Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John GanoIN compliance with a request of part, if not all of my family, to leave some memorials of my life, (which I should much more cheerfully undertake, had I spent it to better purposes, and more faithfully in the services of my God, and society both civil and sacred, to which I have long since considered myself inviolably to owe every part of it,) the only query I now have is, whether this will not be deemed useless, or whether it is more innocently spent than in the omission of it. But to begin my life, the scattered scraps of which only memory at present can collect, having none of the remarks at hand, which I have heretofore incorrectly committed to piper, which would at least furnish me with dates, and without which I am at a loss is begin.
MY OWN LIFE.
My own life suggests progenitors, which were on my father's side, from France, - on my mother's, from Britain. My great grandfather, Francis Gano, brought my grandfather Stephen Gano, (when a child,) from Guernsey, in Jersey; it being a time of bloody persecution. Flight, or the relinquishment of the protestant religion, of which he was a professor, were the only means of preserving his life. He chose the former. One of his neighbours had been martyred in the day, and, in the evening, he was determined on as as the victim for the next day; information of which, he received in the dead of the night. He thereupon chartered a vessel, removed his family on board, and in the morning, was out of sight of the harbour. Of what number his family consisted, I am not able to say. On his arrival in America, he settled in New-Rochelle, in the state of New-York, and lived to the age of one hundred and three. My grandfather, Stephen Gano, married, I believe, Ann Walton, by whom he had many children, some of whom died in youth; those who lived to marry, were
Daniel, Francis, James, John, Lewis, Isaac, and three daughters, Sarah, Catharine, and Susannah, the last of whom lived to the age of eighty-seven. My father was the first of the beforementioned. He married Sarah Britton, daughter of Nathaniel Britton, of Staten-Island. Her mother was a Stilwell, who made a profession of religion when about twenty years of age, and continued a member of the Baptist church till her death; her age was near an hundred.
My parents continued living on Staten-Island, till they had two children, Daniel, and Jane. They then removed to New-Jersey, and settled in Hopewell, Hunterdon county, where were born Stephen, Susannah, myself, Nathaniel, David, and Sarah. At the age of six years, I well remember being seized with a severe sickness in the spring, from which I did not recover till the fall; during which time, as I have since understood, the linen was procured in which to lay me out, supposing I was actually dead, as I lay a great part of the time perfectly senseless. When
I recovered, I was sent to a common country school, and had a strict religious education. My mother being a pious Baptist, which she publicly professed in her youth, and my father being a steady Presbyterian, took care that I was made well acquainted with,the Westminster confession of faith and catechism, which before my conversion, summoned my attention to preaching. If the sentiments I then heard disclosed, answered to the doctrines in which I was taught, they met my approbation; and if not, my displeasure was the consequence.
In early life I had some severe convictions of sins, conscious I must die and go to judgment; and that I must be renewed by grace, or perish as a sinner. But these convictions were transient and of short duration. As I advanced in years, I progressed in sinful vanity and sin. I became exceedingly anxious to excel my companions in work and amusements, and especially in their country frolics and dances. I was frequently admonished by my Parents for working to
excess, but much more frequently for my attachment to vanity. I cannot charge myself with irreverence to my parents; but when my pious mother would expostulate with me, I seized the opportunity to vindicate myself. One morning when I came into her presence, having been out late the night before, she fixed her eyes upon me, said not a word, and the pious parental tear stole down her cheek, which struck me with more conviction than I ever remembered to have felt before, which I could not eradicate by any reply, and which caused these reflections to sink deep in my mind: "Do my present follies cause so much pain to the most pious and most tender of parents, what must be the consequence, when they recoil on my own soul! Recoil they must, if not before, at least in the day of judgment; and there I must see this parent, whose tears now condole my case, smile an acquiescent consent in the dreadful sentence of eternal banishment from the righteous judge." These reflections caused many resolutions, which were shamefully broken for a time; yet a sense of my
dangerous situation, would, now and then, fill my mind with melancholy sensations, and doth even now, while writing it.
When I was about fifteen years of age, my brother Stephen, who was then in his twentieth year, died. He was, before, and in the first part of his illness, deeply concerned for the salvation of his soul, of which, before his death, he professed a strong hope. When he expressed this hope, and what he said under his conviction, greatly engaged my resolution to seek an acquaintance, if possible, with Christ. Probably, great part of this exercise flowed from natural affections, as time gradually wore it away. This has caused me to omit many impressions which which had some appearance of convictions, such as escapes from apparent danger of death, by various means incidental to youth; the deaths of others &c. &c. Between two and three years after this, the dysentery seized the family excepting my father and myself. They were brought exceeding low, and a brother and two sisters fell victims to the
disorder; one of whom was in her twentieth year. It was the more alarming to me, as it brought to my mind a prediction, which had been early imposed on my father, and which I had often heard him mention with apparent cheerfulness. Which prediction was, that he would have many children, (as in reality he had,) and that three of them should die in their twentieth year. As I was next in point of years, this thought continually haunted me, and made me sensible that I was not prepared for such an awful change.* Whenever I could dispel those gloomy thoughts, I was more at ease, and more vile and vain than ever, which continued and even increased until the Christmas before I was nineteen years of age.
That time, I had determined to spend a jovial evening with my frolicing companions. As, however, there was a sermon to be preached on that day, near to the place where
* My next younger brother, soon after this, died in the twentieth year of his age.
I lived, I concluded to attend both. After sermon, my mind turned on the inconsistency of my conduct, in spending the day, where God was served, and the night, in the service of the devil. This led me to consider more closely than ever, that if a day was regarded as the birth of Christ, a holy Saviour, through whom alone we could look for salvation, - how improper it was to spend k in open rebellion! This brought me to a resolution, - that I would spend my time in a more consistent manner, than I had done - and, blessed be God, before the year terminated, I was brought under serious impressions, which arose from a conversation with a person, whom I supposed really pious and sincere. He advanced something, which my own soul told me was just; but vainly supposing I could sliake his belief, I readily undertook to argue with him, which so confused him, that he requested me to stop; with which I cheerfully complied, being fully satisfied with the victory I had obtained. We parted, and in a few minutes it occurred to my mind, that I had acted improperly; - that I had
been instigated by the devil, to oppose truth and glory. I appeared to myself to be a worshipper of Satan; and it seemed that all the advantages I possessed, were employed to the dishonour of God; and I thought it was a miracle of mercy and grace, that he did not make me an everlasting monument of his displeasure. It became my ardent wish, that if there was a possibility of pardon for my sins and transgressions, I might not rest either night or day until I obtained it: which was in some measure the case, although my trials under conviction were of long continuance. I embraced every opportunity in my power, in attending preaching, reading godly books, and praying either mentally or aloud. There was a total change in my company and conduct. But I soon found by experience, what I had early learned from my Bible, that a change of heart was necessary; and that the power of God's grace only could accomplish it; which, I was afraid, would never be granted. I was, however, determined to seek it to the latest hour of my existence. I cannot express the
anguish, with which my mind was frequently oppressed, with the idea of being eternally banished from God, in endless despair, to everlasting destruction. I saw I deserved it, and at times concluded it was unavoidable. My prayers were selfish and sinful. I often thought that I offended God in asking for pardon, when justice appeared so pointedly against it. In short, I appeared to myself the vilest of sinners, more worthless and odious than the meanest reptile, and the greatest hypocrite in the world. It appeared that what I felt was only natural remorse, and not a genuine conviction that God's wrath was the prelude of his lasting displeasure. Impressed with these feelings I concluded I was willing to be saved, and that if I waited the assistance of God, it was all I could do: for it was by his grace that I could be saved. This in some measure afforded me a kind of deluded ease, until I heard a sermon from these words, in Solomon's Song, 3, xi, Go forth O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, &c. From which discourse I plainly saw the alienation of my heart, that the fault was owing
to myself if I was not saved, and that God was waiting to be gracious. Never before, had I seen so much of the evil of my hard and obstinate heart.
From that time, the nature of my conviction was altered, and my grief was greater. I knew that I must be changed, and that it was to be effected by God, and that be would affect it was my most fervent wish. But how he could be just and save me I knew not: that he could be just and condemn me, appeared plain. In this state, I remained for some time. And it was some satisfaction to my mind, that God would secure his own glory, and the honour of his son. In this temper of mind, the way of salvation, through the life, death, and mediation, of the glorious Saviour, appeared plain. I contemplated on the amazing wisdom and goodness of God, and condescension of Christ. My soul was enraptured, amazed, and confounded, that with all my ingratitude, I could still be saved. My mind was enlightened, and my guilt and fear of punishment was removed.
Yet, notwithstanding the alteration I felt, I am not sensible that I thought of its being a real conviction; I was afraid my convictions would not be lasting; and I prayed for a continuance of them. I was constrained at times to rejoice in God and his salvation; and in this state continued some time, until a sermon from these words, with light and power fasted on my mind: "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." I trust they were so applied, that I could not put them from me. They opened the way of salvation, the suitableness, fulness, and willingness of God; and I was enabled to appropriate them to myself, and rejoice in Christ. This was the time, from which I dated my conversion, and I think I walked in the light of God's countenance, and had many blessed promises, which strengthened and confirmed my hope in, and humbled me before God.
About this time, there were a number of young people of my acquaintance in the neighbourhood, who were under serious concern
for their souls, and as I had, in my distress, warned them of their exposure to the wrath of God, I could now point out to them, Christ, and the method of salvation through him. - As my soul felt what I said, it seemed as if God made them sensible of it. We assembled, on evenings, to pray and converse; and I now believe that this was a useful part of my life. I was inclined to become a preacher, but thought it my duty to wait and pursue literary acquirements. Indeed, I had not then made an open profession, or joined the church. For some reasons, I wished to join that of the Presbyterian; and as a communion season was approaching, I expected some examination. I took the Westminster confession of faith, and the Bible, with a view honestly to profess them. The doctrines appeared thoroughly grounded, and perfectly consonant with the Bible, until I came to the doctrine of baptism. The proofs there adduced, fell far short of my expectations, and appeared foreign to the point. - I then took the Bible, especially the New Testament, and searched it for months together;
and enquired for, and obtained all the disputes, especially in favour of infant baptism, that I could hear of; I, however, could find nothing that seemed to me to amount to a divine warrant. I went to a presbytery on purpose to converse with a Mr. Tennant, or rather to be instructed by him. A favorable opportunity presented, and from my attachment to the man, and a deference to his opinion, and the confidence he appeared to have of the justice of infant baptism, I was induced to embrace his sentiments. But on my road home, it turned in my mind, that this was not the way I had obtained the hope of salvation, or consonant with my former resolutions, to make the word of God my only rule of faith and practice. Let Mr. Tennant be ever so good a man, his belief, is not a divine warrant for me to act upon. Before I got home, I was determined to try farther to see for myself.
Soon after, Mr. Miller, a baptist minister, inquiring of me why I did not profess Christ openly, and join some church, I told
him my difficulty. He replied, that God's word and spirit would direct me, and if I attended to them impartially, they would remove my doubts; and if they did not make me a Baptist, he did not wish to do it. This conversation led me to enquire if I had done so. I was soon convinced I had not; but had only searched for something to confirm me in the doctrine of infant baptism, which I had received from my education. I really think, that if any person, was ever induced to take the word of God in hand, with a fervent desire to be free from all prepossessions, to see the truth as it really was, and to let the Bible be their guide, I was. A number of inconsistencies perplexed me in my infant baptism, and Providence gave me an opportunity to disclose some of them. I happened to spend an evening with Mr. Tennant, and some of my Presbyterian friends, when I was drawn into the conversation, from the supposition that I was the person who conversed with him at the presbytery. He asked me, if I was yet satisfied, or wished to converse farther on the subject. I told him I did so,
provided it would be agreeable to bring in all my objections; with which he complied. I then related to him the thoughts with which I left him, and those which occurred after, and mentioned, that after conversing with him, I had an opportunity of attending the baptism of a child, when the minister, in his prayer, uttered these words: "Lord bless so much of this element as is used in this ordinance, the washing away of original pollution," which struck me very forcibly; he however condemned it. I also remarked to him, that the minister in speaking, called it a seal of the covenant of grace, which I told him appeared to be saying too much of any external ordinance. That the blood of Christ was the seal, and that He also, in my view, was the covenant; and that God's word and spirit applying to our consciences was a seal. I wished, if I was wrong, that he would put me right. I also mentioned, that I had my doubts, whether baptism was a substitute for circumcision, both being in use at the same time; and even ought to be, as "the cutting off of the Messiah," and the shedding of his
blood, was pointed at in that ordinance till it was accomplished; that the same subjects relating to both were useless, if one was the substitute for the other. - Their subjects were different, and the end and design of the ordinances appeared to me to be different. I mentioned these, and other difficulties, with a sincere desire of being instructed; but I had neither my doubts confirmed or removed. I was however much pleased with the goodness and candour of the man, who closed with this address: "Dear young man, if the devil cannot destroy your soul, he will endeavour to destroy your comfort and usefulness; and therefore do not be always doubting in this matter. If you cannot think as I do, think for yourself." I then endeavoured to learn my duty from the new testament, as being a new testament ordinance, and found that it was from Heaven, had its authority from God, and became binding by a positive command. The characters of those, who were to be baptized were, disciples, penitent believers, and such as had received the holy ghost. I could not find by any of the apostles' practice
that any others were encouraged or permitted, unless they intruded as Simon Magus did. And the apostles declared him to have no part or lot in that matter. The end and design was to fulfil righteousness - to answer a good conscience. All things considered, I could see no ground for infant baptism in the new testament. I next turned my attention tb the mode, which appeared so plain in the example of Christ, in the places where he administered, and the reasons why he administered in those places, insomuch, that I was soon established in the belief, that immersion was the only mode, which could be gathered from the new testament; and with this mode my conscience pressed me to comply. I then addressed my father on the subject. I told him "his constant religious care over me entitled him to all the gratitude I was capable of rendering, yet I must beg his indulgence. I believed he was conscientious in having me baptized in my infancy, as he had supposed, and I had tried to suppose, it right. But, on the whole, I was convinced it was my duty to be baptised by immersion; and that it relied
on the profession of my own faith, if the church would receive me." He replied, "that what he did, he thought right, and in the discharge of his own conscience. If I was conscientious, (and he was thankful to God, that he had reason to believe I was, from his observance of my searching the scriptures and the time I had taken therein, and the books I had read, I had his full and free consent; and it was my duty to make profession. - That whenever I went to offer myself, he would go with me, and give the church his consent, and answer any inquiries respecting my life, if they chose to make any; and that he would go and see me baptized." - This he did; and there were a number baptized with me. I believe from this time, my father changed his opinion on the subject, although he never confessed it, until a few months before his death; which happened in the eighty-seventh year of his age. - Mr. Isaac Eaton preached his funeral sermon from these words: "few and evil have the days of the years of the life" of thy servant "been, and have not attained unto the days of
the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage."
After I had joined the church, I was treated more like an old, than a young member. I was soon made a messenger to the association; and to the Scotts Plain church, with Elder J. Stout, to obtain stated supplies to keep up communion seasons from Mr. Miller, one of the most useful ministers in that day. Hopewell church had no stated settled minister. Some time after, we were sent to South-Hampton church, to obtain a worthy young minister that was newly come into the ministery; Mr. Isaac Eaton. After obtaining consent from the church, by his request, we went to Montgomery to his father, who was an old minister there, whose approbation we also obtained. He was not only a great acquisition and a useful minister to Hopewell church, but to the churches all around. God's power attended the word, a considerable addition was made to the church, and numbers were added. I was also blessed with a judicious and useful minister and
friend, who was able to instruct me in the classics, and who was desirous to do it. I endeavoured to arrange matters, and devote myself to study. I began, in the hopes of surmounting many difficulties. An awful sense of the greatness of the work of the ministery, and that I might be able to preach with success, if I made some advances in study, induced me to cultivate an acquaintance with literature. I shuddered at the thought of becoming a preacher, and finally relinquished it.
I commenced a piece of business, and engaged a man to assist me in it, which I did merely to protract my studies. The young man falling sick the morning we designed to begin, counteracted my resolution of delaying my studies, I however looked upon it as the hand of providence. My Father called on me, that morning, to attend family worship. The chapter I read, adminstered such conviction to my soul, that I was induced to relinquish the business I had undertaken. I went that day and began the study of the
Latin Grammar, and probably, for the first three months, made as great proficiency as any person. But I was so terrified with the importance of the ministerial work, and conceiving that neither providence, nature, or grace, had qualified me for that arduous office, that I determined to relinquish the idea, and return home, and settle myself in a situation, when it would be impossible to prosecute my studies; and of course the ministery. I meant, however, to live a steady and uniform Christian life. I was much in prayer, and enjoyed a nearness to God in his word. His promises were precious; the doctrines opened and comforted my soul.
I began to think of a companion for life, but was entirely at a loss for an object; for although I had kept much company, yet from my conversion till now, (nearly three years,) it was of a religious kind. I now joined in the purchase of a plantation, by which I was involved in debt, which I expected to adjust by the proceeds of the farm. Here my conscience dictated my duty to
implore the direction of God, and acknowledge him in all my ways. I determined to spend the night in prayers to God, and accordingly went to a solitary place; that whether my prayers were mental or vocal, they might be out of the reach of the human ear. While I was on my knees, imploring the direction of God, these words powerfully impressed my mind: "Go forth and preach the Gospel." I remained on my knees pondering over them for some time, and begged of God not to suffer me to be deluded, and that every spirit might be restrained but his own. These words followed in my mind with equal force: "It is I, be not afraid - be not faithless but believing;" which words, and others similar to them, reiterated in my soul. I rose, confounded; my breast heaved with oppression. I pondered again, and at length, spoke out. I raised many objections; - my present circumstances; - my weakness and my vileness; - but all these objections were so entirely answered in Chiist's sufficiency, and fulness of his promises, that I did not dare to raise any more. I thought,
for a moment, of yielding, and walked to the house; when a new difficulty seized my mind: - that I must look to God for a determination. I withdrew again a distance off, and fell down as before; I think I may say, with the deepest reverence, and anxiety of mind for direction ; and to be saved from delusion, obstinacy, or presumption; and that I might not attribute those things to God, which arose from the works of the devil; or those things to the devil, which came from God. In this posture, these words seized upon my mind: "Thou shalt speak to many people." "I will send thee far hence." "Say not I am a child, I will be with thee." "I will be with thy lips." "And thou shalt speak to all, to whom I send thee." "I have made thee this day, a brazen wall and an iron sinew." And many more passages of scripture followed in my mind, till I was obliged to cry out, "it is enough, I will doubt no more." With this resolution, I arose, went to the house, and at a late hour of night went to bed. But alas! wretch that I was, and still am, I scarcely laid my head
on the pillow, before such an opposition again rose in my mind against the work, and even against God for calling me to it, that I even wished for death. But oh! the dismal hours which seized my mind; the temptations and awful suggestions on the the one hand, and the promises and directions from God's word on the other, alternately, that I think I may call it the most excruciating night, that my soul ever experienced. Although it is fifty years since, the sensations I then felt are still fresh upon my memory; and, even now, while writing, give me an uncommon feeling. It is with shame that I write, that nearly two years elapsed, before my pride, my obstinacy, and my unbelief, were so conquered, that I could fully yield to the clearest conviction. It deprived me of much sleep, and all the cravings of nature; - and my body was emaciated. Yet, I frequently had seasons of great comfort, and repeated promises. I concluded at times, to die under these impressions, rather than yield. Frequently, when I would endeavour to pray, these texts would bear on my mind: "I
have told you and ye did not hear, wherefore will ye hear it again." "Why will you be stricken any more, ye will revolt more and more." I could not conceal my anxicty of mind, although I endeavoured to do it, as much as possible, by retirement and silence; but my most intimate religious friends would discover it.
I became more industrious, and exercised myself a great deal. One day I went early into the field, to plough it free from stumps and stones. Soon after I started, this test weighed heavily on my mind: "Warn the people, or their blood will I require at your hands." The pangs which afflicted me so heavily, that, although it rained plentifully, I was insensible of it. Paul's expressions took such hold of my thoughts, that I regarded not what I was about. "If I do this willingly, I have my reward, but if not a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me." "Necessity is laid upon me, woe is me if I preach not the gospel." One objection more arose in my mind; - that providence was
against it, and God's spirit and providence generally accorded. If the church should call me, and I could extricate myself from my worldly concerns, I should devote myself to the duty of the ministery.
About this time, Mr. Eaton came to see and converse with me. He took an opportunity, privately, to inform me, that he had for a long time observed an appearance of my mind being much depressed. That he thought it his duty to enquire, and mine to divulge, what it was; whether he or the church, had done any thing to make me dissatisfied. I told him, I had no reason to complain; what was between God and my own soul, I did not wish to disclose to any person whatever. I was, however, constrained to give him some account, for which I was afterwards very sorry, although he gave me tender and faithful advice. The next church meeting, he called me aside, and told me he thought it his duty to mention me to the church; and if they thought proper to examine me, he would be satisfied. I begged him to desist for that
time. He replied it was his duty, and he should do it. I found great reluctance in this procedure. They examined me, gave me a text, and appointed a time for me to preach before the church. They left it to me, that, if, after I had preached, I chose to devote my time to study, they would submit to it; otherwise, they should continue my trials. Providence opened the way, and, in a short time after, I went to studying, in which I continued some years, and sincerely felt as if I was in the performance of my duty.
Although my studies were dry, yet I had intervals of much spiritual comfort. One or two instances I must mention. My application to study was close, and the change of life from an industrious and stirring, to a sedentary one, probably was the cause of a severe fit of sickness. I had a high fever and was in much pain of body; but the pain of mind, for some time, so far exceeded it, and being exhausted by weakness, that I was tempted to think, if I was in my duty, I should not be impeded by Providence. The
conflict was severe for some time; but through the grace of God, I had such establishing views of an interest in Christ, the well ordered covenant of grace, and the doctrines and promises of the gospel, that I supposed my soul was fixed firm on that eternal rock.
After my recovery, I prosecuted my studies, and used more exercise. The gentleman, under whom I studied, was a Presbyterian minister, from the State of Connecticut. He had, at that time, a number of youth studying the classics. The class to which I belonged were studying the Greek Testament: reading that chapter in John where Christ told Peter, "he that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit:" and although it was not my verse to read, the master stopped the scholar, and turned to me, and said - "as we think differently of baptism, do you not think that these words suggest strongly, that a little water is as well as a great deal." I replied, that they were as much in favour of sprinkling, as any in the bible. This abrupt answer,
caused him to order the class back to their studies; but he detained me, to reason with me. I instantly made a confession, that I had been inadvertent, and that for all his liberal treatment to me he deserved a more submissive reply. He still persisted, and told me my arguments were weak. I replied, that I was not on an equal footing with him, I had been an aggressor, I was his pupil, and was afraid he felt injured at my offence, and wished him to pass it over as a piece of inadvertency. He still insisted, and promised, that in the debate, he would allow me to be on an equal footing with himself. As I could not avoid it, we were closely engaged till night. In the morning, when I went to school, he handed me this thesis: "That which God has once commanded, and never forbidden, remains a duty, and cannot be sinful." I saw, that it alluded to children's being taken into the Jewish church with their parents. I wished to avoid any further debate. I asked till noon to fill up the thesis - and filled it thus: "But God has commanded the seventh day as a Sabbath, and never forbidden it, and therefore it remains a duty
and cannot be sin." This he called me to defend. This ended our former dispute.
Princeton College, was at that time kept in Newark, New-Jersey; and governed by President Burr, with whom I was a greatt favourite. I frequently attended their public examinations, and had encouragement from the President, that I might enter college if I chose, when found upon examination to be fit for it. I found my advantages great, not being confined to any particular class, but was at liberty to make all the progress I was able to, in any branch of study. I intended, when I did enter, to enter the senior class; but unfortunately I was taken sick, before I had made but very little progress in the classics. My sickness was probably owing to my too close application to study, and the want of exercise. The doctors and my friends, advised me to take a journey, and relax my mind from study.
Mr. Miller, of Scotch Plains, and Mr. Thomas, of Montgomery, were appointed
the association to travel into Virginia, pursuant to two applications; - One from Opocken, where one Loveall, an Arminian preacher, had baptised a number of persons, and had established a church. But he being licentious in his life, was turned out of the church, and went off. When they discovered themselves destitute, and without fellowship, they applied for advice and assistance to the association; and promised that they would comply with any direction. Mr. Miller, had formerly visited these people in some of his journies; and God had blessed his labours, by the conversion of several souls. The other application was from a young church, constituted by Mr. Thomas, which had no ministerial assistance; and which wanted the ordinances administered. A Mr. Sutton, from Old-Town, and myself, accompanied the minister, as far as the Potomac, where the roads separated; - one to Opocken, tht other to Blue-ridge, or Kotockton. Here the ministers concluded to separate for the present. Mr. Sutton, to go with Mr. Miller, and myself to go with Mr. Thomas. We
were to spend the next Lord's-day in separate towns, and the Wednesday following to meet at Opocken. Mr. Miller, appointed a meeting in the evening. We put up at a tavern, where there was a noisy profane company. It being in the evening when we arrived, I called for the landlord, and asked if we could have a room apart from those people. He said we could; I asked him to shew us the room, and then gave orders respecting our horses. Through favour to us, he stopped into their room to stm them, which so offended them, that they instantly burst into our room, and one of them demanded, with some imprecations, if we were New-lights. I told him we were civil travellers, and neither wished to disturb them, nor be disturbed ourselves. He held his fist over my head, and pointed to one of his comrades, and said, that man can beat any one in the room. I replied, that he looked much more like a man, than he acted; and that I dared to say, he and the rest of the gentlemen were ashamed of
his company and conduct. At, this instant the landlord came in. I immediately desired him to turn that fellow out of the room, that we might converse with the others. He did so. I then began with the others. I told them, that in that man, we had a striking instance of the depravity of human nature. - That it could not be possible, as we came from the hands of God, designed for sociability and mutual good will, that, we possessed a propensity to make one unhappy. They all sat decently and heard me out, and then got up, gave us their hands, and wished us a good journey. This brings to my mind an instance which happened some time before.
In going from school to visit my parents, who lived about forty miles distant, night overtook me. I missed my road, and was insensible of it; till stopping at the door of a tipling house to make some inquiry, the landlord informed me of it. The door being open, I saw a number of men playing cards. One of them observing me, came instantly to the door, and offered to pilot me. Disliking
the motion, but much more the appearance of the man, I told him there was no occasion for it; I could find the way on being informed. He persisted, and said he would go with me as far as one Culls, who kept a public house on.the road, that I ought to have gone by. This Cull I knew to be a magistrate. I rode off, and he soon overtook me. I conceived the man had some bad design; and I knew I had some thick woods to pass through. I told him if he would pilot me to the tavern, I would treat him. We soon got into the right road; and I knew we soon had to pass another house of evil fame. When we arrived at it, he asked me to stop, for he must. I told him, no, I knew the way. He said he would soon overtake me. I rode some distance, stopt, and observed his motions. He called out a man from the house, and whispered to him. The man went in, and soon returned with a large coat, which he took, together with something which he put under the coat. I then pushed on, he overtook, me, and began to converse. He asked me if I did not sometimes meet with difficulty on the road. I told him none, but what I got through with. He asked, if I had not sometimes
a charge of money with me. I told him, none, but what I had use for. He asked me, if I did not always go armed. I told him, those, who gave me occasion to use them, should best know that. He said with an oath, he thought so. As we were entering a dark spot in the woods, I kept my horse close to his side, and put one hand on his thigh, that I could feel every motion he made. In this way, we passed through the wood to a wide plain, which I knew lasted to the tavern. I went to the opposite side of the road, and kept my eyes upon him. Being near to the tavern, I told him he should soon have a treat. He said, he did not want to stop, if I was going farther, he would bear me company a few miles. Having arrived at the tavern, I turned up to the door, and called for the landlord. The man kept urging me to go on. The landlord being in bed, asked who was there. I told him it was his duty to come and see. He came to the door, opened it, and asked what I wanted. I answered, the first thing was to take that man into custody. The man turned his horse, and rode off in haste. After telling the justice the story, I rode home to my father's.
- From this digression I return to my narrative.
Mr. Thomas and myself, the next morning, proceeded on our journey, and reached the neighborhood, where divine service was performed, the next day, A number gathered together, and were very attentive. After Mr. Thomas had preached two sermons, the people kept their seats. He then spoke in a low voice to me: "I wish you would say something to the people, as they continue in waiting." He was overheard by some, who instantly begged I would. I replied, that I had no right to preach; but if they wished to hear a repetition of the substance which had just been delivered to them; and if they would allow me a few minutes to collect, and recollect; I would endeavor to repeat it. This, (they consenting to), I did. Mr. Thomas appointed a sermon the next
day twelve miles distant; and also another in that neighbourhood, at the same time. I thought it was a mistake, and whispered to Mr. Thomas, he had made a mistake. He said, he had not. I saw through his design, and meant to stick by him. I told him, I did not mean because I had got abroad, to preach without licence. He acknowledged he had been precipitate; but begged me to stay and meet the people, and pray and converse with them, if I did no more. I observed their anxiety to hear, and a considerable number, gathering together, I began to pray and. exhort. Their zeal to hear encouraged me to proceed.
Among them was an elderly man, who professed to be a friend, or Quaker; who tarried till the others had generally retired. He told the man of the house, he wanted to converse with the speaker. As soon as he found an opportunity, he thus began addressing himself to me: "I came on purpose day to hear thee preach, and believe a great deal that I heard. I was brought up a friend
and did not believe some of thy doctrines; and I want to converse with thee on the subject, if we can do it in love." I told him I was perfectly willing; and that if we did converse it should be in love; for if I felt otherwise myself, or if I saw him warm, I should quit. I desired him to mention what he had to say. He said, he understood me "to hold election, original sin," and if I rightly recollect, "regeneration by grace, and final perseverance in grace, &c." I told him, he had understood me right, I did hold them, and meant to hold them out to the people, as the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and I thought I could prove them to him, by reason, by scripture, and by his own experience, if he "had the spirit, which I supposed he professed to have. He replied: "thou hast said a great deal, and I wish thee to begin thy argument." I first tried to reason thus: "that as we saw infants, from their birth, were subjects of pain, anguish, and death, it was unreasonable to supppse a being, infinitely good, would inflict this great penalty on beings perfectly innocent, pure,
and blameless; neither was there any way to hope for the salvation of them after death, but through God's electing grace in Christ." But I need not mention the arguments I used. He stopped me by saying; there was reason in what was said, but he wished for proofs from scripture. I produced a number of passages. He then observed, there were other passages, which he thought were against me. I told him; I supposed that all the contradiction was in us, and therefore he might either reconcile them, or I would attempt to do it, which I did. He then mentioned my undertaking to do it by his own experience; which I did, and he assented. He mentioned dress, preaching for money, outward ordinances, and concluded by observing; that he had been prejudiced by education, and that he never had submitted himself before to a free inquiry; which he meant should be the case, in future.
The next day, Mr. Thomas, had a meeting, on the way to the place, where we were to meet Mr. Miller. After he had finished
preaching, the people kept their seats as they did before. An old man among them thus addressed me: "We are as sheep without a shepherd, perishing for lack of vision; and if you have a regard for our souls, do endeavour to say something to us." I spoke to them for some time. We then proceeded to meet Mr. Miller. He informed us in what state the people were. We examined them, and found that they were not a regular church. We examined those that offered, and those who gave satisfaction, we received, and constituted a new church. Out of the whole that offered, there were only three received. Some openly declared, they knew, they could not give an account of experiencing a work of grace, and therefore need not offer. Others, stood ready to offer, if a church was formed. The three before-mentioned were constituted, and six more were baptized, and joined with them. After the meeting ended, a number of old members went aside, and sent for me. They expressed their deplorable state, and asked me, if I would meet with them that evening, and try to instruct them. They
were afraid the ministers blamed them. They had been misled; but it was not their fault, and they hoped I would pity them. I told them I would with all my heart; and endeavoured to remove their suspicion of the ministers. They met, and I spoke to them from these words: "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." I hope I was assisted to speak to them in an impressive manner; and they to hear, at least some of them, so as to live. They after-wards professed, and became zealous members, and remained so, I believe, until their deaths.
On my return to pursue my studies, I passed through Hopewell, where was Mr, Eaton. He informed me that a report prevailed that I was preaching in Virginia, and lest it should injure my character, as going disorderly into the ministery, he advised me to stay till after the Lord's day, that he might call a church meeting for the purpose of settling
the matter. A meeting was called, and I was arraigned as being guilty of disorder. I wished them to exhibit the charge, and proofs. They had none, but informed me that travellers had passed through there and reported it, and they wished I would give them a relation of the matter. I told them, it was the first time I knew the accused party called as the only evidence in the cause; however, I would give them as just and impartial a relation as I could; which I did. They then asked me what I thought of my own conduct, whether I did not think I had been disorderly. I told them, I considered this question more extraordinary than the other. I had not only given evidence, at their request; but was now called on to judge in a cause, where I was the accused party. Here, I ought, in justice to Mr. Eaton, to say, though he called the meeting, he was as little active as possible. One of the elders asked me, if I proposed to persevere. I replied, it was not probable that the same occurrences would take place; if they did, I thought I should not do wrong, or even be
disorderly in God's sight... Instead of repenting, my own conscience acquitted me. I wished to return to my studies, and that it was now with them, to decide on my conduct, Mr. Eaton proposed to the church, to call me to preach before them, before I returned. And that my exercise at home might be as public as, and consonant with, that I observed abroad, I was chosen. A time was appointed, and I preached. While I was at school, I embraced all my leisure moments to write on some texts of scripture; and of what I then wrote, I now availed myself by using them. The church then ordered me to come and preach to them a month after; which command I punctually obeyed. They then proposed my attendance the next month, to which I objected, because it was some distance, consumed time, and interrupted my studies. They proposed another examination, to which they invited some neighbouring ministers, who met, examined, and made me a licenced preacher. I then intended to return and complete my education; but was prevented by frequent interruptions.
An elderly minister, eminent for his purity and usefulness, enjoined it upon me, to attend and assist him at his next communion season. This minister being much engaged in the school, frequently exchanged with the neighbouring ministers; and was the next Lord's day, to exchange with Mr. Richards, of Rahway. On Saturday afternoon, I met him on the road. He told me where he was going, and for what; but said that meeting me had altered his mind. He said, he had understood I was regularly authorised to preach; and that I must preach to his people. He told me he would keep Mr. Richards at home, and that I must promise that I would go to meeting; and if his congregation did not insist on my preaching, he would excuse me; and not otherwise. My obligations to him were too great for me to refuse; but I was exceeding averse to it. My instructor was a preacher in this place; and the ablest ministers of the Presbyterian order, usually preached to large congregations. I did not wish to undertake; but attempt it I must, and did. Some time after, attending
Mr. Carman's communion, where there was a large congregation, a great many applications to preach were soon pressed upon me. A young Baptist at Morristown gave me a call. This with many others so interrupted my studies, that I was compelled to give up a regular course of study, and turn my attention entirely to divinity.
I soon after made Morristown a temporary home. The church, or rather the members of it, were but few, and much scattered through several Presbyterian congregations; viz. in Baskinridge, Mendhana, Morristown, and Pasaic. I was kept constantly employed in my attendance, on Lord's days, at those places, alternately; and once a week in preaching, where I put up, with Mr. Jones. We also held meetings at private houses, in the respective towns beforementioned. I also often visited Black-river, where there was. a young and destitute church, which employed so much of my time, that my studies were much interrupted. On Lord's days, large assemblies of young people attended from the
different neighbourhoods aforesaid. They were open and familiar in their conversation: yet mere were no very promising appearances of reformation.
In this state, I continued, till the next association; when an application was made from Opocken, for assistance: some difficulty subsisting between the church and their minister, which they could not settle. The church at Blue-ridge applied for a person to administer the ordinances. As no ordained minister could be found, that could go, I was urged to accept the ordination, and undertake the journey. I pleaded my youth and inexperience; but the messengers from those churches expressed their wishes that I should be sent. I objected in vain, and was prevailed on to accept ordination, and to undertake the journey. I tarried there much longer than I meant to have done, when I set out; having an intention of being married on my return home. When I arrived at Opocken, the Lord opened the way, and the difficulty appeared amicably adjusted to mutual satisfaction,
and the wound healed. I then went to Kotockton, and preached; and appointed a meeting, the next Lord's day, at Mr. John Cozzin's, the Lord's day following, I was appointed to administer the Lord's supper to them.
On the Saturday preceding, Mr. Thomas baptized the wife of one John Hail, who was a vain man, and brought up a Quaker. - Hail was so much disgusted, that he determined to sell all he possessed, and quit her entirety. While settling his affairs, the thought struck him, what should be done with his children. He observed that his wife's economy in the house, was as good as before; her tenderness and attention to the family remained the same. He told her, if she would promise not to go there to meeting any more, he would try to live with her. She informed him that any thing she could do in conscience, she would; but could not make that promise. Mrs. Hail had taken into her family a young woman, who was on the point of being married. Hail was induced
to come to meeting, to get me to publish and many them. I told him, I could publish them and give a certificate, if he would come on the Saturday I was to be there; and then I could determine, whether I could go to his house, to marry them. This brought him again; and to induce me to go, he plead the destitute state of his neighbourhood with regard to preaching; and wished me to preach on Monday. I about this time understood something of what I have before related, but he informed me more folly afterwards. I told him, if he would go home and warn the people, and come the next day and conduct me to his house, I would go and marry the couple, and would endeavour to preach. He came, and I accordingly went. I took this opportunity of conversing plainly with him upon the necessity of the new-birth. He became strongly convicted, which, I trust, ended in his soul's conversion. * I then proceeded to comply with a pressing request from one Mr. Numan, which he left
* I returned the next Spring, and baptised him.
with some acquaintance of his at Opocken. This determined me to visit the Jersey setttement in North-Carolina; and by taking the road above the mountain, I should go near Mr.Numan's. On my way; I preached and meant to have arrived there on Saturday. I arrived at the first fork of Shenandoah. I desired to stay at a house on the bank, as I was a stranger, and did not know where to ford. The master of the house told me, I could not stay, as there had been a great freshet, which almost ruined him. I, however, informed him of my ignorance of the place, and the situation I was in; and he finally consented to my stay, provided me with a pilot, and put me in the route to Numan's. This man sent and gathered the people together, and I preached to them. I continued preaching, with intermissions, for several days; and the congregations continued to increase. The people appeared to have a conviction, which, at least, produced a change in their lives.
I proceeded on my way to Carolina. I found a family from Jersey. The father of the family was dead, and the widow and her sons urged me to preach; as there had been no preaching, near them, since they had lived there; which was a number of years. I consented. The house, where I preached, was some miles from the widow's, on my road to Carolina, as being more central, to the thin and scattering inhabitants. Among my hearers, there was a young married couple, neither of whom had ever heard a sermon before. I concluded to tarry here a little while, and converse freely with those present, about their soul's eternal welfare.
While conversing, I heard one man say to another: "this man talks like the Jones'." This led me to enquire, who these Jones' were; and where they lived. They appeared surprised at this. I told them, to speak freely; I should take no manner of exceptions at their answer. They then replied, that they were distracted; did nothing but pray, and talk about Jesus Christ; and that they lived
between twenty and thirty miles distant, on my route. I determined to make it my next day's ride and see my own likeness. I arrived at the house a little before night, and found the old man lying before the fire, groaning with rheumatic pain. I asked him what was the. matter. He told me, he could neither walk, or set up. I told him if he was a Christian, he must be sensible it would work for his everlasting good; as all things did. He said, he believed it I asked him, if I could be accomodated with a lodging. He answered me in the affirmative. I soon began the conversation upon religion, conviction, and conversion, and the alteration they made in our tempers and dispositions. He asked me, if I ever knew any that were so. I mentioned several revivals of religion, and experiences that I had heard related. He informed me, he did not know of any, and began to relate his own story. "Some months past," said he, "I observed that my son, (who was about twenty-two years of age, appeared very melancholy and reserved. One day, myself and wife had been quarreling,
I observed my son to sigh loud, and go out of doors. I immediately supposed, that our disagreement made my son so dejected. I inquired of him the reason. He said, it struck him to the heart. I was much distressed in the reflection, that we could not live in a manner, that would make our children happy. One day, I heard someone crying out of doors, and ran, fearful that somebody was hurt; but when I got to where the noise came from, I discovered my son, on his knees, crying to God for mercy, acknowledging himself a sinner, and begging of God for forgiveness, if it were possible. He thanked God, that Christ was sent to save sinners, and for their salvation through him. I was astonished, and remained silent, till my son perceiving me, came and clasped me round the neck, and said; he thought, just before, he was going to hell, under the wrath of God; but that he then saw the Saviour, and that he might be saved. This conversation wrought upon my feelings so much, that I attempted to pray; but I soon discovered that my prayers were
sinful. I, however, soon had my eyes open to see my own wickedness, and the depravity of my heart. Things went on so, for some time, till, I hope, the Lord made all my family sensible of their perilous situation; and I trust now, they have all found Christ, to be their only hope of salvation."
It being now, late in the evening, the two eldest sons (who had been a husking) returned. I was silent, that I might hear them converse; and soon found why they were deemed distracted, by the gay and thoughtless. They began to tell how thoughtless the people were; - that they began singing of songs, upon which, they themselves went to singing of hymns. Their father stopped them, and remarked, that they had taken no notice of me. He then informed them, that I knew all about those things, and had seen a great many, who had been brought to the knowledge of the truth. This gave me an opportunity of conversing with the young men; which gave me much pleasure. I inquired, how they knew when they were
right; to which they answered: they took their Bible for their guide. I commended this, as being the sure way. It being then late, the old gentleman asked me to pray; which I did, and I hope to their edification. I started, early in the morning, on my journey, although I was much importuned to tarry, till they could collect the scattering inhabitants, that I might preach to them. There was a young man with me, who was anxious to go; which prevented my complying with their urgent request.
We arrived at a house just at dusk, the master of which, gave us liberty to tarry. After we had conveyed our things into the house, he asked me if I was a trader; which I answered in the affirmative. He asked me if I found it to answer; to which I answered, not so well as I could wish. He replied: "probably the goods did not suit." I told him, no one had complained of that. He said, I held them too high. I answered, any one might have them below their own price. He said he would trade on these terms; which
I said, I would cheerfully comply with. I then asked him, if gold tried in the fire, yea, that which was better than the finest gold, wine and milk, durable riches and righteousnes, "without money and without price," would not suit him. O! said he, I believe you are a minister. I told him, I was, and had a right to proclaim free grace wherever I went. This laid a foundation for the evening's conversation; and I must acknowledge his kindness, though he was not very desirous of trading, after he discovered, who I was.
We proceeded towards Carolina, till we came to a place, where I found a family of kind Presbyterians, of whom I had some knowledge; and where there were a number of that denomination, but were destitute of a preacher. I stopped here, and preached; and then set forward for Tising Creek, about forty miles distant. Here was a branch of a Baptist church, of the free-will principles. My companion, who lived here, had often mentioned them in our journey, and wished me to stop. He set forward before me, that
he might appoint a meeting against I arrived. When I arrived, I went to Mr. Shearman's, where there was a meeting. A great number of people attended, and seemed to be much engaged; and, I trust, the convictions of some, ended in hopeful conversion.
I arrived at Tar-river, and began to preach; and, to all appearances, there were many awakened to a sense of their situation; and there appeared a general concern for their souls' eternal welfare. I preached every day, for a week; and frequently conversed till late at night, with souls under concern. From here, I went on to the Yadkin, where I spent same [some] time, and preached often, with some appearance of success.
From here, I went to Charleston, (South-Carolina.) I, however, stopped at Rocky-river, where there was a large settlement, chiefly Presbyterians. I saw such hopeful appearances of a blessing attending the word, that I was induced to tarry a number of days, and preach. I had high waters to pass in
my journey, and the people made me promise, if I found any difficulty, that I would return and preach; which was the case. The Lord, however, opened the way for me to proceed, in a few days, and I reached Ashby-river, on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Stephens, lived here, and when I arrived, he and his wife, with some Charleston ladies, had walked to the meeting-house. When they returned, they found me there. My coat, which had grown thread-bare almost, by my long journey, made me look rather outlandish; and I saw it created a great deal of suspicion in Mr. Stephens, who closely examined me, but finally treated me very brotherly, and made me very welcome. The next day he insisted on my preaching for him. His congregation, of white people, was small; but the blacks were very numerous. To this latter class, be had paid much attention, and was very useful to them. After service was over, he told me, I made a very good negro preacher. When I came out of the house, the negroes stood in two rows, and as I passed, they pronounced many blessings
John Gano Index Page
Baptist History Homepage