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because they are indisposed to them. From the fact that man is endowed with reason, will and affections, he argued his moral obligation to believe what God has revealed, and obey what he has commanded.
As his views of man's depravity were clear and distinct, he of consequence saw the necessity of regeneration by the free and sovereign agency of the Holy Ghost. That operation of God by which this change is effected, he did not consider as a mere circumstantial alteration or new modification of the sinful affections, but that a new disposition was given to the soul, well described by Paul as a new creation. In this change he supposed the person was brought to have entirely new views of moral subjects.
Respecting the atonement of Christ, his sentiments were honorary to truth. He considered it as an illustration of the divine perfections not discoverable by any other medium; exhibiting to all intelligent beings the odious nature of sin, God's love to holiness, and his unspeakable mercy to the guilty. He viewed the merits of Christ in his obedience and death, as having an infinite value, and as possessing a sufficiency for the salvation of every individual of the human race; had it been the will of God to make its application to the conscience so extensive; but from die vine revelation he learned that its design was particular, respecting, in its application to the heart, the elect only. He did not, however, connect with this the erroneous idea of some, that all men were not under obligation to repent of their sins and believe the gospel; but whilst he believed the condemnation of sinners was by the moral law, he supposed that this condemnation would be greatly aggravated by a rejection of the gospel, and that they would be treated as those who despised God's grace.
His ideas of the faith which accompanies salvation were, that it was a belief of the gospel ; a hearty reception of that plan of grace which is revealed in Christ Jesús, accompanied with holy love and every gracious exercise. He rejected the error, that the essence of faith consists 'in a person's believing that Christ died for him
in particular ; no such proposition being contained in the word of God, and no one being warranted to believe this till he has good evidence of his regeneration. From his ideas of faith he naturally inferred that good works would uniformly follow. These he zealously enforced as an evidence of faith, but not as designed to originate it. Practical godliness was a subject on which he often preached, and which he urged on believers from the noblest gospel motives.
The purpose of God in his eternal election of a certain number of the human race to salvation, was a principle dear to Dr. Stillman, as a truth clearly revealed. Believing the carnal mind, or natural heart, to be enmity against God, he very justly concluded, that if any sinners were saved, their salvation must be effected by an influence extraneous from themselves. To imagine with some, that God had left it with depraved men to meet him in any conditions which they were to perform, he would represent as dishonorary to the Divine Majesty, who will not give his glory to another. Neither could he believe that any of God's designs originated in time ; but that all his purposes were, like himself, eternal. This was his ground of encouragement to preach, knowing that God had determined by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, and that he had promised to make a willing people in the day of his power.
From his clear apprehension of eternal personal election, he was firmly established in the final perseverance to eternal glory of all those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God; and that the grace given is an incorruptible seed.
The opinion that religious establishments are contrary to the New Testament, was defended by him. His ideas on this subject are plainly expressed in his sermon before the General Court of Massachusetts, in 1779. The interference of rulers, as such, in matters of conscience, he ever considered as an infringement of natural right. In this sermon he shewed that his own ideas on this subject were similar to those of the immortal Locke. He was a
cordial friend to religious liberty; and all his conduct in life towards Christians from whom he differed, manifested that he was heartily willing that every conscientious citizen should worship in the manner which agreed with the dictates of his conscience, after a candid examination of the word of God.
He preached much to the feelings, and to the heart; and numbers on whose minds naked reason and simple truth could produce no serious effects, his powerful eloquence was a happy means both of touching and reclaiming. Nor was he only a preacher of righteousness. Few men ever exemplified more than he did, the virtues he recommended to others. Whilst he exhibited to his flock the various trials and comforts of Christians, whilst he guided them in the way to eternal life, he led them also by his own example.
His sermons were always studied, and it was his judicious practice principally to write them. Yet from his manner of delivery, a manner peculiar to himself, he always appeared as easy as if speaking extempore. Indeed it was his constant method to add at the moment such thoughts as occurred to his mind whilst speaking. These thoughts were as naturally connected with the subject as though they had been a studied part of it ; and as they were usually delivered with much pathos, they had the happiest effect upon the audience.
. As a public speaker, as a pulpit orator, he was second perhaps to none. Nature had furnished him with a pleasant and most commanding voice, the very tones of which were admirably adapted to awaken the feelings of an audience, and he always managed it with great success. His manner, though grave and serious, was peculiarly graceful, popular, and engaging. His remarkable animation gave additional interest to every subject he handled. Those who heard him might with propriety have said of him what was said of another eminent preacher --" This man is in earnest; he believes what he says, and says what he believes. Verily this is a man of God. Ten such men, and Sodom would have stood."
His eloquence was of the powerful and impressive, rather than of the insinuating and persuasive kind, and so strikingly interesting, that he never preached to an inattentive audience. And even those who discented from him in some minor theological opinions, were still pleased with hearing him, for they knew his sincerity, they knew him to be a good man.
Few persons are alike eminent in all the different duties of the ministerial office; but it would perhaps be difficult to say in which of these Dr. Stillman most excelled.
In prayer he always seemed to his audience as if engaged with a present Deity. His addresses to Heaven were generally short, but very comprehensive ; they were solemn and edifying, and usually very feeling and imprese sive; and thus coming from the heart, they seldom failed to reach the hearts of others,
In the chamber of sickness and affliction he was always a welcome visitor. So well could he adapt his conversation, as to comfort or to caution, to soothe or to awaken, just as the case seemed to require. And if he administered reproof, it was done in so delicate and mild a manner, that it oftener conciliated esteem, than created offence. In his prayers with the sick and afflicted, however intricate the occasion, he was always both appropriate and highly devotional. So eminent was his character for pi-' ety, and so universally was he beloved, that he was often called to the sick and afflicted of other denominations. And his sympathetic feelings, and his fervent supplications seldom failed to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded bosom. The sick would almost forget their pains, and the mourner cease to sigh. wounded hearts he has bound up, and from how many weeping eyes he has wiped the tears away-how many thoughtless sinners he was the means of awakening, and how many saints he has edified and built up unto eternal life-how many wavering minds he has settled, and to how many repenting sinners his words have administered peace, can be fully known only at the great day!
It having pleased the Author of Wisdom to visit Dr. Stillman with peculiar trials, and having largely experienced the supporting influence of religion under them, he was eminently qualified to administer consolation to others. Few persons could describe with such accuracy, or enter with such facility into the feelings and exercises of the tempted, tried believer. Like a skilful surgeon, he knew when the wound was sufficiently probed, and when to apply the healing balm of promise.
In the course of a few years he was called to bury seven of his children, all adults, and some of them with rising families, having previously buried five children in infancy. But notwithstanding his domestic trials were so great, his Christian patience and submission were equal to them all. Such was his perfect confidence in the wisdom of God's government, that with all his extreme sensibilities, his mind lost nothing of its lively confidence, or of its cheerful hope.
Dr. Stillman was possessed of great benevolence of heart, and was a sincere lover of persons of every Christian denomination, whom he esteemed pious and good. Though from education and from principle a Baptist himself, he never believed that the peculiarities of any sect ought to form a separating line, or hinder the union of good men, for the advancement of the common cause of the Redeemer. With many such he long lived in habits of undissembled friendship, and by them his death will not very soon cease to be regretted.
With a view more especially to assist young men in attaining a suitable education for the ministry, he successfully employed his talents and zeal in aiding the interests of Brown University, Rhode Island, which owes much to his exertions.
It might be mentioned as a proof of the high estimation in which his talents were held as a preacher, that there is scarcely any public occasion on which he has not at one time or another officiated. The university of Cambridge conferred on him the honorary degree of Master of Arts, in 1761. The college in Rhode Island, of which he was both a Trustee and a Fellow, in 1788