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Till the year 1809, Dr. Freeman performed the ministerial duties of this church, alone. About this time his strength experienced a decline; and on the 1st of January of the above mentioned year, the Rev. Samuel Cary was ordained as his assistant and colleague. In this connexion, while it lasted, Dr. Freeman was very happy. But it was permitted to last but a short time. The health of Mr. Cary failed; he was constrained to relinquish his duties; he sailed for England in the hope of restoration, but died there not long after his arrival, on the 22d of October, 1815;—and with faltering accents and an almost bursting heart, Dr. Freeman preached in this pulpit the Funeral Discourse on his young and excellent friend.
Again he was alone in his charge till the summer of the year 1824, when the present surviving minister of the church accepted an invitation to be settled as his colleague, and was inducted as such on the 29th of August. From my boyhood I had sat under the ministry of Dr. Freeman; from my boyhood I had revered and loved him; and I looked forward to some years at least of that important assistance which a father might render to a son, of that intimate and improving communion which a son might hold with his father. But it was not to be so. The illness of my venerated colleague had so greatly impaired his constitution, that he felt himself obliged to retire from the pulpit about the close of the year 1825, and in the summer of 1826 he went to his residence in Newton, which he left no more, till his spirit departed to a better world.
Although for these last ten years of his retirement, Dr. Freeman was compelled to resist the attacks of an obdurate disorder by the daily use of medicine, and was subject to occasional fits of severe agony, yet the work of decline and the progress of infirmity were very gradual with him. In winter he was confined to the house, but in summer and autumn he was generally to be found in his garden, or the grounds about his house, of the cultivation of which he was exceedingly fond. It was pleasant to see him, to hear him, to talk with him, and he delighted in the visits and converse of his friends. His appearance, which always within my own remembrance had been venerable, was now patriarchal. His form was slightly bowed by age; his blue eyes spoke nothing but kindness and thoughtfulness; the top of his finely-shaped head was bare, and his remaining locks were as white as snow.
It was the desire of our departed friend and father that he might not outlive his active usefulness, or stay on earth till the faculties of his mind were impaired. But this was in submission to the will of Providence, and it was the will of Providence, that he should remain for a time an example of patience and resignation. He never troubled his friends with the repeated expression of this desire to be gone; his remarkable good sense kept by him to the last, and preserved him from the common and less agreeable peculiarities of old age. Even when his mind grew enfeebled, it showed its strength in weakness. His memory sometimes failed him, and his ideas would become somewhat confused, within the few months preceding his death; but his bearing was always calm and manly; he fell into no second childhood.
He looked upon death as it approached him, without fear, yet with pious humility. He viewed the last change as a most solemn change; the judgment of God upon the soul as a most solemn judgment. "Let no one say when I am dead," he expressed himself to his nearest friends, "that I trusted in my own merits. My own merits are nothing. I trust only in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ."
When the attack fell upon him which terminated in his death, he asked the physician who came to see him what he thought of his situation. "You are very ill, sir," was the reply. Then the longing to be away could no longer be suppressed. "You bear me," was the answer of our aged friend, "the most gratifying intelligence which I have heard for years."
He languished in unconsciousness, interrupted by pain, for a few days; but during the last two days of his life pain left him, and on the night of Saturday, the 14th of this month,* about midnight, he breathed out his spirit as quietly as an infant goes to sleep.
It was the intention of his friends, that his remains should be brought to Boston the Wednesday succeeding his death, and that the funeral service should be performed over them, in the church where he had ministered so long. But as it was found on the morning of Tuesday, that the body was not in a state to bear the removal, his funeral took place at his house in Newton on the afternoon of that day. The sun was setting, as the mortal part of our father was laid in the tomb. The rays shone softly and richly on the quiet and retired village grave-yard. The last leaves of a mild autumn, were dropping around the friends who were standing there in solemn silence. It was a beautiful and appropriate closing scene.
* November, 1835; in the 77th year of his age.
The next day a funeral service was performed in the Chapel, which was attended by the congregation, and by numbers beside, who were desirous of paying this tribute of respect to departed worth, and on the following Sunday a funeral sermon was pronounced by the present minister of the church, the greater part of which is embodied in this memoir.
Among the notices which were called forth by the event of Dr. Freeman's death, may be mentioned those which appeared in the Register and Observer, in the Boston Courier, and in the National Intelligencer. Beside these, a sketch of his life and character was given by the Rev. Dr. Parkman, in a review, printed in the Christian Examiner, for January, 1836, of the Funeral Sermon preached in King's Chapel. A Funeral Discourse, delivered at Louisville, Kentucky, by James Freeman Clarke, a grandson of Dr. Freeman, was published in the Western Messenger for January, and is a feeling testimonial of filial piety and gratitude. "I would lay this poor wreath," says the author, "upon the tomb of one who was the guide and teacher of my youth; more than a father in tenderness and affection; and a friend such as I can never hope to see again in this world."
The following quotation, which may fitly conclude this memoir, is taken by permission from a sermon preached on the same occasion at the First Church, by its pastor, the Rev. Mr. Frothingham. It was in that church that Dr. Freeman "worshipped in his boyhood."
"His opinions," observes the preacher, "would be often peculiar, but his spirit was always large and generous. He was singularly free and plain in his speech, but in his manners singularly urbane. And this union of dissimilar qualities endeared him to the young, while it invested him with the charm of originality even for men of the keenest and widest observation. It is rare to meet one so utterly free from all narrowness whether in thought or feeling; rare to find such a simple ingenuousness and unworn cordiality under the white locks of wisdom. He was an unpretending man. He laid claim to deserts of no kind. Yet no one could stand more resolutely for what he believed to be sacred truth, than he did when his convictions were every where spoken against;— and if there are any here who will be called to any thing like the torture of his slow endurances, they can ask nothing better of God, than the sweet and unmurmuring temper, the unexpressed submission,—which was none the less Christian for being silent—with which his were sustained."
Memoir Of Rev. John Prince, L.L. D. Br Charles
The subject of the following Memoir was a very remarkable instance of the favorable condition of society in this country, which permits and encourages those who have a zeal for knowledge and improvement to raise themselves from the common walks of life to eminence and distinction.
John Prince was born in Boston on the22dof July, 1751. His parents resided in the north part of the city, and were worthy and excellent members of the New North Society. They were of Puritan descent, and, as was the case with all who worthily claimed that name, were careful to give their son a good education, and to impress upon his mind a reverent sense of religious truth and duty. His father being a mechanic the son naturally was intended and directed by him to similar pursuits. He was early bound out as an apprentice to a pewterer and tinman, and continued industriously and faithfully to labor in his calling until his indentures had expired.
But his genius, from the beginning, had indicated a propensity to a different mode of life. From a child his chief enjoyments were found in books. He was wont to retire from the sports of boyhood. There was no play for him to be compared with the delight of reading. During the hours of leisure in the period of his apprenticeship, he sought no other recreation than in the acquisition of knowledge.
It followed of course that, upon becoming free, he abandoned his trade and devoted himself to study. In a very short time he was prepared to enter college, and received his bachelor's degree at Cambridge in 1776, at the age of twentyfive. After leaving college he was engaged for some time in the instruction of a school. He pursued the study of divinity under the direction of the Rev. Samuel Williams, of Bradford, in the county of Essex, a clergyman highly distinguished for talents and attainments, afterwards Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Harvard University. He was ordained over the First Church in Salem on the 10th of November, 1779. On the 8th of December, 1824, the writer of this Memoir was settled as a colleague, with his concurrence. He died on the 7th of June, 1836, having nearly completed his 85th year. His ministry lasted 57 years and 7 months.*
In sketching the character of Dr. Prince I shall consider him as a Philosopher, a Divine, and a Christian.
The basis of his philosopical attainments was laid in the thirst for knowledge already alluded to. This trait was early developed, and continued to be his most marked characteristic until the hand of death was upon him. It was exercised in almost every possible direction, and as his memory was wonderfully capacious and retentive, the result was that he accumulated and had at command as large an amount of knowledge, as can easily be found in the possession of any one mind. Without taking into the account what he derived from books,—and few men have ever read more,—his eyes and his ears were always open, and his hands were always busy. No idle moment ever passed over him. He noticed every occurrence, and explored every object within the reach of his curious
* Dr. Prince was, in early life, of an apparently infirm constitution. His parents were apprehensive that they might not he ahle to rear him. At the time of his ordination his health was very delicate. One of the members of the society, before the vote inviting him to settle was put, observed in the Parish meeting that he concurred with all the rest of the society in admiring Mr. Prince very much, as a preacher and as a man, but that he doubted about the expediency of settling a minister, whose complaints were so alarming that the society would in all probability very soon be called to bury him. Dr. Orne rose in reply, and admitted that Mr. Prince was in feeble health, but stated that he did not apprehend his condition to be so immediately alarming as the other gentleman supposed, and concluded by saying that Mr. Prince might get over his iufii initios, and live to bury them all. He did live to bury them all.