A Publication of the J. H. Spencer Historical Society
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Old Wine in New Skins 2 J. H. Spencer and the J.H. Spencer Historical Society 3 Western Recorder article 4 Membership List 5 Purpose Statement, JHSHS Officers, Baptist Distinctives 6 The Baptist Distinctives 7 Inaugural Meeting Order and Agenda 9 Minutes of the Inaugural Meeting 10 "Let The Dead Bury Their Dead?!?" 11 The Red River Revival 21 The Church That Ordained J. R. Graves 23 Baptist Faith and Practice 27 Andrew Tribble Memorial Service 34 History of Tates Creek Baptist Church 38 Membership Application 46
In every worthwhile endeavor there are always those to thank for their help in the project. There are many to acknowledge in founding and beginning of the J. H. Spencer Historical Society.
Steve Thompson who is the assistant executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and one of the first to join the JHSHS members has been a real help and encourager from the beginning.
Cheryl Doty, archivist for the KBC, and the members of the old Archives Advisory Board "have gathered and archived materials of historical interest for future reference and study and kept Kentucky Baptist History alive in our state convention.
Dr. Keith Harper, Professor of History at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented his paper, I. J. Roberts, The Most Important Missionary You've Never Heard Of at our first meeting in November of 2008. In this publication it appears under the title, Let The Dead Bury Their Dead??? and begins on page 11.
Rev. Hughlan P. Richey, retired pastor and Director of Mission for the Little Bethel Association, wrote The Red River Revival which begins on page 21.
James Duvall maintains a superb website called Baptist History Homepage which contains a wealth of information on Baptist History. The website can be found at http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com. The Church That Ordained J. R. Graves (p. 23) and Baptist Faith and Practice (p. 27) were taken from his website.
Pastor Jerry Huffman supplied The History of Tates Creek Baptist Church which begins on page 38 and is the concluding piece in this the inaugural issue of The Spencer Journal.
Many thanks also R. Charles Blair and to Ben Stratton, who serve as vice-president and secretary / treasurer respectively, and to all those who are members of the J. H. Spencer Historical Society (p. 5). We cordially extend an invitation for anyone to join the JHSHS. Please see the last page for a membership form.
We trust that this issue of the Spencer Journal will be informative and inspirational to you and that this will just be the first of many volumes by which we will be able to promote and preserve our Baptist history and heritage.
Because HE Lives,
Old Wine in New Skins
by Stan Williams
Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Spencer Journal! I want to begin this article by paraphrasing Carl F. H. Henry who said, We must settle the identity issue, and in doing so, coalesce, otherwise we will become by the 21st Century a wilderness cult in a secular society, with no more public significance than the ancient Essenes in their Dead Sea caves.
Recently the Kentucky Baptist Convention commissioned a study by Lifeway Research regarding the spiritual maturity of Southern Baptists in Kentucky and some of the results were very disturbing. Some of the results were published in our state paper, the Western Recorder, and they were very disturbing as they showed a weakness in biblical doctrine. Among the findings of Kentucky Southern Baptists: 24% believe we may be able to earn our salvation; 38% believe that Jesus may have committed sins during His time on earth; 64% believe that we may need to continually work toward our salvation or risk losing it.
Recent studies and polls have shown that we in the Southern Baptist Convention have settled the issue of the inspiration of scripture, and that is good as far as it goes, but lip service is not enough. Authority implies sufficiency. Some claim to believe that the Bible is inspired, but also put an equal emphasis on reason and tradition which, more often than not, conflict with the divine revelation. When this happens reason and tradition must be jettisoned in favor of divine revelation. When the church marries the spirit of the age, she will find herself a widow inside of one generation. History has shown us that whatever one generation tolerates, the next will accept as normal.
As Jesus said, new wine will burst old wineskins, but old wine will do no harm to new wineskins. Getting back to believing and preaching our historic distinctives will settle the identity question. The old wine of our historic distinctives will do no harm to any new convert or church were they to be believed and taught. Our Baptist forbears knew this and they did not go to church to be entertained or to get their "felt needs" met,...they went to give thanks for what they had already received and to worship the living Lord in spirit and in truth. They knew what they believed, and why they believed it.
It is in keeping with the Great Commission that we as Kentucky Baptists endeavor to use all scriptural means to connect the unsaved with Jesus Christ, but we should also reconnect with the historic distinctives that have made us what we are. We cannot, and we must not, lose our Baptist identity and for that reason we must embrace, once again, our historic distinctives. The purpose of the J. H. Spencer Historical Society is to preserve and promote our history, heritage and distinctive beliefs.
It seems to me that rather than making disciples, we are producing susceptibles instead. A generation of Baptists who have not been taught what distinguishes us from other denominations will be susceptible to every religious fad and carried about with every wind of doctrine that comes along.
We should never forget our history, nor our heritage, and realize whom we represent in the world. We need to get back to the place where we preach our historic distinctives with authority and without being ashamed of who and whose we are. As Buell Kazee once said, "Baptist are unique or we are nothing at all."
John H. Spencer and the J. H. Spencer Historical Society
It is generally agreed that the first Baptist sermons to be preached on Kentucky soil occurred in 1776 by Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman near Harrodsburg which was then called Harrodstown.
In 1873, 104 messengers of the General Association of Baptist in Kentucky, Inc. appointed a special committee relative to holding a Centennial Anniversary of Kentucky Baptists in 1876 to commemorate the first Baptist preaching in Kentucky.
At this 1876 meeting it was decided to appoint Rev. John Henderson Spencer, D.D. to "prepare such a History of Kentucky Baptists, as he is enabled, from facts, documents, etc. and may be able to procure, and that he report his progress at the next meeting of the General Association." At the time Dr. Spencer was employed by the board as a State Evangelist.
At the 1879 meeting J. H. Spencer reported that he had written 272 pages of A History of Kentucky Baptists covering the period from 1769 to 1789.
In 1885, the Committee on Baptist History reported that J. H. Spencer had completed, after nine years of arduous labor, the History of Kentucky Baptists, and that the two volumes were now ready for publication. It was stated that the publication would be impossible unless 1,500 subscriptions could be secured as quickly as possible at $5.00 for the two volumes.
In 1886, the report on Kentucky Baptist History recommended "that Brother J. H. Spencer be continued the Agent of the Association in circulating the History and collecting and preserving historical materials...(and) that pastors and other brethren be requested to aid him all they can...."
The J. H. Spencer Historical Society exists to carry on the work begun over 135 years ago in gathering, preserving, and promoting our Kentucky Baptist History and Historical Distinctives.
Annual meetings of the JHSHS will be held in a worshipful context. Sermons on Baptist doctrines and distinctives will be given and research papers will be presented on significant historical personalities and events of Kentucky Baptist life. No particular viewpoint will be required for membership nor excluded from friendly participation.
The JHSHS has the sanction and support of the Kentucky Baptist Convention as we have pledged to work together in a spirit of cooperation in this common cause of retaining our Baptist identity. It is our desire only to further the missions and ministries of the KBC.
Here is the article that appeared in the Western Recorder, on December 2, 2008:
New Society to 'Promote and Preserve' Ky. Baptist History
Lexington - Determined to increase awareness and appreciation for Kentucky Baptist history, the J.H. Spencer Historical Society held its inaugural meeting last month prior to the Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting in Lexington.
The purpose of the new group is "to promote and preserve Kentucky Baptist history," according to Ben Stratton, pastor of Farmington Baptist Church and the society's elected secretary / treasurer.
With a modest current membership of about 20 pastors and lay-people, Stratton said he hopes the society can become a significant resource that rivals those of other state conventions.
"Kentucky is one of the few states that doesn't have a Baptist historical society," he pointed out. But it once did.
Messengers to the 1999 KBC annual meeting voted to disband the former Kentucky Baptist Historical Commission. In its place, the Kentucky Baptist Archives Advisory Board was formed.
Members of that board decided last year that it "really wasn't accomplishing as much as it could," Stratton noted The KBC Mission Board in May approved the dissolution of the advisory board while simultaneously affirming the formation of the J. H. Spencer Historical Society.
The new historical society is named for historian J. H. Spencer, who authored the two-volume narrative "A History of Kentucky Baptists," which chronicles Baptist life in the commonwealth from 1769 to 1885.
About 16 people attended the group's inaugural meeting last month, Stratton said. Participants elected officers and heard a series of messages regarding Baptist history. The society's elected officers are Stan Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cannonsburg, president; Charles Blair, pastor of Poplar Grove Baptist Church in Hickman, vice president; and Stratton, secretary / treasurer.
"There's as much Baptist history in Kentucky as anywhere," Stratton explained. "A lot of great things have happened here, but a lot of it is forgotten." The society intends to hold yearly meetings and put out an annual publication, he said. It likely would contain sermons from past Kentucky Baptist pastors and evangelists as a way "to bring back things that have been forgotten," Stratton added.
While the J.H. Spencer Historical Society is not officially connected with the KBC, Stratton said the group does plan to work with the convention's archives office. KBC Assistant Executive Director Steve Thompson said the relationship with the society is "loosely defined," but the KBC will provide a limited amount of funding for expenses.
The J.H. Spencer Historical Society is open to all Kentucky Baptist pastors and lay-people. Membership is $10 for one year, $17 for two years. For more information about the society or to become a member, contact Stan Williams at (606) 928-4981, or sdwu4iams@zoorninternetnet.
J. H. Spencer Historical Society
James Duvall II
James Duvall III
Robert J. Imhoff
Hughlan P. Richey
R. L. Vaughn
Versailles Baptist Church
The purpose of the John H. Spencer Historical Society shall be to:
- preserve and promote the heritage, history, distinctives, and doctrines of Kentucky Baptists
- cooperate with other Baptist historical societies, commissions, and agencies
- collect materials of historical interest to be archived at the Kentucky Baptist Building
- sponsor annual meetings, that will include traditional worship, workshops on preserving the histories of churches and associations, presentations of papers, and sermons.
Stan Williams - president
R. Charles Blair - vice-president
Ben Stratton - secretary/treasurer
The Baptist Distinctives
Supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ
Sole Authority of the Holy Bible
Autonomy of the Local Church
Regenerated and Baptized Church Membership
Priesthood of the Believer
Believer's Baptism by Immersion
Two Ordinances Only: Baptism and Lord's Supper
Individual Soul Liberty
Friendly Separation of Church and State
The Baptist Distinctives
The Bible is the sole and final authority in all matters of faith and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion, tradition, or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture's inherent authority. II Timothy 3:15-17; I Thessalonians 2:13; II Peter 1:20, 21.
Autonomy of the Local Church
The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church's beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in an associational tie, but a Baptist church cannot be a "member" of any other body. Colossians 1:18; II Corinthians 8:1-5,19, 23.
Priesthood of the Believer
"Priest" is defined as "one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God." Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. Every Believer has equal access to God I Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10.
Two ordinances have been authorized by Christ and are to be observed in the churches. Both are symbolic in nature and communicate no saving grace to the believer, Romans 10:17; I Corinthians 1:17.
(1) Baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16.
(2) The Lord's Supper, commemorating in a memorial meal Christ's death for our sins. Matthew 28:19, 20; I Corinthians 11:23-32. These are church ordinances and unite the believer with the local church in belief, practice, and fellowship.
Individual Soul Liberty
Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. However, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself. Romans 14:5, 12; II Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9.
Regenerated and Baptized Church Membership
Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer's baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, a oneness in Christ exists, and the members can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Acts 2:41-47; I Corinthians 12:12; II Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3.
Friendly Separation of Church and State
God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government's purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1-7 and the church's purposes in Matthew 28:19, 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government. Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 15:17-29. What sets one church apart from all the others? We have seen that it is the church's distinctive beliefs that set it apart from all others and that Baptists in general hold to some convictions that make them different from all other groups. Historic Baptist churches will continue to hold to the Baptist Distinctives because these distinctives are historically Biblical. They are relevant to the issues facing contemporary society and the church.
The Eternal Security of the Believer
Once a person is born again by the grace of God through repentance and faith, they are kept by the power of God. A Believer may lose their fellowship with God through sin, but not their relationship. John 5:24; Philippians 1:6; Titus 3:5-7; I Peter 1:3-5.
Welcome - R. Charles Blair
The Inaugural Meeting of themeeting at Heritage Baptist Church
J. H. Spencer Historical Society
163 North Ashland Ave.
Lexington, Kentucky 40502
on November 10, 2008
Order and Agenda
Pastor, Poplar Grove Baptist Church, Clinton, Kentucky
Congregational Hymn - O God Our Help in Ages Past
Invocation - Ben Stratton
Pastor, Farmington Baptist Church Farmington, Kentucky
Congregational Hymn - Great Is Thy Faithfulness
A Brief History of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College - Dr. Chris Beckham
Pastor, Flemingsburg Baptist Church, Flemingsburg, Kentucky
"Let the Dead Bury their Dead?!?Issacar Jacox Roberts and the Shaping of Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Efforts" - Dr. Keith Harper, Professor of Church History, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina
The Baptist Distinctives - Stan Williams
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Cannonsburg - Ashland, Kentucky
Closing words and Benediction - R. Charles Blair
We wish to extend many thanks to our brothers and sisters of Heritage Baptist Church for opening their doors and their hearts in providing the place and hospitality for our first meeting.
Inaugural Meeting of the
J.H. Spencer Historical Society
Heritage Baptist Church
November 10, 2008
1. At 9:30 a.m. Bro. Charles Blair, pastor of the Poplar Grove Baptist Church, Clinton, Kentucky welcomed everyone to the inaugural meeting of the J.H. Spencer Historical Society and thanked the Heritage Baptist Church for hosting our first meeting.
2. Bro. Charles Blair led the congregation in singing the hymn, "O God Our Help in Ages Past." Bro. Richard Burns, associate pastor at Heritage Baptist Church played the keyboard.
3. Bro. Ben Stratton, pastor of the Farmington Baptist Church, Farmington, Kentucky gave the invocation.
4. Bro. Charles Blair led the congregation in singing the hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."
5. Bro. Chris Beckham, pastor of the Flemingsburg Baptist Church, Flemingsburg, Kentucky spoke on "A Brief History of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College."
6. Bro. Keith Harper, professor of church history at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina spoke on "I. J. Roberts: The Most Important Missionary You've Never Heard Of."
7. Bro. Charles Blair led the congregation in singing the hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers."
8. Bro. Stan Williams, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cannonsburg, Kentucky, went over the nine Baptist Distinctives that the J. H. Spencer Historical Society holds to.
9. Bro. Stan Williams, the Pro Tempore president of the society called those present to a time of business in order to elect the officers of the JHSHS.
A) Bro. Ben Stratton made the motion that Bro. Stan Williams be elected president of the society. Bro. Stephen Wilson gave the second. Motion passed.
B) Bro. Jim Duvall made the motion that Bro. Charles Blair be elected Vice-President of the society. Bro. Ben Stratton gave the second. Motion passed.
C) Mrs. Alma Blair made the motion that Bro. Ben Stratton be elected Secretary / Treasurer of the society. Bro. Stan Williams gave the second. Motion passed.
10. Bro. Stan Williams drew names to determine who would win a free Bible. The winner had to be present to claim the prize. James Duvall, III, the youngest member of the society won the Bible.
Bro. Charles Blair invited everyone present to go out to lunch and then dismissed the meeting in prayer.
There were 16 people in attendance.
Let the Dead Bury their Dead?!?
Issacar Jacox Roberts and the Shaping of Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Efforts
by Keith Harper
When one thinks of Southern Baptist missionaries, several noteworthy individuals come to mind. Lottie Moon's 39-year career in China remains the denomination's supreme example of one missionary's self-sacrifice and surrender to Christ. One might also think of Bill Wallace's heroism or Annie Armstrong's determined, pragmatic, approach to financing missionary endeavors, not to mention her role in shaping Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) in its early days.
Of the many names one might mention, it is safe to say that no one thinks of Issacar Jacox Roberts. Little wonder. There are no offerings named for him. He has no entry in the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, and William Estep scarcely mentioned him in the most recent history of the SBC's International Mission Board, Whole Gospel, Whole World. Yet, of the thousands of missionaries Southern Baptists have sent into service, I. J. Roberts may be the most important. His brief career raised nearly every major issue the Foreign Board would face in its first 100 years and thereby forced the Board to consider how it would interact with its missionaries, not to mention how they, in turn, would interact with the Board, each other, and their supporters back in America.
Issacar Jacox Roberts was born February 17 1802 in Sumner County, Tennessee. He converted to Christianity on March 19, 182l and was ordained to the gospel ministry seven years later in 1828. On January 4, 1830, he married Miss Barsha Blanchard, who, unfortunately, died the following year. According to his own testimony, Roberts surrendered his life for missionary work in China on his birthday in 1835 after nine months of prayer and deliberation. "I took the Word of God for my warrant," he recalled, "my inward conviction of duty for my prompter, and by faith I resolved, not knowing how the thing should be accomplished, but trusted all to God who commended, to bring it to pass." Undaunted by his friends and family who encouraged him to stay in America, Roberts left for China, in April, 1836.
There was scarcely anything about I. J. Roberts' tenure as a missionary that one might deem "typical." For instance, before leaving for China Roberts liquidated his assets and created the Roberts Fund and China Mission Society. Endowed with $30,000 Roberts planned to support himself, his native assistants, and his sundry ventures in China. He operated as a quasi-independent missionary in Macao for about 6 years where he ministered to a congregation of lepers. He also preached in Hong Kong and later Canton. Meanwhile, John L. Burrows, W. C. Buck, and others served as financial agents in Kentucky for Roberts' work, but the American economy of the 1830s and 40s was unstable and prone to periods of boom and bust. One could make a fortune, or lose one. Unfortunately, Burrows and Buck proved unable to maintain their self-endowed missionary and by the early 1840s, Roberts had depleted most of his missionary fund.
Forced to seek new revenue, the "Robert's Fund" officially became the China Mission Society of Kentucky, Auxiliary to the American Baptist Foreign Mission Board, Boston in 1842. This arrangement did not last long, however, and soon after Southern Baptists established their own Foreign Mission Board, Roberts quickly offered his services. He never stated explicitly why he wanted to leave the "Boston Board," but he may have clashed with the Massachusetts
brethren over how he spent his money in China. In an oblique reference to his brief stint with the Northern Board, Roberts complained that they had a habit of passing resolutions and "expecting their missionaries to carry them into effect, without giving us the reason for the measure, to which I strongly object because it is not a republican principle and can only be enforced by martial law." Apparently, Roberts was willing to receive the General Board's funding but not its direction.
Eager to expand their China work the Foreign Mission Board (SBC) accepted Roberts as their third foreign missionary in 1846. Their enthusiastic missionary wrote, "See what God has wrought in His providence for us - even exceeding our most sanguine expectations, to openings for the reception of the gospel. Who knows whether the Southern Baptist Board has not been constituted for a time such as this." In accepting Roberts as their missionary, however, there was a catch. The China Missionary Society of Kentucky agreed to surrender their funds to the Foreign Mission Board along with other funds received during the year provided the Board would earmark such funds for Roberts and his associates. In a word, Roberts wanted to receive funding and recognition from the Southern Baptist foreign Mission Board while retaining a measure of independence through his former Mission Society in Kentucky.
Roberts got off on the wrong foot with the Foreign Mission Board. On February 21, 1846, he complained through the pages of The Baptist, a denominational newspaper in Tennessee that would later become The Tennessee Baptist, that he had insufficient support to evangelize China. He noted,"... I receive no assistance from any Board or Society at the East, and hence am under the necessity of appealing to my own brethren and sisters of Tennessee and the West for pecuniary aid." Things got worse in July when he complained that he was "destitute," which was a shame since, according to Roberts, he might be the only Baptist in China who could preach directly to the Chinese in their own language. Sensing something was amiss, The Baptist's editor responded, "Our brother is not, we presume, to be understood as saying that we have no other missionaries than himself who can preach in Chinese..." As for being destitute, the editor remarked that Roberts should have received support from the "Boston Board" until that association had been dissolved. Further, Roberts,"... by his own request regularly received and is supported by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Southern Convention." Finally, the editor did not understand why Roberts maintained a separate connection with the China Mission Society of Kentucky, if he was in fact a Southern Baptist missionary. "Why then," The Baptist's editor asked, "Should he so particularly desire his support to come to him through the China Mission Society of Kentucky? We need light upon these subjects."
Roberts' status as a quasi-independent missionary immediately caused problems with his fellow missionaries. Roberts had retained property for his congregation at Uet Tang. His facilities were not in the best condition, however, and contrary to Board policy, he wanted FMB funding that would maintain property that the Board did not own. Additionally, Southern Baptist missionaries doubtless grew weary with Roberts' demeanor and overestimation of his own worth. His cavalier approach to missions coupled with his reluctance to fully cooperate with the Foreign Mission Board led certain missionaries to complain. Soon letters began pouring onto the Board's defenseless mailbox. It appears that everyone complained about the "new guy," but a somewhat conciliatory Roberts "forgave" his critics and confided to the Board that most of fellow missionaries were either ill or simply too inexperienced to understand him.
Of course, Roberts could complain too, and he quickly proved that he was no slouch when it came to bellyaching. Most of his complaints focused on money. In a letter dated August
18, 1847, Roberts said, "I beg leave here to make a statement of my money matters to the Board in order if possibly to get some relief." He further claimed, "and as I know the China Mission Society of Kentucky had passed resolutions in my favor to turn their funds over to my use, I therefore expected my own personal expenses and salary, and at least part of my contingent expenses would be refunded so as to be applied to their legitimate use, i.e. towards building my chapel and mission house!"
Of course, After lambasting the Board about his finances, he then shocked the Richmond brethren by asking them to single a single female missionary to China. Mrs. Samuel Clopton and Mrs. George Pearcy, wives of Southern Baptist missionaries in China, had helped secure a "female" congregation that needed special attention. In fact, Roberts noted that, "missionaries of every preaching point where located without females are only half prepared for the usefulness they might achieve with that useful and pleasant addition."
Of course, While it was true that female missionaries had opportunities to work with Chinese women that male missionaries did not have, Roberts had an ulterior motive in asking for a female missionary - he wanted a mate! He asked the Board to "send me a suitable female of sound health and mind; of the missionary spirit, and a Baptist in profession; suitably qualified to cooperate with me in Canton first as an assistant with me in this great work and second as a wife." He promised "God willing to take her for better or worse and with her consent, to unite with her in marriage after her arrival in China." Should the Foreign Mission Board choose not to honor his request, Roberts asked them at least to pass a resolution allowing him to return to America "at his own convenience" and find his own wife. He assured the Board that he was not picky and he claimed that he would gladly sacrifice his "taste" to the Board's judgment. Of course, back in the day his "fancy generally selected from those who were neither too large nor too small, about the middling size in person, of a face ... what is generally considered a good countenance, with high forehead, and full temples, black eyes and black hair!"
Of course, As peculiar as his request may sound, Roberts was serious. He claimed that he got the idea from fellow single missionary, Francis Johnson, son of William B. Johnson, first President of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to Roberts, his colleague had already arranged for the Board to send him a wife whenever he wanted one. In any event, Roberts was so convinced that the Board would comply with his request that he suggested they form a committee to find the future Mrs. Roberts. He was flexible on this point, but he believed the committee should at least include J. B. Jeter, President of the Foreign Mission Board, J. B. Taylor, Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board and who even served as pastor of the church where the as-of-yet-unnamed woman had her membership.
Of course, Convinced that the Board would see the logic in his request, Roberts began sending notes to the unnamed female missionary that he hoped would become Mrs. Roberts. His first two notes were rather routine - he looked forward to meeting her, he promised to look out for her, etc. He got serious in his third note, however, and made no secret of his desire for a helper in ministry and companion in life. To allay her fears, Roberts assured her that Chinese couples frequently married without courtship and thus took "each other for better or worse without a single interview beforehand."
Meanwhile, Roberts' dispute with the Board over money continued throughout 1848 and well into 1849. The Foreign Board's Minutes dated March 21,1848 indicate that he had requested $2000.00 to finish a chapel and house he had been working on for some time. The Board declined his request because they would neither own nor control the facility once they
were completed. Instead, they resolved that Roberts make his case for more money to the local mission and work through established procedures, especially Rule #8 which stipulated among other things that the members of each mission were to work harmoniously with each other.
By the end of 1848, Roberts decided that he needed to come back to America for a visit. He had been in China since 1836 and he needed a rest. Besides, he had never even met the brethren in Richmond and Roberts had business with the Board. The details are not available, but Roberts was present when the Board met in August 1849. The Minutes indicate that he met with the Board and after "several hours" of discussion, the Board reluctantly agreed to provide him $250.00 per year in rent - he had worn 'em down! He had also submitted a "Plan of Operations" for the entire China Mission for 1850 that the Board promised to give due consideration. Apparently pleased with events, Roberts headed for Kentucky to visit his friends and supporters.
In the meantime, two important events began to take shape. First, Miss Harriet Baker requested the Foreign Board to send her to China as a missionary. The Board carefully considered her request and finally agreed to send her on March 5, 1849. Apparently some of Roberts' reasoning had influenced the Board's thinking. They were NOT sending him a wife, but they saw a measure of logic in American women working with Chinese women and children. Hence, Harriet A. Baker became the first single female the Foreign Board appointed for international service.
Shortly after Baker sought appointment, another single female, Miss Virginia Young, petitioned the Board for an appointment to China. Unfortunately, the Board declined to appoint her. In a letter dated December 4,1849, the Board thanked her for her zeal and interest in reaching China for Christ. Even so, sending Baker to China was risky and they were still not certain they had made the correct decision in appointing her. They made no secret of the fact that Baker was a test case to determine whether or not they would send single females to the field in the future. At any rate, the Board encouraged Young to use her pen and personal influence to spread the missionary cause wherever she went. They also added, "It may be that God, in His adorable Providence, will at some future time indicate that you should go forth to the work. You may then cheerfully and confidently wait upon him and he will guide into the path of duty."
Providence, indeed! The ink had scarcely dried on the Board's letter of December 4, when Virginia Young proudly announced her upcoming nuptials with I. J. Roberts. The details of how the happy couple met are long lost, but Roberts had numerous friends in Kentucky who knew he was single and looking and that she was single and available. It seemed like a match made in heaven - it wasn't, but it looked that way. And so, in the summer, 1850, the newly-weds sailed for China.
It would be nice if one could say they lived happily ever after, but they did not, in fact, Roberts' prior difficulties with the Board and his fellow missionaries scarcely amounted to a dress rehearsal for the firestorm to come. Between fall, 1850, and winter, 1851, life changed dramatically for everyone associated with the work in China. The difficulties the mission experienced during this time would forever shape all Southern Baptist missionary efforts. Indeed, this period will demonstrate why Roberts could well be the SBC's most important missionary, character notwithstanding.
It is difficult to say if Roberts knew the Board had sent a single female to China. But, imagine his shock to arrive in China with his new wife in tow and a single American female
missionary in Canton. On a personal level, the best he could hope for was that the Board had NOT shared his emotive sonnets with the single female missionary who had NOT united with him in holy wedlock. On a less-than-professional professional level, Roberts immediately disliked Harriet Baker and showed nothing but contempt for the co-laborer for whom he had literally begged. The opportunities he had touted for a single female missionary vanished and Baker soon learned just how miserable Roberts could make her life. He was obviously displeased with her presence and Baker complained to the Board that Roberts only allowed her $6.00 per month for a language teacher when good ones commanded at least $8.00. There could be no mistake: Roberts wanted nothing to do with Harriet A. Baker.
The situation worsened as news of what must surely be the most bizarre incident in the history of Southern Baptist missions filtered back to Richmond. Apparently, Harriet Baker lived with the Roberts family once they returned to China. But, housing was scarce and expensive. Therefore, the trio moved in with Rev. J. G. Bridgman, a Congregational missionary in China. Later reports suggest that Bridgman had been showing signs of mental instability for some time and on December 1,1850, he slit his throat with a razor and he later died on December 6. Virginia Roberts and Harriet Baker were alone in the house with Bridgman and I. J. Roberts was some distance away on a preaching tour. Fearing for their lives, the horrified women locked themselves in their rooms and began writing desperate notes for help that they hoped the house servants could deliver to someone who could render aid. Eventually, Rev. J. B. French found his way to the Bridgman residence and found Miss Baker sitting on the stairs, while Virginia Roberts remained in her room. It was not long before one of the house servants returned with word from Roberts. He addressed his comments to his wife but an excited Harriet Baker tore the note open and read, "Let the dead bury the dead, I must preach the gospel. Mr. B. has enough of his own Board to attend him." It hardly mattered that Roberts had scribbled his incomprehensible reply on the very note that had pleaded for his help.
News of Bridgman's suicide and Roberts' callous note spread quickly to the other missionaries. Once they were over their shock, they demanded answers from Roberts for his outrageous behavior. Instead of explaining himself, Roberts blamed Harriet Baker for spreading malicious rumors about him. He reasoned that if Baker had minded her own business and not read mail intended for someone else, most of the subsequent unpleasantness could have been avoided. Baker apparently apologized repeatedly but Roberts would hear none of it and the other missionaries on the scene took note. They demanded that Roberts apologize for his actions which he eventually did, but not before Harriet Baker had left the Canton mission and sailed for Shanghai.
The Foreign Mission Board had finally had enough. la the summer, 1851, they decided to sever their association with I. J. Roberts. Upon learning that he had been terminated, a somewhat contrite Roberts wrote, "I received the painful intelligence of your resolution by which our connection has been temporarily dissolved." He was confident that the Board would restore him once they knew the whole story, and that he would be allowed to serve out the "remnant" of his life enjoying the Board's "prayers, sympathies, and support." The Board, however, did not intend to reinstate Roberts regardless of how eloquently he stated his case.
Another missionary might have seen his dismissal from the Board as a sure sign that he needed to repent from certain sins and seek forgiveness, but not Roberts. Instead, he launched a blistering attack against the Foreign Mission Board. In October, 1852 he made the front page of The Western Recorder, the denomination's flagship paper in Kentucky. Roberts complained
that the Board had mistreated him, and their failure to support him had injured his poor wife's health (actually, she had been ill since arriving in China). Roberts claimed that he and his wife were destitute and he promised a full disclosure of his recent unpleasantries with the Board, but at the end of his first broadside he did the unthinkable. He appended a brief note that said, "Will 'The Tennessee Baptist' and 'The Southwestern Baptist' please copy?" It was common practice for nineteenth century newspapers to copy material from other papers. However, The Tennessee Baptist and The Southwestern Baptist (Alabama), along with The Western Recorder were among the most widely read Baptist papers in the South. To make matters worse, J. R. Graves had assumed editorial duties of the Tennessee paper in 1848 and his disdain for overly bureaucratic denominationalism, not to mention his Landmarkism, was earning notoriety throughout the south. Before long, both papers had entered the fray and the battle was on.
The Foreign Mission Board hoped that they could part company with Roberts quietly. After all, he had served in China for a number of years at his own expense and the Board had no desire to air their "dirty laundry," especially if it would embarrass everyone connected with Southern Baptist work in China. Roberts, however, had no such scruples. He bemoaned his fate in page after tortuous page of the denominational papers. He also published correspondence between himself and the Board, as well as testimonials from others who swore that Roberts' character was above reproach.
It became obvious that Roberts wanted to turn Southern Baptists against their own Foreign Board. Many believed he had been wronged. One individual wrote The Western Recorder and exclaimed, "... if I had hereto felt no love for him, for his own or the work's sake, I now, at least, would love him for the Christian character in his letters." The writer further stated that many Tennesseans believed the Board had erred in dismissing Roberts. "Indeed," the writer said, "quite a number of us set forth our objections, and most respectfully petition the Board to reconsider the grounds of objection, and, if possible, restore Brother Roberts."
The Board members knew they faced a serious problem. Had they dismissed Roberts too hastily? Had they judged him too harshly? How would they respond to the mounting criticism? Unknown to the public, the Board was receiving so much information on Roberts that they were conducting what amounted to an ongoing investigation into his conduct and ministry in China. It is safe to say that they were unprepared for what they would learn about their work in China in general and Roberts in particular.
At first, missionaries rallied around Harriet Baker. Her most outspoken advocate, Matthew Yates, was a veteran missionary with a sterling character and reputation. In January 1851, Yates informed the Board that Roberts did not want Baker living in the same house with him and his wife. One month later he wrote, that Baker had moved to Shanghai because Roberts had "driven her from Canton." Yates characterized Roberts' conduct as "outrageous, unmanly, and unchristian." He further noted that few in China had a kind word for him and many Chinese nationals, men Roberts had know for some 15 years now refused to work with him. "I speak advisedly," said Yates, "when I say our Board is greatly depreciated in China by its connection with Mr. R. This feature is manifested still more clearly since his return, as but few expected he would be sent back."
While Yates may have defended Baker's character during the "Roberts Fiasco," he minced no words regarding her role in China. Yates saw no room for single female school teachers in China. He chided the Board for sending Baker to China without communicating their intentions to the missionaries on the field, but, of course, that may have been because the
Board had no specific plan for Baker. Should she establish a day school or a boarding school? Should she work exclusively with children or with children and adult women? Baker informed Yates that before leaving America she had been instructed to "think and act" independently. Obviously annoyed, Yates grumped to the Board, "I hardly think you intended by your instructions to convey the idea that your missionaries were to be independent of each other." He further argued that a single female could not do a missionary's work without "gross insult," and if they even had place in the work it was only in boarding schools where they would remain indoors. Even then, he saw little reason to educate Chinese girls when they would only become, "the wives of heathen or of the young men educated by Pedo-Baptist Missions." Other missionaries, including J. Lewis Shuck, the Foreign Board's first appointed missionary, expressed similar misgivings about schools and female education. In 1854, Harriet Baker grew weary of her struggles, resigned her appointment and returned to America.
As the Board pondered its mission philosophy and what to do about single female missionaries, I. J. Roberts made news once again. Having severed his connection from the Boston Board and having "been severed" from the Richmond Board, Roberts offered a new scheme for Chinese mission work. On December 7, 1854, The Southwestern Baptist carried a lengthy article detailing Roberts' ideal scenario for winning China for Christ. The editor noted that Roberts' text was to long to reproduce in toto, and while he neither approved nor disapproved of the plan, he claimed that he had reproduced sufficient text for interested readers to determine the plan's feasibility for themselves.
Roberts' plan was fairly simple. He wanted to create a "Committee of Cooperation" that consisted of all male missionaries. This proposed Committee would be open to anyone who was willing to work cooperatively with the other members of the Committee and Tae Ping Wang, a Chinese Baptist preacher and one of Roberts' most capable native assistants. Specifically, each Committee member would be a Baptist, of course, and each would need a recommendation form their home church or sponsoring missionary society. Each member would have equal standing in the Committee. Further, the Committee would draft its own constitution, subject to annual review and amendment. Finally, the Committee would meet annually in Nanking, China.
Roberts believed that his plan offered missionaries a measure of "individual" freedom. He had served as an independent missionary and with both the "Boston" and "Richmond" Boards. As he saw it, mission Boards restricted missionary freedom, especially in areas like buying and selling real estate and where to establish new works. A local Committee could make such decisions faster and more wisely than a Board several thousand miles away. Hence, he believed the work in China would grow through efficiency.
As functional as his plan may appear, it is obvious that Roberts was still smarting from his dismissal as a Southern Baptist missionary. He claimed that his Committee would remove the stigma of inequality between Boards and missionaries, a stigma that amounted to an employer / employee relationship. "Except we do as the Board wish," he complained, "we shall forfeit our bread at their option: while the members of the Board are at liberty to speak, act and vote as they please!" Speaking of voting, Roberts felt duty bound to offer the rather pungent insight that boards could dismiss missionaries but missionaries could not dismiss their boards. Furthermore, Roberts believed his Committee would promote harmony among the missionaries by eliminating "tattle tale" reports that left the Board only partially informed about what was really happening on the field.
Roberts' "Grand Plan" may have touched a nerve with the Board in Richmond. When the Southern Baptist Convention met in 1855 the Foreign Board decided to publish the findings of their investigation into I. J. Roberts' conduct. The Board reported that in their opinion they had treated Roberts fairly throughout his brief tenure as their missionary. They expressed their displeasure that he had undermined the Board by attacking them in denominational newspapers. They also assured the Convention that Roberts had been given opportunities to explain his actions but that such explanations were seldom satisfying.
The Board's report to the Convention is 2 pages long but the full report is over 20 pages type-written, single spaced. Among other things, the Board noted that, "After mature deliberation, we believe that the interests of the Board, and of the cause of missions have seriously suffered, and will continue to suffer by his (Roberts) remaining as our missionary." The Board noted that Roberts had consistently disregarded their wishes and disrespected other missionaries. The final report quoted extensively from missionary B. H. Whildon who questioned nearly every facet of Roberts' character. He accused Roberts of encouraging deceitful behavior among his native assistants and lying about his work in his reports to the Board. "I feel deeply pained," Whildon said, "when I think of the erroneous impressions which have been made on the minds of those who read Mr. Roberts' statements. Things in Canton are not as I expected to find them; and from what I know of Mr. Roberts' disregard for truth, he has ... the tendency to excite in my mind suspicion whenever I read his statements." The Board further noted for record that Roberts' difficulties with Harriet Baker were not the sole reason for his dismissal. Rather, Baker's mistreatment was merely the last episode in a drama that had played longer than it should. If anything, the Board admitted that they should have dismissed Roberts when he was on furlough - as Matthew Yates had thought they might.
Roberts began to lose support once word began to leak regarding the Board's complete findings. Southern Baptists did not appreciate his "mishandling" of the truth and their enthusiasm for him waned when they learned that he really had been undermining the Board, its work, and other missionaries. Roberts must have been especially stunned to read the September 29, 1855 edition of The Tennessee Baptist and learn that both J. M. Pendleton and J. R. Graves were repudiating their association with him. "Suppose," said Graves, "that the Board should recall other missionaries, as unworthy or unfit for the work, would we who love missions be warranted on favoring a new mission for each, and at the same time support the Board at Richmond? We think not." Graves pledged to help Roberts if he became destitute but only because he was a suffering brother in Christ.
Despite his rejection from Baptists in the north and south, Roberts was unable to get his life under control. His wife, Virginia, resigned her appointment in 1852 for health reasons and moved back to America, finally settling in St. Louis, Missouri. Roberts remained in China until he finally returned to America in 1866. He lived with a niece in Upper Alton, Illinois (not St. Louis with Mrs. Roberts). On December 28,18711. J. Roberts died of leprosy. He left his estate, including real estate in China, to R. H. Graves, a Southern Baptist missionary in China. The Board was less than amused. They told Graves they would not prohibit him from receiving Roberts' estate but reminded him how difficult it might be to pass the property along to succeeding generations. Finally, and regrettably, the last mention of Virginia Young Roberts indicates that she asked the Foreign Mission Board for a portion of Roberts' estate, seeing that he left her with nothing. The Board undoubtedly understood her plight, but they had no authority to grant her request.
The saga of I. J. Roberts is far more than mission field melodrama, Southern Baptist style. Roberts' brief stint as a Southern Baptist missionary raised a number of questions regarding how missionaries pursued their calling, how they related to one another as well as others at home, and how they related to the Board. A careful examination of these issues reveals why Roberts ranks among the SBC's most important missionaries.
First, Roberts' shenanigans forced the Foreign Mission Board to create its own distinct identity at an early stage in its history. The Foreign Board had been established in 1845 but beyond that, what would or could it do? How would the Board deal with "unruly" missionaries? Would the Board terminate a problem missionary? How staunchly would the Board defend its "turf and how rigidly would they enforce their rules? Each of these questions hinged on one fundamental issue, namely, the Board's authority. In 1845 no one could say precisely what the Board would do if a missionary dishonored himself / herself, the mission, or the Lord. By 1855, however, every Southern Baptist knew where the Board stood. Thus, I. J. Roberts set precedents for disciplinary procedures and proved once and for all that the Board would indeed terminate a missionary's appointment under extreme circumstances. Further, the Board's dealings with I. J. Roberts settled an issue that every mission-minded denomination in the nineteenth century faced, namely, who directed the work, missionaries on the field or the Board back home? The Foreign Board displayed considerable trust in their missionaries, Roberts notwithstanding, and their missionaries enjoyed great latitude in directing their work, but the Board claimed final say over how the missionaries did their work.
In addition to forcing the Board to define its role in administrating missionary activity, Roberts played an important role in shaping Southern Baptist journalism. Between 1820 and 1920, Americans enjoyed a veritable "Golden Age" of religious journalism. Of course, Southern Baptists did not have their own permanent publishing house until 1891. This was due partially to the American Baptist Publishing Society, as well as numerous outstanding newspapers like The Tennessee Baptist, The Southwestern Baptist, and The Western Recorder, and so on. These papers printed every thing from doctrinal treatises and serial novels, to denominational doings and want ads. At a time when many preachers had few educational opportunities the papers kept them informed and provided a measure of informal Bible training.
In Roberts' case, the newspapers played two different roles. On the one hand, they gave Roberts a platform to air his grievances. The Foreign Board never challenged Roberts' right to use the religious media. They could not. Many missionaries kept the home folks informed missionary doings via the state papers. The Board did not appreciate Roberts' misusing the media - and neither did rank-in-file Southern Baptists once they learned the truth. No the other hand, Roberts' strategy backfired and the media that initially supported him turned to the Board. In other words, the Roberts Fiasco generated support for the Board and thereby helped solidify its hold on the Southern Baptist imagination as THEIR missionary agency. It also helped define the media's role in shaping the emerging denomination.
As for women, I. J. Roberts was instrumental in getting single, female Southern Baptist missionaries on the field. The Board took him seriously when he said that single women had a significant role to play in China. Unfortunately, his mistreatment of Harriet Baker set women, especially single women, back by at least 20 years. The Board would not consider sending another single female to China until Edmonia Moon in 1872 and even then, she immediately went to work with T. P and Martha Crawford in northern China. Edmonia's more celebrated sister, Lottie, began changing the role of Southern Baptist women on the field, but that is another
story. Suffice it to say that single women became a regular feature of Southern Baptist missionary efforts. By 1920, Southern Baptists had appointed some 375 missionaries to China, 113 of whom were single females. When one considers married and single females together, the Board's female appointments to China outnumbered the male appointments by a ratio of 2:1.
If Robert's request for a single female offered new opportunities for women, it also raised the issue of "proper spheres" of service. Matthew Yates and numerous other missionaries made it clear that to their way of thinking, women should have limited roles, if they were permitted roles at all. Harriet Baker and the Moon sisters could teach and that raised an entirely different set of questions about mission methodology. Was it right to create schools (day or boarding) to spread the gospel? Over time, Southern Baptists grew more comfortable with women on the field and evangelizing Chinese children in schools. They also warmed to the idea that women really could reach women. They absorbed Lottie Moon's stirring accounts of her own "country work," a type of direct evangelism where she shared Christ in Chinese villages woman to woman - and sometimes woman to man. Moon carefully reminded her readers that if there were a sufficient number of men on the field, no one need worry that women occasionally stepped over the "gender line" to share the gospel. Any way, Harriet Baker opened the door for missionary teachers and later nurses, even doctors, to answer God's call to serve Him in China - and I. J. Roberts had opened the door for Harriet Baker.
Finally, I. J. Roberts' tenure as a Southern Baptist missionary raised important questions regarding the way missionaries ordered their lives on the field. How did they adjust to their new homes and calling? How did they conduct their daily business? How did they interact with missionaries of other denominations? After all, J. G. Bridgman was a Congregationalist. Was it common practice for Baptists to live with non-Baptists? The answer to that question is, no, it was not. Then again, missionaries were foreigners living in a strange land and they sometimes adapted to their circumstances as a matter of survival. Lottie Moon's correspondence indicates that she interacted with non-Baptists on personal and professional levels. On one occasion she informed Board that missionaries lived according to certain "unwritten rules," one of which was that missionaries would not tell their Boards about another missionary's personal problems. Unfortunately, this is the only "unwritten rule" she shared and one is left to wonder about possible areas where they interacted?
Thus, we end our saga of Issacar Jacox Roberts, perhaps appropriately, with more questions than answers. Controversy marked every facet of his career. Yet, he always had an answer for his critics - or, so he thought. He alienated nearly everyone he ever met except for his staunchest supporters who only had to deal with him once every 10 years or so. His callous insensitivity cost him his marriage and his appointment as a Southern Baptist missionary in China. Even so, he ranks among the SBC's most important missionaries even if it is for the worst reasons.
THE RED RIVER REVIVAL
By Hughlan P. Richey
Retired Baptist Pastor
Director of Missions, Little Bethel Association
In 1790, the population of Kentucky was 73,677. In 1800, the population was 220,955. Between 1794 and 1800, the national membership of the Methodist Church decreased from 67,643 to 61,351. Kentucky's population almost triples, and yet church population declines! This would soon change when hearts would be transformed by a mighty move of God that would become known as the Second Great Awakening, which began in the wilderness of Kentucky. The original Red River Presbyterian church was located near Red River, near Maulding Fort, and about three miles northeast of Adairville, Kentucky. Maulding's Fort was built in 1780 by early Scotch-Irish settlers for protection against the Indians. Graves and gravestones in the church-yard of Red River tell their own story. They mark the resting places of many of those who came, principally by way of two ports: Philadelphia and Charleston, to Kentucky through Virginia and North Carolina. The tombstone of one man born in the highlands of Scotland bears an inscription of the Twenty-third Psalm written in Gaelic. Generals, Colonels, Majors and other soldiers who fought in our country's wars from the beginning are buried there. There is even the grave of one who fought in the Battle of Waterloo. But more important than the graveyard are the events that took place in the church which not only changed the hearts of men but changed the moral future of our nation. Almost two hundred years ago, revival swept through the United States; this movement was called the Second Great Awakening. This revival began in June of 1800 in Logan County, Kentucky, at the Red River Meeting House near the present day community of Schochoh. The pastor of this church was Reverend James McGready.
McGready was bom about 1760 in Pennsylvania to Scotch Irish Presbyterian parents who moved to North Carolina in 1778. When he was older, McGready returned to Pennsylvania to study under two Presbyterian evangelists: Joseph Smith and John McMillian, who taught him to be a fiery preacher. In 1788, he returned to North Carolina where his intense preaching met with stiff opposition from the "better" classes of people whom he charged with hypocrisy, materialism and sin. McGready left North Carolina after his life was threatened; blood smeared on his pulpit convinced him that his life was in danger and he moved to Logan County, Kentucky, to an area known as Rogue's Harbor or Satan's Stronghold. He took charge of three small churches: the Red River, Muddy River and Gasper River Churches (1797); and for the next two years he preached without any great deal of success. Yet, he did convince his small congregations to fast on the third Saturday of each month and to pray on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings for the conversion of sinners in Logan County. McGready worked hard, preaching and praying during these two years with steady results, but nothing spectacular happened until the power of God manifested itself at a service in the Red River Church and the Gasper River Church in July of 1799. When revival broke out, dozens of members in the congregations were 'slain in the spirit' as the Holy Spirit moved in the services. When the news spread around the countryside, anticipation for what might happen at the next meeting stirred the curiosity of everyone and interest soared. But, a cold winter caused larger meetings to be postponed in the overflowing churches. In June of 1800, several hundred devout Christians met for a communion service at the Red River Meeting House. The congregation was composed of McGready's three churches. McGready was assisted by four other men: John Rankin and Reverend William Hodge, also two brothers named John and William McGee.
People came from a one hundred mile radius to attend the four day communion service and this became known as the first camp meeting. Crowds came with camping supplies so they could stay through the entire meeting time. The first three days were pretty normal with people praying, rejoicing and tears of joy. The services came to their peak on the last day when John McGee stood to give the closing exhortation which he described in these words: "(I exhorted them to let the Lord omnipotent reign in their hearts, and submit to Him, and their souls should live...! turned again and losing sight of fear of man, I went through the house shouting and exhorting with all possible ecstacy and energy, and the floor was soon covered by the slain."
After the Red River meetings, news of the happenings there spread quickly and McGready decided to make the most of it by holding a communion meeting at the Gasper River Church and publicized it would be greater in number and spiritual movements. The services were held continuously from dawn until dusk with the preachers rotating their sermons. It was impossible for everyone to be seated in the meeting house; therefore, services were held inside while also outside in the open air. McGready described the miraculous happenings: "No person seemed to wish to go home-hunger and sleep seems to affect nobody - eternal things were the vast concern. Here awakenings and converting work was to be found in every part of the multitude. Sober professors, who had been communicants for many years, now lying prostrate on the ground, crying out in such language as this: 'O! How I would have despised any person a few days ago, who would have acted as I am doing now! But I cannot help it!' Persons of every description, white and black, were to be found in every part of the multitude ... crying out for mercy in the most extreme distress."
This mighty move of God spread to other churches in various parts of the United States. It burned as wildfire, consuming the hearts of everyone in its path. The Red River revival is an important event in our Christian heritage and has become known as the Second Great Awakening.
Anyone who has done any historical research will know that the more you study on a subject the more contradictions you may encounter. This is especially true when some accounts rely on a person's memory or point of view. Arguing over details is a job best left to historians and since the purpose here is not to prove or disprove facts, but to show the importance of what began almost 200 years ago in a little log church in Logan County, Kentucky.
Religion in Antebellum Kentucky by John B. Boles, Exploring Evangelism by Mendell Taylor, "Red River Meeting House" by Ruston Flowers, "Red River Church and the Revival of 1800" by Rev. Hughlan P. Richey, "A Look Forward into Our Past" by Frank Jarboe.
The Church That Ordained J. R. Graves
Editor's note: The Mount Freeedom Baptist Church of Jessamine County, Kentucky, is significant in that when J. R. Graves came to Kentucky in 1841, he united with this church and she licensed and ordained him. He was twenty-one years old when he came to Mount Freedom and stayed there four years before moving on to Nashsville, Tennessee. As will be noted in this history, the church in 1838 had taken a doctrinal stand on two specific issues: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
"1st Query: Is it right that a member of this church should commune with any other church that is not of the same faith and order? Answer: No."
"2nd Query: Is it right for this church to receive a member's baptism valid that was baptized by another society, that is not of the same faith and order with us? Answer: In the negative."
Many Baptist churches in central Kentucky had been ravaged by the teachings of Alexander Campbell; this church shortly after it was constituted in 1832 wrote a strong statement against Mr. Campbell's doctrine.
Many indicate that J. R. Graves developed the "Landmark System," that emphasizes the doctrine of the local church and its ordinances in the early 1850s, but this document (see below) shows he was influenced as a young man by the actions of Mount Freedom Baptist Church; there are many antecedents to the written statements of J. R. Graves and others at Cotton Grove, Tennessee, where Landmarkism was supposed to have been birthed. - Jim Duvall
Mount Freedom Baptist Church
Jessamine County, Kentucky
Constituted in 1832
By S. J. Conkwright, 1923
Mt. Freedom Church had two locations in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The first location was two miles east of Wilmore, on the Shaker Ferry turnpike; the old meeting house is still standing, but is now used as a barn. The second location is at Wilmore, in Jessamine County, where they have a splendid brick building, erected in 1903, and dedicated the same year, the dedicatory sermon being delivered by Dr. W. H. Felix.
The constitution of this church is described in the record book as follows: "Jessamine County, Kentucky, the Friday before the third Saturday in September, 1832. Agreeable to a former appointment for the constitution of a Baptist church of the United Order of Baptists, at the above place. There were messengers to assist in the constitution from Hickman, Mt. Gilead, Boggs' Fork, Shawnee Run and Mt. Pleasant churches. Brother John Rice was chosen moderator and Brother R. L. Steinbergin clerk of the presbytery."
It is presumed that the new organization was composed of twelve members, as the church united with Boone's Creek Association the day following its constitution, and reported a membership of twelve, her messengers being B. P. Evans and Isaac Crisman.
The church adopted as their articles of faith the terms of the General Union of 1801, between the Separate and Regular Baptists. The following resolution was also adopted on the day of their constitution: "Owing to the many strange doctrines lately propagated among the Baptist denomination, and in order that society and the world may know our opinion, we do solemnly
protest against the doctrines of the Rev. Alexander Campbell and all its adherents."
In October, 1852, Brother B. P. Evans was elected clerk of the church, and he continued to serve faithfully in this position for eleven years. At the same meeting Brother Josiah Minter was invited to exercise his gift of prayer and exhortation for the church and elsewhere, as he may see proper. On motion, Elder John Rice was called as pastor, but inasmuch as they never received an answer from him, the church extended a call to Elder John Dean in May, 1833, which he accepted and served as their pastor until January, 1834. In August, 1833, Isaac Crisman was chosen a deacon. In April, 1836, Gabriel Slaughter was chosen a deacon.
Elder John Rice had preached for them from January, 1834, to April, 1837, but it does not appear clear from the records whether or not he accepted the pastorate during that time. Elder Edward Waller accepted the care of the church in April, 1837, serving them for one year.
During the annual session of Boone's Creek Association, which was held with Mt. Freedom Church in 1837, the subject of foreign missions was brought before that body in the following manner: "The Association took up the question of Hickman Church in relation to raising a fund to aid the American Foreign Bible Society sending the word of God to the heathen, and adopted the following resolution, to wit: 'Resolved, that the Association believes the Bible cause to be the cause of God and worthy of the efforts of every Christian, we therefore recommend to the churches composing the Association to take the matter into consideration and report their views on the subject and send on their subscriptions and contributions to our next Association to aid the Society in its operations.'"
According to the records of the next annual Association, Mt. Freedom was the only church in Boone's Creek Association to give anything for foreign missions, in the fall of 1837, a series of meetings was conducted by Elders Josiah Leak, Dennis Moss and Mason Owens, which resulted in thirty-three being added to the church by experience and baptism. After the close of the meeting Elder Josiah Leak accepted the care of the church, serving them until November, 1838. In January, 1838, on a motion made by Joseph Minter, the following two questions were put to a vote.
1st Query: Is it right that a member of this church should commune with any other church that is not of the same faith and order? Answer: No."
"2nd Query: Is it right for this church to receive a member's baptism valid that was baptized by another society, that is not of the same faith and order with us? Answer: In the negative."
After the vote Brother Minter being satisfied with the action of the church, declines requesting a letter of dismissal. In April, 1838, Joseph Minter and Joseph Curd were elected deacons. In June, 1838, the church voted to hold a prayer meeting on the first Sunday in each month. One of their members, Brother Robert Melvin, was ordained to the ministry.
Elder Mason Owens accepted the pastorate in February, 1841. The church agreed to pay him $150.00 a year for his services. This is the first record of this church having remunerated a pastor for his services. In May, 1841, Henry Ballard was chosen a deacon. Robert Rowland and James Graves were licensed by the church, an May, 1842, to exercise their gift of preaching and exhortation. Elder Thomas J. Fisher, assisted by the pastor, Mason Owens, held a series of meetings in July, 1842, when there was added to the church by experience and baptism, fifty white and twenty-eight black members. In August, 1842, Peter Campbell and Harrison Wilson were chosen deacons.
James R. Graves and A. G. Rowland were ordained to the ministry from Mt. Freedom Church in October, 1842. Brother Graves was quite a useful man to the Baptist denomination,
and became editor of the Tennessee Baptist in 1846, which he published in Nashville until the Civil War caused its suspension. After the war he continued the publication from Memphis, Tenn., for years. His industry, energy and activity were almost matchless. Although living most of his life in Tennessee, he labored much in Southern Kentucky.
On motion, the church, at its meeting in December, 1842, agreed to request their pastor, Mason Owens, to preach two Sundays in each month. Thomas Hawkins was elected clerk in February, 1843. The following month, W. L. Ballard was elected clerk. In April, of the same year, the church invited Elder James R. Graves and R. G. Rowland to preach for them once a month. We do not think this means the pastoral call of the church, as Elder Mason Owens was still their pastor. In June, 1843, the church decided to build a house of worship. It is inferred from the records that the house they had been using was also used by others of different faith. They selected a lot adjoining the one they had been using.
A series of meetings was held in September, 1843, the pastor being assisted by Elder Willis Peek; the meeting resulted in fourteen additions to the church. In January, 1844, the church agreed to observe the Lord's Supper once every two months, instead of once every three months, as had previously been her custom. Thomas Hawkins was elected clerk at this meeting. In January, 1846, the church went into the investigation of some difficulty involving the pastor, Brother Owens, and Brother P. Campbell. Brother Campbell having insinuated that he had some objections to Brother Owens, the church called on him to state them, which he did, to the effect that Brother Owens had a fiddle in his house and that he had heard him trying to play it. The church dismissed the matter, and appointed a committee of four to try and reconcile the aggrieved brethren. In a short time the difficulty was settled. But when Elder Owens' time for which he had been called as pastor expired the following month, he declined to accept another call. In April, 1846, on motion, the part of the minutes of the January meeting that had reference to Brethren Owens and Campbell were ordered to be expunged from the records. In May, 1846, the church went into the call of a pastor, but could not agree on one.
About this time, a difficulty arose in the church, charges and counter-charges being made against certain members. This became quite serious, and referees were called in to see if they could not adjust the matter, but their efforts were fruitless, and the difficulty increased, finally resulting in two letters being sent to Boone's Creek Association, in 1847, each claiming to be from Mt. Freedom Church. Both letters were read and neither received by the Association, the church being declared in disorder. Whereupon letters were sent to the different churches composing the Association, requesting helps from them, to meet at Mt. Freedom Church on October 29th and 30th, 1847, to ascertain who were the true church. On the dates mentioned, committees from six churches met at Mt. Freedom Church, and selected Ambrose Bush, moderator of Boone's Creek Association, as chairman of the meeting. After a thorough investigation the convention decided that the portion of the church who were in possession of the church records were the true Church of Mt. Freedom.
In the following November, Elder Edward Darnaby was called as pastor, and the proceedings of the convention from the several churches, held in October, were ordered to be printed and distributed among the churches. In August of the same year, Thomas Hawkins was released from the clerkship, and John Bradshaw chosen clerk. Elder T. I. Drane accepted the pastorate in January, 1848, and served them for three years.
In October, 1851, we find the following entry: "On motion, the church appointed the following Brethren, I. Curd, James Minter, Thomas Hawkins, and J. Bradshaw, a committee to confer
with the Methodist friends in selecting a preacher on our part for the purpose of dedicating the new house at this place." We infer from this that the Baptists and Methodists had jointly erected a house of worship. Elder Robert Noland accepted the care of the church, serving them for one year. He was succeeded by Elder Strother Cook, who remained with them until the latter part of the year 1853. James Dorman was chosen clerk of the church in January, 1852. Elder Rowland became pastor in February, 1854, and he was succeeded by Elder Jacob A. Ard, in April, 1856, who was in turn succeeded by Elder M. C. Clark. Elder Clark tendered his resignation in April, 1860, and was succeeded by Brother E. Neal, who was ordained to the ministry in November, 1860. Brother Neal was succeeded by Elder Strother Cook, a former pastor of the church, who began his pastorate in August, 1862.
In May, 1861, John Bradshaw and J. H. Wilson were chosen deacons. In December, of the same year, J. H. Wilson was elected church clerk. In August, 1863, the church, after the preaching service, elected her messengers to Boone's Creek Association, which was to hold its next annual session in September with Mt. Freedom Church. The church book states that all the minutes from August, 1863 to August 14, 1866, were lost. On the last named date we find this record: "On motion, a committee was appointed to prepare the statistics of the church and a letter to South District Association." However, at their meeting in September following, the church agreed to send a letter to Boone's Creek Association and in that letter request a letter of dismissal from the Association, which was granted. This terminated the connection of Mt. Freedom Church with Boone's Creek Association. The church entertained four annual sessions of Boone's Creek Association, in the years 1837, 1843, 1853, and 1863.
Here we leave them, except to say that presumably she did not become a member of South District Association, for her records show that in August, 1867, she sent her letter of dismissal from Boone's Creek Association together with her letter requesting admission into South Elkhorn Association, and is a member of that Association at the present time, and reported, in 1921, a membership of two hundred and seventy-eight, with a Sunday School enrollment of one hundred and seventy-four, her pastor being Dr. H. B. Gabby. At the same time she reported the valuation of church property at $30,500.00, including the parsonage.
Through the present efficient and obliging clerk, Brother J. Hunt Lowry, we have had access to the old church records of Mt. Freedom Church.
[From S. J. Conkwright, History of the Churches of Boone's Creek Baptist Association (KY), 1923.]
Baptist Faith and PracticeBy Rev. Thomas Armitage, D. D., 1890.
William J. McGlothlin, editor, Publications of the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society - No. 1
I. Sketch of the Life and Times of William Hickman, Sr., by W. P Harvey, D. D.
II. Subscription Paper of South Elkhorn Baptist Church, 1798.
III. A History of the Western Baptist Theological Institute of Covington, Ky., by W. C. James, Th. D.
Leo T. Crismon, editor, Publications of the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society - No. 4
"The Boone Family and Kentucky Baptists" By Leo T. Crismon, 1946
Spencer Journal Index