11 May 2012

Sensible of His Own Vileness: The Battle for Isaac Stone's Immortal Soul

[continued from Isaac Stone of Shrewsbury, Mass., posted 10 May 2012]


When we left Isaac, he was recounting a visit to the deathbed of his grandfather, Isaac Stone. He quotes his own diary entry written nearly forty years earlier (22 April 1766) describing his feelings. At that time, Isaac Jr. was 18 years old and training for the ministry, and  like his grandfather, very concerned with the theological ramifications of death. He describes his grandfather's journey as he prepares to meet his maker. 

In the past I would have glossed over this bit, but the History of Shrewsbury, Mass., by Andrew Ward goes into excruciating detail on the battles fought over theological ideology and it seems that Isaac Sr. was well immersed in them. In particular, he was a staunch proponent of original sin! In 1750 the church appointed a committee to "discourse" with Dr. Joshua Smith and Isaac Stone on the controversy. "Isaac Stone [had] complained to the brethren, that one of them was defective in a fundamental article... The ground of controversy was doctrinal. It related to original sin. Mr. Stone contending for, and Dr. Smith against the doctrine."This was under the leadership of the first minister of the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury, Job Cushing. 

Having served as the church historian at this very same church, I'm accustomed to reading exceedingly dry accounts of these discussions, whether taken in minutes of meetings or minister's records. You can tell that those involved felt very deeply about the issues, but still it comes across as lofty academic discussion. By reading Isaac's letter, on the other hand, you get a much more personal account, and see the implications of belief in certain doctrines. This poor man felt he had to spend his life atoning for original sin and spent his days weeping and gnashing his teeth. What a depressing existence he must have had!




2 [cont.]

                                ...He expressed
very comfortable hopes, that his sins
were pardoned;  that the consolati-
ons of God had abounded to him, more,
than in all his life before, in his time
of general calamity. Notwithstanding
the thought of Death seemed to lie with
weight on his mind." His countenance
was most solemn! Astonishing Solemn-
ity in his face + expressions, painted the
deep impressions made upon his
mind, by death, judgment + eternity.
in near view: Sensible of his own vile-
ness, by reason of original total de-
pravity + propensity to sin, he spent
much of hs time alone in his cham-
ber, many years before his death:
that he might mourn [for sin] + humble
himself: renouncing with abhorrence,
vile selfish feelings; striving to come near
to his dearest Saviour; renewably, + con-
tinually, devoting himself wholly to Christ;
he depended upon Him alone for rich-
teousness: + cryed earnestly. for the influen-
ces of Divine Grace upon his Soul: he re-
garded God above many; + poured out
Strong desires of his mind in prayer for


p. 3
the Strengthening of the church of
CHRIST; The advancing of the cause
of GOD: His native country Lay near
his heart: he longed for the Salvation of
[fellowday?], in all the world. His tempe-
rance was persevering. Years before his
death signs of a cancer appeared in his
face; he avoided cider, + whatever might
inflame: and it never increased. His com
plexion was dark, his eyes blue, his stature
a middle five; his features + deportment
quite agreeable: he retained his teeth + other
marks of a man of fewer years...


Note: Isaac used ampersands all over the place. But because the ampersand is an escape character in html, it appears as & when I type it here. I have therefore decide to replace all ampersands with a plus sign (+) instead.

1 comment:

Sheri Fenley said...

Simply fascinating Polly! I have Methodist Circuit Riders & Preachers who could school you on fire and brimstone, but I don't think they had the agonizing turmoil going on inside like yours. I am waiting for the next installment!