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Full text of "History of the Presbyterian Church of Albert Lea, Minn. : a sermon"

gc M. L< 

977.602 

A£14a 

1727447 



REYNOLD^ F'^TORICAL 
GENEALOGY COLLECTION 



Crc^ 



ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY 




1833 01080 7789 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center 



http://www.archive.org/details/historyofpresbytOOabbo 



Qg 5 HISTOET =s£ 



PHESBYTEHIA1T CHUECH 



ALBERT LEA. MINN. 



I=rea.clxed. "b3r 

jR-EE i2. 5. ABBOTT, PASTOR, 

JTJLTY S, 1876. 



ALBERT LEA : . 

Printed at The Standard Office. 

1876. 



1727447 



HXSTOIVX" O^ THE 

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF ALBERT LEA, 



REMEMBER THE DAYS OF OLD — Deut. xxxii, 7. 



The best lessons of life are those of experience. Our all-wise 
Heavenly Father largely adopts this method of instruction. He 
teaches us by experience; our own experience, and that of others. 
We are so constituted by nature, that it is difficult to impress us 
deeply by any other means. We can hardly have any idea of the 
punishment of sin, until we have some little feeling of it. " Thou 
shalt surely die,'' did not impress Adam and Eve as it would im- 
press us, for it had never come near them as it has come near us. 
On the other hand, the promised joy of forgiveness, the sweet peace 
of reconciliation, cannot be appreciated by those who have not 
experienced it. We have hardly the faintest idea of heaven's hap- 
piness, until we enjoy a foretaste of it here. 

Next to our own experience, we appreciate the testimony of 
those who have been through what we have not. We are scarcely 
less wise than our fathers, when we are willing to heed their 
counsel. " Experience keeps a dear school;" unless we are fools, 



we may learn much at a cheaper tuition. The world is a great 
treadmill. As every twenty-four hours it presents its whole sur- 
face to the sun, in the same order of succession; as every three 
hundred and sixty-five days it passes through its annual circuit, 
bringing the same order of climate and season; so about three 
times every century, the human family passes through a new 
generation, presenting over and over again the same great problems 
of education, of government, of history, and of the destiny of the 
world for all the future. Once every thirty-three years, the whole 
world must be lifted out of barbarism. Once every thirty -three 
years the church must be filled again with new converts, or it per- 
ishes from the earth. The race, renewed every generation, starts 
again in the physical helplessness and mental imbecility of infan- 
cy, and in the moral guilt of original sin. Learning and morals 
and wisdom and holiness are not transmitted by inheritance. All 
must be learned, attained, over again by each generation, for them- 
selves. There is in the world and in the race a constant and inevit- 
able tendency to retrogradation and barbarism. Men sometimes 
flatter themselves that they are doing something to benefit the 
world, to lift up and send forward the human family ; when, in fact, 
the utmost that any one can do is to check a little the universal 
decay, to withstand somewhat the downward tendency of all things, 
to hold back in part the tide of ignorance and barbarism that nat- 
urally tends to overwhelm the world. Man's arm is puny; man's 
wisdom is folly. Nothing less than the superintending providence 
of Almighty God has ever kept the world so far, has ever civilized a 
nation, or ever preserved a people from otherwise inevitable relapse 
into savage weakness and anarchy. And nothing less than the 
same Divine Providence ever will or ever can preserve the world 
from imbecility, decay, and self-destruction. 

"Remember the days of old." 1 This is the great lesson of ex- 
perience, a lesson especially appropriate to the present occasion, the 
seventh anniversary of my pastorate with this people. We are ad- 
monished to make the world's experience our own wisdom. Let 
us enter into our fathers' wisdom as we inherit their goods. There 
is no need that we should set out in the world as children. Old 
heads may be on young shoulders. If my father's and my moth- 



er's wisdom does not descend upon me, it is because of my incor- 
igible folly. If I do not profit by their mistakes, and even improve 
upon their virtues, then in my infatuation I am simply furnishing 
another evidence that the human race naturally relapses into bar- 
barism and imbecility. God has endowed us with memory, for 
the very purpose of improvement and growth. He has made his- 
tory possible, that each succeeding generation may grow wiser from 
the treasured stores of the past. 

This was the precise purpose of Moses, and of the Holy Spirit 
who was guiding him, in the words of the text. Moses was now 
a hundred and twenty years old. He had reached the end of his 
journey. One of the most eventful lives ever passed on earth 
is now about to close with a sublimity worthy of a prophet of God. 
With the good hand of the Lord upon him, he has accomplished 
the most astonishing emigration ever undertaken. Two millions 
of people have been suddenly emancipated from most oppressive 
bondage; they have been miraculously conducted through forty 
years of wandering in strange and desert lands; they have been 
organized into a church and a nation, with laws which stand to- 
day for the admiration of the world; and they are now brought to 
the borders of their long promised inheritance. Warned that he 
must now leave them and resign their leadership to another, Moses 
assembles the Elders of his beloved Israel to take an affectionate 
adieu and give them his parting counsel. At the close of this 
solemn address, which contains more wisdom than any similar pro- 
duction ever put on record, Moses ascends to Mount Nebo, is grant- 
ed one grand vision of the promised land, and then rises from the 
earthly to the heavenly inheritance. He dies alone with God, and 
is buried by Michael the Archangel. 

Near the close of this faithful and sublime address, he calls up- 
on the Elders and all the congregation of Israel, to remember the 
days of old, to consider the years of many generations. This 
should be their wisdom, and their protection, and their glory. 
" Ask thy father and he will shew thee, ask thy Elders and they 
will tell thee."' Why, the history of the world so far, and the dis- 
position of all nations, had been directed towards the accomplish- 
ment of this very event, now to be realized, the establishment of 



6 

the tribes of Israel in the land of Canaan. " When the Most High 
divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons 
of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the num- 
ber of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; 
Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert 
land, in a waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instruct- 
ed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth 
up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, 
taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did 
lead him, and there was no strange god with him." 

Most appropriate then, as breath to the lungs or light to the eye, 
is this exhortation to the people to remember the days of old. 
Almighty God was their Leader and their Friend, their Deliverer 
and their Portion. Should they not fear him and obey him? 
Should they not keep his commandments and abide in his cov- 
enant? Should they not adore him, and trust in him, and love 
him ? All their success and establishment and permanence, their 
very existence even, as a nation, depended upon it. They were to 
be an everlasting memorial to all the world of God's faithfulness 
on the one hand, if they should abide faithfully in his covenant; 
or of his righteous judgments on the other hand, if they turned 
away from the Divine law. The old world had perished in the 
waters of the flood. Avenging fire from heaven had burnt up the 
polluted cities of the plain. Egypt had been scourged. Pharaoh 
and his host had perished in the sea, for their rebellion against 
God. The iniquity of the Amorites was full, and they must be de- 
stroyed. The Canaanites had exhausted the Divine patience, their 
time had come, they must be exterminated. There could be no 
salvation to any man, and no permanent prosperity to any nation, 
but in righteousness and obedience to the Ruler of all the world. 

"'Consider the days of old," says Moses. See how God has pre- 
served you, and how he has destroyed others. Many nations 
have perished already. Some have been destroyed right before 
your eyes. Some are even now in process of destruction. 
Others are doomed, and their day hastens on apace. And will 
Israel, God's chosen Israel, whom he has led by the hand and 
nourished in his bosom, turn away from him, rebel against him, 



and become another and the most stupendous monument of hu- 
man folly, an everlasting memorial of the righteous judgments of 
Heaven upon a guilty nation ? The most illustrious blessings on 
the one hand, and the most dreadful judgments on the other, 
are set before them; and they are exhorted to choose wisdom, and 
life, and everlasting prosperity. 

But, brethren, wisdom for others is the cheapest kind of philan- 
thropy. Let us study this lesson to-day for ourselves. Let us re- 
member the days of old. More wisdom has come to us, through 
history and experience, than to any former generation. God grant 
us grace to be wise according to the time ! God grant us grace to 
be wise for our children, for the church of God, for the glory of 
*ie Redeemer! In our humble place, in this young State of Min- 
nesota, in our village church, we have received already many sig- 
nal blessings from our Heavenly Father, and many lessons of 
wisdom and faith from his gracious providence. Let us treasure 
them up with grateful rememberance, this anniversary day. 

Albert Lea was pre-empted for Presbyterianism, at its earliest 
settlement, by Rev. S. G. Lowry. He and Father McReynolds of 
the Methodist Church, were the pioneer preachers of the town and 
the county. To one of these two, it is not certain which, belongs 
the credit of holding the first religious service in the place. 
Father Lowry came to this State, then a Territory, and settled on 
the farm on which he still resides, in April, 1857. In the sum- 
mer of that year he visited Albert Lea and preached to the people. 
His visits and preaching were continued, from time to time, for 
nearly three years. The question of organizing a church was 
often considered by him and the few Presbyterians in the place. 
In the meantime Mr. Lowry 's health failed, and Rev. Mr. Cook, a 
Congregational minister of Austin, was invited to visit Albert Lea 
and preach to the people. The invitation was accepted, and after 
a short time a church was organized, adopting the Congregational 
form, composed of six members, three Congregationalists and 
three Presbyterians. This church, the first organized in Albert 
Lea, was maintained in this form until the Autumn of 1808, when 
it was changed by the unanimous action of the members, into the 
present Presbyterian Church. 



8 

At the Fall meeting of the Presbytery of Southern Minnesota, 
Old School, a petition was presented, subscribed by the members 
of the Congregational Church in Albert Lea, and a few other per- 
sons, requesting the organization of a Presbyterian Church. The 
petitioners were eighteen in number, all expressing a desire to be- 
come members. In response to this petition, the Presbytery appoint- 
ed Rev. D. C. Lyon and Rev. A. J. Stead a committee to meet the 
petitioners, and, if the way should be clear, organize the church. 
Accordingly, on the 29th of September, 1868, these brethren 
held a meeting for this purpose in the Court House in Albert Lea. 
Rev. S. G. Lowry and Rev. Theophilus Lowry, of the Presbytery 
of Mankato, New School, were present by invitation, and assisted 
in the proceedings. The Church was then formally organized, 
under the name of the First Presbyterian Church of Albert Lea, 
with the following members : — Benjamin Brownsell, Mrs. Eliza- 
beth Brownsell, Curtis B. Kellar, Samuel Eaton, Mrs. Clarissa 
Eaton, Mrs. S. M. Robinson, Mrs. Eliza Hunt, Mrs. Harriet J. 
Barden, Mrs. Mary F. Armstrong, Samuel Thompson, Mrs. 
Amanda Woodruff, Mrs. Darrow, Mrs. Henrietta Ruble, Mrs. C. E. 
Sheehan, Thomas Sherwood, Clarence Wedge, Mrs. Mary Buell, 
Samuel Batchelder, and Wm. J. Squier — 19. Samuel Batch- 
elder, Samuel Eaton, and Curtis B. Kellar, were elected Ruling 
Elders, to serve respectively one, two, and three years. A public 
service was held in the evening; a sermon was preached by Rev. 
A. J. Stead, and the Elders were ordained — the charge to them 
was given by Rev. Theophilus Lowry. Brief addresses were made 
by Rev. S. G. Lowry and Rev. D. C. Lyon, and the meeting was 
dismissed with the Apostolic benediction. 

Thus the former Congregational Church of this place was, by 
the unanimous choice and action of its own members, merged into 
the Presbyterian Church; and they, with a few others received at 
the time, constituted the original membership of the present or- 
ganization. And it is interesting to note in this connection that 
they are all yet living, and though several of them have removed 
to different places, they are all Presbyterians. 



9 

As to the share in this movement of Rev. W. M. Paxton, D. D., 
of New York, it is proper to say, that, instead of intentionally 
procuring the change or persuading to it, he was himself persuaded 
by the members of the church and the people of Albert Lea, to 
assist them in making the change from Congregational Associa- 
tion to Presbytery, and to aid them in building a house of wor- 
ship. If any shadow of blame could be found resting anywhere, 
it would be chargeable to the church itself, and not to Dr. Paxton, 
nor yet to the Presbytery. The Presbytery had no other hand in 
the matter than to visit the place and organize the church when 
requested by the people to do so. Dr. Paxton had visited the 
place a few weeks before, as a quiet rural resort for spending a 
part of his summer vacation. He had set out from home, uncer- 
tain where he was going, and was evidently directed here by the 
hand of Providence. He became interested in the place and the 
people, and at their urgent request and upon their statement of 
their unanimous desire to change ecclesiastical relations, so as to 
become Presbyterian instead of Congregational, he promised them 
pecuniary assistance in the erection of a house of worship. 

As to the course of the church in this transaction — every church 
has the same perfect and indefeasible right to change its ecclesi- 
astical relations at will, that every church member has to transfer 
his membership to another church, whenever he pleases. And 
the change from Congregationalism to Presbyterianism is not a 
great one. It is but a step upwards. It implies no giving up of 
one single point of doctrine, or faith, or scriptural order. No two 
churches are so nearly alike in all doctrine and worship. The 
ministers of either pass into the other with the utmost ease. 
Congregationalists unite with Presbyterian churches, and Presby- 
terians unite with Congregational churches, everywhere and al- 
most indiscriminately. In either connection you will find tens 
of thousands formerly in the other. And many scores of 
churches, perhaps hundreds of them, have made a similar tran- 
sition. The two churches are so nearly the same in every essential 
point, such a change involves no sacrifice of truth or principle. 

The new organization thus effected, the church at once set about 
the erection of a house of worship. A Board of Trustees were 



10 

elected, and before the following Winter had fairly set in, this 
house was raised and inclosed. It was completed the following 
Summer, and was dedicated to the worship of God on the loth 
day of August, 1869. The Presbytery of Southern Minnesota was 
in session here at the time, and the dedicatory sermon was 
preached *by Dr. Paxton, from Matt. 26:8. " To What Purpose 
is This Waste ? " The success of the enterprise was largely owing 
to the liberality and exertions of one who has since gone to his 
rest. Your minds will instinctively recall the name of Augustus 
Armstrong, who, though not a communicant, was nevertheless 
among the wisest in counsel and the most efficient in executing 
all that was needful to the establishment of the church. While 
he lived he manifested a lively interest in the growth and pros- 
perity of the church, spiritual as well as material; and was always 
to the minister a prudent and safe adviser. 

Along with the names of Dr. Paxton and Mr. Armstrong, honor- 
able and grateful mention must be made of Miss Mary Gelston, a 
member of Dr. Paxton's church, in the city of New York, who from 
first to last has contributed more than half the means necessary to 
build and complete our church property in its present form. This 
excellent christian lady, though an entire stranger to every one of us, 
became interested in Albert Lea and this church through her Pas- 
tor, and sent us 83,000 for the church building and grounds, 
82,000 towards building the Manse, and less than two years ago 
sent us 8500 more to assist in the erection of our chapel, besides 
at one time a handsome donation for our Sabbath School Library. 
Altogether we have received from her nearly 86.000. It is her mu- 
nificence which, under God, has raised up and established this 
church. Let us record her name in our hearts with most affec- 
tionate remembrance, and in our prayers let us seek for the bless- 
ing of God upon one through whose benericence so great blessings 
have come upon us. This church has been raised up and fostered 
by Mary Gelston; let it be her everlasting memorial. Let it tell 
to the end of time what well-directed giving can accomplish. And 
may God grant that her unselfish devotion to the cause of Christ, 
and her liberal spirit in giving to build up the church, a church 



11 

she has never seen, — may be imitated by the people she has blessed 
— by all of us upon whom the blessing has come. 

For nine months after the church was organized, it was supplied 
with preaching by different ministers. Among these were Rev. 
Charles Thayer, of Farmington, Rev. John L. Gage, of Kasson, and 
myself. My first visit to the place and first religious service were 
on Sabbath, March 21, 1869. Three times afterwards I visited you 
and preached for you, before my removal from St. Paul here, 
which was on the first of July. In the meantime the church made 
out a call, in due form and order, for my permanent settlement as 
Pastor. This call, having been presented by the Presbytery, was 
accepted, and I was formally installed Pastor of this church, by 
the Presbytery of Southern Minnesota, on Sabbath evening, Aug. 
15, 1869 — the evening of the same day on which this house was 
dedicated. The sermon was preached by Rev. W. S. Wilson, of 
Owatonna, the charge to the Pastor was given by Rev. D. C. Lyon, 
and the charge to the people by Dr. Paxton. 

The resident membership of the church at this time consisted 
of eighteen persons, as follows: — Mr. and Mrs. Brownsell. Mr. and 
Mrs. C. B. Kellar, Mr. and Mrs. Eaton, Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Arm- 
strong, Mrs. Barden, Mr. Samuel Thompson, Mrs. Woodruff, Mrs. 
Ruble, Mr. and Mrs. Squier, Mr. Batchelder, Mrs. Buell, Mr. Clar- 
ence Wedge, and Mr. Sherwood. These persons are all still living. 
Eight of them have removed, the other ten are with us still — most 
of them present this morning. The same three who were origin- 
ally chosen Elders, still hold that office, having been since twice 
re-elected; and of the original eighteen, Mr. Thompson holds the 
office of Deacon. Some of you remember Father and Mother 
Brownsell. The Fall after my settlement here, they removed to 
the vicinity of Fond-du-Lac, Wis., where they still reside with one 
of their sons, in the feebleness of advanced age, waiting for the 
Master to say, " Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest.'' 

From this beginning, the history of the church has been one of 
remarkable and unbroken prosperity. During the first year there 
were added to our communion, thirty-nine persons; the second 
year fifty -two; the third year, thirty; the fourth year, twenty; the 
fifth year, fourteen; the sixth year, twelve; the seventh year, the 



12 

one just closed, seventy-five; making a total of two hundred and 
forty-two communicants received in seven years. Of these, forty- 
six have been received by letter from other churches, and one hun- 
dred and ninety-six on profession of faith in Christ. It has 
already been stated that at the beginning of the present pastorate 
there were eighteen resident members. Besides these, there were 
on the church roll four names of members at a distance — twenty- 
two in all. Thus the whole number of names on the roll from 
first to last amounts to two hundred and sixty-four. We have dis- 
missed to other churches forty-two, only four less than we have 
received by letter. A few have been suspended, and a consider- 
able number have been set aside on the Retired List, on account 
of distance and non-attendance, or removal without letters. After 
making these deductions, we have one hundred and seventy-two 
resident members. 

Almost every year we have enjoyed a season of especial reli- 
gious interest in connection with the Week of Prayer. One of the 
most remarkable of these outpourings of the Holy Spirit was en- 
joyed in 1871, five years ago last Winter. Some of you here pres- 
ent to-day, and others not with us now, will long remember that 
occasion as the turning point in your eternal destiny. It was 
then, as you trust, that you were born from above, that you re- 
ceived Jesus Christ by faith, and gave yourself to him in everlast- 
ing covenant. And he has blessed you ever since. In proportion 
as you have been diligent and faithful, and far beyond your own 
faithfulness even, he has given you joy in his service, he has led 
you all the way, and multiplied unto you grace, mercy, and peace. 
Is it not so ? I call upon you to record — Has not Jesus Christ 
kept his word with you? Has he not even gone out after you 
when you have wandered ? 0, the precious love of Jesus ! Re- 
membering the days of the past, you can sing to-day with swelling 
heart, 

'•Here I'll raise my Ebenezer— 
Hither by thy help I'm come." 

But a still larger number will remember the past Winter as the 
day of your salvation. Never before was so great a blessing in 
spiritual things poured out upon this community. For months 
before the Lord had drawn out our hearts to him in earnest, im- 



13 

portunate prayer for revival. And when the time was come and 
all things were ready, he sent his servant, onr dear brother Welton, 
to labor among us; which he did with the Holy Ghost sent down 
from heaven. You will not soon forget his faithful expositions of 
scripture, and his affectionate pleadings with sinners to repent and 
believe on Jesus Christ. The crowded congregations, the tearful 
interest, the scores of inquirers, the presentation of Jesus Christ 
as a present Savior, the offer of full salvation at once through faith 
in his blood, the happy rejoicing in new-found hope — all these 
stand out in your memory as a picture that will never fade away. 
The good Lord has signalized this centennial year with most 
abundant outpourings and ingatherings all over the land, bring- 
ing tens of thousands of souls to new life through the cross of 
Christ. And nowhere, perhaps, has he more magnified his grace, 
or more blessed the people, than in our own village of Albert Lea 
and our own beloved church. Let our hearts magnify the Lord ! 
We shall never forget these things. We will talk them over in 
heaven ! There will we remember the days of old ! 

Besides these seasons of special interest, we have never been 
without tokens of the Lord's presence and blessing. Our Sabbath 
School has been prosperous and well attended almost without ex- 
ception. Beginning first as a Union School, it has suffered dim- 
inution from the successive withdrawal of other churches to es- 
tablish schools of their own, and yet has steadily increased in 
numbers and interest. It was never in a more prosperous condi- 
tion than now. Many of the children and young people have 
been brought to Christ, and others, we trust, are coming. The 
school is perfectly organized, well supplied with efficient officers 
and teachers, and has an excellent Library. It numbers about one 
hundred and fifty members. Besides this school, which is our 
central work, we are carrying on six Mission Schools in the sur- 
rounding country, with an aggregate attendance of about two 
hundred and fifty persons. All this, with Heaven's blessing, must 
tell favorably on the work of the Lord in this region. If we shall 
be diligent -in labors, and fervent in spirit, and faithful in prayers, 
will not the Lord command the blessing upon us, and send us 
salvation, for his name's sake? 



14 

Our prayer meetings have been, for the most part, a pleasing 
feature of our church worship, and one principal means of our 
growth and progress. They have usually been well attended, 
uniformly interesting, always profitable to those participating. 
During the last few months, the attendance at the Thursday even- 
ing meeting has been from forty to seventy. A Cottage prayer 
meeting is held also weekly on Tuesday evening, which has 
mostly been a very pleasant and precious meeting. The Young 
People's prayer meeting, organized more than five years ago, has 
been maintained all the time without interruption, meeting on 
Sabbath evening, one hour before public service. Among our 
young members who are faithful to this meeting, it is training up 
successive recruits of Christian workers for larger usefuless in all 
departments of the church. It has been an inestimable blessing 
to many. May the Lord give our young people grace to be faith- 
ful to it, and maintain it forever ! Will each one of you consider 
your own individual responsibility in the matter ? 

Somewhat less than two years ago, we undertook the erection 
of a Chapel, which was felt to be almost a necessity for carrying 
forward our church work. To assist us in this, Miss Gelston 
came forward with her accustomed liberality in our need, and 
gave us 8-500, evidently regarding us with affectionate solicitude 
as a foster child, largely provided for hitherto by her munificence. 
It is beyond estimate, how much we owe to that excellent Chris- 
tian lady. With her $500 and a little over 8500 more, the Chapel 
was brought to comfortable completion. How much it has been 
used, and how invaluable it has been, for many of our prayer 
meetings, the Young People s meeting, the Infant Department of 
our Sabbath School, the Bible Class, the Ladies' Missionary So- 
ciety, and other purposes, many of you know. We could not do 
without it. 

In addition to the three Elders already mentioned, who are still 
in office, we have now three others, six in all. Mr. J. W. Smith 
was elected and ordained in 1809; Mr. R. B. Skinner, in 1870 ; 
and Mr. B. Woodruff, in 1871. Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Lorin 
Blaekmer were elected and ordained to the office of Deacon in 
1870; Mr. H. I). Brown, in 1871; Mr. Samuel Thompson, in 1872; 



172744? 

15 

Mr. D. G. Parker, in 1873; and Mr. John Slater, Sen., in 1876. 

During my seven years' pastorate with this church, I have bap- 
tized here one hundred and twenty-four persons, and six else- 
where. Two of my own children have been baptized here by 
other ministers. Out of the one hundred and twenty -six bap- 
tized here, all but two are still living — two have passed on over 
the river to everiu Jnng life. They are now, we trust, with Him 
into whose Name they were baptized, and for whom the whole 
family in heaven and earth are named. 

I have married, during these seven years, forty-three couples — 
eighty -six persons — all of whom, so far as I know, are still living. 

But clouds follow the sunshine. Tears often mar the coun- 
tenance lately lighted up with smiles. The tomb and the bridal 
altar stand in mournful proximity. I have sometimes passed 
from one to the other the same day. With all the healthfulness 
incident to this climate and to a new country, death has been at 
work among us. Since coming to this place, I have been called 
to officiate at sixty-nine funerals. How often have the tenderest 
ties been snapped asunder, some in your own households ; how 
often have loving hearts been broken, and families bereaved, and 
homes made desolate ! May the Lord sanctify affliction to those 
who have passed under the rod ! May he bring us to hail again 
the departed on the other shore ! 

During my pastorate here, I have preached nearly 1,000 times. 
My first sermon here was the 1,855th of my ministry, and to-day 
I am preaching the 2,834th. 

Our history so far has been distinguished by remarkable har- 
mony and good-feeling among the membership of the church. 
But few cases of discipline have occurred. No serious dissension 
has ever risen among us. The will of the majority has been 
cheerfully acquiesced in. Our form of government precludes 
alike the possibility of anarchy on the one hand, or of oppression 
on the other. The decisions of the Session, in all matters referred 
to them, have been promptly accepted as final. The grace of 
God, I trust, has enabled us all to bear with the ordinary frailties 
of but partially sanctified humanity in each other; and differ- 
ences which must inevitably arise have been settled in prayer at 



16 

the Throne of Grace, in the spirit of the petition, " Forgive us our 
trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." 

One other fact in our history deserves especial and grateful 
mention. In connection with our growing numbers and the time 
the church has continued, it is a remarkable fact. We have 

NEVER YET LOST A COMMUNICANT BY DEATH. So far as I know, Only 

two persons who have ever been united with us are not now 
living, and they had taken letters to other churches before their 
decease. These were James E. Smith and Luther Parker. They 
died in faith, as we trust, and departed to be with the Lord, 
which is far better. Not only should we gratefully record the good- 
ness of God in providentially preserving our numerous member- 
ship so long unbroken by death; but we should also receive ft as 
a mark of special favor to this church, and a stirring call to more 
earnest devotion to all that work in the gospel for which evidently 
our lives have been prolonged, and for which our membership 
has been multiplied. The Lord help us to remember that no 
man liveth to himself. 

For rarely ever in the history of churches has the call of 
Divine Providence to any particular church been more clearly 
made known. The Lord has constantly widened our field as fast 
as we were ready to occupy it. Almost the last church organized 
in the Presbytery (now the Presbytery of Winona), God has in- 
creased us with people like a flock, until we stand to-day, in 
numbers at least if not in influence, the foremost church in the 
Presbytery. Our relation to this community, so large a portion 
of which is with us; our relation to this county, in which we hold 
a central and influential position; the fields of labor and useful- 
ness, white unto harvest, which the Master is opening all around 
us; and our relative position to the churches in the Presbytery — 
all indicate the favor of God bestowed on us, and his call to in- 
creasing diligence and devotion in all ways of gospel labor. Do 
we hear the call ? And does it stir the depths of our hearts ? The 
Lord has raised us up, and established us, and increased us, for a 
purpose. That purpose manifestly is to maintain the truth unde- 
filed, to shed forth the light undimmed, and to carry forward the 
glorious gospel of Christ in all this region. And now will not 



17 

every member of the church, in view of all the good Lord has 
done for us, seek to be tilled with the Spirit, and animated with 
new zeal in the gospel ? Knowing, brethren, that your work is not 
in vain in the Lord. His call to us to-day, as we enter our eighth 
year, is Forward ! Do ye not hear it ? It sounds from every 
blessed Ebenezer of the past, from every hill-top of grace we have 
ascended. Let every one arise and gird himself for the race and 
the work! Be your motto still, " Forward ln the name of the 
Lord! " 

One year ago to-day, in my sixth anniversary sermon, I called 
upon you to remember that we were just entering upon our seventh, 
our Sabbatic, year; and it was proposed that we should make it a 
year of consecration, of devotion, of praise to God as well as zeal 
in his service. You heartily responded to the sentiment; you 
linked your prayers with mine; and O, how wonderfully and 
graciously the Lord has answered and blessed us! The blessing 
has fallen in showers beyond our most sanguine expectations. We 
have witnessed nearly a hundred conversions, and we have received 
to our own communion alone three-quarters of a hundred. And 
have we not all been baptized with the Holy Ghost sent down 
from heaven ? 

We now enter upon our eighth year, — upon a new week of years. 
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. What shall the next seven 
years be ? With the Master's presence and blessing, shall they 
not be as the past, and yet more abundant? Is anything too hard 
for the Lord ? Let us to-day — here and now — covenant with the 
Lord and with one another, that these coming years shall be years 
of faithfulness. Faithfulness is the highest form of saintly excel- 
lence; and that, through grace, is attainable by every one of us. 
The Lord help us all to say, " By thy grace we will! " 

But before another week of years shall pass, some of us will 
have ended our labors. These weary hands and aching hearts 
will throb and faint no more. The tired ones will rest with the 
setting sun. " Shall we then gather at the river that flows by the 
Throne of God ? ; ' What say you, friends ? Yes, or No, in 
Christ to-day ? Shall we leave to our children the legacy of 
faith in Jesus Christ, of prayer unceasing, a pure and working 



• 18 

church, and the uncorrupted gospel of salvation ? Shall we, as 
we step down into the dark margin of the river of death — shall 
we bid our friends meet us in heaven, with holy confidence that 
we are going there ourselves through the blood of Christ? Shall 
we so live, these short years lying between, that our Lord may 
say in infinite grace, " Well done, good and faithful servant, 
* * * enter into the joy of thy Lord." 

We are laying foundations for all the future. Especially in 
this western country, what we do in this generation may survive 
in its influence till the end of all things, when Christ shall come 
to judge the world. Let us so lay the foundations in Christ, that 
our children and others building thereon shall complete here a 
glorious temple for the spiritual worship of the Savior of sinners, 
the Lord of all ages, under the flaming motto, " Glory to God in 
the highest; on earth peace, good will to men." 



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