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mental, can therefore be only dimly conceived. Arguments, illustrations, appeals, warnings, entreaties, rebukes, promises, came rushing from his lips with the stupendous speed of a cataract. Criticism was disarmed, but the attention so absorbed as to be almost painful. The gestures were few but expressive, the voice not musical, but singularly distinct and far reaching, and in the transport of his excitement his dark eye burned with an almost intolerable splendor. His noble figure, above the middle height, his air of high command at such a moment, gave him a port and presence almost more than human. The reasoning and imaginative powers, under the sway of the most intense emotions, acted as one, and his torrent-like impetuosity carried his hearers along, unresisting, amazed, spell-bound. So far as I know, nothing like it has been heard in this country. At times the whole congregation would rise to their feet, not knowing what they did, nor where they were.
Writers may decry the spoken word, and sneeringly declare that the mission of the pulpit has ended, but until the world's end God's great Word will stand, “That by the foolishness of preaching it hath pleased Him to save them which believe.”
Bascom's preaching was like the sound of a trumpet, and while the sermon lasted men forgot every thing, themselves, their surroundings, even the preacher, every thing but the wonderful strains, and the unfathomable meaning they suggested. The preacher, too, had forgotten himself, and in a kind of ecstasy gave his vision voice, unconscious of criticism, applause, of aught but the mighty theme and the Master who had given
What wonder, then, if, at the close of the sermon, which lasted two hours, the people found it hard to recover the sense that they were in the leafy grove; many of them scarce knew whether they were in the body or out of the body, but felt that they had been “caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words.” After the excitement of that trance it was long before the silent stars looked down on that multitude composed in sleep, and not a few unclosed eyes were greeted by the rising sun. The sermon dwelt in many a memory like the song which St. John heard, “ the chorus of harping symphonies and sevenfold alleluias.” Once his subject led him to describe the manifestations of God's wrath against sin. On the front bench sat a man prominent alike for his
him the message.
wealth, talents, influence, and wickedness. As the vivid pictures of the flood and of Sodom and Gomorrah passed before the congregation, deep horror froze the veins of this man, and he fell in a swoon, was carried from the church senseless, and when he recovered proved to be a raving maniac, and such he lived and died. At another time Bascom was preaching in a large country church on a bright Sunday morning. The house was crowded to its utmost capacity, the windows were all open, one of which was immediately behind the pulpit overlooking the rural grave-yard. He was describing the typical forms and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It was the baptism in Jordan," and Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” As these words fell from the preacher's lips, suddenly, as an apparition, a snow-white dove flew through the open window at the back of the pulpit, and rested on his shoulder. He paused, the bird sat for an instant with folded wings, then slowly spreading them, in the breathless silence described a circle around his head, and flew back to the summer woods.*
At Saratoga, in 1838, he preached to a vast concourse in the open air, the wind directly in his teeth. The effort was too much even for his strength; his vocal chords were strained; and for the rest of his life he suffered from what was called bronchitis, and was never again the equal of himself in earlier days. Up to this time he had never preached from memory nor a manuscript, but thenceforth used his notes, depending on them more and more to put a curb upon his vehemence, and thus save his weakened throat. As he did this, his power as a speaker lessened at a corresponding pace. He never again wielded the scepter of his regal eloquence. His infirmity made him self-conscious; and self-consciousness denies access to the mountain summits of vision and inspiration.
While Professor at Augusta College he was married, in 1839, to Miss Van Antwerp of New York, and two years later was elected President of Transylvania University, and removed to Lexington, Ky., where he resided for the rest of his life. In the ever-memorable General Conference of 1844, which sat
* These incidents, as well as many other facts stated in this paper, I had from his own lips.
in New York, and in which the Methodist 'Episcopal Church was divided, he was a member, but, as at all other General Conferences, a silent one, except when, as the chairman of a committee, he had to read a report. Almost every other man on the floor, whether young or old, made a speech ; but he, the most illustrious and powerful speaker of them all, held his peace. It was his pen, however, then and afterward, on which the Southern branch of the Church relied to state its case to the world. When the first General Conference of that Church met at Petersburg, Va., in 1846, it was thought, and justly thought, by his friends and by himself, that he ought to be elected a Bishop. Eminent as were his services, and great as was the debt of gratitude due to him, both were ignored, and he received another deep and painful wound from the hands of his brethren. He did not wish the office, nay, would have declined it, but felt that he was entitled to an election as a vote of confidence, and as an indorsement to the world of his conduct in their behalf. Instead of a seat upon the bench of Bishops, he was re-elected President of the University, made one of the Commissioners of the Church South, to settle the matters at issue with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Editor of the “Southern Methodist Quarterly Review.”
There was no compunction in placing intolerable burdens upon his shoulders; it was taken for granted that his strength was equal to any weight, that the magic of his name would crowd the halls of the university with students, and fill its empty exchequer; that as Commissioner he could collect information from all quarters, write and publish the Church's docaments, and at the same time edit and publish a “Quarterly Review,” without a cent of income provided.
Take this statement of his remuneration while Professor at Augusta College as another specimen of the manner in which he was paid for his services: At first his nominal salary was seven hundred dollars a year, afterward raised to a thousand; but he never, in any year, received half his salary in cash, and seldom so much; for the last six sessions of his stay he got only one dollar in five of his salary in cash. He paid for the institution several hundred dollars in gifts, subscriptions, and traveling expenses ;
also sixteen hundred dollars, paid by himself for board, tui• tion, etc. in behalf of students, without funds, sent to his care.
His expenses for eleven years exceeded his income from the college by five thousand dollars. It is not surprising; therefore, that he was embarrassed by debts; but one finds it hard to understand how the Church could suffer this noble and loyal son to struggle thus, and calmly expect him to make bricks without straw—even without clay. Chameleons are said to live on air; it seems to have been thought that Bascom could do so likewise. Of course, many virtuous people when they heard of his debts shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, and whispered, “extravagance; what a pity he's not a good economist and content to live as a Methodist preacher ought to.”
I have said that one rumor was put in circulation affecting his character and reputation as a gentleman and minister. It happened on this wise : During the angry presidential contest of 1844, when James Knox Polk and Henry Clay were candidates for the first office within the gift of the people, a friend of Bascom's, living in New York, and knowing that he was on terms of close friendship with the Kentucky statesman, wrote a confidential letter asking Bascom about Mr. Clay's private character. With the understanding that his letter was also to be considered confidential, Bascom answered telling what he believed and knew to be the truth about Mr. Clay, and in the affectionate tone in which one friend would speak of another. The seal of confidence was broken, and parts of Bascom's letter found their way into print, arousing against him the fierce wrath of Mr. Clay's political opponents. The speakers and newspapers on that side held him up to public scom, freely ventilating the epithets which seem so dear to the hearts of many politicians, and which made so large a part of their patriotic stock in trade. Infamous charges were made against him in many newspapers, and from not a few "stumps.” It was claimed that he had written an indecent letter to an old friend, and that that letter had been read by other members of the Church, who thereupon lost confidence in his Christian character. Here are extracts from Bascom's answer, which prove among other things, that he could use vigorous English. The article from the
my attention is a tissue of the most stupid falsehoods, and, so far as I am concerned, there is not one word of truth in it. I had been a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church for at least eight years,
and as such filled some of the most important stations in the West, before Mr. Clay had ever seen me. Equally true is it, and Mr. Clay will attest it with more pleasure than I affirm it, that I never was indebted to Mr. Clay to the amount of a cent in my life, and my only obligations to him are on the score of friendship and good-will, to the utter exclusion of every thing implying either bounty or patronage. And the other charges of the paper are equally false and defamatory, besides being too obviously absurd and malignant to do me any harm even where I am not known. That portion of the political press which has stooped to the infamy of lying and misrepresentation to injure a man who had not interfered with the rights and functions of the press in any form, and had merely exercised the right of private judgment on a question of social justice between man and man, has deprived itself of the power of injuring me, and, by a resort to such means, has superseded the necessity of even a defense on my part.
The calumny recoiled upon his assailants, and he went on his way unscathed.
In 1850 a volume of his sermons was published, fraught with interest for the people who knew and loved him, and had heard them from his lips; but affording to others scarce a hint of his power as a preacher. In truth they were not sermons, only studies, the notes of material accumulated through nearly forty years, written at different times in many places, in 'blue ink, black, and red, as well as pencil; thoughts, suggestions, associations, extracts from favorite writers; ore of the mind unmolten, uncast, not the finished group in alto rilievo. The want of organic unity, at times even of coherence and congruity, is painfully manifest. When in the pulpit, luis mind at whiteheat, he fused the matter of these discourses, and gave them living form, harmonious beauty, almost irresistible power; but in the closet his efforts to do this were fruitless. Justice to his reputation demanded that they should not see the light, and he shrunk from the publication; but the stern pressure of his embarrassed finances drove him to it with a merciless force. The volume reached a sale of more than twenty thousand copies. In May, 1850, he was elected to be one of the Bishops of the Church South, and at first thought of declining the office; but the persuasion of friends and his own mature reflection led him to accept it, and he was ordained. It seemed as if the new position might re-establish him in the brilliant career of usefulness as a preacher which the injury to his throat and his taking