Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

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

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During his superintendency, he peregrinated the entire
country, from Michigan to Florida, and from Maine to
Louisiana, and even the Indian countries west of Missouri
and Arkansas ; and though unwieldy in person, most of
his journeying was performed on horseback, as very little
of it could then be accomplished by any other mode of
conveyance. The last twenty-four years of his life he
hailed from South Indiana, a tolerably-central position to
the whole field. From that point he diverged in all direc-
tions, "every- where preaching the word," and superintend-
ing the general work. In the performance of his official
duties he seemed to take no account of toil or fatigue,
poverty or hunger, suffering or peril ; always patient and
pleasant, he moved as a burning and shining light amid


thousands of ministers and hundreds of thousands of
Church members in the spirit of a true evangelist, re-
garded by all as an affectionate father in Christ, and a
-wise ruler in the Churches. Among his official duties
were, presiding in the conferences, ordaining deacons and
elders, arranging districts and circuits, and, last, though
not least, stationing the effective traveling ministers, than
which nothing requires more care, more discretion, or
more independence; and yet it is believed that no one
ever performed those various and responsible duties with
more judgment and propriety, or less censure, than did
Bishop Roberts.

In person he was not above ordinary hight, but broad
set, and of corpulent habit ; so that in the full vigor of
life, his weight was probably not far from two hundred
and fifty pounds. The features of his face were large
and manly rather than elegant, and its general expression
was frank and agreeable. That his commanding person
and forcible utterance were of service to him as a presid-
ing officer, must be admitted; yet he possessed other
qualifications still more essential. His well-developed
faculty of common sense, tempered by mildness of dispo-
sition, and uniformly regulated in its exercise by Christian
courtesy, gave him uncommon influence over deliberative
bodies. He was not careful about technical niceties; his
usual manner in the chair, as well as out of it, indicated
more of the patriarch than the prelate, more of the frater-
nal friend than of the officer. Still he never failed to mag-
nify his office when it became necessary to maintain order.
In several instances, when the members of conference were
strongly excited, and the floods of passion began to lift
up themselves, he has been known to assume as much
authority as would suffice to command a British war-ship
engaged in battle, till order was restored, and then to
ease the conference off from its agitation by a few gentle



remarks, illustrated by reciting an amusing incident, so as
to turn all into pleasantry in a few moments.

His manners were unexceptionable, combining the ease
and gracefulness of a finished gentleman with the sim-
plicity of a plain, Christian farmer. He was apparently
as much at ease while dining with the Governor, as when
surrounding the simple board of his pious friends in a log-
cabin. The Christian simplicity which pervaded his early
home, was never corrupted by ecclesiastical honors. In
1837 the writer, then the junior colleague of Bishop Rob-
erts, had the pleasure of sojourning a few days at his
unpretending residence in Indiana, where, free from all
needless ceremonies, I enjoyed the substantiate of life,
served up by the hands of his consort, and mingled with
much social pleasure. Indeed, the intellectual repast
furnished by his godly conversation, spiced with numer-
ous incidents connected with the introduction and progress
of Methodism in this country, and especially in the west,
would scarcely allow one to bestow a thought on his
apartments or table. As a religious friend and social
companion, no one excelled him. One thing observed
with approval was, whoever else was present to enjoy his
society, his wife always shared in his attentions, never
failing to address parts of his conversation to her. He
called her Betsy, and she called him Robert; and thus,
by the plainness of their habitation and conversation, their
guest was frequently reminded of the history of Abraham
and Sarah, dwelling in tents with the heirs of promise.
Xow, certainly, he who could feel alike at home in the
pulpit of an eastern city, and in the open stand at a
western camp meeting, in the chair of General conference,
deciding questions of order, and in an Indian's camp,
talking about Jesus and heaven, and who could render
himself both pleasant and useful to others in each of those
positions, must have been a man combining in himself the


most desirable elements of character. Such was the case
of Bishop Roberts. When his earthly pilgrimage termin-
ated, what King David said of Abner might have been
truly applied to him, though in a higher and better sense :
"Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man
fallen this day in Israel?" 2 Sam. iii, 38.

The most prominently-developed trait in his character,
however, was meekness. Nothing is risked in saving he

o Jo

was the most unpretending man I ever knew of his im-
portance in society. No official authority, no personal
popularity, ever induced him for a moment to think more
highly of himself than he should have done. On the
contrary, all his movements indicated, without any volun-
tary humility, that he undervalued his real worth. Every
one by him was preferred to himself. He ever looked to
the accommodation of others, at the expense of his own.
Nothing but grace imparting to him a lively sense of
responsibility, in view of the claims of God and souls, it is
believed, could ever have overcome his excessive modesty
and diffidence in the performance of his various public du-
ties. One-fourth of the well-authenticated incidents of his
life, bearing on this point of his history, would abundantly
establish its truth. Only one need be recited. In 1836,
when he had been bishop twenty years, and was the senior
in that office, he deliberately, and in good faith, tendered
his resignation to the General conference, simply because,
in his own estimate of himself, his qualifications for the
office, small at best, would soon be so diminished by the
infirmities of age, that he could not be safely intrusted
with it. No member of that vast body, however, enter-
tained the same opinion of him that he did of himself;
and, to his great mortification and disappointment, no one
moved to accept his resignation, and he bore his official
honors as a cross to the end of life, which was calm and
peaceful. His dust slumbers beneath a plain monument


near the Indiana Asbury University at Greencastle, where
the surviving, but now infirm partner of his earthly joys
and sorrows still lingers on the shores of time.



By request of the ISTew York conference, at its session
in Poughkeepsie, May, 1849, I preached before that body
a funeral sermon on the death of Dr. Levings, which, by
subsequent request of the conference, was published in
pamphlet form. At the close of that discourse I read the
following sketch:

Of 'the early history of this distinguished brother we
have no knowledge. It appears, from the official Minutes,
that he was received, as a traveling preacher, in the New
York conference in the year 1818, and had been, at the
time of his death, a traveling preacher nearly thirty-one
years. His ministerial labors were extensive, and highly
appreciated. With his brethren he soon became a favor-
ite. He was generally and favorably known in the east.
Subsequently his position in General conference enabled
him to form an acquaintance with our leading men in
most or all of the conferences in our extended connection,
all of whom became his friends. He was also much
esteemed by other Churches. When Bishop Janes was
elected general superintendent, in 1844, and, consequently,
had to resign his office as Financial Secretary of the
American Bible Society, Dr. Levings was immediately
chosen by the Society as his successor, in which office he
continued serving the Society acceptably till his decease.
In his office as Bible Secretary, he sustained the same
relation to all the evangelical Churches, and, indeed, to


all true friends of that noble institution, the American
Bible Society, and its auxiliaries. Of course his duties
called him much from home, and required very extensive
travel ; but he cheerfully made the sacrifice for the cause
he loved so dearly.

Dr. Levings left his home, in New York, October 11,
1848, solemnly impressed he should return no more. So
deep was that impression, as he informed a friend, that he
rode to the boat weeping, and continued to weep till he
felt embarrassed. Still duty called, and he felt bound to
go. He passed through Baltimore, Pittsburg, and Cin-
cinnati, every-where preaching the word. The Sabbath
he spent in Cincinnati he j /cached at Morris Chapel, in
the morning, the most moving sermon I ever heard him
deliver; and it is believed the discourse he delivered in
Wesley Chapel that evening will not be soon forgotten.
On Monday he left for Clarksville, Tennessee, the seat of
the Tennessee conference, where he arrived October 26th;
thence to Memphis conference at Aberdeen, which place
he reached November 17th, after a most fatiguing jour-
ney. On the 28th he had a distressing attack of asthma,
and on the 29th was very ill with palpitation of the heart.
December 4th he left for Jackson, Mississippi, and arrived
there on the 8th, after traveling over rough roads and
dismal swamps ; thence to Vicksburg, the seat of the
Mississippi conference, where he was indisposed, took
medicine, and was cupped ; but, notwithstanding his fee-
ble condition, he delivered an address the same evening,
and next day, being Sabbath, he preached. Thus was he
constantlv en^a^ed вАФ journeying, addressing conferences,
Bible meetings, and public assemblies. It appears, from
his diary, that on his last tour he preached eighteen ser-
mons, delivered nine public addresses, and traveled, I
presume, not less than four thousand miles, partly in
stages, over difficult roads. Such exertions and expo-


sures, amid the heavy rains of the south-west, during the
months of November and December, were too great for
his enfeebled constitution to endure. From Vicksburg he
proceeded to Natchez, where he preached his last sermon,
in the Presbyterian church, probably on Sabbath, Decem-
ber 24th. His entry on the 25th was in these words: "A
day of great feebleness of body. Wrote a melancholy
letter home, but wrote as I felt ; it will give some pain to
my dear family." That letter probably communicated his
dying charge to his now sorrowful widow and orphan
sons. On the 26th he wrote in his day-book, "Still weak,
but more cheerful." Having despaired of accomplishing
the balance of his intended tour southward, he turned his
thoughts toward home, and left Natchez December 27th,
in the steamboat Memphis, bound upward, on board of
which several deaths occurred by cholera, two the first
night after he went aboard. His entry of 28th was, "On
the Mississippi, in much feebleness of body, but in peace
of mind. Thank the Lord, have hope of seeing home."
On the 29th he wrote thus: "On the river. One more
poor fellow, an Englishman, found a grave on the bank
last night." This was his last entry, and, probably, the
last he wrote, except to sign his last will and testament.
He remained on that boat till she reached Cincinnati, in
all eight days, with declining health. The boat was much
crowded, had many sick, and some dying ; so that a lone
stranger, in his prostrated condition, and unable to help
himself, had poor prospect of much comfort under such
circumstances ; though we are informed that some fellow-
passengers rendered him what aid they could.

Dr. Levings arrived in Cincinnati on the third of Jan-
uary, and was conveyed to the residence of Mr. S. H.
Burton, one of the Doctor's devoted personal friends, with
whom he usually made his home while in the city, and
where he received every possible attention, day and night,


from Mr. Burton and his family, from two respectable
physicians, Drs. Mendenhall and Woodward, and from
our Bible agent, the Rev. W. P. Strickland, and oilier
brethren, till his sufferings terminated. But neither kind
attentions, medical skill, nor the prayers of his numerous
friends, could stay the work of death. He expired Tues-
day evening, January 9th, seventeen minutes past nine
o'clock, aged about fifty-two years.

Though there is sadness in the thought of dying in a
strange city, far removed from one's family and home,
yet in the case before us there is much to relieve that
sadness. Doctor Levings complained of nothing much
but debility and labored respiration. Though he had
some diarrhea, his disease was chiefly congestion of the
lungs. He suffered no extreme pain, had no convulsive
agony, nor severe paroxysm of any kind ; but gradually
sunk away without any struggle, till the weary wheels of
life stood still. He also had communion with Christian
friends, who felt deeply interested in his welfare, and
attended faithfully to his spiritual wants. They likewise
cheerfully aided him in adjusting, to his satisfaction, all
temporal matters which rested with any weight on his
mind, both as regarded his domestic affairs and his official
business, which being done, his mind was perfectly at

The best of all, however, was, his religious preparation
for death appeared to be complete, so that he was per-
fectly resigned to the will of God, and cheerfully yielded
up all into his hands. No expression of dissatisfaction
with being afflicted, or separated from his family, or dying
from home, escaped his lips. Though fully apprised of
his real condition, as understood by physicians and
friends, he remained cheerful and happy to the last hour,
patiently waiting his final release. His was a triumph
indeed; not of human philosophy, but of grace. As

224: M I SO E L L A N Y .

might be expected of one who had devoted most of his
life to the service of God, that he would be peaceful and
happy in his last hours, so it was, in an eminent degree,
with our beloved brother deceased. Most beautifully and
thrillingly did he discourse to his friends of the love of
God in Christ, of sustaining grace, of Christian triumph,
and of bright and cheering hopes that animated him while
entering ''the valley of the shadow of death." Most of
the particulars of his last hours were reported by Rev.
W. P. Strickland, a brother who, being intimately asso-
ciated with Dr. Levings, both by official relation and per-
sonal friendship, remained with him after he reached the
city, day and night, to the closing scene.

On Saturday night and Sabbath morning, when, per-
haps, passing the crisis of disease, the Doctor experienced
great restlessness ; but subsequently, when informed that
his request for the prayers of the congregations at Ninth-
street and Wesley had been attended to, and that numer-
ous friends were interested for him, he replied, "To that
I attribute my present composure and peace." Being
asked if he realized strong faith in Christ, his answer
was, " yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is the strength of my
heart, and my portion forever. I die in no other faith
than the faith of the Gospel, and that as taught by the
Methodist Episcopal Church." On one occasion, while
sitting up and leaning against the bed, Mr. Burton placed
a large Bible to support his head, that he might breathe
easily, when, fixing his eye on the title, as printed on the
back of the cover, he exclaimed, " thou blessed book,
thou 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 cheerless would this world be were
it not for thy divine revelations and Christian experience !"
At another time he said, "Pray for me, my dear breth-
ren, that I may have strong faith for the hour of trial.


My religious states have been adjusted to a life of health
more than one of sickness, but God my Redeemer will
order all things well." Soon after he observed, "I have
been sifting the motives of my entire life down to the
very bottom, and can not discover any thing there that,
dying, I would wish otherwise ; but imperfections, my
imperfections! I have nothing whereon to rely but the
merits of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I feel he
died for me." On Monday his w T ill was written, as dic-
tated by himself, and after signing it he exclaimed,
"Thank God, one foot is in Jordan, and I shall soon cross
over." Monday night his symptoms became worse, and
he continued to fail rapidly from that time to the last

On Tuesday afternoon, about seven hours before his
death, your speaker, having just returned from the coun-
try, obtained an interview with him. After receiving a
tonic, which temporarily revived him, he said to me,
"Thank God that I am permitted to see your face in the
flesh once more ! I am not able to converse much, but I
can still say, Glory to God!" My first inquiry was,
whether he felt his way clear before him, to which he
answered, "All clear; I have a clear sky." The second
and last question proposed by me was, "If I live to meet
the New York conference next spring, when your name is
called, what shall I say to the brethren?" He replied,
with perfect self-possession, and with a serene and peace-
ful countenance, "Tell them I die in Christ; I die in the
hope of the Gospel: tell them I have a firm, unshaken
confidence in the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus
Christ as the foundation, and only foundation, of my hope
of eternal life; and, relying on that foundation, all before
me is light, and joyful, and glorious." At the close of a
short prayer then offered, as we kneeled round his bed, that
he might be favored with a safe and easy passage to the


promised rest in heaven, he responded, "Amen, amen,
amen; glory to God!" Subsequently lie conversed but
little. Being- asked if he wanted any thing, he replied,
"The will of the Lord be done!" When brother Strick-
land asked him, in the evening, if he wished to say any
thing to him, he only said, "Live for God!" His last
words, uttered when Mr. Burton's little children came
in to see him, before they retired for the night, were,
"God bless the little children, and make them holy!"
Thus he died, as Jesus lived, blessing little children, and
thereby evinced that he retained the spirit of his Gospel
mission to the latest moment of life.

On the morning of Thursday, 11th of January, the
corpse was conveyed into Wesley Chapel, where a solemn
funeral service was performed ; thence to the public vault
of the old Methodist burying-ground in the city, attended
by his ministerial brethren, Christian friends, and fellow-
citizens, where he was deposited in safety, to await the
order of his family. After the arrival of his son, his
remains w r ere interred in the new Wesleyan cemetery, four
miles north of Cincinnati. The body was inclosed in a
handsome coffin, with a silver breastplate, on which his
name was engraved. The Young Men's Bible Society of
Cincinnati have resolved to erect over him a suitable mon-
ument, which shall designate to his surviving friends, in
coming years, the last resting-place on earth of our
deceased brother. We name these items for the satisfac-
tion of his personal friends remote from the scene of his

Dr. Levings was an agreeable man, of tine personal
appearance, excellent social habits, superior conversational
powers, and sterling moral worth. He possessed a vigor-
ous mind, w r ell trained in the principles of theology and
duties of the ministerial office, and a heart richly endued
with heavenly grace. His elocution was at once easy and


forcible; his pulpit discourses abounded with appropriate
Scripture authorities, and were attended -with an unction
from the Holy One, rendering him an able and successful
minister of the new covenant. As such, he filled many
important positions in the Church, with credit to himself
and usefulness among the people. He rests from his
labors, and his works do follow him.

The news of his death spread a gloom over Cincinnati ;
how much more over his own adopted city, New York!
When the telegraph dispatch announced the sad tidings
of his decease, who could imagine the sensation produced
in his desolated home ; in the Bible-House, the scene of
his late official action; in the numerous churches where
he had so impressively held forth the word of life ; and,
indeed, throughout our extended Zion ! But, on the other
hand, who could conceive the joy which filled the minds
of angels, as they witnessed the triumph of his faith over
the last enemy, or the holy rejoicing of "the spirits of
just men made perfect" in heaven, as the chariot of love
bore his redeemed spirit over the everlasting hills, and
neared the innumerable company above !

"And hadst thou seen him when the vail Avithdrew,
And his blest spirit from its prison flew,
What scenes of glory burst upon his sight!
What sounds melodious rang through worlds of light!
While heavenly friends throng thick the shining road,
And hail'd him welcome to the mount of God !"

How impressive is a funeral in the country, unembar-
rassed by haste, or needless ceremony, affording full
opportunity for calm reflection ! In crowded cities, the
frequency of death measurably destroys its effect on the
minds of the living, excepting those of intimate friends;


but in the country, the death of a prominent individual
produces sadness in a whole community ; worldly business
is suspended, and the funeral becomes an occasion of
general interest. The assembled multitude, the religious
service, the extended procession, the death-like silence,
and placing the mortal remains in their darkness and soli-
tude, all leave a deep and solemn impression upon the
memory and heart of those present. Such a funeral I
recently attended.

The immediate scene of solemnity was a beautiful farm-
house of white brick, in cottage form, on the Lebanon
pike, Butler county, Ohio, fifteen miles from Cincinnati.
The entire scenery was pleasant and airy. Recently that
abode was as cheerful and happy, as its exterior is tasty
and inviting; but it has been visited by the pale horse
and his rider, leaving mournful desolation in their train.
The subject of the funeral was one who had filled the
important and endearing relations of wife and mother;
was ardently loved by her large family and numerous
relatives, and universally respected by her neighbors and
friends. The hospitality and cheerfulness with which she
had, for a long time, entertained the ministers of Christ,
and other religious friends, had greatly extended her
acquaintance and influence. Many a toil-worn itinerant
had visited that rural scene of loveliness weary and
hungry, but, after enjoying a comfortable repast, and a
season of religious conversation and prayer, left refreshed
and happy. By this and other means, one, who regarded
herself as little and unknown, had contributed largely in
promoting the best of causes while living ; and the testi-
mony which she bore to the power and efficacy of saving
grace in the closing scene of her earthly existence, con-
firmed the faith of many ; and it is hoped that this brief
report of it may strengthen the confidence of some who
never saw her.


Mrs. Anna Conrey was the daughter of a pious Baptist
minister, Rev. David Laman, who still lingers on the
shore of time, and was at her funeral. She was born
August 14, 1799, in the neighborhood of her late resi-
dence, having never resided in any other. The state of
Ohio, of which she was a native, was admitted into the
Union when she was an infant. Of course, she acquired
that fortitude and energy of character which the circum-
stances of a new country so generally and fully develop.
New countries are generally settled by enterprising spirits,
and the children of those hardy pioneers usually become
the leading characters in Church and state, and the most
useful members of community, not because they learn
more of books, but more of practical life and common

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 17 of 30)