Wm. Stevens was an embodiment of generosity. He could not pray in public, or make a speech; but he could give money, and when he had plenty of it he gave in large sums, and when monetary disaster came, his grief was that he had nothing to give. I saw him go right through all the perturbations of business life. He was faithful to God. I saw him one day worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I saw him the next day and he was not worth a farthing. Stevens! How plainly he comes before me as I think of the night in 1857 after the New York banks had gone down, and he had lost everything except his faith in God, and he was at the prayer meeting to lead the singing as usual! And, not noticing that from the fatigues of that awful financial panic he had fallen asleep, I arose and gave out the hymn, “My drowsy powers, why sleep ye so?” His wife wakened him, and he started the hymn at too high a pitch, and stopped, saying, “That is too high”; then started it at too low a pitch, and stopped, saying, “That is too low.” It is the only mistake I ever heard him make. But the only wonder is that amid the circumstances of broken fortunes he could sing at all.
Dr. Samuel Ward! He was the angel of health for the neighbourhood. Before anyone else was up any morning, passing along his house you would see him in his office reading. He presided at the first nativity in my household. He it was that met me at the railroad station when I went to preach my first sermon as candidate, at Belleville. He medicated for many years nearly all the wounds for body and mind in that region. An elder in the Church, he could administer to the soul as well as to the perishable nature of his patients.
And the Duncans! Broad Scotch as they were in speech! I was so much with them that I got unconsciously some of the Scottish brogue in my own utterance. William, cautious and prudent; John, bold and venturesome—both so high in my affections! Among the first ones that I ask for in Heaven will be John and William Duncan.
Gasherie De Witt! He embodied a large part of the enterprise and enthusiasm of the place. He had his head full of railroads long before the first spike was driven for an iron pathway to the village. We were much together and ardently attached; went fishing together on long summer days, he catching the fish, and I watching the process. When we dedicated the first Brooklyn Tabernacle, he was present, and gave the money for building a baptistry in the pulpit, and gave besides $100 for his wife and each one of his children. When we parted from each other at Oxford, England, he to go to Geneva, Switzerland, to die, and I to come back to America, much of sweet acquaintanceship and complete confidence ended for this world, only to be taken up under celestial auspices.
But time and space would fail to tell of the noble men and women that stood around me in those early years of my ministry. They are all gone, and their personality makes up a large part of my anticipation of the world to come.