Biography of President Aaron Burr of Princeton College

[The following is from Caleb Smith (1723-1762), Diligence in the Work of God and Activity During Life (New York: Hugh Gaine, 1758), which was the biography of Aaron Burr (1715/16-1757), President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton College, that later became Princeton University), delivered in Princeton’s Nassau Hall at a meeting of the Princeton College trustees on December 15, 1757.   The trustees asked that this work be published.  The author of the work, Caleb Smith, was a good friend of Burr’s.  (For Burr’s own biography of his good friend Governor Jonathan Belcher [1682-1757], see The First Biography of Governor Jonathan Belcher.)  Incidentally, when Burr died on September 24, 1757, he left behind him a small son and namesake who later became Vice-President of the United States.]







by Caleb Smith


New York: Hugh Gaine, 1758



            “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).


            “His Lord said unto him, well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).


            “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).




[Jesus Christ: Aaron Burr’s Role Model]


            Our blessed Lord [Jesus] calls the important business He had to transact in this world the work of God because it was what His Father had assigned [Him to do].   And a great and glorious work it was!  A work that needed a benevolent and compassionate heart to engage in, and a divine hand to execute [carry out], and in which the glory of God and the happiness of mankind were greatly interested.  Christ came to accomplish a marvelous design of mercy...and thereby to illustrate the perfections of God in the most glorious manner.  The Father had appointed the Son a [special] work [to do], and He considered Himself under the greatest obligations to perform it. He applied Himself to it with the utmost fervor and diligence, improving [using] every opportunity to manifest the glory of God and do good to the children of men.  For He knew that His time on earth would be short and that He should quickly ascend up to the Father when His working season in the flesh and in the lowly form of manhood would be at an end.  

            “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day, the night cometh when no man can work.”  Now, the same mind ought to be in us that was in Christ, and we may reasonably conclude that He designed [intended] His example in this weighty [important] particular should be imitated by His people and that the same consideration should serve to excite them to the like diligent application to all the duties of life. 


            I.  God has assigned us all our proper work.


            When God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, it was not to put on a pompous appearance or take to Himself the idle state so common in earthly mortals, but to be employed in business of utmost consequence and to engage in services which would reflect the highest honor upon God and have the most friendly aspect upon the happiness of mankind.  And as we are endowed with a capacity [for activity] and with intellectual powers, God has appointed us business correspondent to our circumstances and [has] not left [us] to spend our days in useless ease and indolence.  We hold the rank of reasonable beings, and it is incumbent upon us to act as becomes such creatures toward their great and glorious Creator.  For the pleasure of God all things now exist and were originally made, and it should be our first and greatest concern to honor and please that God, whose property we are and to whom we owe our being and our utmost homage.  The very design of our existence is that God may be glorified by us and that we may be made happy in the enjoyment of Him.  We shall answer the great end for which we are sent into the world if we sincerely endeavor to render all due honor to the Name of God and act with an ultimate view to please and glorify Him in all things.  “Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do” (1 Corinthians 10:31), it is our duty to do all [for] the glory of God.  His Name must [be sanctified] in our hearts, and our whole conversation and conduct should be under the influence of a supreme regard [esteem for] Him.

            Moreover, God has made it our duty--and it is a great branch of that work we have to do in the world--to secure our own immortal welfare.  It is required of us that we should work out our own salvation...even though it is God that must work in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure (Philippians 2:12).  We have souls formed for endless existence and capable of exalted happiness; the former neither we nor the united power of the whole creation can prevent, for which reason, to ascertain the latter is a matter of infinite concern as well as [an] indispensable duty.  All the injunctions [commands] of Heaven coincide with the happiness of men, and if rightly considered and understood, will be found to [end] in the fulfillment of that grand law of our nature, which is deeply wrought into every [human frame], namely, a desire of being happy, and that forever.  The great reproach of fallen men is that they are lost as to any just sense wherein their own true happiness consists.  Their shame and misery lies [in] this: That they have forsaken God, the Fountain of living waters, and [have hewn out for themselves] cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).  We have deeply [rebelled against] God, and by following after lying vanities have forsaken the way of peace and happiness.   The religion of Jesus is designed to recover us from this fatal error and to bring us back to God, the only Source of true blessedness.  Therefore,...the Scriptures of truth direct us to the faith of Christ and teach us that the first sure step toward happiness is to believe [in] Him who has declared Himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

            This, therefore, is another eminent part of that work which we have to do in this world, for this is by way of emphasis, the commandment of God to us who hear the Gospel, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23).  Our Lord Himself asserts... faith in Him to [do] the work of God, for when the people said unto Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent (John 6:29). 


            Our work is to offer [to] God the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17).  We must commence a resolute war against the enemies of God and our souls [i.e., against sin and Satan], and by the help of perseverance, to the end of our days.


            Moreover, the work appointed [assigned to] us, is to get our souls enriched with the pure gold of holiness and adorned with all the graces of the divine Spirit, for these beautiful garments are the ornament [honor] of Christians, the badges of God’s true and faithful servants, the sealing of the [Holy Spirit], the earnest [deposit indicating] future blessedness, and the sure pledges of complete redemption.  We are to labor that we may abound in fruitfulness toward God, whose mercies should constrain us to present our bodies to Him [as] a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).  Our business in this world is to live [for] God, and we ought in all things to act with an ultimate respect [for] His authority and will, making the intimations of His pleasure the rule of our conduct, proving what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).   We are under infinite obligations to be wholly devoted to God, for we are not our own but are bought with a price and therefore ought to serve and glorify God with our bodies and spirits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), which are the purchase of His Son’s invaluable blood.


[The Christian Character]

            It may be further observed, that living [for] God takes in the whole compass of duty, for [to] Him we live not only when engaged [involved] in things strictly religious,...but also when from a principle of conscience and sense of duty toward God, we [perform] any of the duties of the...[private] life which are among those things that are both acceptable to God and approved [by mankind] (Romans 14:18).  No small part of the beauty and attractive luster of a Christian character depends upon a ready and universal compliance with those duties which arise from the various connections we have with our fellow [human beings].  Indeed, it [gives] a convincing and most engaging evidence that our holy religion was really instituted by that infinitely wise and excellent Being who formed our nature and ordained [established] the several relation[ships] of life, when we consider how exactly the precepts of it [God’s will] [equate] with our present   circumstances.... .  A due observance [of our personal duties as human beings] greatly contributes to the happiness of individuals, the welfare and peace of families, and the benefit and harmony of societies in general.

            There is likewise much work for us to do that takes its [prominence] from the stations we fill [in life] and the respective callings [jobs] assigned to us by Providence.  And whatever these are, the duties of them are to be attended upon with faithfulness and diligence, and that with singleness of heart, as becomes those who are in all things to serve the Lord.


 [We Have But One Life to Live]

            [W]ith diligence and engagedness [enthusiasm], [we should] apply ourselves to [do] this work of God in the present life, because at death, our working time will cease forever.

            There is a remarkable energy and spirit in the words of [Jesus], “I must work the works of Him that sent me.” 


The expression carries with it force [energy] and vigor and [emphasizes] the necessity of industry and [passionate enthusiasm to perform this work].  The importance of these [matters] we have to transact in the world calls aloud for vigorous application, and especially if it be considered that this work of everlasting consequence must be accomplished now, in the short, and to us, uncertain space allotted [to] us in this present life, or else remain forever undone.  It sets the evident necessity of assiduous and fervent diligence in a yet stronger and more affecting light.  We must be abandoned to stupidity and folly [if this] alarming consideration [does not] surely stimulate us to engage immediately, and with utmost earnestness, to get our work done.

            The work before us is of unspeakable [importance]: the honor of God, the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom, the good of our fellow men, and the salvation of our own souls, are all [closely] concerned [with] it.  What pressing need, then, of diligence [do we have], since this life is the only season when [our work] can be done.  We have the greatest reason to be up and doing before our feet stumble upon the dark mountains and the shadows of an endless night put a full period to our accepted time and day of salvation.


            Our lives are but as a vapor or shadow, and as the grace and fading flowers of the field, we quickly decay and perish from the earth.  This demands speediness and dispatch; we have no time for delays...


Our days may be extinct before we have gained the meridian of life [as was Aaron Burr’s, who died at the age of 43], and our whole season for laying up treasure in Heaven and doing good in the world may terminate within a few days or hours.  Surely, then, it must be a matter of infinite [importance to] apply ourselves with ardor of spirit to the grand business for which we had our existence.


 [The True Christian Character of Aaron Burr]

            [T]o give a finished character of this learned and pious man [President Aaron Burr] or do entire justice to that merit which is so highly celebrated by every tongue...requires a genius and abilities like his own.


            All who knew [him] must acknowledge that in [his] case, uncommon gifts, superior accomplishments, high attainments in grace, and a wide-spreading justice, call for an offering of gratitude and praise to the great Fountain of all these, and at the same time, a proper tribute of respect to the memory of him [Aaron Burr] whom his Lord thus delighted both to honor and improve.               

            The God of nature saw fit to endow the late President BURR with great powers of mind, a large intellectual capacity, a [comprehension] surprisingly quick, and a genius truly penetrating.  With wonderful ease and celerity he made himself [the] master of subjects which would cost others much labor and pains.  A lively [imagination, joined with an] excellent understanding, [and] tenacious memory meeting with a good judgment, laid the foundation for great acquirement [accomplishments].

            From his childhood, he had a strong inclination to[ward] learning, which was happily indulged.  While at Yale College, he made swift advances in...literature, was...proficient in the liberal sciences, and excelled in the learned languages, as is acknowledged by those who were his contemporaries.  He ever thirsted for knowledge, read the best authors, and applied himself to study, which, in conjunction with that extraordinary quickness of [intellect] which [uniquely] distinguished his natural character, were the means of his treasuring up a great stock of useful knowledge, both human and divine.  It would lay me under an imputation of vanity should I presume to estimate his literary accomplishments, but [I] may hope to be excused if I speak no more than is granted on all [sides]: That he was well-studied in all the most useful branches of learning and has a just claim to have his name handed down to future times as a great man and an excellent universal scholar, by whose death a very considerable loss is sustained by the republic of letters in this country.

            Divinity [theology] was the study to which his mind was [first drawn], and in this was his greatest delight after that remarkable era of his life which I shall introduce here.  The year after he took his first degree he spent in the college, and [he] supposed that he then met with a saving change of heart and became not only almost, but altogether a Christian.  The relation of this important event I have extracted out of his private papers and shall give you in his own words, as follows: 

“This year God saw fit to open my eyes and show me what a miserable creature I was.   Till then I had spent my life in a dream, and as to the great design of my being, had lived in vain.  Though before I had been under frequent convictions and was [driven] to a form of religion, yet I knew nothing as I ought to know.  But then I was brought to the footstool of sovereign grace,...had affecting views of the divine wrath I deserved,...and almost concluded that my day of grace was past.  These convictions held for some months, greater at some seasons than at others, but I never revealed them to any, which I have much lamented since.  It pleased God, at length, to reveal His Son to me in the Gospel [as] an all-sufficient and willing Savior... ***”

 [Aaron Burr the Minister]

            Upon [obtaining] this new[ness] of mind,...[he, Aaron Burr] found in himself an uncommon inclination to[ward] the Gospel ministry, and not long after [that] became a licensed candidate.  Happily for these churches, divine Providence inclined him to make a visit into these parts, when the people of Newark [New Jersey] quickly cast their eyes upon so promising a plant, which since has proved of great renown throughout the land.  It was then a day of temptation and darkness in that church, but his coming soon dispersed the cloud which hung over them, and they in a short time gave him a unanimous call to the pastoral office.  Within a few years after his settlement in that congregation, God was pleased greatly to smile upon his labors.  Numbers, but chiefly of the younger sort, came to him with that grand enquiry, “What shall we do to be saved?”  ...whom he has since been the happy instrument of winning to Christ. [They] will be the crown of his rejoicing [on] the day of our Lord’s appearing, when he will doubtless shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever and ever.

            He was a watchful shepherd over his flock, and like a pastor after God’s own heart, fed them carefully with knowledge and understanding. He by no means neglected the gifts that were in him, but meditated upon the things of his ministry, being much given up to them, and his profiting [from them] appeared very evident to all.   The people whom he served were not insensible to his great worth... .  There was the most entire harmony [between] him and his people; he [disclosed] on all occasions, an affectionate regard [for] them, and they in return, were fondly attached both to his person and ministry.

            It may not be improper here to take a more distinct view of his character as a [theologian] and his qualifications as a preacher.  He was certainly...adept in [theology]--a scribe well instructed [as to] the kingdom of Heaven, who, out of his plentiful treasure, could bring forth things new and old.  In the Scriptures of Truth he was thoroughly versed, read them by turns with the eye of a critic to search out their [meaning], and in a devotional way to obtain their [good] influence on his own heart.  The Oracles of God were the standard of his [theology], his ultimate confession of faith, the measure of his practice, and the men of his counsel in all the parts of his ministry.  He was greatly a master of [systematic and practical theology]...but cared not much to wield the sword of religious controversy.  His inclination led him to a field which wore a milder face and where there is less danger of hurting that faith which is our own and losing a good conscience ourselves while we are attempting to rectify the faith and mend the consciences of others.

            In the pulpit he [truly] shone like a star of the first magnitude and appeared a wise master builder in the house of God.  He [dwelled] upon things of the highest [importance] and cautiously built not with wood, hay, and stubble, but with gold, silver, and precious stones.  His public discourses were calculated to convey light to the mind, warmth to the affections [emotions], and health to the heart.  His subjects, being well chosen, were handled with judgment and solidity, for he had, to an eminent degree, a masterly skill in dividing the Word of Truth, and [he] gave with wisdom and faithfulness a portion to each in their season.

            When leisure would permit, his sermons were usually penned at large [written out in full], yet, if duty called and he was not otherwise [prepared], he would cheerfully enter the pulpit without his notes.  And indeed, so very extraordinary was his talent at extemporaneous preaching that the most competent judges approved his conduct and heard him with pleasure and profit.  A rich fund of divine knowledge, command of his thoughts, surpassing quickness of invention [imagination], and remarkable readiness of expression, together with a heart commonly warm in the cause of God and engaged by desires of doing good to the souls of men, rendered him truly a masterpiece in performances of this kind.

            He never ascended the [preacher’s] desk but those who knew him had raised expectations which were rarely, if ever, disappointed, and often exceeded.   His gesture [manner of speaking] in the pulpit was easy and natural, and there was an air of mild gravity and genuine benignity [good will] in his aspect [manner], which tended greatly to engage the favorable regard of his hearers.  He was blessed with an easy door of utterance, and his delivery was graceful and harmonious; like Ezekiel the prophet, he was [to his listeners] as a very lovely song, of one that had a pleasant voice and could play well on an instrument (Ezekiel 33:32).  His diction was expressive, and his style neat and flowing; his language was well suited to the business of a Christian orator.  When he thought [it was] proper, and occasion required, it [his language] was either plain or polished [sophisticated], for he could speak freely with such simplicity [that] a child might understand [him], or [he could speak] with an elegance that would please the politest [most sophisticated] ear.

            In the gift of prayer, he much excelled, for a spirit of prayer and supplication seemed always to rest upon him and there appeared such marks of unfeigned sincerity, suitable affection and fervency, added to a rich variety and exact pertinency of expression, on all occasions in his performance of this duty, that few, if any, were more fit to lead in public acts of devotion or be the mouth of others to God.  It may also be observed here that in all the exercises [activities] of religion, both in public and the family [in private], he carefully avoided a tiresome prolixity and was rather short [brief and concise] and animated.

 [Aaron Burr the President of Princeton College (later called Princeton University)]

            If we now turn and survey the figure which this worthy man made in another great employment, I mean, as President of this school of the prophets [Princeton College], we shall find no less cause to admire his character, revere his memory, and lament his death.

            When he entered upon this situation [the presidency of Princeton], though he had then a large stock of learning of the scholastic kind, having been before, for a number of years, a constant instructor of youth in the learned languages and liberal arts, nevertheless he applied himself more closely to those branches of literature which he judged a man ought to be accurately acquainted with, in order to discharge [fulfill] the trust [the presidency] faithfully, or appear with reputation and requisite dignity as a head teacher in such a public school.  He also viewed it not as a post of ease, but of weighty [important] business, and accordingly filled it with application [attention to details] and unwearied industry, much to the benefit of the students, satisfaction of the [Princeton College] trustees, credit of the [Princeton] College, and his own honor.

            The abundant store of useful knowledge with which he had been carefully enriching himself from his youth up, and to which he was continually making large additions, was here improved [employed] to the most valuable purpose.  His mind was well replenished with ideas, and these he had an inimitable faculty [ability] of communicating with clearness and ease.  His aptness to teach was almost without parallel and [uniquely] qualified him for this business.  He had in all respects a singular turn [ability] for instruction; it was what he much delighted in and attended upon [paid attention to] as a very important part of his duty.  He labored exceedingly that the youth committed [entrusted] to his tuition [tutorship] and care might be sent abroad [graduated] with such a foundation of knowledge as might be honorary to the place of their education and fit them for future service in church or state... .

            As the piety of President BURR was as conspicuous as his erudition, his love of Christ and the souls of men as much a reality as his love of letters, he took indefatigable pains to cultivate the hearts of his pupils as well as their heads, and equally concerned himself to [graduate] them at [the same time, to be both] good Christians and good scholars.  They who have had the happiness of being educated under his inspection can bear witness with what zeal, solicitude, and paternal affection he has often pressed upon them the care of their souls [the need for their salvation], and in the most moving manner, even with melting tenderness, urged the importance of their becoming the true disciples of a holy Jesus.  A gracious God was mercifully pleased, as we trust, to grant success in some instances to these pious attempts, for he had good hopes concerning a number [of them] that they were really initiated into the school of Christ.  The winter season of the last year of his life was his most joyful harvest, when a very remarkable divine influence appeared among the students in this house--the good impressions that were then made, we have grounds to believe, glory to divine grace, are yet abiding with many.  May their holy watchful walk and fruitful lives bear long testimony to the world that God was then here of a truth.

            In matters of government [administration of] the college, he [displayed] great wisdom and sagacity.  In judgement and natural temper [personality] he was inclined to soften and moderate measures, but where these failed of their desired efficacy, he gave way to a requisite severity.  In some...delicate instances, where one would have judged a grain of partiality almost pardonable and where he had the strongest inducements to it from [outside] considerations, he has been known to thwart his constitutional bias [personality trait] to[ward] leniency and go on with an inflexible resolution in the impartial distribution of that species of justice which is [appropriate for] such kind of [activities].  In short, he was determined at all [ventures] to support the authority of the college and maintain virtue [morality] and good order among the pupils to the utmost of his power, wherein all must acknowledge he was greatly to be commended.  And I believe that in no college upon the continent, the morals of the students have been more [strictly] inspected, carefully watched, and prudently guarded, or vice and mischievous practices of every kind more effectually searched out, detected, discountenanced, and suppressed.

            As to the manner of his presiding at the public commencements, I imagine...[those] who were fit judges...will readily acknowledge that in moderating the disputes and all the other exercises which on those days belonged to his office, he acquitted himself with high honor and deserved applause.

            His self-denial and disinterestedness [with] regard to the college justly claims an honorable mention.  He ever seemed more solicitous to secure property for that, than for himself.  The stock of which the [college’s] corporation is possessed is greatly owing either to resources of his projecting or schemes which were carried into execution principally by his consummate address [conversation], steadfast perseverance, and unexampled activity.

            The chief weight of many great affairs which nearly concerned the very being of this college has lain upon his shoulders.  He had a genius wonderfully adapted to the busy scenes of life and could with skill and amazing dispatch manage a variety of concerns, and with this [unique ability], that he could readily turn himself from one kind to another, as he was often called to do, without appearing to be thrown out of his proper [course]. [In this] Heaven molded his [mind] in a more exquisite manner than is common, and this one advantage qualified him for a multiplicity of affairs and enabled him to do as much business, and that of different sorts, as would employ two or three men of an ordinary make [in] the same space of time.  [Princeton College], in its unsettled and unprovided circumstances, has been signally benefitted by this extraordinary talent of his, both in procuring and adjusting its funds, [building] its stately edifice [Nassau Hall], and [in] many other ways....

            The welfare of the college lay always very near his heart, and he industriously consulted it [the college’s welfare] in [his] every view.  All laudable methods to advance its interest, he made use of, and seemed perpetually [searching] about for new expedients to help [the college] forward from its [beginnings].  He must be allowed, under God, to have had a principal hand in bringing [the college] into existence, then fixing it upon a solid basis and at length [raising] it up to that respectable condition and flourishing state in which we have the satisfaction to see it now....

            Upon the whole, I am persuaded, scarcely any [other] college has been served by a president more constantly intent upon its universal welfare, more faithful and active in the duties of his office, that had greater [expertise] in the business of instruction, was more beloved by his pupils, or in whom they found a kinder friend.   Therefore, while the College of New Jersey [Princeton College] has a being, or there is left in this...spacious building one stone lying upon another, a large tribute of gratitude will remain due to the name of President BURR.            

[Aaron Burr the Patriot]


            As to his country,...he understood its interest well, was a sincere friend to it, and honestly consulted what would make for its peace and prosperity as far as came within the province [station]  assigned him in life.  He had much of that patriot spirit which is ornamental even to a Christian minister, but [he] very cautiously meddled with any matters of a political nature, being sensible what invidious constructions are commonly put upon the most unexceptionable attempts which are made by men of the cloth to promote the public good or save a sinking state.  For a considerable time before his death, he [displayed] great anxiety about the issue of the present war [the Seven Years’ War, also called in America the French and Indian War], and was much affected with the dark appearances in the face of our public affairs, but of this the world has sufficient notice in two or three of his printed discourses. 

[Friend to Christian Liberty]

            In ecclesiastical judicatures and councils, his assistance was desired and his judgment deservedly esteemed.  He was cool [calm] and dispassionate in all debates and had the felicity in general to have his sentiments embraced [to have his views adopted], or least his measures come into [adopted], for there seldom [presented] an occasion but he either overcame those who were of an opposite opinion by the force of his reasoning or won them by such engaging persuasion as few were able to resist.

            He was a great friend to liberty, both civil and religious, and generously espoused this noble cause on every suitable occasion.  As he abhorred tyranny in the state, so he detested persecution in the church and all those antichristian methods which have been used by most prevailing parties, somehow or other, to enslave the consciences of their dissenting brethren.  He was very far from indulging a party spirit [denominationalism] and hated bigotry in all its odious shapes.  His arms were open to a good man of any denomination, however he might in principle differ or in practice disagree as to what he himself in the lesser matters of religion judged to be preferable.  He was no man for contention, and [he was widely removed] from [being] a wrangling disputant; these bitter ingredients came not into the composition of his amiable character.  His moderation was well known to all men that knew any thing of him.  A sweetness of temper, obliging courtesy, and mildness of behavior, added to an engaging candor of sentiment [honesty of expression], spread a glory over his reputation, endeared his person to all his acquaintances, and recommended his ministry and whole profession to mankind in general and greatly contributed to his extensive usefulness.

            He stood very high in the esteem and affection of his brethren, and such as were young in the ministry or preparing for that sacred work ever found him a [compassionate] friend.  He nourished them under his wings [so to speak], forwarded them in their important undertakings, and took a [special] complacency [comfort] in [thinking about] a prospect of their being useful in their day.  He was particularly applied to [asked to provide from his class of students]... a supply of [ministerial] candidates by churches at a great distance, and like holy Paul, the care of the churches came daily upon him.

            He had a large correspondence by letters abroad [overseas] and was personally known to many gentlemen of principal note and influence both in church and state throughout these provinces [the American colonies], which he improved [used] to [various] valuable ends, and particularly very much to the advantage of the college.  However, to [complete] the numerous obligations he lay under from this quarter laid such a heavy tax upon his time that he sometimes regretted.  For few were more sensible of the preciousness of time, or careful to redeem it for the best purposes, and indeed it is to be feared that his health was much injured by his redeeming too much of it as he often did from the proper hours of rest, yet it may be remarked that the [correspondence] he kept up with his acquaintances and correspondents obliged him to sacrifice less time to maintain it than would have been expended by most other men.   For his frequent visits and long journeys were performed with his [usual] [expedited manner].  And, as to his letters, they, and indeed every kind of composition he took in hand, were dispatched with his scarcely ever being at a loss either for [subject] matter or expression [words].            

[His Morality, Humor, Compassion, and Generosity]

            The social virtues which adorned his life do likewise demand a mark of distinction, and here, I believe, all present who had opportunity to know, will do him the justice to say that saint Paul’s requisites for a scriptural bishop were in reality found in him [Aaron Burr], viz. That he was blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre [love of money], but [he was] a lover of hospitality, a lover of good [people], sober, just, holy, temperate (Titus 1:7-8).   His temperance seemed to border upon a kind of continued abstinence, yet no man [was] more liberal [full of good cheer] in the entertainment of others, or who received his guests with a more graceful and cordial welcome, for he was truly by way of eminence, a lover of hospitality.

            Many likewise found him a bountiful benefactor, as his substance [finances] from his first setting out in the world would better admit of such acts of generosity than [would] most of his brethren’s.  He very freely...refreshed the...poor and caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.  And as he thus honored the Lord with his substance [finances], so it may be said that the secret of the Lord was upon him and gave him (all things considered) a large increase.

            In conversation, he was free, open, and instructive and seemed to be perfectly master of the art of pleasing in company [social conversation].  At proper seasons, he would indulge [in] a little...humor and render himself innocently facetious, but was scarcely ever known to aim at a turn of wit.  He was uncommonly easy of access [accessible] and had a soul formed for the pleasurable entertainments of virtuous friendship, that wholesome cheering cordial in this otherwise gloomy world.   And none whom I have ever had the happiness to know were loved by more in life or mourned by more at death in the character of a friend.  His disposition [personality] was to an eminent degree benevolent, and he generously strove to diffuse happiness to all around him.  He was both a human and Christian master to the servants of his house.  In that most intimate relationship of a husband, his [behavior toward his wife, Esther Edwards Burr] was obliging and affectionate with the dignity of a gentleman, for he appeared to behave with a manly tenderness....  As a parent, alas, the invaluable worth of such a father, his infant orphans [one of whom was Aaron Burr, Jr., future Vice President of the United States] will never know!            

[His Death and Legacy]

            After he began to be confined by his last illness, he quickly concluded his work [on earth] was done and that the time [had] come when he must die!  He...went forth to meet the king of terrors with that calm resignation to the will of God, yes, with a joyful prospect of that blessed world where he should soon begin to sing the praises of God and the Lamb.


He was indeed our beloved brother in Christ, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord, our fellow worker [in] the kingdom of God, [who] has been a comforter unto us and a helper of our joy (Colossians 4:7, 11).  We justly accounted him the beauty of our Israel, our glory and strength....


            With what words of respect and sympathy shall I now address myself to the Gentlemen Trustees of the College: You honored and reverend sirs are very [closely] affected by this...

May...God...still be your confidence and go on to encourage your hearts and strengthen your hands in this glorious undertaking [the founding of Princeton College]....  The high estimate you made of the late president’s merit, and particularly of his great fidelity and unequaled diligence in the discharge of his duty in that station, has been made apparent many ways [to] yourselves while he lived and since his death.  And with freedom and confidence, I may appeal to you as the fittest [witnesses] for the truth of what has now been said in his praise.  The sense you had of the large [debts] of gratitude the college lay under to his memory, and the distinguished honors which were due to his name for his extraordinary services [to the college], you have taken the most effectual care to perpetuate the remembrance of, to latest posterity. [H]is successors in future times [should] follow the example of his disinterestedness and assiduous diligence, and in other respects render their merit as illustrious in favor of the college.... .       


            Now it is light and you may work; soon it will be dark and you cannot.   Be persuaded therefore to hear the advice of saint Peter and be found giving all diligence: Add to your faith virtue [morality], and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity [love], for if these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord JESUS CHRIST (2 Peter 1:5-8).

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