A FUNERAL SERMON
Delivered by Rev. J. A. Davis at the M. E. church, Feb 4, 1899
On the life and character of Mrs. Dr. L. Fuller
paintings, sculpture, beautiful enough in themselves, are valuable only when in
the turning of the pages we note the steps of someone with whom we have been
acquainted, or, better, one whom we have loved, every line is full of value.
We come to-day to make a brief summary of a life, the beauty and sweetness of which have grown upon us with the years. Seventy three years ago the third of next June, when the mountain sides and fertile valleys were bursting with flowers and verdant with vegetation and rich foliage, in the little city of Howard, in Centre county in the good old Quaker State of Pennsylvania, just over the divide where the mountains rise abruptly with their wooded peaks, and the waters rush wildly to the lovely Susquehanna, Jemima Elizabeth Tipton was born. In the old home she was only the more tenderly cherished because she was the last of a large family to fill the home with the cheering prattle of baby innocence and sunshine. Perhaps the days of her girlhood were not unlike those of many others in this life-giving, soul-thrilling mountain atmosphere, other than that her home spot was to her the dearest; the memory of whose every detail was so vivid that a score and a half of years afterward her skilled fingers made the brush bring on canvas the home from which years and space separated her. She hung it upon the wall in the little room in which she lived so much, looking upon it she many a time romped again in the dear old home yard.
I said it was a home. For here was the very breath of prayer and Christian devotion in the happy household of her childhood. This was made more sweet and impressive by the frequent visits of the itinerant preacher, who found in the Tipton home what the Master found in the Bethany home-Friends and rest and kindred spirits.
With the budding of young womanhood came the voice of the Spirit of God calling her to open the heart's door for his incoming. And at the age of seventeen she was soundly converted to God. The inherited sweet and thoughtful disposition was now made only the more beautiful and winsome because of His nature who was as tender as a woman, while He was unshrinking from the paths of truth and righteousness as the sun is from the pit of darkness. In her soul this Life Divine thus early embraced was to "grow" possessing all the sweetness of the blossom which was to unfold in the years yet to come.
It is not strange that here in this quiet home, thrown in the companionship of one possessing such traits of winning womanhood, a junior itinerant Methodist preacher should find himself in the throes of young manhood's first love. In due time the heart was won and the hand given, and at the age of nineteen our now lovingly cherished wife, the patient mother and playful grandmother, gave herself in holy matrimony to Levi Fuller, with whom she has walked in all the adornments of a tender and honorable wifehood till death, for a brief time, separates them. Soon after the marriage the husband entered the practice of medicine. Very soon it became apparent that the West offered larger opportunities for a young couple, and though the struggle was a severe one, she broke from the childhood home and with her husband and son she came to Illinois, where with but meager means, and yet possessing the best of capital, viz: character, integrity and industry, they began life's struggle, which was rewarded, as it always will be, by a creditable success. In 1854 they moved to West Union. At this time our little city was but a small village hid away among the hills. Here our sister lived, here she still lives in memory's loving house.
Mrs. Fuller was the mother of three children, one son and two daughters. The daughters dying in infancy left the son to find in his mother his companion and playmate, each of which she was to him. Womanhood is completed only when its heart throbs with the joys of motherhood. Motherhood is tender and sweeter, and blossoms into beauty often in passing through the valley of tears. The rose is never more beautiful than when on its cheek sparkles a dew drop.
Sister Fuller was a woman with convictions that were positive, with courage that was that of a heroine, with kindness that was Christ-like. She did not fail when opportunity's door opened, either in private or in a more public way, to raise her voice of hand against evil, and was never indifferent to any evil which threatened her home or the home of others. And when courageous leadership was necessary, that naturally retiring nature, which never sought prominence, became armed for conflict and marched against the foe. At one time she was one of a band of women who entered the death pits (saloons) of West Union and rolled into the streets the barrels and kegs of hell's liquid fire, spilling the contents on the earth; while by her side as a timid boy walked her son, the now Hon. William E. Fuller.
As a mother she loved her son, but was never foolishly proud over any honors which might be bestowed upon him. Her grandchildren and Great-grandchildren each, all had a warm place in her heart and their lives will ever be the richer by cherishing her memory. But her own flesh and blood was not the limit of her love and tenderness. To her life was golden only when from each passing moment she grasped the beat that was to be gotten--not to selfishly consume, but as the sun seems gladdest when his wealth of light and heat are driving out darkness and warming the cold lifeless earth, making it burst into blossom, so she seemed happiest when by word or little set of kindness some needy and discouraged one was made warm, supplied with food or encouraged by her good cheer. A token of gratitude for kindness shown by her hand is with us to-day in a wreath of flowers gathered by the hand of a little girl and brought to be laid on the casket of her friend, Mrs. Fuller.
Sister Fuller was especially full of pleasure and warm greetings to the ministry of her church. These men who came to her home, either to be recipients of her hospitality or to make pastoral calls, always met the most kindly greeting. If they were discouraged her smile and kind words acted a spur to urge them on. In the church she was always a valuable worker, and though deprived of its privileges much, she was always interested in its success and sorrowed in its apparent reverses. The closing chapter of this life is most interesting. Strength of body or soul to do is very much different from that fortitude and steady courage which keeps sweet while it measures with few steps the round which is strength's limit. For years Sister Fuller has been practically an invalid. It is here that the Christ life embraced so early' storm-tried in life's many battles, tear-stained through many sorrows, had its grandest soil in which to blossom. Her's was an undimmed sky of Christian faith. Her Jesus was always her blessed Savior. Some people get occasional glimpses of the man of Nazareth, she steadfastly "looked unto Jesus," hence her faith among the hills of her Pennsylvania home. Some lessons are here for us.
(1) Note the value of an early Christian home such as our sister enjoyed. As we trace the interesting journey we must remember that the holy atmosphere of childhood days had much to do with shaping the years. (2) The blessings of a Christian life beginning in girlhood's innocence, opening through the long years of varied experience, maturing, like beautiful fruit for eternity. All else would be fleeting and unbearable now in this hour of our grief if the clouds gathered round the soul;s eternity. Sister Fuller's was a ripe fruit, bearing Christian experience--repeatedly, witnessed in life, sweetly resting in the hour of death. Standing by the empty clay house, so beautiful to loving heart, we hear, again the Masters precious truth uttered in the Bethany home of sorrow, "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." Slowly our hearts struggle thro' death's wreckage to grasp the ever glorious truth. But here at the grave's mouth is immortality's sun, and most consolingly its healing and comforting truths touch us. Ah, no, our energies are not scattered. we are not destroyed, John's vision is real.