AN ESTIMATE BY THE WRITER
I.In the preceding sketch of the life of Lewis Craig, we have given all the facts that we have been able to gather. It is to be regretted that nothing more can be found, for a full history of the life and labors of such a man are well worthy of preservation."As unto him by Chebar's sacred stream
The angel came, with mandate from on high,
There came to one, a youth, the Spirit's gleam
And bade him tell the wicked they should die;
And bade him watch upon the walls and cry
That woe should come to the impenitent:
O, son of man, if thou forbear, on thy
Unshriven soul the curse of blood is sent!
Then rise and warn mine erring people to repent."
While seeking for facts, dates and the like, my admiration for this Baptist hero has been awakened; and, at this late date, I have learned to love him for what he was as well as to admire him for what he did and suffered. In this spirit of love and admiration I come now to give any who may wish to read, my estimate of the man as a man among men. This may
not be worth while, but I shall, at any rate, gratify my own whim, if such feeling be a whim. I judge; however, that it is not a mere whim, for as I have looked into the history of Lewis Craig and his times, I have come into touch with many illustrious characters - fearless, faithful men, who loved the cause of their Lord and Master - Baptist heroes who stood out like mighty giants against all comers and braved aU the evils and bitternesses of that remarkable age. Of these, Lewis Craig was not, by any sort of calculation, the least.
It is ever good for us to come into touch with these manly spirits, and to learn how they behaved in the midst of the great conflict, the greatest, perhaps, when all is considered, of any age - the battle for religious and civil liberty. Those men fought for the dearest and highest earthly boon. So, I do not consider it a whim to honor our "illustrious dead", Lewis Craig, nor any true "soldier that battles with thought for a sword".
From those who have written of him we have gotten such facts as lead us to the conviction that he was possessed of all those noble qualities that go to make a man truly a man. He is spoken of as the "unflinching Craig", "Lewis Craig, the magnetic pastor of Upper Spottsylvania Church", "the master spirit of the traveling church", a "religious leader", "a peace-
peace-maker among contending parties", "the fearless leader", "the indomitable Craig", "the famous Lewis Craig", "the illustrious Craig", "the meekness of Mr. Craig"; and such like statements. Then, we have a man of lofty courage, abounding zeal, simple faith as that of a little child, meekness, free spoken and a great peacemaker. This is the man as revealed to us by his contemporaries and biographers. What other conclusion, then, can we reach than that he was "a remarkable man", whose life must have been truly noble? It is not in vain, then, that we record these things about him, for, in the language of a master writer, Mr. Thomas Carlyle (speaking of his father):
"It is good to know how a true spirit will vindicate itself with truth and freedom through what obstacles soever; how the acorn, cast carelessly into the wilderness, will make room for itself and grow to be an oak. This is one of the cases belonging to that class, 'the lives of remarkable men', in which it has been said, 'paper and ink should least of all be spared'. I call a man remarkable who becomes a true workman in this Vineyard of the Highest. Be his work that of palace building and kingdom founding, or of delving and ditching, to me it is no matter, or next to none. All human work is transitory, small in itself, contemptible. Only the worker thereof and the spirit that dwelt in him is significant."
The founding of churches, and calling of men to repentence [sic], is not "transitory", nor "small in itself", for that is not mere "human work", for the spirit that dwelt in Lewis Craig was the spirit of a son of God, and the work that he did here, while about his Father's business, has remained and will remain; for his works were directed toward winning immortal souls to Christ, and he won many and paved the way that many more should come to Him. Mr. Carlyle was speaking of the building of earthly houses and of founding earthly kingdoms. Lewis Craig was a builder for eternity, dealing with that which is real and everlasting, and his works are not dead, nor shall they die. <
"All that is real remaineth,
And fadeth never:
The hand which upholdeth it now sustaineth
The soul forever."
He was "a man healthy in body and mind, fearing and diligently working on God's earth with contentment, hope and unwearied resolution". And, "like a healthy man, he wanted only to get along with his task". We see clearly that his life was "no idle tale", but "an earnest toilsome" one, well worthy of honoring and of emulating, for the end in view was not that of selfishness, but of service to his kind - he lived for men, he lived for us."The man who lives for self, I say, He lives for neither God nor man."
II."And Jesus*** said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.""Ye children of men, attend to the word So solemnly uttered by Jesus, the Lord, And let not this message to you be in vain, "'Ye must be born again'".
In considering the life and character of any true worker among men we must ever look into one particular event in their lives - one without which all others are in vain - The Spiritual New-Birth. There is too often the danger of overlooking this chiefest of all concerns here below. With this out all that is worth while is out, and the life of man here is but an empty dream, a breath of wind that passes away. This New-Birth is the dawning of the New Day and the coming of the New Name.
Spiritual light began to dawn on Lewis Craig in the year 1765, when he was about twenty-eight years of age. Under the guidance of the Lord, Samuel Harris was the preacher who brought this light to him. "The Lord gave the Word" - "His Word is Light" -and Harris, His messenger, brought it to young Craig.
Now, this dawning of Light, the rising of the
Sun of Righteousness, on the spiritual darkness of the man was the most important occurrence in his life. Without this all the rest, whatever good natural qualities he may have possessed, was in vain; for unless the light had dawned on his soul and exposed the evils there, he would have remained in darkness, which is, and ever is, Spiritual Death. From this time, then, 1765, we "may date his spiritual majority; his earthly life was now enlightened and over-canopied by a heavenly. He was henceforth a man". And with this, also, began his struggles with the Prince of the Power of Darkness - a conflict through which he passed and conquered, coming off more than victor, for he became a prince, being born a "son of the King".
By the coming of light to this benighted soul we see that he was thrown into a state of bitterest anguish, and that he passed consciously through a season of great sufferings, caused by his deep sense of guilt. He cried out in bitterness of soul, "I am a justly condemned sinner" I Just. how long this lasted we are not informed, but it must have been a considerable time. To him the Word of God was a sharp two-edged sword, and more; it was a fire sent to bum into the heart of the man to consume the dross. "Is not my Word like a fire, saith the Lord: and a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" He did not run from the fire, nor did he strive to
escape the hammering. He was willing to pass through the furnace to allow the fire to do its perfect work; he longed to be purified, that he might escape the wrath to come - that other fire that is not quenched unless a man repent of, and forsake his sins. Evidently he was not afraid of the light nor of the burning from Heaven, however painful they might be to his agonizing soul; for it is recorded that he followed the preachers from meeting to meeting, that more light might be turned on his inner darkness; and he hoped, too, that thus rest. might come to his over-burdened spirit. In all this we get some measure of the genuineness of the man, and see much of the workings of his mind while under such deep conviction. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," is the firm resolve of every true seeker after light and forgiveness; once awakened he cannot hide, and. would not if he could. Deep down in him is the unquenchable desire that the whole infernal horde of evils lurking in him be routed, cost what it may. Knowing, as we do, the vast importance of genuine conviction of sin, we cannot but admire this spirit so markedly manifest in Lewis Craig, the self-confessed, "justly condemned sinner".
In this deep agony, under the sense of guilt, we see that he was yearning for God in every cell of his being. He cried aloud. Thus it
ever is with the truly repentant and deeply earnest seeker after God: "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night." This cry of his was not in vain; it was not folly on his part; for, as said Phillips Brooks, "there is a gulf that separates man-life from God-life, and which no man ever yet crossed save as he stretched out both his helpless hands to God, and felt a hand, too powerful not to trust, clasp them and lift him, whither he knew not, till lo! the gulf was crossed and he had entered on the new life that they 'live who live in God" I This cry of Mr. Craig was the stretching out of both hands unto God, who reached down and lifted him above the waves into the Ark of perfect safety, and henceforth he could sing, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
I must ask you to dwell a little longer on this particular event in the life of one who became such a wonderful power in the hands of God for calling men to repentance, for this event
made all of the rest possible. Seeing himself as a helpless sinner led him to look up and see the "justly condemned sinner's" Savior, and this glorious sight worked wonders in the life of Lewis Craig. "Self-revelation is at once the greatest blessing that can come to man and that which casts him into deepest anguish." The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom of Light and Love, and when these two regenerating principles pour into an awakened soul, they stir up and put to rout the evils hiding there; the imperfections are brought to view, and more, for the man feels justly condemned, and comes into a state of great pain. All birth is through travail.
One very remarkable thing that I wish to call your attention to in the case before us is, that the light which came to him through the preaching of Samuel Harris was at once a revelation and a call, and almost instantly these two joined hands, and, in the midst of his bitter sorrows, he began preaching - and that before he was aware of it, and men were converted. The revelation and the call should ever go hand in hand - seeing what I am should be, and is, a call to what I ought to be. Our revelations and tribulations help to reveal our spots, those that must be washed out by the blood of the Lamb. Godly sorrows - those
"that work a repentance that needeth not to be repented of" - are the foothills to the everlasting heights of life. Lewis Craig moaned bitterly over his lost and seemingly hopeless condition, but this sorrow, this deep sense of guilt, was the work of a soul struggling upward and outward, from under his load of sin, into the new life - the new Day.
That he was greatly benighted is plain. He saw himself helpless, ruined, lost; and, seeing, cried for the light, cried for deliverance. He did not cry in vain, for to every humble, burdened, benighted sinner who cries, "God be merciful to me, the sinner", "the Morning cometh". His morning came. It is ever thus and ever will be with every regenerating soul; that soul must come up out of darkness into the Light of Life. There is comfort in knowing that -
"The flowers must lie buried in Darkness
Before they can bud and bloom;
And the sweetest and warmest sunshine
Comes after the storm and gloom."
After bitterest grief and repentance Lewis Craig did emerge into the light of day and walked in that light, onward, steadily, faithfully to the end of a long and glorious life. Thus, it was with him, as it ever is with the lowly, the poor in spirit, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" - shall be made strong for the labors and trials of the
journey through all the bitternesses, over all the obstacles of life, into true usefulness and peace, and on and on unto the perfect day. These wrestlings of his with terror and sorrow, because of guilt and night in his soul, brought at last the morning, and the New Name. As Jacob wrestled through the night, becoming fixed on a new basis by the morning, so, also, when "the sun rose upon" Lewis Craig, a prince of God was settled - fixed as a preacher of righteousness and as a servant of righteousness.
It is written, "Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy". "Shallow experiences, the heart slightly convinced of sin and weakness, have shallow consolations. But he who has stepped low, who has felt that deep, exquisite music of contrition, who has groaned down to the centers of self, feels under him the Everlasting Arms. There is rest in that uplift. There is a power there inexhaustible, reliant, jubilant."
We should learn a lesson of contrition from these by-gone heroes of faith, for theirs were not "shallow experiences". Their self-revelations led them to dig deep, in agony and tears, and lay their foundations on the Everlasting Rock. As I have read of the rending soul-agony through which so many of these men passed, I know not whether to weep or smile; but I remember that One who knew, and knows, said: "Agonize to enter in at the strait.
gate; * * * * because strait is the gate and narrow the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Lewis Craig agonized; he entered in; he found the way, and walked therein, humbly, uprightly, never faltering, until he reached the heights of the Everlasting Hills. So, "Blessed are they that mourn: because they shall be comforted". To him this deep conviction was no mere "passing dream", a thing to be forgotten on the morrow, but it was the shaking of the whole man, for as the winds make the mighty oak to tremble and threaten to uproot it, so was he shaken to the very center of his being. This tearing up of the sub-soil was the work of God, the Divine Plowman, and then, as now, and as ever, with those who shall be truly "born again" -
"Deep driven shall the iron be sent
Through all thy fallow fields, until
The stubborn elements relent
And lo, the Plowman hath His will!
He ploweth, well, He ploweth deep,
And where He ploweth, angels reap."
We have seen what all this deep plowing did for Mr. Craig. He was being saved, was saved; was being fitted, and was fitted, for the long, toilsome life in the Vineyard where he, too, should plow and sow; and, having put his hand to the plough, he did not turn back, nor even look back, proving thereby that he was "fit for the Kingdom of Heaven".
"'The soul is dead that slumbers;' ease
is fatal to a spirit made
To toil, to suffer, thus to seize
The prizes set. For each is laid
Some task to do, some height to win
Before the man can enter in
The realm of real light and joy,
Pain hath no pow'r so to destroy
The best in us as soft content,
For that corrodes which lies unspent."
With the New-birth comes the New-day. Ah, such a day as it is! It is not a holiday, one in which we shall idle about, trying to be happy, suiting our newly-found religion to our fleshly love of ease - not by any sort of means. With this new morning comes a call to "don our working clothes", to gird on the armor of a Christian soldier, and begin the work of that Day, the setting of whose Sun is not now, not ever, for it is the dawning of Endless Day, and thus of endless work and delight therefrom. The joy of joys is that born of doing well and wisely the task allotted us, here and hereafter.
Lewis Craig was born into the Kingdom of Heaven a worker, an organizer, a builder, a leader, and he went about this work at once. Before he was baptized men were converted under his preaching, and he had been imprisoned
for this preaching. With him, then, the New-Birth and the New-Day and the new-work were born together. Oh, that this were true of all who begin to build on the Rock! He did not wait for an education before going about the business of his life, that of calling men to repentance. It is recorded that his "education was limited", meaning that he had received little schooling. It was not necessary that he should be highly educated in order that he be noble in his life, lofty in his character, and inspiring in his soul. But it was necessary that he be true to the best that was in him, and this he was; and it was thus, too, that he became a true man, a true worker on the chosen line of his life. From all that we learn of him we find that he was no idler, but an organizer and a church builder, and, in the meantime, was farming, doing the work of a stone mason whatever his hands found to do to advance the cause of man, that he did - and, though a peace-maker, he did "not go dancing in the weeds of peace", but stuck manfully, faithfully to his task. His religion, then, was no juiceless thing, without salt, or salt without savor, "fit only to be trodden under foot of men". We see that he had barely begun his ministry when he became a target for those who would crush out the power of his preaching. Almost instantly he became conspicuous, like a candle on
God's altar, like a city set on a hill, and must needs be silenced "for preaching the Gospel contrary to law". Happy that man who carries within a light so full that he need only to let it shine - happy, though he be "hailed" as a transgressor of the laws of men! What matter if he were thus slandered, and hounded to jail? This only proved him all the greater and more genuine.
"So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater."
He was not baptized when first arrested - a new convert preaching contrary to law, and preaching repentance, at that! He must be silenced!
"Malicious censures, which ever,
As ravenous fishes, do a vessel follow
That is new trim'd."
And, for this reason, this new convert, this mighty exhorter must be hauled to the bar as a transgress or This young son of Thunder was a new and flaming light, and the enemies to freedom of speech must needs put him behind bars to silence him. How well they did it has been seen, and may be noticed again.
Beyond all doubt he was a man of sterling worth. He may not have been "considered
a great man", "a great preacher", but if one is to be judged by what he is and by what he brings to pass, surely he was a great man and a great preacher, though not so regarded by his contemporaries. In speaking of the organization of churches in his day, one of the writers said: "You may be sure that Lewis Craig was always at the front." "By their fruits ye shall know them," and by "the fruits" we pronounce him one of our great Baptist heroes, a worker that needed not to be ashamed, for his works were many and lasting - still last and will still be lasting to many ages.
Then he was great and good - great because good, and great because he was an ardent, humble worker in the Vineyard at a time that called for men of unflinching, heroic courage. He was a true hero and not a hero in any times of "piping peace". Foes were upon every hand - enemies to religious and civil liberty hounded his track; jails awaited him; sufferings were his lot, yet he did not flinch, did not hold his peace, but worked manfully on. He met all these and conquered them. He was a hero because, as a sincere man, he believed in his calling, believed in his work, and was willing to be tested. Let us reflect here, in the language of another: "If hero means sincere man, why may not every one of us be a hero? A world all sincere, a believing world: the like has been; the like will
again be - cannot help being." The like was in the days of those gallant Baptist champions of the rights of men. No more heroic, more manly men than these are to be met with in all history - our Baptist heroes.
As a man, then, among men, Lewis Craig was a worker, a companion, a brother - not "a decayed log floating down the stream of misused destiny", calling himself a Christian. He worked incessantly, but mingled with the world and was kind. "His company was very interesting." It was thus, as a diligent, faithful working man, that he became attractive, and men followed him. He did not live in vain. No true work-brother lives in vain. To so live, as he lived, that we may be a benediction to those whom we meet is one of the highest privileges of life. That statement is not mere sentimentality, but it is true to life; it is the royal road that leads to happiness, here and hereafter.
"That man who lives for self alone
Lives for the meanest mortal known."
What men need is not a strained effort at being good or doing good, but manly living as a friend of men - all men. This man - this man of true stability and of loving meekness that meekness which is the outgrowth of true
strength, was a blessing, not to his friends alone, but to his enemies, his persecutors, as in the case of John Waller and others who must needs hear the voice of God's preaching man their fellowman and their brother.
Any man who loves men can follow this path that Lewis Craig followed, whatever his work may be. "It is the man who lives for all and not for himself alone who scales the heights of aspiration's lofty dream and finally gains everything that his heart has longed for, that his soul has earnestly prayed to possess."
"He comes among us; 'tis not ours to ask
Of buried years whate'er his past might be,
If he but vindicate in this, his task,
A claim to manhood's true nobility."
Lewis Craig, like every other true workman of the past, belongs to us; his history is a part of our own - in large measure helped to make ours possible. By the manner and in the spirit that he did his work,
"* * * * * he vindicated in this, his task,
A claim to manhood's true nobility."
"Ere then, redeeming grace had warmed his heart -
O, joy untold! he knew his sins forgiven;
He loved all human kind, and longed t' impart
The peace he felt, and lead them up to Heaven;
And earnestness became the hallowed leaven
That made his godly calling all sublime,
And gave him pow'r to look, like holy Stephen,
Steadfastly up into the heav'nly clime,
And view what glory his, when done with fleeting time.
"The coal from off the altar touched his lips,
And through his soul diffused the fire divine;
Then to the work, as strong man who equips
Himself to run, he bore salvation's sign.
'Twas not his thought that he himself must shine,
Or e'er be lifted up with human pride;
But to be counted faithful his design,
And sow the Gospel seed both far and wide,
And for his Master's flock the heav'nly food provide.
"He gave himself unto the blessed work,
And studied much to show himself approved,
As one within whose heart no shame should lurk
For teaching ill the truth of him he loved;
And aye he felt that him it much behooved
To be ensample to the struggling few
Whom faith, and love, and glorious hope had moved
To climb the Holy Hill they brought to view:
And Cheering lessons from his walk the halting drew."
Mr. Craig seems to have begun preaching before he was aware of the fact that he was preaching. In the agony of his soul he cried for mercy and also called on his hearers to repent - "with loud voice he would warn the people to fly from the wrath to come, and except they were born again, with himself, they would all go down to hell. While under his exhortation the people would weep and cry aloud for mercy. In this manner his ministry began before himself had hope of conversion, and after relief came to him, he went on preaching a considerable time, before he was baptized."
As we said, self-revelation and the call came together, and with the New-Name came the new tongue, and he began preaching, warning and exhorting men "to repent of and forsake their sins". He made this his work and he prosecuted it vigorously. He could speak, and did speak, with telling effect. His power lay, seemingly, in his wonderful "gift of exhortation". Rev. John Taylor says: "Though he was not called a great preacher, perhaps there was never found in Kentucky so great a gift of exhortation as in Lewis Craig."
As a speaker he was said by one to be "impressive", but he was more than that, for "the sound of his voice made men tremble and rejoice". "Impressive," then, does not convey the true idea of him as a public speaker - he must
have been, he was, most truly eloquent. That kind of speaking, "with a man's voice", which carries conviction to the hearer and makes him "tremble and rejoice", is genuine eloquence. He led men to conviction and on to decision, and many men, too. We may even see him as he stands before the people, addressing them about the all-important matter of fleeing the wrath to come: "He was of medium height, rather stoop shouldered, black hair, thick set and disposed to curl, a pleasant countenance, and a free speaker, his eye was expressive, his voice musical and strong and his manner earnest and impassioned." There is your picture of this most mighty exhorter that Kentucky had known - a man whom men will stop to hear - must stop to hear, and, having heard, turn away trembling and rejoicing, fear and hope and hope and fear mingling-and carry the sound of that voice for weeks, yea, months. Rev. John Taylor says: "The first time I heard him preach, I seemed to hear the sound of his voice for months." Then, Lewis Craig was a true orator, whose voice rang out clear and strong, though musical, warning men of the "wrath to come", and held them for days and weeks. What a wonderful thing this, that of man's voice - the voice of God's preaching man - ringing in your ears to warn you to repent and calling you to "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"! And
what a glorious kindness, too, that the Lord sends to us our brother, our fellow-man, to bring us, not the warning only, but the Gospel of Hope and Peace - Words of Life! Our brother-man, having been snatched as a brand from the burning, comes to us in love, with Love's message, to show us the path of life and to take us by the hand and lead us out of darkness into light - into the right way. All this, too, by the human voice bringing God's words, saying, "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand"; "at hand" now, here, and at hand to you, just as you are; "repent ye". Lewis Craig was such a brother, bearing such a message.
We are glad to record that that eloquent tongue was not armed with mere battle-axe words to slay men with, but in "it was the law of kindness". He was a man who "dealt closely with the heart". He had a message of love, then, to bring to the hearts of those who stopped to hear him, and that was why· they trembled and rejoiced as the sound of his voice fell on their ears. Dealing with the heart! Ah, that is the business of the preaching man; that the great duty of the churches of the land. Love is life, the life of men and of angels, for God is Love and God is Life. Rev. John Taylor says: "As an expositor of the Scriptures, he was not very skillful, but dealt closely with the heart.
He was better acquainted with men than with books. He never dwelt much on doctrine, hut mostly on experimental and practical godliness."
We see, then, that as a preacher his aim was to "kindle a flame of sacred love" in the hearts of men, and thereby lead them into "experimental and practical godliness". High aim! High calling! Truly, the noblest work of the ministry is to lead men to love God and to live a life of godliness among their fellows. From this we see that Mr. Craig had something else to do than merely seeking to do what so many insist upon doing - "indoctrinating", stuffing the head with theories, and leaving the heart bare of divine warmth. Alas, for all such! Of course he dwelt on doctrines, for in no other way could he reach the heart, for to "deal with the heart" and lead that out of the love of self into the love of God, one must deal first with the mind of the man, and in dealing with man's mind he must deal in doctrines, for truth without doctrine does not appeal to the man who has no knowledge "concerning sin, righteousness and a judgment to come". The heart cannot be touched until the understanding is reached through the hearing. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." And Jesus said, "Go teach all nations" - "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command
you." "Faith cometh by hearing" - hearing the doctrines concerning the Lord, sin, righteousness and a judgment to come. Thus we judge that Lewis Craig dwelt much on doctrines, for under his mighty preaching many were converted, and his warm exhortations led the hearts of men to surrender to Him who gave Himself for them. No doubt the writer meant that he did not harp continually on what we call our "distinctive doctrines". This he may not have done - perhaps should not have done, for however well a man ma.y be grounded - "indoctrinated" - in our distinctive doctrines, his mind may be void of saving faith, untouched by the healing rays of heavenly light, and his heart be cold and dead, because no divine love, heavenly heat, has penetrated it and kindled a flame of love to God and the neighbor. Too much of distinctive doctrines has often, alas, too often, blocked the way to simple child-like faith in the Savior, and that love which is life. It was the business, the high calling, of Lewis Craig to lead men to repentance, and this he did right well. His own deep conviction had made a lasting impression on his mind, and he believed, he preached, he warned men, in bold exhortations he persuaded them to repent; for to him the Kingdom of Heaven was a real kingdom, and, was at hand; and so, also, was the kingdom of hell a real kingdom, and it, too, was
at hand. Knowing men better than books, he knew what they needed, and he brought that: "Repent of, and forsake your sins, for unless you do you must sink down into hell." That was doctrine, distinctive doctrine, too. He said to the jury that was trying him: "I am warning men to forsake and repent of their sins."
As a preacher of the Gospel he did a great work; more perhaps, than the most of his day. We must not pass this by without commenting on one remarkable thing, and that is that he labored with his own hands for the "altogether indispensable, for daily bread". There is something wonderful about all this, and worthy of pondering. We are amazed, as we look back and see what those pioneer preachers brought to pass. We are led to feel and say, "There were giants in the earth in those days"! We cannot refrain here from quoting Thomas Carlyle, and also a passage from Dr. John A. Broadus, as their remarks fit in so well.
Mr. Carlyle says: "Two men I honor, and no third. First, the toil-worn craftsman, that with earth-made implement laboriously conquers the earth, and makes her man's. Venerable to me is the hard hand - crooked, coarse wherein, notwithstanding, lies a cunning virtue indefeasibly royal, UoS of the Scepter of this planet. * * * * * Toil on, toil on; thou art in thy duty, be out of it who may; thou toilest for the altogether indispensable, for daily bread.
"A second man I honor, and still more highly: him who is seen toiling for the spiritually indispensable; not daily bread, but the bread of life. Is not he, too, in his duty, endeavoring toward inward harmony, revealing this, by act or by word, through all his outward endeavors, be they high or low? Highest of all, when his outward and his inward endeavor are one, we can name him Artist; not earthly craftsman only, but inspired Thinker, who, with heaven-made implement, conquers Heaven for us! If the poor and humble toil that we have food, must not the high and glorious toil for him in return, that we have Light, have Guidance, Freedom, Immortality? These two, in all their degrees, I honor; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listetlh.
"Unspeakably touching is it, however, when I find both dignitaries united; and he that must toil outwardly for the lowest of man's wants, is also toiling inwardly for the highest. Sublimer in this world know I nothing than a Peasant Saint, could such now anywhere be met with. Such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself; thou wilt see the splendor of Heaven spring forth from the humblest depths of earth, like a light Shining in great darkness."
Now, let us give the brief statement from Dr. Broadus:
"There is a famous passage of Chrysostom in
which he bestows generous and exuberant eulogy on the country preachers around Antioch, many of whom were present that day in his church. He says, in his high-wrought fashion, that their presence beautified the city, and adorned the church, and described them as different in dialect (for they were Syrians), but speaking the same language in respect of faith, a people free from care, leading a sober and truly dignified life. He says that they learned their lessons of virtue and self-control from tilling the soil. 'You might see each of them now yoking oxen to the plough, and cutting a deep furrow in the ground ; at another time with their word cleaning out sins from men's souls. They are not ashamed of work, but ashamed of idleness, knowing that idleness is a teacher of all wickedness. And while the philosophers walk about with conspicuous cloak and staff and beard, these plain men are far truer philosophers, for they teach immortality and judgment to come, and conform all their life to these hopes, being instructed by the divine writings.'
"Not only in the first centuries, then, but in Chrysostom's day also, there were these uncultivated but good and useful men; and such preachers have abounded from that day to this, in every period, country and persuasion in which Christianity was making any real and rapid progress."
"Of Jesus' testimony not ashamed,
He told the godless man his daily sin,
And with his great commission fitly framed,
Appealed to mind, and plead the heart to win;
And, like Hilkiah's son, he paused not in
A temporizing mood with high or low;
Imbued with Nathan's candor he had been,
And to the guilty presence dared to go
To cry 'Thou art the man!' and all his danger show."
Rev. John Leland says, "The Baptist ministers were imprisoned and the disciples buffeted."
James Madison, writing to a friend in Philadelphia in 1774, said: "That diabolical, hell conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy the clergy (of the State Church) can furnish their quota of imps for such purposes. There are at the present time, in the adjacent county, not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for proclaiming their religious sentiments, which are in the main quite orthodox."
Where they were not imprisoned mob law was resorted to, and everywhere congregations were broken up by one means or another. Howe says, "A snake and a hornet's nest were thrown
into their meeting, and even in one case firearms were brought to disperse them."
In speaking of Baptist ministers, Taylor says that they were "Fined, pelted, beaten, imprisoned, poisoned and hunted with dogs; their congregations were assaulted and dispersed; the solemn ordinance of baptism was rudely interrupted, both administrators and candidates being plunged and held beneath the water till nearly dead; they suffered mock trials, and even in courts of justice were subjected to indignities not un1ike those inflicted by the infamous Jeffreys."
Dr. Armitage says: "For three months in succession three men of God lay in the jail at Fredericksburg for the crime of preaching the glorious Gospel of the blissful God - Elders Lewis Craig, John Waller and James Childs. But their brethren stood nobly by these grand confessors. Truly, in the words of Dr. Hawks, 'No dissenters in Virginia experienced for a time harsher treatment than did the Baptists. They were beaten and imprisoned; and cruelty taxed its ingenuity to devise new modes of punishment and annoyance. The usual consequences followed. Persecutions made friends for its victims; and the men who were not permitted to speak in public found willing auditors in the sympathizing crowds who gathered around the prisons to hear them preach
from grated windows. It is not improbable that this very opposition imparted strength in another mode, inasmuch as it at last furnished the Baptists with a common ground on which to make resistance.'"
One of the battles fought by Baptists was that for separation of Church and State. In this conflict ,they stood almost alone, humanly speaking, but stood firmly, based, as they believed, on a principle of eternal right. They wanted no human authority for preaching the Gospel, believing that theirs was a divine authority. They needed no license from any earthly court, governor or king to allow them to worship God when and where they would. Their license was from Heaven, signed and sealed by the King of kings. Believing this, they went boldly about the work of calling men to righteousness; this these early heroes did, too, with most wonderful vigor, without fear and without doubt. And all this is a remarkable chapter in the history of this "sect" once despised among men.
Now, as you have seen, Lewis Craig began preaching before he was baptized (there being no administrator near) , and at once he became an offender against certain laws of men, and, therefore, must be called to account - as he said, "you bring me to the bar as a transgressor". Being a bold and mighty exhorter, he attracted
attention and became conspicuous almost instantly. He was arrested, tried and sent to jail on charge of 'being a disturber of the peace". Baptists had a wonderful knack at being disturbers of the peace by their preaching individual freedom in those days, as in some others. It was during this first trial that he so boldly arraigned the jury of which John Waller was a member. Part of his speech is preserved to us, which is as follows:
"Gentlemen: I thank you for your attention to me. When I was about this court yard, in all kinds of vanity, folly and vice, you took no notice of me; but when I have forsaken all the vices, and am warning men to forsake and repent of their sins, you bring me to the bar as a transgressor. How is all this?"
His question, "How is all this?" is rather interesting. Hitherto, while living "in all kinds of vanity, folly and vice", they took no notice of him, but now that a change had come over him he is noticed by. being pulled up to the "bar as a transgressor". Now, "How is all this?" Well, it is thus: a true Soldier of the Cross had waked up and enlisted against the powers of evil, and had also joined in the battle for true liberty, civil and religious, for those Baptists, as those of all ages, stood for these, and his persecutors knew it right well. He is too bold, too mighty with that new tongue; he must,
therefore, be put to silence. He had not become a transgressor, for he had repented of and was forsaking his sins, and warning others to do so. No; he was not an evil doer, but a burning and shining light, and must be placed under a bushel. To this end they put him in jail, for he refused to give bond to hold his tongue. All they asked was that he be silent twelve months. This he would not, could not, do, and so must be jailed. They cared nothing for living in "all kinds of vanity, folly and vice"; as to that, he could do as he pleased, but when it came to preaching "that way", he must be silenced. How miser.ably did his persecutors fail in silencing him! All that they could do was to lock him up; beyond that they had no further control of him; they could not silence him. This fire from Heaven - Baptist love of Liberty - cannot be crushed out by man, not by nations of men.
"Juletta: why, slaves, 'tis in our power to hang ye."
"Master: ************** very likely,
'Tis in our power, then, to be hanged, and scorn ye."
Lewis Craig had no fear of that earthly court, with its power to jail him, for it was in his power to be jailed, and, not "to scorn ye", but to scorn imprisonments, to love his enemies
and to preach to them, through iron grates, the Gospel of love and liberty. It is manifest that there was no manner of fear, nor the faintest idea of remaining silent - preach he must, and, by God's good grace, preach he would. See him, after his second trial, going with John Waller and James Childs through the streets of Fredericksburg to jail. Are they silent then? Nay, verily; they are singing - singing an old song that men seem to have forgotten - a song that made one feel, as a writer says of the scene about that jail, "awfully solemn":
"Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrow path,
With here and there a traveler.
* * * * * * *
"The fearful soul that tires and faints,
And walks the ways of God no more,
Is but esteemed almost a saint,
And makes his own destruction sure."
We see from this that he was not silenced, nor was he "almost a saint", nor was he in the least deterred from the work of proclaiming the Word, for although he was locked in
"a felon's cell -
The fittest earthly type of hell" -
he turned that cell into a pulpit and began to preach boldly to the crowds that flocked after him and his comrades, warning those who were in the "broad road that leads to death" to repent and turn and find the "strait gate and narrow way". Silence him! How? Crush a spirit like his! Who could do that? Reader, friend, does this stir your heart and lead you to think of what they did and what they were, and inspire you to wish to be more valiant in the great cause of life?
Did this imprisonment injure Craig? Did his friends desert him? He was not injured thereby, but made the more useful. "Persecution is rather a badge of honor than an evidence of disfavor. It is a call to STAND UP AND RECEIVE RECOGNITION." These stood up and were recognized as heroes. "Trials and persecutions are tests of character." "The things which may a:bide the fire must be made to go through the fire." "Good men bear trials, and, in them, lose their natural weakness."
"The good are better made by ill,
As odors crushed, are sweeter still."
Being a true man, having dug deep and laid his foundation on the Rock, and being possessed of that enduring quality common to true heroes, he manifested a willingness to "stand like
an anvil", while his persecutors hammered on him, adhering steadfastly to those cherished principles, for whose proclamation and defence he believed himself to have been called.
As to his friends deserting him - no, never! William Hickman, in speaking of those times, said:
"Baptists were despised, which caused Christ's sheep to huddle closer together and love each other better than when there was no opposition. A little before this time eight or nine Baptist ministers were put in jail at different times and places."
They "huddled closer together"! Mark the word, and lay it to heart, Oh, ye who read! How different that from much that we see and hear in these days of much boasted peace! How vastly different to be despised by others, and to despise each other! The one "causes Christ's sheep to huddle closer together, and love each other better"; the other "scattereth the sheep and the wolf catcheth them".
Nor did these imprisonments fail of good to others besides these sheep that "huddled closer together". That, as you may see, was, and is, a wonderful blessing, but others were blessed also, for there were conversions from this jail cell - pulpit preaching. Men were led to repentance and through this the Baptist cause grew in power. The lawyer who was prosecuting
Elijah Craig said: "The Baptists are like a bed of camomile; the more they are trodden the more they spread." This first treading of Lewis Craig meant much spreading, as is seen in the case of John Waller, "Swearing Jack", "The Devil's Adjutant", as he was called because of his profanity and extreme recklessness, who was one of the grand jury, as you have seen, that indicted Craig in the year 1765. Mr. Craig's bold arraignment of the jury and his words of deep earnestness so impressed Waller that they resulted in his conversion, and he became a Baptist preacher - "the most picturesque of the early Baptist ministers of Virginia". From being "The Devil's Adjutant", he was led to be the Lord's whole-souled messenger of the Light of Life. Thus the indictment of Lewis Craig before men became the indictment of John Waller before God and before himself, and, in the end, proved a great blessing to Craig, Waller and many hundreds more. (Waller baptized over two thousand in Virginia and organized eighteen churches.) "Happy the persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Mr. Craig was "not the convict with the officers of the law on his track", but the shining mark at which the shafts of persecution were aimed, all of which fell at his feet, doing him no harm. In all this he was having "fellowship with the
World-Redeemer", and was doing His work. "The servant is not above his Lord."
As Jesus "returned from (the desert) in the power of the spirit into Galilee", so Craig came forth from prison with renewed zeal. The persecutors would silence him, but he would not be silenced. "We must obey God rather than men." And God had called him to go and speak to the people "all the words of this life". Well may our Baptists be proud of those old heroes, whom no threats or jails or burnings could terrify-could silence. "Had they each a thousand lives" they would no doubt have given them gladly for the cause of their Master. The spirit of the dauntless Craig could not be crushed. He had a mission that he must fulfill, and full well he knew that, though "imprisonment for crime is the shadow of hell; imprisonment for character is the gateway to glory". His courage was the rather increased than diminished. "Courage and Christianity are identical." He became the more effective, because both zeal and courage were strengthened and his desire to do more good was inflamed.
"So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater."
We should notice, briefly, the spirit manifested by Mr. Craig while under persecutions.
[Section Three is here. - pages 70-90, The End.]
[Lewis N. Thompson, Lewis Craig: The Pioneer Baptist Preacher - His Life, Labors and Character, 1910; via Adam Winters, SBTS Archivist, E-Text Collection. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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