He could not leave

Daily Reading for September 15 • Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr of Carthage, 258, and James Chisholm, Priest, 1855

With respect to Mr. Chisholm’s capacity as a preacher, his finished and almost elaborate style of rhetoric, his brethren uniformly spoke in high terms. With respect to manner, there was an expression of deep reverence in his face, distinctness and earnestness in his tones of voice, never at any time absent from his public ministrations, which arrested and fixed the attention of his audience. And he carried the same manner into those services which he performed in the houses of the poorest of the people; and impressions were made by those services thus performed never to be forgotten. A recollection of one of them was expressed by the wife of a hardworking man (a former parishioner) who had moved to the lake country of Ohio, in a letter written upon reading a notice of his death in the public prints. “The news of his death opened the fountains of my tears. I wept and wept: old associations came to my mind. When mother was ill, and we all thought she was breathing her last, Mr. Chisholm came in. He kneeled by the bed, and in a strain of elevation repeated: ‘Though I walk through the dark valley and shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou, O God! art with me.’ Probably there was no one to do the same kind office for him when dying; but I believe the Angel of the Covenant was with him.”

It may have been inferred from some passages in this memoir, that Mr. Chisholm was of so meek and gentle a nature as to be wanting in firmness. He was not indeed always showing his firmness about trifles, or when there was no occasion for it; but when the occasion demanded it, he was not only firm, but unyielding and courageous; more too in others’ behalf than in his own. In the last and great act of his life some perhaps will think that he carried his firmness too far, especially when the condition of a child elsewhere would have fully justified him to the world for going to attend upon his dying-bed. There was also another reason which in the public mind would have justified him in leaving by perhaps the 25th of August—the fact that nearly every one if not every one of his own people who had remained were either dead or had passed through the fever. But his meekness is not more capable of defense than his resolution. The Christian pastor is naturally looked to in times of trouble not only by his own flock and the Christian people generally, but by a great many other persons. Where trouble was, there he was always, if wanted. His services, to which some value was attached, were in continued demand. Others were absent, disabled, or dead. There he was by divine providence, and surely if any were called to continue with such as could not leave, and minister to them in their distress, he felt it to be himself.

From Memoir of Rev. James Chisholm, A.M., Rector of St. John’s Church, Portsmouth, Virginia, with Memoranda of the Pestilence which Raged in that City during the Summer and Autumn of 1855 by David Holmes Conrad (New York: Protestant Episcopal Society for the Promotion of Evangelical Knowledge, 1856).

Past Posts