Conclusion by the Editor. Tokens of Love from Many. Keeps Writing. Controversy with the Standard
. Last Meeting with His Mother. Visited by Professors McGarvey and Graham. Commits His Writings to the Latter. Visits Eminence and Lexington. Many Brethren Come to See Him. Meeting at Mt. Byrd. Estimate of His Character. The Closing Scenes. Farewell to His Family. Dies. Funeral Services.
The foregoing autobiography closes with June 13, 1885, while the life of the author was prolonged till January 6, 1887, and it remains for the editor to record a few of the incidents transpiring in the interval; and to bring this remarkable recital to a close.
Midsummer found Bro. Allen in his |Cottage Home,| at Mt. Byrd, growing weaker in body day by day, but with no very acute suffering. Everything that devoted love on the part of his family and church could suggest for his comfort was done; and there were not wanting from abroad many tokens of undying affection, as it became generally known that he was gradually but surely passing away. Many of his friends, and especially preachers, came to Mt. Byrd as to a Mecca, to find their pilgrimage repaid in the fresh inspiration received by communing with this saintly man. The company of his brethren did not weary him; on the contrary, it seemed to have a favorable effect on both his body and mind; he greatly desired the visits of his friends, and found comfort in them. Still many were deterred from going to see him for fear it might disturb the quiet which they hoped would contribute to lengthen out his days. Meanwhile he kept writing with a diligence and persistence marvelous to those who witnessed it, and incredible to others; so much so, that many at a distance could not understand how one so near the grave could continue to write so much and so well; hence the hope entertained that he might survive for years to bless the church and the world. It must be remembered that his disease never affected his mind, and that, like most persons who die of consumption, he retained the full possession of his mental faculties even unto the end. Besides, he was sustained by an indomitable will that hesitated at nothing that stood in the way of duty; added to which was an unfaltering trust in God and a joyous resignation to His will, causing him to cease praying for longer life. Propped up in an invalid chair with a convenience of his own invention, he continued his weekly editorials to the Guide as regularly as ever, and developed abilities as an editor that none suspected he possessed till the last years of his life.
It was at this time that the unfortunate controversy began between the Guide and the Standard about our work in London, England, causing so much regret on the part of many friends of both papers. It was feared by some that this controversy would work irreparable injury to our mission enterprises, not only in England, but in other lands, for we all realized that Titans were engaged in the conflict; men, not like those of old, giants in physical strength and daring, but of intellectual power intensified by the love of God and his cause. Of course the disputants viewed the matter from different angles, and both, we must think, were equally sincere in their convictions. The present writer was not of those who thought upon the whole harm would come of this dispute, though he deeply regretted the asperity with which it was conducted. In our present imperfect state we need, I doubt not, these conflicts to remind us of our frailty, and if only we have grace to profit by them, God will turn them to our good and to His own glory. It is a source of devout thankfulness to those who knew Bro. Allen's unselfish purpose, that many who censured his course united with multitudes who approved it in paying honor to his memory, when the messenger who ends all earthly strifes called him to his final account.
In July, 1885, his aged and revered mother made him a visit, and remained some time; it was their last meeting; and now that her gifted son has gone to his reward, she waits in joyous hope for the day that shall reunite them forever.
A few weeks later it was the pleasure of the writer, in company with Prof. McGarvey, to spend two days at Mt. Byrd, in delightful fellowship with this grand man. He had been apprised of our coming, and was prepared for it. Truly, to him and to us it was a foretaste of the joys of the future world, and we left him the same resolute, confiding servant of Christ he had ever been, wholly resigned to the will of God and rejoicing in assured hope of eternal rest.
It pleased his Master to protract his life and usefulness a little longer, and so 1885 closed, and we find him still with his family, receiving many tokens of love from them and from brethren far away. Spring comes, and birds and flowers; the bright sunshine beams into his chamber, and now and then he is barely able to walk out to see and feel his Father's goodness bathing all things in quiet beauty. He repines not, knowing that |our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.|
He continues to write, and with the rest the preceding chapter of |Reflections on his Fiftieth Birthday.| He commits it, his diary, and other writings to me, with the request that I do with them as I think best, for now he is sure that this unequal contest with mortality can not last much longer.
Summer comes, and with it increasing weakness, but no diminution of his trust in God. He wishes to visit Eminence once more, and to see his two younger daughters graduate from the college that had helped himself in former years. He attends, and then, unable to walk without help, he comes on to Lexington, to spend commencement week among his friends and brethren; this done, he returns to his beloved Mt. Byrd, to leave it no more till he goes to stand with the redeemed on the Mount of God.
During the fall of this year hardly a week passed that several of his relatives and Christian brethren were not found at his home; and did not the limit of this chapter forbid, we would like to record their names, for in love they came to testify their admiration for him and their sympathy with his sorrowing family. For one and all he had a word of cheer, and none came away without being deeply impressed with the conviction that he had been with one of the purest and best of men -- one who lived in daily communion with his Maker. His one theme of conversation was religion, and if we may judge from his increasing delight in it, to no one was death a more gentle transition from faith to sight. Narrow, indeed, to him was the bourn that divides the seen from the unseen, the temporal from the eternal, and the labors of earth from the felicities of heaven. He daily lived upon the boundary of two worlds.
In October, Bro. J. K. P. South held a meeting with the Mt. Byrd church, and, though feeble beyond measure, Bro. Allen made out to attend a few times, and even to take part in prayer and exhortation, sitting in his chair. Only twice after this was he able to be carried to the Lord's house, but on neither occasion could he take an active part in the worship.
In all the relations of life Bro. Allen was a model of all that is lovable in human character -- kind, gentle, considerate of the feelings of others, even the least, and always cheerful. A refined and delicate humor pervaded his conversation, which was always chaste and instructive. There was in him a moderation that always attends reserved power, and a candor that was transparent; these qualities, united with an equipoise of intellectual and moral strength, harmony of emotions, and hatred of everything mean or unfair, made him revered by his friends, and an idol in his household. Wife, children, servants, all who came into that charmed circle, were attached to him in a love that bordered on idolatry. To draw a portraiture of this remarkable man would indeed be a pleasing task did space allow -- his logical penetration, depth of feeling, strength of will, energy, industry, unwavering faith in God and goodness, and, crowning all, his fidelity to the gospel of Christ -- but it is unnecessary. To us who knew him these virtues were conspicuous; by others, they may be gathered from the unvarnished story of his life as it is told in the foregoing pages. We must hasten to the closing scene.
On New Year's day, 1887, he laid down his pen to resume it again no more. He was forced to this by sheer exhaustion; his body was wasted to a skeleton, and it was clear to all that the end was near. Having suffered much for several days, but without a murmur, on the evening of Jan.5 he requested all his family to come to his bedside, and while their hearts were breaking for grief and all eyes were blinded with tears, he spoke to them for the last time.
|My dear children,| said he, |I want to say a few things to you while I can. I may not be able to do it if I put it off longer. I will soon leave you, and I know you will miss me. It is hard for you to give me up, but it is the will of God, and you must bear up as best you can. I am sure I have always had your love, and you have always obeyed me; and now I want you to always love and obey your mother. Remember, wherever you may be, that you are all of one household. Live in peace, and let no strife or discord spring up among you.| Taking the hand of each of his daughters, he asked them to meet him in heaven, and then kissed them good-bye.
Laying his hand upon Frank's head, he said, |My dear son, papa has to leave you.| |O papa,| said the lad, |pray not to die.| |We have prayed, my dear boy, but it is God's will to take me home, and He knows best. You must love your mamma and obey her; be good to your sisters. I want you to grow up and become a minister of the gospel. Try to make a better preacher than your papa has been. Be studious and industrious, and live so that you may at last meet me in heaven. May God bless you, my son, and keep you in His care. Kiss me good-bye.|
Throwing one arm around his wife, he said, |My dear, my affliction has been a blessing to me in having you near me all the time. You have been everything on earth that a good wife could be. I have loved you even more in my affliction than I ever did before. I want to thank you for all your kindness to me and loving care of me. If I have ever done or said anything I should not, I want you to forgive me now. I can say on my dying bed that I have always been a true husband to you. I have made the best provision I could for you and the children, and if there should appear any mistakes they have not been of my heart.| He then bade her a long and last farewell.
He then blessed his three little grandchildren and kissed them; expressed a desire to see his |dear old mother,| brother and sisters once more, and spoke of some business matters a moment, then said, |This is too sacred for that.|
For two or three days before this he had been able to speak only a few words at a time; but throughout this interview with his family, his voice was as strong and clear as it had ever been. After this his breathing became difficult, and he could gasp only a single word now and then. He seemed to have no wish to be occupied with this world. The weary traveler had at last reached the goal; and about nine o'clock Thursday night, January 6, 1887, his pure spirit left its frail tenement to suffer no more.
The following account of his funeral, written by his devoted friend and Christian brother, W. K. Azbill, may well close the biography of Frank Gibbs Allen:
|IT IS FINISHED.|
It is finished. The struggle with his fatal malady is over at last, and F. G. Allen is at rest. He sank into a quiet sleep last Thursday night, Jan.6, 1887.
A few friends were notified of the end by telegrams, and that the burial would take place from Mt. Byrd Church on Sunday, but the condition of the Ohio River rendered it extremely difficult to reach |Cottage Home.| However, in spite of the difficulties and dangers in crossing the river, and the extreme cold weather, there were seven ministers and a very large audience present at the burial. The people came over the snow and through the snow, in sleighs and sleds and buggies, afoot and on horseback, till the large country audience-room was well filled. The presence of such an assembly on such a day evinced the truth of what is now widely known, that Frank Allen was loved best where he has lived and labored for the past sixteen years.
The services were begun by Bro. A. W. Kokendoffer, who lead in an invocation of divine blessing and strength and guidance. The congregation then sang |Nearer, My God, to Thee.| The writer read the following Scriptures; John xiv.1-4, 27, 28; I. Cor. xv.51-58; I. Thess. iv.13-18; II. Sam, iii.31-39, repeating 38.
He felt that he should not, because he could not speak on the occasion. He had followed the inclinations of his own grief, and had come as a mourner and not as a comforter. We had not met to tell how much we esteemed our departed brother, or how much we loved him, or how much we should miss him, now that he has gone. The gap is a wide one he has left in the family, in the congregation of his love, and in the larger church; and it will seem wider and wider as the days go by. We had come as his brothers and sisters -- as those who loved him -- to lay him away in the grave, and to ask God's help and blessing in this time of loss and sorrow. He then led in worship, thanking God for His gift to the church of the precious life that had just been surrendered at His call; praising God for His love of brave and true men like him; expressing the loving confidence of all that the heavenly Father would deal tenderly with our widowed sister and her children; asking especially that the little boy might live to honor the name of his beloved father, and praying that the dear church, that has borne him on their hearts through all this anxious time of weakness and suffering, might forever be blessed by the memory of his godly life in it.
The song, |Asleep in Jesus,| was then sung, after which President R. Graham, of the College of the Bible, addressed the audience on the life and character of the deceased.
He had thought of how truly it might be said of him, that |There is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel.| He had felt inclined to derive comfort for the church, and to those to whom he was doubly dear, from the passage in the Apocalypse, |I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors: and their works do follow them.| He did not know whether others would be present to take part in the services. But Bro. Kurfees was here from the churches in Louisville, and, as a representative of the Guide, Bro. McDiarmid, from Cincinnati, to represent his associates in our other publishing interests, and Bro. Azbill, from Indianapolis, connected with our missionary interests, while he himself brought the sympathies of those in the College of the Bible. He felt there was a suitableness in all this, for all these things were dear to the heart of our brother.
He then proceeded to give a sketch of his life and career. There were several distinct periods in his history. The first was from his birth, March 7, 1836, to his marriage in 1856, a period of about twenty years. Here he spoke of his early struggles for an education, and of the signs of a useful life manifested even then. The second, from the time of his marriage till his entry upon general evangelistic work, about 1866. During this decade he became a Christian, resolved to preach the gospel, and entered and passed through a course of collegiate studies in Eminence College. The third period began with his evangelistic labors. During this time he became a pastor of the Mt. Byrd church. During this period most of his public discussions were held. It was through these labors that he was revealed to his brethren as a man who was greater than we knew.
The last period began with his editorial career, and closed with his death. He became first a contributing editor of The Apostolic Times, and afterwards co-editor. Then he became the proprietor and editor of The Old-Path Guide, which, in the course of events, was consolidated with the Times, and became The Apostolic Guide.
President Graham then spoke of his character and his characteristic abilities. He was a sincere man, he was a conscientious man, he was a brave, true man; he was a pure-minded man, he was a godly man.
His ability was not that of the great scholar, but of the logician of keen, accurate perceptions. He was not an encyclopedia, but a compact volume of naked logic. He was capable of the very nicest discriminations; and he had the faculty of pointing out a fallacy with marvelous clearness, and of turning an objection to his position into an argument in its favor.
He was sometimes misunderstood; but he was always true to his convictions, and there was no honorable thing he would not do for the truth's sake. He believed in the gospel as the power of God unto salvation; and he made no compromises with doctrines in conflict with his conviction that the gospel must be believed and obeyed by those who would be saved.
The speaker said many tender and fatherly things to the bereaved family and to the church, one of which was that we who knew of our brother's sufferings, could have had but the one motive of selfishness for detaining him an hour longer than he lingered with us.
Bro. M. C. Kurfees followed the remarks of President Graham with some comforting reflections on Bro. Allen's views of death and of the future life. He spoke of his willingness |to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.| Heaven is not a far off place, but an actual spiritual presence with God. He spoke of the blessedness of being always ready for this change from our life in the body to our life with God in the invisible world.
Bro. McDiarmid closed the services with suitable remarks and an earnest prayer. After the singing of the song, |Jesus, Lover of my Soul,| came the final leave-taking, and the departure from the church to the grave. Not the least touching of these scenes was the breaking down in grief of the sturdy yeomen of the congregation as they stood around the bier of their dear brother and former pastor, and looked on that manly face and form for the last time.
Finally we laid him to rest in the burying-place near by. At the grave the closing prayer was offered by Bro. Wm. Buchanan, who referred tenderly to his aged mother and absent relatives. And thus the final scenes closed.
His resting-place is a lovely spot, overlooking the city of Madison, commanding an extended view of the river valley, and in sight of the stream and of all the vessels that go by. It is near to his |Cottage Home| and to the church he so much loved; and the spot will be all the dearer now that he sleeps in it.
Only four days ago the writer said in a letter to the family: |I linger on the eve of taking a long voyage, and he may soon go on a very short one; but which of these shall be made the occasion of saying 'good-bye,' I hardly know.| Even then the solitary voyager was on his way. The breakers dashed about him as he launched; the great billows roared beneath and around him as he went out; the waves broke over each other in ripples as he passed on; and the ripples hushed into whispers as he neared the other shore. At last he took the adorable divine Guide by the hand, and passed beyond our view.