I. JOHN GANO
JOHN GANO was born in Hopewell, New Jersey, in the year 1727. His parents were pious, and faithfully taught their children the fear of the Lord. His father was a Presbyterian, and when his own heart found peace in the Savior, he was at first inclined to unite with a church of that denomination; but having some scruples on the subject of infant baptism, he determined thoroughly to investigate it. The more he studied the pedo-baptist arguments, the less satisfied they appeared. He resolved, therefore, to be buried with Christ in baptism, on profession of his faith; to which his father, believing him conscientious, generously assented. He soon entered the Christian ministry, spent two or three years in study, and was ordained in May, 1754. By the advice and direction of the Philadelphia Association, he travelled [sic] and preached extensively in Virginia and the Carolinas. Arriving in Charleston, he was invited to officiate for the Rev. Mr. Hart, in the Baptist church, and gives this characteristic notice of the service: "When I arose to speak, the sight of so brilliant an audience, among whom were twelve ministers, one of whom was Mr. Whitefield, for a moment brought the fear of man upon me: but blessed be Lord, I was soon relieved from the embarrassment; the thought passed my mind, that I had none to fear but Jehovah." On his return, he married, and served the Baptist church in Morristown, NJ, as its pastor, for a short time, but with cheering success. After another visit to North Carolina, he was induced, by the wide destitution there, to remove to that State, and for two years and a half his labors were very useful throughout a wide region. A war with the Cherokee Indians then obligated him to leave. Returning to the north, he officiated alternately in Philadelphia and New York city; soon after the first Baptist church in the latter city was formed, he became its pastor, and retained that relation for twenty-five years. About one-fourth part of this time, however, he was absent, and the church nearly disbanded by the war of the revolution. During this period, he officiated with distinguished ability as chaplain in the army of the struggling colonies. He was a brave and patriotic man, well adapted for this service.
On the evacuation of New York by the British army, he returned, and collected the remnants of his scattered church -- less than one-fourth of their number; but the Lord blessed his labors, a precious revival followed, and many were added. In the year 1787, he was induced, by the pressing importunity and generous offers of friends in Kentucky, to remove to that infant but flourishing State. The wisdom of this step has been questioned by his best friends; but no one ever doubted the worthiness of his motives. In Washington, Lexington and Frankfort, Kentucky, he labored with various success till very near the close of his life. There was an alternation of light and shade; but as must be expected by those advanced n years -- and especially if removed from the circle whose appreciation of the excellencies of their unimpaired vigor might be reckoned on -- the shadows lengthened, and the bright and sunny spots became smaller and more distant. Pecuniary losses which he could ill afford, were followed by the removal of the companion of his youth by death. By most of his Kentucky brethren he was highly esteemed, and continued to labor in his master's cause, with good success; even after a severe injury experienced by a fall from a horse, and a subsequent paralysis, he so far recovered hi speech, that when carried to meeting he could peach, sometimes with great power. He died in peace at his residence near Frankfort, 10th august, 1804, in the 78th year of his age.
The following finished portrait of his character was drawn by the Rev. Dr. Furman, of Charleston, South Carolina:"He was in person below the middle stature, and, when young, of a slender form; but of a firm, vigorous constitution, well fitted to perform active services with ease, and to suffer labors and privations with constancy. In the more advanced states of life, his body tended to corpulency, but not to such a degree as to burden or render him inactive. His presence was manly, open, and engaging; his voice strong and commanding, yet agreeable and capable of all those inflections which are suited to express either the strong and tender emotions of an intelligent, feeling mind. In mental endowments and acquired abilities he appeared highly respectable: with clear conception and penetrating discernment, he formed, readily, a correct judgment of men and things. His acquaintance with the learned languages and science, did not commence till he arrived at manhood, and was obtained chiefly by private instruction, but under the direction of a clerical gentleman, well qualified for the office. To the refinements of learning he did not aspire; his chief object was such a competent acquaintance with its principles, as would enable him to supply them with advantage to purposes of general usefulness in religion, and to the most important interests or society; and to this he attained.
"His mind was formed for social intercourse and for friendship. Such was his unaffected humility, candor and good will to men, that few, if any, have enjoyed more satisfaction in the company of his friends, or have, in return, afforded them, by their conversation, a higher degree of pleasure and moral improvement.
"His passions were strong, and his sensibility could be easily excited; but so chastened and regulated were they by the meekness of wisdom, that he preserved great composure of spirit, and command of his words and actions, even in times of trial and provocation, when many, who yet might justly rank with the wise and good, would be thrown into a state of perturbation and hurried into extravagance.
"As a minister of Christ, he shone like a star of the first magnitude in the American churches, and moved in a widely extended field of action. For the office God had endowed him with a large portion of grace, and with excellent gifts. 'He believed, and therefore spake.' Having discerned the excellence of gospel truths, and the importance of eternal realities, he felt their power on his own soul, and accordingly he inculcated and urged them on the minds of his hearers with persuasive eloquence and force. He was not deficient in doctrinal discussion, or what rhetoricians style the demonstrative character of a discourse; but he excelled in the pathetic, in pungent, forcible addresses to the heart and conscience. The careless and irreverent were suddenly arrested and stood awed before him; and the insensible were made to feel, while he asserted and maintained the honor of his God, explained the meaning of the divine law, showing its purity and justice; exposed the sinner's guilt; proved him to be miserable, ruined, and inexcusable, and called him to unfeigned, immediate repentance. But he was not less a son of consolation to the mourning sinner, who lamented his offences committed against God, who felt the plague of a corrupt heart, and longed for salvation; nor did he fail to speak a word of direction, support and comfort, in due season to the tried, tempted believer. He knew how to publish the glad tidings of salvation in the Redeemer's name, for the consolation of all who believed in him, or had discovered their need of his mediation and grace; and to him, this was a delightful employment. Success attended his ministrations, and many owned him for their father in the gospel.
"The doctrines he embraced were those which are contained in the Baptist Confession of Faith, and are commonly styled Calvinism. But he was of a liberal mind, and esteemed pious men of every denomination. While he maintained, with consistent firmness, the doctrines which he believed to be the truths of God, he was modest in the judgment which he formed of his own opinion, and careful to avoid giving offence, or grieving any good man who differed from him in sentiment. Hence he was cordially esteemed and honored by the wise and good of all denominations.
"His attachment to his country as a citizen, was unshaken, in the times which tried men's souls; and as a chaplain in the army, for a term of years, while excluded from his church and home, he rendered it essential service. Preserving his moral dignity with the purity which becomes a gospel minister, he commanded respect from the officers; and by his condescension and kindness, won the affection of the soldiers, inspiring them, by his example, with his own courage and firmness, while toiling with them through military scenes of hardship and danger.
"He lived to a good old age; served his generation according to the will of God; saw his posterity multiplying around him; his country independent, free, and happy; the church of Christ, for which he felt and labored, advancing; and thus he closed his eyes in peace; his heart expanding with the sublime hope of immortality and heavenly bliss.
"Like John, the harbinger of our Redeemer, 'he was a burning and a shining light, and many rejoiced in his light.' Resembling the sun, he arose in the church with morning brightness, advanced regularly to his station of meridian splendor, and then gently declined with mild effulgence, till he disappeared, without a cloud to intercept his rays or obscure his glory."
II. STEPHEN GANO.STEPHEN GANO, the son of John Gano, was born in the city of New York, December 25th, 1762. A regular descendant of the Hugonots, or Protestants of France, he considered it an honor to trace his extraction from a community of Christians, equally distinguished for the ardor of their piety, and the severity and duration of their perils and persecutions.
The father of the subject of this memoir, was one of the earliest friends and patrons of the College in Providence, and his son Stephen was destined to complete his education here, under the care of his uncle, Dr. Manning, who then presided over this rising institution. His early studies were directed to this object; but the troubles of the war coming on, and other intervening causes, hindered him from going through with the full course of his classical pursuits. After this diversion, his attention was directed to the medical profession, under the tuition of Dr. Stiles, an eminent physician of New Jersey, his maternal uncle; but from this pursuit, while yet a mere youth, he went off to encounter the perils of the war of the revolution, as surgeon's mate on board a private armed vessel on the West india [sic] station.
Young, Stephen, in early life, although born and nurtured in the lap of piety, and surrounded with every facility for the formation of religious character, yet he, like many other youth in similar circumstances, was very volatile and gay; and it was not until he had been become the head of a family, and had been a number of years a regular practising [sic] physician in his native State, that he became the subject of that radical, saving change of heart, for which, ever after, he stood forth as the bold and uncompromising advocate and defender.
Soon after this important event, his ministerial labors commenced, with an ardor and devotion becoming his new and sacred vocation.
After becoming a minister of the gospel, he never practised [sic] medicine as a regular calling; but in his parochial rounds among the poor of his flock, and for his intimate friends, he occasionally prescribed and officiated as a matter of mere gratuity, much to their comfort and satisfaction.
A few of the first years of the ministry of Dr. Gano were spent in Hudson, Hillsdale, and the adjoining places in his native State, with increasing reputation and success; but in 1792, the first Baptist church in Providence, R. I., being then destitute of a pastor, invited him, first as a candidate, and in due time gave him a very united call to settle among them; and from this period a new and extensive field of labor was opened before him, which for about thirty-six years he continued to occupy, with an ardor and efficiency, with a popularity and success, which the history of but few pastors of churches will display.
His church stood foremost in age among the American Baptists, and for most of his ministry, very few of the Baptist churches of the country surpassed it in number, or in the amount of the population which gathered around the establishment. During the thirty-six years of his pastorship, he was blessed with nine of those auspicious seasons which we denominate revivals of religion, in each of which the number of the church was enlarged, and the pulse of piety greatly strengthened. The first of these was in 1793, and the last in 1820, when the number of the church amounted to six hundred and forty-eight, of whom one hundred and forty-seven were baptize that year.
The destitution of preachers which followed the revolutionary wars was very great, and the demand for the preaching of the gospel in this neighborhood and commonwealth was quite urgent. To this exigency Dr. Gano was admirably fitted. Having an athletic frame, great muscular energy, strength of voice, and much interested in making excursions of a missionary character, he had reason to believe that many seals of his ministry were scattered over a wide extent of the country, and doubtless many such will appear at last as stars in his crown of rejoicing.
With those qualities which rendered Dr. Gano's preaching so acceptable to the great mass of the people, who indeed "heard him gladly," there was combined a sound practical judgment, a power of discriminating character, and a steady self-command, which rendered him weighty in counsel, and a most useful member of various ecclesiastical bodies. For nineteen years in succession, he presided at the meetings of the Warren Association, whose members felt, when they first met without him that a strange and melancholy chasm had been made among them, and that they had lost the aid of a beloved and venerable father. The impression of his character upon the younger ministry around him, was indeed a most happy one; for they saw in him the rare combination of a strict integrity in maintaining his own opinions with great enlargedness towards those who differed from him. He was always courteous without compromising truth, and zealous without bigotry. Of the liberality which arises from indifference to religious sentiment, he knew nothing; of that which springs from Christian love, which embraces in spiritual fellowship "all who held the Head, even Christ," he possessed an ample measure. Dignified without affectation, and manly without sternness, his meekness most distinguished him, and his "gentleness made him great."
The manner of Dr. Gano's death was quite a contrast to that of his uncle and predecessor, Dr. Manning. Both were ripe for heaven, but the latter was called suddenly there, while the former was led slowly through the dark valley. The fatal sickness of the latter was passed in a state of insensibility; the former lingered many days in exquisite pain. The latter could say but little of the state of his mind, or of the prospects before him; the former could proclaim the high praises of God amidst protracted agonies. His disease was described by his physician, Dr. Levi Wheaton, as a dropsy of the chest, and by a post mortem examination his lungs were found inundated and compressed to an extraordinary degree. For nearly seven months, from January 26th to August 18th, it made painful progress. The following note occurs in his memoranda, under the date of January 27th -- "Had a severe attack of my breast complaint last night, after I had retired; was obliged to bleed myself copiously, and obtained relief. Oh blessed God! give me an habitual preparation to meet the pale messenger, whenever he comes."
During three successive months, he preached occasionally. His last sermon was delivered on the 27th of April, from Romans 5:4, on the subject of Christian experience. Twice after that day he was permitted to attend the sanctuary, and then for three months more, to use his own language, wearisome days and nights were appointed to him. "But I bless God," said he, "I feel perfectly willing to have it just as it is. I have resigned myself into his hands, knowing he will not inflict one pain too much." His extraordinary fortitude seemed to spring directly form his faith in God, which was at all times equal to the emergency. I remember well the emphasis with which a friend who visited him in his sickness, and had just come from his bed-side, expressed the sentiment, that he had never seen such a lamb-like, unmurmuring sufferer, amidst pains so exquisite.
During this period, his mind was sustained by mediations of an elevated and cheering character, and he found some hours for reading a few favorite books, such as Fuller's Life of Pearce, and Jay's Lectures. "This," said he, "is the kind of reading, which my soul loves." No book suited him then, which did not tend to guide his mind to the cross of Christ. When visited by one of his aged friends, Deacon Joseph Martin, as officer of the church, he said with much emphasis, amidst great weakness, "I am glad to have an opportunity to express to you that the doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ is my support; it is the rock on which my soul rests in the last hour." "Ah, Doctor," was the reply, "you still hold to that?" "That doctrine holds me," said he, "or I should sink."
On the afternoon of Sunday, the 17th of August, his mind was filled with unusual joy and transport. Heaven broke upon his sight. "Not a cloud," he said, "but all clear sunshine. I have been trying to find a dark spot, but all is bright. I feel filled with God and Christ."
"Oh if my Lord would come and meet, My soul would stretch her wings in haste. Fly fearless through death's iron gate, Nor feel the terrors as she passed."
His desire was realized on the following afternoon, Monday, August 18th, 1828, when he expired in peace, aged nearly sixty-six.
In attempting a comparison between these two honored individuals, we are struck with many points of similarity, and some of contrast. They were both the children of pious parents; both yielded for a time to the waywardness of depraved hearts; both were reclaimed at nearly the same age, and devoted themselves with unsparing self-sacrifice and fidelity to the duties of the gospel ministry. Both were highly, and perhaps equally endowed with natural gifts; and a favoring providence placed them both in conspicuous positions for the culture and manifestation of their powers. Both had ample time to ripen into full maturity, and to leave the deep impress of their influence on their contemporaries and successors. With these traits and circumstances in common, there were others evincing marked dissimilarity. In the structure and habitude of mind, the father evinced the more sprightliness and versatility -- the son more equableness and gravity. From the former, you would expect more frequent sallies of wit and ready repartee; from the latter, the matured counsels of wisdom. You would naturally betake yourself to the one when you felt or desired to witness the gay and lively mood; but you would instinctively turn to the other when difficulties perplexed your path, or sorrow sat heavy on your heart. These peculiar and varied features marked their piety, their sociability, their benevolence. It was seen in their public services, and in their private intercourse. If it gave to the one a more sparkling fascination, it left for the other a milder and more constant lustre; and we love to close our contemplation of them with the thought that both are praising God and the Lamb with equal ardor; and that their example shows how possible it is to lay under contribution the diversified capabilities of our nature, for securing results equally important.
[From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, January 1843, pages 14-19. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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