A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen


December 3, 1874.

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - In compliance with the request of sister Purington, it becomes my painful duty to prepare and forward for publication in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, a notice of the death of my dear cousin, ELDER JOSEPH L. PURINGTON, of Alexandria, VA., who departed this life, Thursday, the 3rd of December, 1874; aged 54 years.

The circumstances connected with the death of our dear brother were such as to cause the dark and inscrutable dealings of our God with the churches in Virginia, over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer, to appear very mysterious, and the blow has fallen with crushing power upon his dear family, and friends. On Tuesday, evening, the 2nd inst., Elder D. Bartley had preached in Alexandria, in the hall in which the church meets for worship, and after he had closed his remarks brother Purington also made some closing remarks, appearing much elated in his mind, and remarked, as he had a few days previous, that he wished, if according to God’s will, he might die at his post; then read hymn # 962, {Beebe’s Collection} which was sung, and the service of the evening closed. In the course of three or four minutes he complained of feeling very sick, and sat down; but with the assistance of brother Broaders he walked into an adjoining room, and a physician was immediately called in; but alas, it was soon ascertained that paralysis of the brain had taken place. After being cupped he seemed somewhat relieved, but it was only temporary; for the next moment it was evident that he was fast becoming worse, and about 10 o’clock the following evening he became speechless, and continued so until Thursday, or the next day, when about 2 o’clock p.m. the mortal struggle ended, and he entered into that blessed state of existence, prepared for the redeemed church of our God, having his prayer answered; for he died at his post, with his armor on. He expired in the building where he had so many times preached the gospel of the Son of God. Truly how unsearchable are the judgments of our God, and his ways past finding out!

Our dear departed brother had been in the ministry about thirty-five years, was ordained thirty-three years ago last September. Probably he was as extensively known as any minister of his age in our denomination, in this country, because he had traveled much, and devoted a large portion of his time to his work as a servant of Jesus Christ. His ministry had been wonderfully blessed of God, especially since he resided in Alexandria, VA., which had been four years the 31st day of last March. Since he moved to Alexandria he had baptized one hundred and twenty-four persons. He had the pastoral care of the following named churches: Ebenezer, Mount Zion, Upper Broad Run, Bethlehem, Quantico and Alexandria. Having the care of so many churches, his labors were arduous, and he had to be absent from home a large portion of the time; but he seemed well fitted to fill the place to which his Lord and Master had called him; but at a time unlooked for he was called away from his labors on earth to his mansion on high. Taken in the full vigor of life and usefulness, as he was, certainly causes the lovers of God’s truth to realize that a man’s “days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”

“Go to the grave in all thy glorious prime,
In full activity of zeal and power;
A christian cannot die before his time,
The Lord’s appointment is the servant’s hour.”

Justice to the memory of our departed brother constrains me to say that while he had seasons of gloom and darkness, like his brethren, yet in his public ministry, when his heart was fired with the love of God, he was not merely “a talker,” but a faithful and able expounder of the written word of God. The thousands who have heard him preach will admit that, in the all-important matter of salvation, Christ was the foundation upon which he built; and at times, when preaching Christ and him crucified, his pathos was very touching. His arguments were clear; his deductions just, and his positions upon scripture truth incontrovertible, and his eloquence powerful and thrilling. But his voice is now silent in death, yet he speaketh, for his able communications published in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES and the SOUTHERN BAPTIST MESSENGER are still remembered by many lovers of the truth still living in this country. He was mild in council, yet firm in principle; gentle in address, but inflexible in the truth, speaking it in love, to the comfort and edification of the children of God, and to the confusion of Zion’s foes.

The funeral of our dear brother took place on Sunday, the 6th of December. It was appointed for the service to commence at 11 o’clock, but before 10 o’clock persons began to assemble, and by 10:30 every nook and corner of the meeting house and adjoining rooms, within hearing distance of the speaker, were filled, and hundreds of persons remained outside, not being able to gain admission. All the preceding named churches were represented by members being present; also a number were present from the Shiloh and Beulah Churches, Washington D.C., and the Ebenezer, Baltimore City, Maryland. Elders Purington, Francis, Smoot, Bartley, Bell and Mason were present.

When it was announced that everything was ready for the service to commence, hymn 1252 {Beebe’s Collection} was read, and a prayer offered; and by the request of the afflicted widow and sorrowing son, the writer of this tribute of respect spoke from II Timothy 4:6-8, and was followed by Elders Francis, Smoot and Bartley, with some appropriate remarks. Then brother Francis read hymn # 1257, and the service in the house was closed, and the remains of our departed brother were conveyed to and deposited in the grave; and a large procession of brethren, sisters and friends followed the body of their beloved pastor and friend to its resting place. At the grave a prayer was offered, and the solemn service finally closed.

This dark dispensation of our God is probably felt more severely by the writer of this notice than by any others, except the beloved wife and affectionate son, for an acquaintance of more than forty years had endeared him to me by a very strong attachment; but I would be still, and know that God reigns. May Israel’s God sustain the dear family in this sore affliction, and give them grace and strength equal to their day and trial; and to his great and glorious name be power, majesty and dominion now and forever. Amen.

William J. Purington.