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Full text of "Sketches of the life and times of the Rev. Stephen Bliss, A.M. : with notices of his co-laborers, Rev. Isaac Bennet [and others]"

BX 9225 .B56 B3 1870 
Baldridge, S. C. 1829-1898. 
Sketches of the life and 
times of the Rev. Stephen 



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EEV. SAMUEL C. BALDRIDGE. 



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CINCINNATI : 

Elm Strekt Printing Company, 176 and 178 Elm Street. 
1871. 



SKETCHES 

OF THE 

LIFE AND TIMES 

OF THE 

RBY. STEPI1(E)N[ BLISS, iV_. \. 

WITH 

NOTICES OF HIS CO-LABOREES: 

JS^F. ISAAC BENNET, 
REV. B. F. SPIL3IAN, 
REV. JOHN SILL IM AN, 
REV. JOSEPH BUTLER, 
REV. SAMUEL T. SCOTT, Etc. 

BY 

SJE^r. s MUEz c. sazdhidgs. 



CINCINNATI: 
Elm Street Feinting Company, 176 & 178 Elm Stbeet. 

1870. 



®o tlje iilinistere anh (Iil)urcl)e6 

OF THE 

SYNOD OF SOUTHEKN ILLINOIS^ 
THIS CONTRIBUTION 

TO THE HISTORY OF THE FATHERS AND FOUNDERS 

OF 

PRESBYTERIANISM IN ILLINOIS, 

IS 

mevcrcnt(i) Bcc)icaic(). 

6£w \iov(xi 6o^a. 



ApatcrgeHcal FrefacCx 



HIS little book owes its origin to the fact, that when the 
author was assigned to his place of service by the " Lord 
of the vineyard," he found it to be one of the most an- 
cient seats of Presbyterianism in Illinois. As his life 
settled down to the pastoral work, and the noise and flutter of 
his intrusion died away, and the quiet voices of the place began 
to make themselves heard, he found himself haunted with stories 
and legends of a long-gone past. The good and gifted had 
lived their quiet and useful lives here. Of course, in such a 
region the table and tireside talk of the parishioners was filled 
with the airs and floating echos from days and scenes gone by. 
All the interest, however, seemed to concenter and inter- 
mingle with one life that had been enacted here. Is it won- 
derful that in such a field, he should have finally been beguiled 
to writing out the simple annals of the place ? 

The material for these pages has been derived, for the most 
part, from three sources. 

Ist. The Diaries of Mr. Bliss and Mr. May. These are very 
meager. Their chief use has been to suggest inquiries, and 
fix dates. Events only alluded to there, have been found, on 
investigation, to have historical importance. 

2d. Letters. For old letters dating as far back as 1807, I 
am indebted to Mrs. Mary A. Button, Glover, Vt., a daughter 
of Sarah Bliss, afterwards Mrs. Alonzo Button. 



VI APPOLOGETICAL PREFACE. 

3d. The recollections of living persons. This has been a 
gratifying and perplexing source of information. The narra- 
tives but seldom perfectly harmonized, and were often contra- 
dictory. Pages of reminiscences have been cast aside because 
depending on only one memory. There has been diligence 
to put down nothing but what was corroborated by the testi- 
mony of several of our aged citizens. It is scarcely probable, 
however, that the surviving witnesses of many of the scenes 
herein detailed, will, in every case be satisfied, so much depends 
on the standpoint of the reader. They may miss circumstances, 
lights and shadows, that give quite a different hue and air to 
the event, as they remember it. But I have been faithful to 
the best light I had. 

And now, that my task is ended, T feel like assuring the 
reader that it has been the work only of leisure hours, in the 
course of a somewhat hard wrought ministry. 

" I left no calling for this idle trade." 

It has been a work of love and delight to gather up some of 
the fast fading facts and scenes in the history of the noble and 
neglected district of Illinois with which my sympathies and 
life have been identified. And now in fervent love to my gen- 
eration, I bring this contril)ution to the history of the former 
days, and lay it reverently down before their eyes. 



I XI c) e X , 



CHAPTER 1. PAGE. 
Unmoored... t 

CHAPTER II. 
The Lodge in the Wilderness 25 

CHAPTER III. 
The Chitroh in the Wilderness 45 

CHAPTER IV. 
The Preparation. 61 

CHAPTER V. 
A Good Soldieu of Jesus Christ 85 

CHAPTER VI. 
Wilderness Work for Christ 105 

CHAPTER VII. 
Beautiful Lives 121 

CHAPTER VIII. 
An Old-Time Meeting of Presbytery 137 

CHAPTER IX. 
Rev. Isaac Bennet, A. M. — A Prefatory Sketch 157 

CHAPTER X. 
Rev. Isaac Bennet, A. M. — By the Rev W. A. Fleming. . 173 

CHAPTER XL 
Rev. Isaac Bennet, A.M. — By the Rev. Robt. H. Lilley,. 195 

CHAPTER XII. 
Griefs and Comforts 209 

CHAPTER XIII. 

New Faces 229 

CHAPTER XIV. 
Gleanings of the Vintage 243 

CHAPTER XV. 
Final Estimates Contributed by the Rev. R. H. Lilley. 259 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Farewells 273 



UptOOpD. 

CHAPTEE I. 

A. D. 1787 TO 1818. 

'he Eev. Stephen Bliss, A. M., was born in 
Lebanon, New Hampshire, March 27, 1787. 
He was the fourth child of Stephen and Sa- 
rah Bliss. His parents were poor, his father 
being a small farmer at the time of his son's birth, 
with a cottage in the village, where the family 
resided. 

Like Newton, Hannah More, Dr. Thomas 
Scott, and multitudes of those whose lives have 
blessed and adorned society, this good man arose 
from obscurity. No " evidence of the truth o 
Christianity," should so commend the religion of 
Jesus to the j^oor as this fact, that it has gathered 
the vast majority of those who have been eminent 
for their virtues and usefulness, whose lives have 
" shone as lights in the world," from among their 
ranks. 

(7) 



8 UNMOORED. 

Before the development of her manufactures, 
the villages and rural districts of New England 
were poor. Wealth and luxury were unknown. 
Frugality, simplicity, economy, characterized the 
habits of the people. Of all its villages, Lebanon 
was one of the quietest, and Deacon Bliss' one of 
the humblest of its homes. But the fortunes of 
the devout family seemed to have decayed still 
further, for when the younger Biiss first appears 
upon the scene as a student at Dr. AVood's, his 
father had removed to Glover, Yermont, near the 
Canada line. Here we find them, in 1808, living 
in a " log hut " that had to be providently daubed 
up each autumn to ward off the piercing winds 
of winter. The family at that time consisted of 
the parents, two sisters, Sarah and Anna, and 
five brothers, Benjamin who like Stephen was 
aspiring after an education, and John, who spent 
much of his time at Lebanon, and was even then 
threatened with a decline, Stephen, Luther, and 
Ziba. Of these sons, Stephen was the third. He 
often illustrated the cheerful disposition of his 
father, by relating that whenever any work was 
to be done, the father was sure to wittily call for 
his three oldest, or his three youngest sons, which 
would of course always include him. Luther 
died of consumption in ISU. Ziba Bliss, the 
eldest son, owned the farm on which the " log 



UNMOORED. 9 

hut" stood, and lived within call, with his young 
family. The family thus consisted in fact of 
only four, the parents, and the two daughters. 

But if it were an humble household, it was one 
of rare excellence. Judging by the old and crum- 
23led letters that emanated from it, and still exist, 
w^e can perceive an air of piety, of simplicity, of 
pinching economy, but all brightened by intelli- 
gence, affection, and perfect housewifery. It was 
doubtless just such a home as Puritanism de- 
lighted to set its poor in, small, cleanly, scantily 
furnished, but full of homebred comforts, with a 
few soul-full books and the well-read Bible as 
the household oracle. They were not destitute^ 
but one of the sisters wrote pleasantly to her 
brother, when in Middlebury College, " property 
does not appear to stick to a Bliss' hands." It 
was a struggle among them all, to raise enough 
on the little farm and in the gardens to subsist 
on during the year. Sometimes the scanty soil 
yielded an abundant harvest, but if the rains did 
not fall on the stony fields just at the right sea- 
son, their potatoes and pumpkins and corn were 
all ready to wither. It was a hard-wrought, 
anxious life they led. 

But what was sadder far was the hereditary 
scourge of consumption " in the family. The 
health of the aged parents had been early broken 
(2) 



10 UNMOORED. 

by it, althougli they still lingered on. Ziba was 
often laid by with the constitutional disorder for 
months, and even Anna and Sarah in their love- 
ly youth as they were, did not escape alarming 
symptoms. As each winter came on with its 
heavy snows, its long and piercing frosts, its wild 
Canada storms, the family would almost expect 
to be separated before the summer again smiled. 
At last, one day in October, 1814, they heard 
that John was gone, and the next year, 1815, 
poor Ben was brought home from Middlebury, 
struck down in the midst of his generous strug- 
gles and aspirations. He lingered in a long and 
painful decline, sinking in spite of the anxieties 
and assiduous attentions of his heart-broken 
friends, and finally expired on the 5th of August. 
" Tlie prospects of our family are certainlj^ very 
gloomy," wrote poor Anna to her brother, but 
tenderly added, '' if so many friends depart, those 
who remain must cling closer to each other; we 
must see that father and mother want for noth- 
ing." So united in filial piety, 

"Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing, 
Onward through life they go." 

Another fact in the home-life, is so significant 
that it should not be overlooked in estimating 
the temper and spirit of the family. All this 
time the 5"0ung sisters were trying to educate 



UNMOORED. 11 

themselves. If their poverty, or at least the care 
of their aged parents, forbade their enjoying the 
advantages of a literary training, they still as- 
pired after what was wise and good, in culture 
and character. They had their school-books and 
hours of study. When Benjamin was sick, he 
beguiled his affliction with this "labor of love." 
"Brother Ben teaches us when his cough per- 
mits," Sarah wrote in the early spring of 1815. 
Propped up on his couch the dying student spent 
his fading life helping the sisters on in the 
arduous work of self-culture, until his strength 
was gone. Eeally that " old log hut," as Anna 
calls it — not sneeringly — was the scene of rarely 
noble, heroic lives. These must have been " God's 
poor " — rich in mind, and truth, and aspirations. 

Such was the home atmosphere in which Mr. 
Bliss grew up. As he approached manhood, a 
most efficient friend was raised up to help him 
on his course. This was the Rev. Samuel Wood, 
D. D., the pastor of the Congregational Church 
in Boscaween, New Hampshire, who took such 
an interest in his modest but aspiring nephew, 
that he invited him to his house. 

This gentleman, Dr. Wood, with whom the 
reader will grow familiar in the following pages, 
was a scholar and divine of much note. He 
preached to the one church of Boscaween for 



12 UNMOORED. 

forty-five years, and his talents and virtue may 
be inferred.-'^ He was greatly honored and es- 
teemed as an educator. He was accustomed to 
receive lads and young men into his family to 
instruct. Many of them after graduating in 
some of the Literary Institutions around, would 
return to their old preceptor to study '* Divini- 
ty." It was thus a token of good, when this 
eminent and godly man invited young Bliss to 
the parsonage at Boscaween. From this time 
on. Dr. Wood's house became his home. Here 
he fitted himself for the Junior Class, and in 
1810 he entered Middlebury College, then under 
the Presidency of Dr. Henry Davis. In 1812 he 
graduated, with a high standing for scholarship, 
and his fond dream of a liberal education was 
realized. Having long before determined on the 
ministry, he returned to Dr. "Wood's, and entered 
on the study of Theology. Thus two years were 
passed. 

At last, in 1814, having finished his preparation, 
he applied to the Hopkinton Association for 
license to preach the Gospel. At the examina- 
tion that followed, he was rejected on account of 
alleged defective views of the person, and conse- 



*Several of his students became very noted afterward, as 
the two Websters, Ezekiel and Daniel, Dr. Worcester, the 
Lexicographer, etc. 



UNMOORED. 13 

quently of the atoning work of our Lord Jesus 
Christ. He was prepared to say that Jesus was 
truly the " Son of God," even the "Eternal Son," 
but he could not say that " He was the God, of 
whom He was the Son." The association, jealous 
for the glory of their Lord, and " knowing that 
the days were evil," thought they discerned the 
"Arian horror" lurking beneath his language, 
and advised him to stop and re-examine his 
views. 

We need to pause a moment over this mortify- 
ing event. "Was Mr. Bliss an Arian at this 
time? " We think not. He speaks in his letters 
to his friends of the " divine merits of the 
Eedeemer." Dr. Wood (whose Church in 1815 
in the midst of a great revival, voted that no one 
could be received into the fellowship of the 
Church unless they believed in the Trinity of the 
adorable Godhead), we find, defended him, and 
indorsed his sentiments as scriptural. We have 
no intimation throughout all his correspondence, 
and the records that survive of his whole life, 
that his views of Jesus Christ were ever even 
seriously modified, and yet he taught all through 
his ministry " redemption through our great 
God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." This was the 
key-note of his prayers, his hopes and his per- 
sonal trust for salvation. 



14 UNMOORED. 

Why then this rebuke? It seems to have 
sprung from confusion of views, in the minds of 
both parties. From what appears above, the 
candidate intended to deny that God the Father, 
and God the Son, were the same person. But the 
Association understood him as asserting that the 
Son was not the same in suhstance with the 
Father, equal in power and glory. Hence the 
decision. 

But those were days of change and bewilder- 
ment. Plausible errors were beginning to per- 
vade the New England churches. They crept in 
under the guise of more "liberal opinions." 
Philosophy came in to explain the mysteries of 
revelation, and take away the " offense of the 
cross." In many pulpits the old and serious 
truths of the Puritan theology, concerning man's 
ruin and the divine remedy brought to light in 
the Gospel — the remedy for his guilt in the im- 
puted righteousness of the glorious Emmanuel, 
and the remedy for his depravity in the im- 
parted righteousness of the Holy Ghost — gradu- 
ally became less and less familiar. Their places 
were insidiously supplied by glowing eulogies 
of virtue, homilies on morals, and curious specu- 
lations in divinity. Thus the "Negative The- 
ology" at first supplanted, and then endeavored 
to subvert, the distinctive doctrines of salvation 



UNMOORED. 15 

in New England. The character of the preach- 
ing at the beginning of this century, that paved 
the way for the havoc that followed, may be 
inferred from a compliment paid the Eev. Abiel 
Abbot, D. D., pastor for many years of the Con- 
gregational Church of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 
and afterward of Beverly, by one of his parish- 
ioners. "I have sat under the preaching of my 
pastor for sixteen years, and I do not yet know 
what are his articles of faith." So the truth per- 
ished. Under this state of things, "the trumpets 
giving an uncertain sound," we can not wonder 
that an air of confusion and uncertainty, respect- 
ing the vital truths of Christianity, should per- 
vade the churches, and the way be opened for 
plausible and subversive errors. Living in such 
a time as that, and " having the Gospel in charge 
to commit unto faithful men, who would be able 
also to instruct others," we are not surprised at 
their sensitiveness, nor their jealousy of all that 
savored of the rising heresy. 

The course of the Association took him com- 
pletely by surprise. However pure the motive, it 
seems evident that the decision of the Association 
was hasty. Ten years later, without one word of 
explanation from Mr. Bliss, but on a statement by 
Dr. Wood of the misapprehensions that had led 
to the decision, they reversed it, and gave him 
the license he had once sought at their hands. 



16 UNMOORED. 

All me! what gentleness, meekness, patience, 
should reign among God's servants, as well as 
love and zeal for the truth. But the decision 
hedged up his way. He at once gave up all 
thought of the ministry. In his perplexity he 
cast about him for some employment that would 
occupy his time until the Divine will concerning 
him should be unvailed. Just then George May, 
an old college mate, and a young man of pleasing 
manners and admirable spirit, and whom we 
more than suspect to have been tenderly at- 
tached to one of the fair sisters at Glover, came 
by on his way home from Middlcbury College, 
where he had just graduated. Bliss was easily 
persuaded to accompany him, and by October 
the two friends started out to look for some wor- 
thy opening for teaching. Each was fully pre- 
pared for doing good service. The point aimed 
for was famous Plymouth, Massachusetts, but 
with the enthusiasm of young tourists, they were 
ready to turn out of the way to view any curios- 
ity in nature or art, or any scene made interest- 
ing in history. At length they reached Ply- 
mouth, where May's relatives resided. The 
town had been terribly wasted during the war, 
but the natural scenery remained. They hunted 
up the veritable ''rock on which their ancestors 
had first set foot in the ISTew World, and standing 



UNMOORED. 17 

on it" gazed out on the sea, over which the Pil- 
grims came in 1620, with the seeds of a free 
State and a free Church in their holy faith. 

But no satisfactory situation presented itself. 
New England was full of teachers. A seminary 
was offered Bliss at Plymouth, but under condi- 
tions that made it undesirable. And so the two 
friends, never more to be long separated in this 
world, started out together again. They traveled 
until they reached the Hudson Eiver, and here 
May found a school at Watervliet, and Bliss one 
among the wealthy Dutch at Greenbush. At 
the close of his engagement here he entered the 
academy at Milton. This was a more desirable 
position. He was associated with his friend and 
classmate, Ashley Sampson, a gentleman of tal- 
ents and liberal education, who afterward rose to 
eminence as a lawyer and jurist in New York. 
The school was an important one. Among the 
students was one who became distinguished as a 
divine, an educator, and author — the late Eev. 
James Wood, D. D., Moderator of the General 
Assembly at Newark, 1864.-!^ 

In the autumn of 1816 he received a flattering 
overture from the citizens of Utica, far u]3 the 



* In 1838, when the storm was raging that divided the Pres- 
byterian Church, a copy of Dr. Wood's compilation, " Old 
and New Theology," fell into his old preceptor's hands, and 
was of great benefit to him. 



18 UNMOORED. 

Mohawk valley. Se had now made a reputa- 
tion as a teacher, and during his connection with 
this academy it rose to considerable popularity. 
His time was given to the advanced classes and 
higher branches exclusively, and an assistant 
teacher took the care of the rest. About one 
hundred students were under his tuition. It 
was a position that taxed and developed his 
scholarship. In addition to the duties of a teach- 
er, he read to his students a coarse of lectures on 
topics in ethics and theology. Many of them 
still survive, and are, at least, specimens of exact 
and excellent English. While thus employed he. 
had the honor to receive the degree of Master of 
Arts from Hamilton College. 

His position now was honorable, useful, and 
pleasant. TJtica was a town remarkable for in- 
telligence, and for the enterprise and refinement 
of its people. The missionary sj^irit prevailed, 
uniting the churches in a holy fellowship of 
effort for Christ's cause. A female benevolent 
and missionary society, numbering three or 
four hundred, met often for counsel and prayer 
in the academy. His religious privileges, too, 
were richly enjoyed and improved. A small vol- 
ume still remains, containing the outlines of ser- 
mons preached by his pastor, and others, during 
his residence in the beautiful town. 



UNMOORED. 19 

But the charms of his position nor its honors 
could keep back the decay that haunted his sys- 
tem. He found the confinem.ent and the close 
application required by his duties rapidly ex- 
hausting his health. In the spring of 1819 he 
felt it absolutely necessary to lay down his bur- 
dens, and vacate the school-room. In the month 
of May he took a horseback tour to Lake On- 
tario; lodged with some friends at Sackett's Har- 
bor, and endeavored to regain his strength by a 
thorough recreation. He spent his days on the 
water rowing or floating or fishing in the coves 
and bays of the lovely inland sea, or in hunting 
or loitering among the wooded hills and head- 
lands of the shore. In the midst of this busy 
idleness he soon found himself improving. Be- 
fore the month was out, by far too soon, he went 
back to Utica and resumed his place. It was 
not long before his health again began to sink, 
and he became convinced that this flattering and 
delightful scene was not the sphere in which 
Providence would have him labor. He had writ- 
ten to his father in the early spring that his 
thoughts had been turned to the Southwest, 
where land was fertile and cheap, and the climate 
mild, and that he sometimes desired to explore 
the country to see if he could not find a more 
congenial home for all the family. As the sum- 



20 UNMOORED. 

mer advanced he resolved on this tour. On 
breaking the matter to May, he found him ready 
and eager for the adventure, and their plans 
were soon matured. 

When this became known among his friends, 
it raised a storm of expostulation; especially the 
affectionate household in Glover were beside 
themselves with apprehension. He had already 
been absent for more than three years; that they 
had not seen his face, and all the family were 
now gone, but the aged parents, and the two sis- 
ters and Ziba. We can readily understand .what 
a pang shot through their hearts at the thought 
of losing Stephen. 

This circumstance had one very agreeable re- 
sult: it called out a correspondence that discovers 
to us more fully the sterling qualities of mind 
and heart possessed by these j-oung ladies. 
Time had now matured them, and a lovely ma- 
turity it was. The atmosphere of piety, of good 
sense, of taste, and independence, in which they 
had grown up, and the care of their brothers for 
their improvement, and of their uncle, the ven- 
erable Dr. Wood, we find have not been lost. 
Anna is the principal correspondent. She is 
pensive, and prone to reverie. Her letters are 
marked with good sense, purity, tenderness, and 
a perpetual refrain of thoughtfalness. Sarah is 



UNMOORED. 21 

too busy to write often, but when she does she 
exhibits all of Anna's sisterly love, spiced with a 
broad and winning humor all her own. In those 
days postage was expensive; but the sisters were 
proud of their grave and scholarly brother, and 
after his removal to the West, plied him well 
with home news, home affections, anxieties, joys, 
griefs, hopes, and fears. Like all female corre- 
spondence, it is a perfect sun -picture of the little 
world from which it emanated. Love and confi- 
dence are in every line. 

Looking through these old, brown, torn letters 
into that family circle, we learn to esteem the 
inmates of the old log hut, as lovely characters. 
The picture of each of the fair Puritans, that 
rises to the fancy, as we muse on these vestiges 
that still survive of the once tidy, quiet, rustic 
cottage, reminds us of Wordsworth's fine lines : 

" A being breathing thoughtful breath, / 

The reason firm, the temperate will, 

Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ; 

A perfect woman, nobly planned. 

To warn, to comfort, and command ; 

And yet a spirit, still and bright, 

With something of an angel light." 

Poems of the Imagination. 

In this quiet, saintly home, it awakened a flood 
of tenderness, that *' Stephen " was resolved to 
adventure his life in the West. To them it was 



22 UNMOORED. 

a far-off land, much further than it is in these 
days of railroads. The stories that had reached 
them of the Mississippi Valley were stories of 
savage warfare, the feats of land pirates, and 
horse-thieves, and cut-throats, and the bloody 
vengeance of the regulators. AYith them, the 
news of the rich soil and pleasant climate went 
for nothing. Could these compensate for the 
reign of crime in that bloody and lawless land, 
and the fatal sicknesses that devoured its inhab- 
itants? For this son and brother to depart for 
that land was to them the saddest of all separa- 
tions. Anna urged duty, and Sarah plied hina 
with her wit and tenderness. Even his vener- 
able father appealed to his filial love. But he 
answered their importunities, by assuring them 
that the danger of violence was exaggerated, and 
by asking them how it would promote their hap- 
piness more for him to remain near them, to die 
early like his brothers, than for him to endeavor 
to prolong his life and labors by seeking a milder 
climate. Dr. Wood told him to " do whatever he 
felt that Providence called him to do." Mr. 
Bliss had weighed all, and decided. 

By September the farewells were all past, and 
he and Mr. May were started. Their traveling 
equipage consisted of a one-horse wagon, small 
and light, and that was quite smothered up with 



UNMOORED. 23 

age by the time they had put on a very 
meager outfit for their long tour. Like Abram, 
they " went out," literally " not knowing whither 
they went." As they turned their faces West, 

" The world was all before them where to choose 
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide." 

So firm, indeed, seems to have been the confi- 
dence of these j^ilgrims that "their steps would 
be directed," that they traveled on day after day, 
having no definite plan as to whither, nor even 
how far they should go, but only seeking an 
agreeable location, cheap land, and milder air. 

Unmoored^ gentle reader, were they not? And 
who could guess in what nook the floating bark 
would drop anchor again and rest. 



Ill torfsf jB |hi Hif^erHf??. 



Like a picture it seenieLlof the priuiitive, pastoral ages, 
Fresh with tlie youth of the world." 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 27 



6 



'^ 



CHAPTEE II. 

THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

A. D . 1818 TO 1821. 

.OIISTGr west they readied the lake at Buffalo, 
and stopped several days to rest, and a 
party went over to see Niagara, " the roar- 
ing wonder of the world," as Mr. Bliss 
speaks of it. Thence along the lake shore they 
journeyed until they came to Cleveland; and 
there, starting out into the wilderness, they 
traveled for weeks through almost unbroken 
forests, traversing the States of Ohio and In- 
diana until they came to Vincennes. Here they 
crossed the Wabash Eiver, and keeping on still 
to the southwest they came to Decker's Prairie, 
in Illinois, fifteen miles from Vincennes. Be- 
guiled by the beauty of the country, they halted, 
to inspect it more narrowly. The landscape, as 
it first met their gaze, from the lofty point where 
they emerged from the forest on the Vincennes 
road, was worthy of their admiration. The 



28 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

prairie stretched out before them like a waving 
meadow to the woods all a'-ound. Four or five 
cabins widely scattered, and some of them almost 
hidden by the enormous growth of wild grass 
sent up their thin wreaths of curling smoke into 
the calm peaceful air. The forests that skirted this 
vast sea of flowers- and verdure all around, stood 
gay with their robes of bright autumn leaves. 
It was October; all the birds of song were gone 
long before, and not a voice seemed to disturb 
the quiet of the scene or break the perfect repose 
of nature. How different this to the broken and 
stony landscapes to which their eyes had been 
familiar. There was something in it that filled 
their sense of sylvan beauty. They stopped to 
inquire respecting the healthfulness of the re- 
gion, the soil and water, etc., and in five days 
they purchased the tract of land that occupied 
the center of the romantic scene.'-i^ "I have 
traveled somewhat further than I contemplated 

*Why the proprietors selected the sandy site, with an eddy 
of stagnant water in the river in front, and a sour and sickly 
slough but a little way off to the west, we know not, without it 
was the enticement of that "fatal spring." The Indians en- 
camped in the neigliborhood, warned them that no one could 
live there : "Papoos die there, squaws die there, lujin die, white 
man die." But the friendly warning was neglected. The 
deadly disasters of Palmyra almost ruined Southeast Illinois 
for a generation. It gave a malignant character to the country, 
that checked and turned aside the tide of emigration from the 
East. 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 29 

before I came in sight of the ^ good land''' Mr. 
Bliss wrote back delightedly to his father, away 
in bleak Glover, "but I feel amply compensated 
for the fatigue and expense of a long journey." 
Thus soon and to the satisfaction of the voyagers, 
was the bark moored in peace and the voyage 
ended. 

It will be of interest to glance at the state of 
things that then existed in this land of their 
adoption. 

Illinois had just then been admitted into the 
Union as a State. The principal towns were 
Kaskaskia, Shawneetown, Yandalia, Palestine, 
etc. Palmyra (founded in 1814, long since "de- 
serted ") was then the rising village of Edward's 
County. It was the county- seat and contained a 
post-oflSce, the only one in a large scope of coun- 
try, two stores, a tavern, a double log-cabin 
where the courts were held, and an indefinite 
number of grog-shops for the comfort and con- 
venience of the villagers. A bank was opened 
here, too, in the heyday of its prosperity. The 
location, however, proved to be so fatally sickly 
that the site was finally abandoned. The place 
where the busy village once stood, and flatboats 
and barges, and keelboats and the various kinds 
of vessels that then navigated these waters, un- 
loading their burden of travelers, adventurers 



30 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

and emigrants, goods and stores of all kinds for 
the growing settlements, is now a cornfield. The 
spring of water that supplied the village in large 
measure, flows out of the river bank still, with as 
bright a current as of old, although most of the 
villagers who oiice drank of it are lying in their- 
graves on a sandy knoll not far off, and all the 
scene is as silent as it was before they came with 
their vain bustle. 

Mt. Carmel, below the rapids, had just been 
laid out. Here and there through the county 
there were settlements, generally with a block- 
house or palisade some place near at hand, to 
protect the settlers from the Indians, who still 
appeared occasionally in roving bands. Some 
men had been killed in the *' bottoms of Coffee 
Creek," in a foray of the savages, in the early 
spring of 1816. 

The bold and adventurous spirit of the pioneer 
was thus still needed, and found scope for exer- 
cise. Luxury, elegance, culture, such as our two 
friends had been familiar with in the East, were 
unknown. As to society, the people were hardy, 
and simple in their habits; and as to the coun- 
try, the whole land was unsubdued, and nature 
was run riot in wild luxuriance in prairie and 
forest. " The soil is as fertile as the ' intervals ' 
in New England, and the growth of vegetation i» 
something wonderful," writes Mr. Bliss. 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 31 

But what a change time and Providence had 
wrought. We are to see these men entering a 
mode of life of the rudest description possible. 
It would seem that the field of their future lives 
was not only assigned them, but they were 
plunged into the very depths of its privations, 
roughness, and rusticity, that they might learn 
the real necessity that there was for their com- 
ing, and the work to which God had appointed 
them. 

The scenes to which the reader is now invited 
are thoroughly pioneer. He will have glimpses 
of the occupations, customs, and manner of life 
of these early times; and what was true in this 
field, is also true still in large part, in ajl the 
frontier settlements, so that the picture may be of 
service in assisting the reader to understand bet- 
ter the hardships endured by those who are sub- 
duing the wilderness, and are now actually toil- 
ing at. the front of civilization. 

The proprietor of whom they had purchased 
could not vacate his cabin at once, and it became 
necessary for them to provide a shelter for them- 
selves. November 2 they began their prepara- 
tions to build an addition that they could occupy 
during the winter. The main cabin stood with 
the gables east and west, and the door fronting 
the south. Along before the door were six aged 



32 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

oaks, whose branches hung quite over the lowly 
home, and just a few feet south of this row of 
rugged and noble trees, and under their shadow 
still, was the well, with its sweep and oaken 
bucket. The structure proposed to be built now, 
was a "lean-to" connected with this cabin. It 
was put up with saplings, split and notched so 
that the halves would lie on their edge. The 
upper ends of the rafters rested against the east 
end of the cabin. The top of their roof would 
therefore be only as high as the eaves of the 
other building, and their eave was bat little 
above their heads. By the 29th they had so far 
completed it, as to sit down with great satisfac- 
tion by their own fireside. December 8 they left 
their boarding place, and moved, with their lit- 
tle all, into their bachelor's hall, and went to 
housekeeping. But we must not be deceived by 
this language. It was a very natural, primitive 
establishment indeed. More than a month after 
this, we find Mr. May busy making stools for 
seats, and some days later still putting down a 
floor. The "lean-to" was to them kitchen, sit- 
ting-room, bed-chamber, wareroom, larder; an- 
swering for all uses, noble and vile. As the win- 
ter advanced, the room filled up with a thrifty 
medley of everything. The rafters over their 
heads became ornamented with deer skins and 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 33 

other pelts that had fallen into their hands, hung 
there to dry. Here and there were haras and 
flitches of bacon, and strings of sausages, etc., 
swung up to receive the benefit of the smoke, 
that too often failed to get out of the home-made 
chimney, and that floated and lurked in the up- 
per vacancies under the roof The scene almost 
recalls that fine creation of fancy, the lodge of 
the exiled Douglass in Loch Katrine's romantic 
isle: 

'* All around, the walls to grace, 
Hung trophies of the fight or chase : 
Here grins the wolf as when he died, 
And there the wildcat's brindled hide, 
The frontlet of the elk adorns; 
And deer skins, dapple, dun, and white, 
With otter's furs and seal's unite 
In rude and uncouth tapestry all, 
To garnish forth the sylvan hall." 

Lrxdy of the Lake. Canto I. 

In this temporary "lodge" they spent their 
first winter — the days passed in the outdoor 
work of the farmer, the evenings in chatting 
with neighbors who called in, and in writing let- 
ters to far-away friends, and in laying plans 
for the future. With a good conscience within, 
and their surroundings so novel, romantic and 
interesting, we do not wonder to find their days 
"going by pleasantly." 



34 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

It was evident, too, that they had found a 
milder climate. There was much rain and but 
little snow, and a vast deal of mud, all of which 
was new to them in the winter. And one warm 
and sunny week in January, as mild and ethereal 
as a New Eogland May, the}^ noticed birds, sinp^- 
ing on the trees and fences around. They note 
this feature of their new home with evident sat- 
isfaction, and the whole air of their journals, now 
scrupulously kept for each day, is that of inter- 
est and enjoyment. 

As the spring opened, they made all prepara- 
tions to carry out some of their plans of useful- 
ness. It would have been singular if they had 
not bestirred themselves, they were so plied with 
urgent admonitions from their friends in the 
East. And so one lovely Sabbath morning, April 
11, having invited in the children of the families 
around, they opened in the cabin a Sahhnth- 
school:-^- That day there were twenty scholars in 
attendance. Within a few weeks the number 



* The old proprietor was gone now, and the main cabin was 
empty. Here tiiey put benches for the Sabbath-school, with 
an aisle down the middle of the room. The males, young and 
old, occupied one side, and the females the other, after the 
custom of the country. The school opened at 9 o'clock; at 1:2 
o'clock there was a recess of an hour, when the company pic- 
nicked under the trees, and sang together, for Mr. May was 
one of the chief singers. At 1 o'clock P. M., the school was 
called again, and the exercises did not close lintil 4 o'clock. 
There were sometimes sixty pupils present, so well received 
was this effort for the pubhc good. 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 35 

had risen to forty, and still further increased 
during the summer. They spent the whole day, 
morning and afternoon, in the school, teaching 
the classes, explaining the Scriptures, interspers- 
ing the exercises with hymns and prayers for the 
Divine blessing. After fifty-one years that Sab- 
bath-school still flourishes, with growing interest 
and efficiency for good. 

Thus was opened by their coming this first 
'well in the wilderness." 

Was this the first Sabbath-school in Illinois f In 
1846 the Eev. Thomas Lippincott stated in a his- 
torical sermon before the Presbytery of Alton, 
that " so far as he was aware, he opened the first 
Sabbath-school, in his own house, in 1819." On 
informing him of Messrs. Bliss and May's school, 
started April 11 of that year, he replied " that he 
could not say positively what time in the year 
he opened his school, but beyond doubt he would 
be compelled to share the honor with these 
sainted servants of God.'* 

As time passed on Mr. Bliss was followed into 
his rustic retreat by the expostulations of his 
unsatisfied New England friends. Gentle Anna 
says: "We are afraid that you are gone so far 
now, that we shall never see you again in this 
world." Witty Sarah wanted to know if he was 
"near enough to the end of the world to satisfy 



3Q THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

him yet," rails at his new house, his bachelor's 
establishment and farmer's gear, etc., and winds 
up by gravely assuring him that he was certain- 
ly doomed to celibacy, for no New England girl 
would follow his fortunes to such a distance. 
To all this he only responded with tidings of his 
returning health, of the beautiful climate, of the 
fertile soil, and of the Sabbath -school of more 
than fifty scholars, parents and children, that he 
and Mr. May had gathered. In a later letter he 
answers her continuous raillery in something 
like her own strain, by assuring her that he was 
become a royal cook, and his housekeej)ing was 
by no means to be sneered at, that if she would 
but do him the honor of a visit, he would regale 
her with puddings made of " upland rice" of his 
own raising, and roasted haunches of venison, 
and turkeys fresh from the forests, etc. From 
all which it seems that the young men spread 
their table, like the patriarchs, with the simple 
gifts of nature. 

His venerable father, in a graver strain, ex- 
presses his surprise that he and May should have 
expended so much time and money in fitting 
themselves for usefulness, and then go off to the 
ends of the country and turn out to be nothing 
but farmers. Mr. Bliss responded that, as hon- 
orable and useful as the avocation of the farmer 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 37 

was, it was not the life-long object of his ardent 
desires; that his way to the ministry had been 
hedged up, and when he engaged in what he 
esteemed the next most useful employment, the 
instruction of youth, his health had broken down ; 
that thus his present position was contrary to all 
his plans, and wholly providential ; that he felt 
that he was in the path of duty, because there 
was such a field of Christian labor before him, 
and his health and strength were returning in 
the open-air active life on the farm; that he ac- 
cepted cheerfully the manifest will of Providence, 
assured that he was placed here for some purpose 
that would be revealed in due time. 

All the year wore on prosperously. The farm 
produced abundantly, the Sabbath-school flour- 
ished, and everything seemed to smile. 

1820. But the next year was unfortunate. 
Their crops were cut short by a drought, and the 
ingenious May was laid aside in great measure by 
inflammatory rheamatism. It appears that Mr. 
Bliss had intended to visit the East during the 
summer. But as the time approached he found 
it impossible. His friend was disabled by his 
agonizing illness, the expenses of his outfit for 
farming had made any further heavy expense 
just then out of the question, and no money 
could be realized from sales either of stock or 



38 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

produce, even if there had been any for the mar- 
ket. In a letter to Anna, at midsummer, he be- 
moans his disappointment, and explains the rea- 
sons. But as the year advances we discover a 
growing uneasiness. His mind was evidently 
lingering with a tender tenacity over the recol- 
lections of ]S"ew England friends. He wrote 
more frequently. In July he even goes so far as 
to hint to his father that keeping bachelor's hall 
had sadly lost its charms. 

Mr. Campbell, in his own tender way, sings of 
Adam in Paradise before the creation of Eve, 
that — 

" Mau the hermit sighed, till woman smiled ;" 

and if Love could breathe his disquietude and 
perturbations amidst scenes of such satisfying 
beauty and j^eace, what uneasiness may we not 
suppose him to have wrought in the rude low 
cabin in the heart of the wilderness. 

" Still slowly passed the melancholy day, 
And still the stranger wist not where to stay; 
The world was sad." 

Of course this state of things could not always 
continue. By October his mind was made up. 
In June the impossible thing of raising one hun- 
dred or two hundred dollars stood in the way of 
his visit to the East, but by October this barrier 
had entirely vanished. Ingenuity and resolution 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 39 

can accomplish wonders. Friday evening, Octo- 
ber 6, he made a rude knapsack, and on Monday 
morning, a bright, auspicious morning, bidding 
his old friend and companion a hearty good- 
by, he started for his far away home on foot. 
Trudging on, with varying adventures, he ac- 
complished the journey of 1,200 miles in fifty 
days, and arrived at Boscaween in good health 
and the best spirits.* On the seventh of the fol- 
lowiDg April he was himself happily married to 
Miss Elizabeth Worcester, at Dr. Wood's. His 
venerable uncle united them, and gave them a 
patriarch's blessing. By the last day of April 
they were started in a two-hcrse wagon for^their 
home in the Far West, and after a journey o 
eight weeks they reached the little cabin under 
the oaks. " I am really rejoiced," writes Mr. 
Bliss to his father, " after passing over so much 
rough country, to see the prairie again , it looks 
morepl^sant than ever." 

Mr. May, who had passed a solitary winter in 
the cabin, was ready to give them a cordial wel- 

* Dec. 22, the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, a 
New England Thanksgiving, he spent with his venerable pa- 
rents and his sisters at home. After four years' absence we 
may readily believe that it was a joyful thanksgiving in the old 
devout family. January 9 there was a wedding in the houge- 
hold, and a greeting of old friends brought together by the joy- 
ful occasion. His sister Anna was married to Dr. David In- 
graham, of Hartford, Ct. So pleasantly the holidays and the 
boisterous winter passed. 



40 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

come. They came to their home, like Ruth and 
Naomi, in the sweetest pastoral in the world, ''at 
the beginning of barley harvest." The two old 
friends went out into the fields together, and 
the remainder of the year passed with them 
busied in agricultural interests. 

The tall fair wife was of old Puritan lineage. In 
1638 or 16-iO, the Eev. Wm. Worcester came from 
England and was settled pastor of a Congrega- 
tional Church in Salisbury, Massachusetts. From 
him has descended a very numerous and widely 
extended family. 

The Eev. Noah Worcester, D. D., the father of 
Mrs. Bliss, was born in Hollis, New Hampshire, 
Nov. 25, 1758. During the Revolutionary War 
the family were fiery patriots. At sixteen years 
of age he was a fifer in the army. He took part 
in the memorable battle of Bunker's Hill, and 
afterward of Bennington. After the war he set- 
tled, in 1782, at Thornton, New Hampsiiire,. and 
pursued a course of self-instruction in the arts 
Jind sciences, and divinity, while supporting him- 
self by shoemaking and instructing youth. In 
1786 he was licensed to preach, and the next 
year he was settled as pastor over the Congrega- 
tional Church in Thornton. Here he remained 
for twenty years. In 1791 he received the hon- 
orary degree of Master of Arts from Dartmouth 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 41 

College, and that of Doctor of Divinity from 
Harvard in 1818. He was remarkable for intel- 
lectual industry, and for his profound and specu- 
lative turn of mind. He was an indefatigable 
student and a voluminous author. He departed, 
in his later years, almost entirely from the sim- 
plicity of the Gospel of Christ. He died at 
Brighton, Massachusetts, Oct. 31, 1837. Two of 
his sons graduated at Harvard, and became emi- 
nent as scholars, but following in the footsteps of 
their father's mystic and subtile speculations, 
they both at last became Swedenborgians. Betsy, 
his sixth daughter, born Feb. 27, 1789, had been 
taken when a child by Dr. Wood, and raised and 
educated in his devout and industrious house- 
hold. 

A brother of her father, Jesse Worcester, Esq., 
born at the old homestead at HoUis, and who 
afterward inherited it, was the father of a family 
of fifteen children, many of whom became distin- 
guished as scholars. Joseph Emerson Worcester, 
LL. D., the lexicographer, was his second son. 
This was another of the students of Dr. Wood 
who became eminent. 

Such was the noble line of intellectual men, 
patriots, scholars and divines, from which she 
sprung. 

In the family of Dr. Wood she had enjoyed 
3 



42 THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 

rare ' privileges, social, mental, and spiritual. 
But in the midst of all this intellectual strength, 
elevation, and culture, the whole household econ- 
omy was intensely simple and practical. Sur- 
rounded by domestic plenty, she was yet trained 
to habits of industry, frugality, and carefulness — 
"to lay her hands to the spindle, and to hold the 
distaff." She was, too, diligently instructed in 
the truths and precepts of religion. Mrs. Wood, 
" a model among women," as some of the stu- 
dents of her noble husband called her, used to 
Bay that she thought that Betsy had experienced 
religion at twelve years of age. Thus had she 
been qualified, in sterling graces of character, 
and in her domestic views and habits, to fit her 
exactly for the place she was to fill. "A good 
wife is from the Lord." In this case we see this 
Divine interest exemplified. The very spirit of 
domestic peace, and comfort, and piety, prudence 
and courage to toil and hope and wait in the 
service of life, were wedded to him with his 
comely and pious wife. 

The new family was a most devout and godly 
one, after the noblest Puritan type, from the day 
that the new pair established themselves in the 
humble cabin. 

It became, too, the scene of the busiest thrift. 
The homely virtues of common sense, fore- 



THE LODGE IN THE WILDERNESS. 43 

thought, economy, and iDdustry, reigned su- 
preme. *' Waste not, want not," was not written 
on the cabin door, but the motto was adopted 
and stringently adhered to within. The house 
was a very humble one. Standing on the door- 
step you could stretch up and touch the eaves. 
But the intelligence and piety, and perfect house- 
wifery, made it a cheerful and tidy one. It was 
full of comforts. The outfit was all of homespun. 
Mrs. Wood, at the marriage of these, toward both 
of whom she felt the interest of a mother, gener- 
ously supplied them with cotton, linen, and 
woolen goods of all kinds, manufactured in her 
own household, and many of them by her own 
hands. 

Such honor does Puritanism place upon useful 
industry. 



ill f|. li 



(45) 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 47 



CHAPTEK III. 

THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

A. D. 1821, 1822. 

[^OW that we have seen the lowly household 
set up, let us notice the moral and religious 
I condition of the country around. 

There was a Predestinarian Baptist So- 
ciety near, that maintained preaching once a 
month, and occasional prayer-meetings. It con- 
tained some excellent and pious families. 

In another direction a very zealous Methodist 
class had begun its fervent course. The circuit- 
rider, the pioneer at once of religion and civil- 
ization, had penetrated to this field and begun 
his blessed work. The "New Lights " were also 
operating in the regions to the south and west. 
But the preaching, by whomsoever, was at long 
intervals, and was rude in the extreme. In these 
degenerate days we can scarcely credit the ac- 
counts that survive of the boisterous feats o 
some of those early laborers. Before announcing 
the text they would coolly lay aside both coat 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

and vest, loose their throats, roll up their sleeves, 
and then enter upon a strain of exhortation, 
growing more and more vociferous as they pro- 
ceeded, and the gestures more violent, until the 
preacher became apparently quite frantic; writh- 
ing, screaming, stamping, leaping, foaming, like 
the olden Pithia; and all this was kept up du- 
ring the time allotted for public worship, or until 
the body, as was sometimes the case, refused to 
longer do its part in the orgies. On the occasion 
of a funeral, the roar of the preacher's voice was 
often heard by some young men who were dig- 
ging the grave in a wood one mile and a half 
distant from the scenes of the parson's toils. 
Before we condemn this too harshly, we must 
remember that the times are changed. This was 
the only preaching that there was. Better this 
than nothing; and if the manner were rude, it 
was according to the tastes of the rough and 
hardy auditory that filled the benches. 

But wickedness prevailed. The churches were 
<' little flocks." Morally everything was new, 
rough, wild, unsettled. Sabbath breaking, in- 
temperance, and idleness, the usual vices of pio- 
neer life, abounded. The adventurous spirit of 
those who live on the borders of civilization, 
reigned unbridled. There were many worthy 
families, and the worst doubtless had some good 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 49 

traits, but the majority held the amenities and 
restraints of more established society in utter 
contempt. It cost scarcely any time or labor to 
raise enough from the fresh soil to supply their 
simple wants, and the rest of the time was spent 
in visiting, in hunting, or in neighborhood frolics 
and pastimes. 

In this state of things any call was sure to 
bring out great crowds. " Militia musters " were 
annual days of concourse. The people flocked 
together from all quarters, some to the military 
drill, more to see and hear the novel and exciting 
occurrences, and many to profit by the drinking, 
horse-racing, gambling, and general dissipation 
that characterized the day. Of course the mar- 
tial spirit of the occasion begot a quick indig- 
nation of all slights, insults and fancied wrongs 
in the noodles of the tipsy throng, and no end of 
manly kicks, blows, fights, and other heroic 
measures followed. So at house-raisings, log- 
rollings, elections, harvest-times, the Fourth of 
July, Christmas holidays, horse-races, weddings, 
balls — almost anything, was made the occasion 
of a general gathering, and then a merry-make 
would follow, and all sorts of feats of strength 
and agility, jokes, pranks and tricks were looked 
for and abounded; the madcap frolic made still 
more to their liking by the ever present aid of 
'' mirth-provoking whisky." 



50 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

The charm of those early days was the abound- 
ing sociability. <' People used to be so friendly," 
is the universal impression that remains of the 
l^ioneer times> It is a problem how to preserve 
the hospitality, the generous spirit of social con- 
fidence and good will that mark pioneer life, 
amidst the progress of the country and the im- 
provement of society. 

Mr. Bliss had some acquaintance with this 
state of affairs before, but the gentle Puritan 
bride at first quite lost heart. Indeed, circum- 
stances had conspired to apparently unfit her for 
these new scenes. 

Her closing years at Boscaween had been s-pent 
amidst the joys of a most wonderful revival. 
The gracious season must have been quite a 
"Pentecost." So long before as February, 1820, 
Anna Bliss, who had gone over to her uncle's to 
share in the blessing, wrote to her brother '' that 
the attention to religion exceeded anything she 
had ever heard of before." In the following 
November, Dr. Wood, the pastor so honored of 
Grod, says that " seven-eighths of the people had 
professed to have obtained a good hope." 

In January, 1821, he wrote again that the work 
still continued: "God seems to be gathering up 
the fragments, that nothing should be lost. The 
revival is general. The old and young, rich and 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 51 

poor, share together in praising and glorifying 
their God." Such delightful scenes of spiritual 
life had at once fitted and unfitted her for the 
hardness and the desolation into which she found 
herself precipitated. Her soul was enlightened 
in gospel truth by them, her spiritual afi'ections 
quickened, and she was established in the Chris- 
tian graces, and moreover had the standard of a 
" church in earnest " in her mind, to which her 
plans and prayers and hopes would constantly 
recur. 

Doubtless through her life the memory of those 
last days at Boscaween animated and rejoiced 
her. But on the other hand, the sad contrast 
could not but dep^^ess her soul. It would be like 
a grating discord after a sweetly attuned har- 
mony. This, it seems, was the first feeling. 

When the day appointed for preaching came, 
the family all attended. They entered a long, 
low, dingy building, constructed of hewn logs, 
and covered with clap-boards. The smoky and 
cobwebbed joices swayed down in the middle by 
their own weight, stretched from side to side, with 
some loose boards thrown over them. This was 
the best house for public worship in all the coun 
try around. But the simplicity of the sanctuary 
doubtless accorded with the views of these Puri- 
tans. Were they not the descendants of those 



52 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

men who so abhorred the guilty splendors of 
Popery and Phariseeism, as to break the painted 
windows, and knock down the statues of the 
saints in the semi-popish churches and cathe- 
drals of England in the days of Cromwell ? We 
know not, but we strongly suspicion that they 
were disposed to feel quite at home in the plain 
and humble conventicle in which they were 
called to worship. 

But we can imagine the surprise and dismay of 
the tall, fair Puritan, fresh from the hallowed 
scenes of Boscaween, as she witnessed the per- 
formance that followed. The house, to be sure, 
was plain enough to suit their tastes; but alas! 
no Howe, nor Baxter, nor Owen, nor Flavel, 
was in the pulpit. As she saw the parson take 
off his coat, by way of preparation, and then lis- 
tened to the noisy, extemporaneous harangue, 
that grew more and more deafening every mo- 
ment, the preacher raving from one side of the 
house to the other, roaring and stamping, bran- 
dishing his fists and streaming with perspiration, 
with little or nothing to edify or comfort in it 
all, she would be well-nigh shocked at the incon- 
gruity of the spectacle. " Dear sister," she wrote 
to Anna Bliss, " I often think of the happy days 
we have passed together in the enjoyment of 
those privileges which I find I have left behind. 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 53 

I am at a loss as to the path of duty. Most of 
the times when I have attended meeting here, I 
have returned with regret that I have spent my 
time to so little purpose. Then I stay at home, 
until fearing that the example may have a bad 
influence, I go again, and return as little satisfied 
as before. Thus I live. Pray for your affection- 
ate sister." The jarring discord, we see, quite 
unnerved her. 

But Mr. Bliss speaks despondingly, too, of the 
barren and unedifying religious meetings. He 
seems to have thought that the light was well- 
nigh darkness. He was no more than fairly set- 
tled, until the religious destitution of the field 
began to confront him. He cast about him for 
help. He craved an interest in the prayers of 
his friends in New England. He suggests to 
them whether it was the " better way " for the 
churches in the East to expend their sympathies, 
means and missionary efforts on foreign fields to 
such an extent, while vast and fertile regions of 
our own country, fast filling up with a teeming 
population, were left to such mournful neglect. 
He prayed them to send out an evangelist. But 
such prayers are in vain. If we are God's chil- 
dren, he assigns us a mission, and we may be 
sure he will not raise np any other one to fulfill 
it. If our ears do not heed the voice, they must 



54 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

be opened; if the back is not bent for the burden, 
it must needs be. It is one great element of 
power in "the gospel of the grace of God" that 
it begets in the heart a clear and explicit wish, as 
definite as the love of life itself, to fulfill our course 
with joy, and the ministry that we have received 
of the Lord Jesus, whatever that may be. Mr. 
Bliss learned what his life-work was by and by, 
and that no help was to be sent to take it out of 
his hands. How he learned it the story will 
unvail in due time. 

But the need of a minister who could "feed 
the people with knowledge and with understand- 
ing," pressed the hearts of these saintly friends. 
As the time passed this destitution grew more 
grievous. O for the means of grace that they 
had so slightly appreciated, so abused in the 
past, the ordinances that impart to the wor- 
shiper, to soul and mind and heart, the " truth 
and grace that came by Jesus Christ." 

In the meantime the American Board of For- 
eign Missions was urging upon all Protestant 
lands that grand and holy movement, the 
"monthly concert of prayer for the conversion 
of the world." The appeal touched a chord in the 
hearts of the three exiles. One evening in No- 
vember (the 5th) they invited in their neighbors 
and spent a sea«on in imj^loring God to extend 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 55 

the triumphs of his mercy over all the earth, and 
to send the light and comforts of the gospel to 
them who sat in darkness, and in the region of 
the shadow of death. We can. readily imagine 
how fervently they would pray for such objects. 
The next month they held another meeting, and 
so on for years, until at last it was changed into 
a weekly " prayer-meeting," that still continues, 
a praise and a blessing in the church that grew 
out of it. Thus another "well in the wilderness" 
was opened. 

But happy changes were at hand. Before 
going on to detail these, an incident closely con- 
nected with them must be noticed. About the 
time that Mr. Bliss and his companion were com- 
ing across the country, as before related, Cyrus 
Danforth, Esq., from the neighborhood of the 
beautiful Cayuga Lake, 'New York, was descend- 
ing the Ohio Eiver in a keel boat, with his family 
and a party of relatives, seeking a new home. 
The point for which he aimed was Terre Haute, 
Indiana. By the time, however, he had come to 
the mouth of the Wabash Eiver, the summer was 
so far advanced and the waters so low that he could 
only reach the foot of the Grand Eaj)ids, and fear- 
ing to stay on the river during the sickly season, 
he took his family out some seven miles or so to an 
airy, open prairie, to await the rise of the stream. 



56 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

Thus by one of those quiet but decisive events 
by which Providence chooses our lot, this gentle- 
man's home was established on Barney's prairie, 
five miles southwest of Mr. Eliss*. He was so 
pleased with the apjoearance of the country on 
seeing it that he concluded to go no farther, and 
settled. He was an ardent Presbyterian, and a 
man of intelligence and property. Both of these 
families had thus been settled in their wilderness 
homes more than three years, and both had been 
earnestly praying and looking for an evangelist 
and asking to be directed aright. 

God, who never despises the prayer for light 
and guidance of those who would trust and serve 
him, suddenly brought them a friend and coun- 
selor. The striking providence that directed 
him to their doors is too instructive to be over- 
looked, 

In 1818 a young man was graduated at Dart- 
mouth College named David Choate Proctor. In 
1821 he finished his course in divinity at Ando- 
ver Theological Seminary. As soon as he was 
licensed to preach, he was sent out to the West 
as an itinerant missionary by the " Connecticut 
Missionary Association." Reaching Indianapolis 
late in the autumn, and finding the church there 
vacant, he engaged to supply them until spring. 
As soon as the severity of the winter was passed 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 57 

he pushed on for Missouri, the field of labor to 
which he had been commissioned. He crossed 
the country on horseback in the spring of 1822. 
About the first of March, on his way, he ferried 
the Wabash Eiver late one evening, and found 
lodging at a little village of cabins, on the west 
bank, called Mt. Carmel. 

In the morning, on preparing to start on his 
journey, his horse was discovered to be lame. 
Unable to travel, he was compelled to delay. 
Faithful to the errand on which he was going, 
he began to inquire into the religious condition 
of the country, and among other things he was 
told of two Presbyterian families, settled, one 
seven and the other twelve miles north, on the 
prairies. He set out as soon as possible to find 
them. Pushing on through thickets and woods 
and patches of prairie land, he at last came to a 
scanty settlement, and alighting at one of the 
cabins he knocked. The door was opened by a 
comely young girl, with the intelligence of other 
scenes sparkling in her eyes and mantling over 
her face. He was satisfied at once. Without 
stopping to make any inquiries, he stalked right 
in, shaking hands with all he met, and exclaim- 
ing, "I feel perfectly at home here. I am on 
Presbyterian ground, I know." His enthusiasm 
was cordially reciprocated. As he told his holy 



58 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

errand, their sympathies flowed together, and 
they rejoiced in the wonderful goodness of God, 
by whose providence they had thus met in this 
"solitary place." 

The next morning (March 2) they all set out, 
Mr. and Mrs. Danforth and Mrs. Winters (a sis- 
ter of Mrs. D.) and the Eev. Mr. Proctor, for 
Mr. Bliss'. \Ye can fancy the scene at the meet- 
ing of these brethren — their surprise and delight. 
If they could have looked forward for forty-four 
years and seen the results of that interview under 
the oaks, they would have rejoiced still more. 
They dined together bravely that day. They 
mingled their enjoyment of the simple cheer 
made ready for them by the " neat-handed" hos- 
tess with many a burst of heartfelt gratitude to 
God, and tales of past adventures, present straits, 
and plans, hopes and dreams of the future. Four 
men surrounded that little table spread in the 
wilderness, and three of them were graduates 
and the fourth was wise-hearted beyond his gen- 
eration and "mighty in the Scriptures." By the 
hands of such men did Presbyterianism propose 
to lift her fair and ancient banner in this remote 
field. 

Sabbath morning they met with a large congre- 
gation at a school- house near Mr. Danforth's, and 
Mr. Proctor preached. Mr. May says that his 



THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 69 

theme was "Human Depravity, and the Gospel 
Kemedy." On Tuesday he preached again at the 
school-house, and the five friends, Mr. Bliss and 
Mr. Danforth, and their wives, and Mr. May, 
were organized into a church, styled the " First 
Pre.^byterian Church in Edwards County." Mr. 
Bliss and Mr. May were elected ruling elders, 
and Mr. Danforth, deacon. 

Wednesday evening Mr. Proctor preached in 
the cabin to a congregation as large as could be 
crowded into it. Sabbath morning he preached at 
the school-house again, on the Scripture doctrine 
of " Justification by Faith," and on Monday even- 
ing, the 11th, he preached at the cabin, the last 
sermon to the little flock he had gathered, on the 
Spirituality of God. John iv. 24. The next 
morning he took his leave of the brethren and 
departed. 

So they were left again, but not as they had 
been found. They were now bound together by 
the new tie of church fellowship, and the vows of 
God were upon them The sublime work for 
which the Church of God exists in this world was 
committed now to their hands to promote in a 
wide and needy field. But who would lead them? 
Who could supply them with the means of grace? 
" The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers 
are few." These considerations were now added 



€0 THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS. 

to all the motives that existed before for faithful- 
ness and devout energy, and the elders were 
" pressed in spirit " under a sense of their new 
responsibility for the welfare of the cause of 
Christ. 



(61): 



THE PREPARATION. 63 



CHAPTER lY. 

THE PREPARATION. 

A. D. 1822 TO 1824. 



f 



ROYIDENCES are a means of grace to the 

righteous. The circumstances that surround 
them are the furnace in which grace puri- 
fies them, or the sacred asylum in which they 
are nursed in the lap of rest and devotion, like 
Elijah at the brook Cherith, or Paul in Arabia, 
until they are prepared for the further service 
that awaits them, or the river of Grod, that bears 
them on its mighty current to new scenes of duty 
and effort. The true prayer for grace is always 
answered, and providences, dark or bright, are 
often made the messengers to bring us the divin- 
est blessings. Thus, the prayer unto the Lord, 
"increase our faith," is often being fulfilled by 
the disciples being brought into straits, where 
the real vanity of earthly helps or comforts is 
seen, and God's unrealized promises come out? 



64 THE PREPARATION. 

like the stars, to shine with beams of purest 
luster. So, if the spirit of obedience be in the 
heart, and the sigh after usefulness, the oppor- 
tunity shall not long be wanting. The Lord of 
all the earth will open the door before us, not 
possibly the one we should have selected, but the 
one he sees best. But what if we hesitate to 
enter ? Alas, how much rebellion there is in our 
hearts after we thought them subdued! Then 
comes the school of providence to instruct and 
direct. The by-paths are hedged up, the busy 
life yields no fruit, sorrows fall, and storms seem 
to lurk in the air, until we turn our feet to the 
way of his commandments; and lo! "we find 
rest to our souls." If the harbor is open, and the 
bark still loiters out on the sea, then the winds 
begin to blow until she escapes into port. 

In the period on which we enter now, we shall 
have but little to do with the indoor life of the 
prairie cabin. We shall stand without, and 
behold how God deals with them who are willing 
to be his servants, but who falter at the service 
he demands. We shall hear the voices that called 
to the calm and philosophical inmates, and see the 
winds ruffling up the quiet leaves of the aged oaks 
above them. 

We have seen how these brethren were inter- 
ested in the Sabbath-school work, before the com-: 



THE PREPARATION. 65 

ing of Mr. Proctor. After his departure they 
were openly committed to the promotion of relig- 
ion, and new vows enlisted them in the service of 
Christ. And then, they were alone. Far or 
near, they knew of no church of like faith and 
order, with which they could take counsel, or 
join in employing a minister. Whatever was 
to be done in the wide field before them, there 
were but few to do, and all the responsibility in 
the case was narrowed down to their hands, and 
could not be shifted. Providence thus conspired 
with grace to arouse them to duty, and it is pleas- 
ant to find that they girded themselves seriously 
to the work. The Sabbath-school and monthly 
concert were carried on. But the thought that 
they were fulfilling all the missions of a church 
by these instrumentalities was not to be enter- 
tained. They determined to institute Sabbath 
services, " reading meetings," as they called them. 
June 9th they met, for the first time, in this exer- 
cise, in the log school-house in the prairie south 
of Mr. Bliss', the dingy "conventicle " described 
above. Mr. Bliss read a sermon, each one " had 
a psalm, or a word of instruction," and all joined 
together in prayers. This service, that had in it 
the elements of great usefulness, was designed to 
supply their lack of the ministry of the word, 
until God should hear their cries and send them 
a pastor. 



66 THE PREPARATION. 

How admirably was this ! If the ruling elders 
in vacant churches all felt thus, felt that this was 
implied in the vows of their holy office, and would 
seek to edify, comfort, and encourage " all the 
flock over which the Hol}^ Ghost hath made them 
bishops, to feed the church of God which he hath 
purchased with his own blood," how soon would 
the " desolate places be inhabited," and the spring 
of future prosperity be set open, with a full, 
unwasting flow. 

The right motive, we see, was at work in their 
breasts, a quiet, very quiet, but unquenchable 
interest, nay, in their calm way, zeal, but no 
readiness, as yet, on the part of Mr. Bliss, the 
scholar, the divinity student, the man on whom 
God had poured such light and grace, to enter on 
the work himself of preaching the gospel. The 
vessel is still loitering, with its precious freight 
around the mouth of the harbor, but the winds 
begin to blow more heavily. 

Only a few weeks had passed after they had 
settled upon this humble, service, when they were 
met with a stunning stroke. One day in July, a 
withering sultry day, the faithful May was una- 
ble to go out into the fields. The symptoms were 
those of fever. Nothing serious was apprehended 
at first; but two or three days after we find Mr. 
Bliss leaving his outdoor work to watch day and 



THE PREPARATION. 67 

night by the bedside of his suffering friend. A 
physician was called in, and for a few days he 
seemed to rally under the treatment; but on Sat- 
urday afternoon, August 3d, the fever returned 
with great violence and he sank rapidly. Sab- 
bath evening, a cool and peaceful evening, at 9 
o'clock, he departed this life. So at last the two 
friends were separated ! 

How strange it seems to go back and look in 
on this quiet tragedy in the hushed cabin, to 
stand by this sick bed at midsummer and hear 
the farewells and weep tears of unutterable sad- 
ness as the noble spirit takes its flight; and then 
to awake to the fact that the memory of this 
blighted life is faded almost utterly from the 
earth. All the eyes that wept over his untimely 
death have forgotten their tears. The hearts 
that knew the loveliness of his character and 
spirit, have all withdrawn long ago from this 
weary sphere. 

The impression of his undeveloped life on this 
noisy world is not perished, for moral influence 
once exerted is immortal, but obscured: like a 
mediaeval hymn of glory written in palimpsest, 
that has been overwritten again and again by 
later hands, with ballad, or idle tale, or story of 
kings and courts. But as it is with all the right- 
eous, " his record is on high," and the memory of 



68 THE PREPARATION. 

his worth and virtues still lingers around any 
story of those early days, like the perfume of 
unseen flowers. 

On Monday he was buried in a family grave- 
yard, on a farm belonging to Thomas Banks. 
This worthy man had been accustomed to hold 
religious meetings at his house from a very early 
day. When the two pilgrims came, in 1818, there 
they first went to " pay their vows." And now, 
that one of them was gone, it seemed fitting that 
his grave should be made hard by the hallowed 
place where he had first greeted '* brethren in 
Christ," in this strange land, and joined in the 
public worship of God. 

The history of this private burial grpund is the 
common one. When the churchyard, near by, 
was opened, it ceased to be used as a place of 
interment, and fell more and more into neglect 
and dilapidation. Nothing, alas! could be more 
lonely nor forlorn than this scene is now. The 
rest of the field has been cultivated to some 
extent in these long years, but the plowshare 
could not cut through the turf over these graves, 
and the thorns and brambles have the spot all to 
themselves. It is a wild thicket, a place for 
boding owls. 

As the wanderer steals silently around the 
decayed plantation, he sees the long, tangled 



THE PREPARATION. 69 

wands of the blackberry, the wild rose, the witch- 
hazle, and the tall yellow tufts of the prairie 
grass, beckon and sway in the air over the tombs. 
Will some " Old Mortality " ever come to peer 
into the lonely copse, and hunt up the forgotten 
names and history of the sleepers buried there? 

Mournfully the stricken friends returned to 
their homes. What sad news must go back to 
Grlover and Plymouth ! Yain now were all the 
little gifts and tokens of love that Mr. and Mrs* 
Bliss had brought their sainted friend from the 
East. Yain the plans and hopes that had clus- 
tered around his contemplated trip in the fall to 
wed his affianced bride. All was over now, the 
fair dream vanished, the almost finished sanctu- 
ary of mortal love in ashes! 

The first efi^ect of this sad breach was to de- 
press and discourage the survivors. The " read- 
ing meetings " were suspended, at least for the 
present. The vanity of human life seems to have 
been felt so keenly in this providence that the 
arousing call to diligence and energy during the 
brief day, they were not yet prepared to heed. 

A few days later a most unmistakable but sin- 
gular intimation of the Divine will was given 
him. In the previous January, his venerable 
kinsman, Dr. Wood, had written him that he had 
brought his case before the association again, that 



70 THE PREPARATION. 

all the members were ready to do anything that 
they could to put him into the ministry; that if 
he would signify his belief in the "eternal exist- 
ence and real divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ 
('which I told them,' says the Doctor, 'I was 
confident that you had always believed'), he could 
procure him a full license to preach the gospel, if 
he desired it, and a ' license ' could do him no 
hurt." Mr. Bliss hesitated to take this decisive 
step, and while he hesitated the Hopkinton Asso- 
ciation met. The Doctor, who knew his cautious 
nephew well, made such a statement of the case 
that a full license was granted and the aged patri- 
arch had the pleasure of transmitting it to his 
son in the gospel, with the assurance in his own 
mind that sooner or later it would lead to much 
good. It reached him August 19th, just two 
weeks after the burial of his faithful friend. It 
did not decide him, but the call did seem very 
clear to his ear. He had thought so, however, 
once before, and then when he bad essayed to 
enter the ministry he had been stopped on the 
threshold, and now he would take counsel of no 
flattering appearances. 

Bat the winds are blowing and filling the sails. 

Toward the close of September he was sur- 
prised one day to hear that there was to be Pres- 
byterian preaching on Sabbath (the 22d), at a 



THE PREPARATION. 71 

place about seven miles to the r.orth of him. He 
had known of no brethren so near. Bat the 
rumor kept brooding in the country-side, and on 
the day appointed he started out in quest of the 
promised pleasure. He found the report -true. 
A minister was there and a company of most hos- 
pitable brethren to greet him. The acquaint- 
ances formed that day were very important in 
their influence over his future career. The min- 
ister was the Eev. Samuel Thornton Scott, of 
Yincennes, a laborer of long experience in the 
frontier and a man of excellent spirit. The 
brethren were a group of families from Ken- 
tucky, the Dennisons from near Lexington, Ken- 
tucky, and the Buckanans from Gallatin County. 
But few of them were at that time in the Church, 
but among them he afterward labored and gath- 
ered many souls. 

Thus God cheered his conscientious servant and 
opened the way for his timorous steps. Under it 
all we can discover that he was quickened. In- 
stead of closing the Sabbath-school as before in 
the fall, he carried it on all winter. Another 
blended Sabbath-school and prayer-meeting be 
organized in the Danforth School-house the next 
spring. We find him also visiting the sick dur- 
ing the summer of 1823. 

But no apparent progress was made. God was 



72 THE PREPARATION. 

pleased to give liim no fruit of all his labors. 
He had certainly made full proof of each of these 
methods of doing good service yet adopted. He 
had wrought now four years in the Sabbath- 
school, and for nearly two in the monthly con- 
cert and other forms of social meetings; but, so 
far as he knew, not one soul had been converted 
nor one name added to the Church. He had used 
but '' side efforts," and all his faithfulness could 
not make them fill the place of the one great 
means for promoting religion. " It pleased God 
by the foolishness of preaching to save them that 
believe."* All other means, as highly as we may 
prize them and as diligently as we may employ 
them, will be found subsidiary to a " j)reached 
gospel." When " God's word distills as the dew " 
in the sanctuary, then every part of the divine 
service — the prayer-meeting, the Sabbath-school, 
the Bible-class — is full of refreshment, each 
sweetly supplementing the other, and all helping 
together toward the happy result. But, " how 
shall they hear without a preacher? " Mr. Bliss 
knew all this before, but after his experience he 
began to feel its solemn power as a personal argu- 
ment for him to do what he could in the " gospe 
ministry " in the destitute field around him. 

The winds have blown steadily, and in the 

*1 Cor. i. 21. 



THE PREPARATION. 73 

midst of the gale we are permitted to see the 
prow of the bark turning at last toward the har- 
bor. 

August 3d, just one year from the death of the 
sainted May, at the Danforth School-house, sur- 
rounded by the teachers in the Sabbath- school 
many of the scholars, and all of his brethren in 
the Lord, he stood up to begin his ministry. It 
is like this humble man in his brief record of this 
interesting event to exclaim, "Oh! my barren- 
ness." But whatever his own feelings were the 
brethren were greatly cheered. They discerned 
in the modest, carefully meditated sermon, the 
promise of his future usefulness. " It was a good 
sermon," said a venerable elder thirty years after- 
ward, with a subdued emphasis on the adjective 
" good." " What do you mean when you say it 
was good? " "It was plain and edifying." 

August 3d, 1823, he assumed the duties of the 
ministry as a licentiate of the Hoj^kinton Asso- 
ciation, Was he a pastor? Technically he was 
not, and yet in fact he was. He settled by the 
wish of the congregation in the charge of the 
Church and thus remained until his death. 

From this auspicious day the harvest began. 
Two persons connected with the Church that af- 
ternoon, the first additions. These were Thomas 
Oould, Esq., and his wife, who had come into the 



74 THE PREPARATION. 

country in 1816 from Ohio. This gentleman was 
shortly after elected a ruling elder, and served 
the Church in that office until hisMeath at a ven- 
erable age in 1854. From this time forth until 
the close of Mr. Bliss' ministry there was but one 
year when the Church did not receive from one 
to twenty-four additions. Such honor does God 
put upon the preaching of his word, and so vital 
is it in the promotion of his work of mercy in 
this world. 

Thus, at last, at the ripe age of thirty six years, 
this cautious man, pressed forward as we have 
seen by gracious motives within, and providences 
around him, entered the sacred office. But the 
reader must know that it was only hesitatingly 
and as an experiment. He was testing the call 
that seemed to appeal to him from every side, 
whither indeed it could be the call of God. 

Having undertaken this work, it seems to 
have been his earnest purpose to make full proof 
of his capability for usefulness. The next Sab- 
bath morning he preached again in the Danforth 
School-house, and not long after at Mr. Gould's 
residence, seven miles to the southeast, nestled 
among the magnificent forests of the Wabash 
River, and then later still at the dingy school- 
house near his home. So the Puritan wife was 
permitted at last to see a true successor of Ro- 



THE PREPARATION. 75 

maine and Flavel preachiDg Christ, and faith in 
his blood, in the rude " conventicle." 

1824. At the opening of the next spring he 
visited the venerable '^ Father Scott," on the occa- 
sion of a communion season in his Church. This 
truly excellent man was still toiling on in his field 
with rare devotion and energy. He had come to 
Vincennea in 1803, when General Harrison was 
Governor of the Territory of Indiana. He had 
been reared in Kentucky, educated at Transyl- 
vania Academy, and studied Divinity with Dr. 
James Blythe. He was a faithful laborer, and in 
the course of a few years had gathered three con- 
gregations, to whom he preached until the end 
of his career. 

This meeting was held in the bounds of the 
Indiana Church (which had been founded in 
1802 by Samuel B. Eobinson, of Kentucky), five 
miles north of Vincennes. Long before, Mr. 
Scott tad erected a rude platform in the woods, 
and supplied a plentiful amount of rustic benches, 
and thither his fervent spirit had gathered the 
people for religious worship. Here in this se- 
questered, sylvan sanctuary, God had been 
pleased to show his faithful servant his glory in 
times of spiritual blessings, and the whole roman- 
tic scene was sacred. Mr. Scott was fond of these 
open-air meetings. He had been in this field 



76 THE PREPARATION. 

now ior tweniy years, and had cultivated this 
simple service from feeble beginnings to a state of 
very considerable popular interest. Mr. Bliss 
says that at the meeting in question the congre- 
gations sometimes numbered more than a thou- 
sand hearers. This is more surprising when we 
remember that the- city of Vincennes was then 
but a trifling Catholic village, a French trading 
post. The throng must have gathered from a 
long distance around. Such fruit of confidence 
and affection had Father Scott's life produced. 

No one can tell the good that has been accom- 
plished in the long years by these open-air meet- 
ings The truth then preached to the great con- 
gregation was really sown far and wide through 
the land, errors were confuted, and multitudes 
received instruction in divine things that would 
not otherwise have been reached. These free, 
familiar meetings, in the silent summer woods, 
were the precious seed-time to the souls of the 
scattered adventurous frontiersmen. 

The system of preaching in the open air, estab- 
lished by the Saviour himself and followed by 
His apostles, has fallen into sad neglect in mod- 
ern times. Here and there a few of the most 
zealous of God's servants — such as some of the 
reformers on the Continent and Scotland, Wesley 
and Whitfield in England; Howell Harris, of 



THE PREPARATION. 77 

Wales — have borne witness to its expediency and 
efficacy by their fearless and cordial adoption of 
it. But these are rare and isolated cases The 
rule in the Presbyterian Church is more and 
more a settled departure from the primitive mode 
of missionary operation The work of an Evan- 
gelist is falling out of use as a means of reaching 
the masses. Whereas, all this time there is one 
trait in the popular character that places the 
people within ttj^ reach of this means, who would 
otherwise neglectXhe gospel message, and that is 
their love of eloquence! It distinguishes the 
masses. On the frontiers it is especially conspic- 
uous. People go great distances to hear new or 
favorite preachers. This feature should be con- 
sidered and devoutly provided for by the friends 
of Jesus. In new countries many things are un- 
favorable to the preaching of the gospel; the 
thin settlements, the poor roads, the lack of relig- 
ious ties, the free adventurous character of the 
pioneers; but these disadvantages are more than 
offset by their natural love of eloquence. A 
meeting to which any importance is attached, 
will attract the people, far and near, and if the 
preachers are worthy of the occasion, the impres- 
sion upon the restless and undecided throng will 
be salutary and abiding These open-air meet- 
ings wisely conducted, not as a holiday picnic 



78 THE PREPARATION. 

but a time of fasting, prayer, and most fervent 
evangelistic labors in destitute regions, were 
among the means adopted by the fathers of Pres- 
byterianism in New Jersey, Western Pennsyl- 
vania, Kentucky, and throughout the South, and 
with the happiest results. " Field preaching " 
was the chief great agency used in that great 
revival of religion which saved England from 
Infidelity and Popery — the revival under Whit- 
field and the Wesleys. And to come down to the 
present generation, the revival in Ireland in 1859 
was the direct result of this evangelistic system 
of labor. In 1851 the Presbyterian Synod of Bel- 
fast, moved by the religious destitution existing 
in the land, instituted the first organized effort 
of modern times (so far as we can learn), to carry 
the gospel to the masses who would not, or could 
not, enter the house of God, by preaching to them 
in their haunts in the open air. God blessed the 
work so abundantly that all the other Synods 
were induced to take it up. Year by year the 
number of ministers engaged in it increased, and 
the number of towns, villages and hamlets visited 
and the services held. This thorough system of 
«' field preaching" went on with growing tokens 
of good, until, in 1859, God's Spirit crowned the 
effort with a " Pentecostal " blessing in "the great 
revival in Ireland," which extended over almost 
every part of the land. 



THE PREPARATION. 79 

It certainly is to be noticed with joy and grati- 
tude how this thought of reaching the masses 
with the gospel is so rising among the Churches. 
None scarcely are satisfied now with the quiet 
routine of ordinances in the sanctuary; they must 
needs go out into the streets and lanes of the city, 
and the highways and hedges, and bring in the 
neglected and the outcast. Street preaching, 
field preaching, open-air meetings, are the growth 
of a new and fervent zeal for the saU^ation of the 
forgotten masses. The poor and the unfortunate 
and the fallen will not come into the — not to 
speak of magnificent temples where they are 
neither expected nor their presence desired— staid 
and orderly sanctuary, where all is silent, grave, 
wise, restrained. They are reminded too strongly 
of their misfortunes. The motive may not be 
right, but it operates, and has in all ages of the 
Church kept multitudes beyond the pale of 
mercy. Now the conviction isbeginning to arouse 
the Churches that^^we are verily our brother's 
keeper, and the office of the missionary and 
evangelist is beginning to assume its rightful im- 
portance in Christian work. 

Father Scott had thus labored, not only as a 
pastor but as a missionary in all the region 
around, and to crown and supplement his other 
efforts he had held each year a protracted meet- 



80 THE PREPARATION. 

ing at a convenient place for the surrounding 
settlements. Tlie "stand" referred to was built 
in the woods. These familiar services were con- 
tinued during the life of this venerated veteran. 

In the autumn (Sept. 18th) Mr. Scott repaid 
the visit and a communion season occurred of 
much interest. Eight persons were added to the 
Church on examination, and twelve children 
were baptized. It was the first Presbyterian 
communion meeting ever held in the country, 
and curiosity ran high. The concourse on Sab- 
bath was very great and the service was held at 
a " New Light " camp ground one-half mile south 
of the present village of Friendsville. 

It was said above that Mr. Bliss' pulpit labors 
were only an experiment in his own estimation, 
a test of his capacity for usefulness in the minis- 
try. The result seemed to him so unsatisfactory 
that at this date he was quite undecided, if not 
positively inclined to lay down the work. We 
infer this from the fact that at this meeting he 
was solemnly ordained and set apart to the office 
of ruling elder in Wabash Church, to which he 
had been elected at its organization. In a letter 
to his father explaining his course he says: " T 
have so little time for reflection on account of the 
worldly labors required to support my family in 
this new country, and being compelled by the 



THE PREPARATION. 81 

Jaw of cuptom to speak extemporaneoiiBly. T fear 
that I have been but of little use as a mi^iister " 
So the grave and conscientious man halted as to 
his duty. His standard of ministerial character 
and qualification was very exalted, and his feel- 
ings were humble. His views of the solemnity 
of the sacrod office, of its responsibilities, and of 
the piety and talent necessary to make a "work- 
man needing not to be ashamed," all tended to 
increase his hesitancy. " AYho is sufficient for 
these things," was his ever-recurring sigh. 

Modesty is so rare and amiable a grace in char- 
acter that it does seem but a sorry business to 
appear to decry it, but still it must be said that 
it may be a sad hindrance to the'^ trnly humble 
and conscientious, when not counterbalanced by 
Bome bolder trait, or by an overcoming faith. 
Like Moses and Jeremiah, Mr. Bliss was ready to 
plead with God his personal inadequacy for the 
work. Could he, so slow of speech, so slow of 
faith, so calm, so unheroic in temperament, could 
he expect any success in the ministry? Could he 
influence the bold and hardy pioneer? The ques- 
tion seemed to him to answer itself. Once he 
was ready to take on him the sacred office, but 
now, a self-acquaintance, born of mature experi- 
ence, made him ready to tremble at his temerity. 

Just while he was indulging this estimate of 



82 THE PREPARATION. 

himself, God was pleased to give him a discovery 
of his influence among his fellow-citizens. 

The eighteen months that preceded the fall 
elections of 1824, was a period of the wildest 
political excitement throughout the State. The 
question submitted to the people by the legisla- 
ture of 1823, was the calling of a convention to 
so alter the Constitution of the State as to admit 
African slavery. As has always been the case, 
the bitterest passions were evoked by the contest 
over this institution. Edwards County was full 
of the tumult of the furious struggle. Local 
questions too materially increased the heat of the 
conflict. Toward the close of the summer, one 
day, a company of gentlemen waited on this good 
man as he was toiling out in the sultry fields, 
with the astounding news that the opponents of 
the convention had fixed on him as their candi- 
date for the State Legislature. They requested 
him to allow his name to be used. They found it 
necessary to remind him of the sacredness of the 
principles involved in this election, and to sug- 
gest to him that he was so widely and favorably 
known, that if he would but consent '-to run," it 
was the almost universal impression that the 
anti-slavery party would succeed. Well, verily! 
was he to believe his ears when he heard honora- 
ble and intelligent men^ talking to him in this 



THE PREPARATION. 83 

strain? He expostulated with them as to their 
generous delusion respecting him. He knew the 
state of affairs so well that he was sure they 
were egregiously mistaken. But they were quite 
ready to put the soundness of their estimate of 
things to the test, if he would but give his con- 
sent. The result of the interview was that the 
deputation gained their point. A few weeks 
before the election, as was the custom in those 
days, Mr. Bliss' name was announced. This was 
the only part he took in the canvass. He re- 
mained at home, receiving many visitors to be 
sure, for the feeling in his favor was enthusiastic, 
but interesting himself in the peaceful duties of 
his farm and his ministry. By and by the day 
came, and he had to hear, almost with a pang of 
regret, that he was elected to the State Senate by 
a flattering majority. Alas! what now of all his 
dreams of the obscurity and seclusion that befitted 
his humble talents and qualifications? What if 
his opinions of the sj^here of his duty must all 
be reviewed now from this new and bewildering 
standpoint? 

You can not argue with modesty, but if the 
truly humble and conscientious discover that 
their humility has unwittingly beguiled them 
into inactivity, has kept the bark at anchor, ris- 
ing and falling on the idle waves when it should 



84 THE PREPARATION. 

have been speeding on its voyage, then the rare^ 
strange spell is broken. 

That winter Mr. Bliss was in Yandalia, the 
capital of the State, until the 20th of January, 
when he returned again to his home, at the ad- 
journment of the legislature. All doubt as to his 
duty was now gone. His whole air of indecision 
had vanished, and in its place was a firm, humble, 
peaceful consecration of himself to the work of 
the ministry. Having reached a satisfactory 
conclusion in his own mind, he " set his hand to 
the plow and never looked back.'* God had used 
the last argument that was needed, and the prep- 
aration was ended. 



IIP ijf mm 



'V 



(85) 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 87 



CHAPTER Y. 

A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 
A. D. 1825 TO 1829. 

K April, after his return from the first session 
of the legislature, he crossed the Wabash 
[ River, on his way to "Washington, Indiana, 
where the Presbytery of Salem, Synod of 
Kentucky, was to meet.* His elders, Danforth 
and Gould, were in the company. They spent 
the night on the way with Father Scott, just east 
of Yincennes, and the next day they rode on re- 
freshed in spirit by the interview to the Presby- 
tery. Mr. Bliss presented his credentials from 
the Hopkinton Association, and after the usual 
examination was received as a licentiate under 
their care, and the name of the Church changed 
to Wabash Presbyterian Church, and it was en- 
rolled among the Churches of the Presbytery. 
How many prayers were now answered, and fer- 
vent hopes realized ! 
« " The ^ynod of Indiana " was constituted May 29, 1826. 



88 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

Here he made the acquaintance of many noble 
and earnest workers. It was before the days of 
the missionary societies^ unless we except a few 
feeble organizations in some of the Eastern States. 
The whole work of domestic missions was then 
but illy understood, and the soldier of Jesus, 
who was bold enough to brave the dangers of the 
"West, had to go to warfare, well-nigh at his own 
charges. xVs was natural too, the godly men sent 
out from the East as " itinerants," to whom we 
of the Mississippi Valley owe so much, followed 
the trail of emigration from New England, and 
up to this time the mass of that emigration had 
crowded along the lake shores and up toward the 
North. In August, 1822, some ardent friends of 
Christ, in Southern Indiana, met at Livonia, the 
Beat of the long pastoral and missionary labors of 
the excellent Wm. W. Martin. Ministers and lay- 
men were in the fervent circle. They came to 
plead with God for the field where their lot was 
cast, and to take counsel together. The result of 
the interview was the formation of an association 
called the " Indiana Missionary Society." The 
design was to introduce missionaries and pastors 
into the young and growing State, organize 
Churches, and establish the institutions of relig- 
ion. It accomplished much toward the attain- 
ment of each of these objects. 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 89 

In 1826, when the American Home Missionary 
Society was organized, this became auxiliary to 
the national institution. 

At this meeting of Presbytery the Eev. Alex- 
ander Williamson was also taken under their care 
as a licentiate. The '' pleasure of the Lord was 
prospering in their hands." 

Immediately on his reception he engaged with 
the " Indiana Missionary Society," to supply two 
of the vacancies of the Presbytery, one Sabbath 
each month, until the next stated meeting. They 
were both east of the Wabash Eiver. One was 
Carlisle, forty miles distant from his home, and 
the other sixty, near Fort Harrison.* The Sab- 
baths not occupied thus, he spent in labors in his 
own congregation. His usual custom was to 
leave home on Friday afternoon in time to reach 
Mr. Scott's, where he would spend the evening. 
On Saturday morning he would push on to some 
Presbyterian family settled in the wilderness, and 
preach at night, and then on Sabbath morning 
ride on and meet the congregation he was to 
serve, and hold from one to three services during 
the day. 

These journeys were made on horseback, for 
the roads were but bridle paths through the 
woods and prairies; sometimes he would strike 

* Terre Haute. 



90 A GOOD SOLDIER OP JESUS CHRIST. 

the trail of a wagon track cut through the bound- 
less forests that separated the scanty settlements. 
We will not pause now to see the toils, hazards, 
and adventures of this wilderness work for Christ, 
but leave it for a future page. 

At the next stated meeting of Presbytery, 
which occurred at Yincennes, August the 4tb, he 
was ordained to the full work of the ministry, 
as an Evangelist. The Eev. John M. Dickey 
preached the ordination sermon, and the Rev. 
Isaac Reed, his old classmate and fellow-graduate 
in Middlebury College in 1812, gave the charge 
to the Evangelist. How interesting must the 
event have been to these old friends? Just here 
their Ions: divergent paths crossed in this world, 
like ships that sometimes meet on the boundless 
wastes of the sea, only to greet each other, and 
then stand away, each on its own course. 

Mr. Reed was a restless, indefatigable mission- 
ary. He performed prodigies of labor as an " itin- 
erant." He ended his career at Olney, Illinois, 
January 15, 1858. On the contrary, Mr. Bliss 
was a peaceful pastor all his days, 

On returning home he laid off the field of his 
labors. Taking the Presbyterian families which 
had settled about equally distant from him, Wil- 
liam DennisoD, six miles north, Thomas Gould? 
Esq., six miles east, and Mr. Danforth, six mile» 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 91 

southwest; and his own community, as the provi- 
dential centers for his missionary efforts, he pre- 
pared himself for his work. 

Within the region covered by these appoint- 
ments, he labored until the close of his life. How 
was he supported as a minister? 

His family consisted at that time of four per- 
sons — himself, Mrs. Bliss, a son, Samuel Wood, 
three years old, and a daughter, Delia, an infant. 
Sometimes a girl was received into the household 
to assist Mrs. Bliss in her dairy business, and 
sometimes he took a lad from the congregation as 
a pupil. And then he kept open house, in the 
spirit of genuine hospitality, and entertained 
many guests. 

The means of livelihood upon which he could 
depend were two. 

1. His farm. 

2. The contributions of the Church. 

As to his farm, the soil was fertile, and pro- 
duced abundantly. '^ All the face of the country 
here is as rich as the ' intervals ' among your 
New England hills." But then the market was 
poor. The prices were so low that nothing that 
he raised would pay for its transportation, or 
*' bring as much as it actually cost him." But 
thanks to their Yankee training there was one 
article that was an exception. Mrs. Bliss was a 



92 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

famous cheese maker. Her manufacture brought, 
a ready sale and the highest price. The farm 
embraced but twenty - eight acres under actual 
cultivation, but the prairie all around was open 
and covered with rank luxuriant grass, and 
formed a natural pasture of the richest descrip- 
tion, and just adapted to his wants. His cattle 
and sheep cost him little besides his personal 
oversight. This was his principal source of sup- 
port. He kept twelve dairy cows, and Mrs. Bliss, 
with the aid of a " young girl, who helped about 
as much as she hindered," made this year 1,782 
pounds of cheese, all of which was sold in Yin- 
cennes. " Betsy," Mr. Bliss wrote back fondly 
to his parents, " Betey has almost sustained one 
missionary during the past year! " 

Was that not a busy life? Think of this as 
superadded to the daily routine of a faithful wife, 
mother and friend ! But alas ! for the fair, earnest- 
hearted toiler, these exertions were exhaust- 
ing, as we shall see. Love for Jesus, love for his 
cause, love for her household, wrought mightily 
on her heart, and she toiled on, weary and worn, 
but beguiled by the ardor of her feelings, far be- 
yond her strength. If this were a solitary case 
we might pass it by with a sigh, but to know 
that this life is repeated in the household of 
almost every domestic missionary in this land, 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 93 

clothes it with a sad and solemn interest. Indeed 
this wearing, wasting toil seems to be demanded 
by the spirit and genius of these last times of 
every Christian worker. Not many professors, 
alas! need any caution on this point, but the 
most precious, the grandest souls enlisted for 
Jesus do. 

The truly pious in every age have been ani- 
mated with " zeal for the Lord of hosts," but the 
hearts most sweetly attuned, the spirits that are 
winged with love and fervor, borne away by 
their holy enthusiasm, are in danger of cutting 
short their time of usefulness by over-exertion. 
Life has its laws that ought not to be ignored 
for they are God the Creator's. Humanity is a 
deathless soul incarnated in a dying body, and 
when the soul with its powers of thought, and 
affection, and will, becomes instinct with the in- 
finite truths and motives of Christianity, it 
breathes so high and holy an ardor as to be in 
danger of driving on the poor clod to which it is 
allied, with a violence that will soon wear out its 
frail energies. Who will say that McCheyne, 
and David Nelson, and Summerfield, and Larned, 
and Elizabeth Ann Judson — alas! how the list 
grows, of the bright and shining spirits con- 
sumed by their burning fervor — who will say 
that they did not forget too much the solemn 



94 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

duty of rest for the worn -down powers of the 
body? As we contemplate such devoted lives, 
cut short in the morning of their brilliant coarse^ 
the question presses the heart — Is this best? Is 
it most for Grod's glory for us to work, physically 
or intellectually, up to the measure of our 
strength, and then under the stress of ever so 
devout motives, to press on still, taxing farther 
the straining nerves, the weary brain, the palpi- 
tating heart, the aching muscle? If the tense 
and stinging bow-string snaps, will some one 
have to answer for heavenly laws violated? Not 
less love and labor in Jesus' service, but more 
repose and devotion, the " peace of Grod ruling 
the minds and heart," is what is needed in this 
frantic age. 

But this consuming love for Jesus is so rare, 
and it comes so much nearer to the service be- 
fitting such a Savior, that the pious of all lands 
can not, and would not, withhold the poor meed 
of their admiration and applause. How glorious 
in the eyes of all the saints shine these lives of 
self-forgotten love! How contagious for good! 
Who would extinguish from the household of 
faith, the precious memory of Lady Hunting- 
don, Harriet Newell, Mary Lyons? And here in 
this lonely cabin in the frontiers, was enacted a 
life of strenuous toil, that was instinct with the 
Same spirit. 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 95 

In speaking of the farm, we must not overlook 
the farm-house and its surroun lings. Here 
everything was simple and economical to the last 
degree, and yet plenty reigned. But it was a 
plenty that their own forethought and industry 
produced. Mr. Bliss gave his personal attention 
to his stock. He took great interest in it. He 
records duly the increase among the flocks and 
herds. Everything was in its place, and well 
cared for, around his stables and sheep cots. 
''Scarcely anything of his ever died," says one 
of the young men, who was for some time in his 
family. Poultry abounded. To the south of the 
door, and not many feet away, was a row of bee- 
hives, just within the orchard fence. The sooth- 
ing hum of the quiet bee house completes the 
picture of peace and innocent plenty that this 
humble home presented. 

When Mr. Bliss fully undertook the ministry, 
he adjusted his worldly labors so as to secure the 
most leisure for reading and meditation. He was 
exceediDg}}^ regular in his habits, and methodi- 
cal, and "lived by rule." The day was given to 
his farming interests, and the evenings and 
mornings to study. His reflections during the 
day, when engaged in his daily work, would 
then be jotted down in brief outline. Saturday 
was generally a day of rest and preparation for 
the Sabbath. 



96 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

So he lived, a thoughtful student-farmer, a 
Badly secularized jDastor. 

The Church, meanwhile, had increased from 
five to seventeen members. Among the number, 
the reader already knows, there were some men 
of unusual intelligence and judgment. After 
canvassing the matter among themselves, they 
met, in a congregational meeting, at the house 
of the faithful pastor, to determine respecting 
their duty toward him. As the result of their 
deliberations, $123.00 was subscribed toward his 
support. 

This was his second means of living. 

This paper, with the signatures, is still ex- 
tant, brown with age, dingy and tattered with 
handling, but an interesting relic of the enlight- 
ened views, and the zeal of his co-laborers, in 
those early days. 

From the time that Mr. Bliss received ordina- 
tion, he took rank among the most prominent 
preachers of the Presbytery. He had unusual 
advantages. He was of mature age, being thirty- 
eight years old, a Senator in the Legislature of 
Illinois, with a mind cultivated by a liberal 
education, a large experience, and much contact 
with men. His address was manly and pleasing, 
his conversation was peculiarly engaging. To 
all this was added such evident piety and sim- 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 97 

plicity of character, as endeared him to his breth- 
ren. He was manifestly quite unconscious of his 
talents and influence, "a very humble, godly 
man."* One would know at a glance, in coming 
in contact with him, that he was a Christian gen- 
tleman. But he was " a gentleman of the old 
school." There was a something about his man- 
ners that did not repress cheerfulness, but for- 
bade all familiarity. No one thought of ever 
addressing him in the free and easy style of the 
frontiers. No one ever forgot the bearing of 
courtesy that his presence suggested, and, some- 
how, unconsciously enforced. 

Having enlisted in the work of the ministry, 
he was very much engaged. His appointments 
at each of the four preaching places were a 
month apart. The preaching was, therefore, not 
to be the only agency relied on. Mr. Bliss sought 
to enlist the people in various plans for the gen- 
eral good. 

In March, 1825, he moved in the establishment 
of the County Bible Society, writing out a con- 
stitution by which to organize. For years he 
held annual meetings, some place in the bounds 
of his congregation, to animate the friends of the 
Bible cause, lifted collections, transmitted funds, 
received boxes of books, and kept the attention 

*ilev. S. R. Alexander, Vincennes, Indiana. 



98 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

©f the people alive to this great Protestant in- 
terest. 

In 1830 the Society resolved to supply every 
destitute family in the county with a copy of the 
Sacred Scriptures. In this blessed work his zeal 
was illustrated. He vs^ent from house to house, 
over a large part of the territory, distributing 
them with his own hands. It may explain still 
farther what was said of the moral state of the 
field, to add, that, in this work there were moro 
than one hundred families discovered, in this 
small and thinly-settled county, without a com- 
plete copy of the Scriptures. 

That was the day for organizing every one that 
was willing to do Christian work, into voluntary 
societies, and Mr. Bliss was full of the charitable 
scheme. In this same spring of 1825, he began 
to agitate the organization of a County Sabbath- 
School Society. He succeeded so well in enlist- 
ing the friends of this noble cause in various 
parts of the country, and in all the Churches, 
that his benevolent plan wtmt into operation 
during the summer. Up to this date there had 
been but two Sabbath -schools in the county — 
one in Wabash Church and one in Mount Car- 
mel. By 1831 there were five more schools under 
the care of this Society, with about 350 pupils, 
and 750 volumes of the Sunday-School Union's 
publications in their libraries. 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 99 

In the early days covered by this part of the 
narrative, the vice of intemperance abounded* 
It was one of the most serious barriers to the 
progress of religion and good morals. There 
were still-houses here and there over the coun- 
try, and each of them was, of course, a center of 
idleness, profanity and vice. There hunters and 
adventurers of all kinds gathered to drink and 
tell wondrous tales, and the idle and the curious 
to hear them. Saturday was the great day of the 
week. Then these haunts presented a busy 
scene. Ardent spirits flowed freely. Jumping, 
wrestling, horse racing, gambling and fighting, 
were the business of the day. 

But not only in these places, but everywhere, 
the use of intoxicating liquor prevailed. It be- 
longed to the sacred rites of hospitality to set it 
before every guest. In harvest time it was 
brought forth prodigally. The custom prevailed 
for the men in each neighborhood to exchange 
work in cutting their scanty grain-fields — that 
is, they would all meet and "reap" the ripest 
wheat first, and then go on to the next, and so 
on, until all the harvesting in the neighborhood 
was finished. Thus the harvesting: was trans- 
formed into a " merrj^-make," as far as its toils 
could be, a long holiday of jokes, and fun, and 
drinking. The reapers reaped up from one side 



100 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

of the field, and bound their sheaves hack, and 
then were expected to help themselves to the 
whisky and water that they always found wait- 
ing them in the grateful shade. At house-rais- 
ings, log-rollings, etc., it was also furnished boun- 
tifully, and the hilarious labors of the day were 
always followed by a roistering frolic, or a dance 
that held on through the livelong night. Thus 
all their social habits tended to foster the prac- 
tice of drinking and its kindred vices. 

After grieving over this state of things for 
some time, and finding the evil on the increase, 
in 1829 the pastor and session felt called upon 
to take their stand against it. During the prog- 
ress of a communion season, the exercises of 
which were held in Mr. Bliss' harn^ a temperance 
society was formed, on the total abstinence prin- 
ciple, and thirty names were enrolled, embracing 
all the members of Wabash Church, so far as 
known. Temperance principles, once introduced, 
were soon adopted among all religious people, 
and made their way irresistibly. In the course 
of a few years the general use of ardent spirits 
disappeared from the public gatherings, wed- 
dings, and even the holiday frolics. 

So this good soldier of Jesus Christ toiled on, 
and laid hold of every agency that promised to 
assist in promoting the principles of truth and 



A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 101 

righteousness. Slowly the Church won its way 
In 1830 the membership in the whole field of his 
labors amounted to twenty-nine. 

But why did this " vineyard " grow fruitful so 
slowly? Several circumstances conspired. The 
members were very much scattered, and their 
moral power was sadly dissipated by this fact. 
And then the inhabitants were, for the most part, 
of that hardy and adventurous type who escape 
from the ties and restraints of established society 
in the older States, to seek freedom on the fron- 
tiers. " The religion they covet," says Mr. Bliss, 
" if religion they must have, is not such as re- 
quires regularity, strictness or system, or such as 
probes the heart, enlightens the mind, or closely 
confines the conscience." As this was the only 
type of religion that satisfied his serious convic- 
tions, or that he could, with a clear conscience, 
preach to others, of course the Church would 
make its way but slowly under his leadership. 
Sowing would go before reaping in such a field. 

And then, lastly, the peculiar style of Mr. 
Bliss' preaching deserves notice. It was clear, 
slow, calm, grave and dignified. It was well cal- 
culated to edify the hearers, but not to arouse 
them. There was little or no passion, no heat, 
no declamation, almost nothing to attract the 
unthinking. He was utterly wanting in the 



102 A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. 

energy of feeling, the fervor and glow of mind 
that fuses down his auditory into one common 
sympathy with the orator, and moves all before 
it with the rush of its glorious enthusiasm. He 
could explain with the clearness of a demonstra- 
tion, the truths he wished to present, and there 
was a deep and honest interest, and often a spir- 
itual fervor and unction in his sermons, that was 
inexpressibly delightful to his pious hearers, but 
all was quiet. The multitude was not attracted 
by his ministry. Under his labors the growth of 
religious sentiment was slow, but it should be 
added, that it was abiding. What was gained 
was almost never lost. 

This good soldier^ his victories had never to be 
struggled for and won again ! 






(108) 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 105 



CHAPTEE VI. 

WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST, 
A. D. 1824, Etc. 

HAT was^ and is now, a mimonary's life in 
our horae field? Like all other earnest 
livep, a scene of blended shadows and sun- 
beams. There is enough of exposure, toil, 
neglect, and hopeless effort in it to make it ut- 
terly intolerable to one whose heart is not aflame 
with the benevolence of the gospel of Jesus 
Christ. But with this, it is a life of real comfort 
and pleasure. The shadiest, wildest places in the 
path are blithe with chastened joys. 

The reader will see this best, by looking in on 
random days, in the history of two or three 
"good soldiers of Jesus Christ," or following 
them, as they go forth "enduring hardness." 

In December, 1823, a young licentiate — Ben- 
jamin Franklin Spilman — came into the field 
over which the reader is to ramble in this chap- 
ter. This good man was the son of Benjamin 
and Nancy (Eice) Spilman, and was born in Gar- 



106 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

rard County, Kentucky, August 17, 1796 Hia 
parents were from Virginia, and emigrated to 
Xentiicky among the <^ariy pioneers. 

A glimpse of bis liJe will be appropriate be- 
fore we hurry on in the narrative. He gradu- 
ated at Jeflerson College, Pennsylvania, in 1821, 
and studied theology with ti^e Kev. Dr. G. Wil- 
son, of Chiliicothc Ohio. Be was licensed by 
the Cliillico'he Presbytery in 1823, and ordained 
and installed pastor of Sharon Church, Illinois, 
by the Muhlenburgh Presbytery in 1821r. Here 
he labored, dividing his tune among the counties 
bordering <. u the Ohio and Wab ish rivers, for 
two years, when he became an itinerant mission- 
xiry in Middle and Southern Illinois In this- 
work he labored ''or seventeen years. But at last 
his health began to give way, and the people o 
Shawneetown wliere lie had oi-ganized a Church 
in 1826, prevailed u])"n him lo settle among 
theju. He was iTi.italled paslor or the Church in 
April, 1842. Two years after" urd he removed to 
Coester, Illinois, bur. in 1851 he returned to Shaw- 
neetown and jemained with his old coi>gr( giiion 
until his peace'ui (iej)arture, in the midst of a 
l^lessed revival of religion. May o, 1S59. 

He man-iru in 182u, Miss Ann Cannon, Can- 
■nonsburgh, Pennsylv .rna, who died in 1835 He 
marj'f'd, in 1840, Mis.s Mary P. Potter \\ Ikj. with 
two children, 8 rvives him. 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 107 

Mr. Spilman was a hard-working missionary. 
Por thirty-six years he labored faithfully for the 
spiritual welfare of his adopted State. Posses- 
sing a robust constitution, a warm heart, and a 
holy zeal in the cause of Christ, he was never 
idle, and seldom sick. His influence for good 
will long be felt in Southern Illinois.* 

This worthy man met Mr. Bliss first in a sa- 
cramental meeting in Sharon Church, August 19, 
1827. From that day forward the two became 
intimately associated in the arduous preparatory 
work that fell to their lot. Together they trav- 
ersed a large part of what is now the Presbytery 
of Saline. They held communions in the infant 
Churches, and visited Presbyterian families set- 
tled here and there through the wilderness, and 
cheered tbem to undertake for the promotion of 
God's glory. For this work the rugged and stal- 
wart Kentuckian, blunt and familiar in his man- 
ners, was far better qualified than our polished 
and quiet New Englander. But the two supple- 
mented each other, and were everywhere wel- 
comed. The cordial intimacy between them was 
very useful to themselves and the Churches. 

Beyond the Wabash Piver dwelt all of Mr. 
Bliss' brethren of Salem Presbytery. During 
the five years that followed his ordination, he 

* Wilson's Presbyterian Historical Almanac, 1860. 



108 WILDEltNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

often crossed over and joined some of them in a 
missionary tour among the vacancies and desti- 
tutions of that field. Thus he became identified 
in spirit and measures for doing good wiili the 
saintly Scott and Martin, and their fellow- 
laboi ers. 

Midway between these beloved brethren be- 
yond the river and the Spilmans (Benjamin 
Franklin and younger brother, Thomas A., or- 
dained October 13, 1828), who itinerated far and 
near, in the vast territory, to the souih and west 
the humble cabin, soothed by the whispering 
oaks, became a kind of sacred rendezvous. Father 
Scott, until his lamented death in 1827, and after- 
ward Rev. Truman Perrin, Principal of the Pres- 
byterian Seminary at Vincennes, frequently came 
down to join in communion-meetings and tnjoy 
the society of their modest but gificd brother. 
And sometimes the genial^Spilman, out on some 
long and lonely missionary tour, would drop in 
to lodge, and riot in the good cheer of this cosiest 
of all homes. The wide, rustic fireplace, with its 
flashing hospitable joys, lit up no happier scenes 
than when these friends thus met. 

But these interesting occasions were, of course, 
at long intervals. The routine of missionary life 
went on unbroken. 

No description will give so true an impression 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 109 

of his every-day life as a few extracts from the 
old, faded diary. This meager journal was only 
designed as " a memorandum of the weather and 
worldly affairs." It is bald and brief giving no 
expression to his feelings, as the hackneyed and 
threadbare events dragged themselves along. 
The reader must tax his own imagination to 
clothe the scenes with the colors and the air of 
lire. We will open "the short and simple an- 
nals " at random. 

May 17, 1826. — Weather very warm. Ground 
the tools and made some bar-posts. 

May 18 Lh. — Weather very warm. In the even- 
ing thunder. Went to Mt. Cartnel. Seiit $50.00 to 
American Bible Society for another box of 
Bibles, etc. 

May 19th. — Making post and rail fence. A 
plowing up the orohard, which had been planted 
and replanted, the corn having all been eaten off 
by the army-worms, which almost cover the face 
of the ground. 

May 21st. — Sabbath. Pleasant. Meeting in the 
school-house. 

May 22d. — Morning cloudy. Furrowing 
ground in the orchard in the afternoon. Plant- 
ing it the third time. 

May 23d. — Some cloudy. Making bee-house 

and bee-hives. A plowing up my other 

corn fields, the worms having taken the corn. 



110 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

May 24th. — Warm. Some thunder. Showers 
at a distance. At work in garden, and making 
bee-hives. 

May 25th. — Afternoon raining. Attended the 
meeting of the "Sabbath-School Society" at the 
court-house. 

Thus the current of his busy, quiet life flows 
on from page to page. 

** Something attempted, something done, 
Is witnessed by each setting sun." 

We will turn now to his modest record of some 
missionary labors: 

November 17, 1825. — Thursday cold and blus- 
tering. Some snow. Started early on a mis- 
sionary tour. Rode twenty miles to Mr. Scott's. 
He then rode with me eleven miles to Mr. S.'s, 
where I preached in the evening. 

November 18th. — Froze hard last night. Eode 
to Washington seven miles. Mr. Scott preached 
in the afternoon. Rode two miles and preached 
in the evening. 

November 19th. — Weather more moderate. 
Returned to Washington and preached at mid- 
day. Rode out seven miles and preached in the 
evening, and baptized two children. 

November 20th. — Weather pleasant. Attended 
the communion season in Washington. Mr. Scott 
preached. We administered the Lord's Supper, 
and three children were baptized. 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. Ill 

November 2, 1827. — Cloudy. Started after 
breakfast, in company with Brother Perrin, to 
visit a Church on the West of the Little Wabash. 

Kode fifteen miles to Esquire M 's, where we 

dined. Six miles farther we reached the river. 
The rest of the afternoon, and the evening until 
9 o'clock, was spent traversing ihe bottoms, en- 
deavoring to thread our way out to the prairie. 
The afternoon was cloudy, and the path separated 
into stray tracks as we proceeded, where the 
travelers before us had straggled around in the 
deep woods to escape quagmires As night set 
in, the sky was still obscured, and we had to 
wander on without anything to guide us in the 
desired direction. The wolves howled hideously 

around us. To crown all, Mr. P was taken 

sick, and after trying to go on for some time, 
with frequent stops, we finally unsaddled our 
horses and encamped for the night. Having ob- 
tained a little rest, we again pursued our course, 
and, by the direction of a kind Providence, we 
arrived at a safe habitation. 

November 3d. — Cloudy. Eode two miles to 
the place of meeting, where we met Brothers 
B. P. and T. A. Spilman. I preacht-d in the fore- 
noon, Mr. Perrin in the afternoon and I again in 
the evening. 

November 4th. — Cloudy. A most interesting 



112 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

communion season. Brother Spilman preached 
in the morning, and Brother Perrin in the even- 
ing. 

November 5th. — Cloudy. Preached at 8 o'clock 
in the forenoon to a solemn audience. An affect- 
ing parting season in the afternoon. Returned 
within fifteen miles of home, etc. 

Let us turn over the faded diary to a record of 
the old-time journeys to Presbytery and Synod, 
etc. The leisurely and sociable horseback trips, 
the tedium of the way through the vast, prim- 
eval woods that then covered Southern Indiana, 
beguiled by the company of long-separated breth- 
ren, will doubtless be quite a contrast with these 
times of the telegraph and express trains. Some- 
times, however, there were dangers and expo- 
sures that took away much of the charm from the 
journey. For a glimpse of the hardships of this 
service his adventures in April, 1827, will serve 
as a specimen: 

April 8, 1827.— Sabbath. Cloudy. Preached 
at Mr. Buchanan's. After meeting went to "Vin- 
cennes in company with Mr. Crane, ruling elder. 

April 9th. — Heavy rain last night and much 
thunder. Rode in the rain all the forenoon in 

company with Messrs. Scott and C . Creeks 

high. Arrived at Mr. White's, near " Turman's 
Creek." 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR'CHRIST. 113 

April loth. — Pleasant. Eocle to Terre Haute. 
Preached in the evening. 

April 11th. — Rode to "Big Raccoon Creek." 

April 12th. — Tremendous rain last night. High 
wind during the day. Spent the day searching 
for a passage across the creek in vain. 

April 13th. — After much traveling we found a 
ford and crossed, and arrived at night at the 
place of meeting. 

April 14th.— Failed of a meeting of Presby- 
tery, a quorum not being present. Attended 
meeting preparatory to a communion. 

April 15th. — The sacrament of the Lord's Sup- 
per was administered. Mr. Scott preached. After 
meeting rode a few miles toward home. 

April 16th. — Pleasant. Swam our horses across 
the creek, while we crossed with our baggage in 
a canoe. Rode to Honey-Creek Prairie. Preached 
in the evening. 

April 17th.— Pleasant. Rode to Turman's Creek. 
Preached in the evening at Mr. White's. 

April 18th. — Rode to Mr. Scott's, and on the 
19th returned home. Wabash very high, etc. 

For a more cheerful picture we turn to the fall 
meeting of the Presbytery and Synod for the 
same year : 

October 5th. — Forenoon picking cotton; after- 
noon attended meeting at Esquire Gould's. Mr. 
Spilman preached. 



114 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

October 6th. — Meeting at Mr. Danforth's. Mr. 
Spilraan preached at 11 o'clock, and also again in 
the evening at my house. 

October 7th. — Attended a communion season 
at Mr. Danforth's. Present, Brothers Scott, Spil- 
man and Perrin. 

October 8th. — A rainy day. Attended the an- 
nual meeting of the Bible Society. 

October 9th. — Some rain during the day. 
Started with Brother Spilman for Presbytery and 
Synod. Rode to Mr. Scott's. 

October 10th. — Cloudy. Proceeded in company 
with Messrs. Scott, Perrin, Spilman and Gould 
for Bloomington, where the Preebytery is to 
meet. Eode thirty-five miles. 

October 11th — Rode about forty miles over a 
very hilly country. 

October 12th. — Pleasant. Eode eiglit miles to 
Bloomington. The Presbytery constituted. 

October 13th. — Spent the day in Presbyterial 
business. 

October 14th. — Attended the sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper. In the evening a missionary ser- 
mon by Mr. Spilman, 

October 15th. — Presbytery met in the morning, 
finished the business, and adjourned In the af- 
ternoon rode twenty-five miles. 

October 16th. — Rode twenty-seven miles to 
Salem. 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 115 

October 17th. — Attended the meeting of the 
"Indiana Missionary Association.'' 

October 18th — The Synod was ''constituted," 
and then, after its adjournment, follows the ac- 
count of the long trip homeward. 

This proved to be the partinof interview with 
one of their genial company. In December the 
veteran misnionary, the holy man of God, the 
Eev. Samuel T. Scott, entered into his heavenly 
rest. 

The next meeting of Synod was held at Vin- 
cennes, October 6, 1828. The dingy old " diary " 
says of it ; 

October 19, 1828.— Sabbath. Pleasant. The 
most interesting meeting I have ever witnessed 
in the Western country. Sixty-three persons 
came forward to connect themselves with the 
Church, etc. 

How sweetly the words of Rev. xiv. 13, come 
to the soul as we read this statement : " Blessed 
are the the dead which die in the Lord from 
henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may 
rest from their labors; and their works do follow 
them." The influence of a righteous life sur- 
vives the life itself, and continues to bear its 
fruits of holiness. Sometimes after the sun has 
set he succeeds in flushing the quiet clouds and 
mellow sky, and the evening air, with a splendor 



116 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

that surpasses the brilliaocy of his noontide 
strength. Even so a holy radiance follows a 
truly saintly life, and covers the scenes it blessed 
with the beams of its departing glory. "No one 
of God's children ever dieth unto himself." 

It has been said that Mr. Bliss' means of living, 
while engaged in the work of the ministry, were 
his farm and the contributions of his congrega- 
tion. In 1828 the American Home Missionary 
Society began to contribute something to keep 
him in this field. This aid was continued for 
three years, and then, at his own request, was 
withheld. 

During this period it became his duty, as a 
missionary, to report his labors every quarter to 
the Rev. Absalom Peters, Corresponding Secre- 
tary of the Society. Some of these, copied care- 
lessly on loose leaves, still survive. We will 
close this glimpse of his "wilderness work for 
Christ" with an extract from one of these " re- 
ports ^" 

" August 13, 1831. — During my last quarter I 
have been called from home more than usual, to 
attend to the interests of the Church in other 
parts of the State. ***** I have spent 
two Sabbaths in Coles County, one at a point 
eighty, and the other more than one hundred 
miles north of this. It is a fertile tract of 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 117 

country on the head waters of the Embarrass 
and Little Wabash rivers. The settlements have 
been most'y made within three years, in or near 
points of timber that put out into arras of the 
'Grand Prairie.' At the most distant congrega- 
tion I organized a Church, consisting of seven- 
teen members, with a prospect of soon doubling 
in members, by the immigration of Presbyterian 
families in the autumn * Ordained elders, and ad- 
ministered infant baptism. Found there, in a little 
log cabin, a theological student. He spends a part 
of his time cultivating a iSeld of corn, to procure 
sustenance for himself and wife and two small 
children, and the other part in theological studies. 
Having gone through several parts of trial, be- 
fore a Presbytery in Kentucky, he is in hopes of 
receiving license this fall or in the spring. f 

''Next I attended a 'four-days' meeting' in a 
congregation about twenty-five or thirty miles 
south of that point just mentioned. Here was a 
Church of about twenty members, organized last 
autumn. J Administered the sacrament of the 
Lord 8 Supper, baptized one adult and fourteen 
children. Thirteen were received into the com- 
munion of the Church; several others are indulg- 

* Oakland, Presbytery of Palestine. 

t Samuel C. Ashmore. 

J Pleasant Prairie. , 



118 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

ing a hope of pardoned sin, who will probably 
soon unite; and several are anxiously inquiring 
the way of salvation. 

" The meetings on Saturday and Sabbath were 
holden in the o^ n air, under a thick, shady 
grove, on the bank of a little clear stream of 
water, which issued from a spring in the edge of 
a prairie. What added peculiar interest to this 
meeting was the fact that it was held on the very 
ground which once was the favorite spot for en- 
campment of the Kickapoo tribe of Indians, in 
their hunting excursions. The grove, which had 
long echoed the wild yell of the savage, now re- 
sounded with the voice of prayer and praise of- 
fered up to the only living and true Grod. Here, 
in a literal sense, was spread in the wilderness 
the table of the Lord. Here was a Christian as- 
sembly, listening with intensity of soul to the 
truths of the gospel, the unvarnished story of 
the unparailcled sufferings of the Son of God for 
the redemption of the immortal soul ; here, we 
trust, children were consecrated to God by believ- 
ing parents; Christians were invigorated and en- 
couraged in their journey toward the heavenly 
Canaan; souIh which had long been captives in 
the chains of Su^an,. emancipated and brought to 
enjoy the liberty and the privileges of the sons 
of God.' These are some of the luxuries of the 



WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 119 

missionary in the wilderness. One such meeting 
is an ample compensation for years of travel, 
toil and privation. 

"I assisted also in organizin^^ a County Bible 
Society under favorable auspices. I think that 
the Bible cause received, indirectly, an impetus 
from the conduct of two public characters, who 
pretend to preach the gospel, who had previously 
spent considerable time and pains in the county 
publicly denouncing Bible Societies. Sabbath- 
Schools, and Missionary Societies, as creatures of 
the devil, etc. This, in a civilized community, 
of course produced a reaction, and excited the 
friends of these dilferent causes to greater zeal.** 

Now we will turn to the tattered diary and 
follow the missionary to his home: 

July 26, 1831 —Tuesday. Started for home. 
Eode five miles to Muddy Point. Fifteen miles 
to the first cabin — all the way through the open 
prairie. Flies very numerous. Horse covered 
with bushes. Having waited until night, on ac- 
count of flies, set oft' in company with a traveler. 
Twenty miles to the next cabin. Arrived about 
midnight. G-ot feed for horse. Slept a little 
while on the floor. 

July 27th. — Rode fifteen miles to breakfast. 
Flies wonderfully plenty. At the risk of a horse's 
life to travel. In the evening arrived at home. 



120 WILDERNESS WORK FOR CHRIST. 

forty miles. Through the mercy of God found 
my family in usual health. 

And as we part with him on the threshold of 
his home, who will not breathe the benediction, 
** Well done, good and faithful servant! " 



Ifa«fffllf Ifpf?. 



H2i) 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 123 



CHAPTER VII. 

BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 
A. D. 1830, etc. 

UST at this period tlie work was strengthened 
by the introduction of some pious English 
families. Up to this time, among the many- 
settlers that were taking up the vacant lands, 
there were some Presbyterians who had located 
for the most part in Barney's Prairie. The so- 
ciety in the vicinity of Mr. Bliss' had remained 
as described above. To the south of him, and 
only half a mile from the saintly home under the 
oaks, was a race-course, busy with its boisterous 
throng each Saturday and its deadly influences. 
We can readily understand with what pleasure 
he saw a thrifty, stanch, intelligent Englishman, 
of good property and enlarged views, come and 
settle near him. 

The chain of providences that led to this cir- 
cumstance was this: 

In 1816 a wealthy merchant of Wellenborough, 



124 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

England, became enamored with the project of 
purchasing lands in America, and sent over his 
son to select and buy. A providence directed 
him to the region covered by our story. He en- 
tered an immense tract, part of it for speculation 
and part of it for a gentleman's country-seat and 
demesne. After indulging the pleasing day- 
dream of his *' estates in America " for a number 
of 5'ears, and making some discoveries of tho 
nature of landed property in the frontiers, a 
division of it was finally made among the rela- 
tives he had induced to emigrate. This was 
Adam Corrie, Esq. 

In 1829 a younger brother, in the Honiton 

lace trade, at St. Neots, in , being unsettled 

in his business by adverse providences, determin- 
ed to emigrate. Immediately closing up his af- 
fairs, he embarked for America and reached 
Decker's Prairie by August. He came to settld 
and entered on the business contemplated with 
characteristic vigor. He purchased the farms of 
four of the old settlers, the patriarchs of a large 
circle of relatives, friends and retainers, who be- 
ing thus dislodged moved off in a body further 
west. 

Eobert Corrie was a Scotchman by birth and 
training, and by temperament ardent, restless, 
and irrepressible. Ho was born on the old an- 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 125 

cestral estates in the vale of the Sol way, and 
fished and floated all his boyhood well-nigh on 
the bays and nooks of the neighboring ocean, 
and sighed for sea-salmon to the end of his days. 
He was educated at Dumfries. While there he 
enjoyed a privilege in which sny Scotchman 
would have gloried. Eobert Buni> u^cd to come 
over on Saturday frequently lu bi-t tkrast with 
the principal, an old and genial friend. These 
were grand occasions for the boys, who never for- 
got the songs and the wondrous talk they heard 
as ihoj all lingered and lingered around the ta- 
ble. The impression made by these scenes was 
never erased. The name of Eobert Burns never 
failed to fire his imagination and memory, and 
Bet the eyes to glowing even in old age. "When 
he came away from his native land, he brought 
a trifling tuft of grass from the Poet's grave, and 
treasured the frail and faded memento until it 
dropped little by little to dust. In his old age 
it was his custom to sit with " dear auld Eobin's" 
poems on one side of his chair, and the Bible on 
the other, and to read out of each alternately; but 
before the end came even '* Eobin " was laid 
away. 

At the time he settled, as above detailed, he 
was not a '-communicating member," but he had 
a Scotchman's pride and love of the Presbyterian 



126 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

Church. To him, it was the Church of his fa- 
thers, the Church of the martyrs, and fully pos- 
sessed his heart. In these preferences he was by 
no means as meek as his brethren. Nothing ir- 
ritated him go soon, or more hopelessly upset his 
equanimity, than to come in contact with the 
misrepresentations of the faith and order of tho 
Church, that he found everywhere afloat around 
him. Whoever it might be that uttered one in 
his hearing, or wherever, the off'ender was sure to 
be set right on the spot or demolished with some 
sarcasm. His views of the energy and enter- 
prise becoming a Christian partook of his na- 
ture. 

Mrs. Sarah (Herbert) Corrie, his wife, was a 
woman of rare excellence. Born in Olney, the 
daughter of a Dissenter, she was converted un- 
der the preaching of Christopher Anderson. It 
was a noble epoch when she grew up to woman- 
hood, and she was in the midst of the stir of 
awakening life. Newton and Scott, although 
gone then, had preached in Olney so long as to 
leave the contagion of their exalted piety. Cow- 
per was living at Weston Underwood until she 
was thirteen years old. Wilberforce, the philan- 
thropist, was in the midst of bis career. Robert 
Hall and Andrew Fuller and Leigh Richmond 
were in their glorious prime. Tho missionary 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 127 

spirit was awakening among the Churches as in 
the "years of ancient times." Edmund Burke 
and Pitt and Fox were in the British Parlia- 
ment. The spirit of a new and better life was 
breathing in Church and State, arousing great 
thoughts and great men. Sarah Herbert was 
possessed of a mind to be touched and thrilled 
with the lofty inspiration of the time; so she 
grew up. When she reached America, with her 
husband, she was ii the noontide of her life. 
Such was the wife and mother in the new house- 
hold. Her mental capacity was equal to any duty 
that life might bring. Her comprehension of 
things was bold and satisfying, her views inde- 
pendent, her memory "clear as a brook in June," 
her resolution inflexible when on^ce decided, her 
affections ardent, her disposition gentle and be- 
nevolent, her piety of a thoughtful and childlike 
spirit, fired with the mental glow and elevation 
of Anderson's and Robert Hall's and Fuller's elo- 
quence. Her thirst for knowledge was insatiable. 
History, biography, books of travel, the English 
poets, the works of the elder divines — as Baxter, 
Flavel, Cecil, Bunyan, [N'ewton, Scott, etc., the 
" modern essayists," missionary periodicals, week- 
ly papers, one American (secular) and one Brit- 
ish (religious), with their able expositions of all 
current questions, these, with her well-read Bible, 



128 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

more precious than all — formed the sterling ali- 
ment on which her mind fed with intensest de- 
light, and on which it daily grew in beauty, bril- 
liancy, and wisdom. 

From the time that these two had fairly estab- 
lished themselves their house became the scene 
of most agreeable resort. The cultivated, the 
thoughtful, the enterprising, the pious, in all the 
country around, found there an open door and 
genial company. The outset was plain and 
practical, as became an English home transplant- 
ed to these scenes, but the social entertainment 
was such as was not often to be met within a 
"farm-house" in any land. Mrs. Corrie had the 
happy art of calling up themes congenial to the 
company, as though spontaneously, around the 
fireside or the hospitable board. The conversa- 
tion would be kept out of unpleasant eddies until 
the sparkling current began to flow, and then 
there would, somehow, such an air of intellectual 
exhilaration pervade the company; such practi- 
cal and common-sense views of things be suggest- 
ed, that all felt at ease and free to contribute to 
the interview. In the. animated scene our impa- 
tient, restive Scotchman presided as the landlord 
in true English guise, and by his side was his 
gifted wife, with her deep, busy, bonnie eyes, 
intelligence and benignity speaking in her face, 
and the law of kindness on her lips. 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 129 

Those spirited and racy days have not been 
forgotten. The picture survives in the memory 
of friends, who so often have, 

"Formed the circle round the ingle wide." 

Mr. Corrie sitting in his cozy corner, fidgety 
"irith the warmth of his feelings, blurting out 
BOute vehement joke, or telling, with moistened 
eyes, some tale of wrong, or want, or wrangling, 
with some neighbor, across the fireplace, on some 
rustic issue, while his faithful dog sits by on his 
haunche^^, watching his master's eye: Mrs. Cor- 
rie, meanwhile, wholly enlisted in the profitable 
entertainment of the company, busy talking or 
listening, watching each pause in the conversa- 
tion to introduce, with an unobtrusive grace and 
tact, some higher and more thoughtful theme. 

But to the family the sweetest time of all tho 
day was the early evening before the candles 
were lit. The cares of the busy day being closed 
up, every living thing about the farm safely 
"housed and tended," all anxiety was duly dis- 
missed, and the members of the household gath- 
ered in the family room. Perhaps the success or 
failures of the day would be discussed with many 
a wise proverb or pungent joke interspersed; or 
perhaps a simple story of an adventure of some 
of them in corn-field, or harvest, or fallows, or, 



130 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

perchance, in hunting or fishing, it mattered not, 
it was made the occasion by the parents of sug- 
gesting grave and sober lessons wrung from ex- 
perience. Anything free and real to introduce 
the evening Gradually the conversation would 
rise. Anecdotes would be introduced, stories of 
the great and good, scraps of ^ ersonal history, 
and by and by, very liiiely, some interestirg and 
profitable question would suggest itself to their 
minds, and ere they were aware of it, the ani- 
mated company would find their interest enlisted 
in it. Then love and wisdom reigned. All waa 
made to conduce to truth, sobriety, good sense and 
virtue. How happily the hours would fly over 
them ! In due time candles would be lit, and 
books and papers introduced; and later still, 
when the hour came for the family to separate, 
"the big ha' Bible " would be laid on the table, 
and all be reverently ended with prayer. 

" From scenes like these Old Scotia's grandeur springs," 

This fine, old-time household, sheltered by the 
gentle hand of Providence, remained unbroken 
clear down to 1864, when it was suddenly dis- 
Bolved by the peaceful departure of the sainted 
parents. They " were lovely and pleasant in 
their lives, and in their death they were not di- 
vided." 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 131 

This portrait of domestic life, upon which the 
reader has looked, in its main features was not 
unfrequent among the better class of English set- 
tlers, of the past generation, in Southeastern 
Illinois. Their long meals, spiced with more or 
less vigorous "table-talk," their summer twilight 
and winter evening gatherings of the family, at 
the close of each day, for the sole purpose of a 
familiar interview, formed a standing feature of 
their domestic life. The conversation in which 
they delighted sprung out of their experiences, 
their observations of life and men, the opinions 
derived from books and study; and then each 
landlord was quite likely to have some favorite 
hobby, on which he was accustomed to expatiate 
at large. All this, in their social habits, made 
their houses remarkable for intelligence and hos- 
pitality. 

Is the art of conversation dying out ? This 
question, often asked, has received different an- 
swers, according to the standard adopted. If 
by conversation is meant a superficial and ro- 
mancing chattiness, a style that savors in its best 
expression more of gossip than anything better, 
and that is a display of the lighter qualities of 
the mind and spirits, and the chief end of which is 
pastime, then, certainly, it is rather improving 
than otherwise. But if it be conceived of as the 



132 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

play of the nobler elements of judgment, taste 
and sensibility, pervaded by a delight in the 
good, and the true, and the beautiful, as fetching 
its finest inspirations from eo lofty a source as 
this: the art by which a company discusf-es what- 
ever theme rises to their attention, with the glow 
of social sympathy, the enlistment of thought 
and feeling, imagination, humor, all animated by 
the mental collision, and eech one contributing 
his raciest reflections; this, that is equally re- 
moved from frivolous gossip on the one hand, and 
heated wrangling on the other; this interchange 
of intellectual convictions, in a broad and genial 
atmosphere of social and mental enjoyment, 
it is ieared is disappearing from some house- 
holds, where once it prevailed. Indeed it can 
not exist where there is not intelligence and a 
vigorous mental life; and it can not survive from 
one generation to another unless there is leisure, 
books, and the means of intellectual culture and 
a social stimulus, all of which are conditions that 
rarely obtain long in our new and unsettled so- 
ciety. But what a charm this feature of their hab- 
its lent to the homes of the early English settlers I 
In Kr. Corrie's household the members antic- 
ipated the evening interview with genuine in- 
terest. It was rarely that some neighbor was 
not in the fireside circle. If any old friend was 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 133 

on the roads, within reach, at nightfall, he was 
sure to find his way to the open, hospitable door. 
The children sat by to hear the vigorous and en- 
tertaining talk, the burden of which was sure to 
be something improving. And so, better than 
by any other means — though other means were 
not lacking — they were educated. 

Following them, in 1832, there came another 
family from England. They were very poor in 
this world's goods, but passing rich in faith and 
good works. Thomas Beesley, the husband and 
father, was a village blacksmith in Bedfordshire, 
and on reaching Decker's Prairie he bought a 
little patch of land, and set up a " smithy." They 
were members of the Baptist Church in England, 
of a pure, simple piety and love to all the saints, 
and Avell instructed in the Scriptures. They at 
once identified themselves with the cause of 
religion. They went with "joyful haste " into 
the prayer-meeting and the Sabbath-school. 

At first afflictions befell them. The^e was sick- 
ness in the family, and losses of various kinds; 
and, to crown all, one day the "smithy" took 
fire and burned down, and all was to begin again. 
*' They were cast down but not destroyed." Had 
not God said: "Trust in the Lord and do good> 
and thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily, 
thou shalt be fed?" Mr. Beesley was apt to de- 



134 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

Bpond, but his saintly wife was sure tbat the 
'* promises were yea in Christ Jesus, and in him 
Amen ;" and so they cheered themselves and staid 
on the faithfulness of God. And they were not 
left to be ashamed of their confidence. 

This devout and happy pair were separated in 
1851 by the death of Mr. Beesley. Mrs. Beesley 
was graciously preserved to bless her family and 
the pious friends with the holy cheerfulness ol 
her counsels and example until October, 1865. 

Her saintly life was a lovely illustration ol 
piety. As to temporal affairs, her experience was 
one of poverty and discipline for much of her 
days, but all had been so sanctified that there 
was no vestige of her trials left in her character, 
but a sweet resignation to a loved and precious 
Savior, and a cheerfulness that sprang from too 
deep a fountain of peace for the storms of this 
world to seriously disturb. Her purity of soul, 
humility, contentment, benevolence, her love for 
Jesus, and enjoyment of the comforts of his 
grace, spoke out of her gentle face. The gosjjel 
was indeed and in truth ''good news" to her. 
She was slender and delicately formed, a lady in 
spirit and manners by nature, and a most 
precious child of grace. Often have her pious 
friends felt that if some one adequate to the 
task could have been found — the poet-hand, for 



BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 135 

example, that depicted the character and life of 
Elizabeth Walbridge — to draw the spiritual por- 
trait of this lovely saint, what a mo lei of piety, 
what a legacy to the righteous in every land and 
age would be the life of good Alicia Beesley, 

The next 3^ear, at midsummer (1833), Adam 
Shepard, Esq., came from New Hamprhire and 
entered a tmct of land adjoining Mr. Bliss' 
farm, and made his home, as it proved, for 
life. This gentleman was a scholar, too, a gradu- 
ate of Middlebury College, in the class of 1826. 
His father. Col. Morrill Shepard, of Canterbury, 
New Hampshire, had bestowed on this son every 
advantage. His education began when he was 
but twelve years old, at the Pemberton Academy. , 
After graduating he spent one year in teaching 
in the valley of Virginia, and then returned to 
New England, where he commenced the study of 
law with Ezekiel Webster. After the untimely 
death of that talented man (who fell dead while 
pleading an important case at Concord, New 
Hampshire), he pursued his studies with the 
Hon. Mr. Nesmith, of Franklin, New Hamp- 
shire. 

Such was the man who reached Mr. B'iss, with 
his young wife, late in the afternoon ol July (ilh, 
1833. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss welcomed tliem cor- 
dially. They were united by vaiious ties. Mr. 



136 BEAUTIFUL LIVES. 

Shepard had been prepared for college by tho 
venerable Dr. Wood, and was a member of his 
family at the very time that Mr. Bliss, like 

'• The young Locliinvar came out of the West, "J 

as we have told before, seeking his bride. Mrs. 
Shepard was a native of Boscaween, trained un- 
der Dr. Wood's pastoral care all the early part 
of her life, hopefully converted in her girlhood 
under his ministry. She had thus grown up in 
the bosom of a most devout community. Sho 
and Mrs. Bliss had been companions in other 
days, and were familiar with the same friends 
and associates. 

So helj) was sent from far, and the social trans- 
formation" went on. 



|» |:W-|iiiif ||fetifl5 pf Irfslaftpg. 



:(i37) 



AN OLD TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 139 



CHAPTER VIII. 

AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

October 9, 1830. 

N this part of the narrative the order of events 
has not been rigidly adhered to. The design 
has been to so group them together as to 
show the growth of Mr. Bliss' usefulness, 
and the progress of religion in the field commit- 
ted to him. And so a notable event in the old- 
time memories of the country-side has been un- 
wittingly passed over by the reader — the meet- 
ing of the Center Presbytery, Synod of Indiana, 
at Mr. Bliss' residence, October 9th, 1830. 

The long-gone scene lives still in the memory 
of the few, the very few, survivors who onco 
took part in it; and the authentic account of its 
transactions, doubtless, exists, sleeping some- 
where, mute and forgotten, in the old "records." 
But there was one feature of its business that 
gives that session of Presbytery an historical im- 
portance. We shall learn, too, much that may 
interest the curious and the devout of those times 



140 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

and men. Let us endeavor, therefore, to repro- 
duce the scene as it once aj^peared. 

The " Center Presbytery of Illinois " was con- 
stituted by the Synod of Indiana in 1829. It em- 
braced the State. The second " fall meeting " 
was held on Decker's Prairie. " The brethren 
came from fifty to three hundred miles to attend 
it." Among them were men of conspicuous 
talent and energy. Eev. John Millot Ellis, the 
founder of Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois; 
Bev. J. M. Sturtevant, D. D., its honored Presi- 
dent; Pev. Theron Baldwin, "Secretary of the 
Society for Promoting Collegiate and Theological 
Education at the West;" and other honored 
names are found on the roll. 

Our hard-wrought missionary, B. F. Spilman, 
was chosen Moderator, and John McDonald, 
A. M., long pastor of Pleasant Prairie, was the 
Temporary Clerk. There were fourteen min- 
isters present. 

The meeting was held at Mr. Bliss' residence, 
as stated above. During the summer he had 
built a new house. The family occupied the L, 
and the main part of the building was left with- 
out partitions, and formed an open hall eight- 
een by thirty-six feet, that was filled with tem- 
porary seats for this occasion. Here the Presby- 
tery held its sessions. Here the brethren preached 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 141 

the word,' and the people pressed to hear. Cu- 
riosity was excited by the appearance of so many 
strangers. And then everj^ thing was favorable. 
It was lovely, ripe 0<3t(fber, the heat of summer 
assuaged, the weather superb. To the farmers it 
was a time of leisure — the long rural holiday that 
comes after wheat-sowing. And so, of course, the 
meetings were crowded day and night. The ven- 
erable Mr. Lippincott says: " Our services were 
not without the divine presence. At times the 
silence and solemnity were awful." We may 
safely infer from this remark that the exercises 
were often very interesting, for the congregations 
were- motley throngs. Wabash Church numbered 
but twenty- nine, counting every member within 
a radius of ten miles of the pastor's house. Pro- 
fessing Christians of every name must have 
made up but a small part of the crowds that 
filled the house and all the grounds around. The 
bold and reckless character of the mass of them 
may be inferred from what has been said of the 
general state of society. So that when we hear 
that the " silence and solemnity of the meetings 
were sometimes awful," we conclude at once that 
God gave his blessed truth an able advocacy and 
a noble hearing. 

But the gem had a wild and rustic setting. 
Around them, as they looked out of the open 



142 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OP PRESBYTERY. 

windows, was nothing in view but the wide prai- 
rie, covered with its enormous autumn growth of 
grass and weeds, gay now with brilliant, coarse 
flowers; the natural pasture for herds of cattle 
and deer, the lurking-place for hares, foxes, 
wolves, wildcats, panthers, catamounts and bears. 
This last-named animal was not numerous, but 
was sometimes met with on the small water- 
courses and in unfrequented places, and the 
knowledge of their existence gave a spice of 
danger to an evening stroll along any of the 
lonely paths that led through the high grass to 
the neighboring cabins. Their rest at night was 
disturbed by the cries of birds and prowling 
beasts of l)reyj and in the morning they were 
roused up betimes by the piping quails, or the 
wild call of the turkeys and prairie fowls, and 
the howling wolves in the rank wilderness 
around them. 

But they had before them, too, an emblem of 
the changes and progress of the country that 
were to be expected in the teeming future. Un- 
der the "aged oaks"' yet stood the lowly, 
primitive cabin, with the "lean-to" that Mr. 
Bliss and the sainted May had built for them- 
selves in 1818. This, whitewashed as of old, and 
fitted up by one of the neatest and most practi- 
cal housekeepers in the world, was the cozy 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 143 

<5ubiculum where Mr. Bliss lodged all of his 
guests. 

But just a few feet to the west, where the rust- 
ling leaves of the oaks threw their shadows on 
the porch, was the " 7iew house,'' a commodious 
and substantial frame. The lesson taught by 
this scene was one that the Presbytery urgently 
felt. Their present work was one of prepara- 
tion. If all now was strong, rough, untamed, 
yet a little while to come and the State would be 
filled with population, enterprise and wealth. 
They were sitting at the springs of future great- 
ness, and needed wisdom, grace and zeal for their 
work. 

The historical interest of this meeting of Pres- 
bytery centers around the far-sighted measures 
then taken to promote the Sabbath-school cause 
in their field. Sabbath- School Missions in the 
State of Illinois, their efficiency for good, their ne- 
cessity ; this was the theme around which all the 
life of the meeting ^clustered. 

Much had been attempted under the auspices 
of the "American Sunday-School Union," but a 
thorough and systematic endeavor to fill the ris- 
ing State with Sabbath-schools and Sabbath- 
school libraries and influences, originated in this 
meeting of the Center Presbytery of Illinois. 
There was present, to promote this, a young and 



144 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

gifted minister, in his fervent prime, the Eev. 
Artemas Bullard. The interesting providence by 
whicli this noble spirit was brought among themi 
is thus narrated by the Eev. Thomas Lippincott 
himself an actor in the scene. It is valuable as 
an illustration of that glorious Providence that 
rules in all things, however trivial they may 
Beem, and makes them to " work together for 
good to them that love God." 

" Our course," says he, " from Yandalia through 
the ' Grand Prairie,' led us to cross the Yincen- 
nes and St. Louis road, at Maysville, then little, 
if anything, more than a tavern. We, i. e., nearly 
all the Presbytery from the west side of the 
State, arrived at the inn just at nightfall, and 
proceeded to secure lodgings. Whilst attending 
to our horses it was rumored that a minister 
from Massachusetts on his way to the w st part 
of the State, had arrived just before us, and was 
then in the house. I believe something was said 
with regard to his mission. ' Let us take him 
with us,' was the spontaneous and universal 
thought. An interview and explanation resulted 
in his accompanying us the next day, and then 
in a cordial understanding that his ' Sunday- 
School Mission ' was recognized as sent of God. 
We were delighted with him, and, I believe, the 
pleasure was mutual." 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 145 

The purpose of Mr. Bullard's mission is stated 
with so much simplicity by Mr. Bliss in his " Ke- 
port to the Home Missionary Board," prepared 
after the rising of Presbytery, that we can do no 
better than quote from it. We readily see that the 
presence of this gifted man had "filled their 
mouths with laughter, and their tongues with 
singing." 

" Our sorrow and grief," says Mr. Bliss, refer- 
ring to their previous discouragement respecting 
the training of the youth of the country, " were 
suddenly turned into joy, hope and high expec- 
tation by propositions made by Mr. Bullard, 
* Corresponding Secretary of the Massachusetts 
Sabbath-School Union,' at our recent meeting of 
Presbytery. That * State Union ' proposes to 
take Illinois under its fostering care, as it re- 
spects Sabbath-school operations, appropriate 
funds to establish a general ' depository ' of Sab- 
bath-school books for the supply of the State, 
constantly employ a traveling agent or agents to 
carry the Sabb'i.th school system into effect, as 
far as practicable. What is particularly needed 
in this country, they propose to enter largely 
into the ' emigration scheme.' Mr. Bullard is 
now engaged traversing the State, to ascertain 
the existing wants as to Sab bath- school teach- 
ers. The object is when those wants are defi- 



146 AN OLD TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

nitely ascertained, to search out and encourage 
pious lay members of Churches, in the older 
States (male and female), to emigrate to this 
country and settle down, in their respective oc- 
cupations, with special reference to Sabbath- 
school, and other benevolent operations." 

Mr. Bullard laid all this far-seeing scheme 
open before the Presbytery, lie urged tiiem, 
ministers and laymen, to arouse and bestir them- 
selves. "How did the presence, the addresses, 
the conversation of that brother cheer us," says 
Mr. Lippincott; " we thanked God and took cour- 
age." The definite plan, the tangible help, the 
hopeful spirit of the enthusiastic missionary, 
were like an inspiration in their counsels. The 
brethren enlisted anew in the Sabbath-school 
work. Agents were sent forth, who traversed 
the State, preaching and lecturing on the godly 
training of the young, and organizing Sabbath- 
schools. A miglity impetus was given to this 
cause, so vital to the well-being of Church and 
State. "The East," says one, "has more than 
fulfilled all her promises to the Christian work- 
ers in Illinois."* 

* Mr. Bullard settled afterward at St. Louis, as pastor 
of the First Presbyterian Cliurch of that city. He was emi- 
nent as a preacher and scholar, and was honored with tho 
degree of Doctor of Divinity. While yet in the prime of 
his strength, honors and usefulness, he was cut down in the 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 147 

But is it not a curious fact that this arousing 
call to diligence, in this most potent of all mis- 
sions, should have sounded out over the State 
from so quiet a work and amidst such humble 
surroundings? How broad and bright a stream 
has risen from this lowly fountain! The impetu- 
ous current has had many a check, and some- 
times has almost ceased to flow, but in this gen- 
eration we are permitted to behold it rising with 
a grander tide than ever before. To the devout 
men — ministers and laymen — who now see the 
great State filled with Evangelical Churches, 
with their Schools, their Bible, Tract, Temper- 
ance and Missionary Agencies, every means for 
maintaining and promoting our Protestant re- 
ligion, this humble name — Wabash Church — 
should wear a hallowed charm. There the words 
of cheer were spoken, the help proffered, the 
councils formed, and the decisive steps taken, 
that, in the long ye^rs, have led to it all. This 
is the cool, sequestered source from which arose^ 
amidst the prayers and praises of devout men, 

terrible disaster at the opening of the Pacific Railroad. An 
excursion train went out in honor of the occasion, freighted 
with a holiday troup of the most enterprising citizens, many 
of them with their families. In crossing the Gasconade 
bridge the structure gave way, and the cars were hurled, one 
after another, with crushing ruin, into the river. Among 
the killed was this gifted man of God. 



148 AN -OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

in October, 1830, this " stream that is making 
glad the City of God."^^ 

Before leaving this part of the narrative it 
will be well for us to advert to the interest and 
zeal that was felt at this period by the Eastern 
Churches in the promotion of religion in the 
West. 

Dr. B. B. Wisner says that a marked impulse 
and direction were given to this interest — nay, 
that the " American Home Missionary Society " 
arose out of the holy enthusiasm awakened at 
the ordination of one of these very men, the 
Eev. John Mi Hot Ellis. 

This beloved disciple, while a student at And- 
over, in 1825, was much exercised in mind as to 
what part of the field, home or foreign, he should 
devote himself. "Now," he writes to his father, 
" the question is, how and where can I spend the 
short period of my life most for the good of the 
Church, most for the glory of Ilim who redeemed 

* The names of the members of Presbytery present were 
Revs. B. F. Spihiian, Shawneetown ; John M. Ellis, Julian 
M. Sturtevant, Theron Baldwin, all of Jacksonville; Solo- 
mon Hardy, Greenville; John Mathewp, Kaskaskia ; Thomas 
A. Spilman, Hillsljoro ; John Brick, near Jacksonville. 
Thomas Lippincott, Edwardsville; John Herrick, CarroUton ; 
Stephen Bli.ss, Centerville; John McDonald, Benoni Y. Mes- 
senger, Cyrus L. Watson. Rev. Artemas Bullard, corre- 
sponding member. 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 149 

US to God by his blood? Our Western country, 
with a population of three millions, and increas- 
ing so fast as to double it four years, is very 
destitute of established institutions of the gos- 
pel; and yet it will, in a very few years, have the 
governing voice in our national counsels; and 
then what will become of our bappy country — 
•this heritage left to us by our pious ancestry, 
and which piety alone can preserve? >i< jJc * 
But increase the moral power of America and we 
shall do much for e£fecting the conversion of the 
heathen. I am persuaded that I have the pros- 
pect of contributing to the success of the gospel 
in India more effectually by laboring in this 
country, than by going there in person; and this, 
partly in view of my own situation, and partly 
in view of the importance of increasing Amer- 
ica's moral power, in raising up friends to mis- 
sions for the conversion of the world." 

This was no common spirit that could thus 
survey the world and stand ready to cast his life 
wherever the Lord should indicate. When the 
question was settled he hastened to set about his 
work. The next day after his graduation at 
Andover he was ordained by a " council " in the 
"Old South Church," Boston. Dr. Wisner says: 
*' This ordination, taking place the next day after 
the anniversary at Andover, was attended by 



150 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

persons interested in the prosperity of Zion from 
various parts of the country. Several of these 
persons from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New 
York, and South Carolina, met providentially at 
my house the next day and had their attention 
called to the desirableness and expediency of 
forming a " National Domestic Missionary Socie- 
ty." After discussion, it was their unanimous 
opinion that the formation of such a Society was 
desirable and practicable. And so a meeting was 
resolved on, to be held in Boston, June, 1826, to 
advise respecting it, and in the May following 
the " American Home Missionary Society " was 
instituted in the Brick Church, New York. 

From this time forward the home missionary 
spirit fostered by the Society rapidly developed 
in the Eastern and Middle States. Mr. Ellis en- 
tered Illinois in the fall of 1825. Th ere he found 
but three Presbyterian ministers: B. F. Spilman, 
John Brick and Mr. Bliss. His fervent^ soul was 
stirred as he saw the open door for present use- 
fulness, and the boundless prospects of the future, 
and the supineness of the Churches. He breathed 
a holy ardor in his work. The story of his in- 
cessant, joyful, fruitful labors, and his glowing 
appeals published in the Society's public journals^ 
tended mightily to arouse the attention and sym- 
pathy of pious people and direct their gaze to the 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 151 

wondrous "West. As intelligence concerning the 
field increased, the cordial interest of the Churches 
increased. 

Still another motive that was influencing ex- 
tensively in the East was a true Christian patri- 
otism. This is hinted at in Ellis' letter to his 
father. '* The western country, now destitute of 
the established institutions of the gospel, would 
soon hi*ve the governing voice in the national 
councils, and then what would become of the 
heritage of liberty left us by our pious ancestry, 
and that piety alone could preserve?" This senti- 
ment began to animate society all through New 
England. It was dwelt on in the religious litera- 
ture of the times; ''Christianity is essential to 
our political safety." The interest this would 
give to the work of evangelizing the West, in its 
nascent youth, can be readily perceived. It en- 
listed statesmen and patriots of every class as it 
gained currency. For if there was one lesson 
that the Puritans had learned in generations of 
bloody struggles for human rights, it was that 
there can be no constitutional liberty preserved, 
where the religion of Jesus is not, and a Protest- 
ant civilization. This must become Emmanuel's 
land, this great Kepublic, if it were to remain 
free. 

Quickened by these motives they undertook to 



152 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

plant the iDstituiions of religion all through the 
growing West. Their missionaries, many of them 
men of truly Apostolical ejDirit, did wondrous ser- 
vice for Grod, in establishing Churches through- 
out Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, pro- 
moting the Bible, Sabbath-school, and Temper- 
ance causes, and in starting every good influence 
among the communities they reached. 

Standing in the midst of this gallant band of 
laborers now organized as the Center Presbytery 
of Illinois, and gathered at Mr. Bliss', we can 
look out over their vast field, and see what " God 
had wrought." The Presbyterian Churches in 
Illinois were on the line of the Wabash Kiver 
on the east, and the Mississippi on the west, and 
were separated by the vast prairies in the middle 
of the State. They were at first but slightly 
acquainted with each other, and were under the 
care of different Presbyteries. Those in the 
west were included in the Presbytery of Mis- 
souri, which was constituted December 18, 1817. 
The First Church in that region was the " Shoal 
Creek," organized March 10, 1819. 

In the valley of the Wabash the work began 
earlier. In 1810 or 1811 the E^^v. James Mc- 
Gready, of the Muhlenburg Prt sbyter^^ Ken- 
tucky, made missionary tcaiis into Southern 
Indiana, and having penetrated into Illinois as 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 153 

far as White County, to a settlement of emi- 
grants from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee 
and Kentucky, he organized there the " Sharon 
Church " in 1816. This is the oldest Presby- 
terian, and so far as known the oldest Protestant, 
Church in the State. 

Golconda was organized in 1819. These all 
belonged to the Muhlenburg Presbytery, Synod of 
Kentucky, until 1827, when the Ohio Eiver was 
made the boundary between that Synod and the 
newly constituted Synod of Indiana. 

In 1823, by order of the Synod of Kentucky, 
all the Churches in Indiana, north of a line 
drawn due west from the mouth of the Ken- 
tucky Eiver, were constituted into Salem Pres- 
bytery. 

In 1824 the Churches in Illinois, north of a 
line drawn due West from the mouth of White 
Eiver, were incorporated into that Presbytery. 
This was the first ecclesiastical connection that 
these Missionary Churches had ever enjoyed, viz: 
Wabash, and Paris, and Newhope, in Edgar 
County. 

In 1825 thn Sa'em Presbytery was divided, and 
Wabash P--csbvtei-y. was constituted in the west- 
ern p irt am) Madison in the eastern. Of course 
Mr. Bliss by this became a member of Wabash 
Presbytery. 



154 AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 

May 29, 1826, the General Assembly consti- 
tnted the Presbyteries of Salem, Wabash, Madi- 
Bon and Missouri into the " Synod of Indi- 
ana." 

The Presbytery of Missouri, here mentioned, 
embraced all of Missouri, and almost all of Illi- 
nois, as we have seen. In 1825 there were, besides 
those in the Wabash Yalley, eight or ten Church- 
es in the Slate, but not one resident Presbyterian 
minister. All the noble men who had organized 
them, and supplied them up to this date, had 
been sent out chiefly by the " Massachusetts " and 
*' Connecticut Missionary Societies," as itiner- 
ants. But just at this period, 1825, they so 
changed their policy, that afterward the mis- 
sionaries were to be " planted down with the 
Churches." Under this plan so many ministers 
settled in the State, that in 1828 the Synod of 
Indiana erected the new "Center Presbytery of 
Illinois," embraciDgthe whole State. 

The last meeting of this court the reader has 
looked upon. By the next year, 1831, the Pres- 
bytery, having increased by new arrivals to 
twenty, was divided into three: " Illinois," "^Kas- 
kaskia," "Sangamon," and these, together with 
"Missouri Presbytery," were constituted into the 
" Synod of Illinois." 

This old-time meeting of Presbytery, where 



AN OLD-TIME MEETING OF PRESBYTERY. 155 

every minister almost in the State was gathered,* 
has formed a quiet landing- place in the narrative, 
on which we could stand and *' look before and 
after," and see the general flow of events in those 
times. 

Bat the fruitful interview soon closed, and the 
company separated. How keenly our honored 
pastor must have felt, now with new force, that 
the *' harvest truly was plenteous, and the labor- 
ers were few! His nearest neighbor in the min- 
istry was B. F. Spilman, sixty miles away, and 
all the rest were from one hundred and fifty to 
three hundred. 

But God was sending help. There was a young 
licentiate itinerating at this time within the re- 
gions to the south and west, who for some reason 
was not present at Presbytery, but who, like 
Stephen, was " full of faith and of the Holy 
Ghost." To him the reader must now be intro- 
duced. 

*The only ministers known to have been absent from this 
meeting of Presbytery, who were then in the State, were the 
Rev. J. G. Bergen, of Springfield, and Isaac Bennet, Licen- 
tiate. 



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UBT) 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 159 



CHAPTEE IX. 

REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. — A PREFATORY SKETCH. 
A. D. 1829-1856. 

NE freezing night in March, 1831, a licenti- 
ate, the Kev. Isaac Bennet, called at Mr. 
Bliss' and lodged. As this was a notable 
event in Mr. Bliss' life, we will now devote 
a considerable space to this interesting guest. 

Mr. Bennet was a native of Backs County^ 
Pennsylvania. 

He graduated at Jefferson College, in 1827, with 
the highest honors of his class. He was a mem- 
ber of the first class in the Western Theological 
Seminary, and was licensed by the Addison As- 
sociation, at Monkton, Vermont, June 4, 1829. 
Just at this point in his history, God interposed, 
we know not with what motive, to turn his heart 
to the West. August 3, 1829, he was commission- 
ed by the " Assembly's Board of Domestic Mis- 
sions," to the Churches of Carmi and Sharon, in 
White County, Illinois. Here he labored for 



160 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

atout six monthB, and theD dissatisfied, for some 
reason, with the field, he started out on a mission- 
ary tour toward the West and Northwest. " The 
gospel for the destitute," seems even then to have 
been as a fire in his bones. In "the regions be- 
yond " we lose sight of him, until in ISoO, when 
he appears, by the records of the Pleasant Prairie 
Church, in Coles County, to have visited them 
and preached with great acceptance. In August 
(31), 1830, that Church was organized by Pev. B. 
F. Spilman. Mr. Bennet cast in his lot with the 
good people and settled, that is, after his style. 
What this was will be duly explained. It w^as 
on a missionary excursion from this place that 
" he lighted upon" Mr. Bliss' " and tarried there 
all night, because the sun was set." Mr. Bennet 
told his story, and the hearts of the two good 
men were " knit together" at once. Long and fer- 
vently had the lonely pastor prayed for a fellow- 
helper in his field, and now the Lord had sent 
this brother, in his early manhood, "mighty in 
the Scriptures," bold, honest, fervent, and "full of 
the spirit of wisdom." He felt all this, and was 
cheered as he looked on his guest. Mr. Bennet 
tarried the next day and the next, the attach- 
ment becoming more cordial between them. In- 
deed from this time forth they were united as 
father and son " in the gospel." 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 161 

For years, the two went abroad in extended 
evangelistic labors, visiting the Churches, hold- 
ing communion-meetiDgs, comforting and edify- 
ing the saints in love. The Lord blessed the ef- 
forts in many cases with signal marks of his 
favor. The fallow ground had long been broken 
and the seed of truth sown in faith, and all seem- 
ed ready for a day of ingathering. And these 
men were well fitted to co-operate in these labors. 
One had qualities that exactly supplemented the 
other. They were as Paul and Barnabas among 
the Apostles. Father Bliss was the "good man," 
ready to comfort believers, always peaceful, stead- 
fast, affable. Mr. Bennet was " ready to endure 
hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," his 
Boul brimming with ardor, his mind logical, deep, 
and full, and glowing with a steady flame of un- 
quenchable love to God and his cause. But, un- 
like Mr. Bliss, he could not, at least at first, be 
said to be socially agreeable. There was too much 
golemnity and sad earnestness about him. AVhat 
if pleasantries would tend to disturb his own 
sense of eternal things and to dissipate it in the 
minds of others. He could not satisfactorily 
draw the line between cheerfulness and levity, 
and so he shunned them both. Acts vi. 4 literal- 
ly described him. "He gave himself continually 
to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." 



162 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

Solemn, grave, almost severe, he would not suffer 
himself, for many years, to be drawn into a con- 
versation except upon religious subjects. And so, 
as with all really earnest men, his influence was 
positive. "Lewd fellows of the baser sort" ab- 
horred him, the sinner in his eins dreaded him, 
but the penitent looked to him for counsel, and 
the truly godly delighted to see him come to their 
doors. The general feeling toward him is illus- 
trated by the confession of a very devout man 
and long a ruling elder. " I would have gone a 
half mile around, rather than have met him in a 
lane, or been alone with him in a room; but one 
morning under heavy conviction of sin, I went 
out to the well where he washing himself, know- 
ing that he would speak to me about my soul. 
His counsels just met my case. O, how I loved 
him as he talked to me.'' " How awful goodness 
is," some one says, but when we have a disposi- 
tion to love it, nothing is so lovely. Such did the 
young licentiate prove to be. 

In the spring of 1831, he " pitched his moving 
tent " with the congregation of Pleasant Prairie. 
" As to his settling in this place," says a venera- 
ble ruling elder, " he never did truly settle here. 
He was too much of a missionary for that."* He 

*Zeno Campbell, Esq. Mr. Bennet boarded with this gentle- 
man during the two years that he had charge of the " Pleasant 
Prairie Church." 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 163 

was unmarried, and in consequence of the ex- 
treme simplicity of his character and habits, 
quite free from earthly cares. Of an earnest and 
self-sacrificing spirit, his only business seemed 
to be to " please the Lord in all things." His zeal 
knew no bounds. He built him a modest study 
of poles in the shade of a grove, within hail of 
the house where he boarded. Here he pondered, 
praised and prayed. From this rustic seclusion 
he would issue to do wonderful service for his 
Lord. Here he retired to recruit his worn-down 
energies. Thus two years were spent. Over all 
the territory, now covered by the Presbytery of 
Palestine, he ran on the heavenly errand. 

April 13, 1833, at the spring meeting of the 
Presbytery of Kaskaskia, held in the village of 
Palestine, Illinois, he was ordained to the full 
work of the ministry, as an Evangelist. This 
event was esteemed to be one of public interest. 
It made a great stir among the Churches, and 
indeed among religious people generally, as far 
as Mr. Bennet was known. He was the greatest 
preacher, taken as a preacher, that had ever ap- 
peared in this part of the country, and the im- 
pression he had made was worthy of his talents. 
In his quiet diary, Mr. Bliss says of that long- 
gone event. 

" April 13 — Saturday, cool and frosty; Presby- 



164 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

tery proceeded to ordain Mr. Bennet; exercises 
solemn and interesting; crowded assembly." 

It is like this modest man, to never bint the 
fact tbat be was the Moderator of Presbytery, 
and so, of course, bad a conspicuous part in the 
solemnities. Rev. B. F. Spilman preached the 
sermon, and Wm. K. Stewart gave the charge. 

' At this time he became acquainted with one of 
Mr. Bliss' elders, who lived in that wing of the 
Church which was in Lawrence County. From 
bim he received a cordial invitation to visit that 
region, and shortly after he did so, and was 
pleased with the appearance of the country and 
the people, and thought he perceived *' a wide and 
effectual door" of usefulness set open before him. 

In a few months he entered the field per- 
manently. 

In 1835 thirt}^ members of Wabayh Church 
were dismissed and regularly constituted as 
Pisgah Presbyterian Church, and he was engaged 
to supply them. Here, for the following sixteen 
years he labored, doing prodigies of ministerial 
service. July 6, 1836, he was married to Miss 
Caroline Buckanan — a lovely, modest, discreet 
girl — " a lamb out of the fold." Mr. Bliss per- 
formed the ceremony and then went over with 
the wedding party to the new parsonage that Mr. 
Bcnnet had built, much of it with his own hands, 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 1G5 

and there assisted in dedicating it solemnly to 
God, "with the word and prayer." 

In 1851 he removed to Canton, and was stated 
supply of that Church at the time of his decease, 
June 16, 1856. 

As to anj^thing further concerning the life and 
character of this eminent servant of God, the 
reader will be gratified by the sketches from two 
gentlemen who were personally acquainted with 
him, that will be found on subsequent pages. 

Two or three features of interest, which are 
not mentioned by these writers, will close this 
prefatory sketch. 

In appearance, Mr. Bennet was tall and slender, 
but muscular. He could endure a vast amount of 
fatigue. Nature had not honored him with the 
facile and winning face that becomes the real 
orator that he was. The aspect of his features 
was contemplative, and when lit up with the in- 
spiration of some noble theme, they wore a be- 
nignant glow, but ordinarily they were somber, 
almost harsh. His complexion was dark — un- 
usually so for a European. Indeed, the Eev. 
John McDonald, who succeeded him in the Pleas- 
ant Prairie Church, says that he told that he 
was of Turkish extraction. We happened to 
know that in some branch of ^ his lineage he was 
also French. His eyebrows were black and 



166 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

heavy, and quite met over his nose. This gave 
him a peculiarly severe aspect when ''moved with 
indignation." When there were disorders in the 
congregation that prevented the people from 
hearing, or levity, or improprieties of any kind, 
he knew how to frown a black and awful rebuke 
that withered the offender. 

But what he will longest be remembered for by 
some was his excessive sensitiveness to the cry- 
ing of infants. In those good old times it was 
the custom for mothers to take their children to 
meeting. All was well if they kept still, but if 
they grew restive in the smothering atmosphere 
of the dense throng, there was a sad state of af- 
fairs followed. Whenever the glowing preacher 
might be in his flight, the first shrill note of the 
blatant urchin would utterly disconcert him, and 
bring him down blank and confused. Nothing 
further could be done until the nuisance was abat- 
ed. Such was the logical structure of his mind, that 
his thoughts followed each other in a close con- 
nection, each springing out of those preceding it. 
If the current were broken, he was hopelessly 
embarrassed. Hence, his sensitiveness. When 
there was a fretting child, or whispering, or in- 
decorum in the congregation, it was his custom 
to pause and administer some word of counsel 
or reproof. 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 167 

He taught the solemnity of the Divine worship. 
To his soul a sanctuary was a Bethel, and he 
breathed out, as he entered it, the adoring lan- 
guage of Jacob at Luz, " How dreadful is this 
place! this is none other but the house of God, 
and this is the gate of heaven." So thoroughly 
was he imbued with this sentiment, that his very 
presence made a hallowed and solemn atmosphere. 
It felt like a sacred place wherever Mr. iiennet 
was preaching, whether in a pulpit or on the 
floor of some log school-house, or on a rude plat- 
form under the shelter of the summer trees. 

His method of sermonizing was peculiar and 
instructive. It partook more of the nature of 
devotional meditation on the Divine Word. A 
text would be selected in the morning for pious 
reflection. During the day his mind would be 
occupied as a refrain in the midst of other cares, 
with an analysis of the passage, and an dieting 
of its voices of instruction, or reproof, or com- 
fort, or admonition, or promise. As he went on 
in this work he applied it all for his own quick- 
ening peniteoce, or hope. He studied first of all 
for himself. Thus his sermons were eminently 
experimental. All, from first to last, was a "voice 
of the heart." " He knew whereof he affirmed." 
He knew the truth, authority, efficacy and grace 
of what he taught, from an inward conviction 



168 

and experience of it all. This method of ser- 
monizing made him an amazingly full and search- 
ing preacher. He was " mighty in the Scrip- 
tures," as has been said. 

Another result was, that his store of sermons 
was never exhausted. lie made them faster thaa 
he preached them. In 1851, at the time he re- 
moved from the scene of his long missionary la- 
bors in Southern Illinois, he remarked, that '*after 
twenty-two years of service, he had more than 
one hundred sermons that he had never preach- 
ed." 

Kev. Mr. Lilly, in his valuable sketch, speaks ot 
Mr. Bennet's peculiarities. A glimpse of his life 
at Pleasant Prairie will best illustrate these, and 
the sterling qualities, too, that he possessed. 

When he first began to preach statedly at 
Pleasant Prairie, he " boarded around "familiarly 
among the families. All lived in cabins with but 
one comfortable room. Children — "the heritage 
of the Lord," but sad foes to Mr. Bennet's philo- 
sophical cpmposurc — abounded. By way of es- 
cape, in the morning it was his custom, when the 
weather permitted, to fill his pocket with the 
crusts from the breakfast table, and then with hia 
Greek Testament to retire to the woods, and 
nothing more would be seen of him until night. 
As the weather got colder he built a hut of poles 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 169 

in the grove near the churchyard, and where 
the Church was afterward built. His hut was 
divided into two compartments. Into one of 
these he moved his worldly goods, consisting of a 
few soul full books, a bed, a stool and chair, and 
his saddle and bridle. Into the other he led his 
faithful horse. A pole was left out of the par- 
tition at the bight of the trough, and through 
this opening he would bountifully feed and com- 
mune with his sagacious servant. 

For this horse he had a sincere attachment. 
He was the only companion of the saintly Evan- 
gelist in his long missionary journeys, sharing 
his " perils in the wilderness," in floods, by hun- 
ger and thirst, by cold and heat. His gait and 
form became indissolubly associated with his ex- 
periences and labors as a missionary. Poor 
" Jack," his mute friend, he came to feel a sin- 
cere interest in, as an humble fellow-helper. 

Once when he was leaving his field for a visit 
to his friends in the East, he gave Jack into the 
hands of one of his elders, with many a grave 
warning against abusing him, and bit of advice 
as to taking care of him. " If he dies before I 
come back, bury him. In his lowly sphere he has 
served the Lord's cause too long and faithfully 
for us tp let his body fall a prey to ravening birds 
and beasts." Was not this something of 
Oriental's doting affection for his courser? 



170 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

He was not social in his habits in the begin^ 
ning of his ministry. He shunned the society of 
females. Once, when one of his most cordial 
friends, and one that admired him beyond meas- 
ure, had invited in some of her most devout 
neighbors to spend the day with her, she sent 
over at dinner time to invite him to dine with 
them. Mr. Bennet came with a very grave and 
dissatisfied air. He had scarcely got into the 
house, when he accosted her in something like 

these words: "Mrs. , I have submitted to 

this useless disturbance for this time, but let it 
never happen again." And it never did. 

Shortly after the organization of the Church — 
August 31, 1830 — he began to stir in the matter of 
a meeting-house. All were poor, but God had 
said, "Build the house, and I will take pleasure 
in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord." 
Haggai i. 8. Mr. Bennet drew up the subscrip- 
tion, and started it b}^ pledging twelve days' 
work and one-third of the expenses. All the 
timbers were hewed in the woods — the weather- 
boarding was of spilt white-oak boards shaved. 
The flooring they whip-sawed. Not a fragment 
about it was bought but the nails. It was some 
time before it Avas furnished with a pulpit, because 
there was no lumber at hand. Mr. Bennet was 
architect and in large part builder of the interest- 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 171 

ing structure. From the " square " it is ceiled up 
the rafters a little way, and then across, and 
thus the form of the ceiling acted as a sounding 
board, and every whisper of the preacher was 
reflected from every point. This vaulted form 
also gives the room, which is indeed but twenty- 
four by thirty feet, quite a lofty and spacious ap- 
pearance. This old building, weather-beaten, 
dilapidated, moss-grown, but holding up against 
storms and decays, with a tenacity that shows 
how honestly it was put together at first, still 
stands. It is situated in the bosom of a grove. At 
the deserted doors a ravine runs diagonally, and 
just behind it is the churchyard. The prayers 
and praises of the hearts, long silenced, seem to 
linger around the rent and broken walls. Ah, 
what hallowed scenes have been witnessed here ! 
How many have here been fitted for a useful life 
and the paradise of the saints on high! 

The congregation has many years ago left this 
first tabernacle, li^e Israel, for a temple better 
fitted to accommodate the growing throng or 
worshipers that come to the solemn feasts. 

Mr. Bennet's labors were of a character to re- 
main and produce fruit more and more abundant- 
ly through the long, long years. Such a preach- 
er as he could not but " paint for eternity." 



L'. w. 



fcwf. i i 



(1T3) 



BEV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 175 



CHAPTER X. 

REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

Contributed by Eev. Wm. A. Fleming. 

HE following sketch of this eminent soldier 
of Jesus Christ is by Eev. Wm'. A. Fleming. 
It gives many facts in his history to t^e close 
of his life, and is occupied chiefly with the 
final years of his ministry, as stated supply of 
the Church at Canton, Illinois. 

The late Rev. Isaac Bennet, of Canton, Illi- 
nois, was, at the time of his decease, supposed to 
be about fifty-two or fifty three years of age. The 
precise time of his birth is not known. He 
made a public profession of religion at the age 
of twenty, but he always supposed he experienced 
a change of heart at twelve. Immediately upon 
his uniting with the Church he commenced a 
-course of studies preparatory to entering the gos- 
pel ministry. He graduated in 1827 at Jeff'erson 
College, Pennsylvania, with the highest honors 
of his class. His " valedictory " was found after 
his death among his scanty papers, for he left 



176 

little in manuscript form behind him. We could 
wish that he had left more. The eadly-pleasing 
task of friendly reminiscence would have been 
rendered comparatively easy. As it is, the data 
as respects his early life are very meager. He 
was a member of the first class formed in the 
" Western Theological Seminary." He remained 
there, however, but one year. He lived in the 
family of the Eev. E. P. Swift, D. D., and studied 
theology (with two or three others) under hia 
direction. He left Allegheny about the time 
the Seminary was formally opened, in conse- 
quence of some difiiculties in his mind about 
subscribing to the form of matriculation pro- 
posed by Dr. J. J. Janeway. He went to Phila- 
delphia and studied for some months.^' He was 
afterward licensed to preach the gospel, by the 
Addison Association, at Monkton, Vermont, June 
4, 1829. How long a time he spent in ^N'ew 
England is not known, nor the causes which led 
him back again from the far East to the (then) 
far West. That he had at first some proclivities 
toward certain tenets of the New England The- 
ology can not be doubted. The manner of his 
licensure, and the testimony of Dr. Swift, confirm 
this fact. Eut it was only for a short season that 
he wavered. He was ordained by the Presbytery 

* Di- Livino-ston. 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 177 

of Kaskaskia as an BvangeliBt, at a meeting held 
in Palestine, April 13, 1833; and, during the 
whole course of his laborious ministry, of over 
twenty-seven years in that vast prairie State, ho 
was an "Old-School Presbyterian " ofthestrait- 
est sect — the uncompromising, yet judicious foe 
of new measures and new theology. He, him- 
self, traced his establishment in the orthodox 
faith to the reading of " Dickinson's Five Points. "-'^ 
In the early years of his ministry he traveled 
extensively, as a missionary, in the southern por- 
tion of the State, then a wilderness. He organ- 
ized numerous C lurches, and supported himself, 
in large part, while preaching to them. He was, 
throughout his life, more or less of an itinerant. 
He loved the work, and he did not abandon his 
"little circuit," as he called it, until compelled to 
do so, a few months before his death, on account 
of the disease in his throat. This spirit of con- 
secration is illustrated by an incident that recurs 
to my mind. He was returning from Presbytery, 
in company with myself and one of his ruling 
elders. He inquired about the merits of Mc- 
Cosh's, " The Divine Government." I replied 
* Dr. Swift informed me afterward that Mr. Bennet had 
some leanings toward Hopkinsonianism. But ray impression is 
that he did not preach long before altering his views, from 
reading Dickinson, as referred to. The remark respecting the 
" Five Points " was made to myself in a bookstore in Peoria 



178 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

favorably. He then added, with a half-suppress- 
ed sigh, "^ell, it does not matter particularly. 
I think I will not buy it," adding, " My study- 
days are nearly over; it is now work, work, icork.'^ 
I looked at his frail tabernacle and thought (but 
did not say), *' It will not be work, work, very 
long with good Bro. Bennet." And so it proved. 

To return again to the narrative. His dis- 
ease was bronchitis; and he had been admon- 
ished several times within the last two or three 
years that it was necessary for him to take care 
of his throat. But so ardent was his desire to 
*' be about his Father's business," that he icould 
preach as long as his strength lasted, on week- 
day and Sabbath, in town and country. Only 
the second Sabbath before his death he preached 
twice, and attended to a Bible-class. 

That very evening he was seized w4th a violent 
attack of his disease, and continued to sink be- 
neath it until death brought a blessed release 
from his pains. 

He was delirious during most of his last illness. 
But in his wildest mood but one theme dwelt upon 
his tongue — the religion of Jesus. He preached, it is 
said, two whole sermons during those irrational 
hours. Blessed employment even in delirium! 
He had, however, a few lucid hours, and then he 
sj)ent his breath in speaking words of comfort to 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 179 

his agonized wife and weeping children, and in 
dictating messages to his dear people, especially 
to the impenitent in his congregation. 

Ooce, as a heavenly smile lit up his counten- 
ance, he said: "I see a bright angel coming to 
convey me home!" But soon a cloud passed 
over that bright fiice. Like that great and good 
man, Dr. Thomas Scott, he was in darkness. Satan 
buffeted him, and arrayed " a black catalogue 
of sins against him." But that cloud dispersed, 
and once more he triumphed in Christ. He could 
say, " I know that the blood of Jesus cleanseth 
me from all sin. I have tried to fight the good 
fight. I think I have finished my course and 
kept the faith; and I believe there is a crown of 
righteousness laid up for me." 

Bat, although he spoke thus assuredly, he 
nevertheless esteemed himself as vile and hell- 
deserving; " a sinner saved by grace." 

When his disconsolate companion suggested to 
him that she desired to have his funeral sermon 
preached from Psalm xxxvii. 37, " Mark the per- 
fect man, and behold the upright: for the end of 
that man is peace," he smiled, and said, " What 
preach on such a text for such a worthless one 
as I?"* 

* I preached his funeral sermon from that text to a very 
large congregation, June 17, 1856. I took the view that " per- 



180 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

The deceased was, we believe, in more than the 
ordinary acceptation of the term, '' a good man,'* 
" a holy man of God." He lived to do good. 
Like his divine Master, whom he so long and 
faithfully served, " he went about doing good." 
A pious widow once remarked concerning him, 
that she never knew him to make a strictly social 
visit:^ He seemed always intent upon some 
spiritual benefit to the household which enter- 
tained him. We never recollect to have sat at 
table with him without hearing something that 
we could recollect with profit. 

As illustrative of this trait in his character, 
we subjoin the following incidents. The reader 
must remember, though, how much Mr. Bennet's 
solemn manner would increase the impressiveness 
of these remarks, and that this can not be com- 
municated. Here is the rose, but the perfume 
has exhaled, we fear. 

Once his wife was apologizing, as housewives 
often do unnecessarily, about her table. He said, 
solemnly, " When we hai>ve exhausted God's good- 
ness here before us it will be time enough to 
complain." 

feet" meant " whole, complete, beautifully consistent;" and 
in this sense it was very appropriate to the character and life 
of the departed " brother in the Lord." 

* Mrs. Page, relict of the Rev. David Page, of Canton, Illi- 
nois. 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 181 

At another time a friend remarked, with refer- 
ence to some perplexing scene he had just passed 
through, " Tribulation does not always work 
patience." '* ^o," he replied, "that is true; it too 
often works fretfidness in us all." 

Once again, as I bade him good-by after hav- 
ing preached for him two or three sermons, he 
thanked me most cordially. I replied, " We serve 
each other and the Master pays us." " Yes," said 
he, and I shall never forget his look, as he still 
held my horse's rein; '* yes, and if we are only 
so happy as to get one smile of approbation from 
the Master on that day it will repay us a thousand 
fold for every trial and hardship here !" He paused 
a moment, and then continued, " Our congrega- 
tions do not always do their duty toward us, but 
perhaps at the great day it will be found that 
no small part of the blame has been with our- 
selves." Tais from him, though not so meant, 
was a rebake to me. 

One more incident occurs to me, illustratiug 
his habit of turning every event into an opportu- 
nity to speak for Jesus. He had baptized my 
oldest child, a son. He came into the room to 
say farewell to the mother. As he took her hand 
he said, " Mrs. Fleming, that child has begun an 
existence that will never end. When the stars go 
out in night and the world is burned up, that 



182 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A, M. 

soul will live on — live on as long as God lives. It 
is a great responsibility! The Lord give you 
grace to meet it!" With another cordial grasp 
of the hand he silently retired, overcome with 
his feelings. 

He was also a man of " integrity and up- 
rightness," " one that feared God and eschewed 
evil." He was remarkably simple-hearted and 
unsophisticated in his intercourse with the world, 
and was therefore easily imposed upon by de- 
signing men. As one of the ruling elders in hi& 
Church said of him, "He had but little worldly 
wisdom."-:^ But, withal, he was fearless and 
faithful in rebuking wrong-doing, wherever he 
thought t^at the honor of religion and the dic- 
tates of prudence required it. 

Once Bro. Bennet crossed the Illinois River on 
his way to an appointment. He was benighted, 
and found it impossible to proceed in the swampy 
state of the " bottoms." To add to the exposure, 
it became suddenly intensely cold. It grew so 
late that he supposed he could not recross the 
ferry. He made up his mind to "camp out," 
and finding an old shed, he put his horse in it^ 
and tearing his saddle-blanket in two, he tied 
up his feet and prepared himself to tramp about 
all night to keep warm. He, however, found 

* Mr. J. Blackadore. 



REV ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 183 

that this was too perilous an experiment to per- 
sist in, and determined, at ali hazards, to at- 
tempt to regain the river and recross. He finally 
succeeded, though in constant danger, in the 
darkness, of swamping. With great diflficulty he 
prevailed on the ferrymen to take him over. But 
it was dreadful boating. The rope almost froze 
to their hands. He assisted, however, and they 
got safely over. The boatmen, who were very 
wicked men, swore dreadfully — " enough to sink 
the boat," in the estimation of their passenger. 
He said nothing until they were landed, and had 
warmed themselves at the nearest hotel. He 
then paid them for their trouble, remarking, at 
the same time, in his peculiarly solemn way, " My 
friends, I have suffered a great deal more this 
evening than you have (and he gave a brief ac- 
count of what he had passed through), and I did 
not find it necessary to swear a single oath; and, 
I think you would have got on just as well for 
tliu world, and a great deal better for the world to 
corne^ if you, too, had not taken God's name in 
vain." The men were awe-struck and silent. 

He had a large heart, and it spoke out in 
deeds of love and kindness. But these were not 
paraded to the view of all men. Perchance some 
did not discover the hidden depths that glowed 
beneath an exterior at once grave and placid. 



184 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

There was never coldness, never sternness; but 
those who saw him only occasionally might have 
thought him slightly unapproachable. It was 
not so. A more instructive, entertaining, and 
sometimes even jovial comj^anion could rarely 
be found. One who knew him well said to me, 
in substance, that his conversation, when in com- 
pany on a journey, was worth volumes. And 
yet he did most of his studying on horseback. 
" His was that knowledge that lieth deep in the 
heart of a man," and happy was he who had 
"understanding" enough to "draw it out." 
Prov. XX. 5. 

He was a critical student of the Bible. He was 
no speculator or theorizer. He once told me that 
in the study of '• The Eevelations " he got along 
very well until he came to about the middle of the 
eleventh chapter, where history cesiSQS to run par- 
allel with the prophecy. After that he did not 
choose to speculate or interpret, but to vjciit. His 
study of the Scriptures was the solace of his life. 
In his work as an Evangelist, he was accustomed 
to carry a few books with him in his saddle-bags, 
such as a Greek Testament, pocket concordance, 
and a dictionary, and study as he rode along. 

In his early ministry he was remarkably suc- 
cessful. It is said that the first ten or fifteen 
years of his life were an almost constant scene of 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 



185 



revival. Scarcely a sermon was preached wMcli 
was not followed by immediate visible fruits in 
the conviction and conversion of sinners. In his 
later -life he labored under great discourage- 
ments. Although he continued to preach with 
the same faithfulness and fervency as ever, he 
was not allowed to see much present fruit. He 
sometimes almost sank under this trial of his 
faith. But he never long forgot that his God 
had said, " They that sow in tears shall reap in 
joy!" And truly, if ever any man "sowed be- 
side all waters" it was he. He was "in labors 
more abundant than we all." So that at the age 
of fifty the younger brethren called him " Father 
Bennet," he seemed so old in faith and good 

works. 

He was emphatically "in journeyings often." 
We heard him once say that he had traveled on 
horseback alone a distance equal to that around 
the world.^ " In perils of waters," he has swam 
*He did not make that remark boastfully, but incidentally, 
■when drawing a comparison betweeo horseback and buggy- 
riding. Boastfulness he never indulged in. The nearest ap- 
proach to it I ever heard him make was a remark about punc- 
tuality in appointments. He said (it was designed to benefit 
his young brother) : '' When I preached in the southern part 
of the State, where I had appointments at long intervals, the 
people always counted on my coming; sometimes owing to bad 
roads, etc., I would be a few minutes too late. Some would 
suggest, ' I guess the preacher will not be here to-day.' « Yes, 



186 

the swollen stream, side by side with his noble 
horse; "in perils of robbers, in perils by his own 
countrymen, in perils in the city;" doubtless if 
all were known; "in perils in the wilderness" 
we all know. He has encamped alone through 
the live-long night, amid the bowlings of hungry 
wolves. " In weariness and painfulness, in 
watchings often, in hunger and thirst." He baa 
munched a cold, hard ear of corn after a day's 
abstinence, while his horse grazed on the prai- 
rie. "In fastings often," necessitous fastings a& 
well as religious. "In cold and nakedness." 
We need not add further to this inspired descrip- 
tion, which, it is not believed, will apply with 
more literal force to any " ambassador of 
Christ " since Paul encountered these "perils." 

As a Presbyter the deceased was more than 
esteemed and respected; he was looked up to a» 
an advisor and counselor. Grave, sedate, judi- 
cious, intelligent, discriminating as he was, he 
seldom spoke (never long) in Presbytery. His 
voice was almost never heard in debate. Yet 
when he deemed it his duty to speak, or when 
called by the voice of the Presbytery to do so, 
ho spoke to the point. His remarks were brief, 
clear, decisive; generally settling the question. 

he will,' another would say; 'it is Bennet to-day; he never 
fails V " 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 187 

One scene — his last appearance on the floor of 
Presbytery — will not soon be forgotten. Being 
unwell, he retired from the Church. On re-en- 
tering the house he was observed to be exceed- 
ingly pale and feeble. A discussion arose during- 
his absence, about the necessity or propriety of 
opening and closing each meeting of session with 
prayer; some contending that it was not always 
necessary to constitute thus formally when there^ 
was almost nothing to be done. He arose to> 
say, " Brethren, I did not hear all of this dis- 
cussion. I was obliged to retire, feeling quite in- 
disposed; and I found myself a few moments ago 
lying upon my hack outside of the Church. It will 
be necessary for me to ask leave of absence. It 
may be my final leave. Let me, therefore, be- 
seech you, brethren, not to remove any of the an- 
cient landmarks. If it be a meeting simply to 
dismiss a member, or to appoint one of your 
number to go to Presbytery, open and close that 
meeting with prayer. Ask God to direct you in- 
everything^ and especially send not a sheep awa^r 
from your fold without asking God to guide him 
in his wanderings." This was about what he 
said. It is scarcely necessary to add that the 
" Sessional Eecords," containing the omission, 
were unanimously " excepted to." 

The examination of candidates on experi- 



188 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

mental religion, and their motives for seeking the 
ministry, were almost invariably put upon him, if 
he were present; and frequently, also, the ex- 
amination in theology. In both of these the 
central question was, " What think ye of Christ?" 

As a preacher, this good brother stood pre- 
eminent in those qualities which ought to dis- 
tinguish an " ambassador of Christ." His preach- 
ing was plain, direct, practical, solid, doctrinal^ 
instructive. His solemn earnestness, his unfeigned 
humility, his deep-felt unction, made his preach- 
ing exceeding impressive with any true hearer of 
the Word. He always seemed to be standing on 
the brink of time, looking out into eternity, an- 
ticipating the Judgment scene; and, with a re- 
alization of the soul's priceless worth, and 
Christ's infinite worthiness, pleading with, be- 
seeching men to be "reconciled to God." 

He preached Christ; he preached nothing else. 
In this age of new things, new doctrines, and 
new revelations (Spiritualism, Harmonial Philo- 
sophy, ^' et id omne genus "), he never turned aside 
from his great mission to preach any "other 
gospel." His soul abhorred all such perversions 
of the aim and purpose of a Christian minister. 
'^If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be 
Anathema. Maranatha." This he would tell 
men with all the boldness and the earnest- 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 189 

ness of a Paul. But it should be added that he 
never anathematized either individuals or so- 
cieties of men because they did not believe and 
teach as he did. 

" Father Bennet " was not, in any sense, a 
politician. I do not know that he often, or even 
ever, voted. Although eminently conservative 
(in its best sense) both in religion and politics, 
no one who knew him can doubt for a moment 
where he would have stood, had he lived through 
the eventful years of the late Southern rebel- 
lion. He, however, with other honored brethren 
and fathers, co-presbyters, "was taken away 
from the evil to come." 

The following anecdote will recall several 
traits in the character of this simple-minded, 
earnest servant of Christ. Perfect naturalness 
was his delight. " He did not like trammels " 
or "extra gear" of any kind on himself or his 
horse. He had a set of harness made in the 
simplest mode, expressly to save time, buckles 
and leather. Once he was helping me to put 
on my "fly-net." Said he, "Brother Fleming, 
it is said a ' lie will travel a mile, while truth is 
putting on her sandals.' I think I could travel 
more than a mile while you are putting on your 
" fly-net." One item I have not mentioned that I 
think deserves notice. I mean his marked cor- 



190 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

diality, "when, for the first time, meeting a young 
and new member of Presbytery. He did not 
patronize, but fraternized and sympathized at 
once with the youngest that came into the body. 
I first met him at Macomb, Illinois, during a 
meeting of the old "Synod of Illinois." His 
familiar, brotherly, aff'ectionate address surprised 
and delighted me. I was but fresh from the 
Seminary, and did not expect the greeting his 
warm heart accorded me. 

The following extracts from a letter of the 
Hev. John McDonald,^ who succeeded Mr. Bennet 
at "Pleasant Prairie," contains still further tes- 
timony concerning his personal and ministerial 
character : 

" My personal acquaintance with this dear 
brother in the Lord commenced in 1835, and 
continued eight or ten years. It was made at 
sacramental meetings and meetings of Presby- 
tery, at which interesting occasions we were fre- 
quently brought together. 

"Bro. Bennet was a most excellent man, and a 
first-rate practical preacher. His subjects were 
generally ' repentance, faith, or godliness,' which 
he explained and enforced in the most earnest 
and apostolical manner; and his labors were sel- 
dom without some apparent fruit. He was most 
indefatigable in his ministrations, enduring all 



REV. ISAAC BENNETj A. M, 191 

sorts of privations and fatigue incident to rang- 
ing widely, and mingling freely with those en- 
during the hardships of settling a new country. 

" He was not fond of judicial business, but was 
always present at Presbytery and took his part. 

" He was a man of strong peculiarities, and 
yet it is not easy to say in just what they con- 
sisted. Perhaps they may be summed up in the 
brief statement, that he was largely Oriental in 
constitution and character. He has told that he 
was of Turkish ancestry. 

" "What he did was with his might. Whatever 
was before his mind seemed to occupy his whole 
mental horizon. Hence he was easily imposed 
on, and was not an accurate judge of character, 
but almost always erred on the favorable side. 

"Dear brother, I have given you a very im- 
perfect sketch of one of the most faithful and 
self-denying men with whom I was ever ac- 
quainted," etc. 

This estimate from so close and accurate a 
judge of men as " Father McDonald," is especial- 
ly valuable. 

The following letter from Dr. E. P. Swift to 
Mr. Fleming, corroborates some important facts 
in his life : 

" Rev. and Dear Brother, — From the initials 
attached to a brief account of the late Eev. Isaac 



192 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

Bennet, contained in the Fresbyterian, I am led 
to suppose that you are the writer; and if so, I 
desire, for one, to thank you for the interesting^ 
statement you have furnished. I am anxious to 
know something more definitely about the last 
pastoral charge and closing days of that excellent 
man. For one year after leaving college, at leasts 
Mr. Bennet lived in my family, and studied 
theology (with two or three other brethren) 
under my direction, and left us about the time 
the Western Theological Seminary was formally 
opened, in consequence of some difficulty in his 
mind about subscribing to the form of matricula- 
tion proposed by Dr. Janeway. He went to Phila- 
delphia and studied there some months before he 
applied for licensure in Vermont. As a pupil and 
a member of my family, I became greatly inter- 
ested in that truly excellent and beloved servant 
of Christ. I esteemed him as one of the most de- 
voted young men I ever knew, and feel that our 
Church has few such men to lose. I am anxious 
to know about his family, his last charge, and 
whether (as the sketch in the Presbyterian seems 
to intimate) there is in prospective preparation a 
more extended account of his life; whether he 
has left among his papers any material for such a 
work, etc. 

" If your leisure will allow you to give me a 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 193 

brief statement, or put me in the way of obtain- 
ing it, I shall feel very much obliged to your 
kindness. I desire it purely as a matter of pri- 
vate friendship, and it is prompted by the wish 
one feels to know all about a dear friend whom 
we shall see no more." 



|f9. !?$?! %mi 1 1 



(195) 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 



197 



CHAPTEB XI. 

REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

Contributed by Eev. R. H. Lilly, A. M. 

lEY. ISAAC BENNET was a man of such 
powers of mind, determination of will, and 
singleness of aim, as would have made 
him a noted man in any field of labor in 
any part of the world, in any period of the 
Church's history. But in him the gold— not the 
iron of the prophet's image— was so mingled 
with the clay— the purest and noblest elements 
of Christian character with, at least, the innocent 
weaknesses of human nature, that any true 
sketch of him will seem abnormal to those who 
did not know him, and prove unsatisfactory to 
some of those who knew him best. So high was 
his aim, so decided his opinions and course of 
life, and so wanting was he in attention to the 
innocent and pleasant conventionalities of so- 
<}iety, that while some held him as the chief of 
modern saints, others, reproved by his teachings 
and his holy life, seemed to hate him for his 
sanctity; while not a few outsiders laughed 



198 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

heartily at his odd whims and ways, as they 
chose to call them, but were warm in their feel- 
ings toward him, ready to supply his wants, and 
quick to vindicate his integrity, as a man and 
minister, against all impugners. 

Premising these things as needful to be borne 
in mind, in order to a right understanding of 
what follows, and coming to particulars, we re- 
mark: 

1. That his character, as a minister, seemed to 
be as complete an embodiment of the apostle's 
injunction (1 Tim. iv. 15) as we have ever seen, 
"Meditate on these things, give thyself wholly 
to them, that thy profiting may appear of all."" 
The sense of the last clause seeming to be that 
the benefits of the gospel ministry might appear 
— be abundant and permanent — in the hearts 
and lives of all them to whom it came; the for- 
mer parts indicating the total absorbing of the 
mind by these great themes, and the entire con- 
secration of soul to them, in order to secure the 
desired success. During his ministry of about 
twenty years in our part of the State, Mr. Ben- 
net, I presume, never expressed a desire, nor cher- 
ished a wish, to be anything but a preacher. Any 
thoughts of agency, authorship, farming, lecturing 
or teaching, etc., to which his brethren, in many 
cases, felt compelled to resort rather than leava 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 199 

their fields of labor, were repudiated by him and 
abhorrent to him, although he might be tolerant 
of their adoption in case of his weaker breth- 
ren. He had a faith in God that, called as he 
was to preach the gospel, he would be enabled 
to fulfill his high commission, to testify the gos- 
pel of the grace of God. JSTor was his faith vain, 
for at the end of his ministry among us he could 
say with a fullness of meaning I never heard 
from any other lips, " For I determined not to 
know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, 
and him crucified !" as in 1 Cor. ii. 2, says the 
great apostle. 

2. He was a very able minister of the New 
Testament, as connected with, and unfolding and 
completing the things of the Old Testament. 
Giving himself wholly to these things, meditat- 
ing on them, and studying to show himself ap- 
proved to God, a workman that needeth not to 
be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, 
the word of God, not in the letter only, but also 
in the spirit, dwelt in him very richly. This 
richness in the knowledge of the Word was seen 
in all his pulpit ministrations, and in all his 
abundant conversations with men of all charac- 
ters and conditions in life. No one is likely to 
remember any point of doctrine or duty pre- 
sented by him which was not enforced by the 



200 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

pertinent application of some portion of holy 
writ, directly asserting or properly implying the 
same. Other brethren were more terrible in 
their denunciations of the " wrath of Grod which 
is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness 
and unrighteousness of men " — more conscience- 
stirring in their warm appeals to the impenitent, 
and more beseechingly-winning in inviting the 
"weary and heavy-laden" to "come to Jesus 
Christ, to find rest" in him; but Mr. Bennet's 
great excellence was in shedding the bright light 
of the pertinent Scripture texts on all the sub- 
jects that he handled. Borne out by the direct 
statements and proper inferences of the Word, 
Mr. Bennet had the high honor of holding forth, 
in many localities where they had been unknown 
or greatly misrepresented, all the great distin- 
guishing and fundamental doctrines of our holy 
religion. 

3. Mr. Bennet's labors were very abundant for 
a long period of years. In respect to all his 
compeers he could truly say, " But I labored 
more abundantly than you all.*' Yet he would 
delight to add, in an humble, thankful spirit, 
what is further said by the apostle, " Yet not I, 
but the grace of God, which was with me," as in 
2 Cor. XV. 10. Thus aided he was " more abun- 
dant in labors than they all." Those labors 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 201 

were in preaching the Word, family visitations, 
catechising the children, and personal conversa- 
tion with all sorts of men, in all stages of moral 
character. 

Take an illustration. After a hard day's ride 
he reached the school house, at which he was to 
preach at night. A pious family, with several 
children, some of them nearly grown up, gladly 
received him, and after a frugal meal, hastily 
eaten, they went to the place of meeting. Mrs. 
Smith took two candles — she had no snuffers, and 
forgot her scissors. One was set on the table by 
Mr. Bennet, and the other was fastened to the 
casing of a window on the opposite side of the 
house, by inserting the blade of Mr. Jones' pen- 
knife through the lower part of it and then into 
the wood. (This one had to be taken down be- 
fore the service was over.) About twenty were 
present, eight of these being of one family. By 
the help of a Methodist brother the hymn, " Am 
I a Soldier of the Cross?" etc., was sung after a 
fashion. Then followed the reading of a few 
verses of Scripture and a long prayer, in which 
two of the audience could say amen in their 
hearts to its petitions. Then followed the ser- 
mon, a full hour and a quarter long as to its 
solid body. But the good brother was full of 
matter, and one or two listened attentively. 



202 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

instead of quitting when he seamed to come to 
the right place, he said: "One more thought." 
Then after ten minutes spent in looking at it, 
" another thought " came up for consideration 
by the impatient audience. Then " an infer- 
ence " was required to complete the subject; and 
then, with a pretty long " finally," the discourse 
was ended. But not Bro. Ben net's labors for the 
day. At family prayers he talked some, and 
learned from their answers to him that John, 
seventeen years of age, and Mary, of fifteen, 
were both seriously concerned for their souls* 
salvation. So after prayers he took John by the 
hand and said, afi"ectionately, " I wish to talk 
with you after the people are abed;" and to 
Mary, " I should like a word with you, too, 
about loving Jesus, my Master." Their conver- 
sation did not end until after one o'clock. 

Sometimes long circuits were made in going to 
and returning from Presbytery, with ten or 
twelve appointments spread over a couple of 
weeks. On other occasions he visited the places 
at which he had preached before. Thep, again, 
he made circuits into new missionary fields, seek- 
ing out the lost sheep in the wilderness, but 
always ready to preach, or talk, or pray, reprove, 
warn, teach, counsel, advise, or eoajfurt, as the 
case might be — always about his great Master* 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 20S 

work. Knowing what others did, and that Mr. 
Bennet did far more than they, I do not think 
his sermons — and they were generally good long 
ones at that — could have been less than one hun- 
dred and seventy a year for twenty years ; and 
that his travels in the Master's service, mostly on 
horseback, were not less than three thousand 
miles a year. 

4. Mr. Bennet was one of the most unselfish of 
men. This is seen by considerations such as fol- 
low: He was never known to insist on his right 
as a preacher of the gospel, to " live of the gos- 
pel," for even so hath the Lord ordained that 
they who preach the gospel should live of the 
gospel. Like Paul, he felt a necessity laid on 
him to preach the gospel, and that a woe would 
rest on him if he did not. So, for long years of 
time, and over a large field of labor, " he made 
the gospel of Christ without charge " to thenx 
that had a part in his labors, 

He many times refused the voluntary offerings- 
made to him, on the ground that he was more 
able to do without them than other persons were' 
to give them. At other times, to meet necessi- 
ties that seemed imperative, he accepted of small 
contributions. Even from Churches to which he 
preached regularly, he received but a small com- 
pensation. 



204 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

While doing the full work of a Missionary 
Evangelist, we believe he always refused the aid 
of the Board of Missions. One or two of his 
earliest years may have been exceptions to this. 

The manner in which he used his patrimony. 
Of the amount of this I know nothing. He lived 
mainly on it for many years. Other parts he 
loaned out to poor men struggling to secure 
homes for their families; in this way risking his 
principal, while he received little or no interest 
on his means. This living on his own resources, 
and loaning out part to help the deserving poor, 
was at a time, too, in Illinois, when millions of 
acres of land that have since sold for twenty, 
fifty, one hundred, or even two hundred dollars 
per acre, near the cities and villages could be 
had for one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, 
I never heard of his entering but forty acres, 
which was to make him a homestead among the 
people to whom he ministered. Other brethren 
may have given away as much as Mr. Bennet — 
some of them certainly spent much more of their 
private means in sustaining their families whilst 
they preached the gospel, availing themselves of 
such means of helping themselves as the provi- 
dence of God then placed within their reach; but 
none of them ever saved so little of what they 
had as did Mr. Bennet in his unselfishness. The 



REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 205 

rightfulness of their course and the wisdom of 
his are not here matters of consideration. That 
Mr. Bennet lived a life of great voluntary hu- 
miliation and poverty for the gospel's sake, is 
not to be denied or doubted by those who knew 
him best. 

5. Mr. Bennet was " instant in season and out 
of season " to do his Master's work. A hard 
day's ride would bring us at night to the place 
where Presbytery was to meet. iNo brother was 
able or willing to preach. We could, in our 
helpless, wearied exhaustion, always fall back on 
Bro. Bennet, and he would esteem it a pleasure, 
in bodily weakness and faintness, to preach 
Christ to the little company and the tired breth- 
ren. Others of us could speak on religious mat- 
ters to dying men when all was favorable. But 
Bro. Bennet was always ready. The stranger 
casually met on the way, the inmates of the house 
into which the storm drove us, the family on which 
we might call for dinner, rest, and horse-feed, 
all alike were at once engaged in religious con- 
versation, and their consciences appealed to in 
approval of the condemnation that God's word 
utters against the guilty. 

6. Mr. Bennet's habits of study deserve con- 
sideration. His custom was to take a daily text or 
portion of Scripture for especial meditation. This 



206 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

he continued to turn over in his mind until he 
arrived at what seemed to be its leading idea or 
meaning intended by the good Spirit. Then his 
custom was to stop, take out his writing material, 
and commit the leading thoughts to paper. For 
years after he could tell what was in those 
papers without looking at them. Sometimes he 
stood at the carpenter's bench, sometimes he 
was busy on his farm, or was riding from house 
to house in family visitations, or was traveling 
on his long missionary tours — it was all the 
same, nothing hindered, the intellectual labor 
went on until an outline was made of the 
thoughts contained in the select passage of 
Scripture. So his sermons, lectures, exhortations, 
practical thoughts, etc., were reduced to outline 
form. The writing out, when it was done in full, 
was after the public delivery of his thoughts, 
and, if practicable, before the glow of excitement 
occasioned by delivery passed away. Physical 
employment was thus no hindrance to his 
studies. Indeed he considered it a help after 
protracted preaching, duties and labors. I have 
no one in my acquaintance who had equal 
command over his thoughts, or who, without in- 
terfering with his mental operations, could so 
successfully carry on manual labor employments. 
7. As a preacher, Mr. Bennet's manner was 



207 

that of solemn deliberation, inclined to monot- 
ony in utterance and a diffuseness of style, run- 
ning, at times, into a tiresome prolixity. The 
matter was always more interesting to his atten- 
tive hearers than the manner, but in this his dis- 
courses were very unequal in quality. He was 
in the habit, in his common home ministrations, 
of going fully into a subject, and occupying sev- 
eral sermons in doing so. At sacramental meet- 
ings, when assisting a brother, or at Presbytery, 
on the Sabbath day, he had a very happy faculty 
of leaving out the less important parts of his sub- 
jects, and condensing the remainder into a ser- 
mon not over the ordinary length for him. These 
were his truly great sermons — grand in outline, 
noble in theme, rich in matter, and in their de- 
livery he sometimes became animated and im- 
pressive, and asserted his right to a place among 
the most doctrinal preachers of his day. 

But he was altogether too logical to be popu- 
lar with the masses. Common people will take 
pleasure in listening to an orderly unfolding and 
methodical statement of the matter to be con- 
sidered in a sermon, but their attention begins to 
flag and their minds to tire in looking at the 
plans, and they soon weary if one goes on to add 
thought to thought, idea to idea, and inference 
to inference, with certain assurance that they are 



208 REV. ISAAC BENNET, A. M. 

all connected logically with the subject, and flow 
rightly out of it, Something in the shape of 
warm and pungent application to the conscience 
suits them better, whether or no it be very 
logically related to the matter under considera- 
tion. 



(209) 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 211 



CHAPTER XII. 

GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 
A. D. 1837—1839. 

HE period dating from the coming of Mr. 
Bennet, until 1839, may be reckoned as the 
"vintage" of Mr. Bliss' ministerial life. He 
associated his faithful brother with him in 
extended missionary labors, in which much good 
was accomplished. The Churches scattered over 
the field were blessed with times of refreshins:: 
new Churches were organized, and new laborers 
introduced. Wabash Church received eighty ac- 
cessions to her membership, almost all of them 
by examination, within this period. 

Bat amidst the "joys of harvest," a long an- 
ticipated stroke fell upon the little circle at the 
parsonage. In the fall of 1836, Mrs. Bliss began 
to sink under the ravages of consumption. Two 
years before he had despaired of her life, but she 
recovered sufiiciently " to look well to her house- 
hold." But now the symptoms returned with a 
violence that could not be misunderstood. The 



212 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

slow incurable decay was evidently fixed in her 
system. It is a gratifying feature of consump- 
tion that it does not cloud the mind. "While it is 
consuming the strength, it imparts to the disposi- 
tion a preternatural tenderness. All the rigor- 
ous winter of 1836 and 1837, the pale and saintly 
wife and mother was fading day by day. Each 
one of the family — parents and children — 
knew that beyond a doubt they would be separa- 
ted at the coming of the spring. So the hour of 
parting drew near. Like Elijah and Elisha, the 
" two pilgrims," she went on to the scene of her 
glorious translation. At length, on the twenty- 
first of May, at three and one- half o'clock in the 
morning, this devoted wife, mother, friend, rested 
sweetly and forever. Never, perhaps, in this 
world has God granted to a child of his a more 
peaceful departure. 

On Monday occurred the funeral. The Rev. 
Mr. Bennet came down from Pisgah and preach- 
ed a soul-full sermon to the great congregation 
gathered by the sad occasion. Prov. xiv. 32: 
" The righteous hath hope in his death," was his 
theme. To him the providence was instinct 
with a mournful and sacred pathos, and the great 
preacher rose above himself. 

Mrs. Bliss was of strict Puritan training, and 
her views and feelings were profound, steadfast, 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 213 

and undemonstrative. There were no evanescent 
ecstasies, no overflowing tides of emotion in her 
experience. This would have been incongruous 
with her nature. The great feature of her spirit- 
ual character was a blessed and constant peace. 
She had early in her life committed herself to 
the Lord and found him gracious, and there she 
ended her quest. The twenty-third Psalm — a fa- 
vorite passage of God's word — expressed her con- 
fidence in his grace and providence. Almost every 
Sabbath evening her children remembered to 
have heard her singing in her own mild, devout 
way Dr. Watts' version of the ninety-second 
Psalm. 

" Sweet is the work my God, my king, 
To praise thy name, give thanks and sing, 

To show thy love by morning light. 
And talk of all thy truth at night." 

The serious spirit of the song, its undertone 
of fervent pathos and hope, the contrast drawn 
in it between the character and destiny of the 
righteous and the wicked, all seemed suited to 
the temper of her piety. 

Her experiences of religion were all pervaded 
by a childlike confidence in Christ, in the effica- 
cy of his atonement and intercession, in the faith- 
fulness of his promises, in his wisdom, power and 
eve, and so her days were filled with a sweet com- 



214 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

posure. She drew near to her end with unclouded 
serenity and comfort. She quietly made every 
preparation for it. After she was gone, they 
found her shroud, face-cloth, and every part of 
this mournful attire wrapped together and laid 
carefully away in a private drawer. '' Death, the 
last enemy, was destroyed." 

Mr. Lippincott, who was entertained at Mr. 
Bliss' during the Presbytery in October, 1830^ 
thus speaks about his devout wife: 

" I should not do justice to my own feelings, if 
I were to make no allusion to Mrs. Bliss whom 
I only saw on that occasion. The impression she 
made on me, and I believe on all the brethren, 
was such as to furnish many a pleasant thought 
in after years. The daughter of a distinguished 
man, whose character she justly revered, while 
she deplored his speculative errors, she seemed to 
us a beautiful specimen of the better type of 
New England women. Bright, cheerful, amiable 
in her manners, she bore the impress of an in- 
telligent cultivated mind, imbued with the Chris- 
tian spirit. Many a wish was expressed that she 
was where we could enjoy more of her society in 
the pioneer work " 

Her departure was beautifully fitting in its 
time. It was just in that happy season of the 
year when the world is exchanging the clouds 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 215 

and snows of winter for the hope and virgin 
loveliness of spring, and in that hour in the 
day when the silence and gloom of night are 
giving way before the twittering jocund chorus 
and the kindling dawn of a morning in May- 
The tattered " diary" says: 

May 21 — Sabbath. — A mil'd and pleasant day 
but solemn indeed ; a day in which my affectionate 
partner was taken from me. She left this world 
at three and one-half o'clock this morning, to 
spend a glorious Sabbath in the presence of he^ 
God." 

In another sense still did God honor her in 
the time of her death. 

Her grave was the first one opened in the 
churchyard of Wabash. It had been customary 
for each family to bury their dead, in a private 
burial ground on their own farm, but a public one 
had been talked of although it was not yet loca- 
ted. The members of Mr. Bliss' charge had also 
determined to build a meeting-house, but its site 
was not altogether agreed upon either. The death 
of so important a person as Mrs. Bliss called for 
an immediate decision, at least respecting the 
site of the churchyard. Her interment fixed al 
and made a holy ground. How touching and 
saintly a " consecration ! " 

Thus at fifty years of age Mr. Bliss was left to 



216 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

pursue the remainder of his pilgrimage alone. 
May, and now " Betsy," who had joined their 
lives with him long ago, were fallen at his side. 
But this last death made him feel utterly his 
present loneliness. " My days are solitary " is 
the sigh inscribed in his private diary. 

It is characteristic of him, that after the long- 
drawn tragedy was ended, he turned immediate- 
ly to the duties of his ministry. He expected to 
find a solace not in morbid, brooding melancholy, 
but in the service of God. 

" Light is sown for the righteous^ The very 
next Sabbath he joined his brethren, Spilman 
and Bennet, in a communion meeting in Edwaids 
County. 

The old " diary " says : 

Sabbath pleasant; a deeply interesting sacra- 
mental season. Three were added to the Church 
by profession of their faith, and two infants were 
baptized. Much evidence of the presence of the 
Holy Spirit. 

So God "sent " his smitten servant " help out 
of the sanctuary, and strengthened him out of 
Zion." We are now to witness the sudden blos- 
soming of the field that he had laid out his life 
for — the spiritual successes with which God com- 
forted him. 

The place referred to just above, where he met 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 217 

Messrs. Spilman and Bennet, was the Shiloh 
Presbyterian Church, in Edwards County, seven- 
teen miles to the southwest of his residence. 
Here had settled, a few years before, a colony of 
New Englanders. Starting out from Massachu- 
setts, they had first purchased themselves a vast 
tract of land among the healthy mountain val- 
leys of Western Virginia. Some of the early 
battles of the " Great Eebellion " were fought on 
land that they once owned. After they had paid 
for and to a good degree improved their pur- 
chase, their title was contested by some interested 
parties, and proved to be invalid, and their smi- 
ling homes were snatched away from them. Made 
penniless by this fraud, these good people set out 
again, but this time toward the far West, and 
eventually settled in one of the fairest prairies of 
Edwards County. 

This community, thus clustering together, was 
one of unusual piety and intelligence, of the exact 
morals and simple faith of their " pilgrim fa- 
thers," and of their honest and noble type of 
Christian character. In January, 1833, they en- 
gaged Mr. Bliss to preach for them, and in 1835 
a Church was organized among them — the 
" Shiloh Presbyterian Church." By 1838 they 
were able to employ and settle a pastor — the 
Eev. Joseph Butler, A. M., of ]S'ew York. 



218 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

The Church afterward became Congregational 
but it has been especially useful. 

Another point at which there seemed then the 
promise of blessed success was Mt. Carmel. This 
was the county town and a place of rising im- 
portance. 

When our earnest missionaries came in Octo- 
ber, 1835, they found a number of families of 
Presbyterian preferences, and some members. But 
under the new impetus given to business by the 
public workers then in progress, the town rapid- 
ly filled up. In this state of things the numbers 
and influence of the Presbyterians so increased, 
that in 1838 they erected a substantial brick 
building, the finest Church in town, and indeed 
at that time in the Presbytery of Kaskdskia. In 
May, 1839, a Church was organized, with eleven 
members. Late in the year they secured the ser- 
vices of the Eev. Eobert H. Lilly, of the Synod of 
Kentucky, who was regularly installed June 13, 
1840. The membership speedily rose to forty. 

Thus by a sudden efflorescence was his once 
waste and lonely field become bright with the 
promise of good. Every missionary point around 
that he had occupied was grown into a Church, 
with a settled minister. His faithful brother, the 
Eev. Isaac Bennet, at Pisgah, the Eev. Mr. Lilly 
at Mt. Carmel, and the Rev. Mr. Butler at 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 219 

Shiloh. " God had not forgotten to be gra- 
cious." 

But this was not all. In the early spring of 
1837 the people of his own charge began to 
agitate the matter of building a Church. For 
thirteen years now, since Mr. Bliss began his 
ministerial labors, there had been no settled 
place of preaching in the bounds of the con- 
gregation. Sometimes the meetings were held 
in some school-house, sometimes at the residence 
of one of the ruling elders, a few times in Mr. 
Bliss' barn, and often in the open air in the 
shade of some grove when the weather was fine. 
But Pisgah had built a log meeting-house, and 
Mt. Carmel was "rising up " to build, and " Wa- 
bash," the "mother of them all," could not but 
be provoked to " good works." And then Adam 
Corrie, Esq., of Senwich, Scotland, being ap- 
prised by his brother, Robert Corrie, of the spirit 
stirring in the congregation, made them an offer 
of one hundred and twenty-five dollars if they 
would arise and build. So at last it was deter- 
mined to erect a sanctuary. Then came the usual 
difficulties in locating the site. Different views 
and interests conflicted. But the asperity of 
feeling could not rise high, because of one pa- 
thetic fact — the hallowed grave of Mrs. Bliss. 
All felt that that had decided the location of the 



220 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

churchyard, and the sacred associations of the 
place where they expected to lay the ashes of their 
dead made it the fitting spot on which to build 
the house of God. By and by a neat and plain 
frame building went up among the trees of the 
young woods, in the fall of 1838. Mr. Bennet, a 
famous church builder, wrought on the new 
sanctuary. He was permitted to build the old- 
fashioned pulpit after his own ideal. The rostrum 
on which the preacher's feet stood was somewhat 
higher than the heads of his congregation. This 
was panted a lead color, and the railing on each 
end and in front white. The room was wainscot- 
ed with poplar, with a vaulted ceiling, and is 
very agreeable both to the preacher and hearer 
as an auditory. 

Without one taint of ornament, cornice, or 
frieze, it still stands a place of quiet and sacred- 
ness, sheltered by its trees, with the prairie once 
a wilderness, but now filled with farms and cot- 
tages stretching out in pastoral beauty to the 
soubh and west, and the churchyard silent and 
holy, sleeping near by. 

It i,s not often that one life is thus honored. 
Fifteen years of ministerial service only passed, 
when Mr. Bliss was permitted to see four Church- 
es gathered, and three ministers, beside himself, 
laboring efficiently in what was once his own 
charge. What was the secret of his success? 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 221 

It may seal the lesson of this life to linger over 
the interesting question. We will therefore put 
down here the features of his ministry as they 
exist in the recollections of his congregation and 
of the few of his parishioners and discriminating 
hearers who still survive. Speaking, therefore, 
from this authority, we would say that his suc- 
cess did not arise from any superior brilliancy of 
mind. He was almost totally devoid of imagi- 
nation. He was sober, plain, and practical in 
all his views and feelings. His mind was in- 
capable of flight. He never astonished his hear- 
ers with bursts of impassioned oratory, or ingeni- 
ous speculations. 

Nor from any persuasive eloquence. He was 
slow and sedate in the delivery of his sermons. 
He spoke always with deliberation, with the air 
of one who was weighing his words before he ut- 
tered them. He is remembered as more interest- 
ing and animated in conversation than in the 
pulpit. As to the matter of his discourses, he 
seemed more intent on speaking to his hearers 
"all the words of this life," than he was of en- 
tertaining them. There was actually nothing to 
amuse when he preached, but he " fed the people 
with knowledge and with understanding." 

Nor from his loivering the standard of godliness^ 
and hiding the " offense of the cross " in his 



222 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

work. His influence in his office was very sacred. 
There was a clear appeal made to his audience 
in the most dispassionate manner to " yield them- 
selves unto God," bat they were also solemnly 
reminded to weigh the matter well, and count 
the cost. This feature was eminent in his min- 
istry. Indeed, the "means of grace" in the 
hands of this pastor and his session was a very 
deliberate and dignified business. " Their mod- 
eration was known of all men." I^othing dis- 
turbed their equanimity. If all were spiritual 
death, or if God were "raining righteousness 
upon the people," the even tenor of church affairs 
went on. Sometimes when a large number of 
"candidates have been propounded for member- 
ship in the Church " (to borrow the stately lan- 
guage of the session book), the session would not 
" be satisfied " until after several adjourned meet- 
ings and protracted examinations. This prac- 
tice severely sifted the "converts," and rarely 
ever were a number of " candidates " finally in- 
troduced, until the session vrere thus satisfied of 
the purity of their motives and the sincerity of 
their determination to serve the Lord. It was 
indeed a rather formidable thing to " come be- 
fore " this grave and dignified session. 

The features of Mr. Bliss' ministerial charac- 
ter, that secured his success, were : 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 223 

1. Eminent personal piety. No one ever doubt- 
ed this who knew him. But his religious charac- 
ter was remarkable for its calm, cheerful, and 
constant tone. As a minister, as a friend, at 
home, in the streets, in the fields, in the pulpit — 
everywhere— he was always the same. Apparently 
free from the usual alternations of joy and gloom 
in his religious experience, he was remarkably 
peaceful and uniform. All traditions unite in 
saying that his life was wonderful for its consist- 
ent piety. His godly course was like the rivers 
of the IS'orth that retain the freshness of their 
wholesome waters — their clear, living purity — 
throughout their flow to the ocean. Wherever 
any one approached him, they found the quiet 
vigorous current of his love to God and man 
running just the same. He manifestly day by 
day " walked with God." This characteristic of 
his piety made his influence very steadfast, and 
always right, and so powerful for good. 

2. His promptness and faithfulness as a minis- 
ter were a prominent feature in his life. Enough 
has been said to give some impression of him as 
a preacher, but his industry in his office is worthy 
of a particular mention. He was actually, when 
not prostrated with sickness, never idle. He per- 
formed a great deal of ministerial work, but his 
habits were very methodical. Everything was 



224 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

done in its time and consequently was done quiet- 
ly and without confusion. What he accomplish- 
ed, he accomplished without much wear or tear 
of body or mind. It was thoroughly and faith- 
fully done, but with such forethought, system, 
and deliberation as made all seem easy. As the 
time came for him to start on a missionary trip, 
it found all things ready out doors and in, and 
when the time came for his return, his horse 
would be at the gate at the appointed hour. All 
was order, plan, prudence about him. With some 
persons this quiet routine would soon have sunk 
into stagnation, but with him the motive was too 
pure, the purpose too earnest, the piety and love 
for souls too fervent. 

His life was one of faithfulness and peace. It is 
easy to perceive the moral power of such a stead- 
fast, reliable character. His people reposed a 
perfect confidence in him. The world looked on 
and admired. 

3. His excellent social qualities. Eeference has 
been made to his genial spirit and conversational 
powers. His intelligence, good sense, and vivacity 
of mind, coupled with his gentlemanly manners 
and choice language, would really have adorned 
almost any sphere. But such was his unfeigned 
humility, goodness, and interest in men, that he 
lavished all at the cabin firesides of his seques- 



GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 225 

tered flock. His pastoral charge was his world. 
It was not too much in his estimation — it was not 
enough — all that he could do for the welfare and 
progress of his people. His quiet, unobtrusive, 
social influence was very useful to his charge. 
He did not visit any family often in the year, 
but when he did at all, it was an afternoon or 
evening never to be forgotten. Such new 
thoughts, such outlooks from their little, hackney- 
ed selves, such better, broader views of life and 
duty, such kindly feelings toward all men, were 
awakened by the quiet, suggestive interview, as 
made it a delight. 

2. Another secret of his usefulness was his 
pre-eminence as a good citizen. Manly, upright, 
unassuming, courteous, with a heart alive to the 
public good, the influence of his life was wholly 
on the side of good order, intelligence, temper- 
ance, industry, enterprise, and progress. He was 
a model " American citizeny^ 

5. Immigration, too, conduced a very considera- 
ble part to the success mentioned. As the country 
improved, some Presbyterian families came in 
with the new population. 

*In his duties as a citizen, however, his modesty appears 
again. Like many clergymen of his generation, he seldom or 
never voted at the elections. Whether right or wrong to hig 
conscience it was the only safe way to keep aloof from earthly 
passions and entanglements. 



226 GRIEFS AND COMFORTS. 

These " points " on which we have dwelt in 
Mr. Bliss' ministeral character, the world will 
scarcely consent to call " shining points," without 
they are associated with more brilliant qualities. 
Even the Church is in daoger of coming to feel 
that consistent piety, faithfulness, a genial sym- 
pathy and love of souls, and sober wisdom in 
every relation of life, are scarcely enough in the 
character of the minister. The shining light 
of genius, irradiating and glorifying all, is essen- 
tial ! 

Is it not well for us to stop in this quiet shady 
nook, this old parsonage, and recall some home- 
ly truth ? 

1. Serve God with the gifts you have. Mr. 
Bliss was calm and philosophical, altogether 
wanting in a contagious enthusiasm the heroic 
spirit that can undertake what others can scarce- 
ly dream of, the power to enlist and enthrall oth- 
ers, and even laggart souls in schemes for good, 
and carry all on to success. How quiet is this 
parson's life, how slow moving, how undemon- 
strative. But he was the Lord's. VYhat he had, 
he brought, and God was well pleased with the 
offering. 

2. Wisdom and grace only^ are essential to suc- 
cess in the ministry. In the pulpit, the splendors 
of genius, at best, can only shine on the basis of 



GRIEFS AND COMrORTS. 227 

these sober and fundamental qualities of minis- 
terial character, and they are worse — a thousand 
times worse — than worthless without them. 

3. All who should seek the ministry are not 
"gifted," but all such can cultivate those quiet 
graces of heart and life, that God will approve 
and bless in his servant. 

4. The Churches should beware how they over- 
look " ungifted " worth in the ministry. Multi- 
tudes of true ministers whose lives God has made 
a blessing, he has been pleased to endow with 
graces, but not with shining "gifts." If genius 
has been sanctified and gone forth through the 
world like " an angel of light," arousing nations, 
filling all hearts with new thoughts, fears, and 
hopes, as in Paul, and Luther, and A^hitfield — 
let God be glorified. But why despise the " hid- 
ings of his power?" He has not made many 
grand rivers for the continent, but ten thousand 
times ten thousand chiming rills and babbling 
brooks feed the face of the earth with greenness. 

Alas, for modest worth. 

'* We trample grass and prize tlie flowers of May, 
But grass will live when flowers have passed away." 



Iwf 



IfVVVV 



(29,9^ 



NEW FACES. 231 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

NEW FACES. 
A. D. 1836. 

Sketches of Rev. John SiUiman and Rev. Joseph 
Butler. 

,0 far as is known by the writer Sharon 
Presbyterian Church is the oldest Protest- 
ant Church in Illinois. It was organized by 
the Kev. James McGready, in 1816, as before 
detailed. It was made up of emigrants from 
Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, 
Yirginia, Kentucky, etc. It embraced some of 
the finest families in Southeastern Illinois at the 
time of which we now speak, and was a noble 
field for expansive missionary work. Father 
Bliss had visited them. Eev. B. F. Spilman, 
their pastor in 1823, still delighted to go up and 
break the bread of life to them. But in 1836 an 
experienced minister and enterprising man came 
to settle among them. This was the Eev. John 
SiUiman. 



232 NEW FACES. 

Concerning the long-finished course of this 
servant of God, the following letter from his 
daughter — Mrs. A. A. M. Leffler, the wife of the 
Rev. Blackburn Leffler, Eichview, Illinois — will 
afford the reader a melancholy pleasure: 

" Rev. and Dear Sir, — It is but little informa- 
tion I can give you personally, as I was quite a 
child at the time of my father's death. But I 
have some facts communicated by friends at the 
South which are interesting, and I now commu- 
nicate them to you. 

*' Rev. John Silliman was born in Rowan Coun- 
ty, North Carolina, August 13, 1786. 

"His parents were John and Isabella Silliman, 
Scotch Covenanters. They were persons of most 
exemplary piety and considerable learning; so 
so much so that they fitted their five sons for 
college without sending them to school. My 
father was their fourth son, and was consider- 
ably over twenty years old when his attention 
was directed to the gospel ministry. But these 
years were not lost. His father had one of the 
finest libraries in the land; and living in easy 
circumstances, his sons had opportunities for im- 
proving their minds that few others had. I re- 
member to have heard my father say that the 
knowledge he gained in the years he spent at 
home, among those leather-bouod books, after he 



NEW FACES. 233 

attained his majority, was of incalculable benefit 
to him in his ministerial life. When he gradu. 
ated we can none of us remember. His diploma 
with many valuable papers of his own, was 
burned, with the home of his childhood, about 
the year 1818 or 1819. 

" He studied theology with Dr. John H. Kice, of 
Yirginia^ and was licensed and ordained by East 
Hanover Presbytery, at Prince Edward, Vir- 
ginia, and was one year a co-pastor with the 
Eav. Matthew Lyle. 

" In 1818 he was married (Dr. A. Alexander of- 
ficiating) to Julia E., daughter of Major Samuel 
Spencer, of Charlotte County, Virginia. His 
choice of a wife proved most happy, as her ar- 
dent piety, cultivated mind, and most pleasing 
manners, rendered her a most acceptable, be- 
loved pastor's wife — ' a help meet for him.' 

"At the time of his marriage he had in his 
possession a ' call ' to the Church in Morgantown, 
^orth Carolina, and in January, 1819, was in- 
stalled pastor, and continued their pastor until 
the fall of 1836, the time of his removal to Illi- 
nois. During his pastorate of seventeen years, 
he received into the Church over six hundred 
porsons OQ examination, besides those received 
in the O'ltpists or .aissionary stations among the 
mountains. -^ 



234 NEW FACES. 

'' During the two years that my father lived in 
Illinois he received many urgent solicitations to 
return and take charge of the Church in Morgan- 
town again, and at the time of his death he had 
accepted a unanimous call to return and take the 
pastoral work in his old charge. He was beloved 
by that dear people as few pastors are privileged 
to be. When my mother visited the place, with 
her children, nine months after the death of her 
husband, she was much moved to find a great 
part of the Church in deep mourning for their 
beloved pastor. 

" Love to God and love to men pervaded his 
whole nature. But I will forbear to speak of his 
characteristics. 

" lie sweetly fell asleep November 3, 1838, aged 
fifty-two years and three months. 
" Eespectfully } ours, 

" A. A. M. Leffler. 

" Richview, Illinois, April 7, 1870." 

He and his amiable partner, and several of 
their children, now rest in the old churchyard 
at Sharon. His headstone bears the following 
inscription : 

" In memory of 

Rev. John Silliman, Presbyterian Clergyman, 

Departed this life November 3, 1838. 

Aged 52 years.'' 



NEW FACES. 235 

" Let his grave be where the western sunbeams rest, 

When they promise a glorious morrow ; 
An emblem of hope that the righteous are bless'd, 

When they rise free of all cause of sorrow." 

Before closing this sketch it may be well to 
add a few traditions that survive in the field of 
his brief labors in Illinois. The aged people of 
Sharon Church remember him as very social and 
hospitable; as a preacher, doctrinal and rather 
lengthy in his sermons; as a citizen, full of. en- 
terprise and schemes for the improvement and 
progress of the country. He bought a farm, of 
eighty acres when he came, and soon had up a 
new house. In 1837 he taught a select school. 
He furnished the capital for setting up a " card- 
ing machine." " He was full of basiness," is the 
expressive recollection of him. Alas I that such 
a man should be cut down in his prime! is the 
first " sigh in the heart," as we recall his sudden 
departure. 

In the spring of the year that Mr. Silliman 
died another laborer entered the field — the Eev. 
Joseph Butler. Of this arduous servant of Christ 
it is not becoming to speak too warmly, for, hap- 
pily, he still survives in a vigorous old age, at 
Pauselin, Minnesota. But any sketch of the 
progress of religion in the field of Mr. Bliss' mis- 
sionary labors that would leave out any mention 



236 NEW FACES. 

of Mr. Butler would be defective andnntrue. In 
his case there is no lack of material to interest 
the reader. Of Mr. Bliss nothing is remem- 
bered but his wisdom and his Christian courtesy; 
of Mr. Butler no end of vehement apothegms and 
anecdotes of his peculiar manners and spirit — 
some of them pungent '^nough for any palate. 

Eev. Joseph Butler, A. M., was born on the 
shore of Lake Champlain in 1799. He was hope- 
fully converted at eight years of age. He was 
educated at Middlebury College; was licensed to 
preach the gospel by a Congregational Associa- 
tion at Montpelier in 1825, and was ordained to 
the full work of the ministry by Champlain 
Presbytery in 1827. In 1836 he came West, and, 
after spending some time in the Synod of Indi- 
ana, in 1838 he crossed the border and came to 
Mr. Bliss'. 

Mr. Bliss received his ISTew England brother 
with heartfelt gratitude to God. No time was 
lost in introducing him to the Church in Ed- 
wards County, which welcomed him joyfully. He 
was immediately employed as a Stated Supply, 
and here he lived and labored, with but little in- 
terval, for twenty -three years. 

The new missionary proved to be a Puritan 
of the most unmanageable type, but a most in- 
defatigable worker. Possessed of a strong and 



NEW FACES. 237 

stalwart frame and zealous spirit, he itinerated 
with the most restless energy and devotion. 
" His driving was like the driving of Jehu, the 
son of Nimshi," etc. (2 Kings ix. 20.) And sun 
or storm, drought or flood, it made not the slight- 
est difference with him, apparently; he was al- 
most always on the road. His fervent mind 
seemed busy always with some scheme for pro- 
moting religion. He seemed scarcely to know 
what it was for the bow to be even relaxed. 

But with his consuming zeal he lacked tender- 
ness. He had no such apprehension of Jesus as 
made his own soul rejoice, and, consequently, he 
could not make his hearers. He knew how to 
preach the Scripture doctrines of depravity and 
guilt. He could sometimes make his audience 
tremble under a discovery that he could give 
them of their ruin; and he could explain to them 
the nature and necessity of the work of God the 
Son, God the Holy Spirit, in the merciful salva- 
tion of sinners; but there was one element want- 
ing in his preaching — he could not persuade. 
He dwelt on the innermost gospel truths with a 
masterly clearness and comprehension, and most 
impressive solemnity, and he almost always drove 
his auditory to some sort of attention to them, 
but could not draw them by the sweet allure- 
ments of love. His bold and searching sermons. 



238 NEW FACES. 

actually extermiiiating all false hopes in every 
candid hearer, needed to be followed by gentler 
accents in order to their happier effects. Hence 
he was more successful as an evangelist than as 
a pastor. 

The first revival that could be called general 
in "Wabash congregation was under his zealous 
labors in 1851. It followed a thoroughly awful 
sermon on the characteristic text, Eev. vi. 15-17. 
That evening everything seemed to harmonize 
with the preacher's mood. The dark, wainscot- 
ed walls looked gloomy enough. The candles 
burned dull and dim around, almost extinguished 
in their own snuff. Mr. Butler's whole manner 
was more than ever solemn. In his deep and heavy 
voice he announced a 'prayer -meeting — a great 
multitude would be there — the prayers would 
be terribly in earnest, and would be for destruc- 
tion. These were the simple heads. He de- 
picted the scene until every eye beheld it, and 
then he suddenly closed with a most arousing 
application. God was pleased to greatly assist 
his servant, and to direct the piercing arrows. 
" The slain of the Lord were many." Multitudes 
date their blessed hopes to that communion sea- 
son. 

His zeal has been referred to, but the words 
convey but a meager impression of the reality. 



NEW FACES. 239 

The reader will learn more from an incident or 
two. 

During the meeting referred to, he and the 
Eev. P. W. Thompson, then Stated Supply of tho 
Church, and some of the ruling elders, went from 
house to house, "warning every man, and teach- 
ing every man." There was one cabin in the 
woods where they were never able to find the 
family at home. Mr. Butler shrewdly suspected 
that they avoided him by adroitly slipping out 
at the back door while he was knocking at the 
front. His zeal was not to be thus thwarted. 
One rainy day that they were in that part of the 
congregation he made bold to so arrange the 
party that at the same time some should be 
rapping at both doors. That day the family 
were at home. Mr. Butler, perfectly pure in his 
intentions and seeking only their good, sat down 
at once and expounded unto them the way of the 
Lord with most searching solemnity and fervor- 
He believed in impulses and sudden sugges- 
tions being often of divine origin, and as often as 
possible endeavored to follow them. He has been 
known in passing along the road, even in strange 
parts of the country, to stop his horse on seeing 
some one working in the field, alight, mount 
over the fence, and walk across, and solemnly ac- 
cost him with some searching question as to 



240 NEW FACES. 

whether he had made his peace with God, and 
sometimes with happy results. 

This conscientious regard for mental sugges- 
tions often led him to courses otherwise very sin- 
gular. Anything that crossed his mind in the 
shape of a duty, if it had a smack of self-denial 
or danger in it, was almost sure to be obeyed. If 
he was " missionating," this peculiarity in his 
views was morally certain to take him into any 
stream that crossed his road if it were swollen^ 
or to hurry him out into any storm that might 
arise. 

Two "New Englanders," r-siding in Albion? 
six miles from Mr. Butler's residence, and who 
knew him well, were sitting before their fire one 
stormy day. A wintry tempest of rain and sleet, 
borne on a bitter northwest wind, was beating on 
the streets, and freezing as it fell. " It is such a 
dreadful day," one said to the other; "I wonder 
if Butler will not come into town;" and, at the 
word, happening to lift up their eyes, to their 
infinite merriment they espied Mr. Butler alight- 
ing at the gate. They received him at the door 
with bursts of incontrollable laughter. "We were 
looking for you, Mr. Butler; it is such a storm!" 
But Mr. Butler was not discomposed, nor his 
gravity ruffled in the least; he was acting con- 
scientiously. 



NEW FACES. 241 

But he was most laborious and self-denying in 
his labors for Christ, and his eccentricities were 
forgiven by the most of religious people for the 
sake of his evident zeal and pious fervor. But 
they marred his usefulness. 

In his labors he was particular to minister to 
the poor. Whoever had to be neglected they 
were not. He has often turned out of his way , 
and rode weary miles to visit and converse with 
some forlorn and destitute family, from the ex- 
pectation that others would overlook and neglect 
them. All over the field of his career there are 
those in every communion who trace their sav- 
ing impressions of eternal things to his efforts 
both in and out of the pulpit; and we might add 
with perfect truth, both " in season and out of 
season." 



$m^^ «l 11 




(243> 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 245 



CHAPTER XIY. 

GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 
A. D. 1837—1847. 

EOM the time of Mrs. Bliss' death, his usual 
missionary work went on. His hands were 
filled with the accustomed Sabbath services, 
the monthly concert, the prayer-meetings, 
the Bible cause, and kindred interests. He 
wrought on the farm too as health and strength 
and his parochial duties permitted. He received 
his friends with the same afPable and genial hos- 
pitality that had always characterized him. He 
seemed to be the quiet, courteous, and wise-heart- 
ed sage that he was before, seldom alluding to the 
loss he had sustained, except in the privacy of 
the most hallowed friendship, and then never to 
repine, but to justify the ways of God. 

And yet, although apparently the same, cheer- 
ful with the peace of perfect confidence in God, 
as 

" Too wise to err, too good to be unkind," 



246 GLEANINGS OP THE VINTAGE. 

Btill, all who knew him best, felt that there was a 
change, fie was chastened, and still more sub- 
dued. Afflictions always either harden and sour 
the character, and chill the finer feelings of our 
nature, or develop them. To Mr. Bliss they 
were as the " fining pot to silver." He was al- 
ways a man of deliberation, of cool and sober 
judgment, of true refinement, but to this was 
added now an evident but indefinable tender- 
ness. It was not revealed by any change in his 
manner; it was felt in the tone of his spirit, and 
it endeared him still more to his people, especial- 
ly to those suffering under the strokes of God's 
discipline. Every one who knew him, had ad- 
mired, revered, and loved him. God had kept 
his faithful servant, to a remarkable degree, from 
*' the strife of tongues." But still there was 
much about him, as a thoroughly educated gen- 
tleman, much of the refinement of mind, the 
purity and elevation of language, the dignity of 
manners — the result of a life of cultivation — that 
not allof his neighbors, nor even his congregation, 
could appreciate. But they could all now feel 
that he was in affliction, and this constituted still 
another bond of attachment. The more thought- 
ful from all the country side delighted to call at 
his house, to sit at his broad, quiet, beaming fire- 
side and hear him talk. It was so unworldly a 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 247 

scene, so hallowed, so cheerful, that it wore an in- 
describable charm for them. And then his wise 
conversation, the fruit of so much experience 
and reflection, was felt to be steeped in the very 
spirit of kindness and truth. 

Mr. Lilly refers to this aspect of Mr. Bliss' life 
in his personal recollections of him. 

But his preaching, also, became deeper, gentler, 
more submissive. "He never could be a great 
preacher," he used to say pleasantly, "his life 
had been too uniform and quiet." While this 
might have been true as regards that stormy 
eloquence that compels the world's attention, yet 
the verdict of his generation was, that he was 
eminently wise, prudent, and experimental in the 
pulpit. There was always a cloudless simplicity 
in his expositions of divine truth, and his lan- 
guage was so choice that his most critical hearers 
recognized it as even elegant, but for the last few 
years of his labors, there was added, to what had 
before been excellent, an unwonted tone of ten- 
derness. It did not betray itself as was said be- 
fore in tears, or any passion in delivery, for he 
was as calm and collected as before, but every 
soul in sorrow among his congregations felt it. 
He had always been " gentle among his people, 
even as a nurse cherisheth h«r children," but 
now there was a refrain in his sermons that the 



248 GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 

ear of the mourner discerned. Thus Grod made 
him to be a " beloved Barnabas," a " son of con- 
solation." The current of his tastes and studies 
seemed to set toward the comforts that God fur- 
nishes in his Word forhis suffering saints. He 
saw that these shed a steady ray on the night 
that invests the momentous realities of life and 
death. In these he rejoiced. He grew perfectly 
familiar with the solution that the gospel brings, 
of the mysteries of time and eternity. The house 
of mourning was congruous with his feelings, 
and wore no gloom. The spectacle of a corpse — 
a pale wreck of humanity, stranded forever — 
might revive his tenderness, but it recalled too 
the precious balm he had found in sorrow, in the 
religion of Jesus Christ. He " was able to com- 
fort them that were in any trouble, by the com- 
fort wherewith he himself was comforted of 
God." 

But in 1839 his health become so infirm that it 
was thought best for him to intermit his pastoral 
labors. The symptoms of consumption began to 
manifest themselves again. He had enjoyed a 
reprieve of more than twenty years from this de- 
cay that haunted his system, and the Lord had 
given hina fourteen years useful labors in the 
ministry, so that it was without repining that he 
saw the shadows of evening at last beginning to 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 249 

fall. Mr. Butler was called in to supply the 
Church one Sabbath in the month, for the year, 
as a colleague; the session stipulating, however, 
that Mr. Bliss was to moderate their meetings 
and superintend the affairs of the Church. 

From this time forth his regular ministerial 
work was broken up by his increasing imfirmi- 
ties. He was able to preach at intervals, for a 
longer or shorter period, but God was " weaken- 
ing his strength in the way." 

His infirmities were aggravated by a trip that 
he took to Cincinnati in May, 1845. He was the 
clerical delegate to the General Assembly from 
the Palestine Presbytery.^ The interest, the ex- 
citement, the change of diet and habits and the 
slight, unavoidable exposures at this bright, but 
critical period of the year for a consumptive, 
proved too much for his strength. He reached 

*This session of the General Assembly is memorable for the 
resolutions concerning slavery, by which the solemn testimony 
of the Presbyterian Church, announced in 1818,was understood 
to be modified before the pro-slavery spirit that was then 
blowing over this nation. It is characteristic of Mr. Bliss, of 
his firmness, his independence, his scrupulous conscientiousness, 
that he was one of the thirteen who voted against them. About 
this great evil his convictions were mature, his opposition firm, 
and his fears amounted to an expectation that God would ter- 
ribly reward us for it as a nation. 

The vote stood, yeas 168, nays 13, excused 4. 



250 GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 

his home in June by way of Evansville, quite 
prostrated. During the remainder of the year 
he preached but little. Indeed, for much of the 
time he was confined to the house, and often for 
weeks together, for more or less of each day, to 
his bed. 

But if the abundant "vintage" of his life wa& 
passed, yet, as it is with all the righteous, " glean- 
ing grapes were left in it, as in the shaking of an 
olive tree, two or three berries remain in the top 
of the uppermost bough, and four or five in the 
outmost iruit^ul branches thereof." 

When laid aside from the ministry his value 
as a counselor became better understood. When 
his tall and venerated form ceased to be often 
seen abroad, his wisdom and benevolence began 
to be appreciated more than ever. God gave his 
faithful servant a blessed influence in his decline. 
"Although the outward man was perishing, the 
inward man was renewed day by day;" and his 
conversation was suitably rich, spiritual, and ani- 
mated. A venerable elder sayn of the time, in 
July and August when he was entirely secluded 
on account of inflammatory sore eyes, and a hectic 
fever, that it was a " real feast to sit in his dark- 
ened room and hear him converse." His close 
observation, his large experience, his learning, 
his meekness, his piety, and unfailing cheerful- 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 251 

ness, all combined to make his society inestima- 
ble. Bat every one in perplexity — inquirers after 
the way of life, doubting professors, his brethren 
of session, the elders of the churches around, his 
fellow-presbyters, physicians, lawyers — all de- 
lighted to take counsel at his lips. In his advice 
he was very faithful. It is scarcely probable 
that he gave satisfaction in every case, yet his 
opinions on the doubtful point generally settled 
the question. His method of giving advice was 
wise and eminently gentlemanly. His anxiety 
was to suggest the general principles on which 
the decision should he based. This he could, for 
the most part, do in such a quiet, clear, unbiased 
manner as made the interview delightful. 

An excellent man relates that he fell into 
trouble with a neighbor concerning a private 
matter of some consequence to both of the fami- 
lies. There was what seemed to be an irreconci- 
lable difference of judgment. In spite of every 
effort, ill-feelings were beginning to show them- 
selves. Nothing was said of it abroad, but how 
could it be adjusted ? After pondering it long 
and seriously, and finding the case involved in 
greater preplexity, he at last betook himself to 
*' Father Bliss." He did not at once introduce the 
question, and the brethren fell into a conversation. 
Mr. Bliss was as plain, wise, practical man, and 



252 GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 

cheerful as ever, and someliow, to the anxious ear 
of his friend, the conversation unconsciously took 
a turn that exactly suited his wants. He listened 
with the intensest satisfaction. At sunset, he 
took leave of his venerable friend without having 
so much as broached the difl&culty that brought 
him. The interview had suggested to him the 
path of duty, and given him all that he wanted. 
Another method by which he prolonged his 
active usefulness, was by privattly instructing 
his children and a few jouths who came to study 
with them. The brief record in the diary of 
many summer afternoons of 184G, is simply : 
" July — , Monday — , P. M. — Domestic nchool." 
These words are all the vestige that he has 
left in his private journal of the interesting fact 
that, for some time before the close of his life, he 
was accustomed to receive young men and 
women into his family to instruct. For tliis he 
never received any money. He iurnished them 
boarding and tuition for what they could assist 
in the household or on the farm. He thus fitted 
a number of the youth of his congrcga'ion and 
his own children for useful lives. That ho did 
what he could in this work is not probable. Alas I 
it is almost certain that he did not. To us, who 
see how eagerly he entered into every means to 
promote the intelligence and piety of his congre- 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 253 

gations, it does appear surprising that he suf- 
fered himself to be discouraged in this; for it 
seems thatwhen he first entered the field he was 
accustomed to spend his winters in teaching. His 
schools were made up by subscription; and such 
was his interest in the cause of education that in 
order to encourage the attendance of the children 
and youth, he would engage to take in pay for 
their tuition not money only, but a pig, or calf, 
deer skin, or tallow, corn, beeswax — anything, 
in short, that he might but start them in ever so 
limited but true an education. After Mr. Shep- 
ard came he gave this business into his hands. 
But that he contemplated something more defi- 
nite in the way of Christian education seems pro- 
bable from the fact that when he finished his 
house he divided a part of it into small rooms for 
the accommodation of students. But Mrs. Bliss' 
death and his subsequent failing health appear 
to have intimidated him. ISTo tangible enterprise 
was ever actually undertaken. But if he had 
but resolutely set himself to educate while he 
missionated in those early times; if, when noth- 
ing better could be done, he had made the "aged 
oaks" that nodded over his house his "acad- 
emy," as did Dr. John McMillan, at first, and 
taught the youth, from the rustic cottages around, 
once or twice a day, or two or three days in the 



254 GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 

week; or if this thorough scholar and gentleman 
had raised a parish schoolhouse hard by the old 
white meeting-house in 1839, no one can estimate 
the increased good that his quiet life had accom- 
plished. 

It is to be regretted that this potent method of 
laying hold upon the deepest springs of society, 
for the purpose of purifying and sanctifying 
them, is generally so little acted on by our domes- 
tic missionaries. Every minister on the frontier 
by furnishing text books and facilities for study 
to the more thoughtful and aspiring youth of his 
congregation, would often immeasurably pro- 
mote and perpetuate his usefulness. He would 
sow the seeds at once of piety and mental and 
social progress. This was the practice in the 
days of the illustrious fathers. Hard by the rude 
parsonage William Tennent built a ruder school- 
house, and the brightest boys in the neighbor- 
hood came in to study every winter, and some of 
them, smitten with the love of books, lingered all 
the year round. This is but the old story of Dr. 
Samuel Doak, of Tennessee, and Dr. John Finley 
Crowe, of Hanover, Indiana, and Dr. McMillan, 
of Western Pennsylvania, and a long list of wor- 
thies, whose names and influence for good will 
never perish out of this republic. This is the 
secret of the wondrous power while living, and 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 255 

the blessed memory that still blossoms in beauty 
and fragrance in all Christian lands of Columba, 
of the saintly Isle of lona. 

If our home missionaries, eager to serve their 
generation, would go out, with Providence for their 
guide, choose their field, however remote or ob- 
scure, and then, as a pp.rt of their pastoral work, 
open a rustic school and invite in scholars, "the 
wilderness and the solitary place would," far 
sooner, "be glad for them, and they see the 
beauty of the Lord and the excellency of our 
God." Isa. XXXV. 1, 2. 

One incident must .be recorded that occurred 
in these days of the gleaning. Two of Mr. Bliss' 
elders, who had first encouraged him to enter the 
ministry, and had stood by him, and grown old 
with him in its labors, were with him still — Dan- 
forth and Gould. At one of the last communions 
in Wabash Church, when they all met, the aged 
friends were together in the silent grove, spend- 
ing the afternoon of Saturday in holy commun- 
ions with one another, and in talking over the 
affairs of the Church and the interests that God 
had committed to them. With them was a youn- 
ger but a zealous elder, Charles E. McNair. Their 
*' hearts burned within " them as the hallowed 
interview went on. " I promised God," said Mr. 
Danforth, " that if he would spare my life and 



256 GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 

give me comfortable success in temporal things, 
that I would build a house of worship for the 
glory of his name, in the neighborhood where I 
live. And now I am getting old, and I have not 
much time left to fulfill my vow. What I am to 
do I must do quickly." And so the solemn vow 
was divulged, and the brethren talked the matter 
over tenderly. Their hearts flowed together. 
They took it to God in prayer, praising him for 
the love that he had shed abroad in their hearts 
for his cause and people, asking for grace and 
wisdom to fulfill their purpose. Was that not a 
noble scene; those aged men knelt together in 
the secret pavilion of the summer woods, com- 
muning with God, and dedicating themselves 
anew and forever to his glory? 

So the Friendsville Church originated. 

To this glimpse of him in his long and incur- 
able decline will be subjoined an estimate of his 
character and labors by the Eev. Mr. Lilly. It 
is very valuable as coming from one long ac- 
quainted with him, and a close and acute ob- 
server. I here record my sense of obligation to 
this ^gentleman for his valuable assistance, and 
for his interest in the object of my labors. All 
who know him regret that he did not seriously 
address himself to the task assigned him by the 
Presbytery of Palestine, of composing a history 



GLEANINGS OF THE VINTAGE. 257 

of the ministers and churches in the field of the 
Presbytery from the commencement of Presby- 
terian missions in the valley of the Wabash 
Eiver. The work would have been done with 
characteristic ability, simplicity, and historical 
sagacity. 



faal Mm% 



(2S9^ 



PINAL ESTIMATE. 261 



CHAPTER XY. 

FINAL ESTIMATE. 
Contributed by Rev. R. H. Lilley, A. M. 

BAR BRO. BALDRIDGE— Saturday was the 
first day for six weeks that I have been able 
to sit up and write all day. You have the 
results. At night I felt that 1 had about as 
much to say about Bro. Bliss as I had in the 
morning when I began. I think that no right 
view of Bro. Bliss' character and labors can be 
presented that leaves out of view the fact that, 
from first to last, his lot was cast among people 
who, for the most part, either rejected the divin- 
ity and atonement of Christ, the personality and 
operations of the Holy Spirit, or God's elec- 
tion of his people to salvation and their final 
perseverance; and that, as a wise master-builder, 
God used him to gather a people ordained to 
good works, by the simple presentation of the 
"truth as it is in Jesus," without noise, strife or 
debate. 

I met Mr. Bliss for the first time in the early 



262 FINAL ESTIMATE. 

part of l^ovember, 1839, at his own house on 
Decker's Prairie, and living only ten or twelve 
miles off for several years afterward, we were 
sometimes at each other's houses and attended 
sacramental meetings, mutually assisting each 
other; and we continued to meet in Presbytery 
so long as he was able to attend. Besides his 
statements respecting his past life, most of the 
facts in relation to his history, which I gathered 
at different times, were learned from Mr. Cyrus 
Danforth, Senr., Thomas Gould, Esq., Mr. Win- 
ters, living in Palestine, 1845-50, Thomas Bu- 
chanan, Esq., of jjawrence County, Rev. Messrs- 
Isaac Bennett and Josej^h Butler, and Mr. Samuel 
Bliss, for some years past a worthy and useful 
ruling elder m the Church to which his father 
preached so long. Among the impressions made 
on my mind respecting him may be mentioned: 

1. His extreme tenderness -of affection. Mrs. 
Bliss had been over two years dead; but when 
he spoke of her his eyes filled up, and his utter- 
ance almost failed. He showed me the little 
cabin in which they had lived, and took me to 
the thicket of sapplings and underbrush, where 
she had been buried. The sympathy of all who 
knew her was fully extended to him in view of 
the great loss he had sustained. I do not think 
he ever recovered wholly from the shock to his 
feelings occasioned by her death. 



FINAL ESTIMATE. 263 

2. His great modesty. After he was licensed 
to preacJi he went over and attended sacramental 
meetings near Yincennes, held, I think, by Eev. 
Mr. Scott. After a time or two, a friend who 
was with him, made it known that he was 
licensed, and he was called out to take part in 
the services. But I do not think he at any 
time ever did anything to put himself forward, 
only yielding to the extreme urgency of the case, 
in the performance of public services, in the 
presence of his brethren, at the meetings of 
Presbytery and other public occasions. 

3. I always considered Bro. Bliss' natural abil- 
ities above that which God has seen fit to be- 
stow on the generality of his servants in the 
ministry for the edification of the Church. But 
his mental powers were so well balanced, blend- 
ed and harmonized, that whilst some of his breth- 
ren may have excelled him in particular things, 
his ministrations were freed from noticeable de- 
fects that belonged to the services which most of 
them rendered in the Master's cause. 

4. His literary education was good, being a 
graduate of Middlebury College, in Vermont, and- 
attaining, as I think I have heard, to the first 
honors of his class. He always showed in his 
conversation the advantages of literary culture, 
as well as in his public ministrations. 



264 FINAL ESTIMATE. 

5. His perseverance was very great. His 
health failing in the East whilst prosecuting his 
studies for the ministry, he turned Westward. 
What influences guided his choice of a home, or 
by what method he traveled to Illinois, we never 
learned. But, after spending a year or two, hav- 
ing built his cabin, and made his home on Deck- 
er's Prairie, he went back to New England for 
his wife, a Miss Worcester, belonging to a family 
quite distinguished in the literary and theologi- 
cal world, and destined herself to pre-eminent 
distinction in her new position. Money was 
scarce then, and traveling by stage, when there 
was one, was very expensive, so, as Mr. Winters 
told me, he walked all the way back to get his 
wife. Having chosen his home, and entered on 
the work given him of God to accomplish in the 
preaching of the gospel, he continued to walk in 
the same path to the day of his death — to labor, 
as God gave him strength, in the same work. 

6. His doctrine, after his license, was, we 
think, what may be called the old-fashioned New 
England theology. When he applied for license 
to the Hopkinton Association of New Hamp- 
shire, he was refused on the ground that his 
views of the divinity of Jesus Christ were erro- 
neous or defective. He was afterward licensed by 
the Association, and ordained by the Presbytery 



FINAL ESTIMATE. 265 

of Salem, if I have been rightly informed. With 
strong predilections for ISTew England and her 
institutions, he adhered to the Old School in 
the division of 1837 and 1838, but always re- 
tained an unabated attachment to, and strong 
confidence in, our New School brethren of his 
acquaintance. And to the day of his death the 
benefactions of his people to the cause of mis- 
sions was made mainly, if not wholly, through 
the so called American Institutions. 

7. His preaching. To the great mass of peo- 
ple his manner was tame and unimpulsive. With 
feeble health, fatigued with labor, small audi- 
ences, and many outward discouragements, in the 
warm days of summer, speaking to men not very 
much advanced in intellectual culture, we see on 
all sides some reason to believe the complaint, 
that he could not always keep them awake dur- 
ing the sermon. The matter of Mr. Bliss' ser- 
mons was good, more the result of his own med- 
itations on divine truth than the presentation of 
the strong points of systematic or controversial 
theology, as brought out by others. The main 
charms of his preaching were for the more 
pious, intelligent and thoughtful of his people. 
Without feeling at the time that there was 
anything of special weight in his Sabbath ser- 
mon, during the week their thoughts often 



266 PINAL ESTIMATE. 

reverted to it; it dwelt in their minds ; they 
talked it over among themselves; gradually their 
minds v^ere enlightened in the truth; their af- 
fections were enkindled, and their resolutions for 
-well-doing were strengthened and made effcciive 
in good works, adorning the doctrines of their 
Savior, God. His preaching was thus perma- 
nently effective over this class of his hearers, 
■who always found food for their souls in God's 
service. In Bro. Bliss' ministrations God's doc- 
trine might be said to drop as the rain, and to 
distill as the dew, as the small rain on the ten- 
der herb, and as the showers that water the 
earth. 

8. His great kindness. Mr. Bliss' manner 
never failed to satisfy his brethren, and all others 
engaged in good-doing, that he was their most 
sincere friend and ardent well-wisher. A warm 
welcome greeted every one who came in the 
name of Christ. He always encouraged the set- 
tlement of ministers in those Churches that 
sprang u]3 in parts of his own field, and rejoiced 
in any measure of liberality shown in their sup- 
port, and gave most hearty thanks to God for 
every token of divine favor granted to their la- 
bors. More than twenty years ago we heard 
Judge Constable, in a public address, make men- 
tion of the patriarchal hospitality extended to 



FINAL ESTIMATE. 267 

him as a lecturer in behalf of the "Washingtonian 
temperance principles by Bro. Bliss, and he 
augured good success to the scheme from the 
prayers of so good a man. Every one in dark- 
ness and doubt had an adviser; every one in sor- 
row had a sympathizing friend; and every one 
laboring in a good cause had a helper and well- 
wisher in Mr. Bliss; and his kind manner gave 
assurance of it to them all. 

' 9. His extensive usefulness. That he was use- 
ful, extensively and ijermanently sa, is the testi- 
mony of all God's people in the region where 
his lot w^as cast. In the good effected we are led 
to look at his soundness in the doctrines of 
Christ and his life-labors, instant in season and 
out of season, to preach Jesus Christ, and him 
crucified, as the power of God and the wisdom of 
God unto salvation to all his believing people. 
That Bro. Bliss did so preach Christ in his min- 
istry; that many believed on him to salvation, 
was testified to by those who have died in the 
faith of God's elect, and is witnessed still by those 
w^bose lives adorn the holy doctrines of their 
Savior God with the fruits of righteousness 
"the things ^that accojnpany salvation." God 
has ever blessed, and ever will bless, the prayer- 
ful, patient, faithful preaching of his own word 
of truth, to the salvation of men. But, in the 



268 FINAL ESTIMATE. 

midst of a crooked and perverse geceration, 
where the tongue of heresy could contradict 
every statement of truth uttered, God had an- 
other testimony. He enabled Bro. Bliss not only 
by an innocent and blameless life, but by the re- 
sistless logic of a sanctified heart and holy walk- 
ing, mightily to convince the gainsayers, and to 
show to all the exceeding grealne&s of the power 
at work in the saints here, that being made holy, 
they may be made happy in heaven. In the 
great conflict waged by error against truth on 
that field, it is easy to imagine many a one led 
away from the hearing of the truth, by the loud 
and confident boastings of the advocates of some 
'* wind of doctrine," quietly led back when the 
mind had spent its force, by his own reflections 
on Bro. Bliss' life of consistent holiness, who was 
in the end led to embrace the same truth, and 
strive, in his measure, after the same power of 
holiness. 

If it be necessary to have a good report of 
them that are without, in order to enter the min- 
istry, the value of that report to the ministers, 
who would be truly useful, continues to increase 
as time passes on. This good report God gave 
to Bro. Bliss in a wonderful manner. Of his hon- 
esty, sincerity, piety, there seemed no room to 
doubt among those who trampled under foot the 



FINAL ESTIMATE. 269 

doctrines of Christ's divinity, the personality and 
work of the Eternal Spirit, or the choosing by 
God of all his people through faith unto a most 
certain and glorious eternal life. 

10. "What shall ^e eat and what shall we 
drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" is 
a question which missionaries in the West have 
had often to ask with anxiety, and which Grod has 
seen fit to answer in a great variety of ways, as 
they have been called to use different means to 
supply their wants. As to Bro. Bliss we have 
had but little in the way of fact, hint or conjec- 
ture. When he came West and took up or en- 
tered land some forty-five or forty six years ago, 
and made improvements on it before his marriage, 
it seems he must have had some means in his 
hands. Old Mr. Winters said that Miss Wor- 
cester's folks were well off ; that they started 
back in a wagon, with two horses, and loaded 
with such good things as they should need out 
West. This all seems natural enough and in 
harmony with the subsequent facts in the his- 
tory of the family. They took up land, made im- 
provements, and had to live, when Bro. Bliss was 
too feeble to work much, and his wages, as a 
teacher, must have been small, and the people to 
whom he preached too poor and too few to help 
him much. But he was a man of thrift himself, 



270 FINAL ESTIMATE, 

brought up among a people industrious, pains- 
taking and economical, and knew how all manner 
of work about the farm or house ought to be 
done. And Mrs. Bliss left a name for industry, 
economy, and skillful housewifery, not surpassed 
by any woman that ever lived in that part of 
Illinois. 

The case then takes this shape: Their little 
means were laid out in lands and improvements, 
and used to live on till their land was made 
available by cultivation; and that then, for many 
years, by painstaking care, rigid economy, and 
hard labor. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss did the main part 
toward supporting one missionary, who was not 
building upon another man's foundation, or tak- 
ing a line of things made ready to his hand, but 
who stretched beyond the mission stations on the 
Wabash, westward into Illinois, and though 
weak in body, was strong in the faith once de- 
livered to the saints; that with tears went forth 
sowing, according to the measure of his strength, 
the seed of God's word, and who was allowed of 
God to live long enough to see some precious 
sheaves of the first fruits gathered into the 
garner. 

We might speak of the extensive hospitality of 
Bro. Bliss; of his wisdom as a counseler; as the 
ready friend of all that glorified God in the way 



FINAL ESTIMATE. 271 

of elevating the human race; of the good he did 
among his neighbors by introducing improve- 
ments in agriculture, and allowing them to use 
his farm-tools and barn, when he sometimes 
wished they were well enough off to have such 
things themselves; of his success in training his 
children in the nurture and admonition of the 
Lord. But we will pass all these things and in- 
dulge in two or three remarks. 

1. Had Bro. Bliss, in view of a hard, unprom- 
ising field of labor, not yielding him a sup- 
port, made an exchange, removing to some other 
jDlace and beginning anew, it is not at all likely 
he ever would have done one-quarter of the good 
he did in his life, or at his death have left a name 
and memory so refreshing to all the saints of God, 
and an influence around him so potent for good 
for long years after his lamented death. He staid 
and cultivated one field till the Master called him 
home. 

2. A great deal is" said in our day about the 
need of great physical stamina in men called to 
pioneer missionary stations, and a capacity to en- 
dure hardness, as a good soldier is not likely to 
be overestimated ; but God does sometimes 
choo«(e men, whose bodily presence is weak, and 
use that chastened weakness to soften down the 
asperities of men in uncultivated rudeness or em- 



272 FINAL ESTIMATE. 

bittered opposition. Bro. Eliss had but little 
strength, yet we think it will be hard to find any 
other pioneer missionary who left a name of 
sweeter savor, or of stronger influence for good 
in the circle of his acquaintance. 

3. Many feel now that no missionary can teach, 
or farm, or labor, working with his hands, with- 
out degrading his office or impairing his useful- 
ness. But God may put a man, when the 
strength gained in the cultivation of the soil, 
may be needed to perform the labor of the Sab- 
bath, and show that in gentle moderation, to a 
mind of strongly meditative cast, such toil may 
not materially interfere with the " getting up " 
of a sermon for the Sabbath. But Bro. Bliss 
may have had to labor too much at times, but 
God blessed him still as a servant, and abundant- 
ly owned his work of faith and labor of love. 




(273> 



FAREWELLS. 275 



CHAPTER XYI. 

FAREWELLS. 

A. D. 1847. 

UT the end wore on apace. The mortal faint- 
\ ings and weaknesses that betoken the ex- 
haustion of the energies of life, under pul- 
monary diseases, began to prevail against 
him. 

For years he had abandoned all work in the 
fields, his leisure hours for recreation and exer- 
cise being spent in his garden. Here he might 
be found with hoe, or rake, or water-pot in hand, 
during all the season, busily employed, with the 
flush of a gentle interest on his pale face. It 
may be esteemed of importance by some readers 
to know that this spot was filled with a noble ar- 
ray of culinary vegetables and of fruit-bearing 
shrubs, such as the currant and gooseberry, all 
scrupulously cultivated, and all the best of their 
kind, but that not one idle flower was suff'ered in 
the thrifty paradise. Potatoes, beans, etc., were 
not to be displaced under his hand for rose-tree 



276 FAREWELLS. 

tulips and mignonettes. If he had possessed means 
to lavish, we seriously suppose that these would 
have remained unthought of. The practical was 
all he coveted. The reader will remember that it 
was said that Mr. Bliss was not distinguished for 
imagination, and this is an illustration. He 
seems to have had no " pool of poetry " in his 
nature. 

" A primrose by the river's brim, 
A yeliow primrose was to him, 
And it was nothing more." 

But a. turnip or a cantaloupe was. Do you think 
that this must have made his life very dull and 
threadbare ? He had other " store of joys." 

As the autumn of 1847 passed he felt that "his 
departure was near at hand." With perfect com- 
posure he arranged his worldly affairs, and dis- 
posed of all his property by a will; $100 was 
bequeathed to the trustees of the Church, to be 
paid to his successor in the pastoral work, in an- 
nual installments. 

In November he was shut up in his chamber. 
First the fields, then the garden, and now the 
open air and the chilly but gorgeous landscape 
were deserted and withdrawn from the world ; 
the rest of his days were spent in the hush and 
contemplation of the sick-room. The stream of 
bis busy, quiet life was now fallen into a silent 
pool, where it must soon stagnate. 



FAREWELLS. 277 

*' Tell us something of your father's last days,"" 
is often asked of Mr. BUbs' children, and the 
simple answer uniformly is, " There was nothing 
striking nor remarkable. It vr^s all so quiet and 
cheerful that it was more i.l^o a preparation for 
a plesant journey than anything m.ore solemn." 
His chamber was a place to which his devout 
friends loved to resort, and he conversed freely 
when his failing strength permitted; but there 
was nothing angular, odd or dazzling in his re- 
marks to fasten them in the memory. All was 
subdued, devout common sense. What can be re- 
called after the lapse of twenty-three years, is 
chiefly remarkable for its wisdom and cheerful 
piety. 

" The chamber where the'good man meets his fate 
Is privileged above the common walks of life, 
Quite on the verge of heaven." 

And such was this, a scene of unfeigned faith 
and living hope. With a ripe and ri^h ex- 
perience in a full age he was coming to his end, 
" like as a shock of corn cometh in his season." 
Grrace shone in his presence and conversation. 
To an elder he said: "I lie here and think of 
God, of his glory and grace, and anticipate the 
time when I shall behold "Him as he is," until I 
am perfectly exhausted with my feelings, and 
almost ready to expire." 



278 FAREWELLS. 

Se often quoted the language of David: "As 
for me I shall behold his face in righteousness; 
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy like- 
ness;" and then would add, " That nothiDg short 
of this would satisfy — nothing less than the like- 
ness of God;" for this he said he longed, hunger- 
ed and thirsted. 

''Often," says his son, Samuel Wood Bliss, 
'' during his last sickne3S he spoke to me of the 
pleasure, the privilege and the necessity oi pray- 
er ; and once, in particular, he said to us both, 
any sister and myself, ' If you would ever do any 
good, or be anything more than common profes- 
sors^ you must be much in prayer — much at the 
throne of grace.' " 

He frequently called his children in and con- 
versed long and particularly with them respect- 
ing the duties of life and the conduct of their 
worldly business, so as at once to secure the ap- 
probation of God and a good measure of success. 
Sometimes when the interview had been exclu- 
sively of wordly affairs, at the closj he would 
mention it, and say, " I hope you will not think 
that I estimate thesn things very highly. I do 
not; but they have th.-ir importance." 

He often repeated, sv:. h great satisfaction, pas- 
.sages of the hymn, entitled '* All is well." 



FARE-WELLS. 279 

" What's this that steals upon my frame? 
Is it death? 
That soon will quench this vital flame? 
Is it death? 

" If this be death I soon shall be 
From every pain and sorrow free ; 
I shall the King of glory see: 
All is well, all is well ! 



" There's not a cloud that doth arise, 
To hide my Savior from my eyes. 
I soon shall mount above the skies: 
All is well, all is well !" 

His sonl must have triumphed to be in har- 
mony with these exultant sentiments. It gave 
him particular pleasure when any one came in 
-who could sing the hymn. He could not sing 
himself, this cheerful gift had been denied him, 
but his soul was refreshed by the inspiring lay. 
He often answered to those who inquired con- 
cerning his condition, with this buoyant refrain, 
*'A11 is well." 

Toward the last he remarked to one — I sup- 
pose Mrs. D., " I am passing through the valley 
of the shadow of death; but where is the dark- 
ness?" 

At length the communion meeting, generally 



280 FAREWELLS. 

'celebrated in midwinter in Wabash Churcb 
opened. Mr. Butler was present to conduct it. 
The interest, the excitement of the sacred occa- 
sion, could not but reach him in his seclusion 
and tell on his sensitive nerves. On Sabbath 
Mr. Bennet was present, and the meeting was 
peculiarly tender and solemn. All day the 
people knew that their faithful pastor and friend 
was sinking. In the afternoon, one standing by 
his bedside, put his hand under the covers and 
felt his feet. Mr. Bliss noticed it and ques- 
tioned him. " They are cold," was the subdued 
answer. " That is favorable," was the immediate 
response, with a gentle smile. 

Once, during the night, he was heard to 
breathe the words, " Farewell, my children, my 
friends, and wicked world!" 

On Monday morning there had not been time 
for the family to finish the morning meal and 
gather in their father's room for the accustomed 
prayers, when his summons came. The sun was 
just risen upon the earth when this holy man 
of God quietly, sweetly, as " God giveth bis be- 
loved sleep," entered into his " everlasting rest." 

Thus his "longings" were satisfied. 



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