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The Rev. William Tennent, of Freehold, in the state of New Jersey, was the second son of the Rev. William Tennent, of Neshaminy, in the state of Pennsylvania, who was originally a minister of the church of England, in Ireland. He was chaplain to an Irish nobleman; but being conscientiously scrupulous of conforming to the terms imposed on the clergy, he was deprived of his living. Finding it difficult to continue at home with any satisfactory degree of usefulness, he determined to emigrate to America. He arrived at Philadelphia in 1718, with his wife, four sons, and one daughter. His sons were, Gilbert, who was afterwards the pastor of the second Presbyterian church, in Philadelphia; William, the subject of this memoir; John, who became pastor of the church at Freehold; and Charles, afterwards minister of the Presbyterian church at Whiteclay. Creek.
William was born June 30, 1705, in Ireland, and was about thirteen when he arrived in America. He applied himself with much industry to his studies, and made great proficiency in the languages. Being early impressed with a deep sense of divine things, he soon determined to follow the example of his father, by devoting limself to the service of God in the ministry of the gospel. After a regular course of study, Mr. T. was preparing for his examination by the presbytery, as a candidate for the ministry. His intense application affected his health, and brought on a pain in his breast, and a slight hectic. He soon became emaciated, anil at length was like a living skeleton. His life was now threatened. He was attended by a physician, a young gentleman who was attached to him by the strictest friendship. He grew worse and worse, till little hope of life was left. In this situation his spirits failed him, and he began to entertain doubts of his final happia“ Dess. He was conversing, one morning, with his brother, in
* We understand that this Memoir, which we abridge from the Assembly's Missionary Magazine, printed in America, is from the pen of a learned layman, eminent for his piety and liberality, and the intimatr frierid of Mr. Tennent. His narrative mav, therefore, be relied on as authentic,
Latin, on the state of his soul, when he fainted, and apparently died away. After the usual time, he was laid out on a board, according to the custom of the country, and the neighbourhood were invited to attend his funeral the next day. In the evening, his pbysician returned from the country, and was afflicted beyond measure at the news of his death. He could not be persuaded that it was certain; and on being told that one of the persons who had assisted in laying him out, thought he had observed a little tremor of the flesh under the arm, though the body was cold and still, he endeavoured to ascertain the fact. He first put his own hand into warm water to make it as sensible as possible, and then felt under the arm, and at the heart, and affirmed that he felt an unusual warmth, though no one else could. He had the body restored to a warm bed, and insisted that the people, who had been invited to the funeral, should be requested not to attend. To this the brother objected as absurd, the eyes being sunk, the lips discoloured, and the whole body cold and stiff, However, the doctor finally prevailed ; and serious means were used to discover symptoms of returning life. But the third day arrived, and no hopes were entertained but by the doctor, who never left him night nor day. The people were again invited, and assembled to attend the funeral. The doctor still objected, and at last confined his request for delay to one hour, then to half an hour, and finally to a quarter of an hour. At this critical moment, the body, to the great astonishment of all, opened its eyes, gave a dreadful groan, and sunk again into apparent death. This put an end to all thoughts of burying him; and every effort was again employed in hope of speedy resuscitation. In about an hour, the eyes again opened, a heavy groan was uttered, and again all appearance of animation vanished. In another hour, life seemed to return with more power, and a complete revival took place, to the great joy of the family and friends.
Mr. Tennent continuerl in so weak a state for six weeks, that great doubts were entertained of his recovery. However, after that period, he recovered much faster ; but it was about twelve months before he was completely restored. After he was able to walk the room, and to take notice of what passed around him, on a Sunday aficrnoon, his sister, who had staid from church to attend him, was reading in the Bible; when he took notice of it, and asked her what slie had in her hand. She answered that she was reading the Bible? le replied, “ What is the Bible: I know not what you mean." This affected lier so much, that she burst into tears, and informed hin, that he was once weil acquainted with it. On her reporting this to his brother, Mr. T. was found, on examination, to be totally ignorant of every transaction of his tormer life! He could not read a word ; nor did he seem to have any idea of what it meant. As soon as he be. came capable of attention, he was taught to read ad write, às children are usually taught; a!xl afterwards began to learn the Latin language under the tuition of his brother. One chay, as he was reciting á lesson in Cornelius Nepos, he suddenly started, clapper his hand to his head, as if something had hurt him, and made a pause. His brother asking him what was the matter, he said, that he felt a sudden shock in his head ; and it now seemed to him as if he had read that book before. By degrees, his recollection was restored, and he could speak the Latin as fluently as before his sickness. His memory so completely revivedl, that he gained a perfect knowledge of the past transactions of his life, as if no difficulty had previously occurred. This event made a considerable noise, and afforded, not only matter of serious contemplation to the devout Christian, but furnished a subject of deep investigation to the philosopher and anatoinist. '
The writer of this memoir was greatly interested by these uncommon events; and, on a favourable occasion, earnestly pressed Mr. Tennent for an account of his views whilst in this extraordinary state of suspended animation. He discovered great reluctance to enter into any explanation; but, being importunely virged, he at length consented, and proceeded with a solemnity not to be described.
6 While I was conversing with my brother,” said lie, "on the state of iny soul, and the fears I had entertained for my future welfare, I found myself, in an instant, in another state of existence, under the direction of a superior being, who ordered me to follow hiin. I was accordingly wafted along, I know not how, till I beheld at a distance an ineffable glory, the impression of which on my mind it is impossible to communicate to mortal man. I immediately reflected on my happy change, and thought, Well, blessed be God! I am safe at låst, not withstanding all my fears. I saw an innumerable host of bappy beings, surrounding the inexpressible glory, in acts of adoration and joy. ons worship; but I did not see any boxlily shape 'or representation in the glorious appearance. I heard things unutterable. I heard their songs and hallelujahs of thanksgiving and praise, with unspeakable rapture. I felt joy unalterable and full of glory. I then applied to my conductor, and reqnested leave to join the happy tlırong. . On which le tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “ You must return to the earth.' This seemed like a sword through my heart. in an instant I recollect to have seen my bro. ther standing before me, disputing with the doctor. The three days, during which I had appeared liseless, seemed to me not more than ten or twenty minutes. The idea of returning to this world of sorrow, gave me such a shock, that I faintext repeatedly.” He added, 6 Such was the effect on my mind of what I had seen anii heard, that if it be possible for a human being to live entirely above the world anal the things of it, for some time afterwards I Was that person. The ravishing sounds of ihe songs and hallelujahs that I heard, and the very words that were uttered, were not out of my ears when awake, for at least three years. All the kingdoms of the earth were in muy sight as nothing and vanity; and so great were my ideas of heavenly glory, that nothing, which did not, in some measure, relate to it, could command my serious attention.”
It is not surprizing, that after so affecting an account, strong solicitude should have been felt for further information as to the words, or at least the subjects of praise and adoration, which Mr. T. had heard. But when he was requested to communicate these, he gave a decided negative, adding, 66 You will know them, with many other particulars, hereafter, as you will find the whole among my papers ;” alluding to his intention of leaving the wri. ter hereof his executor, which precluded any further solicitation.*
The pious and candid reader is left to his own reflections on this very extraordinary occurrence. The facts have been stated, and they are unquestionable. The writer will only ask, whether it be contrary to revealed truth, or to reason, to believe, that, in every age of the world instances like that which is here recorded, have occurred, to furnish living testimony of the reality of the in visible world, and of the infinite importance of eternal con. cerns ? f
As soon as circumstances would permit, Mr. T. was licenced, and began to preach the everlasting gospel with great zeal and success. The death of his brother John, minister of the church at Frechold, left that congregation in a destitute state. They had experienced so much benefit from the indefatigable labours of this able minister of Christ, that they soon turned their atten. tion to his brother, who was reccived on trial; and after one year, was found to be no unwortly successor to so excellent a predecessor. In October, 1733, Mr. T. was regularly ordained their pastor, and continuerl so through the whole of a pretty long life.
His jndgment of mankind was such, as to give him a marked superiority over his contemporaries, and greatly aided him in his ministerial functions. He was scarcely ever mistaken in the character of a man with whom be conversed, though it was but for a few hours. He had an independent mind, which was seldom
* It was so ordered, in the course of Divine Providence, that the writer was sorely disappointed in his expectation of obtaining the papers here alluded to. Such, however, was the will of Heaven! Mr. Tennent's death happened during the revolutionary war, when the enemy separated the writer from him, so as to render it impracticable to attend him on a dying bed ; and before it was posssble to get to his house after his death (the writer being with the American army at Valley-Forge) his son came from Charleston, and took his mother, with his father's papers and property, and return. ed to Carolina. About 50 miles from Charleston, the son was suddenly taken sick, and died among entire strangers; and never since, though the writer was also left executor to the son, could any trace of the father's papers be discovered by him.
+ With much diffidence, the person who transcribes this, would venture to ask, Is it not possible that Mr. Tennent's ideas of what he saw ard heard were the effect of delirium, immediately before this state of suspended animation, or at the time he began to recover from it?