This letter was written by Rev. Samuel Austin, Jr. (1760-1830), the son of Samuel and Lydia Austin of New Haven, Conecticut. Samuel served briefly in the revolutionary war before graduating from Yale in 1783 with the highest honors in his class. He afterwards studied theology with Jonathan Edwards (son of the famous preacher) and married Jerusha Hopkins, the daughter of Rev. Samuel Hopkins of Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1788. He then served as the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, for twenty-five years, from 1790 until 1815, before he journeyed north to assume his new duties as the President of the University of Vermont (1815-1821). At the University, Austin attempted to revise the curriculum but a committee of the corporation “advised him not to include the works of Jonathan Edwards in classical studies. Since Austin was a strict Calvinist and a distinguished scholar who had edited a definitive collection of Edwards’ works, he could hardly have taken such an affront lightly. President Austin submitted his resignation on March 21, 1821, to assume the pastorate of a church in Newport, Rhode Island. Later he moved to Glastenbury, Connecticut, where he died on December 4, 1830.” [Source: University of Vermont website]
This letter records a decision by Rev. Samuel Austin to turn down the offer of serving the Congregational Society in Windham, Connecticut, as their pastor. Presumably Moseley and Bennet were trustees of the society who had urged him to accept the position.
Addressed to Messrs. Nathaniel Moseley & Isaac Bennet, Canada [Society Church], Windham [Connecticut]
New York [City, New York]
August 2d 1786
I received a little while ago a very unexpected letter from you containing a very unexpected request. That your call should be thus renewed surprises me. I receive it as a singular testimony of the people’s affection and do sincerely thank them for their attachment. The Lord bless them. The God of Israel shield them and shed down effusions of his grace upon them as dew upon the mown grass. The Lord love them ten thousand times more than they have loved me. I have just been on my knees, dear gentlemen, begging of God to teach me my duty, and that if it is his will I should come to you, he would show it me & bring me thither.
What shall I say? At present I cannot see that it is my duty. If I know my own heart, I am ready to follow where Providence calls. What is the will of God respecting me, I cannot certainly determine. Teach me, oh Lord, and incline my heart to obey the law.
On the whole, I must beg you to turn your eyes from me. Think of somebody else. Has not Mr. Steward recovered? Surely God has many servants and some of them may be obtained to labor among you, and ’tis years to trust in God for a saving message from his lips.
I have had some disorders of body hanging upon me which have been a little alarming since I left you and do now leave me in doubt whether ever I shall be able to continue preaching, and if I do, whether it will ever be prudent for me to settle. I cannot think of keeping your church & congregation in suspense. To answer that, I will settle among them is at present impossible, that I ever should find it my duty after a certain time period of suspense, appears to me too improbable to encourage that suspense.
Whether I live long is very uncertain and what God designs to do with me is still more doubtful. You cannot then think it strange if I beg that the matter may be closed, praying that our common Savior may supply my lack of service by another hand.
Wishing you the greatest blessings, I am Gentlemen, with much gratitude & esteem, your brother & servant in the Lord Jesus, — Sam’l Austin, Jr.