|Father Daniel Nash|
Daniel Nash pastored a small church in the backwoods of New York for six years, and travelled with and prayed for a travelling evangelist for seven more years until his death. As far as we know, he never ministered outside the region of upstate New York during days when much if it was frontier.
His tombstone is in a neglected cemetery along a dirt road behind a livestock auction barn. His church no longer exists, its meetinghouse location marked by a historical marker in a corn field; the building is gone, it’s timber used to house grain at a feed mill four miles down the road. No book tells his life story, no pictures or diaries can be found, his descendents (if any) cannot be located, and his messaged are forgotten.
He wrote no books, started no schools, let no movements, and generally, kept out of sight.Yet this man saw revival twice in his pastorate, and then was a key figure in one of the greatest revivals in the history of the United States. In many ways he was to the U.S what Praying Hyde was to India. He is known almost exclusively for his powerful prayer ministry.
The great evangelist, Charles Finney, left his itinerant ministry for the pastorate within three or four months after this man’s death. Finney never counted on is theology, messages, preaching style, logic, or methods to save souls. He looked rather to mighty prayer and the resulting, powerful work of the Holy Spirit to sweep in with great conviction on his audience, that his conversions might be thorough. This may well explain why 80 percent of those converted in his meetings stood the test of time.
Years later Moody followed a similar pattern but without such a prayer warrior. He saw perhaps 50 percent of his conversions last. Today, a well-known evangelist (well-financed and highly organized) recently stated that he would be delighted if 20 percent of his converts were genuinely converted.
In this day of apostasy with many decisions but few true conversions, with many programmes but little prayer, with much organizing but little agonizing, we would be wise to learn lessons from the past. One of our godly forefathers whose life can teach us such is Daniel Nash.
His early years seem mostly lost from the records.
This much we do know - he was born November 27, 1775, and by November 11, 1816, at the age of 40 he had accepted the pastorate of the Stow’s Square Congregational-Presbyterian Church, Lowville Township. He had moved there from Onondaga County (the area around Syracuse), and had a farm at least 1825, the time of the first census in the area.
During his first year of pasturing this union church, he saw revival with at least 70 being converted. One of the first he baptized was a Sally Porter (December 18, 1816), to whom he was married by February of 1817. He baptized five of her children and possibly a sixth several years later. Typical church problems were dealt with clearly by church discipline broken contracts between members, heresy regarding the Trinity, etc.
A meetinghouse was build beginning June 7, 1819, and “dedicated to the service of God” December 13, 1819.There was a group who split from the main group during the period of the building program or shortly thereafter. They located four miles south where the village of Lowville was beginning to develop. Pastor Nash was able to peaceably work with this group and establish it as a mission throughout the rest of his pastorate.Upon the completion of the meetinghouse and while working with the mission work to the south, he was able to start a Sabbath School in the union church.Such a ministry would seem to be the basis for a long term relationship.
However, on September 25, 1822, a strange church meeting was called and he was voted out by a vote of nine to three! The only reasons surviving to this day in the records were that they wanted “a young man to settle in.” At the age of 46 they felt him too old, and resented his travelling. While his term as pastor was ended as of November 10, 1822, he often came to preach, act as moderator, baptize converts, and hold communion over the next several years!
During this ending of his pastoring and the ministry that followed, there was a second move of revival (1822-23) where over 200 were converted. This occurred in a township of only 308 homes with a population of approximately 2,000 people! Imagine God blessing a rejected pastor with such a revival, and the church taking no steps to recall him!
Through all of this God was breaking and preparing the heart of His man to leave a public ministry of preaching for a private one of prayer. Such rejection by those he loved and had ministered to did its crushing work, and by 1824 he was so damaged spiritually that any human hope of a prayer ministry seemed impossible.
At this time Charles Finney was to be examined for a licence to preach, and he records his first meeting with Daniel Nash as follows “At this meeting of the presbytery I first saw Rev. Daniel Nash, who is generally known as ‘Father Nash’. He was a member of the presbytery. A large congregation was assembled to hear my little examination. I got in a little late, and saw a man standing in the pulpit speaking to the people, as I supposed. He looked at me, I observed, as I came in; and was looking at the others as they passed up the aisles. As soon as I reached my seat and listened, I observed that he was praying. I was surprised to see him looking all over the house as if he were talking to the people; while in fact he was praying to God. Of course it did not sound to me much like a prayer; and he was at that time indeed in a very cold and back-slidden state”.
After this meeting Nash was struck with a serious case of inflamed eyes. For several weeks he had to be kept in a dark room where he could neither read nor write. During this time “he gave himself up almost entirely to prayer. He had a terrible overhauling of his whole Christian experience; and as soon as he was able to see, with a double black veil before his face, he sailed forth to labour for souls."
His labours did not take form of personal evangelism or of evangelistic preaching. Instead he began one of the greatest ministries of prayer evangelism ever recorded in history. This rejected and broken former preacher gave himself to a labour that would influence praying people to this day.
Charles Finney’s labours in evangelism began in the region of Evans Mills, New York, and here Daniel Nash headed to start his special prayer ministry.
When he arrived, Finney stated, “He was full of the power of prayer”. The two men were drawn into a partnership that was ended only by Daniels death seven years later. Their goals were stated simply in a letter as follows: “When Mr. Finney and I began our race we had not thought of going amongst ministers. Our highest ambition was to go to where there was neither minister of reformation and try to look up the lost sheep, for whom no man cared. We began and the Lord prospered...But we go into no man’s parish unless called...We had room enough to work and work enough to do.”
The evangelistic team operated on the basis of prayer being essential for the preparation of an area for evangelism. This idea was so strong that Finney often sent Nash to an area to prepare the place and people for his coming. Often it would take 3 or 4 weeks of prayer to get the area ready. Let us examine more closely just how such a thing was accomplished.
When God would direct where a meeting would be held, Father Nash would slip quietly into town and seek to get 2 or 3 people to enter into a covenant of prayer with him. Sometimes he had with him a man in similar prayer ministry, Able Clary. Together they would begin to pray fervently for God to move in the community.
One record of such is told by Leonard Ravenhill: “I met an old lady who told me a story about Charles Finney that has challenged me over the years. Finney went to Bolton to Minister, but before he began two men knocked on the door of her humble cottage, wanting lodging. The poor woman looked amazed, for she had no extra accommodations. Finally, for about twenty-five cents a week, the two men, none other than Fathers Nash and Clary, rented a dark and damp cellar for the period of the Finney meetings (at least two weeks) and there in that self-chosen cell, those prayer partners battled the forces of darkness”.
Another record tells: “On one occasion when I got to town to start a revival a lady contacted me who ran a boarding house. She said, ‘Brother Finney, do you know a father Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten a bite of food. I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days, lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in and I didn’t know what to do. Would you please come see about them?”“No, it isn’t necessary,’ Finney replied. ‘They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.’”
Another states: “Charles Finney so realized the need of God’s working in all his service that he was told to send godly Father Nash on in advance to pray down the power of God into the meetings which he was about to hold. ”Not only did Nash prepare the communities for preaching, but he also continued in prayer during the meetings. “Often Nash would not attend meetings, and while Finney was preaching Nash was praying for the Spirit’s outpouring upon him.
Finney stated, ‘I did the preaching altogether, and Brother Nash gave himself up almost continually to prayer.’ Often while the evangelist preached to the multitudes, Nash in some adjoining house would be upon his face in an agony of prayer, and God answered in the marvels of His grace. All with due credit to Mr. Finney for what was done, it was the praying men who held the ropes. The tears they shed, the groans they uttered are written in the book of the chronicles of the things of God.
It is said of Finney that “his evangelistic party consisted of prayer partners, who went before him and sought the Lord in some secluded spot. And when Finney was preceding Father Nash and Mr. Clary were hidden away somewhere praying for him. No wonder citied were stirred and a vast harvest of souls reaped.”
This concept of an evangelistic party made up of praying men has nearly been lost in these days of organizers, promoters, big names, etc. Such praying men not only sustained Finney’s ministry, but explain the power in preaching and long lasting results. Charles Finney could always go to Brother Nash when an obstacle arose in the meetings.
One such occasion occurred at Gouveneur where some “young men seemed to stand like a bulwark in the way of the progress of the work.”
“In this state of things, Brother Nash and myself (Finney), after consultation, made up our minds that that thing must be overcome by prayer, and that it could not be reached in any other way. We therefore retired to a grove and gave ourselves to prayer until we prevailed, and we felt confident that no power which earth or Hell could interpose would be allowed permanently to stop the revival."
Now there are times when confidence gained in prayer require action, and this was such a time. Brother Nash was by nature a quiet man, and by practice stayed out of the limelight. Yet confidence in prayer may cause this to change if God so leads. Here is Finney’s own account of what happened in a service shortly after the victory was won in prayer:
"The meeting-house was filled. Near the close of the meeting, Brother Nash arose, and addressed that company of young men who had joined hand in hand to resist the revival. I believe they were all there, and they sat braced up against the Spirit of God. It was too solemn for them really to make ridicule of what they heard and saw; and yet their brazen-facedness and stiff-neckedness were apparent to everybody."
“Brother Nash addressed them most earnestly, and pointed out the guilt and danger of the course they were taking. Toward the close of his address he waxed exceeding warm, and said to them, ‘Now, mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you, or sending some of you to Hell. He will do this as certainly as he is my God!’
He was standing where he brought his hand down on top of the pew before him, so as to make it thoroughly jar. He sat immediately down, dropped his head, ad groaned with pain."
"The house was as still as death, and most of the people held down their heads. I could see that the young men were agitated. For myself, I regretted Brother Nash going so far. He had committed himself, that God would either take the life of some of them, and send them to Hell, or convert some of them, within a week. However, on Tuesday morning of the same week, the leader of these young men came to me, in the greatest distress of mind. He was all prepared to submit; and as soon as I came to press him be broke down like a child, confessed, and manifestly gave himself to Christ. Then he said, ‘What shall I do, Mr. Finney?’ I replied, ‘Go immediately to all your young companions, and pray with them, and exhort them, at once turn to the Lord.’ He did so; and before the week was out, nearly if not all of that class of young men were hoping in Christ.”
There is no doubt in Finney’s “over-wrought” concern “that his co-worker had gone too far” in this bold handling of the problem was relieved by such a speedy answer (from Sunday night to Tuesday morning). He never did get to speak words of warning and correction to “this man of prayer.”
Nash’s prayer ministry made him “as remarkable a character in his was as Finney himself.” The importance of Finney’s ministry and success cannot be over estimated. “Finney depended more upon the prayers of Fathers Nash and Clary to bring down Holy Ghost revival than upon his own resistless logic. So accustomed are we to the Laodicean condition of the church that the all-pervading influence of prayer in Finney’s time amazes us."
Of the great revival in Rochester, Finney said that the key which unlocked the Heavens in this revival was the prayer of Clary, Father Nash, and other unnamed folk who laid themselves prostrate before God’s throne and besought Him for a divine out-pouring.
Considering the souls being saved and the very culture of the area being changed in such a revival, it should be no surprise that persecution came to these labourers. Some came from jealous ministers, some from those of other doctrinal persuasions, and some from the lost. False statements were sent to newspapers by his enemies. Nash wrote a letter May 11, 1826, telling some of the opposition. Part of it said, “The work of God moved forward in power, in some places against dreadful opposition. Mr. Finney and I have both been hanged and burned in effigy. We have frequently been disturbed in our religious meetings. Sometimes the opposers make a noise in the house of God; sometimes they gather round the house and stone it, and discharge guns. There is almost as mush writing, intrigue, lying, and reporting of lies, as there would be if we were on the eve of a presidential election. Oh, what a world! How much it hates the truth! How unwilling to be saved! But I think the work will go on.”
In this letter he refers to being hung and burned in effigy. Here is an account of the event: “Swinging about your heads are two distorted figures suspended on ropes. At the touch of the torch they leap into flames and the crowd screams in sheer delight. Sound like a scene from a lynching...a race not? Not at all. It is a religious gathering. The charred creatures smouldering in the air represent the public’s expression of opposition to the preaching and praying of America greatest evangelistic team. Charles Finney and his partner-in-prayer, Father Nash, have been burned in effigy. Preachers and pew warmers alike joined forces against the men who did more to spearhead revival than any other pair in American history.”The enemies of revival counted Nash a full partner to Finney in the work. They feared and hated his praying at least as much as they did Finney’s preaching.