I UNDERTAKE the task now before me with much diffidence and embarrassment. I feel so utterly incapable of presenting a full, clear, and accurate analysis of the great character now under consideration that I have several times almost concluded to abandon the work. Nor should I feel encouraged to go on with it but for the material aid that is afforded by the already published sketches of Dr. Morrow by Rev. David Lowry and Rev. P. G. Rea. The former of these ministers was the contemporary of Dr. Morrow in all the early years of his ministry, and was his admiring and loving friend till he died. The latter, Mr. Rea, had been for many years well acquainted with the deceased--was with him in his last illness, and at his dying bed, and preached his funeral sermon. Both of these gentlemen had abundant means to learn and understand his character, and they have borne their testimony to his great worth in fitting terms. I shall draw largely from the sketches referred to, if, indeed, I do not incorporate them entire in this work.
One source of embarrassment to me is the fear that I may be thought to write extravagantly of the character under consideration, or at least that what I write may be regarded undue panegyric, by those who were not personally acquainted with the subject of this sketch. It is one of my own characteristics to believe firmly and strongly what I conceive to be true, and to use strong language in giving expression to my views. If, therefore, I should use vigorous and emphatic terms in the course of this narrative, the reader may at once conclude that I honestly and firmly believe in the truth of all my statements. Nor need it be concluded that the character of Dr. Morrow does not fully justify the highest eulogium that my poor pen can indite. There was so much to admire in the grand exhibitions of intellectual power, and so much to love in the silent goodness and unobtrusive piety of the man, that I am authorized by the facts in the premises to use lofty terms in reference to such a character. There was such a marked symmetry and completeness in all his life and work that our admiration is challenged and our praise is demanded; and I pronounce his eulogy as a simple act of duty to a departed friend. His life is a great beacon-light, which throws out its rays far and wide over the sea of life, to guide the voyager to a haven of safety and rest.
The private life and public career of Mr. Morrow present an outline of character clear and distinct, yet singularly harmonious and symmetrical. He was esteemed, and often called, by those who knew him best, "a model man." If there were any angular points or injurious peculiarities about the man, they had become smoothed and rounded off before I was old enough to understand any thing about him. It was my happiness to know him well, even before he reached the meridian of life; and from that time to the end of his days, his public career, and much of his private conduct, came under my constant observation. Simple-hearted, and almost child-like in his usual demeanor, there was not a negative point in all his mental and physical composition. Docile and gentle, the lion-heart lay slumbering within. Quiet and unobtrusive, upon occasion the fires of defiance would flash from his sparkling eyes, and the energies of a giant leap to his massive brow. Loving and beloved, he drew all hearts to him, and his Christian philanthropy comprehended every intelligent creature whom God had created. He made his mark in his generation, and impressed his character upon the age in which he lived. Men loved him, and therefore imitated him; they admired his splendid talents, and therefore spoke his praise in every neighborhood. His life was such an unfailing commentary upon his profession, that he thereby honored religion, and commended it to the people wherever he was known. His daily life was a glowing illustration of the gospel he preached. His example impressed every heart with the truth of what he taught. He did not despise the world, but he held its influence upon his own heart in check with a resolute hand. He devoted his life to labor, and found his reward in the love and veneration of thousands who came within the scope of his hallowed influence. He lived and labored for others, and, on this side the grave, only asked and received his daily bread. But, out beyond the stars, where the throne of God stands, he was welcomed by his Divine Master, and his head was adorned with a crown that sparkled with a thousand gems.
Robert D. Morrow was born in Lancaster District, South Carolina, on the 26th of December, 1796.
His parents were of Irish blood. His father's family emigrated from Ireland to this country at an early day; and his father was born on the ocean while the parents were making the voyage. They removed from their home in South Carolina to Montgomery county, Tennessee, about the year 1804. This location brought them within the scope of the influence of the great revival of 1800. Mr. Morrow's parents were brought up under the religious influence of the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, or Seceders. It is their testimony that these people were very moral and upright, and were very strict, and even rigid, in the observance of the forms of morality and religion. These principles were carefully inculcated in the family government, and hence the subject of this notice had the benefit of early training in the paths of morality and rectitude of conduct. But, reaching the "Cumberland country" at a time when the fires of the great revival were blazing out with their greatest brightness, the family of Mr. Morrow could scarcely escape its influence, if they had even desired to do so. The information is that the parents became active participants in that great work, and the stirring events of those days afforded them pleasant themes of conversation in all the long years of their lives that followed.
Mr. Morrow embraced religion in the year 1811, at the McAdow Church, at a camp-meeting held by Rev. Finis Ewing and Rev. Wm. Barnett.
In the course of this narrative it will be found that Mr. Morrow became a great and useful minister of the gospel; and herein may be seen another one of the ten thousand influences for good which sprang out of that great religious awakening. In this instance it was but the conversion of an obscure, uneducated boy--it was but a slight ripple upon the broad surface of human society--it was the little spark, stricken from the Eternal Rock, that was ultimately to kindle a great matter. Though small and seemingly insignificant, yet it acquired magnificent and even gigantic proportions. But this influence for good was established then and there in the conversion of this obscure youth. How it became great and all-pervading is the business of this narrative to develop. It is all, however, the legitimate fruit of the great revival.
In November, 1814, Mr. Morrow was received as a candidate for the ministry under the care of the Logan Presbytery. At that time there were but three Presbyteries in the entire denomination--Nashville, Elk, and Logan.
Mr. Morrow was brought up in a very new country, which at that time afforded but few opportunities for education. When he became a candidate for the ministry, he was quite young--about eighteen years of age--very diffident in his manner, with but little education, and, altogether, rather an unpromising subject. He, however, entered upon the business of preparation for his great work with an ardor and enthusiasm that knew no abatement. The courageous will that bore him triumphantly over a thousand obstacles in afterlife was early developed. He pursued his literary studies as opportunity offered, and, at different time, under the Rev. Philip McDonald, Rev. Hiram McDaniel, and Wm. Lee Ewing. In November, 1816, he was licensed to preach, and was immediately ordered to ride and labor on a circuit of five hundred miles in circumference. The "circuit" was the great school, after all, in which the young men of that day learned to become great preachers. With daily practice, they soon became fluent and forcible, and often eloquent, in the delivery of their sermons. With no one at hand to refer to for instruction, they were compelled to rely upon their own resources--were compelled to think, and reason, and arrange; and thus they acquired mental discipline and resources that qualified them, in many instances, eminently for the practical duty of preaching. But Mr. Morrow was not without the benefit to be derived from laboring and associating with the older preachers of the denomination. In the early days of his ministry he attended many camp-meetings with Ewing, Wm. Barnett, Harris, and Chapman. But, either from inclination, or else under orders from his Presbytery, Mr. Morrow, at a very early period of his ministry, found his fields of labor in the remote and destitute portions of the country. Thus, in the year 1818, before he was ordained, he was sent to Indiana, then a new country, and spent several months attending camp-meetings in that State. In February, 1819, he was ordained by the Logan Presbytery, in special session, for the purpose of preparing him for a more important missionary enterprise than any upon which he had as yet entered.
About this time, the then Territory of Missouri was attracting a large emigration from Southern Kentucky and Tennessee, and among the emigrants were many members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Of course they would find no preachers of their own faith in that remote region; and, as they would break away from the religious associations of their old homes, they put up a piteous plea to be supplied with the word and ordinances of Christ's visible Church. To meet this demand, then, Mr. Morrow was selected, and accordingly ordered to proceed to Western Illinois and to Missouri, and to look up and minister to the scattered sheep, and to preach generally among the people wherever he could find a place. He started on horseback and alone, so far as we are advised, and traversed a partial wilderness, for over five hundred miles, to the Mississippi River, at Alton, Illinois. He crossed over into Missouri, and proceeded up to what is now Pike county, and found only three Cumberland Presbyterian families--Fullerton, Pharr, and Scott. Still directing his steps westward, he reached a place called Loutee, in Callaway county, and preached to grown-up men who had never before heard the gospel from a living minister. Thence he went to Howard county, and met with a Mr. Whitsett, who had embraced religion under his ministry in Kentucky. In this county he found several families who had formerly belonged to Mr. Ewing's congregation at Lebanon, Kentucky. Of course they were all eager to hear the gospel from one of their own preachers, and especially from one whom they had learned to love in the older States while he was yet a boy.
I was under the impression for many years that Mr. Morrow was the first preacher of our denomination who came to Missouri; but I find, from the published statement of Mr. Rea, that Rev. Daniel Buie was in Howard county, and preaching to the people, when Mr. Morrow first reached the State. I believe it is also true that the Rev. Green P. Rice came to St. Louis from his home in Illinois, and preached, as early as 1817. At any rate, it may be safely stated that Mr. M. was the first minister who operated as a missionary in the State, and that he traveled far and wide over the sparsely-populated country--organized and established churches before any one else had done so. Coming to the State in the spring, he remained till fall, and returned to Kentucky, with Mr. Rice, to attend the approaching Presbytery and Synod. These great journeys were always made on horseback, through a partial wilderness, and under great hardships and privations. It was at the meeting of Synod, in 1819, that McGee Presbytery was organized--embracing Western Illinois and the Territories of Missouri and Arkansas, having for its members Rice, of Illinois; Carnahan, of Arkansas; Morrow and Buie, of Missouri. The same territory now embraces seven or eight Synods, twenty-five or thirty Presbyteries, and about thirty-five or forty thousand members.
It appears, from our information on the subject, that Mr. Morrow returned from Kentucky to Missouri in the fall of the year 1819--his first trip to the State being in the spring of that year--and going back to attend Presbytery and Synod, as above stated, he spent the winter in usual ministerial labor, so far as the weather would permit. It is stated that the winter was of unusual severity, the snow lying eighteen inches deep on the ground for several months. But in the following spring, 1820, the McGee Presbytery held its first session, at the house of John Scott (Rev. J. B. Morrow says, at the house of Fullerton), in Pike county. Rice, of Illinois, Carnahan, of Arkansas; and Morrow and Buie, were all in attendance. This was the first attempt to organize the Church north of the Ohio River and west of the Mississippi. To reach the Presbytery, Mr. Carnahan had to travel at least five hundred miles on horseback and through a country that was mostly inhabited by the Indians. That was an exhibition of religious zeal, and consecration to ministerial duty, that will be hard to find in this day.
We now find Mr. Morrow permanently settled in the State of his adoption. This was the field of his labors for the remainder of his life.
Before proceeding with this narrative any farther, it is proper to state that, some months before Mr. Morrow came to the West, there had been organized in Southern Kentucky a Missionary Society under the auspices of a few pious women. The object of this association was to raise the means to support a missionary in the great West. Accordingly, when Mr. M. was ordered to this field of labor, he derived his support chiefly from the association referred to. And herein is another link in the chain of providences that gave direction to that potent influence which was developed in the character and labors of their young missionary. The pious women, who knit stockings and wove jeans on a hand-loom, wherewith to clothe the poor preacher, little dreamed that they were nursing a power that, under God, would pervade the whole confines of the great West, and establish the cause of the little Church which he represented among thousands of those who never before had heard of the name Cumberland Presbyterian.
The summer following the first session of Presbytery, Mr. Morrow laid out his first circuit, extending from Cape Girardeau to Clay county--being at least three hundred miles in extent from east to west. And thus the circuit-rider of that day performed his arduous work. From day to day, ever in the saddle, in sunshine and storm, he travels; through forests and over prairies he makes his own road, receiving such hospitality as the backwoodsman's cabin could afford, and often making his bed upon his overcoat, with his saddle for a pillow, and his patient horse his only companion. And for what does the young preacher undergo all this labor and privation? He is young, strong, intelligent, and ambitious. Why does he not enter upon a pursuit that will bring more comfort and greater pecuniary reward? Why should he step out from the great throng of men who are pushing their way to worldly fortune and position, and devote his life to self-sacrifice and unrewarded labor? To me it is a sublime spectacle to see a young man of promising talents--one capable of achieving distinction in any secular pursuit--deliberately turn his back upon all that the world holds dear, and devote himself to the welfare of his race. It is a sublime exhibition of moral courage, and a splendid illustration of the power of religious principle. All honor to the faithful minister of the gospel!
Upon his first regular circuit Mr. M. spent the ensuing six months. He held several interesting camp-meetings, in different localities, but nothing of special interest is now remembered as transpiring during this period. In the fall, the next session of Presbytery was held in the town of Booneville. At this place, Caleb Weedin, Laird Burns, J. L. Wear, and Archy McCorkel became candidates for the ministry; and at the following spring session J. B. Morrow, F. M. Braley, and Robert Sloan were received under the care of the Presbytery. I mention these names because they afterward became as familiar as household words in all the Churches of Missouri, and for the farther reason that Mr. Morrow contributed very largely to their preparation for the work of the ministry. In the winter of 1821-22, Mr. M. taught the young prophets, at New Lebanon, in literature and science, and Mr. Ewing instructed them in theology. Among the students taught in this school, in addition to the names above mentioned, we find those of Henry Renick, J. R. Brown, S. C. Ruby, and D. M. Kirkpatrick. Nearly all of these men became eminent in their profession, and they felt that they were largely indebted to Mr. Morrow for their success in the ministry.
On the 23d of November, 1820, Mr. Morrow was united in marriage with Elizabeth M. Ray, of Howard county, Missouri. This venerable and excellent lady is still living. For nearly fifty years she trod the pathway of life hand in hand with her distinguished husband; and at the very margin of the dark river, only for a brief period, they parted company, that he might, in advance of her arrival, explore that better land, whither all Christ's children are bound, and to which each one of them holds an indefeasible title. They will meet again and take up their permanent abode in the mansions prepared by their Heavenly Master.
In 1823, Mr. M. and family moved to La Fayette county, and settled in the neighborhood of Lexington. He remained in this county about ten years, and built up several flourishing congregations. The particulars of his ministerial labors during this period are not known to the writer. Only the general fact can be stated, that the results of his labors were to be seen in the churches that were organized and in a flourishing condition when the family of the writer came to the same county to reside. Mr. Morrow, like nearly all his contemporaries in the ministry, kept no diary of his ministerial work, nor of the many interesting incidents that, doubtless, grew out of his operations; and this must be an apology for the entire absence of all detail and minutia connected with the public career of this eminent preacher. In the absence of authentic data touching the incidents that attended his ministerial labors, we must content ourselves with general observations on his character, and general conclusions as to the results of those labors.
After ten years' residence in La Fayette county, Mr. M. settled in a very pleasant home near the town of Columbus, in the adjoining county of Johnson. This last settlement did not remove him to a new field of labor, but it placed him rather in the center of his previous operations. For the several years that followed he continued to preach in every direction where his services were demanded--attending the camp-meetings far and near.
In 1836, he again opened a school for the young preachers, and among his students at this time were A. W. Guthrie, A. A. Young, John M. and Finis E. Foster, J. T. Nelson, and T. M. Johnson [sic: Johnston], who was afterward distinguished as an able editor of our Church paper of the Pacific coast. A few years later, we find among his list of students the names of W. D. Wear, E. P. Henderson, John Gallimore, B. T. Thomas, and R. E. Sanders. Nearly all of these men are now living, and most of them have become useful preachers of the gospel.
It was a fortunate day for the Church and for the young preachers when Mr. Morrow concluded to give his attention to their instruction. But few men were better qualified to teach than he. If there was any thing in a man at all, "Uncle Bob" would generally find a way to get it out. It was the general conclusion that if he could not make a preacher out of a young candidate, there was no use to try anybody else. His own habits of thought, and his fine powers of analysis, qualified him eminently for the business of imparting knowledge to others. He was a clear and deep thinker. His method of demonstration always led to a satisfactory conclusion. One who saw things so clearly could always explain them to others in the light of his own luminous understanding. He seemed to possess the faculty of driving a sunbeam through the darkest problem, and by thus illuminating the track he could lead his pupils to a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. He was a most diligent and patient student even down to his old age. His mind was so thoroughly disciplined that he could command all his great faculties on any given investigation. It is my judgment that he was the best thinker in the denomination west of the Mississippi River.
It was during this period of his life that Mr. Morrow became exceedingly metaphysical in his theological disquisitions. Indeed, his general preaching partook more or less of this style. In the school-room, and especially in his instructions to the young preaches, he unconsciously formed the habit of analyzing every proposition submitted for consideration. It became a great duty to find the truth, in whatever disguise it might appear. It became, likewise, a pleasure to expose the sophistry of the shallow thinker, and to unravel the web of the uncandid philosopher. This daily pursuit, added to the tendency to a naturally logical turn of mind, led to the style of preaching of which we have made mention. It was not from any motive to display his learning that he fell into this method of preaching, for he was diffident or modest to a fault. It was simply because he could not very well help it. He was now in the full maturity of his intellectual powers--his long and thorough mental training and habit of deep thinking would almost irresistibly lead him to metaphysical disquisitions. He fairly reveled in the solution of knotty questions. By a train of logic that no human ingenuity could successfully assail, he would establish his conclusions and demonstrate his points. His massive brain lay in a head a great volume and splendid development. The forehead was broad and high; the brow heavy and projecting; the eyes deep-set and sparkling. It resembled very much the heads of great scholars, statesmen, and judges which I have seen. I have often thought what a great ornament to the bar or bench he would have become if he had given his attention to the law in early life. He would have learned the law by instinct. He possessed in a large degree what lawyers call legal acumen--an intuitive capacity to grasp and solve legal questions. A favorite theme with him in the pulpit was the law. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," was a text from which he frequently preached. This habit of preaching about the law will be finely illustrated in an anecdote related by Mr. Rea, which I will presently introduce.
But I was speaking of Mr. Morrow's great success as a teacher of both science and theology. And herein has he impressed his own character most legibly on the whole Church in this part of the country. His young preachers loved and venerated him as a prophet. They learned to think, act, and speak like him; and these traits were by them communicated to the people, and thus the Church became, in a good degree, Morrowized, if I may be allowed the expression; and the upshot of it all is that the Presbytery to which he belonged for thirty years is the largest and most influential of any other west of the Mississippi. I do not propose to discuss at length Mr. Morrow's style of preaching, inasmuch as I shall introduce copious extracts from Messrs. Lowry and Rea upon this topic; and in this particular they are more competent to judge than myself. I may remark generally, however, that, from what I have already said of Mr. Morrow's habits of thought, he could not be any thing else than very clear and perspicuous in his arrangement, and logical and forcible in his argument. Indeed, to argue a question well was his great forte in the pulpit. His command of language was ample for the most elegant diction, and his sentences were generally symmetrical and graceful. In the faculty of making his hearers clearly understand what he wished to communicate, he was without a peer within my acquaintance. He never dishonored his great calling by going into the pulpit with nothing to say. He would have regarded it an insult to his Heavenly Master to utter unmeaning inanities from the sacred desk as being the gospel of the Son of God. I am informed by his family that it was a long-established practice with him to prepare carefully for the Sabbath duties in the pulpit. He was one who comprehended to a degree the eminent dignity of his position as embassador for God--as the representative of Christ in his visible Church; and, with these ideas deeply impressed upon his heart, he sought diligently to prepare himself for the sublime mission of delivering a message from heaven to his fellow-men. O what a grandeur there is in the calling of minister of the cross! Mr. Morrow viewed it as a most holy mission--one not to be sought, but to be accepted when tendered by the great Head of the Church. He approached its duties with awe and trembling--he revered its divine authority, and entered upon its duties with diffidence and misgiving. And in these respects I commend him to the rising ministry of the Church, and hold him up as a model preacher, worthy of imitation by all who may come after him in the sacred office.
We have spoken of Mr. Morrow's eminent fitness for the calling of a teacher. Under a knowledge of this fact, he was invited by the Trustees of Chapel Hill College to accept the position of President of that institution. Accordingly, in the year 1850, he entered upon the duties of his new position. The institution was then in a very flourishing condition--was liberally patronized, and gave every assurance of permanent usefulness. The causes of its decline will not be discussed in this place. But, during its brief career, it accomplished a great work for the Church. Some of the prominent men of the ministry, among the younger class of preachers, were educated at this school. We may mention J. G. Dalton, R. S. Reed, G. L. Moad, O. D. Allen, T. A. Witherspoon, C. A. Davis, W. W. Suddath (in part), and J. H. Houx--all of whom achieved some degree of eminence and great usefulness in the Church. There was a number of other preachers educated here, but I cannot now call them all to mind. The hand of Mr. Morrow is also plainly visible in the character of many of the preachers who went out from this school. I have spoken elsewhere of his faculty in impressing his own ideas and character on the minds of those whom he taught for any length of time. Some of the Chapel Hill preachers, were, fortunately for the Church, pretty closely modeled after the head of the institution.
Mr. Morrow remained four years in the College, and then returned to his little home near Columbus, in Johnson county, Missouri; and here he spent the remainder of his days, and finally closed his earthly career.
For a number of years before his death he was disqualified for regular ministerial duty, on account of his broken health. There is no question that his health was materially and permanently impaired by his excessive labors in the earlier years of his ministry, and by the great exposure to which he was sometimes subjected. The fact is feelingly referred to by Mr. Lowry in his "Historic Recollections," which I propose to incorporate at length into this biography.
Finding Mr. Morrow now in the decline of life, we may appropriately pause and study his character. We find, then, from the foregoing very brief statement of the leading events of his life, that he spent all his early manhood and the meridian vigor of his days in the laborious work of the gospel ministry. I call it laborious, advisedly, because it was such, to a high degree, to him. The demands upon his powers of physical endurance, even in the single item of horseback travel, were incredibly great. The idea of traveling from two to four thousand miles in a single circuit season, and preaching almost every day, is almost incredible to many of the enervated preachers of the present day. But to perform this labor, and to endure the privations incident to it, required not only a profound conviction of religious duty, but a moral and physical heroism of the sublimest type. A deep and all-pervading conviction of duty characterized his whole ministerial career. With him, to know that a thing was right was to determine at once to do it. He never compromised conscience or duty. Singleness of purpose was also largely developed in all his public career--to do good to others was the great, leading motive in all his fifty years of ministerial labor. His love and sympathy took in the whole human race, and he devoted his life to its amelioration. His philanthropy and benevolence were enlisted by the condition of every sinner in the land, and he preached and prayed for them to the last hours of his existence. "Faithfulness," then, may be written for his ministerial epitaph, in letters of living light, and upon marble that will endure for all time.
His personal piety was remarkably conspicuous through all the years of his Christian profession. His walk and conversation afforded daily confirmation of the divine reality and spirituality of the Christian religion. The light of his daily life flung out its rays in every direction, and illuminated not only his own pathway, but that of all those with whom he associated. He breathed, and created about him, a serene and balmy atmosphere that was peculiar to himself. Every one who came in contact with him felt its influence and recognized its existence. He was a living, moving, active beacon-light to all voyagers on the dark sea of sin, and as the emanations of that light would disclose to the sinner his danger, he was ever prompt to raise his voice and point to the haven of safety and repose. He exerted a powerful influence for good to the Church, the State, neighborhood, and family.
In the social circle, Mr. Morrow was quiet and rather reserved, except among his intimate friends. To these, he was open and frank as the day--genial, pleasant, and entertaining. There was not a chord or fiber of his whole being that ever responded to a suggestion of duplicity. Sincerity and truth were conspicuous traits of his character. His modesty and want of self-assertion sometimes made him appear to a disadvantage. This was especially noticeable in the judicatures of the Church. He was generally prompt to attend these meetings, and was always a quiet member. Others made the speeches and did the talking. Upon occasion, however, when a measure of doubtful expediency or propriety was suggested, he would bring to bear the whole weight of his great influence and crush it out of existence. It is not to be inferred from this that he was ever an indifferent spectator of ecclesiastical deliberations. He could not feel thus toward any thing that involved the interests of the Church. He simply let others do the work, but he sat in stern judgment upon their acts, and was prompt to condemn when occasion required.
In his domestic relations, he was known only to be admired and loved. He ruled his household absolutely, but it was by a method of government that was never felt--it was by a law which reached every member of the family, but it never caused even a suggestion of disregard or disobedience. In a word, he ruled by the omnipotent law of love. Love begets love, and therein lies the secret of this method of government. The application of this principle had the finest development in the family of Mr. Morrow. There was a wealth of affection exhibited among all its members, one to the other, and to the head. And as a legitimate result following from the incorporation of this principle in the domestic economy, Mr. Morrow had a most interesting family of children. There were two sons and two daughters. One of the sons died in early life, but the remaining three children grew to maturity, and became ornaments to the household in which they were so fondly cherished, and useful members of the Church and community. May they long live to verify their father's faith in the religion of Christ and the value of his principles in the family economy!
As a neighbor and a citizen of the State, the beauty of his character and the soundness of his principles acquired additional confirmation. He always thought independently on the different political phases that the passing years presented to him. He voted intelligently, but farther than that did not actively concern himself. He rendered unto Cesar the things that were Cesar's, but always demanded of himself and all others that the things that were of God should be rendered unto him.
Taking it altogether, then, his life was a most symmetrical and beautiful one. We do not in this summary include any thing of his works, or his mental accomplishments or theological attainments, but simply his life, as developed through the years in which he lived. The results that followed from the potent influences which he evolved, and then employed during his long life, cannot be estimated even approximately. They are written in the Lamb's book of life. They are laid away in the archives of the Church triumphant. They are recorded in the annals of the heavenly kingdom. But they are also written in the characters of scores of devoted and useful ministers of the gospel, and in the hearts of thousands who were brought from darkness to the light through his instrumentality. And in all the coming years that Providence may allot to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the works and example of Mr. Morrow should be cherished as a sacred legacy, and as an invaluable guide to the rising ministry in all her borders.
But if such was his life, what was his death? Did his religion sustain him in the critical hour? Did he at last discover any fatal mistake in his principles or faith, when it was too late to remedy the evil? Was there indubitable evidence of an accomplished salvation in his case? Does his dying testimony throw one more gleam of light on the dark pathway of the sinner? Do we see in his case the gloomy chasm of death bridged over by a sublime faith in a dead and risen Redeemer? We shall see! And herein we have the testimony of one of his faithful colleagues in the ministry, and one who stood by his bed-side in his last moments--who assisted to lay his body in the ground, and then preached his funeral-sermon to his weeping friends and neighbors.
The author will here avail himself of the excellent article published by Rev. P. G. Rea, soon after the death of Mr. Morrow. The writer of this article was long a co-laborer with the subject of this sketch in the work of the ministry, and therefore he became a most competent judge to pass upon the merits of one who was engaged in the same great calling.
"Dr. Morrow, when a young man, had a fine physical organism--a model of health and endurance; but under the weight of years, and more especially excessive labor and exposure, it began rapidly to fail, and for the last few years of his life he was only a\occasionally able to preach. A short time previous to his last illness, he visited Warrensburg, his county town, on business. After the arrangement of his business, he remarked to a friend, 'I have just completed the proper arrangement of my worldly business, and as to the spiritual, that was adjusted many years ago, and I am now ready to go home whenever the Master calls for me.' He was taken ill in a few days after his return home, and seemed to be conscious of its fatal termination from the very beginning. His affliction was long and painful; but need I say to those who knew him, that he bore it with Christian meekness? I have often read and heard of 'Christian philosophers,' but never before had I seen Christian philosophy more perfectly exemplified. In his life and death we have a practical exposition of the Scripture, 'Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.' His mind was, at no time during his illness, in a state of ecstatic joy, but always filled with a calm, sweet, heavenly peace and confiding trust. He talked but little, but his answers to questions were always prompt, clear, and satisfactory. He was entirely rational to the end. A few hours before his departure the writer asked him, 'Is your mind as clear, and your faith in Jesus Christ as strong, as ever?' He replied, 'Entirely so, entirely!' When unable to move his lips, and within a few minutes of the last breath, his beloved and ever-devoted daughter, Mrs. Barbee, said to him, 'Dear father, do you know that you are dying?' He nodded his head, and looked up and smiled, and in a few moments 'he was not, for God had taken him.' He went as calmly as a summer's eve, and as peacefully as a sleeping infant. A large concourse of people attended his funeral, all feeling that a great and good man had fallen; and thus we laid his mortal remains away in the cemetery at Columbus, to await the voice that shall awake the dead, to bid it rise in the morning of the resurrection.
"Dr. Morrow came as nigh being a model man in all the relations that he sustained as any man I ever knew. His full-grown consciousness enabled him to grasp the relations and appreciate the importance of the obligations growing out of them. His meekness and gentleness, combined with firmness and unyielding integrity, eminently fitted him for his position as the head of his household. It might have been said of him, as God said of Abraham, 'For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.' As a man among men, he was one of the most sincere, unpretending, honest men I ever knew. His opposition to deception was involuntary, because his inward life revolted at it, and had more regard for the sentiment, 'God desireth truth in the inward parts,' than for the worldly maxim, 'What will they think of it?' He should well conceal his dislikes when it was not necessary for them to be known. He never flattered. His show of friendship was modest, earnest, and true. His feelings, taste, and behavior were all those of a high-toned gentleman. He was never rude--very far from it--but with well-known friends he was sometimes playful, when his mind was free from the pressure of thought and duty. Indeed, he was at times quite witty, when every thing suited, but never violating the strictest modesty and refinement in his language. His time was generally employed either in reading, or sober and profound meditation on some question of doctrine or duty, or some interest or enterprise of the Church; or, if in company, in instructive conversation. I never knew him to talk nonsense. His modesty was sometimes embarrassing to him in a crowd; but if he talked in company at all, he usually did it freely, and with interest and animation; but he much preferred to talk privately with some individual, or to listen to others. His modesty, meekness, and humility, were only equaled by his great intellectual and moral worth. As a preacher, he was just such as but few men in any age become. He had a clearness of perception, and a power of distinguishing between the congruity and incongruity of ideas, which few men have. His method, from his premises to his conclusion, was so short, natural, and plain, that the intelligent hearer saw it as clearly as he did, and to his own satisfaction. He almost uniformly left his audience, when he concluded his discourse, believing with confidence the truths he had presented.
"As an illustration of the above, we give the following incident received by the writer from the Hon. John Miller: While the Legislature of Missouri, of which Mr. Miller was a member from Howard county, was in session in the town of St. Charles, about the year 1820, Rev. Mr. Rogers, who was then regarded as the giant of the Baptist Church in Missouri, visited St. Charles, and preached to the Legislature on this subject: 'For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.' The next day the Hon. Henry S. Guyer, of St. Louis, who was a member of the Legislature also, approached Mr. Miller and criticised Mr. Rogers's sermon, remarking that his views of law were unsound, and that he could, before a competent jury, tear them into fragments. Mr. Miller replied to him that he had a 'little circuit-rider' up in his country who could preach law to him that he could not tear to pieces. In a few weeks afterward, on returning to his room, Mr. Miller found his 'little circuit-rider' had called to see him. He soon circulated an appointment for him to preach in the Senate-chamber, and took special pains to notify Mr. Guyer to attend. The hour arrived, and a promiscuous crowd of law-makers and law-violators had assembled, and among them sat, in close proximity, Mr. Miller and Mr. Guyer. When Rev. R. D. Morrow entered the door, and started down the long aisle of the chamber, dressed in 'plain home-spun jeans,' with his saddle-bags on his arm, all eyes were turned to get a view of Mr. Miller's 'circuit-rider.' For want of prepossession, many eyes, and among them Mr. Guyer's, were turned back upon Mr. Miller, with a sarcastic glance, as much as to say. 'Is that your law-preacher?' The preacher ascended the President's stand and proceeded with the services, and, strange as it may seem, without any knowledge of what had passed, announced the same subject from which Mr. Rogers had preached. In a few minutes the audience was spell-bound, and for one hour their hearts were made to burn within them, while the preacher opened up to their minds God's glorious plan of justifying the sinner. Even Mr. Guyer could not refrain from emotion, and as they walked out of the chamber he remarked to Mr. Miller, 'That law will do; I can't pick any flaws in that man's views of law.' Dr. Morrow ordinarily dealt in those themes most intimately connected with sound faith and correct practice, with human duty and destiny. Though seemingly calm and dispassionate in the beginning, his conceptions of truth aroused a fervent animation which bore him along with an earnestness which became deeply impressive. He always preached well: I never knew him to make a failure, as preachers often do. He always had in mind a clear view of a subject which he felt to be important, and which he delivered with interest both to himself and his hearers. At times, on occasions of great responsibility, by the time he would reason through with his subject, which was a great burden of most important and eternal truth, his whole soul was so full of his theme that his appeals were peculiarly startling and awful. The sinner almost felt that he was facing his God, or standing in sight of his eternal destiny. Or sometimes, after having taken step after step, in considering the great foundation and plan of salvation, the entire scheme became so clear to his own comprehension, so perfect in all its parts, so glorious and godlike in its origin and ends, that his spirit--his ardent spirit--was so touched and enraptured with the theme as to almost bound from the clay tenement and scale the mount of God to catch a still broader and more glorious view. When he would take those lofty and glorious flights, he seemed to get away beyond himself and every thing that is natural in man; and the Church, on such occasions, felt not only that it was good, but even glorious, to be there. On such occasions, if any of the old converts of the revival of 1800 were present, their full souls would burst into acclamations of praise.
"But Dr. Morrow is taken from us: we no longer look upon that familiar, love-lighted face; those small, deep-set, intelligent black eyes; that intellectually-shaped head; nor hear the soul-stirring melody of that animated voice with which many of us have been so long blessed. But where is the mighty soul that used to light up that face, to fire those eyes, and give music and sweet melody to that voice? While standing by his dying couch, my mind tried to follow his uncaged soul as it went up from earth to its glorious habitation. What glorious realities burst upon his vision as he left the chamber of death, when his weeping family and friends stood around his lifeless clay to 'close his sightless eyes!' 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' He now beholds the glory of the Father, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and of the holy angels. He has gone up to the General Assembly and Church of the firstborn, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. In that innumerable company he has no doubt met with a Ewing, a King, a Buie, a Braley, a Sloan, a Davis, a Gallimore, with whom he used to labor in Missouri; and the Donnells, Calhouns, Barnetts, Chapmans, Harrises, and others with whom he was associated in early life, besides the vast multitudes who were converted, or spiritually edified under his ministry. He now sees, face to face, and knows, even as also he is known, the glorious employments of the 'sainted dead,' about which he used to love to preach.
"We close these brief sketches by a few remarks to our brethren in the ministry, and the bereaved family and relatives. Dr. Morrow was one of the few men who could, with consistency, adopt the language of Paul to the Philippians: 'Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.' He has left us a legacy more precious than gold. He did more to mold the theology of our Church in Missouri than, perhaps, any man living or dead. Let us hold fast the 'form of sound words' received from him. Let us emulate his example in studying that system of doctrine taught in the Old and New Testaments. He has left us an example of practical piety. Here again he could have adopted the language of Paul: 'Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.' The Christian graces ornamented his public and private life. O let us follow his worthy example and honor our holy religion by exemplifying it in our lives! He was consecrated to his work. He heeded the voice of his Master, 'Occupy till I come.' It was the great, controlling idea of his life. In the language of a strong writer, 'All men who have done any notable work in the world have felt the consciousness of its importance as a fire in the bones. They could not languidly dream of it, nor contemplate it from a hazy and mellowing distance. They have hastened unto the battle; they have said, "I am straitened until it be accomplished." It carries the soul into an agony of passion. It drives the blood along the channels with an urgency which greatly distresses nature, and strains the intellectual nerves until the brain sees strange lights, and often trembles for its own safety. Only men of strong natures know what is meant by this lavish expenditure of life--this willingness to taste death for every man.' Let our souls rise to the full consciousness of the importance of our work, and adjust ourselves to it as he did. Who will fill his place in the ministry, and in the councils of the Church? Ah! who among the many young men now preparing for the ministry in his Presbytery will fix their mark by his side, and never stop till they get there?"
"Robert D. Morrow was for many years a co-laborer with Fathers Ewing and King in Missouri. Since their death, he has been looked to by the Church, both from his age and his wisdom, as the ablest counselor and as the ablest divine.
"His career has been an eventful one; his life a laborious and preeminently useful one.
"His method of presenting truth was peculiar to himself. His style was so simple that a child could understand him; his reasoning so concise and clear that it forced assent. He made great and profound truth so clear that the hearer was astonished that he had not seen it in that light before. With all this he combined, in a measure very rare, the unction of the Spirit.
"With all the vigor of his nature, he spent over a half century heralding the glorious gospel he loved so well, till, with calm confidence, he resigned the commission he received in youth to Him who intrusted him with it.
"Brother P. G. Rea was present, and witnessed the closing scene. He and Brother A. A. Moore addressed the large audience at the funeral."
In conclusion, we take pleasure in presenting to the reader several very interesting articles from the pen of the venerable David Lowry, who was the contemporary of Mr. Morrow in the earlier years of his ministry. Nothing could be more fitting or appropriate than to conclude this brief sketch with the testimony of a witness, the most competent of all others at this day, to furnish a correct judgment and a proper estimate of the qualities and character of his early and beloved friend.
"Shortly after the close of the last war with Great Britain, an interesting country was opened for settlement north of the Ohio River and west of the Mississippi, and many of the inhabitants of different States sought homes in that inviting country. An immense missionary field was at once presented to the Churches, calling for ministerial labor. Cumberland Presbyterians, though then in infancy as an ecclesiastical body, determined to bear a part in furnishing supplies to meet the pressing calls. The female members of congregations in the Logan Presbytery formed Missionary Societies to raise funds to send out missionaries to the above field, and became auxiliary to what was called the 'Western Board of Missions of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.' This Board was formed principally by the preachers of the Logan Presbytery, and received and disbursed funds provided by the auxiliaries, employed missionaries, etc.
"Robert D. Morrow was sent out by the Board in the spring of 1819, to what was then the Missouri Territory, and was the pioneer of our Church in that new country. For his services the Board paid him fifteen dollars per month--a very inadequate sum to meet his wants; but it is a fit illustration of the sacrifices made by our preachers in that day. He was heard to say, while engaged on such poor pay, and encountering the hardships incident to that new country, that he would 'wear clothes with patch on patch rather than stop preaching.' This remark was made in hearing of Rev. Finis Ewing.
"The missionary labor of Mr. Morrow in Missouri was very successful. His reports to the Board showed frequent revivals of religion, congregations organized, and that seekers of religion often followed him, day after day, from one appointment to another.
"Though he commenced his labors in the ministry with a fine constitution, it was well-nigh giving away under the burden of his early toil. It was common in that day to preach long sermons. Often he preached two hours, and sometimes closed, on his knees, with a powerful appeal to sinners, then labored for hours with mourners, almost entirely alone, so far as human help was concerned.
"On returned to Kentucky to report to the Board, after the first summer's labor in Missouri, he presented quite an emaciated appearance, and his friends feared the Church would soon be deprived of his services. Physical endurance, however, exceeded human calculation, and, in the kind provision of God, he lived to a great old age; but his capacity for heavy work in the pulpit was, no doubt, cut short in the evening of life by extraordinary efforts in youth and vigorous manhood. His interest for the Church outlived his ability to labor for her benefit, and for several years previous to his death he was often unable to preach at all.
"The error of Mr. Morrow--if an error it may be called--of overtaxing his physical powers when young, was not confined to himself alone; and when I think of the wonderful and protracted labors of our early preachers, and, at the close of their sermons, of the time they often spent in prayer, exhortation, and singing with mourners, I am astonished that so many of them lived to such an advanced period of life.
"Mr. Morrow's parents were highly respected in the community where they lived, and in easy, but not affluent, circumstances. His father was a farmer, and in that vocation the son was trained till he professed religion and turned his attention to the work of the ministry. His father's family showed no ambition to imitate the customs of the fashionable world, but rode fine horses to church and town, and merchants were always glad to see them, for 'they paid as they went.'
"Mr. Morrow was of low stature, but strong and square-built, weighing, when in vigorous manhood, about one hundred and fifty pounds, of fair complexion, full, round face, blue eyes, and thin lips. His head and forehead were pronounced by a lawyer of Russellville, Kentucky, to resemble the late Judge Grundy, of Nashville, Tennessee. His countenance indicated a lively turn of mind. This personal appearance of Mr. Morrow refers to the period when I first knew him. Hard work in the ministry soon reduced him in flesh, and produced quite a change in his looks.
"The intellectual character of Mr. Morrow is worthy of note. It was above mediocrity, not brilliant, but clear in its proportions, and of strong logical tendency. His early advantages for education were limited; yet, by self-directed efforts, he made himself a respectable English scholar, so that neither in his conversation nor preaching could any defect in his language be detected.
"Among the prominent elements in his character as a preacher was a heart-felt devotion to the work. He loved to preach, and every other consideration was held in subordination to the business of edifying Christians and saving souls. When he and I rode the circuit together, we often retired to the woods for secret prayer, and generally kneeled close by each other, when I often heard the petition fall in a whisper from his lips: 'Lord, press my heart with the worth of souls.' His intense love of souls is what bore him on and up, causing him to make such heavy drafts upon his physical strength, and brought on prematurely the infirmities of old age.
"He occupied among his brethren a high position as a preacher. His favorite themes in the pulpit were the fall of man, the atonement of Christ, the operations of the Holy Spirit, regeneration, and practical religion. The country in which he labored in the early part of his ministry was infested with Unitarianism, which led him to dwell much on the divinity of our Saviour. When on the subject of experimental religion, he excelled in describing the exercises of the human heart under conviction, and in its submission to be saved by grace. This kind of preaching was much more common in the early days of Mr. Morrow's ministry than it is now. For the purpose of explaining important points of his sermon, and presenting truth to the weakest capacity, he made free use of metaphors drawn from affairs in common life. Mr. Ewing often spoke of this peculiarity in his preaching with admiration, expressing a great desire for the talent himself.
"Mr. Morrow's sermons were marked with strong logical reasoning and condensation of thought, always affording ample material for profitable reflection by his hearers. Chaste language, force of argument, and pungency of application were prominent in his discourses. During the argumentative part of his sermon, he spoke without showing much feeling, but seldom failed to warm up at the close with an appeal that sent many persons away with tearful eyes.
"Perhaps the greatest sermon I ever heard him preach was delivered in Russellville, Kentucky, during the meeting of the Logan Presbytery. He had just returned from a six-months' tour as a missionary in Missouri--heart glowing with missionary fire. The discourse was well arranged, and in the argumentative part he was calm, but forcible. His argument being completed, his application commenced, excelling, as I thought, any thing I had ever heard. Christians were carried, in imagination, to heaven, and made stand amid the armies of the blessed, and sweep with celestial fingers the harps of glory. He then opened the mouth of the pit, and led sinners through its fearful avenues, while the wail of the lost seemed to enter the ears of the congregation, and sinners trembled and wept. Every energy of body and mind, at the close of the sermon, seemed to be stretched to the utmost point of tension. Perspiration mingled with tears flowed from the preacher, and seemed to say, 'O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night,' etc. I had heard sermons closed by the lion-voice of a Barnett, and the sweet voice of a Chapman, but thought I had never heard any thing from them equal to the appeals that sallied from the lips of Morrow at the close of his sermon. In a word, it was marked with elegance, simplicity, and pungency, moving and stirring the feelings of the people, and drawing tears from many eyes.
"I never heard Mr. Morrow make a failure in the pulpit. His sermons were not all equally excellent, but he never made what might be called a failure. When I rode the circuit with him, his congregations were often small on week-days, but he would preach as though the house were crowded. 'If he began dry,' as Mr. Ewing once said, 'he would get wet before he was done.'
"He was a profound theologian, and no preacher of his day understood Cumberland Presbyterian doctrine better than he; and I never heard him advance a sentiment in preaching adverse to the accredited standard of his Church. May his example in this particular be imitated by his surviving brethren!
"In feeling, he was a true Cumberland Presbyterian, both in doctrine and policy, but ready at all times to observe every proper rule of Christian harmony with other denominations, but had no sympathy with indiscreet efforts for amalgamation--another trait in his character every way worthy, just at this time, of careful imitation. Friendly cooperation with other Churches, on common ground, is preferable to discordant union.
"Mr. Morrow, while I knew him, made but little use of the pen in preparing to preach. His sermons were carefully studied and reduced to plan in his mind, but phraseology he never committed to memory. He was, in the fullest sense of the word, an extemporary preacher. I never knew him refuse to preach when appointed to do so by authority properly constituted. In the days of camp-meetings, a superintendent, or bishop, as he was called, was always appointed to direct who should preach, and when. At one of these meetings at Old Lebanon, Christian county, Kentucky, Wm. Barnett was bishop. On Sunday morning, just after daylight, he came to the tent where Mr. Morrow and I were sleeping, and told him he must preach before breakfast. He offered no objections, but, after Mr. Barnett left, gave me to understand that he thought it a hard case to be required to preach with such short notice. But there was no alternative--the order must be obeyed. He hastened to the woods to pray, and then entered the pulpit. Indeed, it was worth a preacher's ecclesiastical neck in that day to refuse to obey such order for want of preparation. The theory was, You must, when the bishop says it, be an off-hand man; in other words, a preacher must carry about with him a store of the current run of knowledge adapted to the pulpit, ready for exchange on all occasions when called for. Practical wisdom ready for use at a call was considered, in Morrow's youthful days, of great importance to a preacher. Paper batteries, or sermons in manuscript, were not seen in the pulpit, nor did any one dream that to be prepared to address an audience you must have a speech or sermon committed to memory.
"It cannot be doubted that Mr. Morrow's character as a minister did much in elevating the standard of preaching in his Church; and, although now gone from the sphere of his personal influence, his example, if preserved and handed down to posterity, will be a power for good to young men who shall enter the sacred desk, till the latest period of time. It is hoped, therefore, that some competent pen will yet be employed in collecting suggestive incidents from persons still surviving who sat under his ministry, and embody them in a brief memoir, and that the sale of the book will be encouraged by the Church.
"The life of Robert Morrow as a simple story; and to give a narrative that interest which it deserves, it should be briefly told. Minuteness of detail, and too much commentary on comparatively unimportant circumstances, often render a biography uninteresting, and prevent it from being read. Authors are prompted by a desire to make a large volume--too large for the paucity of materials at command, and they indulge in too much minuteness.
"Mr. Morrow was not alone in maintaining unflinching devotion to the interests of his Church and cause of Christ, while sacrifices, both financial and physical, stared him in the face. I find from the minutes of the "Western Board of Mission' that the same years when he was sent to Missouri Territory under pay of $15 per month, Rev. William and John Barnett, William Harris, Alexander Chapman, D. N. McLinn, and Woods M. Hamilton, were employed, each one month, to ride and preach in Indiana and Illinois, for which they were promised, respectively, a sum not exceeding $20. They all had families, and hence the Board agreed to given them a little more than the amount received by Mr. Morrow (he being a single man); and that, too, provided it could be raised. Such were the prospects for remuneration of the early pioneers who went out into those regions of moral death to plant Cumberland Presbyterianism. True, they were instructed to collect what they could from the scattered families where they preached; but the sums obtained were to be reported to the Board, and deducted from their pay, which, as already stated, was not to exceed $20 per month. That day required men to nerve and resolution to meet the exigencies of the country--men that could live on coarse diet, and sleep, if need be, on Jacob's pillow-men that would not shrink from the self-denying labor of preaching the gospel, though 'out of money and out at the elbows.'
"The first time I ever heard the Rev. Daniel Buie preach, he was clad in home-spun, and his coat needed patching. He subsequently married, and moved to Missouri in a one-horse cart, where he joined Mr. Morrow in planting Cumberland Presbyterian Churches.
"Preachers of other denominations of that day worked hard on 'short feed.' Here is an example, for instance, in a minister's own language:
"'I had been preaching three years, and was five hundred miles from my father's house. My horse had gone blind, saddle worn out, bridle-reins had been eaten up and replaced (after a sort) at least a dozen times, and my clothes had been patched till it was difficult to tell the original. In this condition I determined to try to make my way home and get another outfit. But I had just seventy-five cents in my pocket, and how to get home and pay my way I could not tell; but it was useless to parley about it--go I must, or do worse. So I concluded to go as far as I could, and then stop and work for more means till I got home. I, however, generally found religious families to lodge with, who made no charge, and small amounts were occasionally given me, so that I reached home without having to work, with six and a fourth cents unexpended. My father furnished me with a new outfit, including $40 in cash, and I was ready again for another three-years' absence to preach the gospel.'
"This was in 1806, when the writings of Tom Paine were read more than the Bible in many parts of the country. Something more than pen-and-ink heroism was then necessary to breast the storm that ministers of the gospel had to encounter.
"Query: Do we not need more of that self-sacrificing and self-denying spirit, among ministers of our Church at this day, which impelled Morrow and Buie, and many others that have been named, in their aggressive movements?
"I have heretofore stated that Mr. Morrow was not a classical scholar, and yet he possessed a power in the pulpit to move a popular audience which is seldom seen at this day, though preachers are generally blessed with superior literary advantages. I have been called upon more than once to explain the reason of this difference. The question is a proper one, and should be answered. If we have no such men as Morrow, or Ewing, or King, or Donnell, or Calhoun, or Chapman, or Harris, and others that might be named, in the pulpit now, we ought to be able to give the reason. Our facilities, so far as literary advantages are concerned, for efficiency in preaching, have increased a hundred-fold since Morrow, and those just named, entered the ministry; but, notwithstanding these advantages, power to reach and move the popular heart has diminished.
"Whatever may be the cause of this deterioration, it must not be ascribed to education. This would be repugnant to common sense. A collegiate education, rightly improved, will afford advantages to a man in any of the learned professions that cannot be enjoyed without it. But it must be rightly improved. After the mind becomes disciplined and trained for thinking, the power must be put into practice. A popular education never made a doctor or lawyer. When the text-books of college are laid down, the student of law must take up Coke and Blackstone. The young physician, too, after leaving college, must devote life to a study of books connected with his profession, in order to become eminent. So with the young preacher. His diploma, though signed and sealed, can be of but little service to him without close application to reading and thinking, with a view to become master of his profession.
"Here, then, is one of the causes of the power of Morrow and our early preachers in the pulpit over those of the present day. They read and thought more than preachers do now. I do not mean that they read many books, for there were then but few books to be had, compared with the numbers now flooding the land. But the works then read were wisely selected, and read and studied with a special object in view--to prepare for preaching. They were self-made men; and I will here remark that all men, who are well made, are self-made. He who depends on a collegiate education to make him will not be long remembered after he dies.
"some one has compared such men to a pocketknife, which has a file, a chisel, a saw, a gimlet, a screw-driver, and a pair of scissors, but all so small that when needed for use they are useless. The world has many such men, and all the Churches have their share of them. They have worked their way through college, and left with its honors, but have since made no preparation, by reading and study, for practical life. Such men are too indolent for common-school teachers. Scholarship, alone, never prepared a successful instructor of youth. He must study the characteristics of the pupils, and acquaint himself with the laws of mind, in some degree, in order to possess the proper 'knack' of a school-teacher.
"Mr. Morrow, in the early part of his ministry, adopted a practice similar to that observed by Mr. Clay, of Kentucky. That eminent statesman and orator said: 'I owe my success in life chiefly to one circumstance--that, at the age of twenty-seven, I commenced, and continued for years, the process of daily reading and speaking upon the contents of some historical or scientific book. These off-hand efforts were made sometimes in a corn-field, at others in the forest, and not unfrequently in some distant barn, with the horse and ox for my auditors. It is to this early practice of the art of all arts that I am indebted for the primary and leading impulses that stimulated me onward, and have shaped and molded my whole subsequent destiny.' I have said Mr. Morrow adopted a practice similar to this in the early part of his ministry.
"When on the circuit together, we often had what we called ride-days, our appointments being too far apart to reach in the morning. These days were generally spent in reading, as we sat upon our horses; and frequently Mr. Morrow would repeat, in his own language, to me what he had just read. There is no doubt that this practice afforded valuable training for extemporary speaking in the pulpit. I would recommend this habit to all candidates now preparing for the ministry. Adopt the practice of repeating to each other, in your own language, your recollections of what you read in theological works. It will record in your own minds substance of what you read, and inspire confidence in the pulpit when you attempt to extemporize. Children creep before they walk, and walk before they run.
"Mr. Morrow studied men and things as well as books. The study of books alone will never prepare men for the pulpit. 'You study books,' said Bishop Asbury to his brethren, 'but I study men.' A knowledge of the laws of mind and mode of thinking among common people is every way important to a minister of the gospel. No man has a better opportunity to obtain such knowledge than an itinerant preacher. He spends much of his time with the families of his circuit, and has access in conversation to both young and old. Mr. Morrow enjoyed this advantage for several years, and was careful to improve it in studying human nature, and in becoming acquainted with the various aspects of society; and the practical knowledge gained in this way was, no doubt, one of the secrets of his power over the masses in preaching. He knew how to address the common people.
"Spurgeon, the Baptist clergyman of London, is now sending forth scores of preachers trained with a special view to usefulness among the common people. They are received as candidates and put on trial, under instruction, two years, during which they are required to preach in the streets, or wherever people can be got to hear. They come in contact with scoffers, infidels, or profligates, persons of every kind, some of whom interrupt the preachers, question or contradict them, or try to puzzle them with their sophistries. In this way the preachers acquire freedom of utterance, quickness of reply, and readiness in the application of religious truth. After two years of such training, they are then sent forth into the world, and told to continue to educate themselves while they live. The result of this training is said to be wonderful. These preachers will revolutionize the Baptist Church, particularly on the subject of free communion. Spurgeon is an advocate of open communion.
"Mr. Morrow not only read book and studied men and things, but cultivated feelings of heart corresponding, in some measure, with the dignity of the ministerial office and object of a preacher's work--to save souls. Again and again, as heretofore stated, have I heard the petition fall from his lips, when we retired to the grove or bowed in our bed-room for secret devotion--'Lord, press my heart with the worth of souls.' In that short prayer there is a world of meaning. It shows a heart panting for a deep conviction of the danger and misery of mankind, and for a longing desire for their deliverance and salvation. Such a heart Mr. Morrow carried into the pulpit, and its outgushings found open avenues to the hearts of his hearers. He spoke to them earnestly, because he felt for them deeply. Such feeling, enriched by careful study and preparation, cannot fail to give a man power in the sacred desk. It is what preachers of this day need; and the want of it is one cause of the inefficiency of their sermons and the thinness of their congregations. People love to feel as well as think when they go to church; and the preacher who fails to search their hearts will not be able long to retain them under his ministry.
"It is said, I know, that constitutional peculiarities prevent some men from feeling in the pulpit. Without attempting to discuss the philosophy of this question, I will merely say that all men can feel, and do feel, intensely on subjects pertaining to temporal interests. Let a man's house be on fire, or the health and life of his family be in danger, and there is no want of constitutional capacity then to secure deep emotion. It is the want of the pressure of the value of immortal souls upon the hearts of preachers that renders their sermons so dull and lifeless. Away, then, with the excuse that God has so constituted some men that they cannot feel when they preach. Take Morrow's petition into the closet, and you may carry a heart like his into the pulpit.
"In the palmy days of Morrow, earnestness in the sacred desk, that would move an audience to tears, was regarded as indispensable standard of merit. No degree of elocution or display of scholarship could serve as a substitute for intense feeling. Like Paul, preachers in those days were expected to be men of tears, and to draw forth tears from their hearers by the magic power of their own full eyes.
"Ah, but 'the fathers and founders of our Church were great in their day, but they would not do for this day.' They only left us yesterday, and over many of their graves the grass has not yet fully grown. I am not aware that we have attempted any enterprise which they did not commence. We are certainly wanting in their aggressive spirit at home, and have added nothing to their energy in the foreign missionary field. Our success in cities will bear no comparison with theirs, as Nashville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and other cities will testify. Wherein, then, do we excel them? They often did more in winning souls to Christ at their camp-meetings of four days and nights than is now being done at protracted meetings in four weeks.
"Away, then, with the foolish clamor and alarm about worshiping the fathers when allusion is made to them, or a wish expressed to keep their zeal, and self-sacrifice, and usefulness before the Church, as an example for the imitation of our rising ministry."
[Source: Historical Memoirs: Containing a Brief History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Missouri, and Biographical Sketches of a Number of Those Ministers who Contributed to the Organization and the Establishment of that Church, in the Country West of the Mississippi River. By Judge R.C. Ewing. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1874, pages 53-108]