Walker, Joseph Burch

2/6/1897

JOSEPH BURCH WALKER, A.M., D.D.
January 2, 1817 - February 6, 1897
 
Rev. Joseph Burch Walker, the son of Joseph Walker and Bartella Powell, was born in Washington City, District of Columbia, January 2, 1817, and died at his home at Mississippi City, Mississippi, February 6, 1897, aged eighty years, one month and four days. Outside of his native city, he spent his youthful years in Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee. He was at school two years when quite young, but, he says, he had little recollection of what be was taught. His father moved to Winchester, Virginia, where he occupied most of his sixth year at school under the tuition of a private teacher. In Montevalla, Alabama he was at school most of the time during his seventh, eighth and ninth years. At this place he read many valuable books on various subjects, thereby acquiring much important and useful information. From his tenth to his thirteenth year he was employed on mail routes, where the mail had to be transported on horseback, which took him away from his home from two to five days in the week. His father finally moved to his farm in Tennessee, where he was engaged in his duties as an assistant, until he entered the ministry.
His father and mother were pious Methodists, and had family prayer in their consecrated home. He was taught to pray from the earliest dawn of memory, to attend public worship, to go to prayer meetings, class meetings, love feasts and camp meetings. His father’s house was a home for the itin-erant preachers, and one of them, Reverend Thomas Butch, of the Baltimore Conference, baptized him. His first distinct recollection of sustaining an accountable relation to God was in his seventeenth year, while his mother was reading the sixth chapter of Revelation to a servant woman. When she came to dwell on the last verse, he wept his first religious tears. In 1834, he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in August, 1835, he was con-verted at Asbury Camp Ground held near his father’s home. At this time he had never read his Bible with thoroughness nor with systematic care.
On October 4, 1836, he was licensed to preach, and recommended to the Tennessee Conference for admission. His first sermon was preached at White Bluff camp meeting, Montgomery County, Tennessee. His first appointment was to Dickson Circuit, which embraced Montgomery, Dickson, David-son, Williamson and Maury counties. His second appointment was to Goose Creek Circuit—a five weeks appointment, with thirty preaching places. He filled successively the following stations: Franklin and Spring Hill, Lebanon, Columbia, Murfreesboro, Andrew, Gallatin,, Clarksville and Huntsville. Dur-ing his ninth year in the ministry, he was married to Miss Rebecca J. Ridley, of Mississippi, November 26, 1844. There were horn to these parents three children, one dying in 1888, only two, with the sorrowing widow, survive to lament their irreparable loss.
In the fall of 1846, he was transferred to the Mississippi Conference and was stationed at Jackson, where he labored for two years, and thereafter on the Madison Circuit, Canton and Jackson sta-tions. At the close of 1851, he was transferred to the Louisiana Conference, and stationed at Carondelet Street, and in May 1852, he preached his first sermon from Genesis 24:17. He remained in this station during 1852, ‘53 and ‘54.
In 1855 he was appointed to the New Orleans District, but was returned for the fourth time to Carondelet in 1856 and ‘57, where he re-mained until1862. In the Spring of this year he went out of New Orleans when the Federal forces took it, and was employed at Port Gibson for three years by the Mississippi Conference. In 1865, he returned to the city and preached in the Unitarian Church until Carondelet Street was surrendered into our hands again. He filled this station until 1870, when he was transferred to the Texas Conference and stationed at St. Johns from 1871 to 1874 inclusive, when domestic reasons compelled him to re-transfer to the Louisiana Conference. On his return from Texas he was appointed Presiding Elder of the New Orleans District and pastor of Felicity Street charge, serv-ing two years on the district and four years as pastor of this church. With the exception of the twenty-two years he labored in Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas. The remainder of his ministerial life was employed in New Orleans, filling at different times, the New Orleans District, seven years; Carondelet Street, fifteen years; Felicity Street, five; Rayne Memorial, one; Louisiana Avenue and Moreau Street, each, one full pastorate; Algiers, one; one year he was superannuated; making in all, sixty years; fifty-nine of which were devoted to active service. Thirty-seven of these years were spent in New Orleans.
His ease, humor and brilliancy, made him the attraction of the social circle. His piety was deep, spiritual and scriptural. Any ostentatious display was distasteful to his finer sense of spiritual life and genuine Christian experience. It was shown in his humility, in his communion with God, and his comprehensive knowledge of divine things. Perhaps, it was never more strikingly displayed than in his home life, where its aroma was a divine benediction.
His ministerial life embodied all that could be demanded of any true Gospel preacher. As a pastor he was earnest and diligent. He was found in the homes of his members, comforting, sympathizing with and encouraging them, and praying the blessings and the guidance of the Lord to he bestowed upon them. The poor and the sick received special attention. This house-to-house visitation endeared his people to him with a genuine, and an unbroken attachment as long as be lived. As a preacher he was studious, gathering materials from every source which lay within his reach, and which he could use in proclaiming the great themes of the Gospel. Whilst be read very widely and familiarized himself with the great questions of the day, especially on those of theology, yet he was discrim1nating in the use of the material thus acquired. He was a Gospel preacher in a preeminent sense. He exhibited a deep insight into the Scriptures, he was clear in his exposition of their truths, and was eminently practical. Ability and beauty were blended together in his sermons. His descriptive power, heightened by a cultivated and brilliant imagination, to which might be added a musical voice, gave to his discourses a dramatic force rarely attained. In many of his efforts, in his palmy days, there was something inimitable. On the platform he was equal to any emergency. Such was his popularity that there was a great demand for his services at Sunday School gatherings, Bible anniversaries, missionary mass meetings and college commencements. His force of character is expressed thus: “Some men, as ministers, live long, but are carried a good part of the way; some men carry themselves; but he carried others as well as himself.” He was an author of no mean ability. He wrote much for our church papers, and while his articles were thoughtful and well prepared, there was a felicity and beauty of expression which en-chained the attention of all who read them to their conclusion. He was the author of the “New Creature,” a pamphlet on the regenerate state, and possessing considerable merit in the estimation of the thoughtful. He prepared a volume of sermons by request, but from some cause they were never published. He was a successful revivalist. In the earlier years of his ministry his journal notices many gracious outpourings of God’s Holy Spirit. In winning souls for Christ he was wise; without souls are saved, the minis-try is vain. He was the recipient of many honors. The degree of A. M. was conferred upon him by Centenary College, and the degree of D. D. by Lagrange College, in North Alabama, over which Bishop Paine presided for many years. The brethren of his own Conference elected him delegate to the General Conference on several occasions.
But the end which lingered must come. In 1891 he was attacked with la grippe, from which he never fully recovered. Each successive year he had to encounter renewed visitations of this unwelcome disease. These attacks undermined his constitution so that his general health gave way; his heart grew weaker, and his disease assumed something like dropsy of the heart, which no medical skill could relieve. “He always talked confidently as to a clearness of a justified state with his God. When he wrote to any of his friends he would tell them that his prayer was that God’s will might be his.” On the morning of his death he requested his wife to read the forty-sixth Psalm to him. Not long after this he sang part of “Come thou Fount of every blessing,” a few minutes later, a part of “My God, the Spring of all my joys.” In answer to an inquiry of his wife, ho said, “The more I sing those old hymns, the sweeter they are.” He died suddenly and calmly. “He was spared the pain of saying good bye.” Thus closed a long, a beauti-ful and a useful life of an itinerant preacher, and one who knew the Lord only to love and serve him. In labors he was abundant; he endured hardness as a good soldier of the Cross; as a servant be was perfectly obedient to the will of his Lord and Master.
“Like some broad river widening toward the sea,
Calmly and grandly life joined eternity.”
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Source: Journal, Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, January 1898; Pages 31-34 …… By J. F. Scurlock