Baptist History Homepage

No. LXX. - OCTOBER, 1852.

Rock Spring, Illinois.
Part 1

IT has been reported that, in a by-gone period, an eccentric and somewhat facetious Paedobaptist clergyman of New-England said, in reference to the Baptists, then few in number and deficient in their ministry, that this people furnished one proof that they were right in principle, and in the end would prevail. Inquiry being made for the reasons of this singular opinion, tradition reports, in substance, the following reply:
"If our people were as feeble and no more calculating, made as many blunders, and took as little pains to acquire influence as these Baptists; they would be ruined in a single generation. I have observed them for thirty years. They have no policy, adopt no measures to increase their numbers, seldom enter our towns, but set up meetings in obscure places, on the borders of our parishes, in private dwellings or schoolhouses. Their ministers are farmers or mechanics; generally illiterate, and never avail themselves of favorable opportunities to gain power. They pertinaciously practice dipping, which is inconvenient and unseemly; are extremely conscientious, and tenacious of their peculiar notions, and are the worst managers in their own religious affairs. Yet somehow they prosper; they increase in numbers and influence; their illiterate preachers contrive to understand the Bible, and if we preach against them, they out-match our Doctors of Divinity in argument. It seems, after all, the LORD is with them, or they would run out."
As an historical record, this story may be apocryphal yet there is truth in it. The Baptists had no far-reaching plans, adopted no wise and politic measures to establish a sect, or gain patrons and proselytes; they had but little learning or wealth, and less worldly wisdom; they held with unyielding tenacity to "THUS SAITH THE LORD" in all their teaching and efforts. Till within the period of a generation, there was but a single college in this nation, in which they could claim privileges, and where a candidate for the ministry could receive an education congenial to his rigid and conscientious views of Christian duty.

At the close of the Revolutionary war, there were not over fifty thousand Baptist church members in America, and but two small churches in all the Valley of the Mississippi. According to Asplund's Register, in 1790, those in correspondence and fellowship amounted to 67,574; and, in 1795, he enumerates 1,089 churches, 915 ministers, and 76,665 communicants.

The progress of the denomination in this Central Valley, is equally if not manifestly more providential. By "progress," we include not merely increase in numbers, but ill intellectual and moral endowments, in the influence of the ministry and churches, in piety, benevolence, and social organizations for doing good. While there have been periods in our history in which there has been less advancement made than at other periods, there has never been any general backsliding. In no one period of five years has the denomination lost ground in numbers, efficiency, or moral progress. Localities have been affected by schisms; churches and even associations have been formed, and for a season prospered, and then died away, while others have been raised up to supply their places. In no state, or large district of country in this Valley, has the denomination retrograded. Were it expedient, we could demonstrate this by a series of statistical tables, but in this article we prefer to give facts in a more readable way.

In comparing the obligations, religious responsibilities and general progress of our denomination with others, all those things that constitute its resources at any former period should be taken, into the account. And here let us premise that, in all comparisons of this nature, we should recognize distinctly our dependence on the grace and providence of God for every degree of success. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory; for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." -- "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." [Psalm cxv:1. Zechariah iv: 6.] To use a mercantile phrase, the resources possessed by a religious denomination, at any given period, constitute its capital stock, by which successful efforts can be made in a certain period of time. In a religious point of view, and in a wide sense, this stock includes, amongst others, the following items:

1st. Number of Communicants. 2d. Wealth. 3d. Talents. 4th. Means of Intellectual and Moral Improvement -- as Colleges, Theological and other Seminaries, and their endowments -- and the number and capacity of men who form their Boards of Instruction. 5th. The Ministry, including their numbers, talents, education, soundness in the faith, piety, devotedness to the work, means of support, and position occupied, as pastors, and itinerants, or occasional preachers, with the licentiates and students in preparation for the work of the ministry. 6th. Churches, including pastors, positions, resources, and character. 7th. Periodicals, their character, size, extent of circulation, and mental and moral power. 8th. Social organizations, for missions; Bible circulations, Sabbath-schools, and pastoral supervision. 9th. Publications and tract efforts, and the quality and amount of books read and circulated. And lastly, Systematic efforts, unity of feeling and action, mutual co-operation, facilities and habits of intercourse, &c., &c.

From this stock we must deduct all those measures and influences among us that tend to counteract and lessen our opportunities of doing good. The amount of progress made in any given period includes not merely what Baptists in this Valley have done to aid the great work of evangelizing the world, but what they have done in improving their own condition. Of this we will give a familiar illustration.

A farmer in New-England has two sons, both trained to the business of agriculture. The eldest receives an education in agricultural science, and the "homestead," with its hundred acres; a well-improved farm, buildings, stock, implements, with every facility for business, and a ready and profitable market near. The youngest, with a legacy of one hundred dollars in his pocket, migrates to the wilds of the west, invests his little capital in new land in the prairies or forests, and after many years of toil and privation, has as many acres well cultivated, as good buildings, and as much wealth as his brother. Have these men made equal progress? The eldest has sustained his family and gained nothing. The other has made all he possesses over one hundred dollars, and at the greatest possible disadvantage. Which has given proof of the most industry, economy and enterprise?

Thus has it been with the Baptists in this Valley, when compared with the same denomination in the Atlantic States; and thus has it been with the denomination throughout the United States compared with the several classes of Paedobaptists who had the entire vantage-ground forty years since. Their Congregational, Episcopalian and Presbyterian neighbors, each in an organized state, occupied the prominent positions in most of the cities, towns and villages; with colleges, houses of worship, and an educated ministry; with respectability of character and popular influence on their side.

Let us review briefly the rise and progress of the Baptists in this Valley in several distinct periods of their history.


Baptist ministers and communicants were among the early immigrants to the wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee before the close of the Revolutionary war, and principally from Virginia and the Carolinas -- a few from New-Jersey and Pennsylvania before the close of the eighteenth century. Several ministers made excursions to Kentucky, in 1779, among whom was Lewis Lunsford, (called in Virginia, The Wonderful Boy,) and the late John Taylor. They found a few brethren in the wilderness, in a cold and lifeless condition, with no opportunities for social worship, and constantly exposed to Indian assaults. They found the soil rich, vegetation uncommonly luxuriant, and the face of the country clothed with all the beauties of un-cultivated nature. These voluntary missionaries preached a few times to the families that lived in "stations," or forts, gave such advice as the circumstances admitted, but formed no churches.

These were the first ministers of the gospel, who visited the region of Kentucky. They returned to Virginia for a period. In 1781, several Baptist preachers and other brethren emigrated to this new country. At that period, removal from Virginia to Kentucky was a slow, fatiguing and hazardous business. Two modes were practised; one by land, the other down the Ohio river by water. The first was performed on horseback, with a few bare necessaries of life carried on pack-horses seven and eight hundred miles over a mountainous wilderness. Exposure to hostile Indians compelled them to perform their migrations in caravans, with sentinels stationed around their camps at night. By the other mode, they made their way by land to the navigable waters of the Ohio, and embarked in flatboats, and floated down the current to Limestone, (now Maysville,) or Bare-grass Creek, (now Louisville,) then the principal landings.

Severn's Valley church, in Nelson county, (since called Nolinn,) was the first religious community organized in this part of the Mississippi Valley, in 1782. A church was constituted in Spotsylvania county, Va., under the pastoral care of Lewis Craig, and as a colony removed to Gilbert's Creek, south of Kentucky River, in 1783; and the same year, South Elkhorn church was organized, and the first religious body, north of the same river. In a year or two Gilbert's Creek church was dissolved by the removal of its members to the Elkhorn country, and another church of "Separate" Baptists, and of the same name, was raised up there under the ministry of Joseph Bledsoe. Before the close of 1785, there were three associations, twelve churches and thirteen ministers of the Baptist denomination, in Kentucky. The associations were Elkhorn, Salem, and South Kentucky.

The two first distinguished themselves as "Regular Baptists," and adopted the "Philadelphia Confession of Faith." The South Kentucky association were denominated "Separate Baptists," having originated from that connection in Virginia. They received the Scriptures in their plain, obvious meaning, as their "sole rule of faith," with a written covenant expressing their obligations, as the disciples of Christ, to the Head of the church, and to each other in church relationship. The separate Baptists formed the South Kentucky association, which in 1792, had 18 churches, 9 ordained ministers, and 836 members. The name indicated its position as south of Kentucky river. Attempts were made to unite the Regular and Separate Baptists in 1793, but failed, and four churches withdrew from the latter class, formed Tate's Creek Association, the same year, and opened correspondence with Elkhorn Association.

A portion of the ministers of the Regular Baptists, who came to Kentucky at this period, would be now regarded as hyper-Calvinistic in doctrine, especially in their limited views of the mediatorial office of Christ, and the reservations they made concerning indiscriminate offers of mercy and salvation to all persons through faith in Christ. Most of the ministers in these associations were men of vigorous minds but of limited education. They studied the Scriptures attentively in the English language, but with very little aid from biblical literature. They had no knowledge of the languages in which they were originally written by the direction of the Holy Ghost, and their views were not very clear of the usus loquendi of the English Scriptures. Hence it is not strange that metaphors were often interpreted literally, figurative language misunderstood, and passages relating to the "redemption that is in Christ Jesus" misinterpreted, and the impression left on the minds of their hearers that Jesus Christ came into the world as a Saviour, and suffered and died to purchase the elect.

The sacrifice of Christ was held forth as literally the payment of a debt for his people. Sinners were "dead in trespasses and sins;" therefore, they could no more help themselves than a dead man; and as it is the office-work of the Holy Spirit to quicken the dead, the mode of preaching the doctrine of regeneration as the work of the Almighty Spirit, was in such a form, and by such illustrations, as to leave the impression that the gospel was preached, not to convert sinners, but to comfort God's people. It was at a much later period that these crude speculations exhibited their legitimate fruits in practical antinomianism.

On the contrary, in their zeal to enforce on the consciences of their hearers their obligations to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not strange that some of the "Separate Baptists" verged to the other extreme, and lost sight of the efficacious grace of God in the conversion of sinners.

At this distant period, it is obvious to all candid and impartial judges that, in the period we are reviewing, both parties believed and attempted to teach the same fundamental principles of revealed truth. Their differences were more in words than in meaning. They agreed in the lost condition and entire sinfulness of human beings; -- in the holiness of the divine law, and its claims on all rational creatures; --in the necessity, and in some sense the duty of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; -- in the efficacious work of the Holy Ghost in regeneration; -- in the complete justification of the believer through the righteousness of Christ; -- in the perseverance of all true believers through grace to glory; -- and in all points of faith and practice now held by United Baptists, as the denomination in Kentucky, and several other Valley States, is usually called. Their general agreement became manifest in 1802, when, during the great revival, "terms of union" between the "Regulars and Separates" were adopted, without either party yielding any thing regarded as revealed truth.

The hyper-Calvinistic doctrines at a subsequent period became more prominent, and speculations were taught, until antimonianism in spirit, theory and practice prevailed to a ruinous extent among the churches in the Mississippi Valley. We have long known that the opposition to missions and all other philanthropic efforts to promote the kingdom of Christ, by human instrumentalities, had its origin, and has been sustained by erroneous views of Bible truth. The seed was sown in an early period, and like noxious vegetation in our rich and productive soil, increased from period to period, until divisions were the natural result. It is necessary to keep this fact in view as a key to expound the history of the denomination at a subsequent period.

The Presbyterians were the second denomination to plant the standard of the Cross in this western wilderness. Their pioneer in the work was Rev. David Rice, father of the late Rev. John H. Rice, D. D., of Richmond, Va. Mr. Rice made a visit to Kentucky, explored the settlements, and received a "call" in writing from three hundred persons, to remove and become their preacher. He removed his family from the Peaks of Otter, (Va.,) and settled near Harrod's Station, in October, 1783. He was soon followed by Rev. Messrs. Rankin and Mitchell, with two probationers, Messrs. Crawford and Templin, who were subsequently ordained. Mr. Rice gathered three congregations, at Danville, Cane Run, and the Forks of Dick's River, and established a grammar-school, out of which eventually grew Transylvania University. Mr. Rankin gathered a congregation in Lexington, and another at Pisgah, eight miles east. Churches in the presbyterial sense were not constituted until 1785. The reasons for this delay are given by Rev. Robert Davidson, D. D., the substance being taken from the journal of Mr. Rice, in Bishop's memoir.1 Mr. Davidson says:
"When Mr. Rice entered upon his labors in Lincoln county, according to invitations, he found the religious condition and prospects of the community extremely discouraging. Save a few who had been his acquaintances and hearers in Virginia, scarce any supported a credible profession. Some were grossly ignorant of the first principles of religion; others were addicted to intemperance, profanity, or brawling; and nearly all totally neglected the forms of devotion in their families. Certificates, indeed, were handed him by many, attesting their relation to churches in the older settlements from which they had emigrated; and others attempted to impose on him by procuring the testimony of their neighbors to their correct moral deportment. If the neighbors scrupled to give such testimony when required, the passion and resentment exhibited afforded unequivocal evidence that the scruples were not groundless."
Though amidst privations and hardships incident to a new country, and the infidelity, irreligion and vicious habits of a multitude around them, with a deprivation of social worship and religious ordinances that produced a disheartening influence on the religious feelings of Baptists, who migrated under circumstances similar to their neighbors, none would offer to join a Baptist church without sustaining a moral character, and who could not tell a religious experience. Their preaching was directed to the feelings and conscience, and at the period of this moral desolation among their neighbors, they had revivals, frequent baptisms, and large congregations. Rev. John Taylor, one of the exemplary pioneers of those days, who wrote a history of certain Baptist churches, of which Clear Creek, in Woodford county, was one, constituted April, 1785, thus narrates:
"We soon began to baptize our young converts, for some of them were waiting an opportunity. We went on in great harmony through that yea: we had four ordained preachers as named above. (John Dupuy, James Rucker, Richard Cane and John Taylor.) I think we baptized twenty that year."2

In three years, more than one hundred were baptized in this church. In 1786, two itinerant Methodist preachers arrived in Kentucky, and laid the foundation for their numerous sect.

The Presbyterians were unfortunate, not only in the character of applicants for membership, but in the course of some of their preachers. Rev. Mr. Rankin was of Scotch descent, and soon raised a storm about "Psalmody," and other minor matters, that produced a schism, and distracted the denomination for several years. He was most doggedly conscientious, of an irritable temper, and stubborn as a mule; and was finally deposed by the Presbytery, "for being an uncharitable calumniator, and a setter-up of unauthorized terms of communion." Pamphlets were published by both parties; but after deposition, Mr. Rankin and his party joined the "Associate Reformed" Presbyterians.3

From the formation of the first associations, in 1795 [1785 jrd] to 1793, the Baptists had increased, both by immigration and conversions, from about 600 to about 3,650. In that year there were in Kentucky 57 churches, 56 ordained ministers, and about 3,650 communicants. One church, called Columbia, (now Duck Creek,) was north of the Ohio river, near the mouth of Little Miami, and was organized by the late Rev. Stephen Gano, in 1790. Another was in the "Cumberland Settlements," now Middle Tennessee.

In East Tennessee, the Presbyterians for many years took the lead, and, as early as 1788, when the Baptists had ten small churches, they had gathered twenty-three large congregations. Their ministers, like the Baptists and Methodists, in new countries, did not wait for stipulated salaries, but itinerated through the settlements, preached extempore sermons, and were successful in revivals.

The Baptists, however, were the first to preach and organize churches in the remote settlements on the waters of the Holston, before 1770. Two congregations had been gathered, but were dispersed by the Indian war of 1774. One on Clinch river was re-organized the next year, by the name of Glade Hollow. About the year 1780, several Baptist ministers, and many more families, emigrated from Virginia and North Carolina, and settled in the Holston country. Next year, six churches had been organized, which held semi-annual conferences, until 1786, when the Holston Association was organized, with seven churches and six ministers. Revivals of religion were enjoyed, converts were multiplied, and in 1798, Holston Association included sixteen churches, twelve ordained ministers, and 1,033 communicants. The Baptists in East Tennessee were a mixture of "Regulars" and "Separates," though the doctrinal principles of the former prevailed in the association.

In Middle Tennessee, several churches were gathered, and an association organized, called "Mero District," in 1796. In 1801, this association had increased to 18 churches, 16 ordained ministers, and about 1,200 members.

In the summer of 1787, Rev. James Smith, a Separate Baptist preacher from Kentucky, made an excursion to the Illinois country, into what is now Monroe county, preached with success to the people, who had emigrated from middle and western Virginia and Kentucky, and a number were converted. In 1790, Smith made another visit to Illinois, and preached with success, but was taken captive by the Indians near the site of Waterloo, and carried to the Kickapoo towns on the Wabash. He was ransomed, and returned to his friends in Kentucky.

In January, 1794, Rev. Josiah Dodge, originally from Connecticut, but one of the pioneers of Kentucky, visited Illinois, held meetings, and baptized four of the converts made under Smith's preaching. One of these (James Lemen, Sen.) became a preacher, and left four sons, who are preachers, and still living. Rev. David Badgley came from Hardy county, Va., in the spring of 1796, preached among the people for several weeks, baptized fifteen persons, and, with the aid of Joseph Chance, (a lay-elder,) constituted the New Design Baptist church of 28 members. Badgley moved his family to the country the next spring, revivals followed, and he and Chance constituted another church in 1798, in the American Bottom, embracing 15 members.

The Miami Association was formed in the Northwest Territory, of four churches, in 1797. The Columbia church, already noticed, was the mother of the others, which formed chiefly of immigrants from New-Jersey and Pennsylvania. At the close of the century, the whole number of communicants in this body did not much exceed one hundred.

We can now approximate to the progress, in numbers, made during the first period. From various imperfect data, we ascertain the increase, from 1793 to the close of 1799, in Kentucky and East Tennessee, to have been equal to one-third. We estimate the strength of the denomination in numbers, at the close of the century, to have been 120 churches, 95 ordained ministers, and 7,575 communicants in the whole Mississippi Valley.

In the early settlements of this Valley prejudices existed, a large extent, against paying ministers of the gospel regular salaries, even when raised by voluntary contributions; and against a regular collegiate education for the ministerial office. These prejudices against an educated ministry and a regular support, were not confined to the Baptists, but have pervaded the minds of the people generally. They have exerted a pernicious influence throughout a large portion of the Valley States. And though more enlarged and correct views, and a more just and scriptural practice are fast gaining ground, yet historical truth requires us to search for the cause of this state of things.

It did not originate in covetousness, for no people, from the earliest times, were more generous and prompt to make contributions for public purposes than the people of this Valley. There has been a profuseness -- a kind of prodigality in the gifts on public occasions.

During the war of 1812-15, intelligence reached Kentucky from the northwestern frontiers, that the army was suffering for want of provisions and clothing. In a few days both sexes and all classes were gathering supplies; pack-horses and wagons, loaded with necessaries, were on the march through the wilderness, and so abundant were the donations, that the officers in command sent back expresses to stay the profusion.

When the late Rev. Luther Rice first visited the churches in Kentucky and Tennessee, and brought before them the subject of Foreign Missions, the contributions were larger than in any other states. We have attended camp-meetings and associations in this Valley, where members of the church and persons in the settlement would expend five hundred dollars in providing for the accommodation and entertainment of all who came from a distance. We must look to some other cause than want of liberality in western people for the origin of these prejudices.

In the early settlement of the middle and southern sections of this Valley, the habits, customs, feelings, modes of thinking, and general characteristics of the population, were cast mould of Virginia and the Carolinas, before the Revolutionary War. A branch of the Episcopal Church of England was established by law, and continued to hold legal existence until the people threw off the yoke of colonial subjection war of independence. The colonial legislature of Virginia, in 1721, enacted that every minister, received into any parish by the vestry, should have an annual salary of 16,000 pounds of tobacco; and glebes of not less than 200 acres were provided in every parish for the use of the incumbent parson. A season of unusual failure of the tobacco crop, the staple of the colony, occurred in 1757; it was further enacted that the clergyman should receive, at his option, a substitute in cash, equal to eighteen shillings per hundred pounds. This was equal to L144 sterling. This law threw the power into the hands of the clergy, who, if tobacco was low, exacted cash, and, if the market-price was high, would claim the tobacco. This mode of clerical speculation gave rise to the celebrated lawsuit, in which Patrick Henry made his Successful debut at the bar.

The parishes in Virginia were dependent on the mother country for a supply of pastors. Clergymen, of good character, and enjoying a benefice at home, were not disposed to emigrate to the colonies. It is an historical fact, that a large portion of the clergymen who came over to occupy the glebes, perform parochial duties, and receive for salary sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco, were quite unfit for evangelical purposes. The worthy and talented historian of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Virginia, will not be suspected of exaggeration. We give the testimony of Rev. Dr. Hawks.4

"The class which usually came were unfitted, from entire ignorance of human nature, as well as from the absence of discretion and prudence, to appreciate the true condition of the country. They were utterly incapable to accommodate themselves to the perpetually occurring exigences of a new country, and a state of society, of which, as the past afforded no precedent, so neither could it furnish any guides to conduct.
"Many of the clergy, therefore, were, as it might have been anticipated unfitted for their, stations. The precariousness of the tenure by which they held their livings, contributed, not a little, to beget in them a spirit of indifference to the discharge of their duties; and, to complete the list of unpropitious circumstances, the irregularities and crimes of an unworthy clergyman could not be visited effectually with the severities of ecclesiastical censure. Far removed from his diocesan, and standing in but little awe of his commissary, he sometimes offended religion and morals with impunity, and still remained in the church, a reproach to her ministry. * * * *

"With such priests, it is easy to believe what is recorded of the people. The Sabbath-day was usually spent by them in sporting, and no question seems to have been made whether the practice was right or wrong. And with such a people, it is not probable that the errors and vices of their teachers formed the subject of very serious complaints, or that direct efforts were often made to displace an unworthy clergyman."

In a petition, sent to the House of Burgesses in 1755, by the clergy themselves, the petitioners complain: "That so many, who are a disgrace to the ministry, find opportunities to fill the parishes."

We have heard from the lips of old men, who were living thirty years ago, and whose testimony could not have been doubted, lamentable descriptions of the profligate lives of these rectors. During the season of fox-hunting, two or three days in each week, in company with their parishioners, were spent in the chase, and the dinner always closed with bacchanalian revelries, In which the clergyman enacted his part. We have seen a manuscript volume of poetry, composed by one of these Virginia pastors, that for amorous levity would have raised a blush on the cheek of Horace or Ovid. These Clergymen, in not a few instances, were the junior sons of decayed families, whose morals were too impure, and whose talents were too deficient, to give them an honorable place in the army or navy, but who, through the influence of some relative or patron, had obtained "Holy Orders," on condition of retiring or the colonies, and accepting an annual stipend in tobacco. They claimed to have been educated at college, but with habits of frivolity and dissipation, they had accomplished but little more than "going through college."

The historian, quoting from an author of the period, records: -
"Many came, such as wore black coats, and could babble in a pulpit, roar in a tavern, exact from their parishioners, and rather, by their dissoluteness, destroy than feed their flocks. Loth was the country to be wholly without teachers, and therefore rather retain them than be destitute; yet still, endeavors [were made] for better in their places, which were obtained, and these wolves in sheep's clothing by their assemblies questioned, silenced, and some forced to depart the country."5
Their entire destitution of a truly religious character, and their efforts to secure the tobacco salary, or its substitute in cash, fixed the impression deep in the minds of a large majority of the people, that claims to a college education, and to a regular salary, necessarily characterized incompetent spiritual instructors and guides.

The Baptists in Virginia, from about the middle of the eighteenth century, were persecuted under the laws of the colony, and by riotous mobs. They were the most numerous class of dissenters from the "Established Church," and amongst the first to advocate the great principle of religious liberty, and to resist the unrighteous encroachments of the established hierarchy. Their ministers, generally, were laboring men, of a limited English education; but they were warm-hearted, affectionate, simple in their manners, and spent much time in gratuitous efforts to promote the spiritual welfare of their fellow-men. The Presbyterians also opposed the hierarchy, but avoided legal persecution by obtaining license from the court to perform parochial duties; and hence were more entirely in their own congregations. Baptists could not ask for legal permission to preach the gospel, because it would be a tacit acknowledgment of the right of the magistrate to control the worship of God. Their ministers traveled into remote settlements, often held large meetings, of several days continuance, and preached the elementary truths of the gospel with an unction and power that stirred up the common people, called out great multitudes to hear them, and produced deep and lasting impressions on their consciences. These pioneers were often men of respectable talents, but destitute of a classical education. They had no libraries, nor the various and multiform means of the unlearned of this day to acquire knowledge; but they habitually read ONE BOOK, and with that they became familiar. The parochial clergy, through their friends and adherents, were their persecutors. The parochial laws were against them, and fines and imprisonment were their earthly reward.

"Lynch law" also, (as popular violence has been since called,) executed its ferocious mandates on their persons. Many of the pioneer preachers in Kentucky and Tennessee, while residents of Virginia, had preached through the grates of prisons; and some had been ducked in the river and shamefully beaten by mobs.

Was it unnatural for these men, under such circumstances, associating, as they did, their cruel persecutions with the "college-learned" and "salary" or hireling priests, to make these the frequent topics of address, and to urge their appeals to popular sympathy against them? Will it now be thought singular that the people became thoroughly imbued with this feeling? Shall we blame them for associating all that was sacred in liberty of conscience, freedom to worship God, the dearest right of republicans, with opposition to an odious tobacco law? The same spirit spread through the Carolinas. The most impulsive motive to action to a southern Baptist, during the Revolutionary struggle, was deliverance from a vicious ecclesiastical hierarchy, and entire liberty of conscience in the worship of God. They, and thousands of others, regarded the voluntary principle in religion as an unalienable birthright. We never heard of a Baptist tory in those states.

It was the same men that planted themselves in the wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee, and carried with them across the mountains all the feelings, convictions, and prejudices, they had imbibed in the "Old Dominion," against a college-education, salaries, and priestly domination, by ministers of Jesus Christ. Had these good men, in their migrations westward, forgotten the state of things that existed in Virginia before the Revolution, of clerical domination and ecclesiastical laws; had they. taken the plain, common-sense view, that ministerial education and support are claimed and sanctioned in the word of God, and are alike the dictates of propriety and justice; had they inculcated, in a just and scriptural manner these duties, in their future ministrations in this Valley, the results would have been widely different. But this is more than could be expected from human nature. Hence the pioneers of the Mississippi Valley brought with them all their prejudices and modes of action, against an educated and salary-sustained ministry.

But there are other facts we ought not to overlook, as tending to fix these impressions more firmly in Kentucky, and from thence in other parts of the Mississippi Valley. Allusion has been made to the organization by Presbyterians of religious societies at an early period. Most of their ministers, who first came, were below mediocrity in the pulpit. In the estimation of impartial judges, Baptist preachers were much their superiors in preaching. The Presbyterians read long sermons on dogmas of faith, "fenced the tables," preparatory to he Lord's Supper, by a tiresome exposition of the ten commandments, after the old Scotch fashion; sung Rouse's version of David's Psalms; were rigid in enforcing the observance of the Sabbath, without a due proportion of Christian morality on other days of the week; and were successful only in rendering themselves unpopular. They had the reputation of having been educated at college, and, probably, had made some acquisitions in literature, but were deficient in common sense.

They soon rendered themselves obnoxious by their claims for regular salaries, at a period when the country was destitute of money; when salt, iron, and other indispensable articles of living, were transported on pack-horses over the mountains, and no market was to be had for the sale of surplus produce.

Even good old "Father Rice," as he was styled by all classes, regarded the signature of three hundred names, inviting him to remove to Kentucky, and plant a Presbyterian church amongst them, as a pledge to give him a regular salary. He did not neglect his duties as a minister, and enjoyed a precious revival in his own and other congregations. But he made a most serious mistake about his claim for a salary, that produced a sensation throughout the whole country. It is probable his congregations, as others have done without the same embarrassments to excuse them, made promises, or passed resolutions, which were never recorded in their "BOOK OF ACTS." He had purchased a tract of land, relying on his congregation for means of payment; he was in trouble, his nervous system deranged, and his mind was under a morbid and melancholy depression, when he publicly refused on a sacramental occasion to administer the ordinance in Danville; alleging it was not right to admit persons to that holy table who were not faithful in their pecuniary engagements. Dissatisfaction was expressed by his people in loud murmurs; he became the by-word and song of the drunkard. The story spread throughout the country, exaggerated, and repeated in various forms, and aroused all the feelings and prejudices engendered in Virginia and the Carolinas, against "hireling ministers," and "college-bred parsons."6

This state of things was disastrous to a regular ministry. From an early period, prejudices existed the formal instalment [sic] of pastors in the Presbyterian mode. The people were reluctant to enter into a relation which could not be dissolved until death, without the formal act of a presbytery. And as the church would be liable to deductions, from deaths and removals, the remainder, however few in numbers; and feeble in resources, would be bound to pay the salary stipulated in the "call." In several instances, ministers relinquished the pastoral relation, by consent of Presbytery, and then served the church by annual engagements, as "stated supply," for many years after.

Baptists were never trammeled with such ecclesiastical bonds, yet these altercations between pastors and people in the Presbyterian churches, and the love of that people for independence, had its influence on our denomination, and tended to confirm the habit of annual elections of pastors, without any stipulation for compensation for services. Baptist ministers relied for support on their farms, or the avails of other branches of secular industry. They had more churches than men, who were duly qualified for stationary and continuous pastors. Each preacher and licensed exhorter could find field enough for the exercise of his gifts, as a monthly pastor or an itinerant. Churches were in the practice of holding monthly meetings for two days, Saturdays and Sundays, and in many instances one man would serve four churches, each in succession, through the month. At first, the rapid extension of settlements, and the openings for preaching, and the formation of churches, made this an indispensable regulation; but the force of habit caused its continuance long after the necessity ceased to exist. The great defect was in not training the churches to meet every Lord's day, and cultivate such gifts as they possessed.

Saturdays were the periods for militia musters, justices' courts, political gatherings, and all kinds of recreations for the worldly and irreligious; and hence, became convenient seasons for religious people to hold their "solemn assemblies." This practice, brought from Virginia and the Carolinas, is still continued throughout the largest portion of this Valley.

In many churches the Saturday meeting is opened by a sermon, when the examination of candidates for baptism and membership, receiving persons from other churches on testimonials, cases of discipline, and all other business, receive due attention. Each church ordinarily elected some ordained minister for a pastor, who presided in the meetings, preached on the Saturday and Sabbath of the monthly meetings, and at such other times as were convenient, and administered ordinances. Sometimes, in the period we are reviewing, the church would propose a stipulated sum for pastoral services, to be made up by voluntary contributions from the members; in other cases it was understood they would make up a perquisite during the year.

In some churches there were two, three, and four, ordained preachers, each of whom. (if not employed as pastor in some other church) would officiate in turn; and in such cases the choice of one for pastor would seldom be unanimous, but result in jealousy, rivalship, and division.

A pleasing exception is found in the history of Clear Creek church, in Woodford county, Ky., in which there were four ordained preachers among the members. Two of these had been pastors in Virginia, and some of their former flocks were now members of this church. On the day appointed to choose a pastor, the ministers, and several other brethren from the churches of Great Crossings and South Elkhorn, were present by Invitation. Rev. Lewis Craig was Moderator, and his custom was to ask each member in turn, male and female, bond and free, "Whom do you choose for pastor?" Every member, save one, responded to the name of John Taylor. Mr. T. was 'a modest man,' rather diffident of his abilities, and had never sustained the responsibility of the office. He was much alarmed, and resolved to decline. But all the ministers, and many other brethren present, urged him to accept. Next day he reluctantly consented, and was recognized as pastor by prayer and giving the hand of fellowship. It was thought this was the first instance of a Baptist church in this Valley, acting in the choice and installation of a pastor. At a subsequent period he resigned this special office, but continued to serve the church, by general consent, for about ten years, when he removed to Boon[e] county.

Towards the close of the century, the prospects of Christianity were shrouded in gloom! A general declension followed the early revivals, and a low standard of religion and morals prevailed. Family religion was neglected, and little attention paid to the training of youth in the fear of God. The Indian wars in the northwest, which terminated with Wayne's victory, in 1794, and the treaty of Greenville the following year, removed the dangers of the frontiers, and settlements expanded on every side; an immense tide of immigration poured into the older sett1ements of this Valley; and while streams issued farther and farther into the western wilderness, the increasing population crossed the Ohio River, and spread over the contiguous territory, without an adequate supply of gospel preaching. The protracted war with the Indians had exerted its demoralizing influence to a wide extent; but the introduction and manufacture of alcoholic liquors that followed, and their use in nearly every family, were fearfully destructive. The Green River country, as the southern part of Kentucky was called, became famous for vicious practices. Universal cupidity prevailed over the whole western country, stimulated by boundless opportunities for its gratification. Speculators were eager to invest their capita1 in western lands, hoping to rea1ize princely fortunes in a short time. Many of the old pioneers, who had located lands under the vague and very imperfect land-laws of Virginia, and who had made valuable improvements thereon, found their surveys and titles defective, and after long, harassing and expensive suits in law, lost their titles.7

Land-jobbing, litigation, feuds and heart-burnings distracted the country for many years, and retarded its moral improvement.

It should be added that the introduction of French infidelity threatened for a time to sweep away every vestige of Christianity. A feverish exasperation against England prevailed, on account of the retention of the military posts on the northwestern frontier, and the letting loose thereby of hordes of merciless savages, with all the horrors of the tomahawk and scalping-knife, throughout the long line of frontier settlements. Then, France had been our ally in the war of independence; officers of the continental army, who had fought side by side with the French in that war, and retained strong partialities for their former companions in arms, had removed to this Valley. The very name ofliberty was dear to every American heart, and in the mysteries of Divine Providence, infidelity and liberalism, then as now, were combined in the great struggle against European despotism. Party-spirit ran high; the Jeffersonian, or democratic party in the west included a large majority of the voters. Under mistaken views, pertaining to the character of the French revolution, an "American Democratic Society," in imitation of the Jacobin club in Paris, was organized in Philadelphia. Co-operating societies sprung up in the west, -- and with sympathies for France and human liberty, the free navigation of the Mississippi and hostilities with Spain were intermixed.

"INTERVENTION" became the mad spirit of the hour. The character of the "Democratic clubs" in the west was violent, and, dogmatical. An alliance with France, offensive and defensive, was openly advocated. Four emissaries were dispatched by Genet, the French Minister at Philadelphia, to this Valley, and no measures were spared to enlist the people in the crusade for liberty. 8

It is no purpose of ours to review these political movements as such, but only to show how infidelity became prevalent in high places, and was identified with liberal principles in government. It was the general opinion among intelligent Christians that, towards the close of the century, a majority of the population were either avowedly infidels or skeptically inclined. There were few men of the professions of law and physic, who would avow their belief in the truth of Christianity. Amongst the less informed classes the "Age of Reason" was a popular book, and obtained extensive circulation, while Bibles were obtained with difficulty, and found a place only in religious families.

What a melancholy spectacle is presented to view! Religion at a low ebb in the churches of all denominations, infidelity and immorality in alliance, clothed in the habiliments of liberalism, marching with gigantic strides over this fair land! The storm was gathering; dark and portentous were the clouds that rolled over the sky! The educated and politicians, whose influence was extensive, were believers and despisers of Christian truth. Let us review the position and strength of the ministry, and the resources of the churches, to maintain the faith and wage a successful contest with such an enemy.9 How despairing was the prospect.

The only Bibles in the country were those brought by immigrants. If a young couple, who were Christian professors, had formed the domestic relationship in a log cabin in the west, they had no Bible to read until perchance, after many months waiting, some kind friend brought one in his saddle-bags across the mountains, from the old states. A manuscript yolume of hymns is in our possession, compiled by one of the pioneer preachers of Kentucky for his own use as an itinerant, and it bears marks of being well thumbed by the preacher. Nor were tracts then circulated; and few religious books of any kind had found their way to this Valley.

And what strength had the Christian ministry to cope with such an enemy, learned, proud, philosophical, speculative and subtile? The Baptists had ninety-five preachers of every grade, not one of whom was a classical scholar, or skill, or understood the tactics of the opponents of Scripture. They had never been trained in, nor could they put on the armor of the "schools of the prophets." They made no pretensions to the arts of the logician in debate. There were about a dozen Methodist preachers in this Valley, equally deficient in education, and unskilled as casuists. Of the Presbyterian ministers, there were about forty, all of whom made some claims to a classical and collegiate education. At the close of, the year 1799, they had three presbyteries and twenty-six ministers in Kentucky. The qualifications of those in Tennessee we know little of, but to avoid all appearance of partiality and prejudice concerning those in Kentucky, we give the language of their historian, who has in no respect exaggerated the picture.10 Alluding to the same period, he observes:
"Had they all been men of marked ability, devoted piety, and unblemished reputation, the salutary influence they might have exerted in moulding [sic] the character and institutions of the growing West would have been incalculable. Unhappily, with two or three shining exceptions, the majority were men barely of respectable talents, and a few above mediocrity; and so far from being patterns of flaming zeal and apostolic devotion, a dull formality seems to have been their general characteristic."
The venerable "Father Rice" had no very exalted opinions of his fellow-laborers. In his journal, they are described as men sound in the faith, but deficient in the spirit of the gospel.11 The presbyterial records show that nearly one-half were subject to church censures, on one or more occasions; some were silenced for heresy; two deposed for intemperance; one suspended for licentiousness; several rebuked for wrangling and other improprieties.12

The Baptist preachers, deficient as they were in scholastic training, were men of devout piety and manifested a self-sacrificing spirit, that gained the respect and confidence of the unbelievers. But they were quite too deficient in the "wisdom of this world," to wage a successful war with infidelity and irreligion.



1 Memorials of Rev. David Rice, etc., Lexington, Ky., 1824. History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, by Rev. Robert Davidson, D.D. New York: Robert Carter, 1847.
2 John Taylor, History of Ten Baptist Churches; second edition. Bloomfield, Ky., 12mo. p. 304.
3 Davidson.
4 Contributions to Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I., pp. 88, 89 and p. 116.
5 Contributions, &c, 65.
6 The first Catholic priests who came to Kentucky behaved still worse about salaries. In 1785 and '86, about fifty Roman Catholic families emigrated from Maryland, and settled around Bardstown, in Nelson county, and in eight years there were about 300 families scattered in several settlements in that state. The late Bishop Carroll, in 1787, sent out Father Whelan, an Irishman, of the Franciscan order, who, according to Dr. Carroll's advice, had "an instrument of writing drawn up, by which six of the principal emigrants bound themselves to pay him annually L100 in currency." An attempt was made by some of the signers to set this aside by law, when the priest sued, and the verdict of the jury was that it should be paid in produce! Business transactions at that were usually by barter. Priest Whelan spoke feelingly, probably indignantly, perhaps cursed the jury for their verdict, for which he was prosecuted for slander, and fined L500. And he would have been sent to prison, if those whom he had sued for his salary, whom he called his persecutors, had not given bail.
7 Amongst the pioneers who suffered by the loss of all their lands was COLONEL DANIEL BOON, about whose history, character and habits so much fiction has been pub1ished. Boon 1oved simple, natural justice, was rigidly honest in all his engagements, and thought all others, including the state, should act towards him on the same principles of natural equity. The law of Virginia, that prescribed the mode of entering lands in Kentucky, when that district belonged to the "Old Dominion," was radically defective, and the mode of its administration by commissioners sti1l more so. At a subsequent period, after state courts had been organized, litigation commenced, based on imperfect descriptions of the tracts of land and legal flaws; Boon was ejected from all title to land in Kentucky. After the vigor of life was spent, he found himself not the legal owner or possessor of a single acre of the vast and rich country he had explored. His beautiful farm at "Boon's Station," a few miles from Lexington, which he had cleared and cultivated with his own hands, and several other tracts, were wrested from him by the technical forms of law. His recorded descriptions of location and boundary were defective, and shrewd speculators had the adroitness to secure legal titles by more accurate and better defined entries. Many other pioneers lost their all. These litigations had an unhappy effect on the state of religion and morals in the country towards the close of the century.
8 It was the movement of Genet in 1794, and his successor, M. Adet, in 1796, in sending agents to this valley, to arouse the people to join France and invade the Spanish province of Louisiana, and the co-operation of the "Democratic Societies," that called forth "Washington's Farewell Address." To understand the bearing and application of that document, we must know the circumstances that made necessary such a patriotic appeal from the "Father of our country," as he was about to retire to private life at such a crisis.

The object and efforts of the French agents may be learned from the following communication. It was written in May, 1794, after the French government had recalled the Minister Genet, and disowned his acts. His western emissary then wrote the following:

"To the Democratic Society at Lexington:

"CITIZENS, -- Events, unforeseen, the effects of causes which it is unnecessary here to develop, have stopped the march of two thousand brave Kentuckians, who, strong in their courage, in the justice of their rights, their cause, and the general assent of their fellow-citizens, and convinced of the brotherly disposition of the Louisianians, waited only for their orders to go, by the strength of their arms take from the Spaniards, the despotic usurpers of the empire of the Mississippi, ensure to their country the navigation of it, break the chains of the Americans, and their brethren the French, hoist up the flag of liberty in the name of the French Republic, and lay the foundation of the prosperity and happiness of the two nations situated so, and destined by nature to be one, the most happy in the universe.

"Accept citizens, the farewell, not the last, of a brother, who is determined to sacrifice every thing in his power for the liberty of his country, and the prosperity of the generous inhabitants of Kentucky.

[See American State Papers, Vol. XX: p. 931.]

9 The intelligent reader will recollect that, towards the close of the last century, infidel principles prevailed to an alarming extent in the Eastern States; that they were fashionable and prevalent in Yale College and other literary institutions, and that a very general impression existed that Christianity was supported by human authority and not by argument.
10 Davidson's History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, p. 129.
11 Bishop's Memoir, p. 69.
12 Davidson, p. 130.

[This section is Part 1 of the essay and includes from page 481 to the middle of page 501. Part 2 of the essay may be accessed here. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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