MATTHEW HOUSTON BONE was born May, 24th, 1803, near Statesville, Wilson County, Tennessee. His father, Hugh Bone, and mother, Mary Hill, were both of Scotch-Irish lineage, and reared in the same community in Iredell county, North Carolina. They inherited religious and Presbyterian proclivities from a long line of pious ancestors. Naturally of good constitutions, strong minds, and christian habits, well confirmed under the teachings of that eminent divine, Rev. James Hall, D.D., they were fully qualified to take position as heads of a family and train their children for God and the Church, which they did. Seven children, five sons and two daughters, were born unto them, of which Matthew Houston, named for a prominent Presbyterian divine of that day, was the sixth. His early education was very limited, the country contiguous to his father's house affording very meagre facilities in that regard. His boyhood years were spent in tilling the soil of his father's farm in connection with his brothers. This laid the foundation of a good physical constitution. His moral training, it hardly needs to be said, was in strict accord with the standard erected in the Abrahamic Covenant. This created the basis of what has been ever since, a strictly religious life, and an entire consecration to his God. On the 9th of September, 1821, at a camp-meeting at Good Providence, Union County, Kentucky, he embraced, by faith, all the blessings stipulated and guaranteed in the covenant before mentioned. From the time of his early boyhood the thought had predominated in his mind, that some day he would be a preacher. Now that the seal of the covenant had been applied more directly to his heart through the he washing of regeneration and the belief of the truth, he felt that the time had arrived to take the initiatory steps. With this intent he presented himself before the Anderson presbytery, then convened, October 1822, at Mt. Pleasant meeting house, Muhlenburg County, Kentucky, and was accepted as a candidate for the office of the holy ministry. It was the custom in those days, institutions of learning being rare, for old preachers to take probationers into their families to teach and train them for the work. He, and one other, a kinsman of about the same age, were taken in by the good Dr. Johnson, pastor of his father's church, who kindly lent them the aid of his counsel and gave them one corner of his kitchen for a studio, (house-room being scarce.) Here in good earnest he entered upon the business before him, and added much to his hitherto scant stock of information. His limited apprenticeship with Dr. Johnson having ended, he passed through several interrupted periods of pupilage under different teachers--Weller, Hinton and Ogden were some of them. Improving every possible opportunity and applying himself closely to study, he was enabled to acquire the rudiments of a very good English education. Considerable advancement too, had been made during the time, in the study of theology. In April 1825, he was licensed by Anderson presbytery, and went out upon the Henderson circuit to preach the Gospel. This he did faithfully and energetically, preaching once, and often twice a day whenever circumstances demanded, until towards the close of his term, he was prostrated by an attack of intermittent fever, brought on by his excessive labors and exposure to the rigorous winter weather. To the Rev. Joel Lambert of Henderson, Kentucky, he was indebted for shelter and many kind attentions during his illness.
At the next meeting of the presbytery he was ordered to "ride and preach on the Christian circuit." Another spell of fever followed towards the close of his labors on this circuit, superinduced, no doubt, as was the other, by his continued exposure to the inclement weather. Again recruited, this time at the house of his friend George McLean, he was sent no more to his circuit (his place in the meantime having been filled by another); but was assigned to the "Corps of Camp-meeting Preachers," with whom for a time, he energetically co-operated in holding many excellent meetings. His services while on the Henderson and Christian circuits, were attended with the divine blessing, and proved to him, a young man just starting out, a source of great encouragement. Many souls were converted, and not a few added to the Church, some of whom afterwards became honored heralds of the cross of Christ.
While a member of the camp-meeting corps, an incident occurred, which is worth recording. An interesting meeting in which all participated had just closed at Eddy Grove, Kentucky. Another was to be held at McAdow. The older preachers could not attend the first day. M. H. Bone was sent to deliver the opening sermon. On Wednesday morning, horseback and alone, he set out on a two day's journey to the place of meeting. Fully impressed with the weight of the responsibility, riding along he began to revolve in his mind upon what subject he should preach. Wednesday, Wednesday night, and all day Thursday were spent in fruitless efforts in coming to a conclusion. Thursday night he stopped to lodge at the house of a friend near the camp-ground with mind yet dark, and gloomy forebodings for the morrow. At a late hour he retired to bed, but not to rest. In tears and prayers and groans he spent the most of the night, until tired nature asserting itself he fell asleep. In the morning he awoke, his heart to his astonishment was light and buoyant, his mind serene and clear as a sunbeam. During his slumber, in a dream a text had been impressed upon his mind, which until then, he had not known was in the Bible. "I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariot."--Songs of Solomon, i.9. Springing out of bed he hastily examined the place and found it as it had been revealed to him. The sermon was in full and clear detail before his mind. Thus inspired, he went to the camp-ground and preached with great power and boldness the subject as it had been communicated to him, to a large concourse of people in waiting. The Spirit of the Most High came down, sinners were cut to the heart, the cry for mercy went up and continued without intermission until the following Tuesday, when it was found between eighty and one hundred persons had embraced the Savior. It was a glorious meeting and one long to be remembered by all who participated in it.
For the three years next succeeding, he was appointed to assist young preachers on their circuits, in holding sacramental and two day's meetings. This he did as a sort of "presiding elder." He retained his place, however, on the camp-meeting corps, and attended generally from ten to fifteen meetings of this nature during one year.
In October, 1828, he was ordained by the Anderson presbytery at Bethlehem church, Caldwell County, Ky. Rev. John Barnett preached the ordination sermon, and Rev. David Lowry presided and gave the charge.
In May, 1829, he was commissioned a general agent to travel and solicit funds and patronage for Cumberland College. This work he entered upon in conjunction with Rev. John W. Ogden, travelling and preaching together, through the upper counties of Kentucky, southern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Throughout all this country Cumberland Presbyterianism was, up to this time, comparatively unknown. They were well received wherever they went; but were less successful in obtaining money and patronage for the college than in propagating the doctrines of their Church. Large crowds attended their preaching, and in many places extensive revivals, and souls in great numbers won over to Christ, were the fruits of their efforts. In one place, Lebanon, Ohio, they laid the foundation of that which afterwards was not only a very flourishing church, but the beginning of what is know known as the Miami presbytery.
In November following he returned, rendered his report to presbytery and resigned his commission. His little stock of means becoming exhausted, some discouragement arose about this time in reference to a temporal support. The church did not afford it. To guard against the future recurrence of this, he set about preparing for the practice of medicine; engaging, however, to preach two Sabbaths in each month for the people of Elkton, Ky. Before the year was out they had arranged for his ample support, upon condition that he would abandon the study of medicine. This he consented to do, and thereupon proceeded to organize a church of eleven members, and remained for a number of years their regular pastor. The year succeeding the organization, an extraordinary revival of religion sprang up in this church, which continued uninterruptedly for six months; during this time one hundred souls were converted, three-fourths of whom joined the church, making it thereafter an organization of great strength and influence in that community.
On the 3rd of June, 1832, his responsibilities in life were greatly increased by leading to the hymenial altar Miss Emily W. Phillips, daughter of Thomas Phillips, a citizen of Todd County, Kentucky. An accomplished, christian lady, he found in her, a help-meet indeed. Shortly after marriage he and his wife became the Principals of a female school at Elkton, which greatly flourished under their management, and afterwards culminated in the Green River Female Academy.
After two years of faithful and laborious teaching he undertook a self-appointed mission to Lebanon, Ohio. A few friends at that point had for five years, since his first advent among them, repeatedly solicited a renewal of his visit; but until now no opportunity had presented. Promising, if unsuccessful in this mission, to return to his charge in Elkton, he set out June 15, 1835, in the midst of a cholera epidemic which he found raging with fearful violence in every town through which he passed, until he reached his destination. There he learned to his great delight that it had ceased its ravages. Into the house of David Bone, Esq., a distant relative and prominent citizen of the place he was kindly received and furnished every accommodation for himself and family, free of charge.
David Bone was no ordinary individual--lofty in his aims, generous in his feelings and noble in his purposes, he took this preacher and family not only into his own home but into his heart, and though not a member of any church himself contributed largely of his means and of his influence to place Cumberland Presbyterianism in that town upon a firm footing. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church and its doctrines, up to that time, as it has been in another place remarked, were comparatively unknown there; but this zealous missionary was not long in bringing them into general notice and favor. For several months he was invited to preach each Sabbath, alternately, in the different churches. This was the means of giving him a pretty general introduction. He soon established a preaching place of his own. The Town Hall was secured for this purpose.
The attendance was at first small but gradually grew into larger numbers, until the hall would no longer accommodate them. A congregation of eighteen persons was very soon organized, twelve of whom came from the Old School Presbyterian church in one certificate, among them one elder. Dr. Lindley, of eastern Ohio assisted him in the organization. Shortly after, the gifted Noel, lending the aid of his ministerial services, a gracious outpouring of the Spirit was experienced, resulting in the conversion of a goodly number of persons most of whom united with the new congregation; and before the next year was out a neat and commodious church edifice had been erected. See what one man with determined effort can accomplish. Here was a preacher with scarcely a dollar in his pocket, nothing to rely upon but the hand of the Lord to sustain him, yet with confidence in His might setting out for a country far beyond the bounds of his church's influence, where its doctrines were but little known, and he almost a stranger, yet in a few short months successful in organizing a congregation, building up a large Sabbath school, and otherwise contributing to the introduction of an element, which taking deep root has gone on growing and extending until through the many off-shoots it has penetrated, and exists to this day, throughout all that country. Why cannot young preachers in this day and time go and do likewise?
But the condition of his family did not long permit him to remain with this people. His wife's health failing, he was compelled to return with her to her father's house in Kentucky. In a few months her strength having to some extent recuperated, he was enabled to enter upon the business of house-keeping, which he did on a little farm adjoining the town of Elkton, a gift of the father-in-law to the daughter. At the same time he resumed charge of the church in Elkton, and took into his family, as was the custom at that time, three young men, candidates for the ministry, to instruct them in literature and theology; viz: G.W. Bone, G. D. McLean, and James Frazier; also, W. G .L. Quaite as a boarder. All these remained with him until in 1838, he suffered the direful misfortune to have his house, with all its contents, destroyed by fire. This, the work of an incendiary, occurred on Saturday, while all were away from home. The tears of his grief had scarcely dried over the loss of tender infant of eleven months, in Ohio; his wife's health still remaining very feeble, and now this heavy calamity by fire overtaking him, it was indeed a time of great discouragement. His trust in God, however, never faltered. Kind friends, in a great measure, restored his losses, and at once he set about rebuilding.
He continued to preach to the church in Elkton; but in a little while they grew careless as to their pledges. His father-in-law was a man of generous impulses, and had done much to assist him. He thought, and that rightly, that it was the duty of the church to support its pastor. The church seemed to think that the father-in-law ought to do it. Under these circumstances Mr. Bone grew discouraged, and resolved, in the support of his family, to make himself independent of the church. In this he was perhaps a little hasty, and forgetful of his favorite motto: "Jehovah-jireh." He read medicine during the week, and preached to his congregation every Sunday. In November, 1839, he entered the Medical College at Louisville, Ky. He attended lectures until February, when the rapidly declining health of his wife compelled him to return to her. He remained by her bedside, closely watching and nursing her, until April, following, when her pure spirit left its tenement and winged its flight to the God who gave it. No higher eulogy could be passed, or more glowing tribute paid to the memory of her virtues, than to say that she was in the truest and fullest sense of the word, a preacher's wife. The loss of such a companion, and that, too, in the early years of married life, no man can realize who has never experienced it.
In June following the demise of his wife, to seek relief from a burdened and troubled heart, he set out upon a tour of traveling. Peregrinating the country for a time he came, at last, by special invitation, to the house of Rev. Robert Donnell, of Athens, Ala. "Uncle Bob," as he was familiarly, though affectionately, called by almost everybody who knew him, had been an old friend of his father. With him Mr. Bone spent most of the summer, assisting in holding camp-meetings, until August, when he was stricken down and lay prostrate six weeks with a severe attack of intermittent fever. Recovering, he set out to visit his two little children in Kentucky, promising on his return to assume the pastorate of the churches at Athens and Huntsville, Ala. Owing to one or two relapses on the way, he did not reach Kentucky until late in November, where he arrived considerably emaciated and worn down by protracted sickness. Recruiting his health in a good degree at the house of his father-in-law during the winter, he returned to Alabama in February, to fulfill his engagement with the churches at Athens and Huntsville. Here he did some very efficient work, reorganizing and revivifying these two churches, until the close of the year he contracted to devote all his time to the interest of the one at Huntsville. He continued as shepherd of this flock, going in and out before them for four years, during which time he had the satisfaction of seeing the church under his guidance greatly strengthened and built up, both spiritually and numerically.
In August, 1842, he was married the second time, to Mrs. Martha H. Weaver, a lady of strong natural mind and attractive personal features, a fast friend to preachers, and a zealous member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She has proven to him throughout the thirty-six years of their married life, ever the sympathizing companion and faithful spouse. At the time of their union he was the father of two children, and she the mother of two, by their former marriages. But scarcely eighteen months had elapsed ere they were called to stand over the graves of each of their first-born; the burial rites of both happening upon the same day.
The superintendence of a large estate having devolved upon him by reason of his second marriage, he resigned his charge over the church at Huntsville, and took up that of one near the Three Forks of Flint river, called Bethlehem. At about the same time he commenced to preach to the people of Loweville, (since called Maysville,) a little village two miles from his residence.
A small church was soon organized here, and a neat house of worship erected. They called it Ewing Chapel. For ten years he faithfully dispensed the word of life to these congregations, both of which during the time, experienced many gracious outpourings of the Spirit, and large accessions to their numbers.
In July, 1854, he received and accepted a call to the pastorate of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Nashville, Tenn. He served these people three years, greatly to their spiritual edification and growth in grace; but owing to entanglements of a business character, connected with his wife's estate in Alabama, he thought it best, much as he regretted it, to give up his connection with this congregation.
He next traveled for two years in the interest of Cumberland University, at Lebanon, Tennessee, soliciting patronage and funds for its endowment. A large number of notes, taken by other agents, were put into his hands for collection, with some of which he was successful; with others not.
He returned then to his home in Alabama, and took charge again of the church at Maysville. At the same time was ordered by the Tennessee presbytery to organize out of the two old churches, Bethlehem and Liberty, which, by a recent act of the presbytery, had been consolidated, a new one, to be called the Meridian Church, and to located at Meridianville. He accomplished this work greatly to the satisfaction of the people, and to their spiritual upbuilding and growth in Christ, and continued ministering to them, alternately with the congregation at Maysville, until 1860, when he accepted a call to the church at Winchester, Tenn.
Winchester at that time presented quite a promising field for usefulness. Two female schools were located there, to which a large number of young ladies were sent every year to receive moral and intellectual training. The place was noted for its healthful location, beautiful scenery and pleasant society. Many were seeking to acquire homes there for the benefit of its social and literary advantages, in which last respect it bid fair to become quite a centre. But the war coming on put stop to all enterprises of a peaceful character, and greatly circumscribed the efforts of the preacher. In spite, however, of the many adverse circumstances surrounding him, Mr. Bone for the first two years of the war stood at his post, battling in the cause of his Heavenly Master. In January, 1863, the "Confederates" occupied the town, and took possession of all the church houses, but in the July following retired to the south side of Tennessee river, leaving Winchester and its inhabitants within the "Federal" lines.
Mr. Bone's avowed sentiments and open sympathy with the South rendered him somewhat obnoxious to the Federal commanders. To avoid arrest and perhaps imprisonment, he resolved to retire to his home in Madison County, Alabama, whither with his wife and daughter-in-law he went, and in great quiet and unobtrusiveness, spent the remainder of the war teaching a little country school.
Hostilities ended, and peace declared, he returned once more to his people in Winchester, whom he found greatly distracted and cast down on account of their recent disasters. The ordeal through which they had passed was very trying, and its demoralizing effects were plainly visible, both upon the minds morals of the people. He at once set about the work of consoling and reanimating them. The church house, which during the war had been greatly abused by the soldiery, was cleaned and refitted, preaching in it resumed, and the standard of the cross once more erected before the people. Not many months after, a glorious revival of religion was experienced, causing the membership to be greatly built up in the Gospel, and numerically strengthened. The Sunday-school was reorganized, grew into large proportions, and became indeed the nursery of the church. The female school also revived and bid fair for a time to regain its former prosperity and usefulness, but falling into trouble in respect to its finances, it somehow lost the title to the property, and died eventually a cruel death. Mr. Bone, who had in the meantime become its Associate President, did all in his power to save it, but without avail. Following this a deep and overpowering lethargy seemed to take hold upon the church. For several years they failed to make the pastor's salary, notwithstanding his repeated efforts, by a liberal cancellation of their indebtedness, to aid them, until finally matters growing continually worse, he felt that in order to save the integrity of the church and preserve his own self respect, it was his duty to part with them, which he did.
In April, 1873, he was appointed by the Board of Missions of the Tennessee presbytery, an evangelist, to supply the vacant churches within her bounds with the word and ordinances of the Gospel. He entered upon this work on his seventieth birthday, and for six months, accompanied by his wife as a sort of assistant circuit rider, prosecuted his mission among the destitute churches. The people everywhere received him with gladsome hearts, and listened to his teachings as to one of the fathers.
The Lord was with him, blessed his labors, and much lasting good, it is thought, was accomplished. He has been often heard to say, that this six months' tour was to him the most pleasant epoch in his history; and in all probability will have proven the closing act in the drama of his ministerial life. His career, then, as a preacher having commenced as a missionary, will close as a missionary. How fitting!
His term of appointment as evangelist under the Board having expired, his physical powers, it was found, had so far given way, by reason of age and other infirmities, he was compelled to desist from any farther attempts at preaching. He retired, therefore, to his old home in Alabama, where he has remained ever since, for the most part confined to his room, a subject of rheumatic paralysis, and extreme nervous disorder. For two years or more he was a helpless invalid, with scarcely voice to talk, and eyesight too defective to read. Through all this trying period his mind remained strong and active, his powers of appetite and digestion good, sleep sound, and assimilation perfect; indeed, was to all outward appearance hale and healthy, but as utterly devoid of strength to help himself as a child of six months. Latterly his muscular powers have somewhat improved, insomuch as to allow him to take short rides in his buggy, and to attend, when the weather is good, the little church of his own planting, still flourishing at Maysville. Occasionally his strength will permit him, sitting in his chair, to give a short exhortation after sermon, to which the people, all, both old and young, listen with the greatest appreciation. His highest delight is still to go to the house of God and attend upon the ordinances of His own appointment. He is frequently heard to declare that his soul yearns to stand once more in the sacred desk and proclaim the truths of the Gospel. He thinks he could do so with more power and plainness than ever before. But this privilege, perhaps, will never more be granted him. Worn down by time and labor, with scarcely strength to walk a step, he spends the dull hours, from morn till night, sitting in his easy chair, or reclining at intervals on his little bed, his faithful, self-sacrificing wife his constant attendant, and doing all in her power to meet his every temporal want. While for supplies of Divine grace to enable him to bear up under his afflictions, he still looks with confidence to that source which, for fifty years of a very chequered life he has never yet known to refuse him or turn him away empty. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the Master's summons, "It is enough, come up higher."
M. H. Bone was contemporary and associated at different periods during his ministerial career with the following named preachers: In Kentucky, Henry F. Delany, Aaron Shelby, F. R. Cossitt, D.D., David Lowry, D.D., John, William and James Barnett, Hugh B. Hill, Silas N. Davis, Hiram McDaniel, Joel Penick, Joel Lambert, Thomas Bone, and other.
In Alabama, Robert Donnell, Jacob Lindley, A. G. Gibson, Felix Johnson, N. P. Modrall, B. C. Chapman, Geo. W. Mitchell, Wm. D. Chadick, J.C. Elliott, and others.
In Tennessee, Aaron Alexander, S. M. Cowan, A. J. Steele, Robert Frazier, Henry Larkin, N. T. Power, James Campbell, N. J. Fox, A. J. Baird, Wm. B. Watterson, and others.
Memorandum of some particulars in the life of Rev. M. H. Bone:
He served as pastor the following churches, which he had organized at the dates given: Elkton, Ky., 1830; Lebanon, Ohio, 1836; Athens and Huntsville, Ala., (reorganized) 1841; Maysville, Ala., 1845; Meridianville, Ala., 1853. Organized, but did not serve as pastor, Brookhaven, near Memphis, Tenn., 1872.
He was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, at Owensboro, Ky., in 1846, and also at Lebanon, Tenn., in 1855. He was Engrossing Clerk of the General Assembly at Princeton, Ky., in 1835, and at Memphis, Tenn., in 1854. He was Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Missions in 1858, and resigned in favor of Rev. T. C. Blake.
He was licensed to preach by the Anderson presbytery, Ky., 1825, in company with Hugh B. Hill, Joseph A. Copp and Benjamin H. Pierson.
He was the sixth of seven children, five boys and two girls, only one other of whom, James H. Bone, of Yell Co., Ark., is now living. He is a ruling elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and is 80 years of age. Another brother, Thos. Bone, was a preacher of the same Church, and died near Memphis, Tenn., in 1873 or 1874.
M. H. Bone has been a giant in the pulpit in his day.
He would have been a giant in any profession and in any age.
[Source: Crisman, E. B. Biographical Sketches of Living Old Men, of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Vol. I. St. Louis, Mo.: Perrin and Smith, 1877. pages 18-41]
While the duty of an obituary will devolve on brother G. W. Mitchel, than whom perhaps no living minister in all the church was more fully his contemporary in pulpit labors, yet, as I am preaching to our Church in Mayesville, which he organized, and to which he preached for many years, and in the bounds of which he lived long and preached his last, I feel inclined to pen a few thoughts, believing that too much will not be said of him. Although for years deprived of the privilege of attending church, his mind was vigorous. To be convinced of this the interests of the Church and the cause of religion had only to be presented as the theme for conversation. This touched a chord which vibrated to his innermost soul. His delight was the Church's prosperity, while he mourned deeply over her adversities. While lying on his couch or reclining in his chair, he dwelt with prayerful interest on the Church, and longed for physical strength requisite to preach a few more sermons. He feared the Church was departing from the old fathers. While able to talk, it was a privilege to listen to his words.
His only gloomy hours resulted from inability to comprehend that Providence, which detained him here after his active work was over, while other minister were taken in the prime of life, and in the midst of useful labors. Then the thought that God knew best, and intended his detention for some good purpose, would brush the gloom away, and let in the light of joy to his heart. In his own language, "he was waiting to see what the Lord would do for and with him." five weeks prior to his promotion from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, it was my pleasure to administer the sacrament to him and his devoted wife. Although unable to speak distinctly, his quivering chin and tear bedewed eyes, betrayed unusual emotion. In response to the question, "Brother Bone, do you realize that Christ is your friend?" he whispered, "Oh, yes."
The numerous friends who attended his funeral, which was conducted
by brother Mitchel, attested the high esteem in which he was held
by those who knew him best. Yet it is left for that day when the
book shall be opened containing a true record of his past life,
and the history of those good influences which he put in motion,
to make known his true worth to the world. While I would not detract
a single iota from the commendation and richly deserved eulogies
which have in this and in other lands been paid to our late and
much lamented President, yet, had I to choose between his and
the crown now adorning the head of father Bone, I would select
the preachers's. One devoted the most of his splendid talents
to the temporal interests of his race, and they have appropriately
rewarded him. The other devoted his time and talents to the spiritual
interests of mankind. This work being in obedience to God's appointment,
the reward in heaven will be appropriate. Father Bone rests from
his labors; his work will follow him. I extend to all Christians
the request made by sister Bone at the time that he, to whom she
had been so long devoted, departed, "that we pray that grace
be given her for this sorest trial." I would say, my dear
mother, your separation is but for a short time.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, November 10, 1881, page 2]
Report of Committee on Deceased Ministers, Tennessee Presbytery, April 24, 1882.
Your Committee on Deceased Ministers, in discharging their sad duty report that on Oct. 4, 1881, the Great Head of the Church called from our ranks our venerable and dearly beloved brother and fellow laborer in the vineyard of the Master. Rev. Matthew Houston Bone, in his seventy-ninth year, having commenced preaching the gospel more than fifty-six years previously.
Brother Bone was born in Wilson county, Tenn., but principally raised in Kentucky; professed religion and became a candidate for the ministry while in his teens, and consecrated his young manhood and subsequent life to the work of the ministry, in which he labored with commendable fidelity, marked ability, and great success until compelled by physical disability to retire from the active toils of his calling. He was eminently gifted physically, intellectually, and spiritually for usefulness.
As a preacher, pastor, and Presbyter, he had not many equals, and fewer, if any, superiors. In the domestic relations he happily blended and illustrated those noble traits which made him at once the pride and object of the affections of his family; in the midst of whom he closed his useful life in perfect peace and full assurance of a glorious immortality.
In testimony of the appreciation and love of this Presbytery for our deceased brother, we recommend the adoption of the following, viz:
Resolved, That we will cherish the memory of our departed brother.
2. That we will endeavor to emulate his life of consecration to the service of the Master.
3. That we commend his exemplary and eminently useful life to our rising ministry as worthy of their imitation.
4. That we, without murmuring, acquiesce in the dispensation of the Lord in taking him to himself to receive his reward.
5. That we tender our most sincere condolence to his bereaved family; and commend his beloved wife, his only son, and his family to the tender care of the Great Shepherd of Israel.
WHEREAS, This Presbytery has appointed its next regular meeting to be held in the church at Mayesville, Ala.; and, whereas, sister Bone has requested that appropriate memorial services of her departed husband shall be performed on that occasion, and that Revs. G. W. Mitchell and C. B. Sanders be appointed to conduct the pulpit exercises connected therewith; therefore,
Resolved, 6. That her request be granted.
7. That a special committee be appointed on the first day of said meeting to report a programme for said services.
8. That a copy of this report be furnished sister Bone and her family, by your Stated Clerk.
By order of the Presbytery.
J. A. B. LOVETT, S.C.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 25, 1882, page 1]
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1882, page 32]
THE Bible says: "The memory of the just is blessed." "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
The historical portions of that divinely inspired book contain graphic sketches of the lives of many of God's servants, which furnish valuable matter for thought, study, and imitation. The sketches doubtless are an important part of "the things," which Paul says, "were written aforetime for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Hence, we are elsewhere exhorted by him to "be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." But the propriety and usefulness of such sketches are not confined to Bible characters, for in subsequent ages of the Church memoirs of good men and women have been written that have proved a great blessing to multitudes of our race. Among those of our own times and Church whose life, labors, and worth deserve to be perpetuated for the good of others, is our beloved brother Matthew Houston Bone.
M. H. Bone's parents were of Scotch-Irish descent, a race of people who, in their native Ireland home, suffered bloody persecution for their religious faith and practice, many of whom sealed their "testimony of Jesus" with their blood. These people were staunch, uncompromising Presbyterians. That they might enjoy civil and religious liberty many of them, in the latter part of the seventeenth and the following century, immigrated into the British Colonies of North America.
M. H. Bone's father (who in the latter period of his life was extensively known as "Uncle Hugh Bone"} and mother were North Carolinians, and members of a Presbyterian church in Iredell county, of which Rev. James Hall, D.D., was pastor. In the beginning of this century Uncle Hugh was living in Wilson county, Tennessee, where, on the 24th of May, 1803, Matthew Houston, the sixth of seven children, was born near the present village of Statesville. We know but little of Matthew's early history, except that his father's household was baptized in infancy, and trained up in accordance with the strict customs of the Presbyterian Church of that day. When quite young his father moved into Kentucky.
His conversion occurred on the 9th of September, 1821, at a camp-meeting at Good Providence, Union county, Kentucky. He was received as a candidate for the ministry by Anderson Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, at Mt. Pleasant meeting-house, Muhlenburg county, in October, 1822. His education as yet was quite limited, but as soon as practicable he availed himself of such facilities as the country afforded. Having made satisfactory proficiency in the required parts of trial, he was licensed by his Presbytery to preach the gospel, as a probationer for the ministry, in April, 1825. The next two years, by order of Presbytery, were spent in riding the circuit, the first on the Henderson, and the second on the Christian county circuit. During this initial work his success was marked--many having been converted through his preaching. He principally devoted his time the next year to camp and protracted meeting labors, in which he was greatly prospered. By diligently improving his opportunities also in his studies, by autumn he had made the necessary attainments for his ordination. Accordingly, in October, 1828, at Bethlehem church, Caldwell county, Kentucky, he was regularly ordained to the whole work of the gospel ministry by Anderson Presbytery. Rev. John Barnett preached the sermon, and Rev. David Lowry presided and gave the charge. He, in connection with Rev. J.W. Ogden, was commissioned as a financial agent for Cumberland College, Princeton, Ky. Accordingly he traveled in the interests of the College the principal part of the year, visiting the upper parts of Kentucky, Southern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and Western Virginia, preaching as he went. We know not his success in raising college funds, but, as heretofore, his preaching resulted in the conversion of many souls. This was a pioneer work--the most of it being in regions beyond the then boundaries of our Church.
Soon after this he felt that he was under necessity (as was Paul when he engaged in tent-making) of providing for himself things necessary. He commenced the study of medicine, and at the same time engaged to preach twice a month in Elkton, Ky. Before the close of the year ample provisions were made for his support on condition he would give up the study of medicine, to which he cordially consented. He soon organized a church with twelve members, and had a glorious revival in 1830, assisted by his cousin, Rev. Hugh Bone Hill, of precious memory. "This meeting," says Dr. R. Beard, in his memoir of Mr. Hill (Biographical Sketches, 2d series, page 307), "continued, with occasional intermissions, during six months, whilst the revival continued the whole time. More than a hundred professions of religion took place. A large number of the cases were of the most respectable citizens of the town and neighborhood. About eighty persons united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. . . . It is remarkable, too, that. . . but one or two fell back."
Brother Bone was married on the 3d of June, 1832, to Miss Emily, daughter of Thos. Phillips, of the vicinity of Elkton, a most estimable Christian lady, and the mother of his only surviving child--Dr. Hugh Phillips Bone, of this vicinity (Maysville, Madison county, Ala.) Mr. Bone and his wife soon took charge of and conducted a female school with success in Elkton for two years.
In June, 1835, he engaged to preach in Lebanon, Ohio. Great success attended this work. In a short time he organized a church with eighteen members, and during the year built a neat, commodious house of worship, and established a large, prosperous Sunday-school. But in the midst of this encouraging state of things, the failing health of his wife caused his return to Kentucky. He now settled on a farm joining Elkton, and resumed the care of the church; but for lack of sufficient support he resumed, also, the study of medicine, and in November, 1838, matriculated in the Medical College, Louisville, Ky., but was called home in February following, in consequence of his wife's sickness, which terminated fatally in the succeeding April.
In the early part of the summer of 1840, in accordance with a promise made to Rev. Robert Donnell, at the meeting of the General Assembly, in May, at Elkton, Mr. Bone visited North Alabama. Until autumn he was actively engaged, and with remarkable success, in laboring in protracted and camp-meetings, and having engaged to take charge of the church in Huntsville and Athens, he set out for Kentucky to arrange for a permanent settlement in Alabama. But just before he was to start on this trip he was prostrated with an intermittent fever. As soon as able he went to Kentucky, but owing to relapses, did not get back to Alabama until the next February. He joined Tennessee Presbytery at its ensuing spring term, and at once took rank as one of its most trusted leaders and efficient workers--a rank he fully sustained during the remaining days of his strength.
It was Mr. Bone's good fortune to be joined in matrimony in 1832 [sic 1842] to Mrs. Martha Weaver, a woman eminently qualified to meet the responsibilities of this new relation, with whom he lived in the enjoyment of conjugal bliss and domestic happiness until the close of his life, a period of nearly forty years. He now was heartily welcome to her pleasant home on a valuable farm about two miles north of Maysville, to occupy it with her as his future home.
Having resigned his former charger, he took the pastoral care of Bethlehem, in his vicinity; also in a short time organized the church in Maysville, and had the care of it about ten years. In July, 1854, he was called to the pastoral care of the church in Nashville, Tenn. In 1857 he returned to his Alabama home, and traveled most of the next two years as financial agent for Cumberland University. In 1859 he again took charge of the church at Maysville and Bethlehem. In pursuance of an order of Presbytery, in October, 1858, he united Liberty and Bethlehem churches in one, at Meridianville, to be known as Meridianville church, and in a short time a good brick church was erected for its use. He took charge of the church in Winchester, Tenn., in 1860, but in the latter part of 1863, in consequence of the civil war, he returned home until its close, when he again resumed his work in Winchester, and continued it for four or five years, and then returned again to his Alabama home, where he remained during his life. Mr. Bone's health was much impaired, but he was still trying to do what he could in the Master's vineyard.
At the meeting of the Presbytery in April, 1873, its Board of Missions (of which Mr. Bone was also a member), at his request, appointed him its missionary to supply the destitute congregations of the Presbytery with the word and ordinances of the gospel. In this request he said, "I began my work as a preacher on the circuit, and I want to end it in the same way." Mr. Bone went to the approaching General Assembly, at Huntsville, as a delegate, and at the close of its sessions, on the 24th of May, 1873, he went to Madison, ten miles west of Huntsville, and filled his first appointment on his mission on the day he was seventy years old. After his first round, his wife took her seat with him in his buggy, and was his constant companion during all his remaining labors. These labors were attended with great success, though performed in much physical suffering and weakness. Precious revivals occurred at his protracted meetings; many were converted and added to the Church; the waning congregations were strengthened and encouraged. In November, as the weather became more inclement, his physical disabilities compelled him, though with great reluctance, to retire from the field--expecting and greatly desiring to resume his work the next spring. He often declared this was one of the happiest periods of his life.
Thus ended the public labors of more than a half century of this great and good servant of Christ--one "whose praise was in all the churches"--greatly beloved and honored by his brethren, and by the Master whom her served.
His valedictory to his Presbytery was delivered at Athens, Ala., in April, 1875. Though not able to take part in the work of the judicatory, yet he was present at the communion service on Sunday evening, and thinking, from the state of his health, that he would never have the privilege of meeting his brethren again on a similar occasion, he desired to bid them an affectionate farewell, which he did at the close of the service. Lying on a sofa, in feeble accents, he impressively addressed his brethren whom he so dearly loved. His words were attended with the baptismal influence of the Holy Spirit, which was "as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing."His last meeting with his Presbytery, however, was at Maysville, in October, 1877. His physical system had somewhat improved, and with his consent the Presbytery, by acclamation, unanimously elected him moderator. Though very feeble, he occupied the chair much of the time and conducted the business satisfactorily.
His last presence with his brethren at Synod was in October, 1877, at Scottsboro, Ala. Here he enjoyed a rich social repast with his brethren of that body, but few of whom ever saw him again. He often referred to this as an occasion of precious remembrances.
His last sermon was preached in this house (Maysville) on the first Sunday in September, 1877, from John xv. 5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches, he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." His son did the reading connected with the service. He delivered his sermon sitting in an arm chair. "As he spake," said one who was present, "the spirit of the old pulpit orator would well up in his voice and flash from his eyes, but his powers of body were too feeble to respond to the effort of his mind and heart." His congregation, composed largely of his old neighbors and friends, some of whom had been converted under his ministry, were greatly moved. Many hearts were warmed with the love of Jesus whilst their much honored and dearly beloved former pastor broke to them for the last time the bread of life. When he closed many gathered around him to shake his hand, and express their appreciation of his sermon, and they earnestly solicited him to preach to them again.
He himself greatly desired that he might yet be able to preach one or two more sermons; especially one from Jeremiah vi. 16: "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." He often expressed an earnest desire that the brethren "should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints."
While he frequently spake of the providences connected with his afflictions as incomprehensible, yet he was never known to complain at his lot. Though cut off from the public means of grace, his own chamber was a sanctuary where he daily had access to a throne of grace. It was a source of great comfort to him to have the Bible (to him the Book of books) read to him, particularly on the Sabbath; also the CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN, his Church paper, during the week. These readings were mainly by his precious grandchildren.
His disease, neurasthenia--poverty, or lack of nerve force--had held him in its grasp, with but little relaxation at any time, for nearly eight years, and while he was much of the time physically helpless, and disqualified for business, reading, writing, or even feeding himself, yet his mind was intact and clear. As he gradually approached his end his power of speech entirely failed him, still he gave clear evidence that all was well. On the 1st of October his symptoms became decidedly worse, and he soon fell into a profound stupor, from which he could not be aroused. For three days the lamp of life grew more and more feeble, until on Tuesday, the 4th day of October, 1881, at 3:30 P.M., it quietly went out.
"Life's labor done, as sinks the day,
Light from its load the spirit flies;
While heaven and earth combine to say,
How blest the righteous when he dies!"
Doubtless his ransomed spirit "departed to be with Christ, which is far better," and the holy watchers at the beautiful gate filled all heaven with new raptures of joy as they shouted his welcome home!
Mr. Bone was a man of more than ordinary endowments--of an
active, penetrating intellect, combined with noble aspirations
to gain useful knowledge, as developed in his success in self-culture,
and his elevation to a high plane of usefulness and true manhood.
He was a man of strong convictions, of marked conscientiousness,
unwavering fidelity, firmness of purpose, true moral courage,
and perseverance; hence that strong, noble, untarnished character
he built up and sustained through life. He was a companionable
man, of genial spirits, modest demeanor; was truthful, kind, considerate,
unselfish, courteous, chaste, always more ready to contribute
to the enjoyment of others than to gratify himself. In a word,
we have in him a specimen of the highest type of the refined,
unaffected, Christian gentleman, such as are always welcome to
all circles of good society, and a model worthy the imitation
of others, especially our rising ministry. As a Christian his
experience, or regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the foundation
of his religious life, was attended by such clear, scriptural
evidences that he could, in deep humility, confidently claim his
adoption into the family of God as his spiritual child, and as
a "joint heir with Christ," "to an inheritance
incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." By the
grace of God he "held fast to the beginning of his confidence
steadfast unto the end,"and glorified God in his body and
in his spirit by his pious walk and godly conversation. Thus,
not in his own strength but through "Christ who strengthens
us," and "causes us always to triumph," he "fought
the good fight of faith," "finished his course,"
and "laid hold on eternal life." As a preacher he had
not many equals, and fewer superiors. He was gifted as an orator,
generally fluent, often eloquent and sublime. He was skilled in
exegesis, critical in investigation, clear in delineation, forcible
in argument, logical in reasoning and earnest in exhortation.
Few felt, more than he, the need of divine assistance in the pulpit.
Often he had such communion with God in prayer, that in preaching
his soul would glow with the love of God, and his countenance
shine with an almost dazzling splendor. On such occasions his
sermons seemed almost irresistible. Like Barnabas, he "was
a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and faith, and much people
were added unto the Lord." As a pastor, he was faithful in
feeding his flock, and looking after their spiritual welfare;
was a good organizer, and a skillful disciplinarian, and took
much interest in training his churches in the various departments
of Christian work, and it may be truly said that he was, by his
various flocks, "highly esteemed in love for his work's sake."
As a theologian, it is, perhaps, enough to say that Rev.
R. Donnell, who was intimately associated with him for
many years, regarded him, among the preachers of our Church, as
one of the clearest expounders and ablest defenders of the doctrines
of the Bible, as set forth in the Cumberland Presbyterian system
of theology. As a Presbyter, he was esteemed almost an oracle
by his brethren on questions of constitution and Church polity.
He took great interest in the business, and cheerfully did his
part of the work of the judicatures of which he was a member,
and was scrupulously conscientious in attending the meetings of
the same. As no uncertain evidence of his standing as a presbyter
we mention the fact that from time to time, unsought by him, he
shared the various honors of the several judicatories of the Church,
having twice held the office of moderator of the General Assembly,
the highest honor the Church has power to bestow, the duties of
which he performed with distinguished honor and ability. In his
family he was a model husband and father. But this is a sanctum
too sacred for us to enter. Here we drop the curtain, and commend
his family to the tender mercies of our Heavenly Father, and to
the keeping of his grace, and pray that he may bring them all
to their glorified loved one at last in heaven.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 11, 1883, page 2]
Matthew Houston Bone--like many others of our illustrious
dead of Scotch-Irish descent--was born May 24, 1803, in Wilson
County, Tenn. His parents, reared in the same community in Iredell
County, N.C., inherited from their ancestors strong religious
and Presbyterian propensities and, trained under the ministry
of Dr. James Hall, were well prepared to rear their family of
seven children, of whom Matthew Houston was the sixth. Though
his early education was meagre, his religious training was by
no means neglected, and the thought of some day becoming a preacher
of the gospel animated him from boyhood days. Immediately after
his conversion, in 1821, he took steps toward fitting himself
for this holy calling, and in 1822 became a candidate for the
ministry under the care of Anderson Presbytery, in Kentucky. After
a faithful apprenticeship of three years he was licensed to preach
and immediately began his ministerial work, in the Henderson circuit.
After serving faithfully this and the "Christian" circuit,
he was assigned to the "Corps of Camp-meeting Preachers,"
acting in this capacity for some two years. In 1828 he took charge
of Bethlehem Church, Caldwell County, Ky., but soon after resigned
to travel in the interest of Cumberland
College. In company with Rev. John W. Ogden he traveled
and preached continually for seven months in Southern Ohio, Western
Pennsylvania and Virginia, and upper Kentucky. Financially a failure,
this tour was very instrumental, nevertheless, in disseminating
information about our church, little known in those districts.
Resigning his commission on his return, he went thence to Elkton,
Ky., and soon thereafter organized a church, of which he remained
pastor for several years. In 1835 he left Elkton for a "self-appointed
mission" to Lebanon, O., which place he had formerly visited
while commissioner for Cumberland
College. After a short period of zealous preaching he
succeeded in organizing a congregation of eighteen members, which,
augmented largely in the following months, was soon able to erect
a neat house of worship. This work accomplished, he set out on
his return journey to Elkton. Three years prior to his return
he had married Miss Emily Phillips, who until her death, in 1840,
was a worthy helpmate. In 1838 his house was destroyed by fire
and all its contents lost, but kind friends soon assisted him
in rebuilding another. Shortly afterward he began the study of
medicine, in consequence of the lack of support by the Elkton
congregation, but practiced little. In June, 1840, he came by
special invitation to the home of Robert
Donnell, Athens, Ala., and spent most of the summer there
in revival work. After a brief visit to Kentucky he returned to
Alabama and assumed the pastorate of the Athens and Huntsville
congregations, continuing in this work four years. In July, 1854,
he accepted the pastorate of the First
Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tenn., severing
his connection with this people three years later. After a two
years' service as financial agent for Cumberland
University, he returned to Alabama, remaining there until
called to the work at Winchester,
Tenn., in 1860. The war ended, he attempted to revive
the struggling church, which he had been compelled to leave; also
the Female College located in Winchester, but failed in the latter
attempt. In April, 1873, he was appointed by Tennessee
Presbytery an evangelist to supply the vacant churches
within its bounds, and for six months prosecuted this work most
successfully. At it close he went back to his Alabama home, near
Maysville, prostrated by age and many other infirmities, waiting
patiently for the end. Peacefully and tranquilly he entered into
the beyond, fulfilling the prophecy, "The hoary head is a
crown of glory; it shall be found in the way of righteousness."
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, October 22, 1896, page 522]