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Samuel Clements

Rev. Samuel Clements

In the death of Rev. Samuel Clements the Detroit Conference lost its most aged member. His span of life reached from Oct. 14, 1817, to the evening of March 13, 1904, embracing eighty-six years and five months lacking a few hours and covered nearly all of the wonderful nineteenth century, witnessing also the dawning of the to be more wonderful twentieth century.

Like the sainted Bishop Ninde and others in our ministry, he had the blessed privilege of crossing the boundary line between this and the celestial world very easily, at an unexpected hour, while the stillness of the time of slumber prevailed and while he was alone. There is a beautiful naturalness in passing away in that manner. In Bro. Clements’ case a tender variation entered in, so that he did not die while asleep, but while kneeling by his bedside, committing himself to the care of Him who never slumbers nor sleeps. Supposing that he slept, the family did not enter his room till morning, and he was still on his knees, though his spirit had been gone since the early hours of the night.

Bro. Clements had been continuously in the Methodist ministry of this state for over fifty-four years. He joined the Michigan Conference at its session at Adrian, on probation in 1849. In the division in 1856, when the Detroit Conference was constituted, his ministry fell within its borders and has been coeval with the life of that body up to the present. His places of labor have been as follows: Schoolcraft — which was a circuit with live appointments, and in the second year he built a church in the town; Jackson, where he did an Herculean task in saving a property that had already been sold under mortgage foreclosure; chaplaincy of state prison; East Baginaw; Flint District; Woodward Avenue Church, Detroit; Port Huron; Pontiac; Romeo; Detroit District; Ann Arbor District; Tecumseh; Northville; Salem, and Denton. The writer of this paper followed Bro. Clements in the care of the Northville church, and found that some of the most useful members had been converted under his ministry, and that the church had been strengthened and its life and usefulness increased fully fifty per cent during the three years of this man’s pastorate. For twenty-three years he was in the ranks of the superannuated, but abated not one iota of his interest in the movements of the church.

For some ten years after his retirement he lived in Ann Arbor, and for thirteen years in Detroit.

In 1854, while chaplain at the prison, he was married to Miss Delia Hitchcock, at the latter’s home in Farmington, 111. Mrs. Clements died Feb. 5, 1892. Four children survive these godly parents, two sons and two daughters.

Bro. Clements was born on a farm in the town of Seneca, Ontario County, N.Y. In his eighth year the family, consisting of eight, six children and their parents came to Michigan. It required nine days by water to reach Detroit, and five days by ox team to reach the spot that was henceforth to be known as home. The new home was eight miles west of Ann Arbor, and near by now rests the moldering dust of the loved dead of the family, and there the mortal part of our brother await the resurection morning. Settlers were few and public religious services were not held until two or three years after the family had reached this state. Our owm itinerants did not visit this community until about 1829, or ’30. Under their labors Bro. Clements, when a boy of fifteen, was converted in 1832, and was taken into full membership in the church in 1833. He soon felt that it would be his life duty to preach the gospel, but his native timidity and his sense of unpreparedness counteracted for a time his sense of duty. But not very long; his clear-cut processes of reasoning and his moral strength of purpose soon brought him to a decision, and he would have entered upon the work of the ministry earlier in life had not duties to his home and parents providentially adjourned that change to a later day.

Samual Clements was a man above the average. In some fine qualities of mind and personal characterists he was peerless among his brethren. Had he been a lawyer he would have made a counselor to whom pleaders might well resort for advice. As a judge his comprehensive views, his critical insight, his poise of mind and his love of equity would have given him a great judicial reputation. Although not privileged to have favorable or extended school advantages, his mind became accustomed to the rigid discipline of his own training. He was accustomed to think very accurately, and this habit was followed by a careful discrimination in the selection of words to express his thoughts. This soundness of intellectual processes and their expression was promoted by his natural deliberateness of utterance, and while that militated against his being a popular preacher, it greatly augmented the strength and value of his sermons. Had his facility of public speech equalled the forcibleness and orderliness of his thoughts his pulpit fame would have been very great, and his power as a controversialist or debater would have been well nigh resistless. His type of mind led him to weigh a subject thoroughly and consider all its bearings. To him the more distant logical results of an action were apparent, and he was not ready to follow impulsive leaders. The detection of their shortsightedness by him was often a valuable service to the church. Others might easily be stampeded, but this man was not thus carried away. He stood by his better judgment, even when he was with the minority. He had the courage of his convictions, and in politics during the stormy period of the great war he maintained a position that was not popular with the preachers, but his conscience and his convictions were on his side, and they were rated by him above the favor of men. So decided were his honesty of purpose and his sinceirty of motive that his brethren honored and loved him, even when they differed from him.

As an administrator he excelled. He knew men well and estimated them justly, and withal could keep his own counsel. In the case of a district his judgment in making assignments was found correct in almost every case. These qualities made him a wise counsellor in the cabinet and on the varied commissions of the Conference that devised its large enterprises and directed its great movements. He was for four years secretary of the Conference in the earlier period of his ministry, a delegate to the General Conference in 1872, and for many years a trustee of the incorporated Detroit Conference. His religious life was one of steadfastness. Always harmonious with the sweetest and richest revelations of divine grace, he was never carried away on the tide of emotionalism. He was a tender pastor and helpfully sympathetic with every soul in trouble. While not given to fads or eccentricities, he was very tolerant of Christian men whose views of great doctrines did not exactly accord with his own. He welcomed the results of the later investigations of modern days and was highly optimistic as to the progress of religious truth. The things he did not approve in modern church methods did not arouse him to fault-finding nor tincture his thoughts with sourness or distrust. He was confident that every tree his Father had not planted would be rooted up. He grew in grace of spirit and benevolence of character during the later years of his life. His long period of superannuation was not one of rest and ease, but of labor and trial, and yet it neither broke his spirit nor led him to complain. His patient and cheerful courage remained to the end. The long months of final suf- fering and wasting did not ruffle the calmness of his soul. He drew near the borders of the eternal world with a serene confidence that only honest, noble; brave souls can have. He could speak of dying as undisturbed as of living. It was beautiful to witness the Christian reliance with which he drew near the end. He was a sincere man, without guile, without any make-believe, without flattery, who spoke the truth in love. In honoring his memory we honor ourselves. He was one of the fathers of the church of whom their successors may justly be proud.

The funeral services were held at the home in Detroit in charge of presiding elder, Rev. John Sweet. Interment was at the burying ground near the old home west of Ann Arbor, Rev. W. Dawe officiating.

- Detroit Annual Conference minutes of 1904, pp. 43-46