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whose life had been devoted to the weal of others, to approach the margin of the river undaunted and composed ? It has been often and truly said, that “a man's life is the proper index to his death. Tell me how he lived, and I will tell you how he died." This, as a rule, is correct, with proper qualifications. Apply it to the subject before us, and how gratifying to linger and contemplate his character!
Peter Massie was the first itinerant minister of the Methodist Church, identified with its fortunes in Kentucky, to die—as he was the first man, converted in the State, who became an itinerant. among the first-fruits of the revival of 1786 * in Kentucky. Soon after his conversion, he was impressed with the conviction that he ought to devote himself entirely to the work of the ministry. Feeling properly the great responsibility of the “high and holy calling,” and his “insufficiency for these things,” he endeavored to drown the voice of conscience, and to suppress his impressions on this subject. The result was the loss of his religious enjoyment-retaining, however, “the form of godliness,” and his membership in the Church. While in this backslidden state, “in company with two others, he crossed the Ohio River into the Indian country, and gathered some horses. On their return, the Indians overtook them on the bank of the Ohio, fired on them, and killed all the company, except Massie. Seeing no chance for flight, he sprang into a sink, and concealed himself among the weeds. He could see the savages butchering his comrades, whom they cut to pieces and scattered around him."* Surrounded by such imminent danger-his escape uncertain-he turned to the only sure refuge for such an hour. He fervently prayed for deliverance, and promised, if his life was spared, he would hesitate no longer in entering the ministry. He faithfully kept his promise. In 1788, he entered the connection, and traveled successively the Lexington, the Danville, the Cumberland, and the Limestone Circuits. The Limestone Circuit—the last to which he was appointedwas the smallest in its territorial limits of any on which he had labored; and yet it spread over a large tract of country. In the various charges he filled, he was eminently useful. As often as he preached, he wept over the people. He was styled “the weeping prophet.” A writert says: “He was a feeling, pathetic preacher. The sympathetic tear often trickled down his manly cheek while pointing his audience to the Lamb of God slain for sinners.” His talents as a preacher were fair; his personal appearance attractive; his voice soft and plaintivea good singer; fascinating in his address, and remarkable for his zeal. He was about thirty years of age. It is to be regretted that one so useful, so devoted, and so universally beloved, should so early be called away. He died in the bounds of the Cumberland Circuit, on which he had traveled the previous year, and to which he had gone probably on a visit to his friends. On the evening of the 18th of December, 1791, he reached the house of Mr. Hodges, four miles west of Nashville. The family of Mr. Hodges was in the fort, for protection, and Mr. Hodges himself was in his cabin, alone, and quite ill.
* In Finley's Sketches of Western Methodism, p. 66, the Rev. William Burke, referring to the revivals under the labors of James Haw, says: "Out of this revival was raised up some useful and promising young men, who entered the traveling connection, and many of them made full proof of their ministry, and lived many years to ornament the Church of God. I will name a few of them: Peter Massie, who was termed the weeping prophet, was among the first-fruits."
The only person at the cabin, besides, was a negro boy named Simeon, who had on that evening escaped from the Indians, and reached the house of Mr. Hodges. Simeon had become acquainted with the preacher on the Cumberland Circuit, and had been converted through his instrumentality. Mr. Massie was an afflicted man." His constitution, always feeble, had become greatly impaired by his excessive labors, and, on reaching the house of his friend, he complained of indisposition. He suffered considerably during the night, but on the next morning was able to take his place at the table. While in conversation with Mr. Hodges, it was observed to him “that he would soon be well enough to travel, if he recovered so fast.” To which he replied: “If I am not well enough to travel, I am happy enough to die."* These were his last words. In a few moments he fell from his seat, and suddenly expired. In any country the
* Rev. Learner Blackman's unpublished manuscript.
death of such a man would be deeply felt; but where the “harvest was so plenteous, and the laborers so few," the loss of so useful a minister would spread a shadow over the Church. But he has passed away—the first of a noble line of self-sacrificing and devoted ministers of Christ—“having washed his robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
When nearly a half century had elapsed, the Tennessee Conference felt a considerable anxiety to find the place of his burial. No stone had been left to mark his grave; or, if so, it had fallen away. A committee was appointed to find the sacred spot; but, after an ineffectual search for years, the hope of success was abandoned. Seven years later, the Rev. Thomas L. Douglass was preaching near Nashville, and in the close of his sermon referred with much feeling to the hope he anticipated of meeting in heaven with Wesley, Asbury, McKendree, and others who had passed over the flood. In the congregation there sat an aged African, with tears coursing their way down his furrowed cheeks, and the frosts of nearly eighty winters resting upon his brow. He too was deeply moved, and, thinking of another whom he hoped to see again, exclaimed in a clear voice: "Yes, and Brother Massie!” and then, continuing his soliloquy, he added: “Yes, Simeon, with these hands, with no one to help, you dug his grave, and laid him away in the cold earth; but you will see him again, for he lives in heaven!” A member of the Tennessee Conference* sat just in front of old Simeon, and heard what he said. After the close of the services, he took him aside, and inquired of him as to what he knew of the death and burial of Peter Massie. His eyes sparkling with the fire of other years, he replied that he was at Mr. Hodges's at the time of the death of Mr. Massie; that Mr. Hodges himself was sick, and unable to assist in his burial, and that the painful pleasure of the interment devolved on him alone; that he had no plank of which to make a coffin; that he cut down an ash-tree and split it in slabs, and placed them in the grave which he had dug, and, after depositing the body, placed a slab over it, and then filled the grave with the earth. He was under the impression that he could find the precise spot where the remains of Massie lay; but he could not. When he buried him, the whole country was a wilderness; but at the time he made the search for his grave, civilization had changed its entire appearance.
* Rev. A. L. P. Green, D.D.
“His ashes lie,
Angels keep their vigils over his grave, and in the final resurrection he shall have a part.
We now propose to close this chapter with a brief sketch of Simeon, by whom Peter Massie was buried. He was a native African, and stated to Bishop Paine that he belonged to the nobility of that country. When only a child, he was brought to the United States. He fortunately fell into the