Publications of the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society
Edited by W. J. McGlothlin, D.D., 1911
I. The Revival of 1800-l, by Rev. O. Olin Greene, Author of “Normal Evangelism.”
II. The Laying On of Hands - A Forgotten Chapter in Baptist History, by W. J. McGlothlin, D.D., Louisville, Ky.
III. Some Kentucky Baptist Confessions of Faith.
This second number of the "Proceedings of tile Kentucky Baptist Historical Society" presents two papers on as many subjects, which are of interest to the religious, and especially the Baptist history of the State. In addition several original documents which have a very important place in the history of the doctrinal position of the early Baptists. of Kentucky, are reproduced. They also serve to show the relation of Kentucky Baptists to those of the earlier colonies, as well as their general attitude towards confessions of faith and theological questions.
The Revival of 1800-1
By O. OLIN GREENE
Author of "Normal Evangelism."
A Scotch-Irish Population.
The Revival of 1800-1, commonly known as "The Scotch-Irish Revival," is one of the most famous in American history, if riot in all history. The Revival had its origin in Kentucky among a population that was predominantly Scotch-Irish. They were a mixture of Teutonic and Celtic blood, and combined the shrewd, practical, common-sense and intelligent purpose of the Teuton with the strong emotionalism of the Celt. On the whole they were superior to their fellow-countrymen of their native land-less superstitious, better trained educationally, Protest - to the core and fond of theological argument, so that one of their own country men wittily remarked: "If we fail on the potato crop we live on the shorter catechism."
Early in the eighteenth century, and even back in the seventeenth century, these Scotch-Irish people came to America in great numbers. Some came by the way of Philadelphia and others by the way of Charleston and gradually worked their way to Kentucky and Tennessee. Long before the Cavalier planters had occupied the low lands of Virginia and the Carolinas these people had entered the rich valleys of the Green, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland rivers.
These people were independent, democratic, hardy and adventurous. Taking them as a whole, they were an excellent class of people, eminently fitted to become conquerors of the vast
stretches of wilderness in the New World. And it is but just to say of them that in the Revival of 1800-1, they do not appear to the best advantage. For here, as with other people under similar conditions, their emotional nature rises to the surface, and overshadows, in a great measure, their better qualities. We of today must not forget the superior qualities of this people nor fail to appreciate the service they rendered in helping to shape the affairs of our nation and the impetus they have given it toward better things. No class of people ever entered our borders who were more willing to divest themselves of everything pertaining to their manner of life in the Old World and to become - in language, manners, and customs – out–and-out, thorough-going Americans. They were among the first to declare for Independence and were not slow to take up arms in defense of their country. It is on record that "the decisive victory of General Jackson, of New Orleans, was largely won by the few hundred clear-eyed, straight-shooting, backwoods rifle-men from Tennessee."
In many ways they were eminently fitted for frontier life. No doubt the environment had much to do with their mental make-up. They were in a new world and a new country without law or conventionalities to hold them in check, and it must be admitted that they deteriorated somewhat intellectually from what they had been in their old home-land. The natural restraints which they had felt in the Old World were entirely thrown off in matters of religion as well as in other things, and it must he said, to their shame, that they did not live up to the strict ethical code of Calvin and Knox in which they had been trained.
Their daily life was such as to make them impulsive and quick to respond to every influence. They lived in constant dread of the wild-men and wild beasts about them, and the slightest alarm would bring the men and boys of a community
together that they might defend themselves, and the women and children, against the attacks of savages. "They lived in an environment of fear, though they were of such sturdy stuff that they grew in the very midst of it to be utterly fearless and even reckless of danger that they could understand and measure. Nevertheless, the new experience of rational inhibitions removed, of a strange and dangerous environment, there was developed in them to a high degree the motor and emotional tendencies which, were already in their blood and kind."* Thus being of an excitable. sanguine nature, we can more easily understand how, under any powerful stimulus, and especially under that of religion, their emotions might be stirred to the point where they were unable to control themselves at all. This is exactly what happened in the Revival of 1800-1.
"A population per fervidio ingenio, of a temper peculiarly susceptible to intense excitement, transplanted into a wild country, under little control either of conventionality or law, deeply ingrained for many generations with the religious sentiment, but broken loose from the control of it and living consciously in reckless disregard of the law of God, is suddenly aroused to a sense of its apostasy and wickedness. The people (during the revival season) do not hear the word of God from Sabbath to Sabbath, or even from evening to evening, and take it home with them and ponder it amid the avocations of daily business; by the conditions they are sequestered for days together in the wilderness for the exclusive contemplation of momentous truths pressed upon the mind with incessant and impassioned iteration; and they remain together, an agitated throng, not of men only, but of women and children. The student of psychology recognizes at once that here are present in an unusual combination the conditions of not merely the ready propagation of influence
* Davenport: "Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals," p. 64.
by example and persuasion, but of those nervous, mental, or spiritual infections which make so important a figure in the world's history, civil, military, or religious. It is wholly in accord with human nature that the physical manifestations attendant on religious excitement in these circums[t]ances should be of an intense and extravagant sort."*
Another element of this population was the presence of a large class of individuals who, to use a more modern term, might be called "undesirable citizens." It is a well-known fact that there was a large influx of immigrants into these districts known as convict servants, redemptioneres, and the like, who were always more or less impulsive in social action and whose presence in any time of excitement only adds fuel to the already kindled flame. This criminal class often played a dramatic part in the time of revival by attacking the camp-meetings and often had to be repulsed by such splendid specimens of backwoods preachers as Peter Cartwright and Fennis Ewing. On the other hand, it was just as dramatic to witness the striking down of some of the very worst scoffers and opponents of religion, who, when converted, became "stalwart champions of a better order and a better life."
Moral and Social Conditions.
All the writers of this period agree that the moral, social, and religious conditions, not only of Kentucky and Tennessee, but of the whole country were very bad indeed. Up to the time of the War of Independence the morals of the American people had been of a high character; but when an unholy alliance was formed with France the people began to deteriorate at a rapid rate. France's hatred of England caused the French people to aid the young colonies in their struggle for independence.
* Bacon: "History of American Christianity," p. 238.
This act of friendship was appreciated by the Americans and thus the two nations became fast friends. But young and impressionable America suffered much from such companionship. England has ever been superior to France in matters of religion and moral. Thus when America had once broken friendship with the mother country it was but natural that she should become greatly influenced by her new ally. Gambling, licentiousness, and infidelity were rife in France and soon became prevalent in this country. The writings of Tom Paine, Voltaire and other infidel writers of that time were read and discussed by young and old. So fearful were the moral and religious conditions of the time that the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1798 found it necessary to protest against prevailing conditions in language like the following: ''Formidable innovation and convulsions in Europe threaten destruction to morals and religion. Scenes of devastation and bloodshed unexampled in the history of modern nations have convulsed the world and our country is threatened with similar calamities. We perceive with pain and fearful apprehension a general dereliction of religious principles and practice among our fellow citizens, a visible and prevailing impiety and contempt for the laws and institutions of religion, and an abounding infidelity, which in many instances tends to atheism itself. The profligacy and corruption of the public morals have advanced with a progress proportionate to our declension in religion. Profaneness, pride, luxury, injustice, intemperance, lewdness, and every species of debauchery and loose indulgence abound."*
Such is the lament of almost every religious body of that time. So discouraged were the Episcopalians that Bishop Provoost of New York "laid down his functions, not expecting the church to continue longer." The Lutheran church had sadly
* Bacon: "History of American Christianity," p. 231.
deteriorated. The Methodists were diminishing at the alarming rate of four thousand a year. The Presbyterians made no gain from 1790 to 1800 and probably lost a considerable following because of the introduction of Watt's version of the Psalms, the dissenters preferring to sing the literal Psalms. "In 1790 the Baptist church (churches) registered 3,105 communicants [in Kentucky] or more than one to twenty-three in population. In 1800, the increase of membership was but 5,119, or only one to forty-three of the population; a relative decline in numerical strength of nearly one hundred per cent, comparing with the increase of population. This most numerous body of pioneer churches was divided into two parties, the Regulars, who adopted the Calvinism of the Philadelphia Confession, and the Separatists, who rejected all human creeds, held Arminian views, and professed the Bible alone for faith and guidance."* Yet it must be said to the credit of Baptists that so far as statistics are available they are the only religious body who made any subs[t]antial increase during that dark period of history, thus proving their ability to cope with a most difficult situation.
It is interesting to note that of the very place where the Revival of 1800-1 began and rose to its height of power, namely, Logan county, Kentucky - of this place the famous pioneer preacher, Peter Cartwright, wrote in 1793: "Logan county, when my father moved into it was called 'Rogues Harbor.' Here many refugees from all parts of the Union fled to escape punishment or justice; for although there was law, yet it could not be executed, and it was a desperate state of society. Murderers, horse-thieves, highway robbers, and counterfeiters fled there until they combined and actually formed a majority. Those who favored a better state of morals were called 'Regulators.' But they encountered fierce opposition from the 'Rogues,' and a
* Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, May, 1909.
battle was fought with guns, pistols, dirks, knives, and clubs in which the 'Regulators' were defeated."*
Upon such dark and dreadful scenes as these - of spiritual declension, infidelity, immorality, lewdness, and outlawry - the Revival of 1800-1 dawned. The story is that of a sudden awakening after a long night o£ spiritual apathy, sin, and shameless profligacy. Can we wonder at the strange and mysterious phenomena that occurred under the faithful preaching of godly men, and when people were awakened to a consciousness of their sins and the fearful doom that awaited them?
Origin Among Presbyterians.
The great religious awakening known as the Revival 1800-1 had its origin among the Presbyterian church of Logan county, Kentucky. This district was commonly known as the Cumberland country. The country was beautiful, the climate good, and the soil was rich and productive. A continual stream o£ population was pouring into this region from Virginia, the Carolinas, and other parts of the country. It is interesting to note here that the population of Kentucky in 1790 was 73,677, and in 1800 it had increased to 222,955; this would mean practically an influx of population into this country of about 400 per day. And a great many of these came to the Cumberland country. The predominant religious body consisted of Presbyterians; nearly all the preachers who were leaders in the Revival were the pioneer preachers from this denomination, although Methodists joined heartily in the work. Baptists do not seem to have been prominent in the beginning o£ the Revival, as is shown from Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists: "At that period there was not a single Baptist church, in all that part of Kentucky,
* Quoted from "Autobiography of Peter Cartwright."
lying south of Salt river and west of the present line of the Louisville & Nashville railroad, except one at Severn's Valley, forty miles south of Louisville." There were Baptists, however, scattered throughout this region, but it is on record that they declined participation in the meetings except as spectators, the reason being given that they were ''Close Communionists" and as the revivals usually began at communion seasons the Baptists were slow to give their support.
It was under the ministry of the Rev. James McGready that the revival movement received its greatest impetus. The Rev. McGready had come from North Carolina in 1796, having received a letter written in blood warning him to leave the State. So fierce were his denunciation of sin that some of the people became enraged and resorted to this cowardly deed to get rid of him. He shook off the dust of his feet against the country but not through fear, it is stated, but because some of his friends had gone to the Cumberland country and had written to him inviting him to come and join them in their new home. He came and took charge of three Presbyterian churches, Red River, Muddy River, and Gasper River, in 1796. From all accounts, the Rev. McGready was a remarkable man and preacher. It is said of him that "the fierceness of his invecdive [sic] derived additional terror from the hideousness of his visage and the thunder of his tones.'' He preached a modified Calvinism and dwelt upon the necessity of the new birth. He also insisted on knowing the time and place of one's conversion. This was a new note with his denomination in that part of the world. Like the great New England preacher, Jonathan Edwards, his denunciation of sin was so terrific, and his portrayal of the doom of the wicked so vivid, that people would fall to the ground under the power of his fiery eloquence. He would ''so array hell before the wicked that they would tremble and quake. imagining a lake of fire and brimstone yawning to overwhelm them and
the hand of the Almighty thrusting them down to the horrible abyss."
McGready was very much in earnest and wherever he preached he was able to awaken great interest in religious things. It is said that wherever a group of his members, young or old, was found they might be seen weeping and talking about the condition of their souls. His influence and power over the people so increased that soon great crowds came to hear him. He was reinforced in his labors by the coming of the McGee brothers, one a Presbyterian and the other a Methodist. This was in 1799. They too had heard of the fame of this wonderful preacher and came to witness for themselves the wonderful power attendant everywhere upon the ministry of this "son of thunder."
In July, 1799, the religious fervor grew so strong at Gasper River that frequently the unconverted under the power of conviction would fall from their seats and lie helpless on the floor. This was the beginning of what was known as the "falling exercise," which became so prevalent not only in this region but in Tennessee and other parts of the country. In fact by the following spring it is said to have reached all parts of Kentucky. This was especially true of the meeting held by Presbyterians and Methodists. As to the part Baptists played in this revival we quote from Spencer's History of Kentucky Baptists: "Their principles and polity have usually disposed the Baptists to avoid union meetings, and, during this revival, as at other times, they held their own meetings, and labored in their own quiet unpretentious way. There have been a few instances in which some of them took part in the great ostentatious meetings, but these occasions, if indeed such occasions occurred at all, were rare, and were exceptions to their general rule. The wisdom of
their course will be unquestioned, when the history of the great revival and its fruits are studied."*
The First Camp Meeting.
The first American Camp Meeting, if not the first in history, was held near Gasper River church in July, 1800. No doubt the present-day Chautauqua with its ever-increasing influence had its origin in the religious camp meeting of a hundred years ago. At the sacramental meeting held at Red River the month before, some families camped on the ground; this suggested to Mr. McGready the idea of a camp meeting. Such a meeting was announced for the Gasper River church the following month. The announcement was proclaimed far and wide and people came as far as one hundred miles. Throngs of people were present at this meeting. They had no tents or cabins as in after years, but slept in wagons, or improvised shelters made from bed clothing and branches of trees.
The preachers at this meeting were McGready, William Hodge, William McGee, and perhaps some others. On Saturday evening two pious women were talking earnestly about the condition of their souls. Some persons were standing near by and heard the conversation and were deeply affected by it. "Intsantly [sic] the divine flame spread through the whole multitude. Many of the unconverted were so deeply affected that they fell powerless on the ground, and cried aloud for mercy. Ministers and pious Christians passed among them, giving them instruction and encouragement to close with Christ, as he is offered in the Gospel. In this way the night was spent, and before Sabbath morning, a goodly number obtained peace and joy. From this time the work continued to advance day and night, until Thursday morning, when the meeting closed. The
* Spencer: "History of Kentucky Baptists," p. 507.
result was that forty-five precious souls were believed to have passed from a state of nature to a state of grace." It is said that this meeting lasted from Friday night until Thursday morning and that the preaching, praying, and singing continued almost without intermission except during the early morning hours. ''The camp became a battle ground of sobs and cries, and ministers spent nearly the whole night in passing from group to group of the 'slain.'"
"The 'slain' were those who, under intense religious excitement, had fallen to the ground and were regarded as the "slain of the Lord." This strange "exercise" was not altogether new, as similar phenomena had occurred under the preaching of Wesley, Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, Finney and others. "Some fell suddenly as if struck by lightning, while others were siezed [sic] with a universal tremor the moment before, and fell shrieking. Piercing shrieks were uttered by many during the whole period of prostration, intermingled with groans, cries for mercy, and exclamations of 'Glory! Glory to God!' In general there was no complaint of pain but of great weakness, during and after the paroxysms. Women would fall while walking to and from the meeting house, engaged in narrating past experiences, or drop from their horses on the road. In this condition the subject would lie fifteen minutes to two and three hours; and we are even told of a woman's lying without eating or speaking, for nine days and nights. Some were more or less convulsed, and wrought hard in frightful nervous agonies, the eyes rolling wildly. But the greater number were motionless, as if dead or about to expire in a few minutes. Some were capable of conversing, others were not. During the syncope, and even when conscious, and talking on religious
topics, the subject was insensible to pain. Vinegar and harts-horn were applied with no perceptible effects."*
During the year of 1800 ten sacramental meetings were held in the Green River and Cumberland districts. These meetings were all characterized by great zeal, intense excitement, and super-emotionalism. John McGee, one of the leaders in these revival movements in describing these meetings says: '' The people prayed and the power of God attended. There were great cries for mercy. The night scenes were truly awful. The camp-ground was well illuminated. The people were differently exercised all over the ground, some exhorting, some shouting, some praying, and some crying for mercy, while others lay as dead or wounded men on the ground. Some of the spiritually wounded fled to the woods, and their groans could be heard through the surrounding groves, as the groans of dying men.
"The people fell before the word like corn before a storm of wind, and many rose from the dust with divine glory shining in their countenances, breaking forth into volleys of exhortations. Amongst them were some small home-bred boys, who spoke with the tongue of eloquence, and wisdom of the learned, and truly they were learned, for they were taught of God. Some of the rigid conformists cried disorder and confusion. But there were none harmed by violence or disorder. Women laid their sleeping children at the roots of the trees, while hundreds of all ages, sexes and color, were stretched on the ground in the agonies of conviction, as dead people; and thousands day and night were crowding around them and passing to and fro; yet no body was hurt."**
Spreading of Revival Fires.
After the holding of the first few camp meetings the Revival
* Quoted from "History of the Presbyterian Church."
** Quoted in "Register of Kentucky Historical Society," May, 1909.
spread like, forest fires in dry weather. Those who attended the first meetings went home and told their neighbors of all the wonderful things they had seen and heard. By this means great interest was aroused and the minds of the people were prepared for a hearty reception of an announcement of the next camp meeting. At the appointed time for such meetings to begin the woods and paths would be full of people on their way to the camp meeting. The numbers reported at some of these gatherings were almost incredible. "The laborer quitted his task; the aged snatched his crutch; the youth forgot his pastime; the cattle were turned to forage abroad; the plow was left in the furrow; the deer was given a respite upon the mountains; business was suspended; dwellings were deserted; whole communities were emptied; bold hunters and sober matrons, young men, maidens, and little children, flocked to the center of attraction."*
Religion was the all-absorbing theme with the great masses. People became devoutly in earnest about the salvation of their own souls and the souls of others. Along with the intense excitement attendant with these revivals were strange and varied phenomena. There seemed to be a sort of nervous epidemic which took various forms. One writer says that "sudden outcries, hysteric weeping and laughing, faintings, catalepsies, trances, were customary concomitants of the revival preaching. Multitudes fell prostrate on the ground, spiritually slain, it was said."
One of the most remarkable of these phenomena was what was commonly called the "jerks." This malady began at the head and spread to all parts of the body. The head was violently jerked from side to side, the features distorted beyond recognition, and the hair of the women made to snap like a whip. The
* Quoted in "Register of Kentucky Historical Society," May, 1909.
sufferer was hurled over obstructions that happened to be in his way and was finally thrown to the ground, and caused to bounce like a ball. It is related that in one of William McGee's meetings there was a man present with a large bottle of whiskey in his pocket. He reviled both the "jerks" and religion. Instantly he was siezed [sic] with the contagion and started to run. Unable to do so, he took hold of a sapling, drew out his bottle, and said he would drink the d----d "jerks" to death. He could not even get the bottle to his mouth though he struggled hard. With this he became enraged, gave a violent jerk, snapped his neck, fell down, and soon expired.
The eccentric Lorenzo Dow relates his observations regarding this phenomena in the following manner: ''I have passed a meeting-house where I observed the undergrowth had been cut for a camp-meeting and from fifty to a hundred saplings were left breast high on purpose for persons who 'jerked' to hold on to. I observed where they had held on they had kicked up the earth as horses stamping flies.''
Revival Fire in the "Blue Grass."
The revival spread not only over Kentucky, but into Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. The revival fire was carried to the Blue Grass region by Rev. Barton W. Stone, then pastor of Cane Ridge and Concord Presbyterian churches in Bourbon county. He had heard of the revival among his brethren of the Green River district and visited that country and attended one of their camp-meetings. He returned home and related what he had seen and heard to his congregations. The people were deeply affected and many of them returned home weeping. Then came the climax of revival enthusiasm in Kentucky.
"A memorable meeting was held at Cane Ridge in August,
1801. The roads were crowded with wagons, carriages, horses, and footmen moving to the solemn camp. It was judged by military men on the ground that between twenty and thirty thousand persons were assembled. Four or five preachers spoke at the same time in different parts of the encampment without confusion. The Methodist and Baptist preachers aided in the work, and all appeared cordially united in it. They were of one mind and soul: the salvation of sinners was the one object. We all engaged in singing the same songs, all united in prayer, all preached the same things. . . . The numbers converted will be known only in eternity. Many things transpired in the meeting which were so much like miracles that they had the same effect as miracles on unbelievers. By them many were convinced that Jesus was the Christ and were persuaded to submit to him. The meeting continued six or seven days and nights, and would have continued longer but food for sustenance of such a multitude failed.
"To this meeting many had come from Ohio and other distant parts. These returned home and diffused the same spirit in their respective neighborhoods. Similar results followed. So low had religion sunk, and such carelessness had universally prevailed, that I have thought that nothing common could have arrested and held the attention of the people."*
"Here were collected," says another writer of that period, "all the elements calculated to affect the imagination. The spectacle at night was one of wildest grandeur. The glare of the blazing camp-fires falling on the dense assemblage of heads simultaneously bowed in adoration, and reflected back from long ranges of tents upon every side; hundreds of candles and lamps suspended among the trees, together with numerous torches flashing to and fro, throwing an uncertain light upon the tremulous
* Quoted in Bacon's "History of American Christianity," pp. 235-6.
foliage, and giving an appearance of dim and infinite extent to the depth of the forest; the solemn chanting of hymns swelling and falling on the night wind; the impassioned exhortations; the earnest prayers, the sobs, shrieks or shouts, bursting from persons under intense agitation of mind; the sudden spasms which siezed [sic] upon scores, and unexpectedly dashed them to the ground-all conspired to invest the scene with terrific interest, and to work up the feelings to he highest pitch of excitement."*
Often, it is said, the meetings were continued until two o'clock in the night and even beyond that time. We can readily see how the people, under these conditions, with over-wrought nerves, intense excitement, eager expectation, and unbounded enthusiasm, allowed themselves to become uncontrollable, and were led into the wildest extravagances and disorders. A Rev. Mr. Lyle, it is stated, kept an accurate account of the happenings of this period even through all the excitement; he said that as the preachers were preaching to different groups, if it were whispered that it were "more lively" at a certain point, the crowd would soon be seen rushing to that place. If a brother had "fallen" they might be seen crowding around him, laughing, leaping, sobbing, shouting, and swooning. If a meeting became languid, a few shrieks, or one or two instances of falling would arouse and quicken the interest in every direction. As the people could see or hear the contagion would spread and many others would be shrieking and falling likewise. In some instances, little children were allowed to preach. A little girl of seven was propped upon the shoulders of a man and exhorted the multitude until she fell down exhausted.
It is estimated by the Rev. James Crawford, who endeavored to keep an accurate account of the Cane Ridge meeting, that
* Quoted in Spencer's "History of Kentucky Baptists," pp. 510-11.
astonishing number of three thousand.
One of the marked features of the Revival of 1800-1 was the suddenness with which it began at various places almost simultaneously. Within a few months' time the revival began at four different points, namely, near Nashville, Tenn.; Logan county, Ky.; Woodford county, Ky.; and Carroll county, Ky. One peculiarity in many of these revivals was the prominence of children in the work. In the vicinity of Nashville, two small boys were instrumental in inaugurating a revival which resulted in the conversion of many persons. Near Flemingsburg, Ky., in April, 1800, during a service two little girls were deeply affected and cried out in distress. They both continued to cry and to pray for mercy. Finally one received peace and began to exhort the other: ''Oh! I have found peace to my soul! Oh! the precious Saviour! Come just as you are, he will take away the stony heart and give you a heart of flesh. You can't make yourself better. Just give up your heart to Christ now." Thus she continued to exhort her companion until the latter received a ray from heaven that produced a sudden: and sensible change. These children were perhaps nine or ten years of age.
Another instance of a child's preaching might be mentioned. At a general meeting held at Indian Creek, Harrison county, Ky., the following incident is said to have taken place: ''A boy, from appearance about twelve years old, retired from the stand in the time of preaching, and under a very extraordinary impression: having mounted a log at some distance, and raising his voice, in a very affecting manner, he attracted the main body of the people in a very few minutes. With tears streaming from big eyes, he cried aloud to the wicked, warning them of their
danger, denouncing their certain doom, if they persisted in their sins; expressing his love to their souls, and desire that they should turn to the Lord and be saved. He was held up by two men, and spoke for an hour, with that convincing eloquence that could be inspired only from above. When his strength seemed quite exhausted, and language failed to describe the feelings of his soul, he raised his hand, and dropping his handkerchief, wet with sweat from his little face cried out: 'Thus, O sinner! shall you drop into hell, unless you forsake your sins and turn to the Lord.' At that moment some fell like those who are shot in battle, and the word spread in a manner which human language cannot describe."*
Causes of the Phenomena.
Instances might be multiplied in which many and strange phenomena occurred [sic]. So mysterious are these phenomena that, were it not for the fact that they are so well attested by reliable witnesses, we of today, could scarcely believe them. But we must accept the facts whether we can understand the causes or not.
Of these many and varied phenomena such as falling, jerking, rolling, dancing, laughing, barking, visions and trances, which were attendant on this great religious awakening a great deal might be written. In fact, a great deal has been written, but nothing to my mind which constitutes a very satisfactory and adequate explanation. Nor do we here attempt such an explanation. We can only cite a few quotations and call attention to some self-evident facts.
We must bear in mind that all great revivals have followed a period of great spiritual declension. This was pre-eminently
* Western Miscellany, Vol. 1, p. 278, quoted in Spencer's "History of Kentucky Baptists," p. 514.
true of the Revival of 1800-1. The sudden awakening of conscience-stricken men and women is quite likely to manifest itself in some physical demonstration. Under conditions of fear, anger, surprise, and other intense emotions people have fallen down, and even expired. It is not so wonderful that persons under the strain of great religious excitement should be moved, under the ·power of intense emotion, to do what seems to us preternatural things. Mr. Cutten points out the tendency to imitate under such conditions and very appropriately remarks: "We must also notice what have been called 'fashions' in physical manifestations. Wesley's converts fell as though thunder-struck, the Kentucky converts had the 'jerks.' Over-wrought emotion may take different forms with different people according to temperament and habits, but when one person in a meeting has been affected in a peculiar manner the power of suggestion and imitation overcome the tendencies of different temperaments and a common affection is the result. We have in this another example of what has been called, in a too loose use of the word, I believe, 'crowd hypnotism.' At any rate the contagious quality of the manifestations cannot be doubted. The revival is characterized by conditions most favorable to thisstate, e.g. monotony, fixed attention, control gained by singing manoeuvres [sic], limitation of voluntary movements, the excitation and depression of fear, intense emotion, eager expectation, and the suggestion given both by the speaker and the audience."*
Mr. F. M. Davenport, speaking on the same theme, says: "Religious movements of magnitude have often assumed a mode which sociologists call sympathetic likemindedness . . . Likeminded people are those whose mental and nervous organizations respond in like ways to the same stimuli . . . Just as every
* Cutten: "The Psychological Phenomena of Christianity," pp. 186-7.
human being tends to respond to a sensation by the same reflex movement, so every human being tends to respond to an idea implanted in his consciousness. He is suggestible. He is imitative. He is also more or less a creature of imagination. In proportion as these tendencies in a population are held in check, we have a population under control. We have deliberation and public opinion and social evolution rather than revolution." The same author further says: "It is at once manifest, however, that a religious camp-meeting such as formerly took place in the central south - in Kentucky and Tennessee, for example - which continued for days together, morning, noon, and night, which never broke up until the food supply gave out, and which was characterized by fervid appeals to feeling and imagination rather than to intelligence, would be a hot-bed of disorder and mental disintegration."*
These are the words of men who have earnestly sought to give a scientific explanation of these phenomena. They help us greatly to understand some things about this subject, and we have no disposition to 'belittle their efforts for they are worthy of consideration. But it is quite evident that neither of these estimable gentlemen ever had the "jerks" and hence cannot speak from experience; for, as Lorenzo Dow wittily remarked: "I believe it does not affect those naturalists who wish to get it to philosophize about it." Yet, if they could speak from experience, they could, perhaps, tell us no more than they have; for as every earnest student of this period of religious history must admit, there were many things, so much beyond the natural order of things as to convince us that they were all but supernatural. So much of religion belongs to the sub-conscious man, hidden from the reach of the investigator that even under normal conditions accurate data is next to impossible; so, much
* F. M. Davenport: "Primitive Traits In Religious Revivals," pp. 1-2.
more difficult are investigations under abnormal conditions such as characterized the Revival of 1800-1.
Was the revival of God? or of man? or of the devil? I think that all had a part in it. When the excesses reached the point where people danced, laughed, and barked like dogs thereby pretending to be treeing or chasing the devil, I think "his majesty'' must have been there, seeking to bring religion into disrepute in which he was successful in a measure. Man's part in the revival was evinced by the nervous epidemics, which, though genuine, were the result of excitement, suggestion, imitation, and the loss of inhibitive control. But God, also, was in the revival as was evidenced by the transformation wrought on the most hardened sinners and by the fact that a better order of things prevailed after the revival. ''To speak negatively, it was not all man's work, because it was beyond the power and control of man. It was not the work of the devil, because it had no bad effects. It made people no worse. It never injured them, physically, morally, or religiously. It must have been the work of God because it was superhuman, and beyond the power and control of man. The wicked were turned from· their wicked ways to the service of the living God.''*
Results of the Revival.
As a result of this Revival, communities noted for their infidelity, drunkenness, gambling, and profligacy were transformed into those of peace, good order, piety, and religious devotion. Many notoriously wicked persons were reformed, the moral tone of many communities was greatly purified and elevated. The home, social, and religious life of the people was entirely changed for the better. Dr. George A. Baxter who visited
* Register of Kentucky State Historical Society," May, 1909.
the scenes of the Kentucky Revival writes thus of its effects: "On my way I was informed by settlers on the road that the character of Kentucky travelers was entirely changed, and that they were as remarkable for sobriety as they had formerly been for disoluteness [sic] and immorality. And indeed I found Kentucky to appearances the most moral place I had ever seen. A profane expression was hardly ever heard. A religious awe seemed to pervade the country. Upon the whole, I think the revival in Kentucky the most extraordinary that has ever visited the church of Christ; and all things considered, it was peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of the country into which it came. Infidelity was triumphant and religion was on the point of expiring. Something extraordinary seemed necessary to arrest attention of a giddy people who were ready to conclude that Christianity was a fable and futurity a delusion. This revival has done it. It has confounded infidelity and brought numbers beyond calculation under serious impressions.''*
Increase in the Churches.
The revolution in religious conditions may be seen from the great increase in numbers and spiritual strength which came to the churches. The Baptists had in 1800, 106 churches and 5,119 members. In 1803, they had 219 churches and 15,495 members. Besides, the two parties among the Baptists - the Regular and the Separates - became united. The very reverse happened to them as with the Presbyterians for their body was rent asunder. Had it not been for the fact that later on the Baptists became contentious over doctrinal points they would have reaped more lasting benefits from the Great Revival. Baptists
* See Bacon: "History of American Christianity," p. 237.
have always been noted for their tolerance of everyone - except for one another; had they, during the period immediately following the Revival of 1800-1, held together in Christian love, and had they concerned themselves more with the problem of the world's evangelization rather than that of seeking the best method of crowding one another to the wall in religious debate over non-essentials, for the most part, they would have established themselves on a firmer footing; and no doubt, would have rendered the phenomenal success of Alexander Campbell an impossibility. However, it is pertinent to remark just here that according to the best statistics obtainable, in recent years Baptists have forged ahead of all other evangelical bodies in Kentucky, for they now number more than all these bodies combined.
During the early stages of the Revival there sprang up in the Presbyterian church an anti-revival party. At first many of the educated clergy approved the work, but soon came to object to the disorderly methods used, and opposed the tendency toward Arminian views which were being preached by some of the revival party. Then, too, it seemed that the men of the schools were not always able to adapt themselves to the conditions of frontier life nor were they always agreeable to the tastes and ideals of the rugged frontiersman. As numbers increased in the church demands arose for more preachers. There were not enough educated ones to go round. The revival wing insisted on ordaining and calling as pastors those. who were not educated according to Presbyterian standards. The conservations objected to this method of procedure and hence contention waxed hotter until a division came, the new organization taking the name of "Cumberland Presbyterian Church." This body, numbering some two hundred thousand in the various
States, has recently returned to the parent church. While there was a large increase in numbers in the Presbyterian church, during the revival, it was offset by the division.
The Methodists in 1800 numbered 1,741 communicants and in 1803 it is seen that their ratio of increase was even greater than that of the Baptists. The Methodists reveled in their Revival of 1800-1 and came off with more laurels to their credit perhaps than any other religious body. Either from a lack of sense, or because o£ their abundance of it (and since wisdom is justified o£ her children we must acknowledge it was the latter) they kept hot on the track o£ religion and stayed together at least until the War.
New Sects Arise.
"Doubtless there were many people truly converted by the means of the camp-meetings and sacramental occasions, conducted by the Presbyterians and Methodists, during the great revival. But it is equally certain that great evil resulted. Sectarianism among Christians is always an evil to be deplored by all good men. Before the revival, its effects were sufficiently pernicious in Kentucky, when the sects were few and comparatively friendly. But when the number o£ sects were augmented by the addition o£ three new ones, the evil was correspondingly increased. Two o£ these sects were born of the great revival on the soil of Kentucky, and the third was invited to its territory by the extravagant enthusiasm gendered by the sacraments and camp-meetings." * The sect invited to Kentucky was that
* Spencer: "History of Kentucky Baptists," p. 522.
of the Shakers, from New Lebanon, New York. They heard of the dancing and other extravagances growing out of the great revival and sent three of their number to investigate. They first came to Madison county, then to Bourbon county, where they were warmly received by Mr. Stone who allowed them to preach to his congregation. Two of his co-laborers joined the Shakers and a number of families embraced the faith. Mr. Stone seems to have become alarmed at this and began denouncing the Shakers in no mild terms. They afterward made their way to Mercer county, where they gained a considerable following.
The founding of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has already been referred to in this discussion. It originated in the southwestern part of Kentucky and the adjoining portions of Tennessee, in what is known as the Cumberland district, hence the name ''Cumberland.'' It was under the ministry of James McGready that the revival originated, but he cannot be looked upon as the founder of the Cumberland Presbyterian church as some have sought to prove. He remained in the Presbyterian church until the time of his death.
The other sect referred to in the above quotation was that inaugurated by Barton W. Stone, Presbyterian preacher in Bourbon county. He seems to have been somewhat shifting in his theological views. After the great Revival he became inclined to Socinian and Arian views and from time to time published his views. So "shocking" were his views on the Atonement that two of his associates, Thompson and Marshall, were driven back into the Presbyterian church after they had left it. Two of his former co-laborers, McNemar and Dunlavey, had joined the Quakers, so of the five fathers of "the Christian church '' only Mr. Stone was left. Through the writings of Mr. Stone in ”The Christian Messenger, and those of Alexander Campbell in "The Christian Baptist," the doctrinal views of the
two men were brought into comparison and a union of the “Stoneites” and “Campbellites” was effected about 1832. "The Christian church'' is the name by which they have sought to be called, but other denominations have been slow to recognize their right and claim to this term, a term which has ever been considered the common property of every religious body which professes to be Christian.
In closing this discussion I should like to urge and commend a careful study of this period of religious history. It contains many valuable lessons for those who live now and for coming generations. In estimating the events and results of a period of history like this we must take things as they are and not as we would like to have them; not as we think they ought to have been, but as they were. Do we of today, want an old-time revival? Let us hope that there shall never be such spiritual declension as will call forth extreme means for awakening interest in religion. No right-thinking person, I think, would ever want to witness such excesses and extravagances as were manifest in the Revival of 1800-1. For if religion means anything it means self-control and not emotionalism running wild. The re-action will come, as it did come then, with its harmful results. When the emotions are unbridled and the restraints of inhibitive control thrown off some deleterious effects are inevitable. Then, too, let us hope that no religious movement shall ever become such a producer of sects as that of a hundred years ago which became a veritable hot-bed of sectarianism. So, my brethren, when we pray for an "old-fashioned" revival let us be sure that we know what we are praying for. Let us be sure to put in a few limiting clauses so that the Lord will know that we do not mean a revival like that of 1800, for I hardly
think we would want that again. We do need the old-time spirit and fiery zeal and earnestness, but not the excesses. Let us pray for a revival and let us be willing to accept the kind of revival the Lord is pleased to give.
[From W. J. McGlothlin, Editor, Publications of the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, Number Two, 1911; the author is O. Olin Greene, pp. 5-31; via E-Text Collection of SBTS, Louisville, KY; Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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