William Washington Suddath

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1826 - 1859

(*To the rising ministry of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church this sketch is especially dedicated.)

No man who has come into the ministry in this part of the bounds of our Church has developed a character of more emphasis and individuality--no one in any part of the Church, considering his age and opportunities, has attained greater eminence for general scholarship, and especially for his profound learning in the languages and literature of the dead past--no one, in or out of the ministry, has conquered more difficulties and achieved greater triumphs in the pursuit of his education, than William Washington Suddath. These are some of the facts, briefly stated, which induced me to dedicate this little history to the young preachers of the Church.

The gifts of genius and the godlike endowments of intellect are derived from the Infinite Source of all wisdom. They are bestowed on whom and to what degree seemeth fit to the Almighty Giver. But the command is, to improve those "talents" to His honor and glory, by whomsoever they may be received. To this business of improvement, then, men must address themselves in all earnestness and with all diligence.

It is a maxim as old as the ages, that there is no royal road to learning, and it is equally true that there is no royal monopoly of the endowments of mind and the powers of intellect. Hence we often find the great scholars of the land springing up from the lowly walks of life, and we often see the splendors of genius reflected from the obscure places of the earth. As a general proposition, it may be true that man is born to a part of his destiny, and the remainder he makes for himself--that is, he is born to the circumstances that surround him at the time, and it remains with him to determine whether those circumstances shall control him through all coming life, or whether he shall rise up in his God-given power, and with lion-like heroism CONQUER his way to position among men. A man who accomplishes this great achievement deserves a niche in the temple of fame through all time. General scholarship or great learning, in any particular department of knowledge, is only attained through a long course of careful training and arduous labor. All who have ever reached a good eminence in these respects have done so only by the mans indicated. And in proportion to the facilities, or rather the want of facilities, afforded for progress in this direction, is the merit of the achievement. If a man who attains success on a cushioned chair, at a walnut desk, under flaming gas-light, and with good instruction, is entitled to credit, how much more should he be esteemed who reads from old and tattered books, by the kitchen fire, upon a hard stool, and with little instruction! I confess to a great admiration of the man who tramples under his feet the hard inheritance to which he was born, and makes his own destiny in life. Such men are the true heroes of society, and it is by the light of such characters that the dark pathway of humanity is illumined on to better deeds and to a better life. It is true that but comparatively few men ever have the courage to even make the attempt to rise above their born destiny, and fewer still have the force of character to achieve the end. Still, it is a duty from which there is no escape, that every man, especially he who looks forward to professional life, should set out upon this upward road, toilsome and steep though it may be, and follow it with a pertinacity, zeal, and courage, that will brook no failure and allow no defeat. Omniscient Wisdom does nothing without specific design and purpose. He endows men with great powers, that they may be cultivated, and then employed in the benevolent work of ameliorating the condition of his race; and thus he will bring back to the Author of his capacities the honor and glory that will legitimately follow. It is, therefore, a most fortunate turn in the affairs of any man's career when he enters up the resolute purpose to train his powers for the accomplishment of great and good ends in human life. And when one is found who does enter up this resolution, and who does follow it with unfaltering steps, and who does achieve great success in the face of a thousand obstacles, such an one deserves to be held up as an example to the world, and more especially to those who are in the same professional pursuits. It is for this reason that I invite all the young ministers and candidates for the ministry, in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, to read and study well the life and character of Mr. Suddath. If the great and Heaven-appointed work upon which you are about to enter does not afford you a sufficient stimulus to strive for the highest qualifications for your office, then let the example of your late brother in the ministry nerve you to the work.

I hold it to be a self-evident proposition, that no man who proposes to enter the ministry should stop one step short of the very highest qualification that it is possible for him to attain. All men cannot secure like qualifications; nor do I insist upon this. I simply demand, in the name of the high and sacred office of the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that those who accept such a responsibility should labor unceasingly and undeviatingly to reach the highest degree of qualifications that are attainable to him. I know very many men who have come into the ministry--men of fine natural abilities--who were content to dwarf their attainments and consequent qualifications by the very lowest standard--who were content to become the merest pigmies upon a pyramid of power--who were content to establish an influence within the narrow circle of a neighborhood, when they might have flung it out to the extremities of an empire. O what a sad sight it is to see!

In the early days of the Church, in the Mississippi Valley, there were no means of education scarcely. The schools were few and far between, and many of them of but little value at any rate; and hence mere scholastic education was, to an extent, dispensed with; but a high degree of scriptural and theological learning was required, and was generally attained. But now the common schools of the State, and the private schools and colleges of the Church, leave the young men without excuse; and I tell them, in all candor and plainness, that the day has long since passed when a mere ignoramus in the current literature and science of the day, although a pretty good theologian, can sustain himself as a minister of the gospel. Preachers must educate themselves above the ordinary standard of the country. It is their office to teach--to show the way, to lead, to go before in all things appertaining to scriptural and religious matters. Nor need we be told that most of our young preachers are from the ranks of the poor of the Church. What is a man, blessed with strong arms and vigorous health, good for, if he can't fight his way through the world and up to the privileges and blessings of good scholarship? Where do nearly all the great lawyers, and doctors, and merchant princes come from? Why, from the ranks of the poor. They are men who have fought the battle of life unaided and alone. They learned to eat the bread of carefulness--to burn the midnight oil--to sleep in a garret--to cook their own humble meals--to wear shabby coats. Yet, with heads erect and hearts for their work, they went forth to conquer the circumstances of poverty and to achieve victory over adversity. They exhibited a courage that knew no abatement, a heroism that feared no foe, and a will that was the harbinger of its own success. Men made of this material become the rulers of the world in all the departments of civilized society.

It does seem to me that men who can content themselves with the merest apology of preparation for the ministry can have no adequate conception of the grandeur and importance of their holy calling. An ignorant man, who will push his way into the pulpit, and assume the sacred office of embassador for Christ, without a knowledge of the plainest rules of his duty, affords ample ground for grave suspicions of his sanity or sincerity; but if the humble heart, that feels impressed to enter the work of the ministry, would once get even a glimpse of the magnitude and responsibility of his proposed undertaking, he could never feel justified in entering upon that work until he was well prepared for it. To the empty-headed egotist, who imagines he knows every thing, and the blatant declaimer, who thinks he is a born orator and theologian, the doors of the pulpit should be forever closed. God doesn't call such men to do his work. And the young man who has already been received as a candidate by the Presbytery, who persistently refuses to pursue his education, or who has not the vim and spirit to fight his way up without being aided at every step, should be at once dropped from the roll of candidates. If he is so utterly spiritless and lethargic as not to move until he is helped, he will never do any good; and if he is so indifferent to the importance of adequate preparation for the great work as to make no effort in that direction, then he has never had him mind illumined by the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to call men to this work, and he should at once be got out of the way.

The purity and general success of the Church, now more than ever before, imperatively demands that a vigilant eye be kept on the doors to the sacred office of the ministry.

I will not be understood as depreciating the importance, and even necessity, that is upon the Church to aid young men who have the capacity to learn and the willingness to labor. But in this matter of bestowing aid, the Church should exercise a sound discretion, and render it only where it will be returned with interest to the Church. It will not pay to educate every man who seeks the ministry as a calling. The Presbyterian Church is now engaged in an earnest discussion of this very subject. Some of their leading ministers go so far as to oppose all aid to education by the Church. Their present system of putting through college every man who offers, has foisted upon the Church a class of preachers who have brought to the pulpit the era of "educated dullness." The point insisted upon is, that no man who is destitute of good natural abilities and active industry should be aided by the Church; that no man who is destitute of brains will every make a preacher, no odds how long he remains in college. To meet the requirements of this age of rapid and independent thinking, preachers must exhibit both sprightliness and vigor of intellect--must be thoroughly cultivated, both in mind and manners--must be energetic, active, and industrious. Ministers with these qualifications, and who also have the holy fire shut up in their bones, will make their mark in the Church and in the world. Above all other professions or vocations in life, that of the gospel ministry requires the most thorough preparation, the most self-abnegation, the most moral courage, the most consecration, and the greatest amount of divine assistance. No man should dare to venture upon that sacred office unless he is distinctly called thereto by the Holy Spirit.

We return from this episode tot he subject of this narrative.

Mr. Suddath was born to no inheritance but that of genius and a will to do the work that lay before him. Of poor parents, who had but little means and less opportunity to give him the facilities of early education; brought up in the country to the severe tasks of every-day labor, he formed the habit of systematic and persistent work, which was of great value to him in after life. Our space will not allow us to go into much detail concerning the early years of Mr. Suddath. We can, however, deduce from it an important fact, that affords a clue to the character of the man. The manly spirit and indefatigable industry that characterized his preparations for the ministry, and all the years of his work in that calling, were born of the independent life and industrious habits of the Western farmer of forty years ago.

The eldest of ten children, Mr. Suddath was born of the 31st of July, 1826, in Fairfax county, in the State of Virginia. His parents were James G. and Elizabeth Suddath. The family remained in that State, living in two or three different counties, till 1834, when they removed to Warren county, Kentucky, and settled near the town of Bowling Green. In this neighborhood the real beginning in his education was made by Mr. Suddath, under the tuition of an educated and pious Baptist clergyman. The period of instruction was short, however, and no great advancement was made. It was under this instructor, also, that the first lessons pertaining to a religious life were taught him. In the earlier years of his life he did not enjoy the great boon of religious instruction from pious parents. Even at this early age, however, we get a clue to a trait of character that became very conspicuous in after life; and that was, an ambitious purpose and insatiable desire to learn every thing in his reach.

In 1838 Mr. Suddarth's father moved to Missouri, and settled in La Fayette county. The family resided on a farm, and the young sons of the household were employed in cultivating it in the seasons for such work, and part of the year was spent in the poor schools that the neighborhood afforded.

The first religious influences under which the family was brought, after their arrival in Missouri, was that of the Methodist Church; and at one of their quarterly meetings Mr. Suddath joined that Church as a probationer, and at the end of the six months trial was received into full fellowship. About the same time his parents became interested on the subject of religion, and upon the fist introduction of religious services into the neighborhood by the Cumberland Presbyterians, they united with that Church. After the young circuit-riders (John Gallimore, talented and promising, but long since dead, and B. F. Thomas, still living, a good and useful preacher) had preached a few months in the neighborhood of Mr. Suddath's father, the venerable John B. Morrow conducted a camp-meeting at that place, and preached a special sermon on experimental religion. This sermon was a source of great distress, yet ultimately of great value, to young Suddath. It disclosed to him the awful truth that he had become a member of a Christian Church without being himself a Christian; it swept away the sandy foundation of his hopes; it eliminated the false from the true source of all security in Christ, and it revealed the terrible fact that he was still a sinner, although a member of the Church. Days and weeks, and even months, of agonizing distress followed upon this discovery. But after awhile the dawn of a happier day began to appear. It was the reflection of that true light that emanates from the cross, and is borne down to the hearts of men through the influence of the Holy Spirit. It disclosed the great truth that the rock Christ, and not the Church, is the only sure foundation on which the soul must build for eternity.

From this new experience, the conclusion was reached that it did not suffice to connect one's self with the visible Church; that, abstractly, the Church had no power to impart peace to the troubled conscience; that the only safety to the immortal soul was to be found above the beyond the Church upon earth; and herein was demonstrated the viciousness of the system of taking into Church relations persons who had been tried only by the test of six months' good behavior. This policy was so manifestly wrong, as shown in his own experience, that Mr. Suddarth severed his connection with the body which tolerated the practice, and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

From the day of Mr. Suddath's true conversion, he entered upon that noble career of hard study and laborious investigation which ultimately culminated in splendid scholarship and great efficiency as a teacher and preacher. Although it does not seem that he immediately conceived the idea that it was his duty to preach, yet he experienced a deep and abiding yearning to learn every thing, to explore the arcana of knowledge in all its departments. It is related of him that, although engaged in the usual pursuits of the farm, he became very much abstracted from all external circumstances--applied himself so studiously that his eyes failed, and he was compelled for a season to relinquish his books. Evidently the Spirit was moving his heart to the great work of the gospel ministry. His want of qualification for the sacred office was deeply felt; and the more he took into his opening mind the grandeur and magnitude of the great calling, the more profoundly impressed he became with the idea that his qualifications were inadequate, and that he must rise up to the emergencies of the occasion by a long course of thorough and systematic training. This idea, once lodged in his mind, took root and bore abundant fruit.

Mr. Suddath placed himself under the care of the Lexington Presbytery, as a candidate for the ministry, on the 12th of September, 1846, at Lexington, Missouri.

By the advice of the old ministers, he commenced his studies under a Mr. McCoy, a well-known teacher in Johnson county, and began the study of grammar for the first time. Mr. McCoy bore testimony that Mr. Suddath was remarkably studious and apt to learn, and made marvelous progress in his studies.

The father not being able to afford much assistance to his son in the pursuit of his preparation for the ministry, he resorted to the usual expedient of indigent students, and taught school awhile--meantime preaching as opportunity would offer--exhibiting in all the earlier years of his ministry that indomitable perseverance and unyielding purpose that led to such great results in the maturity of his manhood.

Mr. Suddath was licensed to preach by the Presbytery, at Columbus, Johnson county, on the 27th of September, 1847, and soon thereafter he entered Chapel Hill College as a student. He was now twenty-one years old. One who knew him well has borne this honorable testimony to his early college career: that "he soon ranked in the first class among the students of the college, for strength of intellect, success in his studies, and correct moral deportment;" and, it is added, that "he finally became the brightest star in the literary constellation." He remained in college until the spring of 1850. During all of this time he employed his Sabbaths in preaching to various congregations that were in reach. He never lost sight of the first duty imposed by his great Commissioner, and that was to preach the gospel at all times and under all circumstances. That was the chief work of his life, and all other pursuits were made subsidiary to that. His long course in college was only to qualify him the better for efficient labor in the pulpit. After he left college in this year, he taught school for a short time to assist in his expenses to the Cumberland University, which he proposed to enter in the coming fall. In this institution he remained one year, going through the Junior, and some of the studies of the Senior, year. He also studies Hebrew and French, and at the close of the term was elected tutor in the institution for the ensuing year. In addition to the duties of tutor, it was his purpose to finish up the course and graduate with the class of that year, which he could have readily accomplished had his purpose been carried out. With his diligence and great aptness to learn, he could perform double duty on the regular course of studies. This was shown in the progress he made in the Hebrew and French, in addition to the regular studies of the Junior class. His purpose in this respect, however, was not carried out. Whether wisely or not, he was prevailed upon to adopt another line of duty.

As to his reputation while in the University, the Hon. Nathan Green, one of the Law Professors in the institution, bears the following testimony. After the death of Mr. Suddath, Judge Green addressed a letter of condolence to the bereaved widow, and thus expresses himself: "Allow me to say, I well remember your honored husband. I knew him while a student here. He made an impression on our community, and left a record such as any one might be proud of. Our eyes and hearts followed him when he left us; and since he has laid his armor down, while we cannot mourn for him, we can and do remember him with pride and affection."

True to his high sense of duty, he did not cease to preach while in the University, but employed his Sabbaths as best he could under the circumstances. At the conclusion of his college career in the capacity of student, Mr. Suddath put upon record his obligations to those who had assisted him in his pecuniary struggles. He mentions with feelings of gratitude his father, A. W. Ridings, Esq., and, while at Lebanon, the Rev. W. D. Chadick. But we put it upon record as being the true history in the premises, that Mr. Suddath found his chief reliance on his own resources; nor did these consist in money or property, but in a proud resolve to help himself--in a strong arm and a virtuous aim--in a resolution and industry that never failed him in any emergency. Such resources as these are elements of success and power, and only require to be wisely employed to speedily lift up into conspicuous positions all those who possess and thus use them.

In 1851 Mr. Suddath was elected to the Chair of Ancient Languages in Chapel Hill College, made vacant by the resignation of Professor McDowell. He accepted the call, and accordingly had to abandon all his cherished schemes of teaching and graduating in the University. This was a source of great regret to him, but he could not very well do otherwise. But with the progress already made, and under the mental discipline already acquired, it was no difficult task for him to continue his studies, and ultimately to attain to deep and ripe scholarship.

On the 25th of December of that year, Mr. Suddath was married to Miss M. M., daughter of Col. John Stapp, who was a highly respected citizen, and was for many years a member of the County Court of La Fayette county. The surviving widow of Professor Suddath will excuse the liberty I take in expressing the opinion that he exhibited his usual wisdom and sound judgment in selecting for a life companion one who was, in every way, so well fitted to become the wife of a learned and gifted minister of the gospel.With the intelligence to appreciate the dignity and magnitude of his great calling, and the piety and self-sacrifice to participate in all his arduous labors, she was, in the scriptural sense of the term, a helpmeet indeed.

But our space makes it necessary to hasten somewhat in the narrative part of this sketch. Inasmuch as we have addressed this part of our book to the young preachers in particular, I trust to occupy a good deal of the space allowed me in reflections upon the character of the deceased, and in evoking therefrom lessons for the benefit of all that class of persons whose attention it is desired to elicit. For ten years Mr. Suddath devoted himself to the duties of his new position. He employed his Sabbaths in preaching to different congregations within reach of the college. In 1853 the Presbytery ordered him to prepare for ordination, but on account of his inability to attend the place of meeting, it was deferred till the following spring, at which time he was ordained, and immediately elected to the General Assembly.

The business of teaching was especially adapted to the taste and capacity of Mr. Suddath. His scholarship was critical and thorough. His habits of thought qualified him to explain, make clear, and impart to others whatever passed through his own mind. There was also a magnetism in his nature that brought under his control the students who were about him. He seemed to emit force, and to inspire resolution and energy on all around him. His nature and his attainments both combined to qualify him for the business of guiding, instructing, and controlling the minds and acts of the people.

In the fall of 1854, the Rev. R. D. Morrow having resigned the presidency of the college, Mr. Suddath was elected to fill the place. He immediately entered upon his new duties, and continued in that position till 1857, when he resigned. It is supposed that the resignation was chiefly induced by the pecuniary embarrassments of the institution. Having no endowment, and the great financial crisis of that year having supervened, the source of support to the college failed, because the people were not able to send their children to school.

Mr. Suddath continued to serve various congregations as pastor during the period of his employment in the college, and after his retirement from the institution his services were in great request. In the same year he received a call to Platte City to take charge of the congregation, and a call to the Presidency of Cane Hill College, in Arkansas, and one to the Professorship of Languages in the Masonic College, at Lexington, Mo. He was also invited to preach at Mt. Hebron and Greenton Churches. From all these propositions for employment, he accepted the Professorship in the Masonic College, and also took charge of the Hebron and Greenton Churches. The last dozen lines of little history demonstrate an important fact--that a good preacher or a good teacher can always find employment at prices that will afford an adequate support to his family. The employment seeks the man, and it will always be so. It is the half-made preacher that is forever whining about the want of a field to work in. A preacher who deserves the name of one will always be in demand. So with the well-educated and otherwise qualified teacher. Fitness for a place is the surest means of obtaining it.

One motive Mr. Suddath had in accepting the positions above indicated, was to enable him to carry out his long-cherished purpose to accumulate the books necessary for a splendid professional library. His stirring, active, aspiring genius impelled him to the work of grand achievements in his profession. To this end he desired,and ultimately procured, all the rare books that were in print, which would afford him any assistance in reaching a thorough understanding of the Scriptures. His ever-restless desire to reach the bottom of things was strong upon him at this period of his life. He naturally scorned a superficial thinker. He could not well respect a man who was content to deal all his life in other men's thoughts. He would himself go to the original sources of knowledge. He would dig down for the pure native gold. Anybody could get the current coin of the country, but this low ambition did not satisfy him.

We have now reached the period in the history of his life when Mr. Suddath seemed best prepared to enter upon a broad and high career of usefulness. His great library was filled to repletion with all the rich and rare books that could be procured. He was in the early maturity of his years, and in vigorous health. His mind was thoroughly trained and disciplined. Habits of systematic labor had been long established. He was inspired by a lofty view of the dignity and sacredness of his calling. He could bring to his work a courageous purpose and unflinching will that would conquer victory in every contest. He was like the young eagle with wings fully tried, with muscles hardened and powerfully developed, all ready to turn his unblenching eye to the sun and soar beyond the clouds. He was like the young gladiator, in all the pride of a splendid manhood, and in full armor, not only ready for, but coveting, the contests of the arena.

Years of privation suffered, years of hardships endured, years of toil and labor performed, had at last set him upon an eminence in the Church and in the country. The former had just begun to recognize the champion of her cause, and the latter had just begun to feel the first impulses of his power. The great cause of education in Church and State had just discovered a leader whom it was wisdom to follow, and a laborer whom it was an honor to imitate. The old preachers under whom he was inducted into his sacred office had just discovered that they had been nurturing a young giant in their midst, and the young preachers were proud to find their companion towering above them all in his preparation and fitness for their common work. All conditions in society had been attracted to the light which flung out its rays from the high pinnacle which he had already reached. And when all eyes were turned to that light--when the Church and the community were making large drafts upon his prospective labors--when the old preachers were beginning to congratulate themselves on an able and worthy successor, and the young a fearless champion and splendid model for imitation, God, in his inscrutable wisdom, called him up to the inheritance of the saints. Why it should be thus was the first inquiry that started in the mind of every one. The mysterious providence fell upon the Church like some terrible calamity. The old and the young mourned alike over the great loss. The sad bereavement came home to a thousand hearts. The great void was felt throughout the Churches of the State. Suddath was dead! As some tall oak of the forest that lifted its head far above its fellows, and thus invited the scathing lightning of the clouds, so it seemed with Suddath.

It has been said that "death loves a shining mark." It may be that the messengers of God's providence love a shining mark--it may be that they love to gather into the heavenly garner the tall as well as the ripe shocks of the harvest-field. It is the tall peaks of the great mountains which catch the first rays of the morning sun, and bathe themselves in a halo of glory, while all below is still in darkness. And thus it may be that the heavenly messengers first catch the light that glows upon the brow of him who is far lifted above his fellows, and then beckon him upward and onward to companionship beyond the stars.

Perhaps this dispensation was to teach the Church that her true strength lay in her great Head, and not in strong men. If such was the lesson intended to be taught, the removal of no one in this part of the Church would so deeply impress it upon the minds of the people. May God help us all to understand and profit by his own wonderful works!

Attracted ourselves by the grandeur exhibited by the young warrior, with shield and sword, in the pride of his strength and the maturity of his powers, we have unconsciously passed over a period of our history, and anticipated an event before it happened. We take up our narrative, then, in June, 1859. Mr. Suddath had concluded his engagement with the Masonic College, and had accepted a call to the Church in St. Joseph. He had visited the place, and made arrangements to build a new church-edifice and to provide a home for his family. On his return to Lexington he was induced to resume a work to which he had already given a good deal of attention, and that was to raise a large sum of money to pay off the Church debt in St. Louis. He had already secured about ten thousand dollars, and was now preparing to visit the Churches in Cooper county, in furtherance of that object. His last sermon was preached to his congregation at Greenton. He then left on his contemplated trip to Cooper county, in company with a lady who is now the wife of his father. On setting out upon this journey, he complained of being unwell, and continued to become worse till he reached the residence of Mr. James Reed, in the neighborhood of Lebanon. At once physicians were called, and every thing done to arrest the disease, but all to no avail. He lingered on till the 1st of August of that year (1859), and died in all peace, and in full assurance of a happy immortality beyond the grave. Just before he died he repeated the whole of that beautiful Psalm commencing, "The Lord is my shepherd," etc. He was entirely conscious, except for one short interval, and was satisfied he would die, several days before the event happened. He arranged his worldly affairs deliberately and intelligently, and only regretted that his early death would deprive him of the privilege of preaching the gospel to a dying world. In the last supreme moment his faith was buoyant, and his hopes strong. He knew in whom he had trusted, and felt no fear.

Mr. Suddath had an appointment to preach his famous sermon on baptism, at Lebanon, on the Sabbath after he was taken sick. A great concourse of people were in attendance at the church to hear him, and only heard the mournful news of his last illness.

It was not generally known that Mr. Suddath had made a specialty of studying dead and foreign languages, to qualify himself to interpret accurately the Scriptures, with a view of writing a commentary of the Bible. Hebrew, Latin, Greek, French, Syriac, and Chaldee, had been long and critically studied. The old standard authors that would be useful in his Biblical researches he had procured--some of them at great expense, and from European markets. Several of his books could not be found in the United States, and he had to send abroad for them. His great aim was to bring out the system of Medium Theology, sustained by all the learning and by all the standard authorities that the literature of the past and the living could afford.

From his habits of study, his unflagging purpose when in pursuit of an object, and from his acknowledged capabilities in this direction, we are warranted in the conclusion that he would have achieved a great work if his life had been spared.

But we must hasten on from the sad spectacle of the death of one who was so young and so gifted, and who had such great capacitates for usefulness to the Church and to the country at large.


Mr. Suddath's was a character of positive elements. There was not a negative lineament to be anywhere traced. A strong and all-controlling will underlay all his mental and moral forces. An aim in life, and a purpose to accomplish it, were exhibited in all his plans and pursuits. There was not weak, wishy-washy, half-formed notion in his mind one day, and all obliterated on the following. With rare judgment to apprehend the right, and to adapt intelligent means to a given end, when his mind was once made up, the thing was already half accomplished. Then there was a laudable ambition to succeed well in every undertaking. There was a sort of qualified pride that prompted him to high aims in life, and that kept alive his purpose to attain unto the end in view, whatever that might be. His active, stirring intellect, and his broad and comprehensive views, could not be content with moderate achievements or meager attainments. His conceptions of the office and duties of the minister were of the loftiest type; and herein lay the true secret of his successful preparation for his professional work. In aspiring to the position of teacher and leader, he must ascend to a higher plane than that occupied by those to be taught and led. He who would lead a people from the darkness of ignorance and sin, must lift his own head clearly and distinctly into the sunlight of knowledge and virtue. With these views of his mission and his duty, coupled with that resolute will and sound judgment, he qualified himself preeminently for his great work. And this is the lesson to be learned by every young preacher in the Church, if he would at all profit by the brilliant example of his predecessor, now gone up to his reward. I pray God that this lesson may sink deep into the hearts of all the rising ministry of the Church. Another important lesson to be learned herein is, that because a man is born to the inheritance of poverty and obscurity, it does not follow therefore that he shall always remain poor and obscure. No great end was ever achieved without the employment of adequate means. There must be a cause to every effect; and, as a general rule, the same means will produce like results, no odds by whose hands employed. If a poor boy will work and study, he will in time become an industrious and wise man. The rich boy can attain these objects only by the same agencies. He is required to undergo the same mental drudgery as his poor neighbor. But because the poor boy cannot afford to pursue his education in a cushioned seat, with walnut desks, and well-bound books, and highly-paid teachers, shall he therefore despise the priceless jewels of wisdom which he may obtain by candle-light, at the kitchen fire, sitting on a hard stool, with ragged books and poor instruction? No! let him put on the spirit of a man, and conquer all the adverse fates that obstruct his way. It is easy for the banker, from behind his counter, to hand out gold already coined, but it was the miner who dug it up from the dark places in the earth, and blessed the world with its production. The fact is, the hope of the Church and of the State, both, lies in the poor youth of the country; for it is from their ranks that nearly all the great statesmen and distinguished preachers are recruited. Then let the poor young man, who is looking forward to the ministry, look up to the noble example that is set before him in the character of William W. Suddath.

Another notable incident in the habits of Mr. Suddath was his fixed purpose, at whatever cost or sacrifice, to furnish himself with a first-rate library of books. To this purpose he devoted a part of his hard earnings, from year to year, up to the day of his death.

His habits of thought and labor were to exhaust his subjects. This is very plainly evinced in his thorough masterly of the original languages of the Scriptures, in order that he might clearly understand the doctrines therein taught.

The chief trait of his mental powers was his habit of deep research and thorough analysis. He dissected a difficult problem as the anatomist would the bones, muscles, sinews, arteries, and veins of the human system. He would literally take it to pieces, and put it together again. If there was error or sophistry concealed beneath plausible appearances, he would infallibly expose it. This habit was the result of natural bent, to some extent; but it was especially due to the long training to which his intellect had been subjected. As a means to this end, of course, his powers of logical reasoning, which were both acute and strong, greatly contributed, and directed his whole powers to the point of convincing the understanding of those whom he addressed. I have a distinct recollection of the main features of his great sermon on baptism, delivered to the congregation at Mt. Hebron, while he was pastor of that Church. The desideratum in the public mind which had been occasioned by the continual harping on that theme in Baptist pulpits seemed to render it necessary for Mr. Suddath to prepare a sermon on that subject. He did so, and delivered it at the time referred to. It was the most exhaustive and elaborate investigation of the subject to which I had ever before listened. And herein was displayed his great researches into the original languages of the Scriptures. His authorities were numerous, well-digested, and of easy reference. His learning, and his habits of thought and powers of analysis, qualified him eminently for the discussion of controverted subjects. Yet he was fair, candid, and of good spirit throughout; and these remarks will apply generally to his usual style of preaching. As a matter of course, a mind so well trained could not speak at random or without due connection. His habits of thought would naturally lead him to a close, consecutive method, and an argumentative and analytical style of discussion. There could be no broadside shots at the whole creation from his battery; but every fire was from well-directed aim and to a given point. And although his style was frequently somewhat technical, yet his expositions were luminous and within the power of the commonest understanding. Indeed, great powers of reasoning or of argument are not incompatible with great simplicity, and of adaptation to the meanest capacity. It is the light of the sun thrown upon the pathway, as compared to the feeble ray of the candle.

In personal appearance Mr. Suddath was--like his character--large, strong, manly, and vigorous. Tall and well-proportioned, with a massive head and strongly-marked features, he was a man of note in any community.

If Mr. Suddath had lived to a reasonably old age, he would have elevated the standard of ministerial qualification in this part of the Church. His own example and his influence in that special direction could scarcely have failed to produce that result. He would have become a leader in the judicatures which had the charge of inducting men into the ministerial offices; and we may well conclude that he would have shown little leniency to the lazy drones who incumber the hive of the workers in Christ's spiritual kingdom. He had too much force of character to tolerate a feeble loiterer on the threshold of the house of God. His whole nature would have revolted at the idea of a lazy, incompetent, ignorant preacher. Now, I submit it to the young preacher just entering upon the responsible duties of his great calling, whether he will make this splendid character his model, or whether he will dwarf himself to the low standard of some indifferently good preacher, in whose neighborhood he may have been brought into the Church. I would like to infuse into the mind of every candidate in the Church something of the will, the industry, the ambition, and the lion-like courage, which distinguished the subject of this sketch for half a score of years. If I could do this, I feel assured that the Church in a few years would reap a splendid harvest of great and useful preachers. And while I am addressing myself to the young preachers, and endeavoring to hold up to them a model worthy of imitation, I will refer to another matter that affects more directly their preparation for their calling than perhaps any other that is under their control.

One of the most serious drawbacks to the preparation for, and usefulness in, the ministry, is the fact of the early marriage of the preacher. I have known scores of promising young men, who cut short, at once and forever, their progress in improvement by an untimely and indiscreet marriage. Just as they began to attract some attention to their pulpit performances, they would suffer themselves to be inveigled into matrimony by some silly, simpering girls, who imagined it would be a grand thing to be a preacher's wife; and nine times out of ten, the women they marry have not a remote idea of the responsibilities and hardships of a preacher's wife, and in a short time it is found out that the young preacher is not half so popular now among the girls as he was before he was married (and that was the standard of popularity before matrimony); and it is also found that he is not sustained by the Church, that he receives no adequate support, and the consequence is, the wife becomes soured in her temper, dissatisfied with her situation, and a serious hindrance to her husband's usefulness. And the next step is, they settle down to secular pursuits in order to get bread for the household, and that preacher becomes finished, even before he has fairly commenced his preparation. Now, this is no overdrawn picture. It is a sad truth, that may be witnessed in every Presbytery of the Church; whereas, if this same man had waited awhile, till he had made a man of himself, and become somewhat qualified to fill his great office with respectability before he perpetrated matrimony, the whole tenor of his life would have been different. Being an able and efficient preacher, the Churches would have given him an adequate support; he could have married a cultivated, elegant woman, who would have been an ornament to his calling and a helpmeet to himself. A young, green, awkward, ignorant man can only expect to marry a woman of similar character and qualifications to himself. No well-educated, intelligent, cultivated woman will marry such a man as we have described. And let two such people come together--poor in purse and resources--young and ignorant--and set up to teach and instruct the people, how much influence will they exert?--what good will they accomplish? What a stupendous piece of folly it is for a young preacher to marry, who has every thing to learn, and every thing to do, before he is qualified to do any good in the line of his vocation! Young preacher, stop! Turn your back upon that pair of flashing eyes; expel from your mind all thoughts of that voluptuous form, exercise the evil demon of passion from your breast; and wait, wait, until you become a man and a preacher before you think of matrimony. At the proper time--after your preparations have become adequate to the magnitude of your calling--you should then marry, and you can then marry well. You may then find one suited to your position and adapted to the life that lies before you.

One other point in this connection, and we pass on. Sometimes it happens, though not often, that a young preacher marries, who, in spite of all drawbacks, will rise to eminence. He makes progress in the knowledge of books, of men, and of society; but he is poor, and his wife has to spend her days in the coarsest and hardest labor. She makes no improvement in mind or manners, and to the world it seems that the preacher has married beneath himself. This is a very mortifying situation to the minister. The wife may be pious and good, but she is not competent to mix in the society wherein her husband is a shining ornament; and thus an element of unhappiness and restraint upon his upward career is wrought by an indiscreet and untimely marriage. Again I say, young preacher, stop before you take a step that may be fatal to your best prospects, and above all, that may seriously curtail your means of usefulness in your sacred calling.

In this, as in many other things, you may safely imitate the example of Mr. Suddath. He did not marry until he could afford to do so, and then he married one of the most intellectual women in all the country--one whose piety and knowledge of the life of a preacher eminently fitted her for the duties of her position. A preacher's wife is in very much the same situation as her husband, in some respects. She is subject to continual observation and continual criticism, and that very often by unfriendly persons. Next to that of the ministry itself, the most difficult place to fill is that of the minister's wife; and yet, in the face of this fact, very many young preachers rush headlong into matrimony, and regret it all the rest of their days; whereas, a little common sense, and a little patience, would have saved the unfortunate man from this dilemma, and would have given him a chance for usefulness in life, if not for eminence in his vocation. May Heaven keep the young preachers from premature matrimony!

The remains of Mr. Suddath were brought back to La Fayette county for interment. He was buried in Macpelah Cemetery, near Lexington, and his last resting-place has been appropriately marked by a beautiful monument, erected to his memory by his loving and devoted wife. It is in the form of a pulpit, of beautiful Italian marble, with an open Bible on the top, and the following words engraved upon it: "He, being dead, yet speaketh." And on the front of the monument are the following words: "Rev. W. W. Suddath, a Minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Born in Fairfax county, Virginia, July 31, 1826. Died August 1, 1859." His funeral was preached by Bishop Kavanaugh, of the M. E. Church, South, in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Lexington, there being no minister of his own denomination then in the city. He lies near the remains of Rev. Finis Ewing and Rev. J. A. Drennan, of the same Church.

We append a few of the notices that appeared in the public press of the State, from individual friends, and from official bodies of the Church;


The Committee appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the views and feelings of this Presbytery, respecting the death of Brother W. W. Suddath, reported, which was received, adopted, and is as follows:

Your Committee, appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the views and feelings of our Presbytery respecting our loss sustained in the death of our beloved brother and fellow-laborer, Rev. W. W. Suddath, which occurred August, 1859, submit the following:

Resolved, That no language can express the depth of the affliction we feel in this unexpected bereavement, and in this providence of God, which to us remains inscrutable; but nevertheless, we feel it is ours to bow most humbly to the will of the great Head of the Church, who first gave, and then took from us our brother.

Resolved, That in his social character was exhibited the bearing of a high-toned Christian gentleman, a true and affectionate friend, a most devoted husband and father, and a faithful son.

Resolved, That we regard it highly due his memory to record that his Christian character, both public and private, evinced a well-aimed zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of men. He was endowed by nature with superior mental capacity, and possessed of an indomitable energy from his first connection with our Presbytery, in consequence of which he had but few equals among those of his years, in science, literature, and all departments of useful knowledge. Moreover, our lamented brother was most laboriously devoted to preaching the gospel, a bold and intrepid defender of the truth, an able minister--"workman who needeth not to be ashamed." Though he is gone from us, he fell at his post. The ripe and growing fruits of his labors are yet abundant among us, and his memory deeply embalmed in all our hearts.

Resolved, That the Lexington Presbytery has lost one of its ablest counselors, and the Church one of its brightest stars; and that we most deeply condole with his afflicted wife and relatives in their irreparable loss.

Resolved, That the Clerk be ordered to forward a copy of these resolutions to the St. Louis Observer for publication.
     J. H. HOUX,
     J. G. DALTON,
     B. F. THOMAS,
     G. W. MINOR,
     R. M. KING.


We are pained to learn from the Observer the news which we copy below. The sad tidings carries us back to the days when we sat by his side in the school-room at Lebanon. He then displayed that promptness and energy, that searching investigation and high bearing, which have made him so useful to the Church. Few men of his age in our Church were doing so much to build up her walls. He was a light and tower of strength in Missouri. The Church everywhere will mourn for her son. But his reward is sure. It is high time that the entire ranks of our ministry were being warned of the time not distant when their labors will be over. Up, then, and doing while it is called to-day. Who will supply the places of the fallen? Let our young men apply themselves closely, for they will soon be needed.--
Banner of Peace.


Died, of typhus fever, on the 1st inst., at the residence of A. J. Reed, Esq., near Bell Air, in this county, Rev. W. W. Suddath, of Lexington, Missouri, a learned and distinguished divine of the Cumberland Presbyterian persuasion, in the 33d year of his age. He was taken ill on his arrival in this county about three weeks previous to his death. Mr. Suddath, we are informed, was one of the best linguists in the country, being able to interpret the Bible in six or seven languages.--
Booneville (Mo.) Observer.


This morning I received the sad, sad intelligence of the death of our beloved brother, Rev. W. W. Suddath, of Lexington Presbytery. And is it true that Brother Suddath is dead? What an affliction to his surviving companion and his aged parents! and what a loss to our Church, especially in Missouri! I cannot forbear giving some expression of my feelings in regard to this mournful event. Never did I hear of the death of a brother minister with deeper sorrow than I realize on this occasion. I sympathize truly with the surviving friends and relatives of our deceased brother; but I feel special sorrow because of the loss to the Church and the cause of religion.

Brother Suddath was preeminently capable for the accomplishment of good in this wicked world. His was a vigorous, penetrating, and noble intellect. He was industrious and studious to a fault; and having a remarkably retentive memory, his mind was richly furnished with the information most suitable and useful to him as a minister of Jesus Christ; and being, withal, a most fluent and eloquent speaker, he stood side by side with the very first preachers of our country. And then he was a young man, just coming into the prime and vigor of his days. How truly mysterious is that providence which has taken him out of the world!

And what a heart was his! how generous and liberal! He loved the cause of God beyond a doubt, and if he had thought it requisite, he would have yielded his last dollar in its support. I say it without disparagement to others, that there are few such preachers left in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as was the Rev. W. W. Suddath.

His generous and indefatigable efforts last year in behalf of the St. Louis Mission will long be remembered as a monument to his praise. When he was stricken down by death he was away from his family, toiling, without money and without price, for the benefit of the St. Louis Mission. God grant that he may see the fruit of his labor in the eternal world!

I have said this much as a slight tribute to the memory of my departed brother in the Gospel of Christ.--Dr. C. A. Davis, in St. Louis Observer.


Rev. W. W. Suddath.--It is at all times a mournful task for us to record the death of a fellow-citizen, but the painfulness of the duty sensibly increases when called upon to mourn the untimely loss of such as one as he whose name stands at the head of this article. We would not even now thrust ours, as an individual grief, upon the community, but only desire to join our mourning with that of those who bewail in this mysterious dispensation of a Divine Providence the loss of one who, while only upon the verge of manhood, saw his dawn fast brightening into a day of intelligent usefulness, and in the midst of onerous duties found ample time to distill upon the community, through a quiet but noble rectitude and an amiable demeanor, the droppings of religious benevolence. And while we thus mourn, how forcibly comes back upon us the tide of the poet's thoughts (that seemed so strange to our youth), when bitterly he wept that

The good die first,
While they whose hearts are dry as summer's dust
Burn to their sockets.

--Lexington Express, August 6, 1859.

[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 177-218]

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Updated February 6, 2007