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Past and Present
Rev. Franklin Metcalf


Was one- of the company of preachers, who attended our-Quarterly Meeting on the day referred to in the preceding sketch, when I first saw Wilson and heard him preach. Metcalf although not more than half his age, was so distinguished among his compeers as to be selected to preach on the evening of the same day. The subject of his sermon also indicated the estimation in which he was held by his brethren. It was the evidence of a Divine call to the Christian Ministry} preached,—I was told by request,—from Isaiah, xlviii. 16, “The Lord God and his spirit hath sent me.” In this sermon he vindicated the doctrine of a divine call—pointed out the true marks of such a call,—and concluded with directions and encouragements. It was a well argued, lucid, satisfactory discourse, expressed in appropriate language, and delivered with a free and agreeable elocution. Such was my first sight of Metcalf. He was then youthful and ruddy—tall, and elegant in his carriage, though very meek and humble in his bearing. He was far in advance of most of his brethren of that day, in point of scholarship and general knowledge. He had been educated for a physician, the study of medicine being given up to preach the Gospel, to which he felt he was divinely designated. Besides this, he was naturally a preacher; or as a plain old brother said of another “It came handy to him.” The biographer, however, would perhaps have the same difficulty in sketching his moral and mental portraiture, that a portrait painter would have had in drawing his personal likeness, I think it is said to be more difficult to paint the likeness of a faultless symmetrical person, than one whose features are prominent and irregular. He was a harmonious, well proportioned character. Bold and faithful, yet mild and bland, intelligent and talented, yet modest and unpretending—refined and genteel, yet plain and condescending. He had the very best taste, and perceived instinctively what propriety required in each emergency,

He was a man exclusively devoted to his work—punctual and laborious; but so easy was speaking to him, and so free was he from all imprudences, excesses, and violent excitements, that his labours did not affect him as did those of many of his more robust brethren. His sermons were very methodical, and easily understood, and very easily retained in memory; and yet they were very ingenious. He was decidedly the best sermonizer of his day. We speak of course of our own little world. One, at least, of his compeers had more fire and eloquence than he; but less system and general accuracy. Although far from being a fanciful preacher, he often took a quaint, unusual text, which no one knew how to handle better. We give a few specimens:—“A man was famous, according as he had lifted up axes against the thick trees; bufc now they cut down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.” “And an high head, and a proud heart, and the ploughing of the wicked is sin.” “I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people; and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”

He was a very decided Methodist, and held very profound and determinate views on all theological questions. He was one of the ablest expositors of the vexed baptismal controversy, the writer ever new-—a thorough-going Paedobaptist was he.

No person had fewer enemies. He was an almost universal favourite. Though tenacious of all his opinions, he knew how to maintain them in a manner not to give offence to those who differed from him. Habitually correct in his own language, he loved to tease those with whom he was familiar for their blunders; and had a way of making them appear ludicrously absurd. An Irish preacher one day bragged up his mare, said “she was a good hand to walk.” “What!” said Metcalf slyly, “Does she walk on her hands?” After hearing Metcalf narrate a certain circumstance one day, a young preacher wishing to ascertain the chronology of the event, said inquiringly, “Was that when you rode the Hallowell circuit?” “No,” said Metcalf, “I travelled the circuit, and rode my horse.” Conversing once with a brother about his height—Metcalf was tall—the young man using a cant phrase which he had unhappily picked up somewhere, said, “But brother Metcalf, you are not six feet ‘by a great majority." “Why,” responded he, “that would make me out only about two feet and a half."

Notwithstanding these sallies of wit and pleasantry, none treated sacred things with more reverence. And he h^s been heard to rebuke his younger brethren sharply for the use of terms in relation to religion, that had a profane allusion. He was a man of much and mighty prayer. His devotions were not hurried and formal. In secret he prayed much, and struggled long and ardently—often going abroad into the woods and fields to pour out his soul to God, where I have heard of his being found on one occasion by an irreligious man bowed with his head to the ground, or prostrated on his face, uttering strong cries with tears, to Him that was able to save him. He cherished ardent aspirations after purity; and enjoyed a rich and remarkable unction from above on his ministry. I never heard him make a distinct profession of his own personal enjoyment of “ perfect love; ” but I never heard a living preacher state the doctrine so clearly in its experimental aspects. He had too mean an opinion of his own religious attainments. Once riding with him through a long, lonely, forest road, he got into a pensive, somewhat melancholy mood; and allusion being made to his office, he broke out into the subjoined solil-loquy, following each exclamation with a sigh and pause:—“I’m not fit to be a Presiding Elder!—I’am not fit to be .a Travelling Preacher!—I’am not fit to be a Local Preacher !—and I’m not fit to be a private member of the Church I” No one who knew him would join in any one of the above deprecatory declamations. He punctiliously observed the laws of the Church in the execution of discipline; and contended for a scrupulous adherence to the constitution of the body in the doings of the Conference, both legislative and administrative; in which it were well if he had more imitators.

But there was one cloud, and only one, which in some measure obscured the lustre of this moral luminary—that was his premature retirement (in a moment of some agitation, and bodily infirmity) from the active work of the ministry. This the writer has reason to know, he saw and deplored after it was too late to remedy the evil. But no retired preacher could ever be more esteemed and influential than, he was in a local sphere. His ministerial brethren also continued to love him to the end ; and his last and only visit to the Conference after his retirement was hailed as a most joyful event.

His sudden death, in his field without a single attendant, deepened the feeling of the tenderness and sadness that would have been felt under any circumstance at the event. It happened during the session of Conference. And being informed of it by telegraph, all its members bowed their heads in sorrow, and went into mourning for him. Marching in the most impressive funeral procession, I ever beheld, (the Chairman and officers of Conference in scarfs, and all the rest with a weed on the left arm) to the Church, the occasion was improved by the then President, the accomplished Dr. Richey.

The writer had the mournful satisfaction of preaching a funeral sermon for him, two Sundays after, at the head of a circuit the deceased had once travelled, and where he was held in the most fond rememberance, to a large assembly from all parts of the surrounding country. “I am distressed for thee, my brother, very pleasant has thou been unto me!”


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