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Pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church
In Philadelphia
Printed by John W. Allen, No. 26,
Strawberry Street

            "The subject of these memoirs was born in Lyme, in the state of Connecticut, in the parish called the North Quarter, February 6th, A.D. 1759.  His father, Ezra Ely, was a respectable husbandman; and his mother Sarah, whose maiden name was Sterling, was a Lady of superior education, for the times in which she lived;  but providence removed her from her affectionate partner, two little daughters, and her only son, when he was an infant of four months.

        "In his childhood he discovered a fondness for books, but enjoyed no advantages above those which the public schools of his native state have uniformly presented to all her offspring, until he commenced a course of academical studies, under the tuition of an excellent instructor, the Rev. Elijah Parsons, of East Haddam.  By his close application and upright behaviour he secured the friendship of that pious and sound divine;  and under his auspices, was able in nine months after he took the Latin grammar in hand, to enter Yale College.

        "In that institution he was distinguished as a Linguist, by obtaining the Dean's Bounty; and in other other attainments usually made in our higher seminaries of learning, he was excelled by few of his companions.

        "While in his junior year, in 1777, he began to write what he called 'Life's Review;'  and he continued the practice of recording his views, feelings, trials and mercies, at short intervals, until disabled by that disease which translated him to Heaven.  He assigned as his reasons for keeping a diary, that it would be satisfactory to review past life, provided it should be filled up with usefulnes; and that if otherwise spent, it would be necessary to humble himself before God, and supply him with the matter for supplication at the throne of grace.

        "While in College he began to feel a deep concern for the salvation of his immortal soul; and since the perusal of his reflections may be profitable to some who are soon to follow him to the world of spirits, he shall be permitted to speak, as from the grave, and tell how he agonized to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

        'Oct. 16, 1777 - Oh!  what a hell of wickedness do I daily carry about.  I fear I am in the swift road to eternal deseruction.  O that I could have some sense of my own wickedness.  I am altogether a hypocrite, actuated entirely by self love.'

        "After having been thus affected with dreadful apprehensions of the wrath of God, we find the youth, in November following, seduced from God by the business and gay amusements of life.  Flashes of conviction, however, occasionally compelled him to say, 'My Junior year will soon be spent, and unless I double my diligence, I am undone forever.'

        'Wednesday, April 21st. 1779-  ...The time has been, and most of my life too, when I looked upon religion as a burden, a task that must be encountered; but, forever blessed be God, the time now is that I am most happy when I am entirely alone, contemplating GOD and all things Divine.'

        'Sunday evening [April 25, 1779]- O I am ashamed, I am ashamed.  what, shall the world again have entrance?  This evening I have had some relish for vanity.  O, abominable!  The trifling occurences of company affect me!  O, infamous!  What is feeble man! Great God forgive me.  Crucify me unto the world.  Slay every charm that binds me to earth.'

        'May 13th, 1779- I had some deliberation about visiting Lyme, my native place, during this vacation, for fear that want of employment would make my time pass heavily; but I rejoice that I was directed to come, for I found myself full of business, very agreeable business, and such as I hope will occupy my future life.'

        'May 30,  1780.  On examination by the Association in North Guilford, I received license to preach the gospel.'

        'April 7, 1782.  I have now a call from Lebanon, and what will be my duty I know not.  My ill health, some opposition, the insufficiency of the support offered, and my connexion with college, are objections against my acceptance of it.  My inclination to give myself wholly to the ministry, the general union and the long destitute state of the congregation, are arguments in favour of it.'

        'Oct. 23, 1783.  Was married to Sarah Apame Mills.  Before marriage, I had a solemn affecting sense of the connexion I was about forming, and felt ardent desires that it might be for the glory of God, and that we might have his presence in joining hands for life.  I have been at many marriages, but I never saw such a solemn one.  I thought of the new duties, new temptations, cares and troubles, and of the parting scene.'

        "The foregoing extracts sufficiently disclose the heart and life of him who wrote them.  During his whole ministry of forty years, he was diligent and laborious;  seeking the salvation of souls; and pressing after more intimate communion with God.

        "His small salary and large family, consisting of twelve children, who arrived at manhood, rendered it requisite for him to cultivate a farm.  This was a lasting source of regret to him, because he wished to devote his whole time to the appropriate work of the ministry.

        "The greatest trials, which he ever experienced from any outward source, arose from the division which took place in his large congregation, about the location of their meeting house;  and from the return of an ex-minister to reside in his parish.  In the spring of 1804, the people living south of his place of worship were desirous of painting it; but the people living north, with few exceptions, had resolved that the building should be taken down, and a new one erected in a more central situation.  The venerable wooden church was demolished in a riotous manner, and soon after the Legislature of the State divided the parish into two.  My father had his choice of continuing to be the pastor of the one or of the other Society; and so prudent had he been during the hot contention of the parties, that each was disposed to claim him as Pastor.  He thought it his duty to remain with those who were attached to the old foundation, and they erected on the same a handsome brick edifice.

        "The ex-minister, who proved a thorn in his side, had been for many years the pastor of a church in a neighbouring State, but for reasons best known to himself chose to relinquish the preaching of the gospel, while his vigour of body and mind were yet unimpared.  Returning to Lebanon, his native place, with a certificate of good standing he applied to Mr. Ely for admission to church privileges, as a private member, and was cordially received.  Some members of the church, who were dissatisfied with the man received, thought their pastor had prematurely enrolled him as a communicant.  He became ere long the subject of discipline, and in the process was alienated from the person who had cordially received, and so far as he thought it lawful, countenanced him."

        "Although Mr. Ely was rarely well of a nervous head-ache, and able to obtain regular rest in sleep, for a whole week at a time, yet I do not remember that he ever had more than
one dangerous sickness, before the last.  It was a paralytic affection which finally removed him from the world.  This first made its appearance on the 11th of October 1818...on Nov. 18th, 1824, he sweetly fell asleep in Jesus."

Editorial Comments:
This document contains transcriptions from the original book, published in 1825, one year after the death of the Reverend Zebulon Ely.  Because of the bleak outlook represented in the memoirs, I was hesitant to contribute it to this site.  The Rev. Ely struggled all his life with his need to feel worthy in God's judging eyes and with what  apparently were chronic migraine headaches.  However, the very fact that his son chose these passages for publication tells us quite a lot about prevailing religious and moral thought in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in New England.   I have chosen only a few passages to include here, in addition to the biographical information written by his son.  None of the original spelling has been changed.   Pat Sabin, 1999.