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A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms

Elder Wilson Thompson
The Autobiography of Wilson Thompson

      The next church meeting came on the first Saturday in June, 1801, at the church called the "Mouth of Licking" [The Licking River empties into the Ohio River across from Cincinnati, Ohio]. I went before that church and related to them my reason of hope, and was received as a candidate for baptism. On the next day, which was Sunday, I was baptized by Elder [James] Lee in a small stream filled with backwater from the river. When the elder led me down into the water, he said: "I am now about to baptize one who will stand in my place when my head lies beneath the clods of the valley." Many of those present knew that he referred to his expressed convictions uttered shortly after my birth, which they had often heard him speak of since. But I knew nothing of this, and only understood him to speak of the probability of my living after his decease, as I was then only in my thirteenth year, and he was of middle age, something near forty, I presume. When I was raised from the water the first thought that I recollect was, "O! that sinners could but see and feel the beauties of a Savior's love!" Such a weighty and painful sense of their blind and dead condition came over me that I felt a strong desire to speak of the glorious plan of salvation. I remained silent in language but burst into a flood of tears, and came out of the water weeping like a child. My young friends led me to a private place to change my clothes. When my father's youngest brother, then a vain young man, came to us, my first impression was to throw my arms around him and tell him of the fullness and worth of a precious Savior. I refrained, however, from speaking, and again my full heart gave vent to a flood of tears, and my uncle walked away.

      Now, Christian reader, I have detailed particularly the way I was led in my youth. Do these exercises agree with yours? I believe they have been in some points rather peculiar; but as they were, and in the order in which they came, I have endeavored to relate them. If you can fellowship them as Christian experience, resulting in a good hope through grace, then let God be praised, for it is all of His rich mercy.

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[From The Autobiography of Wilson Thompson, Written by Wilson Thompson, 1867.]

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Dick, Judge Green's Slave, Baptized
The Autobiography of Wilson Thompson

      . . . Judge Green, a wealthy man, who had a number of negroes as his servants, and who was a very respectable citizen, but an avowed infidel; who kept race-horses and was a great sportsman, had one servant whose name was Dick. Dick's business was to attend to the stock and racehorses, and especially to wait upon his young mistresses when they rode out. The Judge's daughters had attended my singing school, and appeared to be inclined in my favor, and would frequently attend my meeting. Dick was always with them, and was so attentive and polite they thought very much of him. At one of our Church meetings Dick came forward, and related an experience that no one could dispute, and he was received for baptism. The Church proposed to send a committee to ask the Judge's consent for Dick to be baptized. I told them I should not oppose the Church, but it was a course of conferring with flesh and blood that I could not find in my book; and I did not believe it was proper for us to ask an unbeliever, whether a believer might serve and obey his Lord or not. If Judge Green or any other master, father, guardian, or husband came forward and offered an objection, the Church ought then to consider it, and act as duty should dictate under the circumstances; but for a Church to go to hunting for objections in the world, it would be rather strange if they did not find them. I, for one, did not feel willing to have anything to do in any such course. If objections were made I was then willing to give them all the consideration they merited, and would labor to remove them. However, a committee was appointed, and they went to see the Judge. They reported, on their return, that he said Dick was his property, and he made them his witnesses to tell me that if I laid my hands on his property to throw it into the water, he would push the law upon me to its utmost extent. When the report was made I observed to the Church: "So much for consulting the world and hunting for their objections. I should not have feared the laws of this free government, even here in a territory, where ten years ago the liberty of conscience was not allowed. But, now, the Judge has full testimony that I was forbid to lay hands on his property, or put it in the water. Now if I should trespass I will be liable to the law."

      The next Sunday, when the others were baptized, poor Dick was not allowed to attend the meeting, nor for two or three months afterward. One Sunday, when I was about to dismiss the meeting, I heard a call behind me. Looking out at the window, back of the pulpit, I saw Dick holding up a bundle of clothes in his hand. Said he: "I want to be baptized." I told him to walk around and come in at the door. He did so, and I met him before the pulpit. Said I: "Dick, what do you want?" Said he: "I want to be baptized, sir." "Has your master given you liberty?" "No, sir." "Do you wish to disobey your master? The good book says: ' Servants, obey your masters.'" "I got two masters, sir; one is greater than the other. My great Master says to me, 'be baptized;' but my other master (Green) says, 'you shall not be baptized.' Now, sir, I can not obey both; and I wish to obey my greatest Master, and also to obey master Green in all things when his commands do not forbid the commands of my greater Master." "Dick, do you not expect that your Master Green will whip you, if you are baptized?" "Yes, sir, but my great Master says, ' Fear not him that can kill the body, but fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.'" "Have you concluded, Dick, to lay your back bare to your master's lash, rather than disobey your Master in heaven?" "Yes, sir; Master Green will not even kill the body; and I love my Master in heaven, and I want to obey him." "Well, Dick, the Church has received you for baptism; so, if you are not afraid of your Master Green's whip, I am not afraid of his law, and I will baptize you." All this was said aloud, so as to be distinctly heard by all that were in the house. Though the house was crowded, all were as still as death. Dick's two mistresses were present, and heard it all. I turned round and said: "Can any one forbid water, that this man shall not be baptized?" Some of the brethren said, very low to me: "We fear you are running a great risk." I replied: "I am not afraid, for I believe the Lord has ordered this matter, and I have nothing to fear. 'The wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain.'" I took up my hymn-book and said: "We will now repair to the water for baptism." The water was near the house; and I took Dick by the hand and started the song: "Am I a soldier of the cross?" All the congregation followed, and many voices joined in the song; and then, with the usual ceremonies, I baptized him. As we came up out of the water, I gave him the right hand of fellowship, in behalf of the Church, as a full member; and the brethren and sisters crowded in, and gave him their hands as a brother. His young mistresses went to the water and saw it all. The scene was solemn and deeply affecting. The young Misses Green waited for Dick to change his clothes, and to get their horses. On their way home, they began to conjecture, as I afterward heard, how and what they should do in this matter. Said they: "We respect Mr. Thompson, and do not want father to trouble him; and Dick is so ready at all times to serve us, we do not want him whipped." They, finally, concluded not to say anything about it, and thought, perhaps, no one else would, and so their father would not know of it, at least for sometime. All passed off quietly for several weeks, when one evening the Judge came home, apparently in a fine humor. He began speaking in very high terms of Dick, as a servant, saying: "Dick has always been one of my best servants, but for some weeks past he has been better than usual. The horses shine from his rubbing and attending them, late and early, and he keeps things in the very best of order. The girls concluded that this was the time to tell him about Dick. One of them said: "Father, we can tell you what has made Dick so much better of late." "What has done it ?" said he. "Why, father, a few weeks ago, we were at Bethel, at meeting, and Mr. Thompson baptized Dick; and they all had such a nice time, and Dick seemed so very happy when they all gave him their hand, and called him brother." "Did you see Mr. Thompson baptize him?" "Yes, sir, we saw it all." "Well," said the Judge, "I wish to God he would baptize all my negroes, if it would make them all as good as Dick." Here ended the law-suit, the whipping, and all complaints about the dipping. Dick was again allowed to go to meeting whenever he pleased. His master provided him with good clothes, and all that was necessary for his comfort; also a horse to ride, and allowed him to go and come when he chose, and to work when he pleased.

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[From The Autobiography of Wilson Thompson, Written by Wilson Thompson, 1867, pp. 190-195.]



A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms
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