Daniel Oliver Morton.

Memoir of Rev. Levi Parsons : first missionary to Palestine from the United States : containing sketches of his early life and education, his missionary labours in this country, in Asia Minor and Judea : with an account of his last sickness and death online

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Online LibraryDaniel Oliver MortonMemoir of Rev. Levi Parsons : first missionary to Palestine from the United States : containing sketches of his early life and education, his missionary labours in this country, in Asia Minor and Judea : with an account of his last sickness and death → online text (page 11 of 33)
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the world, and quickened by thy Spirit. I have for-
gotten thine holy word, I have been unfaithful in thy
service, and unconcerned for the glory of thy name, I
have vowed to the Lord, and have not paid ; I have in-
dulged a spirit of pride, selfishness and vain glorying.
For these, God has turned away his favorable presence.
for grace to begin anew ; to be more humble, more
prayerful, more faithful. Can I not this week do some-
thing to effect a revival in this seminary ? Will not God
hear prayer ? I will pray more frequently and more
fervently. I may converse with my brethren, and with
my friends. I may exhibit the unction of the Spirit,
and ' lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting.'
Lord, let all my powers be thine. May I grow in
grace, and advance in the knowledge of my Saviour.
To thee, heavenly Father, 1 commend my spirit, my
life, my all.

Extract from a letter to his eldest brother.

" Andover, August 1.3, 1817.
" My Dear Brother,— I cannot easily account for this long si-
lence. I have waited, till my anxious heart is ready to break, to
receive a long and friendly letter from one whom, I need not say

11



122 MEMOIR OF

I most tciulcrly love. My motlior's verj' interesting letter I read
with niiich plnisiirc, but 1 should have received still higher satis-
laetion had y<nir i)en supplied the jjlace, which now remains un-
occupied.

" My time has been more than occupi< d this sinniner. Almost
over}' Sabbath sent out to preach at a considerable distance, I re-
turn wear}' and exhausteil. Sijice I liuished n)y mission in Ver-
mont, 1 have preached in Boston, New bur} port, Haverhill, Dra-
cut, and Nottingham, and in the chapel.

"I am contcmjilating an ordination at Boston in September
next, with .Mr. 1) wight, who is to be the pastor of Park -street
church, and with three missionaries. The Board ot" C'ommission-
ei-s have advised me to this measure, as it will better (pialify mc
lor a domestic mission. I wish very much for a le;ter from my
parents relative to this subject. Although I am persuaded that
this measiu'c would ])lease then), still I wish fur an expression of
their feelings."'

• A letter to his })aicnts of the same date.

"My Dear Parents, — After mature deliberation, I believe it my
duty to receive ordination as a missionary >\ith my brethren at
Boston next month. It will atlbrd my parents pleasure, if I assure
them that as I approach this season ol" a j)ublic dedication of my-
self to God, my mind becomes more and more tranquil, and ihe
path of duty more and niore ])leasant. I am sometimes astonish-
cd at myself I cannot, I dare not indulge a single feeling of re-
gret. ' 1 know in whom I have believed, and am confident that
he will keej) that which I have conimitted to Ifun.' If Christ Ijc
with me, no matt«'r ivhen, or u-hcre, or liow I die. Sometimes I
think the world is dea<l to me ; at others it betrays me into a thou-
saixl snares. Though 1 walk thntuirh the valley of the shadow
of death, 1 will ft-ar no evil, ibr thou, my blessed Saviour, art with
me."

Journal, ''•August 26^ 1817. — In view of the ap-
j)roa(hin^ solemnities of my ordination as a missionary
to the heathen, I desire this day to humble myself before
(iod and plead for the intluences of the Holy Spirit. In
tills dedication, Christ nnist have all. The examination
of the su})ject of missions, after years of serious and



REV. LEVI PARSONS. 123

painful inquiry, has terminated in a tranquil conviction of
duty. Weak and unworthy as I am, this is my conso-
lation, that the Lord will not hreak the bruised reed
nor quench the smoking flax. This is all my hope.
' As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth
them that fear him.' Will the Redeemer leave me to
languish and faint in a foreign land ? Will he cast me
from his presence? No, Divine Saviour, thou wilt
never leave me, never forsake me. Though far from
parents and friends, thy presence will support and com-
fort me, and the Holy Spirit guide me into all truth. If
the Lord be on my side, ' I will not fear, though an host
encamp against me,' though I be buried in the sea.
' My grace,' saith God, ' is suilicient for thee.' Now,
blessed God, accept this surrender of my all into thy
hands ; and when 1 present myself in a public manner
to take the most sacred vows upon me, then wilt thou
graciously accept the offering, and grant me ' an unc-
tion from the Holy One.' Guide me, O thou great Je-
hovah, while I wander as a stranger and a pilgrim ; and
■when the work which thou hast for me to do is com-
pleted, then may I say, 'I have fought a good fight, I
have finished my course, I have kept the faith; hence-
forth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in
that day.'

The following letter to his parents, written a short
time after his ordination, will evince the very happy
state of his mind on that memorable day.

"Andover, September 8, 1817.
" Dear Parents, — Received this morning your very interesting let-
ter of the 20th of August, and read it with emotions never before
experienced. I cannot be sufficiently thankful that my parents
have cheerfully resigned me to the direction of the great Head of
the church. I have no doubt, that in die resignation of so dear an



124 MEMOIR OF

artlily trciisurc, God has imiiantil the liclier blessings of bis
fj:race, ami enabled you to say,

' W'liatc'er my duty bids mo giv»',
' I clieerfully resign.'

"Before tin; reception of lliis letter, you will h-arn the interest-
ing events of last Wednesday. It wjis u day which 1 shall ever
remember with peculiiu* j)leasure, as the day of my public dedi-
ication to God and to the church. I was not sensible of the least
r(\><erve. I could subscribe with my hand to he forever tlic Lord's,
to be sent any wlierc, to ilo any thi!i<j!;, to suffer any aJJUdion^ to en-
dure any Jtanhliip, to live imd die a missionary. I could lay my
hand on my lieait and say, ' Lord, send me to the ends of the
earth ; send me to the rough and uncivilized regions of Africa ;
send me to prison, to tortures, to death ; if it be thy will and for
tlic promotion of tliy glory.' God has ti'uly verified his promise,
that his grace shall be equal to the day. And I have strong confi-
dence that he will never leave mc, never forsake me. Though my
way be on tlie great dec]), he who said to the troubled waves,
'peace, be still,' will be ever by my side. Though I linger in a
prison or exi)ire at the stalve, I will fear no evil, ' lor thou, Lord,
art with mc.' Never was 1 more deeply sensible of my entire
weakness, and utter unworihiness of divine fa\'or. If I get to hea-
ven, I must sing every stej) of the way thither, grace, grace, bound-
less, sovereign grace. Never did I sec more of tlie vanity, and un-
satisfying nature of all things below, nor feel a greater desire to
relinquish my emlhly all to Christ. Still how weak my resolu-
tions ! But,

* When I am weak, then am I strong ;
'Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.'

" I cannot beUeve that in dedicating myself to the work of a
missionary, I have mistaken the i)ath of duty. I beUeve what a
good minister once told me, that the patli of duty will be made
exceedingly plain. My dear parents, short Imt pleasing is our res-
idence b«'low. Few days pass, and we are no longer pilgrims, so-
journers, strangei-s; but fellow citizens with the saints and with tJic
household of God. Soon we shall know no hmger disapp(>int-
ment.s, tears, groans, sickness, trouble; but clasped in the arms of
our (now ) absent Saviour, shall rest with tlic Redeemed, and

'Not a wave of trouble roll

' Acrosd our peaceful breast,'



REV. LEVI PARSONS. 125

"My health was never better ; it is apparently perfect. It shall
all be given to Christ; and if I had ten thousand talents more than
I possess, I would give them all to my blessed Saviour. But my
dear parents, never cease to pray for your feeble, unworthy son,
that he may finish the work assigned him, turn many from dark-
ness to light, and finally be received to glory with the redeemed ;
with pious firiends, with dear parents, to part no more."

Having completed the usual course of theological stu-
dies, Mr. Parsons took leave of the seminary in Septem-
ber, 1817, and returned to Vermont. During a few of
the last months of his residence at Andover, he prea-
ched in various places. It is impossible to speak defi-
nitely of his usefulness in the seminary or the region a-
round it. Undoubtedly many felt the influence of his
deep seriousness and unfeigned piety. It is evident
that he did considerable to promote vital godliness and
an intelligent missionary zeal. Encircled with fhose,
who have since become heralds of the cross in heathen
lands, domestic missionaries and pastors of churches,
and many of these being his intimate friends, his influ-
ence was highly salutary. That it was not small will
appear from the fact, that during his last year at Ando-
ver, he was president of a respectable association, call-
ed " The Society of Inquiry on the subject of Mis-
sions." In that day when all the bearings of our actions
and all the consequences of our conduct shall be known,
it may appear that his usefulness was on the whole, as
great as during any other part of his life. To be confi-
dent, however, on this point would be highly impioper.
But this is certain, that his exemplary faithfulness and
fervent supplications were not in vain.

lU



MEMOIR.



PART II.

SKETCHES OF MR. PARSONS' MISSIONARY LA-
BORS IN THIS COUNTRY.



We come now to a new era in the history of Mr.
Parsons, to the commencement of his public labors as
an evangelist and missionary. For although he had
been employed a short time as an Agent for the Ameri-
can Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and
afterward had preached occasionally in diflferent places,
yet he could not be considered as having fully commen-
ced his ministerial labors till after his ordination and the
conclusion of his theological studies at Andover. Then
he became a public servant of the church.

Several applications for ministerial services had been
made to him ; but he chose to accept an invitation from
the Vermont Missionary Society ; having had unusual
desires to be useful in this state before his departure
from his native land.

He had contemplated a short tour as an agent for the
American Board ; and I believe he did spend a few
weeks in the month of October in visiting the heathen-
school societies, which he had previously formed. But
of his services during this month I find no record.

He commenced his mission under the direction of the
Vermont Society about the first of November.



1 28 MEMOIR OF

While a student in theology, Mr. Parsons named to
the writer, that he had often desired to labor for a sea-
son in some obscure place, make it his supreme object
to promote the conversion of sinners, and have the un-
speakable delight of seeing many souls brought home to
God. The blessing so earnestly and repeatedly sought
he was soon to enjoy. The history of this mission will
be learned from his own pen.

In his journal dated "November 2, 1817," I find the
following observations.

'^ That this mission may be for the glory of God, and
for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, the fol-
lowing regulations with respect to my conduct may, by
the divine blessing, afford essential assistance.

1. Always practice the duties which are enjoined
upon others.

2. Devote Satuiday to a holy consecration of myself
to God in reference to the work of the Sabbath.

3. Be sober in conversation, humble in deportment,
and faithful to the work of an evangelist.

4. In disputations be candid and gentle^ yet prompt
in the vindication of truth.

5. Let every sermon be practical^ simple and instruc-
iive^ delivered with ease and solemnity.

C. In preaching to Christians of different denomina-
tions, I will endeavor to excite a spirit of brotherly love
and of prayer for the diffusion of the gospel.

7. Always be particular in ascribing the success which
may accompany my exertions to the influences of the
Holy Spirit,"

It was important for Mr. Parsons, as a missionary, to
keep an accurate journal, and to be particular and some-
times minute in recording facts and conversations. As
his intercourse with persons in different ciicumstances



REV. LEVI PARSONS. 129

and of widely different character, tended to increase his
knowledge of human nature, it was desirable to retain
this knowledge. This would be most effectually done
by committing to paper, while the occurrences were
recent, what appeared most interesting. But the ori-
ginal journal is too long for insertion, and in some instan-
ces too minute to be gener^^Uy interestijig. At the close
of his mission, he presented to the trustees of the soci-
ety, a report, giv^ing a general view of his labors and
success. This, so far as it was published by them, will
be inserted in the proper place.

I shall here present the reader with a few of his de-
votional exercises, and one letter written during this
mission.

" Calais^ November 13, 1817. — Rode from Montpe-
lier to Calais with a mind exceedingly barren and stu-
pid . Cherished but few thoughts of God ; few desires
for his glory. Have reason this evening for deeper
abasement than ever, before my Maker, for perpetual
shame and confusion of face. ' I will arise, and go to
my Father ; and say, Father, I have sinned against
heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be
called thy son,' or to be treated as such. Yet for Zi-
on's sake I will say, ' cast me not away from thy pre-
sence, take not thine Holy Spirit from me. I will not
rest, till I have found a dwelling place for the Most
High ; till I can say, my Redeemer is mine, I am his.

" November 14. — Find little, if any thing, this morn-
ing in my mind acceptable to God. Pride, that accur-
sed thing, which the Lord hates, prevents seasons of
communion w^ith my Saviour, and renders me a stran-
ger to permanent enjoyment. A review of the past
fills me with pain and regret, and the fear of future un-
faithfulness with the deepest melancholy. This day is



130 MEMOIR OF

devoted to fasting and prayer for repentance and abase-
ment, for grace to honor Christ and advance his king-
dom in this place. It is not hy might, hut by the power
of God, that hard liearts melt and stul)l)orn wills bow .
He can make me a son of thunder to his enemies ; can
endue me with the holy Ghost, make my })rcaching like
Peter's on the day of Pentecost, or like Paul's before
Agrippa. The throne of grace is all my dependence,
all my consolation.

" Visited four families ; conversed w ith six individu-
als who indulge a hope, three of whom have recently
received the quickening intluences of the Spirit. This
aflbrds evidence of the commencement of a revival ot
religion. Sinners were disposed to hear. May not this
be the dawning of a better day ? Surely a w ork her^
must be all of God. The most unwortliy instrument
will be employed to save souls. It is my sincere desire
to be humble in the dust, to be stripped of all self-de-
pendence, to be delivered from every sin, to be guided
into all truth. At the footstool of mercy my only plea
is, the glory of God^ the salvation of souls.

*' Saturday^ 15. — Have this evening to mourn my un-
fruitfulncss in devotion, and unfaithfulness in duty.
Could I rely on the mercy of God, and cheerfully obey
his will, I would rejoice with joy unspeaka])le. Lord,
melt this obdurate heart and bow this stubborn will ;
and let me be more conformed to thine image. Then
will sinners be converted.

" November 23. — God withholds his Spirit, and I la-
bor in vain, and spend my strength for nought. It is
just. I tlare not complain. Yet with humility will I
seek him, whom my soul loveth. I will say, w hcrefore
contendest thou with me ; why go 1 mourning all the
day ? The prevalence of infidelity, bigotry, delusion



REV. LEVI PARSONS. 131

and party-spirit must render ineirectual the preaching of
the cross, unless the special grace of God interpose.
' Oh that 1 knew where I might find him ! I would
come even to his seat.' I would plead for his cause, I
would plead the honor of his name. O Lord, revive
thy work. My soul longeth and fiiinteth for the living
God.

" November 29. Saturday evening. — Have suffered
much the past week from an evil heart of unbelief. I
dare not expect a blessing to accompany my exertions.
God has cast me from his presence, and taken his Ho-
ly Spirit from me. My only plea is, Lord reinemher me
a miserable sinner.

" After serious examination, fasting and prayer, I
have obtained clearer discoveries of my own defilement.
I am certain of a spiritual declension. I will return to
him, who has delivered me from trouble. Although I
dare not rely upon resolutions, I desire the week ensu-
ing to live nearer to God."

A letter to his parents,

" Calais, December 3, 1817.

"Dear Parents, — I forget whether I am in the East Indies, or in
Vermont. Since I came to this region I have neither seen, nor
heard fi-om, an}^ individual (the Rev. Mr. Hobart excepted) whom
I ever saw before. The winter will probahly pass m this state of
retirement and solitude. I was completely tongue-tied for a few
days, but I now perceive symptoms of recoveiy.

" I have enjoyed perfect health, althougli my work has been ar-
duous and difficult. Within a sliort time, I have attended fifteen
meetings, and at the fifteenth, veiy unexpectedly to myself, I prea-
clied an hour. Invitations to preach are becoming more numer-
ous, and meetings more generally attended. Eveiy man must see
tlie missionary, and puzzle him, if he can. I find myself in close
quarters occasionally, and am obliged to make the best of it. A
long catalogue of questions looking veiy sharply towards infidelity,
is brought forward without ceremony or apolof^y, and the crooked
must be made straight, and the rough smooth.



132 MEMOIR OF

'' The univcrsalirsts have hut one difficulty, tlic Bihle, to encoun-
ter. Prcjs tlicm a little with passages of Bcrii)ture, and tlicy leap
out hy turning deists. The patli from the one to the other is very
shoil and plain. Infidelity here assumes its holdest and most
Kjjnniolcss appearance. Reason is made omnipotent. It is another
word lor licentiousness. But the recent attempts to introduce (an-
archy) into the church liave been connected with conseipiences still
more alarming. Evcrj' one walks in the sight of his own eyes,
and yet clings to a hope of heaven with anundoubtingcontidence.
Multitudes in this place have a hope of piety, and this apparently
is all their religion.

" A church will be fonncd here, probably, this month. Al)OUt
fourteen are i)reparcd to become members. Others are serious.
Hopcs arc entertained of a general revival. The Sabbath after
next, the comnnmion will be attended in Marshficld, by permis-
sion of Providence, and a number received into the church. I
find tlie work ever}- day more interesting ; yet the heathen are not
for a moment forgotten. The path of duty in this respect becomes
inore i)lain and pleasant.

" To-morrow is Thanksgiving. Could I get a pie or two

from home it would not be amiss. However, I am kept \vell. My
parents need not fear, nor tliink of mc with anxiety ; but they will,

I trust, earnestly rctiucst for me that assistance, which I })articular-
ly need. I am more than ever sensible of my weakness, and

would be more grateful than ever for the prayers of tlie saints."

The following report or journal, together with the
introductory remarks of the trustees, were published
by them immediately after the tcrminatimi of Mr. Par-
sons' mission.

Extracts from the Rev. Levi Parsons' Journal, re-
turned June, 1818.

[-^ The following extracts, comprising the greater part
of Mr. Parsons' Journal, we pul)lit;h, at this time, be-
cause we believe they will greatly encourage the friends
of missions to renewed exertions, and because they will
be read while the events, which he records to the praise
of divine grace, are so recent, with more interest than
at a future day. Few missionaries have labored witi;



REV. LEVI PARSONS. 133

more success, either in healing difficulties in churches,
or in exciting the attention of those wlio live without
God in the world. His labors in many towns were
accompanied with special divine influences. We be-
lieve that, in many towns, in the north pait of this state,
and more especially in Troy, his labors were a savour
of life unto life to many perishing sinners. Who can
read these extracts, w^ithout resolving by a free-will of-
fering to increase the means of our Missionary Society,
without praying the Lord of the Harvest to send forth
laborers into his vineyard ?"]
"To the Trustees of the Vermont Missionary Society.

" Gentlemen, — In performing the mission assigned
me, to the destitute settlements of this state, 1 have
occupied a field far less extensive, than was, I am sen-
sible, expected by the Trustees of the Society. My
exertions have been confined, principally, to the coun-
ties of Washington and Orleans ; although, in a few in-
stances, I have preached in the counties of Caledonia,
W^mdsor and Addison.

"Eight weeks were devoted to Calais, Cabot, Marsh-
field, and Plainfield. During this time, we wei-e favor-
ed in some degree, wuth the influences of the Spirit.
Numbers were convicted of sin, and a few made to re-
joice in hope.

" Great lukewarmness existed among professors of
religion in Marshfield. Their numbers have been from
time to time diminishing, till but a few remained of the
little flock, to weep over the desolations which sur-
rounded them. At a meeting preparatory to the sa^
crament they confessed with apparent penitence, their
criminal departures from duty, and renewed their cov-
enant with each other, and with God. And on the suc-
ceeding Saturday evening, a difficulty , which had some-

12



134 !Mi:m()1r of

time existed in the cliurc}i, and Nsliith, it was feared,
would eventually prove its disorganization, was brought
to a final and happy termination. Nine candidates were
the next Sa])hatli admitted to full communion, and the
Lord's Supper administered, after a long and lamenta-
ble declension.

"It was not so in Plainfield. Religious meetings
were frequent and solemn. Many were searching the
scriptures, with reference to their own salvation, and
a few were hoping in the mercy of God. On the 13th
of Detember, eight candidates were received into the
church, which previously consisted of thirty three mem-
bers; and at the sacrament of the Supper of our Lord,
the most pleasing unanimity was a])parent between
Christians of dilTerent religious denominations.

" In Cabot are seventy five or eighty member^ of the
congregational church ; most of whom are the subjects
of the late revival in the spring of 1817. At a circular
meeting in November last ^\e may notice the commence-
ment of another work of grace, during \\hich tenor fif-
teen made a })ublic profession of religion.

"As I shall not have occasion to mention these towns
again, I will observe that in addition to the donations I
received, an annual suhscri})tion of ^ loO has been ob-
tained for the support of a missionary. The subscribers
earnestly retpiest the patronage of the society, and
should a missionary be stationed there, every possible
exertion will be made to defray the expense.

" Two weeks were em})loyed in the towns of Hard-
wick, Craftsbury and (Jreensborough. In these places
are two hundred and thirty two members of the congre-
gational church, and ninety members of the baptist de-
nomination. One hundred, or more, of these are the



REV. LEVI PARSON'S. 135

subjects af a revival, which was instrumentally occa-
sioned by Sabbath school instruction.

'^ 111 Hardwick, I administered the sacrament of the
Supper of our Lord, at which were present, it is sup-
posed, one hundred and Miy communicants. Eight can-
vdidates were admitted to the church, and a ninnber of
families presented for baptism. A contribution was so-
licited, and received for the Board of Missions. In ad-
dition to this, the ladies organized a society, and soon
obtained an annual subscription of thirty dollars ; of
which nine dollars and thirty one cents were delivered
to my charge. The particular object of this society is
to aid in supporting the gospel in the destitute towns of
that vicinity.

"On Wednesday, February 11,1 was requested to
preach in Hardwick, before the Society for the reform-
ation of morals. As circumstances connected with this



Online LibraryDaniel Oliver MortonMemoir of Rev. Levi Parsons : first missionary to Palestine from the United States : containing sketches of his early life and education, his missionary labours in this country, in Asia Minor and Judea : with an account of his last sickness and death → online text (page 11 of 33)