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THE REV. JEREMIAH NEWELL.
As the author of the ensuing narrative had no personal acquaintance with Mr. Newell till the last year of his life, he cannot be expected to furnish many particulars from his own knowledge : for the only conversation, which he ever had with him, was wholly engrossed by the unspeakably important concerns of the sacred ministry, in which they were both engaged.
The materials also from which a biographical narrative must be composed are very slender; indeed more so than was expected.
Mr. Jeremiah Newell was born at Llandewey, Radnorshire, December 27th, 1755. His father, Mr. Robert Newell, a farmer in comfortable circumstances, of that place, is still living, a consistent Christian character. His mother was the niece of the Rev. Vavasor Griffiths,' by whom she had been brought up. Her name was Sarah Woolley.
See a pious and sensible letter from him to his students, on parting with them, in the Evangelical Magazine for August 1800, page 317
They were both pious persons, and endeavoured to bring up their son, an only child, “in the “ nurture and admonition of the Lord." The chief care of his education, however, devolved on his mother : and, as she had been well instructed in the most useful parts of general knowledge ; as she knew the value of early tuition in her own case ; and as she not only engaged in this important and delightful office from tender affection to her only child, but from the genuine principles of vital Christianity ; it could perhaps scarcely have been left in better hands. Indeed it appears
that he himself had to the end of life, such a sense of his obligations to his honoured parent, for her attention to his education, and the judicious and pious manner in which she instructed him, that he ascribed his subsequent success in his studies, and usefulness in the ministry, chiefly, under God, to her endeavours : and many other competent judges, who had abundant opportunity of making their observations, concurred with him in this opinion. He accordingly continued in his father's house, and never went to any school or academy, till his nineteenth year: yet his general knowledge, and his unusual attainments for such a situation, joined to his early piety and acquaintance with the scriptures attracted the attention of several ministers and other respectable persons, who frequently visited his parents ; and they concurred in opinion, that he had talents, which, with the improvement and polish of a measure of learning, would qualify him for important usefulness. As for himself, his modesty, which bordered on the extreme, precluded his entertaining any such thought. Hitherto he had employed himself in the business of his father's farm ; though at times his mind aspired after more intellectual pursuits, and he had thoughts of applying himself to the study of medicine.
When, however, the unexpected opinion of those to whom he had been accustomed to look up with veneration, suggested and encouraged the idea of the sacred ministry; and he was led to conclude that he might think of that “good work” without presumption; it soon acquired the preponderancy in his pious mind, and gave a decisive turn to his future life; though it was far from opening to him the best prospect of worldly advantage.
But here let the reader pause for a moment, and turn his thoughts to a subject of great importance; or rather to two subjects intimately connected with each other : namely, 1. the importance of maternal duty in this respect, not only as to daughters, or sons while very young, or such as are to move in very inferior stations, but even in forming the minds and principles of such as may eventually fill up
the most useful stations in the church and in the community: and, 2. the importance of female education, that mothers may be qualified for the discharge of so high a trust. It is not, perhaps, going too far to say that, under God, men are in no small degree what women make them, as their influence is at all times incalculable: but the present observation only relates to maternal influence in the earlier part of life. Youth is the time for learning and remembering : that which first occupies the mind and memory generally keeps the longest possession ; and most thinking
men have permanently to regret, or to rejoice in, the ideas received, and the principles imbibed, during the first eight or ten years of their lives. Now these eight or ten years are frequently spent in great measure under the care of the mother : and, it is probable, they would in almost all cases be best thus spent, if mothers were but universally qualified for the charge, and took delight in it.
It seems evident, as far as human probability reaches, that Mr. Newell would never have thought of the ministry, or been thought of for it, had it not been for his pious mother's unwearied instructions; and consequently his usefulness in that line would have been prevented: but how could she have instructed him, so as, without any other tuition, to cause him to attract the attention of those whom the event shews to have judged aright, had she not herself been well educated ?
But we may appeal to higher and more incontestable authority. Who can doubt that the early and occasional instructions of pious Hannah were, by the blessing of God, highly conducive in forming Samuel for the eminent stations and most extensive usefulness of his subsequent life? In these no doubt Elkanah concurred; yet Hannah is much more noticed : she had received her son as “ asked “ of God;" she devoted him to God, and was no doubt useful in forming his tender mind to those views and principles, which preserved him from contamination in Eli's family, and by Eli's sons ; to whose impiety and licentiousness the indolence and timidity of their despised father opposed a very inadequate barrier.
It is, however, still more evident that the pious endeavours of Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of young Timothy, in bringing him when a child acquainted with the holy scriptures, laid the foundation of all his subsequent eminence and usefulness, in which he was inferior to none but the apostles themselves. It is probable that, while they were teaching the child to read, and treasure up in his memory the oracles of God, they little thought what a harvest in future life would spring from the seed thus sown. And yet the scripture warrants high expectations in this respect : and it may fairly be said, that the education of women in useful knowledge and genuine piety, in order that they might be qualified and disposed to instil good principles into the tender minds of children, would have the happiest effects towards reforming mankind, and diffusing the light of the gospel in the world. In the mean time, let those who wish their beloved offspring to be happy and useful do what they can, diligently and patiently, with faith and prayer; and they will no doubt have to rejoice, in time to come, over the happy effects of their pious labours.
This part of the subject has led us past the earlier years of Mr. Newell's life, without any other notice of them. Indeed no particulars have been transmitted, except that his parents were satisfied of his conversion and decided piety about the sixteenth year of his age ; and in his nineteenth year, it was determined that he should relinquish his employment in husbandry, and seek admission into the ministry. In order to this, he purposed, without longer delay, to acquire a measure of acquaintance with the learned languages: and,