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CHARACTER AND OBITUARY OF THE REV. LEVI PARSONS, AMERICAN MISSIONARY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN;
WHO DIED, AT ALEXANDRIA, FEB. 10, 1822.
WITH the death of Mr. Parsons our Readers are already acquainted. We have collected, from some American Publications, various particulars relative to the decease and the character of this exemplary Missionary.
An extract of a Letter from Mr. Parsons to a friend, written May 5, 1821, a day or two before he left Jerusalem, and about six months before his death, will be read with particular interest. May the spirit which it breathes increasingly influence all Missionaries!
You speak of the TRIALS of Missionaries. Perhaps now you can speak of them by experience. If so, you have found them, I doubt not, much as we contemplated them, when examining the question relative to Missions. It is one thing, how ever, to make mention of the trials of a Missionary, and quite another thing to experience them. We often said, "We must languish under a burning sunwander, solitary and forsaken, without a smile to cheer, or a heart to feel for usbe hated by many, flattered by a few, and loved by none and have life always given
over unto death."
These, it is true, are AFFLICTIONS; but
not worthy to be mentioned, in comparison with others, which prey more deeply on the heart. To be obliged to be silent when God is dishonoured, and souls deceived and destroyed by the craft of men -to be left in doubt what measure to pursue, what course to take, what counsel to give to be counteracted in every good design, by a power which cannot be evaded -and to urge a spiritual religion on those who have no ears to hear, no eyes to perceive, and yet who rNow that heaven is secure is an affliction which makes the heart bleed.
I have never been more sensible of the duty of praying for Missionaries, than of March, 1823.
late. In my solitary room, I often find comfort from this reflection—that I may do good to my Brethren who are afar off, even if I can do no good to those who are near. It is a comfort to pray for Missionaries by name; and thus employ a day in looking over the Christian World. I think I can say, that my assurance of the conversion of the world to Christ was never so firm as at the present time; and never, surely, were the obstacles and difficulties more affectingly magnified.
We need not fear. We may dismiss all solicitude-go forward-turn not to the right or to the left. God will overturn and overturn; till He, whose right it is, shall take the kingdom.
My last wish, as I bid you farewell, is, that we may sit together in heavenly places. Very soon afterward, was Mr. Parsons taken to his eternal rest. On his associate, the Rev. Pliny Fisk, at his return from Syria, he rejoined Smyrna; and, shortly afterward, embarked with him for Alexandria, as was stated at pp. 381 and 382 of our last Volume. They landed at Alexandria, January the 15th, 1821. Mr. Fisk, a few days afterward, bears this striking testimony to his friend :
I desire to record it as one of the greatest mercies of my life, that I am permitted to enjoy the heavenly society, conversation, and prayers of Br. Parsons. While at Smyrna, from Dec. 4th to Jan. 9th, we enjoyed seasons of social prayer, morning and evening, and on the Sabbath. I do not recollect that a single season of devo tion passed, without some remarks from Br. Parsons, expressive of submission to
the Divine Will, concern for the souls of men, love to our Mission, gratitude for Divine Mercies, confidence in God, and love to the Saviour. I scarcely read a verse of Scripture, but it drew from him While on our some heavenly remark. Mission, we have read the Fifty-first Psalm oftener than any other part of Scripture; and he has frequently remarked, "We cannot read that too often." One day he said, "I have often thought of being on Missionary Ground and too feeble to labour, as one of the greatest trials that could be laid upon me; and this is now the very thing with which God sees fit to try me."
How graciously he was supported under this trial, will be seen by the following extracts from his Journal, written in the prospect of death, after his arrival at Alexandria: they may serve to quicken the devout affections and the earnest diligence of every Missionary
Jan. 15, 1822-Two men took me in my chair from the boat, and carried me safely to my room. So tender is my Heavenly Father to provide for me.
Jan. 19 My health greatly enfeebled. It seems that this shattered frame will not long endure so great weakness. With Br. Fisk I talk freely of finishing my work; and of meeting my final Judge, the Lord of Missions. Heaven looks desirable, to obtain the PERFECT image of God to know more of the existence of God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghostto see, without a glass, the exceeding love displayed on the Cross-to observe the stations, orders, and employments of angels
to know how saints are employed in relation to this and other worlds-to see how God overrules sin-and why it is through great tribulation that He brings His children to glory-in a word, to see God in all His attributes, and His angels and saints in all their glory,
Jan. 21-Find my strength exceedingly reduced. Desire to be in readiness to meet my summons from the world. Have but little expectation of recovering strength before I go hence to be here no more. My great desire is, to honour God and religion, even to the moment of closing my eyes. As this earthly tabernacle is dissolving, I pray God to build me up into a new, vigorous, spiritual man: then can I sing, with a dying voice, O death! where is thy sting? I DID desire to slumber, till the resurrection, on the holy hill, Bethlehem, the birth-place of our Saviour: but I rejoice that the Lord has brought me to
Egypt; and, as to the future, may I say,
Jan. 22-In view of my great weakness, and in consideration that all the means which we could use have not had their desired effect, we thought it our duty to set apart this day for prayer. We enjoyed a season for several prayers, and for much conversation respecting God as Physician and Parent. We read Ps. cvi, Isa. xxxviii, 1 Sam. iii, and many precious Hymns. We said, "This day brings heaven near." May it hasten us toward our home!
Jan. 23-Rain most of the day-the cold very uncomfortable. I am subject to constant chills-keep my bed most of the day -find the nights refreshing, the days long. Br. Fisk reads to me much of the time. Our morning and evening devotions are always deeply affecting. Thus, while I descend to the banks of Jordan, I can gather a flower-I can see a ray of light, from beyond the swelling flood. My flesh is literally consumed like the smoke, but nothing is impossible with God. He can make these dry bones praise Him in this world; or He can lay them aside, to raise from them a spiritual and glorious tabernacle, for His kingdom.
Jan. 25-In the morning, read the account of the character and doom of unfaithful Ministers, Ezek. xxxiii. Afterward, we endeavoured to confess our past unfaithfulness; and to supplicate, with many cries to God, for the entire class of the Clergy in Asia, of every denomination. To be ever alive to this subject, it is necessary to contemplate, often, the wretchedness of blind leaders of the blind, and of their deluded followers, beyond the grave, in the fire that is never to be quenched.
Jan. 27, Sunday-Early in the morning, read from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and prayed together for our American Missionary Brethren: and then for all faithful Missionaries, of every denomination; and for every Missionary Station, beginning at China, including India, Cape of Good Hope, Sierra Leone, Malta, Astrachan, &c.
At 10 o'clock, Br. Fisk went to the house of Mr. Lee, the English Consul, to preach to a few Protestants, who seem to be grateful for his services. The distant prospect of the entire conversion of this city to God, is a rich compensation for many years of toil and suffering.
Jan. 28-Weather a little more moderate.
Rest well during the nights. The Sabbath past was highly interesting-no interruptions—a little emblem of heaven. We read Isa. liii, and the chapters relating to the love, suffering, and death of Christ. Gained new encouragement to perseve
rance in our work. This morning, read from Corinthians concerning the superiority of CHARITY; and our united prayers were, for a great increase of charity, in our own breasts, and throughout this world of sin.
Jan. 30, 1822-Walked on the terrace of the house, and viewed the city. Br. Fisk took me in his arms, and, with ease, carried me up the stairs; so wasted is this dying body. I assured him it was my opinion that he would take care of this dissolving body but a few days longer. Let me be waiting, and at last say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly! I am often very weary and sorrowful; but tears are not in heaven. Oh, may I find the rest that remaineth for the people of God!
Jan. 31-Weather very unfavourablerain almost every day. The Dr. informed Br. Fisk, that, in his opinion, I shall never again enjoy perfect health in this warm climate; and I am now too weak to change my situation. Why should I wish to be in any other hands, than in His, who is able to save to the uttermost!
Feb. 1-Awoke with great faintness, which continued for an hour. I tried to cast my burdens on the Lord; and, after a few hours, He enabled me to do it. Come unto me, said the Blessed Saviour, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. God is very kind to me in my sickness. My appetite and sleep are usually excellent-my mind calm in view of death: although I see heavenly things, as through a glass, darkly, my hope is, that, as my outward man decays, my inward man will be renewed day by day.
Feb. 3, Sunday-Awoke with greater weakness than ever I was sensible of be
fore. I fear I shall complain, as my body decays. How much Christians, that are in health, should pray for their brethren on a dying bed! I need many prayers to-day. I cry out in my distress-I do sink under the rod - Shall I ever see Jesus as He is? WILL Jesus make my dying bed? Let me not doubt. I cry, with every breath, to Him who is my only hope.
Read, prayed, and conversed with Antonio. I told him that I expected to die; and my desire was, to meet him in heaven. He promised to read the Bible, and to pray every day.
How dreadfully solemn to remain fixed between two worlds-between time and eternity-between a mortal and an immortal tabernacle! How dreadful, and, at the same time, how pleasing, to rest with all the saints!
Feb. 4-Monthly Concert. Read, in the morning, Ps. Ixxii, and 1 Chron. xxix. -conversed respecting the last devotional
attainments of David; and made one request to God, that we may attain to a measure of the same faith, before we pass to the clear light of eternal day. We remembered to pray for the three Churches in Boston which give their monthly contribution for the support of this Mission, and for all our Missionary Brethren; and, last evening, we thought of our duty to all the Colleges in America. On this evening, we could only raise our cries to God for Kings, Princes, Presidents, Governors, all in civil and all in ecclesiastical authority, that they may ALI. praise our God. Let EVERY thing praise God. Feb. 5 Weather more favourable. Walked in the public street a few mo ments-appetite good, but feet swollen to an extraordinary size-strength not sensibly improved.
Feb. 6-Thermometer at 60°-rainycannot therefore walk abroad. Read, for our devotions, morning and evening, Chapter in Exodus, respecting the plagues sent on Pharaoh.
Feb. 7-Rainy. Walked in my room. Feb. 8-Weather as yesterday. Remain very weak. Last night we conversed on the high Christian attainment of submission and quietness. God says, when we make an improper inquiry, "Be still, Children, be still."
Mr. Fisk observes on these extracts
last that our lamented Friend and Brother The above remarks, I believe, were the ever wrote. So cheerfully did he obey the Divine Command, BE STILL"-So contented and pleasant was he-so serene his countenance-so heavenly his soul," that, to hear him converse, and pray, and give thanks, and praise God, seemed like the beginning of communion with perfect spirits.
The death of Mr. Parsons took place on Sunday, the second day from the closing of his Journal. Mr. Fisk, on the same day, gives the following affecting account of the last scene:
His symptoms continued favourable, till the day before yesterday: then his diarrhoea returned, though not severely. Yesterday he was worse, and he was weaker than I had ever seen him. My apprehensions, respecting a fatal termination of his disorder, were greatly excited. He conversed on the subject with his usual serenity, referring the event continually to the will of God, as he has always been accustomed to do. Last evening we spent some time in reading the Scriptures, prayer, and conversation. We read the Fourteenth Chapter of John, and conversed
some time on the 27th verse, Peace I leave with you, &c.
*After conversing about an hour, I told him that it was necessary that he should stop and take some rest. He replied, "I feel as though I could converse two hours longer. You don't know how refreshing these seasons are to me." He then fell asleep. I soon heard him saying, in his sleep-"The goodness of God-growth in grace-fulfilment of the promises-so God is all in heaven, and all on earth." After sleeping awhile, he awoke, and seemed about as usual at that hour. I proposed sitting by his side through the night: but he insisted on my going to bed, and said he felt as though he should have a very quiet night; and, as his attendant always slept near him, and awoke at the least word or motion, he urged me to retire to rest. About eleven o'clock I bid him good night, and wished that God might put underneath him the arms of everlasting mercy. He replied, The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him!
These were the last words that I ever heard that beloved Brother speak-the last that I shall hear from him, until I hear him speak in the language of immortality! Twice, while I slept, he awoke; and told Antonio, his servant, that he had slept very quietly, and felt easy and well. At half past three, Antonio heard him speak, or groan; and started up. He saw something was the matter, and called me. was by the bed-side in a moment. Oh what a heart-rending moment was that! He was gasping for breath, unable to speak, and apparently insensible to all around him. I stood by his side, and attempted to revive him, but in vain. I sent in haste for the physician, but did not obtain him nor do I suppose it would have been of any use whatever, if he had come. It was evident that he was dying. I attempted to commend his departing spirit to that Redeemer, on whom he had believed. I pressed his hand, and kissed his quivering lips, and spoke to him; but he gave me no answer-not even a look or a motion. He took no notice of me, or of any thing around him. His appointed time had arrived. He continued to breathe till a quarter past four, Then the muscles of his face were knit together, as if he was in pain. It was the dying struggle. It was the dissolution of the last ties that united soul and body. It was the soul breaking off its last fetters. His features then became placid again. His breath stopped. His pulse ceased to beat. His soul took its immortal flight,
After the first pang of separation, I stood pensive by the corpse, thinking of the scenes which were opening to his view!
A little while after, as there was no person with me who understood English, I read a Chapter, and prayed in Greek with Antonio; and then we dressed the body for the grave.
Early in the forenoon, Mr. Lee, the Consul, calied on me, and kindly offered to see that all necessary arrangements were made for the funeral. He said, that, in this climate, it was necessary to bury soon. Four o'clock was accordingly appointed. All the English Gentlemen resident in the place, six or seven in number, the Captains of several English Ships, and a great number of Merchants, principally Maltese, attended the funeral. The Consul walked with me next to the coffin; and the others, sixty or seventy in number, followed in procession to the Greek Convent, where the few English who reside here bury their dead. At the grave, I read some verses
from Job xiv. Ps. xxxix. 1 Cor. xv. and Rev. xxi. xxii., and then made a short address, and closed with prayer. then committed the dust to its kindred dust, there to await the archangel's trumpet.
A few days after, Mr. Fisk writes—
Since the funeral of my Brother, I have often seated myself by the grave, and read some appropriate Chapter from the Greek Testament; as, 1 Cor. xv. Rev. xxi. and xxii. John xi. and xiv. On these occasions, the President of the Monastery and some of the Monks have always joined me, and listened to the Chapter and some accompanying remarks, and some account of the religious views and feelings, the character, and preaching of the deceased.
From some remarks on the character of Mr. Parsons by a friend, we extract the chief particulars:—
Mr. Parsons was the Son of a Clergyman in the State of Vermont. He received a liberal education; having added to the Academical Course of the principal College in his native State, a three years' preparation for the Ministry, at the Theological Seminary of Andover, 'in Massachusetts. He left College with the reputation of being among the first Scholars in his class. Nor did his qualifications for the Ministry disappoint the expectations of his friends: he was, indeed, richly furnished with the gifts which are required to constitute the active and useful Pastor. With his ardent piety and good sense, his captivating address, unaffected solemnity, and honest zeal, he might have found his
way to almost any station of usefulness in the Church.
The popularity of his talents created a strong desire in many of his Christian friends, that he would spend his days in America. But, while few could boast a more sincere attachment to kindred and native land, or have had less natural disposition to visit foreign climes than Mr. Parsons, he would only reply to suggestions on this point, that he regarded himself as called to another service: he had willingly devoted himself to the cause of Missions, and could not go back.
Mr. Parsons appears to have first felt the powerful influence of religion about the time of his entering on residence at College, in the year 1811. "It was then," says the friend whom we have just quoted, "that the faithful instructions and fervent prayers of his venerable parents were brought home to his bosom, and received a gracious answer." He adds
The first joyful emotion of which he was conscious, was that of ineffable delight in Jesus Christ. This leading feature in his Christian experience seemed to impart a general character to his piety. evinced a peculiar disposition to dwell, in his conversation, his supplications, and public discourses, on the grace of the Incarnate Son. Here, he was ever finding new subjects for study and imitation, as well as for thanksgiving and praise. And few, even among the oldest and most eminent Christians, have been observed to possess as much as be, of the disinterested charity and meekness of the Saviour. These spread a loveliness over his other
virtues, which rendered him a most captivating friend. It was with evident satisfaction, that he received from the Board his destination to that consecrated land, where once the Patriarchs lived and worshipped, where Prophets were inspired to foretell the coming of Messiah, and where He was actually born and sacrificed. A spirit, fired, like his, with the love of Jesus, would naturally be hurried, by its own desires, to the very spot on which the Messiah suffered in our flesh. We accordingly find him early at Jerusalem, and on the Mount of Crucifixion. His communications from thence breathe a delightful spirit, and have proved a rich entertainment to many readers.
He has now entered into the New Jerusalem, where he beholds the beloved of his soul not as through a glass, darkly; but face to face. How does the eye, which lately fixed insatiate on the Mount of Crucifixion, the Pool of Siloam, and the Sacred Tomb, now gaze on Christ Himself!
Mr. Parsons was remarkable for uniformly keeping the prospect of death near at hand. His practice was, to commit himself to God, each night, as one ready to depart. Often has he repeated the remark, in my hearing, that his pilgrimage would probably be short; sometimes adding, in the words of the Apostle, that he had a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. He was, notwithstanding, an uncommonly cheerful man; but his cheerfulness was that of a serious mind it bespoke a soul filled with other enjoyments, and intensely interested with sublimer prospects, than this vain world can afford.
Proceedings and Entelligence.
Object and Grounds of the Society. A NUMBER of benevolent persons in the Metropolis have united themselves together under the appellation of the "LONDON SOCIETY FOR MITIGATING AND GRADUALLY ABOLISHING THE STATE OF SLAVERY THROUGHOUT THE BRITISH DOMI
NIONS." Samuel Hoare, Esq. jun. is Treasurer of the Institution.
The grounds on which this Association has been formed are defined
in the following Resolutions, which were unanimously adopted at the first Meeting:
That the individuals composing the present Meeting are deeply impressed with the magnitude and number of the evils attached to the system of Slavery which prevails in many of the Colonies of Great Britain; a system, which appears to them to be opposed to the spirit and precepts of Christianity, as well as humanity and justicerepugnant to every dictate of natural
That they long indulged a hope, that the great measure of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, for which an Act of