History of the Kentucky Baptists
The Christian Repository, 1858
By Samuel H. Ford
Old Clear Creek Baptist Church
Those who pass over the beautiful and variegated landscape, which spreads out before the view along the road from Lexington to Versailles, will have the pleasure of the view heightened by the reflection, that, a short time since, the sweet-scented flowers and pea vines sent forth their fragrance beneath the tread of the wild buffalo that roamed in herds over the unbroken scene. Nor will the pleasure be less to those whose historic recollections call up the memories of imprisoned champions for Christ and liberty, who first planted the standard of Jesus in the midst of this glorious country.
Old Clear Creek church stands as a monument of the past, pointing us to those who dared the roar of the British Lion, and waved the flag of liberty over the Blue Ridge and Alleghanies. Of the history of this mother church, an actor in its scenes still speaks. It is John Taylor.*"Through the winter and spring of 1785, several preachers had moved into the neighborhood, as John Dupuy, James Rucker, and Richard Cave; we held a council on the subject of a constitution, but we found a difficulty and in this way: A number of the members had been in the church with Lewis Craig, in Virginia, and in the traveling church through the wilderness, and its establishment in Kentucky; and, above all, if we had a new Church, we might lose Lewis Craig as our pastor, and though we had four ordained preachers, all of us did not make one Lewis Craig. But after several councils, we concluded rather than not have a church convenient to us, we would go into a constitution, under the hope that Brother Craig would visit us and set us right when we got wrong; to this height of respectability was Lewis Craig in Kentucky. We could only apply to South Elkhorn for assistance, and the helps from that establishment, agreed to acknowledge us a sister church. I think in April, 1785 about thirty members, to the best of my recollection, was in the new church, under the style of Baptist Church of Christ at Clear Creek. We soon began to baptize our young converts, for some of them were waiting for an opportunity; we went on in great harnlony through___________________________
* History of Ten Churches, p. 54.
[p. 888]that year; we had four ordained preachers as named above. I think we baptized twenty that year. Clear Creek was the second Church on the north side of Kentucky. The same year, others were constituted, as the Great-Crossings, Bryant's and a church near Limestone, under the care of W. Wood."Such is the simple record of the first pastor Clear Creek Church. From the records of its first meetings is the following:
"At a church-meeting, held at Clear Creek, Saturday, 26th of March, 1785, Bro. Lewis Craig was chosen Moderator. From a statement and recommedation made to the church, it was made evident that there were members (of South Elkhorn) who wished to be constituted into a church. A motion was made for a constitution of a church at Clear Creek, and it was referred to the fourth Saturday in May.
"May 29th, 1785. The South Elkhorn Church met on Clear Creek; Lewis Craig, Moderator. A motion was made for a constitution of a chirch at this place, which was debated and agreed to, and the helps called, being present, viz; Lewis Craig, Geo. S. Smith, William Cave, Benjamin Craig, and John Haydon, who were requested to council and organize the church. Whereupon it was agreed, that it was a church, and received the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The following was the boundary between this church and South Elkhorn: To begin where the road from Clear Creek to Lexington crosses Shannon's Run; thence straight to Scott's Station; thence south, to the Kentucky, and from thence, by a northerly course, to the South Fork of Elkhorn."
The church soon increased by emigration and conversions. They had several old ministers among them - men who had been pasors in Virginia, of churches, to which numbers formerly belonged. But Lewis Craig had such an influence over the people, that it seemed impossibly for them to get along without him.
"We went on so prosperously," says Taylor, "at Clear Creek that everybody, in a manner, lost sight of Lewis Craig's particular watch-care over us; and some time in the next winter, the question began to be stirred about a pastor in the church. When this talk came to my ears, it gave me alarm, thinking the peace of the church might be broken on this question, for I had seen much trouble at times, in Virginia, in choosing a pastor, where there was a number of preachers, and my own opinion was, that a church could do full as well without, as with a particular
pastor. Two of the preachers that were with us, - Dupuy and Rucker, had been pastors in Virginia, and a number of their old flocks, then members of Clear Creek church. My own fears were, that we should have a heavy church contest, which of them should be the pastor; but the question was brought into the church and the day fixed on to choose a pastor, helps sent for to Elkhorn and the Great Crossings to install, (as they called it,) a pastor in the church. I think it was at our March Monthly Meeting, the helps came - perhaps six or eight. Lewis Craig acted as the Moderator. His mode was to ask every member of the church, male or female, bond or free - 'who do you choose for your pastor?'
It was the rule of the church thus to choose the pastor: - "Agreed, that in choosing a pastor, the same be chosen publicly in the church." Taylor was installed, or ordained, the helps being present to approve and confirm the action of the church,
The question now coming up, "What part of the pastor's time should be given to the church, and what remuneration shall he receive?" It was agreed that he give half his time, and that "the sum of twenty-seven pounds be collected from all the members of the church, in property or produce, or work; the whole to be paid on or before the third Saturday in February next."
Here were one hundred and thirty-five dollars appropriated by this small church in the wilderness - a sum equal to ten hundred dollars in this day. Who will say that giving salaries to ministers is a new thing with Baptists, or that the early churches were either stingy or anti-mission?
The church went on to build a house. It was a frame, where the present house now stands, built by a voluntary tax on the members. The prosperity of the church was soon after checked by a spirit of rivalry and partyism."After my first year's pastorship at Clear Creek," says Taylor, "unhappiness began to make its appearance, and it lay very much in different views about discipline; we began with ruling elders according to the Virginia custom, and Griffith's plan in the confession of faith; those men were useful among us. The emigrants from distant parts brought their former customs with them, so that faction began in the church. We were now about a hundred and fifty in number, and the more the worse, in case of confusion. We were often like the confused builders of Babel's Tower. James Dupuy moved to Kentucky about this time,
an old preacher; he became a member with us, so that we now had five ordained ministers in the church. Myself became very uneasy, for some I found considered the distinction of particular pastor a little more sacred than I had thought it to be; each faction seemed displeased if I was not on their side of the question; indeed, some murmurs were heard, that what partial influence I had in the church, was not used to the best purposes, so that strong as the evidences were in the beginning of my pastorship, being of the Lord, I began strongly to doubt the propriety of its continuance. About this time John and James Dupuy, with a number of other brethren, became a separate church, constituted on Buck Run, not far distant from where now Grey's Creek meeting-house stands. After a while faction tore out the bowels of this church, and it died a natural death. Faction did not yet die in Clear Creek, so that my former thoughts were brought to a point, that, yielding up my charge, would be for the church's benefit, which I proposed to them at a suitable time. Though some of the church seemed alarmed, and unwilling that I should do so; fearing that I would desert them, I assured them to the contrary; that I hoped to render them the same service I had ever done; which so far pacified them, that I gave up this sacred charge, after being under it about three years, and had baptized among them about an hundred people."The course of Taylor at once brought peace to the church. Those who suspected him of selfish designs were silenced and convinced. He went on laboring for the church with deep earnestness of soul.
The feelings of this man of God, and the blessings that followed his efforts will be best told in his own words:"At December meeting, about ten were received on Saturday. That night, either through some indisposition of one of the children, or some similar cause, I slept upstairs by myself. I awoke in the night, with the most agonizing desire for the salvation of my neighbors that I perhaps ever felt in my life. I called up in my mind the situation of the people; it occurred to me the diligence we had been using in preaching, for several months, day and night; I would try to pacify myself - there is ten to be baptized to-morrow; it would vibrate again through my soul; but how many more are yet careless and yet in their sins! I would try to pacify myself with, Oh Lord, what can I do for them? My agony of mind became so increasing I was constrained to leave my bed, and walk the room; I would say to myself - Oh Lord, I could die for them, if that could do them any good! I really was not able to account for this uncommon anguish of heart for the
salvation of my neighbors. At length, a scripture occurred to me that I had never taken notice of before; it is in Acts 20:20, where Paul tells the elders at Ephesus, among other things, 'I taught you publicly and from house to house.' This fully accorded with the then feelings of my heart - to go from house to house, and warn them to flee from the wrath to come, and pray the Lord to save their souls. Another thought sprang up in my mind, that when the Lord intended to bring the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, he put it into the heart of Moses to visit his brethren as a prelude to their deliverance. Acts 7th chap. This produced such confidence in my mind, I became bathed in joyful tears, and sleep departed from me the balance of the night. A plan of those visits occurred to me in the following manner: There were three preachers in the church, as named before; there were also three ruling Elders in the church, and each one so situated that he lived near to one of the preachers; Samuel Dedman, one of the Elders, lived central in the church and near to me; James Hiter lived on one side, and near to Richard Cave; John Whitaker lived on the other side, and near to James Rucker; so that here were six men, making three couple, a preacher and elder, to go, one after another, to visit, each couple to go through the whole neighborhood. But now arose with me one embarrassment: perhaps, when I see my brethren, they will object to all my plans; if so, my reply was, I will go myself.
"I set off early next day to meeting. I soon found that all the brethren in my arrangement were there. After calling them together, and stating to them my own impressions of mind, I informed them of the plan I had in view, if it met their approbation? Without a moment's hesitation, they understood and accorded in it, and with joyful tears of brotherly love, we were ready to embrace each other in our arms. I know not whether the disciples of the day of Pentecost could have been more of one heart and one soul. I proposed, that with their approbation, Brother Dedman and myself would take the first tour, which was cheerfully accorded in. This day we had a very crowded house, for ten were to be baptized, and many of the people were much stirred up. When preaching ended I gave the following notice: 'After a few minutes we will go to the water to baptize. Meetings for the present week are to be at the following places. After which, I informed the assembly, that a number of us had agreed to visit every family in the neighborhood, without regard to grade or quality; that the object of our visit was to pray and converse with each family and individual; that I desired a signal when we came to their houses, that, where we were acceptable, they would lay aside their family business, and prepare for the proposed worship. The other signal was, to keep at their business when we came, and we would go about our
[p. 892]own business; for that no family was to be interrupted but by their own choice.' I remember, giving this last notice, the assembly seemed to be struck with a very solemn pause, and trembling tears in a number. Dedmon and myself agreed to start on our tour next morning. A little after sunrise, a bitter cold Monday morning, Dedman was at my house, to start on this holy campaign."
"In the course of these visits, we commonly held about two rnight-meetings in the week, but no house in the settlement would hold the people. We had recourse in some instances to fires in the yards, to keep the people from freezing. In getting to those meetings in time, in a few instances, we passed by houses without calling. This led a number to conclude there was no mercy for them, and that God had passed them by, or the visitors would have called on them. Several experiences of this cast were told to the church. Our tour of visiting continued about two weeks, I think; Richard Cave's was about the last house we went to. I remember his wife asked me how the people seemed affected in our tour? My answer was, I thought I had seen five hundred people under conviction. I suppose we visited upwards of a hundred families. Immediately after our tour was out, the other visitors proceeded, with about the same length of time. About six weeks were spent in this profitable work. I call it profitable, because about fifty experiences were told to the church from these visits. Indeed, myself had become so foolish, that I fancied we had found out a plan - that we could at least be lively in religion when we pleased, by the visiting plan; but the trial of the same thing, and in the same place, a few years afterwards, convinced me of my folly. We found it needful to baptize twice in a month, there were several times we baptized near thirty at a time. Sometimes two of us went into the water at once to baptize, and to prevent confusion, only one pronounced the ceremony, and that by the plural term, standing near together, and both getting ready, one would pronounce 'we baptize you in the name of the Father,' &c. I once baptized twenty-six myself, on a cold, freezing day; the ice cut about six inches thick, where the people stood, close on the edge of the icy grave; and though my clothes froze before I got on dry ones - I know I speak safely when I say, I suffered no inconvenience; and though this may be attributed to enthusiasm, I know not why enthusiasm may not be used in religion, as any other laudable work. This revival continued seven or eight months, and through a very severe winter. About an hundred and fifty were added to Clear Creek Church, which brought her number to upwards of three hundred. She was now the most numerous church in Elkhorn association, and continued so for many years."
[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, December, 1858, pp. 887-892. The document is from microfilm at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Louisville, KY. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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