« PreviousContinue »
M E MOIR.
ABIEL ABBOT, the author of the following Sermons, was born in Andover, Mass. on the 17th of August, 1770. He was the youngest, with the exception of one who died in early infancy, of the children of John and Abigail Abbot. The paternal estate, where he continued under the guiding care of his excellent parents to the time of his entering college, had been the residence of his ancestors from so remote a period as the year 1645. To the good understanding and eminent piety of his mother, he was indebted for those religious principles and impressions, which imbued his opening character, and which, in after life, lent an increasing lustre to his piety. When but a child, he was in the habit of private devotion, and often retired for this purpose to the solitary groves, which surrounded his paternal residence. To the benefit, which he had himself experienced of early christian education, may be traced his deep interest and devoted labors in the cause of early moral and religious instruction.
At the age of fourteen, he was the subject of a severe nervous fever, occasioned by thrusting his arm into a cold spring on his father's estate, in the heat of a summer's day ; the shock of which was so great as to produce insensibility, and from the effects of which upon his constitution, he never wholly recovered. This incident, from a conviction not then uncommon, had its influence in determining the character of his future pursuits. Under all the disadvantages of imperfect health, to which from this time he was subject, he was remarkable for cheerfulness and a natural elasticity of mind.
From early life he possessed a strong love of books, and an ardent thirst for knowledge. His course had been originally intended for occupation in the labors of agriculture; but his earnest entreaties, seconded by those of his mother, in connexion with the feeble state of his health, induced a change in his father's purposes, and he was placed to pursue his preparation for college, • at Phillips Academy, then under the care of the celebrated Dr. Pemberton. He there immediately gave proof of the industry and talent, which marked his future life, occupying the first rank in a large class, mostly his superiors in order of admission, and indulging his love of study to a degree, which essentially impaired his health, and occasioned the necessity of parental interference. The value he attached to these early advantages is indicated by his persevering practice, through the winter months, of rising at the hour of four, and oftener earlier than later. To the general and private attentions he experienced at the Academy, in the cul
tivation of a popular and graceful manner of speaking, are to be traced the winning persuasion and captivating eloquence, which subsequently characterized his pulpit performances.
He entered the University at Cambridge, in 1788. His continuance at the University was marked by unexceptionable morals and attendance on college requisitions. He enjoyed the favor of his instructers, and the affection of his fellow students. His high collegiate reputation was sustained more by classic attainments, than by superior proficiency in the exact sciences. He
particularly excelled in writing and speaking; and was graduated in 1792, with honors, as one of the most distinguished of his class. The literary reputation, he continued to sustain, appears from his appointment to deliver the oration before the society of PBK, at their anniversary in 1800, when he took for his subject, “A Review of the eighteenth century.”
Immediately on leaving college, he commenced the duties of assistant teacher at Phillips Academy, Exe-. . ter, N. H. where he continued until August, 1793, studiously directing his reading with a view to his future profession. The succeeding year, he filled with great popularity the office of Principal of Phillips Academy, Andover, pursuing at the same time his theological studies with the Rev. Jonathan French. His review of elementary studies deepened his interest in the general subject of education, and prepared him subsequently to be of important benefit to the public schools in connexion with the duties of his sacred profession. In the No
vember of 1794, he commenced preaching at Haverhill, and, in the February following, was, by the unanimous choice of church and people, invited to become their pastor. In April an affirmative answer was returned, and he was ordained on the third of June, 1795. The entire unanimity with which he was received by a people, who had been much divided under a preceding ministry, was, to the subject of this notice, a very affecting circumstance. All ages, and persons of very different religious opinions united in expressing an attachment to him almost enthusiastic. It was common for ministers, with whom he exchanged, to remark the happy change in his congregation, both as to the number of worshippers, and the solemnity, with which they attended.
A private journal, which he has left, abounds with expressions of the pious sentiment and benevolent feeling, with which he contemplated this interesting event of his life. “I would never forget thy goodness, O thou, whose tender mercies are over all the works of thy hands. Perpetuate the memory of these things in my mind, and keep alive my sensibility and gratitude.” After administering the communion for the first time, in which service his peculiar and impressive manner will be long remembered by many who enjoyed the benefit of his ministrations, he thus writes, “I would never forget the feelings of that first interview with the Church, nor the tears we shed, of which the faulty spectators themselves did not withhold their share. I would remember these feelings and tears, as a constant excite,
ment to prayer that many may be added to our communion of such as shall be saved.”
At this period he entertained a belief in the Trinity. His preaching, however, was practical, and had little to do with what he was obliged to consider the mysteries of religion ; and the opinions, he had been led to form, from the circumstances in which he commenced his theological career, were shadows, which were destined
to be dissipated in a clearer acquaintance with the doc. trines of the gospel.
The process, by which he was led to a change of some of his former opinions, was, first, a doubt of their reality, from their apparent inconsistency with what he esteemed the plain' doctrines of christianity. This doubt instigated to an anxious inquiry respecting their truth. His personal inquiries weakened the effect of his former impressions, and the fundamental principles of Unitarian belief became the objects of his decided conviction.
He continued in the pastoral care of the society at Haverhill, beloved by an affectionate congregation, his services received with flattering tokens of acceptance in the neighbouring pulpits, and devoting his youthful energies to an earnest, direct, and engaging inculcation of the great truths of the gospel. At this period he was very exact in the distribution of his time. On entering a new year, he writes in his diary—“Let it be my solicitous endeavor this year to redeem time. Let it be my plan to undertake more, and to perform quicker. To carry this design into execution, several things will