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Rev. Spencer H. Cone, D. D.
By S. H. Ford

     This devoted servant of God ceased from his labors at his residence in Broome street, August 18th, at 8 o'clock, after an inllness of twenty days.

His Birth and Early Life
     Dr. Cone was born in Princeton, N. J., April 30th, 1785, and was, therfore, at the time of his death, seventy years and four months of age. In early life he was deprived of a father's aid and cousel; but the pious instructions of a Christian mother, as holy seed dropped into that youthful heart, sprang up a tree of beauty and holiness, and produced that rich ripe harvest of pious example, Christian fortiude, and noble action, which characterized the last thirty years of his life. At the age of fourteen, having passed two years at Princeton College, he engaged in teaching, in order that he might assist in supporting his widowed mother and family. He taught at Princeton, Springfield, and Bordentown, at which later place he had charge of Latin and Greek in the Academy. For five years he was teacher in the Philadelphia Academy, Penn., then under the supervision of the Rev. Ambercrombie. In order the better to support his mother and her orphan children he abandoned the profession of teaching for that of the stage, in which he was engaged with variour success for seven years. He subsequently acted as book-keeper in the office of the Baltimore American. May 10th, 1813, at the age of 28, he was married to Miss Sallie Wallace, of Philadlphia, who died August 15th, 1854. They had two sons, Edward M. and Wallace Cone, the latter of which is now a prominent member of the New York bar.

Conversion and Call to the Ministry
     It might be supposed that during his experience as an editor, actor, politician, and commmander, his religious impressions were almost entirely obliterated. And this seems to have been the case, for he says, "While I commanded the Baltimore Union Artillery Company, I do not recollect attedning public worship more than twice in two years; so carried away was I with military ardor, politics and war that they campletely engrossed my mind." But a mother's care and prayers were yet to be rewarded. They that sow reap, though the harvest seem long ripening. The still small voice must be heard -- the son of many prayers be gathered in the fold of God. Hear his own graphic account of his conversion.

     "In the month of November, 1813, after breakfast, I took up the newspaper, and saw among other things a large sale of books at Wood's Auction Rooms, and said to myself, I will look in as I go to the office, and see what they are. I did so, and the first book I took up was a volume of the works of John Newton. In an instant my whole life passed in view before me. I remembered taking that book out of the College Library, while at Princeton, and reading Newton's Life to my mother. His dream of the lost ring reminded me forcibly of my dream of the well, and I felt an ardent desire to own the book and read the dream again. I left the Rooms, having first requested Mr. Wood, who was a particular friend, to put it up for sale as soon as he saw me in the evening, as it was the only work I wanted. he promised to do so, and I immediately went out towards our office, which was nearly opposite; but I had scarcely reached the middle of the street, when a voice, "like the sound of many waters," said to me -- This is your last warning. I trembled like an aspen-leaf -- I felt myself to be in the grasp of the Almighty -- and an earthquake could not have increased my dismay. Sermons heard when only eight years old, on the Balm of Gildead, and on the Lamb of God -- the dream -- all were painfully present, and I thought my hour of doom had come. I went ot the office, took down the daybook to charge the new advertisements, but my hand trembled so that I could not write, and I put the book back in its place. I went out into South Street -- then walked up and down Market Street in a crowd till dinner time, to drown, if it were possible, my thoughts and feelings. But all in vain. The sound still rung, not only in my ears, but through my heart, like the sound of a trumpet -- This is your last warning. I went home to dinner, endeavoring to conceal my feelings as much as possible from my wife. The day wore heavily away; I was at the auction room at the hour; purchased the book that seemed to be strangely connected with my weal and woe; returned to my house immediately, and read Newton's eventful life entirely through before retiring to rest. There seemed to be some strange points of resemblance between us; he had been rescued from the wrath to come! What would become of me? I found that he read the Bible, and obtained light. I went to bed with determination of rising early to imitate his example, and search the Scriptures. My dear young wife thought I was going mad. Oh no! no! I was not mad! He who had compassion on the poor Gadarene, was now bringing me to my right mind in a way that I knew not.

     "I commenced reading the Scriptures with deep interest, to find out how a sinner could be saved; and in two months read the Psalms and different portions of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, I think more than twenty times through. The Psalms, John's Gospel, and the Epistle to the Romans, were particularly precious. It required great efforts to attend to domestic duties, and my business in the office; for I felt continually that it would profit me nothing 'to gain the whole world, and at last lose my own soul.' I sought out preachers, and heard Dr. Duncan frequently, but could not learn from any of them the way of salvation. One evening, after the family had all retired, I went up into a vacant garret, and walked backwards and forwards, in great agony of mind; I kneeled down; the instance of Hezekiah occurred to me; like him I turned my face to the wall and cried for mercy. An answer seemed to be vouchsafed in an impression, that just as many years as I had passed in rebellion against God, so many years I must endure before deliverance could be granted. I clasped my hands and cried out, 'Yes, dear Lord, a thousand years of such anguish as I now feel, if I may only be saved at last.' I continued to read, and whenever I could steal away unobserved into the garret, there I walked the floor, when all around was hushed in sleep; there I prayed and poured out tears of bitter sorrow. While thus engaged one night the plan of salvation was revealed to me in the figure of Noah's Ark. I saw an ungoldy race swept away with the flood, but Noah and his family were saved, for God shut them up in the Ark. I felt that, as a sinner, I was condemned and justly exposed to immediate and everlasting destruction. I saw distinctly that in Christ alone I must be saved, if saved at all; and the view I at that moment had of God's method of savng sinners, I do still most heartily entertain, after thirty years' experience of His love. This was Saturday night, and that night I slept more freely than I had done for many weeks. Before daylight on the Lord's day morning I awoke, and went downstairs quietly, made a fire in the front parlor, and threw open the window-shutters, and as soon as I could see commenced reading the New Testament. I opened to the 13th chapter of John, and came to where Peters said, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet; Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.' At that moment my heart seemed to melt. I felt as if plunged in a bath of blood divine -- I was cleansed from head to foot. Guilt and the apprehension of punishment were both put away; tears of gratitude gushed from my eyes in copious streams; the fire in the grate shone on the paper upon the wall, and the room was full of light. I fell upon the hearth rug, on my face, at the feet of Jesus, and wept and gave thanks; my sins, which were many, were all forgiven me; and a peace of mind suceeded which passeth understanding."

     The next day he applied to the First Baptist Church of Balitmore for baptism; and after the relation of his experience to the church, which was heard amid the sobs and tears of its members, he was baptized by the Rev. Lewis Richards on the fourth of February, 1814, the ice in the Petapsco being cut for the purpose. Very soon after he was appointed to an office in the Treasury Department at Washington. He was frequently urged by his brethren to preach, and the secret desires of his own heart led him to wish to proclaim the word of God, but deeming himself wholly unqualified, he shrank from the undertaking and could seldom be induced to speak in prayer-meeting until after his residence in Washington. There a few weeks after his removal thither, he was asked to lead on Sabbath morning, in the little church at the Navy yard, which at that time was destitute of a pastor. These are his own words giving an account of this first attempt to preach, and the consequences resulting:

     "In reading I John ii, I was fully impassed with the words, 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;' and I spoke from them without embarrassment for nearly an hour, to my own utter surprise. This was my first attempt to preach Christ crucified to my fellow men.

     "At their earnest request, I agreed to speak for them again on the next Lord's day morning. It some how leaked out that Mr. Cone, formerly on the stage, was to preach. When I went to fulfill the appintment their little meeting house on the commons near the Navy Yard, was surrounded by an immense ccrowd, while within it was so full that I reached the pulpit step with difficulty. This was the greatest trial I ever had as a preacher, in view of an audience. When I came in sight of the crowd I was tempted to turn back, and when I rose up to commence public worship, Satan assured me that my mouth should be stopped if I attempted to preach; that the cause of my precious Saviour would be sadly wounded; that I had better say to the people I was not prepared to address so large an assembly, and then go home. The suggestion was so plausible I did not think at the moment that it came from the great deceiver, and I concluded to give out a hymn, read a chapter, pray, and sing again, and then determine how to act. While singing the second hymn, which closed with these words --

			'Be thou my strength and righteousness,
			 My Jesus and my all.' 

     The worth of souls was presented to my mind with irrestible force; I never once thought of the want of word to tell the story of the cross, nor of the crowd of hearers, but directed them to Ephesians ii:10 -- 'For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them;' and spoke for an hour with fervor and rapidity. Wonderfully did the Lord help me that day; and I felt it to be so easy to preach Jesus, and I was so ready to spend and be spent in his service, that I consented to an appointment for the next Lord's day.

     "My third sermon was from Malachi iii:16 -- 'Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it,' etc., and he gave me that day a soul for my hire, to encourage my heart and strengthen my hands -- blessed be his holy name forever! Oh, what am I, or what my father's house, that to me this grace should be given, 'to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ?.'

     "Brother C. B. Brown now asked me if I was licensed to preach. I said, no. He said he had never heard me, but from the report of many of his people, and from what everybody said out of doors, he had no doubt I was called to the work. At his suggestion, I wrote to Baltimore for my letter of dismission, received it the next Saturday, and preached for the First church on the Lord's day morning. After service, brother Brown stopped the members and read my letter, upon the credit of which I was immediately received. He then asked the members if they had any doubt of my being called of God to the work of the ministry. They said no. And upon the motion of Deacon Enoch Reynolds, I was unanimously licensed, June 24, 1815, to preach the godpel of the blessed God. In the afternoon brother Brown informed the church that he should set out the next day to visit his aged parents in New Jersey, to be absent six weeks, and should leave brother Cone to supply his pulpit. He had not spoken a word to me upon the subject, and I told him it would be impossible, for I had preached all I knew. He said I could preach or shut up the house as I pleased, and so left me. For six hours each day I was crowded with business at the treasury, so that I had but a small portion of time to devote to reading. I had no one to consult with as to subjects for the pulpit, or the proper manner of treating them. My mind was graciously led to preach Christ in his offices -- Prophet, Priest, King, Advocate, Shepherd, Friends, etc. -- to dwell on the work of the Spirit and the evidences of Chrisitan character, and compare these things with my own experience, and above all, I was led in preaching the way of life, to say what I knew, and no more; and then read, and think, and pray, till I acquired additional knowledge, and then give it to the people. In this way, with many struggles, and tears, and misgivngs, and sleepless hours at night, I was enabled to preach twice a week every Lord's day for six weeks, to unusually large and attentive assemblies. Preachers and lawyers, and clerks, and heads of departments, and infidels came from every part of the district to hear what the actor had to say about religion; and when I look back upon those scenes I am constrained to exclaim, 'what hath God wrought?' When I reflect that the fear of man never troubled me in the pulpit for a moment; that even in the commencement of my ministry, whatever were my internal struggles, I was strengthened to go through the service of the day with a large share of liberty and comfort, and that the plan of salvation through the various sufferings of the Son of God, as revealed to me in my conversion, is the only plan I have ever preached, I must ascribe it all to the guidance and protection of that 'good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep,' and to his name be all the glory."

     He was ordained in the Baptist church, Washington, Nov. 26th, 1815, nearly two years after his conversion. Soon after he was chosen chaplain to Congress. In 1826, he was called to the Baptist church in Alexandria. In 1833 he removed to New York, to take the charge of the Oliver street church, where he remained until 1841, when he was unanimously called to the care of the First Baptist church in Broome street. Here he labored with his wonted zeal till he was called home to the church triumphant above.

Funeral of Dr. Cone
     On Thursday morning, according to previous arrangements, the Board of Managers, and many of the Life Directors and Life Members of the American Bible Union, assembled at the Bible Rooms at 1 o'clock, P. M.

     After a few remarks from the Corresponding Secretary, explaining the object of the meeting, brother Artimage took the chair, and introduced the solemn business of the occasion by a brief and impressive address, when all bowed the knee before the throne, and brother Hopkins, pastor of the Bethesda church led in prayer.

     Brother W. D. Murphy read the following preamble and a resolution, which was cordially and unanimously adopted:

"WHEREAS, It has pleased God to take to himself our esteemed brother and President, Rev. Spencer H. Cone, D. D. and
WHEREAS, The First Baptist Church, and the family of our deceased brother have concurred in the arrangements for the funeral services, and invited this Board to unite with them; therefore
Resolved, That we cordially unite in arrangements made, and that we appoint brethren Baker, Judd, Colgate, E. Parmly, and the Corresponding Secretary, a Committee to draw up resolutions expressive of our sentiments of affection and respect for our departed President, and our sense of the loss which we have sustained in his death, and to report the same at our regular meeting enxt week."

     The meeting then adjourned, and the brethren walked in procession to brother Cone's residence, where they met many ministers of different denominations, who had assembled to mainfest their regard for the deceased.

     Prayer was made at the house of Rev. Dr. Hill, Corresponding Secretary of the Home Mission Society.

     The procession then formed at the door, and walked slowly to the meeting-house of the First Baptist Church. The coffin was borne by aged men, principally Deacons, who had sat for many years under the ministry of brother Cone. Some disappointment was felt that brother Colgate, (who was the first person chosen for the sad office, but was absent from the city,) was not one of the number.

     The bearers were William Hillman, W. Burden, W. D. Murphy, S. Pier, Wm. Cooper, Wilson G. Hunt, Walter McIntosh, and Eli Kelly. The silver plate on the coffin bore the following inscription:

Spencer H. Cone
Died August 28, 1855
Aged 70 years, 3 months, and 20 days

     No sooner had the procession entered the meeting-house, than it was crowded to its utmost capacity, and thousands went away from the doors, unable to force an entrance. It is estimated that there were at least four thousand persons within the walls of the church ediiface.

     Dr. Church, one of the editors of the Chronicle, commenced the mournful exercises by reading a hymn.
Brothers Briggs, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Brooklyn, read a portion of Scripture. Brother Briggs was Dr. Cone's successor as pastor of the church at Alexandria.
     Dr. John Knox, of the Dutch Reformed Church, led in prayer.
     Dr. Farris, Chancellor of the New York University, read the second hymn.
     Dr. E. L. Magoon, pastor of Oliver street Church, (of which brother Cone was for many years the pastor,) delivered an address.
     Dr. Sommers made the last prayer, and brother A. D. Gillette, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church read the last hymn.
     The Rev. Dr. S. H. Cox then closed the services with a few remarks.

     He said -- My Christian friends, being accidentally, by which I mean providentially, in this city, my heart, as if magnetized, brought me to this spot; and though I am speaking in the presence of hundreds who probably knew brother Cone better than I did, I doubt if there are ten who have known him so long. Some ten or twelve years since, Dr. Milner, Dr. Cone, and myself met upon a committee, as we often had done before, in this city. We used to live together in Philadelphia, all of us, ignorant of God. I recollect that Dr. Milner, upon that occasion, asked, "Do you know where we first met?" "Yes," said Dr. Cone, "at the theater; and do you know where we all expect to meet?" We all looked upwards in hope of the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we were all indissolubly and forever united in faith. I will simply add, that while Dr. Milner was a member of Congress and a distinguished lawyer, he was awakened, and began to seek God, in the autumn of 1812. In the same autumn so did I, although the youngest of the three, and I believe it was the next spring that brother Cone began to seek and find Him who first sought and found him. And do you think that it is with any ordinary interest that I contemplate this scene? If it is a fact that on some points we differed, it is a grander fact that on greater and more points we agreed. I always felt that he was my brother, and I am very glad to hope that in the resurrection of the just the Universe will know that we were brothers. I say to him, "Farewell, sleeper in Jesus." They that sleep in Jesus shall God bring unto him. "Of all that my Father hath given me will I lose nothing, but will raise it up again at the last day." It is almost half a centry since I first became acquainted with our deceased brother -- since he first impressed me with the brillancy of his genius, the power of his vocie, and the strengty of his mind. Brother Cone was a man of unbending integrity. He always chose the right, and adhered to it. He appeared to me like a massive column. Long before he became a Christian I knew him in the city of Philadelphia; and I am happy to attest -- as few men can do now, because they are gone -- that his character for morality, and for a domestic and holy affection, I had almost said, for his mother and other relatives, had won for him a peculiar fame, even before he knew Christ. But he is gone, and I have no doubt that heaven is richer, as I sure earth is poorer, because he left us. To you, my dear friends, I will only say, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and let his religion be yours, for you will all have nothing, or worse than nothing, if religion be not your crown -- the religion of the Lord who loved us, and gave Himself for us; and rose again from the dead as the first fruit of the resurrection of the just."

     Dr. Cox pronounced the benediction, and the audience slowly and decoriously retired from the Church, after passing in front of the coffin, the lid which had been partially raised, to take a last view of the countenance of the deceased.

     On Friday morning, the family, and a few friends from the city, accompanied the remains to Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey. The company consisted of his two sons, brethren Wyckoff, Buckbee, Hillman, Smith, David, Berger, Durbran, Murphy, Young, and three sisters in Christ, before whom he who now slept in death had gone in and out, dispensing unto them the bread of Life. They proceeded by railroad to Hackettsville. From thence slowly the procession ascended the mountain to the peaceful burying ground where rested the ashes of her whom in life he had loved, and in death met to pass the life unendning. With bowed hearts the little group gathered round the final resting place of him, who, to them, had been a guide and director, and in a solemn manner brother Wyckoff delivered a few remarks. Brother C. A. Buckbee, led in prayer, and dismissed the mourning assembly with the benediction, and the great man was left in the quiet home of the dead.

     He is gone, and who can speak his praise. He needs no marble tablet nor graven brass to perpetuate his memory. He shall live in the hearts of men when they, crumbled and fallen to decay, mingle with the dust. We attempt no eulogy. Let his own deeds praise him. He was repeatedly chosen president of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, and of the American and Foreign Bible Society, and of the American Bible Union, which last post he filled with distinguished ability at the time of his decease. The Broome Street church, which he found weak and languishing, he has raised to the highest place of respect and influence among Baptists throughout the land. For several years he was Moderator of the Hudson River Association, and in the New York State Convention. He was for nine years President of the Baptist Triennial Convention, and for some time filled the double office of Corresponding and Recording Secretary of the New York Baptist Domestic Mission Society. Through his exertions the Ammerican and Foreign Bible Society was formed, and he was ever its strong pillar, advocating its claims and supporting its measures through all opposition and difficulty. His efforts in the cause of Revision are known through America, Europse and Asia, and will prove a lasting monument of that Christian Independence and godly zeal which prompted him to step forward in support of the cause at a time when fear and doubt, as a thick curtain, shut off the light of truth from the minds of many of the brethren. "The sword of the Spirit must be drawn out King James' scabbard,"so said this mighty man, so he believed, and he would have given testimony of his faith even unto death. Surely a mighty man in Israel has fallen! Who shall take up the mantle of this Elijah and part the waters of error and unbelief that flood the land. Let us pray that though the leader has fallen the work may go on.


[From S. H. Ford, editor, Repository and Review, 1855, pp. 546-558. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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