contract has been let for the erection of the house, and it will
be fit for use by October, if not sooner. The people had been
begged by other denominations so much that it was thought
we could not get a'dollar. But we have added this week, to the
amount previously subscribed, about fifteen hundred dollars.
" Dear James, let not your solicitude for the world cause you
to neglect the salvation of your soul. Read and study the Bible.
Make it your guide, and its Author the object of your constant
trust. My anxiety for your welfare, both in this and the next
world, is indescribable. But none but a father can understand
or appreciate a father's feelings for the happiness of a dear and
The fine Cumberland Presbyterian church in the
city of Memphis, is the result of the labors alluded to
in the foregoing letter.* The Rev. Mr. Dennis became
the first pastor of the congregation ; who, after serving
* The fine house of worship in Memphis, erected through the instru-
mentality of Mr. Donnell, has been recently removed, and a larger
one built on the same ground, to meet the wants of the cougregatiOD,
76 LIFE AND LABORS OF
a few years, resigned. He was succeeded by the late
and lamented Dr. Porter, whose labors in the city were
remarkably blessed. But, unfortunately, he fell a vic-
tim to protracted efforts made during a great revival
of religion in his church. The late Dr. Bryan became
the next pastor, but soon felt it to be his duty to re-
turn to his old congregation, in the city of Pittsburgh.
The Eev. Mr. Davis, D.D., of Lexington, Missouri, was
elected to fill the vacancy, and now occupies the pulpit.
But notwithstanding the high order of talents and
devoted piety that have filled the pulpit since Mr. Don-
nell planted the church, and acted as prime agent in
erecting a house of worship, he is still recollected with
gratitude, as having laid the foundation on which his
brethren have built. "We feel," said one of the elders,
in writing him, after he declined becoming their pas-
tor, " that we owe you a debt that we shall never be
able to pay."
It will be conceded by all acquainted with Mr. Don-
nell, that he planted more churches in towns and cities
than any other Cumberland Presbyterian preacher of
his day. Not that he neglected the country, for many
flourishing congregations are now standing monuments
of his labors there ; but believing that town and coun-
try exert a reciprocal influence upon each other, he
devoted attention and labor to the religious improve-
ment of both.
From his example, his brethren may learn an im-
portant lesson in distributing their labors between
REV. ROBERT DONNELL. 77
town and country. Both should be cared for, but
their relative importance and influence should never
be lost sight of. Towns and cities exert a mighty in-
fluence on the country and on the world. The strength
of the old world is in her cities. In our own country,
the most blasting or brightening influence emanates
from our towns and cities. Their fashions are imi-
tated ; their moral habits and opinions, good or bad,
are adopted. How important, then, that great efforts
should be made for their conversion. But while this
is done, let it be remembered that our Saviour's last
command was to preach the Gospel to every creature.
The country should not be neglected.
78 LIFE AND LABORS OF
BECOMES PASTOR OF THE CHURCH AT LEBANON, TENN.
His Removal to Lebanon, Tenn. Judge Caruthers' Letter Great De-
light of the Congregation on hearing of his consent to supply their
Pulpit Reasons for going to Lebanon Notes of one of his Dis-
courses Interest for the Students An Extract from his first Lec-
ture to Candidates for the Ministry Contributes to Endow the
Although Mr. Donnell had declined the pastorate
offered him in the city of Memphis, he was, two years
afterwards, prevailed on to take charge of the congre-
gation at Lebanon, Tennessee. Early in the summer
of 1846, he left his quiet and comfortable home in Ala-
bama, and all his servants, and household furniture,
and with his devoted wife, removed to that new- and
interesting field of labor. The following appeal, in
behalf of the congregation, was made to him by Judge
R. L. Caruthers :
11 Our pastor has determined that his duty calls him again to
the Indians, to carry out and finish the work he commenced
there. We regret very much to lose him, and differ with him
as to the field of greatest usefulness for him. But he says his
own conscience leads him to the Indians. His place here, there-
fore, must be filled. He suggested the Rev. Mr. Copp, and from
our recollection of him here, and his high reputation for talents
and piety, we concurred in the propriety of getting him, provi-
ded he yet entertained the Cumberland Presbyterian doctrines
in their purity. I wrote to him, and so did brother Lowry.
-REV. ROBERT DONNELL. 79
His reply is just received. He says such a field of usefulness as
this has become, would present strong attractions to him ; and
clearly intimates that he would come, but for the fact that he is
more Calvinistic than our church generally approve that he is
a Calvinist of the Baxter and Fuller school.*
* The reader may desire to know what is meant by a ' Calvinist of
the Baxter and Fuller school," to which Mr. Copp says he belongs.
Without entering into a minute account of Mr. Baxter's views, rela-
tive to the decrees of God, or extent of the atonement, I will merely
say that his theory respecting the application of the atonement places
him in the same category with the most rigid Calvin ists, so far as the
salvation of sinners is concerned. No Calvinist believes more strongly
in eternal and unconditional election than Mr. Baxter did. He says:
" God hath positively elected certain persons, by an absolute decree,
to overcome all their resistances of his Spirit, and to draw them to
Christ, and by Christ to himself, by such a power and way as shall in-
fallibly convert and save them." Dr. Ridgeley's Works, Vol. I, p. 537.
Mr. Baxter believed, as Calvinists generally do, in the priority of re-
generation in the hearts of the elect, leaving the non-elect without a
sufficiency of grace to enable them to repent and believe on Christ.
"All men," he says, " that perish (who [have the use of reason,) do
perish directly for rejecting sufficient recovering grace. By grace, I
mean mercy contrary to merit. By recovering, I mean such as tend-
eth in its own nature towards their recovery, and leadeth or helpeth
them thereto. By sufficient, I mean, mot sufficient directly to
save them:, (for such none of the elect have till they are saved;) nor
YET SUFFICIENT TO GIVE THEM FAITH, OR CAUSE THEM SAVINGLY TO
believe. But it is sufficient to bring them nearer Christ than they
are, though not putting them into immediate possession of Christ by
union with him asTaith would do." I quote from Watson's Inst., Vol.
II, p. 417.
As to Mr. Copp's other model in theology, I have only to say that I
have Mr. Fuller's works, complete, in my library, and have read them
with some care, and can see no difference between him and Calvin
himself, on the doctrine of God's decrees. Dr. Miller once said, Mr.
Fuller and he agreed on all subjects of theology, except Baptism.
The truth is, Calvinism cannot be improved, so long as the doctrine
of eternal and unconditional election and reprobation is retained.
Technicalities may be changed from definite to indefinite atonement,
and an unlimited Gospel preached, and sinners told, in the language
of Mr. Baxter, that they "perish for rejecting sufficient recovering
grace," &c, still, when an explanation of this language is given, it
means grace; that was not intended to lead the subject of it to Christ,
but to bring the reprobate nearer to him than they were. This is
certainly what Mr. Baxter means.
80 LIFE AND LABORS OF
" We cannot agree at this point, where so many of our young
men are to be educated for the ministry, to have anything but
the purest and most unadulterated Cumberland Presbyterian-
ism taught in our pulpit. We owe this to the whole church,
and particularly to those who are sustaining our institution by
their money, and by sending their sons and wards to it.
" There is not, perhaps, in the bounds of our church, a posi-
tion where more good could be done by a minister of talents
and piety than at this point. The young men who have to
carry forward the ark, and who are the future hope of our
branch of the church, are here to learn the art of holy warfare,
and to be supplied with weapons to tight the battles of the Lord.
"Ina consultation of the elders and some of the brethren to-
day, we have come to the conclusion and in this the President
of the University fully concurs that you are the man best
qualified of all others in the church for this position. Through-
out the bounds of the church in every State and Territory there
would be confidence, if you were here. No man would feel
that his son would go much astray in doctrine or morals, if he
attended the ministry of ' Father Donnell' every Sabbath.
Our church here, and community generally, would be much
delighted at your consent to occupy our pulpit.
" I hope you will, upon a prayerful consideration of the sub-
ject, inform us with as little delay as possible, that you will
come. Brother Lowry leaves in about ten days, and we desire
to fill his place as soon as possible ; and our minds and hearts
are now all fixed on you. "Before you reject our call, examine
the whole ground. We know you will do what you think duty
Were I disposed to adopt Calvinism as my religious creed, of any
school, I would go right to Geneva, and take Calvin's Institutes as my
text-book. They call things by the right name, and contain no mis-
Mr. Copp had been a Cumberland Presbyterian, and at his ordination
adopted the Confession of Faith of that church.
REV. ROBERT DONNELL. 81
I regret that Mr. Donnell's reply to this appeal can-
not be found. The following letter, however, of Judge
Caruthers, shows the great joy of the congregation on
hearing that he had yielded to their wishes :
" On Saturday, your letter to brother Anderson informs us
that you felt it to be your duty to accede to the petition of some
of us to become our pastor, provided it should be the wish of
the congregation. The Session, with some of the members of
the church, met at once, and agreed most cordially and unani-
mously upon calling you to this post, which you very properly
denominate one of the most important in the church. We
resolved, however, to take the sense of the whole congregation
on the subject, and this was done after giving full notice. The
same unanimity prevailed. Indeed, the whole congregation,
and people generally, are very much delighted with the pros-
pect of having you at this most vitally important station.
" On Monday, we determined to make up the salary, so as to
have no delay or uncertainty in the matter, which was done in
a few hours. It is to be paid quarterly, and we have made ar-
rangements to have it collected and placed in the hands of the
pastor without any trouble to him, or care of this kind upon his
"We very much hope that you will be so well pleased with
our village and society, that you will conclude to spend the
remainder of your days with us, in some capacity of useful-
" It would be very desirable to see some brother of wealth
endow a Professorship of Theology in our University, and you
the first Professor. We hope the Lord will put it into the heart
of some one blessed with the means to perform that great and
good deed before many years. But before this is done, we deem
it important to have a pastor here able to instruct candidates
for the ministry in the doctrines of our church ; and it is agreed
on all hands that no man understands our distinctive peculiai-
82 LIFE AND LABORS OF
ities better than yourself, or could teach them with better effect.
But all these things can be talked of hereafter.
" I enclose you the certificate of the clerk of the Session, show-
ing your election as pastor.
" As to the time of your coming, all I have to say is, let it be
at as early a period as possible. We have had no regular pas-
tor for several months.
" I received your letter to me, this morning ; but the work
was all done. I have shown it, however, to the elders of the
church that I have seen, and we await your arrival with much
The same obstacles were in the way of Mr. Donnell's
removal to Lebanon, that existed when he declined the
call to Memphis ; but the great demand, as he thought,
for his services at the former place, caused him to yield
to the sacrifice of leaving a comfortable home, &c, to
engage in the arduous duties that awaited him. In
addition to the ordinary prospects of usefulness in the
town of Lebanon, the University at that place presented
a new and very inviting field for ministerial labor.
The future guides and rulers of our nation were prose-
cuting their education there ; and Mr. Donnell, though
old in wisdom and experience, was still young in feel-
ing and affection for the youth of his country, and
knew how to appreciate revivals of religion for their
benefit. He was aware, too, that at the University
much might be done in turning the attention of pious
young men to the subject of preaching the Gospel.
On his arrival at Lebanon, all were delighted. "We
feel," said one in a letter to the writer of this Memoir,
<( that wo have got a man from God." Said another,
REV. ROBERT DONNELL. 83
in describing the character of his sermons, " you know
we always thought brother Donnell was a prodigy in
In preparing his discourses for delivery, Mr. Donnell
made but little use of his pen. The following crude
notes, however, were found among his papers, and are
Buj^posed to contain thoughts embodied in a lecture
delivered to the congregation soon after his arrival :
44 My Dear Brethren : Feelings of deep interest for the
prosperity of this congregation, have prompted me to lay be-
fore yon, on this occasion, your advantages, responsibilities*
and duties :
" 1. You were organized some twenty-five years ago, under
very embarrassing circumstances ; without a pastor or house
of worship, and much sectarian influence and prejudice were
arrayed against you. God, however, in His providence, soon
provided for you a house, and at the first Synod ever held
in your town, blessed you with a powerful revival of religion,
in which many enterprising citizens were converted, who added
much to your strength. Revival after revival followed, afford-
ing new accessions, till your membership has grown to near
two hundred ; and for many years you have bad the labors of
a faithful pastor.
" 2. Your location is near the centre of the Cumberland Pres-
byterian church, and in a country still feeling the influence of
the great revival of 1800.
" 3. No town in the State of Tennessee is more highly favored
with literary advantages than Lebanon ; and your institutions
of learning afford many facilities for sending abroad and into
high places of society a strong religious influence."
In addition to the arduous duties of pastor, Mr. Don-
nell alternated with the President of the University in
weekly lectures to candidates for the ministry.
84 LIFE AND LABORS OP
" These lectures," says the President, " were the re-
sult of years' reflection and profound analysis, rather
than the study of standard works ; and embraced all
the distinctive doctrines of the Cumberland Presby-
terian church. His example and religious intercourse
were of incalculable benefit to the literary students
generally. Besides making the personal acquaintance
of each, and conversing with all on the subject of reli-
gion, he often addressed them publicly on moral and
practical subjects. As a pastor, he acted the part of a
father to all the congregation, looking after the spiri-
tual interests of each member with paternal solicitude,
visiting the families, praying with them, and convers-
ing with each member with a tenderness and sympathy
peculiar to himself."
Dr. Anderson adds : " He regarded the institution,
with its facilities for educating the youth of the coun-
try at large, and especially candidates for the ministry,
as the hope of the church for whose benefit he had de-
voted the labors of a long life."
The following reminiscence of Mr. DonnelFs inter-
course with the students of Cumberland University, is
furnished by Eev. J. C. Provine, who says :
"It was my good fortune to be a student in Cumberland
Uniyersity during the time Father Donnell was pastor of the
church at Lebanon, and I can truly say that the interest he
manifested in behalf of the students, gave full proof that they
had a place in his heart. For them he preached and prayed,
and imparted pious counsel. He sought the acquaintance of
all inquiring where they were from, whether their parents
REV. ROBERT DONNELL. 85
were living, whether professors of religion ; and finally,
whether the son had ever given his heart to God. He would
then speak of the weekly meeting of the church for prayer, and
of the Sabbath school, and of the great advantages resulting
from those meetings to students. Then expressing a hope that
the young gentlemen would be pleased with the University,
and make rapid progress in their studies, he would retire,
always leaving a happy impression upon the youthful mind.
" But while he felt an interest for the success and welfare of
ail the students, there was a special concern which he had in
regard to those preparing for the holy ministry. Many of this
class were often pressed for means to prosecute their education.
For their encouragement, he would relate some of his own
early trials in the ministry, and then promise to do what he
could for their relief. To me he manifested all the kindness
and tenderness of a father. Seldom would he permit one of us
to pass him in the street without stopping for at least a brief
conversation. 'Well, how do you do to-day?' he would say.
' How are you progressing with your studies ? Where did you
preach last Sabbath ? Was there much interest among the
people?' Then, with a parental kindness, he would say, ' Try
to be humble and prayerful ; improve your time ; there is a
great work for you to do ; the fields are white unto harvest, and
the laborers are few.'
" His regular lectures to the theological students were very
interesting and impressive. His manner was plain and
familiar, characterized by affectionate tenderness and sym-
pathy, as well as an earnestness and warmth of feeling that
always engaged the attention of those who heard him. In
levity he never indulged, nor in any remark, either in his ser-
mons or lectures, designed to excite mirth. He doubtless felt
"He who negotiates between God and man
As God's ambassador, the grand concerns
Of judgment and mercy, should beware
Of lightness in his speech.'
86 LIFE AND LABORS OF
" His instructions to the young ministers of the University
will exercise an influence that will know no end. As a stream
it will widen and deepen, and gather force as it advances, until
it bears ont into the ocean of eternity a rich freight of redeemed
"I close by subjoining the following excerpta from the last
letter it was my privilege to receive from the lamented father
in the ministry. It was written while I edited the Ladies*
" ' I am pleased with the Pearl, and have promised to write
a little for its columns, but have waited for time, which, like
myself, is always in a hurry. * * I am highly gratified to
see the ladies advance to aid the cause of Christ, by sending out
the Pearl. If you want a tear when the heavens are hung with
the emblems of mourning, call for the daughters of Jerusalem.
If you 'want to perfume the dead body of the Saviour, call for
Mary and her companions. If you would comfort weeping
disciples, let Mary last at the cross, first at the grave, and first
to see a risen Saviour go and tell his disconsolate followers
that he is risen from the dead. Sisters of the Pearl, your work
is not half done ; you have just commenced. Be not weary in
well-doing, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not.
The Rev. John S. Grider was also a student of the
University when Mr. Donnell was pastor of the church
at Lebanon. He says :
"When I entered as a student of the University, Mr. Donnell
was pastor of the church. My father had given me a letter of
introduction to him, with a request that he would render some
attention to my spiritual interests.
" The pastor generally saw me once a week, either at my
room or boarding-house, and often propounded such questions
as the following i * Well, my young brother, how are you get-
ting along in your studies? I hope you stand high in your
REV. ROBERT DONNE LL. 87
class. And how is it with your soul ? you must take care of
that. Come to prayer-meetings, and be sure not to neglect
"I was a member, for some time, of a class of young men
taught by Mrs. Donnell in the Sabbath school, from whose in-
struction I also derived much benefit."
The Rev. E. D. Pearson adds his testimony to Mr.
Donncll's usefulness to the students of the University.
He says :
" I was awakened on the subject of religion under his preach-
ing; he received me into the church, and acted the part of a
father to me, while prosecuting my education. It seemed as
natural and easy for him to introduce the subject of religion
in conversation as to inquire after the health of the body. His
pious advice can never be forgotten."
The following is an extract from Mr. DonnelTs first
lecture to the candidates for the ministry :
" I am pleased to find so many young men in this institution
who have devoted themselves to the great work of the min-
istry. In preparing for the holy office to w T hich you aspire,
your object should be to search for truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, avoiding all speculations, either in word
or doctrine, that would lead to strife in the church. To pro-
mote the peace, purity, and prosperity of the church, and to
bring sinners under the influence of the Gospel, is the great
business of a minister of Jesus Christ. With his office is in-
separably connected, not only the progress of the church and
salvation of souls, but the highest temporal good of society.
No man better understood the importance of a minister's office
and necessity of a thorough preparation for a proper discharge
of its duties, than the Apostle to the Gentiles. Hence the fre-
quent and solemn exhortations recorded in his epistles, both
88 LIFE AND LABORS OF
to the churches and preachers, on the evils resulting from in-
competent and unholy teachers.
" God at the beginning made known his character and man's
duty, by direct revelations ; and then good men were directed
to teach their families and others the knowledge of the true
God. The pious patriarchs were all required to impart reli-
gious instruction to their households. Noah taught the old
world the will of God. Public teachers were provided by
Divine appointment under the Mosaic dispensation. John the
Baptist, and others, received their commission from a Divine
source. When the twelve Apostles were sent forth, it was by
the special appointment of Christ.
"The christian ministry in every age of the world, since the
ascension of the Redeemer, has possessed the same Divine com-
mission, excepting power to perform miracles. It is a positive
institution growing out of the moral wants of mankind.
" How important, then, that this office should be filled by
men who will be able to magnify and support its dignity 1
But for this office, and the Holy Spirit's influence that attends
it,'our world would be a dark and gloomy abode indeed. Min-
isters of Jesus Christ are highly responsible to God, and must
render a very solemn account at the last day."
Mr. Donnell took an active part in locating the theo-
logical department at Cumberland University, and con-
tributed a thousand dollars to its endowment; and all
eyes were turned to him, at one time, as its first pro-
fessor. The infirmities of age, however, caused him to
decline the appointment. In many respects, he was
just the man for the station. He possessed a clear
head and a warm heart, and his theological attain-
ments were of a high order. "No preacher was more
generally known in the church, or stood above him in
REV". ROBERT DONNELL. 89