Rev. D. A. Brigham - Lebanon Presbytery
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1889, page 22]
"Man's portion is to die." One of the "twelve gates" has recently been opened for the reception of our much loved friend and pastor. Shall we say the keeper of this gate was ignorant of the sorrow this separation would give us? Did he not know the sacred and tender relation this dear man sustained, not only to the Christians of his own and other congregations, but also to all who knew him? Did not this keeper well understand the importance of his position in life and the great reluctance with which all would let him go? Yes, all these things were before him and fully understood. Not a single true desire or prayer was ignored. No harsh feelings existed between the keeper and any one left to mourn his departure. Every thing was duly considered and the good of all things taken into the account. Yet against our wishes, in view of the fact that many would be left weeping; seemingly against the interest of the church and mankind in general, the summons came, "Quit your work and enter in." What shall we say, and what shall we do? We can only walk at present surrounded by mysteries and wait for further developments of so sad an event. Not one word of complaint can we utter against Heaven, for Heaven doeth all things well. Father, into thy full presence thou hast taken him. The gate has been silently shut, separating him from us for a time.
We give, with slight variations, a short sketch of his life furnished by his brother to one of the Clarksville (Tenn.) papers:
The Rev. D. A. Brigham was born February 15, 1848, on Wells' Creek near Erin, Tenn. He was the eldest of nine children, of whom four brothers and two sisters with an aged father are now living. His early life was spent near Erin, and in 1871 he determined to enter the ministry. He began his studies at once, and in 1872 entered Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tenn. After graduation he was pastor successively of the following churches, all in Tennessee: Trenton. From there he went to Union City, then to Dyersburg. He came to Clarksville, Tenn., in November, 1886, and found a small congregation of about fifty. In 1878 he married Miss Ella Brackin, by whom he has had five children, three of whom are living. He remained the faithful and well-beloved pastor of the Clarksville church until his death, February 10, 1889.
To say Brother Brigham had no faults would be saying he was not human. To say his was a noble life, worthy of imitation, his constant desire being to do good and build up the cause of Christ, will perhaps be doubted by no one who knew him. Some peculiar and predominant characteristics of the man may not be amiss.
His was in the truest sense an active life. His activity was not alone of that general nature which is founded on the idea that action is the normal state of man. This he had in common with all men, but in addition he had an activity arising from a very energetic nature, an activity which carried him through the fiercest conflicts, pushed him out into lines of work where an ordinary zeal would fail. A very talented minister asked me not long since, "How is Brother Brigham getting along at Clarksville?" On replying that he was doing well this minister said, "Well, he will always be found trying." This decided energy, seasoned with the discretion he ever exercised, made his pastoral work very successful. To him the words work and success were synonymous.
His sociability was exceptional. Wherever he met a human being he seemed to regard that one as a brother. None beneath his notice. None so high that he feared they would consider it a condescension to notice him. A friendly handshake, a winning address, a warm heart, all conspired to make others feel at home in his presence. Shall we say policy was in much of this? If so it was that upper grade of policy which every true man must exercise to acquire that influence over others he should have. Beneath this policy was a current warm with love and sympathy to all.
He possessed a catholic spirit. Once when passing some men on the street he heard one of them abusing a minister of another denomination. He stopped and resolutely demanded that such abuse cease, as that minister was not present to defend himself. It did cease. Is not such a spirit commendable, although it may seem rather rough. A union of soul with Christ constituted a Christian with him, not a union of person with a denomination.
Another very prominent trait was his entire confidence that God was with him in every work. He believed his mission consisted in taking weak congregations and building them up. His practice fully conformed to his faith. Coming to Clarksville with a considerable family, he believed God would not forsake him, although his congregation was weak in every respect. With this unyielding confidence he began and continued until his church increased from about fifty to one hundred and fifty. Are we ascribing to him these traits because it is common to praise the dead, and we can not be otherwise than respectful under such circumstances? Only remember that at his funeral at least four of the pastors of Clarksville participated. Not half of the people who came could find room in the church. Doubtless not half came who would have come if they had known they could be admitted. A memorial fund of between one thousand and fifteen hundred dollars has been raised for his family, the greater part of which came from people of other denominations and from those not Christians. Why such universal sadness and respect? All felt a friend, a sympathetic Christian friend, had been taken.
Brother, thou art gone, but may we not be assured thou wilt be one of the heavenly messengers which shall encamp round about us? Must we think the gulf impassable between thee and us? No, by faith we may clasp thy hand in ours and even now have the benefit of thy presence. Wife and children of this dear one, weep not to excess, but let the same Father who has taken this one comfort you. Goodby, dear brother, till we meet again.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 28, 1889, page 2]