Chapter XIX - Mount Pleasant Church - Historic Sketch and Covenant of the Separate Baptists
The old Mount Pleasant Church, of which Edmund Waller was for years pastor, has, in fact, no confession of faith. They were constituted on the principles of the South Elkhorn Church - the oldest church north of the Kentucky River - and consequently Separate Baptists in principle. All that might be called a creed, as recorded on their old church-book, is this:Such was the decision of this, and others, of those mother churches of Kentucky. The fear of disturbing the quiet of the church or the neighborhood, and getting up a difficulty, was no check to the free utterances of their convictions. Compromises for the sake of peace were no part of their creed or practice; and whether he were pastor or stranger, every true man felt it to be his right and his privilege to question or denounce him when he propagated error.THE SEPARATE BAPTIST COVENANT. - "Holding believers' baptism, laying on of hands, and particular election of grace by the predestination of God in Christ; effectual calling by the Holy Ghost; free justification through the imputed righteousness of Christ; progressive sanctification through God's grace and truth (which we believe to be revealed in the Old and New Testament, and those containing a perfect rule for our faith and practice), and final perseverance, or continuance of the saints in grace. The resurrection of these our bodies after death at that day by Jesus Christ, by the power of God, by the resurrection of Christ, and life everlasting. Amen."The following is a brief history of the origin of this church. It will be seen that it was constituted out of South Elkhorn. That church had followed its pastor, Lewis Craig, from old Gilbert's Creek to the neighborhood of Lexington. These members had composed the church in the wilderness, which traveled in a body through the Cumberland Gap, over the Blue Ridge, from Spotsylvania, Virginia. Such people, or their immediate posterity, would not be likely to forget the persecution their old members and pastor had suffered, nor the trials and sacrifices they had endured. And now that a new church was about to be established in the new country, they set up their banner in the name of the Lord, and inscribed on it as follows:
"FOR A PERPETUAL MEMORIAL.""Be it remembered till time shall be no more; and let the true Israel of God, through all succeeding ages, till nature shall be dissolved, speak of the wonderful goodness of God. In the midst of his judgments, even he should remember many multitudes of precious souls, inhabitants of many countries, in the colony of Virginia, that had long lain in darkness; but about the year 1766 began to see a great and marvelous light, in that the wonder-working and prayer-hearing Jehovah was graciously pleased to call several of his ministering servants, who lived in the southern climes of North America, to come first into the counties of Orange and Spotsylvania, preaching the acceptable year of the Lord - lifting up their voices like trumpets, and proclaiming abroad salvation for poor sinners that should believe in Jesus; which doctrines have happily blessed to the conversion of many precious souls, who give, by their exemplary lives and pious conversation, hopeful signs and very manifest proofs of the work and impress of God's spirit in their souls. Of the southern ministers, whose labors seemed to be most blessed among us, was Samuel Harris, of Spotsylvania county. This spiritual father was the first minister of Christ that many of the saints of God ever heard blow the blast on the silver trumpet of free grace.Several of those who were in the constitution of the old church in Virginia, and who had come with the traveling church through the wilderness, were constituent members of the Mount Pleasant Church. Among them were Shadrack Moore, Alfred Williams, several of the Hughes, Woods, and Whartons.
"Whenever he preached in the audience of great crowds that attended on his ministry, the fruits of his preaching bore a great resemblance to that of his Master. Afterwards came James Reed, with said Harris. The said Reed is an inhabitant of Granville county, North Carolina; and having received very evident teaching from the spirit of God to visit the northern climes of Virginia, came, nothing doubting. This man's labors were apparently blessed by and owned of God amongst the people. Numbers dated their awakening from the force of his ministry; and according to Daniel, 12:18, these brothers, who have turned many to righteousness, shine as the stars in heave, when the service of them here is ended upon earth.
"In the month of August, 1767, Elijah Craig and several others went out to North Carolina in order to bring an ordained minister of the Separate Baptist order, and a sufficient number of their persuasion to Camp Compose, in Orange county, Virginia, and to receive the experiences of sundry persons that were desirious to join that church. At the said Craig's return, he brought with him James Reed, minister of a church at Grange Creek, North Carolina. And Samuel Harris, William Graves, John Lankford, and the said Craig, having joined said Reed's church while he was gone, was also a member of the church which was sitting at the said Craig's house. Several persons offered in their experiences, and seventeen members, whose names are recorded at the other end of this book (Spotsylvania church-book), were received into fellowship and were baptized. Meeting then breaking up there, and being adjourned to the house of John Waller, jun., in Spotsylvania, the church received and baptized seven members, whose names are also recorded in the aforesaid place.
"These meetings being dismissed, the church sent a petition to our Association, to be held at hard Run meeting-house, North Carolina, the second Sunday in October following. The purport of the petition was, setting forth many inconveniences we were likely to grow under by being a branch of Grassy Creek Church, which was such a distance from us that rendered them incapable of watching over us, and praying that we might be incorporated into a separate constitution from that church, that we might watch over one another in love, and deal with transgressing members, &c.
"Which petition was carried by our brethren, James Childs and Joseph Craig; and being received by the Association, in order to redress our grievance, they delegated four certain ministers, or any three of them, to appear at the house of John Waller, jun., on the 19th of November following, to inquire into the mind of the Lord by examining the members aforesaid with regard to their stability and ripeness for a constitution . Whereupon James Reed, Dutton Lane, and Samuel Harris appointed at the time and place aforesaid. After examining more particularly James Childs, Lewis Craig, Elijah Craig, John Waller, Joseph and Thomas Maston, they found it to be fit for a church, and constituted it accordingly."1
During the year 1800, the fruits of the great revival were more abundant in the South Elkhorn Church than in any other in Kentucky. Four hundred were added to membership during the Associational year. Some miles south of the old meeting-house, near the present town of Keene, was a thickly settled neighborhood, composed principally of members of the South Elkhorn Church. They had built a meeting-house, and held regular meetings; and in July, 1801, one hundred petitioned to be constituted into a new church. The following is the simple record of the constitution."At the request of one hundred members of South Elkhorn Church (living in the neighborhood of Mount Pleasant meeting-house), for a constitution. The church accordingly gives them up, and Bro. Shackelford, Absalom Bainbridge, and John Keller, were called upon by the church to act in the business; and after an investigation, constituted a church at Mount Pleasant, on the principles and doctrines of South Elkhorn Church. In testimony whereof the constitutors have hereto set their names."Fourth Saturday, August, 1801."
"JAMES SHACKELFORD, ABSALOM BAINBRIDGE, JOHN KELLER."
The church elected William Hughes, Alfred Williams, and Samuel Hughes, deacons by private ballot; and it was agreed that "they be examined and ordained at the next meeting."
The church requested Bro. Shackelford to attend with us at our monthly meetings, and at other convenient times, to preach, &c., which he agreed to do, and each member of the church is at liberty to give him for his services what they think proper, and to render an account of what they do give him to the deacons.
Jan., 1802. Query. - "Hath not an individual member of this church the privilege of stopping any person from preaching or setting forth strange doctrines?"
Answer. - "That any member, or number of members of this church, hath a right to interrogate any setter forth of strange doctrines (finding them in the bounds of the church), and forbid the same the privilege of the meeting-house."
But the they were men who searched the scripture to see whether these things were so. Those men who had suffered persecution for their principles, and who were ready to dare the "durance vile" of the loathsome jail in their defense, were not the men to take everything for granted, because it fell from the lips of pastor or teacher.
As a comment on the fashions of the day, we introduce a singular query:
"Does the church approbate the practice of female members shearing their heads and powdering them, or male members wearing long hair, and powdering?"
Answer. - "No, the church does not approbate the practice."
In 1808, the emancipation difficulty caused serious divisions among the churches of Northern Kentucky. A strong party was formed, at whose head was David Barrow, a man of unblemished character, and eminent pulpit tallents. Second to Barrow was Carter Tarrant, pastor of Hillsboro' Church. Price, a member at East Hickman, was decidedly pro-slavery, and had taken an active part in Bracken Association against the emancipationist party. To destroy his influence, Tarrant wrote letters and circulated reports prejudicial to the moral character of Price. At the meeting in May, 1806, Price brought a charge of slander against Tarrant. The charges were received by the church, and the investigation brought the emancipation views of Tarrant fully before the church. The consequence was, that Tarrant and a number of his friends went into a new constitution against the advice of a council and the wishes of the church. Tarrant and his followers were excluded.
George S. Smith, pastor of Mount Pleasant, sympathized with Tarrant. He was, in fact, with the emancipationist party. He publicly condemned the course of the Hillsboro' Church, and made serious charges against Price. The latter immediately preferred the charge of slander against the pastor of Mount Pleasant Church. The church sustained Smith, but his influence was destroyed, and he gave up the church.
The faithful old man, John Shackelford, was again invited to minister to the church. But the friends of Smith were opposed to his call because of his opposition, or at least want of sympathy with their former pastor. The church was on the eve of division and disaster, when a motion was made to call Edmund Waller, and a vote almost unanimous restored peace to the church. This was in 1800. The Hillsboro' Church had previously called him, and these churches continued ever afterwards in the firmest union.
Such, however, were the effects of these difficulties, that the Mount Peasant Church, which was constituted eight years previous with one hundred members, reported to the Association this year (1810) only eighty-eight. But from the date its prosperity was continued, and at the next Association it reported two hundred and eight members, being an increase of one hundred and twenty members.
Peace and prosperity attended the church under the pastoral care of the sainted Edmund Waller. Campbellism leveled its blows upon it. Management was used, and the cry of persecution raised to create a party and cause division in the church. But there it stood, with the wrecks of churches all around it, unbending and unmoved.
Since the death of Edmund Waller, Elders Barbee, Link, and Drain, have ministered to Mount Pleasant Church. Bro. J. L. Smith, an able and laborious man, is now it pastor, and under his labors the church has enjoyed much prosperity. One of its oldest members, a pious, strong-minded man, who was one of its constitutional members, has recently been licensed to preach.
May the dew of blessing continue to be shed on Mount Pleasant.
S. H. F.
1 This sketch, transferred from the Transylvania [Spotsylvania] church-book, is the only original account of the first Separate Church in Virginia. I have copied it from the old Mount Pleasant church-book. - shf
[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, September, 1858, pp. 645-650. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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