Leland, John (2)
Leland, John (2), a Baptist minister, distantly related to Aaron Leland (see above), was born in Grafton, Massachusetts, May 14, 1754. About the age of eighteen he had strong and painful religious impressions; he emerged into light and peace gradually, and, after the lapse of several months, was baptized in June, 1774, in Bellingham, and was regularly licensed by the Church. He removed in 1776 to Virginia, where for above fourteen years he exercised an itinerant ministry, preaching over all the eastern section of the state, sometimes extending his tours southward into North Carolina, and northward as far as Philadelphia. He was ordained in Virginia, somewhat irregularly, in 1777, and again ten years later, with more regard to form and customary usage. His evangelical labors were attended with large success. He baptized seven hundred persons, and gathered churches at Orange and Louisa, one of three hundred and the other of two hundred members. He made the acquaintance of Mr. Madison, with whom he maintained a pleasant correspondence for many years, effectively co- operating with him to secure the ratification by Virginia of the Constitution of the United States. In 1791 he returned to New England, and the year following settled in Cheshire, Mass., where he resided till his death. Though acting for a limited period as pastor of the Church in Cheshire, he was always an itinerant, making extensive tours over western Massachusetts, often into the adjacent parts of New York, and into more distant sections of New England; twice visiting Virginia, and, wherever he went, preaching and baptizing — these two items of "the great commission" (Mt 28:19-20) being all to which he felt himself called. His last record of baptism was Aug. 17,1834, when he was over eighty years of age, which brought up the number of baptisms in his ministry to 1524. He still continued to preach, and died in the work at North Adams, Mass., Jan. 14,1841. He recorded, when at the age of sixty- six, that he had then preached eight thousand sermons, and in order to do it had traveled distances which would thrice girdle the globe. His Life and Remains, edited by his daughter, including an autobiography, additional memoirs, and eighty pieces — sermons, tracts, public addresses, and essays on religious, moral, and political topics — most of which had been printed in pamphlet form during his life, were published not long after his decease, forming a volume of 700 pages 8vo. "Elder" Leland, as he was commonly styled, was in theology a Calvinist of the old school. He was always popular as a preacher and writer, especially among the less-cultivated class.
The elements of his success were a strikingly-original, often eccentric cast of thought; a terse, telling expression, abounding in compact, apothegmatic, easily-remembered sentences; a vigorous Saxon-English diction; slightly provincial ("Yankee"), homely illustration, often a spice of humor, and his sermons were never wanting in earnest appeal. These qualities were aided by his tall figure, the compass of his voice, and a peculiar but effective action. His singular views as to the limit of his ministerial duty, leading him to baptize converts without gathering them into churches, caused his success as an evangelist to leave less durable traces than might otherwise have been looked for. The relations of Church and State in Virginia and in most of New England, during the earlier period of his ministry, led him into a habit of political activity which was sometimes censured by persons unable to appreciate a state of society which had passed away. Two hymns, published anonymously in most hymn-books — one the popular evening hymn, "The day is past and gone;" the other beginning, "Now the Savior standeth pleading" — are ascribed to his pen, and not improbably the simple melodies in which they are oftenest sung. His productions, consisting of several sermons, essays, and addresses, were published after his death, with a memoir of the author by Miss L. F. Greene (1845, 8vo). See Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 6:174. (L. E. S.)