, and that he began to lead the life of a believer in Jesus Christ. He professed religion soon afterwards, in Newtown, Conn., whither he went to reside upon leaving New Haven.
His professional studies had been pursued during his tutorship, and afterwards uider the direction of Jared Ingersoll, Esq. He was admitted to the bar in Fairfield county in 1770. In August of the preceding year, he became connected in marriage with Miss Hannah Grant, daughter of Mr. Donald Grant of Newtown, who had en,igrated to this country some years before from Inverness in Scotland. Their union was of sixty years continuance. Mrs. M. having been called out of life on the 11th of Feb., 1830, at the age of eighty. The firmness of her character and her christian temper, fitted her for the station which she occupied as a wise and the mother of a numerous offspring, and as called to dispense the hospitalities of the family to its frequent guests, and to manage its concerns during the repeated calls of her husband from home.
In 1772, Mr. Mitchell removed from Newtown to Wethersfield, his native place, and there established bimself in the practice of the law. He continued in practice about seven years, having a large and increasing business. In this capacity, his diligence and integrity, won the confidence of the profession, and the community. As, however, he was in easy circumstances, from the property which caine into his possession, both by inheritance and by marriage, and as his talents as well as inclination, pointed to the walks of public life, he relinquished the practice of the law to those who stood in greater need of its perquisites. In May 1779, he accepted the office of an associate judge of the Hartford county court. He held this office until May 1790, when he was placed at the head of that court. He continued in the latter situation until Oct. 1795, when he was appointed judge of the superior court, and in May 1807, chief justice of that court, which office he held until May 1814, when he became legally disqualified by age. His services in these stations were highly acceptable to the community, and he retired from the bench, carrying with him the sincere esteem and affection of all who were acquainted with his unaffected kindness of demeanor, purity of motive, and solid attainments.
In the earlier part of the period just spoken of, and indeed before he relinquished ihe practice of law, he represented his native town in the general assembly of Connecticut. He was first chosen representative in 1778 and from that time through five years in succession, he attended the semi-annual sessions of the State legislature. In one of those sessions, Oct. 1782, he was chosen clerk of the house of representatives. The year following, 1784, he was chosen assistant, or member of the upper house, and annually thereafter for nine successive years; and was in that capacity a member of the supreme court of errors. His services in these stations, were duly appreciated by the citizens of his native town and State.
But the exigencies of the country at large, and the demand for its best talents, and highest integrity, immediately subsequent to the great Revolutionary struggle, a period eminently of danger and weakness, called him repeatedly into a wider field of action. His exertions were wanted in the councils of the nation, as well as in the narrower sphere of State legislation. In 1783, he was a delegate from Connecticut, in the congress of the United States. To this station, he was again appointed in 1785, and thence suc