[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)


C H A P T E R   X X V I.

Chosen Elder of the Allegheny Church--Extracts from his diary at this period--Marriage of two
      of his children--Death of his wife.

I N addition to all the labors we have mentioned, others were added; after being a few years in the city he was chosen as bishop or elder of the Alleghany Church, which imposed upon him the new cares and duties growing out of the oversight of the flock. For those duties he was admirably fitted; few men ever took a more sympathetic heart into the house of mourning than he, or ministered more tenderly to broken hearts the consolations of the gospel of peace. He well knew, too, how to deal with the erring, and he was greatly successful in bringing back to the fold the wanderers that had strayed. His heart was in his work, and this made it pleasure rather than toil.

      A few pages of a diary kept by Elder Scott at this period has fallen into my hands, which will give the reader a clearer insight into both his inner and outward life than any other hand could sketch; and it is only to be regretted that so brief a record remains of a life so useful and eventful. In perusing these daily jottings, the reader can not fail to be impressed by the devout spirit which he manifested, and the earnest purpose by which he was animated. His first entry is dated Friday, Dec. 1, 1848: [404]

      "The first day of my eldership. Studied, wrote, and walked to the top of the hill north. This is a great exercise for the lungs and limbs, yet a small price for the rest and fresh air with which it is rewarded at the summit of the hill. It is like ascending to paradise. We breathe a more vigorous atmosphere and see all around the innumerable hills that form the main features of the country.

      "In ascending, we rise from the idea of man's weakness into that of God's power; we ascend from the restlessness of the finite to the tranquillity of the infinite. On the hilltop I felt myself with God. The wind was from the north, keen, cold, and refreshing--the sky covered with leaden black clouds, with the sun now and then gleaming through them with a wintry flush.

      "In the valley below, with the three rivers streaming through it 'like a giant's blood,' lay the two cities. The fresh north wind carried the smoke from a thousand chimneys gracefully toward the Ohio, and laid it in a black, unlovely mass upon the Coal Hill side. Began my descent running, and continued it the whole length of the hill downwards, every muscle of my limbs and body aching in response to the powerful test to which their strength and elasticity were put by the exercise.

      "Sought to reclaim an erring brother. Visited another in reference to a family Bible. Spent the night in study.

"LORD'S DAY, Dec. 3, 1848.      

      "The great festival--God's great festival; the best of all the seven. What a delight is the Lord's day! Crowded with the grand deeds of Christ--his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven--it awakens in the soul all the resplendent recollections of the kingdom of God. What themes does it afford for meditation and eloquence!

      "I spoke 'On Christ as the Son of God, with power, authority, and salvation.' A grand topic--Matt. 14th chap. One accession by baptism, and another by repentance and [405] confession. The congregation was good, but not overflowing. In the afternoon, under the solemn gladness of the Lord's Supper, we had the reception of the two new members, and the kind greeting and shaking of hands of the brethren usual on the occasion. The Disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. The day closed with a sermon by Dr. Slosson, during which I slept as sound as a top, and was awakened, to my shame be it spoken, only by the doctor himself, whom I found, to my astonishment on awaking, sitting by my side. But this came of my restless and fitful sleep of the preceding night.

"MONDAY, Dec. 4, 1848.      

      "Studied Bell's Anatomy. What a marvel of mechanism is the human skeleton! The first dash of this great master's pen excited my admiration and fired my enthusiasm. 'The spine,' he says, 'is the center of muscular motion, and the part of most common relation in the system.' How elegant! By this beautiful truth the mind is carried at once down to the deepest and most fundamental thought in anatomical science.

      "With firm, elastic tread I marched to the mountain, and felt that I had reached the summit without requiring, either for limb or lung, a single halt. Then again, I enjoyed the feast of a hundred hills, all lying in the quietude of the Infinite, who had formed them a feature of his own power. For a moment I retreated to the back of the mountain, that I might enjoy the sweets of solitude, that I might hold converse for a moment with the great sentiment of power that impressed itself on the surrounding scene. We are the architects of our own character as we are of our own fortune; I felt that the man who would ascend into the serenity of the Infinite must hold converse with the Infinite, the sublime, the boundless. Astronomy must be nearly allied to grandeur of character. The study [406] of the stars and the silent, boundless heavens, must be very favorable to the growth of the higher virtues of silence, quietude, peace, tranquillity, awe, reverence, and devotion.

      "With the multitude of hills lying all around me, I could not but lift up my hat as being in the presence of God. 'Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, O King of saints.' Involuntarily I repeated that inimitable inspiration--the 34th Psalm: 'I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be continually in my mouth.'

      "This is the psalm that the pious Boardman, first husband of the second Mrs. Judson, directed his sweet wife to read to him the night before his death in a far distant land. Alas! the thought stirs my soul to divine and melancholy sympathy. 'This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him from all his fears.' Ps. xxxiv.

      "The wind was direct from the north and laid the smoke of the two cities in an unshapely black mass against the Coal Hill south. A slight rain came up; clouds covered the heavens; the day was damp, dark, and drizzly. The noise of the city, very audible, ascended from below like the noise of a host preparing for battle. I descended running; the entire length of the hill did not exhaust me. My mouth and muscles, my limbs and lungs stood it admirably. Made twenty or thirty calls. Had some talk both with Irish Catholics and Scotch Presbyterians.

"DECEMBER 5th, 1848.      

      Called on a few families; promised a Bible and Testament to a poor black woman. Saw a young wife, who, with her husband, said they were Baptists, and from England; six months only in this country and as yet had joined no religious community. Spoke with a family touching a family Bible, and with an acquaintance, an alien, of giving us a hearing. [407]

"DECEMBER 6th.      

      "Called on the black woman with the Bible and Testament I had promised yesterday. For the former I was to receive twenty-five cents; but on asking the woman of the welfare of her husband, she told me he was sick; that he was a Baptist, and a preacher. I could not think of taking the price of the book from her, and so gave the Bible to her, and the Testament to her little daughter. May God bless them both, to the mother and the child. Called on a Cumberland Presbyterian, and conversed with the mother of the family. This is always interesting. Since I came to have a family myself, conversation with mothers is, I feel, more interesting to me than with daughters. Spent almost the entire day hunting up the flock. Had several opportunities of fireside preaching. May God water what I planted! Are the public or private labors of a pastor the most prolific of good? Or can the elder of a church achieve more by his private or public labors? Public and private labor do form but the two parts of one rule for evangelizing the world. As it is said the apostles labored 'publicly and from house to house,' but as things which God has joined together man oftentimes thrust asunder, and as ministers who work well in public, divorce from this the love which is due from them to their flock in private, it may be well to consider the comparative value of public and private labor in religion. The purposes of the church are either subjective or objective, as the Germans would say. For they either respect her own perfection or the world's conversion. Touching the church's perfection, a minister may publicly say every thing that can be said on the subject of the personal and family piety of the members, and yet neither advance the thing one step or know the true state of the case in regard to any of them. Practice and theory, action and eloquence are different things. A pastoral visit discovers the sore and enables the shepherd to put his finger on it on the spot. Publicly, a minister can say [408] more, but do less. Privately, his field is narrowed down to the smallest possible dimensions, and, with the power brought thus near to the machinery, he acts with the greatest possible effect.

"DECEMBER 8, 1848.      

      "The wintry appearance of the country to-day was very striking; the brown fields and blackened forests, the disrobed orchards and desolated gardens looked sad. A flock of pigeons sported in the blustering wind over a cornfield, and seemed delighted with their fortune. How delightful would it be if men, like birds, could ascend for refreshment into the heavens! 'But the heavens, even the heaven of heavens, are the Lord's.' The earth hath he given to the children of men. Made a number of calls. Saw Sister C-----, who informed me that her husband had died the last month, and left her with seven children. It was a sore case. Gave her -----, for which she seemed exceedingly thankful.

"LORD'S DAY, Dec. 10, 1848.      

      "The rain cloud covered the heavens, the weather gloomy and wet. The congregation on that account thin. Spoke upon our blessed Lord as the 'Faithful and True Witness.' Rev. 3d chap. It was a happy theme, and I had an abundant enlargement and spoke the Word of the Lord boldly. In a preliminary--brief, and perhaps beautiful--spoke of nature and religion as witnesses for God. Touching nature, as testifying for the Divine existence, showed that David (19th Psalm), and Galileo, philosophy and religion, science and the Scriptures concurred; that from the atom to the archangel nature said there was a God, and that his natural attributes were power, unlimited power, immensity, wisdom, and benevolence. But while, as Paul expresses it, the invisible attributes of the Godhead are clearly seen in the things that are seen, the details of creation were entirely mute in regard to some of God's [409] moral attributes; his mercy, justice, and compassion for man as he is. Religion supplies what is wanted here, and testifies of the mercy and justice of God and his disposition toward man as he is--fallen, sinful, forlorn, ruined.

      "On the front of the canvass of religion stands our Lord Jesus Christ, distinguished as the faithful and true witness to the divine nature in the points above stated. He testifies in behalf of God, against the world and against the church. He is a witness because he testifies--a true witness, because all things whatsoever he heard of the Father he has made known to us--the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and he is a faithful witness, because he maintained the truth of his testimony to the death, and sealed it with his blood.

      "1st. His testimony in behalf of the Divine nature is chiefly accumulated on two points:

      "1st. That God loved man as he is.

      "2d. That he loved justice more; and, as proof of this, seeing nothing else would do, he sent his Son into this wretched world to redeem it. His testimony against the world also converged to two points--that it was,

      "1st. In a state of sin,

      "2d. And would be punished.

      "So also of his testimony against the church; that her leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, had

      "1st. Corrupted the law; and,

      "2d. Rejected the gospel.


      "In witnessing for God and against the church and the world, we were to imitate him, and meet men precisely at the point where they set themselves in practical opposition to God and religion. To do this, was to be a true witness, and to do it at the hazard of our life and reputation, was to be a faithful witness. [410]

      "In the afternoon, we had heaven upon earth; that is, we had the Lord's Supper.

"LORD'S DAY, Dec. 17, 1848.      

      "In the afternoon, partook of the Lord's Supper with the brotherhood. It is usual for me or my colleague Bro. Church to call on one of the brethren, to address the church at this solemn moment, but I do not approve of it; experience is against the custom, for I never can perceive that one of all who are invited to speak on the occasion sympathize with it, or are equal to it. They preach about every thing and any thing that is uppermost in their mind, and that is never the Supper. This is incongruous, and to me exceedingly annoying. Would they take Gethsemane, or the house of the high priest, or that of Caiaphas, or Pilate's bar, or the Pretorium, or the balcony 'Ecce Homo,' or the nailing him to the cross and his elevation on that accursed tree, or his groans, and cries, or death, or burial, or resurrection, or the nature of the Supper as a memorial of his death, or its peculiar attribute, or its character as the symbol of union among the brethren, or any other of its meanings, either figurative or literal, they would at least proceed decorously and in unison with the occasion; but this is seldom or never done.

      "The last and latest hours of this blessed evening were spent with my wife in reading, and in weeping over the piety, genius, and sufferings of the second Mrs. Judson, of Tavoy, India, as portrayed by her who has succeeded to the arms and affections of her eminent husband, Adoniram Judson, of Maulmain.

"DECEMBER 19, 1848.      

      "In my descent from the mountain this morning, was saluted by Mother Thompson, who informed me both of Mrs. S-----'s residence and her own. She is a widow.[411] I have already obtained the names of twenty-four widows, all members of the congregation. What a field for the Christian philanthropist is this!

DECEMBER 25, 1848.      

      "How sweet to give the first-fruits of our waking moments to God! How blessed to receive a Christmas gift from him! The blessing of the Lord maketh rich and addeth no sorrow. Attended my theological class; greatly surprised by the students, who acquitted themselves beyond all expectation. In the four gospels, we see our religion founded; in the Acts, we see it organized; in the epistles, we see the church's pastoral superintendence; and in the Revelations, we see her apostatized.

DECEMBER 26th.      

      "Spent the evening with a Christian brother. A visit for religious purposes, if discreetly made, is as delightful as it is profitable to the parties. But the visit should, if possible, be strictly religious, and the sacred always be made to predominate over the secular.

"LORD'S DAY, Dec. 31, 1848.      

      "This was a day rich in all grand things. In the morning, Bro. B-----, Agent of the Society for Converting the Jews, preached on this subject, and took the ground that the gospel was to be preached to the Jews first, and that the mass of the heathen world would not be restored to God by the preaching of the gospel until Israel should be saved. Bro. Church followed in a few remarks, very much to the purpose, in which he justified the ground which had been assumed in the sermon. I closed by a few words on the joy of Israel when these things should have been accomplished. The afternoon was heavenly and divine. Oh! the blessedness of the heavenly ordinance of the Lord's Supper. What a feast--it is fat things, truly--wine upon [412] the lees well refined. Bro. Church preached in the evening. The discourse was upon Romans 8th chap. Very fine--pious, practical, enlightened."

      The preceding extracts are all from the same month, and yet what a rich variety of thought, feeling, and action do they present! His love of nature, which ever led him up to nature's God; his deep devotion, his earnest practical religion, seen in visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction; his careful study of God's Word; devotion to the class of young men to whom he was unfolding the Scriptures; and the abundance of his public and private labors; all of which show that he permitted no day to pass without its good deed. Had this diary been continued, what a rich legacy of Christian example, instruction, and effort it would have been! But a record of it has been kept that will be imperishable.

      In the midst of these his abundant labors, however, he was very happy; and the few years spent at this period in Pittsburg were, doubtless, the happiest of his life. He enjoyed greatly the society of his son in the faith, Elder Samuel Church, under whose labors a large and influential congregation had been gathered. Their intimacy had been life-long, and grew with each succeeding year, and the attachment they had for each other was cemented during these years by the union of their families--Mr. Scott's eldest son John marrying Mary, Elder Church's eldest daughter, and Mr. Church's eldest son William being united to Emily, Mr. Scott's eldest and only surviving daughter. Happy in seeing his children settled in life, happy in useful and successful labor, happy in seeing the cause [413] to which he had given the energies of his life prospering beyond all that he had hoped, he had reason for gratitude and devout thanksgiving. For a great portion of his life he could truthfully sing:

"No foot of land do I possess,
Nor cottage in this wilderness,--
      A poor wayfaring man."

      He went on his way toiling, sorrowing, yet rejoicing, and could truly, amid all the changes of his lot, say:

"Yonder's my house and portion fair,
My treasure and my heart are there,
      And my abiding home."

      He found by experience and observation that the fewer earthly cares and anxieties a preacher of the gospel had, the better it was for him and for the cause in which he was engaged. He saw that riches often drew the heart away from God, and therefore he neither strove after wealth nor repined at his lot. One very happy result of his narrow circumstances was, that his children, at an early period, became self-reliant and self-supporting, and the fact that all of them have been, in a greater or less degree, successful in life may be attributed to the stern yet useful discipline of their early years. As already intimated, this period of his life was doubtless the happiest he ever enjoyed. Relieved, in a great measure, of a parent's anxiety by seeing his children settled and their prospects cheering, he doubtless expected that he and she who for more than a quarter of a century had been his faithful companion would quietly descend together the western slope of life, and, as they had cheered each other in the steep ascent, so they [414] would comfort each other as they went down the declivity, and, in the words of the old song, not separated by a long interval, they would "sleep together at the foot." But this was not to be; the great sorrow of his life was at hand, his beloved wife was taken away, and his heart and home were left desolate. This sad event took place on the 28th of April, 1849, and was made the subject of the following tender and dignified notice by her sorely stricken husband, in the next issue of his paper:

      "The death of this excellent woman was sudden and unexpected, but never, perhaps, did mortal breathe out her spirit in holier tranquillity. After death, her features were composed into a heavenly sweetness, so that it seemed as if he who separated her soul from all that was mortal left behind him evident traces of his divine presence on the solemn occasion. Her history may soon be told. She belonged to families who were among the first settlers of Westmoreland County, Penn., where many of her relations still live. She gave her hand in marriage in 1823, and in 1827 accompanied her husband to the Western Reserve, Ohio, where she witnessed, during the years 1827, '28, '29, '30, thousands gathered unto the fold of God, and where she participated in the joys and sorrows of that deeply interesting period. During her long stay in Carthage, Hamilton County, Ohio, she made many acquaintances among the people of God, of whom hundreds, yea, thousands, partook of the hospitality of her roof and board. The difficulties to which the infantile state of the connection subjected our laborers during the last twenty-two years, were known to her perhaps more than any other woman, but she still hoped on, and greatly animated her husband to persevere when these difficulties had well-nigh overcome his faith. She [415] has raised for the Most High 'a godly seed,' and her husband, the best earthly witness--who feels that in her death the center of feeling and affection, and of moral and religious influence, is smitten down in the family--testifies that she was the best of wives, the tenderest of mothers, and the most faithful of friends--a Christian in faith, and works, and charity."a [416]

      a The Protestant Unionist (1849). [E.S.]


[LEWS 404-416]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)