Died at his residence in Jefferson county, Ky., on Sabbath the 20th of February, 1848, at 4 o'clock A.M., Rev. LABAN JONES, in his 50th or 52d year, & about the 30th of his ministry. His last sickness commenced on Tuesday 13th of February, and was of that form of gravel which physicians call Penal Calculi, terminating in inflammation of the bowels; it was of few days continuance and very distressing; but was endured with patience and christian resignation.
The deceased was born in Virginia. When three years old his parents removed to Henderson county, Ky. He professed religion and united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church under the ministry of Rev. Henry F. Delaney, that great and good man, so eminent for his piety, talents, pulpit oratory and usefulness, who consecrated the talents and learning which made him an ornament of the Legal profession to the ministry of the Gospel. Bro Jones had commenced the study of Law, but after his conversion turned his attention to the ministry. Our information is that he was licensed and ordained by Anderson Presbytery. About 1825, he commenced laboring in Central Kentucky. He was one of the original ministers of the Kentucky Presbytery, of which he continued a member up to the time of his death. He possessed talents, above mediocrity, together with a large fund of practical common sense which made him effective as a pulpit orator, as well as in the use of his pen. As a pastor he was industrious and faithful, and dearly beloved by the people of his charge. He was highly respected by the members of his Presbytery, who will deeply feel the loss of his labors and paternal counsel. He was punctual in attending the judicatures of the church, of which he was an active member. In what he put his hand to, he labored with all his might. His labors were made instrumental in planting several churches, and starting and carrying on some precious revivals of religion. His energy and zeal were remarkable; he abounded in labors and persevered though whatever discouragement and difficulties rose before him. During a short period of his ministry, of necessity, not choice, he was occupied in secular business to support his family; but still continued in ministerial labors, preaching from three to four times a week.
Bro. Jones was a man of stern integrity and high moral worth. He boldly reproved sin; and none was more skillful in tracing the windings and ferreting out the lurking places of human depravity. It was a prominent characteristic of his preaching to enforce experimental and practical religion, and urge high christian attainments. He was decidedly attached to what he conceived to be truth, and earnestly, but kindly contended for it through whatever opposition and presumption he might incur thereby. Though he was a firm advocate of the "MIDDLE SYSTEM," yet he was no bigot, but kind and fraternal in his feelings towards other denominations. He was a worthy citizen; and died as he lived a consistent christian; universally beloved and very highly esteemed by a large circle of friends. He was amiable and affectionate in all the relations of life. All who have known him are ready to testify to his kind & affectionate disposition, his self denying, yet unostentatious liberality, and and those lovely traits of christian character, unaffected simplicity of purpose, true sincerity and genuine honesty. Our brother has gone, but left behind him a delightful testimony, both in his life and death, of the power of divine grace. As we have intimated, his life was marked by a strict, close, conscientious adherence to the interests of the Saviour's cause--no compromise with the powers of darkness--always bold in defense of truth--he ever stood forth its fearless champion. He died with unshaken confidence in the doctrines he had preached. He fell asleep in the bright hope of a glorious resurrection.
"The defense of the cross was his pleasure and pride
Its standard no foe ever snatched from his side
Unfurled to the last, o'er his head did it wave,
And now it enwraps him asleep in the grave."
He looked forward to the last struggle without a fear, and departed in the full assurance of entering into rest. His faith failed not, but enable him to look pale death in the face, disarmed of every terror. A short time before his spirit took its flight to the invisible world, a brother minister, who stood at his dying pillow; said, "Bro. Jones, do you feel ready and willing to die?" "I think I am not mistaken when I say I know in whom I have believed. I believe as firmly as ever that God for Christ's sake has pardoned his sins."
Thank God for the hope the gospel gives, which bids the dying saint elevate his eyes to heaven, and to fit his gaze upon the smiling scenes of that happy spirit-land, which to the eye of faith forever looms in the clear distance beyond the cloud-capped horizon of his earthly vision. When spring blossoms fall upon the graves of loved ones, Christianity promises us a sure re-union with them all, when we pass over Jordan, and enter the land of pure delight. When those whom we loved more dearly than life fall by our side, and the cheerful blaze upon our hearth-stone goes out in darkness--Earth's balm is full of bitterness, it has neither consolations nor sympathies, it is mockery, a fleeting show--then it is that Christianity, like a descended angel, stands by the bereaved mourner's side and breathes her certain hopes and heavenly consolations into the open ear and pious heart.
May these hopes and consolations be richly enjoyed by the bereaved widow, daughter, and 3 sons of our deceased brother! May the God of the widow and the orphan, be their God! Among his last words, Bro. Jones said to a brother in the ministry "Will you and all my friends remember, pray for, and befriend my wife and children?" These lines are penned to the memory of the deceased by one who loved him as a christian, and admired him as a friend.
"Farewell! my stricken heart
To Jesus flies:
From Him I'll never part;
On Him my hope relies.
Farewell! and shall we meet
In heaven above?
And then in union sweet,
Sing of a Saviour's love?"
[Source: The Banner of Peace, March 3, 1848, page 3]
LABAN JONES was born in Frankfort, Hampshire county, Virginia. March 6, 1796. His parents were respectable, and in early life he enjoyed the advantages of religious training and parental restraint. His father and mother were Daniel and Rosanna Jones. His grandfather, John Jones, was for a long time a worthy and devoted member of the Methodist Church, in Virginia. His house was for many years the home of the preachers, as well as a place of religious worship.
Daniel and Rosanna Jones had ten children, eight sons and two daughters. Laban was the fifth son, and in his earlier life was trained to agricultural pursuits. About the year 1816 he lost his father. Of course this was a heavy blow upon a large and dependent family. Previous to the death of his father, however, when he was about eight years old, the family moved, and settled in Henderson county, Kentucky. Here they remained several years. Mr. Jones, on the side of his father, seems to have been connected with families of high character in Virginia. His maternal ancestry were of German origin, and from time immemorial have been distinguished for their quiet and unobtrusive devotion to Christianity.
Mr. Jones's educational advantages were very favorable, for the times. In addition to a fair English education, in 1812 he commenced the study of Latin, in Henderson, with Mr. William Thompson. Mr. Thompson's school, however, was, from some cause, soon discontinued.
In 1813, he resumed his studies under the tuition of Rev. William Grey, a Presbyterian minister, who taught in Morganfield, Union county. With Mr. Grey he seems to have devoted his attention to English pursuits. The author of the memoir says he abandoned the study of Latin, and did not resume it until after he entered the ministry. About this time the family moved to Union county, and settled on a farm about four miles from Morganfield, near the Henderson road. Also, about the same time in 1814, he went to Virginia, for the purpose of acquiring a better education. The author of the Memoir says he went under "unfavorable circumstances." We do not know what those circumstances were. He went, however, to Winchester and Martinsburg, wrote in a Clerk's office, and commenced the study of law. He could not have devoted much attention to the enlargement of his education.
In 1815, he returned to Kentucky, and lived with his parents for several years--or, rather, for the most of those years, with his mother, dividing his time between labor on the farm, history, the English classics, and law. In 1816, upon a certificate from the County Court of Logan county, he was licensed and permitted, as counsel and attorney-at-law, to practice law at all the superior and inferior courts in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is supposed, too, that he commenced the practice of law in Morganfield, near to which his family resided. In 1819, he obtained license to practice law in the State of Indiana. It seems doubtful, however, whether he ever carried his practice into that State.
About the year 1820, an event occurred which changed the whole current of Mr. Jones's life. He professed religion under the ministrations of Rev. Henry F. Delaney. Mr. Delaney himself had been a prominent lawyer a number of years in South-western Kentucky. At some time previous to 1820, he had professed religion, had renounced the practice of law, and entered upon the work of the ministry, and in a few years became one of the most powerful and useful ministers in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Such an example would naturally have its influence upon a young convert of ardent, and earnest, and devoted mind. It was characteristic, too, of Mr. Jones, as we shall see, that he did nothing by halves. He at once abandoned his purposed and cherished pursuit--a pursuit which men in this country then considered, as they do now, the stepping-stone to wealth and fame, and determined to forego all its prospects "for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord." His whole mind and heart were directed at once to what he had determined to make the pursuit of his life. He traveled as he had opportunity with ministers of the gospel into different parts of the country, and exercised his gifts in exhortation and prayer, and in these exercises succeeded so well that he became encouraged himself to hope for future usefulness, and his friends became satisfied that the work of the ministry was that to which God in his providence and by his Spirit was calling him.
Whilst the mind of Mr. Jones was thus exercised, and he was making his arrangements for an entrance upon the great work of his life, an incident occurred which was so remarkable, and so trying, that it cannot be overlooked in this sketch. On the 22d day of November, 1822, he was traveling from where he lived up the country, probably to Frankfort, the capital of the State, and about a mile from Hardinsburg, in Breckinridge county, he was met by three desperadoes. These men, it seemed from subsequent development, had been lying in wait for the sheriff of some one of the lower counties, whom they expected to pass that way to Frankfort with the county revenue. Their purpose was to murder the sheriff and take possession of the money. Mr. Jones passed on horseback with saddle-bags about the time they were expecting the sheriff, and not knowing him, or the sheriff for whom they were watching, personally, they supposed him to be the man who was carrying the money. He saw them, but thought of no danger, until one of them seized the rein of his bridle, the others standing one on each side of his horse, and communicated to him the terrible intelligence that they intended to rob and murder him. They took him off into a secluded ravine, in order that undisturbed they might carry out their purpose. On examining his saddle-bags for their contemplated booty, however, they found but a few dollars in money, a pocket-Bible and a hymn-book. The finding of the books, especially, satisfied them that they had made a mistake in the man. The sum of money, too, made it evident that their prisoner was not the sheriff. A difficulty at once arose in relation to what they should do with the man who was in their power. It can be readily understood. If they gave him his liberty he might inform upon them, and have them arrested. Still, they had no motive, aside from their own safety, for taking his life. In the first consultation, two were for his death, whilst the third was for liberating him. The prisoner pleaded for his life; the heart of a second was moved. They then agreed that if Mr. Jones would swear upon his Bible not to disclose the matter for two years they would let him go, adding that in two years they expected to secure money enough, and would then relinquish all such business. He subscribed to the proposition; they gave him back ten dollars of his money, and bade him go.
It was now his time for doubt and hesitation. He felt that he ought to inform upon the outlaws, and have them arrested in their course of wickedness. Again, he felt restrained by the stipulations into which he had entered, and especially by the oath he had taken upon his Bible. After mature reflection, and conference with those in whose judgment and casuistry he confided, he disclosed the whole matter. The men were arrested and tried, and lodged in the penitentiary of Kentucky. Of course there will be different views of the propriety of Mr. Jones's course in this affair. There can be but one view of its morality. These men were outlaws, professional robbers and murderers. They were enemies to society, and his primary duty to society was to assist in placing them in a situation in which they could not carry out their wicked purposes of robbery and murder. Providentially he was able to do that, and his duty was a plain one. The informal oath was no more binding than a promise extorted by violence. I do not say that it was not binding from its informality, but from the circumstances in which it was taken. It was a trying situation, such a one as rarely happens to a man. He, however, released himself from it in the right way. This is unquestionable.
Says the author of the Memoir: "After the legal adjustment of the sad occurrence we have been just narrating, Brother Jones saw plainly the hand of Providence in his preservation, and felt more forcibly his obligations to God, and that it was his duty to consecrate his energies to the cause of Christianity. Accordingly, in the fall of 1823, he became a candidate for the holy ministry, under the supervision and watch-care of the Anderson Presbytery, in order to identify his efforts more particularly with the Church of his choice. Here he engaged the counsel and instructions of those pious and venerable fathers of the Church who had passed through the revival of 1800, and whose hearts were still glowing with the hallowed fervor of devotion to God and the interests of his kingdom."
In April, 1825, he was licensed by the same Presbytery as a probationer for the ministry. He now commenced his active work, "riding the circuit, and preaching daily to perishing sinners the unsearchable riches of Christ. He studied his theology on the circuit. His labors were arduous and incessant, and the pleasure of the Lord prospered in his hands." In short, it is said that, "as a probationer for the holy ministry, in ability, in zeal, in the true spirit of religion, and in usefulness, he had but few rivals, either in his own or any other Church within the bounds of the Green River country."
In May of 1825 he made his way into the central part of Kentucky, and preached extensively in Mercer and adjoining counties. Cumberland Presbyterians were but little known in that portion of Kentucky. He had, of course, to encounter the customary prejudices. The same spirit which dictated Davidson's "History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky," and Dr. Bishop's "Outline," would occasionally develop itself. The people would be suspicious and distrustful, and their suspicions and distrust would rather be encouraged than otherwise. He labored earnestly, not preaching himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord.
In May of 1826 Mr. Jones visited Anderson county, and was instrumental in getting up a considerable revival there. Here he met with similar discouragements to those experienced in other places. Many who were converted under his ministry went and joined other Churches, but, notwithstanding this, he was soon enabled to organize the Hebron Society, which is to this day a flourishing Church." "The first two or three years of his ministry in this country were crowned with abundant success, and hundreds were brought from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God."
At the spring meeting of the Anderson Presbytery, on the 14th of April, 1827, he was set apart to the whole work of the ministry, Rev. F. R. Cossitt preaching the ordination-sermon, and Rev. Henry F. Delaney presiding and giving the charge. He immediately returned to Central Kentucky, which he now considered as his proper field of labor. At the fall meeting of his Presbytery, in the same year, he obtained a letter of dismission and recommendation to the Logan Presbytery, within the bounds of which his field of labor properly lay.
The Cumberland Synod met at Russellville, Kentucky, in November of 1827. At that meeting of the Synod, Mr. Jones was appointed to travel at discretion in the United States six months, as an agent of Cumberland College. In October of 1828 he made his settlement with the Treasurer of the College, by paying over one hundred and forty-three dollars and twenty-five cents. These were small proceeds from a year's labor, but they were better than the proceeds of many other agencies engaged about the same time for the same object. It is humiliating even now to think of the manner in which time was thus lost, and labor and influence frittered away, in agencies almost wholly nominal.
About this time some person in his new field of labor, and where he was, in a great measure, a stranger, had the meanness to represent that he had left his widowed mother and his sisters in Union county in a state of destitution and suffering. The matter gave him some trouble, but the calumniator was soon silenced. The facts were produced which spake for themselves.
Mr. Jones would have been thought by strangers, in his earlier ministerial habits, to be imprudent. His temperament was lively, rather impulsive, and sometimes he seemed to speak without reflection. The following summary of rules, however, found among his papers after his death, indicates the care which he observed in trying to correct all errors of this kind, and to conform himself to a most rigid propriety in all his intercourse with society. They ought to be in every minister's book of memoranda:
"1. Let your thoughts be serious, chaste, heavenly.
"2. Let your conversation be modest, truthful, decent, profitable.
"3. Let your works be useful, charitable, holy.
"4. Let your manners be unaffected, courteous, cheerful.
"5. Let your diet be wholesome, frugally provided, and temperately used.
"6. Let your apparel be neat, convenient, suitable to your condition.
"7. Let your will be well-disciplined, benevolent, godly.
"8. Let your sleep be moderate, quiet, seasonable.
"9. Let your prayers be short, devout, fervent, frequent.
"10. Let your recreations be innocent, brief, judicious.
"11. Let your memory be properly and profitably exercised.
"12. You should hear, and learn to be silent.
"13. Be silent, and learn to understand.
"14. Understand, and learn to remember.
"15. Remember, and learn to act accordingly.
"16. All that you see, judge not.
"17. All that you hear, believe not.
"18. All that you know, tell not.
"19. All that you can do, do not.
"20. Whenever you are about to speak, think first, and attend particularly to what you say, of whom and to whom you speak. You will thereby avoid much evil which results from hasty and injudicious speaking."
These are good rules, and he who followed them in their full import could not have been otherwise than a Christian gentleman.
On the 28th of May, 1829, Mr. Jones was married to Miss Rachel Walker, of Mercer county, Kentucky. His wife is represented to have been an estimable woman, "well calculated to render the domestic circle a scene of perpetual enjoyment." In the fall, after his marriage, he purchased a farm near the foot of the Knobs, in what was then Mercer, but is now Boyle, county. His home seems to have become, in process of time, a sort of theological school on a small scale. Says the writer of the Memoir: "It was during his residence in this place that Brethren Robison, Thomas, Noel, and myself, were rearer up under his immediate tuition. The principles of benevolence were those upon which he acted, and he was frequently heard to remark, publicly and privately, that it was to a man's own interest to be charitable." His motto in this respect was: "There is that giveth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty."
In the fall of 1829, the Green River Synod constituted the Kentucky Presbytery. The territory embraced the middle and upper portions of the State. The Presbytery held its first meeting at Caldwell's Meeting-house, in Mercer county, commencing the first Thursday in May, 1830. Mr. Jones was the Senior Presbyter, and, although comparatively a young man, was by common consent regarded as the leader and father of the Presbytery. He preached a great deal, and, notwithstanding he now had to make provision for a family, much of his labor, as far as worldly compensation was concerned, went for nothing. He collected wealthy congregations, but they seemed to consider it their first and last duty to take care of themselves. Still he labored, and his labors were blessed.
In 1833, the cholera prevailed in some portions of Kentucky. The alarm and excitement were very great. That year, within the bounds of his operations, and chiefly under his own ministrations, there were seven hundred professions of religion. Time gave proof, too, that in many of those cases the professions were from genuine conversions. Think of it, seven hundred in one year!
In 1833, he sold his farm at the foot of the Knobs, and purchased the Broil farm, near May's mill. Here he lived until 1837, when he moved to Perryville, and engaged in the mercantile business. On his farms, and in his mercantile pursuits, he was, after the manner of the apostle, laboring with his own hands, that he might not be chargeable to the Churches. In this he followed in the footsteps of the old men. It was the order of the times. His mercantile operations, however, proved disastrous. He gave them up, a poorer, but wiser and perhaps better man than when he entered upon them.
In 1844, he settled in Jefferson county. This was his home until he was called to that higher and better home in heaven. In 1847, he became a member of the Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and in the course of the summer of that year his preaching is represented as having been unusually spiritual and powerful. Says the author of the Memoir: "I am confident I never heard him preach with such power in all my life. From day to day he appeared to enter more into the work, and every effort from the pulpit bore evident marks of deep thought, and a thorough investigation of his subjects; and, above all, that he maintained intimate communion with God." These gracious developments were precursors of what as to follow. God often works in this way. This is not nature's way, but in such cases it is God's way; the light shines with the greatest brilliancy when approaching its extinction.
Mr. Jones died at his home in Jefferson county, February 20, 1848. His sickness extended from Tuesday to Sabbath, the day of his death. Up to Saturday morning he entertained hope that he would be able to attend his appointment for preaching the following day. His constitution was strong, and resisted the attack with great vigor, but succumbed at last. The good man died with his armor on. It was a call directly from the field on conflict. At his death he was in his fifty-second year, still in the maturity and strength of manhood. His wife and four children survived him. Has the Church taken care of them?
I make two or three extracts from the funeral-sermon, delivered by Rev. Jesse Anderson:
"The death of good men, who have rendered themselves eminently serviceable to the Church and to the world, is to be lamented more than ordinary deaths. Such men are those who, like our beloved Brother Jones, combined at once the elements of true piety and greatness; men who are able ministers of the Word, and the unwearied supporters of the institutions of religion; men who disdain a compromise with error, but who ever stand up for the truth; who count not their lives dear, so that they may win souls to Christ. I say, brethren, that the loss of such men can hardly be estimated, especially when they are taken, as was our beloved brother, in the prime of life, with a constitution naturally strong, and cheeks glowing with indications of health, and a soul fully equal to his physical energies, from a sphere of great usefulness; to whom hundreds within the bounds of Kentucky Presbytery, and elsewhere in the Church, were looking for counsel and guidance--that such a man, under such circumstances, should be marked as a victim of death, and in a few hours sink into the tomb, involves a providential mystery which I dare not undertake to unfold. It is for us meekly to bow in submission to the divine administration, and wait patiently, 'and hope unto the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.' Thus much we know, that the death of his saints is precious in the sight of the Lord."
The following is from the closing paragraph of the sermon:
"A few days since I visited the Church at Bethlehem, and saw the place where the remains of our departed and beloved brother had been deposited, to rest in silent slumbers until the morning of the resurrection. My emotions were peculiarly solemn and impressive. A profound awe seized upon my mind, and for a moment so agitated me that I felt as though I dared not approach the sepulchral monument, lest I should intrude upon the hallowed precincts of sainted spirits, and disturb the repose of the departed. At that moment something seemed to whisper, 'Fear not, he loves you still.' I approached the tomb. Naught but the stillness of death reigned there, while I silently gazed upon the mound of earth which hides from my view the form of him I so much loved. I reflected that, when a boy, and a wanderer almost alone in this vale of tears, tossed upon the turbulent ocean of time, regardless of my highest interest, he watched over me, and taught me the way to respectability and honor, to immortality and eternal life. A tear of sorrow started in my eye as I involuntarily cast a look upward, as if in search of the spirit that once animated the lifeless body upon which I had been reflecting. My imagination soon painted his happy release from earth and the toils of the gospel ministry, and saw him ascending to heaven amidst the shouts of angels, while with the prophet I gazed, and cried, 'My father! my father!'"
In 1846, Mr. Jones published, by request of his Presbytery, a biographical sketch of Rev. Samuel Ayres Noel, embodying in the work several of his own sermons. The whole work contains four hundred and thirty-six pages. Mr. Noel was a young man of unusual promise, who was brought into the Church and into the ministry under the influence of Mr. Jones. His career was very short--it was, however, regarded as brilliant. He was ordained by the Kentucky Presbytery in October of 1834, and died in November of 1842.
In 1847, he published a plea for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This is a work of five hundred and four pages, and certainly possesses some merit. It is an earnest defense of the Church, to the usefulness and prosperity of which he had devoted the best years of his life. The author of the Memoir denominates it a meritorious work, and one which the Church had long needed. It was especially needed in Kentucky, and no doubt fulfilled a useful mission.
Mr. Jones was evidently a man of great usefulness, zealous, earnest, devoted, and of very respectable ability. He went into a new field; he entered upon a difficult work; and he accomplished a great deal. He did not seek for foundations laid by other men. He laid his own foundation, and saw with pleasure the building rising up. He sowed his own seed, and saw the harvest maturing around him. He introduced a generation of young men into the ministry, who imbibed much of his own spirit. Some of these, with himself, have passed away. Others are following up, with no mean success, the beginnings which were made forty years ago. They have had their troubles, but men who would thwart them, and perhaps think themselves rendering service to God in so doing, may as well make up their minds to the truth that "if this counsel, or this work, be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, they can not overthrow it." Time will decide. God will rule.
Mention has sometimes been made of a peculiarity in his manner as a public speaker. It is difficult to describe it. His biographer says:
"From a disposition, I apprehend, to keep pace with the rapidity of thought, both in his expressions and gestures, he early contracted the habit of protracting his sentences until the inspiration of the lungs was so far exhausted as to cause him to close with a kind of echo, very unnatural, and often very afflictive to those unaccustomed to his ministry. This, however, was soon forgotten by the attentive hearer, and also by those who heard him frequently. He was truly an interesting speaker, although he possessed not that smoothness of articulation, and gracefulness of gesture, calculated to excite the formal and fastidious to rapture and admiration, yet upon many occasions he was truly eloquent, and commanded a train of thought and expression which, for depth and sublimity, I have never heard surpassed by any man."
He gives us an illustration of the effect of his unpolished but strong eloquence:
"I will instance," says he, "one case out of many which fell under my own observation, as related to me by the gentleman who was chiefly connected with the incident which I am about to relate. The incident occurred at a camp-meeting held at Mount Gilead, Montgomery county, Kentucky. On this occasion the preacher was addressing a large and attentive audience. The gentleman had never heard him before, and at first was so displeased with his unpleasant manner of address that he thought he would leave the congregation. For this purpose he took his hat in hand, and was in the act of departing, when Mr. Jones struck upon a point which drew his attention. He thought he would hear that through, and then retire. But no sooner was that point disposed of than another was introduced equally interesting; after that, another, and still another, came up in exhaustless measure, and at the expiration of nearly two hours and a half, this man was standing with his hat in his hand, lost in astonishment, and intently gazing at this champion of the cross, as he vigorously wielded the weapons of divine truth for the honor and glory of God."
Mr. Jones seems to have been skillful in selecting and improving special occasions. The author of the Memoir attributes this characteristic to "his superior knowledge of human nature." He is doubtless correct in his judgment on this subject. Mr. Jones studied books, but he studied men more. He would use a sort of singularity, or drollery of expression, and his congregation would be excited to an approach to levity. Then again he would give his thoughts and expressions such a turn that, in a few minutes, the same congregation would be bathed in tears. Some men can do this. And in proper hands such ability may be turned to prodigious account. Unskillful hands, however, at such attempts would ruin every thing. This ability belongs to the highest form of the dramatic.
We have an account of a curious case of conviction. At a certain time, Kentucky was visited with a terrible drought. "The earth was parched and cracked with the heat of the sun; the fountains of water were dried up; vegetation was withering and dying; and all nature seemed to be clad in the habiliments of mourning." The people were alarmed, and the Governor of the State very properly, as a man who believed in the exercise of the providence of God, appointed a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer to be observed throughout the State. It turned out that the day appointed was included in a camp-meeting held at this same Mount Gilead. The people fasted and prayed, and in the forenoon of the day the rain began to fall. The good people felt that prayer was answered. On account of the rain the congregation collected in a large tent for service, and Mr. Jones preached from the text, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." It was a fine occasion for showing off the folly of the fool who would pretend that such a coincidence as they had witnessed was a mere casualty, ignoring the interposition of a wise and good Providence who hears and answers prayer. Says the author of the Memoir: "Many were convicted on that occasion. After service was over, a man, with whom I was intimately acquainted, approached me, evidently enraged at the preacher, who had been, under God, successful in riveting conviction upon his heart." The result of a furious colloquy, however, on his part, was that he was soon bowed at the altar of prayer, a suppliant for mercy. He professed religion before the meeting closed.
My personal acquaintance with Mr. Jones was limited, and my recollections of him are very few. It was such an acquaintance as ministers form at public meetings. I knew nothing, of course, of his domestic or personal habits, and very little of him socially. I heard him preach once, and, I believe, once only. That sermon was delivered at Owensboro, on the occasion of the General Assembly of 1846. My recollection is that he was not a member, but a visitor, and preached one night. It was a better sermon than I expected. It seemed better, no doubt, from the fact that it was almost entirely free from what were called his personal peculiarities. It was an earnest and intelligent exposition of the doctrine of faith.
My first distinct recollection of him goes back to the meeting of the old Cumberland Synod at Russellville, Kentucky, in 1827. At that meeting he was commissioned as an Agent for Cumberland College. Such a commission would make the impression upon the mind of a stranger that he was a very important young man. The night after the adjournment of the meeting was spent by himself and Revs. Henry F. Delaney, John Barnett, David Lowry, and myself, at the same house, the house of a good old man in the neighborhood of Russellville. The introduction left an unfavorable impression upon my mind. It certainly did not lead me to expect what his subsequent life evidently developed. Time and experience no doubt corrected what I thought were social defects. We have proof enough from the preceding sketch, if it has been faithful, that he became an eminently exemplary Christian minister.
He attended the next meeting of the Synod, which was held in Franklin, Tennessee. He delivered an exhortation there, in which he developed the peculiarity of manner in his delivery which afterward became, as we have seen, a matter of extensive remark by those who were in the habit of hearing him.
He was at the meeting of the General Assembly at Princeton, in 1835, and by appointment preached one day in the court-house. I heard the close of the sermon. There were an earnestness and a depth of feeling in his manner which drew me involuntarily to him. Previous impressions were entirely effaced. The congregation, too, were evidently interested and profited. There were no remarks about what came to be called his peculiarity of manner. It would have been a good sermon anywhere.
I saw him at the Assemblies of 1845, 1846, and 1847. This latter meeting occurred about nine months before his death. It was held at Lebanon, Ohio. On Sunday evening it fell to my lot to preach at one of the churches in town. I preached under discouragements. He was appointed to offer prayer at the close. I recollect the manner and spirit of the prayer while I write this. When he prayed especially that the blessing of God might be with and follow the dear brother who had preached to them, an impression was made upon my heart such as I do not easily lose. I never saw him after that evening. He was a good man. Many will be the stars in his crown of rejoicing.
[Source: Beard, Richard. Brief Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Second Series. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1874, pages 277-297.]
Jones, Laban. A Brief Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Ayres Noel, Minister of the Gospel of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church: With Sermons on Important Practical Subjects. Louisville: C. C. Hull & Brothers, Printers, 1846.