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through the Western and South-western States, he con-
tracted a dysentery from the use of the water on the west-
ern rivers. He reached home very much enfeebled in
health, and for two or three months was unable to resume
his labours. Indeed, for the most of that time he was con-
fined to his house and bed ; and, during some part of it, it
was doubtful whether he would ever be restored again to
health. God, however, graciously raised him up ; and he
was again permitted to go forth to labour in his Master's
vineyard. During this sickness, the writer of this sketch
repeatedly visited him. The seasons of conversation and
of prayer enjoyed at this time will long be remembered.
He possessed the same buoyancy of spirit and sprightliness
that ever characterized him ; nor had his fund of amusing
and instructive anecdote failed. He was indeed himself ;
but he exhibited a maturity of faith and a depth of piety
that seemed to augur a speedy termination of his earthly
pilgrimage. His constitution never recovered fully its
former vigour ; but he was able still to discharge the duties



310 NOAH LEVINGS.

of his office with efficiency through the spring and summer
of 1848.

In the fall of that year the interests of the Bible Society
demanded of him another tour through the South-western
States. He left home with much reluctance, and under
great depression of spirits, having, and expressing, a deep
presentiment of evil. Yet with his usual vigour he prose-
cuted his work ; during the months of October and No-
vember he travelled nearly four thousand miles, visiting
the Tennessee, Memphis, and Mississippi Conferences,
preaching eighteen sermons, and delivering nine addresses.
He was subject to much inconvenience on some parts of
his route, owing to the rainy weather and the bad condition
of the roads. On one route he spent three days and three
nights in a stage, travelling over roads almost impassable.
The last night two of the wheels sunk up to the hub in the
mire, and the coach was nearly overturned. There were
nine grown persons and two children inside, who were
obliged to get out and stand upon the ground, while the
rain was pouring down upon them, till the driver had un-
harnessed one of the horses and ridden half a mile to obtain
a gang of negroes to pry up the carriage. This occupied
nearly two hours. Under such exposures his health began
to fail during the latter part of November. But he perse-
vered in his mission till the 24th of December, when he
preached in the Presbyterian Church in Natchez. This
was his last public discourse.

On the succeeding day he wrote a letter to his family in
New-York. This letter is full of tenderness and affection.
He tells them that he felt it would be wrong longer to with-
hold from them the fact that he was in a very feeble state
of health. In addition to other diseases which had hung



NOAH LEV INGS. 311

about him, he had been subject to several severe attacks
of asthma, involving sympathetically, if not organically,
the action of the heart. His nightly rest was broken and
disturbed, and he was reduced to a great degree of bodily
weakness. He had purposed visiting the Louisiana Con-
ference, but his health would permit him to proceed no
farther. He now only thought of reaching his home, and
had many misgivings whether he should ever accomplish
that. The most expeditious and safe route homeward was
by the way of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers ; and even
this route was not at this time without its difficulties. The
cholera was raging in New-Orleans with great violence, and
every boat that came up numbered a catalogue of victims
on the passage. Those who died by day were secretly car-
ried on shore in the night, and roughly entombed in the
bank of the river. Nor could the sick and dying expect
much attention or care ; and, indeed, the cold and damp
state-rooms of the boats furnished but poor accommoda-
tions for the sick in any case.

With him, however, there seemed no alternative ; and
on the 29th of December he took passage on the steamboat
Memphis for Cincinnati. The boat was six days on her
passage ; she was crowded with passengers, and many
were sick and dying with the cholera. His sufferings on
the voyage were greatly alleviated, and his mind comforted,
by the kind attentions of a Christian brother, Mr. Elisha
Payne, of Madison, Indiana. He also received medical
advice and assistance from a Dr. Sale, who happened to be
a passenger on the boat. It was indeed a gloomy passage,
and he frequently expressed the apprehension that he would
never live to reach his home. This was an object dear to
his heart ; and his highest earthly wish seemed to be that



NOAH LEVINGS.

he might die in the bosom of his family. However, he
was calm and resigned; and, for the most part, retained
his accustomed cheerfulness and buoyancy of spirit.

At length he reached Cincinnati ; and, at the house of
his devoted friends, brother and sister Burton, he found a
welcome home. Ten years before he had been their pastor
in the east ; he had united them in the sacred bonds of
matrimony ; he had been their friend and counsellor in
times of affliction and trial. Their hearts, as well as their
house, were now open to receive him. Like ministering
angels they hovered around him in his last earthly afflic-
tion. Sweet and yet mournful was the task of our brother
and sister ; they performed the last sad offices due to de-
parting worth ; they ministered to his last earthly want,
listened with inexpressible sorrow to his last farewell,
closed his dying eyes, and forsook him not till his dust had
been gathered to its kindred dust. O, there are green
spots upon our earth, where human affection and sympathy
shine forth with heavenly lustre ! Priceless is their value !
It is grateful to record them. The Rev. Mr. Strickland,
one of the agents of the American Bible Society, was also
with him night and day ; and a numerous circle of friends
rejoiced in the opportunity to minister to him in his
affliction.

His sufferings were great, but in the midst of them all
he enjoyed perfect peace ; and signal was his triumph,
through grace, in the last conflict. "When he found that
the great object of earthly desire to see his family once
more in the flesh and to die among his kindred could not
be realized, he only exclaimed, "The will of the Lord be
done." On the Sabbath evening preceding his death,
being asked if he realized strong faith in Christ, he replied,



NOAH LEVING8. 813

" O yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is the strength of my heart,
and my portion forever. I die in the faith of the gospel."
On one occasion, when he was sitting up, brother Burton
placed a large Bible to support his head, that he might
breathe more easily. Observing the letters upon the back,
he exclaimed, "Thou blessed book, lamp to my feet and
light to my path ; thou guide of my youth, directory of my
manhood, and support of my declining years ; how cheer-
less would this world be, were it not for thy divine revela-
tions and Christian experience !" After his will had been
signed, he said, " Thank God, one foot is in Jordan, and I
shall soon cross over." When Bishop Morris reached the
city, and hastened to the bedside of his dying friend, he
said to him, " Thank God that I am permitted to see your
face once more. I am not able to converse much, but I
can still say, ' Glory to God.' " The bishop inquired if he
had any message to send to his brethren of the New- York
Conference. "Tell them," said he, "I die in Christ ; I die
in the hope of the gospel. Tell them I have a firm, un-
shaken confidence in the atoning sacrifice of our Lord
Jesus Christ, as the foundation, and only foundation, of
my hope of eternal life ; and, relying upon that foundation,
all before me is light, and joyful, and glorious." In him
was most gloriously realized the sentiment of the great
apostle : To live is Christ, Imt to die is gain. With a firm
faith in his Redeemer, and an unclouded view of heaven,
he passed in peace and triumph to his everlasting reward.
The last words he uttered were on the occasion of Mr.
Burton's children being presented to receive his dying
blessing. Taking each by the hand, he said, " God bless
the dear children, and make them holy."

Between nine and ten o'clock on the evening of the 9th



314: NOAH LEVINGS.

of January, surrounded by sympathizing, praying Christian
friends, he expired. On the following Thursday his funeral
was attended by a large concourse of people, embracing
many of the clergy in Cincinnati and its vicinity. And,
after an impressive sermon by Bishop Morris, his remains
were deposited in the city cemetery ; but subsequently re-
moved to the Wesleyan Cemetery, where the Young Men's
Bible Society of Cincinnati propose to erect a suitable
monument to his memory. Subsequently, a funeral dis-
course was delivered by Bishop Morris before the New-
York Conference, and was requested for publication by
that body. The preachers' meetings in Cincinnati and
New-York, the Board of Managers of the Young Men's
Bible Society of Cincinnati, and also that of the American
Bible Society, and various other associations, passed reso-
lutions expressive of their high estimate of his character
and worth.

Few men have been more generally beloved within the
sphere of their labours, and few have been more sincerely
lamented in their death, than Dr. Levings. His manner
was affable and winning ; his heart was warm and gener-
ous ; his mind, naturally fertile and lively, and stored with
an inexhaustible fund of anecdote, coupled with a reten-
tive and ready memory, a brilliant imagination, a striking
aptness at comparison, and fine colloquial powers, made
him a most delightful companion in social life. If these
peculiarities of character, strongly marked in him, some-
times made him appear more light and jocose than was
befitting the ministerial office, and especially to age and
superior standing in it, there were at least redeeming con-
siderations to be found in the artlessness and sincerity of
his piety, and the sacred veneration in which he ever held



NOAH I.EVINGS. 315

divine things. He was an almost universal favourite
among his brethren in the ministry. And few ministers
have left behind them, in the congregations where they
have ministered, a larger number of strongly attached
personal friends.

The cast of his mind, it would be inferred from what has
already been said, was not that which grapples with pro-
found truths and evolves mighty thoughts ; but rather that
which would take the popular and practical view of things.
His reasonings generally were of this tone and character ;
and yet his sermons were well digested, and presented clear
and forcible exhibitions of divine truth. His performances
were almost exclusively extemporaneous ; he rarely com-
mitted more than a very brief skeleton to paper. His
mind, however, was a storehouse of facts and illustrations,
and also clear in its perceptions) and tenacious in its reten-
tion of truth. His tongue was like the " pen of a ready
writer;" and he was never at a loss for appropriate lan-
guage in which to give utterance to his thoughts. He
combined, in an unusual degree, close argumentation with
apt and striking illustration and an animated and attractive
delivery. His personal appearance was such as would
naturally make a very good impression, his manner was
self-possessed, the intonations of his voice well managed,
and his gesture easy and appropriate. His preaching ex-
hibited none of those overwhelming strokes of eloquence
which mark the oratory of some distinguished men ; but,
when his energies were aroused and called into action, his
discourses everywhere sparkled with the richest gems.
Indeed, few could hear him at any time without being
pleased, instructed, and even powerfully impressed. But
the highest honour placed upon his ministry was the emi-



316 NOAH LEVINGS.

nent success with which God crowned it, in making him the
instrument of turning multitudes from darkness to light,
and from the power of sin to the service of God.

Such was the man whose history and character are but
inadequately sketched in this paper. He has now ceased
from his labours and gone to his reward. Multitudes had
been blessed by his ministry ; some of whom dear in his
memory had before him entered into rest. Did they not
welcome him to the partnership of their joys on high ? He
has gone to rejoin them, gone to behold again the loved
Martha Ann, " child of his heart," whose sweet spirit
passed away with the summer flowers of 1840. He died
as the Christian minister might wish to die mature in the
graces of the Spirit, fresh from the battle-fields of the cross.
Those who had been blessed by his ministry accompanied
him with prayers and tears down to the brink of Jordan ;
those who had gone before, joyfully welcomed him over.
Thus, in the maturity of his strength and in the height of
his usefulness, a brother has been called away, a standard-
bearer in Israel has fallen.

He was licensed to preach on the 20th day of December,
1817, and died on the 9th of January, 1849 ; consequently,
he sustained the ministerial office a little more than thirty
years. During that time he officiated in eighteen differ-
ent appointments ; preached nearly four thousand sermons ;
dedicated thirty-eight churches ; delivered sixty-five miscel-
laneous addresses ; and, finally, travelled thirty-six thousand
five hundred and thirty-nine miles, and delivered two hun-
dred and seventy-three addresses in behalf of the American
Bible Society. But the best of all was, his life and ministry
were crowned with the divine blessings, and his dying mo-
ments with the divine glory.







sf*



lin.



AT home in his father's house, sick, feverish, and restless,
lies the successful candidate for the highest honour of his
Alma Mater. Esteemed by his instructors, beloved by his
associates, and envied, he has won the prize fairly and hon-
estly. No one questions the righteousness of the verdict
which assigns the valedictory to STEPHEN OLIN. But it is
not for him, and another receives the plaudits of the assem-
bled multitude, while he lies there taking the first slow
draught from the bitter cup of disappointment, pressed so
frequently to his lips in after years.

With an iron constitution, and an indomitable strength
of will, he had disregarded the admonitions of those who
watched over him, allowed himself little respite from his
books, and, grudgingly, very short seasons of relaxation.
Thus he reached the object of his ambition, while sowing
insensibly the seeds of suffering. In his stalwart frame
they have already taken deep root, and are not to be erad-
icated until that corruptible shall have put on incorruption.

One more warning for the youthful student an addi-
tional beacon to be crowded in upon the highway of litera-
ture! It might have been otherwise? Certainly. There
are maxims in the theory of education which, observed,
conduce to the health of the body, and to physical strength,



318 STEPHEN OLIN.

no less certainly than their neglect tends to disease, and
pain, and a premature grave. We can imagine him to
have secured his object without the loss of health ; to have
poured forth in that coveted valedictory a flood of eloquence
which should very nearly have satisfied himself, and more
than justified the expectations of those who even then pre-
dicted for him a large share of political honours and emol-
uments. And what then? Truly there is no answer to that
question. In any event, and under any circumstances,
Stephen Olin would have been a great man ; and it is pos-
sible that from that hour, wafted by the breath of popular
applause, and intoxicated with its incense, his career might
have been onward, until he had almost gratified that bound-
less ambition which, in his own words, "would have bar-
tered a seat in heaven for a seat in Congress."

And lie might have had a seat in Congress. In the lan-
guage of one of his classmates, " Had he been blessed with
health, few men would have been his superiors. His name
would have added new lustre to the splendid catalogue of
Edwards, Marshall, Dwight, Calhoun, and Webster, and
would have obtained a high place in the scroll of fame."
But Christ had more important work for the ambitious
student, and in store for him something better and more
glorious than his own hopes had pictured, or his admiring
friends foretold. He was even then showing him how great
things he must suffer for His name's sake ; giving him
there upon his sick couch to feel the vanity of his aspira-
tions, his first lesson in that science which estimates all
things at their true value, and by diligence in which the
names of its disciples are written, not on the scroll of fame,
but " high up " in the book of life.

At his entrance upon his collegiate course he was seep-



STEPHEN OLIN. 81!)

tical on the subject of Christianity, and so he continued
until near its close. He was not indeed an open and avowed
infidel, nor was he guilty of gross immoralities ; but he was
sarcastic and keenly witty on the subject of experimental
religion. He loved to laugh at the imperfections of pro-
fessing Christians. His laughter was contagious, his face-
tiousness irresistible ; and it was remarked that his was the
only class that passed through college without the conver-
sion of some one of its members. The books which he read,
either as a prescribed duty, or for mental relaxation, tended
to confirm his scepticism, until, in his senior year, the
graceful rhetoric of Paley, and the stern logic of Butler,
took captive his powerful intellect, and compelled him to
admit the truth of revealed religion. But his heart was
unaffected. " I knew," says he, " that I could not prove,
and that nobody had proved the Bible false, or that there
is no hell ; but I had deliberately made up my mind that
I never would trouble myself about it."

And but for that sickness, in all human probability, his
mind would have continued thus " made up." There, he
not only had leisure for reflection, but was compelled to
think. His plans for the future were all deranged; and,
although he did not share in the fears of those who watched
around him that he was about to die, yet were his thoughts
turned upon the grave, and the unknown realms beyond it.
At length the crisis was passed ; and with health somewhat
restored, but with a troubled spirit, in opposition to the
wishes of his father he left his home, journeyed toward a
more genial clime, and took charge of a newly-established
seminary in a sparse settlement in the interior of South
Carolina.

' Does the new teacher open the school with prayer ?"



320 STEPHEN OLIN.

A startling question. It was asked by the parent of one
of his pupils, at a house where the teacher was boarding,
and overheard by him as he sat reading in an adjoining
room. To open the school with prayer! He had not
thought of that as a part of the duty expected from him.
How could he pray ? Owing to a peculiar theory of his
mother's, he had never been taught to repeat eve those
blessed words prescribed by the Lord Jesus. She was a
woman of unquestioned piety, and a member of a Christian
Church ; but her creed taught that none but the regenerated
might approach the throne of grace. How could he pray?
And yet he felt the expectation to be reasonable and right
on the part of those who had committed to his guardianship
the destiny of their little ones. After a severe struggle be-
tween duty and inclination, he resolved to meet their wishes.
He composed and committed to memory a form of words
which, after reading a chapter from the Bible, he repeated,
day after day, in the hearing of his scholars.

A more direct and more disquieting question troubled
him soon afterward. He was at a little prayer-meeting in
the house of a Methodist local minister, where, after others
had engaged in calling upon God, it was asked in a gentle
whisper, " Will the teacher please to pray with us ?" Had
a thunderbolt fallen at his feet it might have startled him
more, but would not have affected him so powerfully, nor
made so deep and lasting an impression. It was like the
still small voice heard by the prophet, when the wind, and
the earthquake, and the fire had passed away, "What
doest thou here, Elijah?" And he, fresh from the land of
the pilgrims, the educated Kew-Englander who had come
among this simple-hearted people to train the minds of
the young immortals committed trustingly to his charge,



STEPHEN OLIN. 321

with his one stale stereotyped form of words, what did he
there there among that little company, met in the great
Master's name to pray?

Of course he declined the invitation ; but the still small
voice followed him, and he had no rest day nor night.
The arrows of the Almighty were within him, the poison
whereof drank up his spirit. For weeks he continued in
agony bordering upon despair. Under the shade of a large
tree, which is still pointed out as Olin's Bethel, the strong
man humbled himself as a little child, and day after day
with cries and tears wrestled with the God of Jacob, and
HE blest him there. The transition was instantaneous, like
the flashing glory of the noon-day sun upon the darkness of
midnight. Old things had passed away behold, all things
had become new.

The following is his own simple and touching statement,
as given in a letter to one of his friends :

" I used to begin each day with prayer in my school ;
and as this was an exercise to which I was pretty much
unaccustomed, I often practised in the woods, to acquire a
propriety of tone and expression. After a little time, I
came to believe myself as sincere as anybody else ; I even
professed myself a Christian. During two or three months
of this sort of life, every day increased my stupidity and
my guilt. All at once, without any visible means, my
callous heart was smitten with such compunction and
agony as I cannot describe. I felt the hand of God upon
me. Sometimes in despair, and always wretched, my
nights were passed in tears and prayers. I dared not dis-
continue my religious exercises in school, and in them my
feelings often rose too high to be concealed. Yet my pride,
and the peculiar circumstances in which I was placed by

21



322 STEPHEN OLIN.

my false pretensions to piety, would not permit me to dis-
close the state of my feelings. I groaned, and prayed, and
wept alone. It was on the 20th of September (1821) that
the blessed Jesus poured the oil and the wine into my
wounded spirit. It was a glorious moment a happy mo-
ment ! I passed from hell to paradise. I was filled with
speechless exultation, and a considerable time elapsed be-
fore I could believe that I was in my right mind. Blessed
be God ! I still feel the sacred flame glowing within me.
Cherish it, O thou Source of everything good and perfect,
till the sin of my heart be consumed, and, a brand plucked
from the burning, my voice shall join with those who cease
not to ascribe glory and dominion to the Lamb that was
slain!"

From that hour all thoughts of worldly greatness died
within him. In his own words, he was " cured of that over-
weening, damning ambition which had blinded his eyes,
and brought him to the brink of ruin." The political
arena, the legislative hall, the ermine of the judiciary
faded from his vision, and his eye was fixed upon that cen-
tral glory of the universe the cross of Christ. In ponder-
ing the question, To what branch of the Church shall 1
attach myself? he asked not, Where shall I meet the most
refined associates, or how may I journey most gracefully
through this wilderness ? " I j oined the Methodist Church,"
he says, "because I believed their doctrines were those of
the Bible, their practice truly Christian. I, however, carried
with me strong prejudices against some of their peculiarities,
and determined, as soon as I could have access to an Epis-
copal Church, to become a member of it, as, on the whole,
more congenial, in principle and practice, with my feelings
and opinions. I was led, however, to examine the matter



BTEPHKX OLIN. 323

seriously and conscientiously, and this examination has
resulted in a full determination to remain in the Methodist
Church. I believe them to be a more humble and a more
holy people. * * * I am sure I can be more useful
among them, and an instrument, I hope, of getting more
souls to heaven. This, with me, decides the matter. The
humiliations, the labours, the poverty, the reproaches, do
not terrify me."

Having settled this question, he never faltered in his


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Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 22 of 26)