The Rev. Benjamin Fletcher Stevens, long and favorably known as an honored member of this Conference, was born in Bedford Co., Pa., Mar. 31, 1831, and passed from toil and suffering in the vineyard below to rest and reward in the city of God at the home of his son, Dr. John C. Stevens, M.D., Harrisburg, Pa., May 15, 1911.
His ancestors came from England to Massachusetts shortly before the war of the Revolution; and thence to Maryland, from whence his grandfather moved to Pennsylvania, serving as a soldier in our war of Independence. This was the origin of a numerous family of excellent citizens, many of whom were devout and faithful members of our church, ten of whom entered the Christian ministry,--seven of them being members of the Central Pennsylvania Conference.
The one we miss from our fellowship to-day gave his heart to Christ and his hand to the church in the eighteenth year of his age, continuing steadfast therein until he "was not, for God took him" into the dawn of a cloudless day to be eternally with Himself.
His knowledge of salvation through the "blood of the Lamb" was clear, convincing and eminently satisfying; and thenceforward, to the last hour, his testimony to the power to Christ to save from all sin was emphatic, positive and unfaltering. He knew "whom he had believed," and constantly "rejoiced in hope of His glory"--waiting in ever-increasing confidence the voice that should summon him to his home in the skies.
He was educated in the common schools and Cassville Seminary,--from which, in 1855, he entered the Baltimore Conference, graduating to elders' orders--being ordained by Bishop Scott, who had previously made him a deacon by the imposition of his hands.
Bro. Stevens was an efficient, successful and profitable minister of the gospel--faithful in "every good word and work"--"following the commandments of God" with a "glad heart and free"--that he might aid in building the kingdom of His Son in the minds and spirits of the people. He cordially accepted and stoutly maintained the doctrine and Discipline of the Church, and preached them with vigor and earnestness in the name of his Master, who owned and honored the efforts of this "sower of good seed" in the kingdom of His grace by the conversion of many souls. He knew, loved and gloried in the truth. He was intensely ardent, and unequivocally loyal, in affirming the teachings of our beloved Methodism; and they were the joy and strength of his heart. He fully accepted her economy, maintaining and defending it with manly fidelity and fervor upon every fitting occasion; or if in anything he dissented, a frank, candid and conscientious assertion of his opinions characterized his expression and assured the respect of his brethren. Those of us who knew him from the first, remember his ceaseless and relentless hostility to a measure which he regarded as a degradation to the aged and necessitous who were obliged, in the evening of life, to look to the church for the pittance that should aid in chasing the wolf from the door. He was as magnanimous and generous as he was delicate and tender in his concern for the brethren; and the thought of a humiliating exposure of their temporalities, in order to relief, was more than his spirit could endure, and revolting to every sentiment of his soul. Those who heard will not readily forget the strength and ringing eloquence with which he opposed what seemed to him an infringement of rights whch should be forever sacred and inviolable. With the courage of his conviction, he delivered his soul, and confidently turned to the future for the vindication of his cause.
His last experience in the exercise of his ministry was in the pulpit of the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church, Harrisburg, on the celebration of "Old Folks' Day," and the sermon is described by his pastor, Rev. C. C. McClain as "one of great beauty, power and comfort" to those for whom it was preached. Soon thereafter he was seized with sickness that confined him to his home and room until the end came when, in perfect peace, and joyful hope, he went to be
"Forever with the Lord."
In March, 1891, Bro. Stevens relinquished the active relation and located within the bounds of his final charge, Thirteenth St. Methodist Episcopal Church, where he was affectionately known as the "Bishop" by the people who loved him and venerated him to the last; and in further manifestation of their esteem and admiration have builded the splendid Benjamin Fletcher Stevens Memorial Church, largely through the aid of his son, above-mentioned--a most liberal and willing contributor to a worthy object in commemoration of a noble man. Here his body remained for a time in order that hundreds of friends who knew and loved him might pay a last sad tribute to one whose life and character
"Mocked the aid of praise,"
from whence after appropriate services in charge of Rev. C. C. McClean, assisted by District Superintendent Rev. A. S. Fasick and the Revs. J. B. Stine, E. M. Stevens, Wm. Moses and H. C. Harman, together with his colleagues, Revs. S. B. Evans and J. C. Glass, he was kindly laid to rest in the beautiful Harrisburg cemetery, where he awaits the sound of the trumpet that shall awake the justified-by-faith from the darkness of death to the light and life and glory of the "house not made with hands external in the heavens."
On April 17, 1861, Bro. Stevens was married to Miss Harriet, daughter of the Rev. John Rhodes, of the Baltimore Conference--a hand maiden meet for him--and by whom she was loved, cherished and honored as wife, mother and friend, all of which she was in the truest sense of these words. Her home was typical of what a Methodist Episcopal parsonage should be--the delight of her husband and children.
Of this union were born five children,--two of whom were taken in infancy,--while three remain to comfort and cheer the heart and home of the widowed mother, namely: Jno. C., Anna and Nellie, wife of Winfield S. Cobean--all resident in the city of Harrisburg. We join them in loving memory of a man of God,--a true and faithful minister of Christ,--a manly and devoted husband,--a generous and noble father and a firm and unfailing friend whom we shall miss more and more
"While the days are passing by."
But we "sorrow not as those without hope," for we shall meet again in the land where
"The sun never sets and leaves never fade,--"
and "God shall stretch forth His hand and wipe all tears from our faces;" and thus met, we shall dwell together in joy eternal with Him "whose loving kindness is better than life."
During his active ministry, Bro. Stevens served the church in the following appointments: Baltimore Conference, Frostburg; East Baltimore Conference, Westernport, Rainsburg, Greencastle, Sunbury, White Haven, Ashland and Jersey Shore; and from 1869 in the Central Pennsylvania Conference, Northumberland, Third Street, Williamsport, Clearfield, Trinity, Danville, Mifflinburg, Stewartstown, Duncannon, Mechanicsburg and Thirteenth Street, Harrisburg, where he "ceased at once to work and live."
Good-by brother, friend and fellow-traveler to a "better country!" We shall cherish thy memory, emulate thy example and follow in thy footsteps that we may share with thee in the ultimate "glory that shall be revealed" to the "just made perfect"
"When time is o'er and worlds have passed away."
J. B. MANN
[From the 44th Session Minutes of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1912), Pages 125-127]