A FUNERAL SERMON
St. Clair County, May 30, 1852
By Rev. William Walton Mitchell
Harvey & Walker
Printers and Stationers, Belleville, Illinois
Preached on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Ann Mitchell, consort of the late Rev. Edward Mitchell, at Gaywood, in which the life of the Rev. Edward Mitchell is reviewed.
BY REV. WILLIAM WALTON MITCHELL.
Owing to peculiar circumstances, no funeral sermon was preached at the death of the late Rev. Edward Mitchell. And now that the companion of his toils is gone, and the last link is broken that bound the generations past, with their descendants now living; his memory being still precious, it is thought proper in preaching the funeral of his companion, to introduce some of the principal and most interesting incidents of his useful life.
Let me premise, by saying, that among all the men living or dead, with whom I have had the privelege [sic] of an acquaintance, I feel under the greatest obligations to my Honored Grand Father, WITH TWO EXCEPTIONS ONLY, a beloved Father now before me, and an honored teacher, also now present.
As the deceased, whose funeral we preach, and whose life we propose to review, were distinguished by their amiable and dignified simplicity and integrity, and as they resemble the Patriarchs, in the great age to which they attained, and the illustration furnished by them of the most prominent traits of the great and good of former times, I have thought it proper to select a text taken from Patriarchal history, which you may find recorded,
GENESIS. Chapter 17th, and 1st verse: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
My Friends; A most solemn occasion has this day called us together; we have assembled to discharge a sacred, mournful duty, a duty due alike to the living and the dead.
In all civilized nations, a custom has prevailed from very remote ages, of paying some appropriate tribute of respect to the memory and virtues of departed friends.
We read in profane history of funeral orations from the earliest antiquity, and in all Christian countries funeral sermons have been deemed right and proper in regard to the dead, and in a thousand instances the salutary influences resulting to the living have been felt and confessed. It devolves on me, today, to hold up to your contemplation, and to commend to you, as example worthy of all imitation, the virtues, the piety, the holy life of an aged and revered lady, your neighbor, your friend and our common mother in Israel, whose happy spirit has recently taken its flight, almost from the very spot we now occupy.
It may be considered, by some, inappropriate that one so closely connected by the ties of consanguinity, should have been selected to officiate on an occasion like the present, and I would most cheerfully have resigned the honor to abler hands.
Indeed, my friends, I very sensibly feel the delicacy of my position, and clearly perceive the difficulty of pronouncing the eulogy of the departed, in language worthy of her character and her virtues, without appearing invidious. To have been selected, I consider the highest honor, and I enter upon it with all my heart, because I have good reason to believe that it was the Expressed Wish of a fond, a partial, and a revered grandmother, whose slightest wishes were ever regarded by me as commands not to be disobeyed.
Among the millions of Adams race that peopled the globe four thousand years ago, there were many great and good men, eminently useful in their day and generation, men who were beloved while they lived, and lamented when they died. We arrive at this conclusion from several considerations:
1st. The wisdom of God has in every age made use of great and good men to carry forward the enterprises upon which the world has depended for its perpetuation, its improvements and its happiness.
2nd. All history, ancient and modern, even those relics, that reach far back into primitive ages, affords instances of such men.
3d. Such are the vast powers with which a beneficent Creator has endowed the human mind, its activity, its ingenuity, and capacity for improvement, that the idea that an entire generation should appear and overspread the earth, and pass away without producing some that should excel, is inadmissable [sic]. Such is the goodness of God that he has never suffered the moral firmament to be without a few bright stars. At that early period, to which we have alluded, the bright star was Abram. Among all the great of that age he was doubtless the greatest. He was great in goodness, and good in greatness. Hear the testimony of God himself: "Shall I hide from Abram, that thing which I do, seeing that Abram shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. That he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abram that which he hath spoken of him." Nor was he esteemed so highly by the judge of all the earth for those acquisitions that gave notoriety to men before the world. It does not appear that he was distinguished as a scholar, or orator, or philosopher, or a poet. He was no writer of history as was Moses. He was not a warrior in the acceptation of that term. He did indeed rescue Lot and the captives that were taken by the four Kings; but this he probably effected more by simple courage and energy inspired by faith in God, than by any special exhibition of generalship. It may be said that in some particulars Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Jacob were more conspicuous than he, for he does not appear to have been a prophet otherwise than as he might be called so from his blessing his family and officiating for them at the family altar. We have no account of his foretelling future events as they did; for what then was he so highly distinguished? For his unwavering faith in God, and exalted piety; qualifications, attainable by us all, and which will secure to us an unfading crown, when the thrones of earthly monarchs have mouldered into dust. And oh, what sacrifices he cheerfully made to attain this! He who conquered kings, made treaties with them, and was very rich in cattle, and in silver, and in gold; lived an itinerant or migratory life. He who could have builded houses, planted vineyards, made gardens and orchards, and eclipsed all the sovereigns of that day in worldly grandeur, cheerfully consenting to forego all these that he might express to the world his faith in that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. But Abram did not live for himself alone. He sought the welfare of others. He cared for the souls of his fellow beings, who were perishing around him. Behold him interceding for Sodom, with the judge of all the earth to save that polluted city, and the awful catastrophe would have been averted if ten righteous persons could have been found within it. What an edifying example of solemn reverence for God, and sympathy for his race is exhibited in his earnest pleadings on that occasion. And Abram drew near and said; "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?, That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" In what an ingenious, yet simple and touching manner does he labor to test the divine clemency by gradually diminishing the number. "Peradventure, there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five. Peradventure, there shall be forty found there. Peradventure, there shall be thirty found there." And thus his deep interest in the salvation of a wicked city induced him to plead until the number was reduced to ten.
Another noble trait is seen in Abram's character in the circumstance of his allowing his nephew, Lot, choice of the land, and Abram said unto Lot: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee; separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left." Here was the wisdom from above that is first pure, then peaceable. How many heart burnings, family broils, lawsuits, slanders, murders, bloody and devastating wars would have been prevented, had every family and every community, and every nation been imbued with the spirit of Abram. Surely, in that early age, in the bosom of Abram dwelt the spirit of the pentecostal times of the Apostolic age.
But, let us now change the scene. Let us contemplate the good man under different circumstances. It is said that temptation, itself, does not make a man good or bad, but exhibits with fidelity his true character. Let us see how the most severe temptations affected the firmness and integrity of Abram; what where his trials? were his flocks swept away by some destructive pestilence; were his gold and silver plundered by the robber; were his riches commanded to take to themselves wings and fly away? no, no : A man possessing vast wealth, dwelling in tents from deep religious motive, could be but little effected by the loss of that wealth.
There was, however, a more tender principle upon which he could be touched. God said, "Abram, take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains, which I will tell thee of." Abram does not seem to have communicated this command to Sarah, thinking, perhaps, her maternal affection might render the fiery ordeal too strong for her constancy and obedience to the Divine command, but with that characteristic promptness with which he had at all other times obeyed, set out on his journey to do as he was commanded.
The late distinguished John Quincy Adams, in his letters to his son, gives it as his opinion, that in this instance, Abram was far more severely tried than Adam was in the Garden of Eden; exhibited more firmness and obeyed a much more difficult command. God was highly pleased with this prompt obedience of his servant, and did not hesitate to express his approbation by promise of a reward that should follow. In process of time, the most solemn event in the life of this great man developed another excellent trait in his character. He is called to part with his beloved Sarah, to give her body to the grave, and her spirit to God.
This, after all, is perhaps the greatest trial in any man's life who deserves the name of husband. Doubtless it was so in Abram's case. It was no ordinary friend, but his beloved companion, the princess, the mother of many nations; the mother of the world's Redeemer.
How touching is the whole scene of his purchase of the field of Machpelah, for a graveyard, from the sons of Heth, He could not bear the thought of giving to the companion of his joys and sorrows, a home, a repose in the grave that cost him nothing. What were thousands of sheckles of silver to him when weighed in the balance with her who was the embodiment of his earthly all. A resting place for the honored dead must be secured to him, to which he might at all times resort to muse and meditate, to weep and pray, to trim his lamp and dress his soul for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Time will not allow me to dwell longer upon the interesting incidents of his long eventful life. A few more years rolled away, and the time came that he must die. How brief, yet how descriptive is the account of his death. "And these are the days of the years of Abram's life which he lived, an hundred three score and fifteen years.
"Then Abram gave up the ghost and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years: and was gathered to his people." When we review the life of such a man and observe the peacful [sic] end to which it leads, we can but exclaim in language of Baalam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." We may easily discern why the inspired writers are authorized to call Abram the friend of God, the father of the faithful, and why our Saviour should so honor him, as to call Abram's bosom paradise. His two sons, Isaac and Ishmael buried him, though living at a considerable distance from each other, parental affection impelled them to meet and perform together this labor of love.
Thus God provides for the fulfillment of his own gracious promise: "Them that honor me, I will honor." Those parents who honor God before their children while they live, shall be honored by their children after they are dead. Upon the whole, when we reflect upon the excellent character of this man of God, his goodness, his simplicity of intention, purity of affection, constancy, Godliness, heavenly-mindedness, and his eminence in all those traits that elevate and enoble human nature, we must approve the strong language of the great Calmet: "In the life of Abram, we see an epitome of the law of nature, the written law and gospel of Christ. Here we find consummated by God's infinite grace, all that the ancient philosophers admired and poets celebrated in immortal song. Here are embodied whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, and this is what we mean by perfection; a word frequently used in the Bible as descriptive of high moral excellence, and yet the doctrine taught by it is, and has been opposed by some of the best of men.
It is remarkable, however, that the scriptures furnish us with actual examples of perfection in all three dispensations of religion, namely: the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian. Under the patriarchal, we have Enoch, Noah, Abram, and Job; under the Mosaic we have Moses, Caleb, Joshua, David, and Hezekial; under the prophets, Zachariah and Elizabeth, Simon, Anna and Mary; under the Christian, we have the Apostles; nearly the whole church in the pentecostal times, and all those Fathers to whom St, John addresses himself in his first general epistle, with very many in this day who are but little known in this world, but are well known in Heaven. To be perfect under any dispensation, is to keep all the laws, observe all the usages, to walk in all the light and enjoy all the privileges of that dispensation. Do we not dishonor God when we argue that the warm ray of the sun of Righteousness, and the refreshing shower of divine grace are insufficient to ripen the fruits of religion in the souls of men? Do we not frequently use the expressions, perfect gentleman; perfect grammarian; perfect mathematician; perfect musician; and why not perfect Christian? Has not God made all his works perfect in the natural world from the cedar of Lebanon to the Hyssop on the wall? from the majestic Eagle which soars in grandeur above the clouds to the beautiful humming bird that feeds upon the sweets of the honey-suckle? Does God form the perfect rose and delight the sense with its beauty and its fragrance? Does He spread out the sky as a mirror, and hang the earth upon nothing? Does he suspend the sun in the heavens, and bid it pour its vivifying light upon a thousand worlds: and having formed all these things by the word of his power, can he not create a perfect Christian ? This argument drawn from the power of God, is the very one employed in my text: "I am the almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." But I am met by the objection; man is totally depraved, he is in darkness, stupor, and spiritual death. True indeed. But I would oppose to the darkness and blindness of man, the light and truth of God. I would oppose to the pollution of man, the washing of regeneration, the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood. I would oppose to the demerit of man, the intercession of the Mediator; and I would oppose to the helplessness of man, the power of the Holy Ghost. Oh, what may not man attain unto, with the great Teacher for his instructor, the Holy Ghost for his sanctifier, the Bible for his rule of life, the excellent of the earth for his companions, the holy Angels for his ministering spirits, and a crown of glory for his reward! Surely, those who oppose the scriptural doctrine of perfection, must do so from the fact of their not fully comprehending its true import. To be perfect does not necessarily imply that we know every thing; we may still be ignorant of many things; we, may, still have infirmities. But we will never do wrong knowingly. Our will is then entirely on the side of right. God has the undisputed title to, and the unreserved possession of our whole heart.
That command, My son give me thine heart, is most cheerfully complied with. In that happy frame of mind we are careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving we make our requests known unto God. We then make it our constant study to understand, approve and practice all the law of liberty which we realize to be holy, just and good. If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, our whole nature now thoroughly renewed by grace breathes out in earnes [sic] aspirations after it. We then enjoy great peace, our mind being stayed on Jehovah. Our peace flows as a river, and our righteousness becomes as the waves of the sea. And not only so, but we rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. A perfect man is one that gives all diligence and having acquired such faith in God as to exclude all unbelief, adds to his faith, courage; so that there is now no fear of man which bringeth a snare. He adds to his courage, knowledge; so that he has become wise to do good. In malice he is a child, but in understanding a man.
His heart has become established by grace, so that he is no longer tossed about with every wind of doctrine. He adds to his knowledge, temperance. He uses this world as not abusing it, remembering that the fashion of this world passeth away. The perfect man no longer possesses a carnal mind, and therefore all his enmity to God is gone; there is no longer any principle of rebellion. His welling heart echoes back the song of the Angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men." He adds to temperance, patience. His heart no longer fretteth against the Lord. He does all things without murmurings, or complainings. He is resigned to the will of God in all things. God has answered in his heart that beautiful prayer of the poet:
With fraudless, even, humble mind,
Thy will in all things may I see;
In love be every wish resigned
And hallowed my whole heart to Thee.
Still pressing forward and setting his standard high; aiming at all attainable, moral excellence, he goes on adding to patience, Godliness, a continual sense of the presence and providence of God, with a filial fear of, and confidence in Him.
He walks before God, and with God, and often he realizes
That solemn awe that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love.
It is related of Sir Isaac Newton, that such a solemn sense of God's awful presence and power continually rested upon his spirit; that if he chanced to hear the name of God pronounced in the streets, he took off his hat and bowed his head.
To Godliness, the perfect Christian adds brotherly kindness, a most tender love for all his brethren in Christ Jesus. For all the real children of God of every name, he cherishes a sincere and warm affection; all these he salutes at least in his heart, if not literally with a kiss of charity. A perfect Christian enjoys such deep communion with God as can scarcely be conceived by a babe in Christ. He finds the glowing language of Isaiah a sweet reality: "Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be their everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." All who enjoy this happy state can say with St. John, the perfect Christian of his day, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ." They are pure in heart; they "see God;" they recognize his kind hand in all that befalls them. Having learned from scripture and experience that God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men, they humbly kiss the rod in the severest dispensations of life; they see God in his works; in the heavens; in the earth; in their own frame fearfully and wonderfully made. Not only do they commune with Him by day, but at midnight will they arise and give thanks to Him. In the morning when they awake they are still with Him, thus holy and thus happy, and if in the providence of God they attain to a good old age, their sun sets behind the horizon of life without a cloud, and rises in a glorious eternity to go down no more forever. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
The heart cheering doctrine of the text was most happily illustrated and fully exemplified in the life and character of the sainted dead, whose funeral we preach today. Yes, my friends, we are to speak this day of the sainted dead, as already stated; we have this day convened to celebrate in a solemn manner the funeral of onelet me say two, who beyond all question, are at this moment shining saints in Heaven. When the spirits of our friends resign their clay tenements on earth, and wing their flight to the eternal world, a last mournful duty devolves on us; it is ours to commit their lifeless remains to the bosom of the earth; and while we return their bodies to the dust from which they were taken, we should remember with solemn awe, that we too, are dust, and unto dust we must return. This sacred duty has been performed; we have consigned all that was mortal of our revered Grand Father and Mother to the silence of the Tomb; their faces we shall see no more till Christ shall bid them rise. But their immortal spirits have returned to him who gave them, and are now rejoicing in the presence of God and the Lamb. The funeral services of this day constitute the closing scene of our duty to them, but to ourselves sacred, solemn duties remain.
The sad services to which we are attending, though to us a source of mournful joy, should prove also, a source of holy influences, stimulating us to emulate the virtues of our departed friends, and encourage us to live as they lived; that we may die as they died; that being laid side by side with them in the tomb we may rise hand in hand with them on the glorious morning of the resurrection. My hearers are apprised that the exercises of this day were appointed with particular reference to our beloved and lamented Grand Mother Mrs. Ann Mitchell; it was her funeral that was expected, and so it is still understood, but as hinted in the commencement of this discourse, many considerations render it admissible, and indeed, make it necessary and proper to offer some remarks in regard to the life and character of her long departed companion, the Rev. Edward Mitchell, who was, indeed, fifty-three years her bosom companion. In joy, and sorrow, in sickness and in health, they loved and cherished each other until death parted them. They began their heavenly journey together; together they mourned for sin; they rejoiced together in the pardoning love of God; like Zacheus and Elizabeth, they walked together in all the ordinances of God, blameless, and now in the realms of endless bliss they shout together the triumphs of redeeming grace. There then can be no impropriety in exhibiting to view, on this occasion, a few interesting incidents in a life so holy, so pure, and so useful as that of our much loved and honored Grand Father; and first, I beg leave to read a little sketch which has been handed to me resembling a very short biography of him who may well be termed a Patriarch.
The Rev. Edward Mitchell was the eldest son of James and Mary Mitchell, and was born in Hanover County and State of Virginia, on 3d August, 1760, and received the usual education of that day and country. On attaining an age to comprehend the troubles then agitating England and her American colonies, and which soon involved them in the horrors of war; he bravely stepped forth and took a firm stand on the side of his country. His patriotism and ardent temperament forbade him to remain an indifferent spectator of the approaching struggle. He flew to the support of the first banner of freedom that floated in the breeze. At an early day, the great statesman and orator, Patrick Henry, foreseeing the impending storm had organized a military company styled Minute Men. In the ranks of this company, Mr. M. when about 15 years of age, arrayed himself with the brave champions of his country's rights, and held himself ready to march and fight at a moments warning. This was the first demonstration of forcible resistance to British aggression in Virginia. Soon the truth of Henry's prophetic eloquence, "we must fight," became apparent. The crisis demanded a much more efficient and permanent armament, and an army of patriots must now be raised and organized. Again Mr. M. tendered his aid to his persecuted country, and in defending her liberties took his post in a regiment commanded by Col. Campbell, and entered at once upon active duty, nor did he cease to devote all his energies of mind and body to the sacred cause of Liberty, till the glorious consummation at Yorktown proclaimed his country Free.
Mr. M. paid a visit to an uncle after whom he was named, residing at Charlestown, in Maryland, and there became acquainted with Miss Ann Hailey, whose amiable qualities soon gained his esteem. Their acquaintance speedily ripened into pure and mutual affection, and on the 26th August, 1784, they were united in the sacred bands of matrimony. They resided in Charlestown till 1787, in which year they removed to Virginia, and settled on James River, in the county of Botetourt. Here Mr. M. found many of his former friends and revolutionary comrades, among whom he resided many years, in the most cordial interchange of kind offices and friendly feelings, and by his manly, upright deportment, gained their highest esteem and confidence. Long after Mr. M. had become a laborious and useful minister of Christ, an incident occurred, so interesting in itself, so honorable to him, and furnishing so striking a proof of the regard and confidence of the whole community that it must not be omitted. In the Superior Court of Botetourt, an important suit was pending, in which the first talents of the Bar were engaged, and in which Mr. M. was a witness; when called to testify he approached the Clerk in order to be qualified; the leading counsel on the opposing side, rose and requested the Court to dispense with the oath, remarking that Mr. M.'s word would be sufficient testimony; the remaining counsel on both sides seconded the request, and the Judge replied that he felt great pleasure in complying with their request, that Mr. M.'s statement would be good evidence in any Court where he was known without an oath. Of this noble eulogium, the writer of this sketch was a witness.
A few years after Mr. M.'s settlement in Botetourt, a Methodist Preacher, the first ever seen in that part of the world, passing through the country, made an appointment for preaching in his neighborhood. Mr. M. and family, including his parents, with whom he resided, attended, and here those gracious and holy impressions were first made which resulted in the happiest consequences to the whole family, parents and children. Mr. Massey, the minister, was conducted to their hospitable mansion. After remaining several days, he left them deeply impressed with the truths of the Gospel, and the necessity of a change of heart. In compliance with their earnest request, an itinerant preacher (Rev. Henry Ogbiun) was sent the following year to labor in that part of the Lord's vineyard, then a moral waste: under his zealous and faithful ministration, Mr. M. and companion, his parents, and several of his servants were happily converted.
At this connection it may be interesting to notice a remarkable coincidence. At this very juncture, Mr. Samuel Mitchell, a younger brother, residing sixty miles distant, unapprized [sic] of all that had transpired in Edward's family, was brought to feel the same divine influences of the holy spirit, and having by repentance and faith obtained the pardon of sins, flew with the glad tidings to his brother, hoping to persuade him to seek the same merciful Redeemer, who had spoken peace to him. What were his transports to find the whole family already on their heavenly march. Long and hearty was the joyful embrace of these happy brothers, and then and there did they offer to Almighty God their mutual vows, and give to each other their plighted faith to march hand in hand and side by side to the land of promise. Nevre [sic] were holy vows and plighted faith more religiously observed through all the vicissitudes of long and laborious lives. Edward has gone to his reward, and Samuel, near ninety years, is still praying and still preaching.
Very soon after this happy and all important change of heart and life, they were deeply impressed with the conviction that duty required them to publish the glad tidings of salvation to a lost world. With zeal and devotion they immediately entered upon this work of love, by exhorting their fellow men to flee from the wrath to come. They were shortly afterwards licensed to preach, and to give their labors regularity and system they instituted for themselves a small field, which they called Cow Pasture Circuit, from the name of a little river on which it was situated. By turns they rode their little round of two weeks, faithfully extending their energies in the cause of their gracious Master. Permit me here to relate an anecdote, to which, after circumstances have given interest: A worthy youth, an orphan, then an industrious apprentice, hearing of the zeal and piety of these ministers of God, was inspired with a strong desire to hear them, and learning that Edward was to preach in that vicinity, he walked six miles bare-foot to the appointment; God saw his motive and blessed him in his deed; for on that day those holy impressions were made on his youthful heart, which have not to this day been effaced, and which in due time resulted in his happy conversion. For many years he has been, and is still a worthy and acceptable member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. From an apprentice, with but a small portion of this world's goods, by the bounty and blessings of God, he has become a wealthy man; and what is remarkable, he now occupies a seat in our midst, and a listener to these feeble remarks in memory of the holy man whose words first touched his heart. The first Annual Conference held in Western Virginia, convened at the house of Edward, at which sixteen preachers attended, and Rev. Bishop Asbury presided. A second Conference met some years after, at the same place, the same Bishop presiding.
Soon after the conversion of our venerated Grand father, his attention was turned with deep interest to the subject of slavery, viewing it as a moral, as also a political evil; he came at once to the conclusion, that a proper regard for the salvation of his soul required the emancipation of his slaves; decision and promptness were striking traits in his character. To learn his duty was the labor of a moment; to discharge that duty was the work of the next. Without delay he recorded a deed of emancipation giving freedom to all his slaves. After family devotion, at which his servants were always present, addressing a faithful servant, he said, Sam, if I were to set you free would you leave me; Sam's reply was, I would not give [up?] my master for any in this world, but, (looking up to the ceiling) replied if I had this room full of money I would give it to be free. Then, said Mr. Mitchell, you are a free man, the deed of your emancipation is recorded.
In the year 1818 he removed to Illinois, then a territory, and pitched his tent in what was called Turkey Hill settlement, within one mile of this spot. Here, in the peaceful pursuits of a farmer, and in the discharge of sacred duties he passed the remnant of his earthly pilgrimage; laboring to the very end of a long and useful life, by exhortation and preaching, to promote the good of his fellow men, and advance the cause of the Redeemer. His pious walk and Godly conversation afforded a happy illustration of his profession and doctrine. He left this vale of tears on 3d Dec., 1837, revered and beloved by all who knew him.
As a preacher, many of my hearers knew him well, for they have often witnessed his faithful, zealous labors. He engaged in the arduous duties of the ministry in obedience to the call of his Master, and to fulfill the requirements of that call, brought into action all the energies of his life.
He possessed a clear intellect and a sound practical judgment; his temperament was ardent; but he ever spoke and acted from the dictates of the coolest reason. These qualities enabled him to comprehend his subjects clearly and fully, and to exhibit and enforce them with pathos and power. The vital, practicle [sic] principles of religion, repentance toward God, faith in Christ, holiness of heart, and a full and free salvation for all men, were his favorite themes. These he held up to view and urged with an eloquence and power of argument that could neither be gainsaid or resisted. His manner was his own, strong within himself; he copied no one; he borrowed of none; free from vanity, he disdained ostentation; no silly witticism; no word of jesture escaped him unworthy of the solemn embassy which he bore from God to man. He rose with confidence and composure; was striking and impressive; his attitude erect; his eye clear and his countenance lit up with earnestness and sincerity, reflecting strongly the deep interest he felt in the eternal welfare of his audience, and all his powers were brought into requisition; nor did he desist from his labor of love till his subject and his energies were exhausted together. For fifty years he was a zealous, faithful, and most useful Minister of the Gospel.
I beg leave to add a few remarks to what has already been said. My text, as already stated, was suggested by a very strong similarity between the character of the great Patriarch of the Hebrews and the subject of this sketch; all who were well acquainted with our revered Grand Father were struck with the resemblance. It has often occurred to me, that his very form seemed to be of Patriarchal mould, above the ordinary size, tall and dignified, such as fancy would readily attribute to Abram himself, with whom we have presumed to compare him. Like Abram, he was called at the head of a family to be their high priest, to offer for them the morning and evening praise and thanksgiving, and to present them to God for his blessing. With reverence I would say that as God said of Abram he might say of him also: "I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him." And surely no man was ever more careful to rear his family for God than our most exemplary Grand Father. Like Abram he was the Father of a multitude, his descendants, many of whom are here present, number near two hundred, and are ready to rise up and call him blessed. Faith and obedience were the distinguished traits in the character of Abram, the very traits that shone brightest in the character of our family Patriarch. Like Abram he believed and trusted his promises, and it was accounted to him for righteousness, for God blessed him in all his ways. Like Abram, he died in a good old age, an old man and full of years.
And now, my friends, did time permit, we should find it highly interesting to view this man of God in his private walks. Indeed, it was in domestic privacy, in the family circle, and among his most intimate friends that his Christian graces shone the brightest; his conjugal affection, his parental tenderness, his wholesome admonitions, his ardent devotion, and his fervent prayers, were the example, the comfort and confidence of his family. His hospitality was so primitive, so cordial, so unaffected, that his house was emphatically the house of his children, neighbors and friends. His affectionate smile, his open countenance, and his kindness, and his amiable manners made every one happy in his house, and in his presence. No honest man approached his mansion without a heartfelt welcome at the threshold, no one left it without his pious admonitions and benediction. No sensible man ever passed a day in his house without feeling the benign influence of the holy atmosphere he breathed. All these charming and estimable qualities were of divine inspiration, they grew out of his constant intimate communion with God. In his family, among his children, grand children and friends, the glorious character and attributes of the deity, our obligations to love, obedience and holiness of life were favorite subjects of conversation. Entire sanctification of soul, was especially a topic on which he delighted to dwell; he believed it attainable; he urged its necessity, and best of all, he himself enjoyed this inestimable blessing, and its blessed consolations. In short, his life in public and in private, was a practical illustration of purity, holiness and happiness worthy of himself, worthy of all honor, and worthy of all imitation. Faithful from the beginning, faithful through life, and faithful to the end, his reward is everlasting life.
Perhaps, my friends, a filial reverence for my honored Grand Father, and the pleasure of contemplating so perfect a model of the Christian, have led me to consume too much time. Let us turn our attention to her for whom this day was appointed; his faithful companion and help-meet, who in all the walks of life, for more than fifty years, walked with him hand in hand, and heart in heart. And in what language shall I speak of our most revered Grand Mother. Those only who knew her intimately, and witnessed her private walks, can appreciate her worth; she was the exact counterpart of her venerable companion, whose image in primitive purity and holiness she perfectly reflected, and ever beautified by those graces and excellencies peculiar to her sex. Let me repeat, she was the perfect counterpart of her husband, who she reverenced, and to whom she looked as her head and guide, both in temporal and spiritual things. The same faith, the same simplicity of manners, the same ardent devotion; it may be truly said of them, they twain were one flesh, and one spirit. She loved the Methodist Church, its doctrines and its discipline; and yet she was no bigot, she indulged Christian charity for all Christian denominations. Her religious exercises were reduced to a system. To the last week of her long and holy life, every Friday was observed in a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. But to understand and fully appreciate all her excellent qualities, we must view her in domestic privacy, we must see her presiding in the family circle, surrounded by her children, gently leading them in the paths of virtue, and by precept and example training them up for heaven. We must see her discharging all the pleasing, yet responsible duties of a wife and mother. This was the sphere in which light shone brightest; and here I can, with confidence, hold her up as a perfect pattern to all matrons in this broad and happy land; of all her domestic virtues, her ardent devotion to her husband was the most conspicuous, she looked to him for counsel, she leaned upon him for support; and with a devoted heart she loved, honored and obeyed him, and such was the hallowed influences of his habits, maxims, opinions and holy example, that they held over her sentiments and actions a controlling sway to the day of her death. Indeed, she spoke and acted as if she considered him still alive and still her counsellor. The 3d day of December, the day on which he died, was kept as a day of mourning, fasting and prayer, as long as she lived. And here I will relate an affecting incident which strongly marked her character: In his last illness our honored Grand Father suffered severely from sore throat, a slip of flannel was got by her and saturated with camphor and applied to his neck, and by her, moistened as often as required. He expired with this on his neck; with her own hand she removed it, on which was a few precious gray hairs; she folded it neatly, placed it in a small pocket book, and to the very day of her own death she kept it as a precious, sacred relic; carried it constantly in her pocket, and for ten years it was never separated from her person. About three days before her death, she asked for her pockets, took out the old pocket-book, and on examining and seeing the long cherished treasure, returned it to its place; not long after, she called her daughter to her bed, and said, my dear, look in my pocket book and you will find a piece of flannel that was around your Father's neck when he died; when I am gone, and in my coffin, wet it with camphor and lay it on my neck. The gray hairs were found in the flannel. This was faithfully done.
It was remarked by the family, that whenever anything was said in reference to her wishes after her death, she was never known to use the word death, but uniformly used the words "when I am gone." The next prominent trait in the character of our esteemed Grand Mother, was her tender, abiding affection for all her numerous offspring. After the death of her beloved companion, they constituted almost the only source of her temporal enjoyments, and the only source of her anxious cares; their welfare was her happiness, and afflictions or misfortunes; her distress. She did all in her power to promote and cherish, among them, an affectionate and cordial intercourse, and interchange of the kindest feelings and actions. She was, indeed, the sacred link that bound them together; she took pleasure in speaking of the number of her descendents [sic], and she lived to see one in the fourth generation, with which she was much gratified. By her request its parents brought it to her own room, where it was christened in her presence by your speaker, and she herself, gave it the beloved name of Edward Mitchell. Never did a mother more tenderly love her children, and never was a mother more dearly loved and honored by her children and grand children. They all often wrote to her in the most endearing terms of reverence and affection. For many years she had carefully preserved those letters, selecting one from each child and grand child, and enclosed them (quite a bundle) neatly in black silk, on which was written, in her own hand, on a slip of paper, these words:
"When I am gone, and laid in my coffin, place this bundle under my head." ANN MITCHELL, 1847.
Shortly before she expired, she requested her daughter, Mrs. Dennis, to place this select bundle under her head as directed. Her mental endowments were equal to the amiable qualities of her heart; she was blessed by nature with a social and cheerful disposition, and she delighted in the company of her children, neighbors and friends. Her conversation was sprightly and so full of wit and good humor, that all were pleased and happy in her presence. Her long life and remarkable memory had stored her mind with a fund of incident and anecdote, and often did she amuse her friends with some interesting story or pleasant scene of olden times) her distinct recollection of long past events was truly astonishing, even down to her 88th year she remembered with such accuracy the marriages, births, deaths, and indeed every interesting incident in the history of her numerous connection, that without the least hesitation, she could name the year, month, day of the month and of the week, of every event with a precision that almost exceeded belief; and what is surprising, she retained to her death the enjoyment of all her mental faculties, never manifesting those little imbecilities peculiar to old age.
As the mistress of a family, and a house-keeper she was (to use a trite term) a most notable woman, industrious, careful, and neat to a proverb. In the government of her family, affectionate, but firm, discharging her own duties and expecting her children and servants to follow her example. In the arrangement and administration of her household affairs, and indeed in every thing she evinced a promptness, a clearness of mind and a soundness of judgment that were quite remarkable; and to her honor, be it said, she trained up her daughters to follow in her footsteps. There was one feature in her character, which an attendant trait served to illustrate and to beautify; she possessed an unusual share of feminine timidity, a sort of innate fear of some accident; an indefinable dread of some unseen danger, but let the accident happen, let the danger come, and she was cool and fearless, and firm. She possessed patience and resignation; a single instance will show to what an extent she possessed these inestimable qualities. In the midst of anxieties and sufferings inflicted by a cancer, she uniformly preserved her natural cheerfulness, and no word of complaint escaped her; when the disease had extended its ravages from her cheek to her eye and was unusually threatening and painful, she would say to her daughter, do look at this frightful sore, what would you do if it were on your face? when she would add, with a voice and a look so submissive, so resigned as to touch the hardest heart, oh! if my Heavenly Father would but in mercy spare my eye, I would cheerfully give up my cheek, and her Heavenly Father did spare both her eyes and her cheek.
Her last message to her children was, tell my children that I love them all, that I have prayed for them many years, that they must meet me in heaven. Let me ask her children and Grand Children, shall we not follow after the example set us by our venerated and honored grand mother. Shall we not all, together with her neighbors, resolve from this moment, by the grace of God, to meet her in heaven. In her is illustrated the happy result of a preparation for death in early life. During her illness she was asked by one of her children if it was her wish to see the preacher; her answer was, no, I have been trying to serve God more than fifty years, and I have now, no preparation to make, and desire to be left to my own meditations.
Blessed be God, she is now at rest, having ceased from her labors; but she has left behind her a good testimony, while we, who remain in this vale of tears, contemplate her exalted virtues and deplore her loss.