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ADDRESS IN COMMEMORATION OF THE LATE
REV. NOAH DAVIS.
IT was our painful duty, to announce in our last Number, the sudden decease of the pious, able, and devoted Agent of the Baptist General Tract Society, the Rev. Noah Davis. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance; and the memory of this zealous minister of Christ, will be affectionately cherished by the multitude of his brethren, and especially by the friends of Religious Tract Societies, to promote which he devoted several of the last years of his active life. His visits to New-England were few and short ; but even from this limited intercourse, he possessed a deep hold on the affections, esteem, and confidence of the churches.
At the request of the Board of Managers of the Baptist General Tract Soci. ety, the Rev. W. T. Brantly delivered a deeply interesting address, in com memoration of the deceased, in the Baptist Meeting House in Sansom-Street, Philadelphia, Aug. 1, which has been published in the Columbian Star, the principal part of which we now present to our readers.
We are assembled to contemplate the short history of one who has Aed from us like a winged dream-one whose morning opened upon us with the promise of a long, bright day; but whose ascending orb has been darkened before it attained its full magnitude. We have come together to benefit ourselves by the contemplation of his life, and to humble ourselves before God, in view of his death.
Our dear brother Davis filled a short interval ; but he filled it well. Had a presentiment of early death been constantly upon his inind, urging him to execute with speed all that his hand found to do, he could scarcely have been more vigilant than he was in seeking occasions to do good, and more prompt in action when such occasions were presented. We are chiefly directed by a sketch which he has left of himself, in the observations to which your at. tention is invited ; and frequently shall use his own words.
His nativity occurred at Salisbury, Maryland, July, 1802; and his own reflections upon this event will be interesting to many of Sept. 1830.
you. He writes about it thus : "I was the first child the Lord gave my parents; and my mother who before my birth had dedicated me to Him, named me Noah, believing that I also should be made a preacher of righteousness. Of course no pains were spared by my parents, to instruct me in religious truth, and bring me up in the fear of the Lord. Though they had the grief to see me taking, as others, the downward road, and drinking up iniquity as water ; yet my mother held fast her first impression, that I should be ransomed by electing Love, and made to preach the word of God to dying men.” Parental anticipations in relation to the destination of children, should not be regarded as a mere weakness of the affections. That the Providence of God often does direct the views of parents as well as children to some plan of life connected with his glory is not too much to be believed. And were we inclined to doubt, the numerous facts which the lives of good men supply, would silence our doubts. Our lamented brother records one circumstance in his juvenile history, which he could not well recoucile with the expectation of such a course of life, as that which he subsequently pursued. “Whilst at school,” he remarks, “ whether from diffidence, or from some other cause, I could at no time take a .part in the exercises of public speaking—a proof that I was not then preparing for my present avocation.” In this we think he was mistaken, since it is well known, that the youthful candidate for the palm of oratory, must frequently possess qualities, but little compatible with that modesty and reserve, which constitute the best promise of the young. Diffidence may be remediedimpudence is seldom cured.
At the age of sixteen the subject of this notice was placed by his father in the store of Messrs. Fassitt & Langstroth of this city. This he always regarded as a most providential arrangement. He found in Mr. Fassitt the prudent counsellor, and pious friend, who evinced more solicitude to conduct the young men under his charge to the right ways of the Lord, than to turn their personal services to his own account. Of this period of his life he thus writes : “Prior to this time, I had no abiding impression of my state by nature, nor of the awfulness of my standing before God. It was in Philadelphia that my vile heart first revolted against attending strictly on the worship of the Sabbath day. I was now compelled to labor throughout the week, and surely, thought I, Sunday at least may be my own. But in vain were my murmurings. My respected employers knew the worth of immortal souls, and acted upon the good resolution, that they, and theirs should serve the Lord."
The efforts of his pious director, under the merciful influence of the good Spirit of God, were not in vain-for in the year followiog we find that his mind had imbibed a deep and lasting conviction of the truth. In adverting to this circumstance he remarks: "In 1819, I commenced the habit of daily prayer; and Sabbath afternoons were passed in reading the Bible and in prayer. I heard the word with increased attention, and my mind became more and more enlightened by divine truth. Whilst occupied in this manner, I was present on one occasion at a baptism in Sansom-Street church,
and found my mind very powerfully affected by witnessing this solemn ordinance. I wrote my parents about May, 1819, and informed them of my exercises ; and made known my mind also to Mr. Fassitt, requesting him to lay my case before Dr. Staughton. He kindly did so, and gave the Doctor an account of my experience.” Thus at the early age of seventeen we find him rejoicing in the ways of God, and claiming the inmates of Zion as his best. friends, his most endeared kindred.
From this period his mind became deeply impressed with the importance of the gospel ministry, and with the desire of being instrumental in making known the glad tidings of salvation. He obtained an honorable dismission from the connection which he had formed in business, and returned to the house of his father; be. came a member of the church in that place; and having come to the determination to spend and be spent in the service of God, as an humble minister of the cross, he was approved and licensed by the church in Salisbury, July 9th, 1820. In November of the same year, he returned to this city for the purpose of pursuing a course of study in order to the better discharge of the sacred office which he had undertaken. On the removal of the Seminary, to Washington city, in 1821, he repaired to that place, and continued his studies with much success until the period of his leaving the institution. He seems to have had no ambition for the distinction of literary attainments: and hence his single object in seeking mental improvement, was the acquisition of such advantages, as might be most readily turned to account in the great work before him.
Had he been disposed to grasp largely the accomplishments of learning, with the talents which he possessed, it would have been easy for him to compass his object; but that All-knowing Mind which foresaw the brevity of his course, fired his soul with a sort of holy impatience to be engaged in his Father's business. In view of his connection with College he thus expresses himself: “I entered the Freshman Class, and looked forward to the end of my course of study, when I should go forth to preach the gospel wherever my Master might send me. But, as to preach the gospel was the leading motive of my heart, 1 began to look on the intervening years with some degree of uneasiness, especially as the directors of my studies had determined to give me a thorough course, which would require four or five years more. I determined, therefore, to leave the College at the end of the current term, and to throw myself on the providence of God with entire devotion to his work. And, blessed be his name, I have not once regretted my determination.” About this time he was directed to the formation of a marriage connection, with one of congenial feelings, and ardent piety, who remains behind him a widowed mourner, to afford one inore proof, that in the severance of such ties, " 'Tis the survivor dies."
Subsequently he preached with much power and success, in several places in the neighbourhood of Salisbury. To large and attentive congregations he proclaimed the word of salvation, and had abundant reason to believe that his labor was not in vain. He
was soon after this called to take charge of the Baptist church in Norfolk, Virginia. Meanwhile his health had been much impaired, and his pastoral duties were frequently interrupted in consequence of the imperfect state of his health. Here, however, he was zeal. ous in every good cause. The condition of Seamen engaged his attention, and with his characteristic ardor he encouraged and secured the formation of the “ Seamen's Friend Society." About the same time he prepared a very useful selection of Hymns suitable for mariners. Anterior to this his mind had been greatly agitated concerning the Missionary enterprise ; and at times the subject seems to have taken hold of his entire regard. Some of his exercises on this question will not be unacceptable to you. Under date of October 4th, 1826, we find the following record : "I hare had my mind much on the subject of Missionary work among the heathen. Endeavored last night to revive the spirit of it, among my people. I read at the prayer-meeting Rev. Gordon Hall's Address to American Christians and Ministers. Surely we wrong the souls of the perishing heathen by doing so little for them. The work of a Missionary must be truly self-denying, trying, and laborious. It requires much of the spirit of Jesus, untiring zeal, and inextinguishable love. In meditating on this subject, I have had some uncommon views of my own weakness and insignificance. The work appears so important, that if it be the will of God, and I can be assured of it, I will go anywhere among the dying nations to make known the Saviour's love. I dare not say that I have the necessary grace; but I know Christ can and will give it to me, if he wills me to go into this department of labor."
After a deep conflict of feeling, and consultations with his brethren, the idea of a distant service was exchanged for that of the Tract cause, to which the latter years of his life were most ably and successfully devoted. It appears now, that the very first design of the Baptist General Tract Society, originated with him. In a letter 10 the then editor of the Columbian Star, he thus expressed the intimation which has been so well improved. It may be found in that paper under date of February 14, 1824. "I have been thinking for some time, how a Tract Society can be got up in Washington, which shall hold the same place among Baptists that the American Tract Society does among Congregationalists. I now feel very much the necessity of having Tracts to scatter in the waste places. It is a plan of doing good which is scarcely known among Baptists." This hint was improved, and a Society formed.
The removal of our departed brother from Norfolk, and the transfer of the Tract operations from Washington to this city-at his instance, were among the last important changes in his life. Here he entered the field of labor with all his might. The little interest which had almost subsided into non-existence, in his hands began to gain strength, and to assume a new character. He enlarged the plan, reduced to method its disjointed parts, roused our dormant energies, and insused into the whole concern a new spirit of action. His habits of good management and economy were carried into this service, his capacity and readiness in shaping into practicable di
mensions a complex system, were of admirable use in a business consisting of so many minor details. But the rapid growth of the Society, the increasing demand for its publications, the extension of its operations to almost every part of this Union, will evince with more force than we can command, the value of those labors bestowed upon it, by its assiduous and intelligent agent. The estimate of his usefulness must not be restricted to the particular vocation which we are now considering. Besides his main business of preaching by means of Tracts,
he sounded the gospel abroad in inany places where he travelled, and in others he preached more statedly with great effect. He collected and published many useful facts connected with the statistics of our denomination. He was ready to aid by his presence and countenance every good proposition; and was always among the first to contribute such means as were at his disposal for the promotion of useful expedients.
His health was infirm; and though his application to the duties of his station was unremitting and efficient, yet he often groaned, being burdened under the frailties of a feeble constitution. Those of less decision and zeal than he possessed, would have resigned themselves to supineness and inaction, under such bodily infirmities as he endured. But he counted not his life dear in view of the weighty care which the interest of his fellow-men devolved upon him. We have seldom known an instance in which the spending, and being spent for God, was more in accordance with true Christian devotedness. Death could not come unexpected to him. His transit from us was sudden, but not confused. For a long time we had seen him reaching forth after the incorruptible inheritance; spreading his wings for flight; raised aloft on the summit of holy hope, and viewing with intense delight the distant scenes of the promised glory. All his matters were arranged, his house was in order, and he was awaiting his final discharge.
It would have been grateful to have a dying testimony from the lips of such a Christian. It would have been grateful to bedew with the farewell tear of affection, the conscious bosom of such a brother. But these small mitigations of our grief could not be allowed. The loss of sensation and consciousness, were the fatal symptoms under which his manly form sunk almost without warning. The spirit that lingered a short time about him, could not control its shattered and dismembered tenement. We were therefore left to witness, without the ability to relieve, the last struggles of a prostrate frame. The month of July, in which he was born, in which he was baptized, in which he was ordained to the work of the ministry, in which he was married, witnessed his passage from time to eternity He died on Thursday morning, 15th July, a few days less than twenty-eight years of age.
Noah Davis possessed qualities of no common kind. pacity for the transaction of business, would have insured him wealth and respectability in any community. The patronage under which he could have entered upon coinmercial pursuits here was such as few young men could boast. Nor was his mind naturally so formed as to be indifferent to the inducements of secular advan