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A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms
from A History of Kentucky Baptists

J. H. Spencer
Richard Elliot

      Richard Elliot was one of the pioneer preachers in Washington county. He was a native of Virginia, and was born about 1765. At an early age, he began his ministry as a Methodist preacher. During an extensive revival, which prevailed in Virginia, from 1785 to 1791, several Methodists joined the Baptists, in Mr. Elliot's neighborhood. Being a zealot for his church, he sent for the circuit rider to come and preach a sermon on Baptism. At the next meeting of the Baptist church, Mr. Elliot and the circuit rider being present, an influential Methodist woman offered herself for membership. Being asked to give her reason for making the change, she replied, in substance: "I have been in doubt concerning my baptism, for several months. But when I heard the arguments our preacher used, in his sermon, preached against the Baptists, and in defense of Methodism, I was fully convinced that I had never been rightly baptized." The pastor stepped up to the circuit rider, and, playfully stroking his head, said: "I have being trying to convince this woman of her error, several months; but you have accomplished it with one sermon: come and preach for us again!" This circumstance set Mr. Elliot to investigating. A few months' study convinced him that he was in error, and he decided to offer himself to the Baptist church. But wishing to be open and candid with his brethren, he went to the class-meeting, to inform them of his change of views, and to justify himself by giving his reasons. He had not proceeded far in reading and explaining the scriptures, when the circuit rider cried out: "Stop that man: he will convince everybody in the house!"

      Mr. Elliot soon afterwards joined the Baptists, and was set apart to the ministry. While yet comparatively a young man he emigrated to Kentucky, and settled in what is now Marion county. Here he spent the remainder of his days, laboring with his hands for a support, and preaching the gospel to the poor around him. He died, in the triumph of the Christian's hope, about the year 1835. He was a man of moderate gifts; but possessing true piety and zeal, he added his quota to the sum of evangelical labors, performed in the wilderness of the Great West. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 134.]


Thomas Moor Rice

      Thomas Moor Rice, a son of Samuel Rice, an early emigrant from Virginia, was born in Jessamine co., Ky., Dec. 7, 1792. His opportunities for obtaining an education were very poor. He attended school only about ten months, during his minority. But he very early developed a remarkable thirst for knowledge. His father was a small farmer, and, as was not uncommon, at that period supplemented his income by running a small distillery, during the fall and winter. Thomas was early taught to manage the stills, and the still-house became his academy. With insatiable appetite, he devoured the contents of every book he could procure. Nor did he read for mere pass-time. He did not allow a book to pass from his hands till he had mastered it. He studied mathematics and the Greek, Latin and Hebrew languages, without a master, but with a zeal, patience and perseverance that insures success. At the age of twenty, he was regarded an accomplished mathematician and a prodigy in the knowledge of the dead languages. Fond as he was of learning, he was equally fond of fun and adventure. When the British war of 1812-15 broke out, he enlisted as a volunteer, and served under General Harrison in the Northwestern campaign, being in the famous battle of Tippecanoe. After the close of the war, he taught vocal music, or "Singing School," several years. In 1820, he married Betsy, daughter of Lewis Bane, of Trimble county.

      Soon after his marriage, he professed conversion under the ministry of the well known Ben. Crouch, and notwithstanding his father was a Presbyterian, and his mother a Baptist, he united with the Methodists, and shortly afterward joined the Kentucky conference. He rode the circuit only a few years, when he was forced to desist from regular preaching, on account of hemorrhage of the lungs. Retiring from the "traveling connection," he settled at Floydsburg, in Oldham county, and adopted school teaching as his occupation. He taught at Perryville, Harrisburg, Lagrange, and perhaps at some other points. He was regarded as an excellent teacher of young men, and such was his reputation for scholarship, that he was, in 1838, elected to the chair of mathematics in Georgetown College. This position he declined on account of the failing health of his wife, who died the following year.

      Mr. Rice, who, like his first cousin, the distinguished N. L. Rice, D.D., was fond of debate, continued to preach frequently, especially on controverted subjects. He was engaged in several public debates. One of these was with Thomas Fanning, a distinguished Campbellite preacher; and another was with a Universalist, at Floydsburg. About 1839, he resolved to prepare an unanswerable sermon on the "mode of baptism." He had frequently preached on the subject; but being familiar with the controversial literature, relating to the question, he had used the arguments of the learned in favor of aspersion, without examining the subject for himself. But he now resolved to make a thorough investigation for himself. The result was, just what it has always been, and always must be, a full conviction that nothing but the immersion of a believer is scriptural baptism. He was not a man to hesitate, when convinced of a duty. He at once sought membership in Pleasant Grove Baptist church, in Jefferson county, and was baptized by John Dale, early in the year 1840. He was ordained a Baptist minister, in May or June of the same year, by F. A. Willard, John Dale and, perhaps, others. On being asked by one of the Presbytery, how it was that he, a classical scholar, had so long advocated sprinkling as baptism, he replied that he had simply taken the theory of his church for granted, and had never before examined the subject.

      Soon after his ordination, he took the pastoral charge of

Pleasant Grove church, and also of Clear Creek, in Shelby county. To these he ministered with mutual satisfaction the remainder of his days on earth. He was on his way to fill his appointment when the summons came to him, in the form of a "congestive chill." He was immediately carried to his home, where he died, Oct. 3, 1842. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 184-186].]

George B. Peck

      George B. Peck was the son of a very plain old Baptist preacher of the name of Benjamin Peck, who lived many years in the neighborhood of Perryville, in Boyle county. He was also a brother of that excellent preacher, Willis Peck, well known in South District and Russells Creek Associations. He was regarded an abler preacher than either his father or brother. About the time that George B. Peck arrived at manhood, the Cumberland Presbyterians were numerous and influential in Kentucky, and especially in Boyle county, where Mr. Peck was raised. The elder Peck had been in some difficulties with the church at Perryville, which may have prejudiced the young man against the Baptists. However this may have been when he made a profession of religion, he united with the Cumberland Presbyterians. Among these zealous people, he soon became a popular and effective preacher. But the change of the learned Thomas M. Rice, from the Methodists to the Baptists, stirred up much excitement and investigation. Only a few months

after Mr. Rice joined the Baptists, at Pleasant Grove church, in Jefferson county, Mr. Peck joined the same church. But unfortunately, this church, which has never been remarkable for its steadfastness in maintaining Baptist principles, received him on his alien immersion. The church soon afterwards called a council for the purpose of having him ordained. But when the Presbytery was informed that Mr. Peck had received no other baptism than that administered by Pedobaptist authority, they refused to lay hands on him, unless he would submit to baptism, according to Baptist usage. This he refused to do, answering that he would suffer the loss of his right arm rather than a repetition of the solemn ordinance. Accordingly the council adjourned, and the candidate was not ordained. This occurred in the winter of 1841-2. Not long afterwards, Mr. Peck joined Clear Creek church, in Shelby county, and was baptized according to Baptist order. Here he was ordained to the ministry, by A. G. Curry, Smith Thomas and others, Sep. 13, 1842.

      Mr. Peck was a sprightly, popular preacher, and was soon called to preach at Clear Creek, Union Ridge, Dover and Plum Creek. At the last named church, he preached one Sunday in the month, William Stout being the pastor. He was quite active in the ministry, a few years, both in Long Run and Salem Associations. But the Lord was not pleased to detain him long in his vineyard. He died of a violent fever, in the prime of life, about 1855. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 187-188].


Louis H. Salin

      Louis H. Salin, the widely known "converted Jew," was raised up to the ministry, and still resides within the bounds of this fraternity. He is the son of Henry B. Salin, a Jewish Rabbi, and was born in the kingdom of Bavaria, in Germany, July 2, 1829. He attended school in his native country, twelve years, and, having become interested on the subject of Christianity, came to America while a youth, and engaged in mercantile pursuits, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He afterwards came to Owen county, Ky. After much investigation of the subject of Christianity, he sought and obtained hope in Jesus, and was baptized into the fellowship of Long Ridge church, in June, 1852. He was licensed to preach early in November, 1854, and ordained in March, 1857. His early pastoral charges were Mt. Pleasant and Greenups Fork churches, to both of which he ministered twenty-two years. Various other churches have enjoyed his pastoral ministrations, and he has performed much labor as an evangelist. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 347.]


Reuben Ross

      Reuben Ross was by far the most prominent minister, who was in the constitution of Bethel Association. He was of Scotch extraction, and was born of pious Baptist parents, in Martin Co., N. C., May 9, 1776. His opportunities for acquiring an education were very limited, indeed. He attended school only nine months, his only school books being Dillworth's spelling book and the Psalter. But his mind was strong and active, and he made diligent use of the means within his reach, for its improvement. At the age of 22, he was married to Mildred Yarrell, who soon afterwards sought and obtained hope in Christ. Her husband, being passionately fond of dancing, opposed her uniting with the church. However she went forward in discharge of her duty, and soon after her baptism, the Lord found way to his heart. After a long struggle, he obtained hope in Christ, and, at the age of 26 years, was baptized by Luke Ward. Shortly afterwards, he was much impressed with a sense of its being his duty to preach the gospel. Regarding himself unqualified for this work, he engaged in merchandising, with the hope of securing the means of preparing himself for the ministry. In this enterprise he utterly failed. In 1807, he was ordained to the ministry, by Joseph Biggs, Luke Ward and James Ross; and, in May of the same year, started to move to the West. On the 4th of July, he reached Port Royal, in Montgomery county, Tennessee, where he preached his first sermon west of the Mountains, under the branches of a tree. Here he taught school three months, having united with Red River church. In 1808, he settled on Spring creek, in the same county, where he and his wife entered into the constitution of a church which was styled Spring Creek of West Fork. He was immediately chosen pastor of this congregation, and continued to serve it in that capacity, nearly thirty years. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 366-367.]


William C. Warfield

      William C. Warfield, a son of Walter Warfield, M.D., was born in Lexington, Ky., about 1796. He gave early indications of extraordinary mental powers, and his father spared no pains in furnishing him the means of procuring a thorough education. After finishing his academic course, he entered Transylvania University, where he remained six years, graduating both in letters and the law. Meanwhile, he had adopted the popular infidelity of the period, and was exceedingly hardened in sin. Soon after leaving the university, he stabbed a young man of the the name of Bradford, in the theater at Lexington. The wound was at first thought to be mortal, and young Warfield immediately fled. His flight was so precipitate that he had formed no purpose as to where he would go. Riding all night and till late in the afternoon of the next day, he arrived at Bardstown. Here he stopped and presently made an arrangement to

read law in the office of the distinguished Judge John Rowan. He remained in concealment until he ascertained that young Bradford had recovered from his wound. About this time, in 1817, Jeremiah Vardeman visited Bardstown, and preached several days. Young Warfield attended the meetings, and, hardened in sin as he was, the Holy Spirit found way to his heart. His infidelity yielded to a more powerful conviction, and after a fearful protracted struggle with the powers of darkness, he rejoiced in the faith of the gospel. His father, who was an Episcopalian, made no objection to his uniting with the Baptist church, and he was immersed by Mr. Vardeman. Being impressed that it was his duty to preach the gospel, he laid aside his law books, and applied himself to the study of the Bible. Returning to Lexington, he was welcomed by Dr. James Fishback, who owned one of the most extensive theological libraries in the State. To the free use of this treasure, young Warfield was cordially invited. After reading a short time he was licensed tc preach, and, soon afterward, was ordained to the full work of the ministry. Shortly after his ordination, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary, in New Jersey, where he spent two years. While here, he frequently visited one or more Baptist churches near by, in company with Howard Malcom, the only other Baptist student in the Seminary, at that time, and subsequently the distinguished President of Georgetown College. On his return from Princeton, he spent a few months in Lexington, and then located with New Providence church, in Christian county. This church belonged to Red River Association, and Mr. Warfield was connected with that fraternity until the formation of Bethel association, in 1825. After entering into the constitution of the latter fraternity, he became associated with Mt. Zion church in Todd county, of which he remained a member until his death. When the teachings of Alexander Campbell first began to agitate the churches of Bethel Association, most of the preachers of that fraternity were unable to understand them. For a time the ministers of the body did not attempt to oppose them, most probably because they did not know what to oppose. Mr. Warfield was the first to see through the ambiguity of Mr. Campbell's language, and discover his real sentiments. At once he set about exposing the dangerous system.
      "In divesting those sentiments of the specious and plausible garb in which Mr. Campbell presented them," says Dr. Pendleton, "Bro. Warfield evinced a profound knowledge of biblical truth, and displayed argumentative powers of a superior order. Through his instrumentality, the saints were established in the doctrines of the gospel, and from his hand Campbellism received a blow from which it has not yet recovered."

      The ways of God are mysterious to us. This eminently useful and much beloved minister had not reached the meridian of life when the Master called him away from a field white unto the harvest to rest beneath the branches of the tree of life. He died of a virulent fever, November 3, 1835. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 369-371.]


N. B. Johnson

      N. B. Johnson was born in Fayette county, Ky., about 1816. His parents being in reduced circumstances, he received only a moderate common school education. In early life he joined the Campbellites, and was immersed in order to the remission of sins. He turned his attention to mechanism, and became a skillful mechanic; but, alas! he also became a drunkard, and, for a number of years, spent much of his time in dissipation. On the 28th of October, 1846, he was married to Edith Martin of Clark county. He continued to divide his time between dissipation and labor, till about 1858, when he was arrested by the Holy Spirit, and brought penitently to the feet of Jesus. Finding peace in the Savior, he was baptized, and entered into the constitution of Waco church in Madison county, in the year last named. Shortly after his union with the church, he began to exercise a public gift, and, on the 25th of October, 1862, was ordained to the ministry, by Thornton I. Wills, Nathan Edmonson and J.J. Edwards.

      Although now passed the meridian of life, he entered upon the duties of his sacred calling with great zeal and energy. About the first of October, 1866, he accepted an appointment from the board of the General Association, to labor as missionary in the mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky. In this position he labored twelve and a half years. His reports for about eleven years of this time show that he traveled over his mountainous field, 19,096 miles; 2,603 sermons; delivered 1,139 exhortations; made 1,323 religious visits; witnessed 1,109 additions to the churches; baptized (in eight years) 861; constituted (with proper helps) ten churches; organized 112 Sunday-schools, and distributed large quantities of religious literature. He occupied the same field in which the famous J. J. Edwards was laboring, and his labors were the more valuable on account of his being an excellent organizer and disciplinarian. [Spencer, KY Baptists, Volume 2, 613-614.]


A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms
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