Dead Men Speaking

And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks  (Hebrews 11:4)

As I was reading more about Ichabod Spencer’s life I realized that this suffering servant’s body was laid to rest at the end of my block in Greenwood Cemetery. So I decided to take a short walk from my apartment to the corner of 31st Street and 5th Avenue where Greenwood Cemetery is located. I did a quick search on the cemetery’s website and found the location of the burial site.  As I walked through this peaceful Historical Landmark I began to read the countless tombstones scattered along the rolling hills of the cemetery.  Some were buried as early as the 1800’s, others as recent as last week.  I wondered to myself who these people were and what legacy, if any, did they leave behind.  Did their lives make a difference while they were here on earth?  Did they serve Christ, or their own desires and ambitions?  Does anyone remember them today?  How long will it be before the fresh flowers and well-groomed plots on the recently departed resembled the unkept and weed infested plots of those long forgotten?   Time has a strange way of erasing the memories and achievements of days gone by. 

As I continued on I passed by the gravesite of Leonard Bernstein, a man who made a name for himself during his short time on earth as a great composer, and conductor. I passed by the gravesite of Henry Steinway, the founder of Steinway & Sons, the world famous piano manufacturer.  I passed by the gravesite of Albert Anastasia the infamous mobster of Murder Inc., who made a name for himself as a man to be feared.  I passed by the gravesite of Henry Chadwick who was deemed “The Father of Baseball”.  It is because of his work that we can enjoy this “Great American Past Time”.  I passed by the grave of Charles Ebbets, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers “Dem Bums”, whose stadium bore his name. 

There were countless others that made a name for themselves and are remembered because of their work and achievements.  Yet all of these men are gone and to what extent has their legacy impacted the lives of men and woman for the Glory of God?  How significant was their contribution in light of eternity?  What reward did they receive for all of their labor and toil?  Did they hear the sweet sound of, “Well done my good and faithful servant” or the dreaded sound of, “Depart from me I never knew you”? 

As I came upon the site of Ichabod Spencer I felt a sense of awe.  I realized that this once feeble man, who suffered extensively with sickness and pain, was now made whole and in the presence of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ reaping the benefits of a life of service to God.  I read the epitaph on the gravestone and it simply said this:


In Memory of I.S. Spencer D.D.
“The First and for 22 years was the Beloved Pastor of the
Second Presbyterian Church in this City.
Born February 23, 1798.
Died November 23, 1854 at the age of 56 years old.
‘Well-done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little;
I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.’
Matthew 25:23

I felt humbled as I stood before this tall weather beaten obelisk tombstone.  I began to ask myself what kind of legacy am I going to leave behind?  What will my epitaph read?  From what I have read about Spencer he touched countless lives for Christ. During his Funeral services thousands came out to pay their final respects to this man who gave his life for the service of God’s people.  Through sickness and pain he never complained but with tenderness and compassion ministered to those in his care on a personal and intimate basis.  He was unflinching in his commitment to preach the unadulterated Word of God.  He held firmly to the Doctrines of Grace.  He made every effort to know the condition of each member of the flock. He was a man who lived a life of service and sacrifice.

His church – which once stood as a beacon of light, is now a residential coop. His name that was once well known throughout Brooklyn is all but forgotten.  Yet today, through his writings, many of God’s faithful servants have been encouraged to continue on in the faithful preaching of the Doctrines of Grace and the up close and personal ministry to the flock of God. His only desire was to make the name of Jesus great among men.  I am sure that he would not subscribe to today’s “mega church” pastor’s who seem far too important, and far too busy to spend time with the very people that God has called them to serve.  These men might be well known and have a great name amongst men, but like those tombstones that I passed by today, I wonder what is waiting for these men on the other side?   Are they serving God’s people faithfully and sacrificially, or are they exploiting them to make a name for themselves? 

As I made my way back I noticed a few other tombstones that caught my attention.   I realized that in the midst of worldly men whose only goal was to make a name for themselves – there were those like Spencer, whose only goal was to make the name of Jesus great among men.   So as I passed by the tombs of Ira Sankey, the well-known gospel singer, and Thomas Hastings, the composer of Rock of Ages, I realized that these men did not make the Greenwood Cemetery Hall of Fame.  And rightly so, because their only goal was to lift up the name of Christ and make His name Glorious!

This post was taken from The Bunyan of Brooklyn, a blog dedicated to the ministry of Ichabod Spencer, the pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY.

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