At the age of 29, this young Boone County preacher was killed in a riverboat explosion on the Ohio River near Carrollton, KY. D. R. Campbell was a professor at Western Baptist Institute when P. C. Scott was a student there.
Perriander C. Scott (P. C.)
A Young Boone County (KY) Minister
A Funeral Discourse*
By D. R. Campbell, LL. D.
"Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke." - Ezekiel xxiv. 16.
Of Ezekiel's personal history but little is known. All that is known of him is gathered mainly from his own writings. Unlike Jeremiah, however, he seems to have dealt but little in personal matters, and always in subordination to his prophetic work. We first find him by the river Chebar, in Mesopotamia. By that river Nebuchadnezzar planted a colony of captive Jews, whom he had taken from Jerusalem in the reign of Jehoachim. 2 Kings xxv. 15. Of those captives our prophet was one. He appears to have belonged to the priesthood in his native land; and judging from the contents of his prophecies, was minutely acquainted with the temple service. He was called to the prophetic office in the third year of his captivity, and was favored on the distant banks of the Chebar with the sublime and somewhat mysterious visions which constituted his valuable books. chap. i. 1-3.
Besides the few items of a personal nature incidentally narrated in the opening verses of his work, the only other personal incident recorded by him is contained in my text, and its immediate context where, in the direct train of his prophetic duty, he briefly, but touchingly, informs us of the death of his wife, in a manner the most sudden, and for an end the most extraordinary. To deepen the impression of the sense of his loss, Jehovah describes her as "the desire" of the prophet's "eyes."
Ezekiel had for some time been the divinely appointed prophet of his People "the house of Israel." He had delivered several successive mesages to them; they had, however, been slow to learn and he was now about to deliver his last, and he had to do it with effect. For this purpose he was himself made a type of their future experience. Jerusalem and its temple were their national pride and glory - "the excellency of their strength" and "the desire of their eyes." These Jehovah had
* Preached at Carrollton, Ky., May 15th, 1852, by D. R. Campbell, on occasion of the death of Rev. P. C. Scott, by the explosion of the steamer Redstone, April 3d, 1852.
determined to destroy by a visitation of his power and indignation. Their overthrow was to be complete and their affliction intense. Under it all they were neither to deserve nor enjoy any commiseration. They were to be allowed "to pine away in their iniquities, and mourn one toward another." v. 23. All this had to be foretold to them; and the prophet was the man to do it. The lesson could not be gathered from mere words, This had already been sufficiently ascertained. To meet the case the prophet had to become a type. He must pass through a scene of personal affliction, the nature and circumstance of which would strikingly represent what they, as a nation, had to expect. They were to lose "the desire of their eyes," in the destruction of their city and temple. And he was required to lose "the desire of his eyes" in the death of his wife, Their overthrow was to be sudden and striking; to foreshadow this, his wife had to be "taken away with a stroke." They to be desolate and uncommiserated, without any facilities for the exhibition of the usual tokens of distress; that they might foreknow this, he was imperatively enjoined to refrain from all outward appearances of mourning. He must neither "mourn," nor "weep," nor "cry," nor put on any of the usual badges of sorrow. He wore his usual attire, ate his own bread, covered not his lips, and went on with his prophetic duties. His attitude was an elevated, but trying one. How strong must have been the mind that could have withheld the forbidden tear under such a trial! Doubtless God strengthened him, and, therefore, he could say, "at even my wise died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded."
It has appeared to me that the affliction of Ezekiel, as exhibited in the text and its context, has some points of striking coincidence with the sad event which we have more immediately under consideration. I could think of no other passage in the word of God so appropriately adapted to suggest the appropriate train of remarks in a discourse for this sad occasion. Our brother was the desire of many eyes; he has been taken away from us "with a stroke." Our instruction, emphatic and lastingly impressive, was doubtlessly the end.
1. The passage suggests first, the characteristic excellencies of out brother - "the desire of thine eyes." In illustrating this subject, I will first specify some of the leading traits of his Christian character. His first religious impressions reached back as far as his memory could recall the past. From his boyhood he was a most attentive listener whenever the word of God was either read or preached in his hearing. His diary shows, however, that he regarded his religious life to have actually commenced in the year 1842.
In the month of August of that year he gave a relation of the evidence of a change of heart, before the Middle Creek Baptist Church, in Boone County; and on the last day of the same month he was immersed by Elder Robert Kirtley. He was licensed to preach on the 18th of March, 1843; and on the 30th of July following he delivered his first regular sermon. His piety was, from the first, manifest and full of promise. It was real, open, and operative, but not obtrusive. It was spiritual, earnest, aggressive, but without extravagance. His reason and judgment were wholly under the control of the cross. It was by these that its sympathies reached his heart. His religion was, therefore, a thing of principle - not a thing of impulse. Christ was his life, and his glory his aim. His religious frames were never spasmodic, though he could, and often did, rise to a stature in Christ above his usual level. Uniformity, steadfastness, was a marked characteristic of his character.
His was a religion that bore fruit. It was no mere sentiment - a thing of mere feeling and fancies. Nor did it wait for those more prominent and attractive positions in life, where human applause rewards their production. I first formed my opinion of him in the sick chambers of aged members of my church, while he was a student at Georgetown. His visits in those obscure chambers were as regular and as much relied on as my own. By those infirm disciples he was loved and honored for his work's sake. Ere this, doubtless, their sainted spirits have mutually greeted in heaven.
The regular prayer meetings of the church was another place where I could always rely upon him. However pressed with study, he made it a rule to be always there. It seemed to have been a fountain at which he must drink regularly. Nor was he even a mere nominal attendant, or a mere listener. No mere habit brought him there. He came to pray, to receive and to impart spiritual good. His presence and influence were duly appreciated. He always prayed like a man accustomed to address God through the merits of Christ. There could be no doubt of the unfeigned reality and practical worth of his piety.
The Sabbath school was another of the spheres of his activity, He had, throughout his religious life, been connected with this species of Christian labor. At the time of his death he was superintendent of a flourishing school in Covington, gathered chiefly by his own exertions. He had a peculiar talent for the management of a Sabbath School. His christian consistency, energy, and bearing enabled him to command the services of the best of teachers, and to impart confidence and enthusiasm
to all connected with the enterprise. He was popular and successful. He never faltered. He was "the desire of all eyes."
Nor was his ministry, though short, and much interrupted, devoid of interest and success. Few men have gained so much as he on the public confidence, in so short a time. It must not be forgotten that he had not graduated. He was but a student when he was taken, he therefore had the disadvantage of having to preach always as a mere student. He felt as such, and was looked upon as such. In his pulpit performances he never had the benefit of feeling, and as being regarded as an independent, unembarrassed, matured man. This disadvantage is inseparable from a student's position. Notwithstanding all this, he had succeeded in making an impression which placed him in the first rank among young men. His fame reached the first churches in this valley, and some of the best of them had fixed their minds intently upon him. The matter of his preaching was solid, instructive, and inspiring. He was entirely free from rant. His manner was dignified, his style chaste, and the whole effect pleasing and moving. He was instrumental in the conversion of not a few, and baptized about thirty, the last of whom was at this place. The greater part of his ministerial labor was bestowed on the church at Burlington, in Boone county; and no people could have been more attached to a pastor than they were to him.
In further illustrating his personal excellencies, I will next specify some of his social traits. Love was a marked quality of his nature. He was pre-eminently affectionate. Much of this may be ascribed to the fact, that he was an only son, and an only brother. A fond mother and doating sisters made him their idol, and moulded his nature: they were his confidants and his counsellors in all his affairs. Out of this grew his fondness for home. It was the centre of his earthly affections; his retreat in sickness; his repose in weariness. The generous influence of woman, at home, rendered his nature generous and confiding when abroad. His friendships were always without suspicion, but he was sensitive under injuries done to reposed confidence; and while he never cherished malice, or motives of revenge, he could feel, and withdraw from all involving intercourse in future. It was seldom, however, that he had any cause for such a course. His own magnanimity and candor were such as to secure for him, in an unusual degree, an exemption from all such treatment. He never participated in the frivolities and half questional of young men's occasional sports; yet he was always sportive, agreeable, and companionable. His deportment was so dignified, discreet, and affable, that old and young, of his acquaintance, highly
esteemed him. Even men of no religious pretension esteemed him, for he assumed no airs, exhibited no cant; was open, generous, and manly, having favor with all.
His intellectual character falls to be next considered. And here the most striking feature was symmetry. It can more properly be said of him, that he was capable of reaching a highly respectable position in any department of mental labor, than that he could ever become pre-eminent in any particular branch. His mind was not constructed for special abstruse speculations. It was fitted rather for solid attainments, and highly practical aims. All the important elements of mind were in him far above mediocrity. To a high order of capacity he added the grand desideratim of severe application. I have never known him to appear in his place in the recitation room unprepared, and his preparation was always thorough. He led, with ease, his class through college, and graduated with the first honors. Had he been spared till next June, he would have taken the highest distinction in the Theological Institute [Western Baptist Theological Institute, Covington, Kentucky] also. He had talent, ambition, and perseverance to have made him one of the first, and most useful men of his age.
It only remains, under this branch of the subject, to notice briefly, the expectations entertained of him by those who best knew his worth. The abilities and character just ascribed to him, show that he was by no means competent for only one sphere. He was plainly a man for rather any sphere in the service of his Lord - a man who would honor and elevate any position he might be called to occupy. This being the case, it is not to be wondered at, that his friends and advisers urged him to the occupancy of positions as varied as their own several convictions of what was most important. The claims of the pulpit in his native land, the claims of the missionary work in heathen lands, and the claims of a literary life within the walls of a college, were all before him at the moment of his untimely end. That these several important claims should give him much mental anxiety in determining their relative strength and importance, is what might be expected. I knew his perplexity, it amounted to a conflict. It is tolerably certain, however, that for a time, at least, he would have consented to a literary life within the walls of his Alma Mater. Could he have gratified his own latest expressed preferences, however, I believe he would have preferred to qualify himself for a chair of Biblical Literature and Interpretation. His tastes were rapidly forming for the peculiar duties of such a chair. While it is not our province to say what would have been his ultimate actual position, had he lived; it is evident that no ordinary expectations were entertained of
him. He was looked to as one of the brightest hopes of our churches. All eyes were upon him, and his sudden and melancholy removal is regarded a great - an almost overwhelming loss. The desire of many eyes has been taken away "with a stroke." How sudden, terrific, and desolating that stroke has been.
2d. The passage suggests, in the second place, some reflections on the nature and design of so striking a providence. Ezekiel was God's own devoted and faithful servant. There is no intimation that the sudden removal of his beloved was owing to any sin on his or her part, or on the part of any of his domestic circle. The conjugal relation seems to have been of the most affectionate character. The wife, in the words of God himself, was "the desire" of her husband's eyes. There is nothing in the text or in the context, to show that the sore visitation was on account of anything personal in that family circle. The design was evidently to make a public, general impression. It was for purposes of national instruction. The impression had to be made on the "house of Israel," that "the Lord was God" - an impression which seems to have been measurably lost. Lesson upon lesson upon this subject had been laid before them, seemingly to little purpose. The prophet was now about to deliver his last message to them; and it pleased God that it should be done by means, in a manner and amid circumstances the most strikingly impressive. To secure effect, the prophet himself had need to realize the solemnity and intense earnestness of God’s purpose, with respect to the overthrow of the nation. Their city and temple, their national glory, "the desire of their eyes," were to be demolished and polluted by the enemy. This was equivalent to their national overthrow. The afflictions of the survivors was to extreme. They were to have no commiseration. All this had to be impressivaly foreshadowed, and our prophet was appointed a type for this purpose. Therefore, the desire of his own eyes, that which he held most dear on earth, had to be taken away - taken away, too, "with a stroke." And deep as was his affliction, he was forbidden to “mourn,” or “weep,” or “cry,” or to put on any badge of sorrow. He was required to wear his usual attire, eat his own bread, and to go about his usual employment as if nothing had happened out of the usual course of things. This part of his conduct, so different from the usual custom of the nation, or even the natural course of humanity, was particularly designed to arrest their attention. v. 19. It was to forshadow their future unnatural and uncommiserated state, and to read them a solemn and instructive warning. This instructive design of God's dealing with himself in this extraordinary manner, the prophet clearly understood
and appreciated. Hence he not only does not murmur, but when they asked him, "Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?" v. 19. He replied: "Ye shall do as I have done." That is, when their doom should overtake them, they should learn that it is from the hand of God, and submit.
Ezekiel rightly recognized the sovereignty of God in his deep affliction. It was the only solution of the sore trial. His humanity might suggest objections to the precise form of the visitation; and had he given room to its suggestion, he doubtless might have become rebellious and miserable. His confidence in God - his faith in the divine integrity, rose far above all such misleading suggestions, and he "did as he was commanded." He realized that God had a right to use him and all his, for what, and in what manner he might choose. He felt, too, that God himself was the only competent judge as to what was best in all matters pertaining to his own glory. He knew that he could not err - that his ways are perfect, and that it was the highest exercise of the human reason always to trust him and obey him.
These remarks may prepare us for appreciating the providence, which has so suddenly and intensely bereaved the family and friends of the deceased, as well as the denomination to which he belonged. Viewed merely in themselves, the sad event and its distressing circumstances are mysterious, inexplicable, overwhelming. But a moment, and so many bright hopes were blasted, so many expectations disappointed, so many plans defeated. What can it mean? Is it the intelligent and all-wise God, or blind inexorable fate? Faith recognizes the presence and the wisdom of God in it, and silences all cavils, or murmuring inquiries. Jehovah said to the “house of Israel” through our prophet, "When this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord God." v. 24. The same language is doubtless intended to reach our ears through this terrible providence. As a people we have to learn more distinctly and with more practical effect, that "the Lord is God." This is not the first impressive lesson God has read us; but we have been slow to learn. What has God meant by the removal of our Millikins, our Lewises, our Lillards and our Smiths - the stroke falling heavier and heavier at each successive blow? Have our churches learned to appreciate an able living ministry? Have such been raised up and sanctified under their intelligent, fervent prayers? Have they looked to them as gifts from God? and through them more distinctly recognized the presence and the grace of God? Is it not a fact that for years past, but few young men have entered the ministry, and that at present the greatest destitution prevails? To what is this to
to be attributed? Plainly to the negligence and worldliness of the churches. Where are the churches that diligently "looked out" for young men of piety and promise, among their membership, and who impress and encourage them amid "fasting and prayer," with respect to the claims of the work of the ministry? Among our churches it is too plain, that an able, devoted, abundant ministry, wholly given to their work, is at present but matter of very secondary consideration. Here and there, in spite of the existing apathy, one has sprung up; and though he has cost the churches generally neither thought nor prayer, nor efforts of encouragement or sympathy, all eyes have been selfishly turned towards him, when he has issued from the schools, regarding him less as a man of God raised up under the influence of their prayers and sympathies, than as a man of talent, suitable for their peculiar purposes. The churches now look for ministers much as political parties look for leaders. They have little or no practical concern in raising up the right sort of men. They scarcely feel that they have anything to do with the matter. The furnishing of young men, their training, their spirituality they regard as removed from them, and no part of their business. Is not God saying plainly by his striking successive providences, that our churches shall not have a competent ministry while this state of things lasts? Were he to permit these noble young men, who occasionally appear, to continue and to fill our churches and prominent places, while the churches have abandoned the duty of raising such up, for the special work of the Lord, a few years would show us, as a people, to be among the most formal religionists in the land. By providences “terrible in righteousness,” he is teaching the churches that it is their especial work to “look out among them continually” for such as he may impress for his own work, and by the example of their own unreserved consecration, the influence of their instruction, of their prayers, and other means of encouragement, bring them “on their way.” This is the present prevailing want of our Israel. The neglect of this duty has become our prevailing sin, and God is chastising us. Heretofore he has been treating with us gently, though flrmly and instructively; but he has come this time with a stroke. He will not permit himself to continue always unheeded; verily, he will be heard, and have his admonitions felt. He has struck, and Zion is bleeding at every pour. She has felt. May she but change and act. May she truly learn that “God is the Lord.” If there is to be no change soon for the better, she will arrive at a condition in which she must “pine away in her iniquity.” It is to be hoped that the corrective process has already been sufficient, and that a new state of things will speedily appear.
I will conclude with a few practical inferences.
First. Jehovah in his providential course, as in everything else, consults the good of the whole. To this he makes the good of the individual subordinate. According to this arrangement the temporal wishes and plans, and preferences of the individual are often sacrificed to the good of the whole.
Ezekiel was sorely afflicted for the good of his nation - that they might be impressively instructed. The family of our deceased brother, as well as some special interests of a denominative character, have been subordinated to the instruction of our people as a body. There is a present trial and serious loss; but a greater good is contemplated by his removal than could have been accomplished by his continuance.
Again, God never acts but from the highest reason. His providences may often be so mysterious as to be, to us, in our present state, inexplicable. But we should not thence question their reasonableness or justice. Our duty is to call into exercise strong faith. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." What we know not now we shall know hereafter.
Further, God is a sovereign. He has a perfect right to use us for any of his moral purposes, and he alone is competent to determine the time, manner, and circumstances in which he will use us. When it is clear that “it is the Lord,” all our objections should cease. "Thy will be done."
Still further, dispensations such as this should be regarded as having a general design. Terrible though they be, there is intelligence, wisdom, and instruction in them. If heeded, there is mercy in them, and great practical good will result from them to many. The righteous and the wicked may gather much from them, that may save them from much future evil.
Finally, it is a consolation to think, that the deceased was eminently prepared for heaven. His death was designed to be gain to the cause of Christ on earth; but it was also, no doubt, immediate and great gain to his own spirit. It is probable that he scarcely tasted death, so sudden and immediate was the "stroke." He shall die no more. While his relations and friends are here grief-stricken, he is in glory, bright and shining. Happy he, far removed from sin and sorrow! Thrice happy in the society of Jesus and the just made perfect. We shall meet him again.
[Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, Vol. 3, 1854, pp. 23-31; via Internet Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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