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Chapter XVIII
The Kentucky Baptist Convention

By Frank M. Masters
      The Kentucky Baptist Convention, constituted in 1832, was the first state missionary organization formed by the Baptists in Kentucky. At least two attempts had been made prior to this time to organize a state body to provide for a more extended field of cooperation in missionary endeavor than that of the district association.

      At the beginning of the Missionary Awakening in 1813, Dr. Silas M. Noel, later pastor at Frankfort, proposed to the Baptists of Kentucky a plan for forming "A General Meeting of Correspondence." The purpose of such a meeting was to afford an opportunity for ministers and other members of the churches from all parts of the state, to meet at least once a year to consider the best methods of advancing the Redeemer's Kingdom. The call for this meeting was made in the first number of the Gospel Herald, edited by Dr. Noel, and issued in August of that year. The subject of this general meeting was taken up in the Elkhorn Association, which referred the matter to the next session, where the whole proposition was rejected.

      The subject of a general state organization was again agitated in 1827 through The Baptist Recorder, edited by Spencer Clack and George Waller, which they started Dec. 15, 1825 (?) under the name of the Baptist Register. John S. Wilson of Bethel Association was also strongly in favor of such a meeting, but at that time the ever increasing strife in the churches and associations over Campbellism and the continued opposition of the anti-mission forces to every organized effort made the proposed plan impossible.

      The interest in a general body was revived in 1831 under the leadership of Dr. S. M. Noel, then pastor at Frankfort, supported by Rev. John S. Wilson, pastor at Elkton, Todd County, and by other interested leaders. The condition of the Baptists in Kentucky had never been more discouraging than in 1831-32. The perplexing question then was how to obtain a constituency as a basis for representation in a general state meeting. The churches and associations at that time were still so confused and divided by the Campbellite schism of the year previous, and by the revival of the anti-mission forces, that they could not be depended on to support any kind of missionary meeting. But in spite of these difficulties Dr. Noel sent out a call to the friends of missions to meet in Frankfort, December 11, 1831, to consider a constituency for a state organization. One hundred and fifty-three messengers responded to the call of this heroic leader, and met at the time and place announced. Dr. Noel delivered a stirring address, emphasizing the necessity of forming a common union for the cause of missions, that the gospel might be speedily sent to every part of Kentucky.

      Out of these messengers a society was formed under the name of the "Frankfort Association Auxiliary to a Kentucky Baptist Convention" to

be constituted later. This auxiliary association issued an address to the Baptists of Kentucky setting forth the objects of the proposed Convention and urging them to form similar associations as speedily as practicable "to meet by their representative, in a State Convention that some plan or system may be devised and adopted to effect the purposes and objects above stated."1

      The following appeared in The Baptist Chronicle and Literary Register, a monthly of Georgetown: "That the Baptists are criminally remiss in the dissemination of the gospel is known to all. A determined effort to rouse the churches from their present dormant state ought to be made by every one who loves our Lord Jesus in sincerity. I propose, in order that we may no longer delay that which ought long since to have been done, that a convention of the brethren from every part of the state, be held."2 Soon many of the churches began openly to opose such a convention, while many others were hesitating and suspicious of the propriety of constituting such a body.

      The Convention was called to meet in Bardstown on March 29, 1832 to continue for three days. Fourteen delegates were present from the three auxiliary societies, viz: Frankfort, Lexington and Georgetown, and twenty from nine churches - a total of thirty-four. In addition to these, the following visiting ministers were invited to seats: George Waller, David Thurman, Jacob Locke, William M. Brown and Joshua Morris. These brethren were strong supporters of the Convention, but were not messengers. The only available record shows that at the close of 1832, there were in Kentucky, thirty-seven Baptist associations, 608 churches and 35,862 members after a loss of about 10,000 who went with Alexander Campbell.3

      The Convention was organized by electing Silas M. Noel, Moderator; George W. Eaton, Samuel Carpenter and Herbert C. Thompson, Corresponding Secretaries, and Henry Wingate, Clerk. The sermon introductory to the business of the body was delivered by Rev. Ryland T. Dillard, then pastor of the First Church, Lexington. A committee with S. M. Noel, chairman, was appointed to draft a constitution for the government of the Convention which was adopted as follows:

"1. This Convention shall be known by the name of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

"2. It shall be composed of those, and those only, who belong to, or are in correspondence with, the general Union of Baptists in Kentucky.

"3. Any Church, Auxiliary Society, or Association, belonging to the Baptist connexion, shall be entitled to three representatives, qualified as in article second.

"4. The representatives of the Churches, Societies and Associations, when assembled in Convention, shall have no ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Churches or Associations, nor act even as an advisory council in cases of difficulty between Churches; nor shall they interfere with the Constitution of any Church, or Association, nor with the articles of general union.

"5. The Convention, when met, shall elect a Moderator, three Corresponding Secretaries, Clerk, Treasurer, and as many other members as

the Convention may, from time to time, think necessary; who, together with said officers, shall be an executive board; a majority may constitute a quorum for business. During the recess of the Convention, its business shall be transacted by the executive committee, who shall have power to fill vacancies in their own body, and shall submit a report of their proceedings to each annual meeting.

"6. The Convention shall, annually, collect and publish a statistical account of the Churches and Associations in this state - devise and execute plans for supplying destitute churches and neighborhoods with the gospel of Christ, and have power to disburse monies contributed by the Churches and Associations in the manner specified by the contributors, provided special instructions are sent.

"7. All monies contributed by the Churches, Associations, and others, to aid traveling preachers, and to advance the benevolent views and objects of the Convention generally, shall be specifically appropriated to those purposes.

"8. The Convention shall send forth men of tried integrity and usefulness to preach the gospel."

      Two remaining articles relate to the time and place of meeting and the amending of the constitution.4

      The Convention was held in the Presbyterian meeting house, and while the session was engaged in business, crowds assembled and met every day and night in the Baptist meeting house "where a number of mourners repeatedly pressed forward requesting an interest in the prayers of God's people, among whom were some of the family of Bro. Carpenter, the statedly officiating pastor at that place.5

      The Executive Board of the Convention was appointed for the ensuing year according to the Constitution, composed of its officers, Silas M. Noel, George W. Eaton, Samuel Carpenter and Henry Wingate, with the addition of George Waller, David Thurman, Spencer Clack, R. T. Dillard, John Bryce and George Blackburn.

      A committee previously appointed to prepare an address to the Baptists of Kentucky made their report, which set forth the object and design of the Convention. The report is given briefly in part: "BELOVED BRETHREN IN THE LORD: Having assembled in Bardstown, Ky. agreeably to an invitation given in the public papers, for the purpose of forming a State Convention, we present for your examination the result of our consultations. . . . Since our arrival in this place we learn that, but for the short notice given, there would have been a much more numerous meeting of the brethren.

      "A few of our brethren have suspected that the movers of this meeting were actuated by some other than the avowed object, and desire to usurp ecclesiastical authority over the churches. Such fears are wholly groundless." The letter sets forth the command of the exalted Christ to His disciples "to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

The letter pointed out the destitution in the churches and the need of evangelizing the great section of population of the state then without the gospel. It was pointed out that it was not the purpose of the Convention "to legislate for God's churches; not to form an ecclesiastical court over the Churches and Associatins, . . . but we invite you to meet us in Convention, that we may know each other, and learn the condition of the different parts of the state and mutually cooperate in preaching the gospel to every creature, and aid in sustaining the actual laborers."6

      There was raised and put into the hands of the treasurer $190.68 3/4, for the aid of the Convention during this meeting.

      "During the session of the Convention there were much preaching, exhortation, praise and prayer. There was doubtless, a deep and solemn interest manifested by the listening crowds. Many were awakened, and we trust not a few renewed. Six were received and baptized on Lord's day." There were twenty-five ministers present in the Convention. It was resolved that "this Convention will hold an adjourned meeting at New Castle, Henry County, on the third Saturday in October next."

      The Kentucky Baptist Convention met as announced in the adjourned session in New Castle on Saturday, October 20, 1832. The introductory sermon was preached by Dr. S. M. Noel, who was also re-elected Moderator.7 A committee, appointed at Bardstown in March, charged with the duty of establishing a weekly Baptist paper, as an organ of the Convention, recommended The Cross and Baptist Banner. This Baptist weekly, published at Frankfort, was edited by Elder Uriel B. Chambers, who assumed all financial obligation, which was to be defrayed from the proceeds of the paper. One copy had appeared prior to this adjourned meeting. This paper was united with The Baptist Weekly Journal of Cincinnati to form The Cross and Baptist Journal with the issue of March 23, 1834. An earlier Weekly Baptist paper to appear in Kentucky was the Baptist Monitor and Political Compiler, "published every Tuesday at the town of Bloomfield." It began publication in April, 1823 and continued into 1824. The Baptist Recorder, which began publication in Bloomfield in December, 1825 was a semi-monthly.

      James Madison Pendleton, a young licensed preacher of twenty-one years, then in school at Hopkinsville, attended this called session at New Castle in company with John S. Wilson, who had baptized young Pendleton into the Bethel Church three years before.

      Dr. Pendleton gave an account of this called session over a half century later as follows: "Here my personal knowledge of the Convention begins. Rev. John S. Wilson wished me to go with him to New Castle, and we went on horseback - he from Todd County, and I from Christian. He had made appointments to preach on the way, at Russellville, Bowling Green, Munfordsville, Elizabethtown, Bardstown, Bloomfield and Shelbyville.

      "The Convention at New Castle was not numerously attended, but some choice spirits were there. I saw Dr. Noel, a fine looking man, somewhat inclined to corpulency, and as competent to say a good deal in few words as almost any man I have seen. Dr. George W. Eaton, then of the Faculty of

Georgetown College, was there and said eloquent things. Dr. Ryland T. Dillard was present, a fine specimen of manly beauty, and the words he spoke were words of wisdom. A few other ministers were there, among whom was Blackburn, of Woodford County; but they have all passed away. I am, as far as I know, the only man living (1887), who was at the ConĀ¬vention at New Castle in 1832."8

      The first annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention was held in Lexington, beginning on Saturday, May 25, 1833. The sermon, introductory to business, was delivered by Rev. George Waller. Elder S. M. Noel was chosen Moderator, and Henry Wingate, Clerk. There were only 27 delegates known to have been present, which represented ten Auxiliary Associations and four churches. Ten missionaries had been employed by the Executive Board during the year. They reported ninety weeks of labor and over 400 baptisms. The receipts reported were $595.52 1/2, which had been overdrawn in paying the missionaries, leaving a small indebtedness. A resolution was adopted that an adjourned meeting be held at Russellville on the third Saturday in October, 1833, and that the annual meeting of the Convention be held hereafter on the third Saturday in October in each year.9

      There is no written record of the adjourned meeting of the Convention at Russellville available, except the account given by Dr. J. M. Pendleton. He says, "There was an adjourned meeting of the Convention at Russellville in October of the same year; though Dr. Spencer in his history does not refer to it. I remember well Rev. William Warder was moderator, and the ministers present were George Waller, John S. Wilson, William C. Warfield, Robert T. Anderson, Daniel S. Colgan, and others. Of the laymen present, there was no better specimen of a Christian gentleman than Dr. A. Webber, of Hopkinsville. The Convention transacted very little business, but passed a number of resolutions."10

      The second annual meeting of the Convention was held in Louisville, commencing October 18, 1834. Rev. S. M. Noel was chosen Moderator, and Rev. U. B. Chambers, Recording Secretary. The introductory sermon was preached by Rev. Alfred Bennett, New York, agent for foreign missions of the Triennial Convention. At the close of the sermon an offering of $27.62 1/2 was taken up for domestic missions. This was a gloomy, discouraging meeting. There were only fifteen messengers present; five of these rep-resenting three churches and ten coming from the Auxiliary Associations. The treasurer's report showed an income of only $339.17 1/2, a little over half of the amount received the previous year.

      The cloud of gloom and discouragement was cast over the Convention when the report was given that four of the faithful men of the Lord's vineyard had fallen victims to the dreadful disease of cholera. They were David Thurman, Herbert Waggener, James H. L. Moorman and David Kelley. The last two named were missionaries of the Convention.

      J. H. Spencer, describing the discouraging condition says, "It was sufficiently manifest that the Convention, which was unpopular from the beginning, was constantly becoming more so. The friends of the organization

made strenuous efforts to sustain it. But their efforts were in vain. It was manifestly falling to pieces. .Some of the district associations passed resolutions against it. . . ." To add to the confusion, a new paper, called the Baptist Banner, was started in Shelbyville, edited by Dr. J. S. Wilson, M.D., and issued bi-weekly, as a rival (or probably in opposition) to The Cross and Baptist Journal, which had been adopted the year before as the organ of the Convention.

      A committee composed of John S. Wilson, George Waller, U. B. Chambers, John Scott, Silas M. Noel and Samuel Haycraft was appointed to consider the best plan of extending the usefulness of the Convention in preaching the gospel in all parts of the state. It was resolved "That an adjourned meeting of the Convention be held in Frankfort, commencing on the 2nd Saturday in January next."11

      The adjourned meeting of the Convention which met at Frankfort early in January, 1835, had a very small attendance. The records stated that there were ten ministers and seven delegates present. Rev. S. M. Noel, the moderator of the previous meeting, being absent, George Waller was chosen moderator pro-tem. The introductory sermon was preached by John S. Wilson. The financial condition of the Convention was at rock bottom. In order to meet the obligation to the missionaries, the Executive Board had made an appeal in the Baptist papers for $1000.00 to be paid in $10.00 subscriptions. The Convention adopted this action of the Board, and raised $140.00 of the amount before the adjournment of the body.

      The main business of this adjourned session was to hear and consider the report of the committee appointed at the annual meeting October, 1834, with John S. Wilson, chairman, to devise plans for the more extended preaching of the gospel in the state. The report was lengthy, and much of it obscure. They recommended seven propositions or principles. Four of these they averred had been received by the churches, and they attempted to sustain the other three by scriptural quotations.

      "First, that the church is the only and consequently, the highest ecclesiastical authority and government delegated to men by Jesus Christ, the King of Saints.

      "Second, that all other associations or councils are not only subordinate to the authority of the churches, but can act in no other capacity than to advise or help them in doing good.

      "Third, that this advice and help has been long found highly important; for concert or united strength, has accomplished, by the blessing of God, a thousand-fold more, in the triumphs of the Redeemer's Kingdom than without it could have been done.

      "Fourth, the special call by the Holy Spirit of God, to the work of the ministry; and by the voice of God in the church, the consecration and sending forth of such men to the great work."

      The three remaining propositions were sustained by Scriptures:

      1." . . . that while the care of souls rested on the ministers, the care of ministers' bodily wants rested on the brethren."

      2. "... that the call to the ministry includes all the time and talents of the person called."

      3. That there is "subordination and coincidence in the arrangements for systematic labour . . . and, although we have now no living Apostles, yet the principle they acted on must be as necessary now, as then."

      The committee then recommended a plan of work which was adopted by the Convention as follows: "Let the State be divided so as to make an Eastern, a Middle and a Western Division .... Let the Convention now, and at each Annual Meeting hereafter, elect, without nomination, by private ballot, one brother in each division, who . . . shall, by each voter, be thought best qualified to help all the ministers and churches in his division; who shall be denominated the Helping Evangelist in the - division of Kentucky. His duty to consist in giving himself wholly to the work; visiting every United Baptist minister in his division (if possible) at his own house; and by patient continuance in conversation and explanation, help him to engage, in addition to his pastoral duties (if any), with right views and feelings, in the field of evangelical labour; consulting with him as to his wants for himself and family, his means of support, his income (if any) from the brethren, what difficulties are left, his prospects of doing good etc. etc." The Helping Evangelist, in behalf of the Convention was to engage to supply these deficiencies for the minister and "make a faithful record of the whole agreement in a book."

      After the adoption of the report of the committee, the Convention proceeded to elect three of the strongest men in the State as Helping Evangelists - W. C. Buck, for the Eastern Division; George Waller, for the Middle, and W. C. Warfield, for the Western.12

      The paragraph of the report concerning Helping Evangelists caused considerable controversy and increased the opposition to the Convention. J. M. Pendleton, who attended the Frankfort meeting, spoke thus to this action: "The report" of the committee was "rather a strange paper ... It was written by Wilson, and concurred in by the other members of the committee; and while Wilson was exceedingly brilliant as an exhorter, he was not very happy as a writer."13

      The third annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention was held in Louisville October, 1835. One of the items of business was to hear the report of the Executive Committee concerning the work of the Helping Evanglists appointed at Frankfort in January. Elder W. C. Buck accepted his appointment for the Eastern District and began his labors very acceptably, but was forced to leave the work because of sickness in his family. Rev. George Waller accepted the work, but for some reason declined to serve. Rev. William C. Warfield declined the appointed task, stating that he would necessarily be absent from the state part of the year.14

      Dr. J. M. Pendleton speaks thus of this meeting of 1835: "It met with the First Church, on Fifth and Green streets. It was a time of sadness and sorrow. The pastor, the beloved John S. Wilson, had died the preceding August, and the church made great lamentation over him. He was followed to his grave by a loving band of sincere mourners. It was arranged for Dr. Noel to preach a funeral sermon on Sunday morning of the Convention. His text was Luke xii:37 - 'Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching.'

      "I remember well the majestic form of the preacher, and how his deep emotion was indicated by his quivering lip and tearful eye."15

      The minutes of the meeting contain the following: "The congregation was large and solemn - whose grateful generosity to Brother Wilson was manifested by the contribution of $133 after the sermon for the benefit of his widow and six children." Brother Wilson was about forty years old at his death, and had been pastor of the Louisville Church only a short time. He gathered the church at Elkton, Todd County, in October, 1825, and was the first pastor. In 1834, the year before his death, he led in a revival at New Castle, which resulted in 136 baptisms. During the same year a revival commenced under his preaching at Shelbyville, where 142 converts were baptized.

      Pendleton said: "There was but little business done at this meeting of the Convention, and there was not much to justify the hope that the organization would ever accomplish a great deal." At that time John L. Waller was editor of The Baptist Banner, which was founded the year before by James Wilson, M.D., with S. M. Noel and R. T. Dillard associate editors.16

      The Convention met in an adjourned session at Greensburg on May 21, 1836. The introductory sermon was preached by W. C. Buck. William Warder was chosen Moderator and Henry Wingate, Clerk. Some of the leaders were Robert Rutherford, J. M. Pendleton, Rockwood Giddings, John L. Waller, W. C. Buck, William Warder and some others. The treasurer reported $284.08, and that settlement was made with the missionaries.17

      The Green River Association, in which Greensburg was located, declared by resolution "That the churches should not make the Kentucky Baptist Convention a test of fellowship, nor the cause of hurt among brethren," Dr. Pendleton refers to this meeting thus: "The Convention, however held an adjourned meeting at Greensburg in May, 1836, and in the meantime the stroke of death had fallen on William C. Warfield and Walter Warder, whose brother, William, died in August following. Thus the workers were ceasing, while the work demanded earnest prosecution. Prospects were gloomy, and the friends of Zion wept in secret places."18

      The fourth annual session of the Kentucky Baptist Convention met in Louisville on Saturday, October 22, 1836. Dr. S. M. Noel, the Moderator, was not present. The attendance was small, but several of the leaders in the work of the Convention were in attendance. J. M. Pendleton and Robert Rutherford were messengers from Bethel Association; Rockwood

Giddings and J. L. Waller came from the church at Shelbyville; William Vaughan came as pastor from the Bloomfield Church, and W. C. Buck was a messenger from the Louisville Missionary Association, also Louisville Female Missionary Association. Several messengers represented Female Missionary Societies.

      The Convention was organized for business by electing R. T. Dillard, Moderator, and John L. Waller, Secretary pro-tern. The introductory sermon was preached by William Vaughan. Helping Hand Evangelists were appointed in the place of those who were chosen one year before, but who failed to serve. Elder John S. Scott was elected in the Eastern Division; Elder Johnson Graham was given the Middle Division, and Elder Robert Rutherford, the Western Division. Rockwood Giddings made a motion, sec-onded by William Vaughan, that "the Executive Committee are to employ an agent to promote the objects of the Convention by procuring pupils and funds for the Georgetown College and by obtaining subscriptions and collecting money for "The Baptist Banner." A resolution was then adopted calling for "special prayer for the Divine blessing on the college at Georgetown, and that the Holy Spirit may be poured out upon the faculty and students, and that instructions there given may be sanctified to the enlargement and extension of the Redeemer's kingdom." The last Saturday in February, 1837, was then set apart as a day of prayer for the college.

      Rev. Rockwood Giddings who seemed to be a progressive leader, introduced a resolution, calling for steps to be taken "... to learn the number and size of the churches in every county, and how many are supplied with weekly or monthly preaching, and how many are destitute; and as far as practicable, point out the inviting fields of labor." There were many visiting brethren present, representing various state associations, and the Triennial Convention. Corresponding messengers were appointed to the General Association of Indiana; to the Western Baptist Convention of Cincinnati; to the Illinois Baptist Convention, and the Baptist Convention of Tennessee. It was also agreed to open correspondence with the Baptist General Association of Virginia "by sending them a copy of our minutes. . ."

      On the Lord's day at the Baptist church, Elder R. T. Dillard preached at 11 o'clock; Dr. Alfred Bennett at 3 o'clock and Elder William Vaughan at "candlelight." The following significant resolution was adopted: That all the Baptist churches generally, and all the associations set "apart the first Saturday in November next, not only in humiliation, prayer, and fasting to the Great Head of the church not only for a revival of religion, but also that he would send forth more laborers into the great harvest of the world and to spare his faithful ministers," This last annual session of the Convention closed to meet in an adjourned session in Georgetown, Scott County, on Saturday before the first Sunday in June 1837.19

      The adjourned session of the Convention met in Georgetown according to plan at 11 o'clock on Saturday, June 3, 1837, and was organized by electing Dr. Silas M. Noel, President, and J. L. Waller, Secretary pro-tem. In the absence of the brother named to preach the sermon, S. M. Noel was chosen for that duty. His text was "Let us build up the walls of Jerusalem,

that we be no more a reproach." Nehemiah, 2:17. Many of the leading brethren were absent. There were only 26 present, including 16 persons from Scott County, of whom six were females, leaving only ten to represent the rest of the state.

      The committee appointed at the last annual meeting to put into operation the Giddings resolution, calling for a survey of the counties of the state, failed in their effort. The committee stated that reports were received from only twenty-one counties, and the counties where the Baptist work was the strongest made no report. A resolution was adopted recommending The Baptist Banner "to the Baptist Churches of Kentucky as worthy of their patronage, and that we will individually use our exertions to increase its circulation." On motion it was resolved "that our brethren be requested to form in every church a Sunday School and a Bible Class, and that, in the future, the monthly concert of prayer be on Lord's day evening, preceding the first Monday in every month."20

      The most important action of this adjourned meeting at Georgetown was to make provision for the constitution of a general organization to be superior in many ways to the Kentucky Baptist Convention.21

      The fifth annual session of the Kentucky Baptist Convention was held in Louisville, October 21, 1837, the day after the General Association was constituted. The meeting was called to order by Moderator Elder W. C. Buck, and Elder J. M. Pendleton was appointed clerk, pro-tern. A committee was appointed to settle with the treasurer, and report their finding to a called session on Monday, October 23, as follows, which was adopted: "In pursuance of an order of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, we your committee, have examined the report of C. Quirey, Treasurer . . . and find the following result, to-wit:

In the hands of the Treasurer --- $339.28

In the hands of Elder S. M. Noel --- 403.30

Balance due the Convention --- 742.58

      On motion a committee was appointed in behalf of the Convention, consisting of John L. Waller, William Colgan, and Charles Quirey, "to make a final adjustment of its accounts, and to transfer the residue of its funds to the Treasury of the General Association." Thus the Kentucky Baptist Convention went out of existence in Ocober 23, 1837, to be succeeded by the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.22

[From Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 256-265. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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