Rev. Thomas Prince (1687-1758) was born at Sandwich, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College, and then he traveled and preached, visiting Coombs, Suffolk and other places. He sailed back to Boston in 1717. In 1718, he was ordained to be the pastor at the Old South Church, Boston. He wrote and collected many historical books.
- Account of a Strange Appearance in the Heavens on Tuesday Night (An), March 6, 1716, as it was seen over Stow Market in Suffolk, in England.
- Be Followers of Them Who Through Faith and Patience, Inherit the Promises.
- Case of Heman Considered, in a Sermon on Psalm 88:15. (The)
- Character of Caleb. (The)
- Christ abolishing Death and Bringing Life and Immortality to Light in the Gospel.
- Chronological History of New England in the Form of Annals (A): being a summary and exact Account of the most material Transactions and Occurrences relating to this Country, in the Order of Time wherein they happened, from the Discovery by Capt. Gosnold in l602, to the Arrival of Governor Beleher, in 1730.
- Civil Rulers Raised Up by God to Feed His People.
- Departure of Elijah lamented. (The)
- Dying Prayer of Christ, for his People’s Preservation and Unity. (The)
- Earthquakes the Works of God, and Tokens of His Just Displeasure. Two Sermons.
- Earthquakes the Works of God, and Tokens of His Just Displeasure; being a Discourse on that Subject, Wherein Is Given a Particular Description of this Awful Event of Providence.
- Extraordinary Events the Doings of God, and marvellous in pious Eyes.
- Faithful Servant Approv‘d at Death, and Entering into the Joy of his Lord. (The)
- Fulness of Life and Joy in the Presence of God. (The)
- Funeral Sermon on the Rev. Mr. Nathanael Williams (A), who deceased Tuesday, January 10, 1737.
- God Brings to the Desired Haven. A Thanksgiving Sermon.
- God Destroyeth the Hope of Man.
- Grave and Death Destroyed, and Believers Ransomed and Redeemed from them. (The)
- Improvement of the Doctrine of Earthquakes, being the Works of God (An), and Tokens of His Just Displeasure.
- Morning Health no Security against the Sudden Arrest of Death before Night.
- Natural and Moral Government and Agency of God in causing Droughts and Rains. (The)
- People of New-England Put in mind of the Righteous Acts of the Lord to Them and their Fathers, and Reasoned with concerning them. (The)
- Pious cry to the Lord for Help when the Godly and Faithful Fail Among Them. (The)
- Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of his Saints.
- Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament. (The)
- Salvations of God in 1746. (The)
- Sermon Delivered at the South Church in Boston (A), N. E., August 14, 1746. Being the Day of General Thanksgiving for the great Deliverance of the British Nations by the glorious and happy Victory near Culloden.
- Sermon on the Sorrowful Occasion of the Death of His late Majesty King George of Blessed Memory (A), and the Happy Accession of His present Majesty King George II. to the Throne.
- Six Sermons, by the late Thomas Prince.
- Sovereign God Acknowledged and Blessed, both in Giving and Taking away. (The)
- Young Abel Dead, yet Speaketh.
Extended Biography of Rev. Thomas Prince
Thomas Prince was the fourth son of Samuel Prince of Sandwich, who was the son of Elder John Prince of Hull—who came to this country in 1633, and settled first at Watertown. He was born at Sandwich, May 15, 1687, and was graduated at Harvard College in 1707. He remained some time at the College after his graduation, as a student of Theology; and then embarked for Europe, and spent several years travelling in different countries. These travels were of great use to him, in enlarging his views of men and things, and in securing to him many valuable acquaintances, and much useful information, which he was enabled to turn to important account in after life: and yet he seems subsequently to have had some scruples in regard to the propriety of his making so extensive a tour; for he says that "when he made reflections on this part of his life, he never could see with satisfaction the reasonableness and consistency of it."
During his residence in England, he was, for several years, engaged as a preacher at Combs in Suffolk, and some other places, and was earnestly requested to accept a pastoral charge; but he declined on the ground of a preference for his native country. He arrived in Boston, July 20, 1717, after an absence of about seven years. It had been his intention to embark from England somewhat earlier than he did, in company with an intimate friend, who actually sailed a short time before him; but the delay to which he was subjected was the means of saving his life—as the ship in which he was to sail was lost, and his friend lost in it, in one of the most terrible storms on record. On his arrival at Boston, he was received with every demonstration of respect and kindness, and several churches fixed an eye upon him in the hope of securing his permanent services. He preached first for his classmate and intimate friend, Mr. Sewall, in the Old South Church, on the 25th of August, 1717. Soon after this, he was requested to supply the pulpit half the time for two months; and, after he had complied with this request, the church, being fully satisfied with his services, proceeded to give him a call. He accepted the call, and was ordained as Mr. Sewall's colleague, October 1, 1718. The sermon on the occasion was preached by himself, from Hebrews 13:17.
To the great Whitefieldian revival Mr. Prince lent his decided countenance, and showed himself an earnest and vigorous auxiliary. He had the utmost confidence in the great itinerant, and regarded him as the chief instrument of giving a new and more spiritual direction to the public mind. He has left his favorable testimony to the character and labors of Whitefield in various forms, and is particular to state that the fruits of the revival, so far as they came under his observation, were such as to stamp the work with a character of undoubted genuineness.
In the course of his foreign travels, Mr. Prince heard much complaint of the want of a regular history of this country; and he half formed the purpose, at that time—provided his circumstances should subsequently prove favorable to it, to attempt something of the kind himself: but, after his settlement at Boston, the numerous and arduous duties incident to his pastoral charge seemed to forbid any such attempt. However, in 1728, the matter being urged upon him by those who were most competent to judge of his qualifications for such an undertaking, he was induced to set himself to the work; and, though he did not complete his original design, he performed a service for which all subsequent historians of New England have had occasion to thank him. It seems that when the first volume of his “Chronological History of New England” was published, it was received with much less favor than its author had a right to expect—which probably discouraged him from prosecuting the work to the length he had intended. He did, however, publish several additional numbers, which contain much important information, and bring the work down to the year 1633. Concerning this book the Rev. Elisha Callender of Rhode Island, who was a most competent judge of its merits, writes to a friend thus:—
"It gives me great concern that Mr. Prince's Chronology has been so ill received. I look on it as an honor to the country, as well as to the author, and doubt not but posterity will do him justice. * * * * * I wish, for his sake, he had taken less pains to serve an ungrateful and injudicious age. lest it should discourage his going on with his design. I hope it will not, and hope you will encourage him; for, sooner or later, the country will see the advantage of his work and their obligation to him."
As early as 1703, while Mr. Prince was a member of College, he commenced a collection of books and public and private papers in connection with the civil and religious history of New England, which was constantly growing upon his hands for more than fifty years. He also collected a large classical, theological and general library. All these treasures he bequeathed to the church and congregation of which he was pastor. For many years they were left in an exposed state, in a room under the belfry of the Old South Church; and not a few of them were actually destroyed; but, in 1814, at the instance of the Massachusetts Historical Society, they were examined, and the books and papers, specially adapted to the purposes of that Society, were allowed to be deposited in its room; while the remaining and greater part were arranged and rendered accessible in the house of the pastor.
Towards the close of his life, Mr. Prince prepared “A Revisal of the New England Version of the Psalms,”—a work which bears none of the marks of poetical genius, though it indicates a familiar acquaintance with the Oriental languages. It was undertaken by request of a committee of his own society; and, in October, 1758, was accepted by the church and congregation to be used thenceforth in public worship.
In the year 1746, a French fleet, consisting of forty ships of war under the Duke D'Anville, sailed from Chebucto in Nova Scotia, with a view to the destruction of New England. Meanwhile a day of fasting and prayer was appointed to be observed in all the churches, if by any means a gracious Providence might interpose to avert the threatening ruin. While Mr. Prince was officiating on this occasion in his own church, and was in the midst of a fervent prayer for the Divine interposition, though the day up to that time had been perfectly calm, there arose a sudden gust of wind, so violent as to occasion a loud clattering of the windows. He instantly paused in his prayer, looked round upon his congregation with a countenance illumined with hope, and then proceeded to ask of God that that wind might frustrate the object of our enemies, and be the means of saving our country. A tempest ensued, in which the greater part of the French fleet was wrecked on the coast of Nova Scotia; the principal General and the second in command committed suicide; many died of disease; thousands perished in the ocean; and the enterprise was finally abandoned.
Mr. Prince continued to labor with undiminished assiduity, until the autumn of 1757, when his health began visibly to decline. As the time of his departure drew near, he evinced a spirit of becoming submission to the will of God, saying, “It is just as it should be;” and in the midst of severe suffering, he expressed his entire dependence on God through Jesus Christ, and added that he was weary of this world, and that it was his chief concern that his evidences for Heaven might be more full and clear. One of his last petitions was, that an open and abundant entrance might be ministered to him into God's Heavenly Kingdom. When he could no longer speak, he was asked whether he could commit his soul into the hands of Christ, and so resign himself to the will of God; and he gave an affirmative answer by lifting his feeble hand. He died on the Lord's day, a little after sunset, October 22, 1758, aged seventy-two. His funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Sewall, on the next Sabbath, from Romans 4:8;—the same day on which, agreeably to a previous vote of his church, his “Revisal of the Psalms” began to be used in the public worship of the congregation.
The following is an extract from Dr. Sewall's funeral discourse:—
“He was an able minister of the New Testament; a scribe instructed to the Kingdom of Heaven; who could bring forth out of his treasure things new and old. The great truths and doctrines of the Gospel were the chosen subjects of his preaching; and he spoke as the oracles of God—as one that inwardly felt the Divine excellency and importance of the word of God which he preached to others. I trust there are a number of you who will be found the seals of his ministry, his crown and joy in the day of Christ's appearing. You are also witnesses with what enlargement and fervor of devotion, he many times led us up to God in prayer.
"He was also earnestly concerned that a holy discipline might be maintained in the church, and that due testimony might be borne against open and scandalous sins.
"I might here also add that he was an hearty friend to the constitution of these churches; as exhibited in the results of their Synods, and a sincere mourner for the degeneracies found among us both in doctrine and practice.
"His private conversation was entertaining and instructive. As a tender and faithful pastor, he was steady to warn them that are unruly, to comfort the feeble minded, and resolve the doubting believer.
"And if you view him as a scholar, he shone with a distinguished luster. He had an uncommon genius for letters; and by hard study and diligent labor, had acquired a general acquaintance with the several parts of useful and polite literature; in the knowledge of the learned languages, logic, natural philosophy, the mathematics, history, etc. And being of a curious and inquisitive mind, I suppose he had but few equals among us in Chronology; of which his “Chronological History of New England” is an evident proof: and if he had put his finishing hand to that elaborate work, it might have been found one of the most full and perfect histories of New England."
Dr. Chauncy writes thus concerning him:—
"I do not know of any one that had more learning among us, excepting Dr. Cotton Mather; and it was extensive, as was also his genius, lie possessed all the intellectual powers in a degree far beyond what is common. He may be justly characterized as one of our great men; though he would have been much greater, had he not been apt to give too much credit, especially to surprising stories. He could easily be imposed on this way. Another imperfection that was hurtful to him was a strange disposition to regard more, in multitudes of instances, the circumstances of things, and sometimes minute and trifling ones, than the things themselves. I could, from my own acquaintance with him. give many instances of this. But these weaknesses notwithstanding, he deserves to be remembered with honor."
The following is a list of Mr. Prince's publications:—An Account of the first appearance of the Aurora Borealis. A Thanksgiving Sermon, 1717. A Sermon at his own ordination, 1718. Morning health no security against the sudden arrest of death before night: A Sermon, 1727. A Sermon on the death of George I. and the accession of George II, 1727. A Sermon on the death of Daniel Oliver, Jr., 1727. Two Sermons occasioned by the earthquake, 1727. A Sermon on the arrival of the Governor, 1728. A Sermon on the death of Cotton Mather, 1728. A Sermon on the death of his father, Samuel Prince, 1728. A Sermon on the death of the Hon. Samuel Sewall, 1730. A Sermon at the General Election, 1730. A Sermon to the New North church, Boston, 1732. A Sermon on the death of the Hon. Daniel Oliver, 1732. A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Oliver, 1735. A Sermon on the death of the Hon. Mary (wife of Governor) Belcher, 1736. A Chronological History of New England in the form of Annals, 1736. Do., Vol. II., Nos. 1, 2 and 3, 1755. A Sermon on the death of Nathaniel Williams,[ii] 1738. A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Deborah Prince, 1744. A Thanksgiving Sermon occasioned by the taking of Louisburg, 1745. A Sermon on the death of Thomas Cushing, 1746. Extract of a Sermon occasioned by the surprising appearance of Divine Providence for North America, etc., 1746. A Sermon on the victory of Culloden, 1746. A Thanksgiving Sermon, 1746. A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Martha, wife of the Hon. Anthony Stoddard, 1748. A Thanksgiving Sermon for reviving rains after the distressing drought, 1749. Account of the English ministers on Martha's Vineyard, 1749. A Sermon on the death of the Prince of Wales, 1751. A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Hannah Fayerweather, 1755. A Sermon on the death of Mrs. Anna, wife of Richard Cary, 1755. Earthquakes the works of God and tokens of his just displeasure: A Sermon, 1755. An improvement of the doctrine of earthquakes, containing an historical summary of the most remarkable earth quakes of New England, 1755. The case of Haman considered: A Sermon on the death of Edward Bromfield, 1756. Character of Caleb: A Sermon on the death of the Hon. Josiah Willard, 1756. The New England Psalm Book revised and improved, 1758. Six Sermons, published from his MSS. by Dr. Erskine of Edinburgh, 1785.
[i] Sewall's Fun. Serm.—Wisner's Hist. Disc.
[ii] Nathaniel Williams was born at Boston, August 25, 1675; was graduated at Harvard College in 1693; was ordained an evangelist; practiced medicine; was preceptor of a grammar school; and died June 10, 1738, aged fifty-three.
Source: Sprague, William B. Annals of the American Pulpit; or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859.