Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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teenth year, but did not obtain a satisfactory evidence of
the desired change of heart till about two years after.
From the time she made a profession of religion, she
attended all the means of grace regularly, but ever spoke
of her experience with diffidence and humility, regarding
herself as one of the least and most unworthy of God's
children. Though her piety w r as uniform, and her life
highly < xemplary, she never dealt much in professions of


assurance till after the commencement of her last illness
but then her confidence in God seemed to gather strength
in proportion to the increase of her affliction and prospect
of death.

Her health began, perceptibly, to decline, in the spring
of 1842. Much sympathy was felt for her on the part of
her family and friends generally, and every possible pre-
caution was taken to prevent disease from fixing itself on
her lungs; but in vain. Her health continued, regularly,
to decline. The protracted illness and ultimate death of
her mother, and the mental anxiety consequent thereon,
seemed to lessen her own prospect of recovery ; for never
did mother and daughter love more ardently and con-
stantly than they did. The language of inspired David,
respecting Saul and Jonathan, might well be applied in
their case; they "were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
and in their death they were not divided."

Another circumstance which tended to weigh down her
spirit, and tax her sympathies severely, was the loss of
her interesting little son, Joseph Guest, who, after suffer-
ing much for four months, died July 31, 1842, aged fifteen
months and eight days. When she returned from his
funeral, on the first of August, she took a severe chill,
and was subsequently confined to her bed most of the
time, as she had been partially for months previous.
These successive bereavements, which fell so heavily upon
the family, were too much for her tender sensibilities in a
feeble state of health, and no doubt hastened her own

The last letter which my daughter ever wrote was dated
August 26, 1842, and addressed to myself at Delaware,
Ohio, and was received during the session of the North
Ohio conference, from which the following is an extract:

"My hand shakes so that it is with great difficulty I
can hold my pen. I am very glad to hear you are well,


and arc sustained under your arduous labors. I thank
you kindly for all your letters, and especially for the first
one. ... I have read it many times over, and still it
always interests me. I have been very deeply afflicted
since you left home, as you know. The loss of our dear
little babe was a great trial to me, and for several days
after, I felt as if I could not give him up ; but since that
I feel a sweet resignation to the will of the Lord, and
would not have him back for asking."

When in ordinary health, she wrote an excellent hand;
but the trembling debility apparent on the face of that
letter fixed a deep and painful impression on the father's
already sorrowful heart, because it indicated too clearly
that her feeble constitution was giving way under the
influence of fatal disease.

Returning home September 12th, my worst fears were
fully confirmed. I found her prostrated, and far gone in
pulmonary consumption, but patient and resigned. She
said to me, "I have never felt like murmuring during my
affliction. The Lord has been good to me all my life.
He blessed me wonderfully at the late camp meeting. 1
there enjoyed the preaching much as I heard it while
lying in my chamber. And such singing I never heard
before." In a conversation with me a few days after, she
remarked, "I neither look back nor forward, but live a
day at a time. I am in the hands of the Lord, and am
willing that he should dispose of my case. If I get better
I shall be thankful on account of my family ; but if not,
the Lord will support me to the end."

On the following Sabbath she was exceedingly happy,
and rejoiced aloud, and exhorted her brother not to be
discouraged seeking religion, for he had a kind, all-suffi-
cient, and willing Savior to come to, who was ever ready
to hear the cries of the penitent. The next day she told
her physician she never expected to be much better, but


she was resigned ; for the Lord supported her. She said
it would be a trial to part with her family, but she trusted
the Lord would give her grace to resign them all up
cheerfully into his hands, and it would be no misfortune
for her to go to heaven at any time. When I returned
from the Ohio conference, the first week in October, I
found her still failing under the wasting influence of
cough, chills, fevers, and night sweats, and fully apprised
of her certain approach toward the point of dissolution,
but strong in faith, and joyful through hope in our Lord
Jesus Christ.

Monday, 17th, she said to me, "I am determined to
trust in the Lord, come what will; not that I feel fully
prepared for heaven, but God is able to perfect that which
is lacking, and I believe he will — bless his holy name!"
As I had to leave next morning in the stage, at three
o'clock, for the Indiana conference, I went to her room, at
two o'clock, that I might spend an hour with her. At her
request I prayed with her once more: she was deeply
affected, but rejoiced in spirit. In my absence, the prop-
erty of her father-in-law and husband was destroyed by
fire ; and while the fearful conflagration shed a glare of
light on her chamber window, she thanked God that she
had a more enduring substance beyond the ravages of the
destructive element, "an inheritance which is incorrupti-
ble, undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" and exhorted
those near her to lay up their treasure in heaven.

When I returned from Indiana on the 27th, I found hei
disease greatly increased, and her strength so much re-
duced that she was never after able to sit up any; but she
was still patient and resigned, professing to feel assured
that the Lord cared for her, and that he could and would
sustain her. When her affliction was extremely painful,
she was willing to suffer all the will of God, and would
not dare to ask her sufferings less, and prayed only for


to endure, and grace to support her under them;
and when they were mitigated, she would express much
gratitude to her heavenly Father for a little relief.

The first week in November she finished the distribution
of some small presents among us, which we will ever
regard sacredly as mementos of her affection. In this
affair we were struck with the appropriateness of the
selection for her children. To her little daughter she
presented a small Polyglot Bible, which she had been in
the habit of reading from the days of her youth ; and to
her little son, the younger of the two, she gave the pocket
Testament, handsomely bound in morocco, with a tuck,
which she had received as a gift from her father when she
was a child, still in a good state of preservation. These
presents were attended with suitable advice to the children.
May they be thereby influenced to follow their mother as
she followed Christ !

Sabbath afternoon, November 13, when I returned from
Church, she said to me, "Pa, this has been a blessed
Sabbath to me ; I have enjoyed a sweet foretaste of that
Sabbath which never ends. I was in a struggle all night
and ail morning for a blessing, and got rather discouraged,
but it occurred to me, the Lord could bless me here on a
sick bed as well as if I was m the church: I prayed earn-
estly, and he did bless me in a wonderful manner. I never
felt so happy in all my life. I felt that I could endure all
my sufferings cheerfully, and that I should be a conqueror
in death, through the blood of the Lamb. I used to feel
so unworthy I scarcely dared to call myself a follower of
Christ, but he has forgiven me all, and I think I shall
never again be tempted to distrust him. He will support
me to the end."

Thursday, 17th, being just six months from the day her
mother died, she made this remark to me in the evening:
"Pa, I have been thinking, to-day, what a happy meeting


I should soon have with Ma, where we shall range the
blest fields together, and on the banks of the river shout
halleluiah forever and ever. O what a blessed thing to
be free from all suffering and sorrow! and, best of all, to
see Jesus as he is, and praise him as we ought!"

Wednesday, 23d, she spoke of feeling discouraged,
lest, under affliction so severe and protracted, she might
become impatient and lose her fortitude, though we saw
no indication of it, and if we had, knowing how much
she endured, it would not have surprised us at all ; but
next evening, while a pious and favorite sister conversed
and prayed with her, she felt relieved in mind, and spoke
to this effect : "I feel now somewhat encouraged. Thank
the Lord for a little reviving ! Jesus is the sinner's friend.
He was made perfect through suffering. He has sup-
ported me in my affliction, and he can support me to the
end. All I ask is triumph in death, and trust he will give
it to me. I can give up the world ; yea, and my family,
for though they will feel lonely after I leave them, the
Lord can provide for and comfort them. I should rejoice
to be released at any moment, even this night, if it is the
will of God ; but I will try to wait patiently his time, and
then the heaven of rest where there is no more suffer-

The next Saturday evening she said to us, "I rest in
the hands of God. I should be thankful to him if he
would release me, but I wait his time." She then prayed
most fervently, for some two minutes, sufficiently loud to
be distinctly heard by all in the room. In that prayer,
the blood of Christ was made the sole ground of her con-
fidence in the mercy of God ; and the tenor of the petition
was for full sanctification, and supporting grace to the end.

Sabbath morning, 27th, there appeared to be a general
inflammation of the interior of the chest, attended with
extreme pain, and such a diseased state of the throat as


to prevent her receiving- any nourishment, or even cold
water, and threatened speedy dissolution. In this ex-
tremity, she exclaimed, "Bless the Lord! I feel that I
have nothing- to fear; if I die this day all will be well
witib me, and I can cheerfully give up my family into his
hands." During the day she said to her mother-in-law,
"This is the last Sabbath I shall spend on earth, but I
shall soon enjoy a Sabbath that never ends. Yes, mother,
and I am not going to a land of strangers;" and then
named many of her departed friends whom she expected
to meet, including her own mother and infant son. Most
of the day she was under the influence of languor and
drowsiness ; but when a particular friend called to see her,
in the afternoon, she roused up a little, and said to her,
"Sweet heaven, my happy home, I shall soon be there."
A pleasant smile came over her emaciated countenance ;
she raised her hand and exclaimed, "Then I shall be
free !"

On Monday, she had several paroxysms of strangula-
tion, in which we thought her in immediate danger of
dying. While we were silently waiting the next paroxysm
to come and hurry her into eternity, she calmly remarked,
"I know not that I shall be allowed the privilege of speak-
ing in my last moments, but I wish it understood that I am
perfectly safe ; that God does and will accept me, not for
any worthiness of my own, but for Christ's sake, and will
save me with an everlasting salvation in heaven." She
then called her husband to her, and with many expres-
sions of love and gratitude for his uniform kindness, and
especially for waiting on her so faithfully and cheerfully
in her sickness, took leave of him, adding her blessing
upon and commending him to God. Next she called her
father, and spoke to him in like manner. Then her
mother-in-law, pouring out a full heart of grateful affec-
tion upon her, and then another sister whom she loved


much, giving to each such blessings and words of encour-
agement as suited our respective cases. Amid the sobs
and tears of that solemn and moving occasion, the sufferer
was the only one who appeared to be perfectly self-pos-
sessed, requesting us, several times, not to weep for her,
as we should soon meet again, where all tears are wiped
away. She then proceeded to name her little children,
and all the absent members of the two families, prayed
for and pronounced a blessing upon them severally ; and
added, "Give my love to all my friends, and tell them I
am gone to heaven." Next she spoke of her funeral with
great composure and deep humility, and said, "I wish no
display, only a plain little funeral here at the house ; and
let brother Young [her own pastor] make a few remarks,
as he may think proper." She then subjoined, " My work
is done ; I have nothing more but to wait the will of God.
1 Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' " But after a short pause,
she again recollected her absent brother, and made his a
special case. Addressing herself to me, she said, " Be sure
to send a great deal of love to my dear brother, and tell
him his sister is gone to heaven, and hopes to meet him
there. Tell him I know there is a blest reality in religion,
for it has sustained me under all my sufferings, and now
cheers me in death. I should be glad to see him once more
in the flesh, but trust I shall see him in a better world."
About five o'clock that evening she passed through
another extreme paroxysm of coughing and strangling, in
which we fully expected she would expire ; but at last she
revived so as to speak, and said, "Jesus is with me ! Jesus
is with me! Jesus is with me ! Death has no sting; the
grave has no victory ! I have the victory through Jesus
Christ, and I view the grave as a sweet resting-place for
my body, while my blood-washed soul will rest in para-
dise !" After she was composed, she addressed her hus-
band, of whose class she was a member, and said, "Don't


forget to tell my classmates farewell! and tell them,
though I can not be permitted to meet with them again in
this world, I hope to meet them all in a better!"

Her ill turns continued, at Irregular intervals, through
that night and the next day. In an unusually-severe
paroxysm, which occurred on Tuesday evening, about
five o'clock, she appeared to be beyond all hope of living-
through it, and the family were called in to witness her
departure. She, however, revived again, after a very
long and painful struggle ; and the first words she uttered
were a recital of the beautiful verse,

" Yonder 's my house and portion fair,
My treasure and my heart are there,

And my abiding home :
For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,
And Jesus bids me come."

The longest and hardest struggle of the kind occurred
the same evening, at half-past six o'clock, and continued
till we really believed her spirit was in the act of depart-
ing, insomuch that, when she finally recovered, it appeared
similar to a resurrection from the dead. If it were in my
power to give the reader a just idea of that agonizing and
heart-rending scene, I would not inflict it upon him ; and
if it were practicable, would obliterate the recollection of
it from my own mind. At the commencement of each
of these attacks, she expected her release, and with much
apparent reluctance returned again to life, praying most
earnestly to be set free. Indeed, her disappointment
in not obtaining her final deliverance when expected, was
the most difficult thing to be reconciled to that occurred
during her whole affliction ; but grace w r as afforded to
secure the victory even over this. At one time she
remarked, "You thought I should have got home before
now ; but I feared the news was too good to be true.


However, I must Avait patiently the Lord's time." Again
she referred to the subject in these words, "I will not
calculate as to the time of my departure, but wait the
days of my appointed time. I would be the Lord's every
minute, living or dying."

The last-named paroxysm so prostrated her strength,
and was followed by such languor, that she was never
after able to hold a regular conversation, though she lin-
gered till next morning, Wednesday, November 30th, at a
quarter past eight o'clock, speaking a few words occasion-
ally of her friends and of the goodness of God, and fre-
quently repeating the prayer, "Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit!" but the bitterness of death was passed. Though
she had suffered long and much, God, in great mercy,
granted her oft-repeated request at last, for a quick and
easy passage over the Jordan of death. Less than two
minutes before her exit, she spoke rationally and dis-
tinctly; and then, without a single groan, or any distor-
tion of the features, or any struggle whatever, calmly and
sweetly slept in Jesus.


The late Bishop Roberts was a man whose memory
deserves to be perpetuated: "the righteous shall be in
everlasting remembrance." That he bore the infirmities
of fallen human nature is admitted ; and with all my con-
fessed partiality for his character, it is not pretended that
he had no faults ; but I am safe in saying, they were as
few and harmless as those of any other minister of Christ
with whose acquaintance I have ever been favored. For
more than fifty years he was a consistent professor of
religion, during which time he exerted an extensive and


salutary influence, by precept and example, in favor of
experimental and practical godliness. His name is still
precious in the memory of many who knew his various
personal excellences, and the value of his protracted public
service as a minister of the Gospel; so that he being dead
vrt speaketh.

In contemplating the history of his life, one is forcibly
reminded of the wisdom and goodness of God in the se-
lection and training of human instruments to execute the
benevolent purposes of his providence and grace. Con-
sidering the age and country in which he lived, and the
peculiar work in which he was called to act so distinguished
a part, there was not a man in a million that could have
filled his place as he filled it. The enterprise in which he
was unceasingly engaged for more than forty years was,
"to spread Scripture holiness over these lands." The
means employed to accomplish that object were various,
such as circulating Bibles and religious works; but the
most prominent of means in that labor of love was the
Christian ministry of itinerants, interchanging pastors,
acting on aggressive missionary principles, who, instead
of waiting to be called by the people, went out into the
highways of sin, and called the people to repentance,
faith, and Gospel obedience, with a confidence and force
of authority that almost compelled them to come to the
Gospel supper. This work, of course, subjected Method-
ist ministers in early times to much toil and peril, much
privation and hardship, not only in following the emigrant
to his retreat in the western wilderness, without the ad-
vantage of roads or bridges, or any suitable accommoda-
tion, but also in carrying the Gospel to neglected districts
in older sections of the country, and the suburbs of cities,
to seek the lost, and bring them to the saving knowledge
of the truth. For such a work Bishop Roberts and his
early coadjutors received a training which was of more


importance to them than that which could have been
acquired in the shade of a college. The) r had the ad-
vantage of being hardy pioneers, plain, matter-of-fact,
common-sense men, not easily discouraged, because they
knew their cause was good, and especially because they
had confidence in Him who had sent them into all the
world to preach the Gospel to every creature, with the
promise that he would be with them and bless his own

As to himself, Bishop Roberts was the son of a plain
farmer in very limited circumstances, who taught him
from childhood the wholesome lessons of industry and
economy. His father's family observed the simple modes
of life common to people in new countries the latter part of
the last century. They resided in Ligonier Valley, Penn.,
to which place they removed from Frederick county, Md.,
when the subject of this notice was yet a child. He had
no early literary advantages beyond those of common-
school education; but his pious mother not only taught
him religious duty, but excited in him ardent desires for
useful knowledge; and being naturally possessed of a
vigorous mind, and apt to learn, he obtained a respectable
know T ledo-e of books, as well as of men and things in
practical life generally. His habits, formed in clearing
up forests and cultivating the soil, first in Ligonier and
subsequently in Chenango — a still newer part of the
country — where he acquired the elements of a pioneer
and hunter, were of great use to him in after life. They
secured to him a firm constitution, which evinced much
power of endurance, and such principles of economy and
independence, that the real wants of life with him were
few and simple, w r hile its luxuries were lost sight of, or
dispensed with altogether without serious inconvenience.

He appeared to be piously disposed from his childhood,
but became decidedly religious in his fourteenth year,


being then Scripturally converted. About the same time
he was appointed by the minister whose circuit included
his father's residence, to catechise the children of the
neighborhood: such was the confidence which his pastor
had in his sincerity and discretion. From that time for-
ward young Roberts was justly regarded as an example
for the youth of the country where he was known. In
early life he was strongly impressed that a dispensation of
the Gospel would be committed to him ; but his uncom-
mon diffidence and fearful sense of responsibility, were
ample security against any danger of entering the ministry
prematurely. The time which intervened between his first
conviction of duty to preach and his actively engaging in
the ministry was not lost, as he applied himself to the
study of theology and other necessary means of prepara-
tion ; so that when he began, his pulpit performances were
from the first both popular and useful. He possessed by
nature the elements of an orator — an imposing person, a
clear, methodical mind, a ready utterance, a full-toned,
melodious voice ; and when to all these were added an
ardent love of souls and an unction from heaven, he, of
course, became a powerful preacher. He did not aim,
however, at display, but at usefulness; and, therefore,
commanded the more respect and confidence as an able
minister of the New Testament.

The first years of his ministry were spent on circuits in
the west; but his worth became known to the Church,
and he was removed to the eastern cities, where he soon
acquired a reputation which rendered his name familiar
to thousands who had never seen him. After filling his
regular terms of service in Baltimore and Philadelphia, he
was appointed presiding elder on Schuylkill district, em-
bracing the latter city, which brought him into constant
intercourse with numerous ministers and their congrega-
tions on popular occasions, thus affording him a broad


surface over which to exert his salutary influence. At
the next session of the Philadelphia conference, there
being no bishop present, the rule required the conference
to elect by ballot a President pro tempore from among the
presiding elders ; and though the youngest of the board,
he was chosen. While performing the duties of President,
delegates from the northern conferences, on their way to
General conference in Baltimore, called in; and, after
witnessing the dignity, discretion, and promptness with
which he presided, they concurred with the delegates of
his own conference, that he was one of the men they
needed in the Episcopal office; and he was accordingly
elected and set apart for that responsible work, in May,
1816. Thus, in about sixteen years, he rose from the
obscurity of a western circuit preacher, on trial, to the
highest office in the gift of the General conference, and
became one of the joint general superintendents of the
whole connection throughout the United States and terri-
tories. In this office of high trust and hard labor he
continued twenty-seven years — then ceased at once to
work and live.

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 16 of 30)