We find the following allusion to the life and death of his mother, in a sermon by Dr. T. De Witt Talmage:
“In these remarks upon maternal faithfulness, I have found myself unconsciously using as a model the character of one, who, last Wednesday, we put away for the resurrection. About sixty years ago, just before the day of their marriage, my father and mother stood up in the old meeting-house, at Somerville, to take the vows of a Christian. Through a long life of vicissitude she lived blamelessly and usefully, and came to her end in peace. No child of want ever came to her door, and was turned away. No stricken soul ever appealed to her and was not comforted. No sinner ever asked her the way to be saved, and was not pointed to Christ.
“When the Angel of Life came to a neighbor’s dwelling, she was there to rejoice at the incarnation; and when the Angel of Death came, she was there to robe the departed one for burial. We had often heard her, while kneeling among her children at family prayers, when father was absent, say: ’I ask not for my children wealth, or honor; but I do ask that they may all become the subjects of Thy converting grace.’ She had seen all her eleven children gathered into the Church, and she had but one more wish, and that was that she might again see her missionary son. And when the ship from China anchored in New York harbor, and the long absent one crossed the threshold of his paternal home, she said, ’Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’
“We were gathered from afar to see only the house from which the soul had fled forever. How calm she looked! Her folded hands appeared just as when they were employed in kindnesses for her children. And we could not help but say, as we stood and looked at her, ‘Doesn’t she look beautiful!’ It was a cloudless day when, with heavy hearts, we carried her out to the last resting-place. The withered leaves crumbled under wheel and hoof as we passed, and the setting sun shone upon the river until it looked like fire. But more calm and bright was the setting sun of this aged pilgrim’s life. No more toil. No more tears. No more sickness. No more death. Dear mother! Beautiful mother!
“’Sweet is the slumber beneath
While the pure soul is resting with God.’”
The known facts in regard to John Talmage’s boyhood and youthful days are few. Of the known facts some perhaps are too trivial, others too sacred to bear mention. The sapling grew. Of the inner and outer circles of growth there is but brief record.
He spent his boyhood at a quiet country hamlet, Gateville, New Jersey. On the ridge swung the toll-gate, and a little beyond might be heard the hum and rattle of the grist-mill. His father kept the toll-gate. John was a fine horseman, and found great sport in jumping on his horse and chasing the people who had “cheated the gate” by not paying their toll. John knew the law and was not afraid to go for them. He went to a private school under the care of a Mr. Morton at the village of Bound Brook, two miles from home, and generally stood at the head of his class.