Woods, Leonard, Dd
Woods, Leonard, D.D.
an eminent Congregational divine, was born at Princeton, Mass., June 19, 1774. His father had intended him for a farmer; but, as he early exhibited a strong desire for knowledge, his mother's wishes at last gained the ascendency, and he was sent to school at Leicester under Prof. Ebenezer Adams, and graduated at Harvard College in 1796 with the highest honor. He left college with a mind imbued with Priestley's speculations and unsettled by materialistic notions. He taught school at Medford for eight months, also pursuing a systematic course of reading. He was interested, however, in his spiritual welfare, and, by the advice of his college and life- long friend, Dr. John H. Church, he read the Life of Doddridge and other spiritual books, and after many hard struggles he came out into the light and liberty of the Gospel. He now put himself under the theological training of Dr. Charles Backus of Somers, and in 1798 was ordained pastor of the Church in Newbury, Mass. In 1808 the Andover Theological Seminary was established, Dr. Spring giving up, for the sake of unity and harmony, his project of an institution to be founded at Newburyport in the interests of Hopkinsian theology. Mr. Woods was appointed professor of theology, and held that position until his retirement in 1846. The remainder of his life was spent in preparing for the press his theological lectures and miscellaneous writings, and in writing a history of Andover Theological Seminary, which he left unfinished. He died Aug. 24, 1854. In his theological opinions, Dr. Woods was an orthodox Calvinist, accepting the Assembly's confession and catechism in the simple, historical sense of the language. He was on terms of intimacy and friendship with some Hopkinsian divines, and he considered their divergences non-essential, never publicly controverting their views lest their differences should give advantage to those who were assailing the common faith. He, had a fondness for metaphysical studies, and qualifications for distinguished success in them. Facts, among which he gave the highest place to those of revelation, were the starting-point in his philosophy. From these, by careful induction, he came to general laws, then to a lawgiver, then to a universal government. Dr. Woods Was patient, cautious, and earnest in his investigations, and his attainments came, not by genius, but by steadily pressing his inquiries further and further into the domain of science. "He is emphatically the 'judicious' divine of later New England theology" (H. B. — Smith, D.D.). As a theological instructor, Dr. Woods was successful. His pupils, of whom he had over one. thousand, loved and venerated him. As a preacher, he was simple, lucid, scriptural, and instructive, yet he was often argumentative and taxed reason to her utmost, though never submitting the mysteries of godliness to her arbitration. As a writer, he was clear, pure, transparent, rigidly Anglo-Saxon. "It is for his qualities as a man, a neighbor, a friend, and a Christian," says Dr. E. A. Lawrence, one of his pupils, "that he will be cherished in most grateful and affectionate remembrance." He had an open, manly character, the constant outflow of kindly feeling towards all, a warmth of affection and friendship, an humble piety, which made him peculiarly beloved by all who knew him. Dr. Woods took an important part in establishing those various benevolent societies and reforms which are an important feature of the 19th century.
Besides many occasional sermons and orations, tracts for the Doctrinal Tract Society, and articles in the most prominent religious periodicals of his day, the following are Dr. Woods's most important works: Letters to Unitarians (Andover, 1820, 8vo): — Reply to Dr. Ware's Letters to Trinitarians and Calvinists (ibid. 1821): — Remarks on Dr. Ware's Answer (ibid. 1822): — Lectures on the Inspiration of the Scriptures (ibid. 1829; Glasgow, 1838, 12mo): — Letters to Rev. Nathaniel W. Taylor, D.D. (1830): — Memoirs of American Missionaries (1833, 12mo): — Examination of the Doctrine of Perfection as Held by Rev. Asa Mahan and Others (1841): — Reply to Mr. Mahan (eod.): — Lectures on Church Government, containing Objections to the Episco. pal Scheme (N. Y. 1843, 12mo): — Lectures on Swedenborgianism (1846): — Theological Lectures and Miscellaneous Letters, Essays, and Sermons (Andover, 1849-50, 5 vols. 8vo), highly recommended by Drs. Hodge, Burder, etc.: — Theology of the Puritans (1851). Dr. Woods contributed to Sprague's Annals, an Introd. Essay to Wardlaw's Christian Ethics (N.Y. 1836), and wrote other monographs. — See Cong. Quar. 1859, p. 105-124 (by Prof. E. A. Lawrence, D.D.); Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 2, 438 sq.; Allibone, Dict. of Brit and Amer. Authors, s.v. See also Bibl. Sacra, 1851, p. 25; Christian Examiner, 51, 1; Amer. Theol. Rev. 1862, p. 48.