DAVID MARKS' FINAL SERMON
Text courtesy of Baptist Library Online, Mark Powell, editor.
ELDER DAVID MARKS, Address in Oberlin Chapel, Thursday, November 13, 1845
REPORTED BY PROF. COWLES, EDITOR OF OBERLIN EVANGELIST.
Professor Finney announced to the assembly that it was uncertain whether brother Marks would survive his effort to address them, that he had been apprised of this, but notwithstanding was anxious to speak to them. He said Dr. Dascomb, [Professor of Physiology in Oberlin Collegiate Institute,] had just examined, and could find no pulse in one wrist, and only a little tremulous motion in the other. If he should die in the attempt, he wished the congregation to be calm, and not leave their seats. His friends around him would take care of him. Brother Marks said, in a brief introductory address, substantially as follows:
My dear friends, I feel to thank God that I have the prospect of addressing you once more, and for the last time. This has been the desire of my heart. The lamp of life has for some time been flickering in its socket; and in the opinion of friends, I have but a few hours to live. I think I should have gone home to my heavenly Father last night, if He had not wished me to bear testimony for Him once more on the shores of time. I bless his name that I am spared and strengthened to render this last public testimony. I suppose my coffin is being made, and my grave?]clothes are in a state of preparation. I wish the choir to sing a hymn that has been very pleasant to me for many years?]a working hymn. [1000 Hymn, Christian Melody.]
“Why sleep we, my brethren, come let us arise."
After singing, brother Marks prayed, and then addressed the audience as follows:
My extreme weakness, and the distress of suffocation in consequence of the dropsical difficulty in my chest, and which is probably drowning my heart, has not allowed me to spend a moment in preparation for this meeting. Indeed, it has been extremely doubtful whether I should be able to meet you at all, so that I have not had much anxiety about preparation. Hence my remarks must be made ‘off hand.’
The first and leading thought on which I wish to dwell, is this, that God has not designed this place, and this state of existence, as our final home. I have neither time nor strength to enter into the evidence now. I can only throw out the idea for your reflection. As the prophet said, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest, because it is polluted; it shall destroy you even with a sore destruction:” Micah 2:10. God has designedly fixed in our constitution and state, certain counteracting influences to wean us from the love of life. When we see our friends in the agonies of dissolving nature, when we see the pallid countenance, the shaking frame, the quivering pulse, the gasping breath, the glassy eye, we are admonished of our own mortality; we see, as it were in a glass, our future selves passing away from earth and earthly things. Even the sorrows and trials of life admonish us that this is not our rest. Now mark, if this is not our real home, how little interest should we take in the things of this life? Suppose you were on a voyage to India to spend your life there, and should stop on some island for a single hour, how little interest you would take in the objects you might chance to see there, compared with the interest you would feel in every thing that related to your destined home? Now, if we should live to the age of Methuselah, this would be nothing compared to eternity. Place the two in contrast, and how forcibly we must realize that eternity is every thing, and time in duration is nothing.
And yet, on this little point of time, every thing in eternity is made to hang. All your plans and purposes, all your motives and actions, are giving shape and character to your eternal state. With what awful interest, then, ought we to look upon the motives that govern us here?]upon the character we are here forming!
With what solemn and watchful solicitude should we search our hearts, and ascertain the ruling object of our life, whether it be for God or for this world.
To the honor of God I wish to say it, I have lived in view of eternity. Forty years since, my existence began. Then my mother, now a saint in glory, consecrated me to God. With earnest prayer she besought the Lord that I might be converted early in life, and often have I heard her speak of the place, and the time, when she first obtained the witness of the Spirit that her prayers were answered. Often would she take me to the bed?]chamber ?] the warm tears would fall on my cheek?]she would tell me of that promise of God, on which her faith took hold, and would plead with me to give my heart at once to my Savior. At the age of ten years, I was converted, and at fifteen I felt that I was called to preach the gospel of Christ. Necessity seemed laid upon me. I felt that I must go. Yet my parents were unwilling, for they thought me too young, and they did not hear that voice of God which I had seemed to hear, calling me to go forth at once and preach the gospel. My struggles at this time were very great. One day, I well remember, I was chopping alone in the woods: the whole subject came up before my mind with great freshness and power. I sat down and wept. I did not then know that my parents were watching me. My father called me to the house, and said: “Be seated, I want to talk with you a few minutes.” I noticed my mother’s eyes were red with weeping. “My son,” said my father, “what have you been weeping about?” I told him all my heart, I wanted to preach the gospel. I felt that God called me, and I longed to go. “My son,” said he, “you may go: we have for some time felt that we were like Pharaoh of old who would not let the people go to serve their God; we shall hold you back no longer. My father gave me my time, my mother prepared my clothes, and the next morning I started off. I was then a few days over fifteen years old. From that time I have been engaged in preaching the glorious gospel.
My early career as a preacher was in some respects peculiar. The novelty of my boyhood often drew out immense congregations, and of necessity, I frequently preached in the open air. These circumstances, doubtless, contributed to give me great strength of voice, and an unusual development of the lungs, so that I seldom became weary in the effort of public speaking. The call for labor was so great that I often spoke six hours a day. In this way I was drawn into a course which entirely overtaxed my nervous system, and ere I was aware of my danger, I found myself broken down.
But I cannot repent of my course. God has shown me a great deal of his glory, so that though my life has been short, I trust, through grace, it has been a blessing to my generation. Through grace, I have been enabled to work fast, and, I trust, accomplish something for God. Often for months and even years, I have done what good judges have said was labor enough for four men. So intensely has my system been excited, that I could not find time to sleep, and except when I have been completely exhausted, sleep has been a burden to me. The language of the hymn first sung by the choir, “Why sleep we, my brethren,” has been very sweet to my soul.
One of my best evidences that God has trained me for the work to be done in that “spirit?]land” whither I am going, is, that I have such an intense love for His work, as perhaps no human constitution can long endure. My physical frame has sunk under it; but I bless God, that my spiritual strength has been renewed day by day. Since the symptoms of death have been clear and decisive, no language can describe my intense longing for that “spirit?]world,” where I shall never tire in the work of God. My soul exults in God, and seems ready to leap up and soar away, as soon as it shall be released from this frail clay.
This confidence in God seems to me the more wonderful, and seems the more to exalt the rich grace of God, because it is what, in view of my mental constitution, I had no reason to expect.
My phrenological developments are such that it was always extremely difficult for me to believe in a miracle. The organ of marvelousness is almost entirely wanting. Hence I have, naturally, a strong tendency to skepticism, and I have especially been often troubled with the apprehension that I should be tempted to skepticism in the near approach of death. This hour has now come, and I rejoice to testify to the glory of God, that his grace triumphs: My state of mind is entirely different from what I had feared. No doubts cast even their shadows across the broad sun?]light of my soul?]all nature seems to cry out, “Man shall live again.” The light of a blessed immortality dawns beyond the tomb. If the worthless insect re?]appears in fresh beauty, and soars on new wings of glory, emerging from its grave., how much more shall man live again in unfading glory.
O, it cannot be, even if there were no God, that nature should have implanted such a longing in the soul for immortality, if it is a boon forever to be with holden. The external evidences of Christianity have brightened around me most surprisingly since disease has been gathering strength and pushing its assaults towards the citadel of life. As I saw my limbs begin to swell, and my strength to wane away, O, there was a sweetness inexpressible in the confidence my soul felt in the Lord.
This confidence is not the philosophic composure of a Hume. No! infinitely unlike it! I bless God that the “Christian’s hope” is adapted not only to the philosopher, but to the peasant?]to the child ?] to the unlearned and the most despised of earth. None so low?]none so far from philosophic science, but may feel Christ in the soul. Blessed be God, for this experience in my own case. Blessed be God, that I know the indwelling presence of Christ, my own glorious Savior.” Now, although the outward evidences of Christianity have an obvious reality that satisfies my intelligence, yet there is a sweetness in the personal knowledge of Christ in the soul, that is sweeter, better, clearer, and nobler.
And now I long for my time to come. Christ is so near and so precious that I cannot fear death, and cannot apprehend any evil to me. O, my brethren, no reality is so sure, none so sweet, none so glorious, as the Christian’s hope. I am waiting now for my Lord to come; surely he cannot tarry long. I have not a lingering doubt but that I shall soon join that blessed company in the upper world. I as much expect it as I ever expected to meet this congregation in this house of worship to?]day. O, I shall soon see that great company?]-parents, I shall see your children-?]and children, I shall see your parents too, who have gone up; and that great throng of martyrs who “came up out of great tribulation, washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Soon shall my eyes open on that land where the sun shall no more go down, nor their moon withdraw itself?]where no storms shall rage, nor heat, nor sun shall smite us, and, above all, where sin shall never enter nor afflict the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. O, my brethren of the gospel ministry, how sweet to be there, where the watchmen shall all see eye to eye, there too, where our spiritual children shall all be gathered to praise, with us, the rich grace of our Lord. There I shall meet many whom I have seen here below, and with whom I have taken sweet converse as we have moved along our pilgrim path?]way together. O there is nothing like it. Every thing else dwindles into insignificance compared with that “exceeding weight of glory.”
And now, I beseech you, make it the great object of your life to be in sympathy with God. Then you will love to labor in his cause, and God will take delight in owning your labors and crowning them with his blessing. O how has sleep departed from my eyes, as I have looked over the great West, and thought of the mighty conflict that is going on here, and is destined to go on till the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord.
What a scene lies outspread before us! What an age of improvement is that on which we have fallen! The power of the press, and the wonders of steam, God has hidden from other ages since the world began, and reserved them for this?]doubtless that they might just get under way, when he would take them into his service, and use them to waft the gospel round the globe.
O ye young men and women, who are congregated here give yourselves up to this work. O, consider what a work you have before you?]to win souls to Christ?]to save a soul for eternity?]one soul for whom Christ died?]surely to save one such soul were honor enough to stimulate your utmost efforts. There is no post so honorable, as to be a minister of the glorious gospel, to be an ambassador for God ?]to negotiate for souls. O what a work! Let these thoughts sulk down into your hearts. O live for God and your generation. You enter life in a glorious time to live ?] there is so much to do for God.
To all the unconverted let me say?]my heart is full; I feel for you. Times rapid tide is bearing you along, and a few days more, or years, will bring you before the final bar. All the sermons you have heard from Brother Finney, Brother Mahan, and Brother Morgan, and from other brethren of the “Faculty,” are recorded in heaven—all are registered there against you. You must meet them all there. O what an account you must render on that dread day! What agony of soul you must endure, if you will reject this salvation, bought with blood! I beseech you, yield your hearts to God. ‘Tis infinite folly and madness to delay?].?]‘tis death to refuse! O, all of you, who are unconverted, rest not, till you have given your hearts to God and found a Savior in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Brethren, farewell. Brother Finney, I want to give you my hand. All of you who love God, Farewell.
Dear sinner, I wish I could say farewell to you--but I cannot. I cannot wish you well in rebellion against God. I cannot say it will be well with you, for I know it never can be, till you give your hearts to God.
I want one more hymn sung, and then my friends may take me away. Sing the hymn, “Vital spark of heavenly flame.’”
With this hymn and a short prayer by Professor Finney, the meeting closed.
(From a microfiche copy of the “Memoirs of David Marks,” Southeast Missouri State University Library)
the life and writings of David Marks