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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 dissented 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 impressive; and thus coming from the heart, they seldom failed to reach the hearts of others.
In the chamber of sickness and affiction 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 piety, 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 mcurner cease to sigh. How many wounded hearts he has bound up, and from how many weeping eyes he has wiped the tears awaf-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
gave him a diploma of Doctor in Divinity.
The social feelings of the Doctor were strong, and his powers of conversation such as always pleased. In his manners there was an unaffected elegance and ease, which rendered him uncommonly agreeable to every circle. The affability and kindness with which he treated persons of every description were not less the effect of a natural delicacy than of a general knowledge of mankind. Hence to the great he never could appear servile, nor imperious to those in humbler stations. To both he was the gentleman, and in private company as much esteemed as he was popular in his public performances. His benevolent heart was feelingly alive to distress of every kind, and in contributing to its alleviation in every shape he was actively useful. We find his name amongst the first members of the Humane Society of this Commonwealth. Of the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society he was a useful officer, and of the Boston Dispensary a member from its beginning, and President at his death. The Boston Female Asylum is likewise much indebted to his exertions. He was also an almoner of the private charity of many individuals, who confided in his knowledge and judgment of suitable objects..
A particular trait of his character, in which he truly shone as a Christian minister, was the tenderness and promptitude with which he conversed and prayed with several unhappy persons who were condemned and executed for violations of certain penal laws. Every one who was acquainted with the familiar, yet dignified manner in which he spoke on religious subjects, can form some idea of the solicitude with which he visited those persons in prison, to whom he was called. It pleased God to bless him in these endeavours, by making him instrumental of leading some of them to the
knowledge of the Lord Jesus. It was his custom to impress on their minds a solemn sense of their accountability to God, to show them from his word their state as sinners exposed to his wrath, and then to set before their minds the grace and mercy which could be extended to the most guilty who believe in Christ. It was a truth in which he gloried as a minister of the New Testament, that he could, according to his commission, freely exhibit to the view of a dying sinner, a salvation in Christ Jesus which is complete, and wholly independent of any creature righteousness. On this subject he would say, I have no time to trifle with men's souis by directing them to depend on their own exertions, but I will point them to Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believeth.
Such was the faithfulness with which he discharged the various duties incumbent on him as a minister of the gospel ; such was his zeal for the glory of God and the good of souls, that it may be truly said of him, he was the happy man. Holý, spiritual religion was not with him a transient, visionary thing, but the element in which he breathed. His soul was often so enlarged in declaring the glorious gospel, and in expatiating on the riches of God's grace as manifested in his word, that he not only seemed himself to enjoy a prelibation of heaven, but to have been enabled by divine influence to communicate this blessedness to others; so that his friends have often said, after having heard his private conversation or public preaching, truly our fellowship was with the Father, with his Son Christ Jesus, and with one another through the Spirit's influence.
To his church and people he was strongly attached, and particularly attentive.* Nor did he ever suffer
* For a long time previous to his death, he was particularly anxious that a colleague pastor should be settled with him. Knowing that time with him was short, he ardently wished to see his church and congregation happily united in a person, whose sentiments and character he should entirely approve, and to whose care he could cheerfully confide his charge, when he should be called to put off the earthly house of his tabernacle. To effect this abject,
of relaxation or amusement to interfere with the conscientious discharge of the smallest professional duty. His duty was indeed always his delight, and nothing in his mind ever stood in any sort of competition with it.
His congregation always reciprocated his warm attachment to them. They ever sat delighted under his preaching, and felt a pride in him as an accomplished pulpit orator, no less than a love for him as an excellent preacher; and neither of them were any ways diminished by the attention of strangers who visited the metropolis, and were commonly desirous of hearing this celebrated minister before they left it.
In the different walks of social and private life, Dr. Stillman was peculiarly amiable. Those most intimately connected with him, ever found him a pleasant companion, a judicious counsellor, and a faithful friend. The various offices of domestic life were discharged with the same fidelity and tenderness which marked his public conduct. Of husbands, he was one of the most kind and affectionate; of parents, the most tender and endearing. Indeed, all who resided under his roof experienced his paternal care and goodness.
Through life his habit of body had been weakly, and he was not unused to occasional interruptions of his ministerial labours ; yet he survived all his clerical cotemporaries, both in Boston and its vicinity. It was his constant prayer that his life and usefulness might run parallel : in this his desires were gratified. He had now attained the age of
seventy years, when the time of his departure had
in his view so important, his labours were incessant; and Providence seemed to smile on his endeavours. The Rev. JOSEPH CLAY, from Georgia, having visited the town of Boston, appeared, both to the pastor and the flock, to be the very object of their united wishes. Proposals having been accordingly made to him for settlement, which he accepted, necessary arrangements were making for it. The Doctor was delighting himself with the prospect; but it pleased Heaven that he should not be permitted to realize its accomplishment. Mr. Clay had returned to the southward, to settle his affairs there. Two or more months before his return, the period he had fixed for it, the melancholy circumstance of Dr. Stillman's death occurred. The following August. Mr. Clay's installation took place.