b.10 JUL 1695 Wallingford, New Haven, CT
d.9 JAN 1748/9 Northfield, Franklin, Massachusetts, United States
m. 13 Feb 1682
m. 24 OCT 1717
Facts and Events
A history of Northfield, MA (p. 434) says this about him: 3. Benjamin, s. of John (2), b. 1695; Y.C., 1716; first minister of Nfd.; settled 1718 [see p. 148 and 230]. He d. in the ministry, Jan. 9, 1748-9. He m. Oct 14, 1717, Lydia, dau of Samuel Todd, of New Haven. She m2. Oct 26, 1763 Lieut. Jonathan Belding; (3) Nov 1778 Japhet Chapin; she d. Jun 16, 1790 age 92.
A History of the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts: For 150 Years: with an account of the prior occupation...
p. 144: Rev. Benjamin Doolittle -- After the close of Mr. Whitmore's half-year, in April, no minister was employed till late in the fall. But the numbers and abilty of the inhabitants already there and now about to come, appeared to require and to warrant a permanent ministry. With this view the Committee made an engagement with Mr. Benjaming Doolittle of Wallingford, Ct., to supply for the winter, and he commenced to preach the second Sabbath in November; -- beginning what proved to be a long and prosperous pastorate. It is very likely that the engagement of Mr. D. was brought about through the influence of the Mattoons, who came from Wallingford, via Deerfield. And his settlement in the ministry at Northfield brought hither the Merriman and Blaksley families, with which his family was connected by marriage.
p. 163: Physician. Rev. Mr. Doolittle combined the two professions of theology and medicine. He was a regularly educated physician and surgeon, and was furnished with books and instruments, and kept a supply of drugs. His own townsmen, and the inhabitants of the new settlements as they were made, above Northfield, and the garrisons of Ft. Dummer, and the Ashuelots, and No. 4, depended on his services; and in the battles and skirmishes of the old French war, the wounded were brought to him for treatment. In his prime, his medical practice became so large and lucrative as to awaken some jealousy among his tax-paying parishioners, as will appear in a subsequent chapter. p. 230: Mr. Doolittle's Troubles. -- The recorded action of the town shows that the first 17 years of Mr. Doolittle's pastorate in Northfield was highly acceptable to the people. In 1733, the town voted, "To give Rev. Mr. Doolittle the sum of fifteen pounds additional salary, in money or bills of credit, during his continuance in the work of the ministry among us." This vote furnishes unmistakable evidence of respect and confidence. But in 1736 or 37, a disaffection arose. His medical and surgical practice was extensive and lucrative, and in the opinion of some interfered with his ministerial duties. He also differed from some of his leading church members in his views of religious doctrine.
A Memorandum, in the hand-writing of Lieut. Eliezur Wright, indicates -- without explaining -- the principal point of the controversy: "1. the fall of the money; 2. the use of the L100; 3. the wood; 4. his entering a complaint to the Court and withdrawing his action; 5. his telling the town he would not lay down doctoring and chirurgery under 400 pounds a year; 6. his refusing to comply with the Association's and the Court's advice for a mutual council; 7. his practice of doctoring and chirurgery, and acting as proprietor's clerk for Winchester, contrary to the town's mind." The leading families that sided with Mr. D. were the Fields, Alexanders, Strattongs, Beldings, Hunt, Evans, Petty, Beaman, and William Holton; his leading opposers were the Mattoons, Wrights, Merrimans, Jonathan Janes, Joseph Stebbins, Eleazar Holton, Samuel Smith [future father-in-law of his son Amzi], Nathaniel Dickinson, and Daniel Shattuck. A strong majority of numbers upheld the pastor; and the removal from town of Dea. Eleazar Mattoon, from dislike to Mr. D., weakened the minority. Feb. 26, 1739, the following paper was handed to Mr. Doolittle: "Revnd Sir: You have a long time been acquainted with the un??? we labor under respecting for?? the doctrines you have delivered from the pulpit and in private conversation, and we judge the following proposals very reasonable, and desire your compliance with them:
1. We judge it highly reasonable we should be heard upon the objections we have to make against some of the doctrines you have delivered as aforesaid, which doctrines we judge to be Arminianism. [See explanation of Arminianism below.] 2. We judge it very reasonable you should join with us in choosing a Council of ministers and others, indifferent to the cause, to hear our matters of objection. 3. We judge it reasonable that you should have a copy of the matters of charge we have against you, a week before ???? of the Council aforesaid. 4. We judge it reasonable that the parties should be obliged to abide by the determination of such Council, that the controversies between us may be ended. By abiding by the determination of ye Council we mean, y? if the Council shall [p. 231:] judge yt we have proved that you have advanced many of ye Arminian doctines, the relation you stand in to us as our pastor and preacher shall be dissolved. But if they judge otherwise, we are willing you should continue to be our pastor. 5. If you think what is above proposed, in whole or in part unreasonable, we desire you propose something that is reasonable. We desire your answer in writing within two days. Signed by Capt. Benj. Wright, and 18 others."
No answer to these proposals was received, and the disaffected brethren applied to Rev. William Williams the venerable minister of Hatfield, for advice. His answer, dated Mar. 2, 1739, breathes the spirit of true wisdom and christian charity, and recommends substantially the line of action contemplated in the proposals just quoted. He suggests, in addition, that "the matter be referred to the next meeting of the Association, which for aught I know, if desired, may be at your town."
A meeting of the Hampshire Association was held at Northfield May 3, 1739 and Capt. Wright and those acting with him applied to it for advice. The Association recommended, 1. that the members of the church use all proper methods among themselves to heal the dissensions and secure harmony, by humble prayer to the God of peace, and by the earnest culture of the spirit of mutual good will; by treating your pastor with respect and good temper; by endeavoring to learn his principles by calm conversation with him, and careful attendance upon his public ministry for the space of half a year. 2. If all these means shall fail, then we recommend the calling of a mutual Council. 3. If such a Council be called, we recommend that you agree upon such churches as are known to be sound and orthodox in the faith, and not directly related to either side; and that you furnish the pastor in writing, two weeks beforehand, all the particulars which you have against him. 4. That you pledge yourselves to abide by the decision of the Council.
But the disaffected brethren declined to call upon Mr. Doolittle for the "calm conversation"; and Mr. Doolittle declined to unite with them in calling a Council.
Another appeal was made to the Association at its meeting in West Springfield, April, 1740, and that body repeated its advice of last year. In the fall, the matter was carried (by which party is unknown) to the County court in session in Springfield. In response, the Justices sent a letter addressed "To the selectmen of the town of Northfield, to be communicated to said town," in which they declare that, although, "this affair was not directly within their province, yet [p. 232] being desirous that peace may be promoted and religion flourish amongst the people," they advise "a compliance with the advice of the Association, without making any additions thereto, or without any strained constructions put thereon, readily and speedily to conform to it."
To understand the exact nature and bearings of this controversy, and the zeal of the two parties -- the one in favor of submtiting the matter to an Ecclesiastical Council, and the other in opposition to that course -- it is to be borne in mind that this was the period of the "Great Awakening" which attended the preaching of Rev. Jonathan Edwards then of Northampton, and that men's opinions on doctrinal points were becoming very sharply defined.
The strong majority in his favor in the church, probably influenced the pastor to decline all overtures for a public hearing and adjudication.
The following paper, in the hand-writing of Mr. Doolittle, shows how the difficulty was settled -- though probably not healed [it appears to have been read and the action taken at the close of the afternoon service on the Sabbath]: "Northfield, February 27, A.D. 1740-41. To ye Church of Christ in Northfield. Brethren, There has been a great noise about my Principals which has been very wounding to Religion and hurtful to peace and unity among us: and I now make a demand of all those who have any thing to object against my Principals to come to me and tell me ye very particular article they object against, to see if I can satisfy them, and if I don't satisfy them, then to bring it to the Church, or else to hold your peace forever hereafter: and this in order that the matter may be healed among ourselves, according to the advice of the Association: Brethren, if it be your minds that those that have any thing to object against my Principals should do as I have now demanded of them, manifest it by lifting up the hand. Voted in ye Affirmative."
ARMINIANISM (from Wikipedia.com): Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
* Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation * Salvation is possible by grace alone * Works of human effort can not cause or contribute to salvation * God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus * Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people * God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe * Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith
Tombstone inscription: In memory of the Rev. Mr. Benjamin Doolittle, First Pastor of the Church of Christ in Northfield, who died Jany. ye 9, 1748, in the 54thyear of his age, and 30th year of his ministry. Blessed with good intellectual parts, Well skilled in two important arts, Nobly he filled the double station, Both of a preacher and physician, To cure men's sicknesses and sins, He took unwearied care and pains, and strove to make his patient whole, Thorough in body and soul. He lov'd his God, lov'd to do good, To all his friends vast kindness show'd, Nor could his enemies exclaim, And say he was not kind to them. His labors met a sudden close, Now he enjoys a sweet repose. And when the just to life shall rise, Among the first he'll mount the skies.
He graduated Yale 1716, was ordained 1718, and was both preacher and physician referred to as a minister--physician. he treated war wounded from the French and Indian War. he was known more for his medicine than his preaching, and he also acted as a lawyer on behalf of his community, Northfield, MA. His initial salary was for 65 pounds per year.
Benjamin wrote “An Enquiry into Enthusiasm, Being an account of what it is, the Original progress and effect of it” (1743) and “A Short Narrative of the Mischief Done by the French & Indian Enemy, on the Western Frontiers of the Province of Mass. Bay,” found among his papers after his death and published in 1750. It is apparently a rare perspective of the incidents in question and became an important first-hand account.
Benjamin died suddenly at age 52. A notice in the Boston Gazette detailed death following chest pain. His funeral sermon was by Jonathan Ashley.