REMINISCENCES OF SARATOGA AND BALLSTON.
WILLIAM L. STONE.
Rev. Francis Wayland.
"Sure the last end
Of the good man is peace. . . .
Behold him in the evening tide of life;
A life well spent, whose only care it was
His riper years should not upbraid his green,
By unperceived degrees he wears away,
Yet, like the setting sun, seems larger at his setting."
"There rests a man of God, for heaven was his on earth;
A friend of man, for all the world he loved;
A hero, for he smiled at death,
And died to live for ever."
REV. FRANCIS WAYLAND was born in Frome, in the County of Somerset, England, in June 1772 – the family of his father being old inhabitants of that town. His mother died suddenly, while her children, three in number, were quite young. He ever retained a vivid recollection of the scene – the grief of his father, and personal appearance of his mother, whose memory was ever cherished with fond endearment. His father was also removed from them before Francis, the youngest child, had attained his eleventh year.
Both parents were members of the Baptist church in Frome. Thus left early an orphan, he has often been heard to say that he made the Bible his companion, and resolved that the God of his fathers should be his God; and henceforth, in any circumstances of care, perplexity, or discouragement, would lift up his eyes to Heaven, crying, "My father, thou are the guide of my youth." The early deprivation of his parents, and the bent of his young mind to serious things, were probably the cause of his entering with very little interest into the sports of boyhood and giving what, to his youthful associates, seemed great gravity of character. But there was awakened a sympathy and tenderness to orphanage which were ever manifest through the whole period of his life, and probably tended to that nice appreciation and exquisite relish of all the endearments and kind urbanities of domestic life, which few perhaps had enjoyed in so high a degree. All who ever knew him must be aware of the high appreciation in which he held family religion, the responsibilities of the parental relation, and the influence Christian households should exert in the church and in the world.
Soon after leaving school, Francis made a public profession of religion, but whether he joined the church to which his parents belonged, the author is not sure.
Having married early in life, Mr. And Mrs. Wayland sailed for the United States, 1793; and shortly after their arrival at New York, united themselves with the Fayette Street Baptist church, then under the pastoral care of Rev. J. Williams. The institutions of this country they both highly prized, and taught their children ever to respect and cherish. Her childhood’s recollection of the "Lollard’s Pit" probably awakened in Mrs. Wayland – herself a native of Norwich – a strong aversion to religious intolerance and persecution. This feeling was also confirmed by an intimate acquaintance with sacred and profane history; and this sentiment, which she felt so strongly, she inculcated in her children. She was of exemplary piety and uncommon vigor of mind, blended with great gentleness and polished manners. She left an impression on her children that was intellectually and morally a good one; and it is but just to say that her mental and most refined tastes were in harmony, nay, they were indulged in subordination to a practical knowledge and minute attention to those domestic avocations which under any circumstances could properly claim the attention of her sex. With manners and acquisitions fitting her to adorn any station, she was equally at home with the poor and illiterate, and was ever ready to join her husband in his visits to the sorrowing and afflicted.
Nor was her husband on his part less ready to help any younger brother to whom counsel and assistance might be of service. When the late Dr. Sharpe – so long the revered pastor of the Charles Street Baptist Church, Boston – arrived in New York City in 1805, Mr. Wayland extended to him, in the first month of his arrival, the courtesies of a senior friend and the kindest invitations to his home. Of this Dr. Sharpe always cherished a grateful remembrance. "From this period," writes Dr. Sharpe, "a friendship commenced, which was never for a moment marred or interrupted until the hour of his decease. When I commenced my studies for the Christian ministry, he being some twelve years older than myself, and having seen more of the world, and being perhaps more grave and staid in his habits, his care followed me to the city of Philadelphia. He voluntarily opened a correspondence with me. It need not be said to those who knew him that his letters were filled with expressions of friendship, with incentives to piety, and with maxims of prudence, as well as with those cautions and warnings which a young man in my position might seem to need. I have no doubt of their salutary influence over me. I see their utility and necessity now more clearly than I did then. I mention these facts to suggest how useful persons of mature age may be, by kind attentions, wise hints, and words of encouragement offered to those who are younger than themselves."
At first Mr. Wayland, like Dr. Sharpe, was a "lay preacher" – a class of ministers now almost extinct in this country. He was devoted to business pursuits, but he preached to destitute neighborhoods, supplied vacant pulpits, and was at the call of poor churches not blessed with the means of sustaining a settled pastor. In this gratuitous but truly Christian vocation he labored for several years, until his first assumption of the pastoral relation at Poughkeepsie. Here his ministry was much blessed, and he was the means of building up the church, between which and himself a strong attachment ever existed.
But he had the impression that he might be more useful elsewhere. He therefore removed to Albany, where he remained, perhaps, not more than a year; after this he took the pastoral charge of what is now designated the First Baptist church, in Troy. He continued to reside with his family in the latter city for some years after resigning the charge of the church, where his Sabbaths were employed in ministering to destitute churches, and he was specially instrumental in raising up a church in Albia, a manufacturing village east of Troy.
His first visits to Saratoga Springs were of a missionary character. He found the Baptist church there, though it had been some time in existence, in a feeble and scattered condition; and ultimately resolved to remove his family to that place, and assume the pastoral charge of the church. It was a field of labor at this period difficult of cultivation; and there were many disadvantages from the place of worship being two miles from the village, where now is the "Patrick Neighborhood," and at that time remote from the centre of population. But by strenuous exertions he induced the society to make an effort to erect a place of worship in the village, which was accomplished, perhaps, chiefly through his instrumentality.
Some years afterwards he resigned the charge of the church to the Rev. John Lamb, a young brother in the ministry who gave promise of filling the place usefully. But he never, even in advancing years, drew back from the services of the ministry. Destitute and feeble churches he encouraged by his gratuitous ministrations. He was ready to serve the church in any position. She was dear to him as the "apple of his eye" – engraven, as it were, on his hands; for her prosperity he labored, and for her he offered his constant prayers.
"No one," writes Dr. Sharpe, "was ever more willing to take the lowest or the highest place (preferring the lowest), if by so doing he could supply any lack of service. His house was the scene of an intelligent, dignified, but cordial hospitality for the friends of Christ of every name. Many have left the gay throngs which fill the halls of Saratoga, and have hastened away from the midst of music and the mazes of the dance, to participate in the free and edifying interchange of religious sentiments, and in the utterances of personal experiences and Christian hopes; and there the song of praise and the humble and earnest prayer have terminated interviews in which those who were present felt they were on the verge of heaven. Evenings passed in such favored circles are among the
‘Joys departed, ne’er to be recalled.’
But if there was one prominent trait of character for which the deceased was distinguished it was the love and practice of righteousness. He shunned the very appearance of evil. His righteousness was of the broad, comprehensive character. He endeavored to understand all the duties growing out of all his relations, and then he labored most conscientiously and untiringly to fulfil them. I do not believe that for more than forty years he had knowingly or intentionally done an unfair or unjust action to any human being. I do not believe there had been a day in all those years in which he had not rather have suffered wrong than done wrong. There was an integrity that was inflexible. There never was a man who knew him that doubted this. He never wore a mask. He was above all disguises. His countenance, his words, and his offered or withheld hand were true indexes of his thoughts and feelings. No person could possibly mistake how the deceased stood and felt toward him. And yet, with inflexibility of principle, there was a gentleness of disposition and manners which won for him the love and confidence both of the young and the old who came within the sphere of his acquaintance. Nor was he less observant of the claims of his Maker. He was eminently pious. His habitual contemplations were religious. God’s law, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s mediation, grace reigning through righteousness, and the eternal states of the dead, were the themes of his meditation and of his daily discourse. Many a pleasant hour, and in many a long and pleasant walk, as well as in the family circle, have I spent with him in the elucidation and illustration and familiar conversation on these and on kindred topics. I need not say that in him the work of righteousness was peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. The evening of his life was calm and beautiful. His soul had heaven and peace within. It is not saying too much to apply to him the words of Watts:
‘Quick as his thoughts his joys came on,
But fled not half so fast away.’
And when he met with severe bereavements that passage was fulfilled in his experience, ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.’ Nor was he less tranquil when suddenly the footfall of death was heard."
For two or three weeks previous to the attack which proved fatal on the 9 th of March, 1849, after an illness of only three days, a more than usual heavenly serenity seemed to pervade his mind. He was better in health than he had been since an attack of influenza with which he was afflicted in the February previous. He had resumed his usual walks and visitations among the bereaved, the sick, and the aged, his last call being upon the late Mrs. Washington Putnam, who was then in deep affliction from the sudden loss of her husband; saw many young persons who called to converse with him on the subject of religion (it was a revival season of deep interest); magnified the grace of God, which had been manifested in the conversion of some of the members of his family, for whom he had felt a special interest; and encouraged the excellent pastor of the church to faithfulness and dependence on the Holy Spirit, from the seals that God had recently granted to his ministry; and in the meetings for prayer, which his health never again permitted him to attend, he seemed to have peculiar nearness to the throne of grace, and to enter into the fruition of the glorified state.
The grace of God in Christ was the theme upon which he dwelt. That the summons "to come up hither" should have been welcome to one who was not only spiritually but heavenly minded, may be supposed. To one of his granddaughters who saw him soon after his attack, he said, "My child, I am going home." Home was a word ever endeared to him. Though he suffered at times much bodily pain, he was ever patient and tranquil. A cheerful serenity characterized the temper of his mind. No promise of God, he said, had ever failed him, and he was sure he would be with him to the end. Though desirous of seeing his absent children, he quietly submitted to his heavenly Father, and left them his blessing and his testimony to the faithfulness of God and the happiness of walking under the shadow of his cross.
There were several of his favorite hymns which he requested one of his daughters to read to him. The last portion of Scripture which she read to him was the sixteenth Psalm. He repeated: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." Two of his ministering brethren, Rev. Dr. Chester, of the Presbyterian church, and the Rev. Mr. Kingsbury, of the Baptist, were one or the other constantly with him; and had they been his sons they could not have manifested a more filial or affectionately tender regard. To Dr. Chester he repeated the lines of a favorite hymn:
"Soon shall I see and hear and know
All I desired or hoped below,
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy."
Entirely relieved from pain for an hour or two before his dissolution, he was disposed to speak; but complying with the request of his kind medical attendant, of which he was reminded in tones of filial love by those who watched around him, he was silent. But his countenance beaming with love and peace and joy and hope, while he affectionately and lingeringly gazed on what was so soon to pass from his sight, his breath suddenly changed, he closed his eyes, but it was to open them on the clear visions of heavenly glory. Earth was changed for heaven. The sting of death was removed; the victory was through Christ, whose grace he magnified, and on whom he lived.
"Night dews fall not more gently on the ground,
Nor weary, worn-out winds expire so soft."
The funeral services, which took place in the church, were appropriate and impressive; the Presbyterian and Methodist ministers taking a prominent part. The sermon was preached by the pastor of the Baptist church, before a numerous attendance.
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