HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE MIAMI BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
By George E. Stevens
One hundred and ten years ago the vanguard of the Baptist army marching westward pitched tents on the banks of the Ohio River in the shadow of what is now Mt. Tusculum. There are few landscapes more charming than that which greets the eye from the summit of this hill, rising so boldly from the river near the easterly boundary of and within the territory now comprising the city of Cincinnati. The view embraces the broad sweep of the Ohio, the battlements of Fort Thomas, the graceful outline of the Kentucky hills, and all the busy life of what was once Columbia, but now an important section of a great city. One spot especially will fix the gaze of every Baptist. It is the old bnrying-ground a short distance above Carrel Street Station, on the Little Miami Railroad. The place will be ever notable in Baptist anuals as the site of the first house of worship occupied by the Columbia Church, the earliest organized Protestant Church in the North-west Territory. The lapse of more than a century invests the ancient graves, and the foundation-stones that here and there mark the site, with intense historic interest.
This was the birthplace of the Miami Baptist Association. The birthday was June 3, 1798, making it the oldest society in Ohio with one exception, Nova Cesarea Harmony Lodge No. 2, a Masonic body, which dates back to 1794. Preliminary meetings were held September 23 and November 4, 1797, at Columbia. At the earlier of these meetings there were present five ministers, John Smith, Peter Smith, James Sutton, Daniel Clark, and Moses Sutton, and two visiting ministers (then living in Kentucky), Joshua Carman and Josiah Dodge; also 23 laymen, among whom were Francis Dunlevy, Richard Ayres, John Ferris and Elijah Stites.
With a James, a Peter, and a John to take the lead, the new enterprise certainly seemed apostolic, yet the remaining ministerial names—Moses, Joshua, Josiah and Daniel — were, perhaps, prophetic of the fact that the body would link itself with an old dispensation. Later John Mason and nine laymen joined in the deliberations, and Saturday, June 3,1798, the Miami+ (mother of associations) began its career with 13 delegates from four Churches — original Columbia and three of her sprightly daughters, Miami Island, Carpenters Run, and Clear Creek — which, combined, had 185 members.
Up to 1797 Columbia Church was connected with the Elkhorn Association, one of the earliest in the adjoining State of Kentucky.
In the first decade, which, for convenience, we end in 1809, the body grew from four Churches with 185 members, to 31 Churches with 1,123 members
* The six historical papers at the centennial of the Miami Association are printed in the order in which they were read, and as approved by Committee on Publication.
The proofs of each paper were submitted to the respective writers, and each paper is printed as corrected by the writer thereof.
The scope of the historical sketch was determined somewhat by the subjects assigned to other writers. The establishment of the newspaper now the Journal and Messenger, the Convention of 1833, and the Western Baptist Theological Institute, were episodes of the Renaissance Period in the Association, and hence entitled to space in the historical sketch.
The minutes of the Miami Association, now accessible, go back to 1810. The file is perfect from that date, except 1812. It is believed that the minutes of that year were not printed. The issues previous to 1810 seem to be irrecoverably lost.
The file of minutes from 1810 down, and A. H. Dunlevy's "History of the Miami Association," brought down to 1838, are almost the only sources of information now extant.
In the minutes for 1850 a valuable historical sketch may be found. Of the files of M. B. A. minutes now existing that owned by Rev. Geo. E. Leonard, D. D., of Granville, O., is the most complete. To it are much indebted several of the writers of the papers printed herewith.
+ Miami — an Indian word signifying mother.
besides five Churches which had withdrawn to unite with the Scioto Association, which dates its beginning in 1805.
The nomenclature of the Churches, odd as it seems now, was natural to the new country and the pioneer period. The names were nearly all runs, forks, creeks, licks and rivers. From Kings Creek, on the north, to Clover Fork, in the south, and Jonah's Run, on the east, to Indian Creek, in the west, the brethren were, in their humble way, "preparing in the wilderness the way of the Lord."
Curious names of churches were Big Beaver, Little Beaver, Mt. Happy, Middle Run, Little Prairie, New Hope, Dry Fork of, White Water, Turtle Creek, Duck Creek, Stony Run, Stone Lick, Lost Creek.
In 1799 quarterly meetings were appointed. This custom prevailed many years, and was of immense value in promoting Baptist growth. They were most frequently open-air services, and immense audiences listened eagerly to the best preaching the times afforded in, the groves — "God's first temples."
In 1800 Association resolved "that in future the title of reverend, as applied to ministers, be laid aside, and that of elder be substituted in its place."
In 1801 occurred a great revival. Under the two Smiths — Peter and John — about 150 were converted and added to the Columbia Church, according to one authority; 109 according to another. Dunlevy says, "Association contained, in 1801, 13 Churches with 467 members, 131 of whom had been baptized during the year." Among the converts were James Lyon, Ezra Ferris and Hezekiah Stites — noble men all — effective preachers in later years.
The original Columbia Church maintained worship, for many years, both at Duck Creek and at the earlier site at Columbia. It is recorded that some unpleasantness arose during this period, which ended in clapboarding and otherwise improving the log meeting-house in the old burying-ground, and this was done "by advice of Association," the Church difficulty having been referred to it. Thus the venerable body may lay claim to being the earliest "improvement association" in Hamilton County.
After 1808 the name Columbia ceased to be used, and the mother Church was known as Duck Creek.
In 1804 North Bend Association (of Kentucky) requested correspondence. It was refused. The minutes do not give the reasons, but Dunlevy says it was on account of slavery. Doubtless the visit of Joshua Carman and Josiah Dodge to Columbia, in 1797, was to ascertain the attitude of Baptists in this region towards the "peculiar institution."
In 1805 messengers arrived from a body which styled itself "A General Conference of a Few Baptist Churches on the Scioto." They were received and correspondence opened. After this year Old Chillicothe, Straight Creek and Bethlehem Churches disappear from the minutes, and doubtless entered the Scioto Association.
In 1807 a query came up from Union Church, on Indian Creek, "Whether the washing of saints' feet be an example left on record for the professed followers of Christ to be continued in His Church?" The Association, after laying it over one year, answered:
"We consider every Church independent, and if the Church on Indian Creek, or any other one, agree among themselves on this point it will not affect their fellowship with their sister Churches." That was a long-headed answer. Solomon himself could not have improved it.
This period covers the later career of John Smith, preacher, trader, politician. He is the conspicuous Baptist from 1790 to 1808, and, whether in the pulpit or in the Senate Chamber at Washington, his stately figure stands out in strong relief in the early annals.
He was a member of the Territorial Legislature, in 1799, and sat with his friend, Francis Dunlevy, in the Constitutional Convention which met in Chillicothe and adopted the first Constitution of Ohio, November 29, 1802. There were at least two Baptists in that notable body.
John Smith was great even in his ruin.* He bitterly deplored his devotion
to secular pursuits and his connection with politics. He sought restoration to the Church, began again to preach, and died in the triumphs of faith about 1824.
The Association could not keep house without Articles of Faith. They had a good, strong serviceable set for every-day use, and not displayed only when there was company. There is very little doubt that a hundred years ago the Baptists hereabouts could show a larger percentage of their number who could not only recite their Articles of Faith, but understood them also, than their descendants and successors of to-day.
The year 1836 terminates the first period of the Association's history,
THE PIONEER PERIOD,
Perhaps deserving the name of the wilderness period — of the Baptist children of Israel in the Miami Valley.
Forty and six years have flown since the beginning of Baptist growth north of the Ohio River. Though there is here and there a Caleb and a Joshua, a whole generation has passed away. The names of the Columbia pioneers do not appear on the records when the brethren came to the forks in the road. Perhaps Francis Dunleyy was the only constituent member of the Association, who stood to the guns in the bloodless battles of 1835-6, when the separation occurred in the Association over the question of missions.
At the dissolution of the partnership there seems to have been no dispute as to the disposition of the assets. The minority were in light marching order, and betook themselves to a neighboring Methodist meeting-house, and continued the business under the old firm name. The young men were active and courteous, and apparently succeeded to the good will and kept most of the good customers.
The able paper of Dr. Lynd, to show that the true succession was with the ejected party, and to vindicate the principles of the Progressives in the Association, will ever command admiration. It was a constitutional question, and the eloquent pastor of Ninth Street Church (Sixth Street then) was the Webster of the debate.
It was well that there was no visible property at stake, otherwise the case of Gard et al. vs. Lynd and Bryant might have reached the Supreme Court of Ohio. Had affairs taken such a shape the decision in the civil courts might easily have been against Lynd and his associates. About the only thing in Baptist polity and doctrine that the average occupant of the Bench is clear about is that the majority rules. In the imaginary case at bar no returning board was required as to which party polled the heaviest vote. It was very neatly two to one against Lynd and Bryant.
The temper and views of the Conservatives is preserved to us in their minutes of 1837 as follows:
From Old School Minutes of 1837According to previous arrangement, the Ministers appointed, preached to a solemn and attentive assembly — when Christ Jesus the Lord, was exalted in the Gospel, as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession; and the Old School Predestinarian Regular Baptist doctrine [or in other words] the glorious Gospel of the blessed God — expounded, honored and defended — consequently we hope their labors were not in vain in the Lord; while many of the Saints were edified, comforted and built up in the truth. And this is not all that is worthy of note. But we now have the consolation to say that we have enjoyed one comfortable session in peace, and that the present session, from first to last, has been one continual feast — the whole throughout being marked with peace and harmony — decency and good order — not a jarring discord — dissenting voice — or unpleasant sound — to be heard in all our borders. The former difficulties — strifes and contentions about <>societies, worldly institutions, and money — and the contradictory spoutings and long speeches by society advocates, was not so much as once named — and much less suffered to find a place among us — to mar our peace —
Tapscott Meeting House, Warren Co., O.,
Lord's Day, September 10, 1837.
derange our business — anil disgrace the regular Baptist cause. And it was quite frequent at the present session that we heard this remark, or observation, among the brethren and sisters — "Why, my brother, this looks like old times among the Baptists — just see how they love one another: all happy, all one — in love and peace, union and fellowship." The old Jade and her daughters are cast out; and she has stole our name to take away her reproach — but the war is over, and we have now only to praise the Lord with gratitude — while we adopt the language of the sweet singer in Israel — and say — "Oh, how good, and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." Psalms. These remarks are made by the Clerk — upon his own responsibility, at home in the old fort, peeping through the port holes.Ministering brethren present at this session: S. Gard, J. Osbourn, M. Frazee, D. S. Roberson, J. Lee, S. Craig, J. Mulford, A. Harlin, B. Stites, T. Childers, S. Williams, M. Morris, J. H. Flint, D. Layman, R. R. Coon, W. Thompson, H. Stites, L. Abrams,
THE PARTY OF PROGRESS
The controversy over missions, which resulted in the separation of 1836, is eminently worthy of study. It had been growing more and more bitter for years, but there is no doubt that the split in the Association was hastened by the course of the proceedings in the General Convention of Western Baptists, which met in Cincinnati in 1833. The anti-effort men were lookers-on in that celebrated gathering, in which Lynd and Bryant took a prominent part, and it is safe to say that they felt no time was to be lost. The Associatioual sessions of 1883 and 1834 showed that they were determined to crush out if they could the growing heresies of the "Means" party. Gard, Thompson, Mulford and others stripped for the contest, and we may be sure they regarded with great satisfaction their victory on the floor of the Association three years after the great Convention.
From a resolution here and a hint or an argument there in the printed documents of the period, it will not be difficult to reconstruct the old-school Baptist of those days, whose habitat was the Ohio Valley, and who belonged to a genus which has almost disappeared. He lived in the clearings, and did not feel at home among the " town-men," liking neither their "airs nor their opinions," nor was he any more friendly to the men who had "rubbed agin'" a college. A sturdy literalist, he was a conservative from ignorance and an obstructionist by nature. Yet withal be was orthodox. In his own eyes he was a Baptist of the Baptists. According to his light he stood for "Simple Truth" * against the destructive tendencies and the secularizing policy of the "Ishmaels — the intruders, with their zeal, their religious performances, their reformations, and their attachment to benevolent institutions (so-called)."
The few progressives among the pioneer Baptists of the Miami Valley deserve a tall monument. They lived in an evil time. They gave and took hard blows. They were the Calebs and Joshuas of the age — "men with another spirit," and the kinds of men whom they opposed are wandering in the wilderness yet. During the ten years ending with 1836 antinomianism and the teachings of Daniel Parker and Alexander Campbell bad wrought much barm. In Cincinnati, Dayton, and at other points, the Baptist candlestick was wellnigh removed.
In the minutes for 1830 occurs the brief but significant entry on the statistical page — "Cincinnati — no intelligence." Old-schoolism was rampant in both Baptist and Presbyterian camps, and moved largely along the same lines toward the barren triumphs of 1836 and 1837. Another such victory as was won by the conservative Baptists in 1836, and the cause of vital, true religion would have been undone. But the party of progress were stalwarts and fought to the finish the long battle in behalf of action, missions and education against stagnation, hyper-calvinism and illiteracy.
* "Simple Truth" was the title of a book written by Wilson Thompson, and published in 1820.
OPPOSITION TO AN EDUCATED MINISTRY
Among Baptists in the Ohio Valley in the Wilderness Period opposition to book learning, as connected with preaching, was a deep-seated malady. The doctors have ascribed its prevalence to various sources. The chief source has been little dwelt upon. It is distinctly traceable to the jealousy of the pioneer preachers, lest their hold upon the people should be lost.
Good men as they were, the illiterate leaders conceived it to be to their interest to decry learning and to disparage college-bred ministers. Very naturally they were loth to surrender their primacy. The old-school leaders had their frailties, and they had no notion of being relegated to the rear if they could prevent it. If there was superciliousness on the part of the college-bred men it would not be strange. In the literature of the time reasons are as plenty as blackberries to account for the attitude of the brethren and sisters in the backwoods. But the basal fact was they believed what their spiritual guides told them about the evils of an educated hierarchy.
In 1833 there were 60,000 Baptists in the four States, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky — about as many as the white Baptists now in Ohio. Many of them could not read, and the average of intelligence was painfully low. Of 637 ordained ministers in the same territory probably not thirty had received any college training.
John Dupuy once announced as his text,"Thou art weighed in the bellowses and found wanting." Another preacher, about to read a portion of Scripture, said to his audience, "I will now read the sixteenth Peaslam."
A Virginia preacher was discoursing on the importance of plainness and simplicity in expounding the Scripture, and remarked:
"Brethren, I do not like to hear ministers using unknown languages in their sermons. Christ and His apostles all spoke in the plain English."
Another old-school preacher chose as his text, I Corinthians 12:25, which he misquoted as follows: "That there be no scheme in the body." With great vehemence he proceeded to denounce, one after another, the Missionary scheme, the Bible Society scheme, the Sunday-school scheme, and all other benevolent schemes of which he could remember the names, clinching each of his divisions with a thundering repetition of his text, "That there should be no scheme in the body."
The preaching of such men, encouraging as it did the natural covetonsness of the human heart, exerted a tremendous influence among the masses of unintelligent people.
To briefly characterize the pioneer period we must note that the Association was, in those primitive years, the great social event; that preaching was the prime feature and three or more sermons the rule; that laymen bore a comparatively small part in the discussions; that it was exceptional where any Church had preaching services more than once a month; that Church discipline was much more rigid than in after years; that the Circular Letter and the Letter of Correspondence were made much of; that queries from the Churches appeared at every session.
Sunday-schools are not mentioned, though some existed.
A GREAT ENTERPRISE
The history of slavery agitation in the United States when fully written will include events which form an important episode in local Baptist annals. The brief, but not inglorious, career of the Western Baptist Theological Institute is a melancholy chapter. This institution, whose rise and fall upon the soil of Kentucky during the fourth and fifth decades of this century engendered such, bitter strife, was born of noble plans and high hopes. Had these plans been carried out — had the institution lived, had the demon of slavery never reared its foul head in America — Baptist influence and achievements in the Ohio Valley had been multiplied a thousandfold. But the gallant ship drifted on to the rock of the anti-slavery conflict aud perished.
In 1833 the Western Baptist Convention convened in Cincinnati. It was the
pioneer of Baptist deliberative bodies, other than local Churches, in Central North America. Its object was to deliberate upon measures to promote Baptist interests west of the Alleghanies. Among other acts it was recommended that "steps be taken to establish a great central institution, exclusively theological, for the Baptist denomination in the valley of the Mississippi." This sounds pretty large. But it should be remembered that 60 years ago Cincinnati was the metropolis of that vast territory, and the most important literary and educational center west of the Appalachians.
The Western Baptist Education Society was incorporated in Ohio March 7, 1835. Of its first executive committee, numbering 12, seven were Cincinnati Baptists; two resided in Kentucky.
Within the ensuing three months eight Cincinnati Baptists, at their own risk and on their own responsibility, purchased three tracts of land lying adjacent to, and now included in, the city of Covington, Ky., and, together, containing 370 acres of land. The sum paid was $33,250. The names of the purchasers were Ephraim Robins, John Stevens, Isaac Colby, S. W. Lynd, J. B. Cook, Noble S. Johnson, Henry Miller, Aaron G. Gano.
This land, lying as it does in the heart of Covington, less than two miles from the center of Cincinnati, is now probably worth not less than $3,000,000, exclusive of improvements. A small part of the purchase was soon sold at a large profit. In 1840 the remainder was deeded by the original purchasers, in pursuance of their original intention, to the Western Baptist Theological Institute. This was a body corporate created by the State of Kentucky February 5. 1840.
The charter conferred the usual powers upon seven men, and in 1845 the institution went into operation. Among the distinguished names in its faculty were R. E. Pattison, E. G. Robinson and Ebenezer Dodge. In 1847 dissensions began in the Board growing out of questions connected with slavery, and remotely associated with the famous resolutions of the Alabama Baptist Convention. An amendment to the charter passed January 28,1848, by the Kentucky Legislature, came on the Trustees like a bombshell into a sleeping camp. The originators and chief supporters of the enterprise, who lived in Ohio, awoke one fine morning and rubbed their eyes in utter astonishment. They were like Othello. Their "occupation was gone." Not a whisper had ever reached them of the petition to the State to change the charter, and practically oust the founders of the institution from its control. It was a still hunt from the start.
This extraordinary act of the State added 16 new Trustees, and also named them. All of the new appointees were citizens of Kentucky. The act also provided that all future appointees should be Kentuckians.
March 20, 1848, 17 members of the old Board met in Cincinnati to assert their rights. They voted not to accept the act of the Kentucky Legislature, and refused to recognize the new Trustees as rightful members of the Board.
Then the fat was in the fire. The new Trustees, with four of the old ones, demanded possession of the records and the property. The custodian refused to deliver. Suit was brought in the Kenton Circuit Court to compel him to deliver. The Circuit Court granted the petition. The case was then taken to the Kentucky Court of Appeals on writ of error. January 18, 1853, the higher court rendered its decision. It was a lengthy document, and reviewed the case with ability and thoroughness. It declared the act of the Kentucky Legislature unconstitutional and void, and reversed the decree of the lower court.
The Spaniard was right when he said, "Many go out for wool and come home shorn themselves."
In a survey of the educational movement which culminated in the establishment of the Western Baptist Theological Institute — the third institution for theological instruction among the Baptists of the United States — it is necessary to glance at what was known as the
GENERAL CONVENTION OF WESTERN BAPTISTS
This important body met in Cincinnati November 6, 1833. It is believed to be the first religious convention of a general character whose constituency
crossed State lines, west of the Alleghanies. The place of meeting was the building then owned and occupied by the Sixth Street (now Ninth Street) Baptist Church, standing on the south side of Sixth Street just east of Walnut. The house, which was subsequently used by a Presbyterian Church, gave way to modern improvements previous to 1850.
In 1833 there were two Baptist cburches in Cincinnati, the Enon and Sixth Street, with a combined membership of about 500. There was also a small church of colored people. Samuel W. Lynd had begun, in 1831, his long and useful pastorate. The schism which resulted from the teachings of Alexander Campbell had divided the Cincinnati Baptists about five years previously. The first number of what is now the Journal and Messenger had appeared two years before bearing the date July 6, 1831. The title was The Baptist Weekly Journal of the Mississippi Valley. There was then no other weekly Baptist paper in that vast region. John Stevens was its first editor, relinquishing the charge of the paper in 1838 to accept a professorship in Granville College.
The Journal and Messenger, now owned and edited by Rev. G. W. Lasher, D, D., and Rev. G. P. Osborne, completed in 1898 its 67th year. It has steadily and vigorously promoted Baptist interests in Ohio, and to its influence are largely due their unity and prosperity. It has uniformly been in the hands of mea of the constructive type — men who sought to build up and not to pull down. In 1876 Rev. Dr. Lasher became owner and editor, associating with himself, in 1888, Rev. G. P. Osborne. Noble S. Johnson, Ephraim Robins and Henry Miller were the leading spirits in its establishment in 1831.
There had been for months extensive correspondence emanating from Cincinnati with brethren both East and West, and a widespread interest awakened in the proposed meeting. It was accordingly held, and about 100 persons were present, a large number considering the traveling facilities of that period. About one-third of those in attendance were ministers, the others are classified in the printed proceedings as "brethren." The States represented were Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, the first-named being credited with 74 in attendance. Able men were present from the Eastern States, among them Jonathan Going, Howard Malcom, R. E. Pattison, Alfred Bennett, Heman Lincoln,, Elisha Tucker, G. F. Davis, Henry Jackson. Jonathan Wade, missionary to Burmah, at this time on a visit to America, was also present. It was an intensely interesting meeting, full of enthusiasm, and its influence was far-reaching and salutary.
Among the Western men present were those noble pioneers, John M. Peck, representing Illinois, Lewis Morgan, from Indiana, and Hezekiah Johnson, of Ohio. Silas Mercer Noel, of Kentucky, 50 years old, with only six more years of earthly toil before him, was one of the foremost figures in the convention. A classical scholar, after several years of law practice he entered the ministry, and at his death, in 1839, he was said to have "baptized more people than any other preacher in Kentucky." He was an uncompromising foe of the principles and teachings of Alexander Campbell and his associates.
The proceedings record the following incident occurring on the third day of the session. Nathan Cory, an aged minister of Oldtown, O., arose and stated that he and some other brethren must now take leave of the meeting to return home; that he blessed God he had lived to see and hear the proceedings of the convention; that he felt assured God would bless the meeting to the promotion of tbe cause of Christ in the Western States. This modern Simeon was the first. person baptized in the Scioto county (Central Ohio) as then called.
There were other men present, both from the older settlements and the new clearings in the forest, who rose superior to the general illiterateness of their surroundings, and who hailed with delight the new movement.
There were noble pioneer preachers who felt deeply the disadvantages of a deficient mental training, and who rejoiced to see the day. They welcomed with all their hearts the rising sun of consecrated Baptist enterprise.
The subjects to be taken up during the Convention were "Benevolent Efforts," "Foreign M'ssions," "Home Missions," "Religious Periodicals," "Distribution of the Scriptures," "Preparation and Circulation of Religious Tracts," "Sunday-schools and Bible Classes," "Ministerial Education."
At the Saturday afternoon session of the meeting, a constitution was adopted for the newly-formed creature of the Baptist denomination, after much deliberation and discussion. It was a brief document, with five articles.Article I declared: "This body shall be known by the name of the general convention of western baptists, and shall be composed of delegates from Churches, associations, missionary societies, education societies, Sunday-school and tract societies, in good standing in the Baptist denomination, with such brethren in regular standing in Baptist Churches as choose to attend and cooperate with us."It would be interesting to know who wrote that constitution. It was probably the work either of Jonathan Going or Samuel W. Lynd, or both. The document needs to be read, as does the whole pamphlet of 80 pages which records the proceedings and preserves the reports of the Convention, in the light of the bitter controversies of the time. The good brethren of that generation read the same Bible, but they differed in its interpretation.
Article II laid out the work: "The business of this convention shall be to encourage and promote by all lawful means the following objects, to-wit: " Missions, both domestic and foreign; ministerial education for such as have been first licensed by the Churches; Sunday-schools, including Bible classes; religious periodicals; tract and temperance societies, as well as all others warranted by Christ and the gospel."
A FORMATIVE PERIOD
The fourth decade of this century was in the Mississippi Valley a formative period. The dawn was peaceful and glorious, the political and financial sky unclouded, but at its close the sun went down amid storm and clouds. For the control of the vast territory, greater in area than all of Western Europe, the Protestant religious forces of the United States entered the lists against anti-Christ — the world, the flesh, the devil — and the Romanists.
It was evident that the center of population of the Republic was soon to cross the Alleghanies, on its steady westward march along the 89th parallel. The science of gospel dynamics began to be studied. The thirties were years of beginning in the Ohio Valley. During this period came the Missionary Renaissance of Ohio Baptists. The A. B. H. M. S unfurled its banner in 1832; the American Anti-slavery Society was born in 1833; Lyman Beecher came out; Granville and Oberlin Colleges laid the axe at the roots of the trees.
Amid all the stir of those fruitful years where could the party of progress come together? Where could the captains of the Lord's hosts meet to set the battle in array? There was but one place, the town linked with New Orleans by river, and with New York by lake and canal, ten days distant, Cincinnati.
Cincinnati in 1833 had begun to be a cosmopolitan community. Seven years later an official canvass showed that 27 States of the Union and 25 of the political divisions of Europe had contributed to form its popnlation. Fifty-four per cent, of its 28,000 people were of American nativity, 28 per cent. German, 16 per cent. British. It was the trans-montane metropolis. Sixty-five years ago Cleveland was only a hamlet, St. Louis did not number 10,000 inhabitants, and bears were making tracks in the mud of Chicago. The country was in the pre-railway stage of development, and river transportation dominated the interior commerce of the nation. A steamboat leaving the wharf at Cincinnati had before it, on the Ohio and its tributaries alone, over 5,000 miles of navigable waters. A visionary genius, with a penchant for statistics, predicted that the lapse of a century would see Cincinnati "the greatest city in America."
The accessibility, hospitality and composite life of the town made it a meeting-place. Standing on neutral ground, at a point where three great States came together, its leading spirits, having cut loose from the older communities, were untrammeled by tradition and buoyant with hope. Here diverse interests could be harmonized, and what was timid, narrow and sectional, be transmuted into what was bold, broad and patriotic. Here was focalized the intellectual and religious life of the vast region which was spoken of in the speeches and letters of the time as the "Western Valley."
TWO CIVILIZATIONS MEET
While all this was true, the social and religious life of Cincinnati was powerfully affected by its proximity to the South. During the most remarkable religious movement in all its history — the great revival of 1828-9 — Kentuckians were the pulpit favorites of the city. A prevalence of Southern ways of thinking had much to do in shaping events in South-western Ohio during the three decades ending with 1860. The Baptists shared this heritage with their neighbors of every faith and of every political school.
The slavery question had not yet risen above the horizon. There was no trace of it in the Convention. The stream was placid, the sky was clear, the Niagara ahead undreamed of. There was no prophetic soul to foresee the undoing, by a rabid pro-slaveryism, of one of the most important enterprises ever undertaken by American Baptists.
Nor did any one forecast the alienation which was to vex Ohio, so that a dozen years later it was gravely proposed that the Baptists of the State should be divided by the National Road into two discordant camps. Cincinnati was to be accused of trying to carry water on both shoulders; and the time came when, in her isolation, she felt that she had no friends either North or South.
ONE MINISTER AND FOUR DAYMEN
It was not strange that Cincinnati men were conspicuous figures in the convention. The most prominent were S. W. Lynd, N. S. Johnson, J. Stevens, E. Robins and I. Colby. The three first were known as the "Cincinnati Committee," and were probably the originators of the whole movement. S. W. Lynd was the popular pastor of the Sixth Street Church (now Ninth Street); the other four named were laymen.
ONE OF THE "PRINCES OF THE SANCTUARY"
"Elder" Lynd was one of the most effective men in the ministry of his day. It is to be regretted that no extended account of his life and labors of 80 years is in existence. Yet the denomination in Southern Ohio owes more to him than to any other one man. Baptist influence in Cincinnati declined to almost a minus quantity from 1825 to 1830. Coming to the city from the Easf a stranger, he speedily drew around him men who at once insisted on organizing a new church, which, in ten years, grew to be one of the strongest in the city. He toiled at the foundations. At no period have the Baptists in Cincinnati been relatively so strong as during Dr. Lynd's pastorate of 15 years terminating in 1845. Not remarkable for either eloquence or learning, he knew how best to marshal his resources. He had that happy adjustment of qualities, that symmetry of character, which made him the dignified Christian instructor, the judicious and nurturing pastor. Both a teacher and an author, he was preeminently a preacher. Though possessing social gifts, pastoral work was not to his taste.
There was everything in his surroundings to furnish the needed spur to exertion. He had studied under William Staughton, and was indebted to that distinguished man for much besides the cherished daughter whom he married in 1823. He was now 37 years old; not yet at the zenith of his career, but with all his powers at their best. Three years later he was to be the leader of the missionary party in the stormy conflict which resulted in the disruption of the Miami Association in 1836.
BAPTIST STATE PAPERS
Such was the man who delivered the address in the Convention, the report of which occupies 24 pages of the proceedings, and now possesses the highest historic value of the 14 documents therein preserved. The report on "Home Missions " was by John M. Peck. It was worthy of the Christian hero who had blazed his track through the wilderness, and crossed the Mississippi before Missouri became a State.
Jonathan Going presented the cause of "Bible Distribution." Its expression of confidence in the American Bible Society antedated only by three years
the memorable protest of Baptists against the unjust and indefensible policy of that great corporation in the matter of the Asiatic versions of the Scriptures.
The campaign of 1833 had been skillfully planned Old-schoolism was the Richmond, and the whole army of progressives was to cooperate in the movement upon that objective point. The battle was now joined, the skirmish lines had been drawn in, and the artillery was to open on the hyper-Calvinistic citadel of anti-missions.
There was a strategic order of sequence in the resolutions brought forward in the convention, suggesting the thought that perhaps the gunners were getting the range of the enemy's position. It had been agreed that benevolent efforts should come first in order of discussion.
After deciding that the subject of "Home Missions" should be taken up on Thursday evening at candlelight, it was resolved, on motion of A. Bennett, seconded by U. B. Chambers, "That we consider the preaching of the gospel the great and prominent means which God has appointed for the conversion of sinners." Daniel Parker himself, of Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit fame, would have been, puzzled to detect anything revolutionary or destructive in that deliverance.
The last resolution was:"Resolved, That benevolent efforts, especially those designed for the spread of religious knowledge and moral reform, are, in the opinion of this meeting, abundantly authorized by the sacred Scriptures."This was introduced by S. W. Lynd, and he supported it in the long and masterly address already referred to, and which produced results in the Convention not inaptly compared with the effect upon the country of Daniel Webster's reply to Hayne in Congress three years before. Nullification in religion and nullification in politics were contemporary.
A PERIOD OF FOUNDATION-LAYING
The Convention belonged to a period such as the world will not again see. The republic had stood for 50 years, and was no longer an experiment. The water had been let into Clinton's "Big Ditch," and the tide of migration was pouring through New York State into the fat valley of the Mississippi. The young giant of the great West had waked from his long sleep, and was putting forth his strength. The eyes of the Atlantic slope, as well as of Europe, were fixed on the new country.
The men of the Convention were not without the spirit of prophecy. It was a day of large ideas in the commercial world ; the era of "paper cities" and vast schemes of internal improvement; the horizon was widening in every direction, and the "things of the kingdom " loomed up large before thoughtful disciples. Christian men saw that the huge materialism of the age must be counter-mined, and moral forces marshalled for a mighty conflict of continental extent.
PERSONNEL OF THE CONVENTION
The hundred or more men who sat on the hard church benches through the six days of that Convention were no triflers. There were hard-fisted farmers, close-fisted men of business, blacksmiths, carpenters and other craftsmen; lawyers, physicians, preachers, workers in wood, and workers in leather; men who moulded iron and men who moulded human nature; men untaught, men self-taught, and men college-taught. The one bond of sympathy was a determination to wage war against old-schoolism.
The Southerner clasped hands with the Yankee on neutral soil. Men of Massachusetts and New York looked into the eyes of the men of Kentucky and Missouri. Politics were laid aside, and Andrew Jackson had a rest; though it is not absolutely certain that there were no side remarks about "the bank" and the "Government deposits."
Of the 36 ministers present, not more than seven were college graduates. Possibly fewer than that. But the men made a sad mistake who regarded such men as John M. Peck, Hezekiah Johnson, Daniel Bryant, James Lyon and Lewis Morgan as uneducated men. The university, whose diploma they bore, had brains and books (the Book, above all), though not the bricks, in its equipment.
THE MISSIONARY SPIRIT
The "Eastern brethren," the men who had come a thousand miles by coach and canal, were not oat on an autumnal frolic. They were prime factors in the Convention and had a purpose. On the long journey put and between sessions they must have held high converse. We cannot definitely know that they
Of Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
Fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,"
but they were no religious dilettantes. There was no appetite for a parliament of religions in 1833. The atmosphere was electric with that lofty missionary spirit transmitted from Jerusalem and Antioch, with the legend on its banner, "The field is the world."
The "anti-missionaries," as far as we know, did not put in an appearance. There may have been some of them around the edges. But it was not their innings. Of controversy there was little. The spirit of compromise and accommodation, without which uo deliberative body ever arrived at any result, emerges here and there in the phraseology of some of the resolutions. The brother who will have his way and his word or else smash things must have been detained en route. All the evidence goes to show that these particular "watchmen on the wall of Zion," and the "brethren," too, saw "eye to eye " on all important points.
YANKEES AWAY FROM HOME
We may be sure that Deacon Heman Lincoln, of Boston, then midway in his long and godly life on earth of 90 years, was listened to with interest and respect. No doubt John M. Peck rolled up his sleeves (metaphorically speaking) and pulled his oar with good will either for home missions or ministerial education. Jonathan Wade probably wished that all the money wasted by the liberal use of tobacco, which he saw around him, could have been diverted to the Bur-man Mission. Jonathan Going and Elisha Tucker, no doubt, magnified the needs of the home field, and believed that no mistake had been made in the formation of the A. B. H. M. Society the year before. Gustavus F. Davis, of Hartford, was one of those invaluable all-around men, a good judge of hymns, as well as of candidates for membership in his Church; dignified, executive, judicious, magnanimous, little knowing that in three years the Master would call him home at the age of 40. Alfred Bennett and Henry Jackson probably did not miss the humorous side of things, but could preach and plead and argue for missions and education along with any man on the floor of the house.
Father Bennett, in one of his addresses, the record says, contended with great effect that it is the duty of the Church to carry out the plan of Christ, and that if men cry out against it and call it a waste of time and money, he would refer them to the " Return of Jesus, who gave the plan, as the proper time to file their complaints."
The second of the three periods into which this sketch is divided extends from 1836 to 1865, and closes with the end of the Civil War. This was the
ERA OF GOOD RESOLUTIONS,
Embracing 30 years.
It was a period of peace and harmony and of enlargement. Six Churches, with 441 members, in 1836, had grown in 1865 to 18 Churches with 1,995 members.
The old-school body had declined from 20 Churches, with 706 members, to nine Churches, with 36ft members.
During the first period the largest number of baptisms was 228, in 1827, and Lebanon reported the largest membership in 1829.
In the second period the largest number of baptisms was 302, in 1843; the smallest, 24, in 1837.
Ninth Street, Cincinnati, reported the largest membership, 504 in 1865.
The second period embraces the two financial panics of 1837 and 1857 —
times of stress and trial and depression in all religious work, besides the distracting years 1861-5, during which occurred the most gigantic and destructive war of modern times. A marked characteristic of the middle years was the slavery agitation, the first resolution in reference to which appears in the minutes of 1844. The controversy in many ways hampered the Churches, neutralized effort and hindered progress.
Features of the period are remarkable zeal for foreign missions and ministerial education; excitement over Millerism; settled pastors over one church; a carefully formulated plan of systematic benevolence appearing in 1842;* alarm over the enormous foreign immigration and the encroachments of Romanism; work begun among the Germans. Two distinct and important movements to establish a theological seminary for the Central West belong to this era. There is a distinct elevation in the style of preaching, and great Sunday-school activity. City evangelization arouses intense interest The Association is in cordial sympathy and cooperation with the State Convention, which supports several missionary pastors within its bounds.
A higher literary style in the minutes appears in every department. Some of the resolutions and reports are models of their class, and to any one who wishes to catch the spirit of the time amply repay study. The first Digest of Letters appears in 1843.
In 1840 there is evidence of a waking up and a strong advance movement, or, as Alfred Bennett described it, " getting out of the Book of Resolutions and into the Book of Acts." The country was beginning to recover from the commercial prostration which began in 1837. Many felt that the Associational gatherings were barren, unprofitable and fruitless. The desire was prevalent to improve the service. In 1839 a committee was appointed, and S. W. Lynd, the chairman, makes, in 1840, an able report. From it we quote:
"The ends originally proposed by Baptist Associations appear to have been,
"First. To promote in the Churches harmony of sentiment, of affection and of action.
"Secondly. To procure and preserve the statistics of the Churches; and,
"Thirdly. To advance the interests of Christ's kingdom to such extent and in such manner as their combined wisdom and propriety might approve.
"These are still, or ought to be, the ends of Associational action. The question is simply this: Are the means usually employed adequate to the accomplishment of these results?"
The next two paragraphs show conclusively that changed conditions and circumstances demand new modes of action to further the proposed ends:
"The Committee are, therefore, of opinion that some more efficient mode of Associational action than that now pursued can be devised. They propose the following plan as the result of their investigation . . . . It is based principally upon two points:
"First. The importance of engrafting upon the present business transactions of the Association missionary operations; and,
"Second. Upon the necessity of giving to the meeting more of a devotional character.
"They would, therefore, recommend that the Association be regarded as a missionary body to promote the cause of Christ within the bounds of the Association, or beyond it if thought necessary, by the preaching of the gospel."
Then follows an elaborate plan to regulate action as contemplated.
Quoting further:"That to promote the devotional character of the meeting at each session of the Association, two brethren shall be appointed, in conference with the pastor of the Church where the Association meets, to preach the gospel, take charge of the meeting, and secure the services of suitable brethren to aid them in their work, and in the conducting of the religious services at the annual meeting following; and that they come prepared to continue such meeting at the request of the Church after adjournment of Association, if the circumstances of the people seem to require it."----------------------------------
* Prepared by C. S. Bryant, Esq., at that time a member of Fifth Street Church, Cincinnati.
"That to promote still further the devotional character of the Association, the time of meeting in future shall commence on Friday' before the second Lord's Day in September in each year, so as to include the Sabbath."
Further, "the persons selected to preach the sermon and write the letter shall feel it their duty to make special preparation upon these topics."
There was a long and free discussion, after which the report was adopted. Its effect was visible for years in increased spirituality and activity in mission work.
Scattered through the minutes of this period are notes of numerous pathetic, spasmodic and utterly futile efforts to establish a local scheme of relief for disabled ministers. After bobbing up and down at intervals for 20 years some bold brother moved, in 1855, that the subject be " forever postponed." The motion was carried.
The third period, embracing 32 years, from 1866 to 1898, may be termed the
ERA OF CHURCH EXPANSION
Twenty churches, with 2,320 members in 1866, grew to 25 churches, with 5,846 members in 1898. Nineteen of the churches have in 1898 new and commodious houses of worship, erected in this period. Beginning with Ninth Street, spending in 1868 $90,000, and ending with Lincoln Park, spending in 1897 $64,000, not far from $400,000 has been invested in providing these inviting spiritual homes.
To this era belong the founding, in 1868, of the Cincinnati Baptist Social Union, out of which grew the Cincinnati Baptist Church Union, in 1869, both organizations important factors in local Baptist growth. No less important, in a wider sphere, have been the Associational organizations of the women, destined, no doubt, to reveal in the future, still more distinctly, the possibilities inherent in consecrated Christian womanhood.
It has been a period of amazing religious activity; of broader fellowship; of a milder and more practical type of preaching; of shorter sermons and fewer bores in the prayer-meetings; of better denominational papers; of applied Christianity and institutional methods; of out-station work and house-to-house visitation in wider areas of individual church effort; of suburban church development; of advanced ideas in child-training; of college education for women; of steady evangelization among the Germans; of the organization and correlation of woman's work; of multiplex benevolent movements disbursing enormous sums of money; of phenomenal interest in temperance work; of marshalling the activities of the young people; of tremendous energy in Sunday-school work; of unprecedented church development and prosperity, at least in all the externals.
A friend, who has looked over the last paragraph (a man of some penetration), says the picture is not complete. He suggests that it is also
A period of laxity in church discipline, in Sabbath observance, in home government and training:
of neglect of family prayer;
of superficial Sunday-school teaching;
of undue exaltation of music in the church services;
of carelessness in keeping Church records and accounts;
of young men in the pulpit;
of innumerable societies which minimize and hamper the church;
of the introduction of the oyster, the fish-pond, the grab-bag and the bazaar as prime factors in church prosperity;
of church members subscribing for and reading Sunday newspapers;
of not taking the State denominational paper;
of railroading members into the churches regardless of fitness for membership;
of neglect of the Lord's Table by multitudes of His professed disciples;
of church members going on Sunday railroad excursions;
of the world in the Church instead of the Church in the world.
A candid survey of this third period must convince any thoughtful investigator that, so far as Associational life and action are concerned, there is not much to record. The circulation has been feeble and the pulse low. Enormous energy has flowed in the veins of individual church life, and there are great results. But in the Association itself, aside from promoting fellowship, affording social privileges and preserving statistics, little has been accomplished. In only one case of any note — the Baton enterprise — has the body taken the initiative in active missionary work, and this ended in absolute and humiliating failure. Neither is there discoverable any great impulse given to the churches in elevating the spiritual tone, in improving methods of Church work, in rousing missionary interest, in formulating sentiment on the great moral questions of the day. On these lines each church has been left to work out its own salvation. This is not saying that the Association has lived in vain — has exerted no influence. But the confession must be made that it has not lived up to its privileges — has not done for its constituent churches what it might have done. There must be a standard of Associational usefulness and attainment. If there be, the writer fears that the Miami Association has not yet attained.
AREA OF OPERATION
The boundaries of the Association have greatly varied at different periods The area of greatest extent was in the first decade, and nearly 100 miles stjuare. there being churches in 14 counties of South-western Ohio, as now laid off. There were churches in Champaign County, on the north, in Ross County, on the east, and in the eastern tier of counties in Indiana. Five associations have been formed out of Miami, viz.: Scioto, Mad River, East Fork and Clinton Association, in Ohio, and White Water, in Indiana. In 1898 the 22 churches are situated in three counties. Hamilton County (embracing Cincinnati), with a population of 425,000, has 17 churches, with 4,455 members; Butler County, with a population of 55,000, has two Baptist churches, with 851 members; Warren County, with a population of 25,000, has three Baptist churches, with 520 members.*
In the rural districts Baptists were once relatively much stronger than now. In the towns (including Cincinnati) they are now stronger than ever before.
One hundred churches have been upon the rolls in 100 years. Fifty-seven were received during the first period, 27 during the second, 18 during the third. At least 30 are known to have become extinct; in later years Milford, Muddy Creek, Eaton, Mt. Washington and Dayton Street, Cincinnati.
In 1894 the Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Ohio, and Trustees were first elected.
Has it been rash to attempt the historic interpretation of the pervading, vitalizing Holy Spirit, moving in the life of a varying number of churches during a century? Two generations have gone on to the heavenly home; another will soon be no more with us. Are we, in our individual Christian life, in our church life, willing to be only channels through which the mighty power of the Holy Spirit can flow to bless the world?
We are pilgrims and sojourners, as our fathers were. They have passed, and we are passing. New and grave responsibilities are beckoning to us. We stand on the high places of the field of spiritual battle. Are we girding on the armor?
Our fathers did their work; their work — not ours — in their way — not after our fashion.
Let us revere their memories and emulate their virtues, though we think best not to imitate them in all things. Let us ask God to lead us in the true path for our own age — our own day — as we shall answer to Him at last.
* Population of counties are estimated from census of 1890.
[From the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1898, pp. 37-50. This document is from the Miami Baptist Association Office. Transcribed by Jim Duvall.]
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