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THE CHRISTIAN'S ARMORY.
DECEMBER, 1805. ·
THE LIFE OF DR. SAMUEL FINLEY.
MR. SAMUEL FINLEY was born in the year 1715, in the county of Armagh in Ireland, and was one of seven sons, who were all esteemed pious: his parents possessed the same character. They gave him such an education as their circumstances permitted, and, in a country school at some distance from home, he was early distinguished for uncommon proficiency in his studies. He left his native country when he had attained only his 19th year, and arrived in Philadelphia on the 28th of September, 1734. It had pleased God to awaken and convert him very early in life, and by many and various dispensations of his
providence to prepare him for those important stations, which he afterwards filled. He first heard a sermon when he was six years old; and not long before his death was heard to say, that he well remembered the text, and that from the day on which he heard the sermon he conceived strong desires to be a minister; and accordingly, almost as soon as he was capable of forming any resolutions respecting himself, he determined to devote himself to the service of the sanctuary. With this view he spent several years after his arrival in America in completing his studies, during which he was particularly attentive to theology.
This is a very respectable periodical work, published at Philadelphia, by William P. Farrand, the appointed Editor, under the patronage of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It commenced with the year 1805. It is ably conducted. In sentiment it is purely evangelical, according to the doctrines of the Reformation, and those contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Assembly's Catechisms. The intelligence it communicates is interesting to the religious publick. It is printed in a style of superior neatness, and the numbers are ornamented with the portraits of some of the most eminent divines of our country. We cordially recommend this work to the attention of our readers, as an able advocate for religious truth, and an honour to the literary character of our country.
Vol. I. No. 7.
Upon the death of President Davies, the Trustees of the College of New-Jersey elected Mr. Finley as his successor in that important office. Great were the struggles of his mind on this occasion. His love to his people, and theirs to him, was of the most tender kind, having long been nourished by the affectionate assiduities of uninterrupted friendship. But a prospect of more extensive usefulness, and in that way in which Providence had already so remarkably succeeded his labours, inclined him to think it his duty to remove. He therefore accepted the invitation given him by the Trustees, and removed to Princeton in July, 1761. Upon this event the hopes of the well wishers to the College revived, and the clouds which had so long hung over that nursery of religion and learning began to be dissipated. Raised expectations were formed by Mr. Finley's friends, and they were not disappointed. Under his care the College flourished and acquired additional reputation, and his own fame became much more extensive. He was known in various parts of Europe, and corresponded with many eminent men there, among whom was Dr. Samuel Chandler, of London, who in all his letters evinced the most sincere esteem for this his distant friend. Such was the opinion his friends in Scotland entertained of him, as a divine and a scholar, that, without his knowledge, they procured for him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, from the University of Glasgow. He received his Diploma in 1763.
After a due course of Presbyterial trials, he was licensed on the 5th of August, 1740, to preach the gospel, and was ordained on the 13th of October, 1742, by the Rev. Presbytery of New-Brunswick. The first part of his ministry was employed in long and fatiguing itinerations; and the records of several of the churches which he visited contain honourable memorials of his diligence, fidelity and success. A little before this time a remarkable revival of religion had commenced, which still continued in this Mr. Finley was a coadjutor with Messrs. Tennent, Whitefield and others, and his labours were remarkably blessed at Deerfield, Greenwich, and Cape May, in New-Jersey. He preached likewise to great acceptance for six months, as a stated supply to a congregation in Philadelphia, of which Mr. Gilbert Tennent afterwards had the pastoral charge. In June, 1744, he accepted a call to Nottingham, in Maryland, on the border of Pennsylvania, where he continued near seventeen years, faithfully discharging the duties of his sacred office, and had the pleasure to see the work of the Lord prospering in his hands. During his residence at Nottingham he instituted an academy, which acquired great reputation, and attracted students even from distant parts. Mr. Finley was justly famed as a scholar, and eminently qualified as a teacher. Under his instruction many, very many youths received the rudiments of an education, and correct moral sentiments, which have since placed them amongst the most useful and ornamental members of society.
Unremitted attention to the duties of his station very sensibly
affected his health, and produced a fixed obstruction in his liver. He repaired to Philadelphia for medical aid, where he died, on the 17th of July, 1766, in the 51st year of his age.
He was twice married. His first wife was Miss Sarah Hall, a lady of an amiable character, who was truly an help meet for him; by her he had eight children, of whom one only is now living. She died in the year 1760, and in 1761, Dr. Finley married Miss Ann Clarkson, a daughter of Mr. Matthew Clarkson, formerly an eminent mer chant in the city of New York, and a lineal descendant from David Clarkson, B. D. who was ejected for non conformity, in England, in 1671. This lady still survives.
Dr. Finley was in sentiment a Calvinist. He was a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. His sermons were not hasty productions, but filled with solid good sense and well digested sentiment, expressed in a style pleasing to the man of science, yet perfectly intelligible by the more illiterate. They were calculated to inform the ignorant, to alarm the careless and secure, to comfort and edify the saint, and to make the sinner in Zion tremble.
As a man he was remarkable for uncommon sweetness of temper and polite behaviour; given to hospitality, charitable without ostentation, diligent in the performance of the relative duties of life, and in all things shewing himself a pattern of good works. When the Dr. first applied to the physicians in Philadelphia, he had no apprehension that his dissolution was so near, as it af
terwards appeared; for he ob served to his friends, "if my work is done I am ready. I do not desire to live a day longer than I can work for God. But I cannot think this is the case as yet. God has much for me to do before I depart hence."
About a month before he died, his physicians informed him that his disease appeared to them incurable; upon which he expressed entire resignation to the divine will, and from that time till his death, was employed in setting his house in order. On being told by one of his physicians, that according to present appearances he could live but a few days longer, he lifted up his eyes, and exclaimed, “then welcome Lord Jesus."
On the Sabbath preceding his death, his brother-in-law, Dr. Clarkson, one of his physicians, told him that he perceived a visible alteration, from which he apprehended his death was at hand. "Then," said he, "may the Lord bring me near himself. I have been waiting with a Canaan hunger for the promised land. I have often wondered that God suffered me to live; I have more wondered, that ever he called me to be a minister of his word, He has often afforded me much strength, which, though I have abused, he has returned in mercy. O faithful are the promises of God! O that I could see him, as I have seen him heretofore in his sanctuary! Although I have earnestly desired death, as the hireling pants for the evening shade, yet will I wait all the days of my appointed time. I have often struggled with principalities and powers, and have been brought almost to despair. Lord,
loved it much. I have tried my Master's yoke, and will never shrink my neck from it. His yoke is easy and his burden light." "You are more cheerful and vigorous, Sir," said one of the company; "Yes," he replied, "I rise or fall, as eternal rest seems nearer, or farther off." It being observed to him, that he always used the expression, "dear Lord," in his prayers, he answered, "O! he is very dear, very precious indeed! How desirable it is for a minister to die on the Sabbath! I expect to spend the remaining part of this Sabbath in heaven." One of the company said to him, "You will soon be joined to a blessed society; you will forever hold converse with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the spirits of the just made perfect, with old friends, and many old fashioned people." "Yes Sir," he replied with a smile, "but they are a most polite people now." He expressed great gratitude to friends around him, and said,
let it suffice." Here he sat up, and closed his eyes, and prayed fervently, that God would shew him his glory before he should depart hence; that he would enable him to endure patiently to the end, and particularly, that he might be kept from dishonouring the ministry. Then he resumed his discourse, and spoke as follows; "I can truly say, that I have loved the service of God. I know not in what language to speak of my own unworthiness. I have been undutiful. I have honestly endeavoured to act for God, but with much weakness and corruption." Here he lay down and continued to speak in broken sentences, as follows; "A Christian's death is the best part of his existence. The Lord has made provision for the whole way; provision for the soul, and provision for the body. O that I could recollect Sabbath blessings. The Lord hath given me many souls, as crowns of my rejoicing. Blessed be God, eternal rest is at hand. (6 Eternity is but long enough to enjoy my God. This, this has animated me in my severest studies; I was ashamed to take rest here. O that I could be filled with the fulness of God! That fulness which fills heaven!" Being asked if it were in his choice, whether to live or die, which he would choose; he replied, "to die; though I cannot but say, I feel the same strait that St. Paul did, that he knew not which to choose; for me to live is Christ, but to die is great gain. But should God by a miracle prolong my life, I will still continue to serve him. His service has ever been sweet to me. I have
may the Lord repay you "for your tenderness to me; may he bless you abundantly, not only with temporal but with spiritual blessings." Turning to his wife, he said, "I expect my dear to see you shortly in glory." Then, addressing himself to the whole company, he said, "O that each of you may experience what, blessed be God, I do, when you come to die; may you have the pleasure in a dying hour to reflect, that with faith and patience, zeal and sincerity, you have endeavoured to serve the Lord; and may each of you be impres sed, as I have been, with God's word; looking upon it as substantial, and not only fearing,
but being unwilling to offend against it." Upon seeing a member of the second Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, he said, "I have often preached and prayed among you, my dear Sir, and the doctrines I preached to you are now my support; and, blessed be God, they are without a flaw. May the Lord bless and preserve your church; he designs good for it yet, I trust." Το a person from Princeton, he said, "Give my love to the people at Princeton, and tell them that I am going to die, and that I am not afraid to die." He sometimes cried out, "The Lord Jesus, take care of his cause in the world!"
Upon awaking the next morning, he exclaimed, "O! what a disappointment I have met with! I expected this morning to have been in heaven!" Great weakness prevented his speaking much this day, but what he did say was the language of triumph.
On the following morning, with a pleasing smile on his countenance, and with a strong voice, he cried out, "OI shall triumph over every foe! The Lord hath given me the victory! I exult! I triumph! O that I untainted purity! Now I know that it is impossible that faith should not triumph over earth and hell: I think I have nothing to do but to die; yet, perhaps I have :-Lord shew me my task!" After expressing some fears lest he did not endeavour to preserve his remaining life through eager ness to depart, and being told that he did nothing inconsistent with self preservation, he said, "Lord Jesus, into thy hands I
commend my spirit; I do it with confidence; I do it with full assurance. I know thou wilt keep that which I have committed to thee. I have been dreaming too fast of the time of my departure, for I find it does not come; but the Lord is faithful, and will not tarry beyond his appointed time."
When one who attended him, told him that his pulse grew weaker, he cried out, "that is well."
In the afternoon the Rev. Mr. Spencer called to see him, and told him; "I have come, dear Sir, to see you confirm, by facts, the gospel you have been preaching; pray how do you feel?" To which he replied, “full of triumph! I triumph through Christ! Nothing clips my wings but the thoughts of my dissolution being delayed. O that it were to-night! My very soul thirsts for eternal rest.' Mr. Spencer asked him, what he saw in eternity to excite such vehement desires in his soul. He said, "I see the eternal love and goodness of God; I see the fulness of the Mediator; I see the love of Jesus; O! to be dissolved and be with him! I long to be clothed with the complete righteousness of Christ." He then desired Mr. Spencer to pray with him before they parted, and told him," I have gained the victory over the devil; pray to God to preserve me from evil, to keep me from dishonouring his great name in this critical hour, and to support me with his presence in my passage through the valley of the shadow of death."
He spent the remaining part of the evening in bidding farewel to