A HISTORY of the early ministers of the Gospel, who struggled in the Cumberland Presbyterian church for an ecclesiastical existence, is daily becoming more and more an object of peculiar interest and inquiry. No incident, tending to illustrate character, or to show the sacrifices and difficulties they were obliged to endure, can fail to interest those, whether laymen or clergy, who are now laboring, or shall hereafter labor, to promote the prosperity of that church. A belief of this fact first suggested to the writer the propriety of making an effort while the subject of the following Memoir was on his death-bed, to collect, from his own lips, materials to preserve his memory. Accordingly, he was written to, to know if an effort, with that object in view, would be agreeable to him. An affirmative answer was immediately returned, through an amanuensis; and the late Rev. T. P. Calhoun, at my request, waited on him for several days, in short conversations, taking notes of incidents as they were presented. The thought had not then occurred, that the labor and responsibility of arranging those materials, and publishing a history of Mr. Donnell's life, would ever devolve on me:--to collect and preserve the materials, to be used as the church might direct, was the prime object. Before the interview closed, however, Mr. Donnell determined to commit to Mr. Calhoun's charge, all his papers, with the understanding that he should use them in that way which might seem best calculated to promote the interest of religion.
Shortly after the death of Mr. Donnell, Mr. Calhoun determined to move to Minnesota; and his unsettled state, while in Tennessee, prevented him from discharging the duties contemplated in the delivery of the papers. In the meantime, the writer was requested, by the son of the deceased, to aid Mr. Calhoun, in any labor he might undertake, to preserve the memory of his venerated father. We had scarcely commenced the responsible work, before Mr. Calhoun was called, by a mysterious Providence, to the eternal world; which left the whole affair in my hands.
On a minute examination of the materials that had been collected, together with those found among the papers turned over to Mr. Calhoun, I saw at once that they would not enable me to do justice to the character of the deceased, nor meet the expectations of the church. The facts derived from records made by himself, as well as those obtained from his own lips, by Mr. Calhoun, were important, but still modesty had led to the omission of many incidents, that ought to be embodied in the biography of one whose claims to posthumous regard are so clear and strong as Mr. Donnell's. Such incidents could only be expected from disinterested persons, who sat under his ministry
I immediately opened a correspondence with many brethren, both among the clergy and laity, for the purpose of supplying the deficiency alluded to; and am happy to say, the call was not disregarded. The names of the contributors, appearing in the Memoir, will be a sufficient guaranty of the accuracy of the facts furnished.
In justice to myself, it is proper to say, that the additional labor, after the death of Mr. Calhoun, to supply the want of materials necessary, delayed the publication of the work; and about the time it was ready for the press, the unfortunate war, between the North and the South, broke out, which rendered further delay unavoidable.
Mr. Donnell maintained an extensive correspondence, through life; but it is to be regretted that so few copies of his letters are to be found among his papers. Much effort has been made to obtain the original letters, and not without some success; yet, it is believed, there are many others that might, with proper search, be procured. Some of the letters have not been given entire, in the Memoir. In cases where the separation of paragraphs produced too much abruptness, some liberty was taken with the language, in order to form a proper connection; and in some cases, also, where an alteration of phrases seemed advisable, it was made; but in no instance has the original meaning been changed. The same liberty was taken with the "Select Thoughts;" but the meaning of the writer was scrupulously preserved.
From the materials on hand, a much larger volume might have been prepared, with less labor of selection. But I preferred to limit the book to its present size, that its price would be such as to admit of its more extensive and useful circulation.
Should the cool and severe critic mark with his pencil any part of the work as wanting in literary taste and classical propriety, it is hoped that the noble character and useful life which it commemorates, will still be thought worthy of profound study, notwithstanding the imperfection of the history that records it; and that the humble labor bestowed upon the book, will contribute, in some degree, at least, to the edification and encouragement of many pious readers.
No apology is offered for the appendix, containing a brief sketch of the life of Hugh Bone, Esq. Mr. Donnell lived in his neighborhood when he first joined the "Council;" and Mr. Bone was among the first elders that took him by the hand, and encouraged him to enter the ministry. Would that the names of more of the elders who struggled with our church in her early history, could be preserved from oblivion, and their example handed down to posterity for imitation.
The facts embraced in the appendix, have been derived from a reliable source, and may be depended on as accurate.
May God attend the perusal of the history now submitted with His blessing; and may the piety and devotedness in the ministry of that good and great man, which it records, long be preserved in the church, is the prayer of
COUNCIL HILL, IOWA.
Power of Example--Birth and Parentage--His Father in the Revolution--Anecdotes of the Revolution--David's Psalms in Metre--Part taken by Presbyterian Ministers in the Revolution--Removal of Mr. Donnell's Parents from North Carolina to Tennessee--His Father drives the first Wagon from Sumner County, Tenn., to Lexington, Ky.--Death of his Father--Mr. Doak's Letter--Early Life of Mr. Donnell--Excellent Traits of his Mother--His remarkable Diligence in Reading the Bible--Last Interview with his Mother--His Resolution to Pray--Attends the Ridge Camp-meeting--Prays alone in the Woods--His Conversion--His Temperate Habits. [pages 9-25]
He joins the Presbyterian Church--His mind turned to the Ministry--Commission of Kentucky Synod--The Revival Party--Camp-meeting near Murfreesborough--Spends a whole Night in Prayer--Joins the "Council"--Encouraged to Exhort--Extent of his Circuit--Discouragements--Interview with Col. Provine--Cumberland Presbytery Organized--Licensed to Preach--Trial Sermon--Letter from Mr. Ewing. [pages 26-35]
His Ordination--Remarkable Economy of Time--Physical Labors--Holds the first Camp-meeting in Alabama--Success in Founding Churches--Preaches at Nashville--One of the Committee to Compile a Confession of Faith--The Synod that adopted it. [pages 36-41]
His Marriage--Enters into Covenant with God, and records a Solemn Prayer--First Death in the Family--His Reflections on the Bereavement--Illness and Death of Mrs. Donnell--Dedicates himself anew to the Cause of Christ. [pages 42-48]
Organizes a Church in Nashville--The Article on Cumberland Presbyterianism in Buck's Theological Dictionary--Interesting Missionary Tour to Pennsylvania--Preaches in North Carolina, on his way--Letter from Leaksville--Dr. Burrow's Letter--Jealousy at the Presbyterian Camp-meeting--Great Revival in Pennsylvania. [pages 49-60]
Mr. Morgan's Account of the Revival in Pennsylvania--Conduct of Presbyterians--Meeting at Athens, Ohio--Last Hours of Mr. Morgan--Mr. Donnell at Lebanon--Great Revival there--Mr. Golladay's Letter--Letter from Col. Topp--Mr. Donnell's second Marriage--His Covenant with God. [pages 61-71]
Great Revival in Memphis--Invited to become Pastor of the Church--He Declines--Reasons for Declining--Visits the City--Letter to his Son--Collects Funds to build a House of Worship--Different Pastors of the Church in Memphis. [pages 72-77]
His Removal to Lebanon, Tenn.--Judge Caruthers' Letter--Great Delight of the Congregation on hearing of his consent to supply their Pulpit--Reasons for going to Lebanon--Notes of one of his Discourses--Interest for the Students--An Extract from his first Lecture to Candidates for the Ministry--Contributes to Endow the Theological Department. [pages 78-89]
His Labors at Athens--Meeting of Columbia Synod--Revival of Religion--Revision of the Confession of Faith proposed--His published Letter against Revision--General Remarks--Mr. Ewing's Example. [pages 90-101]
Letter to Rev. William Harris--To the same--From Rev. Finis Ewing--From Samuel Donnell--From Mr. Donnell's Mother--To Mr. Hugh Bone--To same--To Mr. Erwin--To same. [pages 102-115]
Letter to Mr. Erwin--To Rev. William Harris--To Rev. Thomas Calhoun--From Rev. John Morgan--From the same--From the same--From the same--From Mrs. Nancy Watt--From Col. James W. Smith--Mr. Donnell to his Wife--From Rev. John Morgan--From the same. [pages 116-130]
Letter to his Wife--From Rev. Samuel King--To Rev. R. Beard--From Col. J. W. Smith. [pages 131-141]