At one o’clock Sunday morning, April 11,1880, my dear father, Elder Gushing Biggs Hassell, at his house in Williamston, N. C., after an illness of forty-two days, and in the seventy-first year of his age, gently fell asleep in Jesus.
For forty years he had been a minister, and for about twenty-five years, perhaps, the leading minister of the Primitive Baptist Church in North Carolina.
He was born near Williamston, N. C., October 14,1808. His father, Joshua N. Hassell, was an honest and hospitable man, but made no profession of religion, and died in 1824, leaving his family penniless. His mother, whose maiden name was Martha Biggs, was a woman of remarkable sagacity, energy, and decision of character. She was a zealous member of the Primitive Baptist Church. For some thirty years previous to her death, in 1860, she was generally confined to her bed with rheumatism, and was wonderfully resigned and cheerful.
Father was sent to school at irregular intervals from his third to his fifteenth year, and while in business studied the classical languages under different teachers. At fifteen, his father having died, he stopped school to labor for the support of his mother and her family. While at school he was noted above his schoolmates for aptness at learning, steady, moral habits and serious disposition. He even then esteemed his reputation and good name as better than riches. When he attained his eighteenth year he entered into five excellent resolutions, to which he steadfastly adhered the remainder of his life: To abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors, tobacco, gaming and profanity, and to be strictly honest, truthful and upright in all his dealings. He at an early period entered upon a mercantile career, which he followed through life. His business was large and generally prosperous, though he suffered many heavy losses from his debtors not fulfilling their promises to him; and in this manner, as he used to say, he helped materially to support at least five hundred different families. He preferred to suffer loss rather than grind the faces of the poor. At his death he had enough solvent credits to pay all his debts, and leave his entire real estate to his family.
He was twice married. First in 1832, to Mary Davis, who bore him seven children, of whom my oldest sister and myself survive. His wife died in 1846, and in 1849 he married, in Warwick, N. Y., Martha Maria Jewett, the widow of Elder Daniel E. Jewett, the founder and conductor of the “Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Monitor.” Of their four children, a daughter and two sons survive, all grown and married. To illustrate his usefulness to the world, it may be stated that he energetically and successfully filled the following positions for many years: Trustee of the Williamston Academy; Founder, Secretary, Treasurer and Librarian of the Williamston Library Association; Trustee and member of the Board of Examiners of the University of North Carolina; Agent of the Chairman of the Board of Superintendents of Common Schools of Martin County, transacting all the laborious and difficult work of that office; Clerk and Master in Equity for Martin County; President of the Roanoke Steam Navigation Company; Treasurer of the County of Martin, only four votes in the county being cast against him; was chosen delegate to the State Convention, February, 1861; and he served as delegate to the important Constitutional State Convention of 1875.
In the Winter of 1827-8 he felt himself arrested by some supernatural power, and exceedingly distressed on account of the original depravity of his heart, and the consequent impure streams constantly flowing from this corrupt fountain. He was at first a religious skeptic, and read the Bible simply in order to demonstrate its inconsistencies and absurdities; but the words of Divine truth proved as barbed arrows to his heart, and convinced him of the utter insufficiency of his own righteousness, and his awful condition in the sight of a holy God. It was at a time of religious excitement in the community, and he tried to hide his heart-troubles from the world. He fled to the law for refuge and safety; he resolved and re-resolved to live a still more moral life, but he found that all his fine resolutions and deeds were but as filthy rags, dross and abomination in the eyes of Infinite Holiness. While he was thus despairing of salvation by the deeds of the law, and saw no way of escape and deliverance from sin and its awful consequences, and while bowed in secret at the throne of grace, on the thirteenth of January, 1828, Christ Jesus was presented to the eye of his understanding as being the end of the law for righteousness to the believer, so that the believer in Jesus is freely justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses; that thus the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed without money or price to every poor convicted soul that abandons all creature dependence, and trusts entirely in the mercy of Omnipotence. Then and there he felt the burden of sin removed, and he experienced a sensation of joy unspeakable and full of glory. He was at this time living in Halifax, N. C., where there was no Baptist Church. He was deeply impressed with his duty to be baptized. Availing himself of the first opportunity, in March of that year he went down to Williamston, and was received into the fellowship of Skewarkey Church, and baptized by Elder Joseph Biggs on the thirteenth of that month. The great evangelical doctrine of the election, total depravity, particular redemption, effectual calling and final perseverance of the saints to glory, was at this early period immovably settled in his mind. In 1833 he was chosen a Deacon of Skewarkey Church. In that year General William Clark, an ex-member of Congress, a man of wealth and talents, and a minister of one of the churches in the Kehukee Association, withdrew from her communion, and wrote a defamatory pamphlet against that Association. Father drew up a reply of sixty pages, which was adopted by the Association, and extensively circulated. Clark was silenced, and went southwest.
Father took an active part in prayer meetings and church conferences, and in 1840 he was licensed to preach, and in 1842 he was ordained by a presbytery composed of Elders James Osbourn, Joseph Biggs and William Whitaker. He was chosen pastor of Skewarkey and Spring Green Churches, which he visited every second and fourth Saturday and Sunday, going to other churches generally on the other two Sundays in each month. He rarely failed to attend the Skewarkey Union Meeting every fifth Sunday. In 1859 he was chosen Moderator of the Kehukee Association, and was continually re-elected till his death. He was always present at the session of the Association. He often visited other Associations in this State and in the Middle States, and went twice on a preaching tour into Canada, and once for the same purpose through the Southern States to Arkansas. During his ministry he assisted at twenty-five ordinations, baptized three hundred and thirty persons, and married ninety-six couples. For the first ten years of his ministry he would receive no donation from any one; but he then concluded that both for the donors and himself such a course was wrong, and during the last thirty years of his life he received for marriage fees and preaching an average of $83.92 a year, an amount scarcely sufficient to pay his traveling expenses. Certainly it was not for filthy lucre that he labored in the cause of his Master. His own donations to others amounted to large sums.
As far back as I can remember he was in the habit of assembling his family around the family altar every morning and evening, to read a portion of Scripture, sing a hymn of praise, and to pour forth in the most humble and reverent manner his thanksgivings and supplications at the throne of grace. I can truly say that these were the most affecting, happy and blessed seasons of my life. They are evergreen spots in memory’s waste, forming the nearest approach to Heaven that I have ever realized on earth. He sang well, and taught his children to sing. On Sunday morning, after prayers, he took great delight in instructing his children in Scripture history and the plan of salvation, and continually, both by precept and example, he strove to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I have often felt and said that I would rather have such a father than all the riches, honors and pleasures of the world. For some generations the Primitive Baptists of Williamston held prayer meetings at each other’s houses every Sunday night; since the war my father has had all these meetings at his house. His spirit was singularly attuned to prayer and praise. I never knew a man who could more truthfully say with David, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Few excelled him in extemporaneous oratory. All his sermons were preached without a particle of written preparation, and frequently without opportunity for forethought; though he preferred, when he could, to search the Scriptures before preaching. In order and method, in neatness and cleanliness of person and attire, in self-control and evenness of temper, and in untiring industry, I have never seen his equal. He wrote his autobiography up to 1847, and kept a full diary of his life ever afterwards. He recorded in blank books, with interesting particulars, all his ordinations, baptisms, texts, marriages, and the donations made to him. In addition to his large and multifarious business, he had a most extensive and laborious correspondence. He rarely retired before eleven or twelve o’clock at night, and almost invariably rose at four or five in the morning. He frequently said that he would rather wear out than rust out, and that he wished to live so that he would be missed when he was gone. He literally worked himself to death. Appointed, in 1876, by the Kehukee Association, to write a history of that body, and of the church of God from the creation to the present time, he devoted to this work about seven hundred hours, mostly in the year 1879. At the time of his death he had completed the history of the Kehukee Association, and of the churches composing it, a statistical table of all the Old School Baptist Associations in America, a series of articles on our distinctive tenets and practices, and a history of the church for 4,350 years, from the creation to A. D. 350.
At father’s advanced age, his close confinement in 1879 to the preparation of this history gave the finishing blow to his excellent constitution. He studied and wrote on it almost incessantly, feeling that his time was short. It was with him a labor of love, but it was too excessive. For at least six months before his death he had been visibly failing. His mind dwelt almost entirely upon heavenly things. He earnestly exhorted his brethren to show their faith by their works; to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. The churches that he served were not composed of dead members. Spring Green Church, a year before his death, built a large new house of worship, and Skewarkey meeting-house was being thoroughly repainted during his last illness. The dear brethren and sisters in these churches, as well as his family, feel that they are irreparably bereaved. He preached at Skewarkey for the last time on February 8, 1880. His text, No. 2,096, used on that occasion, was (Eph. 4:4-6), especially the words, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” He spoke an hour and a quarter. He preached at Spring Green for the last time on February 22. His text, No. 2,097, used then, was (2 Cor. 5:1-4): “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,” etc. He preached fifty-five minutes. Though not able to travel, he went to the Skewarkey Union Meeting at Conoho, Martin County, February 27, and preached fifty minutes, the introductory sermon, from (Heb. 2:17, 18): “Wherefore, in all things, it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren,” etc. Thus his last public discourse was upon the most precious object of his affections—the Lord Jesus Christ. His favorite hymn was,
dear Redeemer, dying Lamb,
And through life his favorite motto, often quoted, was “Jehovah Jireh:” “The Lord will provide.” In communion at the Union Meeting on Sunday afternoon, with eyes mostly directed towards Heaven, he dwelt, in strains that seemed almost inspired, upon the sufferings of Jesus for sinners, and upon the Divine and eternal glory of His church. That night (February 29), at brother S. W. Outterbridge’s, he was taken with a severe pain in his right side, proceeding from an enlarged and indurated liver. Nothing could give him much relief. At his request, Hicks’ Farewell (No. 623, Lloyd’s Selection), beginning,
time is swiftly rolling on
was sung. Next morning he got into his buggy, and his wife drove him home. He obtained temporary relief from the pain by a light dose of calomel. On the evening of Sunday, the twenty-first, he had himself taken down stairs into the prayer meeting room, and addressed those assembled in the most tender and loving manner, as though he knew it was for the last time. On the evening of the twenty-eighth he was also taken there, but seemed to have strength enough only to say, “Sing on.” He kept declining in flesh and strength. His whole nervous and digestive apparatus seemed utterly exhausted, and gave way. On March 31 the same pain returned in his right side, and under the repetition of the mercurial treatment it was one day and two nights before it left him. After that he had no more pain, but kept weakening to the last. Six physicians visited him, but he was beyond human restoration; God was about to call His aged and faithful servant home. I was by his bedside almost constantly, day and night, for a week. In all his illness he never manifested the least anxiety in regard to his future state. Not a cloud dimmed his prospect of a blessed immortality. A little before the last he said, “I am passing to a better world. I am going from the land of the dying to the land of the living. To live is Christ, and to die is gain. It is far better to depart and be with Christ than to stay in this sin-defiled world. It may be a disadvantage to those he leaves, but it is an advantage to the Christian to die. He exchanges this state of sin and sorrow for the perfect peace and happiness of the of God. There are some things that we do not know, and that it is best for us not to know; but there are some blessed things that we do know. We do know that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we shall have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens. We do know that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory. We do know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. We do know that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil; for God will be with us, His rod and staff will comfort us even there. Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 0 what a good and a faithful God! Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. No other one is worthy of our trust. Others will disappoint your expectations; but God cannot deny Himself—He will be perfectly faithful to all His blessed promises. Love one another. Walk in the way of His holy commandments. Trust in God. Be perfectly resigned to His holy will, which must be done, and ought to be done, and is always best. Bury me in a plain wooden coffin, and without display, or ceremony, or preaching, in the simple manner of the apostolic age. I have never engaged in funeral preaching. Just let my friends gather in silence around, when my body is deposited in its last resting place. Bury me at Skewarkey, by the side of my children.”
For almost every one that called to see him he seemed to have a special message and some heavenly advice. His family and friends, brethren and sisters, crowded around him, and were loth to lose a single word. He seemed to me a Christian patriarch dispensing his dying blessing to his children. His last words to me were: “The Lord’s blessing and a father’s blessing go with you and yours, my dear son, through life, and bring you to a better world.” His most frequent expression during his illness was, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” On the last day, when he was too weak to say scarcely anything, he often repeated, “All right! all right!” When quite restless and tossing about, towards 12 o’clock Saturday night, April 10, he was asked if he wanted anything, and he said, “Nothing in this world.” He seemed conscious to almost the very last, and about 1 o’clock Sunday morning, without a struggle, a sigh, or a gasp, his spirit quit its mortal tenement and ascended to the bright mansions of rest. A placid and heavenly smile rested upon his countenance. In his last will, written in 1879, he had said, “I resign my body to the dust, from whence it came, and my spirit to God who gave it, confidently expecting a happy reunion beyond the grave.” Death had no terrors for him. He is
Asleep in Jesus! peaceful rest!
Monday, April 12, was a bright, cold day. Numbers of sympathizing friends began soon to gather at my father’s house. At half-past two P. M. the procession started for the cemetery at Skewarkey, a mile distant. Every store and shop in Williamston was closed. Almost the entire population of the town and surrounding country, of all parties and denominations, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, issued forth and respectfully accompanied the remains to the grave. In tearful and almost reverential silence they gathered around the body of their father and friend, and looked for the last time in this world upon the loved features. The coffin was gently lowered into its receptacle by the hands of dear brethren, and noiselessly covered with earth. On the morning of the last day the body thus sown in weakness and dishonor will be raised in power and glory, and rejoin its companion spirit; and the devoted servant of Christ will be welcomed to a blissful and everlasting association with his God. May Divine grace prepare us to follow him to that sinless and tearless state.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ELDER GILBERT BEEBE
MR. SLAWSON:—In fulfillment of my promise, I will state some of the most important incidents of my life. I was born in the town (now city) of Norwich, Conn., on the 25th day of November, 1800. At a very early period, and as far back as my memory extends, I was seriously impressed with a solemn conviction of my sinful and lost condition as a sinner, and of the necessity of being “born again,” to qualify me to see the kingdom of God. When, I think, from my best remembrance of the date, I was not more than seven or eight years old, I was made to hope and rejoice in God as my Savior, and to feel His love shed abroad in my heart. I think that at that tender age I was taught of God to know, what no other being could teach me, that “Salvation is of the Lord.” From that hour I have had no confidence in the power of men to effect or help in the least to effect the salvation of a sinner. In 1811 I was baptized by Elder John Sterry, and received as a member of the Baptist Church in Norwich. This was many years before the division of the Missionary or Fullerite Baptists from the Primitive order, and before any organized religious societies or institutions were known or tolerated in the Baptist denomination in our country.
In 1816 I came to the city of New York, and afterward became identified, by letter, with the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where I was called to exercise my gift, and was finally licensed to preach the gospel; this was about the year 1818. I then traveled in several States as an itinerant preacher, and supplied the Third Baptist Church in Baltimore three or four months in about 1821-2, but it suited my mind better to be traveling. I never failed to find places where I was well received, and without any support from missionary arrangement I was fully sustained, so that I could say as did the disciples whom Jesus sent out without purse or scrip, when they returned, that I had lacked nothing.
In 1823, February 4, I was married in the city of New York, and in the same year was ordained to the pastoral care of the Baptist Church of Ramapo, in Rockland County, N. Y., and continued with them until May, 1826, when I accepted a call to the pastorate of the Baptist Church at New Vernon, N. Y. This church was constituted about 1786, and my predecessor, Elder Benjamin Montanye, had served them as pastor thirty-three years. He died in December, 1825, and I succeeded him the following May. So it will be seen that this ancient church has been supplied for the last eighty-three now eighty-eight years by but two pastors. During the fifty years of my connection I spent the principal part of three years and a half in Alexandria, and Upper Broad Run, Va., and the Shiloh Church in Washington, D. C., but continued to visit New Vernon regularly during the time, and finally removed to New Vernon in April, 1840.
For about forty years I have also served the Middletown & Wallkill Church, in connection with my labors in and with New Vernon.
During the half-century all the members of both churches have been called to their inheritance above with the exception of about four or five. The two churches contain a membership now of about one hundred and eighty, nearly all of whom have been gathered into the fold, besides many others who have been called away, since I have been with them.
The division, or separation of the Missionary Baptists in these parts, from those of the old order, took place about forty years ago. I stand today rooted and grounded in the faith and order on which the whole Baptist denomination in our country stood when I united with them sixty-five years ago. I have found no occasion to depart from either the faith or order of the church of God, as organized on the day of Pentecost. I cannot find by sixty years of careful and prayerful searching of the Scriptures, that those primitive saints who gladly received the word at Pentecost and continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, had any religious organizations as auxiliaries to the church of God, existing among them. No Mission Boards for converting the heathen or for evangelizing the world; no Sunday Schools as nurseries to the church; no schools of any kind for teaching theology or divinity or for preparing young men for the ministry; no pious rehearsals of the “Melodies of Mother Goose” or “Jack Horner” or the “cow jumping over the moon,” among the institutions of Christ or His Apostles. I am content to be considered all of eighteen hundred and forty three years behind the progressive religious doings of the more popular religionists of the present time. I nave never been identified with, nor have I had any fellowship for, any religious rites, forms, fashions or customs which cannot be found in the laws of Christ, and practice of the Apostles and primitive saints. I do not denounce those who differ with me in regard to these things; to their own masters they stand or fall; nor do I dispute that there are among them some of God’s quickened children; that is not my province. “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” and He can bring them out of their idolatry in His own good time. But while I live I expect to protest solemnly, soberly, but not with unkind or malicious feelings, against their spiritual wickedness in high places.
The “Signs of the Times,” as you are aware, has been published by me nearly forty-four years. During all this time it has been devoted to the defense of what my eternal destiny rests upon as the truth as it is in Jesus. My warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world.
My race is nearly run. I am now in the seventy-sixth year of my age. My voice will soon be silenced in death, my pen will pass into the hands of another, and I hope abler writer, but the eternal truth for which I have so long contended will be lasting as the days of eternity. And when all the deceptive and luring doctrines and institutions of men shall be exposed, and all who have trusted in a refuge of lies shall bewail their folly and call for rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the presence of the Lamb, those who know and love the truth shall in the truth rejoice forevermore.
MIDDLETOWN, N. Y., April, 1876.
ELDER GILBERT BEEBE’S EDITORIAL ON ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY AND CHURCH CREEDS
Signs of the Times, Middletown, N. Y., August 15th, 1881
It is important for us to know to what extent the history of the past, in regard to religious events, and the uninspired creeds which have been written, may be beneficial to the people of God at the present day. We know that the inspired psalmist “considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.” He says, “I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. “But this solemn retrospection was not to subserve an idle curiosity or vain ambition to acquire that knowledge of past events which serves only to inflate the mind with pride; for his mind was sorely perplexed with the soul-trying inquiry, “Will the Lord cast off forever? and will He be favorable no more?” “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” It was when under these trying circumstances that he said, “I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings.” (Ps. 77:5-12). He was not searching for some record of what he had done for the Lord, nor of what he had done for himself, nor yet for what men or angels had performed. A knowledge of what men or angels had done or could do could not reassure his faith that the mercy and truth of God were built up forever, and his faithfulness established in the very Heavens.—(Ps. 89:2). For these blessed assurances are not found among the uninspired records of men, but in the sacred archives of the eternal counsel of God, and revealed by the Holy Spirit to the sons of God and heirs of eternal glory. To look back to the rock whence they are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence they are digged, is confirming to their faith and confidence in the God of their salvation. As the ancient patriarchs and saints sometimes set up monuments and Ebenezers as reminiscences of God’s special favors towards them, so it is profitable for the children of God at the present time to remember all the way in which the Lord their God has led them, and with gratitude and praises to acknowledge that His goodness and mercy have followed them all their days. But while we fully appreciate God’s wonderful works of old to usward, and to the children of men, we should rely alone on what the Lord has taught us by His word and Spirit, and read with great caution the religious history of uninspired men.
Since the Apostles of the Lamb have finished their course with us in the flesh, no history of the church of God should be allowed to lure us from the doctrine which they taught, the judgments they have recorded, the ordinances they have enjoined; nothing is to be added nor aught diminished from the perfect standard of faith and order they established, which is confirmed by all the valid authority of earth and Heaven. What they have bound on earth is bound in Heaven, and what they have loosed on earth is loosed in Heaven. The question with us now is not or should not be, What was believed or practiced in the church one hundred or a thousand years ago? but rather, What was the faith which was once delivered to the saints? We are not now to ask, Are our ministers by succession of ordination, through the dark ages of papal abominations, traceable to the Apostles? but rather let it be asked, Are they such men as the Holy Ghost commanded the church to separate to the work whereunto He had called them?
Much is said at the present time, both by Catholics and Protestants, of what they claim to be a regular succession from the Apostles, as establishing their claim to be the true church of Christ. But the fallacy of their vain boasting is clearly apparent when we compare their faith and order with that by which the primitive church was distinguished in her original organization at Jerusalem. The constituent members of the church at Pentecost were such as had by the outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of the word been pricked in their hearts and made to feel their wretched, guilty and helpless condition, and gladly to receive the word, and to repent, or turn away from their former delusions, and be baptized and added to the church, and of them it is said, They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—(Acts 2:37-42). This church of the First-born was built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.—(Eph. 2:20, 21). They held no other doctrine than that of the Apostles, aspired to no other religious fellowship, rested on no other foundation or chief corner stone; but these all, to Christ the Lord coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, were, as lively stones, quickened by their immortal and life-giving foundation, built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.—(1 Peter 2:4-6). In seeking for the kingdom of God and His righteousness it is expedient for those who are called by grace and born from above (as none but such can see it) to look as far back as to the description of the church as faithfully given in the New Testament. Not even in the history of the first century of the gospel church are we to look for a perfect rule for our faith and practice as disciples of our Savior Jesus Christ; for while the Apostles were still in the flesh carnality was detected in the church at Corinth, heresy and witchcraft in the churches of Galatia, and dissensions at Antioch; and in the days of the Apostle John there were many antichrists which went out from the church because they were not of them. And Paul, Peter and Jude admonished the saints that many should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. And even of the Elders who wept and fell on Paul’s neck, because he had told them they should see his face no more, should men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. The primitive saints could only abide in the Apostles’ fellowship as they continued steadfastly in their doctrine; they were allowed to follow no man only so far as they followed Christ. Can it then be safe for us to accept of the usages or traditions of the church, or of any organization claiming to be the church, as a standard of faith or rule of practice, which have existed since the time the Apostles were in the flesh? If in the days of their sojourn on earth no church was perfectly free from defect, at what period from that to the present time have any of the churches surpassed the primitive churches in purity? We have a more sure guide and directory. The doctrine, examples and precepts of God our Savior, as given us in the New Testament, and written by the Holy Spirit in the heart of all who are born of God, alone are reliable. To them only are we exhorted to give heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star shall arise in our hearts. A faithful record of the history of the church of God through the intervening ages which have elapsed since the Scriptures were written, could such a history be produced, would only be valuable in showing the long-suffering, tender kindness and boundless faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God in being merciful to our unrighteousness, and in warning us to beware of and avoid every error or departure from the divinely inspired rule, into which the church has been lured or betrayed at any time. In no age or period of the existence of the church has it been any less expedient to test her faith and practice by the unerring rule than at the present time. Individuals and churches have perhaps as frequently been drawn into error by tradition as by any other influence. Things which have been held as sacred by pious parents, esteemed preachers and learned instructors, are too often accepted by the unsuspecting disciples for truth, which will by no means bear the scrutiny of investigation in the light of the Scriptures. The saints can only be redeemed from their vain conversation, received by tradition from their fathers, by the cleansing blood of Christ; and even those who by Him do believe in God, and have purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, are admonished to stand fast: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”—(1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 2:20, 21). We cannot obey the truth if we give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; and all spirits are seductive which would divert us from following our Lord, and tempt us to accept any other religious oracle than the Holy Scriptures which He has given as our infallible guide; and all religious doctrines or practices that are not approved by our Lord Jesus Christ and authorized by Him, are doctrines of devils. All that He has taught and commanded is obligatory on His disciples, while all that He has not taught or commanded is forbidden.
Written creeds also, as embodying the opinions of men, or the decisions of prelates and councils on religious subjects, are to be treated with the utmost caution, and accepted only so far as they are sustained by the inspired Scriptures. A brief statement or summary of what we believe is taught in the Bible may be useful in distinguishing the church of God and children of His kingdom from others who profess to believe the Scriptures, and yet reject what we believe them to establish as the truth of God; but when such professions of faith assume the form of edicts, of improvements upon the Scriptures, or as infallible interpretations of them, or as an absolute standard of orthodoxy, their tendency cannot fail to be pernicious. If they claim to be more plain, clear or reliable than the Scriptures, they are sacrilegious and blasphemously insulting to the infinite wisdom of God. To receive them as anything more than a belief of what the Scriptures teach, is to ignore the Scriptures and take the open ground of rank infidelity. However sound and orthodox written creeds or articles of faith may be, they can only express the convictions of uninspired men, who are liable to err; and when written only to express our convictions or understanding of the Divine testimony, we should explicitly state that nothing in them shall be construed as in any wise binding on the saints, only so far as by a close and prayerful investigation they shall be fully sustained by the Scriptures. While therefore we give an expression of what we believe is taught in the Scriptures, great care should be taken lest we make our views or understanding of them the test of fellowship, instead of the Scriptures themselves. It is true the saints are admonished to be of one mind and one judgment, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and any palpable departure from the faith of the gospel must unavoidably affect our fellowship; but such a departure must be ascertained and determined by the unerring standard of the Scriptures, and not by any humanly-devised creed, for every written creed or abstract of the faith which we may have accepted, as well as the questionable theory to be settled, must be tested alike by the Scriptures as the only reliable and infallible standard. If we set up our creeds or traditions above the inspired word, we make ourselves wise above what is written, and may fall under the rebuke of Him who charged the Jews with making void the law of God by their traditions, and of whom He said, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”—(Matt. 15:9). The repudiation of long cherished traditions, or the ignoring of creeds, can only amount to heresy so far as the repudiation or ignoring party can be convicted of departure from the doctrine and precepts of our Lord and His Apostles, as given to us in the New Testament.
In more than three score years of our labors in the gospel ministry we have never demanded or required of any candidates for baptism that they should sign any pledge to adhere to any other standard of faith or practice than that which is given in the Scriptures. We have said to them, “If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ with all thy heart, thou mayest.” After hearing from them a satisfactory relation of what we believe to be a genuine experience of the new birth, we have usually asked them if they believe the doctrine and order held and preached by the Old or Primitive Baptists, so far as they understand it, and if their experience is in harmony with it. Upon receiving an affirmative reply, we bid them welcome to the ordinance, and hold ourselves ready, if need be in the same hour of the night or of the day, to administer that sacred ordinance. We know of no Divine authority for delaying the administration for a more convenient season, or to first bury a father, or take leave of those we are to leave behind us. As every one who is born from above, and who loves the precious Savior, is commanded to take His yoke, bear His cross and follow Him, and as baptism is the first act of obedience of the Heaven-born child, no other duty or religious privilege can be in order until this is performed. But upon this subject of baptism we may hereafter write, if the Lord shall so permit.
[As this is the last editorial left by our dear father, and written but a few days before he was called home, the one contemplated in the last sentence was not written. May not this fact imply a reproof to those who love and hope for salvation through our Lord Jesus, yet wait for something more than His plain command to urge them to obey Him in following His great example?—G. Beebe’s Sons.]
[In accordance with the request of Elder G. Beebe’s Sons, the publishers of this book and of the “Signs of the Times,” I append the last editorial of Elder Gilbert Beebe on the subject of Predestination, showing in full his views, and those of the present proprietors of the “Signs of the Times,” and of a large number of the subscribers of that periodical, in regard to God’s absolute yet sinless and righteous predestination of all things. These views are, in general, substantially the same as those expressed in the Third Chapter of the old Philadelphia and London Confessions of Faith (see pages 670 and 671 in this volume). I believe, and I think that every Bible Baptist believes, that God is the All-Mighty, All-Wise and All-Holy Sovereign of the Universe; that He could have prevented the entrance of sin into the world; that He perfectly foreknew the fall and all the wickedness of men; that He had a purpose worthy of Himself, however inscrutable to us, in regard to the entrance of sin, as well as in regard to all things else; that by His supreme power and decree He restricts all the rage and malice of wicked men and devils to do no more nor less than what He will overrule for the good of His people and for His own glory; that men act voluntarily when they commit sin, and are neither tempted nor compelled by God to sin; that God hates sin with a perfect hatred, forbids and resents and punishes it, unless properly atoned for and repented of, with an everlasting curse. As the sinful will of man is but the expression of his sinful nature, so I believe that the holy will of God is but the expression of His holy nature or character, which is essential, infinite, eternal and unchangeable holiness, the very impersonation of His holy law, as well as of His holy and merciful gospel, and the eternal standard of all holiness in the universe. I further believe that, while the sinner has destroyed himself, all his salvation, from first to last, is of the pure, unmerited, almighty and unchanging grace of God.
I am informed by Elder G. Beebe’s Sons that their father did not, neither do they, accept the use of the word “permission” in reference to God’s decrees.
THE “SIGNS OF THE TIMES” IS NOT, IN THE SLIGHTEST DEGREE, RESPONSIBLE FOR A SINGLE SENTIMENT EXPRESSED IN THIS BOOK, EXCEPT FOR THOSE CONTAINED IN THE QUOTATIONS FROM ITS COLUMNS.—S. H.]
ABSOLUTE PREDESTINATION OF ALL THINGS
(LAST EDITORIAL ON THE SUBJECT BY THE LATE ELDER GILBERT BEEBE, IN THE “SIGNS OF THE TIMES,” OCTOBER 1, 1880.)
The Old School or Primitive Baptists in former years have been very definitely identified and distinguished from all other religious or ecclesiastical organizations as PREDESTINARIAN BAPTISTS, and as such have borne reproach and vituperation from those who hold more limited views of what we regard as the absolute and all-pervading government of God over all beings, all events, and all worlds. With deep solicitude and painful concern we have witnessed in the preaching and writings of some of our brethren a disposition to so yield or modify the doctrine as to limit its application to such things as the carnal mind of man can comprehend or the wisdom of this world can approve. While some will concede that all things that they regard as pure and holy are ordained or predestinated of God, they deny that the absolute government of God does dictate by absolute decree the wicked works of wicked men and devils, for that, they say, would make God the author of sin. They therefore set up their judgment, and set bounds for Infinite Wisdom to be restricted to, and beyond which limitation He must not extend His government, without subjecting Himself to their censure as an unjust God and the author of sin. But how lamentable is the infatuation of poor, blind mortals, when
vain race of flesh and blood
There are undoubtedly many of the dear people of God who feel jealous for the glory of God, and who, without any aspiring ambition to be wise above what is written in the sacred Scriptures, from inability to comprehend the two great parallel mysteries of godliness and of iniquity, have felt a commendable concern lest in our weakness we should impute to God aught that would reflect on His adorable perfections, or withhold from Him that which He has ordained for the manifestation of His glory. It certainly becomes us, as finite beings, to speak of Him and of His government with fear and trembling. He is the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, and His name is Holy. His attributes are veiled in that infinity which no finite being can by searching find out. He keepeth back the face of His throne, the place and power of His government, and spreadeth His cloud upon it. As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. The standard of infinite purity and holiness is the will of God. There can be no higher law than the will of God, for only to the standard or counsel of His own will and pleasure does He Himself conform. “He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”—(Eph. 1:11). “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”—(Isa. 46:10). In this connection He says, “I am God, and there is none like me.” And in the revelation of the Lamb in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, “The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat upon the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”—(Rev. 4:10, 11). “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”—(Rom. 11:33-36).
When God created the Heavens and the earth no other power than His own was employed, no wisdom but His own was consulted, nor was there any other than His own will to dictate what, how, or for what purpose anything should be created. As a potter has power over the clay, it is his right to form his vessels as he please; and if he forms of the same lump vessels to honor and vessels to dishonor, who shall dispute his right to do so? The prophet says God is the potter and we are the clay; then, “What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.”—(Rom. 9:21-23). Dare any of us poor, finite worms of the dust dispute the sovereign right of God to do all His pleasure in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of earth? “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” How appropriate and forcible are the words of Job, “Hell is naked before Him God, and destruction hath no covering. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He bindeth up the waters in His thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them. He holdeth back the face of His throne, and spreadeth His cloud upon it. He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. The pillars of Heaven tremble and are astonished at His reproof. He divideth the sea with His power, and by His understanding He smiteth through the proud. By His Spirit He hath garnished the Heavens; His hand bath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?”—(Job 26:6-14).
Can we contemplate the awful majesty, profound wisdom, deep and unsearchable counsel, infinite goodness, unerring workmanship in all that He has condescended to let us know of His great and marvelous works, from the spreading abroad and garnishing of the wide Heavens, down to the formation of the crooked serpent, and still stand in doubt of His predestinating power and unrestricted government over all beings, all worlds, and all events?
Are death and hell and all things naked before Him, and destruction uncovered to His all-seeing eye, and yet unlimited by His power and wisdom? Has He stretched out the north, and balanced the earth upon nothing, without any design, purpose or decree concerning their subsequent destiny? Has God bound up the waters in His thick cloud, and “given to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment” (Prov. 8:29), and yet left all to the vagary of chance? When He set His throne above the Heavens, was it to be the place of no power in controlling the destiny of all things in Heaven and earth and hell? For about six thousand years the sun, moon and stars have with exactness filled their respective orbits, and without the variation of a second of time from their creation made all their revolutions, in obedience to the decree of the Creator. Is it by chance that “The Heavens thus declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork?”
But say some to whose minds the doctrine of the universal government is obscure, We admit that God has predestinated some things, but do not admit that He has predestinated all things which come to pass. Let us see how this partial or limited government would accord with the Divine record. Suppose that in what we have been contemplating of the Heavens we should find the sun and moon, and all the stars but one, held firmly to their orbits by the irresistible will and decree of God, and that one solitary star, without any fixed orbit, is allowed to range the infinity of space, wandering with more than lightning velocity, guided only by chance; where would be the safety of all the other stars? what would become of the predestination of those heavenly bodies intended to be preserved from hazard by the decree of God?
To us it has been a comforting thought that God has set the bounds of our habitation on the earth, and the number of our months is with Him, and our days are appointed to us as the days of an hireling, who cannot pass His bounds; but what assurance of safety would that afford, if He has left murderers and bloodthirsty men or devils unrestricted by His predestinating decree? To our mind, either everything or nothing must be held in subjection to the will and providence of God. Even the wickedness of ungodly men is restricted by predestination, so that “the wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain.”
Pains and deaths around us
For death and hell can do no more than His hand and counsel have determined shall be done. Does this make God the author of sin? or, in other words, does this make Him a sinner, or charge on Him an imputation of impurity? By no means. Against whom is it possible for God to sin? Is He amenable to any law above Himself? If so, by what law can He be indicted, in what court can He be tried or convicted? How preposterous! It is His eternal right to do all His pleasure, “Nor give to mortals an account, or of His actions or decrees.”
It savors of atheism to deny that He is the self-existent, independent God who has created all things for His own sovereign will and pleasure. And if it be admitted that He had a right to create the world, and all worlds, it must then be also admitted that He had a right to create them according to His own will and pleasure. Worms cannot charge Him with error because He did not assign them a more exalted place in the creation, or for creating them worms instead of men. Men cannot justly charge Him for not creating them angels, nor angels because He did not make them Gods. The world, with its infinite variety of living creatures, from the minutest insect to the most huge monster, as well as man, were all made for the pleasure of their Maker, and all must subserve the exact purpose for which they were made. Even the crooked serpent, as well as the harmless dove, all were pronounced good in their respective places; not good in the sense in which God is good, but good because they were precisely what He intended or predestinated them to be. Had the serpent been straight, or the dove crooked, or if the things made had been different from what the Creator intended, there would have been a defect in the workmanship. We cannot, with such exalted views as we entertain, think that God has ever failed to secure the perfect accomplishment of His own design or purpose in anything He has ever done. The entrance of sin into the world, and death by sin, which by the offense of one man has passed upon all mankind, was no unprovided-for event with Him, to whose eyes sin, death and hell have no covering. The eternal purpose which God had purposed in Himself before the world began was sufficiently perfect and comprehensive to include all that could or can possibly transpire, or He would not have declared the end of all things from the beginning. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.”—(Acts 15:18).
But there are many who admit the foreknowledge of God, and yet deny His determinate counsel, on which the certainty of all the events of time depends. Men may have a limited foreknowledge of things which God has made certain by His determinate counsel and irrevocable decrees, as it is said, “The living know that they must die;” but God’s foreknowledge depends on nothing outside of Himself, for He has challenged the universe to tell with whom He has taken counsel, or who has instructed Him. To us it seems perfectly clear that nothing could be foreknown that was undetermined, and that the foreknowledge and determinate counsel of God are inseparable.
It is also generally admitted that in the salvation of His people, “Whom He did foreknow, them He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29); but that the well-beloved Son of God was delivered into the wicked hands of men to be crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, is not so readily admitted. The wicked works of those who crucified the Lord of glory were not foreknown by His murderers; but it was foreknown and determined of God, Peter said, to those whom he charged with the wickedness of killing the Prince of life. “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.”—(Acts 3:17, 18). “For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.”—(Acts 4:27, 28).
The wickedness of men in betraying and crucifying our Lord had been positively predicted from the days of Abel, in what God spake to the fathers by the prophets, and by what was signified by all the offerings which were made under the former dispensation. The pieces of silver for which He was betrayed were counted and declared hundreds of years before Judas was born; and the dividing of His garments, and the lot cast for His seamless robe, was determined of God and declared by the prophets. The history of Joseph, and the wickedness of his brethren, was in fulfillment of his dreams, and in accordance with the purpose in which Joseph said, God meant it for good.
It has been said by some that these great events which God has overruled for good were ordered of the Lord, but that the smaller matters, and the wickedness of men, were not predestinated. Our Savior has informed us that the determinate counsel of God in His all-pervading providence numbers the hairs of our head, so that not a hair can fall to the ground without Him; even the little sparrows are protected, and the ravens are provided with food by His determinate counsel. And Paul assures us that “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
It seems to us unreasonable, as well as unscriptural, to say that the government of God directs and controls some things, and that other things are left to the control of men or devils. If God’s government extends only to the good deeds of men, then is His absolute government totally excluded; for “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”—(Rom. 3:10-12). We would not limit the government of our God, nor, because we cannot comprehend His designs, dare to say He has no designs.
He in the thickest darkness
In Heaven, and earth, and
air, and seas,
Men act voluntarily when they commit sin; they have no more knowledge of or respect for the purpose of God, than Joseph’s brethren or Potiphar’s wife had in his case, for there is no fear of God before their eyes. It is even so with the princes of this world; if they had known Jesus, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But it as needful that Joseph should be cast into prison, and it was expedient that Christ should suffer; therefore that knowledge was withheld from the persecutors of Joseph and of Jesus, until they should fill up the cup of their wickedness. And it is thus in the wisdom of God that the world by wisdom shall not know Him. Yet such is the wisdom, power and righteous government of our God that He can and does set the exact bounds by which the wickedness of men and devils is limited, and beyond which they cannot go. Satan is bound a thousand years with a great chain, and after the thousand years he shall be loosed for a short time. With all his rage and malice he is restricted by the supreme power and decree of God, to do no more nor less than what God will overrule for the good of His people and for His own glory. And thus also, “God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” as in the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, hardening the heart of Pharaoh until all the plagues and judgments were accomplished, and His own almighty power and glory were then made known in delivering the Hebrews, and in overwhelming Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea. “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rom. 9:17-22).
The Apostle, fully aware of the disposition of the carnal mind to cavil and reply against the sovereignty of God in the execution of His pleasure, did not attempt to apologize for God, or so to modify the doctrine as to render it less objectionable to the carnal mind; but he called attention to the infinite disparity between the infinitely wise, holy and omnipotent God, who holds our everlasting destiny, and by whose long-suffering we are permitted to live, and poor, finite, depraved, short-sighted man, and the daring presumption and extreme folly of questioning the justice or wisdom of God in working all things after the counsel of His own will. We regard it as a very serious matter to charge that God cannot govern the world, by His own determinate counsel, wisdom and power, according to the eternal and immutable design or purpose purposed in Himself before the world began, without subjecting Himself to the charge of being the author of sin. Sin is the transgression of a law under which the transgressor was justly held amenable, and to the penalty of which he is subject. But we have endeavored to show that God is under no law but that of His own will and pleasure, and therefore He doeth His pleasure in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. He could by no law be held under obligation to leave the affairs of this world or any part of them to be governed by chance, or by the will of men. As He is in one mind, and none can turn Him, His purposes are eternal, like Himself. His decrees being perfect from everlasting, admit of no improvement or change. If He had not the right to predestinate all things pertaining to the events of time before He created the world, we ask what right has He acquired subsequently to execute the orders of His throne? If it had been His pleasure to have prevented sin from entering into the world, can we doubt His power or wisdom or ability to have done so? If sin has entered this world in opposition to His will, or because He had not the wisdom and power to prevent its entrance, what assurance have we that it will not also enter the world to come? But it is to our mind far more consistent with what God has graciously made known to us of His being and attributes to believe that God had a purpose worthy of Himself, however inscrutable to us, in regard to the entrance of sin, as well as in regard to all things else. He bids us “Be still, and know that He is God.” To our feeble mind the conclusion is unavoidable, that the predestination of God either controls all things or nothing.
We look at a vast complicated machine, with its ten thousand wheels. We cannot comprehend or understand its workings, but we are told that the machinist has a perfect knowledge of all its parts save one; there is a definite use for every wheel and spring, but one is held in the machine which has no certain motion or definite use. How long could that machine run in safety, with the unruly part liable at any moment to throw the whole into confusion? We cannot see how any part of the government of God can be absolute and secure, if God has not the undivided government of the whole in all its parts; and if He has today the full control, had He not the same control yesterday and forever? If He has not the full control today, is there any certainty that He will have tomorrow or at any future period? If we admit that God absolutely governs all things according to the counsel of His own will, and that He is immutable, then we must admit that He has determined what shall and what shall not transpire in time or in eternity. But to deny His universal control of all things, including all principalities and powers, thrones and dominions, things present or to come, whether they be visible or invisible, is to deny that He is the God of the whole earth, and virtually deny His eternal power and Godhead. If He has not the power and wisdom to determine all events, how can He cause all things to work together for good to them that love Him?
But while we hold that He is supreme in power, and that He works all things after the counsel of His own will, we are certain that He reigns in righteousness, and that there is no unrighteousness with Him. To admit the universal government of God, is to admit the predestination of all things, from the falling of a sparrow to the dissolution of a world. In the absence of predestination, with what certainty could the Holy Ghost inspire the holy prophets and Apostles to foretell all that should ever come to pass? If it were undetermined in the purpose of God, how could the Apostles tell us of perilous times that should come in the last days, of apostasy from the faith, and spiritual wickedness in high places?
But we will submit these remarks to the consideration of our readers, and desire that what we have written may be carefully tested by the infallible standard, the Scriptures, and received only so far as they are sustained by the word and Spirit of our God.
THE CELESTIAL RAILROAD.[i]
Not a great while ago, passing through the gate of dreams, I visited that region of the earth in which lies the famous city of Destruction. It interested me much to learn that by the public spirit of some of the inhabitants a railroad has recently been established between this populous and flourishing town and the Celestial City. Having a little time upon my hands, I resolved to gratify a liberal curiosity by making a trip thither. Accordingly one fine morning, after paying my bill at the hotel, and directing the porter to stow my luggage behind a coach, I took my seat in the vehicle and set out for the station house. It was my good fortune to enjoy the company of a gentleman-one Mr. Smooth-it-away-who, though he had never actually visited the Celestial City, yet seemed as well acquainted with its laws, customs, policy and statistics as with those of the city of Destruction, of which he was a native townsman. Being, moreover, a director of the railroad corporation, and one of its largest stockholders, he had it in his power to give me all desirable information respecting this praiseworthy enterprise.
Our coach rattled out of the city, and at a short distance from its outskirts passed over a bridge of elegant construction, but somewhat too slight, as I imagined, to sustain any considerable weight. On both sides lay an extensive quagmire, which could not have been more disagreeable, either to sight or smell, had all the kennels of the earth emptied their pollution there.
“This,” remarked Mr. Smooth-it-away, “is the famous Slough of Despond-a disgrace to all the neighborhood; and the greater that it might so easily be converted into firm ground.”
“I have understood,” said I, “that efforts have been made for that purpose from time immemorial.”
“Very probable-and what effect could be anticipated from such unsubstantial stuff? “cried Mr. Smooth-it-away. “You observe this convenient bridge. We obtained a sufficient foundation for it by throwing into the Slough some editions of books of morality, volumes of French philosophy and German rationalism, tracts, sermons, and essays of modern clergymen, extracts from Plato, Confucius, and various Hindoo sages, together with a few ingenious commentaries upon texts of Scripture; all of which, by some scientific process, have been converted into a mass like granite. The whole bog might be filled up with similar matter.”
It really seemed to me, however, that the bridge vibrated and heaved up and down in a very formidable manner; and spite of Mr. Smooth-it-away’s testimony to the solidity of its foundation, I should be loth to cross it in a crowded omnibus, especially if each passenger were encumbered with as heavy luggage as that gentleman and myself. Nevertheless, we got over without accident, and soon found ourselves at the station house. This very neat and spacious edifice is erected on the site of a little Wicket Gate, which formerly, as all old pilgrims will recollect, stood directly across the highway, and by its inconvenient narrowness, was a great obstruction to the traveler of liberal mind and expansive stomach.
A large number of passengers were already at the station house, awaiting the departure of the cars. By the aspect and demeanor of the persons, it was easy to judge that the feelings of the community had undergone a very favorable change, in reference to the celestial pilgrimage. It would have done Bunyan’s heart good to see it. Instead of a lonely and ragged man with a huge burden on his back, plodding along sorrowfully on foot while the whole city hooted after him, here were parties of the first gentry and most respectable people in the neighborhood, setting forth toward the Celestial City as cheerfully as if the pilgrimage was merely a summer tour. Among the gentlemen were characters of deserved eminence, magistrates, politicians, and men of wealth, by whose example religion could not but be greatly recommended to their meaner brethren. In the ladies’ apartment, too, I rejoiced to distinguish some of those flowers of fashionable society, who are so well fitted to adorn the most elevated circles of the Celestial City. There was much pleasant conversation about the news of the day topics of business, politics, or the lighter matters of amusement; while religion though indubitably the main thing at heart, was thrown tastefully into the background. Even an infidel would have heard little or nothing to shock his sensibility.
One great convenience of the new method of going on pilgrimage I must not forget to mention. Our enormous burdens, instead of being carried on our shoulders, as had been the custom of old, were all snugly deposited in the baggage car, and, as I was assured, would be delivered to their respective owners at the journey’s end. Another thing, likewise, the benevolent reader will be delighted to understand. It may be remembered that there was an ancient feud between Prince Beelzebub and the keeper of the Wicket Gate, and that the adherents of the former distinguished personage were accustomed to shoot deadly arrows at honest pilgrims while knocking at the door. This dispute, much to the credit as well of the illustrious potentate above mentioned, as of the worthy and enlightened directors of the railroad, has been pacifically arranged upon the principle of mutual compromise. The Prince’s subjects are now pretty numerously employed about the station house, some in taking care of the baggage, others in collecting fuel, feeding the engines, and such congenial occupations; and I can conscientiously affirm, that persons more attentive to their business, more willing to accommodate, or more generally agreeable to the passengers, are not to be found on any railroad. Every good heart must surely exult at so satisfactory an arrangement of an immemorial difficulty.
“Where is Mr. Great-heart?” inquired I. “Beyond a doubt the directors have engaged that famous old champion to be chief conductor of the railroad?”
“Why no,” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, with a dry cough; “he was offered the situation of brakeman; but to tell you the truth, our friend Great-heart has grown preposterously stiff and narrow in his old age. He has so often guided pilgrims over the road on foot, that he considers it a sin to travel in any other fashion. Besides, the old fellow had entered so heartily into the ancient feud with Prince Beelzebub, that he would have been perpetually at blows or ill language with some of the Prince’s subjects, and thus have embroiled us anew. So, on the whole, we were not sorry when honest Great-heart went off to the Celestial City in a huff, and left us at liberty to choose a more suitable and accommodating man. Yonder comes the engineer of the train; you will probably recognize him at once.”
The engine at this moment took its station in advance of the cars, looking, I must confess, much more like a sort of mechanical demon that would hurry us to the infernal regions, than a laudable contrivance for smoothing our way to the Celestial City. On its top sat a personage almost enveloped in smoke and flame, which (not to startle the reader) appeared to gush from his own mouth and stomach as well as from the engine’s brazen abdomen.
“Do my eyes deceive me?” cried I. “What on earth is this? A living creature? If so, he is own brother to the engine he rides upon.”
“Poh, poh, you are obtuse,” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, with a hearty laugh. “Don’t you know Apollyon, Christian’s old enemy, with whom he fought so fierce a battle in the Valley of Humiliation? He was the very fellow to manage the engine, and so we have reconciled him to the custom of going on pilgrimage, and engaged him as chief engineer.”
“Bravo, bravo!” exclaimed I, with irrepressible enthusiasm. “This shows the liberality of the age. This proves, if anything can, that all musty prejudices are in a fair way to be obliterated. And how will Christian rejoice to hear of this happy transformation of his old antagonist. I promise myself great pleasure in informing him of it when we reach the Celestial City.”
The passengers being all comfortably seated, we now rattled away merrily, accomplishing a greater distance in ten minutes than Christian probably trudged over in a day. It was laughable while we glanced along, as it were, at the tail of a thunderbolt, to observe two dusty foot travelers in the old pilgrim guise, with cockle shell and staff, and their mystic rolls of parchment in their hands, and their intolerable burdens on their backs. The preposterous obstinacy of these honest people in persisting to groan and stumble along the difficult pathway, rather than take advantage of modern improvements, excited great mirth among our wiser brotherhood. We greeted the two pilgrims with many pleasant gibes and a roar of laughter; whereupon they gazed at us with such woful and absurdly compassionate visages, that our merriment grew ten-fold more obstreperous. Apollyon, also, entered heartily into the fun, and contrived to flirt the smoke and flame of the engine, or of his own breath, into their faces, and envelop them in an atmosphere of scalding steam. These little practical jokes amused us mightily, and doubtless afforded the pilgrims the gratification of considering themselves martyrs.
At some distance from the railroad, Mr. Smooth-it-away pointed to a large, antique edifice, which he observed was a tavern of long standing, and had formerly been a noted stopping-place for pilgrims. In Bunyan’s road-book it is mentioned as the Interpreter’s House.
“I have long had a curiosity to visit that old mansion,” remarked I.
“It is not one of our stations, as you perceive,” said my companion. “The keeper was violently opposed to the railroad; and well he might be, as the track left his house of entertainment on one side, and thus was pretty certain to deprive him of all his reputable customers. But the foot-path still passes his door, and the old gentleman now and then receives a call from some simple traveler, and entertains him with fare as old-fashioned as himself.”
Before our talk on this subject came to a conclusion, we were rushing by the place where Christian’s burden fell from his shoulders at the sight of the cross. This served as a theme for Mr. Smooth-it-away, Mr. Live-for-the-world, Mr. Hide-sin-in-the-heart and Mr. Scaly-conscience, and a knot of gentlemen from the town of Shun-repentance, to descant upon the inestimable advantages resulting from the safety of our baggage. Myself, and all the passengers indeed, joined with great unanimity in this view of the matter; for our burdens were rich in many things esteemed precious throughout the world; and especially, we each of us possessed a great variety of favorite habits, which we trusted would not be out of fashion, even in the polite circles of the Celestial City. It would have been a sad spectacle to have seen such an assortment of valuable articles tumbling into the sepulchre. Thus pleasantly conversing on the favorable circumstances of our position as compared with those of past pilgrims, and of narrow-minded ones of the present day, we soon found ourselves at the foot of the Hill of Difficulty. Through the very heart of this rocky mountain a tunnel has been constructed of most admirable architecture, with a lofty arch and a spacious double track; so that unless the earth and rocks should chance to crumble down, it will remain a lasting monument of the builder’s skill and enterprise. It is a great though incidental advantage that the materials from the heart of Hill Difficulty have been employed in filling up the Valley of Humiliation; thus obviating the difficulty of descending into that disagreeable and unwholesome hollow.
“This is a wonderful improvement indeed,” said I. “Yet I should have been glad of an opportunity to visit the Palace Beautiful, and be introduced to the charming young ladies-Miss Prudence, Miss Piety, Miss Charity and the rest-who have had the kindness to entertain pilgrims there.”
“Young ladies,” cried Mr. Smooth-it-away, as soon as he could speak for laughing. “And charming young ladies! Why, my dear fellow, they are old maids, every soul of them-prim, starched, dry and angular-and not one of them, I will venture to say, has altered so much as the fashion of her gown since the days of Christian’s pilgrimage.”
“Ah, well,” said I, much comforted, “then I can well dispense with their acquaintance.”
The respectable Apollyon was now putting on the steam at a prodigious rate, anxious perhaps to get rid of the unpleasant reminiscences connected with the spot where he had so disastrously encountered Christian. Consulting Mr. Bunyan’s road-book, I perceived that we must now be within a few miles of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, into which doleful region, at our present speed, we should plunge much sooner than seemed at all desirable. In truth, I expected nothing better than to find myself in the ditch on one side, or the quag on the other. But, on communicating my apprehensions to Mr. Smooth-it-away, he assured me that the difficulties of this passage, even in its worst condition, had been vastly exaggerated, and that, in its present state of improvement, I might consider myself as safe as on any railroad in Christendom.
Even while we were speaking, the train shot into the entrance of this dreaded valley. Though I plead guilty to some foolish palpitations of the heart during our headlong rush over the causeway here constructed, yet it were unjust to withhold the highest encomiums on the boldness of its original conception, and the ingenuity of those who executed it. It was gratifying, likewise, to observe how much care was taken to dispel the everlasting gloom, and supply the defect of the cheerful sunshine, not a ray of which has ever penetrated these awful shadows. For this purpose the inflammable gas, which exudes plentifully from the soil, is collected by means of pipes, and thence communicated to a quadruple row of lamps along the whole extent of the passage. Thus a radiance has been created, even out of the fiery and sulphurous curse that rests forever upon the valley; a radiance hurtful, however, to the eyes, and somewhat bewildering, as I discovered by the changes which it wrought in the visages of my companions. In this respect, as compared with natural daylight, there is the same difference as between truth and falsehood; but if the reader has ever traveled through the dark valley, he will have learned to be thankful for any light that he could get; if not from the sky above, then from the blasted earth beneath. Such was the red brilliancy of these lamps that they appeared to build walls of fire on both sides of the track, between which we held our course at lightning speed, while a reverberating thunder filled the valley with its echoes. Had the engine run off the track (a catastrophe it is whispered by no means unprecedented), the bottomless pit, if there be any such place, would undoubtedly have received us. Just as some dismal fooleries of this kind had made my heart quake, there came a tremendous shriek careering along the valley, as if a thousand devils had burst their lungs to utter it, but which proved to be merely the whistle of the engine on arriving at a stopping place.
The spot where we had now paused was the same that our friend Bunyan-a truthful man, but infected with many fantastic notions-has designated, in terms plainer than I like to repeat, as the mouth of the infernal region. This, however, must be a mistake, inasmuch as Mr. Smooth-it-away, while we remained in the smoky and lurid cavern, took occasion, to prove that Tophet has not even a metaphorical existence. The place, he assured us, is no other than the crater of a half-extinct volcano, in which the directors had caused forges to be set up for the manufacture of railroad iron. Hence also is obtained a plentiful supply of fuel for the use of the engines.
Whoever had gazed into the dismal obscurity of the broad cavern mouth, whence, ever and anon, darted huge tongues of dusky flame, and had seen the strange, half-shaped monsters, and visions of faces horribly grotesque into which the smoke seemed to wreath itself, and had heard the awful murmurs, and shrieks, and deep shuddering whispers of the blast, sometimes forming itself into words almost articulate-would have seized upon Mr. Smooth-it-away’s comfortable explanation as greedily as we did. The inhabitants of the cavern, moreover, were unlovely personages, dark, smoke-begrimed, generally deformed, with misshapen feet, and a glow of dusky redness in their eyes, as if their hearts had caught fire, and were blazing out of the upper windows. It struck me as a peculiarity that the laborers at the forge and those who brought fuel to the engine, when they began to draw short breath, positively emitted smoke from their mouth and nostrils.
Among the idlers about the train, most of whom were puffing cigars which they had lighted at the flame of the crater, I was perplexed to notice several who, to my certain knowledge, had heretofore set forth by railroad to the Celestial City. They looked dark, wild and smoky, with a singular resemblance, indeed, to the native inhabitants, like whom, also, they had a disagreeable propensity to ill-natured gibes and sneers, the habit of which had wrought a settled contortion on their visages. Having been on speaking terms with one of them-an indolent, good-for-nothing fellow, who went by the name of Take-it-easy-I called to him, and asked what was his business there.
“Did you not start,” said I, “for the Celestial City?”
“That’s a fact,” said Mr. Take-it-easy, carelessly puffing some smoke into my eyes. “But I heard such bad accounts that I never took pains to climb the hill on which the city stands. No business doing, no fun going on, nothing to drink and no smoking allowed, and a thrumming of church music from morning till night. I would not stay in such a place, if they offered me house-room and living free.”
“But, my good Mr. Take-it-easy,” cried I, “why take up your residence here, of all places in the world?”
“Oh,” said the loafer, with a grin, “it is very warm hereabouts, and I meet with plenty of old acquaintances, and altogether the place suits me. I hope to see you back again some day soon. A pleasant journey to you.”
While he was speaking the bell of the engine rang, and we dashed away after dropping a few passengers, but receiving no new ones. Rattling onward through the valley, we were dazzled with the fiercely gleaming gas lamps, as before; but sometimes, in the dark or intense brightness, grim faces, that bore the aspect of individual sins or evil passions, seemed to thrust themselves through the veil of light, glaring upon us and stretching forth a great dusky hand, as if to impede our progress. I almost thought that they were my own sins that appalled me there. These were freaks of imagination, nothing more, mere delusions, which I ought to be heartily ashamed of; but all through the dark Valley I was tormented and pestered, and dolefully bewildered with the same kind of waking dreams. The mephitic gases of that region intoxicate the brain. As the light of the natural day however began to struggle with the glow of the lanterns, these vain imaginations lost their vividness, and finally vanished with the first ray of sunshine that greeted our escape from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Ere we had gone a mile beyond it, I could well-nigh have taken my oath that this whole gloomy passage was a dream.
At the end of the Valley, as John Bunyan mentions, is a cavern, where, in his days, dwelt two cruel giants. Pope and Pagan, who had strewn the ground about their residence with the bones of slaughtered pilgrims. These vile old troglodytes are no longer there; but into their deserted cave another terrible giant has thrust himself, and makes it his business to seize upon honest travelers, and fat them for his table with plentiful meals of smoke, mist, moonshine, raw potatoes and sawdust. He is a German by birth, and is called Giant Transcendentalism; but as to his form, his features, his substance, and his nature generally, it is the chief peculiarity of this huge miscreant, that neither he for himself, nor anybody for him, has ever been able to describe them. As we rushed by the cavern’s mouth, we caught a hasty glimpse of him, looking somewhat like an ill-proportioned figure, but considerably more like a heap of fog and duskiness. He shouted after us, but in so strange a phraseology that we knew not what he meant, nor whether to be encouraged or affrighted.
It was late in the day when the train thundered into the ancient city of Vanity, where Vanity Fair is still at the height of prosperity, and exhibits an epitome of whatever is brilliant, gay and fascinating beneath the sun. As I proposed to make a considerable stay here, it gratified me to learn that there is no longer the want of harmony between the townspeople and pilgrims, which impelled the former to such lamentable mistaken measures as the persecution of Christian, and the fiery martyrdom of Faithful. On the contrary, as the new railroad brings with it great trade and a constant influx of strangers, the lord of Vanity Fair is its chief patron, and the capitalists of the city are among the largest stockholders. Many passengers stop to take their pleasure or make their profit in the Fair, instead of going onward to the Celestial City. Indeed, such are the charms of the place, that the people often affirm it to be the true and only Heaven; stoutly contending that there is no other, that those who seek further are mere dreamers, and that, if the fabled brightness of the Celestial City lay but a bare mile beyond the gates of Vanity, they would not be fools enough to go thither. Without subscribing to these, perhaps, exaggerated encomiums, I can truly say that my abode in the city was mainly agreeable, and my intercourse with the inhabitants productive of much amusement and instruction.
Being naturally of a serious turn, my attention was directed to the solid advantages derivable from a residence here, rather than to the effervescent pleasures, which are the grand object with too many visitants. The Christian reader, if he have had no accounts of the city later than Bunyan’s time, will be surprised to hear that almost every street has its church, and that the reverend clergy are nowhere held in higher respect than at Vanity Fair. And well do they deserve such honorable estimation: for the maxims of wisdom and virtue which fall from their lips, come from as deep a spiritual source, and tend to as lofty a religious aim, as those of the sagest philosophers of old. In justification of this high praise, I need only mention the names of the Rev. Mr. Shallow-deep; the Rev. Mr. Stumble-at-truth; that fine old clerical character, the Rev. Mr. This-to-day, who expects shortly to resign his pulpit to the Rev. Mr. That-to-morrow; together with the Rev. Mr. Bewilderment; the Rev. Mr. Clog-the-spirit; and last and greatest, the Rev. Mr. Wind-of-doctrine. The labors of these eminent divines are aided by those of innumerable lecturers, who diffuse such a various profundity, in all subjects of human nature or celestial science, that any man may acquire an omnigenous erudition, without the trouble of even learning to read. Thus literature is etherealized by assuming for its medium the human voice; and knowledge depositing all its heavier particles-except, doubtless, its gold-becomes exhaled into a sound, which forthwith steals into the ever open ear of the community. These ingenious methods constitute a sort of machinery, by which thought and study are done to every person’s mind, without his putting himself to the slightest inconvenience in the matter. There is another species of machine for the wholesale manufacture of individual morality. This excellent result is effected by societies for all manner of virtuous purposes: with which a man has merely to connect himself, throwing, as it were, his quota of virtue into the common stock; and the president and directors will take care that the aggregate amount be well applied. All these, and other wonderful improvements in ethics, religion and literature, being made plain to my comprehension by the ingenious Mr. Smooth-it-away, inspired me with a vast admiration of Vanity Fair.
It would fill a volume, in an age of pamphlets, were I to record all my observations in this great capital of human business and pleasure. There was an unlimited range of society-the powerful, the wise, the witty, and the famous in every walk of life-princes, presidents, poets, generals, artists, actors and philanthropists, all making their own market at the Fair, and deeming no price too exorbitant for such commodities as hit their fancy. It is well worth one’s while, even if he had no idea of buying or selling, to loiter through the Bazaars, and observe the various sorts of traffic that were going forward.
Some of the purchasers, I thought, made very foolish bargains. For instance, a young man, having inherited a splendid fortune, laid out a considerable portion of it in the purchase of diseases, and finally spent all the rest for a heavy lot of repentance and a suit of rags. There was a sort of stock or scrip, called Conscience, which seemed to be in great demand, and would purchase almost anything. Indeed few rich commodities were to be obtained without paying a heavy sum in this particular stock, as a man’s business was seldom very lucrative, unless he knew precisely when and how to throw his hoard of Conscience into the market. Yet, as this stock was the only thing of permanent value, whoever parted with it was sure to find himself a loser in the long run. Thousands sold their happiness for a whim.
Gilded chains were in great demand, and purchased with almost any sacrifice. In truth, those who desired, according to the old adage, to sell anything valuable for a song, might find customers all over the Fair; and there were innumerable messes of pottage, piping hot, for those who chose to buy them with their birthrights. A few articles, however, could not be found genuine at Vanity Fair. If a customer wished to renew his stock of youth, the dealers offered him a set of false teeth and an auburn wig; if he demanded peace of mind, they recommended opium or a brandy bottle.
Tracts of land and golden mansions, situate in the Celestial City, were often exchanged, at very disadvantageous rates, for a few years’ lease of small, dismal, inconvenient tenements in Vanity Fair.
Day after day, as I walked the streets of Vanity, my manners and deportment became more and more like those of the inhabitants. The place began to seem like home; the idea of pursuing my course to the Celestial City was almost obliterated from my mind. I was reminded of it, however, by the sight of the same pair of simple pilgrims at whom we had laughed so heartily when Apollyon puffed smoke and steam into their faces, at the commencement of our journey. There they stood amid the densest bustle of Vanity-the dealers offering them their purple, and fine linen, and jewels; the men of wit and humor gibing at them; a pair of buxom ladies ogling them askance; while the benevolent Mr. Smooth-it-away whispered some of his wisdom at their elbows, and pointed to a newly erected temple; but there were these worthy simpletons, making the scene look wild and monstrous, merely by their sturdy repudiation of all part in its business or pleasures.
One of them-his name was Stick-to-the-right-perceived in my face, I suppose, a species of sympathy and almost admiration, which to my own great surprise, I could not help feeling for this pragmatic couple. It prompted him to address me.
“Sir,” inquired he, with a sad, yet mild and kindly voice, “do you call yourself a pilgrim?”
“Yes,” I replied, “my right to that appellation is indubitable. I am merely a sojourner here in Vanity Fair, being bound to the Celestial City by the new railroad.”
“Alas, friend,” rejoined Mr. Stick-to-the-right, “I do assure you, and beseech you to receive the truth of my words, that that whole concern is a bubble. You may travel on it all your lifetime, were you to live thousands of years, and yet never get beyond the limits of Vanity Fair! Yea, though you should deem yourself entering the gates of the Blessed City, it will be nothing but a miserable delusion.”
“The Lord of the Celestial City,” began the other pilgrim, whose name was Mr. Go-the-old-way, “has refused, and will ever refuse, to grant an act of incorporation for this railroad; and unless that be obtained no passenger can ever hope to enter His dominions. Wherefore, every man who buys a ticket must lay his account with losing the purchase money-which is the value of his soul.”
“Poh, nonsense!” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, taking my arm and leading me off; “these fellows ought to be indicted for libel. If the law stood as it once did in Vanity Fair, we should see them grinning through the iron bars of the prison window.”
This incident made a considerable impression on my mind, and contributed with other circumstances to indispose me to a permanent residence in Vanity; although, of course, I was not simple enough to give up my original plan of gliding along easily and commodiously by railroad. Still I grew anxious to be gone. There was one strange thing that puzzled me; amid the occupations and amusements of the Fair, nothing was more common than for a person-whether at a feast, theatre, or church, or trafficking for wealth and honors, or whatever he might be doing, and however unseasonable the interruption-suddenly to vanish like a soap bubble, and be never more seen of his fellows; and so accustomed were the latter to such little incidents, that they went on with their business as quietly as if nothing had happened. But it was otherwise with me.
Finally, after a pretty long residence at the Fair I resumed my journey towards the Celestial City, still with Mr. Smooth-it-away by my side. At a short distance beyond the suburbs of Vanity we passed the ancient silver mine, of which Demas was the first discoverer, and which is now wrought to great advantage, supplying nearly all the coined currency of the world. A little further onward was the spot where Lot’s wife had stood for ages, under the semblance of a pillar of salt. Curious travelers have carried it away piecemeal. Had all regrets been punished as rigorously as this poor dame’s were, my yearnings for the relinquished delights of Vanity Fair might have produced a similar change in my own corporeal substance, and left me a warning to future pilgrims.
The next remarkable object was a large edifice, constructed of moss-grown stone, but in a modern and airy style of architecture. The engine came to a pause in its vicinity with its usual tremendous shriek.
“This was formerly the castle of the redoubted giant Despair,” observed Mr. Smooth-it-away; “but, since his death, Mr. Flimsy-faith has repaired it, and now keeps an excellent house of entertainment here. It is one of our stopping places.”
“It seems but slightly put together,” remarked I, looking at the frail, yet ponderous walls. “I do not envy Mr. Flimsy-faith his habitation. Some day it will thunder down upon the heads of the occupants.”
“We shall escape, at all events,” said Mr. Smooth-it-away; “for Apollyon is putting on the steam again.”
The road now plunged into a gorge of the Delectable Mountains, and traversed the field where, in former ages, the blind men wandered and stumbled among the tombs. One of these ancient tombstones had been thrust across the track by some malicious person, and gave the train of cars a terrible jolt. Far up the rugged side of a mountain I perceived a rusty iron door, half-overgrown with bushes and creeping plants, but with some smoke issuing from its crevices.
“Is that,” inquired I, “the very door in the hillside which the shepherds assured Christian was a by-way to hell?”
“That was a joke on the part of the shepherds,” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, with a smile. “It is neither more nor less than the door of a cavern, which they use for a smoke house for the preparation of mutton hams.”
My recollections of the journey are now, for a little space, dim and confused, inasmuch as a singular drowsiness here overcame me, owing to the fact that we were now passing over the enchanted ground, the air of which encourages a disposition to sleep. I awoke, however, as soon as we crossed over the borders of the pleasant land of Beulah. All the passengers were rubbing their eyes, comparing watches, and congratulating one another on the prospect of arriving so seasonably at their journey’s end. The sweet breezes of this happy clime came refreshingly to our nostrils; we beheld the glimmering gush of silver fountains, overhung by trees of beautiful foliage and delicious fruit, which were propagated by drafts from the celestial gardens. Once, as we dashed onward like a hurricane, there was a flutter of wings, and the bright appearance of an angel in the air, speeding forth on some heavenly mission. The engine now announced the close vicinity of the final station house, by one last and horrible scream, in which there seemed to be distinguishable every kind of wailing and woe, and bitter fierceness of wrath, all mixed up with the wild laughter of a devil or a madman. All through our journey, at every stopping place, Apollyon had exercised his ingenuity in screwing the most abominable sounds out of the whistle of the steam engine; but in this closing effort he outdid himself, and created an infernal uproar, which, besides disturbing the peaceful inhabitants of Beulah, must have sent its discord even through the celestial gates.
While the horrid clamor was still ringing in our ears, we heard an exulting strain, as if a thousand instruments o£ music, with height, and depth, and sweetness in their tones, at once tender and triumphant, were struck in unison, to greet the approach of some illustrious hero, who had fought the good fight and won a glorious victory, and was come to lay aside his battered arms forever. Looking to ascertain what might be the occasion of this glad harmony, I perceived, on alighting from the cars, that a multitude of shining ones had assembled on the other side of the river to welcome two poor pilgrims who were just emerging from its depths. They were the same whom Apollyon and ourselves had persecuted with taunts and gibes, and scalding steam, at the commencement of our journey, the same whose unworldly aspect and impressive words had stirred my conscience amid the wild revelers of Vanity Fair.
“How amazingly well those men have got on!” cried I to Mr. Smooth-it-away. “I wish we were secure of so good a reception.”
“Never fear, never fear!” answered my friend. “Come, make haste; the ferry-boat will be off directly, and in three minutes you will be on the other side of the river. No doubt you will find coaches to carry you up to the city gates.”
A steam ferry-boat, the last improvement on this important route, lay at the river side, puffing, snorting, and emitting all those other disagreeable utterances, which betoken the departure to be immediate. I hurried on board with the rest of the passengers, most of whom were in great perturbation; some bawling out for their baggage; some tearing their hair and declaring the boat would explode or sink; some already pale with the heaving of the stream; some gazing affrighted at the ugly aspect of the steersman; and some still dizzy with the slumbering influences of the Enchanted Ground. Looking back to the shore I was amazed to discern Mr. Smooth-it-away waving his hand in token of farewell.
“Don’t you go over to the Celestial City?” exclaimed I.
“Oh, no!” answered he, with a queer smile, and that same disagreeable contortion of visage which I had remarked in the inhabitants of the Dark Valley. “Oh, no! I have come thus far only for the sake of your pleasant company. Good-by. We shall meet again.”
And then did my excellent friend, Mr. Smooth-it-away, laugh out-right, in the midst of which cachinnation a smoke wreath issued from his mouth and nostrils, while a twinkle of lurid flame darted out of either eye, proving indubitably that his heart was all of a red blaze. The impudent fiend! to deny the existence of Tophet, when he felt its fiery tortures raging in his breast! I rushed to the side of the boat, intending to fling myself on shore; but the wheels, as they began their revolutions, threw a dash of spray over me so cold-so deadly cold, with the chill that will never leave those waters until Death be drowned in his own river, that, with a shiver and a heart-quake, I awoke. Thank Heaven, it was a Dream.
BIOGRAPHY OF ELDER SYLVESTER HASSELL
Those who were contemporary with Elder Sylvester Hassell can best inform us of his life as a minister, historian, and teacher. First, an account of his life compiled by the later Elder S. B. Denny is given. Elder Denny of Wilson, North Carolina, and pastor of the church there for over 25 years, was a close associate of Elder Hassell in his latter years. The following account, much of which appeared in Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers published in 1909 by Elder R. H. Pittman, was included in the pamphlet published in 1946 in observance of the 190th Anniversary of the Wilson Primitive Baptist Church.
Elder Sylvester Hassell was by any standard one of the most distinguished gentlemen ever to be intimately associated with the life of the Toisnot Primitive Baptist Church or of the Town and County of Wilson. A son of Elder Cushing Biggs Hassell and wife, Mary Davis, he was born at Williamston in Martin County on July 28, 1842, and died there on August 18, 1928. His funeral was conducted by Elders Julius C. Moore and S. B. Denny, and a request was made that the 103rd Psalm be read. His father was a planter and merchant of considerable wealth and intellectual attainments who filled many public and private offices of great importance and also served for seventeen years as Moderator of the Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association, an honor that was enjoyed by the subject of this sketch during the forty-eight years from 1880 to 1928.
Elder Hassell was from childhood “very moral in his habits” and intensely interested in the contemplation of spiritual things. His preliminary education was received at the Williamston Academy, after which he attended the University of North Carolina from July of 1858 to August of 1861, leading his Class from the beginning and graduating with the highest honors. He became a member of the Phi Society and of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. Excessive study had undermined his constitution to such an extent that he was in six separate examinations declared unfit for service in the Confederate Army. However, he managed to serve for three weeks as secretary to Colonel Samuel W. Watts of the Martin County Militia at Fort Hill, near Washington, prior to the fall of Roanoke Island on February 8, 1862. Otherwise, his time was spent in assisting his father in his business and in the instruction of his younger brothers and sisters.
From 1865 to 1868 Elder Hassell was Principal and taught at the Williamston Academy, and in 1867 the University of North Carolina honored him with the degree of Master of Arts. On September 4, 1869, he married Mary Isabella Yarrell, daughter of Julius S. Yarrell of Martin County, and they had a son Paul Hassell, who died at the age of fifteen years. In 1869 he became Professor of Ancient Languages at the State Normal College in Wilmington, Delaware, and from 1870 to 1871 he acted as Principal of the William Penn Public Schools at Newcastle, Del. The tragic loss of his young wife in the last year caused him to return to North Carolina, where in 1872 he was persuaded to become Principal of the Wilson Collegiate Institute, which he conducted successfully until 1886 when, “his health having failed by reason of his duties there combined with his arduous labors on the Church History, he retired and returned to his old home in Williamston.” This was a Junior College in which the boys received sufficient preparation to enter advanced classes in the leading colleges. In the Summer of 1873 he instituted what proved to be the first Summer Normal School for teachers in the State of North Carolina, and he was Principal of the State Normal School at Wilson in the Summers of 1878 and 1881. He was again Principal of the Williamston Academy from 1886 to 1890. In July of 1881 he gave lectures on Astronomy at the State Normal School of the University of North Carolina, and in 1891 and 1893 he was the Supt. of Public Schools in Martin County, and as such he conducted examinations of teachers in order to determine their classification.
On May 3, 1876, Elder Hassell married Frances Louisa “Fannie” Woodard, daughter of Calvin Woodard and wife, Winifred Exum of Wilson County. She was born on October 13, 1859, and died on January 6, 1889. Seven children were born to this union: (1) Mark Hassell died in infancy; (2) John Hassell died in infancy; (3) Francis Sylvester “Frank” Hassell was born on August 27, 1881, and married Blanche Gary; (4) Charles Hassell was born on November 22, 1882; (5) Mary Hassell was born on August 14, 1885; (6) Calvin Woodard Hassell was born on August 7, 1887; and (7) Frances Winfred Hassell was born on December 9, 1888.
Having experienced the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ on August 17, 1863, Elder Hassell joined the Skewarkey Primitive Baptist Church on January 7th, and was baptized in Roanoke River by his father on January 10th. He was liberated to preach by this Church on December 10, 1871, and was ordained to the ministry on August 9, 1874, by Elders C. B. Hassell, William Whitaker, and David House. In 1876 the Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association appointed the senior Hassell to write its third history “and to combine with it a history of the Church from the Creation,” but he had hardly completed the first part of the assignment when death took him on April 11, 1880.
Consequently, Elder Sylvester Hassell was appointed by the Association to complete and publish the book. Not only was he accomplished in several languages but also had assembled a personal library of over five thousand volumes that included the best Church Histories that could be found in America and Europe. After nearly six years of exhaustive research and frequent consultation with twenty eminent American authorities on the subject, he finally issued in 1886 the monumental “History of the Church of God, From the Creation of A.D. 1885; Including Especially the History of The Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association” in 1008 pages of small print.
The two earlier published histories of the Kehukee Association were of moderate length and limited to the immediate subject, while Elder Hassell made in the preliminary portions of his voluminous work a comprehensive and non-sectarian survey of the development of the worship of God by religious groups in various parts of the world. Elder R. H. Pittman states with pardonable warmth in 1909 that “he stands among the foremost thinkers and writers of the United States,” and in 1924 Dr. George Washington Paschal of Wake Forest College, the other great historian of North Carolina Baptists, declared that the volume was, “In my opinion, the greatest piece of historical work ever done in North Carolina.”
In 1881 Elder Hassell became the pastor of Skewarkey Church in Martin County, serving it as late as 1928. He held other pastorates during this period at Conetoe, Jamesville, Great Swamp, and Hamilton Primitive Baptist Churches, and traveled extensively on preaching tours among other Churches of this denomination in the United States, and even in Canada upon several occasions. In 1892 he became associate editor of the Gospel Messenger, a Primitive Baptist paper published by Elder J. R. Respass of Butler, Georgia. He purchased the publication in 1896, the year after the death of Elder Respass, and continued to edit it under the highest standards of scholarship and doctrinal purity until a few years before his own death.
In the year 1925 the Trustees of the University of North Carolina saw fit to bestow upon Elder Hassell the degree L. L. D. as a token of their appreciation of the splendid work he rendered to his State as a Minister, Teacher and Writer, and Governor Angus McLean stated that in bestowing the degree upon Elder Hassell that the University was not only honoring him but they were honoring the State of North Carolina.
S. B. Denny
Elder R. W. Thompson characterized him in these words: “Brother Hassell is one of the most humble, loving, gentle, kind, and estimable men among men; yet he is strong, firm, fearless, and able in defense of the truth for truth’s sake, the glory of God, the good and comfort and peace of all the redeemed and saved in the Lord, for whom he has the greatest concern and the most tender regard. He is considered one of the ablest, wisest, and safest exponents of the literal and spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures we have, holding them unmixed with the doctrines and new-born theories of men, zealously opposing all departures in doctrine of practice, defending the purity of the gospel church in its apostolic doctrine and practice.”
The following is from the pen of Elder R. H. Pittman, Editor of the Advocate and Messenger, and was published in the September, 1928 issue of this periodical:
Brother Hassell is dead! These sad words were first heard by me as they were whispered in my ear during the morning service at the Ketocton Association Sunday, August 19, 1928, and as the news spread many hearts were saddened and tears of sorrow shed. And upon reaching home Sunday night I found a telegram from Charles Hassell awaiting me, and regret very much that I could not attend the funeral services of this dear man of God. He was very near and dear to me. For thirty-five years we have been very close friends, and during the last years of his life we were closely and intimately connected. His editorial service on the Advocate and Messenger was a blessing to thousands and an inspiration to his co-workers, with whom he was in perfect harmony. The writer was last with him in January in a meeting in which he labored for reconciliation of estranged brethren; and on July 16th—his last letter to me-he said “I would be glad to see you again.” But no more shall we meet in this life. He has been called up higher; and heaven to me is a little dearer, because of his going. He was ready to be offered, and the time of his departure was at hand. He fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give him at that day; and not to him only, but to all them also that love His appearing. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there by any more pain.”
Elder Sylvester Hassell, of Williamston, N.C., minister, historian, teacher, was doubtless the best authority on church history in North Carolina, and possibly in this age. He stood among the foremost thinkers and writers of the United States. His ancestors came from England to North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century. His parents were Elder C. B. Hassell and his first wife, Mary Davis. He was born in Williamston, N.C., July 28, 1842, and died there Aug. 18, 1928, having reached the ripe age of 86 years and 20 days. He was educated at the Williamston Academy and the University of North Carolina, taking a high stand at both, and graduating with honors. He was proficient in several languages; was principal of a school for young men in Wilson, N.C., and professor of languages in a northern college for some years. He published, in 1886, the Church History, the most complete work of its kind ever published by our people, and a monument more lasting than granite to him and to his father, who began the work. In 1892 he became associate editor of the Gospel Messenger, and in 1896 its proprietor and managing editor, which position he retained nearly twenty years, when the paper was sold to Elder Z. C. Hull, of Atlanta, Ga., from whom it was purchased by the writer in 1923, and all this time Elder Hassell has been on the editorial staff.
Truly he was a prince in Israel. As I am able to judge, it has not been my privilege to know one who bore more marks of real greatness. In manners, humble and retiring as a little child; in general information, he has been called “a walking encyclopedia;” in service, untiring and unselfish; in character, irreproachable and unstained; in deportment, gentle, kind, tender. More than any man I ever knew he suffered long and remained kind; envied not; was not puffed up; did not behave himself unseemly; sought not his own; was not easily provoked; thought no evil; rejoiced not in iniquity, but rejoiced in the truth. His motto as historian, editor, preacher and teacher was “Speaking the truth in love,” and this he did uncompromisingly with error in friend or foe. Neither the tie of blood nor the bond of fellowship was sufficiently strong to draw him from the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And the Bible was, to him, God’s literal, spiritual and eternal truth, and he defended its truths with tongue and pen possibly more valiantly and ably than any man in this age. Spurgeon is reported to have said that Hassell’s History contained less error than any book he ever read. A professor of language in Wake Forrest College recently said that all of us shall have to go to Hassell’s History of the Church for authoritative information on this subject. And thus it is true that “though dead he yet speaketh,” and will continue to speak (certainly among the people called Baptists) so long as there is love for principles and practices upon which the Apostolic Church was founded. God does not raise up many such men; “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” But He does call some, and our precious Brother Hassell, who has gone home to glory, was one of them. We shall miss him; his churches will miss his loving service; the Kehukee Association, which he has for thirty-five years served as moderator, will miss his wise counsel; and thousands of readers will miss his timely, instructive and spiritual editorials. Worldly wisdom and human efforts can never fill his place; only God can prepare and send another such servant to labor in His vineyard. May we all pray that this He will do.
The funeral services were conducted by Elder J. C. Moore, of Whitakers, N. C., a son of the late Elder Andrew J. Moore, who was a lifelong friend and associate of Elder Hassell. It was his wish that this son of his nearest friend in life perform the simple rites for the dead when his day of rest had come. Elder Moore was visibly moved by the solemnity of the burden laid upon him, but after reading the 103rd Psalm he feelingly and beautifully spoke of the deceased and of their love and fellowship. Other ministers who spoke briefly included Elder N. S. Harrison, of Washington County, Elder S. B. Denny, of Wilson, and Elder A. B. Denson, of Rocky Mount. Two hymns, both favorites of Elder Hassell, were used; “Rock of Ages” at the beginning of the services and “How Firm a Foundation” at the conclusion. Almost every Primitive Baptist minister in eastern North Carolina attended the services; also Congressmen Lindsay Warren, a lifelong admirer and personal friend of Elder Hassell; Josephus Daniels, whose youthful schooling was had at his hands and whose admiration and affection for him began from that day and has never ended; R. O. Everett, of Durham, John D. Gold, of Wilson; and scores of others from over the entire eastern end of the state were there. Three sons of Elder Hassell-Frank, Charles and Calvin-all of prominence, are left of his immediate family to mourn the loss of a loving father.
The casket was borne through the throng of sorrowing friends to the waiting hearse. The long walk from the house to the street was lined on either side with flowers. The march to the grave was begun, and there, with simple rites, the casket was lowered into the grave. “For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”-R. H. Pittman
Elder C. H. Cayce, Editor (1905-1945) of The Primitive Baptist included the following editorial in the October 1, 1928 issue of his paper:
We were made sad on learning of the death of Elder Sylvester Hassell... Elder Hassell was truly a great and wonderful man. He was a man of great talent and learning, and was truly great in true humility and devotion to the cause of the Master...
Elder M. L. Gilbert of Dade City, Florida, Associate Editor of Zion’s Landmark, wrote in the October 1, 1928 issue of that paper:
“Unquestionably, he was one of the meekest and humblest, withal one of the most conservative ministers of God in this age. His wise counsel and peace-loving work have ever been a benediction to the people of God during all the years of his ministry. Were all our preachers imbued with a spirit like unto Paul and Hassell, peace, union, and prosperity would reign in all the churches of God.”
John D. Gold, Publisher of Zion’s Landmark and son of Elder P. D. Gold, included the following memorial in the October 1, 1928 issue of Zion’s Landmark:
Elder Sylvester Hassell departed this life at his home in Williamston, N. C., Saturday, the 18th of August, after a short illness. He died as he had lived, quietly breathing out his life on the bosom of his Saviour whom he loved so well and served all the days of his stay on earth.
The funeral was conducted from the residence Sunday afternoon, by Elder J. C. Moore of Whitakers, assisted by Elders S. B. Denny of Wilson, A. B. Denson of Rocky Mt., N. H. Harrison of Pinetown, and the Baptist minister of Williamston. All of these paid high tribute to him as a minister, teacher, Editor and citizen.
Elder Hassell leaves three children, Messrs. Charles Hassell of Florida, Calvin Hassell of Washington, D. C., and Frank Hassell of Wilson.
Elder Hassell formerly lived in Wilson and conducted the Wilson Collegiate Institute. It was a successful institution until he gave it up in order to write the church history, a most remarkable literary production, containing probably as much information regarding matters of religion as any book that has ever been published.
Later on he became Editor of the Gospel Messenger which he conducted with great ability until he sold it to Elder Pittman of Luray, Virginia, and it was merged with his paper. He was associate editor of that paper at the time of his death.
Elder Hassell was one of the best men that has ever lived. He was kindly, generous, hospitable, well educated, well informed, and a soul that desired to help every one.
At one time his school was the leading institution of learning in eastern North Carolina, and many of the older people of Wilson and this section sat under the sound of his voice and received instruction from his saintly lips. It was the pleasure of this writer to be his pupil, and never will I forget the splendid elements of his character and his great learning and nobleness of soul.
He was a man of peace, and seemed to carry with him that peace which passeth all understanding, and that peace that is given from on high to those who trust in Him.
He has gone home to glory, for his passing was that of one who falls on sleep, to awake in the land of the blest in the presence of His Saviour and his God whom he loved to trust, serve, and obey, and whose work in this world it was his pleasure to adorn with a Godly conversation and a life which left its impress upon all with whom he came in contact.
Peace to his ashes and may his life be a benediction to all, for his example was one worthy of constant emulation.
J. D. Gold
The following excerpts are from an editorial written by the Hon. Josephus Daniels, Publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., in recognition of the 190th anniversary of the Wilson, N.C., Primitive Baptist Church. Mr. Daniels (1862-1948), served as Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1921 in Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet and as ambassador to Mexico from 1933 to 1942.
It has long been a tenet of the Primitive Baptists that, along with belief in predestination, any man who had the call to preach should be heard whether he had gone to college or not. Some of their preachers-and some of the best-lacked college instruction, but some others were like Elder Hassell. He read the New Testament in the original Greek every day but never felt superior to his brother preacher who could read it only in English...
It was because I had been privileged to be a student of Elder Hassell, and was permeated by the traditions of that faith by upbringing with associates of that church, and owe more than I can ever repay to the Primitive Baptists, that I was honored with an invitation to have a part in the celebration of the 190th anniversary of the Wilson Primitive Baptist Church...
It was fitting that the Wilson Primitive Baptist Church held this anniversary celebration in this town which owes so much to the spirit of the Primitive Baptists for two centuries. They have left their mark not only on members of their church, but also upon all others and been pioneers in the sort of democracy that is the saving grace of America...
“Of all the Non-Conformists, from Martin Luther to Sylvester Hassell, who have blessed the world—(and to them most credit is due for democracy and freedom of religion)—the Primitive Baptists have been the most consistent. They have held steadfastly to the truth as it was given them to see it and proclaim it without any hint of proselyting or dogmatism.”
Elder J. C. Moore who followed Elder Hassell as Moderator of the Kehukee Association wrote Elder Hassell’s Memorial as recorded in the minutes of the 1928 session of the Kehukee Association. Excerpts from this Memorial follow:
Born in Williamston, Martin County, N.C., July 28, 1842, and died there August 18, 1928; having reached the ripe age of 86 years and 21 days. His parents were Elder C. B. Hassell and his first wife Mary Davis, who died when her son was four years old. Three years afterward his father was married to Mrs. Martha M. Jewett, widow of Elder D. E. Jewett of New York, who exercised her kind and motherly influence over him...
The Lord called him in youth to Skewarkey Church where he related an experience of grace, was received into membership and baptized the ext day, January 11, 1864 by his father, Elder C. B. Hassell, in Roanoke River when the ground was covered with frozen snow and the ice in the river was more than an inch thick. He said, ‘The happiest day in my life.’...
He served Skewarkey, Jamesville, Hamilton, Great Swamp, and Coneto Churches.
From my earliest recollection his example and noble character as a true servant was held up as a pattern to this unworthy writer by my dear father, Elder A. J. Moore, his classmate at the University of North Carolina and life long friend, five years his senior and proceeded him to the grave, but loved him to the end as his best earthly friend. I am thankful for the sweet privilege I have enjoyed in their association here. Serene in death, the remains of our dear Brother Hassell were borne from his home to the last resting place, near his father and other loved ones gone before in the cemetary at Skewarkey Church as the shades of evening cast their mantle over the earth and the sun was illuminating the western hills. Surrounded by a host of sorrowing friends the casket was gently lowered into the grave to await the resurrection morn...
“None knew him but to love his noble character which proved that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. May the Lord enable us to emulate the worthy example of our dear Brother Hassell who manifested by his life that the Spirit of Christ was with him.”
Julius C. Moore
In a letter dated May 11, 1973, Calvin W. Hassell, the only surviving son of Elder Hassell writes:
Father was the gentlest of men, a man so upright and Christ-like that many people in his home town of Williamston held the belief that no disaster ever visited that place because he lived there.
While a part of his daily diary was lost there is a substantial portion of it in the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina Library.
“He would have graduated in the class of 1861 at UNC, but was later awarded honorary degrees by the college. As I understand it, the University of North Carolina planned to award a Doctor of Divinity degree, but he would not accept this, but, instead accepted an LLD.”
These remembrances by those who knew him certainly attest to the devotion of Elder Hassell to the Cause of Christ and His Church; to his humble spirit in teaching and preaching the word; and to his ability and brilliance as an historian. In compiling this biography this publisher could but say, “Indeed here was a precious gift from God to His Church such as few generations have seen. May we thank God for Elder Sylvester Hassell, his life, and his work.”
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13)
Joe F. Hildreth Director and Sec.—Treas. Old School Hymnal Co., Inc.
The Following Inscription Appears on Elder Hassell’s Memorial
Sylvester Hassell, A. M., LL. D.
BIOGRAPHY OF MRS. M. M. HASSELL
It has often been said that “behind every great man there is a great woman.” In the life of the two authors of this History this statement certainly is descriptive. Following is a pen picture of the life of Mrs. M. M. Hassell written by Elder Sylvester Hassell and which is copied from the Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers of the United States compiled and published by Elder R. H. Pitman in 1909. This book also included a section entitled “Talented and Spiritually-minded Sisters and “Mothers in Israel’.” In which this sketch appeared. This account of a step-mothers by a step-son speaks most highly of both.
Hassell, Mrs. M. M.
This eminent woman whose full maiden name was Martha Maria Worcester, was a daughter of Leonard and Rebecca Worcester and was born in Greenfield, New Hampshire, July 17, 1815, and died in Williamston, N.C., October 5, 1897. She was twice married, first to Elder Daniel E. Jewett of New York, who died in 1845, and four years later to Elder C. B. Hassell whose death occurred in 1880. Elder Sylvester Hassell, the well-known historian and minister, was a step-son of the subject of this sketch and gives the following pen picture of her: In her twelfth year, mother experienced conviction for sin and a hope of salvation through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she was baptized into the fellowship of the Baptist Church, of which she was a member more than seventy years; and all the days of her long pilgrimage she proved the reality of her conversion, and adorned her Christian profession with a most godly walk and conversation. She was blessed of the Lord with a fine intellect, and with the purest spirit. Her character was of the highest order-it was Christ-like. She was richly endowed with the Spirit of Christ, and manifested, in a pre-eminent manner, the graces of that Spirit. She loved the Lord and His holy law and precious gospel, His blessed Word and house and ordinances, and His dear people. She had a special and tender sympathy for ministers of the gospel in all their labors and trials, both of her husbands having been ministers. She had a deep and growing desire for the gospel peace and union and fellowship of all the people of God. She had an extensive religious correspondence and many of her humble and lovely spiritual letters were published in our periodicals. She was a true mother in Israel, beloved and revered all over the United States. She spoke evil of no one, and did harm to none, but wished to benefit every one. She was the most spiritual-minded person I ever knew. She lived in the presence of God and in the light of eternity. She surpassed all other human beings of my acquaintance in the gift of prayer. My dear father always had family prayer morning and night; and once every week he called on mother to lead, which she did in the most solemn, reverent, and thrilling manner I ever heard-it was to me a heaven below to listen to her humble, tender, and fervent voice ascending to the throne of the Divine Majesty. And, after father’s death, I have often heard her in her lonely chamber, at the dead hours of night, pour forth her earnest supplications to God for His mercies to herself and others. My own mother, who died when I was four years old, could not have treated me more lovingly and tenderly. She was always a ministering angel to me in affliction and bereavement. Her sympathy was active and profound; her counsel was heavenly. Her words often seemed to me as the words of God-they were in such harmony with the Scriptures and the teachings of the Divine Spirit. My intimate acquaintance with her for forty-eight years has been one of the very dearest and richest privileges of my life, for which I can never feel thankful enough to the Lord; and words seem too poor to express the painfulness of my bereavement in her death. But it is the deepest desire of my heart to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
[ii][iii] This fine allegory on the origin, nature, and results of modern fashionable religion, and its total contradistinction from the Divine old-fashioned religion of the Bible, was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the most gifted literary geniuses of America. It is taken, by the permission of the publishers, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, from Hawthorne’s “Mosses from an Old Manse,” price $2.