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New-England, during the seventeenth century, had such an intimate connection with Eliot's labours, and the narrative of them appears to be so much in unison with the principal objects which we have had in view in composing his Life, that we have related them in different forms, at as great length as our plan, and the materials which we possessed, would permit.
Eliot's birth-His conversion--His education at Cam.
bridge-His employment as usher in a school at Little Baddow, in Essex-His entrance into the sacred ministry-His departure to America-His employment in the Congregational Church at Boston-His marriage-His settlement at Roxbury-His character as a minister.
John Eliot was born in England, in the year 1604. His early life is involved in obscurity, and even the names and circumstances of his parents are now unknown. It appears, however, that he enjoyed the unspeakable blessing of a Christian education, which issued in his conversion, and led him to remark, when advanced to
manhood, that “ he saw that it was a great favour of God to him, to season his first times with the fear of God, the word, and prayer.” a
He received an excellent education at the University of Cambridge, and made remarkable progress in his studies. He became a most acute grammarian, and attained an extensive knowledge of theology, of the original languages of the sacred Scriptures, and of the sciences and liberal arts.b
On his leaving the University, he was placed in circumstances highly favourable to his mental and moral improvement, and which afforded him important means of usefulness to his fellow-creatures. About the year 1629, the pious and enlightened Thomas Hooker, who afterwards proved one of the most distinguished divines of New England, having, on account of his non-conformity, been suspended from the exercise of the ministry, at Chelmsford, in Essex, established, at the request of several respectable persons, a school at Little Baddow. Mr Eliot was employed as his usher; and he discharged the duties connected with this situation with great fidelity. His services proved very acceptable to Mr Hooker, who
a Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, b. üi. p. 173.
b Mather's Magnalia, b. iii. p. 184.
took the greatest interest in his welfare, successfully directed him to the solemn consideration of divine truth, and deeply impressed his mind with his obligations to glorify his Redeemer. The blessings which he enjoyed, at Little Baddow, were gratefully remembered.
“ To this place I was called,” he writes, “ through the infinite riches of God's mercy in Christ Jesus to my poor soul, for here the Lord said unto my dead soul, Live; and, through the grace of God, I do live, and I shall live for ever! When I came to this blessed family, I then saw, and never before, the power of godliness in its LIVELY VIGOUR and EFFICACY."C
Mr Eliot, having experienced this decided improvement in his views and feelings on the subject of religion, devoted himself to the work of preaching the gospel to his fellow-creatures. d Reflecting, however, on the deplorable corruptions of the Church of England, and the unscriptural and cruel measures which were so ardently pursued by King James, and the persons who were at the head of ecclesiastical affairs, he found that he would be unable to continue in the office of the ministry in his native land, and resolved to depart to America,
where he hoped to enjoy liberty of conscience, and to exercise church discipline according to what he conceived to be the institutions of Christ. He embarked for New-England in the summer of 1631, and arrived at Boston in the month of November in the same year.e
Deeply impressed with the necessity of using all the means in his power for the promotion of his spiritual interests, and the improvement of his fellow-creatures, he lost no time in entering into Christian communion with the Congregational Church, which had been formed at Boston by the first colonists of Massachusetts Bay, and in agreeing to act as pastor, during the absence of its regular minister, the Rev. John Wilson, who had gone to England with the view of settling his affairs. f
In 1632, he was joined to a pious young lady, to whom he had promised marriage previously to his departure from England. He was also, at this time, called to enter into that relation which was the principal reason of his leaving the land of his fathers. He had agreed with a number of his Christian friends, to devote himself to their service
Mather, b. iii. p. 174, 188. Neal's History of New England, vol. i. p. 125,
f Mather, b. iii.