From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
March 6. –Day before yesterday, departed this life, in the fifty-sixth year of his age, the Reverend Samuel Auchmuty, D. D., Rector of Trinity Church in New York, a gentleman greatly beloved and respected.
He was born at Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, and educated at the college of Cambridge, in the same colony, where he took the usual degrees in the liberal arts. He devoted himself early to the sacred ministry, and soon after his ordination was fixed as assistant minister of Trinity Church and catechist, in the year 1748; in which stations he continued till 1764, when, on the death of the late worthy Doctor Barclay,1 he was chosen Rector. About this time the degree of Doctor in Divinity was conferred on him by the University of Oxford.
During his residence in New York, which was twenty-nine years, he discharged the pastoral duties of his function with assiduity and fidelity; of which, the respect showed to him by the inhabitants, and the flourishing state of the Episcopal congregations in the city when our public troubles broke out, are incontestable proofs.
Firmly and conscientiously attached to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, he was indefatigable in promoting her interests; yet without any of that narrow spirit of bigotry, which is the disgrace of religion. His sentiments were generous and enlarged, which led him to prize merit wherever he found it, and this disposition and conduct will ever command the approbation of the rational and virtuous part of mankind, and succeed where bigotry will assuredly fail.
Christianity never appears more amiable or winning than when accompanied with that easy-tempered cheerfulness which rectitude and benevolence of heart naturally inspire. In this he greatly excelled, and it gave him many advantages to serve the cause of religion.
Few men ever possessed a more humane, benevolent, and compassionate heart. He often melted into tears at the sight of distress, which never sought his aid in vain. He was a liberal, sympathizing friend to the indigent and afflicted, a zealous promoter of every institution or scheme that could contribute to the welfare of mankind, and was never more happy than when alleviating the misfortunes of others, or employed in some office of benevolence and friendship.
Such a temper and disposition must necessarily endear him to his intimate acquaintances, and enable him to shine in the more tender connections of social life. He was indeed a sincere, warm friend, a most affectionate, tender husband and father.
Those who were unfriendly to the Church of England and to the British Constitution could hardly be well affected to him, considering his station and principles. Yet no man had a more placable, forgiving disposition under injuries or ill usage. He pitied those misguided people; but as for malice, it found no harbor in his bosom. He practised the Apostolic rule, — Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
During the troubles which have involved this country in its present calamities, he took that part, as may be easily supposed, which duty, truth, and reason pointed out. Unshaken in his loyalty to our gracious sovereign, and in his attachment to the Constitution, he spurned the breath of popular applause where conscience forbid him to receive it. This drew upon him much persecution, which, with the distress he felt for the miseries of this country, greatly impaired his constitution; the case could scarcely be otherwise with a person of his extreme sensibility.
His ill state of health obliged him to reside in the country the greatest part of last summer, and when New York was reduced by his Majesty’s forces in September, he applied repeatedly to the rebels, in whose hands he was, for leave to return, which was as often denied. This obliged him to come away privately, and exposed him to such hardships, while making his escape, that his constitution was reduced still lower. With difficulty he got there; but how was he shocked on viewing the ruins of so great a part of the city consumed by the fire in September! especially those of Trinity Church, that ancient and once venerable edifice. The sight drew floods of tears from him; and although he lost by the fire, private property to the amount of some thousands of pounds, yet the destruction of Trinity Church, and of so much of the property belonging to its corporation, which has been estimated at forty thousand pounds, affected him much more.
When the King’s troops penetrated into Jersey, his family was set at liberty to return. His spirits seemed to revive, his health to mend, and he and his friends indulged themselves in the pleasing expectation of peace and happiness at last, after struggling through so much disquietude, anxiety, and persecution. But alas! these flattering hopes were soon blasted! His lungs had been weakened by constant exertions in preaching, and other parochial duties: a severe cold which he caught at a funeral, and could never wholly get the better of, weakened them still more, and greatly injured his voice. On Tuesday, February twenty-fifth, he was seized with a bilious fever, which, by the assistance of physic, was removed in a great measure, yet left him exceedingly weak, and the disorder settling on his lungs, finally carried him off in a few days.
On his death-bed he behaved with that patience, calmness, and fortitude which became a Christian, and which a well-grounded hope of immortal happiness inspires. In his last moments he retained the perfect use of his understanding and reason, and joined fervently in prayer about four hours before he expired. He died without a struggle or a groan.
To-day his remains were interred in the chancel of St. Paul’s church–a church which was built under his inspection, consecrated by him to the service of Almighty God, and where he preached his last sermon on Sunday, February twenty-third, two days before he was seized by his last illness.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.2
1 Henry Barclay, D. D.
2 Gaine’s Mercury, March 10.