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On Thursday, at eleven o'clock, the Rev. Henry Ware, D. D. Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University, delivered the Convention Sermon from John xx. 31. "These things are written, that ye might believe," &c. at the Church in Brattlestreet. There was then a collection of $493 06 for the relief of destitute widows of Congregational ministers.

The preacher, for the next year, is the Rev. Abiel Holmes, D. D. of Cambridge. In ase of failure, the Rev. Aaron Bancroft of Worcester is chosen his substitute. The Rev. Francis Parkman of Boston, was chosen Treasurer, and the Rev. John Pierce of Brookline, Scribe.

On Friday, 29th May, the Massachusetts Society for the suppression of Intemperance held its fifth annual meeting in. Chauney-Place. The Rev. William Ellery Channing delivered a discourse from Luke xxi. 34. "Take heed to yourselves, lest, at any time, your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness;" &c. Officers-Hon. Na

than Dane, President-Rev. Dr. For ter, Hon. Artemas Ward, Hon. Samuel Haven, Vice Presidents-Williamı Thurston, Esq. Recording Secretary -Mr. Elisha Clap, Cor. Secretary -Francis J. Oliver, Treasurer.

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On Monday, 1st June, the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company held their 179th Anniversary for the choice of Officers.

The Rev. Henry Colman, of Hingham, preached the discourse from Psalm cxxxvii. 5, 6. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."



Mr. Thomas Tracy, Cambridge.
Samuel Gilman, do.
John Allyn,
John A. Shaw,
P. Osgood,
Alvan Lamson,




F. W. P. Greenwood, do.
Andrew Bigelow,
Seth Alden,
Jonathan P. Dabney, Salem.
E. Q. Sewall Concord.


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No. 7.

JULY, 1818.


THE Philosopher whose name is now before us arose to great eminence and usefulness without the advantages of a college education. sketch therefore of his life and character may be adapted to encourage others, who like him are denied those advantages. It may stimulate them to the best improvement of their mental faculties and of such means as a gracious providence shall place within their reach. It may also serve as a seasonable reproof to those who have possessed great advantages, but through indolence or dissipation have failed to rise above the common level of unlearned men, and who sink to insignificance when compared with a Ritten


Vol. VI.

For the facts relating to Mr. Rittenhouse we are indebted to Dr. Benjamin Rush; and as the Doctor was a good writer we shall not scruple to make a free use of his language in the present article. At the request of the American Philosophical Society, of which Mr. Rittenhouse had been for several years the President, Dr. Rush delivered a Eulogium on the 17th of December, 1796. This Eulogium is the principal source of Vol. VI. No. 7.


our information respecting this American philosopher.

Dr. Rittenhouse was born in Germantown in PennsylvaAnia on the 8th of April, 1732. His ancestors migrated from Holland near the beginning of the last century. The early part of his life was spent in agricultural employments. But the plough, the fences,and even the stones of the field in which he worked, were frequently marked with figures which denoted the bias of his mind and talent for mathematical studies. On finding that the delicacy of his constitution unfitted him for the labors of husbandry, his parents consented to his learning the trade of a clock and mathematical instrument maker.In acquiring the knowledge of these arts he was his own instructer; and they afforded him great delight, as they favored his disposition for philosophical inquiries.

During his residence with his father in the country, this extraordinary youth made himself master of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia. There also he became acquainted with the science of fluxions, and believed himself to be the author; nor did he know till several years afterwards, that

a contest had been carried on between Sir Isaac Newton and Leibnitz for the honour of that discovery. "What a mind was here! Without literary friends or society, and with but two or three books, before he reached his 24th year, he became the rival of the two greatest mathematicians in Europe!"

In this retired situation, and while he pursued his trade, he planned and executed an orrery, in which he represented the revolutions of the heavenly bodies in a manner more extensive and complete than had been done by any former astronomer. His character now became more known and admired, and he was urged to remove to Philadelphia, to enlarge his opportunities for improvement and usefulness.He complied in 1770; but still continued his trade for several years. About the time of his removing to Philadelphia, he became a member of the American Philosophical Society.

As a member of this Society he was very active and useful. In 1775 he was appoint ed to deliver the annual oration before the Society. The subject of it was the history of astronomy. "It was delivered in a feeble voice and without any of the advantages, of oratory; but it commanded the most profound attention, and was followed by universal admiration and applause from a crowded and respectable audience."

Besides this oration Dr. Rush has given a list of six

teen publications of Mr. Rit-. tenhouse, contained in the volumes of the Society's Transactions, which had then been published; and four other communications which were then in the press. After giving this list the Dr. observes, "Talents so splendid, and knowledge SO practical in mathematics are like pieces of precious metals. They become public property by universal consent. The state of Pennsylvania was not insensible of the wealth she possessed in the mind of Rittenhouse. She claimed him as her own, and employed him in business of the most important nature."

In 1791 he was chosen successor to Dr. Franklin as President of the American Phi losophical Society. In this elevated situation he commanded esteem by the modesty, propriety and dignity of. his deportment. But his talents and knowledge were not limited to mathematical or material objects; his mind. was a repository of the knowledge of all ages and countries. Inventions and improvements in every art and science were frequently submitted to his examination, and were afterwards patronized by the public according as they were approved: by him. His name became known and respected in foreign countries as well as in America.

"The degree of Master of Arts was conferred on him by the College in Philadelphia in 1768-the same by the College of William and Mary, in Virginia in 1784. In 1789 he

received the degree of Doctor of Laws from the College in New-Jersey. He was elect ed a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at Boston in 1782. And of the Royal Society in London in 1795."

Such was the literary fame which was acquired by Mr. Rittenhouse without the aid of a liberal education. As a philosopher he was perhaps second to no man which America had produced.

But what was the moral character of this philosopher? Was he a profane infidel? a scorner of religion, a misanthropist or a libertine? Nobut the reverse of all these. In speaking of his virtues Dr. Rush observes" Here, I am less at a loss to know what to say, than what to leave unsaid. We have hitherto beheld him as a philosopher, soaring like the eagle, until our eyes have been dazzled by his near approaches to the the sun. We shall now contemplate him at a less distance, and behold him in the familiar character of a man, fulfilling his various duties to their utmost extent.Come, and learn by his example to be good as well as great. His virtues furnish the most shining models for imitation. As the source of these virtues, whether of a public or private nature, I shall first mention his exalted sense of moral obligation, founded upon the revelation of the perfections of the supreme being. This appears from many passages in his orations, and in his private letters to his friends."



The Eulogium contains several extracts from his oration before the Society, which are adapted to give at once a favourable idea of his piety, his benevolence, and of his talents as a writer. Speaking of the study of astronomy, Dr. Rittenhouse says "The direct tendency of this science is to dilate the heart with universal benevolence, and to enlarge its views. It flatters no prince ly vice, nor national depravity. It encourages not the libertine by relaxing any of the precepts of morality, nor does it attempt to undermine the foundations of religion. It denies none of those attri butes which the wisest and best of mankind have in all ages ascribed to the Deity. Nor does it degrade the human mind from that dignity which is ever necessary to make it contemplate itself with complacency."

"I must confess that I am not one of those sanguine spirits who seem to think that when the withered hand of death has drawn up the curtain of eternity, all distance between the creature and the Creator, and between finite and infinite, will be annihilated. Every enlargement of our faculties every new happiness conferred upon us, every step we advance towards the Divinity, will probably render us more and more sensible sible of his inexhaustible stores of communicable bliss, and of his inaccessible perfections."

In a letter to a friend he said "Give me leave to men.


tion two or three proofs of infinite goodness in the work of creation. The first is, possessing goodness in ourselves. Now it is inconsistent with all just reasoning to suppose, that there is any thing good, lovely, or praiseworthy in us, which is not possessed in an infinitely higher degree by that Being who first called us into existence. In the next place I reckon the exquisite

and innocent delight that ma-ness of existence. If their inny ings around us are calcu- habitants resemble man in lated to afford us. In this their faculties and affections, light the beauty and fragrance let us suppose that they are of a single rose is a better ar- wise enough to govern themgument for divine goodness selves according to the dicthan a luxuriant field of wheat. tates of that reason God has For if we can suppose that we given, in such a manner as to were created by a malevolent consult their own and each Being, with design to torment others happiness on all occaus for his amusement, he must sions. But if, on the contrary, have furnished us with the they have found it necessary means of subsistence, and eith- to erect artificial fabricks of er have made our condition government, let us not suptolerable, or not have left the pose they have done it with so means of quitting it at pleas- little skill, and at such an eure in our own power. Such normous expense, as to renbeing my opinion, you will not der them a misfortune instead wonder at my fondness for of a blessing. We will hope what Mr. Addison calls the that their statesmen are patripleasures of the imagination.' ots, and that their kings-if They are all to me so many de- that order of beings has found ⚫monstrations of infinite good- admittance there-have feelings of humanity. Happy people! and perhaps more happy still, that all communication with us is denied. We have neither corrupted you by our visits, nor injured you by violence. None of your sons and daughters have been degraded from their dignity, and doomed to endless slavery in America, merely because their bodies may be disposed to reflect, or absorb




The following extract is from his Oration :

optic tube, and thou great Newton, forbear thy ardent search into the mysteries of nature, lest ye make unwelcome discoveries. Deprive us not of the pleasure of believing that yonder orbs, traversing in silent majesty the ethereal regions, are peaceful seats of innocence and bliss, where to enjoy with gratitude and adoration the Creator's bounty, is the busi


"How far the inhabitants of other planets may resemble men we cannot pretend to say. If like them they were created liable to fall, yet some if not all of them may still retain their original rectitude. We will hope they do; the thought is comfortable. Cease then Gallileo to improve thy

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