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Life Sketches from Scottish History of Brief Biographies of the Scottish Presbyterian Worthies
Thomas Doolittle


Thomas Doolittle was the pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Monkwell street, London, somewhere near the year 1668. He was designed for the law, and was actually put upon trial to an attorney, but, being converted by the sermons which he heard Baxter preach on the saints’ everlasting rest, his plans were altered, and he entered the ministry, and settled in London, where his labours were greatly blessed, although he was surrounded with difficulties.

Among others at Monkwell, there was one who used to rail against him, and abuse his wife, who was a pious woman, for going to hear Doolittle preach. This unhappy man, one Lord’s day, told his wife he had a mind to go with her for once, and hear the man of whom she talked so much. She answered if he would, he’d never speak against him more. And so it proved; for while he was hearing, the Spirit of God, which, like the wind, blows where it listeth, so effectually applied what was said to his heart, that from that time he became a new man, and a serious Christian.

The mayor of London, on one occasion, endeavoured to dissuade Mr. Doolittle from preaching, on account of the danger he would incur. He said he was satisfied that he was called to preach the Gospel, and therefore could not promise to desist. On the Saturday following, a king’s messenger, with a company of the train-bands, came at midnight to seize Mr. Doolittle in his house; but while they were breaking open the door, he got over the wall to a neighbour’s house and made his escape. He purposed to have preached the next morning, but was prevailed upon to forbear; and the minister who supplied his place narrowly escaped being taken. For while in his sermon, a company of soldiers came into the meeting-house, and the officer who led them cried aloud to the minister, “I command you, in the king's name, to come down.” The minister answered, “I command you, in the name of the King of kings, not to disturb his worship, but let me go on.” Upon which the officer bade his men fire. The minister, undaunted, clapped his hand upon his breast, and said, “ Shoot if you please; you can ouly kill the body, and after that can do no more.” Upon which the people being all in an uproar, and the assembly breaking up, the minister got away in the crowd, unobserved and unhurt.

As Mr. Doolittle was once rifling out with a friend, he was met by a military officer, who took hold of his horse. Mr. Doolittle asked him what he meant by stopping him on the king’s highway. He looked earnestly at him, but not being certain who he was, let him go, and went away threatening “that he would know who that black devil was, before he was three days older.” Some of Mr. Doolittle’s friends were much concerned for him; but on the third day, a person brought word that the captain was choked at table with a bit of bread.

Mr. Doolittle took great delight in catechizing, and urged ministers to do it, as having a special tendency to propagate knowledge, to establish young persons in the truth, and to prepare them to read and hear sermons to advantage. Accordingly, every Lord’s day, he catechized the youth and adults of his congregation, and this part of his labour was attended with the happiest effect. On one occasion, the question for the evening being, “What is effectual calling?” The answer was given in the words of the Assembly’s Catechism. This answer being explained, Mr. Doolittle proposed that the question should be answered, by changing the words us and our, into me and my. Upon this proposal a solemn silence followed; man}" felt its vast importance, but none had courage to answer. At length a young man, about twenty-eight years of age, rose up, and with every mark of a broken and contrite heart, was enabled to say, “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing me of my sins and misery, enlightening m/j mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing mg will, he did persuade and enable me to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to me in the Gospel.” The scene was truly affecting. The proposal of the question had commanded universal solemnity. The rising up of the young man had created high expectations; and the answer being accompanied with proofs of unfeigned piety and modesty, the congregation was bathed in tears. The young man had been converted by his being catechized, and to his honour Mr. Doolittle says, “Of an ignorant and wicked youth, he had become a knowing and serious professor, to God’s glory, and my much comfort,”

The following anecdote, like the last, which is related of Mr. Doolittle, is strongly characteristic of the non-conforming ministers, and of that age. Being engaged in his usual service on a certain occasion, when he had finished his prayer, he looked upon the congregation, and observed a young man just shut into one of the pews, who discovered much uneasiness in that situation, and seemed tc wish to get out again. Mr. Doolittle, feeling a peculiar desire to detain him, hit upon the following expedient. Turning towards one of the members of his church who sat in the gallery, he asked him this question aloud, “Brother, do you repent of 3rou r coming to Christ?’’ “No, sir,” said he, “I never was happy till then; I only repent that I did not come to him sooner.” Mr. Doolittle then turned towards the opposite gallery, and addressed himself to an aged member in the same manner, “Brother, do you repent that you came to Christ?” “No, sir,” said he, “I have known the Lord from my youth up.” He then looked down upon the young man, whose attention was fully engaged, and fixing his eyes upon him said, “Young man, are you willing to come to Christ?” This unexpected address from the pulpit, exciting the observation of all the people, so affected him, that he sat down and hid his face. The person who sat next him encouraged him to rise and answer the question. Mr. Doolittle repeated it, “Young man, are you willing to come to Christ?” With a tremulous voice he replied, “Yes, sir.” “But when, sir?” added the minister in a solemn and loud tone. He mildly answered, “Now, sir.” “Then stay,” said he, “and hear the words of the Lord, which you will find in 2 Cor. vi. 7: 1 Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.’”

By this sermon, God touched the heart of the young man. He came into the vestry, after service, dissolved in tears. That unwillingness to stay which he discovered was occasioned by the strict injunction of his father, who threatened, that if he ever went to hear the fanatics, he would turn him out of doors. Having now heard, and unable to conceal the feelings of his mind, he was afraid to meet his hither. Mr. Doolittle sat down and wrote an affectionate letter to him, which had so good an effect, that both father and mother came to hear for themselves. The Lord graciously met with them both, and hither, mother, and son, were together received, with universal joy, into the Church.


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