Westerlo, Eilardus, Dd
Westerlo, Eilardus, D.D.
the successor of Theodorus Frelinghuysen in the Reformed Church of Albany, was born in Groningen, Holland, in 1738, his father, Rev. Isaac Westerlo, being pastor of the Church at that place. Consecrated by his parents from his early boyhood to the ministry, after spending six years at the Latin school of Oldenzaal he entered the University of Groningen at the age of sixteen; spent six full years in preparation for his holy office; and at twenty-two was admitted to its vows in 1760. Just at that time he unexpectedly received and accepted the call to Albany; was installed as pastor of the Church in March, and arrived in the autumn of that year in the city where he spent his ministerial life. About eight years after coming to Albany he fell into a state of religious despondency, which proved to be an eventful period of his spiritual life. Relief came only with much prayer and struggle of soul, but it seemed like "life from the dead." In 1775 he married the widow of Stephen Van Rensselaer, patron of the manor of Rensselaerwyck, and resided with her at the manor-hoilseunntil.1784, when they removed to the parsonage on Broadway. Dr. John H. Livingston's wife was the sister of Mrs. Westerlo. The relationship between these two eminent clergymen grew in strength and usefulness with their years and services for Christ's kingdom. Both of them were ardent supporters of the independence of the American Church from that of Holland, and were known as peacemakers and leaders during all the strifes, which ended in the triumph of their principles. Both of them were equally bold and influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. When Burgoyne was moving towards Albany in 1777, Dr. Westerlo took his family to a place of safety, but came back to his home, directed his church to be opened, and held daily religious services for a week, with fervent prayers for the army and animating exhortations to those who remained in the city. Dr. Livingston aided him in these patriotic services, which continued until the surrender of Burgoyne and his army. When Washington visited Albany in 1782, Dr. Westerlo delivered the address of public welcome. Until 1782 he preached only in the Dutch language, and at his death stated services in that tongue ceased in his church. But at the period named he began to preach on a part of each Sunda in English, and continued to do so with acceptance until Dr. Bassett became his colleague, in June, 1787, about three years before his own decease. He was a man of fine personal presence, mild and persuasive in manner, yet dignified and commanding. He was beloved by his own people, and a favorite in the community among all denominations of Christians. An excellent classical and theological scholar, he was familiar with the best learning of his times. He wrote well in Hebrew and Greek, and president Stiles of Yale College, with whom he corresponded, said that he wrote Latin with greater purity than any man he ever knew. He left a Hebrew and Greek lexicon, prepared apparently for publication, in his own neat manuscript. Among his papers was found an interesting autobiography, written in Dutch, up to May, 1782, and in English up to Dec. 4, 1790. This work, he says, was written "for his own edification and the remembrance of God's mercies." During his last illness, a brief period of despondency was followed by the most cheerful and happy serenity of soul. "His people came from all parts of the city to see him when he was near his end, and he left them with his blessing in such a solemn manner that it was thought he did as much good in his death as in his life." He will always be remembered among the great and good ministers of the Church of his fathers. He died Dec. 26, 1790. "So omnipresent was his religion, so engrossing his piety, that his habitual state of mind seemed to be 'one continued prayer,' and his life 'one unbroken offering of praise.'" See Rogers, Historical Discourse, p. 31, 32; Corwin, Manual of the Ref. Church, p. 265, 266; Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 9:2931. (W.J.R.T.)