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LIFE OF ASHMUN.
In an age, like this, when men are remarkably occupied with schemes of private enterprise, and large plans for human improvement, the Biography of an individual will be well nigh unnoticed, unless it exhibit in the subject of it, evidences of extraordinary intellect or illustrious virtue. Nor is it to be expected or desired that public attention should be directed to ordinary merit, while there are great and shining examples upon which it may be fixed. Life is too short to be wasted upon trifles; and while the active spirit of the times is unfavourable to the calm and steady contemplation of individual character, the more important it is, that such character, if held up for imitation, should possess rare worth and brightness.
The following pages are submitted to the Public without an apology, because the individual to whom they relate, not in the writer's opinion only, but in the judgment of the Christian community, at least, both of this and other countries, deserves an extended memorial. The Author, however, cannot enter upon his work, without humbly invoking the aid of that Divine Being, who, while He sometimes kindles in human souls the pure flame of His own spirit, that they may bless and guide mankind, can alone preserve and extend the influence and light of their example to the remotest generations of the world.
JEHUDI Ashmun was born in the town of Champlain, New York, on the 21st of April, 1794. He was the second son, and third child in a family of ten children. His father, Samuel Ashmun, Esq. married early in life, and soon after, settled in Champlain, then a wilderness; and though exposed to numerous inconveniences and hardships, his industry and enterprise soon placed him in circumstances of independence, while his intelligence and moral worth secured for him the confidence of his fellow-citizens, among whom, for many years, he sustained the office of a Justice of the Peace. The childhood of young Ashmun was distinguished by a thoughtful and reserved manner, intense application to books, reliance upon his own powers, and ambition to excel in all his studies.* Every leisure hour was improved; he early accustomed himself to keep a Journal, and would sometimes omit to take his meals, that he might have opportunity to record in it, such thoughts or events as he deemed worthy of remembrance. The father of Ashmun, considering the number of his family and his moderate means, designed to grant to his children those literary advantages only, which were afforded by the common schools of the country, in expectation that their lives would be devoted
*The following anecdote is related of him: While a schoolboy, a premium was offered by his instructer, for the best composition which should be furnished in the school. Many of the pupils were older than himself, and the time allowed to prepare the pieces was short. So confident was he, however, of success, that he promised his mother, to bring to her a certificate of his triumph. When his elder brother was announced as entitled to the reward, Jehudi exclaimed, “you mean me, master !” And instead of being disturbed by the smiles of his fellow-pupils, he still insisted that his opinion rect, and wrote a certificate for himself, and carried it home to his mother.
to agricultural pursuits; but the love of knowledge cherished by the subject of this Memoir, and his importunities that he might be allowed to gratify it, finally induced his parents to consent that he should seek a liberal education, provided reliance was placed mainly upon his own exertions to defray the expense. This condition was cheerfully accepted, and at the age of 14, he commenced his studies, in preparation for College, under the tuition of the Rev. Amos Pettingill, the worthy Minister of his native place, with whom he made rapid progress, and strengthened the confidence of his friends in his final success.
At this time he appears to have had no fixed religious principles, and occasionally to have indulged doubts of the truth of Christianity. The example of pious parents, and particularly the tender admonitions of his mother, had deeply affected him at the early age of six years, and the impressions then made were never entirely effaced; yet it was not until his 17th year, that Divine Truth exerted, in his own judgment, a regenerating influence on his mind. The date of this event is recorded in his Journal, the 26th of June, 1810. Having been absent from home, during most of the preceding winter, and in the society of irreligious persons, his chief desire and purpose had been, as he expressed them, "to secure the es
teem of his fellow-beings and feed on earthly pleasures.”— The effect of cherished imaginations of future distinction and happiness in the world, during this brief period, contributed more in his opinion, to harden his heart against God, than two years of previous impenitence. The most solemn truths, the kindest parental exhortations had lost their power to move him. While he was thus insensible to the claims of the Almighty upon his affections and his services, the attention of the people of his native village was particularly turned to religion, and a youth of his acquaintance had been led to devote himself to the cause of the Redeemer. A remark of this youth, at a social prayer-meeting, expressive of his own happiness as a child of God, appears first to have arrested the attention,
and excited strongly the feelings of Ashmun. An awful darkness enveloped him, and he was overwhelmed in guilt and misery. But after a short season he was enabled, as he ever afterwards believed, to trust in the Saviour, and to consecrate himself wholly and forever to His service.
At the commencement of his studies in the spring of 1810, a consciousness that he was morally unqualified for the Clerical profession, and doubts of obtaining an education sufficiently extensive for that of the Law, had strongly inclined him to a Medical course; but the radical change now experienced in his character, determined him to direct all his efforts to a preparation for the Christian Ministry. In July of this year, he became a member of the church in Champlain, and for several months after, so vivid were his impressions of religious truth, that he was impelled to exhibit them to others, imagining that they must even feel, as he felt, their importance; and so emboldened was he in his zeal, as not only to expostulate with the impenitent, and dispute with those of opposite sentiments, but even to remonstrate with his Pastor upon the necessity of a more earnest and active discharge of the duties of his office. Thus early was manifested that resolute enthusiasm which continued through life to be one of the most striking traits of his character. In a Journal penned by Mr. Ashmun in 1823, we find the following allusion to the change which occurred in his purposes at this period of his life: “My views (when I commenced study) were, from the narrowness of my circumstances, moderate enough. But I was assiduous and always preferred my books to my sports; (and found as I proceeded, my ambition kindle and my intentions enlarge. An event which followed in a few months, changed entirely the direction of my studies, and served to 'fix for many years, every vacillating purpose. My atten'tion was, in June, 1810, wholly turned to the interests of futurity. The rewards of fame, and conscious superiority of any intellectual or personal endowments, which I might
come to possess, were too light in the balance, to weigh down, in my estimation, the everlasting well-being of myself or others. Thus predisposed to the profession of Divinity, I adopted, with little hesitancy, the advice of my friends to make it the object of my pursuit.”
This revolution in his moral character, instead of diminishing, increased the energy of his exertions to acquire knowledge, and prepare himself for public usefulness. He became the more anxious to obtain all the advantages of a collegiate education. He distinguished himself as a punctual and active member of a Debating Society, and referred in after life, to the exercises and discipline of this Institution, as having contributed greatly to his success and influence in College.
“In 1811, (he observes in the Journal from which we have already quoted) I rejected an offer to facilitate my preparation for the Bar, which I had reason to believe was advantageous. This was in Troy; and I believe that, at that time, no offer of emolument, or of earthly distinction, would have seduced me from my purpose.” The following letter, addressed to a gentleman of Castleton, Vermont, illustrates his well-combined humility, self-reliance, and good judgment at this early period of his life:
“Troy, July 22nd, 1811. · DEAR SIR:-On the 4th of July, after having written to you from Carver's, I was carried to Paulet, where I stayed until the next day, and arrived here on Saturday. A stran'ger, unrecommended to any person, and unacquainted with
every person in town, with but a few shillings in my pocket, and unpossessed of any lucrative trade or other faculty, I began to feel the force of poverty; yet was persuaded, that if I trusted in Him in whom I ought to trust, I should be disposed of in the best manner with all my spiritual and temporal concerns. Should I fail to obtain employment or be reduced to abject circumstances, I knew I ought to pos