BY REV. W. S. SWANSON, D.D.
[Dr. Swanson was for twenty years a valued member of the English Presbyterian Mission at Amoy, and subsequently Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of England until his death, November 24, 1893]
My first meeting with Dr. Talmage took place in the early days of July, 1860, and from that day till the day of his death he was regarded as not only one of the best and most valued friends, but I looked up to him as a father beloved and respected.
One cannot help recalling now the impressions of those early days. There was a marked individuality about this man that made you regard him whether you would or not. You felt that he was a man bound to lead and to take the foremost place amongst his brethren and all with whom he came in touch. There was a firmness of tread, and the brave courage of conviction, united with a womanly tenderness, that were unmistakable.
You saw he had made up his mind before he spoke, and that when he did speak he spoke with a fullness of knowledge that few men possessed. He was every inch of him a man.
And what touched us very much, who were young men, was the tender forbearance with which he always treated us. We saw this more clearly as the years passed on, and learned how much, perhaps, he had to bear from some of us whose assertiveness in some matters was in the inverse ratio of our knowledge. The reference here is to matters and methods regarding our work as missionaries to the Chinese. He bore with us, and knew well the day would come when, with increasing knowledge, there would come increasing hesitation in pronouncing too hastily on the problems we had to face; and he knew well that day would come if there was anything in us at all.
In my own study of the Chinese language he and another who also has gone to the "better land" -- the Rev. Dr. Douglas -- assisted in every possible way; and to both in this line am I indebted for what was the most important furnishing in the first instance for every missionary to China. I can well remember the plane upon which Dr. Talmage placed this study of the language.
It was our work for Christ, at this stage a far more important one than any other. He encouraged us to use whatever vocables we had got, no matter whether we were met with the wondering smile of the Chinaman in his vain endeavor to understand us, or to keep from misunderstanding us.
"Use whatever you have got, be glad when you are corrected, but use your words." To some of us the advice was invaluable.
And in other ways the same spirit was manifest. He did all he could to get us to attend every Christian gathering, to sit and listen to the business of the Sessions, and to show the Chinese as soon as possible that we were one with them, and he succeeded. There was an enthusiasm and warmth distinguishing these early days of the Amoy church that were formative in a very high degree, and that are now a precious memory.
Then Dr. Talmage was a scholar, with a very wide range of scholarship. We looked up to him and we respected him, with an esteem few men have ever won. And in conjunction with his scholarly furnishing there was an absorbing, consuming zeal for Christ and His kingdom, and an intense love for the Chinese people. If he had not this latter, he could not have been the unmistakably influential and successful missionary he was. These, coupled with a Christian walk and devotion, formed the furnishing of this man of God.
He was also a true gentleman, a Christian gentleman in every sense of the word. The best proof of this was that we loved him, and if the foreign ladies in Amoy who knew him were asked what they thought of him -- many of them have gone to rest -- they would hardly get words to tell out all their respect and love for him. His visits in our houses were most welcome, and when he spent an evening with us there was always sunshine where he was. He was essentially a happy man, and nothing pleased him more than to see all happy around him.
There is still one point to which reference must here be made. Missionaries were not the only foreign residents in Amoy. There was also a considerable number of American and European merchants. Unfortunately the missionaries and the merchants did not always see eye to eye. Dr. Talmage was a favorite with every one of them. They esteemed him, they would have done anything to serve him; and at no cost of principle or testimony he won this place with them.
And to those who know the conditions of life in China, it will be at once understood what a man he must have been to win such a position.
It may not be generally known that in Amoy we have a "Union English Church," with regular Sabbath services in English. These services were conducted by the missionaries in turn. And we fear it may also not be known what Dr Talmage's powers as a preacher were. He was a very prince among English preachers; and if he had remained in America this would very soon have been acknowledged. There were no tricks or devices of manner or words employed by him for winning the popular ear. He never seemed to forget the solemnity and responsibility of his position in the pulpit. He hesitated not "to declare the whole counsel of God." He stands before me now as I listen with bated breath to the fire of his eloquence, denouncing where denunciation was needed, contending with a burning earnestness that never failed to carry us with him, for "the faith once delivered to the saints," and then with exquisite tenderness seeking to draw his hearers to Him who is Saviour and Brother. He never failed to think and speak as much about temptation as about sin. It was a real feast to attend the English service when it was conducted by him. And during all my time in Amoy, there was always a large congregation when Dr. Talmage was the preacher.
He was not all tenderness. He would only have been a one-sided man if this were all. He was as strong as he was tender; a keen and powerful opponent in discussion. And we often had very warm and keen discussions; keener and warmer than I had ever seen before I went to Amoy, or have ever seen since. We had to discuss principles and methods of translation, hymnology, Church work, Church discipline, and many other subjects. And there was no mincing of matters at these discussions. Foremost amongst us was Dr. Talmage, tenaciously and persistently advocating the view he happened to have taken on any question. There were men of very strong individuality among us, and these gave as good as they got. I can recall these scenes, but I cannot recall a single word he said that involved a personal wound or left a barb. When it was all over he was the same loving brother, and not an atom of bitterness was left behind. By us, the brethren of the English Presbyterian Mission, he was looked up to as a revered father, just as much as he was by the brethren of his own Mission. This will be seen more fully further on, and a simple statement of the fact is all that is necessary here.
There is another and most sacred relation -- his position as the head of a family, -- the veil of which it seems almost sacrilege to uplift. But it must be said, and it is only a well-known fact, that few happier homes exist than his home was. He was there what he was elsewhere, the man of God.
Dr. Talmage was not perfect. He was essentially a humble man, and he would be the first to tell us that of every sinner saved by grace, he was the most unworthy. And when he said it, he felt it. And he had not the very most distant idea how great a man he was. Sometimes one fears that this very modesty pushed to an extreme prevented others who did not know his life and his work from accurately gauging his real work. Better perhaps, he would say, that it should be so; better to think of the work than of the workers. To hold up Christ and to be hidden behind Him is the highest privilege of those engaged in the service of this King. And this, his uniform bearing, made him all the greater.
DR. TALMAGE-THE MISSIONARY.
It would be useless speculation to lay down here what should be the special qualifications of a missionary to the Chinese. The better way is to find them in the concrete, so far as you can do so in an individual, and set Him forth as an example for others. The friend of whom we write would deprecate this, but it is the only way in which we can see him as he was and account for the singularly prominent place he occupied amongst us.
I do not need to say here that he was a man of faith and prayer, earnest and zealous for the spread of Christ's Kingdom; in the face of difficulties and dangers, of disappointments and failures, maintaining an unwavering faith that the Kingdom must come and would yet rule over all.
He had both an intense love for his work and enthusiasm in carrying it on. He came with a definite message to the people to whom the Master had sent him. There was no apologizing for it, no watering it down, no uncertain sound about it with him. Christ and Christ alone can meet the wants and woes of humanity, -- Chinese or American or British. He had no doubt about it whatever; and hereby some of us learned that if we had not this message it would have been far better for us to have stayed at home. And this feature marked him all over his course. You felt as you listened to his pleadings that sin and salvation were terms brimful of meaning to him. He had traveled this road, and all his pleadings seemed to be summed up in the one yearning cry, "Come with us and we will do thee good." "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." And he would have gone to the end, "of whom I am chief."
Then he had a great love for the people. He made himself acquainted with the family and social conditions of the people. He had not come to Americanize but to Christianize the Chinese. And for this he equipped himself. I never saw him so happy as when he was surrounded by them. He was then in his real element, answering their questions, solving their difficulties, opening up to them the Scriptures, and meeting them wherever he thought they needed to be met. And go to his study when you liked, you almost always found some Chinese Christians there. He was the great referee, to whom they carried home difficulties and family trials, assured that his sympathy and advice would never be denied them. This endeared him to them in an extraordinary manner. We never on such occasions found a trace of impatience with him. What would have annoyed others did not seem to annoy him, and the consequence was that the whole church loved him. There was an inexhaustible well of tenderness in the man's nature, and it was sweetened by the grace of God in his heart.
We sometimes thought he erred by excess in this particular. He was unwilling to think anything but good of them, and was thus apt to be influenced too much by designing and astute Chinamen. Often we have heard it said, "Well, if you won't listen to us, Dr. Talmage will." But, looking back to-day over it all, if it was a fault, it was one that leant to virtue's side. He was wonderfully unsuspicious: and so far as his fellow men were concerned, Chinese or Westerns, the mental process which he almost invariably employed was to try to find out what good there was in a man. And now one loves him all the more for such a Christlike spirit.
Dr. Talmage was thoroughly acquainted with the spoken language of Amoy. Few men, if any, had a more extensive knowledge of its vocables. He spoke idiomatically and beautifully as the Chinese themselves spoke, and not as he thought they should speak. There was no slipshod work with him in this particular. Here was the indispensable furnishing and he must get it. And he did get it in no average measure. This was the prime requisite, and through no other avenue could he get really and honestly to work. There is no royal road to the acquisition of the Chinese language. It is only by dint of hard, plodding, and persevering study one can acquire an adequate acquaintance with it.
And till the last he never gave up his study of it. He was not satisfied, and no true missionary ever will be satisfied with such a smattering of knowledge as may enable him to proclaim a few Christian doctrines. Such superficiality was not his aim or end. And when he first acquired Chinese, it was more difficult to do so. There were no aids in the way of dictionaries or vocabularies.
It may be his knowledge of the language was all the more accurate on this account. He got it from the fountain-head, and not through foreign sources. He was thus qualified to take a prominent place in all the varied work of a mission -- in translation, in revision, and in hymnology -- departments as important and as influential for attaining the end in view as any other possible department in the Mission.
As a preacher to the Chinese he was unrivaled. The people hung on his lips and never seemed to lose a word. He was in this respect a model to every one of us younger men.
The ideal of the church in China which he had set before him, the goal he desired to reach, was a native, self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating church. This is now axiomatic.
It was not so in those early days. The men in Amoy then were men for whom we have to thank God -- men ahead of their time, with generous and far-reaching ideas; not working only for their own present, but laying the foundation for a great future. Side by side with him were the brethren of the English Presbyterian Mission, with whom he had the fullest sympathy, and they had the fullest sympathy with him. It is difficult to say who were foremost in pressing the idea of an organized native church. All were equally convinced and strove together for the one great end. After many years of waiting the church grew. Congregations were formed and organized with their own elders and deacons, and in this he took the first steps. He was a born organizer. And then came the next great step, the creation of a Presbytery and the ordination in an orderly manner of native pastors. Some congregations were ready to call and support such pastors, and the men were there, for the careful training of native agents had always been a marked feature of the Amoy Mission. But how was it to be done? Common sense led to only one conclusion. This church must not be an exotic; it must be native, independent of the home churches. And there must be kept in view what was a fact already -- the union between the Missions of the "Reformed Church" and of the "English Presbyterian Church." It must be done, and done in this way, and so it was done.
The Presbytery was created with no native pastor in the first instance, but with native elders and the missionaries of both Missions. Then came a struggle that would have tried the stoutest hearts.
The "Reformed Church" in America declined to recognize this newly-created Presbytery. Dr. Talmage went home and fought the battle and won the day.
To its great honor be it said, the General Synod of the "Reformed Church" rescinded its resolution of the previous year, and allowed their honored brethren, the missionaries, to take their own way. So convinced were the missionaries of the wisdom, yea, the necessity, of the course they had taken, that they were prepared to resign rather than retrace their steps.
But that painful step was not necessary. The Synod of the English Presbyterian Church gave their missionaries a free hand. There is this, however, to be said for the General Synod of the "Reformed Church." It was only love for their agents and deep interest in this Mission that prompted their original action. They feared that by the creation of this native and independent church court, the tie that bound them to the men and the work might be loosened; and when they saw there was no risk of that, they at once acquiesced. But it was Dr. Talmage's irresistible pleadings that won their hearts.
The native church has grown. About twenty native pastors have been ordained, settled, and entirely supported by their own congregations. The Presbytery has grown so large that it has to be divided into two presbyteries; and these, with the Presbytery of Swatow, where brethren of the "English Presbyterian Church" are working, will form the Synod of the native Presbyterian Church in those regions of China.
In connection with all this we must mention another name -- the name of one very dear to Dr. Talmage, and of one to whom he was very dear. They were one in heart and soul about this. We refer to the Rev. Dr. Douglas, of the English Presbyterian Mission. They stood side by side during all their work in Amoy.
Dr. Talmage was by a good many years the predecessor in the field. They were both great men, men of very different temperament, and yet united. Not on this point, but on many another, they failed to see eye to eye, but they were always united in heart and aim. True and lasting union can only exist where free play is given to distinct individualities.
And so it has always been with this union, the first, I believe, between Presbyterian Churches in any mission field. And when the history of the Amoy Mission comes to be written, these two men will have a leading place in it; for to them more than to any others do we owe almost all that is distinctive there in union and in methods of work.
And when our beloved father Talmage passed from earth to heaven, what thankfulness must have filled his heart. In the night of his first years in China there were labor and toil, but there was no fruit for him. The dawn came and the first converts of his own Mission were gathered in. When he went to rest, there was a native church; there were native pastors; orderly church courts; a well equipped theological college, the common property of the two Missions; successful medical missionary work, woman's work in all its branches, and a native church covering a more extensive region than he had in the early days dreamt of. And there was another honored Mission in Amoy -- that of the London Missionary Society, whose operations have been followed by abundant and singular success. To this Mission he was warmly attached; and he never, so far as we can remember, ceased to show the deepest interest in its work, and the heartiest rejoicing at its success.
And now he has gone, the last, we may say, of the men who began the work of the Presbyterian Mission of Christ in China; but ere he passed away, he knew that men of God were still there with the old enthusiasm and the old appetite for solid and substantial work.
We cannot part with him now without one fond and lingering look behind. Burns, Sandeman, Doty, Douglas, and Talmage; what a galaxy these early pioneers in Amoy were. Few churches have had such gifts from God, few fields more devoted, whole-hearted missionaries. It was a privilege to know them, to work with them, to learn at their feet, unworthy though some of us may be as their successors.
May the Lord of the Harvest rouse His own Church by their memories to greater energy and self denial in the spread of His Kingdom.
Their memories will never die in China. Those who have lately visited Amoy tell us that they who knew them among the Chinese Christians speak lovingly and fondly of those early heroes. And they will tell their children what they were and what they did, and so generation after generation will hear the story, and find how true it is that workers die, but their work never dies. "Their works do follow them."
VENERABLE TEACHER TALMAGE.
TRIBUTE OF PASTOR IAP HAN CHIONG.
[Pastor Iap was the first pastor of the Chinese Church]
Teacher Talmage was very gentle. He wished ever to be at peace with men. If he saw a man in error he used words of meekness in convincing and converting the man from his error. Whether he exhorted, encouraged or instructed, his words were words of prudence, seasoned with salt, so that men were glad to receive and obey.
Teacher Talmage was a lover of men. When he saw a man in distress and it was right for him to help, he helped. In peril, he exerted himself to deliver the man; in weakness, in danger of falling, he tried to uphold; suffering oppression, he arose to the defense, fearing no power, but contending earnestly for the right.
Teacher Talmage was very gracious in receiving men, whether men of position or the common people. He treated all alike. If they wished to discuss any matter with him and get his advice, he would patiently listen to their tale. If he had any counsel to give, he gave it. If he felt he could not conscientiously have anything to do with the affair, he told the men forthwith.
He could pierce through words, and see through men's countenances and judge what the man was, who was addressing him.
Teacher Talmage had great eloquence and possessed great intelligence. His utterance was clear, his voice powerful, his exposition of doctrine very thorough. Men listened and the truth entered their ears and their hearts understood.
Teacher Talmage was grave in manner. He commanded the respect and praise of men. His was a truly ministerial bearing. Men within and without the Church venerated him.
Sometimes differences between brethren arose. Teacher Talmage earnestly exhorted to harmony. Even serious differences, which looked beyond healing, were removed, because men felt constrained to listen to his counsel.
Teacher Talmage was exceedingly diligent. When not otherwise engaged, morning and afternoon found him in his study reading, writing, preparing sermons, translating books.
He preached every Sabbath. He conducted classes of catechumens. He founded the Girls' School at the Church "Under the Bamboos." He founded the Theological Seminary. Others taught with him, but he was the master spirit. He was ten points careful that everything relating to the organization and administration of the Church should be in accordance with the Holy Book.
Only at the urgent request of two physicians did he finally leave China. He was prepared to die and to be buried at Amoy. And this was not because he was not honored in his ancestral country, or could find no home. No, he had sons, he had a brother, he had nephews and nieces, he had many relatives and friends who greatly reverenced and loved him.
But Teacher Talmage could not bear to be separated from the Church in China. Surely this was imitating the heart of Christ. Surely this was loving the people of China to the utmost.
REV. JOHN VAN NEST TALMAGE, D.D.
BY REV. S. L. BALDWIN, D.D.,
[Recording Secretary of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.]
My memory of Dr. Talmage dates back to the year 1846. I was then but eleven years old, but I remember distinctly the earnestness of his manner, as he preached early in that year in the Second Reformed Church of Somerville, New Jersey. His missionary zeal was of the most intense character.
I was present at the Missionary Convention, at Millstone, New Jersey, August 26, 1846, and saw him ordained. The Rev. Gabriel Ludlow preached from 2 Timothy ii. I, and the charge to the candidate was given by the Rev. Elihu Doty, of Amoy. Mr. Doty, at a children's meeting in the afternoon, asked us whether we would come to help in the missionary work, and asked us to write down the question and think and pray about it, and when we had made up our minds to write an answer underneath the question. I did "think and pray about it," and some weeks afterward, under a sense of duty, wrote "Yes" under it. From that time on, it was not a strange thought to me, to go to China as a missionary; and when the call came in 1858, I was ready. In 1860, on my first visit to Amoy, I renewed old acquaintanceship, and during my twenty-two years in China was several times a guest in Dr. Talmage's family.
He was in the very front rank of missionaries. For ability, for fidelity, for usefulness, he had few equals. As a preacher, he was clear, forceful, fearless. As a translator, his work was marked by carefulness and accuracy. In social life, old-fashioned hospitality made every one feel at home, and one would have to travel far to find a more animated and interesting conversationalist. He held his convictions with great tenacity, and was a powerful debater, but always courteous to his opponents.
Many missionaries fell by his side, or were obliged to leave the field; and in the providence of God he remained until he was the oldest of all the American missionaries in China. His was a most pure and honorable record, and his death was universally lamented. From little beginnings, he was privileged to see one of the most flourishing of the native communions of China arise and attain large numbers and great influence among the Christian churches of the empire.
Such a history and such a record are to be coveted. May the Head of the Church raise up many worthy successors to this true and noble man!
THE REV. J. V. N. TALMAGE, D.D..
BY REV. TALBOT W. CHAMBERS, D.D., LL.D.,
[Pastor of the Collegiate Reformed Church, New York City.]
My acquaintance with Dr. Talmage began at a very early period. During the years 1842-5 his father was Sheriff of Somerset Co., N. J., and resided at Somerville. While there he and his wife were members in communion of the Second Reformed Dutch Church, of which I was pastor; and from them I heard frequently of their son John, who was then a student in New Brunswick.
He prosecuted his studies in the College and Theological Seminary with zeal and success, and was duly licensed, and then, while awaiting the arrival of the period when he would be sent to join the mission in China, he accepted the position of assistant to the Rev. Dr. Brodhead, who at that time was minister of the Central Church of Brooklyn. Here his services were very acceptable, and the training under such an experienced man of God was of great value to him. His course was what might have been expected of one reared in a peculiarly pious household. His father was a cheerful and exemplary Christian, and his mother was the godliest woman I ever knew. Her religion pervaded her whole being, and seemed to govern every thought, word, and deed, yet never was morbid or overstrained. The robust common sense which characterized her and her husband descended in full measure upon their son John. His consecration to the mission work was complete, and his interest in the cause was very deep, but it never manifested itself in unseemly or extravagant ways.
So far as I can recall, there was nothing particularly brilliant or original in the early sermons or addresses of the young missionary -- nothing of those wondrous displays of word-painting, imagination, and dramatic power which have made his brother, Dr. T. De Witt Talmage, famous. But there was a mental grasp, a force and a fire which often induced the remark that he was too good to be sent to the heathen, there being many at that time who labored under the mistake that a missionary did not require to be a man of unusual ability, that gifts and acquirements were thrown away on a life spent among idolaters. Still, while this was the case, none of his friends expected that he would develop such marked and varied power as was seen in his entire course at Amoy. I remember the surprise with which I heard the late Dr. Swanson, of London, say from his own observation during ten years of the closest intercourse at Amoy, that Dr. Talmage was equally distinguished and efficient in every part of the missionary's work, whether in preaching the Word, or translating the Scriptures, or creating a Christian literature, or training native workers. Nothing seemed to come amiss to him; everywhere he was facile princeps. I suppose that the explanation is found in his thorough and unreserved consecration. He was given heart and soul to the work. Whatever he did was done with his whole mind. There was no vacillation or indecision, but a deliberate concentration of all his faculties upon the task set before him. Nor did he work by spurts or through temporary enthusiasm, but with a steady, unyielding determination. So he went on through life without haste and without rest, doing his best at all times and in every species of service, and thus earning the brilliant reputation he acquired. The same qualities rendered him as wise in counsel as he was efficient in working. He was able to look on both sides of a given problem, was not inclined to snap judgments, but preferred to discriminate, to weigh, and, if need be, to wait. Yet, when the time came, the decision was ready.
He perceived earlier than his brethren at home the true policy as to churches in heathen lands, that is, that they should not be mere continuations of the denomination whose missionaries had been the means of founding them, but should have an independent existence and grow upon the soil where they were planted, taking such form and order as Providence might suggest. When the proposal was made in accordance with these views to build up a native Chinese Church strictly autonomous, there was an immediate revulsion. The General Synod in 1863 emphatically declined to consent, not, however, from denominational bigotry, but on the ground that the new converts must have some standards of faith and order, and, if so, why not ours, which had been tested by centuries? And, moreover, if they were to be regarded as an integral part of the Church at home, that fact would prove to be a powerful incitement to prayer and liberality on the part of our people. But the rebuff did not dishearten Dr. Talmage. He renewed the appeal the next year, and had the satisfaction of seeing it succeed. Full consent was given to the aim to build up a strong, self-governing, and, as soon as might be, self-supporting body of native churches in China, who should leave behind the prejudices of the past, and form themselves under the teaching of God's Spirit and Providence in such way as would best meet the demands of the time and be most efficient in advancing the Kingdom of God upon the earth. The consequences have been most happy. The missionaries of the Presbyterian Church have cordially co-operated in renouncing all denominational interests and giving all diligence to the forming of what might be called a Chinese Christian Church, freed from any external bond and at liberty to shape its own character and course under the guidance of the Divine Spirit. The experiment has been entirely successful, and stands conspicuous as a testimony to the true policy of carrying on missionary work in countries where there is already an antique civilization and certain social habits which need to be taken account of.
Dr. Talmage always kept himself in touch with the Church at home by correspondence or by personal intercourse. His visits to America were in every case utilized to the fullest extent, save when hindered by impaired health.
It is matter of joyful congratulation that he was permitted to finish the usual term of man's years in the missionary field. Others of our eminent men, such as Abeel, Thompson, Doty, and Pohlman, were cut off in the midst of their days. But he spent a full lifetime, dying not by violence or accident, but only when the bodily frame had been worn out in the natural course of events. Our Church has been signally favored of God in the gifts and character and work of the men she has sent into the foreign field -- and this not merely in the partial judgment of their denominational brethren, but in the deliberate opinion of such competent and experienced observers as the late Dr. Anderson, of the American Board, and the late S. Wells Williams, the famous Chinese scholar; [One remark of Dr. S. Wells Williams is worth reproducing: "I think, myself, after more than forty years' personal acquaintance with hundreds of missionaries in China, that David Abeel was facile princeps among them all." -- Presb. Review, II.49.] but I think that none of them, neither Abeel nor Thompson, surpassed Dr. Talmage in any of the qualities, natural or acquired, which go to make an accomplished missionary of the cross. I enjoyed the personal acquaintance of them all, having been familiar with the progress of the work from the time when (October, 1832) our Board of Foreign Missions was established, and therefore am able to form an intelligent opinion. Our departed brother can no more raise his voice, either at home or abroad, but his work remains, and his memory will never die. For long years to come his name will be fragrant in the hearts of our people; and his lifelong consecration to the enterprise of the world's conversion will prove an example and a stimulus to this and the coming generation. The equipoise of his mind, the solidity of his character, the strength of his faith, the brightness of his hope, the simple, steadfast fidelity of his devotion to the Master, will speak trumpet-tongued to multitudes who never saw his face in the flesh. The unadorned story of his life, what he was and what he did by the grace of God, will cheer the hearts of all the friends of foreign missions, and win others to a just esteem of the cause which could attract such a man to its service and animate him to such a conspicuous and blessed career.
REV. JOHN VAN NEST TALMAGE, D.D.
BY REV. JOHN M. FERRIS, D.D.,
[Editor of the "Christian Intelligencer" and ex-Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the American Reformed Church.]
Circumstances which tested character, ability, and attainments brought me into intimate relations with Rev. Dr. John V. N. Talmage. The impressions I received are these: He was eminently of a sunny disposition. A smile was on his face and laughter in his eyes almost all day long. He was conspicuously cheerful and hopeful. The strength of his character was unusual and would bear victoriously very severe tests. Mental and moral ability of a very high order marked his participation in public exercises and his demeanor in social life. It seemed to me that in mind and heart there were in him the elements of greatness. Greatness he never sought, but avoided. Still, from the time succeeding the opening years of his ministry, he was a leader among men until seized with the long illness which terminated his useful life. Those who knew him appointed him one of their chief counselors and guides, and in any assembly where he was comparatively unknown he was accepted as a leading mind as soon as he had taken part in its discussions. A wide range of knowledge was his. It was surprising how he had maintained an acquaintance with the research and discovery of his day while secluded in China from the life of the Western nations. With all this his intercourse with men was marked by modesty and the absence of ostentatious display. The deference with which he treated the opinions of others and of his manner in presenting his knowledge and convictions to an audience was extraordinary. He was courteously inquisitive, seeking from others what they knew and thought, and this oftentimes, perhaps habitually, with men much his inferiors. Such a man would be expected to be tolerant of the opinions of others, and this he was eminently, although his own convictions were clear, strongly held, earnestly presented and advocated. How often we heard him say, "So I think," or "So it seems to me, but I may be wrong."
Accuracy in statement was sought for by him constantly, sometimes to the detriment of his public addresses. When we who were familiar with him were humorous at his expense, it was almost invariably in relation to this constant endeavor to be accurate, which led now and then to qualifications of his words that were decidedly amusing. He was animated, earnest, and strong in public addresses. His mind was active; apt to take an independent, original view, and vigorous. His sermons were often very impressive and powerful. Few who heard in whole or in part his discourse on the words, "The world by wisdom knew not God" -- an extemporaneous sermon -- will forget the terse, vigorous sentences which came from his lips. It was, I believe, the last sermon he prepared in outline to be delivered to our churches in this country. It was full of power and life.
Dr. Talmage was a Christian and a Christian gentleman everywhere and always. It seemed as natural to him to be a Christian as to breathe. Conscientious piety marked his daily life.
He was a delightful companion through his gentleness, sympathy, wide range of knowledge, cheerfulness, animated and earnest speech, vigor of thought and expression, deference for the opinions and rights of others, and unselfishness. He asked nothing, demanded nothing for himself, but was alert to contribute to the enjoyment of those around him. The work of his life was of inestimable value. He was abundant in labors. Only the life to come will reveal how much he accomplished which in the highest sense was worthy of accomplishment. Those who knew him best, esteemed, loved, and trusted him the most.