The following is a summary of the life of Harlan Page (1791-18) from Memoirs of Harlan Page: The Power of Prayer and Personal Effort for the Souls of Individuals. I would greatly encourage you to read this book–it is a real encouragement in the Lord’s work. You can get a free PDF here or buy a copy here.
It may not be unimportant to bring together some of the characteristics of his efforts to honor Christ in the salvation of individuals, as illustrated in the preceding history.
It was the burden of his heart, and the purpose of his life. When engaged in his usual business, the religious welfare of persons with whose state he had become acquainted, was generally pressing on his mind; and it is now known, that for several years before he died he almost always had by him a memorandum of the names and residence of a few individuals with whom he was to converse. On these he would call, as he went to and from his office, or religious meetings; and if no names were on this list, he felt that he was doing little good. He also uniformly had in his hat more or less awakening tracts, that he might present as he should judge them adapted to the state of those he met. Not unfrequently he would seize a few moments from his usual occupation, to go out and address some individual; and when the business of the day was closed, he hastened to some meeting or other religious engagement for the evening. It is believed that an entire month has frequently elapsed, during which he did not sit down for an hour, even in the bosom of his own family, to relax his mind, or rest. Every evidence of good accomplished gave him new joy; and every opening for usefulness added a new impulse to his efforts. He felt that, under God, the eternal joy or woe of immortal souls depended on his fidelity. Each evening and each hour brought its duties, which he felt could not be neglected or postponed. The present duty was still before him; and though “faint,” he was still “pursuing.” His labors on the Sabbath were not less exhausting than on other days; and he doubtless thus failed of obtaining that “compensation for toil,” which the animal constitution requires, and which is essential to a long life.
When urged, at the close of a day of fatigue, to spare himself and spend the evening at home, he would say, “Don’t attempt to persuade me away from duty. I have motive enough within myself to tempt me to enjoy repose with my family; but that will not save souls.” A little previous to his last sickness, as he returned from church coughing, he was asked if he had not spoken too much in, the Sabbath school: “perhaps I have,” he replied; “but how could I help it, when all eyes were fixed, and the children seemed to devour every word I said ?”
It was not uncommon, at different periods of his life, for him in sleep to imagine himself addressing the impenitent; and to wake in a high state of excitement and in tears, occasioned by the deep sympathy he felt for their perishing condition. It is also known, that, when he saw no manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he would be, at times, in deep distress; would wrestle more abundantly in prayer, renew his efforts to arouse Christians to duty and awaken the impenitent; and more or less conversions were almost always the result.
In short, it was not the great object of his spiritual life, himself to be happy in religion; but rather by persevering labors and holy self-denial—like the Apostle who testified that he died daily—to glorify God in winning souls to him. He ardently desired lo devote the whole undivided efforts of his life to this work, and nothing but the duty of providing for the support of his family prevented it.
He had the most clear view of the necessity to every man of being born again. As soon as an individual came into his presence, it seemed to be the first question of his mind, “Is this a friend or an enemy of God?” The next thing was, if impenitent, to do something for his conversion; or if a Christian, to encourage him in duty. Whatever else he saw in an individual, he felt that it availed him nothing unless he had received Christ to his heart by a living faith. This he felt and urged to be the sinner’s first, great, and only duty in which he could be acceptable to God. This was exemplified at a meeting of his Sabbath school teachers, when he called on each to know whether he thought he had a well grounded hope in Christ, or not; and recorded their several replies. Among them was an amiable young merchant, whom he highly respected, and who seemed not far from the kingdom of God.
“Have you a hope ?” he tenderly inquired.
“No, Sir,” was the reply.
“Then I’m to put down your name as having no hope?”
“Well, I write down your name as having no hope.”
The young man pondered on this decision and record of his spiritual state; was troubled, and soon came to our brother, saying, “ I told you to put me down as having no hope; but I can’t say that.” He is now a member of the church, and a decided supporter of all her institutions.
He brought his efforts to bear upon individuals, and followed up impressions made. All the triumphs of the Gospel, he knew, consist in the conversion and sanctification of individuals; and he was not satisfied with merely praying and contributing for the salvation of the world as a whole; or having a general impression made on the minds of a congregation. His intense desire was that individuals should be turned from sin to God. Not unfrequently he would observe in the congregation a person unknown to him, who seemed to give solemn attention to divine truth; ascertain who he was, and seek a personal interview; and in all cases, if he left an individual to-day in an interesting state of mind, he would endeavor to see him again to-morrow; and follow up the impression at brief intervals, till there was no longer encouragement, or he had evidence of true conversion.
He had a clear sense of obligation, both in the sinner to repent, and in the Christian to devote all his powers to God. He felt, and labored to make others feel, that if any one neglected duty, the guilt was all his own; that God was ever ready to receive the returning prodigal; and that if any withheld their hearts, or aught they possessed from him, in the day of judgment they would be speechless. This sense of obligation he urged with unabating fervor. His heart was intent that it should be felt, and immediately carried out in an entire consecration to God.
“Brother,” said he to a lovely Christian who watched with him, “when you meet impenitent shiners, don’t merely say calmly: ‘Friend, you are in danger;’ but approach them with a holy violence, and labor to ‘pull them out of the fire.’ They are going to perdition. There is a heaven and a hell.”
As a brother from Boston to whom several of his letters were addressed, had called for a few moments, and was about taking leave, he asked the dying man if he had any particular thought on his mind to express as he bade him farewell. “Ah, I can say nothing,” he replied, “but what has been repeated over and over; but could I raise my voice to reach a congregation of sinners, I would tell them ‘their feet shall slide in due time’—they ‘shall slide’—there is no escape but by believing in Christ.”
He not only endeavored to alarm impenitent men, but to bring them to a decision that they will be the Lord’s.
While in his native place, he was absent one evening till so late an hour, that his wife remonstrated with him for unreasonably tasking his own health, and separating himself from home. “I have spent this time,” said he, “in trying to persuade your poor impenitent brother to give his heart to Christ.” That impenitent brother was soon brought to accept of mercy; pursued a course of theological study, and is now serving God in the ministry.
On another occasion, while residing in the city of New-York, he had gone to a religious meeting, and returned late in the evening, when he was reminded of the danger that his protracted efforts might be more than he could ultimately sustain. “I have been standing this hour,” was his reply, “at the corner of the street, laboring with Mr. H, (one of the teahchers of his Sabbath school,) and trying to persuade him to submit to God.” Within a few hours the young man found peace; soon resumed his studies which he had been pursuing for other ends; and he is now a devoted minister of Christ, gathering a flourishing church in one of the principal cities of the West. A letter from this young clergyman, received as these sheets were going to press, thus confirms this brief statement.
‘‘The name of brother Page will ever be associated in my mind with all that is worthy of imitation in the Christian character. By the persuasions of an acquaintance, I was induced to engage as teacher in his Sabbath school; and though I was then destitute of faith, he welcomed me, and won my confidence and love. Very soon he began to address me with the utmost apparent tenderness and anxiety in reference to my own salvation. His words sunk deep into my heart. They were strange words; for though I had lived among professors of religion, he was the first who for nine or ten years had taken me by the hand, and kindly asked, ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Do you intend to be a Christian?’ ‘Why not now?’ Each succeeding Sabbath brought him to me with anxious inquiries after my soul’s health. On the third or fourth Sabbath, he gave me the Tract ‘Way to be Saved,’ which deepened my impressions. At his request, I also attended a teacher’s prayer meeting conducted by him, where my soul was bowed down and groaned under the load of my guilt. At the close of the meeting, Mr. Page took my arm as we proceeded on our way to our respective homes, and urged upon me the duty and privilege of an, immediate surrender of my heart to Christ As we were about to part, he held my hand, and at the corner of the street, in a wintry night, stood pleading with me to repent of sin and submit to God. I returned to my home, and for the first time in many years bowed my knees in my chamber before God; and entered into a solemn covenant to serve him henceforth in and through the Gospel of his Son. God was pleased, I trust, by his Holy Spirit, to seal my vows. If I have since had any Christian joy, or done anything to advance the cause of Christ, it is to be attributed to the Divine blessing on the faithfulness of brother Page.”
He expected success from God, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. He felt that humble, self-denying effort, made in God’s strength, he would own and bless; but that for this he would be “inquired of” by his people. He Loved Prayer. Besides prayers at social meetings, with the families and individuals he visited; and on special occasions, frequently recurring, he, regularly, not only conducted family worship, accompanied by singing, but every morning and evening prayed with his companion as they retired and rose, and also poured out his heart to God alone in the closet. For the latter duty, when in his native place, he often retired to a consecrated spot in a grove near his father’s house. If one of the household were about to take a journey, the family assembled and commended each other to God, which was frequently done on other occasions of special interest.
His prayers were usually short and fervent, and confined mainly to those topics which pressed with special force upon his mind. At all times, prayer seemed to be a privilege, and the throne of grace a resting-place, and a solace to his heart. There is no doubt that it was by continual and fervent prayer, that he imbibed that glowing sense of eternal things, that love to souls, and that heavenly unction, which were at once the spring of his fidelity, and, under God, the ground of his success.
So anxious was he that there should be more prayer in the churches; and such were his hopes, that, if the duty were properly presented, it would be felt and practiced, that he united with a brother whose means were as limited as his own, in paying fifty dollars [$1300 in 2013!] as a premium for a tract on prayer— himself drawing out minutely various hints to guide those who might write; and it was by this means that the excellent Tract, (No. 271,) on the obligations, nature, benefits, and occasions of prayer, was procured.
In his mind there was no jarring conflict between perfect obligation on the part of man, and perfect dependence in his relations to God. He knew both were revealed, momentous, eternal truths; and left all embarrassing questions of their consistency to be settled by God himself. It was enough, to hear God speak, and to obey. He prayed as if all the efficiency and praise were God’s, and labored as if duty were all his own. His sense of dependence threw him on his knees, and his sense of duty summoned him to effort; and prayer and effort, and effort and prayer were the business of his life. Blessed day to the church, when this endless source of contention and controversy shall thus be settled in every Christian’s heart!
He was uniform and unwearied. I know not who has made or heard the charge of inconsistency in his Christian character. Those who knew him best, best knew how supreme in his heart was the business of glorifying God in the salvation of men. I have well considered the assertion when I say, that, during nine years in which we were associated in labors, I do not know that I ever passed an interview with him long enough to have any interchange of thought and feeling, in which I did not receive from him an impulse heavenward—an impulse onward in duty to God and the souls of men. No assembly, even of professed Christians, from which the spirituality of religion was excluded, whether met for social enjoyment, or in furtherance of some benevolent design, received his countenance; nor was he satisfied with what too justly seemed the strange anomaly of excluding Christ from the hours of social intercourse, and then, as it were atoning for the sin, by closing the interview with prayer.
The only remaining particular which it seems important now to mention, is his fruitfulness in devising expedients for doing good. Of this point the history of his life is but an exemplification.
As the father of a family, he labored for the spiritual welfare of all his household, especially for the early conversion of his children. Of thirteen individuals, who resided in his family at different times in the city of New-York, twelve became deeply anxious for their salvation. One of these was at Roman Catholic, whose attention to family worship was forbidden by her priest; one, who was hopefully reclaimed from her backsliding, has since died; and six others gave, and, so far as known, still give evidence of saving conversion to God. Of his fidelity to his children, the testimony contained in the following expression of filial gratitude from his son, in transmitting, by request, the letters he had received from his father, will be excused.
“In reviewing the letters I received from my father,” he says, “I see everywhere an expression of the tenderest solicitude both for my temporal and eternal welfare; and O for some of that ardent desire for the salvation of souls to bear me forward in duty, which impelled him onward, till he ceased his toils on earth, and entered on, his rest in heaven.
“I cannot refrain from bearing testimony to my father’s fidelity to my own soul. Well do I remember his endeavors in my early childhood to lead me to the Savior—his prayers—his entreaties—and the anxiety with which he followed me year after year, while under the paternal roof and when away, till he could speak to me no more. His kind voice I shall no longer hear. His affectionate smile of approval, or tears shed over my waywardness, I shall no more see. His kind intercourse with the members of his family, we shall no more share. He will no more call us around the hallowed family altar, lead us in the hymn of praise and in pouring out the soul to God. He is in a more endeared, a happier and holier sphere, enjoying the smiles and presence of his God and Redeemer. Pray for me that I may have grace to follow his example as he followed Christ, and at last to unite in his songs.”
The above pages have sufficiently shown in what varied forms he rendered himself useful, as the teacher of a day school; in the relations he sustained to the Sabbath school cause, and to the Tract cause; in Bible classes, and in religious meetings; to families and to individuals. The variety of efforts he made with his pen is equally striking. Not only did he address moving appeals to individuals; but if a thought occurred which he judged to be of general interest, he embodied it in a few paragraphs and sent it for insertion in some religious paper; and even if he inserted a scrap in an album, he improved the opportunity to direct the reader’s mind to Christ.
In the Temperance cause he enlisted with a whole heart as early as 1823; rejecting all that could intoxicate, including tobacco in all its forms, and throwing an influence in a thousand ways to extend the Temperance reformation.
Many pious young men were by him sought out and directed towards the Ministry.
To the cause of Missions, both in our own and pagan lands, he was steadfastly devoted. He not only turned his eye away from the accumulation of property as the object of his life; but felt the duty and claimed the blessedness to his own soul, of imparting for the cause of Christ a portion of what he had. On his dying bed, he mentioned to Mrs. Page, that five dollars [$135 in 2013], which before his sickness he had subscribed to a benevolent object, remained unpaid. “We have consecrated it to God,” said he, “and I had rather it would be paid. You had better pay it, and trust him.”
His familiarity with the character and religious bearing of all the Society’s publications, and with the general state and wants of the community, rendered him skillful in selecting publications appropriate to the different fields and circumstances for which they were designed; and also in giving an impulse and a wise direction to the feelings and efforts of Christians who were continually calling for the transaction of business.
And in all, it abundantly appears that he felt that the efficiency was alone with God; and mingled continual prayer for the gift of gifts—the accompanying influences of the Holy Spirit.
Is it wonderful that God should bless his efforts? That, in each church with which he stood connected, individuals, when relating their religious experience, should be heard referring to his faithful endeavors as the means of bringing them to Christ? That a revenue of souls should have been gathered from the place of his nativity; thirty-two teachers be brought publicly to profess Christ, from one of his Sabbath schools, and nine of them have set their faces toward the Ministry? That thirty-four souls should hopefully have been gathered by him and his fellow-laborers from one ward of the city; and fifty-eight, in connection with his efforts and those of a few endeared associates, have been brought to join themselves to the people of God, from the Tract and Bible houses? That individuals should come to his dying bed, and thank him with tears for his fidelity to their own souls? Is it wonderful, that, in speaking to her who is now his widow, of his early departure, and looking back on his work on earth as ended, he should, with the solemnity of eternity on his countenance, say: “I know it is all of God’s grace, and nothing that I have done; but I think I have had evidence that more than one hundred souls have been converted to God through my own direct and personal instrumentality.”
Look at the influence of such a Christian life on a large scale. Suppose every Christian labored, I do not say with such talents, but with such a heart to the work. Suppose there were ten such Christians in every evangelical church throughout our land, and God should equally bless their labors. How would they rouse their fellow Christians to duty. How would they search the highways and hedges, and by God’s grace compel the ungodly to come in. How would they instruct the rising age. How would they hold up the hands of faithful ministers. How would the Holy Spirit be shed down in answer to their prayers. How would their influence penetrate through every vein of this great community; and how soon would living piety here pour its influence on every benighted land. Such a light as would then shine could not be hid. It would illumine the world, and Christ would come and possess the nations.