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of the State, except one on its western boundary, and
penetrated through New-Hampshire to beyond the centre
of Vermont. In 1801, he was appointed to Boston, Lynn,
and Marblehead; 1802, Salisbury and Hawke; the follow-
ing four years, Boston District; 1807, the city of Boston;
1809, he was missionary at large ; then on Boston District
again for four years ; 1813, 1814, Boston city ; the ensuing
two years, Lynn; 1817, Boston District for four years;
the next three years, missionary at large ; 1824, mission-
ary at Newburyport and Gloucester; the next five years,
missionary at large ; 1830, 1831, Easton and Bridgewater ;
1832, Lowell; 1833, Cambridge; 1834, Worcester; 1835,
Marblehead and Salem ; 1836, Charlestown; 1837, Water-
town Mission; 1838, Wafertown and Waltham; 1839,
Roxbury; 1840, 1841, Weston; 1842, Saxonville; 1843,
Church-street, Boston; 1844, 1845, Medford; 1846, North
Reading remarkable record of tireless travels, labours,
and privations, in the work of his Divine Master, during
fifty-seven years! There is a severe and significant elo-



GEOKGE PICKEUING. 26T

quence in this bare recital of names and dates, which no
comments can enhance.

He was a member of every General Conference of the
Church, save two, during forty years. Down to the year
1836 his name had in every instance been placed first on
the New-England delegation. At that session, and also the
one of 1840, it was displaced by the names of the two
principal leaders of the Secession which soon followed.
In 1844 he reappeared in that venerable body ; it was the
last session in his life, and it was his affliction to witness
the deplorable scene of the division of the Church. In
the General Conference of 1808, he was a member of the
committee which first projected a delegated General Con-
ference.

He was emphatically an itinerant. His early habits of
travel clung to him through life. Nine years he spent as
a missionary at large in the Conference a work for which
he was peculiarly fitted and during sixteen years he
travelled extended and laborious districts as a Presiding
Elder.

About three miles from the village of Watertown, Mass.,
is a rural spot of no little landscape beauty, and memorable
in the primitive history of Methodism once the home-
stead of Abraham Bemis. The journals of the early
Methodist preachers abound in allusions to it. Asbury,
Whatcoat, Lee, Hedding, Roberts, &c., used to turn aside
to it, as pilgrims to a shrine or mariners to a favourite
haven. After ascending a winding road from Watertown,
among hills and richly-cultivated farms, the traveller is led,
by a private way, through attractive landscapes, to an un-
pretending but spacious and comfortable mansion, which
stands on the southern side of an amphitheatre of hills.



268 GEORGE riCKEKING.

The enclosed area is about half a mile in diameter, and
presents charming prospects in all directions. The house
was, in the first years of Methodism, embosomed in or-
chards, under which the great men of the Church in that day
preached sermons that made the amphitheatre echo. The
Methodist society of the town was formed here, and Abra-
ham Bemis and his family became its first members.
Hundreds heard the gospel in its power on his premises,
and doubtless many still look down from heaven with glad-
ness upon the memorable spot. His hospitality seemed
only to enhance his prosperity ; his property increased, all
his household and many of his other kindred became mem-
bers of the Church, and the good old saint, who welcomed
the pilgrims of the Lord in the day of their adversity, at
last went to heaven, " triumphant in the faith and hope of
the gospel," at the ripe age of eighty-seven years.

His daughter, Mary Bemis, was received into the Church
when about seventeen years old, and in two years after-
ward became the wife of George Pickering, who at last
inherited the consecrated homestead, and maintained to the
end its old hospitality. We give a finely-engraved pic-
ture of this mansion. It is an historical monument of our
cause.

The marriage of Pickering was in all respects a happy
one. Through his long life, most of it spent in absence as
a travelling preacher, his home was an asylum to which,
at his regular periodical times and at no others, he returned
to find solace and repose from his labours and trials. The
only detraction from its enjoyments was the thought that
so many of his heroic fellow-labourers had no similar shel-
ter for themselves or their families ; with them, however, he
ever wished to share his happiness. His doors were always



GEORGE PICKERING. 269

open to receive them, and many a way-worn prophet has
sent up his evening prayer, and sung a matin hymn of
gratitude beneath his roof.

Many most, indeed of our first Methodist preachers
had to locate for a part of their lives, at least, in order to pro-
vide for their families. Of six hundred and fifty who had
been on the minutes by the end of the last century, five
hundred died in the local ranks, and most of the remainder
had located ; though, on becoming relieved of domestic em-
barrassments, they were able to reenter the itinerancy and
to die in it. George Pickering is one of the few who never
located. His happy marriage, and happy home at Water-
town, relieved him from the sad necessity. Nor did he, as
is often the case, abuse his providential comforts by self-in-
dulgence, by retreating from his post unduly to enjoy them.
His rigour in this respect was one of the characteristic traits
of his life ; it was, perhaps, unparalleled, and, we are inclined
to say, too severe. He never entered his home, as we have
said, except at the assigned periodical times. Only one-
fifth of his married life ten years in fifty were spent
under his own roof! His strictness in this respect reminds
us of the noble, but defective virtue of the old Roman
character. If business called him to the town of his family
residence, at other times than those appropriated to his
domestic visits, he returned to his post of labour without
crossing the threshold of his home. In that terrible calam-
ity which spread gloom over the land the burning of the
steamer Lexington, by night, on Long Island Sound he
lost a beloved daughter. The intensity of the affliction was
not capable of enhancement, yet he stood firmly on his
ministerial watch-tower, though with a bleeding heart,
while his family, but a few miles distant, were frantic with



GEOKGE PICKERING.

anguish. Not till the due time did he return to them ;
when it arrived, he entered his home with a sorrow-
smitten spirit, pressed in silence the hand of his wife,
and, without uttering a word, retired to an adjoining
room, where he spent some hours in solitude and unutter-
able grief.

That home, the scene of so many triumphs of grace, so
much hospitality, and so much happiness, was at last made
memorable as the dying scene of the apostolic veteran
tJie oldest tra/velling Methodist preacher in the world at
the time.* It has been our honour to be a guest within
its walls occasionally ; but our most esteemed privilege of
the kind was to witness the aged preacher's last triumph
there. We rode out to the mansion in company with the
Methodist preachers of Boston. Such was his extreme
feebleness, that visitors, and even audible devotional
exercises, had been almost entirely inadmissible in his
chamber. It was feared, therefore, before our arrival,
that it would be possible only for us to send up to him
the assurance of our Christian regard, without the privi-
lege of a personal interview. At his own request, how-
ever, we were all permitted to approach his bedside.
A scene ensued there which no pen can describe. As it
was impossible for him to address the visitors individually,
one of them was designated to speak to him in behalf of
all ; but under the necessary restriction of doing so in the
briefest possible manner. On taking the hand of the aged
sufferer, he opened his eyes, and showed his recognition of

There were, the last year of his life, but two members of American
Conferences (Ezekiel Cooper and Joshua Wells) who preceded him, and but
fourteen in England ; they had all, however, retired from actual service.
Memorials of Methodism.



GEORGE PICKERING. 271

the brother addressing him, by tears of affection. The fol-
lowing brief conversation ensued :

" Beloved father, a number of your ministerial brethren
are present, and have requested me to express to you their
Christian affection and sympathy."

He replied, with strong emphasis and tears, "I thank
you ; you all have a high place in my affection."

"They are happy to learn that, in this your extremity,
you are still rejoicing in hope of the glory of God."

"Yes! Oyes!"

" That you feel that the sting of death is extracted."

"Yes! Oyes!"

" And that you can resign yourself fully into the hands
of your Lord."

" Yes, O yes ; glory be to his name !"

Grasping the hand of the brother addressing him with
still firmer hold, he then, with tears and sobs, exclaimed :

"You all have my high esteem and affection. Tell, O
tell the brethren to preach Christ and him crucified an
all-able, all-powerful, all-willing, all-ready Saviour a pres-
ent Saviour, sa/ving now. Preach, ' Now is the accepted
time, now is the day of salvation.' O, tell them to preach
holiness : holiness is the principal thing. Preach holiness,
holiness God enable you to preach holiness."

His emotions overcame him he attempted to say more,
but the brother conducting the conversation closed it by
saying :

" "We thank God, dear father, for the good testimony
and counsel we have been permitted to receive from you ;
we shall never forget it. We regret that your condition
will not allow us to linger longer with you ; we take our
leave, to meet you in heaven. God bless you ! Farewell !"



272 GEORGE PICKERING.

The scene was touching and sublime a hoary and heroic
veteran of the cross was standing between both worlds,
about to disappear from his fellow-labourers forever on
earth. Full of years, and virtues, and services, he was
now victorious over death, and giving his departing coun-
sels to his brethren. We broke away from the room, so
near the gate of heaven, with deep emotions, and assem-
bled in the parlour below, where we sung, within reach of
his hearing,

" On Jordan's stormy banks I stand," &o.

After which the company knelt in prayer, and committing
the venerable saint, his family, and ourselves to God, we
returned to the city, thanking God, "who giveth us the
victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ," and feeling that
we had enjoyed a memorable day.

The hero of so many fields died as he had lived victori-
ous. His last distinct utterance was, " All my affairs for
time and eternity are settled. Glory be to God !" And
the last whisper caught by his attendants, was the word
"GLORY!"

George Pickering was a perfect Christian gentleman.
He was neat in his person even to preciseness. He re-
tained, to the end of his life, the plain costume of our first
ministry, and it was always brushed to the last degree of
cleanliness. No man in New-England ever wore less soiled
shoes. His care in these respects was fastidious, to be
sure, but it was characteristic, and if erring, erred on the
right side. In manners he was without ceremony, but
equally exempt from negligence. No one ever saw in
George Pickering a questionable point of manners, in
whatever place or company. He exemplified, as well as



GEORGE PICKERING. 273

any man we ever knew, that best proof of the true gentle-
man, manners without mannerism.

As a preacher he was always brief, direct, very sys-
tematic and perspicuous, and he never failed to close
his remarks with a distinct, powerful, and home-addressed
exhortation. There was a dry, pithy humour playing
through his conversation, and it often darted out in his dis-
courses. We never knew a single instance, however, in
which it became personal sarcasm, or could give pain to
the hearer.

There was much of what was called " the philosopher "
about him. He could not be surprised or thrown off his
guard. His characteristic precision extended to his habits
of diet, of sleeping, and rising. He never spoke but to the
point, and avoided men of many words. He never occu-
pied five minutes at a time in Conference discussions. He
never showed very strong emotions, either of joy or grief.
His life, after taking its designation, kept right onward,
wavering not, faltering not, till he entered the gate of
heaven.

His moral traits were strong and steadfast. He was a
man of faith, of habitual prayer, of decided tenacity for his
Arminian sentiments, of deliberate, unshakable courage,
and of the strictest conscientiousness.

" Such was George Pickering," says one who knew him
well; "pure in character, laborious in life, triumphant in
death." What more need be said of him?

18




*//?24zn(




IT is the object of this article to give a brief sketch of the
life and character of an eminent servant of God, who, dur-
ing more than thirty years' service in the ministry, filled
with honour and success the various stations and offices to
which he was called everywhere winning the affections
of the people, and at all times enjoying the confidence and
esteem of his brethren, till he was suddenly summoned from
his work to his reward.

NOAH LEVTNGS was born in Cheshire County, New-Hamp-
shire, on the 29th of September, 1796. His parents being
in humble circumstances, he was sent from home to earn a
livelihood when about eight or nine years of age. From
that time he shared but few of the joys or advantages of
the parental home. But, even among comparative stran-
gers, the amiableness of his character and the faithfulness
of his service everywhere secured for him friends. His
early advantages for mental improvement were very limited
a source of much regret to him in after life. In his case,
it was a matter of little consequence that the public schools
were poorly supported and poorly conducted ; that text-
books were defective and teachers incompetent. To him,
thirsting for knowledge, yet from very childhood com-
pelled to toil for his daily bread, the few advantages they



2T6 NOAH LIVINGS.

did afford would have been regarded as a boon above all
price.

His early religious impressions were deep and lasting.
But experimental religion was little known at that period
within the circle of his acquaintance. High Calvinism had
begotten its opposite in error Universalism, and the two
opinions were in conflict for the mastery. It could not be
doubtful, (apart from divine interposition,) in an age when
the tone of piety and of morals was emphatically low,
which would have the vantage-ground in the contest. The
one required morality nay, piety, after its kind ; the other
dispensed with both, while at the same time its "policies
of insurance " were issued on the largest scale. In such a
contest, carried on in such an age, the chances were on the
side of the scheme which promised most and required least.
Nor have we any doubt that Universalism would long since
have obtained the mastery in New-England, had not the
fermenting mass been impregnated with the leaven of a
purer faith and a richer experience. Divine Providence
raised up a people to proclaim a free, a present, and a full
salvation ; this, by the new elements of Christian power it
evoked, has proved a check and an anti'dote to the system
of religious licentiousness which was sweeping over the
land like a flood.

At the age of sixteen the subject of our memoir was
apprenticed to a blacksmith in Troy, his parents having
previously removed to that place. When he entered upon
his new situation he formed the resolution to be faithful to
his master, and regard his interests as his own. His morals
were placed in great peril. His master was not religious,
and did not pretend to control him upon the Sabbath ; and
he was led into the company of Sabbath-breakers, and with



NOAH LEVINGS.

them spent much holy time in roaming over the fields and
through the woods adjacent to the city. But his natural
good sense, and the uncorrupted moral principles incul-
cated in early life, soon came to his relief. His parents,
though not professedly pious, had trained their children to
a strict observance of the Christian Sabbath, and now the
moral influence of that early training revived and wrought
his deliverance, as it has that of thousands of young men
similarly exposed.

Breaking away from these associations, he determined
to become a regular attendant upon the worship of God in
some one of the churches. All Churches were alike to
him, for he had not become familiar with the creeds of
any, nor, indeed, scarcely with the peculiarities in their
forms of worship. lie therefore determined upon a circuit
of visitation to the several churches in the city ; and, in
carrying out this design, he first visited the Presbyterian
Church, then under the pastoral charge of Kev. Jonas Coe,
D. D. ; who, he says, " was a good man and an excellent
pastor." He next attended the Baptist Church, where
" good old Mr. "Wayland (the father of President Wayland)
was the minister." Though favourably impressed with the
piety and abilities of both of these servants of God, he
could not feel at home in their congregations. His third
visit was made to the Protestant Episcopal Church, but
there he was wearied with ceremonies too numerous and
complicated to be either interesting or edifying. He next
attended the meeting of the Friends ; but here, instead of
long prayers and tedious ceremonies, he heard nothing at
all ; nor was he loth to leave when the hour was up and
the sign for closing given.

His last visit of inquiry was at the Methodist Episcopal



NOAH LEVINGS.

Church. He found a small house, occupied by a simple,
plain, and solemn people. Their worship, though not im-
posing in its forms, was hearty and sincere. It not a little
surprised him to witness, for the first time in his life, a con-
gregation kneeling down in time of prayer. The convic-
tion was wrought in his mind that this people were the
people of God. Under the ministry of the word, feelings
were awakened which he had known nowhere else ; and
under the powerful reasonings and cogent appeals of the
Rev. P. P. Sandford, the stationed minister, he was often
made to feel that God truly was in that place. But it was
more particularly under the preaching of the Rev. Laban
Clark, who succeeded Mr. Sandford, that he was led to
realize fully his lost condition, and to feel the necessity of
seeking salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. On
one occasion he left the church so overwhelmed with the
consciousness of his guilt and wretchedness, that he almost
bordered upon despair. The struggles of his soul were
deep and powerful ; and in the privacy of his closet he
wrestled and agonized before God. This was long before
he had broken the secret of his heart even to his most inti-
mate friends. He at length unburdened his mind to a
pious young man of his acquaintance. By this young man
he was taken to the prayer-meeting, then held at the house
of Dr. Landon, a man of God now departed to his rest, but
whose memory is like " ointment poured forth." Here the
young inquirer became more perfectly instructed in the
way of salvation by faith, and was also a subject of special
and earnest prayer.

He sought God sincerely and unreservedly : he prayed
earnestly, and with many tears. There was no tie that he
would not sunder, and no sacrifice that he would not make,



NOAH LEVINGS. 279

if necessary, to secure the favour of his offended Lord.
Yet his conversion was less sudden, and less strongly
marked in its character, than that of many others. He
was rather " drawn with the cords of a man and with the
bands of love," than driven by the thunders of the law;
though each had their appropriate influence in leading him
to the Saviour. Nor was the evidence of his change either
sudden or clear. Upon this point he remained for a long
time in a state of most distressing uncertainty. From the
consciousness of guilt he had been delivered ; but the wit-
ness of his adoption was necessary to complete his joy.

It was not till the 5th of June, 1815, that he was enabled
to rejoice in this long-sought blessing. On that day a
day ever memorable in his history as he was returning
from his private devotions, where he had been wrestling
with God for the witness of the Spirit, light broke in
upon his soul, and he could exclaim, " Abba, Father," with
an unwavering tongue. The power of the tempter was
broken ; his doubts were all gone. A divine assurance
the gift of the Holy Spirit reigned in his soul, and filled
him with unspeakable joy. His swelling heart, overflow-
ing with emotion, gave vent to its transports, while he
cried aloud,

"My God is reconciled;

His pard'ning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child ;

I can no longer fear :
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And Father, Abba, Father, cry."

But before obtaining this full assurance he had publicly
dedicated himself to Christ, by uniting with his Church,
and boldly advocating his cause. He joined the Methodist



280 NOAH LEVING8.

Society as a probationer in 1813. The circumstances are
thus related by the venerable minister of God who seems
to have been the principal instrument of his conversion :
One day an apprentice-boy, in his blacksmith's garb, direct
from his labour, called upon him, and made application to
be received into the society. He appeared to be about
sixteen years of age ; was small in stature, bashful in his
address, and the circumstances of his introduction were
peculiar and somewhat disadvantageous. Yet there was
something so unassuming and so winning in his manner, so
sincere and so intelligent in his whole appearance and con-
versation, that a very favourable impression was made
upon the mind of the preacher, and he admitted him as a
probationer ; at the same time giving him encouragement
and counsel. On the following Wednesday night, at their
public prayer-meeting, when the leading members had
prayed, and it was nearly time to dismiss the congregation,
at the close of one of the prayers a youthful voice, whose
feminine tones were scarcely sufficient to fill the church,
was heard some two-thirds down the aisle, leading in
prayer. The prayer was feeling and appropriate, but short
so short as to be, at the longest, comprised within a
minute. As the preacher passed down the aisle, his black-
smith boy stood at the end of the seat, waiting to grasp his
hand with Christian affection. On the next Wednesday
evening, the silvery tones of the same youthful voice were
again heard, near the close of the meeting, leading in its
devotions. At this time he prayed with more fervour,
more compass of thought, and more self-possession ; and
yet his prayer was not more than a minute and a half.
At the close of the meeting, as the official brethren gath-
ered around the preacher, one inquired who that boy was ;



NOAH LEVINGS. 281

another said his forwardness must be checked ; and a third,
that he must be stopped altogether. The preacher simply-
replied, "Now, brethren, let that boy alone, there is
something in him more than you are aware of;" and from
that time no one questioned the right of the young black-
smith boy to officiate in the public prayer-meetings.

Such were the public beginnings of one who in after
years became eminent as a minister of the gospel, distin-
guished alike for the ability and the success with which he
preached " Christ crucified." Even the minister of God
who had cherished him as a lovely and promising youth,
little realized the chain of causes he was setting in motion,
and the results that would grow out of them. He had
gathered a chance jewel from among the cinders of the
blacksmith's shop ; but little did he comprehend the rich-
ness of its value, or the transcendent lustre its polished
surface would assume. So often does God make "the
weak things" of earth praise him, and " the day of small
things" to become glorious before him.

It is remarkable that the two eminent servants of God,
who were mainly instrumental in his conversion, are still
in the effective ranks, enjoying a green old age, cheered,
loved, and honoured by their brethren who have grown up
around them. The next preacher stationed in Troy was
the Rev. Tobias Spicer. To the instructions of this emi-
nently sound and judicious minister, as well as to those
of the Rev. Messrs. Clark and Chichester, the young dis-
ciple was much indebted in his early Christian history.


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Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 19 of 26)