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The Rise of Baptist Anti-Missionism in Kentucky

1817 - 1823
By Frank M. Masters, 1953
      Most of the associations in Kentucky, which Luther Rice visited during the years 1815-1816, received him very cordially and generally responded with liberal offerings. Had it not been for the alarm sent out by a few preachers, who were jealous for church independence, and distressed about something new being introduced, there is no doubt that Kentucky Baptists would have been almost a unit on foreign missions, and would have joined together in the support of that great object. But soon severe criticisms began to be directed against Mr. Rice because of his methods of organizing missionary societies, instead of utilizing the churches and associations in Kentucky as proper agencies for promoting the foreign mission enterprise.

      Early in 1817 the germ of the anti-mission spirit was at work in some of the churches which later developed into bitter opposition to missions and theological education. During this period the opposing forces were identified with two noted leaders, around whom they gathered - the venerable John Taylor and the eccentric Daniel Parker.

      Of the piety, usefulness, and practical good sense in general of John Taylor, there can be no doubt. He was regarded as an earnest, consecrated, self-sacrificing, conscientious minister of the gospel. He was a real Baptist. No one can read the account of his conversion, or his effort to evangelize Kentucky for Christ, without feeling that he was a converted and honest man. "He was the victim of the prejudices engendered by his lack of education and his early environment. Yet all his good qualities but served to give respectability and force to his opposition to the mission cause. It is pleasant to recall that in his later life he was more in sympathy with the mission movement and less timorous of the bug-bear which he had been the first to raise."1

      John Taylor came to such an unfavorable conclusion as to the methods of foreign missions as carried on through the General Board and Missionary Societies that in haste he published a thirty-four page pamphlet, in 1820, which was widely read. He expressed his strongest objection to the enterprise of missions, and probably the following sentence expresses his purpose in writing the pamphlet: "I consider these great men are verging close to an aristocracy, with an object to sap the foundation of Baptist republican government."2 He states also: "The deadly evil I have in view is under the epithet or appellations of Missionary Boards, Conventions, Societies, and Theological Schools, all bearing the appearance of great, though affected sanctity, as the mystery of iniquity did in the days of Paul, when the Man of Sin was in embryo."3

      John Taylor was present when Luther Rice visited the Elkhorn Association in 1815, and presented the cause of foreign missions, and preached on that occasion. Taylor says, "When Luther rose up, the assembly of thousands seemed stricken with his appearance. A tall, pale-looking, well-dressed

young man, with all the solemn appearance of one who was engaged in the work of the Lord, and perhaps he thought he was. He also being a stranger, every eye and ear was open; his text was Thy Kingdom Come.' He spoke some handsome things about the Kingdom of Christ; but every stroke he gave seemed to mean money. For my own part, I was more amused with his ingenuity than edified by his discourse, and more astonished at his art in the close, than at any other time. He had the more pathos, the nearer he came getting the money, and raising his arms, as if he had some awfully pleasing vision, expressed without a hesitating doubt, that the angels were hovering over the assembly, and participating in our heavenly exercise, and just ready to take their leave, and bear the good tidings to heaven of what we were then about, in giving our money for the instruction and the conversion of the poor heathens . . . . About this time, perhaps twenty men, previously appointed, moved through the assembly with their hats, and near two hundred dollars were collected.

      "Though I admired the art of this well-taught Yankee, yet I considered him a modern Tetzel, and that the Pope's old orator of that name was equally innocent with Luther Rice, and his motive about the same. He was to get the money by the sale of indulgences for the use of the Pope and Church. Luther's motive was thro' sophistry and Yankee art, to get money for the Mission, of which he himself was to have a part."4

      Taylor also attacked the method for obtaining money for the cause of missions, and the missionary program. "The very many modes, and artful measures of those great men to get money, are disgustful to common modesty. They begin with missionary societies; then they create a great Board of different officers, and then select the most vigorous and artful agent they can find, to create more societies of different grades, as Female Societies, Cent Societies, Mite Societies, Children Societies, and even Negro Societies, both free and bond; besides the sale of books of various kinds, and in some instances the sale of images. Every Missionary to a foreign country is authorized to follow all these arts, as well as common begging to get money; so that no set of men ever yet seen on the earth, manifest a greater thirst by these various modes of peddling to get money. Their shameful cravings are insatiable."5 Taylor continues: ". . . that scarce a man who attends Baptist worship at all in Kentucky, has not seen Luther Rice or heard of his mighty fame, in making merchandise of the people through feined words, and from the strongest symptoms of coveteousness."6

      John Taylor also condemns the efforts of the home missionaries to establish churches. "Why this mighty solicitude in these men to constitute churches? The motive is obvious. In the first place, these will be fine tales to write to the great board; and secondly, every church thus set up by themselves will be under their own immediate control."7 He then scores Judson. "In Rangoon, the pupils have correspondence with the greatest men in the nation, the King not excepted, so that in future, should some wrong-headed, conscience-bound fellow ruin the missionary affair in Burmah, Mr. Judson may fill some high office in the Kingdom, and be a favourite in the King's palace."8 He continues: "Money and power is the watchword of the whole scheme; aiming at Lordship over God's heritage" ....

"But all this is to show us how great they are, and what a mighty body of people belong to them; which claim is founded on the several associations agreeing to correspond with them; the tenor of which gives them a free hold all over the United States, where Baptists are found; and that it is not unreasonable to ask their vassals for money wherever they find them. ."9

      This thirty-four page tract by John Taylor, written at the age of sixty-seven years with considerable ingenuity and in the kind of style that appealed to the illiterate, was scattered among the churches of Kentucky and by 1821 was producing a bountiful harvest of anti-mission sentiment. Such arguments could not fail to produce hurtful results. This pamphlet was read by people who had seen and heard Baptist preachers preach from jail windows in Virginia. Their fears and ignorance formed a fertile soil in which to plant the seed of prejudice against the Lord's work.

      Daniel Parker also appeared on the scene during this period, a contemporary with John Taylor, as the most persistent and effective opposer of missions who ever labored in Kentucky and other states. This eccentric man was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, reared in Georgia in extreme poverty and ignorance, baptized in 1802, and licensed to preach soon after. In 1803 Parker removed to what is now Dixon County, Tennessee, and united with the Trumbull Church, where he was ordained, May 20, 1806. During the same year he moved to Sumner County, Tennessee, where he united with the Hopewell Church. A few years later, he settled on the Ridge in the same county near the Kentucky line. Here he remained until 1817, when he moved to the southeastern part of Illinois, where he spent most of his life and did his most mischevious work.

      In 1815, the subject of missions was introduced into Concord Association in Tennessee of which Daniel Parker was Moderator but he did not commit himself on the subject. The whole question was referred to the churches, the majority of which reported to the session of 1816 their opposition to "the mission business." Parker opposed the whole scheme of foreign missions. "He told the Association in plain terms, that if they do not drop the correspondence and cease their missionary operations, he would burst the Association."10 From this occasion till his death, Mr. Parker condemned missions, theological seminaries and all benevolent societies, with a tireless energy and perseverance, and with all the means at his command. He traveled extensively in Kentucky for several years, sowing the seeds of discord with what seemed an inspired hand.

      In 1820, Parker published a pamphlet of thirty-eight pages, which was "A Public Address to the Baptist Society," in opposition to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. This address was republished in 1824, at which time it was printed in Lexington, Kentucky, along with another pamphlet on the same topic, rehashing the same arguments, but addressed to Maria Creek Church.

      In the introduction to the first pamphlet, published in 1820, Parker says: "It is evident that great talents have been engaged and much time and money spent to vindicate the mission plan, and yet but little said or done against it. It makes me shudder when I think I am the first one (that I have any knowledge of), among the thousands of zealous religions11

of America that have ventured to draw the sword against the error, or to shoot at it and spare no arrows; and more particularly, when I know that I lack that qualification that is pleasing to the Spirit of the world, for I have no education but to read, and have no knowledge of the English grammar only as my Bible has taught me; but all the apology I shall make for my grammatical errors are, that God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise - therefore I will venture."12

      Parker proposes to show the part of the mission objects he opposes, and what part he is willing to support. "We stand opposed to the mission plan in every point and part where it interferes with or is connected with the ministry, either in depending on the church to give them a call, or seminaries of learning to qualify them to preach, or an established fund for the preacher to look back upon as a support, and when the Board assumes authority to appoint the fields of their labor, we believe they sin in attempting a work that alone belongs to the Divine Being . . . the object of the missionary societies in respect to the ministry, we are opposed to in every point." Mr. Parker charges that the Board purposes to control the ministry by fixing "the field of their labor and the amount of their compensation." He continues, "1 ask who has the right to appoint the fields of the labors of the preacher? Certainly the authority that has employed him. Well, then, the Board acts consistent with their principle, for they have employed preachers and sent them out, and pay them for their labors, and to the Rev. Luther Rice as high as $8.00 a week, besides his traveling expenses." He then condemns the Board for paying Rice such an enormous salary.13

      Finally Parker says on his last point: "My object on this point is to show the moral evil that I see in the mission system, and where it causes our brethren to sin, which is the reason we can have no fellowship with them in the mission spirit, and lays us under the heart-rending necessity of denying fellowship with them, while engaged in it."14

      About the year 1826, Daniel Parker published another noted pamphlet, setting forth what he called the Doctrine of the Two-Seeds. He does not claim to have been the first to advocate this teaching, but accredits this honor to an old brother in Tennessee, whose name is not known, whom he heard discuss the subject about the year 1810, and whom he rebuked for holding such heresies. After studying the subject for sixteen years, Parker became convinced that the doctrine was true, and set forth the whole system of Two-Seedism in a pamphlet. This is one of the most destructive heresies ever introduced in Kentucky. Several preachers of considerable local influence adopted these views, and became the rankest anti-mission advocates possible. Parker prepared the way for Alexander Campbell, when, he appeared in Kentucky in 1823 to reap a bountiful harvest.15

      It is difficult clearly to define this Two-Seeds doctrine, which is evidently a revival, with some modification of the ancient speculative philosophy of Manacheas. One author says, "It is a very disgusting form of the Gnostic heresy." When the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky was constituted, October 20, 1837, Daniel Parker's Two-Seeds Doctrine was clearly stated, and printed in the first minutes, quoted in part

as follows:
"The Anti-missionary spirit owes its origin to the notorious Daniel Parker. He was the first person called Baptist that lent a hand to the Infidel and Papist in opposing the proclamation of the Gospel to every creature, and the translation and circulation of the Scriptures in all languages and among all people. Possessing a strong native intellect, and a bold, adventurous imagination - with a mind cast in nature's most capacious mold, but for want of cultivation admirably calculated to be the receptable of notions the most crude, extravagant and chimerical, he generated an Utopian scheme of theology, the tendency of which was to subvert all practical religion. The grounds of his opposition to missions were - that the devil was an eternal 'self-subsistent being' (to use his own phrase); that though God created all, yet the devil begat a part of mankind; that those begotten of the devil were his bona fide children, and to their father they would and ought to go; and of course, sending them the gospel and giving them the Bible, were acts of such gross and supreme folly that no Christian should be engaged in them! On the other hand he taught that the remaining portion of the human family were the actual sons of God from eternity, and being allied to Jesus ere 'the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy,' by the nearest and dearest ties of consanguinity, being no less than 'particles' of his body - bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, the Redeemer would, nolens volens, take them to mansions prepared for them in bliss; and hence Mr. Parker very wisely concluded, that if such were the case, the Lord has very little use for the Bible or Missionary Societies!"16
      But there were many who embraced only half of the doctrine of Mr. Parker, and though they manifested no great apprehension for the subjects of the Prince of Darkness, yet they expressed great alarm lest the missionaries should help the Lord to perform his work, and convert the souls of some in a way God never intended should be. They were such staunch friends of the Lord's doing all his work, that they set upon and terribly assailed their missionary brethren, for fear they should by some means assist the Lord in the salvation of the elect. In their zeal against these ambitious strides of the missionaries, they have occasioned great disturbance and distress - and destroying the Peace of Zion, the progress of religion has been greatly retarded, and the influence of many ministers and churches utterly paralyzed.

      Dr. J. M. Peck, of pioneer Home Mission fame, who knew Daniel Parker well, and engaged with him in public discussion on Missions, gives a portrait of his personality. Peck says: "Mr. Parker is one of those singular and extraordinary beings whom divine Providence permits to arise as a scourge to His church, and a stumbling-block in the way of religious effort. Raised on the frontier of Georgia, without education, uncouth in manner, slovenly in dress, diminutive in person, unprepossessing in appearance, with shrivelled features and a small, piercing eye, few men for a series of years have exercised a wider influence on the lower and less educated class of frontier people. With a zeal and an enthusiasm bordering on insanity, firmness that amounted to obstinacy, and perserverance that would have done honor to a good cause, Daniel Parker exerted himself to the utmost to induce churches to declare non-fellowship with all Baptists

who united themselves with any of the benevolent (or as he called them 'new fangled') societies."17

      In doctrine that singular and original man was antinomian. His disastrous career closed in Illinois and Indiana in 1833 when he removed to Texas, and no doubt laid the foundation for the mission trouble that came to that state years after.

      During this period of the rise of anti-missionism under John Taylor and Daniel Parker, the Baptists of Kentucky made considerable spiritual progress. A general revival among the cooperating churches began in 1817 and continued about three years, during which hundreds were added by baptism. The missionary spirit prevailed in the associations, where the influence of Taylor and Parker had not reached.

      In 1818, the Salem Association earnestly recommended the churches to contribute to missionary purposes and also expressed the opinion that Education Societies greatly conduced to the promotion of the Redeemer's Kingdom. During a six-year revival period prior to 1821 in Bracken Association, the aggregate membership of the churches was more than doubled. In 1820 a revival prevailed in the Green River Association, when five hundred and two baptisms were reported. A revival began in the churches of North Bend Association in 1817, during which two hundred and seventy-eight were baptized. A revival prevailed in the Long Run Association during the same period, resulting in one hundred and thirty-eight converts baptized. In 1818 the Russell's Creek Association heard a report read from the Board of Foreign Missions giving an account of the prosperity of Baptist Mission work, "which being good news from a far country, was like cold water to a thirsty soul."

      "A most powerful revival" began in the churches in the Cumberland Association in 1820, which more than doubled the membership.

      The Kentucky Missionary Society established a school for Indian children, near Georgetown, Kentucky, known as the Choctaw Academy, which opened with eight children in the Spring of 1819. The number of students increased from year to year until it became a large flourishing school. In 1820, there were 31,639 Baptists in Kentucky, while the population of the state was 564,317, giving in round numbers, one Baptist to every seventeen of the population.18



1 Carroll, B. H., Jr., The Genesis of American Anti-Missionism, p. 87.
2 Taylor, John, Thoughts on Missions, p. 10.
3 Ibid., p. 4.
4 Ibid., p. 9.
5 Ibid., p. 11.
6 Ibid., p. 20.
7 Ibid., p. 15, 16.
8 Ibid., p. 17.
9 Ibid., p. 25.
10 Bond, John, History of the Baptist Concord Association of Middle Tennessee and North Alabama, p. 24-26.
11 Carroll, B. H., Jr. notes, "He doubtless means religionists," op. cit., p. 108.
12 Ibid., p. 108.
13 Ibid., p. 111-114.
14 Ibid., p. 120.
15 Ibid., p. 88.
16 Minutes of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, 1837, p. 11.
17 Carroll, B. H., Jr., op. cit., p. 91.
18 Spencer, John H., A History of Kentucky Baptists, Vol. 1, p. 579.


[From Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 192-197. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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