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Title: A Story of One Short Life, 1783 to 1818
Author: Stryker, Elisabeth G.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Story of One Short Life, 1783 to 1818" ***


A STORY OF ONE SHORT LIFE, 1783 to 1818.


Room 48, McCormick Block.



   I. ANCESTRY--BIRTH--BOYHOOD--CONVERSION . . . . . . . . . .  7

      IN FOREIGN MISSIONS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

 III. OBOOKIAH IN HAWAII--IN AMERICA . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16


   V. MILLS AT ANDOVER--THE AMERICAN BOARD . . . . . . . . . . 22


 VII. MILLS' SECOND TOUR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

      MISSIONARY SOCIETY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

      VISITS AFRICA  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

   X. THE LAST JOURNEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

As I write, I have in my mind a row of intelligent boyish faces.
Manly souls look through bright eyes. My heart responds to the beats
of affection beneath jacket and cut-away.

I see also a row of girlish faces, in which Christian and womanly
graces are dawning. I feel the warmth of pure young hearts beginning
to swell with generous desires.

These are my real friends. Beyond them I see rows and rows of boys
and girls whose sympathies and interest I would gladly claim.


Those among us interested in the young people, the boys and girls of
our Churches, somewhat realize the lack of material wherewith to
stimulate and nourish these young workers. The apiarist studies the
nature of the insect which must yield him its sweets, and discovers
that "the nature of the cell and the food affects the difference" in
the bees. We have long watched our boys and girls, and either we do
not care what they yield, or we are dull not to notice that what
surrounds them and enters into their minds, is surely deciding their
natures. White clover honey can only be made from white clover
blossoms. What they read and what they may be induced to read
concerns us as mission workers. Individual tastes make many by-paths
in the field of literature, but the girls all enjoy the windings of
romance, and the boys delight in the highway of adventure. "But,"
they say or think, "Missions, their history and progress are so
stupid, they have no decent heroes and heroines. We like Robinson
Crusoe, and Little Women, and the Arabian Nights!" But do we not know
that the stories of the lives of some of our missionaries, well told,
may stand side by side, upon the book-shelves and in the hearts of
our young people, with the pages of De Foe and Louise Alcott? Many a
boy and girl, charmed by the life and fortune of some unreal, and
oftentimes unworthy, hero, has attempted to make copy in his or her
own life. Missionary lives are not lacking in the spirit, adventure
and romance which are so fascinating. With these ideals in their
minds, may we not expect followers of the Judsons, the Moffats, the
Fiskes and the Rankins?

The writer, who has humbly undertaken to re-tell an old tale, is
neither a De Foe nor an Alcott. She finds she can borrow neither of
their pens. Her own, conscious of its inexperience, finds its only
relief in the fact that the story is its own strength.




Our country is quietly enjoying the benefits of a great activity.
Foreign Missions are still feeling a noble impulse, and the origin of
this force was, under God, in the heart and brain of Samuel J. Mills.

It is a name known to us, but a history almost forgotten. Only upon
the shelves of some antiquarian, or in the undisturbed library of
some old homestead can a volume be found bearing the title "Mills'
Memoirs." Take it down, blow the dust from the leaves yellow with
sixty-seven years, and you will find the narrative related in the
stately, old-time style, and somewhat laudatory and expansive.

He had no son, as Adoniram Judson had, gladly to record the details
of his busy life. The writer was Dr. Gardiner Spring, who laments
having failed in the attempt to obtain what appeared to him to be
important information. We are thankful to him for gathering even
these rare fragments.

From a sketch of Salmon Giddings, the Damon Memorial, a letter from a
relative of Mills, and the life of Henry Obookiah have come a few
incidents and facts, but mainly in the record of Dr. Spring have we
found our Story of One Short Life. Such hid treasure should find the
light, even though quarried by unskillful hands.

Biographies are apt to seem discouraging, in the beginning; the
attention being riveted upon the supposed hero, meets with a shock in
finding it has been following the history of his great-grandfather.
The scattered energies are then directed upon the grandfather, only
to meet with a second delay. Again recovering, and following the
father's fortunes, the son, the subject of the work, is at last

The great-grandfather of our hero must be brought in just long enough
to answer one question. He was once asked, "How did you educate four
sons at Yale College, and give each a profession?" His reply was,
"Almighty God did it, with the help of my wife." The grandfather (of
our hero) was drowned while some of his children were still young.
His widow, committing their babes to the God of the fatherless,
especially offered for His service, a son named Samuel John. He
became a minister, and for many years was settled in Torringford,
Connecticut. He was eminent for his ability and character. Mrs. Stowe
said of him--"He was one ingrain New Englander. Of all the marvels
that astonished my childhood, there is none I remember to this day
with so much interest as Father Mills." This was the name by which he
was extensively known. His wife was a woman exemplary and devout.

Being assured that the three preceding generations were
commandment-keeping, we shall see how the Lord showed mercy unto the
fourth. Almighty God and a true mother secure for many a man's sons,
not only education, but large efficiency and honor.

The seventh child, born April 21st, 1783, in this Torringford home,
was a son, named after his father, Samuel John. The child grew to be
a mighty instrument in God's hand, which He in His wisdom selected,
knowing the fineness of the material with which he dealt. That we too
may know something of the tempering of the steel, we are permitted a
reverent glance into that pious mother's bosom. Before the birthday
came she continually dedicated the little life beneath her heart to
the God who is pleased to accept such gifts. During all his childhood
he received the most careful Christian training. Nourished in such a
home-garden, and shined on by such mother-light, we cannot wonder
that the child grew toward the Sun, and that the roots of religious
character struck deep and spread wide.

When but a little child he showed an unusual concern of conscience.
At fifteen the town in which he lived was greatly aroused and
revived. His friends and acquaintances received the blessing, and he
was deeply interested, but the revival passed, leaving him with a
bitter, rebellious feeling in his heart.

About this time, one fine cold winter morning, a merry sleigh load
drove from his father's house. He, with his brothers, sisters and
cousins, about eighteen in all, went to spend a few days with his
uncle in West Hartford. Samuel had recently come into the possession
of a fine farm. He was gay and ambitious. His companions fearing his
good fortune might make him feel a "little too high minded," sought
to tease him. The evening before their return, after eating nuts and
apples, they agreed to have a little singing. They struck up "Hark,
from the Tombs a Doleful Sound," to the tune, Bangor. They sang it
slowly and solemnly, now and then casting at him glances from their
mischievous eyes. He sat a silent listener, while their song, sung in
fun, made an earnest impression of which he could not rid himself.

Soon after his farm was sold, and at eighteen he determined to go to
Litchfield and study in the Academy. As he was leaving home, his
mother's anxious heart could not let him go without enquiring for his
soul's health. Other mothers know the pain she suffered, when he told
her "for two years I have been sorry God ever made me." She replied
to him as her wise heart prompted her, and sent him on his way. She
went where all mothers of boys must so often go, to her knees, alone
with God.

He had not gone far on his journey when he met a Friend. It was the
Good Shepherd, whom that mother's urgent prayer had sent searching
for the wanderer. It was as if he had met Christ in his path. He
looked up at the great trees and down at the blossoms, and in
everything saw God. He became so impressed with the perfections of
the Holy One he had so long resisted, that he lost sight of himself.
He sat down in the woods to wonder and to pray. It was not until some
time after that he realized any change in himself, and not until he
returned from Litchfield did his father perceive it. His conversion
was thorough. Not only was he turned about,--his face God-ward
instead of self-ward,--but he was impelled toward "those sitting in
darkness." In his childhood, from his mother's lips, he often heard
stories from the lives of Brainerd, Eliot, and other missionaries. He
heard her prayers for them and their great undertakings. Once he
heard her say, "I have consecrated this child to the service of God
as a missionary." Now it was his joy to follow those noble examples,
and to fulfill his part in the plans of God and his mother for him.
His parents approved of his determination, though the thought of
separation tore their hearts. His mother said to him, "I cannot bear
to part from you, my son." When he reminded her of her vow, she burst
into tears, and never after made complaint. To his father he said
that he could "not conceive of any course of life in which to pass
the rest of his days, that would prove so pleasant, as to go and
communicate the gospel of salvation to the poor heathen."

This desire to spread the Gospel grew to be a sublime purpose, and
from it he never wavered. He set about his plannings, with this
supreme end in view. Thanking God for his own salvation, he laid his
life in God's hand, imploring Him to use it for those who had as yet
no knowledge of that mercy. The Lord took him from the plough, as he
did Elisha. He left the field for the college.



He entered Williams College in the spring of 1806. During his first
visit home in June, he connected himself with his father's church. A
college course means to some young men four years of frolic, or
worse. To others it is an opportunity to cram knowledge, that shall
by-and-by astound the round world and they that dwell therein. To
one, at least, it was the time for choosing "smooth stones" for his
combat with the giant adversary, whom he was brave enough to meet
alone, if need be, "in the name of the Lord of Hosts."

As a scholar he was not brilliant, but as a Christian he was "a
bright and shining light." To serve God was the highest aim of his
life. First of all, he served Him upon his knees. He used to pray
often and earnestly, alone and with others. He pursued his studies
for the after use he might make of them, not for his own
accomplishment. As he visited his friends in their rooms, and walked
with them through the groves, the subject dearest to his heart was
oftenest the theme of his conversation. To one friend he said:
"Though you and I are very little beings, we must not rest satisfied
till we have made our influence extend to the remotest corner of this
ruined world."

His life was so consistent, his disposition so sweet, his manners so
winning that every one was his friend. Those who had been unfaithful
to their vows were reproved, and those opposed to religion were
induced to follow his example. During his first year there was a
revival, which seemed to come in answer to his earnest prayers. Many
of his comrades became Christians, and so earnestly that they laid
aside or sanctified their old ambitions, and prepared to spread
through the earth the fire kindled by this devoted youth.

A mission band of boys were examined as to their knowledge of Samuel
Mills. "Where was he born?" asked the leader. "Under a haystack!"
replied a small boy. Had the question been, Where was the American
Board of Foreign Missions born? the answer would not have been so far
from the way. Its baptismal naming came some years later, but under a
stack of hay in a meadow, near Williams College, it was born, nursed
and prayed over.

About fourteen years earlier foreign missionary organization had
begun across the Atlantic. On this side, the attention of Christians
had been occupied with their new homes and the needs of the destitute
near at hand. There were societies of domestic missions; but no
scheme to touch hands God-blessed with hands idol-cursed, had ever
been devised before the Lord of both put it into the heart of Mills.
"God called him out of the midst of the bush." The bush was this
haystack, but the place became "holy ground." The Lord said: "I have
surely seen the affliction of my people, and have heard their cry."
"Come now, therefore, and I will send thee."

This commission filled his soul. He gathered a few of his friends in
a grove, to tell them his convictions and his hopes. What was his
surprise and joy to find that the "Angel of the Lord" had appeared to
them also. A sudden thunder storm came upon them here, but his
retreat, his place of safety, was near by. He led them under the
haystack, and there they talked together, and with God. And there
they continued to meet through two seasons, and finally formed
themselves into the first Foreign Missionary Society of this
continent. Its object was "to effect in the persons of its members a
mission to the heathen."

From the spot where the haystack once stood, now rises a marble
shaft, bearing aloft a globe, underneath which is inscribed:

               "THE FIELD IS THE WORLD."

  "The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions, 1806."

                  SAMUEL J. MILLS,
                  JAMES RICHARDS,
                  FRANCIS L. ROBBINS,
                  HARVEY LOOMIS,
                  BYRAM GREEN.

At every commencement, the college president leads to this monument a
procession of alumni, students, and guests. Prayer is offered that
the spirit of missions may still prevail at Williams, and that the
traditions of the past may be maintained.

In these years public opinion was decidedly opposed to the enterprise
of these young men. Even good men thought their zeal extravagant and
expected it soon to subside. In order to arouse sympathy and a right
sentiment, they devised various means. They discussed their projects
with Christian people. They distributed missionary sermons. A list
was made of the names of distinguished ministers, to whom these young
men made frequent visits, urging their suit. Among them, the first to
take fire, was Dr. Worcester. With one of them, Dr. Griffin, Mills
asked to be permitted to study theology. Said the Doctor: "I had
always refused such applications, but from the love I bore to him, I
agreed to criticise one sermon a week. After that exercise he would
commonly sit and draw letters very moderately and cautiously from his
pocket, reading passages to me on some benevolent project. At length
I perceived that _studying divinity_ with me had been quite a
secondary object, that his chief object was to get me engaged to
execute his plans. As soon as I discovered that, I told him to bring
out his letters and all his plans, without reserve."

Mills became convinced that they could not expect help from the
Churches unless the number was increased of young men ready to devote
their lives to this cause. He and his friends then separated for the
purpose of establishing societies in other colleges. Mills went to
Yale, hoping there to find kindred spirits. This was not the case,
but God had sent him for another purpose, and that to know Obookiah,
a heathen boy from the Sandwich Islands. This acquaintance greatly
increased his zeal.

Sometimes a little seed, wafted by the wind, is borne far from its
mother plant to take root in a foreign soil: but its fruit may be
returned whence it came. This little lonely heathen child, blown by
seemingly cruel and adverse winds, was tossed upon our Christian
shores by the good hand of God. The ship which brought him touched
other and idolatrous lands, but he was not to put his feet down till
they could be planted in the right place.

That his life touched Mills' life, both being quickened, is perhaps
reason enough for giving here a portion of Obookiah's history and
that of his native land, if there were not another reason, and that
the opportunity, here afforded, of following a stream of influence to
its sea.



Henry Obookiah was born in Hawaii, about the year 1792. When about
twelve years old, two parties contending for dominion, disturbed the
peace of the island. He alone survived the persecution of his family.
He was captured and carried home by the man who killed his parents,
but finally made his way to an uncle. Though he was well treated, he
suffered from loneliness. He said of himself, "When I was at play
with other children, after we had made an end of playing, they return
to their parents: but I was returned into tears, for I have no home,
neither father nor mother. Poor boy am I."

He determined to go to some other country, and forget his sorrow. The
captain of an American vessel showed him kindness, and consented to
take him on board. He brought him to America, and took him to his own
home in New Haven. Henry was a clumsy, stupid-looking boy at this
time, his appearance not revealing the undeveloped depths of his
nature. He made the acquaintance of some of the students at Yale
College, and of the Rev. E. W. Dwight. These friends becoming
interested in his welfare, offered to teach him. He accepted their
aid with avidity, and made wonderful progress, at the same time
becoming more and more lovable and attractive.

A fun-loving disposition soon showed itself. He had great difficulty
in pronouncing the letter _r_, giving it the sound of _l_. Every day
his teacher tried to help him, saying, "try, Obookiah, it is _very
easy_." This seemed to amuse the boy greatly, though as yet he could
not express himself in English. Some time after, when he could speak
more readily, he was describing to his teacher some of the customs of
his native land. Clasping his hands together, and adjusting his
thumbs, he formed a cup which he raised to his lips to show how his
countrymen drank from a spring. His instructor tried to do the same,
but before he could reach his mouth with his hands the cup would be
inverted so that the contents, had there been any, would have been
spilled. Obookiah laughed heartily and said, "_try_, Mr.
Dwight, it is _very easy_!"

One day he mimicked the gait of some of his friends so cleverly, that
there was no mistaking whom he intended to personate. His teacher
then mocked his own awkward style, when he exclaimed several times:
"me walk so?" Being assured that it was true, he rolled upon the
floor until his mirth exhausted his strength.

After being instructed about the true God, idol worship seemed to him
ridiculous. He said, "Hawaii gods! They _wood_,--_burn_. Me go home,
put 'em in a fire, burn 'em up. They no _see_, no _hear_, _no_
anything." Then added, "We make _them_. Our God," looking up, "He
make us."

After Mr. Mills arrived in New Haven he became a friend of Mr.
Dwight's, and being often in his room, occasionally heard this boy
recite. He became greatly attached to him, and began to cherish a
plan for his future. He wanted to see Obookiah a Christian, educated,
and then a missionary to his native land.

One evening Mr. Mills had not been long in Mr. Dwight's room, when
Obookiah came in with a very gloomy face. He said he had no place to
live; Mr. ---- didn't want him any more, and Miss ---- had threatened
to take away his new clothes. Mr. Mills told him he would take him to
his own home, and that he had clothes enough for both. This cheered
the poor, disconsolate fellow, who soon went with Mr. Mills to
Torringford, and was placed under the "care of those whose
benevolence was without a bond or check, or a limit to confine it."
Here he spent a part of the year 1810, and was treated wisely and
affectionately. Mrs. Mills taught him the Catechism, and her son
Jeremiah assisted him in his studies. At different times, and
frequently, their house was his home.

He became gentle and refined in his manner, a Bible-loving, earnest,
prayerful Christian. His friends who had been so careful in the
training of his mind and heart, had not neglected his hands. He was
taught much that was useful and practical, particularly in farming.
He surprised all by the quickness and eagerness with which he
learned. He was both inquisitive and acquisitive to a remarkable
degree. He persisted in knowing and getting, that he might impart
what he had gained to his own countrymen. To return to them for their
enlightenment, was his consuming desire.

He visited many families, and many of the churches of New England,
always creating a deep interest in his mission. Many people who had
affirmed that the heathen could never be reclaimed from their low
estate, were forced to change their opinions after seeing and knowing
Obookiah, and were inspired to pray and give for his and other
unevangelized races.

The presence of Obookiah in this country, as well as of other heathen
youth, together with the desire to educate some of our own Indians,
led to the formation of the Foreign Mission School, at Cornwall,
Mass. This school was under the care of the American Board ten years.
Its pupils were from many different nations. In 1826 it was
discontinued, for by this time the missions were able to educate the
young at their several stations.

Obookiah was pursuing his studies here, when, in the beginning of the
year 1818, he was stricken with typhus fever, and suffered several
weeks. On the 17th of February, 1818, he shook hands with all his
companions present, and with perfect composure addressed to them the
parting salutation of his native language, "Alloah ò e"--"my love be
with you."

Mrs. Stone, in whose house he died, and who cared for him with
Christian kindness during his sickness, said, "This had been one of
the happiest and most profitable periods of her life; that she had
been more than rewarded for her cares and watchings by day and night,
in being permitted to witness his excellent example, and to hear his
godly conversation."

Almost immediately after his death, missionaries, inspired by his
life, hastened to accomplish his cherished purpose, the establishment
of a mission in the Sandwich Islands. Mills was far from home, but
returning at the time, not knowing Obookiah had died, he said to a
friend, "If it please God that I may arrive safely, I think that I
shall take Obookiah and go to the Sandwich Islands and there I will
end my life."

From that day to this, missionaries and missions, schools, churches
and Christians have multiplied, till all those islands name the name
of Christ.



  "Surely the isles shall wait for me."

The missionaries found upon these islands naked savages, without
books, education, or courts of justice. The people were slaves,
governed arbitrarily by chiefs. It was a nation of debauchees,
thieves and drunkards. There were no marriage laws. Two-thirds of the
children born were destroyed. If an infant was ailing or troublesome,
the mother scooped a hole in the ground, covered the child with earth
and trampled out its life. The aged and infirm were taken to the brow
of a precipice and pushed over. The sick were removed to such a
distance that their groans could not annoy, and left to die. The
insane were stoned to death.

God opened the way for the missionaries by a revolution which did
away with idolatry, but did nothing for the uplifting of society.
Some of the noblest specimens of our American manhood have devoted
their lives to these desolate, far-away creatures. The mention of one
will suffice as a sample of the salt that purified those bitter and
filthy waters.

When he stepped on shore at Hilo, in 1832, it was to stay till his
work was finished--and he lived beyond the three score and ten. Such
a life is a rebuke to the restlessness of many modern workers. For
forty-two years he labored patiently in pressing himself and what he
knew upon Hawaiian youth--nearly a thousand in all--many of whom are
now pastors, leading lawyers, men of affairs, missionaries to
Micronesia, and the men who stand for righteousness in the native
churches. Great events and advances in science were exciting his
native land, but he worked on, struggling for things unseen and
eternal. Amid uninspiring surroundings, and performing many menial
duties, he led a high spiritual and intellectual life, not seeking
honor, but service--thereby gaining honor, and the "rest that

As for the results of such consecration, wisdom and work, the facts
are a marvel in history. Any prophecy in regard to them would have
been thought a wild dream. These islanders have taken their place
among the Christian nations. Marriage is considered honorable, the
family established, as well as schools, churches and a government,
whose constitution ordains that "no law shall be enacted at variance
with the word of the Lord Jehovah, or with the general spirit of His

In proportion to the population, there are more readers than in
Boston. The proportion of true Christians is as great as anywhere in
Christendom. They are decently clad, their homes are comfortable,
even sometimes going so far as to possess a melodeon and a
sewing-machine! They have progressed in agriculture, commerce, the
industries, literature and the arts. It is a regenerated nation.

The American Board has erased this mission from its list and
transferred all responsibility to the Hawaiian Evangelical



From Yale College, Mills went to Andover to study theology. Soon
after entering, his dear mother died. His grief was passionate. He
mourned for the loss of her face, her voice, her prayers, but not as
one "without hope."

At Andover he met some of his former friends, and found new ones
whose hearts the Lord had stirred--Newell, Judson, Nott, Hall, Mills!
Names to shout at the sleeping saints of this our day! Lives to
uphold to the view of our self-pleasing generation! These men
organized a second missionary society, similar to the one at
Williams. They met to pray and plan. Their prayers were answered and
their plans resulted in the formation of the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

If the objections made to their plans were here rehearsed, the
arguments would sound very familiar; they are the same, in spite of
their repeated death-blows, that array themselves against the plan of
missions to-day. The assailants of this cause are not students of
history. There is no such thing as opposition, or even indifference,
to Christian missions, unless there is ignorance behind it.

These young men succeeded in gaining the sympathy and alliance of
some of the prominent pastors, and the professors in the seminary. To
the annual meeting of the General Association of Massachusetts, at
Bradford, June 27, 1810, they presented the following paper:

  The undersigned, members of the Divinity College, respectfully
  request the attention of their Reverend Fathers, convened in the
  General Association at Bradford, to the following statement and

  They beg leave to state, that their minds have been long impressed
  with the duty and importance of personally attempting a mission to
  the heathen; that the impressions on their minds have induced a
  serious, and they trust a prayerful, consideration of the subject
  in its various attitudes, particularly in relation to the probable
  success and the difficulties attending such an attempt; and that
  after examining all the information which they can obtain, they
  consider themselves as devoted to this work for life, whenever God
  in his providence shall open the way.

  They now offer the following inquiries, on which they solicit the
  opinion and advice of the association. Whether, with their present
  views and feelings, they ought to renounce the object of missions,
  as visionary and impracticable; if not, whether they ought to
  direct their attention to the Eastern or Western world? Whether
  they may expect patronage and support from a missionary society in
  this country, or must commit themselves to the direction of a
  European society; and what preparatory measures they ought to take
  previous to actual engagement?

  The undersigned, feeling their youth and inexperience, look up to
  their fathers in the church and respectfully solicit their advice,
  direction and prayers.

                                           ADONIRAM JUDSON JR.
                                           SAMUEL NOTT JR.
                                           SAMUEL J. MILLS.
                                           SAMUEL NEWELL.

The names of Rice and Richards were struck off "for fear of alarming
the Association with too large a number."

This paper was referred to a special committee, who indorsed the
sentiment and submitted a plan to the association, which was carried
into effect by the appointment of a Board of Commissioners for
Foreign Missions.

After much exertion and inquiry at home, Judson was sent to England
to learn if help could be expected from the London Missionary
Society. He found that society willing to take the young men under
its care and support, but not ready to assist the new Board.

The American society soon received aid within its own boundaries,
which was a far better beginning than to be dependent upon outside
resources. Mrs. Mary Norris, the wife of one of the founders of
Andover Seminary, bequeathed thirty thousand dollars to the Board.
God's Spirit generally revived the churches, opening the eyes and
hearts of His people, their purses as well, though not many of the
latter were well filled in those days.

God only has a full record of the anxious courage and faith which was
exercised by the supporters, managers, and appointees of the Board
during those first struggling years. Under the care of this board
Mills and his friends placed themselves, and by it most of them were
sent out in the year 1812.



From the first throb of his Christian life, the heart of Mills beat
like a soldier's. He called out the recruits, captained the forces,
and died in service--a hero! In his student days he had a compelling
influence upon his classmates, and even then showed signs of
generalship in his faculty of organizing. The establishment of the
Foreign Mission School was largely consequent upon his suggestions;
in the formation of the American Board he was one of the foremost
personal instruments.

Studies finished, his heart firm in his lofty purpose, highborn
schemes began their struggling claim for his attention. The world
with all its lands stretching their help-beckoning fingers, was
persuading him. Over the home land, his and ours, he turned his
penetrating glance. He saw occasion for vast concern, and here was
his first response. To go first, opening the way for others through
the tangled wilderness, was his design, his master-plot. That "divine
ferment" at Williams College worked the good of home, as well as of
foreign, missions.

Having chosen a companion-spy, the Rev. John Schermerhorn, soon after
his graduation in 1812, he went to view a goodly land, which he
desired to have the people of God go up and possess. This tour was
undertaken under the patronage of the Connecticut and Massachusetts
Home Missionary Societies. Heretofore these societies had prayed and
wept over young missionaries sent to the uncivilized wilds of Western
New York! The plan of Mills and Schermerhorn was to travel through
the wide territory lying between the great lakes and the Gulf of
Mexico, to learn the moral condition of the inhabitants, and scatter
what good they might.

The map of this region, as published in Morse's school atlas of 1823,
is curiously different from the maps of the present day. The state
and territorial lines have been altered, those green, pink, and
yellow blanks have become densely freckled and wrinkled, by the dots
of cities and towns, and by the complicated tracery of railroads.

These travelers did not telegraph their intended arrival, nor sleep
and dine their way to their journey's end, on the "Flyer," and then
rest in some palatial hotel at last. Each mounted his horse, taking
with them by way of baggage all that was necessary for the
trip,--tent, provisions, clothing and Bibles. They plodded through
miry swamps, they climbed up and down almost perpendicular ledges,
and cut their way through canebrakes with a hatchet. When they had
creeks to cross they swam their horses. At night they camped, often
in the rain and sometimes without food. More than once they were
serenaded by Indian war-whoops and the howling wolves. Stopping at
town or settlement they were made cordially at home in hut and cabin.
In some places they perceived bright prospects, the germs of future
cities, and were often urgently besought to stay and preach the
gospel permanently.

They found everywhere the Sabbath profaned, only a few good people in
any one place, and Bibles rare possessions. In some places the people
were longing for the Gospel. In all the leading towns they formed
Bible societies, and everywhere preached and distributed Bibles,
which were gladly received.

From Nashville they went down the Cumberland and Mississippi with
General Jackson and fifteen hundred volunteers. In New Orleans they
gained the consent of Bishop DeBury to distribute the Scriptures in
French to the French Romanists, who made up three-fourths of the
population of the state. They found no Protestant church in the city.
They here organized a Bible society, and remained several weeks to
preach and to hold prayer-meetings.



In the year 1814 Mr. Mills having obtained the assistance of some of
the eastern Bible societies, and having chosen as companion the Rev.
Daniel Smith, started on another tour through the South and West.
They went laden with Bibles and the prayers of Christian friends.
They went through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
In all these states they found the people "exceedingly destitute of
religious privileges," and a "lamentable want of Bibles and
missionaries." They found "American families who never saw a Bible,
or heard of Jesus Christ." There was only one minister to ten
thousand people if equally placed; but there were districts
containing from twenty to fifty thousand "without a preacher." These
men were light-bringers to this "valley of the shadow of death," as
Mills called it. They found English soldiers, French Romanists,
colored slaves, our own dear countrymen, greedy for the bread of

They traveled more than six thousand miles; they passed through a
variety of climates; they endured "perils in the city, perils of the
wilderness, perils on the rivers and on the sea," that they might
cast that bread upon the waters which you and I are finding after
many days.

Mills arrived for the second time in New Orleans, soon after the
celebrated battle of January 8, 1815, and cheered many hearts by his
coming. He visited the soldiers in prison, the sick and wounded in
the hospitals; kneeling on the bare floor where they lay, he prayed
and talked with them, sang for them, and gave them Bibles; he
preached in camp. The Philadelphia society had given him a quantity
of French Bibles. The people were clamorous for them. They thronged
the distributor's door, and remained even after the notice had been
given that no more could be had until the following day. They came
sometimes from great distances. In one week a thousand copies were
given away. In one instance a Romish priest assisted in this work.
The bishop acknowledged the deplorable state of the people, and
preferred their having the Protestant version to none at all.

When these adventurers in Christ's kingdom visited St. Louis, they
found it a place of two thousand inhabitants,--"a tumble-down French
village,--built mainly of wooden slabs and poles set vertically, and
well daubed with mortar mixed with straw, though there were many log
houses." In a school-room they delivered the first Presbyterian or
Congregational sermons ever preached on the west side of the
Mississippi. They were gratefully received, and had crowded
audiences. The people would gladly have supported either one could he
have stayed.

But the immediate duty of these explorers for souls was to return to
the churches which had sent them out, to report what they had
discovered, and to beg that men be sent to these waste places which
were waiting to be made to blossom. All New England was roused to
effort by their appeal, and the next year ten or twelve men responded
to the summons.

In 1848 the word "gold" was whispered in California and heard all
over the world. The gold-hunters pressed forward from every corner of
the earth. It was not thought a hard thing to turn one's back on
home, friends and country, for the sake of gold, though that
glittering promise was, to most of those who searched, like the bag
at the end of the rainbow, and all the riches of this world "make
themselves wings." "The promises of God are sure," and the riches
which He bestows are everlasting; and yet to the call, gold and
glory, young men answer by the thousand, while to the cry, Christ and
a crown, they respond by the dozen! "Choose ye this day whom ye will



During these two missionary journeys the heart of our apostle was
swelling with the woes of the sin-bound, and his brain contriving for
their release. Upon his return he settled in New York state, and
spent two busy years in working out his purposes. While waiting for
their maturity he was most of the time in the large cities,
particularly New York. Here he spent what might have been leisure, in
visiting the poor in the neglected districts. He also wrote many
letters; and in the churches, and everywhere, and upon everybody,
urged attention to the world's great needs, and their great duties.
As the result of this planning, waiting and working, he was permitted
to see formed the American Bible Society, and the United Foreign
Missionary Society. On the subject of city evangelization, he
advanced ideas which we at this striving time might well study.

The entire destitution of religious privileges which Mills had
witnessed in the West and South, and the great desire of the people
for the word of God, with their inability to supply themselves, made
him eager for the formation of a National Bible Society, which should
be large enough and strong enough to supply such great want. He had
some hope of having the matter brought out at the general assembly of
the Presbyterian church; but it was thought best to have it come
about through the existing Bible societies, rather than have it bear
the features of any denomination.

The matter was kept constantly before influential people by this
indefatigable man, and at last on the 8th of May, 1816, delegates
from the different Bible societies of the United States convened in
New York city, and resolved unanimously "to establish, without delay,
a General Bible Institution, for the circulation of the Holy
Scriptures, without note or comment." Before closing their sessions a
constitution was adopted, managers elected, and an address issued to
the people of the United States, informing them of the project, and
inviting their sympathy and coöperation in this benevolent scheme.

This was a great day to Mills, and those who saw him, sitting apart,
watching with intense eagerness the deliberations of the convention,
long remembered his delighted face. But how must the resources and
usefulness of this society have exceeded even his fond hopes!

As its first depository, it shared the office room of its agent. From
time to time it was forced to move to larger quarters, until the year
1853, when it located permanently, in its well-known building, The
Bible House, on Astor Place, New York city. This edifice is of brick,
six stories high, and occupies a solid block. In its first year, the
society received $37,779, and issued 6,410 volumes; in its seventieth
year (1886) its receipts were $523,910, and it issued 1,437,440
volumes. In the Bible House, the working force--manufacturing and
executive--numbers about 250. The auxiliaries which directly and
indirectly center in this society, number about 7,000.

From this great tree and its many branches, the leaves have been sent
for the healing of nations. There are now but few countries where
there are any impediments to the free circulation of the Scriptures.
In our own land the society has afforded relief to its feeble
auxiliaries, has supplied destitute Sabbath-schools, has endeavored
to place the Bible in the common schools, to distribute it among
soldiers and seamen, to furnish hotels, steamboats, railroads, and
humane and criminal institutions. By it, the Bible has been
circulated among immigrants, the destitute poor, the freedmen, the
Chinese, and (in the Douay version) among Romanists. At four
different periods the society has made exploration among the states
and territories, to search and supply the destitute. Proportionately
the number of families without the word of God is much smaller now
than when the society was organized, notwithstanding the enormous
growths in population.

The society has attempted to send the Bible to all the inhabitants of
the earth, accessible to its agents. It has established depots in
almost every place where the American churches have missions. It
circulates the Scriptures in more than eighty different languages and
dialects. In 1856, in compliance with a special request, and by means
of a special gift, the Society's Imperial Quarto English Bible, bound
with extraordinary care, enclosed in a rosewood case, and accompanied
by a courteous letter, was sent to each of the reigning monarchs and
other chief magistrates of the world.

Before the art of printing, the Bible was the most expensive book in
the world. So late as the American Revolution, in its cheapest
edition a volume could not be purchased for less than two dollars.
This society now furnishes a copy of the entire book for twenty-five
cents. It has made the Bible the cheapest book in the world.

Mills, anxious to see every wheel set in motion for the advancement
of Christ's kingdom, was restless because of the inaction of the
Presbyterian church in the cause of Foreign Missions; again by his
personal influence upon prominent men, another plan was matured. A
committee was appointed by the General Assembly to confer with
committees from the Dutch and Scotch churches, and a new society was
formed, called the United Foreign Missionary Society. After a few
years of efficient service this society was merged with the American
Board, yielding to it its name and affairs.

While so busy with these schemes just referred to, Mr. Mills was
collecting all possible information in regard to South America. He
desired to have the way opened for a mission in that country, and was
willing to go himself to make the needed investigations. But it was
seven years later when the American Board sent the first men to that

In spite of these great enterprises, which must have been so
absorbing of time and energy, this busy man found opportunity and
strength to search out the squalid back streets of New York, and to
go from house to house of its wretched inhabitants, giving sympathy,
speaking words of Christian love and instruction, and where they
would receive them leaving the word of God and good books.



Abraham Lincoln, when a young man, made a journey into the South. Of
all the impressions which those new scenes made upon him, the one
deepest and strongest was that of slavery. It filled him with
loathing, but kindled a zeal which never slumbered, until it cost his
priceless life.

It was such a spark which became a fire in the breast of Mills. What
he saw and what he heard, during those southern tours, made him a
willing martyr for the sake of Africa's sons and daughters. Their
degradation made him ready to endure all things if only he could
pierce the black cloud overshading them. His first effort resulted in
a school, called the African School, for training young colored men
to teach and preach to their own race. He then lent essential aid in
the formation of the American Colonization Society.

This society was composed of noble-minded men whose pitying attention
was fastened upon the bondage, afflictions and heathenism of their
black brothers, in this so called free land.

Their aim was to furnish a refuge, in their own country, for those
who were emancipated here, and it was their hope that such a scheme
would do much toward the abolition of slavery.

Their first effort was the collection of information: first, in
regard to the condition of the slave here, that they might enlist
general sympathy in their work. In a letter written by Mr. Mills
about this matter, he said: "State facts. Facts will always produce
an effect, at least on pious minds. You can easily possess yourself
of facts, the bare recital of which will make the heart bleed." From
the extensive observations he had made in the South, and by having
the subject so long in his mind, he was very ready to "state facts,"
and did so in every time and place. The information needed, in the
second place, by the society was in regard to a suitable location for
the colony, and the methods which would be required to obtain it. Mr.
Mills was made their agent.

He chose as a colleague, to share his responsibility, the Rev. Mr.
Burgess. After some months of preparation they left America, planning
to visit England first for information and assistance and then
Africa, for the accomplishment of their errand.

His father says of the "good-bye" which he bade him, at the time,
that "he enjoyed peculiar peace of mind, committing himself entirely
to the guidance and protection of the Almighty." He, who had endured
so many hardships for Christ's sake, knew in whom he trusted.

After about two weeks' sailing, they encountered a fearful storm and
had need of all their faith. The wind blew furiously for thirty-six
hours. The captain ordered the masts cut away and the decks cleared.
He remained on deck, calmly giving orders, until they were driven
almost upon a ledge of rocks. Despairing of any safety in the ship,
he abandoned her, taking his children with him in a small boat. Some
of those left on board the ship, in their agony of peril, were in the
cabin, beseeching the mercy of Him who rules the violent sea. Others
were on deck, where Mr. Burgess, praying aloud, commended their souls
to God.

All unexpectedly, a counter current bore them into deeper water, past
the rocks. All exclaimed, "It is the work of God!" A gloomy night
they spent tossing on the sea, but in the morning quiet came. The
mate assumed control, and by using what crippled forces they could
command, they found their way to a harbor of France.

From there they proceeded to London. They were cordially received by
a number of distinguished men and officials. Among them Mr.
Wilberforce and Mr. Zachary Macauly, the former governor of Sierra
Leone, who introduced them to the Duke of Gloucester. They met
everywhere with Christian sympathy, and the kindest offers of
service. Having obtained letters to the governors of colonies in
Africa, they left England for the west coast, February 3, 1818.

This voyage was a pleasant one, and brought them in about thirty days
to the mouth of the Gambia. They anchored near the village of St.
Mary's, and went to inspect this and other settlements. They made the
acquaintance of the governors and the Europeans, everywhere gathering
useful and pertinent facts.

They proceeded south, visiting towns and villages, and calling upon
the kings and head men. On these occasions they were received in the
"palaver house," by the chiefs arranged in true African style,
regardless of taste. One was described as wearing "a silver-laced
coat, a superb three-cornered hat, blue-bafta trousers, considerably
the worse for wear, and no stockings or shoes." The insignia of
royalty were a silver-headed cane in one hand, a horse-tail in the
other. Before the palaver could go on, the hosts must receive
presents, and as their guests had oftenest been slave traders, rum
and tobacco had become essentials.

By means of interpreters they made known their friendly feelings, and
that they had come from America. "That wise and good men had agreed
to help the black people who wished to come to this country; that the
design was a good one, and would promote the best interests of the
black people both in America and Africa; that if they would sell or
give tracts of their unimproved lands, the people who came would
introduce more knowledge of the arts and agriculture, would buy such
things as they had to sell, and would sell to them such things as
they wanted;" that the children were to be educated; that they had
come as messengers of peace and good tidings, bringing no weapons in
their hands--that they did not desire war.

They found that African kings knew the art of being slothful in
business. They seemed to have no idea of dispatch, but would talk for
hours without coming to the point. In general their reception was
cordial, and, in some instances, more than that. Land was offered
them in five different places. Their greatest obstacle was the
unsavory reputation of the white men who had preceded them,--the
slave-traders and merchants,--men who had been gross, violent and
rapacious. One of the natives who saw Mr. Mills and Mr. Burgess in
prayer, said he "never knew before that white men prayed!"

They found that the natives would not be unwilling to give up their
superstitions, and were gratified at the prospect of education for
their children; that they would be glad to have God's word, and the
pure religion it teaches. One old man with white hair and beard,
wished for this good time to come at once; he wanted to know more
about God's book before he died.

The observations and inquiries which had been so conscientiously made
by the agents, enabled them to report to their society that the
project was both practicable and expedient. After due consideration
of the instructions and recommendations of experienced foreigners,
and the details of exploration, which this report furnished them, the
society thought it most wise to proceed with the undertaking.

After seeking needed individual and governmental aid, and perfecting
so far as possible the organization, the first colony was sent to
Africa in 1820. They endured the discouraging vicissitudes which are
generally incident to new settlements, and in a few years success
seemed certain.

In 1847 LIBERIA became an established free republic. The constitution
is modeled upon our own.



"We have taken an affectionate leave of the clergymen, the civil
officers, and the colonists of Sierra Leone. We are embarked for the
United States, by way of England; and the continent of Africa recedes
from our view."

This is the last entry in Mills' journal. Three months had been spent
in Africa; months of unsparing toil, under a scorching sun, amid
depressing pagan scenes. But the undertaking had been reasonably
successful, and tired bodies had been upheld by grateful hearts.

On shipboard once more, with faces turned homeward, opportunity came
for fatigue to assert itself. The strength of Mills, never great at
the best, began to fail. A deep spirituality, which had possessed him
through all the journey, grew stronger and stronger. And as they were
wafted, day by day, nearer home, it became evident that his spirit,
too, was nearing its desired haven. Fever burned his body; but at
last eternal health claimed his soul. Under a glowing sunset, he was
buried, to wait until the sea surrenders its dead.

The one great desire of his life, "to sit in some quiet corner and
teach the perishing," was unfulfilled; but God through him had sent,
and yet sends, many teachers to many far corners.

Thirty-five years, only, of mortal life was allotted him in which to
accomplish so much; yet it was time enough,--not because of his
uncommon gifts, but because he knew the secret of well doing. He did
not attempt to be the origin--the source, but gloried in being the
channel through which God poured His great thoughts. No time was lost
by obstructions; the dredge that kept the channel free was
prayer--private, social, public, constant prayer, not for himself,
but for God's glory.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Story of One Short Life, 1783 to 1818" ***

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