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David Barrow
Baptist Ministers of Virginia
By James B. Taylor, 1860
     In noting the history of this eminent minister of Jesus, it becomes an occasion of devout thanksgiving, that in the early endeavors of Virginia Baptists so many men of gifted minds were raised up to officiate among them as evangelists and pastors. They were in few instances scholastically educated, but they were endowed with all the elements of greatness, in their strong, good sense, unwearied industry, intimate knowledge of the Scriptures, earnest manner, and deep-toned piety. God made them what they were, and raised them up for the noble purpose of sustaining and spreading widely the truths and ordinances of the New Testament.

     DAVID BARROW was one of these men. He was the son of William Barrow, of Brunswick County. His mother was Amy Lee, daughter of William Lee, of the same county. David, their second son, was born October 30, 1753. His early life having been spent in industrial pursuits on his father's farm, he acquired those habits of self-reliance and energy which in all future life distinguished him. In the seventeenth year of his age deep religious impressions operated in leading his mind to build a hope of eternal life on the Son of God. In the same year he joined the Baptist Church, being baptized, as is supposed, by Elder Zechariah Thompson; and before he was eighteen years of age had begun to proclaim the salvation in which his own heart rejoiced. His gift, as a licentiate, was exercised for about three years, during which time he was a diligent student.

     Every available means for intellectual cultivation were eagerly sought. Day and night he might be seen poring over books -- and thus he made himself, what he afterwards was, a scribe well instructed in the things of the kingdom. Not only the word of God, but the whole range of knowledge was surveyed, so far as the opportunities and facilities furnished would allow. He became a good English scholar. None of the errorists in his vicinity, however learned or gifted, were able to grapple with him. It was necessary, even in his early ministry, to contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints, and he proved himself worthy of the cause he plead. The noble stand he took, as hereafter to be noticed, arrested the march of pernicious sentiments which even then had begun to prevail.

     In his nineteenth year Mr. Barrow married Miss Sarah Gilllam, daughter of Hinchey Gilliam, of Sussex County, by whom he had twelve children. His first pastorate was with the Mill Swamp Church, Isle of Wight County, which had been a little before originated under the efficient labors of Elder J. Meglamare. he was called by this body of Baptists to assume their spiritual over-sight, and

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in January, 1774, removed and settled among them. The June following, by the imposition of hands he was solemnly ordained to the full work of the ministry. He was afterwards called also to the care of South Quay and Black Creek Churches, in Southampton County. An effectual door of usefulness now being opened, he entered it, and labored not in vain. The Lord wrought with and through him, many scoffers were led to Christ, and the churches were greatly increased in numbers and efficiency. He became eminently popular in the pulpit as well as the social circle. His manners, general information, fearlessness in the defence of truth, and spotless life, all contributed to swell the tide of beneficial influence.

     The labors of Mr. Barrow were not confined to the churches he served. In Lower Virginia and North Carolina he traveled much, and everywhere exercised a commanding sway. But it was principally with the Mill Swamp Church he found his ministry most favored. It became one of the largest churches of the Kehukce Association, with whom it was then identified.

     The year after his ordination and settlement with this church, trials of a very serious character were realized by the brethren of the Kehukee Association, in consequence of unscriptural sentiments and practices, which had begun to prevail to a considerable extent. In the language of one of their historians,

"Several of those churches, that at first belonged to the Kehukee Association, were gathered by the Free-Will Baptists, and, as their custom was to baptize any persons who were willing whether they had an experience of grace or not, they had many members and ministers in their churches who were baptized before they were converted; and after they were brought to a knowledge of the truth, and joined the Regulars, openly confessed they were baptized before they believed. Some of them said they supposed they should reach heaven by it. Several of their ministers confessed they had preached and administered the ordinance of baptism to others before they were themselves converted; and so zealous were they for baptism, that one of their preachers confessed, if he could find any willing to be baptized, and it was in the night, he would immerse them by firelight, lest they should determine otherwise before the next morning."
     Against this system of baptismal regeneration a few bold spirits maintained a firm and persevering opposition. Among those who contended earnestly for the faith as it was once delivered to the saints, the subject of this sketch was, perhaps, the most intelligent and unyielding. He insisted that men were to be baptized, not to make them in heart Christians, but because they were already such, and because this institution was designed to be the significant mode by which forgiven believers were publicly to profess allegiance to the King of Zion. Other unscriptural views, also, he opposed. There is reason to believe
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that his influence was greatly blessed, in arresting the tide of error which was beginning to set in upon the churches.

     As Mr. Barrow lived in a day when the contest was going on between the friends and foes of religious liberty, he became one of the principal leaders of reform, and employed his talents and influence to obtain a change in many of the then existing and oppressive laws of Virginia. At the meetings of the Association he most eloquently vindicated the right of all men to worship God according to their wishes, and urged his brethren to maintain a united and immovable stand against those enactments which took away this right. Nor was he unsuccessful. A strong public sentiment was created in Lower Virginia, which assisted to bring about a repeal of laws as injurious in their influence as they were unjust in themselves.

     Elder Barrow had himself smarted beneath the severe hand of persecution. Several times it was attempted to prevent him from filling his appointments. His sufferings were frequently painful.

"In 1778 he received an invitation to preach at the house of a gentleman who lived on Nansemond River, near the mouth of James River. A ministering brother accompanied him. They were informed, on their arrival, that they might expect rough usage; and it so happened. As soon as the hymn was given out, a gang of well-dressed men came up to the stage, which had been erected under some trees, and sung one of their obscene songs. They then undertook to plunge both of the preachers. They plunged Mr. Barrow twice, pressing him into the mud, and, holding him down, nearly succeeded in drowning him. In the midst of their mocking they asked him if he believed, and throughout treated him with the most barbarous insolence and outrage. His companion they plunged but once. The whole assembly was shocked, the women shrieked; but no one durst interfere, for about twenty stout fellows were engaged in this horrid measure. They insulted and abused the gentleman who had invited them to preach, and every one who spoke a word in their favor. Before these persecuted men could change their clothes they were dragged from the house, and driven off by these enraged churchmen. But three or four of them died in a few weeks, in a distracted manner, and one of them wished himself in hell before he had joined the company," etc.
     Among other important matters, to which the attention of the churches was called by Elder Barrow, was the subject of domestic missions. This he urged at various meetings of the Association, and, to some extent, succeeded in obtaining the consent of his Kehukee brethren to supply the destitution within their own limits. He was also active in the inculcation of a duty which had been much neglected by the churches, viz. the support of the ministry. It is to be lamented that the extortions of the Episcopal clergy should have driven our brethren to the other extreme; many not only failed to teach and enforce the obligation of the churches to provide for the maintenance of their pastors, but
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declaimed and wrote against it. Elder Barrow, however, took a scriptural view of this subject, and was not unwilling to disclose it.

     Elder Barrow continued with the Kehukee Association until the Portsmouth Association was formed. This occurred in 1791, when the churches in Kehukee were forty-two in number, while the new body contained nineteen churches. These last were all in Virginia. During his continuance with the parent association Mr. Barrow was one of her most efficient sons. He was always found taking an enlightened and dignified course, in the deliberations of her annual meetings. And when the new association was organized, he remained the same active and judicious friend of every good word and work. During his short connection with them he was several times called to occupy the chair. In 1797 he removed to Kentucky, much to the regret of many friends of enlightened piety in Virginia.

     From Mr. Barrow's pen a small pamphlet was published, containing a sort of farewell address to his brethren, upon his departure to the western country. He dwells with deep feeling on the separation, seeming to break away from his loved associations here as by constraint -- a constraint imposed by the parsimony of his churches. They had not suitably administered to his necessities. It was accordant with the spirit of the times to make little or no systematic arrangements for the support of the ministry. The churches had suffered so sorely under a hireling priest-hood in connection with the establishment, that their pastors were themselves accustomed to preach against the payment of salaries, many of them absolutely suffering for the want of competent support. In common with many of his brethren, Elder Barrow found it necessary to seek a new home in the more newly settled and fruitful lands of Kentucky. As explanatory of his reasons for removal, and of his sentiments toward the brethren from whom he was to be sundered, he says: --

"On long and very serious deliberation, I have determined, under Divine Providence, to move my residence from this country to the State of Kentucky. As I have been for many years exercising my feeble talents in the sacred work of the ministry, which has been the means of procuring many respectable acquaintances, most of whom I have no opportunity of seeing before my removal; and, as a memorial of my unabated affection for my friends, and to stop the mouths of some few enemies, who, in my absence, may say ungenerous things concerning the motives of removal and the doctrines I have preached, I think it best to express my sentiments before I leave this part of the country.

First, I will give the reasons for moving; second, exhibit a summary of my creed; and third, express my parting wishes and prayers.

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     "First. The reasons of my removal - Negatively. It is not from any personal prejudice against any man, woman, child, or party, under heaven. Nor is it to accumulate stores of wealth for my children. For we are informed by the lips of inspiration 'that they who will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful habits, which drown men in destruction and perdition.' Nor is it on account of the present deadness and coldness of religion, for I am well convinced God will revive his work in these parts. Nor is it to get rid of temptations and trials, for we learn that affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet, man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward. "Affirmatively. - 1. I find by long experience and constant efforts I cannot comfortably support my family, educate my children, and attend to public calls, as I have done, without falling into the line of speculation. To let my family suffer is inconsistent with Scripture and reason. 'If any provide not for his own, and especially for them of his own household, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.' The business of speculation I think incompatible with the work of the ministry, or, at any rate, it is a difficult thing to attend to both. * * * And, if I must turn into the business of agriculture, which I think a safe and honor-able employment, common sense dictates it would be most advisable in a country where the God of nature has been most liberal with respect to soil.

     "Second. Another reason is, that by the sale of my property I may pay my just debts, which I have been obliged to contract for the support of my family, while I have been otherwise employed.

     "Third. That I may, with the blessing of God, be able, moderately, to educate my children.

     "Fourth. One distinguishing trait in the ministerial character is, that he should be given to hospitality; whereas, in my situation, with my income, I cannot exorcise that disposition as duty calls for, without severely feeling it afterwards. For these reasons, I leave this country and remove to one where Nature has been more bountiful."

     Mr. Barrow then proceeds to give his religious and political creed. It will be interesting to note by this document, written more than sixty years ago, what would seem to have been the theological views of many of the fathers in the Virginia ministry. We present a part of the pamphlet. He says: --

     "1. I believe in only one indivisible, eternal, all-wise, all-powerful, all-holy, all-just, all-good, self-existing, self-governed, omniscient, omnipresent God; and that in Deity there are three Divine Personalities different in character and office, but strictly One in design, nature, and essence, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

     "2. I believe the inspiration and infallibility of the holy Scriptures, as contained in the Old and New Testaments.

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     "3. I believe the existence of an everlasting covenant between the Father and Son, to secure the salvation of God's elect.

     "4. I believe the decrees of God are eternal, consistent, wise, and immutable, and that they extend to all matters and things in the universe; yet, not so as to exclude the use of means, but rather that certain and proper means are decreed, to bring about certain and fixed ends in his universal government.

     "5. That God elected or chose his people in Christ before all worlds, as a sovereign act of his own good pleasure, without any good or evil thing foreseen in them, as moving him thereto or preventing him therefrom.

     "6. That man was created in a state of innocency, but through the seduction of Satan, being left to his own natural powers, fell into transgression by eating the forbidden fruit, by which he became an enemy to God. The whole fountain of nature being defiled, so that, by this single act of disobedience, the whole race of human creatures justly fell under condemnation, and are born into this world in a state of darkness, corruption, slavery to Satan, and a whole train of lawless passions, lusts, and appetites, without either inclination or power to will or do the mind of God, till influenced thereto by the powerful operations of the Divine Spirit.

     "7. That it is God's prerogative, and that it is consistent with his law and sacred perfections, to justify the ungodly through Christ's engagement, or by imputing his righteousness to them.

     "8. I believe the Incarnation of the Son, or Word of God.

     "9. I believe the all-sufficiency of Christ's atonement, for the pardon of all those whom he represented.

     "10. I believe the absolute necessity of conversion, regeneration, in a work of sanctification on the souls of fallen creatures; not to justify them, but to fit or make them meet for eternal glory.

     "11. That good works naturally result from sanctification, and should be zealously maintained by all Christians for necessary uses. For these things are good and profitable to men.

     "12. I believe the safety, final security, and certain salvation of all those whom Christ represents; for as much as they are justified of God, called and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

     "13. That Christ did constitute a church, the foundation, plan, and government of which is plainly to be found in the New Testament; and that professing and orderly believers only have a right to membership.

     "14. That the ordinances in the church are two, Baptism and the Supper. And that Baptism is only rightly administered when it is performed by a properly qualified person on an orderly professing believer, by dipping or plunging the

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whole body in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And that the Supper is only properly administered and received, when it is handed out and partaken of by such persons as the Scripture directs, and eaten and drunk in a loving and discerning manner, the laity with the clergy having a right to the wine, as well as bread.

     "15. That there will be a resurrection of the just nod unjust also, that the righteous shall enjoy eternal happiness and that the wicked shall suffer everlasting damnation


     "1. I believe the natural equality of man, except in some monstrous cases.
     "2. I believe that liberty, with a right to good character, of acquiring and possessing property, with the enjoyment of life and members, and the means of defending them, is the unalienable privilege of all men who have not forfeited those blessings by their own personal misdemeanors.
     "3. I believe that government is an evil, as it cannot be supported without making considerable sacrifices of natural liberty; but, in our present state of depravity, it is to be preferred to a state of nature.
     "4. That government is a civil compact of a people emerging from a state of nature, contrived by themselves for their own security, and is subject to the control, and is liable to alteration, when thought proper by a majority of such community.
     "5. That no man can be bound in person or property but by laws of his own making, or that of his representatives, fairly chosen.
     "6. That all natural-born citizens, arriving at an age, the community may have a call for their services; and all emigrants, having conformed to the rules of naturalization, are entitled to the right of suffrage.
     "7. That no description of men, leaving gained such confidence of their fellow-citizens as to have a majority of suffrages in fair and free elections, can be excluded the office of judge, representative, etc.
     "8. That representatives and judges are trustees and servants of the people, and are constantly accountable to them.
     "9. That it would be good for a community that no man exercise more than one office under government, at the same time, of any. kind whatsoever.
     "10. That the military ought to be under strict subordination to the civil power.
     "11. That representatives should be chosen annually.

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     "12. That all officers or servants of the people should have moderate, but sufficient salaries, fixed by law.
     "13. That all religious tests and ecclesiastical establishments; are oppressive, and infringing the nights of conscience.
     "14. That civil rub hove nothing more to do with religion in their public capacities than private men, save only that they should protect its professors in the uninterrupted enjoyment of it, with life, property, character, in common with other good citizens.
     "15. That no man, or set of men, in a community, are entitled to exclusive privileges.
     "16. That the liberty of the press, and the people's right to express their grievances, cannot be restrained, but by tyrannical governments.
     "17. That a well-regulated militia is the best natural defence of a free government.
     "18. I believe, in a situation like ours, that an indissolvable union and well- planned confederation of the States are essentially necessary to their safety and well-being.
     "19. That trial by jury, though liable to some exceptions, is most to be depended on.
     "20. That unreasonable or excessive bail should never be required of any man.
     "21. That tortures, to force confession of suspected crimes, are cruel and heathenish.
     "22. That long and unnecessary imprisonment is tyrannical.
     "23. That general warrants to search suspected places should never be granted, but on probable evidence.
     "24. I believe, as no individual has a right to take his own life on any supposed dissatisfaction, or deprive another of his species of existence, except in self-defence, consequently no community can delegate a power to their representatives to do that they themselves have not a right to do, either separately or collectively, only as above stated. This may show the necessity of proper punishments to crimes, and the utility of penitentiary houses.
     "25. That no community can long enjoy tranquillity but by strict adherence to virtue and frequent recourse to fundamental principles.
     "26. Lastly. That honesty forever was, and forever will be, the best policy.

"III. Express my parting prayers and ardent wishes.

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"I most heartily pray for, and with the prosperity of the true Church of Jesus Christ, in general! That she may keep the ordinances as they were delivered to her at the first. That she may maintain a regular and gospel discipline. That she may shortly experience a glorious revival and numberless additions, and arise and shake herself from the dust, and appear the beauty of the whole earth. I wish all false doctrines and heretical principles may clearly be discovered, and sink into darkness, where they belong; and that 'Heaven-born truth' may universally prevail. I most ardently wish that all those unhappy divisions, animosities, janglings, groundless criticisms, heart-burnings, evil-speaking, love of pre-eminence, and persecution, which have so long torn the Church of Christ, may happily and entirely subside. That all party names may be lost in oblivion, and that an indissolvable union may take place among all true Christians, upon the old apostolic plan."
     After Mr. Barrow's removal to Kentucky he continued to pursue his ministerial work with diligence and success. While he lived, he was a useful minister of the gospel, although some difficulty was created by his peculiar views on the subject of slavery. His death occurred about the year 1814, having reached a good old age, and spent by far the greater part of his life in preaching the gospel of the blessed God. His age, at the time of his dismissal from the earth, was about seventy-five years.

     Elder Barrow possessed a discriminating mind. His talents were of a high order. It is much to be questioned whether, as a speaker, he has ever been excelled by any Baptist minister of Virginia or Kentucky. He rarely attended an Association, when he was not chosen to occupy the pulpit on Lord's day. His discourses were expressed with clearness and furnished with the happiest illustrations. He was a man of peace, of uncommon meekness; and but few holier men have been found in the gospel ministry in modern times. Religion was the general topic of conversation wherever he went; and into whatever society he might enter, by godly conversation and fervent prayer he would be known as a minister of the Lord Jesus. "He magnified his office;" and while his sermons were argumentative and doctrinal, he was regarded as a "son of consolation," confirming the souls of the disciples wherever he preached.

     As a pastor, he was much beloved and highly useful. He presided in this capacity over the churches of South Quay, Mill Swamp, and Black Creek, in Virginia, and over others after he removed to Kentucky. Many, through his instrumentality, were brought to a knowledge of the truth, and instructed in the things of the kingdom.


[James B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers Series 1, 1860, pp. 142-150. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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