April 20: Rev. Robert D. Russell

Prepare to meet thy God.
Old church records are often quite scarce; recently the PCA Historical Center was able to acquire a copy of the 1868 Minutes of the Synod of Alabama. Within that record, we found a brief obituary for a fallen pastor, a man whose death reminds us all of life’s greatest duty. In trying times like these, wisdom says “Get your house in order.” And without doubt, first on that list we must make sure we are ready to meet the Lord.

Minutes of the Synod of Alabama, Oct’r 21st to 24th, 1868, pages 13-14.

“The Committee of Synod, appointed for the purpose, having failed in preparing an obituary of Rev. R.D. Russell, on motion, a minute was adopted, extracted from the minutes of the Presbytery of South Alabama, as follows:

In the providence of God, we are called upon to record the death of our beloved brother in Christ, the Rev. Robert D. Russell, a member of this Synod. He departed this life very suddenly, probably without a moment’s warning, on the 17th of April, 1867, in Geneva congregation.

He was born in Guilford county, North Carolina, in the year 1793. He made a profession of faith in Christ, when about 27 or 28 years old.

Believing it to be his duty to preach the gospel, he commenced at once to prepare himself for the work.

He pursued his literary and scientific studies in Greensboro’, North Carolina, and Chapel Hill. He pursued his theological studies at Prince Edward, Va. And was licensed to preach by Orange Presbytery. He removed to Alabama, and supplied the pulpit of Nanafalia [aka Nanapolia] church, now Geneva.

He was ordained to the full work of the ministry by the Presbytery of South Alabama.

He was afflicted, for many years, with a disease of the throat; and for the last few years he was prevented from preaching regularly, owing to general debility. At the time of his death he was preparing a sermon on the text, “Prepare to meet thy God.” He was thus called away from his labors meditating upon the great necessity of preparing for eternity.

Words to Live By:
By his sudden death we are forcibly reminded—to be also ready. So the Scripture says, “Prepare to meet thy God.” The verse is found in Amos 4:12.
Truly we are sinners, in great need of a great Savior. And praise God for this promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Praise God, that all who are found in union with Christ as Savior and Lord will undeniably be found ready to meet Him on that day.

Searching further, though the record is sparse, we did find a bit more about Rev. Russell’s life, ministry and death:

Rev. A.J. Witherspoon, of Linden, Ala., wrote:

He was an honest  and true man, thoroughly attached to his Church, somewhat singular in his mode of life, living most of his time like a hermit, with not a living soul on the place but himself. [he had never married]. Some time before he died he went to live with a nephew, A.D. Ross, Esq., at the latter’s earnest solicitation; here he was kindly received and well cared for.

The circumstances connected with his death were sad. The family with whom he lived were all absent but two daughters. On the day of his death they had promised to spend the day with a neighbor, and as no one would be left with him, he promised to dine with them. But he did not come, and on their return in the afternoon he was not at home, They supposed he had gone over to one of the neighbors, but on the next day, as he did not return, they feared that all was not right, and got some friends to search for him.

They found his body by the roadside some distance from the house. He had fallen in a fit, and from appearances had died instantly.

At the time of his death he was preparing a sermon for the next Sabbath, on the text, “Prepare to meet thy God.”

The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer, volume 10, pp. 368-369.


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