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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)


C H A P T E R   X X I X.

The end at hand--The news of the fall of Fort Sumter--Taken suddenly ill--Visited by Elders
      Rogers and Streator--Death--A. Campbell's tribute to his memory.

W E have now reached 1861, the last year of the life of Elder Scott, and his last days were in the dark days of the Republic. We have seen already that the distracted state of the country deeply affected him, but he had only seen thus far the beginning of sorrows; one State only had broken away from the rest, like a star falling from the firmament; but now they began to fall in quick succession, like the angels who kept not their first estate, falling from their thrones of light. He now realized that there was no hope of a peaceful adjustment, and that the land of which he was proud to be a citizen, which had been a light to other lands was about to undergo a dark and bloody eclipse; this increased his sorrow and filled him with most painful forebodings, for in the madness that ruled the hour he saw nothing but disaster and ruin, and feared that, in the storm of the impending fraternal strife, the ship of state would be wrecked and the best hopes of humanity go down.

      It added to his distress to find that the voice of reason and religion was almost lost amid the fierce tumult, and he shuddered at the thought that the blood of brethren must be shed by brothers' hands. [443] He was several times during the winter called upon to address public meetings, and he did so with rare eloquence and deep pathos; his words were words of truth and soberness, as far removed as possible from the language of the demagogue--words which only a true Christian patriot could feel and utter. He greatly desired a peaceful settlement of the existing troubles; such a settlement without bloodshed he deemed would present to men and angels the grandest spectacle of the power of religion and civilization that mankind had ever witnessed; but much as he desired it, he was not sanguine enough to indulge any such hope at this time. He thus gave vent to his feelings in writing to his son John:

      "My poor wife is sitting by me, reading of Gen. Washington, and is as deeply affected by the state of our national affairs as I or any other person could be. This terrible affair has broken many a heart, and, I fear, if there is not a change for the better soon, it will break all hearts. I never heard of so grievous a case. Abundance of tears have been shed in my family this day over this sad event. It has torn me all to pieces. I thank the goodness of God that civil war is not yet upon us. If all the Southern States secede without compromise, they will part from us in the worst spirit, and war will follow. Secession is war--Union, peace. I fear that, unless union is effected immediately, secession will reveal itself in the thunders of civil war."

      Soon after this, in a letter without date, in reply to one from his son in Pittsburg, dated April 10th, he writes that his worst fears were realized. His language is as follows: [444]

      "The fate of Fort Sumter, which you had not heard of when you wrote--which, indeed, occurred subsequently to the date of your letter--will now have reached you. Alas, for my country! Civil war is now most certainly inaugurated, and its termination who can foresee? Who can predict? Twice has the state of things filled my eyes with tears this day. Oh, my country! my country! How I love thee! how I deplore thy present misfortunes!"

      The letter from which we have quoted must have been written between the 15th and 20th of April, less than one week before his death. No intimation was given in it of any illness; indeed, he was able on Monday, the 15th, to visit a number of his friends, and, though much depressed by the sad state of the affairs of the country, he was to all appearance in his usual health. On Tuesday, he was attacked with typhoid pneumonia, and rapidly grew worse; little alarm, however, was felt until the following Lord's day, when it was thought necessary to inform his children by telegraph that his condition was critical. Elder John Rogers, an old friend and beloved fellow-laborer, happened to be in Mayslick and called upon him, and, though quite ill, found him able to converse freely. Elder Rogers was impressed with the thought that the end was not far distant, and said to him: "Bro. Scott, is this death?" He replied: "It is very like it." "Do you fear death?" was the next question. "Oh! no," he said; "I know in whom I have trusted;" and during the entire interview he manifested an unwavering faith in the Savior he had long preached to others, and whom he now found so precious to his own soul. [445]

      Elder L. P. Streator visited him several times during his illness, and conversed freely with him with regard to the change which was evidently near. He asked him whether he was conscious that he was going to die. "Yes,"he answered; "and many a true soldier has gone before me over Jordan."

      On Sunday, the 21st, he was evidently sinking rapidly. Elder Streator called in, and found him much worse, and, taking his hand at parting, said: "Bro. Scott, you will soon pass over Jordan." "Do you think so?" said he. "Certainly," was the reply; "it can not be otherwise." He closed his eyes, and said, earnestly, "The will of the Lord be done."

      He lay for a time calm and silent, but soon roused up as in an ecstasy, and burst forth in a rapturous strain. He spoke of the joys of the redeemed when they should be ushered into the presence of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and the myriad hosts washed in the blood of the Lamb; of the angelic bands, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers; of the great white throne and Him that sat thereon. He seemed to those who heard him as if he stood near the open gate of the celestial city, and was describing the glories which met his ravished sight; the dim and distant was now bright and near, and the worn and weary spirit longed to enter in.

      After this, he seemed to be exhausted and fell into a quiet slumber. On awaking, he said: "I have been greatly blessed; it has been my privilege to develop the kingdom of God. I have been greatly honored." He then recounted the names of a number of the great and good men with whom he had labored, [446] among them Thomas and Alexander Campbell, John T. Johnson, Barton W. Stone, and Elder John Smith, showing that the troubles of the present, which had laid as a burden on his soul, were forgotten, and that his mind was occupied with the great work of his life which the Master had given him to do, and which was nearly done. His disease progressed rapidly after this; by Sunday evening he was too low to speak, and on Tuesday evening, April 23rd, he trustfully and peacefully fell asleep in Jesus, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.

      His children, who nearly all resided in Pittsburg, were not apprised of his illness until danger of its fatal termination was apprehended, and, though they lost not a moment after hearing the sad and altogether unexpected intelligence, they did no reach Mayslick until the early dawn of Wednesday morning, and were only aware that they were too late to close his eyes and receive his dying blessing, when they came in sight of the house and knew by many nameless tokens that death was there.

      All his children, with the exception of his son Samuel, were present at the funeral services, which were conducted with great feeling and impressiveness by Elder John Rogers and Elder L. P. Streator. After which, in the village graveyard, his remains were laid to rest. Several notices of his death appeared in various journals, religious and secular, the most noteworthy of them in the "Millennial Harbinger," from the pen of its venerable editor, Alexander Campbell, whose life-long acquaintance and co-operation qualified him to pay the following just and merited tribute to his memory: [447]

      "I have not seen any published notice of the death of our much beloved and esteemed Elder Walter Scott. I have just now learned, by a letter of April 25th, from Bro. L. P. Streator, that he was seized, one week before he wrote to me, with a severe attack of typhoid pneumonia, at his own house, which in seven days terminated his pilgrimage on this earth. With the exception of his son Samuel, absent from home, he was followed to the grave by all his children.

      "No death in my horizon, out of my own family, came more unexpectedly or more ungratefully to my ears than this of our much beloved and highly appreciated brother Walter Scott, and none awoke more tender sympathies and regrets. Next to my father, he was my most cordial and indefatigable fellow-laborer in the origin and progress of the present Reformation. We often took counsel together in our efforts to plead and advocate the paramount claims of original and apostolic Christianity. His whole heart was in the work. He was, indeed, truly eloquent, in the whole import of that word, in pleading the claims of the Author and Founder of the Christian faith and hope, and in disabusing the inquiring mind of all its prejudices, misapprehensions, and errors. He was, too, most successful in winning souls to the allegiance of the Divine Author and Founder of the Christian institution, and in putting to silence the cavilings and objections of the modern Pharisees and Sadducees of sectariandom.

      "He, indeed, possessed, upon the whole view of his character, a happy temperament. It is true, though not a verb, he had his moods and tenses, as men of genius generally have. He was both logical and rhetorical in his conceptions and utterances. He could and he did simultaneously address and interest the understanding, the conscience, and the heart of his hearers, and in his [448] happiest seasons constrain their attention and their acquiescence.

      "He was, in his palmiest days, a powerful and a successful advocate of the claims of the Lord Messiah on the heart and life of every one who had recognized his person and mission, and especially upon those who had, in their baptism, vowed eternal allegiance to his adorable name.

      "He, without partiality or enmity in his heart to any human being, manfully and magnanimously proclaimed the truth, the whole truth, so far as he understood it, regardless of human applause or of human condemnation. He had a strong faith in the person, and mission, and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had a rich hope of the life everlasting, and of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading.

      "I knew him well. I knew him long. I loved him much. We might not, indeed, agree in every opinion nor in every point of expediency; but we never loved each other less because we did not acquiesce in every opinion and in every measure. By the eye of faith and the eye of hope, methinks I see him in Abraham's bosom."a

      In the light of his finished life and labors, it is not an extravagant eulogy to say that he was a man of eminent ability, and that he consecrated all his talents to the service of his Lord and Master; that to his magnificent powers of mind were joined humility, benevolence, and piety; that his errors were few and his virtues many; that his life, labors, and example are a rich legacy to the church of God. His fame will continue to brighten as the years go by, and his memory will long be cherished for the service he did for [449] God and humanity in calling attention to long neglected and almost forgotten truths. Many, very many will be the stars in his crown of rejoicing, and we can not doubt that at the final day his welcome will be: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord." [450]

      a Alexander Campbell. "Elder Walter Scott's Demise." The Millennial Harbinger (May 1861): 296-297. [E.S.]


[LEWS 443-450]

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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)