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J. H. Spencer's Difficulties as a Baptist Evangelist
During the American Civil War

From his Autobiography

      The year 1861 closed with a deep gloom over all the land. The great Civil War was already raging fiercely. The people in Kentucky were nearly equally divided on the question of the house. Fierce contentions prevailed in every neighborhood. Hot disputings were heard wherever two or three men were together. Families were divided, and many hearthstones where peace and happiness had hitherto prevailed were now embittered by made passions and bitter strife. Fathers were divided against sons and brothers against brothers in the deadly conflict of opposing armies. Many preachers were carried away by the wild storm of excitement and some after rendering themselves obnoxious to the military authorities, fled to the armies for protection. Others assumed the position of recruiting officers and wildly exhorted the young men to enlist in the armies. There was, in the nature of things, division of sentiment and sympathy in all the churches, and some of them, though much fewer than might have been expected, were actually split into factions, while many of them were left pastorless. Soldiers, "home guards" and guerrillas were scattered everywhere. Bad men, taking advantage of the disorganized state of society, became active thieves and robbers. The masses of the people were in such constant fear of losing their lives or their property that it was difficult to get their attention to the gospel.

      [1862] On the 22nd of August I went to Mt. Eden in Shelby County where I preached 11 days in Mt. Moriah meeting house. Bro. T. M. Gray was pastor and was with me. Most of the people in this neighborhood sympathized with the Federal party, and I believed several members who sympathized with the Southern Confederacy had been excluded, from the church, on account of their political views. The war excitement was very high. Some of the most prominent old members of the church sat in the congregation and read the daily papers in time of worship. For this indecorum I rebuked them before all. This caused me to be suspected of sympathizing with the rebellion and I was threatened by a mob and a halter. The meeting resulted in only one addition to the church.

      From Mt. Eden I returned home to meet my appointment at New Salem. But about the same time John [Hunt] Morgan came in with his ubiquitous cavalry and destroyed the railway bridge across Salt River, and was scouring the country in search of horses. I had no horse. Mr. Phil Kennedy offered to lend me [one] to ride to New Salem. But I was afraid to ride it, lest John Morgan should take it from me. There was no means left me but to walk. I never allowed any surmountable obstacle to keep me from an appointment; so I set off on foot. The distance was 32 miles. When I reached Shepherdsville I found it in possession of soldiers. I wheedled and bribed a sentinel to let me pass within the lines. But I found it more difficult to get out. I was detained under guard some 18 hours and then allowed to take the oath of fealty to the U. S. Government and pass through the lines. I reached the neighborhood of New Salem in time to meet my appointment. But the people had become too much disturbed by Morgan's raid, for me to get their attention: So after preaching three sermons and witnessing one addition to the church, I set out to return home. This time I went round Shepherdsville. A brother conducted me on horseback some 25 miles, and I walked the remainder of the distance, about 12 miles.


[Taken from J.H. Spencer's Autobiography. It is available at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY; this document is from The Spencer Journal, 2015, p. 29.]

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