We are called, in the afflictive dispensations of the providence of God, to record the death of Elder Samuel Nelson, of Middleborough, Mass. Worn out with labours and years, he calmly resigned his breath, and fell asleep in Jesus, on the morning of the 9th of Sept, in the 78th year of his age.
As "the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance," we feel it our duty to mention some of the most memorable and interesting features in the character of this pious and devoted servant of God.
He was born in Middleboro', April 6th, O. S. 1748, and was grandson to Mr. Thomas Nelson, whose exertions for the promotion of truth are so respectfully noticed by Backus and Benedict in their histories.
A great and glorious work of the Lord spread through Middleborough and vicinity in 1780, and Mr. Nelson and his wife were made the subjects of the work. They were both brought to taste the joys of pardoned sin, and to rejoice in the Lord within an hour of each other, on the 9th of June. They shortly after made a public profession of their faith in Christ, and were added to the second Baptist Church in said town. Mr. Nelson soon began to exercise his gifts by speaking in conferences and other religious meetings, much to the satisfaction of the hearers. It does not appear at what time he was licensed by the church; but about two years after, we find him preaching statedly a part of the time to a little society in Raynham. These with some other
occasional labours in the ministry continued to employ a part of his Sabbaths till May, 1793, when the third Baptist church, being destitute by the death of their much esteemed and useful pastor, Elder Asa Hunt, applied to him to preach with them. He removed the same month with his family to dwell among that people, with whom God had designed he should spend his days. His labours were immediately owned of God, and blessed to the awakening of many souls. More than thirty were, within a few months, baptised and added to the church. In September they presented him their unanimous request to receive ordination and become their pastor. His diffidence and humble opinion of himself, prevented his signifying his acceptance of their call till the 2d of January following; and on the 16th of the same month, he was solemnly ordained to the pastoral office. He passed the remainder of his life in the service, and enjoying the affections of his people. It has probably fallen to the lot of few men, in his calling, to pass through life so free from the ill will of every one, as Elder Nelson has. This was not because he flattered his hearers with "smooth things," and a cry of "peace, peace," to the wicked; but because such was bis meekness, gentleness and evident concern for their welfare, that, how much soever they might dislike the truth which condemned them, they could not be offended with him. Scepticks and infidels, who charged hypocrisy to the generality of professors, though they might pretend to pity his delusion, would admit his sincerity. His glowing piety, added to his native simplicity, gentleness, affability of manners, and affectionate deportment, secured to him, in a remarkable degree, the good will and attachment of all that knew him.
As he felt his health and strength declining, which had been greatly impaired by an accidental injury which he received in February, 1816, and which almost cost him his life, he began, four or five years ago, to urge his people to obtain an assistant; which, however, they never did till last year. He continued to supply them, with some temporary assistance, till last December, when their present pastor commenced his labours statedly with them. Dec. 23d, 1821, was the last time he attempted to ascend the pulpit stairs, though he generally attended meeting, when the weather was agreeable through the winter, and (in the deacons' seat) would take a part in the exercises. But he gradually lost the use of his limbs, and was soon unable to walk. His bodily strength continued to decline, and for three or four months before his decease, he was nearly as helpless as an infant. He still enjoyed his mental faculties in their full vigour, and evinced the anxiety of his mind for the good of souls, as often as opportunity presented, by giving warm and pathetic exhortations to the people. The last time he attended worship in the Meetinghouse, was on the 15th of June; but he continued frequently to have meetings at his own house, as long as he lived, and generally took a part in the exercises. On the Friday evening before his death, after a sermon delivered by his brother, who was then on a visit to him, he added a most feeling exhortation. He, on that occasion, as on some others, stated to the people, that it probably was the last time he should ever address them. Indeed, he might with great propriety
use the language of the Apostle: "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," &c. He had appeared for some time like one standing in the portal of heaven, beholding both the glory of God and the degeneracy of man; feeling both the joys of heaven and the miseries of earth; associating both with the angels of God and the children of men; with one hand raised toward heaven, and with the other endeavouring to reach some part of a sinking world.
The next evening about 8 o'clock, he was seized with spasms, and other symptoms of approaching dissolution; after which he languished in a kind of torpor about 36 hours, when without a struggle or a groan he fell asleep in Jesus.
This was the day before the Warren Association convened at New Bedford. The Thursday following, his funeral solemnities were attended. Dr. Gano of Providence, preached on the occasion, from Psalm cxii. 6. "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." It was peculiarly gratifying, that his funeral was at a time when so many of his brethren in the ministry could attend, and pay their last tribute of respect to this venerable father in Israel.
Mr. Nelson had been twice married, and had survived the decease of his last wife twelve years. By his first wife, with whom be lived fifteen years, he had eight children; three of whom survive him: by his last, with whom he lived twenty-one years, he had two, who are both living.
In the near prospect of death, which had, for weeks, been apparently at the door, he manifested not the slightest degree of fear; but could converse upon the subject with as little anxiety as upon going to sleep.
He has gone to rest, and has left us the legacy of his instruction and example. He has ascended, and his mantle has fallen, among us. And while his successor in the ministry, his bereaved children, and mourning church and congregation, have each one reason to exclaim, "My father! my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" may some young Elisha gather up his mantle of fervent charity, and possessing a double portion of his spirit, do wonders in the name of the Lord, in the sight of the people.
[From The American Baptist Magazine, and Missionary Intelligencer, January 1823, pp. 8-10. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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