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A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF THE REV. JOSEPH BEAN, THE THIRD PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN WRENTHAM.
became seriously disposed, and invited him to join with them in holding a private religious meeting on Sabbath evenings, with which he complied. In consequence of what he heard and saw in these meetings, and of what he read concerning some young persons, who lived a pious life and died a triumphant death, he became convinced of the reality and importance of religion, and began a constant course of religious duties. greeably to his father's will, he now went to Boston to learn a trade, being fully resolved to keep out of the way of temptations, and attend to the concerns of his soul. He prayed to God morning and evening, and read the holy scriptures, or some devotional book, almost every night.
MR. BEAN was born in Boston, February 24th, 1718, old style. His pious Parents devoted him to God according to his own institution, and brought him up in the nature and admo. nition of the Lord. But notwithstanding these religious advantages, the native corruption of his heart led him to spend his childhood in vanity. No serious impressions appear to have been made upon his mind until he was twelve or thirteen years old. About that time, the Spirit of God strove with him, and turned his attention in some measure to religious objects, and to religious exercises. He soon, however, stifled his convictions, and fell into great stupidity and hardness of heart. While he was in this state of mind, he removed with his Parents from Boston to Cambridge, where he was sent to school; but he was so idle and inattentive to learn. ing, that his father found it proper to take him from school, and under his own instruction. When he was about fifteen years of
age, some of his companions VOL. II. New Series.
He meditated upon spiritual things, while pursu ing his daily employment, and kept a kind of Diary of his life, and really thought he had communion with God. Very soon he became acquainted with some young mea in Boston, who for med a high idea of his religious
character, and spoke of him as an eminent christian; which he says he found excited in his heart a pharisaical pride. But after a while, becoming acquainted with other young people and associating with them, he thought that this precise way of living, as they called it, would not do, and he gradually neglected to go to private meetings, and to keep a Diary, and became negligent as well as formal in all secret duties, though he still punctually attended the public worship of God in his house. As he thus gradually lost a sense of God and divine things, the world and things of the world gained his supreme regard and attention; so that when he came out of his apprenticeship, and set up for himself in Cambridge, he was greedily engaged to accumulate property, and felt greatly chagrined, whenever his business did not prosper according to his desires and expectations. But though he resolved to get the world, and neglect religion, yet he was soon awakened out of his carnal security. Towards the fall of the year 1741, he heard Mr. WHITEFIELD preach several times, who alarmed his conscience, and drew tears from his eyes. About the same time he was sensibly affected by several solemn and searching discourses of Mr. TENNENT. But a sermon, which Mr. APPLETON preached upon these words, 66 They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," made the deepest and most abiding impressions upon his mind. By means of such discourses, in connexion with the great and general attention to religion, which prevailed among both young and old,
at that time he became the subject of pungent convictions, which never left him till they issued in a sound conversion. For a number of months, he was extremely distressed. He read, he prayed, he attended religious meetings of all kinds, followed the most zeal. ous and powerful preachers, and conversed with his own minis. ter, but only perceived more and more the corruption and obstinacy of his heart. Sometimes he was upon the very point of despair, and ready to give up him. self for lost. But at length, God was pleased to shed abroad his love in his heart, remove his heavy burden, and put a new song of praise into his mouth. The love of God now constrain. ed him to give up himself to his service, without reserve. Accordingly he says in his Diary for June 26th, 1741. day I do most seriously and solemnly set apart for the service of God and of my own soul, by reading, and praying, and giving up myself to God, to be ruled as well as saved by him; and would now, upon my knees, humbly beg that he would be with and direct me, in this most solemn transaction, and give me to consider, that I am not covenanting with man, but with the great and holy God, who cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked." The form of the covenant which he used on this occasion, he transcribed from a book of Mr. Allen's. The next important duty, which he felt himself under peculiar obligation to perform, was that of making a pub. lic profession of religion before the world. But he did not presume to do this, without much serious considera tion, and criti
cal examination of his own heart. "After many prayers and tears, and after a great deal of time spent in consulting the word of God and other books about his duty to come up to the sacrament of the Lord's supper," he went to his minister and desired to be propounded to join the church, and accordingly, he was propounded the next Sabbath, and the Sabbath after, July 12, 1741, he was admitted to full communion. Though he went to the house of God that day with a trembling heart, yet when he was called to present himself for admission, and the covenant was read to him, he enjoyed peculiar light, and felt his heart correspond with every word as it was pronounced. He returned home in a happy frame of mind, and confirmed in private, his solemn obligations which he had made in public, by entering into a covenant, which he wrote and signed with his own hand, in the presence of the great Searcher of hearts.
Having bound himself by such solemn ties to serve the Lord, he set himself to do every thing in his power, to promote religion and the spritual good of himself and others. He united with a religious Society of young men, who met once a week for social prayer and mutual edification. He seized every proper opportunity of conversing with people, and especially with young persons, about their spiritual concerns. And he made it his common practice, after he had conversed with any concerning the state of their souls, to retire immediately, or as soon as possible, and carry his conduct and their state to the throne of
grace, praying that God would make what he had said a mean of his and of their spiritual benefit. But while he felt and expressed so much concern for the salvation of others, he did not neglect the care of his own soul. He watch
over and kept his heart with all diligence, with a peculiar tenderness of conscience, being afraid of the least deviation from the law of love, either in thought, word, or deed. He used spend a great deal of time in reading the Bible and other books, in order to try the sincerity of his heart; and he would often, after reading the Bible, or any pious book, hold it in his hand, and fall upon his knees, praying that God would search his heart, and enable him to compare it with the works of grace, and draw and draw a just conclusion, whether he was a true christian, or a deluded hypocrite.
Mr. BEAN had a slender consti. tution, which subjected him to a variety of bodily infirmities, and especially to a frequent pain in his head, which disabled him for every duty, and often threw him into a gloomy and melancholy state of mind. Hence he was much engaged in a spir. itual warfare with the enemy of souls, and the remaining corrup
tions of his own heart.
Though he had seasons of great light, and ravishing joys; yet he was more frequently tried with darkness, despondency, and the fiery darts of the wicked one. But he renewed his strength from time to time, and increased in zeal and activity to promote the cause of religion and the good of souls. It was his long and serious inquiry, whether he ought to relinquish his secular
calling, and prepare himself for the work of the ministry. Hav. ing come to a fixed resolution to qualify himself for the service of God in the sanctuary, he devoutly implored the divine presence and assistance in the great undertaking. In his Diary for December 6th, 1742, he writes thus: "This day I arose from my bed before day light, and I hope earnestly and sincerely wrestled with God upon the bended knees of my soul, for his presence with me, and more particularly because I was going to change my condition as a tradesman for that of a scholar; in order, if it please God, to be a minister of the everlasting gos. pel, which is a business my heart and soul is more set upon, than any thing else in the world." He wrote again in a similar man. ner upon the same subject. "Lord, thou knowest what is in my heart; yea, thou perfectly knowest what views, ends, and aims I have in learning. Lord, is it not for thy glory? Is it not that I may be a minister of the gospel? Is it not that I may be an instrument in thy hands of bringing home poor, lost, stray. ing souls to Christ? Therefore, O my God, be pleased to aid and assist me in my studies." Though he found, as he says, the languages to be a dry and unpleasant study at his period of life, yet he resolved to persevere in preparing himself for the work, which he viewed as the most important, that he could perform for the honor of God, and the good of mankind. In answer to his prayers, God graciously preserved his natural, and sup ported his spiritual life, until he had finished his public education,
and received the honors of Cam. bridge College. He was then at no loss about his profession, and very soon obtained approba tion to preach the gospel, which he had so long and so ardent. ly desired. After he had preach, ed about two years as a candi. date in various places, the church of Christ in Wrentham invited him to settle with them in the work of the ministry, which invitation he thought it his duty to accept, and was solemnly set apart to the service of the Lord, on the 24th day of November,
As Mr. BEAN had been so long in the school of Christ, and taken so much pains to qualify himself for the service of the sanctuary, it is natural to expect, that he would prove an em. inently pious and faithful minis. ter. And it appears from the whole tenor of his life, as recorded day by day with his own hand, that he did magnify his office, and adorn his min. isterial character, and exhibit an example, which is worthy of universal imitation.
Though he was subject to ma. ny bodily pains and nervous complaints; yet he performed much more ministerial labor, than many who enjoy perfect health, and constant vigor of mind. He never used any other than beaten oil in the sanctuary. He thought it his duty to pay great attention to his preparations for the Sabbath, and would not allow himself to deliver any unpremeditated and unwritten discourses. This, however, was but a small part of his weekly labor, for he often spent five days out of six, in preaching private lec tures, catechising children, visit.
ing the sick, and attending fune. rals. But notwithstanding such numerous calls to parochial du. ties in his large and extensive parish, he found time to improve his mind, by reading upon all subjects proper to his profession. He did not neglect to read the various systems of theology and the best ecclesiastical histories, though he had a greater taste for practical and devotional writ. ings. These he esteemed next to the holy Scriptures, which he devoutly and constantly perused. Besides reading the Bible every day in his family, and besides reading particular chapters and parts of chapters, every morning and night in his secret devotions, he labored to become mighty in the Scriptures, by reading the whole sacred volume through, in a connected and crit. ical manner: and he found so much pleasure and profit in read. ing the word of God in this man. ner, that he pursued it with uncommon constancy and diligence; so that, in one instance, he read all the Old and New Testament, in the short space of four
He was no less faithful, than industrious, in his sacred office. He le gave himself wholly to his work, and never suffered any of his personal or domestic con. cerns to divert him from a punc tual discharge of his ministerial duties. The good of souls seemed to absorb his whole attention, and to have a governing influence upon all his conduct. He carried his people upon his heart, and took a deep interest in their peace and prosperity, as well as in their trials and afflictions. As he often visited them at their private houses, so he was solicitous
to improve his private conversation to their spiritual benefit, and never omitted any proper opportunity to inquire into the state of their minds, aud to comfort, counsel, or admonish them, as their cases seemed to demand. And if no opportunity for religious discourse occurred, or if the time was spent in unprofitable conversation, he returned home with a heavy heart, and spread the case before God in secret. In preparing as well as in delivering his discourses, he sought to please God, rather than man. He not only asked for divine direction in the choice of his subjects, but wrote his sermons in a praying frame, lifting up his heart to God for continual assistance. And as soon as he had finished a discourse, he made a constant practice to take it in his hand, fall down upon his knees, and devoutly pray, that God would prepare his heart to deliver it, and the hearts of his people to receive the truth in love. He was strictly Calvinistic in his sentiments, and preached the peculiar doctrines of the gospel in a plain, practical, and experimen. tal manner. He studiously avoided all affectation, in the mode of his writing and of his speaking, and delivered divine truths, with that tenderness and solemnity, which was suited to gain the conscience, rather than the ap plause of his hearers.
Mr. BEAN lived as seeing Him who is invisible, and kept his mind habitually fixed upon God and divine things, at home and abroad, in the house and by the