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James M. Mathes, ed.
Works of Elder B. W. Stone (1859)

C H A P T E R   I V.


      IN the fall of 1834, Elder Stone moved his family to Jacksonville, Illinois. Here he continued the publication of his "Messenger," associating with him as co-editor, Elder D. Pat. Henderson. In 1841 he was stricken with paralysis, which seriously affected him, and made him a cripple to the close of his eventful life.

      In the latter part of May, 1843, in company with his son Barton, and youngest daughter, Elder B. W. Stone commenced his last visiting and preaching tour through the States of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Many interesting and touching incidents occurred on this journey through the churches which we can not introduce here. They may be found in Bro. Rogers' biography of Elder Stone.

      After his return to Illinois he resumed his labors as editor of the "Messenger," with energy and spirit, and on the 3d day of October, 1844, the good old man with his excellent Christian wife and youngest son, started on his last tour through Missouri. Bro. T. M. Allen thus describes the closing scene of his public career:

      "In the month of October, 1844, Elder Stone made his last visit to his children, relatives, and friends in Missouri. On the 19th (Saturday), of that month, he reached Bear creek, where the brethren were assembled [31] in annual meeting. Here he had the pleasure of being greeted by many of his old Kentucky brethren and friends. He was quite debilitated, and being in feeble health, he soon left the meeting-house, and did not return until Monday, the 21st. He was laboring under his paralytic affection, and was otherwise very feeble: but he took the pulpit and made his last public effort in the cause of God and man. It was, like all his efforts, able and interesting. But appearing firmly impressed with the belief that it was an effort that would close his public career, he was unusually solemn and impressive. He spoke as if tottering over the grave. His comfort and instructions to Christians--his advice and warning to sinners, will never be forgotten. All were weeping around, and hung with breathless silence and profound interest on the solemn and interesting words that fell from this venerable man of God, now almost worn out in the best of all causes. His great age, his whitened locks, his feeble frame, his deep and ardent piety, his pure morality and unblemished character, together with his great ability as a Christian teacher--the presence of many of his friends, who had known him almost from the beginning--all conspired to make his last sermon unusually solemn. Thirteen additions were obtained, mostly on that day. The congregation with weeping eyes, and hearts of love for Elder Stone, gave him 'the parting hand,' and bade him a long, long farewell. Thus usefully and interestingly closed the eventful public career of this excellent man of God. He spent a day or two with his son, Dr. Stone, and left quite unwell for his home in Illinois. He could get no further than Hannibal, on the Mississippi river, where he breathed his last in peace, at his son-in-laws', Capt. S. A. Bowen's." [32]

      We also insert several notices of the death of Father Stone, which show how calmly and resignedly he closed his earthly warfare, and with what peace of mind he crossed the "dark valley of the shadow of death:"

      "Died, on Saturday morning at 4 o'clock, November 9th, 1844, at the residence of Capt. Samuel A. Bowen, in Hannibal, Missouri, BARTON WARREN STONE, an Elder in the Church of Christ and senior editor of the 'Christian Messenger,' at the advanced age of 71 years, 10 months and 16 days.

      "It is seldom we are called upon to record the death of one so much beloved, so highly gifted, or so eminently pious. It is not indeed possible to determine the immense number whose hearts will mourn at the annunciation of this dispensation of the providence of God; and who will stop to shed a tear over the memory of the departed. Although beloved, revered and admired, he has gone to that bourne from whence no traveler returns. Death knows no tender tie, and values no earthly veneration. The lofty and the low, the gifted and the rude, the righteous and the wicked, the philanthropist and the misanthrope, the sire and the son, alike must bow to the king of terrors, and go down 'to the house appointed for all the living.'

      "It is vain to speak of the character of Barton W. Stone in this short sketch. History, faithful to her trust, will fill full many a page with his golden deeds, while to eternity will be left the task of unfolding in many volumes the richness of his untarnished character.

      "It would be useless here, to sketch his biography, or schedule his many virtues as a father, as a friend, [33] as a Christian. None stood more conspicuous, in every relation and in every walk of life.

      "His entire life has been made up of tenderness, amiability and love. As a husband he was fond, indulgent, kind. As a father, he was mild, affectionate, impartial. As a brother, faithful; as a friend, ardent and unwavering.

      "During his entire maturity, it might be truly said, 'he went about doing good.' The cause of his Saviour was nearest his heart, in youth, manhood, and old age. Christianity was his theme in life--his comfort in death.

      "A short time before his decease, he was on a visit to his children in Missouri, in company with his wife and youngest son. He visited many of the churches, and preached with the force and zeal of youth. As if foreseeing his speedy dissolution, he would take the last farewell of his brethren, to meet no more 'till setting suns conclude in endless day.' These partings were made the more solemn because of his faithful warnings and heartfelt exhortations.

      "As he was returning home, his last illness was induced by the inclemency of the weather, and for many days he suffered the most intense pain, without a murmur; and although his sufferings were so intense, his mind never wavered, but remained firm and unimpaired. Although well assured that death was rapidly untying the cords of life, he conversed most freely of his change, with the composure of a Christian philosopher. On Friday the 8th, he was visited by Elder Jacob Creath, of Palmyra, Missouri; and when asked by him if he feared to die, he replied 'no, my religion has not been the result of mere excitement, nor am I [34] now excited; I know in whom I have believed.' He then said, 'Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commit my spirit.' He remained perfectly composed until the last moment, and although he suffered the most excruciating pain of body, no inappropriate reply, or expression indicative of an unbalanced mind, ever passed his lips.

      "He called his family around him, and admonished them individually, as he had been accustomed when in health, to fill the various relations they occupied, with honor to themselves and to the glory of God. He told his bosom companion, 'not to grieve, but to go home and show the world, how a Christian mother could bear such a heavy loss.' He told her 'never to neglect family prayer,' and further said to her, 'tell my brethren their religion is of no avail, unless it leads them to the family altar.'

      "He urged his daughters, Amanda, Polly, and Catharine, to set good examples before their families, and bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

      "He was known to weep only when his son and daughter arrived, at separate times, during his illness, from Jacksonville, Illinois. He spoke to his son Barton, urging him most affectionately, and in the most solemn manner, never to abandon the ministry, but to continue faithful unto the end, and warn sinners to prepare for a dying moment.

      "To his son Samuel, he said, 'My son, may the blessings of Abraham's God be upon you, for your tenderness to me.' He then solemnly warned him, and exhorted him to obey the Lord Jesus, and prepare to meet him in Heaven.

      "All the friends around him were addressed [35] individually as their conditions would appear to require, with the solemnity of the eternal world.

      "Bro. D. T. Morton (his physician) remarked to him, 'Father Stone, you have been much persecuted on account of the peculiarities of your teaching. Are you willing to die in the faith you have so long taught to others?' He replied, 'I am. During my long life, I may have had some errors on minor points, but in the main, I conscientiously believe I have taught the truth, and have tried to live what I have preached to others. But it is not by works of righteousness that I have done, but according to his mercy he saved me, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on me abundantly through Jesus Christ. It is of grace, it is all of grace.' There was then sung for him a favorite song, which he so often sung with brother J. T. Johnson:

'Farewell, vain world, I'm going home,
My Saviour smiles and bids me come;
Bright angels beckon me away,
To sing God's praise in endless day.'

      "While the song was being sung, a heavenly serenity was on his countenance. He gazed on the upper world, as if he saw the Son of God at the right hand of the Father, and was listening to the angels tuning their voices and joining the eternal choir, and then most distinctly repeated the verse:

'Why should we start and fear to die?
    What timorous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate to endless joy,
    And yet we dread to enter there.'

      "He then called for his son Barton to come to him, and in a few minutes breathed his last, with his head leaning on his shoulder, without a struggle or a moan. 'Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.' [36]

'Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee,
    Tho' silence and darkness encompass the tomb;
The Saviour has passed thro' its portals before thee,
    And the lamp of his love is thy guide thro' the gloom.

'Thou art gone to the grave, we no longer behold thee,
    Nor tread the rough path of the world by thy side;
But the wide arms of mercy are spread to enfold thee,
    And sinners may hope, since the Saviour has died.

'Thou art gone to the grave--but its mansions forsaken;--
    Perhaps thy tried spirit in death lingered long;
But the sunshine of Heaven beamed bright on thy waking,
    And the song which thou heardst was the seraphim's song.

'Thou art gone to the grave, but 'twere wrong to deplore thee,
    Since God was thy ransom, thy guardian and guide;
He gave thee, and took thee, and soon will restore thee,
    Where death hath no sting since the Saviour hath died.'

      "Yes, God 'gave thee' to the world--to the Church. And having faithfully served thy generation, He has taken thee from toil and suffering to thy reward, and soon will he restore thee to thy pious friends from whom death has separated thee for a time. And then, Oh glorious thought, we shall separate no more forever."

      Two days after the death of the venerable Stone, Elder Jacob Creath, Jr., wrote an account of his decease to brother Campbell, which appeared in the December number of the "Harbinger," for 1844. We have great confidence in this account, so far as it presents the statements of this venerated man in his last interview with brother Creath. It does honor alike to the head and heart of the writer. The following is the notice referred to, with A. Campbell's remarks prefixed and appended.

      "I have just been reading a very feeling obituary notice from the pen of our brother Jacob Creath, of Missouri, of the decease of our most amiable and, [37] venerable sister Johnson, consort of Major Johnson, of Mississippi, whose excellent memory is to me most precious, when I received from him the following notice of the death of our much admired and beloved Elder Barton W. Stone. Brother Creath, I presume, had not seen the obituary notice of sister Johnson, copied into our September number, from the graphic pen of our much beloved brother Matthews; which of course supersedes the necessity of the very apposite and impressive notice he has kindly sent us. But we give way to the very detailed notice of the last moments of this venerated and venerable Editor." Thus far, A. Campbell.

PALMYRA, November 11th, 1844.      

      Bro. Campbell--On Saturday morning, the 9th inst. at 4 o'clock, departed this life, our venerable and beloved brother STONE, at Hannibal, on the Mississippi river, in Marion county, Missouri, at the residence of his son-in-law, Capt. Samuel A. Bowen. He had been to the annual meeting in Boone county, near Columbia, Missouri, and was returning home. While at meeting he was attacked, but was able to preside on Monday, and deliver a discourse, which he regarded as his last discourse. Indeed, from the time he left home, he apprehended that he would never return. His complaint was inflammation of the bowels. He sent for me on Thursday, the 7th, to visit him. Being confined to bed through indisposition, I did not see him till the 9th.* He suffered much without murmuring. He was quite rational, though evidently dying, [38] when I saw him. After prayer and singing a hymn, I asked him if he felt any fear at the approach of death. Oh no, Brother Creath, said he, "I know in whom I have believed, and in whom I have trusted; and I am persuaded he is able to keep that I have committed to him. I know that my Redeemer lives. All my dependence is in God, and in his Son Jesus Christ." He quoted sundry passages, and commented on them. "But," said he, "my strength fails, but God is my strength and portion forever."

      He exhorted his friends and the family to live like Christians,--to obey the Saviour, and prepare to meet him in eternity. I observed that I almost envied his situation, and desired that my last end should be like his. "Brother Creath," said he, "if so great and so holy a man as Paul was afraid that he might be a castaway, may not so frail and poor a man as I fear too? But my God is good and merciful, and my Saviour is strong and mighty to save me." He continued in the same strain till his strength failed, and I had to leave. Bidding him farewell, he said, "God bless you, my brother. I hope to meet you in heaven."

      Kindly and faithfully attended by his relatives, friends, and physicians, he continued to converse with them; and when asked by Dr. David Morton what he thought of the doctrine he had been preaching, he promptly responded that he believed it to be true. "We may, indeed," said he, "hold some erroneous opinions, but in the main, we are right,--for to err is the lot of frail humanity." In a little time after I left, he requested to be placed in an arm-chair, where, after smoking his pipe, and conversing on the love of God, on reclining his head on the shoulder of his son Barton, he fell asleep in the Lord. [39]

      Thus expired, as he had lived, this decided, intelligent and devout Christian, who had for forty years [full fifty] professed the Christian faith. He was interred in his own locust grove, where repose his remains till the morning of the resurrection.

      Thus far, Elder Jacob Creath, Jr.

      The following are Brother Campbell's remarks, appended to the obituary written by Brother Creath:

      Elder Stone's history we hope will yet be given at considerable length. Though much engaged in controversy, and much opposed, he seems never to have lost a good and persuasive spirit; and while represented as very heterodox, on some vital matters, by his quondam Presbyterian brethren, his good character and benevolent spirit extorted from them the confession that 'his life was sound, though his doctrine was not.' In the heat of controversy he may, indeed, like most other men, have been carried too far on some points; still he was the honored instrument of bringing many out of the ranks of human tradition, and putting into their hands the Book of Books, as their only confession of faith and rule of life, and will no doubt, on this account, as well as others, long continue to be a blessing to those who, by his instrumentality, have already been, or may hereafter be, translated into the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ.

A. C."      

      We shall next present the reader with the excellent letter of Dr. D. T. Morton, the attending physician of the venerable Stone, in his last illness. The writer has not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with the Doctor, but this letter certainly does great credit [40] both to his good sense and good feeling. The following is a copy of the letter ("Christian Messenger," Vol. 14, No. 8):

HANNIBAL, MO., Dec. 4, 1844.      

      Bro. Henderson:--I have thought for several weeks of writing you concerning the departure of that time-worn and heaven-honored saint, your associate editor, Elder BARTON W. STONE, who fell asleep in Christ, on Saturday morning, the 9th of last month, at 4 o'clock, at the residence of his son-in-law, Capt. S. A. Bowen, of this town.

      I esteem it as one of the greatest privileges of my life, to have been permitted to witness the bright display of faith and hope, patience and resignation, manifested by him, during a series of painful paroxysms, more lingering and acute than ordinarily falls to the lot of expiring mortals. Notwithstanding his body was racked with torturing pain, his mind was calm and unbeclouded to the last moment of his existence, and seemed constantly communing with God, or breathing forth in accents of love, to the numerous friends who surrounded his bed, such exhortations as I have seldom heard, and hope never to forget.

      I had much conversation with him, and among the many questions asked him, the following is one: "Father Stone, you have been much persecuted on account of the peculiarities of your teaching--I now ask you if you wish to die in the same faith in which you have lived?" He replied distinctly and audibly, "I do," and added, "that we may have errors I will not deny; but in the main, I am satisfied we are right," and exhorted us to continue faithful.

      Conformably to his wish, we were often permitted [41] to join with him in prayer. I was struck with the fact that music seemed to soothe his pain, for usually, while we sung, he appeared to enjoy a respite from his sufferings. He lectured all around him--his children and grandchildren, his brethren and friends, his physicians, shared liberally in his kind advice and wholesome instruction. Though in obedience to the laws of mortality, he fell, he fell covered with glory, yea, he triumphed in death.

      I saw his body the morning after his pious spirit had returned to God who gave it, and his countenance presented the aspect of composure and resignation in death, which marked his temper through a long, laborious, and useful life. But he is gone, and we are left to mourn, on our own and the world's account, that such a man should ever die.

      While beholding his sufferings, the question involuntarily suggested itself to my mind, Why does our kind heavenly Father, in whose service he spent his life, permit his aged and faithful servant thus to linger in torturing pain to the close of life? The next moment perhaps found me enraptured with admiration at his patience and resignation--thus furnishing to myself an answer to the query. For had not Abraham believed the word of the Almighty, and Father Stone not died with lingering pain, we could never have been exhorted by the faith of the one, nor encouraged by the patience of the other, when surrounded by similar trying circumstances.

      But he rests in peace, and may our heavenly Father enable us all to live in peace, that the God of peace may bless us with every needed good. And may you, my dear brother, be abundantly blessed in your work [42] of faith and labor of love, is the sincere prayer of yours, in the hope of a heavenly inheritance.


      The following is an extract from a letter to D. P. Henderson, from Thomas M. Allen, written shortly after the death of B. W. Stone, and with reference to that event and other matters connected with it.

      Thomas M. Allen was one of Father Stone's oldest, most decided, influential and devoted friends. He loved B. W. Stone with the affection of a warm-hearted son, and indeed in the Gospel he was his son. His love was reciprocated. For, in his esteem he stood perhaps first, certainly among the very first in the list of his very numerous and devoted friends. But I will not detain you longer from the extract.

BOONE COUNTY, MO., Dec. 5th, 1844.      

      Bro. D. P. Henderson:--Our beloved Father Stone has gone to heaven. Dear old brother, he was truly one of the excellent of the earth. I doubt whether there ever was a purer, better man than Elder B. W. Stone. His entire life was little else than a practical commentary on the pure faith and morality of the Gospel he professed. While many have denounced him for heresy, all, I believe, concede the fact, that the meekness of his temper, quietness of his spirit, his humility and morality were those of a Christian. Well, that is enough. For only a good man out of the good treasure of his heart could bring forth such good fruit.

      He is now in eternity, and has to do with a Being whose ways are not man's ways, and will reward all according to the deeds done in their bodies; and if [43] Bro. Stone was not prepared for the plaudit, "Well done, good and faithful servant," I question whether there lives a being on earth who is.

      Those who are now pleading for the union of Christians upon the Bible alone, are as much indebted to Elder Stone, if not more so, than to any other man. I regarded him as the uniting link between the old and present state of things. Truly do I sympathize with his wife and family, and his numerous brethren and friends throughout this great nation. For well may it be said of him, that he was great in goodness. But ten such sheets would not be sufficient for me to give vent to my feelings and judgment, in doing justice to the memory of Bro. Stone.

      My principal object in this communication is to ascertain whether Bro. Stone left a memoir of his life, or any thing for the press, to be published after his death. I have understood he did; and if so, whether that embraces copious extracts from his numerous productions on the many important subjects on which he wrote. From Bro. Stone's extreme modesty, I fear he has omitted much that ought to go in a work of that kind. In that event, I am anxious to have it supplied by a large appendix.

      I want it seen that his object has ever been truth--the union of Christians--the Salvation of sinners--and not the founding and building up of another sect.

  Your brother,
  T. M. ALLEN.      

      Thus passed away, in a good old age, one of the purest spirits of earth. He died at his post, full of fruit. As a ripe shock of corn he was gathered into the granary on high. Nobly had he fulfilled the task [44] assigned him by his Lord--he had finished his work. During his long and eventful life, he had kept the crown in view. His pathway was rugged sometimes, and very difficult, but faith gave him the victory over every enemy. He fought a good fight, and finished his course with joy, and henceforth is laid up for him the crown of life. The happy results of his toil and labors in the cause of Christ can never be fully known till all the redeemed shall be brought home to glory. Father Stone may look upon those saved by his instrumentality as they march along the streets of the New Jerusalem, clothed in pure and white garments, and say, "You are my crown of rejoicing, that I have not run in vain, nor labored in vain." The Lord keep us all humble! [45]

      * This notice represents Brother Creath as visiting Father Stone on the 9th of November; but as he died on the morning of the 9th, at 4 o'clock, it is most likely it was on the 8th that he was with him. The first or preceding notice says it was on the 8th. This, to be sure, is a small matter, still accuracy is desirable.

[WEBWS 31-45]

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James M. Mathes, ed.
Works of Elder B. W. Stone (1859)

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