Maturin Ballou.

Biography of Rev. Hosea Ballou



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"Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to himself our venerable father in Israel, Rev. Hosea Ballou, the senior pastor of this society, who departed this life on the 7th day of June, 1852, aged 81 years; and whereas, in recurring to the events of his long and memorable life, we bring to mind the time when he first appeared as the fearless advocate of what he then and ever afterwards felt to be God's truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures; the moral courage with which he sustained that truth amid all the assaults of learning, bigotry and tradition, continuing faithful to the last in the path that was revealed to him as the path of duty; therefore,

"Resolved, That the present prosperous aspect of the Universalist denomination, and the gradual infusion of its principles into those of other Christian denominations, are monuments of honor to its pioneers, of whom Hosea Ballou was one of the chief.

"Resolved, That the denomination of Universalists have therefore lost, in this dispensation of Divine Providence, a champion whose latter days they have delighted to honor; a practical example of the working of the faith once delivered to the saints; and one who has most ably worn the breastplate of righteousness and borne the shield of faith, and who has gone down to the grave 'full of years and full of honors.'

"Resolved, That as sole pastor of this society during a period of about twenty-seven years, and as senior pastor for about eight years, his career has been uniformly marked by a wisdom and kindness, in all his intercourse with its members, both individually and collectively, which prevented even the approach of any discord between them; and by a large and broad charity, which made all mankind his brothers, and children of the same paternal God.

"Resolved, That in the death of this venerable Christian, whom we have so long looked up to as a pastor, yea, even as a father, this society especially has met with a heavy loss; and while we feel deeply the weight of this afflicting bereavement, yet we would gratefully acknowledge the kindness of an all-wise Providence in having spared his life and continued his usefulness in so signal and uninterrupted a manner, during the protracted period of his connection with us.

"Resolved, That in the simplicity of his daily life, which was most truly a life without guile, we see a proof of his devotion to principle worthy of all honor; and in his inflexible integrity he has left an eloquent lesson, which all, young and old, may read with profit.

"Resolved, That we sympathize most sincerely with the afflicted widow, children and other relatives, of our deceased pastor, in their bereavement; that we feel the poverty of language to administer consolation, and can only point them to the sublime truths of gospel grace which their departed relative spent his life in teaching; that we fervently commend them to Him who 'tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;' and, while we can hardly expect to assuage their grief with the wound yet so fresh, we would bid them sorrow not as those without hope, but remember how many a weary soul has found rest from the teachings of him they now mourn, and direct them to the glorious faith that he is 'not lost, but gone before.'

"Voted, That the foregoing resolutions be signed by the Moderator and Clerk, and published in the 'Trumpet' and 'Freeman,' and that a copy of the same be forwarded to the family of our deceased pastor.

"G.
W. Gage, Moderator.

"Newton Talbot, Clerk."

It still remains for us to describe the funeral ceremonies; and here again we copy from others. The description is as it appeared in the Trumpet.

"The funeral of this venerable man, and faithful old Christian teacher, took place on Wednesday, June 9th. Prayer was first offered at the house, in the hearing of the widow, who had not left her chamber, and scarcely her bed, for some thirty days. This part of the services was strictly private. The corpse was then taken to the church, with the members of the family in carriages.

"The church had been very appropriately put in mourning for the occasion. The large portrait in the vestry was shrouded in crape, showing nothing but the figure of the aged preacher, as he stood in the pulpit. In the great chapel, the pulpit, and the recess back of it, were dressed in drapery of black crape. The entire front of the gallery, all around the house, was festooned with black. The organ, also, was appropriately dressed in mourning, in good keeping with the other arrangements.

"The house was thrown open for the public at two o'clock, at which time large crowds were waiting at the doors; and for a full half-hour before the services were commenced, every seat and foothold upon the floor, aisles, window-sills and recesses, excepting reserved pews, were occupied. At three o'clock the corpse arrived. The clergy, numbering somewhere between sixty and a hundred, proceeded from the vestry to the pews assigned them. The members of the Second Universalist Society also had their appropriate places. The corpse was borne to the position in front of the pulpit, the bearers proceeding in the following order:



"During the entrance, the organ gave forth a mournful prelude. The sight was a most affecting one, – so vast a multitude with such an expression of sorrow upon their countenances.

"1. The services were introduced by a funeral chant, after which

"2. Scriptures were read by Rev. O. A. Skinner.

"3. The following hymn was sung, many of the congregation joining their voices to that of the choir.

HYMN
 
"On Zion's holy walls
Is quenched a beacon-light;
In vain the watchman calls,
'Sentry! what of the night?'
No answering voice is here;
Say, – does the soldier sleep?
O, yes, – upon the bier,
His watch no more to keep.
 
 
Still is that heaven-touched tongue,
Pulseless the throbbing breast;
That voice with music strung
Forever put to rest
To rest? A living thought,
Undimmed, unquenched, he soars,
An essence, spirit wrought,
Of yon immortal shores.
 
 
Peace to thee, man of God!
Thine earthly toils are o'er;
The thorny path is trod,
The Shepherd trod before.
Full well he kept his word, —
'I'm with thee to the end;
Fear not! I am the Lord,
Thy never-failing friend!'
 
 
We weave no dirge for thee, —
It should not call a tear
To know that thou art free;
Thy home, – it was not here!
Joy to thee, man of God!
Thy heaven-course is begun;
Unshrinking thou hast trod
Death's vale, – thy race is run!"
 

"4. Prayer, by Rev. Thomas Whittemore.

"5. Hymn, 'Vital Spark of Heavenly Flame!'

"6. Sermon, by Rev. A. A. Miner, junior pastor, from 2 Cor. 5: 1, – 'For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'

"7. Hymn, 'Unveil thy Bosom, Faithful Tomb.'

"8. Concluding Prayer, by Rev. Sebastian Streeter.

"9. Benediction.

"During the singing of the last hymn, persons began to press around the coffin, to get a last view of the departed. Notice was therefore given, at the close of the service, that the coffin would be placed in the entry, and all would have an opportunity to see, as they passed out; but, on account of the great number, each must content himself with a brief farewell view. The funeral procession was formed in the following order: 1st. Bearers, in carriages. 2d. The body. 3d. The committee of the society. 4th. The clergy of the Universalist denomination, amounting to nearly a hundred. 5th. The members of the Second Universalist Society. 6th. The friends from the neighboring towns. 7th. The mourners, in carriages.

"This procession extended from the head of School-street to the corner of Boylston-street, being nearly half a mile.

"An immense body of people had arrived at the ground previously to the funeral procession. The corpse was borne to the temporary resting-place, in the burying-ground at the foot of the Common, where it was deposited. The lid of the coffin was raised, and those who desired passed by once more, and then the solemn scene was closed."

The last Sabbath that Mr. Ballou preached was on the 30th of May, 1852, – eight days before his death, – at Woonsocket, R. I. The texts were the following:

"Forenoon. – Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14. 'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.'

"Afternoon. – Titus 2: 11, 12. 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.'"

The fact of Mr. Ballou's having preached his last sermon in Rev. John Boyden's desk, a brother who had once been an inmate of his family as a student of divinity, has elicited the following letter, which seems particularly appropriate here:

"Dear Sir: —

"I rejoice most sincerely to learn, as I do this day, that you are so soon to give us a memoir of Father Ballou. And, if it be not asking too much, I should be glad of a little space, that I may record my tribute of filial affection. He was to me a father, indeed; and to him I owe more than to any other man, – and, perhaps, all others, – for the little good I may have accomplished as a minister of Christ. He was my teacher when he knew it not.

"When I was about fourteen years old, I heard him preach, in the town of Brookfield; and I am sure the impression that sermon made will remain to the end of my life. It was designed to unfold the riches of Christ Jesus. As the theme opened, the audience became intensely interested; and, as the preacher gathered and arranged the sacred testimony, to unfold the gracious purposes of our Heavenly Father as manifested through the Redeemer, we seemed like hungry children, watching the maternal hands that feed them. And when he laid the precious burden before us, he would exclaim, in all his wonted earnestness, 'Do you see the unsearchable riches of Christ?' Again he would go forth, gathering other fruits of the divine love, and again repeat, as a part of his text, 'Do you see the unsearchable riches of Christ?' This was the conclusion of each division of the discourse; and it served not only to rivet it in our minds, but, by the involuntary mental response which it induced, made us almost co-workers with the speaker, and thus gave us growing interest in the theme.

"From that hour, and from the influence of that single discourse, I had a strong desire to aid in unfolding the 'unsearchable riches of Christ' to my fellow-men. My young heart felt, for the first time, that there was a fulness in the provision which our Father had made for us that the world had not known; and it seemed to me I must, some time, preach that blessed gospel. Not more than three or four years after that time, I heard him preach one of his masterly sermons, in Charlton, which fired my soul anew with a desire to enter the ministry. His text was, 'For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord,' &c. After reading the text, he carefully folded his glasses, put them in his pocket, as was his custom, and, while the audience were waiting with breathless attention, that they might secure the first word that should fall from his lips, he began thus: – 'The text supposes that there is such a thing as a man's preaching himself.' The audience breathed, – a token that they already possessed the key to the sermon. But it was a remarkable characteristic of his sermons, that, though you might early anticipate the conclusion to which he was coming, yet you could not foresee the process by which he was to lead you, since that was peculiarly original. That sermon strengthened my conception of the glory of the gospel as we understand it, and especially when he contrasted with it the fading and sickly glory of all forms of partialism. He made us understand how easy and agreeable a duty it was to preach Christ; because in him there was neither inconsistency, partiality nor cruelty. A sermon from this text, I know, has been printed; but that sermon I have never seen on paper, nor can my poor pen describe the heavenly glow of feeling expressed by the countenances of that assembly. Perchance the record is in heaven.

"On the fourteenth day of May, 1829, I entered his family as a student; and let me here say it was home. There were my adopted father and mother, brothers and sisters; and never were the beautiful relations indicated by these endearing words in a single instance marred. God bless them, for the words of sympathy and encouragement that fell upon the ear of the timid young man! The recollections of my experience in that family tell me that no man knows the good he is doing, if his heart be right. There is a world of power in a single word, when it falls on a needy and congenial soil.

"During the last week of that month, and when I had, as yet, written but one sermon, Father Ballou engaged with Father Leonard, of Gloucester, that I should supply his desk the following Sunday. I remonstrated. I had never spoken in public, except to declaim as a school-boy; and it seemed to me I could not stand up alone and preach all day, and especially so soon after formally commencing my studies. But to all this his reply, in substance, was, that the gospel was very easy to be understood; that the matter of it was all furnished to my hands; that I was only a steward of God's grace, and had only to give to the people what was given to me in the divine word. Well, I told him I would go, if he said so; but he would have to bear the responsibility, if I failed.

"In the morning, before leaving for Gloucester, I read my last sermon to him; and then it was that he gave me a word of commendation, that was like a generous shower upon the parched ground. And this was followed by the well-remembered injunction: 'Brother Boyden, I have only one word to say in reference to your labors, and that is, be in earnest. Don't speak one word without making the people understand and feel that you believe it with all your heart.' This was the only charge he ever gave me, till, at my ordination, in Berlin, Ct., in 1830, he enjoined it upon me to carry the spirit of our holy religion into all my labors, and especially when I should go to the chamber of sickness, and to the house of mourning. The tremulous words, as they fell from the lips of the father upon his son, stirred the whole audience with emotion. They were treasured in many hearts, and often repeated, both by the old and young, who waited on my ministry.

"For myself, I must say they made a lasting impression on my mind; and often, since that time, as I have visited the sick and dying, has that venerable form preceded me, renewing the tender injunction, 'Come in the spirit of the blessed Redeemer.' I trust those words were not thrown away. And when, as will happen with most men, my wearied frame has imparted languor to my speech, I have sometimes been aroused by the sudden recollection of that stirring appeal – 'Be in earnest.' I know it has often quickened and warmed my zeal; and when I remember that it was the motto of his life to the last, I pray that it may be to me as a live coal from the altar.

"Punctuality is another of the sterling virtues that cluster around that name, and his example has been of special service to me. It characterized all his labors. I have known him much for twenty-three years, and I never knew him to be late in fulfilling any engagement, and he always took time, so as not to be in a hurry. On the occasion of the installation of Bro. A. Bugbee, of Charlton, some years ago, he delivered the scriptures and gave the charge. In the course of his address, he dwelt upon the above-named virtue with no little feeling. 'Bro. Bugbee,' said he, 'when you come to church, come in season. Don't let the people come here and wait, and wonder within themselves, saying, Where is Bro. Bugbee? Is Bro. Bugbee sick? And O, don't forget to take time, before you commence your services, to put up a silent prayer to God, that he may aid and assist you in the discharge of your sacred duties.'

"I know that that occasion was one of peculiar joy to many hearts, and it was as the blessing of God on my soul. The religious spirit within us was quickened; and many a time since, in my humble efforts to preach the gospel, that 'silent prayer' has brought celestial fire from heaven, and imparted new life to my spiritual being. Doubtless there are many in the ministry whose experience accords with my own in these things, and whose usefulness may be in a good measure attributed to the personal influence of that great and good man, who, great as he was, could not have comprehended the vast results of which his unostentatious life was the agent. And may we not all be encouraged to hope, that, if we live good lives, the harvest will extend beyond the ken of the sower?

"But the most interesting fact, to me, in the life of my spiritual father, is, that he closed his public services in my own pulpit, in the presence of a delighted congregation, and, as I believe, of an approving God. His last sermons are well remembered, even by children. He has never preached here with greater zeal, power, and comprehensiveness. We accept his services as the blessing of a dying hour, and our veneration for the man is mingled with gratitude to the everlasting Father, for so great a gift to our world.

"Fraternally yours,
"J. Boyden, Jr.

"Woonsocket, July 6, 1852."

The following is taken from the report of L. W. Ballou, superintendent of the Sabbath-school attached to the Woonsocket Universalist Society, which school the subject of this biography visited and spoke before on the day referred to. It is especially interesting as being connected with his last public efforts.

"On the thirtieth of May it was our privilege to be visited by, and to receive the last public instructions of, our venerable Father Ballou; for in one week from the time he left us 'the golden bowl was broken,' and that voice to which we had so recently listened, and which had breathed life and joy into so many souls, was hushed forever. But in his works, in his example, in the glorious doctrines which for more than sixty years he labored to establish, he still lives and speaks, and will live and speak for ages to come. Long, I trust, shall we remember that venerable form, that cheerful and benevolent countenance, and the words of encouragement and hope with which, for the last time, he addressed us, rejoicing that we were no longer taught as in times past, and as some are even now, that by nature we are children of wrath, and under the curse of God; but that God is our father, our benefactor, our best friend, – that he cares for and is blessing us always. Thus did our aged father close his public ministrations, in proclaiming the same great doctrine which he had spent his life to establish, – the unbounded, universal, and unchangeable love of God to man.

"Let us be as faithful to the truth, and in the performance of our duty, in the sphere in which we move, as he was in his, and the same rich blessings will attend us."

The subject of this biography entered most heartily and sincerely into the spirit of Sabbath-schools; and since their general introduction in our societies, throughout the order, he has taken peculiar satisfaction in improving every suitable occasion for addressing and encouraging both teachers and scholars in the object which engaged them, wherever he was called to preach. In his own society he had seen the great good to be derived from such an institution, as it regards the rearing of the tender mind in the garden of the Lord; and he often mingled professionally with children and teachers. The able and feeling remarks of the superintendent, Mr. Goddard, as given above, will show the appreciation in which the members of the school had been taught to hold their pastor, and the spirit that actuated the hearts of the teachers towards him, under whose Christian teachings they had, most of them, been brought up from childhood.

The following verses, an invaluable legacy to Mr. Ballou's family, and to all those who really loved him, were written by him in anticipation of the closing hour of his life. The date we cannot give, as the original paper bears none; but, from accessory circumstances, and remarks which he made to his wife, that he felt he was "nearly worn out," and that she must be prepared to hear of his decease at any hour, – perhaps, even, away from home, – they may be supposed to express his feelings more particularly within a very few days of the close of his life. They require no dedication from us. They are priceless, and beautiful in the extreme.

The verses are thus introduced: —

"A minister, experiencing certain infirmities of body which strongly suggested to him that he might be suddenly called away, wrote the following

FAREWELL ADDRESS
I
 
No more thy beams mine eyes delight,
Thou golden sun! the shades of night
Are o'er my vision cast.
Adieu to thy bright, cheering rays,
Thy morning light, thy noon-tide blaze,
Thy settings in the west.
 
II
 
And thou, sweet moon, whose silver beam
Did on my evening rambles gleam,
I need thy light no more;
And you who twinkle in the skies
No more shall set, no more shall rise,
To me, as heretofore.
 
III
 
Ye waves of ocean, fare you well;
Adieu to mountain, hill and dell,
Rich fields and gardens too;
Your flowery robes and fragrance sweet
No more my peaceful walks shall greet;
I bid ye all adieu.
 
IV
 
Ye murmuring streams, whose winding way
Through flowery meads and woodlands lay,
And every limpid rill,
And all ye feathered tribes of air,
With voices sweet and plumage fair,
Accept my last farewell.
 
V
 
Adieu, sweet Spring, the time of flowers!
Thy zephyrs soft, thy falling showers,
No more have charms for me;
Maternal Summer, too, adieu! —
These eyes no more thy beauty view,
Nor thy rich treasures see.
 
VI
 
Autumn and Winter's social glee
Afford their charms no more to me, —
They but a moment last;
For life's short season now is o'er,
I taste its joys, its griefs, no more, —
The transient scene is past.
 
VII
 
Ten thousand friends, and more, farewell!
With gratitude affections swell
Within this breast of mine;
And you, my foes, although but few,
Do share in this, my last adieu, —
May mercy on ye shine!
 
VIII
 
Thou sacred desk, where oft I've stood
To plead the cause of truth for God,
To you I say farewell;
That I've been faithful to my Lord
I call for witness on his word, —
His word he will fulfil.
 
IX
 
And you, my congregation dear,
Kindly regard the farewell tear,
So freely shed for you;
For all your favors to your friend,
May Heaven blessings to you send,
And every grace renew.
 
X
 
One struggle more shall end the strife; —
My children dear, my loving wife,
Ye dearest joys of earth,
Accept this last, this fond adieu;
While I have lived I've lived for you,
But now resign my breath.
 
XI
 
That Power which does for birds provide,
And clothes the grass in all its pride,
Much more shall nourish you;
On that kind arm in peace recline,
Submissive to the will divine, —
Believe his promise true.
 
XII
 
And now my work on earth is done,
To thee, my Lord, my God, I come,
Still trusting in thy grace;
As earth recedes may I arise,
To be with Jesus in the skies,
And see his lovely face!"
 


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