The Great Revival Among the Baptists
When Rev. Robert Davidson, D. D., in his History of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, says: "Unlike the still small voice, or the softly flowing waters of Siloa, the great revival of 1800, rather resembled the whirlwind, the earthquake, the impetuous torrent, whose track was marked by violence and desolation," the description must be applied to its influence on the Pedo-Baptists, and not to that on the Baptists. The stormy violence was caused, not by preaching the gospel of the son of God, in a rustic log meeting-house, or a settler's cabin, singing praise to God with becoming gravity, tearfully exhorting sinners to repent, and meekly instructing the penitent in the way of salvation, "from house to house," with earnest humble prayer, but by thundering declamation from "the stand" at great sacramental gatherings and camp-meetings, shrieking rude choruses in the ears of the multitudes, yelling frantic exhortations "up and down the aisles" and shouting boisterous prayers from stentorian lungs. It was not the Holy Spirit, moving the hearts of the people to humility and repentance before God, that moved the multitudes to madness, but the stirring of human passions by wild acclamations and loud confused shouting.
Among the Baptists in Northern Kentucky, where they were by far the most numerous, the revival began, and continued to its close, in a decorous, orderly manner. In the upper Green River country and East Tennessee, where the Separate Baptists were most numerous, there was more excitement, and some falling and jerking. In Middle Tennessee (then called West Tennessee), "the strange exercises" did not prevail among the Baptists. In the lower Green River country, there were but few Baptists at the beginning of the revival, and we
hear of no disorder among them. It is certain that the Baptists of Kentucky were generally exempt from the excesses of the great revival of 1800, that so sorely afflicted the Presbyterians. And instead of its resulting in discord, it healed the only schism there was among them.
The great revival among the Baptists, so far as history records the facts, began on the northern border of the State. Its first appearance was at the mouth of Kentucky river, where was built the village of Port William (now Carrollton). This was a union meeting, the only one of which we are informed, that the Baptists engaged in during the revival. The Baptists were probably most prominent,1 but there were Methodists enough present to make the meetings noisy. John Taylor was present at one of the meetings, "very early in the spring of 1800." It was at the house of Benjamin Craig, a brother of the famous Lewis Craig. "From the dullness of my feelings," says Mr. Taylor, I took the text: 'Lord help me.'" After preaching, "they continued in prayer, praise and exhortation, with much noise at times, till late in the night. Some were rejoicing, having lately obtained deliverance, others were groaning in tears. Many people tarried all night to talk with me. I never heard the question: 'What must I do to be saved,' more prevalent in my life. A number of them neither lay down nor slept during the night. About sunrise next morning, I took my leave of this blessed company of young disciples. I had no desire to use food that day. I rode on with pensive reflection, calling up in my mind past days, when I had hoped the candle of the Lord shone on me. But by the multiplicity of the business of this little world, my affections had been stolen off from the Lord. My eyes would not only swim, but overflow with tears, as I rode along by myself."2
Mr. Taylor was on his way to what is now Trimble county. It was a new settlement. Being detained there several days on business, he held three night meetings in the cabins of the settlers. In these meetings he saw "some buddings of a revival." Out of these "buddings" grew Corn Creek church, before the year closed. From this place he went with a burdened soul to Clear Creek in Woodford county. Here he preached with
"great heart yearning for his old neighbors." That day he sowed in tears, and the harvest was plentiful. He turned his steps towards Bullittsburg, in Boone county, where he lived. "I almost dreaded to go home," says he, "fearing I should be unprofitable. Poor Bullittsburg now appeared like a deserted cottage in the wilderness." When he reached home, he found a new social feature in the neighborhood. A Captain DePew who had married a relative of Mr. Taylor's wife, had encouraged dancing at his house, and the amusement had become so popular that even the church members did not restrain their children from attending the balls. A marriage in the neighborhood had given an occasion for several days' dancing, the last dance being at Capt. DePew's, near the meeting-house, and on church-meeting day. "That night," says Mr. Taylor, "I had meeting near the place. But few attended, though I heard they had a crowded house at the infare. Two young ladies left the dance and came almost alone to the meeting. This was some encouragement that the devil did not reign sole monarch of this lower world. Next day, was preaching at our meeting-house. It was a usual thing, notwithstanding the vanity of youth, for all to come to meeting, especially on Sundays. We had a crowded house, and perhaps all the dancers were there.
Mrs. DePew had endeavored to strengthen her female disciples, before they went to meeting, by saying to them: 'Girls, we shall hear enough of our dancing to-day, but let us not mind what Mr. Taylor says, we are at liberty, and will do as we please, let him say what he will,' I never had been so thoroughly cowed down by discouragement in a ministry of twenty-five years. I really thought I had better be dead than alive, for I felt that Satan had gotten the mastery where I lived. I could say from my soul; 'Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech, and that I dwell in the tents of Kedar.' I preached from the words; 'My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel, is, that they might be saved. Soon after I began, a set of feelings overtook me, that exceeded anything I ever felt in public speaking. They consisted of a profuse weeping that I could not suppress, while I made a comparison of the then state of Israel, with my poor neighbors. The whole assembly seemed to reciprocate my feelings; perhaps there was not a dry eye in the whole house, Mrs. DePew exceeded in weeping. What the Lord did at this
meeting, entirely broke up all the dancing in the settlement,"2a
In this manner the great revival began at Bullittsburg church, early in the spring of 1800. This was a new settlement, and when the revival had continued more than a year, there were comparatively few adults in the neighborhood left out of the church. Within three years, 1463 were baptized. At Clear Creek in Woodford county, the revival progressed during the same period, principally under the ministry of Richard Cave, and the astonishing number of 3434 were baptized during the three years. Thus was John Taylor honored by God as the chosen instrument by which the great revival was begun among the Baptists. It will be remembered that the first revival which occurred in Kentucky, was under the ministry of Mr. Taylor, at Clear Creek, in 1785, and that the second revival that occurred in the country, also began under his labors, at the same church, in 1788.
In Franklin county, the revival began under the ministry of William Hickman, of whose labors we have the following account from his own pen: "to that date (1800) the church was under a decline. Zion had gone into her slumbers. At a meeting at my house, on Sunday afternoon, several preachers being present, there came a young married lady to meeting whom I had never seen before, as she had just moved into the neighborhood. In time of preaching I observed tears flowing from her eyes. This gave me an uncommon feeling. I thought she was pierced with the sword of the Spirit. I think it gave me a travailing soul for the cause of God. She became an humble penitent, and, is now, I hope, in glory. Very shortly after this, I heard of three females under trouble, and inquiring the way to heaven. I started out to hunt the lost sheep. The first I went to see was a married lady. I conversed with her, and she satisfied me that she had been born again. I went to see two more the same day. The first was not at home, but had gone to where the other lived. I called there and found them both. We walked into the garden. Neither of them professed to be satisfied, but appeared humble beggars, at a throne of grace. At our monthly meeting which was near at hand, the first one I visited came forward and told us what the Lord had done
for her. She was cordially received. My dear brother Gano, though in a feeble state, like old Jacob, leaning on the top of his staff, spoke at the water, and I baptized her in the name of the Holy Trinity. The next meeting the other two came forward, and I baptized them. Blessed be God, the glorious work of God went on and prospered abundantly. Every meeting was crowded and many were converted to God. The work had now spread throughout the State. For two or three years great additions were made to the churches, not only in Kentucky, but also in Virginia and other States. I suppose I baptized more than five hundred in the course of two years."5
It may as well be observed here, that protracted meetings, as we term them, were not in vogue at that period. Meetings were held monthly, as now, at the meeting houses. During revivals, which generally lasted from one to three years, night meetings would be held at private houses, two or three times a week. When people were seeking religion, it was generally known all over the neighborhood. They would often go to the preacher, or the most pious and intelligent members of the church for encouragement and instruction, and the preacher and other church members would visit them for the same purpose. As observed by Mr. Hickman by the close of the year 1800, the revival had spread to all parts of the State. Immense numbers were added to the churches. The few churches scattered in the thinly settled portions of the State, lying south of Green river, and north of that stream, below the mouth of Salt river, were all small, and we have few particulars of their statistics previous to the beginning of the revival; but the general statistics show that the number of Baptists in those regions were more than trebled. From most of the churches in the older settlements, we have official statistics. The revival proceeded much in the same way, in all these churches. The preaching was doctrinal rather than hortatory. The exhortations were fervent and made up largely of Scripture quotations, as were also the prayers. The songs were of Watts' collection, and were sung slowly and gravely.
At Severns Valley, in Hardin county, the revival commenced in 1801. The meetings were conducted by the venerable
Joshua Morris. Meetings were held once a month on Saturday and Sunday, and members were received on Saturday and baptized on Sunday following. The church records exhibit the following items: In September prayed at opening, and received seven members by experience. In October met praying. November, had no business to do but to praise God and receive twenty members. In December, received nine members. In January, 1802, received twenty-two. In this manner the work proceeded till one hundred and forty-six were received. In 1801, the church numbered only forty-seven members. Hon. Samuel Haycraft thus describes the baptismal scene as it occurred in January, 1802: "The writer remembers the day, sixty-nine years now past. The weather was mild for the season, and the baptismal scene, on the Valley creek, was a solemn and pleasant occasion. A vast crowd stood upon the banks, as one after another stepped into the stream and was buried with Christ in baptism. At the slight intervals, hymns of praise and shouts of rejoicing rent the air. I never can forget it. The venerable Morris was so filled that he seemed as one snatched up into the heavens. Although but a child, I was filled with solemn awe."
At South Elkhorn, the oldest church north of the Kentucky river, the meetings during the revival were conducted by John Shackelford,, who was the last survivor of that noble band of christian heroes who preached the gospel through prison grates in Virginia. In 1800, the church numbered one hundred and twenty-seven. During the revival period, three hundred and eighteen were baptized.
At Bryants Station church, in Fayette county, the practical and conservative Ambrose Dudley was pastor. In 1800, the church numbered one hundred and seventy. During the revival period, four hundred and twenty-one were baptized. This was the largest number baptized in any one church.
Great Crossing is in Scott county. In 1800, it numbered one hundred and seven. Joseph Redding was the pastor. Four hundred and seven were baptized.
In something like these proportions did the churches increase in numbers throughout the State, except within the bounds of Bracken Association, where a revival had prevailed to a considerable extent in 1797. Happily our statistics for 1803 are nearly complete, so that we can approximate very
closely the numerical gain to the churches during the three years in which the revival prevailed.
At the beginning of the revival, in 1800, as seen in Chapter XXIV, there were six associations, besides that part of Mero District Association which lay in Kentucky, and several unassociated churches. Our table represented 7 associations, 106 churches, and 5,119 members. In 1803, there were 10 associations, 219 churches, and 15,495 members. This was a clear gain of 3 associations, 111 churches, and 10, 380 members, or a little more than trebling the number of Baptists in the State in three years. The following table will exhibit, at a glance, the numerical status of the Baptists of Kentucky in 1803:
Associations. Number of Churches. Number of Members. Elkhorn, 40 4,404 Salem, 18 890 Tates Creek, 23 1,905 Bracken, 16 776 Green River, 30 1,763 North District, 24 1,745 South District, 24 1,468 North Bend, 9 429 Long Run, 25 1,715 Cumberland, 10 400 Total, 10 219 15,495
The last named association occupied the ground formerly occupied by Mero District Association, which had now been dissolved. Part of its churches were in Tennessee, but the ten whose aggregate number is estimated at 400, were all in Kentucky. The number of members in Salem Association is taken from Benedict's History of the Baptists. All the other figures are taken from the official records of associations. Three or four small churches, belonging to Green River Association were in Tennessee, and one small church, belonging to Long Run, was in Indiana; but it is probable that the aggregate membership of these was more than balanced by that of the unassociated churches in Kentucky.
The effects of the revival, aside from the numbers it added to the churches, were exceedingly salutary. Before the revival, the morals of the people, under the predominating influence
of infidelity, were extremely bad, especially in the Green River country. Rev. J. M. Peck, writing to the Christian Review in 1852, says: "Infidelity received its death blow during that period. Not a few continued infidels and scoffers, but they were shorn of their strength. So many of their number had been converted, some of whom became efficient preachers of the gospel, that infidelity could no longer boast. Multitudes of strong minded men, proud in their habits of free-thinking, were converted in so sudden and impressive a mode as to perplex and confound their associates. In all the preachers who engaged in this great work, however deficient in education, moderate in natural talents, or illogical in argument, there was one trait of character prominent in all their ministrations. They gave most convincing proof of their earnestness and sincerity; that they fully believed all they uttered.
"The preachers generally, made no effort at skillful argumentation, and did not attempt to prove the Bible to be the Word of God, or Christianity a divine verity; but they preached its most commonplace truths to the consciences of all classes. Their intonations of voice, impressive gestures, impassioned expostulations, and frequent weeping went direct to the feelings and hearts of their hearers. We have heard men say, who went to the meeting infidel scoffers, hardened in sin, and determined to resist every serious impression, that in an instant, and before they had been on the ground ten minutes, their consciences were arrested and their minds filled with indescribable emotions; that they had not time to recollect the objections with which their minds had been fortified against the truth of the Bible. Others could not tell of any process of reasoning in their own minds by which they came to a knowledge of the truth. They would speak of being overwhelmed and borne down with a consciousness of the reality and power of eternal things. An instantaneous and deep conviction of their exceeding sinfulness and guilt, and their just condemnation by the divine law, would be the description given by others. Equally sudden and irrepressible would be their views of God's pardoning mercy, through Christ Jesus, in removing all guilt, and filling their minds with indescribable joy and rapture. We have conversed with some persons of a reflecting and meditative turn, in a great degree devoid of emotion, who described their conversion from unbelief
and sin as more gradual and attended with more thought; who appeared to have proceeded, step by step, from one refuge to another, without hope and consolation, until, in the hour of despair, they were led to trust in Christ, and after much doubt and hesitation, were enabled to lay hold of the promises." 6
The period was a turning point in the morals of the people. With the increase of infidelity, public morals had depreciated till they had reached a depth of degradation that was horrifying to contemplate. But, the cause being removed, the effects ceased, and the whole land seemed regenerated. From that period tothe present, the morals of the people of Kentucky would compare favorably with those of any part of the country.
The effect of the revival, on Christians, was permanently good. It imbued them more deeply with the spirit of the Master, and gave them clearer views of the spirituality of religion. It turned their minds away from metaphysical abstractions about dogmas, and inspired a greater earnestness for spreading the gospel of salvation. They became more interested in sinners' being "born again," than in determining the comparative orthodoxy of Calvin and Arminius; and were more desirous to promote love and harmony among brethren, than to discover indistinguishable shades of heterodoxy in each other's creeds. The mere forms, of religious morals, ceremonies, and learning catechisms, gave way to a firm belief in the necessity of experimental religion.
The revival had an especially happy effect on the Baptists, indisposing them to make more efforts to heal some unhappy divisions that existed among them, and in enlarging the spirit of missions. Hitherto their missionary operations had been confined to sending their ministers to look after their destitute brethren in Kentucky, and in the adjacent borders of Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio. But, in 1801, at the meeting of Elkhorn Association, which comprised one-third of the Baptists in the State, and probably more than two thirds of their wealth and influence, a request came up from South Elkhorn church, "to send missionaries to the Indian nations."
The Association took this subject under consideration, and "agreed to appoint a committee of five members to hear and
determine on the call of any of our ministers, and, if satisfied therewith, to give them credentials for that purpose; to set subscriptions on foot, to receive collections for the use of said mission; and it is recommended to the churches to encourage subscriptions for said purpose, and have the money lodged with the deacons, to be applied for that purpose, whenever called for by the committee. The following brethren are appointed: David Barrow, Ambrose Dudley, John Price, Augustine Eastin, and George Smith." Any three of these brethren were authorized to act in the absence of the others. Unfortunately we have no record of the results of this transaction, except that John Young was approved by the committee, and sent as a missionary to the Indians. But we have no knowledge of the length of time he spent among the Red men, or the results of his labors. After his return from this mission, he settled on Little Sandy River, and was instrumental in building up the first churches in Greenup county.
At the same session of Elkhorn Association, full correspondence was established between that body and Tates Creek Association. The latter fraternity had been formed, as noted before, of four churches which split off from the Separate Baptists, in 1792, and, in imitation of the Virginia brethren, had taken the name of United Baptists. Several attempts had been made to form a union between the two bodies, to no avail. But now, under the influence of a happy revival, the difficulties all disappeared, and a lasting union was consummated.
At the same meeting of the Association, measures were adopted for the support of John Gano, John Sutton and David Thompson, aged ministers, who had worn themselves out in the Master's service, and were now in indigent circumstances. The contributions of the churches for this purpose, were to be distributed among the venerable fathers, as an expression of the love and care felt for them in their old age. This was a true indication that the revival was of God. "By their fruits shall ye know them."
A still more important measure was adopted by Elkhorn Association, at the meeting in August, 1801. From the first settlement of the country, the Baptists in Kentucky had been divided. The two parties were known as Regular and Separate Baptists, though the former were much the more numerous.
The Regular Baptists formed Elkhorn Association, north of the Kentucky, and Salem Association, south of Salt river, in 1785, and, between that and the time of which we write, Bracken Association, north of Licking river, and Green river Association, on the stream from which it takes its name. The Separate Baptists formed South Kentucky Association, on the south side of Kentucky river, in 1787.7 The Separate Baptists constituted their churches on "the Bible alone," and refused to adopt any other creed, or confession of faith. They were, therefore, confused, and differed much among themselves in doctrinal sentiments. The Regular Baptists adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, with certain specified exceptions, and were more uniform in doctrine. Several attempts were made to unite the two parties, but hitherto they had all failed. But now, under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, a final effort was put forth.
Elkhorn appointed David Barrow, Ambrose Dudley, John Price, William Payne and Joseph Redding, to visit South Kentucky Association, and, if it should seem advisable, to join with that body in calling a convention, for the purpose of effecting a union. The latter Association appointed Robert Elkin, Daniel Ramey, Thomas J. Chilton, Samuel Johnson and Moses Bledsoe, to confer with the brethren from Elkhorn Association, in regard to a union between the two bodies. After considerable discussion, the joint committee agreed on such terms as it was hoped would be satisfactory to the churches of both Associations. The terms were ratified by South Kentucky Association,and a convention was called, to be composed of two members of each church in both Associations. The convention met at Howards Creek (Old Providence Meeting-house), in Clark county, on the second Saturday in October, 1801. The terms of union were unanimously approved by the convention, and were recommended to the churches for their adoption. It appears to have met with no opposition, from any quarter. The agreement was entered into only between Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations. But, under the style of "THE TERMS OF GENERAL UNION," it was speedily accepted by all the Baptists
in the State. The following is a literal copy of the instrument
TERMS OF UNION BETWEEN THE ELKHORN AND SOUTH KENTUCKY, OR SEPARATE ASSOCIATIONS.
We, the committees of Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations, do agree to unite on the following plan:
1st. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.
2d. That there is one only true God, and in the Godhead or divine essence, there are Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
3d. That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures.
4th. That salvation, regeneration, sanctification and justification are by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
5th. That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory.
6th. That believers' baptism by immersion is necessary to receiving the Lord's supper.
7th. That the salvation of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
8th. That it is our duty to be tender and affectionate to each other, and study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God.
9th. And that the preaching Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion.
10th. And that each may keep up their associational and church government as to them may seem best.
11th. That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united.
Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee:
Ambrose Dudley, Robert Elkin,
John Price, Thos. J. Chilton,
Joseph Redding, Daniel Ramey,
David Barrow, Moses Bledsoe,
Now ensued the golden age of the Kentucky Baptists their divisions had been healed. Universal harmony prevailed
among them, and they were in the midst of the most powerful and extensive revival of religion that had ever been witnessed by them or their fathers. On account of its extensive territory, South Kentucky Association had, in 1801, divided into two nearly equal fraternities, which took the names of North District and South District. By this means, the name "South Kentucky Association" was buried. The distinguishing appellatives, "Regular" and "Separate" were dropped, and all the Baptists in Kentucky took the name United Baptists.
In 1802 and in 1803, all the churches and associations in the State were in full correspondence. But during the latter year, it was made manifest that "the leaven of malice and wickedness" had been working secretly in two of the associations. James Garrard, who had been an active and popular politician in Virginia, was one of the early settlers in Kentucky. Here he was ordained to the ministry and became a prominent preacher in Elkhorn Association. In 1796, and again in 1800, he was elected governor. Harry Toulmin, an Englishman and a Socinian preacher, was Secretary of State during the eight years of Garrard's administration. Garrard adopted his religious sentiments, and was speedily followed by Augustine Eastin, pastor of Cooper's Run church, in Bourbon county, of which Garrard was a member. Eastin was a preacher of some talent, but "was never any credit to the cause of truth." he was vain, and aspired to imitate distinguished men. He became a zealot for Governor Garrard's religious tenets, and wrote a pamphlet to prove that Jesus Christ was inferior to the Father. Besides Coopers Run, Eastin was pastor of three other small churches, all of which became infected by his heresy. In April, 1803, Elkhorn Association held "an occasional meeting" at Great Crossing, to consider how to wrestle with this spiritual wickedness in high places. A committee, consisting of David Barrow, John Price, Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding and Carter Tarrant, was appointed to visit Cooper's Run, Flat Lick, Indian Creek and Union churches -- all under the pastoral care of Eastin -- to convince them of error on the subject of the Trinity. Coopers Run could not be reclaimed, and was dropped from the association at its annual meeting in August. Those members in the other churches, who could not be reclaimed, were promptly excluded by their respective churches. The
association appended to its minutes a pointed circular on the subject, and David Barrow soon afterwards published an able pamphlet on the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus was the Socinian or Arian affair promptly nipped in the bud, and speedily perished, with the loss, to the Baptists, of a governor, a preacher, a church, and a few private members. The gale soon blew over, and little other harm was done.
The trouble within the bounds of South District Association proved more serious. Its origin was with William Bledsoe and John Bailey, both preachers of superior talents. Bailey appears to have been a conscientious man, and his morals were unimpeachable to the end of his life. Bledsoe, it is feared, was unscrupulous. It will be remembered that he was the preacher who brought an egg to Gilbert's Creek meeting house during a revival in 1792, and read from it: "The day of God's awful judgment is at hand." About a year after this, Bledsoe became a universalist, then a deist, and finally died a reckless horse racer. Bailey became a universalist also, or, as it was termed, a Hell Redemptionist or Restorationist about the same time.
In 1791, South Kentucky Association, by what the Regular Baptists would have regarded an unwarrantable usurpation of power, excluded John Bailey from the ministry, and from membership. Others were excluded for the same heresy. In 1799, the Association advised the churches to restore these persons to their former standing, without inquiring into their private sentiments, provided their morals were good. The advice was repeated, in 1801. Acting upon this counsel, the church at Rush Branch restored Mr. Bailey to his former standing as a member and minister. South Kentucky Association, being divided into two similar fraternities, and the terms of general union being adopted, the name, Separate Baptists, became extinct. Mr. Bailey and his church were included in that division of the old fraternity, which had taken the name of South District. The old Association, though frequently applied to, had refused to admit Tates Creek Association to correspondence.
South District Association held its first meeting at Salt River church, in 1802. With the other associations, Tates Creek made application for correspondence. Two of the churches had petitioned the Association to admit the correspondence.
A heated debate ensued, and the correspondence was admitted by a vote of 27 to 26. It was manifest that a strong party was opposed to admitting Tates Creek into the general union. It was soon manifested, that the same party, led by Thomas J. Chilton, were the adherents of John Bailey. It was alleged that the correspondence had been admitted by the casting of three illegal votes. However, the minority submitted for the present, determining torally all their forces the next year. In 1803, the association met at McCormacks meeting-house in Lincoln county. When the corresponding letter from Tates Creek Association was presented, objections were made to its reception. The subject was postponed till Monday, when it came up, in order, and after an excited debate, the letter was rejected. Jeremiah Vardeman and John Rice withdrew from the house, followed by a minority of the members, and organized for business, as an association. After their withdrawal, the corresponding members from Elkhorn objected to John Bailey's having a seat in the body. A vote was taken on the objection, and Mr. Bailey was sustained, by a large majority.
The two parties continued, and closed up their business in regular order, each claiming the name and prerogatives of South District Association. The next year, all the associations in the State admitted the Vardeman party to correspondence, while, with equal unanimity, they rejected the correspondence of the Chilton party. Thus endorsed, the former has continued in good standing with the denomination, to the present time. The latter met, two years, under the name of South District Association of Separate Baptists; but, despairing of recognition, in 1806, they assumed the name of South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists. Under this name, they have continued to the present time.
The great increase in the number of churches, during the revival, made it necessary to increase the number of associations. Long Run was formed, in 1803, from Salem. North Bend was formed, the same year, from Elkhorn. In 1804, Stocktons Valley and Russells Creek were set off from Green River. It has already been noticed that North District and South District Associations originated from a division of Old South Kentucky, and held their first sessions, in 1802, and
that the present South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists, originated from a revolution in. South District, the following year. A small Association, called Union, was formed in the Southwestern portion of the State, in 1806, which, however, was soon afterwards dissolved. Cumberland River Association was formed from Tates Creek, in 1809.
In 1810, Licking Association was formed of several churches, and parts of churches, which broke off from Elkhorn Association, on account of dissatisfaction with the proceedings of that body. The circumstances that led to this result, were most unhappy, not only causing much bickering and heart-burning, among the Baptists throughout the territory of Elkhorn Association, and far beyond its borders, but also retarding the progress of religion, and encouraging strife and infidelity.
The circumstances appear to have been about these: Not far from the year 1805, Jacob Creath, Sen., and Thomas Lewis, the former a member and the pastor, and the latter a member of Town Fork church, near Lexington, made an exchange of two servant girls, Creath giving his note to Lewis for the difference in the value of the slaves. Soon after the transaction, the girl Creath had bartered for, died, and he refused to pay the note given to Lewis. The matter was brought before the church for adjustment. Creath was probably, at that time, "the first orator in the Kentucky pulpit." Lewis was a man of eminent respectability and considerable wealth. The decision rendered by the church, according to the recollection of Elder Thomas P. Dudley, was, that, "inasmuch as Brother Lewis is rich, and Brother Creath poor, the latter shall be excused from paying the note." This appeared, to many, an outrage upon justice. Elijah Craig, an eminently useful minister in former years, but now grown wealthy and much immersed in business, published a very bitter pamphlet, titled, "A Portrait of Jacob Creath." In this publication, fourteen charges were specified against Mr. Creath, some of them of a very grave, and others, of a frivolous character. Town Fork church called a council, from sixteen churches, to investigate these charges. Forty-two delegates assembled, in July, 1807. After an investigation of four days' continuance, the council unanimously acquitted Mr. Creath of all the charges. This decision gave much dissatisfaction to many of the churches, and a number of the most prominent
ministers in Elkhorn Association. Much excitement prevailed. Joseph Redding alleged three charges against Mr. Creath. These were taken up by the church; one of them was withdrawn by the prosecutor, and Mr. Creath was acquitted of the other two. In 1808, the church at Bryants brought three charges against Town Fork church, for disorder, before the Association, while in session at Silas. The Association acquitted the church of all the charges. This dicision again caused disappointment and bitter mortification. At the next meeting of the Association, at South Elkhorn, in 1809, there were no messengers from the churches at Bryants, Boones Creek, East Hickman, Elk Lick, Ravens Creek, Mountain Island, Silas, Rock Bridge, Mill Creek and Flat Creek. This showed that a large and influential minority of the Association was grievously offended. The following extract from the minutes of the proceedings of Bryants church, in February, 1810, exhibits still more forcibly the bitterness felt by the mal-contents: "Received a letter signed by a number of our brethren who have thought it would be most for the glory of God, and for the peace and happiness of society, under our present distress, to call a meeting on the first Tuesday in March to meet at the Forks of Elkhorn, in order to dissolve Elkhorn Association, which was agreed to. And brethren Ambrose Dudley and Leonard Young are chosen to attend the said meeting, and let the brethren know that we chose to meet at what they call the New Elkhorn Association, at Bryants."
The meaning of this remarkable proceeding is: That a minority of Elkhorn Association proposed to meet and dissolve that body, without consulting the majority, and then meet again, and reconstitute it, according to their own plans. The nearest that they could come to finding a precedent for this absurd proceeding was in the case of Mero District Association in Middle Tennessee. This body, at its regular meeting, in 1803, was dissolved by an overwhelming majority, and reconstituted under the name of Cumberland Association, leaving out Joseph Dorris and the churches of which he was pastor. But in the case under consideration, a minority convened by a circular letter, proposed to dissolve Elkhorn Association, and to reconstitute it, at another "called meeting," under the same style, apparently for no other purpose than that of leaving out Jacob
Creath and those who failed to adjudge him guilty of the misdemeanors laid to his charge.
The circular letter, signed by seven ministers, invited the churches to meet, by messengers, at Bryants, on the second Saturday in August, 1810, the same day that the real Elkhorn Association was to meet at Clear Creek in Woodford county, "saying that if only a few from a churcn met them, they (the ministers who had signed the circular) would consider them the Elkhorn Association."8 The old Association and the factious minority met at the same time, and both organized under the style of Elkhorn Association. The majority sent overtures to the minority, pleading for reunion and forgetfulness of all the unpleasant strifes of the past. The minority replied curtly: "You are in possession of our difficulties, until they are removed, we remain a distressed and grieved people." They, however, agreed to take the name of Licking Association. They also expressed their conviction that it was best for the two bodies to remain separate. Thus was all hope of a reunion cut off for the present.9
"These measures were peculiarly distressing to the friends of Zion throughout an extensive circle. The ministers who promoted them were John Price, Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, Lewis Corbin, Absalom Bainbridge, and some others whose influence was not so great. These ministers were among the oldest and most respectable of the State. They had long borne the burthen and heat of the day, and their names were everywhere mentioned with respect. Considering their age and experience, none could suppose they would contend for trifles, and yet it was difficult for any to discover sufficient reason for their dividing measures. The most active among them was John Price, a man ofunpleasant temper, of great asperity of manners, and whose zeal on all occasions, has partaken too much of the nature of party spirit. Mr. Creath, against whom their united efforts were directed, is in the meridian of life, of popular talents, but not the most amiable in his manners, nor
concilitating in his address. He evidently, in many cases, displayed to much of the air of triumph towards his aggrieved brethren."10
can hardly be a matter of astonishment that a spiritual dearth soon afflicted the land. The Presbyterians were in a quarrel, from the beginning of the revival, as to the manner of conducting public worship, then were rent in twain by the Newlight and Shaker schism, and were now in a bitter strife with the Cumberland Presbyterian schism. The Methodists were wild with overwrought zeal, untempered with knowledge, which disgusted the more intelligent and influential classes of society. And with less excuse and a more trivial pretext, the Baptists of the oldest and largest association in the State were in a bitter, persistent quarrel over their personal differences. True, this latter reproach on a holy and peaceful religion was local, and directly affected only one association out of fifteen. But this was in the center of the State, among the oldest settlements, and where society, in the new country, was most advanced.
Infidelity, which had been so much confounded during the great revival as to be almost silenced, for the time, began to vaunt itself again. Infidel clubs were formed in most of the villages in Northern Kentucky. Infidelity became fashionable, and such men as aspired to be regarded literary, not only among the lawyers, doctors and office holders, but also among the more aspiring class of mechanics, merchants and shop keepers, united with these clubs. The late Rev. William Vaughan, D.D., then a tailor, was a member of an infidel club in 1809, at Winchester, where he was converted to christianity the following year. Religious interest was at a lower ebb than in the dark period that preceded the great revival. In 1808, in Elkhorn Association, only nine persons were baptized, and, in eight associations, the statistics of which are before us, only twentytwo were baptized during the year. This was the gloomiest year of the present century among the Baptists of Kentucky. The next year was but little better. But towards the close of 1810, some light showers began to relieve the thirsty land, and
more fruitful seasons followed, to which more attention will be given in another place. The Baptists, though, without a known exception in that period, missionary in sentiment, did little to send the gospel abroad during the decade following the beginning of the great revival. They did something in preaching the tidings of salvation to the Indians, as before shown. But as the revival spirit subsided, they seem to have lost sight of this work for the time. Many of their ministers were very active in preaching the gospel in new settlements in their own andthe surrounding territory, as they filled up with people from the older States, and thereby laid a good foundation for future prosperity. Many small churches were gathered on the frontiers, which afterwards became strong and efficient bodies, and aided in peopling the great West with swarms of Baptists. And, withal, it is probable that the Baptists in Kentucky were doing as much for the spread of the gospel, in 1810, in proportion to their resources, as they are at the present time. We shall see what progress they made in increasing their numbers, up to the last named date, in due time. But as we have the means of ascertaining the strength of the other leading denominations of christians at that period, we will now devote a chapter to giving a brief outline of their early history in Kentucky.
1 See History of Ghent Church, in Chapter XXIV.
2 History of Ten Churches, pp. 131, 132.
3 History of Ten Churches, pp. 134 135.
4 Minutes of Elkhorn Association.
5 Hickman's Narrative, pp. 36, 31.
6 Christian Review, Vol. XVII., pp. 506-513.
7 Benedict, and others who have followed him, state that this Association was constituted in 1785. But, as I have its Book of records before me, there can be no mistake as to the true date of its organization.
8 Records of the [Missionary] church at Bryants.
9 For full particulars of this most distressing affair, the reader is referred to Dr. Fishback's Defence of Elkhorn Association. Minutes of Elkhorn and Licking Associations , and Benedict's History of the Baptists, Vol. 2.
10 For full particulars of this most distressing affair, the reader is referred to Dr. Fishback's Defence of Elkhorn Association. Minutes of Elkhorn and Licking Associations , and Benedict's History of the Baptists, Vol. 2.
11 History of Baptists, Vol. 2, p. 234.
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; reprint, CHR&A, 1984. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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