Thomas Dewitt Talmage
1832 – 1902
An extremely prolific writer and preacher, Talmage has been one of the most popular and most widely read of the preachers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Talmage was a “country boy” of humble, pious parentage. Born at Bound Brook, New Jersey, he was the last of twelve children. Even as a youth he possessed such gifts as a fervent imagination, fondness of nature’s charrus, unusual powers of expression, a manner dramatic in the highest degree, a mature vivaciousness, electric and spontaneous. Already at this age others had begun to predict great things for him.
He graduated from the University of New York with distinction. He began a course of study for the legal profession but after a year he felt the need to pursue the work of the Lord and entered the New Brunswick Theological Seminary connected with Rutgers College. He was converted at age eighteen and united with the Dutch Reformed Church. Talmage says of his youth:
I had many sound thrashings when I was a boy (not as many as I ought to have had, for I was the last child, and my par-ents let me off), but the most memorable scene in my child-hood was that of father and mother at morning and evening prayers. I cannot forget it, for I used often to be squirming around on the floor and looking at them while they were pray-in~.
During the Civil War he served as chaplain in the Union Army. In 1869 he became pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York. This decision was a difficult one since the re-quest came at the same time as four others, all of which were larger churches. Brooklyn, a failing church of only nineteen remaining members, grew so under his ministry that within a year a new build-ing, known as the Brooklyn Tabernacle, was erected. That building was destroyed by fire in 1872, but it was rebuilt. It also burned to the ground, as did a third church building.
Talmage was known as a lecturer as well as a clergyman. He had a fine, erect figure, strong, clear-cut features, and a winning manner.