H Slade.

The life and labors of the late Rev. William Stevens Balch with an outline of his writings and discourses and biographical sketches and recollections of incidents, travels and correspondence, during a history of more than sixty years online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryH SladeThe life and labors of the late Rev. William Stevens Balch with an outline of his writings and discourses and biographical sketches and recollections of incidents, travels and correspondence, during a history of more than sixty years → online text (page 1 of 23)
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Till- LIFE AND LABORS



OF THE I. \TK



Rev. William Stevens Balcb



WITH AN iHTI.I N 1 I 'I



HIS WRITINGS AND DISCOURSES



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES AND RECOLLECTIONS OF INCIDENTS,

TRAVELS AND CORRESPONDENCE, DURING

A HISTORY OF MORE THAN

SIXTY YEARS.



REV. H. SLADE.



His youth was innocent, his riper age

Marked with some act of goodness every day ;

And watched with eyes that loved him, calm and sage,

Faded his late declining years away.

Meekly he gave his being up, and went

To share the holy rest that waits a life well spent.'"

— Brya nt.



< UK !AG<

[•KIN I ED A.M> BOUND BY

DONOHUE & BENNEBEBRY

L888.






T'> ALL THOSE FOR WHOM CHRISTIANITY CAME [NTO THE
WOULD TO DO ITS WORK OF HEALING AND BLESSING;

FOB WHOM FAITH AND HOPE AUK HORN. AND PRAYEB IS HAD,

AND PRAISES BUNG, AND SYMPATHY AND

CHARITY EXPRESSED;

TO THE SORROWING ONES OF EARTH, THE UNFORTUNATE AND

REREAYED, THE SICK AND THE DYING:

A N 1 1

TO THE CATHOLIC UNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH:

THIS VOLUME IS

RESPECTFULLY AND AFFFJ TIONATELY INSCRIBED






BY T1IK1K SINCERE

FRIEND AND BROTHER.






PREFACE.



In presenting the record of the personal history of the Rev. Will-
iams. Raich, and selecting and arranging events and incidents for
holding up the mirror of the deeds of him whom we seek to bring
prominently to your notice, that others may be induced to follow his
example and feel the influence of his many virtues, it will be the aim,
as far as possible, to let the subject of this memoir speak for himself.
We have found ourselves chiefly encouraged in these labors from
the fact that his was a life uncommonly eventful, and from the great
number of stirring incidents and occurrences calculated to enhance
the intrinsic value of the volume. His friendly suggestions of wis-
dom, strung like pearls through all his writings, calculated to arrest
every class of minds and awaken them to the vast importance of vir-
tuous living, is what must make this work dearer to the reader than
aught else beside. We would not speak in any strain of studied
eulogy, and may not claim for any person on earth that he is perfect,
for perfection does not belong to this world.

It is but justly due that I should, before passing, express my
most sincere and unfeigned thanks for the varied assistance rendered
me by many friends who have kindly aided me in my work.

I much value the words of the one dearest to me (now passed to
the spirit home), who in her absence writing me, says: " I am sure
if you could gather the inspiration to do justice to so good a man,
you have no need to go farther to write up one of the grandest lives
the world has ever witnessed . You have almost worshiped him,
and your fault is likely to be the coloring of the picture. Wliai you
need to do is to write a candid memoir, that will throw his virtues

iii



IV PREFACE.

uppermost; his strong mind, his strict integrity, his humility, his
loving sympathy with the weak, the poor and the oppressed. He
has always felt that truth was mighty and must prevail, and there-
fore was tireless in maintaining what he deemed to be right. Aye,
indeed, such a noble life can be written from material so truthful,
so beautiful, so substantial, that even his enemies (if he had them)
would be obliged to say, ' That is Brother Balch.'"

Nothing is truer than the above. And I shall endeavor to be
truthful in my utterances, and trust that the reader will be enabled
to form some partially adequate conception of the character sought
to be portrayed. And we tender our work to all who shall care to
peruse it, in the hope that it will be valuable to many who are pur-
suing the chart of life's voyage, in being a solace and comfort, as
well as an inspiration to fortitude and courage and manliness of
mien. We have no wish or desire more holy than that the gift we
here bring you, in the thoughts evoked from our subject, shall fill
your souls with all beneficent feelings and impulses, as they have
glowed and burned in our own during these months in which we
have pondered and written.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTEB I.

PAGE.

Passed on to the Higher Life: — Time of Death with No-
tices by Elgin Pastors — Lines by Miss E. J. Stickney —
Object of this Work — Biography and Auto-Biography Dis-
tinguished — Materials Gathered from Fragmentary Mem-
oranda 13

CHAPTER II.

Ancestry: — The General Aim in Tracing it — No Claim of
High Ancestry, but Well Enough Descended — Every Per-
son Ranked by Merit, and Held to Strict Responsibility 23

CHAPTER III.

Parentage: — His Father, Joel Balch, a Representative Man of
Vermont — His Mother, Betsey Stevens, Daughter of William
Stevens, Gave to Him His Name — Her Early Death and the
Death of a Sister had a Marked Influence upon his Cbsrj c-
ter 27

CHAPTER IV.

Burnt and Childhood: — Place of Birth — His Childhood
Like Most Poor Farmers — Plain Living — Strict Discipline
— A Great Lover of Nature Giving Him an Early Desire for
Travel 31

CHAPTER V.

Boyhood and Youth: — His Early Days full of Work — Oppor-
tunities for Learning Limited to Few Books — His Thoughts
Enlarged from Reading Chalmers on Astronomy — His Dis-
like of Cruelty, War And Bloodshed— The Bible His Chief
Study — A Strong Desire to Understand About Religious
Matters 33



\ i CONTENTS.

CHAPTER VI.

PAGE.

Years of Teaching While Maturing His Views op Relig-
ion: — Left Home at Sixteen for Teaching — Shortly After
Went to Teach in His Brother's School, in New York City —
His Singular Passage — Disgusted With the City,he Left After
Three Months — Started in to be a Butcher, but Immediately
Abandoned it Returning to His Home, and to Teaching as
Formerly — His Thoughts Have Been Given a Somewhat Dif-
ferent Turn, and He Now Goes to Pursue His Studies in the
Home of Rev. Mr. Somland, Universalist — Hears Other Vari-
eties of Preaching — Would Like to be a Preacher, but Thinks
it out of the Question — Goes Back to His Brother's School in
New York — While There is Tried With What He Hears
Preached 47

CHAPTER VII.

Conversion to Universalis!!: — Commences to Attend Different
Churches — Hears New Views Which Seem Consonant With
His Reason and Affections — Continues to Investigate till His
Mind Becomes Settled — Joins a Universalist Church — Sells
out His Position in School and Takes up a New System of
Grammar — The Ministry Now Impressed Upon His Mind as
The Plain Course for Him to Pursue 64

CHAPTER VIII.

Character As a Preacher: — The Ministry His Great Leading
Purpose — His Were Sermons; not Essays — His Style Simple
— A Great Preacher Because a Greater Teacher — A Self-made
Man, Only God Made Him — His Sermons Intensely Practical
— A Great Reformer — A Memorable Sermon Before the Gen-
eral Convention in 1840 — His High Ground Upon the Reform
Character of Our Religion, Placing Him in the Front Rank —
Always a Universalist, but Never a Bigot — His the True View
of Liberality — Holding to a few Fundamentals with Greatest
Tenacity, He Was Still Opposed to too Much Creed-Theology
— Thought by Some to be Belligerant — Always Open and
Above Board — Honored by his Publications — His Spirit
Missionary as Shown by all His Societies — His Preaching in
Vermont and New Hampshire in 1827-8 — Taking Him a



CONTENTS. VI 1

CHAPTER VIII— Continued.

i* \<;k.
Wife and Going to Albany in 1829 — Watertown, Mass., in
1830— Claremont, N. H., in 1832— Providence, R. L, in
1836 — New York City in 1841 — Preaching Seventeen Years
in Ne w York, He Thought to Retire to a Rural Plome in Lud-
low, Vt. — Left Ludlow, Coming West in 1865 — His Ministry
From that on, in Galesburg, Hinsdale, Elgin, 111., and
Dubuque, Iowa — His Last Years Mostly Spent in Elgin in a
Settlement of Some Six Years — His Pastorate in Dubuque
from 1877 to 1880 — Testimonials of Friends — Lengthy Ser-
mons — His Powers of Eloquence Which Made Him Sought
After for Funeral and Other Occasions, and Brought Him
Near to the Hearts of Many 78

CHAPTER IX.

Social and Sympathetic Qualities as a Pastor: — His Won-
derful Social and Sympathetic Nature, in Which Christian-
ity Found His Heart — His Religion in the Direction of
Humanity, Seizing All Opportunities for Doing Good —
His Relations Those of Love and Good Will — His Presence
a Benediction in the Home of the Sorrowing — Mrs. Saule,
" Tender, Reverent, Memory " 155

CHAPTER X.

Sermons and Extracts: — His Number of Published Sermons
Not Great — Largely of a Monitory Character — Sermon
Preached Before the Illinois State Convention — " The Puri-
fying Nature, and Good of Universalism " — Its teaching —
The Character of the Believer — "The Pastor's Duty" —
" The future Life " a Progress and Growth — An Occasional
Sermon on ' ' Working the Works of God " — Need of
Organization, but Work More — A Work of Our Own
Hearts — Personal and Denominational — Our Name an Excel
lent One — "Creeds and Sects in Heaven " — " What Heaven
is Like" — " Teachings of Jesus " — Written Articles and Ad
dresses — " The Changed Condition of Thought and Feeling,
Demanding a Change of Action " — Fraternal Feeling Among
Brethren — His Views of Future Punishment — Refused to
Speculate Concerning Such Matters — Many Articles "On



Vill CONTENTS.

CHAPTER X— Continued.

PAGE.

the Situation" — "Denominational Policy" — "The Profes-
sion of Belief" — "Have to Advance the Church" — " The
True Object of Religious Organization " — "Fifty Years Ago
and Now" — "To Whom is Universalism Acceptable" —
Incidents Showing this Last 164

CHAPTER XI.

Letters and Correspondence : — Wide Reputation as a
Writer — Uncommon Power of Narration — His Enlarged
Correspondence With Friends — To be Squared Up at the
End of the Year — These, Occasions of Moralizing —Finds
Much to do After Concluding His Pastorates — Just as
Anxious for the Cause — Feels a Strangeness in Being
What He Calls ' 'a Boarder i n His Own House" — Is More and
More Convinced That the Plain Gospel is What Must Save
the World 208

CHAPTER XII.

Journeys and Travels: — A' Great Admirer of Nature —
Wanted to go Into the World to See It — A Strange Desire
to Visit Where Jesus Had Stood and Taught — To Become
More Familiar With Scenes and Events of Ancient History
His After Delight in Lecturing Upon These Subjects —
What persons Have Said of These Lectures — For What
Purpose He Traveled at Home and Abroad — His " Ireland
As I Saw It " — The Dreadful Condition of That People-
Worse Than the American Slave System — The Responsi-
ble Parties — His Sympathies Ever With the Common Peo-
ple—His Politics — Never of a Partizan Character — Was
the People's Man — Opposed to Aristocracy — Large Work
to be Done Among the Rich — Town and Country Life —
Wickedness of Cities — How Wealth is Produced — A
Lesson from New York City— His Identification With What
Was Termed the " Darr Rebellion " While Yet a Peace
Man —He is Called In to Help Quell the Violent Spirit that
had Been Evoked — His Second Visit Abroad — Makes His
Way Hurriedly Along Over Countries Visited Previously—
Speaks of the Beautiful but Bigoted Scotland — Germany



CONTENTS. IX

CHAPTER XII— Continued.

PAGE.

and Switzerland Cast in the Shade by the Holy Land —
Bemoans the Condition of the People 'Till His Heart is
Sad — Crosses the Adriatic Bound for the Orient — His Im-
pressions of the Holy Land — The Sacred and Memorable
Jerusalem — Sad Thoughts of the Desolation Which Only
Christianity Can Cure — Sets Out On His Rtturn Home-
ward — A Poetic Effusion on " Crossing the Desert " from
Palestine to Egypt — Another on "Desert Life" — A
Christmas Service and Hymn — Other Visits to California,

Mexico and Florida 225

CHAPTER XIII.
Home Life and Varied Employments: — Thoughtful and Indul-
, K gent as a Husband and Father — A Great Lover of Children —
Always Glad at Their Gladness — Wrote the First Sunday-
School Manual — Introduced the First Sunday-School Exhi-
bition, as Then Called — And the First Picnic Excursion — A
Man of Varied Employments — Great Versatility of Tal-
ent — Knew How to do Almost Everything — How Regarded
by Brother Read — What Another Says of Him — A Good
Counselor — An Excellent Parishioner as Well as Preach-
er — His Simplicity of Character That Allied Him to All
Classes of People — His Aversion to All Titles of Honor —
The D. D. not Accepted by Him — Brother Balch a Diffident
Man — A Man of Large Service — Did not Abate His Activ-
ity W T ith the Coming on of Age — His Great Woik the Es-
tablishment of the Canton Theological School 268

CHAPTER XIV.

Disinterested Character: — His Sacrifice of Himself to
Make Others Happier and the World Better — Wealth
to be Valued Principally for its Beneficent Uses — In the
Compensation of His Preaching Services as in Every-
thing else — The Raising of Many a Secondary Matter in
Promoting the Cause of Religion — He Believed in no
Merely Fiscal or Monetary Organization — Xever Made it a
Matter of Arrangement to be Paid a Particular Sum for His
Services — On Large Salaries — Advice to Young Men En-
tering the Ministry — The Worldly Minded not Qualified to
be Preachers 292



X CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XV.

PAGE.

Sickness, Death and Burial: — Naturally of a Hardy Constitu-
tion — His Health Much Impaired in all His Early Years by
Close Application to Study and Overtasking His Energies —
His Later Years Much Improved — His Last Sickness not
Protracted — His Sinking Hours Painless — A Grand End-
ing of a Grand Life — He had no Fear of Death — It Only
Dismissed Him to a Higher Life — It was a Step Forward
in an Eudless Career — It was the Suggestion of His Moral
Reason — To Strike off the Future Made it a Sadly Unfin-
ished Thing — His Impressive Funeral Obsequies — His Life
a Consecrated One Fulfilling Faithfully His Appointed
Years — The Kind of Christian He Was — The many Hearts
Moved by Him — The Many Persons to Speak of His
Death — The Letters of Condolence to Mrs. Balch, And
of Commendation to the Author — Resolutions From Min-
isterial Circles and Societies — The Glowing Tribute Paid
Him at the Reception and Banquet Given Upon the Oc-
casion of His Eightieth Birthday — The Lesson to be
Learned From the Good Man's Life — The Inscription to be
Placed Upon His Tombstone 303



THE LIFE AND LABORS

OF THE LATE

REV. WILLIAM STEVENS BALCH



CHAPTER I.

PASSED ON TO THE HIGHER LIFE.

On the 26th of December, 1887. there appeared in
the local papers of Elgin, 111., worthy notices of the
death of Rev. William S. Balch, occurring on the day
previous, and the following tribute of deferential re-
spect and esteem by the pastor of the Universalist
church. Rev. A. X. Alcott :

A NOBLE LIFE ENDED.

" On Christmas day, not far from noontide, almost
while the Christmas songs and services at our churches
were in the air, Rev. W. S. Balch quietly and without
suffering breathed his last. The morning hymns and
prayers had gone before, as incense, as it wee, to
prepare his way. He followed quickly these spiritual
forerunners to the land of beauty. The day com-
memorated as the birthday of the world's Redeemer,
proved to be also, as we trust, the second birthday
of our old and much esteemed friend and long-tried
comrade in the battle for holiness in the earth — his

13



14 THE LIFE AND LABORS OF

birthday into the realm of glory to wear the crown
of righteousness for evermore.

" Thus has closed a long and remarkable career. He
has been known throughout the East and West, and
everywhere had a host of acquaintances and friends.
His spirit was large and generous, and his heart was
very tender. His mind was accustomed to broad, com-
prehensive views on all subjects. He sympathized with
all ranks and conditions of men, and no one stood
more clearly, consciously and heartily than he on that
plane of intellectual hospitality which is as wide as
the race. He was an ardent and practical lover of
all that was noble and good in man, and an ardent
and practical hater of selfishness, greed, hypocrisy
and pretense. His influence has been great and wide.
He has lived a consistent, noble, energetic, good life.
We may all thank God for him. He has been an
ornament to the Universalist denomination, an able
and eloquent workman in it, and continued to feel as
keen an interest in its well-being in his recent months
and days of failing strength, as when he first con-
secrated his young manhood and loyal heart to its
service. Nothing in his life will ever cause regret
or shame to any of us ; but rather his whole life and
work will ever be a cause for gratitude and pride.
His work has been true, open, devoted, self-sacrificing,
grand. And those who now mourn his loss — and
there will be many of them — may be partially com-
forted by the reflection that though his bodily form
and genial presence and words of cheer will be with
us no more, yet his excellent example will remain to
us as an indestructible inheritance, and worth more
than rubies."

Perhaps no one of our ministers had enjoyed a
fuller or more intimate acquaintance with our excellent
brother, in the later years of his life, than brother
Brighain, who had been a recent pastor of the church



REV. WILLIAM STEVENS BALCH. 15

at Elgin — and he is pleased to speak of him in the
following manner :

" In the death of Rev. W. S. Balch, D. D., the
Universal ist church loses one of its oldest and most
respected ministers, and the church universal one of its
most devout and saintly characters. He was widely
and favorably known in all parts of the country, and
his name was a household word in all Universalist
families. His eminent services to the church and
cause of righteousness entitle him to be ranked as one
of the foremost preachers of his generation. His active
and able participation in the temperance cause, and all
other moral questions brought oefore the American
people for the past sixty years, clearly rank him as one
of our most worthy and highly respected citizens. He
was closely identified with the history of our church,
and his life and labors did much to obtain for us a
recognition and to lay the foundation for our prosper-
ity as a Christian church. This generation cannot
fully realize the difficulties under which he labored,
nor overestimate the value of his services on behalf of
our church. Dr. Balch was born in Xew England, and
inherited the rare, intellectual and moral gifts which
have distinguished his ancestry. His pronounced con-
victions and firmness in maintaining them, with his
bold and fearless hatred and denunciation of evil, are
characteristics of the old Puritan stock. He was such
a man as might be looked for in the case of such an
ancestry. He was one of a company of remarkable
preachers who gave new character to the Christian
thought of the age and religious life of the country.
His labors extended over a period of more than sixty
years. During his ministry our church passed through
a period of sharp controversy, with which Dr. Balch
was closely identified and became an able defender of
the faith. He was not merely polemic in his methods
of work, but a preacher of the gospel of righteousness,



16 THE LIFE AND LABORS OF

and a valiant soldier of the cross, reflecting in his own
life and character the beauty of holiness. My
acquaintance with him, beginning under pleasant cir-
cumstances some years ago, ripened into a lasting
friendship. He always exercised a kindly judgment
and a fatherly spirit that irresistibly drew me to him
for counsel and sympathy, and never was I sent away
empty. His wide and varied experience with men and
affairs of life, combined with a wonderful memory and
large amount of common sense, made him a wise coun-
sellor. Dr. Balch was an eloquent speaker, and though
somewhat diffusive, never failed to interest and hold
his audience. Every word and attitude of the man
expressed his devotion, sincerity and earnestness.
Honest in thought, sincere in purpose, loyal to his
friends, openhearted and plain spoken, he could tol-
erate no hypocrisy or pretense. To him Christianity
was more a life than creed, a character rather than pro-
fession, and the preaching of righteousness more than
organization. His life attested the sincerity of these
convictions, having lived a consistent Christian, and
passed to his rest crowned with glory and honor. Dr.
Balch had a commanding presence, a strong and active
mind, a lofty ideal and a tender heart. He maintained
a pure heart and a spotless example. His life work
remains as a priceless legacy in our church, and his
successful career as a Christian minister becomes an
inspiration to all who labor for the advancement of
God's kingdom.

" My more intimate association w^ith Father Balch
was during my pastorate of the church in Elgin. His
friendship was steadfast and bis support cordial and
liberal. His spirit w T as gentle and his judgments char-
itable. I learned to place implicit confidence in the
man, and always found him unwavering in his faith,
steadfast in his adherance to Christian principles, and
every way worthy of confidence. He was, indeed, a
model ex-pastor. My words and methods were never



REV. WILLIAM STEVENS BALCII. IT

subjects of adverse criticism before the public, but what-
ever criticism or advice he had to offer was always given
in private and in a kind and fatherly spirit. I dearly-
loved the man and can not realize he has left us forever,
and that I shall never again look upon his bodily form,
feel his genial presence, and listen to his words of cheer.
I recall now his last visit to the ministers' meeting when
I was present.

" The subject under consideration was the relation
of the church to the Sunday-school, and Dr. Balch
spoke feelingly regarding the little children, and the
necessity of giving them good advantages and early re-
ligious training, admonishing the brethren to care for
the little ones. We mourn, but not as those without
hope, for life is continuous, and there is a ' restitution
of all things/ and we believe that this man, so richly
endowed with native and acquired gifts, so faithful in
his friendship, so illustrious in citizenship, so true and
sincere in religion, and eminent in the Christian virtues,
is not dead, and that we shall meet again. Farewell,
my dear and venerable friend, having passed the stormy
period of life, rest thou in peace! Thou hast passed to
thy reward ripe in years and experience, respected by
all men. and with the priceless gift of an untarnished
name, bright as the stars. Thy life hath enriched the
world, which will hold thee in loving remembrance/'

Truly we may say a great and good man, full of
noblest deeds, occupying largest places, and doing most
faithful service for his denomination, and for every
good cause, with a hold on the hearts of vast multi-
tudes of people, as but few have ever held, has passed
from earth to a better home than any of the homes of
earth can afford. He has been called to a higher and
wider sphere of honor and effort, being lifted up through
this life to that which is ampler and better. He has
been gathered to his fathers, having the testimony of



18 THE LIFE AND LABORS OF

a good conscience, in favor with God. and in perfect
charity with the whole world. The pulpit and press
throughout the country have been quick in vying with
each other to bespeak his praises, and to lament his de-
parture with tentlerest testimonials of their sorrow at
the loss of one who has been so widely known, and so
honored and loved in the hearts of so many. We may
well say, as in the beautiful lines of Miss E. J. Stickney :

Thy work on earth is done,
The da}' has dawned for thee,
A Christmas day unending,
For God has called thee home.


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Online LibraryH SladeThe life and labors of the late Rev. William Stevens Balch with an outline of his writings and discourses and biographical sketches and recollections of incidents, travels and correspondence, during a history of more than sixty years → online text (page 1 of 23)