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intented, in part, to describe
and rapidly to
on the

late pastor of the first presbyterian congregation, in philadelphia.


116, high street.

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JOHN BLAIR LINN was descended from ancestors who originally came from the
British islands. They appear to have been emigrants at an early period, and to have
given their descendants as just a claim to the title of American, as the nature of things
will allow any civilized inhabitant of the United States to acquire.

His name bears testimony to the paternal and maternal stock from which he
sprung. His great-grandfather, William Linn, was an emigrant from Ireland, who
settled land in the wilderness of Pennsylvania, and whose eldest son, William, was the
father of a numerous family, of whom the present Dr. William Linn was the eldest.

The father of John Blair Linn received a careful education, which his family
enabled him to complete at the college at Princeton. He was trained to the ministry,
in the presbyterian church, and married, at an early age, Rebecca Blair, the third
daughter of the Reverend John Blair. Her brother and uncle were likewise clergy-
men, and the family were eminently distinguished by their knowledge and piety.

Their eldest son, John Blair Linn, was born in Shippensburg, in Pennsylvania,
March 14, 1777, at no great distance from the spot at which his father first drew

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breath, and where his great-grandfather first established his residence in this new
world. The humble dwelling which was first erected in the forest still existed, at a
small distance from that town, and continued, for a considerable time after this, to be
inhabited by his great-grandfather, who lived upwards of a hundred years.

It is impossible for his survivors to recount the earliest incidents of his life;
to trace the first indications of future character and genius; or enumerate the little
adventures and connections of his childhood. The juvenile stages of our moral and
intellectual progress, which are in all cases entertaining and instructive, are so, in
a particular manner, when they relate to eminent persons. The authentic memo-
rials of any man's life and character are only to be found in his own narrative, compared
with the observations of others. In the present case, Mr. Linn's modesty prevented
him from being his own historian, and peculiar circumstances occasioned his early life
to pass over without much observation from others. We cannot any longer profit
by his own recollections: the hand is now cold, and the tongue silent, which were best
qualified to gratify the curiosity of love or veneration. We only know that he acquired
the rudiments of knowledge at an age somewhat earlier than is customary. He was
initiated into the Latin language while yet a child, and evinced very early a strong
attachment to books. On his father's removal to New York, when John was only
nine years old, he enjoyed new opportunities of improvement, under several respect-
able teachers. The happiest period of his life, however, in his own opinion, consisted
of two or three years which he spent at a place of education at Flatbush, in Long
Island. He was in his thirteenth year when he left this seminary for New York, where,
at Columbia college, his education was completed.

Fortunate is that man who has spent any part of his early years at a country
school. In youth, every object possesses the charms of novelty; care and disease
have as yet made no inroads on the heart, nor stained that pure and bright medium,
through which the external world makes its way to the fancy. The noise, the filth,
the dull sights and unwholesome exhalations of a city are, in consequence of this en-
chantment, ever new and delightful to the youthful heart; but how much is this plea-
sure heightened, when the objects presented to view, and by which we are surrounded,
are in themselves agreeable! There is something in the refreshing smells, the green,
the quiet, the boundless prospects of the country, congenial to the temper of human
beings, at all ages; but these possess ineffable charms at that age, when the joints are

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firm and elastic, when the pulse beats cheerily, and no dark omens or melancholy
retrospects invade the imagination. To roam through a wood with gay companions,
to search the thicket for blackberries, to bathe in the clear running brook, are plea-
sures which fill the memory with delicious images, and are frequently called up to
afford a little respite to the heart from the evils of our subsequent experience.

Dr. Linn was indebted to nature for a healthful rather than a robust constitu-
tion. He was a stranger to disease till after he had reached manhood, and of that con-
stitutional vivacity, which mere health confers, he possessed a very large share. His
fancy was alive to the beauties of nature, and he experienced none of those little vexations
and crosses, which some lads are doomed to suffer, through the malice of school-fellows,
the tyranny of ushers, and the avarice of housekeepers. Hence, in the latter part of
his life, no recollections were so agreeable as those of the time he passed at Flatbush,
when he revelled in the full enjoyment of health, and its attendant cheerfulness.
They formed a vivid contrast to that joyless and dreary state, to which disease after-
wards reduced him.

He was near fourteen years of age when he returned home and went to college.
He now entered on a scene widely different, in all respects, from that to which he had
been previously accustomed: a new system of scholastic discipline, a new circle of
associates, the sensations and views incident to persons on the eve of manhood.

The ensuing four years were active and important ones. The moral and intel-
lectual dispositions which men may possibly bring into the world with them, become
fixed and settled, and receive their final direction at this age. When the appetites are
vigorous, the senses keen, and the conduct regulated by temper and passion, rather
than by prudence and experience, we are most alive to all impressions, and generally
take that path which we pursue for the rest of our days. It wasduring this period
that Mr. Linn's taste was formed; and though his moral and professional views under-
went considerable changes afterwards, the literary inclinations which he now imbibed,
or unfolded, continued to adhere to him for the rest of his life.

His genius now evinced a powerful tendency to poetry and criticism. What
are called the fine writers of the age, and especially the poets, became his darling
study. In a youthful breast, the glow of admiration is soon followed by the zeal to

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imitate; and he not only composed several pieces, both in prose and verse, but pro-
cured the publication of some of them in a distinct volume, before his seventeenth
year. These performances possess no small merit, if we judge of them by compari-
son with the youth and inexperience of the writer. They manifest considerable read-
ing, a remarkably improved taste, and talents which only wanted the discipline and
knowledge of age to make them illustrious.

In a city where there is an established theatre, a young man, smitten with a
passion for letters, can scarcely fail of becoming an assiduous frequenter of its exhibi-
tions. Plays form a large portion of the fashionable literature of a refined nation.
The highest powers of invention are displayed in the walks of dramatic poetry; and what
the young enthusiast devours in his closet, he hastens with unspeakable eagerness to be-
hold invested with the charms of life and action on the stage. At that period, some
performers of merit had been recently imported from Europe, the theatre was, in an
eminent degree, a popular amusement, and Mr. Linn was at that age when the enchant-
ment of such exhibitions is greatest. The theatre accordingly became his chief

To austere and scrupulous minds, the theatre is highly obnoxious, not only as
hurtful in itself, but as seducing unwary youth into collateral vices and undue expences.
On this account, such establishments are certainly liable to much censure. Whether
reasonably or not, mankind have always annexed some disrepute to the profession of
an actor; and hence no one will give himself to that profession, who cherishes in
himself any lively regard for reputation. The odium with which any profession is
loaded, even though originally groundless, has an unfortunate tendency to create an
excuse for itself in the principles and manners of those who adopt it. To make men
vicious, little more is necessary than to treat them as if they were so.

The example of Mr. Linn, however, may lead us to distinguish between that
admiration for the drama, which leads some persons to the theatre, and those dissolute
and idle habits, by which the attendance of others is produced, and which evince a
taste for the life and manners of the actor, rather than a passion for excellent acting.
The moral conduct of this youth was at all times irreproachable; and the impression
made upon his fancy, by the great masters of the drama, seems to have contributed to

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his security from low tastes and vicious pleasures, rather than to have laid him open
to their influence.

When his academical career was finished, he was eighteen years of age; and
it being necessary to adopt some profession, his choice, and that of his family, fell upon
the law. The law leads more directly and effectually to honour, power, and profit, in
America, than any of what are termed the liberal professions. As we are strangers
to all hereditary distinctions, the road to eminence is open to all; and while the prac-
tice of the law is extremely lucrative, it tends to bring forth talents and industry into
public notice, and to recommend men to offices of profit and honour. A young man
who, though meanly descended, shows some marks of genius, and has received some
degree of education beyond that of mere reading and writing his native tongue, seldom
thinks of pursuing any mechanical trade, and if he has some ambition, he is generally
educated to the bar. He is thus placed in the direct road of that profit and honour,
which waits on political popularity, and may put in his claim, with more success than
the followers of any other calling, for a seat in the national councils, and for any official
station. The children of persons who are raised above others, by their riches or sta-
tion, are, of course, whether qualified or not, destined to a liberal profession, and the
law is generally preferred, because it affords the best means of building up a name or
a fortune. Mr. Linn was probably influenced in his choice of this path, more because
it was honourable and lucrative, than because it was particularly suited to gratify any
favourite taste. He does not appear, therefore, to have applied with much assiduity
or zeal to his new pursuit: his favourite authors continued to engage most of his
attention; and his attachment to poetry acquired new force, by the contrast which the
splendid visions of Shakespeare and Tasso bore to the naked abstractions and torment-
ing subtleties of Blackstone and Coke.

He was placed under the direction of Alexander Hamilton, who was a friend
of his father, and who took upon himself, with ardour, the care of perfecting the stu-
dies and promoting the fortunes of the son. Instead, however, of becoming enamoured
of the glory, excellence, or usefulness that environ the names of Murray and of Ers-
kine, Mr. Linn regarded the legal science every day with new indifference or disgust,
which, at the end of the first year, induced him to relinquish the profession altogether.

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Before this event took place, he had ventured to produce a dramatic composi-
tion, called Bourville Castle, on the stage. This performance was one of the many
dramatic works he had previously concerned, but the only one which was ever per-
formed on the stage. Its success was such as had been sufficient to have fixed the
literary destiny of some minds. But his dramatic career was scarcely commenced,
when it was entirely relinquished. His passion for theatrical amusements yielded
place to affections of a more serious and beneficial nature; and those religious impres-
sions, by which, from his earliest infancy, his mind had been occasionally visited, about
this time assumed a permanent dominion over him. After much deliberation, he de-
termined to devote his future life to service in the church.

Such a decision, in a youthful and ardent mind, could only flow from deep
convictions of duty. The heavy obligations which every clergyman incurs, the extra-
ordinary claims which are made upon him, not only as a teacher of virtue and religion,
but as a living example of their influence, form, to a conscientious mind, the most ar-
duous circumstances of this profession. Considered as a calling, by which a subsist-
ence is to be obtained, and a family reared, its disadvantages are very numerous. He
is entirely precluded from any collateral and lucrative application of his time or talents,
not only by the constant pressure of his clerical duties, but by the general sense of de-
corum; while the stipend he receives from the church is in many cases inadequate to
decent subsistence, and in no case does it more than answer the current necessities and
demands of a family. The clergyman deprives himself of all means of providing for
the establishment of his children in trade or in marriage, or even for the period of age or
infirmity in himself, by embracing a profession which, in many cases, appears to have
a tendency to impair his health, and to shorten the duration of his life.

In Mr. Linn's case, these sacrifices were greater than ordinary. There were
many circumstances to inspire his generous mind with unusual and commendable soli-
citude for the acquisition of fortune, and his new engagements were incompatible with
those pursuits, which had hitherto formed his chief passion, and engrossed the greater
portion of his time. Such, however, was the strength of his mind, and the force of his
religious impressions, that not only the prospects of power and riches, but the more
bewitching promises of dramatic popularity, were renounced with little hesitation or

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New York was, in some respects, an eligible place for prosecuting theological
as well as legal studies, but Mr. Linn weighed its disadvantages and benefits with too
impartial a hand to allow himself to remain there. Along with his former habits and
pursuits, he perceived the necessity of relinquishing many of his former companions,
and abandoning the scenes to which he had been accustomed to resort. His prudence
directed him to withdraw as much as possible from the busy and luxurious world, and
to put far away all those objects which were calculated to divert him from the object to
which he had deliberately devoted his future life.

With these views he left New York, and retired to Schenectady. He there put
himself under the care of Dr. Romeyn, a professor of theology in the reformed Dutch
church. His zeal and resolution appear to have continually increased in favour of his
new pursuit. Experience, indeed, gradually unfolded difficulties of which he had not
been at first aware. The importance and arduousness of the part which he had as-
signed himself became daily more apparent, but these discoveries diminished not his
zeal, though they somewhat appalled his courage. In a letter to his father, written
during this probation, and after a short visit to his family, he says, “When I was in
New York, I saw more clearly than I had ever yet seen, the road of preferment which
I have forsaken. I saw more clearly than ever, that worldly friendship and favour fol-
low the footsteps of pomp and ambition. I hope, however, never to have cause to re-
gret the choice I have made. I hope to see more and more the little worth of earthly
things, and the infinite importance of those which are eternal. As I have no treasures
on earth, may I lay up treasures in heaven!

“The disgust which I contracted for the law might perhaps chiefly arise from
a sickly and over delicate taste. The pages of Coke and Blackstone contained, to my
apprehension, nothing but horrid jargon. The language of the science was discord,
and its methods the perfection of confusion to me; and this, whether a fault in me or
not, I cannot tell, but certain I am it was past remedy. But my aversion to the bar
had something else in it than the mere loathing of taste. I could not bear its tricks
and artifices; the enlisting of all one's wit and wisdom in the service of any one that
could pay for them.

“My mind, which has been for a long time restless and uneasy, and continually
on the wing, feels already, in this state of comparative solitude, that sober and quiet

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peace, to which it has been long a stranger. I regret not the gay objects of New York,
which I have exchanged for the now dreary scenes of Schenectady. The pleasures of
my former life were often the pleasures of an hour, leaving behind them the anxieties
of days and of years. A very few excepted, I regret not those friends of my early
youth, from whom I have removed. Friendship is in most cases only a weathercock,
shifting with the lightest gale, and scarcely stable long enough to be viewed. The
applause of men I no longer prize, and self-approbation becomes every day of greater

In this retreat he pursued his studies assiduously. How he employed his lei-
sure, what books he read, what society he enjoyed, and what particular advances he
made in knowledge or in virtue, in the government of himself or his acquaintance with
the world, it is not in the power of the present narrator to communicate. It appears,
however, that he indulged himself in some poetical effusions, and wrote occasionally
some essays in prose, which were published in a newspaper of that place. Though
not unworthy of praise from so young a man, their intrinsic merit does not entitle them
to preservation.

He obtained a license to preach from the classic of Albany, in the year 1798,
having just entered his twenty-second year. Having now an opportunity of displaying
his qualifications of taste, knowledge, and piety, the world soon became acquainted
with his character. His merits in the pulpit were enhanced by his youth; a circum-
stance which, while it afforded an apology for some exuberances of style and sentiment,
imparted lively expectations of future excellence. He received calls from the presby-
terian church at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and from the first presbyterian church at
Philadelphia, than which there were no religious congregations in America, whose
choice could be more honourable to the object of it.

He finally decided, though not without much hesitation and reluctance, in fa-
vour of the latter situation. In this he was influenced by many motives besides those
which in such a case, would naturally operate upon a young mind, eager for distinction.
The principal of these originated in diffidence of his own powers, which he justly ima-
gined would be subjected to less arduous trials, as an assistant minister, or co-pastor,
than where the sole charge should devolve upon himself. Under the auspices of so
illustrious a colleague as the late Dr. Ewing, he hoped to enter on his important office

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with fewer disadvantages than most young men are subjected to. The errors of youth
and inexperience would be less fatal, and would be more easily prevented and cor-
rected, than in a different situation. The paternal treatment he always received from
Dr. Ewing fulfilled these hopes, and his decision in their favour was fully justified by
the veneration and affection of his people. He was ordained, and installed in his office,
in June, 1799.

He had very early bestowed his affections on Miss Hester Bailey, a young lady
of beauty and merit, daughter of colonel John Bailey, a respectable inhabitant of
Poughkeepsie, in the state of New York. On his settlement at Philadelphia, he mar-
ried this lady. The fruits of this alliance, which was interupted by death at the end
of five years, were three sons, the two youngest of whom survived their father.

The succeeding two years of his life passed in diligent and successful applica-
tion to the duties of his pastoral office. The increasing infirmities of his venerable
colleague made these duties in no small degree heavy to a young man, who was just
beginning his career, and who, as yet, had not acquired the benefits of preparation and
experience. Heavy though they were, and punctual and meritorious as was his dili-
gence in their performance, his active spirit found leisure to compose two poems, the
last of which was of considerable length, during this interval.

The first was a poem on the death of Washington, written in imitation of the
style of Ossian, whom Mr. Linn held in higher estimation than any other poet. This
performance was a happy specimen of this style, and the author's success was the more
remarkable, on account of the disparity between the theme he had chosen, and those
topics to which the Caledonian poet had consecrated his song.

His second attempt was more grave and arduous. It was a didactic essay on
those powers from which poetry itself derives its spirit and existence. The subject of
this poem is explained by its title, “The Powers of Genius.” It is a rapid and pleasing
descant upon the nature and operations of genius, and a general view of its origin and
progress. It is accompanied with notes, by which doubtful passages are explained,
and the reasonings of the poet amplified, confirmed, and illustrated, by [gap] and appo-
site examples.

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Mr Linn has justified himself, in bestowing some of his leisure on subjects of this
kind, by observing, in his preface to this work, that “literature, next to religion, is the
fountain of our greatest consolation and delight. Though it be a solemn truth that the
deepest erudition, disconnected with religion, cannot enlighten the regions beyond the
grave, or afford consolation on the bed of death, yet, when united with religion, literature
renders men more eminently useful, opens wider their intellect to the reception of divine
light, banishes religious superstition, and bows the knee, with purer adoration, before
the throne of God. Literature on the rugged journey of life scatters flowers, it over-
shadows the path of the weary, and refreshes the desert with its streams. He who is
prone to sensual pursuits may seek his joy in the acquirement of silver and gold, and
bury his affections with the treasure in his coffers. The nobler soul, enlightened by
genius and taste, looks far above these possessions. His riches are the bounty of
knowledge, his joys are those which wealth cannot purchase. He contemplates nature
in her endless forms, and finds companions, where men of different pursuits would ex-
perience the deepest solitude.”

Those phantoms which genius produces, and taste embellishes, had a powerful
influence over the imagination of Mr. Linn. External objects were habitually viewed
by him through a poetical medium, and seldom through any other. Their attractions,
in his eyes, and their merit, consisted almost wholly in their power to inspire emotion,
and exalt the fancy. The deductions of pure science, whether mathematical, physical,
or moral, he held in very slender estimation: their simplicity was to him naked and
insipid, dreary and cold. His natural temper, and all his habits of meditation, emi-
nently fitted him for a poet; the subject of this work had been familiar to his earliest
conceptions; and he expatiated in this element as in one most congenial to his nature.

After describing genius, and fixing on invention as its most suitable criterion,
he proceeds to show the alliance between genius and fancy, judgment and sympathy.
He then, in a rapid manner, describes the progress of genius, and illustrates the inde-
pendence of rules, which it sometimes manifests, by the example of Shakespeare, Os-
sian, Ariosto, and Burns.

The influence of culture on genius naturally calls to the poet's mind the image
of Edwin, and the various forms of excellence which genius is qualified to uphold leads
him into an enumeration of celebrated names, in various departments of prose and verse.

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Some of the moral stimulants and effects of genius are next displayed; narra-
tive is called in to the aid of precept, and the poem closes with a concise view of the
progress of genius in different countries: Egypt, Greece, Italy, Britain, and America
To his native country the poet is patriotically partial, and not only predicts her future
eminence in literature, but deems the progress she has already made by no means

The merit of this performance has received the best testimony of which merit
of this kind is susceptible, in the approbation of the public. The work, in a few months
after its first appearance, demanded a new edition, and it has been published in a very
splendid style in Europe.

Several smaller pieces were published in the same volume with this poem, some
of which have merit considerably above mediocrity, and manifest a genius in the writer
which only wanted the habits of reflection and revision to entitle him to a high rank in
the fraternity of poets.

Mr. Linn's temperament was sanguine, and his health at all times extremely
variable. From his earliest infancy, he was liable to fits of severe indisposition, which,
to one of his peculiar temper, were of far more importance than they would have
proved to another. There was a powerful sympathy between his body and mind. All
disorders in the former produced confusion and despondency in the latter. He was
always prone to portend an unfavourable issue to his disease, and being deeply im-
pressed with the belief that he was doomed to an early grave, every sickness was
considered as the messenger appointed to fulfil his destiny.

It was not, however, till the year 1802 that his constitution received any lasting
or material injury. In the summer of this year, he set out on a journey to New York.
The weather being extremely hot, and the chaise affording no effectual protection
from the rays of a burning sun, he was suddenly thrown into a swoon, which was fol-
lowed by an ardent fever. This accident occurred near Woodbridge, in New Jersey,
and he was carried from the road, by some passengers, to the hospitable roof of Dr.
Rowe, a clergyman of that place.

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From this attack he recovered sufficiently in a few days, to enable him to return
home; but from that period to his death, every day's experience evinced that this ac-
cident had done his constitution an irreparable mischief. His nervous system appeared,
for some time, to have been chiefly affected, and in a way particularly distressful and
deplorable, since it interfered with his duty as a preacher. In attempting to speak,
his brain was frequently seized with a torpor and dizziness, which made it difficult for
him to keep himself from falling. The same affection sometimes attended him while
walking or sitting. Its visits were capricious and uncertain. It would sometimes
afford him a respite of days or weeks. Its returns were sudden and unlooked for, and
it always brought in its train a heavy dejection of mind, and equally unfitted him for
the performance of his public duties, and for obtaining relief from any solitary occupa-
tion or social amusement.

No one could struggle with his infirmity more strenuously than Mr. Linn.
His family can bear witness to his efforts to fulfil his public duties, notwithstanding
this secret enemy. So successful were these efforts, that he often preached with his
usual energy and eloquence, when nothing but the rails of his pulpit supported him,
and when a deadly sickness pervaded his whole frame.

That his powers of reasoning and reflection were unimpaired by this accident,
he very soon afforded an incontestible proof, in the spirit with which he carried on a
short controversy, during this year, with Dr. Priestley.

Dr. Priestley, who acquired so much celebrity in Europe, had, a few years be-
fore this, taken up his abode in the United States. His zeal for knowledge was by no
means diminished by the circumstances which occasioned his exile, and his attachment
to the controversial mode of advancing knowledge was as ardent as ever. His nume-
rous publications, however, during the early years of his residence among us, were
chiefly confined to politics and chemistry. His moral and theological effusions failed
to awaken the spirit of controversy, till the publication of a short treatise on the merits
of Socrates, in the year 1802. In this performance, Dr. Priestley drew a comparison
between Jesus Christ and Socrates, in which the former was degraded, agreeably to the
socinian system, to the level of mere humanity, while the merits of the latter were
exalted to a higher pitch than, in the opinion of Mr. Linn, strict justice allowed.

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This comparison was instituted between the two persons, in relation to their
moral qualities only, and Priestley's design was to maintain the superiority of Jesus,
even admitting the most favourable suppositions that have been formed with regard to
the character of Socrates, and the least favourable ones with regard to Christ. In both
these points, however, he was deemed by some to be highly blameable, inasmuch as he
admitted and argued upon suppositions erroneous and unjust in both cases.

The great fame and veteran skill of Priestley, and the consciousness of his own
youth and inexperience, did not intimidate Mr. Linn from stepping forth in a cause in
which religion and morality were deeply interested. Those points in the conduct of
the Athenian sage, which had been hastily admitted as authentic by Dr. Priestley,
underwent an impartial and rigid scrutiny from his young opponent; the dreams of
traditional credulity were subjected to a critical investigation; and while the character
of Socrates was degraded to its proper point in the scale, the transcendant merits of
Christ, both in his human and divine capacity, were urged with unusual eloquence.

The true nature and office of Christ could not fail of coming strongly into view
on this occasion, and a second reply, to a second publication of Mr. Linn, was the last
and dying effort of Priestley on this sublunary stage, in favour of the socinian doctrines.

The merits of Mr. Linn in this controversy seem to be generally acknowledged,
both by the friends and enemies of the cause which he espoused. The latter withheld
not their admiration from the knowledge and genius displayed in these productions,
and which while they would do credit to any age, were peculiarly honourable and me-
ritorious in so youthful an advocate.

If he has treated his venerable adversary with undue asperity, as some of Dr.
Priestley's adherents are disposed to believe, his youth, and the importance of the
tenets he supported, will abundantly plead his excuse with impartial minds. Instead of
deserving blame for that degree of warmth which he displayed, he is rather entitled to
eminent praise, for preserving his warmth within such rigid limits. Those who are
acquainted with the spirit of religious disputes will only be surprised at the moderation
which so ardent and impetuous a mind was able to maintain, in so delicate a contro-
versy, and of which it is difficult to find another example.

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There was no one, however, who regarded these asperities with less indulgence
than himself. For Dr. Priestley's attainments in the physical sciences, he entertained
a high veneration, and abhorred that spirit of animosity and rancour, with which lite-
rary controversies are generally managed. His own conduct in this respect, though
so little culpable, gave him regrets, which the death of his opponent contributed to

During this period, he likewise indulged himself in putting together the mate-
rials of a poem, to which he intended to entrust his future fame, as a poet. The
scheme was somewhat of an epic nature, but he did not intend to restrict himself by
any technical rules or canons. He merely aspired to produce a narrative in verse,
which should possess the qualities which render verse delightful, and make a narrative
interesting and instructive.

The poem which he left behind him, and which his friends have deemed it but
justice to his memory to publish, is, in some respects, sufficiently entire for the press,
but is, in fact, only a fragment of a plan, copious and comprehensive. It is contained
in the present volume, and will come before the public tribunal with many silent apo-
logies for its defects. The writer is disabled from revising and correcting his own
labours, and sacred modesty forbids a surviving friend to prune or to retrench, without
any warrant but his own frail judgment. It may be said to be, like its author, called
to its account burthened with those imperfections, which a longer preparation and
probation might have lessened or removed.

To those early and memorable proofs of literary excellence, Mr. Linn was
indebted for the honour of the degree of doctor in divinity, conferred upon him about
this time, by the university of Pennsylvania. This honour, never before, probably,
conferred upon so young a man, was decreed with a zealous unanimity. It may be
deemed the spontaneous reward of merit, since, so far from being sought for or claimed
by Mr. Linn, neither he nor his familiar friends entertained the least suspicion of the
design, before it was carried into execution.

His literary performances were the fruits of those intervals, which his profes-
sional duty, and the disease which had rooted itself in his constitution, had afforded him.
These intervals of health and tranquillity became gradually fewer and shorter. Besides

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occasional indispositions, by which he was visited more frequently than formerly, those
sensations became more and more permanent, which always appeared to his imagina-
tion unerring indications of approaching death. To a mind formed like his, these
symptoms had been productive of a dreary melancholy, had their effects been confined
wholly to his own person, but, with him, they received bitter aggravation from reflec-
tions on the helpless state in which an untimely death would leave his family.

No one ever entertained a more lively sense of the duty which his profession
had imposed upon him, nor more ardent wishes to be useful to those around him. The
voice of blame, even when unmerited, shot the keenest pangs into his soul. The peculiar
nature of his feelings, of which there was no external or visible tokens, agonized him
with the terror, that any failure of parochial duty might be imputed rather to defect of
inclination than of power. Hence was he continually led to overtask his own strength,
and to hasten, by undue exertions, that event which was to put a final close to his

From the beginning of his malady, he entertained serious thoughts of resigning
his pastoral office. Whether his own feelings conveyed more deadly intimations than
his friends imagined, or whether his temper was peculiarly disposed to despondency
and fear, he predicted nothing from these symptoms but lasting infirmity. The exer-
cises of the pulpit were peculiarly unfavourable to his disease. In a different calling,
he imagined that his health would be less endangered. Some calling, that might per-
haps prove far more arduous, and would certainly be much less agreeable, he was yet
extremely desirous of embracing, provided it was such as his peculiar constitution
was fitted to endure: but though no such path presented itself to his view, yet so ex-
quisitely painful was it to him to receive a recompense for duties that he was unable
to perform, that very often, during the two last years of his life, had he formed the
resolution of absolutely resigning his call.

As often as these resolutions were formed, they were shaken, for a time, by
the admonitions and counsels of his friends. They endeavoured to call back to his
bosom that hope which had deserted it; they made light of the symptoms he com-
plained of; they persuaded him that his infirmities were transient; that time alone
would dissipate them; or, at least, that some change of regimen, some rural excur-
sion, or a larger portion of exercise than ordinary, would be sufficient to restore him.

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They insisted on the unreasonableness of despairing of his recovery, before a trial
had been made of the proper remedies. His physicians contributed to inspire him
with the same confidence. By these means was hope occasionally revived in his
heart. He consented to try the remedies prescribed to him; he obtained a respite
from church service, and made several journies in pursuit of health: but all these ex-
periments were fruitless. They afforded him a brief and precarious respite from pain,
and he eagerly returned to the pulpit. But his feelings quickly warned him that his
hopes were fallacious: his infirmities were sure to return upon him with redoubled
force; despondency invaded him anew; he again embraced the resolution of resigning
his post, from which he was again dissuaded with difficulty greater than before.

These mental struggles and vicissitudes were alone sufficient to have destroyed
a much more robust constitution than his. The gloom which hovered over his mind
became deeper and more settled. A respite from pain or weakness was not sufficient
to dispel it, even for a time; and though his anxieties were more keen at one time
than another, long was the period during which he was an utter stranger to joy. If
he took up a book, over which the poet's fancy and the poet's numbers had shed the
most vivid hues and the richest harmony, and which, in former days, had been a foun-
tain of delight, he found the spell at an end; it had lost its power to beguile his heart
of its cares, or impart the smallest relief to his apprehensions. Did he walk forth into
the fields, and survey nature in her fairest forms, the scene merely conjured up a
mournful contrast between the pleasures which the landscape once imparted, and its
present monotony and dreariness. In fine, there is little doubt that his latent malady
infected the springs of life much less rapidly by its own direct force, than indirectly by
its influence in lowering his spirits.

These feelings cannot be explained but by admitting the influence of constitu-
tion. Few men had less reason to dread death, on account of that existence which fol-
lows it. If a blameless life and enlightened piety could smooth the path to the grave,
or if death were indebted for its terrors merely to the apprehension of its consequences
in another mode of existence, few men had less reason than Mr. Linn to view it with
anxiety. But such is the physical constitution of most men, that their feelings on this
head are by no means in subjection to their reason. The raising of blood seems par-
ticularly calculated to affect the spirits of the patient, and the sight of that fluid, so
essential to life, oozing through unnatural channels, is sure to appal and disconcert the

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most courageous minds. Mr. Linn was haunted, from his earliest youth, with a fatal
persuasion that he should die young, and of all diseases he regarded consumption with
most abhorrence. His present symptoms were to him infallible tokens, not only that
death was hastening on him, but that it was approaching in a form the most ghastly
and terrific.

These mournful impressions acquired unusual strength in the winter and
spring of 1804. He was attacked several times with spitting of blood; and though
these symptoms were not deemed fatal or incurable by his physicians, they spoke a
language to his own heart not to be mistaken. He was, however, prevailed upon to
try the effects of a new journey. For this purpose, he obtained from his congregation
leave of absence for two or three months, and set out towards the eastern states. By
this journey he was little amused or benefited, and the state of his mind, when setting
out on his return, will strongly appear in the following extract of a letter, written at
Boston, to his father:

“Never was a traveller less qualified for giving or receiving pleasure. I can-
not discover that I have received the least benefit from my voyage or travel, nor have
my spirits ascended the smallest degree above their customary pitch.

“I am convinced, that unless I undergo a total renovation, I must leave the pul-
pit, and endeavour to earn my bread in some other way. If my present impressions
are true, if appearances deceive me not, I shall need “but little here below, nor need
that little long.” But as all my hopes of the world are clouded and ruined, could I
only subdue some rising apprehensions, and leave my family provided for, I should not
regret the blow, however speedy, that crumbled me to dust. I write not to afflict you,
but to relieve myself. It is a strange consolation, but it is one of the few consolations
I know. You will therefore please to pardon me for this, and for all other offences to-
wards you of which I may be guilty. They are inseparable from my cruel disease.

“I feel the ruin of an intellect, which, with health, would not have dishonoured
you, my family, or my country. I feel the ruin of a heart, which I trust was never
deficient in gratitude towards my God, or my worldly benefactors. This heart has
always fervently cherished the social affections, but now broods over the images of des-

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pair, and wars ineffectually with the pang which bespeaks my dissolution. But I must
be silent. I believe I have gone too far.”

After a short stay in New York and its neighbourhood, he returned to Phila-
delphia, in July. During the ensuing six weeks, he was attacked by indisposition in
several forms. His mind struggled in vain against the conviction of his increasing
and incurable infirmities. As this excursion was followed only by new diseases, his
hopes were totally subverted, and he wrote a letter to the session of his church, which
contained a resignation of his pulpit.

This letter was written from the bed of sickness, and he was persuaded to recal
it a few days afterwards. Some expedients were proposed for relieving him from part
of his professional duties, and his mind experienced some temporary ease from the
prospects which his friends held out to him. A day of customary health revisited his
soul with a transient gleam of consolation; but the fatal period was now hastening,
which was to bear stronger testimony than even he himself had imagined to the justice
of his apprehensions.

On the thirtieth of August he rose with less indisposition than usual. The last
words which he committed to paper was on the morning of that day, in a letter to his
father, which, however, was not delivered till some time after the writer was no more.
In this letter he declares himself incapable of being burthensome to his congregation.
“Does not,” says he, “my obligations to God and to my people dictate, that I ought,
without farther trial, to relinquish my present charge? May not a righteous Providence
point out this conduct as the only road to health? You know how fervently I love the
study and the teaching of divine truths; yet, if compelled by necessity to leave the pul-
pit, may I not still be useful in some way more corresponding to my strength? Se-
vere, very severe, are the dispensations of my God towards me; but I hope to be able
to submit. Hope, on which I have lived, has only glimmered on my path to flatter
and deceive me. I am convinced that something must now be done.”

Alas! these schemes for futurity were rendered unnecessary before the rising
of another sun. On the evening of that day, he occasionally raised blood, but in a
degree scarcely perceptible. It was, however, sufficient to dissipate every ray of
cheerfulness, and his heart sunk beyond the power of the friends that were with him

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to restore it. He retired about half after ten o'clock, as little apprehensive of imme-
diate danger as any of his family; but scarcely had he laid his head upon the pillow,
when some motion within him occasioned him to say to his wife, “I feel something
burst within me. Call the family together: I am dying.” He had scarcely time to
pronounce these words, when his utterance was choaked by a stream of blood. After
a short interval, he recovered strength and sensibility sufficient to exclaim with fer-
vency, clasping his hands and lifting his eyes, “Lord Jesus, pardon my transgressions,
and receive my soul!”

Such was the abrupt and untimely close of a life, which, though short, had been
illustrated by genius and virtue, in a degree of which our country has hitherto afforded
very few examples!

On the character of Mr. Linn, as a preacher, it is not necessary to dwell, among
those who have enjoyed opportunities of hearing him. It is well known, that few per-
sons in America, though assisted by age and experience, have ever attained so great a
popularity as he acquired before his twenty-third year. The merits which shone forth
with so much splendour on his first ascending the pulpit, the discipline and experience
of four years by no means impaired. Time, indeed, evinced its salutary influence only
in pruning away his juvenile luxuriancies, and in giving grater solidity to his dis-
courses, without rendering them less engaging.

As a poet, his performances must also speak for him. He took up the pen,
and his effusions obtained public notice and regard, at so early an age as sixteen. He
was not nineteen when he had completed two regular dramatic pieces, one of which
was brought upon the stage. All his performances, however, candour compels us to
consider as preludes to future exertions, and indications of future excellence. While
their positive merit is considerable, they are chiefly characteristic of the writer, by
suggesting to us what might have been expected from him, had Providence allowed
him a longer date.

On his character in general, the following is the testimony of two of his friends,
who had long enjoyed his intimacy, and who are better qualified than any one living to
draw a just portrait of him. One of these, the Rev. Mr. John Romeyn, of Albany,
speaks of him in the following terms:

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“I need scarcely mention his talents were of the first order. His imagination
was glowing, and yet it was chaste. Even his earliest attempts of writing display a
soundness of judgment rarely united with fervidness of fancy, especially in young
people. His taste was formed on pure models. He was capable of deep research,
though constitutionally indisposed to it. His genius was poetic. He always perferred
a poem, or criticisms on polite literature, to any other species of composition. His
constitution was sanguine. This caused a precipitancy in some of his actions, which
prudence condemned. He had a bias to pleasure, a taste for it; so much so, that I
have often, in reflecting over past scenes, wondered how he escaped its pollutions as he
did. His reading in early life contributed very much to increase this taste. He was
disposed to be romantic in his views and conduct. His temper was quick, his sensibi-
lity exquisite. He had all the capricious feelings peculiar to a poet. Though hasty,
and sometimes rash, yet was he generous: he scorned meanness. He was warm in
his attachments; benevolent in his propensities to mankind. His anticipated pleasures
generally exceeded his actual enjoyments. He was accustomed to dwell more on the
dark, than on the bright side of the picture of life. He was prone to melancholy, the
melancholy of genius. Ofttimes he appeared its victim, sitting for days silent, sad,
and gloomy. He felt, even to madness, the slightest disrespect, and as sensibly enjoyed
attention paid to him. He was not calculated to move in a moderate, common course
with the generality of mankind; he was either in the valley of gloom or on the mount
of transport; rarely did he enjoy temperate, calm pleasure. With years, this sensibi-
lity was corrected. I myself perceived a change in him, in this respect, the last time
we were together. In short, his system was like a delicate machine, composed of the
finest materials, which was liable to derangements from the slightest and most trifling
circumstance, and the continual, diversified action of whose parts tended gradually,
though certainly, to a speedy destruction of the whole.”

The Rev. Mr. Alexander M'Leod, of New York, speaks of his deceased friend
in the following terms:

“About the time of his beginning to preach the gospel, he was greatly agitated
about two of the most important points in the christian life, What are the characteris-
tics of gracious exercises of heart toward God? and What is the connection between
the speculative truths of revealed religion and those exercises?

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“I advised him to read Dr. Owen's Treatise on Communion with God. He
did so. He was satisfied with it. He entered fully into the doctor's views of that in-
teresting subject. Of the state of his mind I have received from himself explicit in-
formation. Opposed to enthusiasm, and naturally delicate, he was not very commu-
nicative on such subjects. He did not think it prudent to unbosom himself to many,
because he had himself such a low opinion of his christian experience, that he thought
it probable a fair statement would dispose the censorious to conclude he was entirely
destitute of piety, and render the nominal professor satisfied with his own attainments;
and consequently have a tendency to hinder his public usefulness, and to encourage in-
attention to experimental religion. He therefore scarcely ever alluded to his own ex-
perience in conversation, even with his most intimate religious friends. He was not,
however, absolutely opposed to conversation upon such subjects. He could throw aside
reserve, and enter upon it with freedom, when he was under no apprehension that this
freedom would be abused.

“He was much under the influence of the fear of death, and a reluctance to dying.
But he was not in terror of future punishment; for although he confessed himself
worthy of it, he trusted in that Saviour which the gospel offers to sinners, and, firmly
persuaded of the safety of believers, cheerfully hoped that his own faith, although weak,
was really sincere. The frame of his mind, in relation to spiritual things, was almost
uniform: never extremely gloomy, never extremely joyous. It differed surprisingly
from the natural temperament of his mind. In the concerns of common life, he was
the slave of sensibility, the mere child of circumstances. He knew this. His reli-
gious life appeared to himself a third estate, supernaturally called into existence in the
empire of his soul, which created a distint interest, to which all his affections were
drawn; and which, gradually progressing in strength and in influence, checked the
dangerous efforts of the opposite principles of his constition, rendering his joys less
vivid and more lasting, and rendering his sorrows more easy to endure and overcome.”

No man ever stood more in need of the aid of friendship and domestic sympa-
thy than Dr. Linn; and no stronger proof could be given of the purity and rectitude
of his character, than his feelings on this head. His father and his sisters were his
friends, in the highest sense of that term. In the bosom of his own family he sought
for objects in whom to repose his confidence, and from whom to claim consolation. To
entertain a general regard for the wordly welfare and advantage of near relatives is so

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common, and originates so frequently in selfish motives, that it can scarcely be deemed
a merit in any one; but Dr. Linn's attachment to his family was of a higher order. It
led him, not only into the tenderest concern for their welfare, but into an intimate union
of his heart and affection with theirs. From the time of his entering on the study of
theology to his death, he kept up a frequent correspondence with his father. To him
he imparted all his hopes and fears, and thus afforded the strongest proof of integrity of
thought and action, since eminently pure must that mind be, which can repose un-
bounded confidence in a father. Such confidence, indeed, is no less honourable to the
father who obtains, than to the son who bestows it; and justice will not discountenance
the favourable inference which may be suggested by the circumstances of the present

The best companions of his early youth, those whom a similarity of age and
inclinations had endeared to him, were, indeed, removed, by their diverse destinies, to
a great distance from him; and this circumstance might have been a source of some
regret to those who loved him, had not the filial and fraternal charities glowed as
warmly as they did in his heart, and supplied the place of all other friendships.

He was esteemed and beloved by great numbers, but it was his fondness for se-
clusion, and not any froward or morose passions, which occasioned him to have but
little intercourse with mankind. This little intercourse was by no means fettered or
disturbed by personal prejudices. With all his clear and cogent principles, on moral,
political, and religious subjects, he combined a charity open as day, and extensive as
mankind, and no one's deportment could be more benign and inoffensive than his, to-
wards those who differed with him, even in essential points. He avoided the com-
pany of those whom he had no reason to love or respect. He did not seek beyond the
small circle of his nearest kindred the company of those who had secured his regard,
but when propriety or accident led him into contact with the former, his treatment
of them was adapted to win their reverence, and he never refused his confidence or kind-
ness, when claimed by the latter. Short as was his date, and clouded as was the
morning of his life by infirmities and sorrows, few there are whose memory will be
treated by his adversaries, if any such exist, with more lenity, or will live longer
in the hearts of his friends. To mankind at large his short life was useful and glorious, since
it was devoted to the divine purpose of inculcating moral and religious duty, and the
purpose, only less divine, of illuminating the imagination with the visions of a glowing
and harmonious poetry.

C. B. B.

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