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Elder James Lee
By A. H. Dunlevy, 1868


      Elder James Lee was one of the pioneer Baptist ministers of the Miami Association, and, deserves a much fuller notice than I can give for want of a better knowledge of him and his history. I

[p. 120]
refer to him now in connection with the Miami Island Church, which was the second church constituted in the Miami Association, and of which Elder Lee was pastor from 1799 to 1801. He was by birth a Virginian, and was raised to manhood without any education, being scarcely able to read at his majority, and until near that period of life had never heard a sermon. The circumstances of his conversion I cannot give; but soon after he was licensed to preach, having then moved to some part of Kentucky, he made an exploring tour to the Miami country, and called on Elder John Smith, at Columbia. This was in 1793, and on Saturday evening. On Sabbath morning, as he accompanied Elder Smith to meeting, he happened to say something that led the latter to believe he was a minister, and though dressed in his traveling suit in which he had traversed the wilderness some weeks, and therefore dirty, if not ragged, he was pressed strongly by the pastor to preach. With much reluctance, and after many apologies for his condition, etc., he consented. Though at this time scarcely able to read intelligibly, his sermon surprised and even astonished the audience.

      There was a power in it which evidently did not proceed from that untutored man, and a richness of Christian experience which had not been acquired from books or sermons. In the evening he preached again at the house of John Ferris, one

[p. 121]
of the pioneers of the Columbia Church, and the same evident marks of spiritual light and guidance attended his sermon here. From this time, until 1818, Elder Lee was a leading spirit and prominent minister in the Miami Association. He was naturally an orator, but there was a pathos and earnest solemnity in his discourses which no mere power of oratory could give him. His sermons were generally distinguished for three things: the richness and depth of his experience, the delight with which he spoke of the rest and glory which remain for the people of God, and ease with which he transported the pious mind from earthly to heavenly things, so that they seemed a present reality; and, thirdly, the power with which he made the threatening of God's wrath against the stubborn and rebellious sinner, to affect the impenitent. Often they literally trembled in their seats under his preaching, and many thereby were made to flee from the wrath to come. He preached while at Miami Island Church, a part of the time at Carpenter's Run, and a part to a church on the south side of the Ohio, in Kentucky. His labors were everywhere blessed.

      In 1802, he was called as pastor to the Elk Creek Church. There he remained most of the time, and preached to that and other churches in the neighborhood, until 1818. In that year he removed with his family to Crawfordsville, Indiana,

[p. 122]
and soon after died at a good old age. The particulars of his death are not known, except that be died peacefully, as he had for many years lived in the full assurance of faith. As a token of love and respect for him in the Miami Association, the following resolution was adopted and ordered to be placed on the minutes of their meeting, in September, 1819: "This association deeply lament the loss of their much esteemed Father in the Gospel, Elder James Lee, who has been removed (we trust) from the church militant to the church triumphant. But this association does rejoice in being informed, beyond any possible doubt, that our aged and faithful brother departed this life full in the faith of the doctrine he long labored to inculcate - salvation through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, according to the eternal love of the Father in the predestination, calling, justification and glorification of the church chosen in time before the world was.

[From A. H. Dunlevy, A History of Miami Baptist Association, 1868, pp. 120-122. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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