John Ellis.

Autobiography and poems of Eld. John Ellis, traveling minister of the Lord Jesus Christ for over sixty-one years online

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Online LibraryJohn EllisAutobiography and poems of Eld. John Ellis, traveling minister of the Lord Jesus Christ for over sixty-one years → online text (page 1 of 8)
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Bequest of

Frederic Bancroft


Eld. John Ellis.








The last xnn(] Is fini^Jn'd, flie laxf si'rmon preached ,

The Jaxt n-oDiiiif/ '/iven, the la^t mlle-stoue re-tejiej,

And Ihe irearif pil(jriiii restclh.

—C. T). E.



:: 1895. ::


To all persons, old or yoiin<2^, in the East, West, North or .South, who
have been helped heavenward by the sin^^ing, praying-, preaching
or social converse of my deceased husljand, the following pages,
from his autobiography, are dedicated by

C. D. Ellis.






IT is nntural for men when seeking; otlice, or when ])uhlishin<r a hook, to
say that they appear hefore thepiihlie at the uroxMit request of many
triends, which, l)v the by, is sometimes /;v/r and sometimes not . This,
in my ease, iiowe\er, is true, for 1 have frecjuently been requested and
even urged to let my imperfectly written autoliio^raphy, accompanied by
a few of my poems, ap])ear in book form.

I)Ut thus far I ha\e refused, for two reasons: First — 1 have but
little coniidence in m\self as a writer. Second — It looks egotistic to me
for persons to be speaking- or writing- things concerninu^ themselyes. But I
haye tinallv consented to send out a brief histor\' of my past life, accom-
panied with selections from my poetical writings, hopinuj that it may
interest some and lead them to seek for a hij^her life.

II any teel to condemn me for it or wish to criticise either me or the
production, they have a perfect ri^ht to do so. I only object to what is
commonly called ^j'/tr-criticism. The Author.



LIKE most autohioijjniphers, " J was Ijorn ol respectable parents,
lliouy-h poor." The immortal ^Fopsy "never was born, had no
parents, no notliini^, 'specked she sj^rowed,'' but not so in my case, tor I
had eartlily parents and commenced breathing- on the 26th of August,
1812, and ha\e been at it ever since. I was l)orn on the banks of the
beautiful Hudson, in Albany countv. New ^'ork. My father was
vVugustus Ellis, son of Daniel Ellis, of Revolutionary memory, and was
in the battle of Bennington, Vermont, and other engagements during the
war. He had two brothers, one located in Pennsyhania and the other
in Ohio. My mother's name w^as Joana, onlv daugiiter of Zejiiianiah
and Lucy Miller, of Holland T^utch extraction.

When about three years oUl our people moved, with a number of
other families, to Cortland countv, New York. We, like most of the
settlers, lived in a log calun which we called " the mansion of the
woods." ()ur house was comfortable and had plenty of ventilation and
we all enjoyed it. I ilistinctK' recollect seeing droves of nimble deer
])ass and repass in day time and ot hearing the bowlings ot" sa\age
wolves at night, and sometimes was to be seen the shaggy bear passing
bv, in his awkward gait, hunting some imjirotected sheep-fold or pig-
sty. And 1 remember the excitement that followed as men, boys, dogs
and guns turned out to give Bruin a chase, which generally resulted in
the ca]iture of the t)ear and the wounding of some of the tlogs. A
neighboring woman, in the absence ot the men, shot a bear and had
meat enough to sup]>ly the table tor a long time.

I was delighted in those (lavs with almost e\c-r\thing J saw and
beard and bad but tew sad hours. 1 was blessed with a cheerful dispo-
sition and inclined to look on the bright sick- ol things and it remains
with me until this day. I took great delight in \isiting the sugar camp


in the spring and tlie hay held in the summer, and the snow and ice
brought much pleasure during the winter. In the autumn I was busy
gathering nuts, especially the beech nut, whicli was found in great
abundance. I enjoyed the birds in sinnnier much and never killed one in
mv life. I early obtained a pocket knife and commenced whittling my
way through this world. I do not know that I possess much mechanical
skill, but 1 made almost everything I saw, and even made a '' perpetual
motion," all but the motion. It was as good as any one has since made
or probably ever will, for thus far they have been perpetual faihires.


It was fashionable in my earlier life for everybody nearly to use
these drinks and chew and smoke tobacco, but I was a little eccentric,
naturally, and took pride in being so, therefore I rejected all of these
things, so mv eccentricities did me that much good. At one time I
thought that tobacco might assist in making a man of me, but upon due
reflection I could see nothing \n it manly, so I gave it a wide berth. I
then formed the determination that instead of paying out money for this
expensive and injurious weed, I would spend it for books and soon had
quite a library.

I signed the first temperance pledge I came to and have signed every
one oiYered to me since, not only for my own good, but throwing my in-
iluence on the right side. I am, and always have been, a straight out
and out temperance man, and if vou call talking, singing, praying and
voting for the prohibition of saloons in our fair hind, makes a crank, I
am one, but I call it the dictates of good, sober sense, and where every
Christian should stand. If I am a crank the angel seen by the Revelator
was one, for John saw him coming down from Heaven with a great
chain in liis hand, and saw him lay hold of tiieold serpent — the de\'il — and
bind him with the chain and cast him into tlie l)ottomless pit to remain
at least a thousand years. vSo after trying prohibition for that length ol
time, if it does not work well, w^e will try some other plan. 1 am, and
have been all my life, opposed to high license, low license or free


Our neighbors, at least the most enlightened ones, thought best to
organize a Sunday school in our rural neighborhood, but some opposed


it. One man thou<rIit it would bias the minds of the children before
tiiev were old enoui>'h to choose for themseKes. One preacher said he'd
rather his'children would ^o a lishino- than to Sunday school- anil they
showed this t(.'achino-, tor a worse set of boys were not to be lound in all
the neiu,"hb()rhood.

One younjj^ lad when asked to <ro said he thouijht it was for c///7(/Vrw,
strokincf a little fuz on his upper lip; "Tm a man," but the school was or-
irani/.ed all the same and went into successful operation. \\'e liatl no
U'sson leaves or pa])ers, cartls or sinj^ini;- books; nevertheless we made it
o(), and it did threat Ljootl in those times.


A voun^, pious ij^irl, but inclined to consumption, came to the
superintenilent and asked for a class. She felt anxious to do some work
for the Master before tj^oin<)^ to her other home. He told her the classes
were all supplied with teachers, but there was a seat over there unoccu-
pied ; that if she could till it with scholars she mitJ^ht teach them. So,
frail as she was, she went out into back lanes and by paths and o^ot five
little l)ovs, mv little brother and nnself were amontr the numl:)er, and
brouyht them next Lords dav and became their teacher. She had a
peculiar <rift for teachino- children and impressed upon our youn^^ hearts
the truths of the (lospel. She was so faithful and kind that we lo\-ed
her and inclined to belie\e what she said. Her health continued to fail
and she (^rew weaker all the time until finally she passed to her rest in
the ti^rave. We joined the procession that followed her remains to the
^rave, but her pure spirit was in its .home in Heaven. Amon<r those
lollowinu; her to the <rra\e as mourners, none were more truly so tlian
those ii\-e little l)()ys that she had picked up and placed in the .Sunday

\ ears passed on ami others taut^ht our class, but none seemed to till
the place in our little hearts like our an<rel teacher who had left us. In
the course ol a lew years there was quite a rexival of religion in that
])lace anil fo2i7- of those boys w^ere brouglit to Christ, ilatint;- their con-
\ersioii in a threat measure to the faithful labors of that earnest teacher.
And in process of time tJirec of those boys became ministers of the gos-
pel. Two of them are still li\ing — m\- brother. Key. Z. M. Ellis, of
Iowa, and the writer.


In conclusion I would say that our loved teacher was very modest

and retiring-. liardK' dared to call herself a Christian, and yet see what a

good work she did in the name of the Lord <^f <rtory. What a wave for

good she set in motion which is still going on and will until the last

sands of time shall have passed away.

■■ Foot prints in the sands of time, vvliieh surely will reniiiin,'
Which some sad and lonely brother seeing, may take heart again."


An egotistic, fojipish law>er from Cortlanil village took charge of our
class one Lord's Day. Our lesson thai day was on John the Baptist, so
in asking us (piestions on the lesson he asked how old he was when lie
began to talk. No child in the class coidd answer the (juestion, which
seemed to astonisli tlie legal gentleman. Then he told us he was just eight
tlays old. Then in turn we \vere very much astonished, for we had never
heard of a haby (piite so smart as that, and I thiids. he saw me shaking
my head, for he looked at me, saying : " John, don't you l)elieve it?" I
answxM-ed rather bashfully that 1 had never heard of a babv talking at
eight days old. At this he replied and (jiu)ted the text in regard
to the tongue Ijeing loosed and he began to talk and praise the Lord.
1 told him 1 understood it to refer to John's father, who had l)een dumb
ever since he doubted the annoimcement of the angel. After stopping
and re-reading ami thinking awhile, he said: 'AWdl. child, you are
right and I was wrong, for 1 see that it was the tongue of Zachariah, his
father, instead of the young child. "" 1 left the school in ecstacies that
day under the impression that I had whipped out a lawyer.


My o]:)portunities for an education were quite limited, as my father
Avas a poor man and I the eldest son, so I had to remain at home and
work when I ought to have l)een in school, yet I went to school some un-
til ele\en years of age, and suppose I learned as fast as most boys of my
age. The old fashioned log .school house \\'\\\\ slab seats and oiled paper
windows still linger in my memory as something sacred, and will, I pre-
sume, iluring life. Hut I gradiuited at eleven years of age and have not
attended school since, although I have gatliered cpiite a fund of knowl-
edge during life that has enabletl me to do my life work better than I
otherwise could have done.


As to orthography, I never was a good speller, for there is no com-
mon sense in spelling anywav. It is a gilt <y\ nature that 1 ne\er pos-
sessed, for it is \erv hard to reniemher whether it is ie, or ei, or ant or
ent, or sion or cion, or tion. These are ahstraet etVorts of the memory.
My chirograpln is also rather poor, although I ha\e written (|uite a good
deal during life. I helievc 1 am right in iashion, for it is tiie practice
among lawyers, jiulges, doctors and husiness men generally, I think, to
write so that hut few can read it. It is s;iid that Horace Greeley could
hardly read his own writing. And I rememher while editing and puh-
lishing the Gospel Herald, in Da) ton, ()., ihu-ing the sixties, I recei\ed
an article from E. W. Iliunphreys that 1 couUl not make out what it
was. so I folded it up and wrote a note for him to write it plainer so
that 1 could reatl it, l)ut he could not rt-ad what I had written. WMien we
met afterwards it seemed rather a funn\' circumstance in hoth our liyes.
But every one should correct himself in this matter and write a plain,
legible iiand.

I have ne\er considered m\' education linished, and am now anxious,
at about eighty years, as ever, to go on learning more. I cannot learn as
easily as formerly, for my memory is not as retentixe as it used to be, yet
1 retain what 1 learn remarkably well tor one ot my age. I can remem-
ber the important jioints in a lecture or sermon anil can repeat them
weeks afterward, if called on for them.

Names were always diihcult for me to remember, but countenances
and locations I rememlier well. It is said that John (.^uincy Achims liad
such a remarkable memory that after l)eing introduced to a large party
of persons he could call each one by his namt- chn-ing his stay among
them. My wife also has a wonderful memor\' of names. We ha\'e
called Irecpiently among strangers and perhaps sta\- o\er night and be-
fore leasing she would know the name of each child to the ninnber of
tiye or six, and after a \ear or so return, and she would still remember
these chilibx-n's names.


But to return to \\\\ narratixe. 1 was about to say my parents \\ere
the embo(bment of goodness ;ind truth to me, iind they were the end of
the gospel tome; whate\'er else 1 doubted 1 did not doubt what they
said. They talked to me of God, Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit ; also


of our beautiful lioiiu' in Heaven and 1 belie\cil it all. TIk-'V said noth-
int^ about Trinity, for it is not found in the Bilde, nor total depravity, or
\ icarious atonement, or particular election or anv of that kind ot
" jargon," and hence I knew nothing' af)out those creed doctrines and
care nothing about thein now. They taught me Bible doctrine in Bible
language, and at my advanced age I wish not to depart from the sim-
plicity of the teachings of the blessed word of life, that is al)le to make
us wise unto salvation. Blessed Bible! Ho\v I love it. My father
was a blacksmith and never refused to work for any man whether he
paid him or not, and in this way lost hundreds of dollars, yet he was
particular to pay his debts to the last cent. His earthly remains cjuietly
sleep in a rural cemetery at Enlield, New York.


There were seven children in my father's family who grew to
manhood, four sons and three daughters. Three of the sons early
entered the Christian ministry and two of them are in it still.
Five of them have taught school, and all of them, early in life, became
active members of tlie Christians. I do not think that one of them ever
drank, or swore a profane oath, had a light, or a law suit, or did a dis-
graceful thing in life, and I attril)ute it, in a great measure, to the influ-
ence of their parents' religious instruction. Have I not reason for being
thankful for such pious parents and good brothers and sisters.^ It may
look vain to some for me to speak so highly of my parents and my
brothers and sisters, l)ut I do it for two reasons : First — I think it is
honestly their due and are as good, if not better than I have said.
Second — I wish to show how much good modest, Christian parents can
do in this world if they have strong faith in God, in Christ, in the Bible
and Christian eff<jrt.

We had neighbors who succeeded in getting this world's goods
much better than our family and \vere able to. give their children a better
education and start in life than we had, and yet I do not remember one
family whose children turned out better than the children of our parents,
poor as they were. '


About the time I left school my mother was called away from the
sorrows of earth, and her four children, to better scenes beyond. This


was a severe trial to us all. It was a coKl ilay in December when we
looked upon her face for the last time and laid the body aw^ay to rest un-
til called to arise. We returned in sailness to our desolate home, won-
deriniif who would care for us now. But as (jod notices the fallintr spar-
row and fei-deth the youn^- ravens when they crv, so His tender care has
been over us mitil the [)resent time. I often visited the ^rave, and
sometimes almost wished 1 was sleeping beside her. And when about
to leave my home antl native land and go among strangers in a distant
State, I said :

" Sleep, dear mother, peaceful be thy rest,

And while the turfy sod sliall ilourish on thy breast,

]May naught disttu-1) tliy peaceful, hallowed sleep

And angels thy sacred ashes keep,

Till time's last trumj) shall bid thy ashes rise,

Leap into life and seize the ininiortal prize."

In after years I wrote a hymn, a tribute to her memory, tliat 1 often
sing, and it will l)e found in its place among my poems in this little vol-
ume. The religious inlluence of my mother had much to do in mould-
ing my early character and winning me to the Savior. In after years
we had a stepmother, w ho tilled the place of my mother very well and
bore four children to our father; all are living l)ut the youngest, Augus-
tus. But the stepmother sleeps as the mother, in the silence of the
tomb, and may we meet both in the land of rest.




About the time I \vas nineteen years of age I found myself an alien
from (iod by wicked works, and without a hope and a Sa\'ior in this
world. So partly from the recollections of my mother's teachings and
the influence of my vSunday school teacher spoken of in a former chapter,
I ^vas induced to seek salvation through Christ's name. I did not wish a
spasmodic kind of religion, quite common in that day, but I did wish a
pure and undetiled kind, which purified the heart, reformed the life and
made good men and women. Somehow 1 got the impression that our
Father above wished us to act just as rational in religious matters as in any-
thing else ; so 1 sought the Lord earnestly in the way He had marked out
and found Him to the joy of my poor heart, and have been glad of it ever
since. And the greatest evidence I had then, or have ever had since, of my
acceptance with Christ, was 1 loved the Lord and loved His people, and
was willing to bear the cross and obey all His commandments to the best of
my ability. 1 immediately took up the cross and began work in my
Master's name and have been at it ever since, and expect to be faithful
until death, that 1 may receive a crow^n of life. Many have doubted
their conversion, but I was not troubled much in that way. for 1 was so
intent on serving Cod and doing my duty that 1 had not nnich time for
doubt and perplexity in that way.

xVfter my conversion 1 commenced an active Christian life and im-
pro\'ed what little talent I possessed in praying, singing and speaking
both in public and private. In the course of a few months 1 united with
the Christians and went forward in the beautiful ordinance of baptism.
A lovely stream wound its way thnjugh meadow and woodland, form-
ing many little eddies or ponds, as thev were called, and in one of
these 1 went down with the man of (jod, and was l)uried beneath the
yielding wave. It was a beautiful morning and all nature smiling and


flowers were hlooinino- and birds sin<>Mii<j^, while I almost iinaifined I
could hear a xoice saying : " "Phis is inv hcloNetl Son in whom 1 am well
pleased." I knew hut little about baptism, l)ut thought it was a eom-
mand of Christ and ought to be ol)eved, whik' lie liad l)een ba])ti/AHl
Ilimst'ir to M't us an example. Someeallcd it a (h)or into the church,
others that it was for the ri'mission of sins, designeil to change our state,
a kind of a linishing uji of a Cln"istian; others thought it was in place
of circumcision ; but 1 did not listen to these conflicting ()[)inions, feel-
ing uu)re interest in the substantial, the real, than in the iiguratixe or *
shadowy. Isaiah sj)eaks of the new moons and solenni leasts, their
sanctimonious rituals, as l)eing an abomination to the Loril, and exhorts
them to put ,;\\a.v the e\ils of their doings, reliexe the o])|)ressed, plead
for the willow and fatherless, and this is the gospel 1 lilied then, and do now.
I was brought up under the inlluence of three ilenominations Method-
ist, Baptist and Presbyterians, and some (^hiakers also. Total elepraxily,
trinity, election and reprobation, and free salvation were the connnon
topics in preaching in those days. 1 belie\eil in jesus, the Messiah, and
free sahation, rejecting the other doctrines. Ilow three co-ecpial and
co-eternal persons couUl be otie God I coukl ne\er see, but belie\ed with
Paid : " Put to us, there is but oiic (iod tlie leather, and one Lord Jesus
Clirist," tile son of this one (jotl. Paul sa^s again : •' One (lod aiul
one Mediatoi- between (jod and man." This coxered all of my theology-
so lar as the l'\ither anil Son \yere concerned and the Holy Spirit which
emanated from these two. 1 ne\'er belieyed that Christ was merely a
man, l)ut far abo\e men lu' angels, the only begotten son of God, the
brightness of t he Fat her's glory and the express image of Ilis person.
1 confini'd m\- language to the Pible expression — Father, Son anil liol\'
Spirit, beliexingthat it was uuich better than to use the uinueaning
words of Ashdod.

As to total depra\il\', 1 could not see how a |)erson could come info
the world just as bad as he could be (totally ilepra\ed) and then grow-
worse and worse as long as he ti\ed ; so I let that pass. I was often
told that we were siiniers •!)>' nature ami uuich uu)re by practice. 1
could see thv practice ])art without glasses, but how one could be a sin-
ner by nature, as sin is an act of disobedience, 1 could not see. As sin
is doing wrong on our part, it follows as clear as a demonstration in
Euclid that we cannot be sinners by nature. .Vlso \ye were told that


Adam's sin was imputed to us. This must i)e a false charge. To im-
pute is to charge, and to charge me with the sin of some one else is a
false charge, and hence imputed sin is imputed nonsense, and an abso-
lute impossibility.

The same may be said of imputed righteousness. We were told that
Christ's righteousness was imputed to His saints, but John says : "He
that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as Cjod is righteous."
This settles this matter, and teaches that every one must be righteous for
himself, and not trust to the righteous doing of somebody else. We
were told that children were lost except the elect. Just how the merits
of Christ could be applied to children, in infancy, nobody knows or ever
will know. Christ says : " Except ye become as little children ye can-
not enter into His kingdom." The theologv of the Bible is what 1 like,
and wish no other.

So when //^/5 people came along calling themselves Christians, just
simply Christians, it is not wonderful that I united with them. They
took the Bible for their guide or creed and told us it was an all-sutlicient
rule of faith and practice. I said to them as Ruth said to Naomi :
" Your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God, where
you live I wish to live, and where you die I wish to die, and there be
buried," and I have never regretted the choice I tlien made. They let
every one read the Bible for themselves, and Christian character was the
test of fellowship — the union of all Christians, for on the Bible all can
unite — God is our Father and we are all brethren. 1 took an active part
in social meetings, but never thought of becoming a minister. And yet,
in the course of a year, I commenced holding meetings in by-places
where the people were destitute of religious privileges. I met with some
opposition from those who professed to belong to' Christ, but 1 went
right along and the Lord was with me, and I think I did some good.




During llic two years of my early life I did not eonsider myself a
iiiiniNter. but xyorked at my trade and held meetin<i;s as best 1 could.


In August of that year tiie Christians, \yhich people I had joined,
held what they called a " s^eneral meeting," t\y() ilays before the session
of the New York Central Christian Ct)nference. at West (iroton, about
twenty miles from my home. Feeling yery anxious to attend it, 1 took

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Online LibraryJohn EllisAutobiography and poems of Eld. John Ellis, traveling minister of the Lord Jesus Christ for over sixty-one years → online text (page 1 of 8)