Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jesse Halsey, 1882-1954: In Memoriam

McCormick Speaking |Vol. VII | March, 1954 | No. 6

By Robert Worth Frank 

On Tuesday morning, January 12th, Dr. Jesse Halsey died in the hospital at Southampton, Long Island. A funeral service in keeping with his own practice and spirit as a pastor was held on January 14th at the Southampton Presbyterian Church to which his forebears had belonged for generations and in which he himself had grown up into the Christian faith. The service was in charge of his intimate and long-time friend, Dr. John W. Christie.

The passing of Dr. Halsey has left many people, young and old, bereft of a uniquely gracious, wise, and understanding friend. During his eleven years as Lane Professor of Pastoral Theology and Liturgics at McCormick he was an able teacher and something much more. He was the discerning pastor and rarely gifted counselor and guide of both his students and his colleagues. For Jesse Halsey was a man who loved people with an outgoing friendliness that was warm, genuine, abiding, and always delicately tactful.

But his friendliness was never wishy-washy. He was a man of sturdy Christian convictions—convictions that were quiet, not loud, that were deep, not for surface display. Whoever knew him very long was sure to discover these convictions and to feel their essential soundness, force, and depth. Underlying and controlling these convictions was a gracious and winsome spirit of reconciliation. This spirit dwelt mightily in him. Wherever he went or spoke or counseled people, he was knitting human hearts together in the love of Christ and of one another. There was something in the temper of this man that healed the spirit of faction and division. He studied the peace, unity, and purity not only of the Church but of human relations wherever he was present. To an unusual degree his nature untied and blended strength and tenderness, strength without hardness or the will to dominate, and tenderness without softness or sentimentalism.

And who of us has not felt his power of appreciation? The parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost prodigal must have been dear to his heart. He was always finding the contemporary originals of these parables and giving them new hope through his appreciation and love. To hard pressed and bereft people he brought the most helpful ministry of comfort. He knew that every heart carries some burden, some invisible load of heaviness. And like Greatheart in his much beloved Pilgrim’s Progress he was quick to discern and gentle and strong to share the weight of the burden.

“Do you see yonder shining light? Said Evangelist to Christian as he began his journey. He said, “I think I do.” Then said Evangelist, “Keep that light in your eye . . .” From the beginning of his ministry to the end Jesse Halsey kept that light in his eye. Because of this faithfulness and by the grace of God, he was himself an evangelist, an interpreter, a Greatheart, and a man named Help to countless other pilgrims seeking the way of salvation.

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