Introduction Green GL.01 Introduction
Where I Want To Stand Green GL.1 WHERE I WANT TO STAND
The Good Soldiers Green GL.2 THE GOOD SOLDIERS
A Poor Sinner Like Me Green GL.3 A POOR SINNER LIKE ME
Primitive Baptist's Experiences of Grace Green GL.4 PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS' EXPERIENCES OF GRACE
That the Word of God May Have Free Course Green GL.5 THAT THE WORD OF GOD MAY HAVE FREE COURSE
Woe is Unto Me, If I Preach Not: Primitive Baptists and the Call to the Ministry Green GL.6 WOE IS UNTO ME, IF I PREACH NOT
And I Ordained Thee A Prophet Green GL.7 AND I ORDAINED THEE A PROPHET
Boanerges Green GL.8 BOANERGES
The Primitive Baptists have a wonderful heritage. There have been many very devout, dedicated and courageous men and women in their ranks over the years. They have earnestly contended for the faith once delivered to the saints, sometimes in the face of much opposition, misrepresentation, and even slander. Their enemies have accused them of many things including a lack of compassion. and an indifference to spreading the gospel. But, as the following pages will show, many of them endured much hardship and made great sacrifices to spread the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is important that present-day Primitive Baptists be aware of their precious heritages. They will be thankful for their past, encouraged to be faithful in the present, and be stimulated to look to the future with great zeal and hope as they walk in the "footsteps of the flock" in this present evil age.
There are many writings documenting Old Baptist teaching and practice that have been long out of print. Elder Mark Green, pastor of the Primitive Baptist Church of Paris, Arkansas, has performed a very valuable service in reading through many of the old writings and gleaning the very cream from them. He has spent many hours doing this wad we owe him a great debt for doing so.
Bro. Tony Machiavello of Grace Chapel Primitive Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee thought that Bro. Mark's work deserved a wide reading. He suggested that we compile his work in some kind of bound copy that would make these valuable writings accessible and convenient.
Keifor Beauchamp of Grace Chapel graciously agreed to do some indexing, page numbering, etc. What the reader will have before him or her is essentially the work as it was originally done by Bro. Mark.
We earnestly exhort those who are blessed to obtain a copy of this work to make good we of it. Read it yourself. Fathers, read this to your families at family devotional time. Read prayerfully that the Spirit of God will stir us up to emulate the same zeal and dedication shown by our forefathers as they loved, defended, and propagated the great God-honoring gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first section, "Where I Want To Stand," speaks of the wonderful heritage that the Primitive Baptists are blessed with and of the vital importance of knowing about that heritage and of passing it on to the present and future generations. Not being aware of one's history is akin to having amnesia. A victim of amnesia doesn't know where he has been, where he is now, or where he should go. We need purpose in life, and knowing our history can give us that purpose. We realize that we are not isolated, but that we have a connection with the past and that our present commitment, or lack of, will have an effect on future generations.
The second section, "The Good Soldiers," provides some examples of Primitive Baptist preachers who showed great courage as they endured hardship for the sake of the gospel.
The next section is entitled "A Poor Sinner Like Me." This describes the powerful influence of regenerating grace in the lives of God's people.
"Primitive Baptists' Experiences of Grace" records the actual experiences of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of some of God's saints in years gone by.
The next section is very important and should be carefully read and pondered. It is entitled "That the Word of God May Have Free Course: Primitive Baptists and the 'Professional Ministry'." In this section Bro. Green makes it clear that it is the duty of the churches to financially support the God-called men who preach to and pastor them. This is plainly a Biblical teaching. But he also points out that it is wrong for a man to preach for an agreed-upon salary in the manner of a "professional." A professional performs certain tasks for a certain fee. The gospel ministry must not be degraded in this fashion. The ministry is not a profession, it is a divine calling. There is a vast difference in these two concepts. The professional may prove to be a mere "hireling." (Joh 10:12). The ministry may be just a job to him. But the God-called minister is more like a dedicated shepherd. He loves the flock of God so much that he is willing to sacrifice for them. He must preach, regardless of financial considerations. Preaching and pastoring are in his very bones. Men who have demonstrated this dedication among Primitive Baptists have shown the power of this heavenly calling.
Old Baptists believe that a man must be called of God if he is to have the ability to truly preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. While many Christians have turned the ministry into a profession, we believe it is much more than that. The next section is entitled "Woe is Unto Me If I Preach Not: Primitive Baptists and the Call to the Ministry."
The next section, describing the experiences of several men who received this sacred call from God, is entitled "And I Ordained Thee a Prophet." Our hope is that some young men that God calls to preach in this present age, may be encouraged as they read this section. Sometimes, when God calls a man to preach, he does not at first understand the emotions that are stirring in his breast. When he can read of similar experiences recounted by others, he can take courage and respond to the call that God is making to him.
The last section is denominated "Boanerges." This word means "the sons of thunder." To be faithful soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ we must sometimes vigorously stand for and stand against something. We would always like to be sweet and conciliatory but we can't always be this way when truth is being attacked. We must be valiant for truth. This section gives several examples of those faithful old soldiers as they took their stands on the side of God and truth.
We have ambitiously and optimistically called this compilation Gleanings of Primitive Baptist Writings: Vol. I. We hope there will be other volumes. We send this forth with the prayer that others will be encouraged to follow the great examples of these faithful soldiers of the cross.
Zack Guess, Memphis, TN
WHERE I WANT TO STAND
I am a Primitive Baptist. I say that boldly, unashamedly, and with no reservations. I am very thankful to be able to say that, because I did nothing to deserve to be counted among that number. Today, more than at any time in my life, I am aware what it means to be a Primitive Baptist, because I have been blessed to learn more about what the old fathers of years gone by stood for, and what it cost them to take that stand and to carry on in the kingdom. I know what great hardships the ministers endured just to travel to preach to little flocks of saints scattered here and there in largely frontier areas, and I am humbled by their examples of faithfulness.
I have a fear today that keeps creeping up in the back of my mind. When a people does not know why it exists, what its heritage is and what it means to be what it is, there is a distinct danger that it does not value that heritage and so will have less reason to continue to hold to the principles that made it a distinct people. I am afraid that many in the current generations of Primitive Baptists are not aware of why their name starts with a capital "P" and what that letter means. I am afraid that many in our churches are there mainly because they enjoy the fellowship, or because they found our churches quaint and old- fashioned, or because of family sentiment. I fear they do not know all that the Cause is about. If they had known the battles this army has been called upon to fight, would they have been so eager to join up? I will state my case, and as I do I pray that my fears are unfounded.
Wherever you are, if you are a member of a Primitive Baptist church, I want to ask you some questions: What percentage of the members of your church have read the Kehukee Declaration and the Black Rock Address? How many members of your church have read more than two writings by or about Old Baptist ministers who labored before the year 1900? How many know who Andrew Fuller was and why his teachings were so harmful to the church, and why they were so instrumental in bringing about the "Missionary split." Now, I want to ask the question in a more telling way: What would your answer be to the above questions if I had asked about members of your church under the age of forty? under the age of twenty?
Do you get my point? Here we exist as a distinct people, who bear a name different from the other professing Christian denominations, who will not receive their baptism nor recognize their other church acts. We take the stand that Christ's churches, at least in this country, are to be found under our name. If they were wrong, our forefathers were guilty of a terrible crime--of perpetrating a schism among God's people and attempting to lock out from the visible kingdom many who had every right to our fellowship and communion. If they were right, they took a heroic stand of historic proportions that deserves to be known along with those taken by the Montanists, Donatists, Waldenses, and other old denominations under which the true churches of Christ have been known.
I believe with all my heart that they were right. I am convinced that those old fathers who labored in that day were thinkers on a level of profundity that we cannot approach today. I believe the issues involved in the Great Split with which they grappled put to shame the trite sloganeering that we, their children, came to use against the Missionaries and the Campbellites. I am compelled to think that their commitment to the cause of Christ was of an intensity that causes ours to pale in comparison. I believe that the spirit, the zeal, the courage, the intellect, the eloquence, and the love of the cause of Christ which was found among those men will be held in highest regard when the final History of the Church is written. Because I believe these things, I have resolved to do whatever I can through my ministry and whatever personal influence I can bring to bear to strive to return to the virile first love which our Primitive Baptist forefathers possessed. If God would allow me to do that, He will have granted me a great favor.
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." We are guilty of violating this commandment, in a spiritual sense, if we allow the stands which those men made to fall to the ground. Am I saying that we should go back to "fighting with the Missionaries" as we did for several decades, when the Missionaries had long since forgotten that we even existed? No, if you think that is what I am saying you are totally missing the point. As long as Satan walks about seeking whom he may devour, the cause of Christ will have enemies, and false prophets and false doctrines and practices will abound on every hand. The human enemies the Montanists and Petrobrussians faced were different than ours, but the spiritual enemy is the same in every age. He disguises the error in different garbs, uses different tactics, but the great underlying principles remain constant. Our Primitive Baptist fathers recognized this fact, and saw through the specious arguments with which Mr. Fuller had clothed Works Salvation, and rose to the defense. Grace has always been grace, and works has always been works. The battle is the same; only the scenes change.
As Primitive Baptists we have always stood against Missionary Boards, Sunday Schools, Salaried Ministers, Theological Seminaries, and Bible and Tract Societies. Do you know why? Do you really know why? Can you give an intelligent Biblical answer on these questions? Do you know the underlying errors that brought forth these symptomatic practices? Our fathers were certainly not opposed to studious ministers, or the instruction of their children in Biblical principles, or the financial support of the ministry, or the dissemination of the scriptures. Why, then, did they stand against those specific institutions listed above?
Fathers of Primitive Baptist families, if your children are members of the church, and they have not been instructed in these areas, I am hard pressed to say that you should not be charged with gross neglect. Why should you let such precious matters fall to the ground? If this is a cause you are willing to die for, and your children have said the same, shouldn't they know why? Ministers of the gospel, have we been shepherding the flock as we should? Should we walk away from those great principles of the past just because they were abused by some?
Brethren, we have a wonderful heritage. It is spotted, yes. Our fathers were sinners, and their work was imperfect. They were capable of going to extremes and they were not free of the passions that cause men to err. They fought the battles with Absolutism, Two-Seedism, Soul Sleeping, and many other 'isms, and it is not reasonable to expect that they would have emerged from such battles without scars. But here is the "bottom line:" they were either in the main right, or they were in the main wrong. If they were in the Old Paths, I want to be where they were. If they were mainly wrong, I want to find who was mainly right and get rebaptized, because in that case my baptism is worthless. It's that simple.
How I wish I had the eloquence to stir up our love for the cause of Christ, for the wonderful providence with which He has preserved the truth. How can we be inspired to begin to study out what Joshua Lawrence, C. B. Hassell, Joseph Biggs, and William Hyman stood for? They believed in a sovereign God who lovingly drew his people out of darkness into his marvelous light, who worked in their hearts that inexplicable love that tongue cannot describe; a God who is able to show sinners their wretchedness and break their hearts in repentance, who needs no man's help to save sinners; a God who is able to revive his work even in this dark day. Is that not our God?
Brethren, if we ever forget why we exist, if we ever cut those historical and emotional bands that tie us to the past, we will then be adrift on the seas of doctrine, and who knows where every wind may drive us. But if we know where our fathers stood, and we believe that that stand was right, then we have an anchor, a reference point past which we can sight back toward the first century Christians.
I know where I want to stand.
THE GOOD SOLDIERS
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." - 1Ti 2:3
Primitive Baptists' strong stand against the modern Missionary system has drawn much derision from our opponents over the years, charging that we did not believe in evangelism, in preaching the gospel to regions beyond our own locality. The record of our Primitive Baptist forefathers plainly shows the contrary: whether functioning as pastors or evangelists, these men selflessly, and without asking for monetary assurances beforehand, went forth to preach the gospel to God's poor and afflicted people. The following excerpts show examples of this dedication.
It is my particular hope that these paragraphs will help enlighten our younger members as to the heritage they have, and inspire them to persevere in the faith once delivered to the saints.
From The Pilgrimage of a Stranger, by Elder John R. Daily
One Friday evening I dismissed my school until the next Tuesday, as I had an engagement to visit Union church, in Jasper county. After eating my supper I walked to Kempton, which was six and one-half miles away. I took the train for Frankfort and arrived there in due time, but I had to wait there till one o'clock for a train to take me on to Surrey, Jasper county, the point I wanted to reach. I arrived at Surrey just before day- break, and when the train went on I found myself alone on the station platform with not a light in view. It had been raining and the air was very damp and chilly. I had never been there before, so I did not know where to go. There was nothing for me to do but wait, and waiting was anything but pleasant under the circumstances. I was tired when I left home, and the walk to the station and the loss of the night's sleep had added to my fatigue until I felt more like dropping than walking. After some time spent in walking the platform I heard some one whistling, and I perceived by the sound that the whistler was coming toward the depot. Soon a man stepped upon the platform and accosted me with, "I suppose this is Brother Daily." Of course I was glad to tell him it was.
I preached that day, that night, and the next day and night. On Monday I returned, arriving at Kempton about 8 o'clock at night. It was raining quite hard when I got off the train, and was as dark as night gets to be, save when the lightning flashed. It was very muddy, and my overcoat soon got wet through and then my undercoat, and--well, but I was wet. Occasionally I stepped into a deep horse track, and the way the muddy water played up my pants leg was not funny to me at all. As I was walking along the last mile these sweet words came into my mind:
"I'll suffer on my three score years
Till my Deliverer comes,
And wipes away His servant's tears,
And takes His exile home."
Oh, how happy I was in the full confidence that the dear Lord, whom I was trying to serve, would sustain me through all my trials here and take me home to dwell with him at last! .. .
Elder Thomas and I attended the White River Association the next week, which was held with Little Flock church, in Clay county, Indiana. We went to Terre Haute and changed cars for Farmersburg. It was our aim to go out to the neighborhood of the church on a branch road that extended out into the coal fields of Clay Co., but when we arrived at Farmersburg we found that no train went out on that branch that afternoon, and that there was no train going out the next day that would enable us to reach the place where the association was to be held in time for meeting. It was fifteen miles from Farmersburg to the place we desired to reach, and it was about four o'clock. Elder Thomas suggested that we would walk out into the country in the direction of the church, and stop at some farmer's home when night came on. We acted at once upon his suggestion. It was a very warm afternoon, and we had two heavy valises, his containing hymn books which he carried to sell and mine containing minutes of our association and articles of apparel. I carried both valises, as I was young and strong.
We trudged along the dusty highway until it began to grow dark. Coming to a farm-house, we stopped to enquire if there would be an opportunity for us to rest there during the night. An old lady came out and when we told her who we were and what we desired, she at once invited us in, assuring us that we were welcome to lodge at her home. She said that she was a "Baptist," that her husband, who had gone to the mill but would soon return, was a United Brethren. She said she had to entertain his preachers often and she was glad of the opportunity to entertain hers. We took a seat on the porch and our kind host soon came out with a fine water melon and told us to help ourselves to that while she prepared us some supper. Of all the water melons I ever tasted that was one of the best, and I think I never enjoyed a supper more than I did the one to which she soon invited us.
After supper we conversed a while very pleasantly, ascertaining by the conversation that the kind lady of the house had resided in a city and had married the farmer at whose home we had stopped, and thus had come to the country to live. We found the "Baptists" to which she belonged to be Missionaries, but we could not have been more hospitably entertained at any Old School Baptist home. Finally Elder Thomas told her that we were very tired and would be glad of the privilege of retiring. She directed us to our sleeping apartment and we lay down to rest. Before going to sleep we heard her husband drive up.
On waking up the next morning I heard Eld. Thomas and the man of the house talking out on the porch. I soon joined them, and when breakfast was announced our kind host and hostess requested us to hold prayer. I insisted on Elder Thomas leading and he did so, offering one of the sweetest and most fervent prayers I ever heard. After breakfast, the man told us he had to drive about three miles that morning in the direction we were going to get a load of corn. We were glad of the opportunity to ride, but he was slow getting started and his mule team were slow travelers, so when we left his wagon we found that it was too late for us to get an opportunity to ride the remainder of the distance, which was about five miles. It was very sultry and the dust was unusually deep. We tugged along for about two miles when we over took a wagon loaded with melons, which we perceived was bound for the association ground. The driver was wetting his wheels to keep the tires on, when we came up panting and perspiring like negroes in a cotton field. I asked if my aged friend could ride, and received more than I asked for, being told we could both ride if we could sit on the edge of the wagon bed and let our feet hang outside. Of two evils we chose the least, and soon we were moving slowly on in a comical and rather unpleasant situation. On arriving at a well by the roadside, one mile from the association ground, our driver stopped to wet his wagon wheels again. We insisted on walking ahead, assuring him of our appreciation of his kindness.
We arrived at the ground while the letters from the churches were being read. It seemed to me that the dust had settled all over my face, through which the perspiration had made a number of roads. Surely dirtier and tireder preachers never entered a congregation. We sat down on a seat in the outskirts of the audience, greatly desiring to be unobserved, but Eld. J. H. Oliphant, who was the Moderator, saw us, and called out, "Brother Thomas and Brother Daily will come to the stand." We obeyed the call and were given seats in the stand. When the letters were all read, Elder Oliphant announced that the Messengers of the association would assemble in the church house near by for the transaction of business, and Elder John R. Daily would preach to the people from the stand. I was hungry, fatigued and dirty, but I kept my plight to myself and soon forgot about it as I stood and proclaimed the precious gospel. Strength is often given under the most unfavorable circumstances.
from History of the Primitive Baptists in Texas, Oklahoma and Indian Territory,
by Elder J. S. Newman
Elder J. C. White, who was known in his day as Uncle Jackie, left Alabama October 11, 1856, and landed in Coryell County [Texas] January the second 1860. At this time the county was sparsely settled and of course our people were few and widely scattered. A short while after Elder White settled in Coryell County he heard of an Old Baptist preacher by the name of Griffith that lived over in Hamilton County on the Leon River, so Elder White started to hunt Elder Griffith and as there were Indians in the county at that time, Elder White buckled his six-shooter around him and his gun to the horn of his saddle with his old saddle bags containing a hymn book and Bible, so when Elder White found Elder Griffith he was soon informed that there was a Primitive Baptist Church over in the northeast corner of Coryell County by the name of Raineys Creek. Arrangements were soon made and the two Old Baptist preachers were on their way to said church, and near where Turnersville now is, the Indians came upon them wounding both of them, Elder Griffith died nine days after he was wounded. Elder White's wounds were so severe that life was despaired of by his family and his brethren. For seven weeks he was turned on a sheet in his bed. He finally survived, his wounds got well.
from This Is My Life by Elder S. F. Moore
Finally, my kindred scattered into different parts of the land and I became lonely, and decided to move into Custer County [Colorado], at least for awhile. I sold some cows and rounded up a few others to take with me to Blizzardeen. Brother Lewis helped me to get there with them. They had an arm of the church there and I attended the services. Finally, I walked thirty-five miles to the main body of the church, and offered myself to the church for membership on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and was received! This seemed to surprise them all and it really surprised me too. I told but little of my experience but was baptized that evening under a lone willow tree in a clear stream of snow water by. Elder J. R. Bolinger. As I came up out of the water a calm feeling pervaded my soul and I was happy as the saints gave me the hand of church fellowship. About the third day after being baptized I became exceedingly filled with ecstatic heavenly bliss. My mind returned to its habit of lamenting its burden of neglected baptism, but it was not there, and that burden never has returned!
At about our next regular meeting time at Boston [Missouri], Elder W. S. Broom from Texas came up. Also, a Brother Jones from Arkansas was with him. They did good preaching for us, but after Sunday, Brother Broom appeared sad. I asked him what was the matter. He said he desired to travel on northeast but the way did not open for him to go on. "Well," I said, "Brother Broom, a Brother Briggs and I intend to go eighty miles in that course next Tuesday or Wednesday, and if you wait that long you will be welcome to go with us that far. Brother Briggs has an appointment to preach out there where they never heard a Primitive Baptist preach. I am to furnish the hack, one horse and harness, so there will be plenty of room for you and Brother Jones." Brother Broom exclaimed, "Thank the Lord, we will go. The way has opened. Bless the Lord!" We rolled out in due time. All of us preached one night on the way at an aged Brother Jones' home and we all enjoyed that service and the Christian hospitality of that precious home very much. We came to our destination the next night; we all preached there and after services, Brethren Briggs, Broom, and Jones got into quite a rough and tumble set-to with some of the Arminian faith, and I wedged in a word of defense when I could. We claimed the victory of course, by the help of God.
Now, Brother Broom insisted that I go with him and Brother Jones on northeast and persuaded Brother Briggs to take my rigging back with him near Boston so that I could get them when I got home. The deal was made and I went on a-foot with the brethren, all of us preaching at the churches and between the churches as we went. We wound up near Kansas City, preached in Independence, then visited the kind home of Elder John Moore, an able, aged gift of our faith who as worn out in body but active and sound in the spirit. We next landed in Nevada, Missouri, the home of my pastor, Elder Jacob Cloud; had a pleasant visit with him and returned to Boston, my home. We figured that we had walked about three hundred miles on this tour. Brother Jones took sick at Boston and went home. We loved Brother Jones and missed him so much.
Brother Briggs brought my outfit home and then Brother Broom wanted me to go to Texas with him, and I consented to do so. I traded one pony for a new watch (gold case), getting some cash to boot, sold my hack and a colt and some harness, bought me a cart, filled it with bedding, bags and books, etc., hooked up my other pony (Dove) and we pulled out, headed for Texas. We crossed the southeast corner of Kansas into Indian Territory. We camped out at nights. We came to the North Canadian River swollen with high water, so we had to camp and wait for the water to fall. The river had only one bridge and it was forty miles west of us.
While we were waiting, we heard of a little colony of Primitive Baptists six or seven miles north of us, so on Friday we drove up there and learned that Elder Gilbreth of Kentucky was their esteemed pastor. We preached for them three times each and Brother Gilbreth preached for us also. We all enjoyed the meeting more than we can ever tell.
By the time we got back to the river it had fallen quite a bit. We were warned that it was a dangerous ford on account of quicksand and that we would better be careful because teams, wagons and people had gone down in the suction of the sand -and that was the end of them on earth. Brother Broom was easily scared and he was very nervous. I stripped my clothing off and waded into the water to fathom its depths. I found it safe to within about a rod of the other shore and there the water was too swift and deep for me to wade into for fear of being carried down the current, but I knew that the pony was a good swimmer and believed we could make it. I waded back and told Brother Broom to be loading up while I harnessed the pony and we would cross, but I could see he was excited and fearful. We soon got ready; then I patted Dove and told her to just go right straight across--that I knew she could do it. She seemed anxious to go and Brother Broom sat on the seat and held to the cart. I stood up, braced with a little switch in my hand; first one wheel and then the other went down and up until we got to the swift deep current. Then Dove and the cart plunged out of sight under the water and Brother Broom was about half under water still holding on. The pony came up with a dash for the shore and got her front feet upon the bank and jerked her hind feet out of the quicksand and scrambled out with us.
I drove out upon the level and took the harness off of the pony and rubbed her dry. We spread our bedding out to dry, also the clothing and books. Neither of us had spoken since we got out. Finally Brother Broom said, "La! Brother Moore, did you know we just about drowned?" I said, "It surely was a close call, but we are safe now, aren't we?"
We soon loaded up and rolled on our journey south. We camped at noon by a little creek where a band of Indians came up with a bunch of ponies. I talked with one who could talk our language; he said they were going right where we were headed, and that they would get there that night. So I told Brother Broom about it, and he said, "Well, we can follow their trail right to the place;" but I said, "No, that Indian was lying to me" and I showed him by a map we had that it would be impossible for us to drive that far in less than three days. Well, we trailed them to their camp where they had joined a large band of Indians with about one hundred tepees all ready up; and ponies galore, covered the valley. I tried to find some white folks but failed. The sun was down, and we drove into thick timber and got tangled up among the logs and brush. Brother Broom said, "Brother Moore, we must get out of here, those Indians could kill us and nobody ever would know what became of us." I said, "Brother Broom, the pony is real tired and can't go much farther, but I will try to find a way out of this tangle and mud," and I soon found the way out. While doing so, I saw a lamplight in a window ahead of us. Brother Broom stayed with the cart until I went to see if the folks who lived there were white. I found they were. The neighbors had gathered in there to sit up with a very sick young man. I told them we were lost and wanted to cross the South Canadian River that night if we could find the way. A lady said that she and her son would cross the river in a few minutes and we could follow them, since they knew the safe way over. I thanked her, went back to the cart and soon we were safely across. Oh, surely we were not only glad, but thankful, too! When we drove up to their home the woman invited us to put our pony in their pasture and stay with them that night, but stated that they would have to go on about a mile to their church meeting; that we could stay at their home and rest or go with them to meeting, just as we liked, they would not be gone long. I said, Brother Broom, let's go to church with them." He was glad to go. We all enjoyed the meeting, even if Brother Broom and I did not agree with all the preacher said. They. called themselves "The Church of God." They did not know of the Primitive Baptists. Their house consisted of one large room and a kitchen. We all slept in the same big room, and we conversed on many topics of the Scriptures (even after the light was blown out) until a late hour. We enjoyed our stay with this hospitable family very much, and rolled on next day south. The country was hilly and while I was driving on a sideling place, the left wheel of the cart ran onto a flexible post oak bush and turned the cart bottom-side-up in a ditch below--also Dove landed on her back in the washout. Brother Broom was caught under the cart but got out with only a little skin peeled off of his shins, but I leaped out of the way without any hurt. I took the gear off of Dove and we got the cart out straight and then pulled the pony around so that she got her front feet against the bank and pushed herself on up. Well, I mended a few broken straps of harness, rigged Dove to the cart, loaded the cart, and went on our way rejoicing, heading for an old Baptist home. We arrived about sundown and found a hearty reception. Brother Cox did not have his house finished, did not have his floor down, but a dirt floor was good enough for Brother Broom and me. We talked the greater part of the night, and we preached for them three days and nights. They had formed a little colony and settled there. I must state that this sweet camp has been, and is yet one of the brightest, comforting Bethels of my soul since my ministerial career. I was very happy all the time I was there. . . .
I very well remember the fiery darts hurled at me all along on these tours--from the world--but just to mention it will perhaps be enough to let the reader know that I am not gliding along to heaven on a bed of flowers all the way. But part of the time I do greatly rejoice to think that God would count me worthy to be misrepresented, slandered and persecuted for the sake of the cause of Jesus in building up the waste places and enlarging the borders of Zion. The joy reaped in the evangelistic realm by far out-weighs the pains of persecution and so I travel on to bring together and comfort the broken hearted and poor in spirit.
About this time I met Elder Jesse Champion, near Bessemer, Alabama, at his kind home. I rested with him a few days and we started on foot nine miles to fill an appointment at Brother Bottom's home that night. His son was to take us across a creek a half mile from Brother Champion's home, but the creek was overflowing and too dangerous for the mule to risk. I suggested that we go down the stream until we find two stooping trees one on either side of the creek coming together over the creek, and then climb up one and go down the other and that would put us across. "Well," he said, but he appeared a little suspicious. We soon found the trees, and I began to strap my suitcase on my back to climb, but Brother Champion said, "Brother Moore, I am not going to risk it, why I would fall right in the middle of the creek!" I said, "We can make it I am sure, it is only about two feet across--from one tree to the other up there--and the limbs are strong." "No, I am not climbing," he said, "but let's go on down the creek, I think I know where there is a drift we can cross on." We found the drift and crossed over. Some of the logs turned with us, but we made it, although it was at a great risk! Well, the son took the mule back home, and we reached our destination just before sun-set. There were but few out, but we enjoyed the service
Father and I worked hard both day and night going from twenty-five to thirty miles to the cedar brakes and foothills of the Rocky Mountains for wood and posts. We often had to camp on the snowy, cold, windy prairie, not only in going to the brakes, but also in making our thirty-one to forty miles trips to the railroad towns for supplies. We had our fencing to do to keep the range stock off of our grass, and to plow to get ready for a crop, too. We also had to haul water in barrels from two to five miles for our teams and house use, etc.
During all this time, I tried to preach once a month in our little, new town, Hayden [New Mexico], one mile north of our home. Father also preached there and at other places. I also served the church at Dalhart, Texas (about fifty miles east of us), and in doing so I had to walk about thirty-two miles to the railroad station where I took the train to Dalhart, and I had to walk the same thirty-two miles on my journey home--making a sixty-four miles walk every month at least for two years. Many times I walked about all night and went to work next morning. I am not boasting, but just wish to show the reader of this sketch what it means to be an active minister of the gospel of Christ our Lord. I certainly enjoyed those services and trips. . . .
When we reached Texarkana, I just could not go home. It did not seem like home at all! It did not seem to me that it would sprout a pea if I planted it. It was dead as it could be! So, I went on with Brother McClure and others and I was happy all the time. We enjoyed several sweet services. I finally arrived home and felt normal for some time, but again I felt that I must go to Phoenix, Arizona. I finally decided to go even if I had to hitch¬hike it all the way out there; or die on the roadside. I began to prepare to go, when lo! Here came a letter from a brother, Calvin Smith, of Phoenix, Arizona, stating that there was a little bunch of saints out there starving for the gospel and no preacher nearer than four hundred miles of Phoenix. "Can you come and preach for us awhile?" And he went on to say, "We see by the Baptist Trumpet that you are footloose and we will pay all of your expenses. If you do not have the money to come let us know and we will send you the money." I wrote him I had money enough to get to El Paso, Texas, but not to Phoenix. He wrote me to come on to El Paso and he would meet me there with his auto. So I wrote him at what time my bus would arrive at El Paso, and took the bus in due time.
When we got to El Paso, behold no Brother Smith was there! There I was, a stranger without money, no friends and no job! I was too old and gray to get a job, no one would have hired me! A negro boy came out of the office with a yellow paper in his hand calling for "Mr. Spencer." He asked our bus driver if he had a man on his bus by the name of Spencer. The driver inquired, but none by that name was found. The black boy said, "We got word that a man by that name would be on your bus!" I said, "Let me see that paper." The name Spencer was there and part of an 'M' and a little curve of an '0' were dimly there. So I said, "My name is Spencer Moore and I am sure that message is meant for me." He said, "Yes, yes, you are wanted in this office right now!" I went in and the agent said, "Your way is paid to Phoenix, Arizona, and there is your bus ready to pull out right now. Get on!" We rolled out for Phoenix, but I was taken sick with pains in my heart and told the driver my way was paid to Phoenix but I must stop and see a doctor at the next station! He said, "I will help you to get a doctor and I can make up lost time later. You are surely pale!" On the way for the doctor we got a big dose of brown fluid medicine at a drugstore for immediate relief and that was all I needed. In five minutes I was perfectly easy and we rolled on into Phoenix, four hundred miles from El Paso. I was still real sick, but had no acute pains. Brother Smith was waiting for me at the bus station and can you imagine how glad I was to meet him? He took me to his kind abode and after explaining why he did not meet me at El Paso and after we had eaten a good meal and conversed on heavenly themes, they fixed me a good bed to rest and sleep upon until the dawn of day. The brethren soon came in and began arranging for services to commence the next day, and of all the hungry saints for the gospel I never met before! I think we held services every night at their humble homes for about two weeks; and oh, how sweetly they could sing! And they would open services for me, too, by reading, comment and prayer. Next they discussed earnestly the propriety of organizing a church and decided to do so at Brother Traylor's home. The burden of constituting them fell heavily on me as I had no ministerial help. When the time came a few songs were sung, I read and talked a little while on the oracles of the Bible, and then offered prayer, and called for the church letters of all who had them. I read them, found them orthodox, and pronounced them a local Primitive Baptist Church in order and with power to transact church affairs, and to execute Scriptural discipline. .. .
from Labors and Travels of Elder Lemuel Potter by Elder Potter
I had not been engaged long in the ministry until I had four regular appointments. My means of travel was on horse-back, or in the buggy, but mostly on horse-back. I have started out to my appointments to be gone ten days or two weeks, on a tour, and my first appointment sixty miles from home, and I would go the whole trip on horse-back. I wish to give in this chapter, a narrative or two of some risks that I have run to get to my appointments. When I was young, I was very small, weighing at one time that I remember, since I was thirty years old, as low as one hundred and seventeen pounds. I was always blest with excellent health, and was used to hardship and very few men could stand cold better than I could, or do with less sleep, or go longer without food without suffering more than I did. I have got on my horse, and rode to the creek or river within two or three miles of my appointment, and being unable to get my horse across, would hitch him, coon a log, cross the creek and go on to my appointment on foot, and then come back, cross the creek and go home, and feel very good over the affair.
But I will relate here, that at one time, on one Sunday morning, in June, the Little Wabash was between me and my appointment for that day. There were no bridges across that stream at that time except one, at Masilon, Wayne County, which was about seven miles from where I lived, and by going to this bridge to cross the river, it made the distance about fourteen miles to my appointment that day. The river was up, and I knew of no other way to get across, so I took my wife and child in the buggy and we started. We struck the river about two miles or such a matter above the bridge, and from there on to the bridge we were in the river-bottoms, sometimes immediately on the bank of the river, and sometimes a mile or such a matter from the river. The river was level bank full, and as a matter of course, running out into the sloughs and bayous. We had some of these to cross. When we came to the first one or two I did not know but that it might be swimming, so I would get out of the buggy, take my horse out, get on and ride across, and then come back and hitch to the buggy, and drive across. After I had done this two or three times, we came to one slough that I knew would swim our horse, and it would not do to drive into it, but there were the remains of an old bridge, and I arranged the planks again for the wheels of my buggy, which I drew over by hand. I then hitched up, and perhaps got on my horse once or twice more and rode across some of those sloughs, and found none of them very deep. I was satisfied there were no more between me and the bridge that would swim my horse, so I said to my wife, "The next water that I come to I intend to drive in." About half a mile before we came to the bridge the road forked, the right hand going to the bridge and the left hand going to the old ford below the bridge some half a mile. I passed this fork of the road without noticing it, and the first thing I knew I saw water before me which I thought was a slough, and as my word was out to drive into the next water I came to, I drove right up to this with the intention of driving in. But when I got near I saw by the current of the stream that it was the river, and looking across I saw the bluffs on the other side, which reminded me that it was the old ford, and that I had gone wrong back at the forks of the road. A few rods farther, and I, with my wife and child, horse and buggy would have been into that river which, at that time was perhaps seventy-five or one hundred feet deep. Of course we never would have gotten out alive. I felt that it was the hand of a greater power that caused me to look forward and see the current of the water, and that it was the river, and thus save our lives. It was then about half a mile right up the river to the bridge, but no road. The woods were open, however, and rather than drive back to the forks of the road, I pulled off my boots and stockings, and went before the horse to clear the way of chunks and brush, my wife driving, until we got to the bridge. Sometimes I was in water above my knees. I then put on my boots, got into the buggy and drove on to my appointment, feeling all right. .. .
At another time, I think it was in 1875, I started on a tour through the northern part of the state of Indiana, into a portion of the country where I never had been before. I was living at Grayville, and I was to take the train at about ten o'clock in the morning going to Vincennes, to make connection with the train from there to Terre Haute and thence to Greencastle and from there to Bainbridge, my first appointment being at that place. I was to arrive there at six o'clock in the evening. Elder G. M. Thompson had arranged the appointments for me.
When I left home and boarded the train it was about thirty minutes late and its time in Vincennes was precisely the time of the E. & T. H. train, on which I was to go to Terre Haute. When I gave the conductor my ticket, he inquired if I wanted to go farther north than Vincennes. I told him I did and asked him if he thought we would make the connection. He said he thought we would although we were thirty minutes late. We had about forty miles to run and to make thirty minutes' time in a forty mire run required a considerable gain. About a mile and a half south of the depot at Mt. Cannel our train wrecked. No one was hurt seriously, but the idea of meeting the train at Vincennes was preposterous now. The conductor however recognized the passengers and said that there would be a train here for them, as soon as they could despatch to Vincennes and the train could come.
Some of the men and myself walked on up to the depot to await the arrival of the other train. I waited there until late in the afternoon and no train came and it was a hard matter to get any information from any of the railroad employees. I began to get hungry and thought if I had an opportunity I would go to a hotel and get my dinner, but I hardly knew whether to leave the depot or not for fear the train might come and I would miss it. I do not think there was a hotel nearer the depot than a quarter of a mile, but I finally started to go up town to get my dinner, and about fifty yards from the depot, I met a stranger walking in a hurry and he asked me if the train had come. I told him it had not and I doubted if there would be any train. "0! yes," he said, "there will be a train here now in five minutes. I heard some railroad men say so a few minutes ago." I concluded that if the train would be here in a few minutes I had better not leave, so I turned back and waited till about four o'clock.
I finally concluded that the best thing I could do would be to take what is now known as the Air Line train over to Princeton and catch a train there for Terre Haute. So I went to the other depot and it was so near train time that I did not have time to get anything to eat, but I thought I would get my supper when I got to Princeton. When I got there, however, the connections were so close and there were no arrangements for meals near the depot, so I had no opportunity to get anything to eat. It was after dark and I was hungry. I boarded the train and went on to Terre Haute, arriving there at about ten o'clock in the night. I then went to a lunch counter and got a cup of coffee and perhaps a sandwich.
After a while my train came for Greencastle and I boarded it and went on, arriving there at about three o'clock in the morning. When I landed, there was no person about. The depot was all closed up, no hacks, no street cars at that time in the night, and one man and little boy, who got off the same train that I did, were the only persons that I saw. I inquired of the man where the other depot was and he told me that it was at the extreme northern part of the city. The depot where I got off was at the extreme southern part. I asked him how I would find the way to it. He showed me a street car track and told me that it led directly to the other depot and if I would follow it, I would get there. I started and all the light I had to walk by was the starlight. Sometimes the mud hindered me from seeing the track, from the sidewalk and, as the track turned once in a while, I would perhaps go on until I missed it and then wade out into the street and find that I had left it and then I would have to go back until I found it. I went on and, when I got into the main part of the city, the first thing I knew I was within two feet of a policeman, who threw his light on me from a dark lantern. I did not know whether he intended to molest me or not; however, I was not afraid. He remarked, "You are traveling, are you?" I told him that I had just gotten in off the train. He said, "All right. Go ahead."
I went on to the depot and when I got there, at perhaps four o'clock in the morning, there was no one about the station. Everything was dark and silent as the grave and I knew nothing about when there would be a train. It was ten miles to Bainbridge, where I was to preach that day. I saw a house near by that was lighted up and had a hotel sign by the door. I concluded I would go in there and sit by the fire until the train came or until I could learn something about it. I walked in and as the room was warm and a good cheerful fire burned in the stove I took a seat. There was no one in the room, but I had not been seated long before a man opened the door and looked in saying, "This is no hotel." "Well," said I, "what did you say it was for? The sign out here says hotel." He remarked that he had only been there but a short time and had not taken the sign down. I told him that I did not want a hotel, that I was waiting for a train and saw no place to wait and just thought I would come in there until train time. "Well," said he, "you can not stay in here," and I got up and walked out and waited out in the cold, frosty weather, until finally I heard a train coming, but it proved to be a freight train. I ran immediately to the first man I saw with it, and asked him if that train went to Bainbridge. He said it did and if I wished to go there to get right in the caboose. I made my way to the rear end of the train and entered the caboose, where there was a good warm fire, so I lay down upon a bench and the next thing I knew we were on our way to Bainbridge, at which place I arrived at about sun-up. I had had nothing to eat since the breakfast before, had been up all night and had an appointment to preach at eleven that day, also that night. Of course I was in a grand plight for preaching. These are some of the blissful experiences a minister has in traveling to preach.
from The Writings of Elder R. A. Biggs
I was ordained January, 1880, on Saturday before the 4th Sunday, by Elders W. S. Harris and F. Loden, by order of Damascus Church in Erath County, Texas. Brother Harris was at that time pastor, and I think continued to serve the church until the following summer or fall, when the church called me to the care of her. I was young and timid, illiterate, and felt very weak to shoulder the responsibility. But the brethren and sisters encouraged me and we got along very smoothly. I was also very poor and hard run, had to rent land to work, and it seemed at times that we would be compelled to suffer for the necessaries of life. These things, together with our religious enemies, made me often weep, fear and quake, but amidst it all the brethren, sisters, and friends gave me all the encouragement they could and I pressed on as best I could--working hard from Monday until Friday night, reading and studying of nights until a late hour. Then Saturday morning would leave home to go to my appointments, returning generally Sunday nights, sometimes it being 10 o'clock at night before I reached home. All this I would do so as to be at home Monday morning to go to work. Many a night have I sat by brush light in the fireplace and read and studied the Bible, having a great thirst for Bible knowledge. I secured a dictionary and would study Bible words, and thus I got what little knowledge I have. . . .
Soon after my last marriage I moved about five miles west and bought a school land claim. Here I got in a good little farm of forty acres and began to accumulate a little more than a living. About this time Ephesus Church was constituted and soon they called me to serve them. This church was situated about four miles east of De Leon, Comanche County [Texas]. It was about twenty miles to this church from where I lived. She also prospered and soon built up from eight members to twenty-five. All this time I had no conveyance except horseback, but I could then enjoy it, and could stand almost any kind of weather. . . .
Another experience I had once. I went into Brown County to an appointment, and after filling it, next morning I started for home, some 27 miles away. The morning was cloudy and misty, and I had not gone far until it was freezing, but I pressed on, and soon the ice was caked all over my overcoat, but I still pressed on for fear of a blizzard, and I wanted to get home. I finally reached home about 2 o'clock p.m., and my wife had to break the ice from my feet and stirrups before I could get off my horse, then break the ice from my coat before we could unbutton it. I was so cold I could scarcely walk or stand upon my feet.
from The Autobiography of Elder J. H. Oliphant
I attended Indian Creek church fourteen years, a distance of seventeen miles on horseback. I missed nine meetings during the fourteen years. About the same length of time I served Friendship church, and for a like period I attended Guthrie's Creek church, thirty-five miles away, and Little Flock and Spring Creek, each about twelve miles away. I did all this attending churches on horseback for twenty years. When I think of all that toil and travel I wonder that I am yet alive. . . .
We found it necessary to do hard work and make what we could. I farmed in the summer and taught school in the winter, sold goods part of the time, and being away so much the business did me no good. I sold goods on credit and failed to get part of it. Truly my wife and I had a hard time to care for our family. I served the churches on horseback and muleback. I could detail at least three instances of my horse being washed way by my attempting to cross swollen streams, in all of which I had narrow risk of being drowned. Once I attempted to cross a bridge that was covered by back water from White river. The water on the bridge was two feet deep, and by mistake I guided the horse so that he stepped off at the middle of the bridge. We went under together, but I kept in the saddle, and the horse swam out. I went to a home and dried my clothes and went on to my appointment. My wife and I knew well what hardships were and saw the need of economy, and practiced it rigidly. We loved the churches and enjoyed them very much, and the members loved us.
from Autobiography and Sermons by Elder Walter Cash
While preaching for Sardis church, one Friday, late in the fall of the year, when it had been very muddy, the weather suddenly changed, it got very cold, and the ground froze up hard and sharp. I had so much work to do Friday to get things in shape so that my wife could do the feeding and caring for the stock while I was away (as we had no help) I had not time to get my horse shod. I worked until late and started after dark, intending to go ten miles that night and then to go on Saturday morning. I had gone but little distance until my horse became very lame, traveling over the sharp, frozen ground. I then walked and led the horse, so as to keep on the smoothest places I could find, and at 10 o'clock came to a blacksmith shop. There were no lights anywhere. I went to the blacksmith's house, they were all in bed. I knocked at the door, and when I had awakened him, told him what I wanted. He said, "I never shoe horses at night." I pleaded with him, telling him that I would hold a lamp for him, and that I could not go on unless he shod my horse. He finally consented, and we got the horse shod, and I went on to a brother's house, put my horse in the stable, and went to bed to wait for the morning.
Next morning I started to go on fifteen miles, but my horse was still lame, and I walked the greater part of the way. I had a great struggle of mind from the time I left home, and especially Saturday morning. I asked myself over and over, who had demanded this service at my hands. Saturday the weather was disagreeable, being cloudy and damp, and I argued there would be no one at the meeting when I reached the appointed place, and so I could do no good by going on. I argued to myself that it would be the most reasonable thing to do to turn back and go home, as I was needed there so badly, and I was getting a lame horse farther and farther from home, which did not seem right. I tried to think what I might say when I got to the meeting if there was anyone there to speak to. But all my thoughts were so empty and light, that it seemed the course of a foolish person to go through what I was enduring, and would have to go through before I reached home, to make all this effort to say as nearly nothing as I would have to say. It seemed presumptuous to suppose that my preaching had enough in it to warrant any such trip. I would think, "There is my wife at home with the house to keep, the children to care for, and added to that the feeding and caring for all the stock. And here I am making this trip under such difficulties, when under the circumstances, it is not likely I can do any good, even if my services were worth anything at any time." Thus I meditated step by step for miles and miles of weary road. And I seemed to be the only one on the road. The roads were too bad for anyone to be on them, and here I was on a "fool's errand."
Finally, I got within one mile of the meeting place and came to a brother's house, and there was no one at home. This was encouraging; perhaps they were at the meeting. I put my horse in the stable and trudged on. I came in sight of the place. There were a number of horses hitched around. It was a reviving sight. I came nearer; I stopped and listened. They were singing. How good it sounded to one who had heard nothing for weary miles but the discouraging spirit-depressing arguments of Satan. I hurried on; I was late. I opened the door. I would be glad to see only a few, but--it seemed nearly too good to be true--they were nearly all there. "All the toils of the road seemed nothing," I had got to the end of the way, and the Lord's presence was manifested among us. The Lord was indeed good. Would I doubt him again, and let my rebellious heart be filled with complaining? .. .
I will mention an incident in which it seems that I was providentially saved from being robbed. It was while I lived at Marceline, Mo., and I was returning from Bear Creek church, of which I was then pastor. I had to change from the C. B. & Q. railroad to the A. T. & S. F. road, and the depots were about a quarter of a mile apart. I arrived at Bucklin about 3 o'clock in the morning, and hurried across to the Santa Fe station. When I got there, from the actions of the station agent and the waiting passengers, it was apparent that something unusual had occurred. I asked, "What is the matter?" The agent replied, "Haven't you seen anyone? We have been held up and robbed. Where did you come from?" I told him that I had come from the Burlington station, and that I had seen no one. He said, "Well, just as soon as the robbers had left here the Burlington agent had called up and said that his office had been robbed." So it was plain that both stations had been robbed at the same time, and I was between the two stations, going from one to the other. I had left home hurriedly Friday evening without thinking to go to the bank and had more money with me than I was in the habit of carrying on my person. As I had no money that I could afford to lose, I thanked the Lord for my escape, and promised myself that I would carry nothing for robbers in the future when it could be avoided... .
After this I taught school during the winter months and worked on the farm in summer. I continued working along in this manner for about ten years. By this time I was preaching for four churches regularly, so I was constantly driven by work, summer and winter, and riding on horseback to three churches. The church to which I belonged was close to my home. Occasionally I made trips to churches at a distance. Much of the time we were not able to keep help in the house for my wife, nor for myself on the farm. I worked as late as I could Friday night, and then rode to the churches Saturday morning, a distance of from twenty to twenty- five miles, and then home Sunday night, my wife feeding the stock in my absence.
from The Life and Labors of a Poor Sinner by Elder T. S. Dalton
The first preaching tour I ever took was before I was ordained. Old Brother Willis Bryant of Humphreys County, Tennessee, came into our country and attended some of our associations; and while there heard me try to preach, and from some cause seemed to take a liking to me. He began to beg me to visit the churches in his country. I finally agreed very reluctantly to try it, and asked our old pastor if he thought it would be right. He said, "Yes, I want you to go and mingle among the brethren." I told him I was so weak and poor I was afraid to start; but he 'urged me on. At last I thought I had an excuse that would surely let me out, and told my old pastor about it, that I had no horse to ride. He said, "That shall not be in the way; you can take my mule, and welcome." I had no further excuse to offer; and when the time came, he sent the mule over with a note, which read, "God speed your journey, my brother. My prayers will go with you." So I started trying to pray the Lord to let that trip decide my fate; if He had not called me, let the trip be a failure, or throw obstructions in my way so I would have to turn back.
I bade my old mother farewell with my eyes streaming with tears. She gave me the mother's kiss saying, "God be with you, my boy." I rode all day the first day to try to get as far as I could, because I had but one dollar in the world, but was ashamed to tell anyone; and I concluded that if it was right for me to go, God would open the way. That night I stopped to stay all night with a man; but never hinted that I ever tried to preach, for I was ashamed for any one to call me a preacher. Next morning after I had eaten breakfast I called for my mule. It was brought out; and I asked my bill, which he told me was one dollar. I handed it to him, the last mite I had. I yet had the Tennessee river to cross, and I knew not where the money would come from to pay the bill. The devil began to tell me, "Now you see, God never started you out and you have the evidence;" so I about concluded to turn my mule's head for home, but it seemed that some force sped me on. I wept as I tried to pray the Lord to tell me what to do; but finally I came to the conclusion that I would go to the river and if the way opened, I would go on; if not, I would be then thoroughly convinced that the Lord never sent me, and I would then go home and stay there.
When I had got in about a half mile of the river, I stopped at a house, and a man came out (I never have learned his name, but I remember he was a hare-lipped man). I asked him if he could tell me how to get down to the ferry. He said, "Wait till I get my horse and I will go and show you, or it is a rather difficult way to find." So I waited; but with a heavy heart, because he would find out that I had no money; and in the next place I felt unworthy of such a favor. But he was soon ready and we rode off together. We had gone but a little way until he said, "Your name is Dalton, is it not?" I said, "Yes, sir." "You are a preacher. I heard you preach one time," and told the place. I said, "Yes, sir, I was there, and tried to preach, but I can't say I am a preacher. I doubt that very much." "Well," he said, "I never was more rejoiced in my life than the time I listened to you, and would like to try it again. Where are you going?" I told him, and he said, "Do you preach over there tomorrow?" I told him I was to try. "Well," he said, "I will be over there." About this time we reached the river bank, and he called over for the boat; and oh! I thought my heart would burst. I knew not what to do; for I knew I had no money, and I was too stubborn to tell the man, and I thought perhaps now I would get him into trouble. But when the boat landed, he stepped on and gave the man a piece of money, saying, "Set this man over the river and be here early in the morning for I want to go over and hear him preach." He gave me his hand and started off the boat. I could hardly keep from throwing my arms around him.
My soul was filled with love and gratefulness to God. I had got over the river, and was on my mule and had gone but a few steps until I burst out crying and praising God at the same time. Thus I went on up the road feeling assured that the precious Lord was with me, and before I was aware, I met Brother Bryant coming to meet me. I burst out crying worse than ever. Brother Bryant asked me what was the matter. I tried to waive the subject, and talk about something else; but he urged me to tell him what was the matter. When I told him, he burst out crying, too, saying, "God has sent you over here, my brother, and you need not fear. He will be with you all the journey." I was out two months from the time I left home until I returned. I tried to preach every day, and nearly every night, and was not cast down a single time; but on the wing all the while.
Brief excerpts from Biographical History of Primitive or Old
School Baptist Ministers, compiled by Elder R. H. Pittman
T. N. Alderton: He was much interested concerning the Lord's people who were destitute of gospel preaching and visited many of said places, some annually, where they longed for his coming and his word of cheer. During his long service as a minister he served four churches and sometimes had the care of five, traveled on a conservative estimate three to four thousand miles a year.
Wm. T. Branson: He has served several churches in Iowa and Indiana; has assisted in organizing three churches, has traveled considerably among the Baptists, especially in the West and is supposed by some to be the first Old School Baptist minister to preach in South Dakota. Elder Branson has been a very useful man and has had a special impression to travel in the waste places to hunt up and feed the flock of God.
John S. Brinson: He served at one time as many as four or five churches as occasional pastor, and they situated 120 miles apart east and west, and 50 miles apart north and south.
H. S. Bunson: So great was his love for the cause of Christ that though a cripple from white swellings and almost blind, and poor in this world's goods, yet for years he would often walk twenty miles through any kind of weather to meet his appointments.
Thomas Carr: He was a faithful pastor, often rode through rain, hail and snow until his clothes were frozen on him. Notwithstanding he was a poor man, money could not hire him to preach, nor could money hire him to quit preaching.
John Gilbert: Soon after this he joined the Baptist Church of Christ and began preaching the gospel, traveling all over the mountains of Eastern Kentucky on horseback, preaching to those people till he was over one hundred years old.
H. C. Hogan: He has perhaps traveled more and done more evangelistic work than any other minister of his age, among our people. . . "I am especially anxious to go to destitute places where the gospel is not preached, as the apostle says, 'in regions beyond."
Wm. Hubbard: And in this [the Missionary question], which threatened the destruction of the church, he took the side of the Primitive Church, and maintained it until death. In this great controversy public sentiment and prejudice ran so high that he was threatened by a mob; 'and on one occasion, when threatened at Valley Grove Church, in Murray County, a company of young men rode up by him, when he was nearing the church, with clubs in their hands, and saluted him very politely. They rode along together on horseback, and when they arrived at the church, he hitched his horse, and the young men hitched theirs close by his, and all went into the church together, he taking the stand, and the young men taking seats near by. After services, a conference was held in which was considerable confusion and discussion on the mooted question of missions. After conference the meeting adjourned, and he and the young men who sat by so attentively rode away. Upon inquiry it was ascertained that these young men had heard that certain citizens, and perhaps some members of the church, who were favorable to the Arminian cause, intended to mob him, and his opinion was that the Lord put it into the hearts and minds of these young men to protect him.
Elk Johnson: Later he moved to Southwest Texas, locating at San Antonio, and was one of the pioneer Primitive Baptist preachers in this section. His many vicissitudes in business, as a merchant, farmer and carpenter has led him in many localities where the gospel was never heard, and upon all suitable occasions he has endeavored to hold up the blood stained banner of Jesus.
John H. Moore: He moved to Missouri in the year 1857, and was one of the pioneer preachers of that country. He attended one church as pastor for one year that was forty miles from his home and walked the entire distance both ways. One time desiring to attend an association one hundred miles away, and having no other way of getting there, he walked the entire distance.
Phillip Mclnturff: He crossed the Allegheny mountains one hundred and thirty-nine times on preaching tours.
Matthew Sikes: He preached for a number of years in a section where there were but few Primitive Baptist churches--using school houses and churches of other orders, private houses and often in the woods at neighborhood gatherings. Under his ministry, several churches were established.
A POOR SINNER LIKE ME
Primitive Baptists and The Experience of Grace
In reading writings by older Primitive Baptists, one difference we notice between their day and ours is the emphasis that was then put on the "experience of grace." "Telling one's experience" consisted of relating the workings of the heart of the newly-awakened sinner as he was led through various stages of conviction for sin, a feeling of condemnation, resolve to keep the law, despair, and finally to a full realization of the work of Christ and his interest in it.
Anyone who has read Elder Wilson Thompson's famous Autobiography knows how much importance was put by the churches on this narrative. The account of the person applying for church membership as to how God had dealt with him was carefully examined to make sure it was genuine, and on occasion the person was denied baptism if his story did not ring true. The reason for this scrutiny was the strong belief that only those whose hearts had been changed by the divine work of regeneration and who had been led to faith in Christ were scriptural candidates for baptism. Also, the safety of the flock demanded that, within the limits of human judgment, false professors be kept out. Because this work was found only in the awakened elect, it was assumed that the faith which resided in the church member would recognize faith in the new saint, and thus he could rejoice with him in his new love. Compared to the close attention given to experiences in those days, our current procedures seem very cursory and shallow.
Elder Lemuel Potter's experience is probably very typical. In his Labors and Travels he describes its various stages: "About the beginning of the year 1863, I was permitted to have a full view of my own poor wicked heart, and 0, how miserable! . . . I could not throw off the impression that I was the most miserable sinner in the world. . . . Finally I came to the conclusion that there was something that I had not done that I must do before the Lord would have mercy. . . . It seems now that I stood in one place and was trembling like a leaf, trying to ask the Lord for mercy, and had almost given' up in despair, when suddenly there was a change came over me that brought peace that I am not able to describe, and I felt like praising the Lord for his grace in the salvation of a lost and justly condemned sinner. . . . I have now only given simply a relation of what took place with me some thirty-one years ago, and I leave my brethren and sisters to judge of the reality of its being the Lord's work."
Elder J. R. Respess gives a very powerful treatment of this subject in his allegorical exposition of the case of Naaman the Syrian: "No man is going to Christ as long as he can do without Him; no man who is really poor is proud of it--a really poor man is ashamed to confess his poverty, and that his smokehouse is destitute of meat, and his crib of corn--but a rich man would not mind saying he had no corn in his crib, because he knows that he can have it there when he wants it. And the penitent sinner confesses his sins with real grief and shame, whilst the impenitent (rich) confesses it with pride. . . . Joseph's brethren were, as Christians are and have been since, reduced to poverty and destitution before the welcome word came. As we hear them often, when they come to the church, in telling their experience, say, The more I prayed the worse I got, until I thought there was no help for me; when unexpectedly, I was enabled to rely upon Christ. They did not, of course, get worse and worse the more they prayed, but they began with the idea of obtaining salvation by their prayers, and they were being taught to look to another source--to go to another country for help--to go out of themselves--and before they would do this they must become destitute, take out the last sack of corn, even to the last grain, and then the welcome news came, and they could appreciate it, too, as the power of God and wisdom of God in their salvation. 'He (God) will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.' Joseph's brethren would never have gone to Egypt for corn if there had been corn in their own cribs, any sooner than the righteous (self-righteous) will repent and seek Christ."
The telling of experiences of grace was an important part of the spiritual social life of the church. When gathered together in an informal setting, very often their time would be spent relating to one another the great things that God had done for their souls. This served to encourage each other, and was an edifying and entertaining way of establishing all the hearers in the doctrines of grace, for it was firmly believed that true doctrine and true experience went hand in hand. Elder Walter Cash commented about this in his book Practical Suggestions for Primitive Baptists: "The Lord's work in the heart of a poor sinner is of more importance than anything in the world, and the pastor of a church should not get so intellectual as to let the Lord's children forget His work, 'His strange work.' They should speak of it often and tell it to the generations following them.
"These 'heart-talks' should be encouraged at the homes of the members, and, in fact, everywhere. Many a troubled soul would be glad to hear someone's 'experience' that it might learn if, indeed, there is hope for the vilest and weakest of all. But such are often discouraged by hearing professed Christians join in unbecoming conversation, and hearing them talk with great interest upon everything else but God's love and the wonderful gift of grace.
"Primitive Baptists contend that there must be a work of the Spirit in the hearts of men that they may have a good hope in Christ, and we should not drift with the world to disregard it; but, instead, we should make this the first thing of importance to the sinner, and the more he is brought to contemplate it and talk about it the better for him."
It is tempting to excuse our departure from this emphasis on the experience of grace. by saying that it was just a custom of the time, and the stories that were told were given in that form because it was expected. But if we think about it, that does not make sense. First, considering our modern world of electronic distractions, prevailing worldliness even among church members, rapidly declining moral standards, and general erosion in basic biblical beliefs in the public at large, how can we possibly say that our spiritual experience is more profound than that of those godly men of bygone days? Secondly, a close look at the process of gracious experience will teach us otherwise. Consider:
When a man is born again, he is given eyes to see spiritual truth, which he did not have before. The truth that is closest to him, even in his very heart, is his wretched sinfulness. If that man then comes under the sound of faithful, powerful gospel preaching, declaring the holiness and justice of God, the inevitable effect is a feeling of condemnation. (The interesting thing is that even when the person has a head knowledge about religion, he still goes through this process. The point is that grace works first in the heart, and until God mercifully grants relief to the soul, the head is powerless to reason a way around the dilemma of how a just God can justify sinners.)
Now, assuming that this feeling of condemnation comes powerfully to the conscience of the awakened sinner, with the accompanying feeling of horror and desperation, the logical next step is that the man will begin scrambling to find some way--any way--to remedy the situation, and until Grace is revealed to him, the only thing he knows to do is to sew fig leaves--to resort to his own efforts. If he is under severe condemnation of soul, it cannot be assumed that he will just sit casually as he perceives hell looming under him. Since the feeling of condemnation is so strong, the effort at self-justification will likewise be determined. There is no justification by the works of the law, however, and in time the sinner discovers that the fig leaves will not hide him from the wrath of God, and finds his case is now hopeless. Despair sets in. He has tried everything, resorted to his very best efforts, only to avail nothing. Then, when Christ is finally revealed to his heart, it is not difficult to imagine what a time of rejoicing and heavenly relief is then experienced!
This process, called The Experience of Grace, is entirely logical in light of the truths of Depravity, God's Holiness, and Regeneration. Why, then, is this experience heard so little today when it was so prevalent only a few generations ago? Is it merely a change in customs of the day? I am convinced it is not. For one thing, we find the identical story being told by the Particular Baptists in England, who had very little contact with our people. I believe very strongly that the lack of strong experiences of grace is symptomatic of the shallowness of our religious convictions and the powerlessness of our preaching today. We have (or think we have) more education, poise, and polish in our preaching, but it is undeniable in light of history that our preachers today do not even approach the power that those old brothers possessed in the pulpit. Why is that? It is not simply a matter of an absence of fervency. We have men who preach their hearts out. Then why don't we see weeping Marys and trembling jailors today? I have heard "Brethren, We Have Met To Worship" sung all my life, and always wondered why that line was in there, because I never saw it happen. Well, evidently it used to happen. Perhaps the most tragic story of our generations of Primitive Baptists will be the departure of that degree of power from our preaching, and thus that blessed depth of experimental religion from our lives.
Where is the answer? Why did this happen? Maybe one answer is to be found in our attitude toward the nature of the gospel and what happens when the born-again person meets up with it. In short, today we badly underestimate the potency of grace. Let's see how our Primitive Baptist fathers viewed the question of what happens when Sinner meets Sermon.
Elder J. H. Oliphant was one of the most eminent of our ministers in his day. He moderated the famous Fulton meeting in 1900. In his book Final Perseverance of the Saints he makes this statement: "Oh, how foolish are thousands and tens of thousands of our young men and women who are today at ease in Zion; never have from their hearts said, with their hands on their sinful breasts, 'God be merciful to me, a sinner.' Never knew what it was to cry out with broken hearts, 'Lord save, I perish!' Many of our churches are flooded with this class of professors every winter, who seem to out-shine the very best members in the body, yet when the excitement that brought them is over, their lamps of professions are blown out or gone out. . . . What a pity that so many of our preachers, instead of preaching the plain, simple gospel of Christ in its experimental power, are declaring that salvation is by works, and in this way turning the minds of the people from Christ, and fixing their confidence in a round of duty. Let each of-us ask ourselves the question, 'Have I the real grace of God, or am I a mere letter servant? Have I real hope, and can I give a reason for that hope? Is all my hope stayed on God? Do I trust him for every grace?"
From Elder T. S. Dalton in The Life and Labors of a Poor Sinner: "Brother, will you look back over the past history of your life and see whether or not there was a time when you cared nothing for the service of God, when you trampled the mercies of God under your feet, when people preached of the sufferings of the Son of God, and told of the glory that should follow, you cared no more for it than a stick or a stone. I ask you then was there not a time, somewhere along the journey of life, that all this was changed with you, and the service of God somehow had a sweetness in it, and instead of falling as upon a stone or a block, it dropped into your poor heart as the very sweets of heaven itself. When the house of God became a place of your delight, when you longed for the time to come to lay aside the secular affairs of life, and seek the house of God to listen to the sweet songs, to listen to the petitions as they ascend to the Hill of Zion, humbly begging for the mercies of God to rest upon you, a poor trembling sinner in the world; when you could sit under the sound of the gospel and it became as sweet to you as honey itself. Did you ever stop to think, brother, that just at that time you became a willing servant of God; one that was willing to turn his back upon the world and obey the injunctions of the dear Savior?"
Elder S. A. Paine: "The gospel is to affect the people as the rain affects the grass. If our friends will demonstrate that the rain gives life to vegetation then we will concede that an argument is made in proof that the gospel gives life to sinners. The rain does administer to the living vegetation, by way of feeding or nourishing it and brings the life more vividly to light, but to dead vegetation, the effect is quite different. So it is with the gospel. While the gospel shower is falling, you can see a marked difference in the effect on different people. Some will melt in tears rejoicing while others will mock. Some will say, 'Men and brethren, what must we do?' while others will mock and say, 'These are full of new wine.'"
Elder John M. Watson: "Faithful preaching will elicit the sign of either life or death; it is in that respect fearfully ominous. 2Co 2:16. The plainer the preaching, the plainer will be the manifestations of life or death."
Elder Lemuel Potter: "A stony heart represents something unimpressible in serious things. It is unfit to receive the good seed so as to bring forth fruit. So the Lord says He will take it away. I believe this work is done in the conversion of the sinner, and it is an internal work that no other agency can do but the Spirit of God.
"If He takes it away, and gives a heart of flesh, which He says He will do, then He gives a heart that is impressible; and one into which the gospel will find access, and bring forth fruit. Such is the good and honest heart that the Lord speaks of in the parable [of the sower]. But do not forget that God gives this new heart, and that before the gospel is preached to him profitably."
Elder John R. Daily:. "If two persons were under the sound of gospel preaching and one hears with spiritual hearing while the other does not, how is the difference to be accounted for? The one that hears is of God, is born of God, and the other hears not because he is not born of God. As one must be born of God in order to hear the word preached with spiritual hearing, the ability to hear cannot come by means of the preaching. . . .
"Just as we can tell where good ground is when we sow our wheat upon the ground, so we can tell where good and honest hearts are. The effect of our preaching tells us. If some are moved by our preaching to shed tears of joy, while there is another who listens and despises the preacher because of what he preaches, we know that to the one the word has come in power. Hearts which have been prepared to receive the truth in good and honest hearts, receive it as good soil receives the seed sown into it."
Six ministers--mighty men among our people--and all of the same opinion: We can expect the gospel to come in power to the awakened sinner.
May God grant us within our lifetimes to see congregations of rent hearts, of sinners crying out for mercy. Maybe then, when we brethren meet to worship we can come with a realistic hope of seeing the weeping Marys and trembling jailors. Maybe then the hosts of the Prince of the Power of the Air will tremble as our pulpits thunder forth with the most powerful sound ever known to come from sinful man--the sound of the Gospel of our Christ, preached with fervor from faith to faith.
PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS' EXPERIENCES OF GRACE
Perhaps the most vivid experience in all the life of a child of God is that period of time when the Lord begins to deal in his life in an experimental manner. When the term "experience of grace" is used, it normally refers to those events which begin with regeneration and continue through faith in Christ and baptism. This time has always been of critical importance to Primitive Baptists, and the telling of their experiences was a large part of the social interaction of the members. As Elder Walter Cash comments: "The Lord's work in the heart of a poor sinner is of more importance than anything in the world, and the pastor of a church should not get so intellectual as to let the Lord's children forget His work, 'His strange work.' They should speak of it often and tell it to the generations following them. . . . Primitive Baptists contend that there must be a work of the Spirit in the hearts of men that they may have a good hope in Christ, and we should not drift with the world to disregard it; but, instead, we should make this the first thing of importance to the sinner, and the more he is brought to contemplate it and talk about it the better for him."
One of the great differences between Grace as believed by Primitive Baptists and the system held to by most of the rest of the religious world is that we believe that regeneration is a sovereign, effectual, immediate, life-changing, irreversible work of the Holy Spirit; while they essentially believe that the new birth is a decision that the person makes to accept the salvation which they say Christ offers to every individual. This vast difference in doctrine is one of the reasons why the experience of grace has been so important to our people. If God has changed a person from dead to quickened, from blind to seeing, from deaf to hearing, from stony-hearted to loving, from faithless to believing, from rebellious to obedient, etc., then it is obvious that this will be the pivotal point in that saint's life, except the Resurrection. On the other hand, the person who has merely made a mental or emotional decision cannot say the same thing-- there is a vast, eternal difference between the two kinds of experience. One is an experience of works, the other the all- important experience of grace. Our people have always had a profound interest in knowing that the Lord had truly worked in their hearts, because that very Sovereign Grace that had changed their hearts' was all their hope and all their trust.
It is hoped that this collection of Primitive Baptists' experiences of grace will be a source of encouragement and keen interest to all those of our "old order of Baptists" who still hold to the lovely and comforting doctrines of Election, Predestination, Effectual Calling, Particular Redemption, and Eternal Security.
[A very interesting and instructive account which is too detailed and lengthy for the purposes of this collection, but which is considered a classic of Primitive Baptist literature, is that of Sister Anna Phillips.]
Elder John M. Watson
The author, after his conversion, sought for a case similar to his own, and was anxious to learn if one like his was recorded in the New Testament. He found that of the poor Gadarene to accord best with his; and it has since been a source of encouragement and comfort to him, to run a parallel of circumstances which attended his and the Gadarene.
He, like this man among the tombs, was deranged, was laboring under mania a potu, caused by a long and excessive use of alcoholic stimulants. Although he did not cut himself with rocks, break the cords with which he was bound, and set his friends at defiance, yet had he been neglected, and left unrestrained, he would have committed more insane and violent acts than did the Gadarene. He at this late period, entertains a solemn recollection, mingled with devout gratitude to God, and strong obligations to friends, of a strong desire to destroy himself, which by their kind and watchful care was providentially hindered. This temptation was irresistible on his part; it was at first restrained by kind and watchful friends, as instruments in the merciful hands of God, and afterwards effectually by His grace. Jude 1. He was then not only called by the Lord, but had been preserved in Christ Jesus. His soul, which had been hitherto dead in trespasses and sins, was then quickened into life, and such a deep ,sense of his sinful state, and burden of sin and guilt arose, with such terrors in his soul, that he gave way to the most painful and profound despair. What painful horror--what weighty guilt--what soul-pain--what bitter suffering are couched in that hapless word, despair! We may write it or speak it, but to feel it is the only way to learn its dreadful import! It is bad enough to despair about temporal things, but who can endure it when it reigns in the heart, in all its hopelessness in regard to both temporal and eternal destinies! .. .
The soul can never, no, never forget this feeding on wormwood, this drinking of gall, this piercing of the two-edged sword!
Language fails to express them; words are poor signs of those inward throes and pangs which the anguished soul suffers under a sense of God's wrath as revealed in His holy law.
I really felt and believed that so great a sinner had never lived before, was not then living, nor could ever live hereafter. My heart was indeed truly honest, and I was constrained to acknowledge, as I painfully felt, that my condemnation was just, dreadful as it was. I felt that I had no advocate who could speak a word in my favor, nor could I dare to do so myself. My sinful state was true beyond all controversy, and my guilt, as a condemned sinner, was established in my conscience so as not to admit of any appeal.
So fully did my soul perceive the holiness of God, and entertain a sense of His justice that I could not think for a moment it could take any other way than "the damnation of hell." I felt, so to speak, the workings of the worm that never dies! I was not only an abhorring to myself, but also seemingly to all my relatives and friends, who were so kind and watchful.
I felt that I was arraigned at the bar of God; I tried to think of some acts which I had always considered good, but they did not seem so then; I found a plea of that kind would not avail anything. I was far from entertaining even the plea of mercy and pardon; for sudden destruction seemed inevitable. My heart did not utter a word of prayer; there was nothing in my oppressed soul to prompt a single word of prayer! The idea or hope that God could pardon so great a sinner was foreign to all my feelings; there was no hope of mercy, no, not even of forbearance. It seemed that I had approached my doom, and that an immediate outpouring of the wrath of God would ensue. My heart, so to speak, strained itself up for the shock of God's impending wrath, which I expected every moment to fall in its consuming fires upon my guilty soul. Just at that awful moment, a strange and unexpected sense of peace, with full relief of all my painful apprehensions ensued! In immediate connection with this, a most mystic, wondrous scene presented itself to my view, whether alone in my mind, or on the floor before me, I cannot tell, but it seemed to be depicted on the floor. I have since learned beyond doubt that, in the strange contexture of objects which then presented itself to my view, were revealed some of the most important events of my life from that time to the present! Some may object to the word revealed, but I must employ it, for God, and God only could have made known those things to me in the manner in which it was done, appertaining as they did to the future.
Besides there were other assurances that God was there present with me, in convincing me of sin, in letting me feel and know how utterly I was lost in myself, and then in shedding a sense of His pardoning love abroad in my soul. While I contend for His presence in this work of grace on my soul, may I not believe that He was also present in the production of the miracle which I then witnessed, in which were represented the leading events of my life, in such a manner that I dare not doubt it, for it has had strong confirmation from time to time.
It would be wrong, I fear, in giving a detail of all the particulars of my experience, to omit giving an account of this wonderful occurrence; for it is so closely connected with it, that I seldom ever think of one without thinking of the other. It was wrought I believe in mercy to strengthen my faith, which it has often done, especially when particular events of my life occurred, which had been so plainly represented by this miracle. Had it related to the spiritual interest of the church, or to that of individuals I would have published it far and wide. Nevertheless whatever light I may have on Deity of His word, I regard as belonging to the Church as well as myself. And it can only become common by declaring it. For which reason I now publish this miracle, not, however, with the expectation that it will benefit others as it has benefitted myself, but under the blessing of the Lord others who may have experienced something of the kind, may derive some profit from the corroboration. . . .
It was then that the Lord convinced me, that He could give hope in the midst of despair; that He could give peace and joy for pain and anguish of soul; that He could shed light in the mist of darkness; that He could blot out as a thick cloud, the accumulated sins of years; that He could give a sense of pardon from the guilt and condemnation of sin; that He could enthrone Himself where Satan had dwelt; that He could bind up the broken heart; that he could give beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning; that he could sustain the broken reed, and preserve the smoking flax; that He can disclose to the heart of the believer the great plan of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. I look back, and in the light which I now have in my experience, can see and believe that the Lord performs all these things. I knew even then, in the weak disordered state of my mind, that a great and unaccountable change had taken place in all my feelings and apprehensions, but did not fully understand it. The wish to destroy myself passed away, and it seemed to me that it would have been the worst sin I could have committed. I had no sense of guilt and condemnation which I had just felt, no sense of God's wrath, but on the contrary, I felt perfectly happy, joyful and reconciled to myself and all others. Everything looked beautiful and different from what they did just before. The plan of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ was disclosed to my mind in a very peculiar manner, which I still have in remembrance; but after all, I did not then fully comprehend what the Lord had done for my soul. But in the course of a short time, one morning, while in company with some irreligious young men, I was wondering what these things meant, when it occurred suddenly to me, in the assurance of the Blessed Spirit, as I trust. It was then that the Lord had converted my soul. Great were. then my inward rejoicings, my heart glowed with love, gratitude and praise to God, and I expect I should have made outward demonstrations had my companions been religious. They observed my conduct at the time, and said they supposed that I was under religious impressions. . . .
The kind manifestation or inward assurance, that the Lord had changed my heart was as follows: I heard an old Baptist minister, Elder G. McFadden, preach from these words: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." 1 John 5,10. While he was preaching, I said several times inwardly to myself, The Lord has converted my soul--I am a christian. I may say, without boasting, previous to this time, I had an inward spiritual perception of the plan of salvation, which I found afterwards to accord with the word of God, and the exposition which the old brother gave in conformity to his own experience. In that manner I was edified, strengthened and comforted. The great duties of joining the church, of being baptized, etc., became weighty matters with me. Finally, after much thought and exercise of mind on these things, I was constrained by my experience to join the Old Order of Baptists. How could I consistently with my experience have joined any other denomination of christians? The doctrine of no other would have fully sustained me, except that of the Old Presbyterians. They were without Christ's baptism, and were practicing infant sprinkling! Of course I could not have been buried with Christ in baptism by them, nor have risen with Him in baptism, "through the faith of the operation of God." Col 2:12.
Nor could I join any of the Arminian denominations, for I felt and knew that my experience excluded all Arminianism. To have done so, would have been a gross violation of the great work of grace, which I hoped the Lord had wrought on my soul. I have often thought, that it was the Lord's purpose to teach me in the manner and circumstances of my experience, the great doctrine of grace. I have no cause to regret having joined the Old Order of Baptists, but on the contrary feel constantly thankful for that inward spiritual perception of divine things which constrained me to do so.
Elder Lemuel Potter
As before stated I was married on the 22nd day of March, 1863. During the preceding winter, I taught school three months, about a mile and a half southeast of West Salem, in my native county. I was fond of mirth and innocent pleasures, frequently attending the ball-room and enjoyed dancing. But I had always, from my earliest recollections, a great regard for good morals. I had a great desire, when I was a boy, to be recognized as a good boy. I wanted to be respected as a truthful boy. But, with all my desire to stand high, as I have before remarked, I was fond of mirth and innocent pleasures. Business, however, kept me engaged almost all the time, so that I did not spend as much time in going to shows, fairs, parties and other pleasure trips as my neighbor boys usually did. I thought at the time that it was a hardship that I was kept so close, and not allowed the privileges that other boys had, but I feel now that perhaps it was best for me. During my term of school, already mentioned, began my exercise of mind on the subject of religion. I think I had serious impressions occasionally, from my earliest recollection, and feel now that I have had promptings or cautions from the good Spirit, occasionally, all my life, if I ever had. I will now relate a reason for my hope in the Savior, that I experienced at the time already stated. About the beginning of the year 1863, I was permitted to have a full view of my own poor wicked heart, and 0, how miserable! I need not look around now for a man with a heart full of evil and vain imaginations, for if there is not another heart in the world that answered the description given in the Bible, mine did. The very throbbings of my own heart seemed to speak the terror of the law to a poor sinner like I was. At first I tried to rid myself of the impression that I was the greatest sinner in the world, but all seemed in vain, I could not throw off the impression that I was the most miserable sinner in the world. I tried, under these impressions to ask the Lord for mercy, but it looked so much like solemn mockery for one so vile, who had nothing good to present to the Lord, that at times I was almost afraid to call on his name.
Often have I, in the great agony of my poor heart, taken a walk; more to be alone than anything else, and in those lonesome hours I would often find myself trying to ask the Lord for mercy as I walked along. Sometimes I was made to think that the Lord had shown me the wickedness of my poor, sinful self, that I might see His justice in my condemnation. It seemed that my time in the world was now going to close, and I must die and be lost. 0, how wretched! It was not worth while to tell others of the trouble I was in, for they could not sympathize with me, I thought. Still I kept trying to do something good that the Lord would bless me with peace of mind, and it seemed that nothing would give that but mercy in the forgiveness of sins. If the Lord would forgive all my wrongs, and the innumerable sins I had committed, I thought I would be under greater obligations to Him than any poor sinner that ever lived in the world. In this way I went on for four or five weeks, and it seemed that I could see no peace at any time or place. Everything wore a gloomy, dismal appearance to me. Finally I came to the conclusion that there was something that I had not done that I must do before the Lord would have mercy.
In trying to call to mind what it might be that I had not done, it occurred to me that I had never been humble enough to kneel down and pray to the Lord; and that was the reason I had received no evidence of the forgiveness of sins. Determined to do, what I thought I had committed sin in neglecting to do until now, I started to a place where I intended to get on my knees in prayer to the Lord for mercy to one of the vilest sinners of the race of Adam. I started with a full determination that when I got to that place I would kneel down without any hesitation, and try and pray to the Lord; but instead of doing so I walked past the place I had started to. I stopped, and the thought of my poor heart was, "You are too haughty, and your heart too obdurate, and the Lord will be just and send you to torment."
0, it is more than I can do to describe the anguish of soul just at this time. Lord, be merciful; if I am lost it is just, and if saved, it is a poor guilty sinner saved by Grace. It seems now that I stood in one place and was trembling like a leaf, trying to ask the Lord for mercy, and had almost given up in despair, when suddenly there was a change came over me that brought peace that I am not able to describe, and I felt like praising the Lord for his grace in the salvation of a lost and justly condemned sinner. My trouble was gone, and I thought I would not be troubled any more on account of sin, but 0, how mistaken! I have seen many troubles since then, and often think that my life is so imperfect, and bears so few marks of a Christian, that I often doubt the reality of my knowledge of the Lord.
In October, 1863, I united with the church, and have been trying to live in the service of the Lord. I have thought many times that my hope would not do, yet if I have to go into eternity in a moment it is the very best I have. The fellowship of the brethren is worth more to me than all the friendship in the world. I have now only given simply a relation of what took place with me some thirty-one years ago, and I leave my brethren and sisters to judge of the reality of its being the Lord's work. I thought when I first joined the church, that by the time I was thirty-five or forty years of age I would become more devoted in my feelings towards religious matters, and be more reconciled to the will of the Lord than I was then, but I see no difference in those particulars. I am still a poor sinner and do not deserve saving, yet God's mercy and grace is sufficient, so I still have hope. . . .
I was under the impression that as I had, I thought, obtained a hope in the Savior, there was a duty enjoined upon me, and frequently the importance of discharging my duty by submitting to the ordinances of God's house, bore upon my mind to such an extent, that it caused me a great deal of serious meditation. In fact, a great deal of the time I was in trouble, and felt sad and cast down, and it looked many times as if I was robbed of everything that was calculated to make me cheerful. Not because it was unpleasant to work and to make a living, and to enjoy the society of a young wife, the wife of my youth, but it seemed that my studies upon the subject of religion disqualified me for the earthly blessings and privileges that I had. . . .
I studied a great deal about joining the church at that time, but there were several difficulties in the way. One was, that as far as I was acquainted with the Old School Baptists, they had no young members. All their members that I had ever seen were old men and women. Our neighbors had often predicted that they would soon all die out, and I could not see why they would not. The prospects looked very gloomy to me, especially when I would take Long Prairie church as an example; and I was better acquainted with that church than any other. I did not know whether they would want as young a person as I was in their church or not. I would often think when I would hear them talk on the subject, that a candidate for baptism among them must undergo a very rigid examination on the subject of a reason for his hope. This, I was afraid that I could not give. My experience was very small if I had any, and I was not capable of telling it very well. I felt then, and do yet, that it would be a great sin to deceive the church, and be deceived myself, on the subject of religion. With all these difficulties before me, I went about a great portion of the time, with my head hung down, and often felt like I would love to talk on the subject of religion, if I had some person to talk to, to whom I thought such a conversation would be pleasant. I, however, finally resolved to go to Providence church, at the October meeting, and offer myself, and let the church be her own judge as to my fitness or unfitness to be baptized. Elders E. S. Madding and Isaiah Walker both preached on that day, and after preaching the opportunity was extended for members to come to the church, and I went up, and after I was through talking, before the brethren had time to say anything, it just seemed to me that they would not receive me, because I had told nothing, yet I had told all I had to tell. I will not say that I was surprised when they did receive me, neither will I say that I would not have thought hard of them if they had not received me. But after I was received and baptized, I felt like the change was a great one. I could be cheerful now. Instead of going about and feeling like I was forsaken, I might be heard whistling or singing, or giving some demonstration of peace of mind and joy of heart, while I was about my work every day. When I went to the house I was very fond of singing in the old hymnbook. It did then, and does yet, occur to me that it paid me, poor and unworthy as I felt, to join the church. By so doing, I cast my lot in among the best friends I had upon earth. No other people could have ever come so near being one with me as my brethren and sisters in the church have. It is, indeed, a wonderful display of God's condescending love and mercy to His poor children, that He has established his church here as a home for His little ones, while they travel through this life, and battle with all its difficulties. I would say to all who have a hope in the Savior, and have never yet united with the church, you get the most pay for the least service rendered when you obey the Lord, more than anything else that I ever knew anything about. I felt like I was the least one of the whole family, when I joined the church. And I still feel that if there is any one place in the church more suitable for me than another, it must be at the feet of the brethren; for I know that I am, at best, a poor, imperfect, needy and unworthy sinner. I am as dependent on God for His grace and mercy in my salvation, as the new-born child is on its mother for care, sustenance and protection. I feel like adopting the language of the great apostle to the Gentiles: "It is by the grace of God that I am what I am."
Elder J. H. Oliphant
In 1868 I became interested in religion. I met Elder L. T. Buchanan first in September of that year. I attended all the meetings, and my wife was also attentive. I observed in her an increased interest in the church, so we both waited impatiently from one meeting to the next. We were glad to be with the members. My interest was such that I could not conceal it. I thought that I had some affliction coming on me for months. I was so burdened in my mind that it was my first thought in the morning and the last before I went to sleep. Without detailing what I did or said, I will mention that I went to hear Elder E. D. Thomas preach, and his text was, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." He talked of it as follows: "The one that hungers and thirsts is now blessed, in the present tense. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, you are now blessed. It does not say, blessed are the righteous, but blessed are they that desire to be righteous. Is there one here that longs to be free from sins, that would give the world to be free from all sin, and to enjoy the loving presence of the Savior? If so, you are now blessed. Already has the mercy of God been bestowed upon you, and you now have a pledge for all the fullness of divine blessing."
While he talked in this way I considered my own case. Do I feel the need of mercy? Do I really long to be pure and free from sin? I knew that I did. But this was all new to me. I saw things in a new light. I had thought that I must first be righteous, and I had tried to be in every way that I could. But the preacher urged that if I longed to be righteous then this text applied to me. After it was all over, I went home with a little hope. I saw in my heart the desire, deep and sincere, and I felt that the text must be mine. So ever after that I had a little hope.
On Sunday evening after this, I was at an association at Indian Creek church in the White River association. I left the people and went to myself, and in a lone ravine, surrounded with underbrush, alone, I tried to pray, and while there I became satisfied, my trouble all left me. I felt at rest, a solemn composure of mind came to me. I came home Monday evening, and my wife had had a similar experience while I was gone. On Tuesday evening I felt discouraged, and felt that I was deceived. I sent for Elder D. T. Poynter to come and talk to us. He talked as I felt. He said doubts and fears were not uncommon among the Lord's people, that we must expect these things to come to us. By the time he was done speaking, I felt my hope revive, and my joy was restored to me. My wife took part in the conversation, and I was then convinced that it was not common for the Lord's people to live in perpetual joy, but that clouds would come over us all. And now, after forty-seven years of life in the church, I still find dark trials to roll over me, and I am often made to cry, "0 wretched man that I am!"
On Wednesday my wife and I went to meeting and joined the church, and were baptized by Elder D. T. Poynter. It was a great comfort to have the fellowship of the members. My parents were there, and both were happy. When the hand of fellowship was given to us, father started the song,
"0 happy time, long waited for,
The comfort of my heart."
Mother embraced us, and I enjoyed a sweet, solemn composure of mind. This was August 1, 1869, and I do not remember being harassed with doubt or fear for several weeks.
Elder T. S. Dalton
Now, my dear readers, I want to give you a short sketch of what I hope had been the dealings of the Lord with me, in bringing me out of the dark thraldom of sin and pollution and translating me into the Kingdom of His dear Son. When I was a mere boy, one evening about a half an hour before sunset, I was brought to see what a guilty rebel I was before God. I had some remorses of conscience before this, but here was my first view of the truly corrupt state of my poor heart.
I had heard people speak of others that were so wicked as to deserve damnation, but it never impressed me that I was one of that kind until at this time; now I knew I was one that was truly fitted for eternal damnation.
The tears began to flow from my eyes; my wonder was what it could mean. It appeared to me that I was going to die; and I knew that if I died in the state I was then in, eternal woe and misery was my sure doom, and I began to cry in the anguish of my soul, "God be merciful to me, a poor lost and ruined sinner." Should any one have asked me at that time what was the matter I could not have told them for my life; only I was a poor guilty wretch in the sight of God. I thought I must keep that all a secret, for I thought it would never do to let my people know how vile I was or they would disown me entirely. I was in this great trouble about ten months, almost without any cessation. I would sometimes seek wild company to try to drive away these feelings; but as soon as I was off to myself again they would return, it seemed to me more dreadful, and more terrible than before. The very breathings of my soul, by day and night, were that God would have mercy on me a poor wretched sinner; yet I could not see how such a thing could ever be.
I never can describe my feelings when I left home late one evening, and as I left the old house I looked back at it as long as I could see it; and as it went out of my sight, I thought I never would see it again; for before the morning sun should arise I would be in eternity. I wandered until at last I came to a schoolhouse, where there was a protracted meeting in progress. I stopped to hear them preach; and when they called for those who desired the prayers of the Christians to come forward, I thought if there was one in the world that needed their prayers, I surely did. I went forward, and they prayed for me, and tried to instruct me; but it all did me no good; it rather seemed to add to my pain, and when they closed the meeting for the night, I was more wretched it seemed than ever. I thought, "Now I know my doom is sealed forever." I had gone perhaps a half mile from there, when it seemed to me I could go no further, right there I must surely die. I got on my knees under some bushes in a small basin in the land and tried as I thought to pray for my last time. It seemed that my prayers would not ascend above my head, but fell to the ground as empty sounds. I arose from my knees feeling that my case was sealed forever. At this thought I fell upon my face in the leaves, and buried my face in my hands, and this was the last move I remember to have made. It seemed that I lost sight of myself, and there has ever been a time that I cannot account for. But while lying there on the ground, there was presented to my eyes one of the most beautiful sights I ever beheld. There was Jesus hanging on the cross, and the blood trickling down from His side, and something seemed to impress me with the thought that my sins had nailed Him there. And by some means I was caused to look again, and my mind was impressed at this time with the thought that Jesus died that I might live. Just at this time a bright light flashed all around me, my burden of guilt and condemnation was gone, and my whole being ran out in praise to God for what he had done for a poor guilty wretch like me. I started home full of joy, and verily believed I was done with trouble forever. But before I reached home the devil told me I was deceived, and one great trouble with me was I had told an old man on my road home, and he had rejoiced with me, and told me that he had been watching me for some time and knew that the work was going on, and he knew the Lord would finish it. This was really the first time I had thought about what it all meant, and felt to rejoice that the Lord had made me one of His children.
But when the devil met me and told me I was deceived, I believed him; and oh! the trouble I then had because it was all a delusion, and I had gone and deceived that good old man. From that time to the present I have been up and down, but it seemed most of the time down. I so often fear that my hope will not do, that surely I must be deceived; and at other times I seem to rise above my troubles, and hope by the grace of God to reach a home in glory.
Now, dear readers, whether this is truly a hope in the dear Saviour, I am not prepared to say, but one thing is sure, it is all I have, and if I were called to die today, I can't make it any better or any larger. One comfort I have had as I have journeyed along life's pathway is, I have often told it to some that I felt sure were the true children of God, and they have told me that it corresponds, in the main, with theirs. So by this means I have been encouraged along my pilgrimage now for over forty years, in the midst of doubts and fears; and when I sum the whole matter up, Jesus is my hope. Take from me Jesus and His righteousness, and I have nothing left to hope on; for my righteousness is but filthy rags in God's sight. . . .
I wanted to be a member of the church, but felt that I was not fit even to be in company of good people. I had tried the doctrine of others and there was nothing in that for me. It was simply husks, and I could not fill myself with it; and I was not fit to be an Old School Baptist, so I knew not what to do.
The Old Baptists were all old people and I was young, a mere boy, and I thought they would not want me; but at last I ventured to tell them how I felt and when I was done, I looked around and the dear old eyes were bathed in tears. I wondered why it was, for I felt like I had not told anything. But an old brother spoke up, saying, "Brethren, he has told it all. I move that he be received." Another said, "I second the motion;" so I was received and my baptism was set for the next morning.
After I left the house I felt glad to have them receive me; but yet I was not worthy of it, and all through the night I felt just like I had done wrong, and deceived them.
Next morning I felt like I must go and tell the old brother that was to baptize me not to do it, for I was not fit, and had deceived them; but I could not tell him to save me, it seemed as if my tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth. So I went into the water with him feeling perhaps it was wrong. But when he raised me out of the water I felt my burden had left me, and I would not have it back for anything. Oh! I felt so happy. I went back to church, and when they began to sing some sweet old song, I thought it was truly a heaven on earth. The day I was baptized was, and is yet, one of the sweetest days of my life; and I have often thought if I could feel that way I would love to be baptized every day of my life.
Elder R. A. Biggs
In the winter of 1867 we moved to Collin County, Texas, where we lived for eight years. Here I first saw myself a sinner in the sight of a just and holy God. For two years I labored under a great burden of sin and guilt, trying every effort I could for relief, but like the woman we read of in the Bible that spent all she had with physicians, but got no relief until she came in touch with the Saviour, so I seemed to grow worse and nothing I did brought me any relief, until one day in the month of March, 1870, as I plowed along in the field in dark despair and under a heavy burden of sin and guilt, praying to God to be merciful to me a sinner. This was my condition as near as I can describe it. I did not see how God could remain just and save such a sinner as I was. The next thing I realized I was singing the song, "Jesus Thou Art a Sinner's Friend." My burden of guilt that had rested so heavily upon my mind for two years was gone. I was happy and rejoiced in the hope of the glory of God, and for the first time was enabled by an eye of faith to see, as I humbly trust, how God could be just and save a poor sinner like me. My sins had been transferred to Jesus and he had bore them in his own body on the cross for me, and now his righteousness was made over to me, and God, for his sake, had forgiven me my sins. So I realized that I had peace with God through Jesus, who had loved me and gave himself for me. So I could sing with the poet, "E'er since by faith I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply, redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die." From this time on I had a burning desire in my heart to tell what a precious Saviour I had found, so if I have any call to preach Jesus it came in connection with my deliverance from the burden of guilt.
In May following I presented myself to Orchard Gap Primitive Baptist Church in Collin County, and after relating my little hope to them, was received and baptized by Elder J. E. Dethrage, who was their pastor at that time.
Elder John R. Daily
About this time I became very religious, my religion being of a pharisaical character. I prayed every night and morning, read the Testament and memorized some of the old hymns. I verily believed I was good, and that I would continue to be good, and that God would finally save me for my own goodness. How natural is the Arminian doctrine! For this reason it is easily understood by the natural man, who receives not the things of the Spirit of God and cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned. I was able to understand the theory of conditionalism perfectly well, which is unmistakable proof of its falsity. I then possessed all necessary qualifications for membership in any church of the world, and would have been regarded by natural religionists as a truly pious boy. . . .
In September, 1865, the Danville Association met with Little Flock, the church of my parents. I attended the three days, sat well up in front and listened attentively to the preaching. I remember the preachers and some of the texts used by them. This was when I was an Arminian Pharisee. Much of the preaching of the Old Baptists was dark and mysterious to me. I was bewildered when they talked about the new birth and change of heart. The new birth taught by other preachers was a conditional matter, and bore no resemblance to a birth. They taught that being saved was left to the choice of sinners, and that any one could be saved by accepting the offer. This set aside the necessity of being born again. I could understand this and believe it. . . .
While living at this place I was allowed to attend a Sunday School which was conducted at our School House. Mr. Rivers, a leading member of the Methodist church, was the Superintendent. Though I was but thirteen I was chosen as teacher of a class of boys. How proud this made me feel! The Superintendent patted me on the head and remarked sanctimoniously that I was such a good little boy and would make an excellent teacher. My heart swelled with pride at these words.
It is the tendency of Sunday Schools to cultivate the kind of religion I then had. That institution is of the world and the world loves its own. The churches of the world would abandon it if they could invent any thing better, but they must have something to ensnare children and bring them into their ranks. . . .
My pharisaical religion became very troublesome to me. It was so hard to keep! Resolution after resolution was broken. I tried to think that my good deeds would overbalance my bad ones in God's account, but all the time had great fears that the bad ones would be far in excess. One day I saw clearly that my efforts to live right, up to that time, had been an utter failure, and I formed a renewed determination to turn from my sinful career and live a holy life. I was really happy with the thought that I could do so. But soon I found that "it was not in man that walketh to direct his steps." It began to dawn upon my benighted mind that I was a vile sinner. At times my guilt appeared as a thick cloud over my mind, and at other times I sought to banish such dreadful thoughts from me and to seek relief in the thought that I was not so bad as many others and that God would yet find me worthy of his favorable notice.
At a regular meeting of Little Flock church in the fall of 1869, John T. Oliphant was ordained to the ministry. In the afternoon of that day there was a total eclipse of the sun. I knew the nature of the event, of course, but it was to me a fresh lesson of the sovereignty of that great Being who established the laws of nature and perpetually reigns in the exact execution of those laws.
All matter in the material universe is controlled by physical laws which are never disobeyed. That government shows the wisdom and power of God, but it gives no opportunity for a display of his justice and mercy. In order to display these qualities as well as his wisdom and power he established the moral government by creating man and placing him under moral law. This law is not like that which governs the material elements, for its subjects are not compelled by an irresistible force to obey it. If they were compelled to obey it no disobedience would be chargeable to them. The disobedience of the subjects of God's moral government is not the result of an irresistible cause, such as the wreck of a train or the explosion of a boiler, for if it were no blame could attach to the transgressor.
I did not understand this important distinction between the physical and moral laws that govern the two kingdoms. Had I understood this, many questions that were puzzling to me would have been plain. I could see, however, that the sun was not to be blamed for the darkness that resulted from the eclipse as I was for the sins I had committed and the darkness into which I was plunged. This knowledge was no aid to me in my condemned state, neither would a greater degree of knowledge have assisted me in my distress.
In the night of the 27th day of February, 1870, I dreamed the day of judgment had come. Dark clouds seemed to cover the skies and thunders appeared to roar as a threatening omen. I expected to see the Saviour appear, and my heart was filled with terror at the thought of being banished forever into endless despair. I thought I started to run from the wood lot in which we lived to a field on the east, in which I saw a company bowed in prayer led by a pious old neighbor by the name of George Evans, who was a leading member of the United Brethren church. I started to join them but something seemed to say, "You are not fit for such company," and I turned away. Just then I awoke. To be sure I was glad it was only a dream, and that I was allowed a short respite, but I fully believed this would be my inevitable fate.
The following day I went to a public sale at my cousin, Thomas B. Lucas's, one mile north of where we lived, who was selling out to move to Colorado. It was a sad, sad day to me. Toward evening father told me to hurry on home and build a fire. He and mother had gone to the sale on horse-back and I had walked. I did as he told me, and as I at by the stove that was fast heating I mused over my sinful state and the dreadful dream of the preceding night. A picture of the resurrection of Jesus hung upon the wall. In it Jesus was represented as standing near his sepulchre facing the beholder, while the Roman guard were lying as dead men upon the ground and the angel was seated upon the stone that had closed the tomb. I looked up at that picture and saw the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus, and his sweet face, which seemed to beam with the radiance of meekness and love. I thought of my life of sinfulness, and concluded that those wounds had not been made for me and felt that the look of love only spoke my condemnation. I left the house intending to banish those dreadful feelings by cutting some wood. I took up the ax but paused with a sad heart and downcast face. I stood in this attitude for a few moments, then sat down upon a log, covered my face with my hands and cried, "Lord, have mercy if thou canst!" My burden of guilt and condemnation all left me, and in my mind, by real faith I trust, I saw Jesus hanging upon the cross, and I fully believed he had died for me. I arose and began singing that hymn which has ever since been so dear to me,
"Oh, how happy are they
Who their Saviour obey,
And whose treasures are laid up above;
Tongue cannot express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love!"
I know I was happy then. I am sure that I loved Jesus and his people, and John says, "He that loveth is born of God." What sweet comfort that text has afforded me along the strange pilgrimage--the pilgrimage of a stranger sure enough! Life here would be heaven were I always as happy as I was then. . . .
I thought I would tell my dear parents as soon as they arrived home that their poor, sinful boy had been graciously received into the favor of God and forgiven, but a fear entered my mind when I saw them that this was not a true christian experience, so I did not tell them. I had thought I could tell my school-mates of Jesus and his love, and how a poor sinner is saved by him, but I had nothing to say to them the next Monday morning as I met them at school. The happy circumstance described in the preceding chapter occurred on Saturday.
About a month after this, Eld. Oliphant and I, one Saturday morning, were preparing to haul some feed from the field. He may have noticed some change in my countenance, though I had tried very hard to conceal my feelings. However that may be, he asked me if I had ever obtained a hope in the Saviour. He was always so fatherly to me. I cannot forget the deep interest he took in me and the encouragement he gave me by his kind attentions. I hesitated to answer him, but finally shook my head and said I was afraid I had not. He noticed my hesitation and asked me if I had ever felt any better over my condition at any time since we had last conversed about it. I could not speak falsely, and so had to tell him I had, and related a little of my happy change. The tears flowed from his eyes, and he clapped his hands together and exclaimed, "Thank the Lord, that is just what I have been wanting to hear." This relieved me, for I felt that I had opened my mind to a true friend and christian minister. I was happy that day as we worked together. It is a relief to tell one's feelings to a confiding friend who can share the sorrow and the joy. A fear came soon, however, which broke the tranquillity and joy of my heart. I feared I had deceived that godly man, and this distressed me very much.
The latter part of January, 1871, a series of meetings were held at Little Flock church by Elds. John Joseph, of Boone county, Ind., and Levi T. Buchanan, of Putnam county, Indiana. Elder J. T. Oliphant, the pastor, assisted in conducting the meetings, but the two visiting ministers did the preaching. It was a very interesting meeting to me, and I took great delight in attending it. . . .
Elder Buchanan preached that night, and my soul feasted on the sermon. At the request of the pastor, Elder Joseph extended the invitation for members.. While they were singing the invitation hymn Alonzo Nichols crowded past me and went forward. It seemed to me that I would sink in my place. He was received by the church as a candidate for baptism. They sang another hymn, giving him the hand of fellowship and again extending the invitation. The music seemed heavenly as they sang,
Jesus, my all, to heaven has gone,
I can no longer stay.
He whom I fix my hopes upon,
I can no longer stay away.
I can no longer stay away,
I can no longer stay;
The gospel sounds so sweet to me,
I can no longer stay away.
With a feeling I cannot describe I stepped into the aisle and rushed forward. I grasped the hand of dear Brother Joseph, and my heart leaped for joy as I stood before him, while tears flowed from his eyes. As I took my seat, Alonzo Nichols' wife presented herself for membership. When called upon to relate my experience, I arose before the crowded house and told what I trusted the Lord had done for me with unexpected, liberty and calmness. The voice of the church was unanimous for our reception. The hand of fellowship given by the dear members thrilled me with inexpressible emotions. My sainted mother dropped on the seat beside me, took me in her arms, and together we rejoiced in the Saviour's love. What a heavenly place that was! .. .
I had actually taken my cross to leave all else and follow Jesus, who was my all and would be my all forever! I had possessed many a fond ambition, had sought and hoped for a great name and brilliant success, and knew what it was to thirst for knowledge, but these things appeared as nothing while I sang with a joyful heart,
"Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought or hoped or known,
Yet how rich is my condition,
God and heaven are still my own."
The possession of all the world would have been nothing compared with my riches that morning. Ten thousand such worlds, could they have been offered me in exchange for my hope, would have been refused. I had found my Saviour's yoke easy and his burden light, while everlasting bliss awaited me at the end of a short race.
I was to be baptized the first Sunday in February, which was the fifth day of the month. On Saturday, the 28th, I visited Brother Wiley to tell him what I had done and invite him to the baptism. He said he was glad I had taken that step and hoped I would be faithful and not turn back like some who had "joined church" in his vicinity. I felt that I had a stronger power to trust in than my own strength, and fully believed I would be sustained by that power to the end.
All went well with me until the following Friday. That was my first dark day after I started in the pathway of duty. That day I feared I had been deceived and had deceived the church. Evening drew on, and the cloud that hung over my poor soul seemed to thicken with the fading of the twilight. I went to a fodder pile to get feed for the stock. I fell upon my knees there and begged the Lord for a return of my departed joy and a fresh evidence of my acceptance with him, promising that if this was not given I would go to the church next day and tell them of the great mistake they had made in receiving me and ask them to rescind the act.
As I arose from a praying posture I thought of a meeting that night at Swamp Creek Chapel, a Methodist Church one half mile away, and at once resolved to go. Eld. Oliphant, my dear pastor, was there, and being requested to take part spoke of heaven. It was as honey to my soul. On the way home I praised the Lord, and when I went to my bed I again dropped upon my knees and poured out a strain of thanksgiving and praise for the Lord's goodness and mercy to me.
The day of my baptism was an inclement one. The air was cold and a disagreeable sleet was falling. Five were baptized, I being the first to go into the water. With my hand in that of my dear pastor I gladly went with him into the stream, and was buried after the plain example of my own sweet Saviour. How I loved my pastor and the blessed King we were serving as we returned together to the shore, where awaited my parents and the other brethren and sisters to greet me!
Elder Walter Cash
It was during Elder Thompson's pastorate that I became seriously concerned about my soul's welfare. I had at times thought on this matter, but had been able to dismiss it from my mind, thinking that there was time enough later. But in the year 1872 so serious grew my concern that I could not throw it off. This did not seem to come over me suddenly in its most serious impression, for at the first I thought that I knew how to "get religion." I felt confident that I could "give myself to the Lord," and then he would answer my earnest prayer, and give me an evidence of my acceptance. I believed that a person should have some evidence given him by the Spirit that he was a child of God, but when I came to put my theory into practice I found such a condition of mind and heart that I became alarmed. During my trouble I attended a meeting that was being conducted by the Methodists in the neighborhood. I became willing to receive help if I could be helped from any source. I was not able to bring myself into the condition that I felt I should be in before the Lord would bless me, and so I thought I would try their prayers.
I think that I understand how persons who are really concerned can be drawn into these meetings. They feel so helpless in trying to get relief from their trouble that they turn to anything that promises relief. But I then realized that the trouble was within. It was not alone in my outward acts, but I was in a condition of mind and soul that I could plainly see I was not able to correct. I tried to do as I was advised by those who were trying to help me, but all that they could direct me to do, such as to "believe on Jesus," and "give myself to the Lord," could not help my case. I did in a sense believe on Jesus. I believed that he was the Son of God, and that he was the Savior of sinners, but I had no way of believing that he was my Savior, lacking the evidence that it was true. Nor could I give myself to the Lord, for I felt that I could not get myself into such a state that he would receive me.
Coming to understand my real condition, it seemed the more desperate, and I truly felt to fear that it was hopeless. I could not accept the arguments that were made to me that I had all the evidence that was necessary. I remember some of the arguments that were made to me by my religious friends. One was that the preacher, and those who were advising me, were truthful and reliable, and that their testimony would be received in any court of the land, therefore such as were seeking salvation should accept their testimony, and they were willing to testify that all that was needed was to just believe, and that any unbeliever in the congregation might go away a saved person if he would but believe, which he could do, as there was not a thing preventing but the stubborn will.
This was not at all convincing to me, as I felt that they did not know me and my heart as I knew myself. When they talked with me I held out that the trouble was not with my belief and will, but there was a deeper matter than that. The preacher no doubt felt that I was under the influence of Primitive Baptist teaching, as my mother was a Primitive Baptist. So he admitted to me that there needed to be a change, a cutting off and a grafting in, which might be called being born again; but he said that this was a work in which we had to assist. Said he, "The Lord will not do this work unless we go about the cutting off. And this work of ours is yielding to the Lord, thus cutting off the natural will, and putting ourselves in a receptive condition for the Spirit." I could see the object of his talk, but I could not throw away my experiences of the few weeks in which I had earnestly tried to do all that I had learned to do, or that had been suggested, and yet seemed to be farther away from what I desired to be than ever.
One morning I went to the barn to feed the stock. I looked at the cattle and horses, and they seemed at perfect peace, and were filling the stations they were created to fill. What a contrast between them and myself. I had intelligence and understanding to know between right and wrong, and this I had abused so fearfully. With my intelligence I should have been glorifying my Creator; and with my knowledge of right and wrong I should have been upholding the right, and speaking against the wrong. I felt that the beasts stood better in their lot than I did in mine. I was certainly under the just censure of the Almighty. How ashamed and crushed I felt, seeing all my wasted opportunities and open rebellion. I turned with a sad heart and tear-filled eyes to try again to seek peace with God, and to see if He would not forgive me and bless me with some evidence of acceptance. I climbed into the hayloft, and kneeling down, tried to confess as fully as my poor heart knew, my guilty distance from God. I wanted, 0 so much, to live a different life, and to glorify Him who was worthy of all adoration and service. I had done all that I knew to do, and confessed all that I knew to confess; and yet I felt the same helpless, sinful condition overshadowing me with a cloud through which no light shone. I arose to my feet and felt as I might have felt had I heard from the great Judge my final doom pronounced in the awful sentence to depart from His presence forever. I was yet without any witness from God that salvation might ever be mine. There was nothing now to live for, the world had lost its charm, I was cut off from hope of heaven, and could never even have a name with the church below.
I got down from the loft and started to finish my work, but with such thoughts as I had never had before. I thought that I could see how God's glory was full without me. In fact it seemed that His justice, and grace, too, would be more exalted if I were left out of His consideration. Indeed, what right had I to ask consideration when I deserved nothing from any point? But as these meditations filled my mind, I grew more calm, and the plainer they were to me, the less I was disturbed. One thing was filling my whole being, I desired that the Lord be glorified and praised, and what mattered it what became of me? I was losing sight and thought of self, and full of wonder and peaceful joy, contemplating as I never did before, and seldom since, the glory, brightness and joy that belonged to the kingdom of God in heaven and on earth beneath. I stood to view it with my soul rapt in wonder. My mind went to the little church--West Union--where my mother was a member. They were met in a little school house. In my mind I see them yet. The aged preacher, Elder William Mitchell, was among the few, to declare as I plainly saw, the unsearchable riches of the gospel of Christ. I thought, 0 how favored they are. And there was mother! Her pure, sweet voice sounded clear as a harp, its strings trembling with the earnestness of the theme.
"He dies, the Friend of sinners dies!
Lo, Salem's daughters weep around;
A solemn darkness veils the skies,
A sudden trembling shakes the ground.
Come saints and drop a tear or two,
For Him who groaned beneath your load;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of richer blood."
My tears fell like the rain. They were a relief to my sore burdened heart, now freed from its pain. But so convinced had I been that there was no help for my case, and so carried away was I to see in my soul the beauty and joy of the Lord's service, that I exclaimed, "Lord, if I never enter heaven, permit me while I live in the world to be where I can witness thy people gathered together, and where I can hear them sing thy praise."
I did not at once realize the strangeness of my condition. I had given up the hope of heaven, and yet here I was with such a heavenly peace of mind, filled to overflowing with love to God and for his church, and perfect resignation to his will. My tears flowed from a fountain of joy and not sorrow. I had forgotten to make further confession, or to make petitions to the Lord, my soul was only full of joy. During the day I would begin to think of my lot as I had felt it before, and wondered what would become of me.
But instead of growing sad, I would presently check myself singing, my heart full of joy, and my eyes with tears of gladness, and then I would ask myself, "Why do I feel this way?" I rode over the prairie after our stock, and how beautiful everything looked! and how good the Lord was! and how sweet to lift my voice in His praise. How glad I am that years of toil, trial and affliction have not swept the gladness of those days from my memory. I have doubted many times what they meant, but sin and sorrow have not removed that spot of sunshine, and it does my soul good when discouraged and heart-sick to go back and stand awhile in its reviving warmth.
I had a dream during my exercises of mind that has always remained with me, whether the Lord instructed me in it or not. In my dream I saw what I thought was the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Its buildings, which bespoke its imposing grandeur, lifted their towering spires in a pure, cloudless brightness that eclipsed the brightness of the sun and the light of day. I could see the highway that led up to it, and the happy travelers going up with their faces lifted toward the city of light. How I longed to join them! But between me and them rolled a dark stream with no way to cross it. To remain where I stood was to be cut off from the city forever, but no mortal could live to pass through that awful stream. It meant death to enter it. It was worse than death not to cross it. The fear of drowning made my soul draw back. The glorious vision of beauty beyond drew me into the stream. What an awful struggle it was!' I fought the waters, continually sinking beneath the surface, more and more convinced that it meant death to go on, and yet ever struggling to go on without a thought of turning back. Each time, when my eyes came above the surface, I saw the city in which I knew must be joys forever more. I could not give it up--I could not reach it! But a truth seemed to take possession of me--those who were journeying up to the beautiful city were those who had passed through a death, for going through the stream was dying; and just as I fully accepted this truth I awoke. Since then I have thought of my struggles as a conscious sinner, trying to obtain a hope, and my mind will turn to the awful fight with death in that stream. How hard it is to die to sin and human help, and yet how impossible to join the Lord's people in their heavenward journey without that death!
Many of my schoolmates, who professed religion during the meeting before referred to, joined churches of their choice, but I had no thought or inclination to go with any of them. My mind was with the Primitive church. I had before been convinced of the reasonableness of its doctrines from Bible teaching, though in my experience I found that in my heart I was an Arminian. But now there remained no doubt in my mind that this was the church of Jesus Christ, and I knew that all my sympathies and fellowship were there. One of my companions, a boy of my own age, united with the Methodists. We talked about the different churches, and he thought that I should see that it would be right to join the Methodists. But I could see reasons why I should not. He argued with me that most of the Bible upheld the Methodist church, "But," said he, "the book of Romans teaches the Old Baptist doctrine." I argued that if the book of Romans teaches it, surely the rest of the Bible does not condemn it.
At that time the meetings of the church were held for convenience at different places, and during the winter, as the members were scattered, sometimes the meeting times were passed without gathering. In May, 1873, the meeting was appointed to be held at the home of my grandfather, Thomas T. Burk, who lived northwest of Bucklin. I could hardly wait for the time to come. I wanted to be at a church meeting, hear the singing and to listen to the sermon. And I thought much, too, about offering myself to the church. I felt what a great privilege it must be to have membership in the church of Christ, and to acknowledge this before the world as being one's only hope. I felt His mercy and grace had been so great toward me in not leaving me in indifference and ignorance that I could not feel that I had done right at all without publicly confessing that my hope for the future was entirely in his mercy.
Elder Wilson Thompson, whose home was near Linneus, Mo., was then pastor of the church. He preached, but I cannot remember his sermon, I was so filled with thoughts about offering myself to the church. I wondered what I could say if called on to give a reason of my hope. The invitation was given and I went forward, but I do not remember what I said, except that I did not say at all what before ran in my mind, but I was received, and at a later meeting was baptized by Brother Thompson. I am glad that I did not remain out of the church and fight with my doubts until in a measure they overcame me, as I have seen in many cases. I feel sure the Lord has intended the church to be a help and strength to his pilgrim children, and when they let their doubts argue them into remaining out of the church they lose this help that the Lord has placed here for them. I want to acknowledge what a help the church has been to me. The thoughts of the church and the love and fellowship of the brethren has been a strength in temptation, a comfort in sorrow, and a great encouragement all along the uneven journey of life.
Elder S. F. Moore
While I had read and studied the Bible quite a lot, I could not yet claim a hope of salvation by the works of the law; neither by the grace of God, and I felt that none but God could know the miserable, helpless state of my soul. I sank to the ground, literally blind, trying once more to plead with God for mercy. My strength was gone and I had nothing to trust in, but God, for deliverance. Both my nature and actions seemed to be at antipodes with God.
At the end of this utmost struggle, if not deceived, I heard in mind the sweetest voice I ever heard, which, in words were, "Father, this is our sheep; it shall not perish." That sacred impression still lingers in my spirit. Such heavenly peace and rapture I had never felt before in life! My following thoughts were that I must tell my Christian friends, and especially my Christian parents, that some great unseen power of grace had delivered me from all my sorrows, but I did not at that time consider such an impression a call for me to preach what God does for the eternal relief and consolation of His sheep or people. I soon decided that I would not tell anyone anything about it, for fear that I might be deceived and would deceive others; I may have been quickened into eternal life at too early a date for me to remember it and then carried a heavy load of guilt for sin until I was brought to a sweet hope in the wonderful unseen power that did so much for me in leading me to a knowledge of my salvation; but I still could not or did not know the name of that merciful power until I went out to hear the preachers of different denominations preach and to study the written word of God more intently. . . .
I felt better established in the doctrine advocated by the Primitive Baptists; but through fear I would betray my desire to offer myself to the church and to speak in public, I decided to take the train to join my twin brother in the state of Colorado. I fancied that a pioneer life in the wilder West, mixed with exciting thrills, and in an underdeveloped domain for health and wealth in a new, brighter, field of hope would suit me better and help me forget my serious impressions and binding obligations to live the faithful life of a Christian in the church. . . .
Finally, my kindred scattered into different parts of the land and I became lonely, and decided to move into Custer County, at least for awhile. I sold some cows and rounded up a few others to take with me to Blizzardeen. Brother Lewis helped me to get there with them. They had an arm of the church there and I attended the services. Finally, I walked thirty-five miles to the main body of the church, and offered myself to the church for membership on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and was received! This seemed to surprise them all and it really surprised me too. I told but little of my experience but was baptized that evening under a lone willow tree in a clear stream of snow water by Elder J. R. Bolinger. As I came up out of the water a calm feeling pervaded my soul and I was happy as the saints gave me the hand of church fellowship. About the third day after being baptized I became exceedingly filled with ecstatic heavenly bliss. My mind returned to its habit of lamenting its burden of neglecting baptism, but it was not there and that burden never has returned!
My flowing tears of gladness wet the rock I stood upon and praise to God burst out of my heart as it had never done before. I decided to write mother about it for she was not at meeting when I joined the church. When my letter to her was read I was told she shouted aloud for joy. So, is it not a fact that when one obeys God, others share the joy with the obedient one? Yes, indeed this is true.
Elder. R. H. Pittman
When a child, possible about nine years of age, I was stricken with fever. I thought much about death and was afraid. It seemed the devil, or some great monster had me in his possession and that I was suspended over some horrible pit or chasm. In my excitement my mother, at my bedside, was disturbed. I felt that I was falling, and I was crying for help. From this condition I realized a deliverance, but cannot tell how it came.
And in after years, while in good health, I had the fear of death come upon me again. At that time I felt sinful and cast down. Often when a small boy did I lie on the bed at night trying to pray to God for mercy. How I became to believe in God, or what my first prayer to Him was, I cannot tell. I know that I had a burden on my heart and that I was afraid to die. Death was a terrible monster to me, and I felt that if I died I would be sent to a place of torment. How, and why, I began to feel to be a sinner, I cannot explain. And why I became so fearful of death, I did not understand. But somehow I knew that I was a sinner, and that I must die. So I went to God with my troubles. Seemed like I had hope that he would hear my prayers. I continued to pray in secret, for I kept my feelings from every human being. And somehow it seems now as I look back to those days and nights of sorrow and fear, that I began to feel a trust in God and to believe His promise to help the helpless. I began to believe He knew all about me, that he had some purpose in my life, and that I would not die until He called me from this world. This belief in God, and hope in His mercy, so consoled me that I thought less and less about my burden of sin and my fear of dying until I began to realize that my burden was gone and that death was no longer to me the terror that it once was.
And this is about the best I can tell how the burden of sin came upon my heart, and how it left. In my case it was a gradual realization of my lost and ruined condition, a gradual growth in grace and knowledge (as I hope), and a gradual lifting of the burden until it was gone. I felt happy and pondered these things in my heart, but told no one. The minister I occasionally heard preach during these years was a good man and well established in the doctrine of the Bible, but was not much of "a fisher of men." As I remember, his exhortations were very unusual and very limited. And there are among us today many preachers of this type....
But maybe the reader who has been looking alone for "religious experience" in my young life has about concluded that I had none. Well, if he should come to this conclusion I shall not fall out with him. But even though I was a happy, jolly, country lad, a lover of pleasure, a player of pranks, a leader in sports and delighted to climb the highest, jump the furtherest and run the fastest of any boy in the neighborhood, yet I often had my seasons of seriousness. As previously stated, the burden of sin had been lifted from my heart and the fear of death, to a great extent, removed from before my eyes, yet sometime my thoughts would be on heavenly and divine things. And my heart was tender-- I have never wanted to be cruel. I would think about the life of the little worm and would refrain from needlessly crushing that life out. And I think I grew up hating hypocrisy and double- facedness. As a boy I had a high regard for people who were what they pretended to be, who were the same all the time. I remember my feelings were sometimes hurt when some associate would slight me when their well-to-do kin folks would come around. Their spirit of pride and haughtiness was distasteful to me. I was taught to be proud of a good name, and that poverty was no disgrace, that you could not judge the character of a man by the clothes he wore, that sometimes a rascal was wrapped up in fine clothes.
As a boy I was full of life and enthusiasm. Though my father was a hard worker and made his children work, yet he gave them some time for play. I thought "play-time" was very short indeed, and I valued it very highly. I enjoyed various games, but never learned to gamble. At a County Fair I ventured one time to risk a little of my hard earned money on a "wheel of fortune," but I lost and have since let such games of chance alone. Some of my associates were profane, but if I was ever guilty of taking God's name in vain I do not remember it. I do not think I was too good to do so but I seemed to be afraid. Cursing, swearing, and taking the Lord's name in vain have always seemed very wrong to me, and I feared to do wrong. Solomon said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and I trust that even in early youth I began to learn some spiritual and eternal truths. I am still "a learner," though a dull student. None of us know very much in this life, "for now we see through a glass darkly." .. .
It was on a cold Sunday in January--the first day of the year 1893--that I was baptized in Fishing Creek, near the little town of Whitakers, N. C., in my twenty-second year of age. This to me was an important day in my little life. The weather was cold, a light snow on the ground and ice in the -water, but somehow it seemed that my heart was warm and my faith strong and I felt no physical discomfort. But I did experience a joy and a relief--an answer of a good conscience--that I had never felt before; and I left in the water a burden that I had been carrying in my heart for more than a year. I really wanted to be baptized, and could, with the Ethiopian eunuch say, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" And my experience was almost as brief as his. But I knew what I wanted to do, and I had almost gotten to the point in my feelings where I was afraid to be disobedient to the word of God and to the impressions in my heart.
Though busily engaged in railroad business and in telegraphing, yet I found time to read. Church history had become one of my special studies. For years I boarded with a good Methodist family, became somewhat interested in their services and read much of their church history, but I just could not be satisfied with their mode of baptism, and the baptism of infants. The Presbyterians were strong and influential in the little town where I lived, and while I liked their doctrine better than I did the doctrine I heard preached at the Methodist church, yet I had the same difficulty when it came to the subject of baptism. I could not agree with them in that subject. I knew from my own study of the scriptures that there was but one true mode--one right way to be baptized, and that Jesus was baptized the right way when He went to the river and was baptized by John in Jordan. And I also knew that infant baptism was not taught in the New Testament (or in the Old Testament for that matter) and that it was never a practice of the Apostolic Church.
Then I turned in my searching and investigation to the New School or Missionary Baptist church--for this was the only other church in town. I attended their meetings and found them much in harmony with my own feelings and belief. Their Articles of Faith to me seemed to be scriptural. And their views of Baptism suited me--they stood for believers baptism alone, and for the one mode-- immersion. And about this time an evangelist held a meeting in their church. I attended, enjoyed the meeting, and had a mind to unite with them. But for some reason I cannot fully explain, I could not feel satisfied to take the step, something seemed to hold me back. And I remember that after this I felt to be discouraged and as one alone. My associates, with but few exceptions, were members of some church while I could not, it seemed, find any church to suit me. And I can fully sympathize with hungry and thirsty souls seeking fellowship and spiritual food and drink where there is none--or none that is relishing and satisfying.
But about this time I learned of a little church in the country that the town people referred to as "a hard-shell church." I concluded to visit them, and did so, and found them few in numbers, poor in this world's goods, misunderstood and misrepresented, without regular pastoral care, but holding regular song service and prayer meetings. And I could but feel a love for them that I did not feel for others, for they were Primitive Baptists, believing alone in salvation by grace, and contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints. This spiritual love is a strong and peculiar tie--sometime more binding than the ties of nature. David and Jonathan felt and knew what it meant, for between them it was a tie that was stronger than death. And well do I remember my peculiar drawing toward this little church--called Mr. Pleasant--and the people who worshipped there; and many are the Sunday mornings that I would leave the popular churches in the town and go out in the country to be with these plain, simple, sincere folk in their song and prayer service. And I soon began to feel a desire to defend them. I could not understand why they should be evil spoken of and ostracized, for I had not then learned that the first Christians were "a sect everywhere spoken against" (Ac 28:22) and that all true followers of Jesus may expect, in some measure, to bear His reproach. This was in the summer and fall of 1892.
My mind became very greatly exercised regarding my religious duty, and the more I read God's word and thought about my childhood experiences the more I desired to be baptized. And while I loved the little church that I had found in South Carolina, yet as before stated, they had no regular pastor, and for this and other reasons my mind was impressed to return to my own people who knew me, and to ask a home among them. Then the warfare began in earnest. I could say with Paul, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," for it was my delight to be with those who loved the Lord and who ascribed honor and glory to His matchless name. But I saw "another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind." (Ro 7:22-23) And I feel assured that no child of God can take up the yoke of Jesus and serve Him without a warfare with the flesh, the world, and the devil.
It had come to be my heart's desire to join the Old Baptist church, but this church was very unpopular, and I had a desire to be popular with the people with whom I associated. I had also united with a secret fraternal society of a religious character, held an official position among them, and enjoyed their fellowship and association; yet somehow I felt that I would have to give this up also if I followed the impression in my heart. I had by this time begun to learn that Jesus was not to be mentioned in the Lodge--that His name was not used in any of the religious services, and I wondered why this was. But since those days I have learned the reason was because the Lodges were composed of believers and unbelievers--Jews and Gentiles, Christian and Heathen, and that it would not be good sportsmanship--would not be kind and courteous to intrude the name of Jesus upon those who were His enemies. So outside the Lodge our blessed Lord had to stay, and I began to feel more and more that I wanted to be with Him even if I had to give up dear friends. . . .
It was a hard fight, but finally I became persuaded that I should follow Jesus the best I could in all things and leave the result to His providence and grace. This, I hope, was "the mind of Christ" in me. Paul said, "With the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." And I determined, the Lord being my helper, to resist my fleshly and worldly temptations and follow Jesus in baptism if the church would receive me. This church--Hopeland--to which my mind was directed was at Whitakers, N. C.--about three hundred miles away but distance was a secondary consideration--my duty to God was first in my mind. And so I wrote the pastor of my feelings and told him it was my intention to be at his next church meeting, and unless there was a change in my feelings, I desired to offer to the church. I have since wondered at this resolution of mine, so boldly stated, and of my earnest determination to carry it out. But even then the fight went on. The devil said, Why travel so far to join this old church, why not wait awhile? Well do I remember some of the conflicts of my mind: But I reached the home of an uncle Friday before Saturday's church meeting.
Next morning there was snow on the ground--another temptation not to go to church--for it was a six mile ride behind a slow team. But after some debate, a cousin and I started. We got there late--the minister was in the stand. I took a rear seat, but could not hear much of the sermon, for there was a warfare going on in my mind. The devil shamed me for being late, and said, "You better not join, you are not worthy." And I had to confess that I was not worthy, but I knew that I was trusting in Jesus as my righteousness. This gave me some relief. But I was reminded that I was young--that maybe I would not prove faithful-- that these Old Baptists were good people and did not want me among them--that I was really mistaken in the whole matter. And so the combat went on until the sermon was over and I rose from my seat to go forward to accept the invitation that had been given. And I want to say to "the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind," who want to eat bread in the kingdom of God--go forward and take your place among God's people. If you wait until you have no conflict of mind--no cross to bear--you will never walk in gospel duties and find rest unto your soul. And when I offered to the church I could not tell much--I had much in my mind to say but could not say it. But I felt to be a poor sinner seeking a home among God's children--I told them this and they received me and gave me a hearty welcome amid many tears. I remember a good old deacon said, "Brother Pittman has not told us very much, but I move that we receive him." No, I did not tell them much that day. But I have been, for about thirty years, telling something of the wonderful works of God, and still the half has never been told.
THAT THE WORD OF GOD MAY HAVE FREE COURSE
Primitive Baptists and the "Professional" Ministry
In my mind's eye I can see him now, in the prime of his considerable abilities. Some of the friends of Dr. Abraham Taylor have called on him to try to dissuade him from continuing his dispute with Taylor on points relating to the doctrine of salvation. They tell him that if he goes on, he will lose the esteem and, of course, the financial support of some wealthy persons who were Taylor's friends. His blood is stirred as he draws himself up to reply. "Don't tell me of losing!" says John Gill. "I value nothing, in comparison of gospel truths. I AM NOT AFRAID TO BE POOR!" In all his long and fruitful ministry, he perhaps never made a more magnificent statement than this. It matters not what the cost may be to me, but the gospel must be kept free.
At approximately the time John Gill was making his famous defense of a free gospel, our own Primitive Baptist ministers were taking a similar stand in America against a professional ministry, and thus against the compromising of Bible truths.
1) Those men whom God has called and qualified to preach his word should strive to give themselves wholly to that work as much as they are providentially enabled, and the churches should cheerfully divide with them of their goods and funds to free the ministers' hands so that they may give themselves to their calling.
2) Though this be true, that ministers should live of the gospel, yet they must never, in any case, preach for their living (i.e., in exchange for financial support), for in so doing, they lower preaching to the status of a commodity and place the integrity of the gospel in grave danger. Instead, they must stand ready at any time to "make tents" rather than allow the word of God to be placed in a position where it might be compromised.
The neglect of either of these two principles will greatly hinder the freedom of the gospel. One of Primitive Baptists' greatest failings may be found in one principle, and one of their most glorious stands for truth in the other.
Primitive Baptist ministers over the years may rightly be charged with many faults, and among them that they did not plainly enough teach the churches their duty as to financial support. Notwithstanding this fact and others of which they may have been guilty, still Old Baptist ministers may have the satisfaction that their ranks have been almost entirely free of that professional class of preachers who peddle the gospel. Like Paul, they have rightly concluded that, though it may have been regrettable that their laboring with their hands for a living gave them less time to give to prayer and preaching of the word; still the danger to the truth in that situation was much less than it would have been had they bargained with the gospel. Almost alone in the religious world, they have truly viewed the ministry as a calling, and in no sense a profession or mere occupation by which to provide a living for themselves and their families. More on that later, when we will examine some tremendously important statements by Primitive Baptist ministers with regard to the freedom of the gospel--and about freedom in general.
Give Thyself Wholly To Them
Let there be no doubt that the preaching of the gospel and pastoring of the churches is a work of such overriding importance that ministers should wholeheartedly enter into it with all their resources. "It was evidently the belief of our London Brethren, supported by the Holy Scriptures, that ministers of the Word should give their entire time, energy, and talent to their ministry, and the brethren should divide with them a sufficient portion of their living to keep them and their families who are not capable of self-support above want." "We call special attention to this section of the London Confession of Faith, which teaches that it is ' right and agreeable to the teaching of the Word to communicate of our carnal things freely and cheerfully to those who administer to us in spiritual things and labor for us in word and doctrine, and that it cannot be considered a new and erroneous thing for persons to advocate this, because it is plainly taught in the following passages of Scripture: Ac 6:4; Heb 10:13,17; 1Ti 5:17-18; Ga 6:6-7; 1Ti 3:2; 1Co 9:6,14." So said fifty-one leading Primitive Baptist ministers in the year 1900.
Elder Walter Cash wrote extensively about the work of the ministry: "It is his principal business to preach the Word. When the work of the apostles' was divided and a portion assigned the deacons, the part left for the elders was to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. . . . Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to 'meditate on these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all.' He who is to serve the churches to their best interest, and as contemplated in the New Testament, must follow this injunction. His service cannot be what it should be if his mind and efforts are concentrated on worldly work and time objects. 'No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.' If the churches are to be benefitted to any great degree, the minister must devote his life to preaching the gospel."
This point cannot be disputed. A preacher cannot do two things at once, and his ministry is the great work of his life. There are many men to be the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers, but God has called his servants to be preachers. Even so, the minister has family obligations, and a man who neglects his own is "worse than an infidel." So, if the preacher is to give himself to the word, the church will have to free his hands to that end, for he cannot honorably neglect his natural obligations. If the vineyard is to be cultivated, the servant must have time to give to the task--and it is a great and worthy task, indeed.
The cause of Christ deserves our very best--men called of God, qualified with gifts of the Spirit, laboring diligently and faithfully in the kingdom. As Elder R. H. Pittman said, "Jesus told His preachers to 'seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.' However, the necessary things of life were not to be sent to them by the ravens, but were to be given them by those to whom they 'sowed spiritual things.' And the Lord's plan has never changed-- it works fine even today in this twentieth century of boasted improvements. When the minister is faithful and makes his ministerial work his first and most important service in life, and the people among whom he labors are likewise faithful and prove their love for the cause of Christ by giving in reason of their carnal things to their pastors and teachers, then we find prosperity and fellowship and love abounding in the church of God: 'Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.'"
"It is right for those who minister of their spiritual things to us to receive of our carnal things. It was the glory of Paul, the chief Apostle, to preach the gospel of Christ without charge, and so it is the unselfish delight of the true ministry now to do the same; but those who are taught in the word should esteem it a precious privilege to communicate to those who teach them, as Christ's disciples delighted to minister to Him of their substance, and as the Churches of Macedonia, in their poverty, abounded in liberality to him in his afflictions. The most of Primitive Baptist ministers have families, and are poor,.and lovingly devote much of their time and labor to the service of God and his people, and it is clearly taught, in the Scriptures, that those whom they serve should, with equal love and self-denial, minister to their necessities." (Elder Sylvester Hassell)
"Our poor self-sacrificing ministry should be cared for with temporal things to enable them to do more efficient service to their brethren. Such great and noble men, now deceased, as Elders Beebe, Gold, Mitchell, Respess, Henderson, Cayce, Byrd, Chick, and many others contended that it is Scriptural and right for churches to lovingly care for their pastors." (Elder Lee Hanks)
In addition to the limits to any man's time and energy, there is another reason why the gospel minister is to live of the gospel: No man can serve two masters, and the gospel preached without reservation will ultimately end in conflict with the world and its interests. It is interesting to think about what the situation would have been had John the Baptist been an employee for a company which did lots of business with King Herod. Is it reasonable to assume that he would have come under considerable pressure to back off his uncompromising preaching? Can we not safely assume that the owners of such a firm might have been a little uneasy about an employee of theirs calling the king an adulterer? And if John had had a family to support, and was in tight financial circumstances, we can well identify with the inner turmoil such a situation would probably have brought to his soul. What he ought to do in such a situation is clear. What he might have done, had he lost the battle to temptation, is also very obvious. But since John had no family, he did not have to worry about them. And since he lived off the land, he was dependent on no man for his finances, and thus they had no hold on him--and his boldness was unparalleled.
The situation just described is one of the entanglements in the multitude of various relationships which exist in society which Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid. It is certainly lawful for a minister to do other work when the situation calls for it, but he cannot do so without a realization that there are some hinderances inherent in it. "The affairs of this world" can lead to any number of obligations that can place the freedom of the gospel in jeopardy. It is in the interest of any church which desires its pulpit to have great power to put its pastor in a position where the world does not have any unnecessary claim on him. This is not to say that ministers will live in ivory towers. The world will still hate the gospel they preach, and if they are preaching faithfully, Satan is not going to leave them alone. The point is that Christ knows best, and he ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel; and there are some very good and logical reasons that that should be the case. The financial support of the brethren helps to insulate the minister from some of these temptations, and so helps to insure the objectivity and integrity of the preached word.
Largely because of our being painfully aware of the abuses of gospel-peddling to which God's word was subjected because of the modern missionary movement, some Primitive Baptists undeniably went to an extreme in trying to avoid the appearance of evil in that regard. The result was that one of the greatest failings of Old Baptists as a people over our history has been our failure to financially support the ministry as the Bible requires.
"In trying to preach and to make my own living, too, by my own labor on rented ground, it began to look to me that, in spite of everything, I would be compelled to neglect my farm or my ministry one or the other, if not both. I noticed that my neighbors were busy all the time, and that they could not more than get along in the world, yet when I left my work on Friday afternoon, everything stood still till I would get back, sometimes on Monday evening. This caused me a great deal of serious thought. The brethren who wanted me to preach for them had never been accustomed to assist their preachers in any way, and from the best I could learn from their conversations, they had been educated to think that it was sinful to pay a preacher for preaching. If the text should be quoted that 'The laborer is worthy of his hire,' or that 'The Lord had ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel,' they would put some spiritual interpretation on the text, so that their obligations to their ministers were entirely obviated. I remember, on one occasion, when I was in company with two or three old brethren, who I thought, were as good friends as I had in the church, that I concluded I would mention this subject to them, and that perhaps they would give me some comfort. I very timidly, and with great diffidence broached the subject, when one of the old brethren made me this reply: 'If you want money for preaching you had better go to the Missionaries, where they hire their preachers.' Such an answer from one in whom I had great confidence was rather discouraging to me, and of course I naturally touched the subject very lightly in his presence at that time. There are, no doubt, a great many brethren among our churches who think that old brother was just right, and who, at the same time would insist on a man leaving his home and family and going a long distance at a great expense to preach, and would tell him that he had to preach because the Lord had made it his duty to do so, whether the people gave him anything to live on or not." (Elder Lemuel Potter)
"Alas! Are our churches in such a mammonic state, that their pastors cannot insist on their just scriptural claims without hindering the gospel of Christ? Is the gospel hindered by covetousness? which is idolatry or worship of mammon? Let us see. Many of our worthy preachers are thus muzzled while sowing spiritual things; they get not the 'carnal things,' or the 'milk of the flock' as ordained by the Lord. Nor can they with safety demand them! The pastor 'sows the spiritual things' on which the church must feed, in holy agreement with the commandment, 'feed the church of God,' but the church withholds her 'carnal things,' which, we may justly fear, have become in her hands the mammon of unrighteousness, even covetousness, which is idolatry! The preacher does not become a beggar until his demands transcend his scriptural rights, nor a hireling, until his wages exceed Bible rights." (Elder John M. Watson)
"I thought that I could see clearly that the churches had departed from apostolic practice, but how could it be changed? The old preachers who had preceded me said little or nothing about such things, and when I considered the effect of the division with the Missionaries I could see why so little was said. The Missionaries had emphasized the need of money, and had magnified its power until it would seem almost as important as the blood of Christ. Indeed the way they preach it makes the blood of Christ of no effect, except for the preacher, who cannot preach unless he is paid. Of course, the Primitives tried to get as far from such an idea as was possible, and in doing so had ignored the teaching of the word of God that the church must supply him who serves it, with the necessities of life, both he and his family must be supplied, for Paul argued that he had as much right to have a wife as the other apostles." (Elder Walter Cash)
Thankfully, this is a situation that can be and is being corrected. Our challenge, in mending the overraction of the past, is to strive to hit the example right on the mark in this generation. Let us bear in mind the great worth of the gospel and faithful pastors; and that God in his wisdom has called and qualified particular men to this particular work. Let us strive unceasingly to free their hands for that great work, for all else being equal, this is how things ought to be.
Lest We Should Hinder the Gospel
The Bible makes three points very clear: 1) It is the obligation of the minister to freely declare the gospel; 2) It is the duty of the church to support the minister financially; 3) As with all Biblical principles, the minister has the right to insist that the church fulfill its obligations in this regard.
It is critically important, however, that we understand that ministerial support is not a contractual situation. Any standard business law textbook will teach that a valid contract must contain an offer and an acceptance--in other words, a negotiated settlement of the terms of the agreement. "I believe so far as I am concerned that the church ought to support her ministers; but I do not believe it ought to be made a kind of contract, that men will preach, provided the church gives what they see fit to ask-- or preaching for a stipulated salary." (Elder Lemuel Potter) There is a mutual obligation of pastor toward church and church toward pastor, but this obligation is not one that was negotiated between them. "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel." Paul makes it very clear that his preaching of the gospel was in obedience to a divine' command. "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." The Galatian brethren were likewise under an obligation to Paul, and again because of a plain command from God.
It is a very clear relationship: mutual obligation, but not because of a negotiated settlement. When a man is called by God to preach the gospel, the question of his obligation to preach has already been settled. Nothing the church will do in ordaining the man will erase the fact that God had placed the "woe is unto me" on him prior to their official recognition of that fact. Likewise, when a church ordains a man to the work of the gospel, they are already under obligation to support him by that ordination act before he preaches the first message to them, because God had set forth their obligation beforehand. "Freely have ye received, freely give" was a command to preachers from God. "Even so, hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Both of these points are settled from scripture. Neither of them is to be negotiated.
The term "salary" would be understood by most people to involve a negotiated situation in which the employee is paid a set amount in exchange for his work. Because of this normal usage of the term, Primitive Baptists have been very careful to specify that their ministers are not salaried. That is not to say that their support may not be of a regular, dependable nature if that is what the church decides, since the minister has to set up housekeeping like any other person. But whatever amount and method of support is decided on by the church, it is money freely given, without any stipulation by the minister as to what it would have to be before he would preach.
"A minister should never preach for a stipulated consideration, but for Christ's sake. It is his business to preach whether men will withhold or whether they will contribute. Of course he cannot spare so much of his time from caring for his family if he is not helped, but he can preach all the time he can spare. . . . The system of fixing salaries for ministers is corrupting in its influence. Instead of trying to please Christ, men endeavor to get their salaries raised; instead of being devoted to their flocks, they are always looking for a better paying position. Raising money for the salary of a preacher, with Arminian denominations, gets to be a grinding weight on their shoulders, as is evidenced by their trying to shift it onto others and resorting to all kinds of schemes, gambling included, to get money. The Primitive Baptists can never resort to paying salaries to get pastors, nor should our ministers ever stoop to sell the word of God at so much a sermon or by the year." (Elder Walter Cash)
Preaching is not something men sign up for, nor something they just up and decide to do as an occupation. The ministry is not a volunteer army, in that sense. God drafts men for the work without questioning them concerning it beforehand. They are called to the work "in season and out of season," preaching the word anywhere they find. an open door to do so until the day they die. They do not wait until the terms of a contract are settled, nor until they discover if and how much they are going to be paid, but they preach, period. What if the people were just too poor to provide any meaningful financial support? What if they were all in a prison in time of persecution? Would this mean that the minister should not preach because he was not being supported by the church? God forbid! The minister's fulfillment of his obligation is in no wise to be dependent on the people's willingness nor ability to fulfill their obligation of support.
Ministers must always take the utmost care to insure that the gospel remains unencumbered by any natural obligations or inclinations that might hinder its integrity; that is, they must make sure that there is nothing in their relationships with other men or in their mental or emotional makeup that might tempt them to hold back on part of God's word, to soften their declaration of either doctrinal or practical truth. This is found in their ministerial qualifications, for they are not to be "greedy of filthy lucre." It is not said that they must not recognize the necessity of money, nor ever save any money, nor ever hold a job for pay, nor even that they must not be wealthy. What the qualification states has to do with their attitude toward money. They must not be of such a mind that money will influence their preaching of truth. Their attitude toward money must not hinder the gospel.
Look at Paul's example. At Thessalonica he said that "labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." Why this statement? because Paul had no right to insist that they fulfill their obligations toward him? No, of course not, because he did emphasize that obligation to the Corinthians. The fact was that at Thessalonica there were a number of lazy persons who were "disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies." Therefore Paul explains that he himself did not behave in a disorderly fashion, but "wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us." In other words, one of Paul's great desires at Thessalonica was that this curse of laziness be eradicated; and he recognized that his preaching against that sin would have the most impact if he were diligently working with his hands as an example to them. Tentmaking was a field of labor with which they could identify. (Sad to say, many Christians do not fully recognize just how laborious faithful gospel ministering is. However much or little a church may give a minister in financial support, if he is faithfully discharging his duty, it is not "easy money".)
Paul told the Corinthians that they were "inferior to other churches" because he was not burdensome to them financially, and asked them to forgive him the wrong of not having been so. Yet he said that he was ready to come to visit them a third time, and still this time, even after having exhorted them about this particular responsibility in both epistles, he was not going to be supported by them. His reason was this: "for I seek not yours, but you." As far as his personal comfort and convenience was concerned, it did not matter to Paul whether he was supported or not, for he had learned "how to be abased and how to abound." It was, however, a matter of great importance to him that the word of God have a maximum effect. The Corinthian church was in a childish state, in a sense. They showed but few characteristics of mature Christians, and Paul wanted to take away any excuses they might have had, valid or not, for not listening closely to what he had to say. The impact of the gospel was of far more importance to him than whether he had to make tents or not.
The ultimate conclusion of all of this is that ministers must not preach for a living. They must work for their living with their hands (or minds). The church then is to free their hands from that labor so that their abilities can be put to gospel labor. If they preach for their living, they have become professional preachers, and the integrity of the word of God has then been put in jeopardy.
Think about it. If a man supports his wife and children by preaching--if that is his trade--then he is going to be very careful that his employer or his customer (the church) does not get offended and "fire" him. But it is necessary that the minister sometimes reprove, rebuke, and exhort. Sometimes sinners are to be withstood to their faces, and reproved before all. In such a case, if a man is preaching for his living, his "customers" may be very offended by his words, and his way of making a living may be in doubt, and understandably, though not excusably, the preacher might be tempted to compromise the truth. On the other hand, think about the impact when the minister, even though he may be fully supported financially by his congregation, lets it be known in no uncertain terms that he is going to declare the whole truth to them, even if that means that he might have to make all or part of his living with his hands. Come good times or hard times, he is going to preach the truth. If they support him or do not support him, that is not going to change the message he delivers to them. What tremendous force that puts behind the gospel!
You may be thinking, "What about the scripture that says that the labourer is worthy of his hire?" Let us state it another way: "What the workman does has value and is worthy of support." Does this verse imply that there is a contractual situation, that the ministerial labourer was hired by the church to do the job? Certainly not! This verse is from Lu 10, where Christ sends the seventy disciples forth to preach. They were already under obligation to Christ to preach the gospel before they ever came to the first hearers. It was impossible that this was a negotiated situation of stipulation and restipulation. Christ simply meant that they would be engaged in a work of great worth, and it was not unreasonable for the hearers to share of their carnal things since the disciples had shared with them of their spiritual understanding.
What about "They that preach the gospel should live of the gospel"? Again, God in His wisdom has ordained that ministers engaged in gospel work should be supported by the hearers. Their living should come from the field in which they labor--not preaching in order to be supported, but being supported because they preach. I realize that it may seem a very fine line between those two concepts but it is absolutely critical to the freedom of the preaching of the gospel that it be understood by both minister and congregation. True ministers cannot be paid to preach and cannot be paid to stop preaching, but they should be supported because they preach. That is God's rule, and how well we should know that everything works best when we follow His rules for living.
I am strongly of the belief that one of the surest signs that the candlestick has been removed or is soon to be removed from a people is a professional, salaried ministry among them. When that exists, the gospel has been put up for sale, and the disappearance of truth cannot be far behind; for a man who puts his preaching up in exchange for his living is going to be looking for that which pleases the church, and those with "itching ears" are sure to get what they want, instead of what they need. History bears out that when the preachers start saying, "If you will pay, I will preach," it will not be long until the god they preach about is one who says "If you will obey, I will save;" and the salvation they then uphold is Works Salvation. There is much conceit and self- satisfaction in such a god and "gospel," but no hope at all for poor, bankrupt sinners. When men start preaching for money, we will see "many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . . whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." The saints of God will then not be able to enjoy the safety which God designed into His church, the safety which comes from a faithful watchman standing on the walls of Zion, marking all those who would harm the flock. "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." True ministers are called by the Good Shepherd, and will imitate His faithfulness to the flock. "There are sheep and lambs to be fed, and these sheep and lambs are very precious to Jesus. He is the good Shepherd and He gave His life for the sheep. And so He sends out men as under-shepherds to hunt them, and fishers to fish them." (Elder R. H. Pittman)
We must remember that although the minister is the servant of the church, and is subject to church authority and discipline like any other member, yet the truth that he preaches is not subservient to the church. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and not vice versa. The Old Testament prophets understood that there are times when the people will reject the word of God, and cry to the prophet to speak easy things. This does not in any wise relieve him of his calling by God to preach the truth in all situations, in all environments. Even if the people do not do their duty, the minister is still to preach the truth. The gospel must be free, and must ring forth in uncompromised boldness, regardless of the circumstances.
It thrills my soul to have a spiritual association with men such as these mentioned here, who, more than any other that I know of, have preached the gospel freely. I can echo wholeheartedly Elder Pittman's sentiments: "To treat of these pastors--those of our day and in our own country--is the chief object of this book. While the stamp of imperfection is found upon each and none are more free to admit it than themselves, yet, it is doubted if a more worthy, faithful, and self-sacrificing body of men could be found. Without any guarantee from men of a salary or maintenance, they, like the Primitive preachers, go forward in the discharge of the duties of their high calling as they see it, walking by faith and depending upon Him who does all His pleasure in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of earth, and who has promised to be with them alway, even unto the end. And as a body of believers, bearing a denominational name, they stand entirely alone in defense of this faith and practice of the Apostolic Church. No other denomination and perhaps all others combined, can show as many pastors of the apostolic order and "missionaries" laboring on the Bible plan, as the Primitive or Old School Baptist--men who are not hired to preach, nor who can be hired to quit preaching, but whose service in the master's vineyard is a labor of love freely offered upon the altar of gratitude for the glory of God and the benefit of men.
"God calls such into his service. He must or none would go. The natural mind runs not in that direction, and it is as true today as it has ever been that 'No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.' The true undershepherd is chosen and called. Christ said to His servants, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.' The apostles, the prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are all gifts from the Lord--not for the eternal salvation of sinners but for 'the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ."' (Elder R. H. Pittman from Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers)
A Patriotic Discourse
Elder Joshua Lawrence was one of the true pillars in the church in the early days of the Primitive Baptist denomination. Born in 1778, he was a messenger to the Kehukee Association in 1803 when Elder Martin Ross introduced the subject of missionary activities to the association. He was the author of the Declaration of Principles submitted to the churches in 1826 by the Association, which brought up the whole subject of missions and other money-based activities for consideration at her session held in 1827, at which the famous Kehukee Declaration was made, and the name "Primitive Baptist" was conceived.
At Tarborough, North Carolina, on July 4th, 1830, Elder Lawrence delivered a patriotic speech on the subject of priestcraft. This discourse is noted for its influence upon the Baptists of North Carolina and surrounding states at the time. Elder Lawrence takes the subject of the freedom of the gospel one step further, and links it to civil and religious freedom. I strongly urge all Primitive Baptists to read and re-read this remarkable speech until we understand clearly just how critically important it is that we avoid priestcraft in any form.
Following are excerpts from the speech. (Remember that the man speaking is one whom we would consider to be formally uneducated by today's standards. He puts our self-congratulatory presumption to shame with his incisive boldness. Compared to this spiritual lion, we are downright mealy-mouthed.)
"I would then this day, my respectable audience, remind you that the price of this inestimable jewel, civil and religious liberty, was the price of blood--the blood of long forgotten fathers, who purchased this jewel for their children. Then for Heaven's and your children's sake, don't sell it for liquor, nor barter it with money-hunting designing priests. Remember, also, that civil and religious liberty must live and die together; for hand in hand they came to us out of the revolutionary struggle-- and I would further remind you that nothing but blood and treasure can perpetuate liberty to your children; therefore, be watchful, be jealous at the first attempt made to attack or take this prize from your children, and rise like one man, and if needs be, transmit it to them at the first cost. And as we all enjoy this blessing in common, every man should act his part, and put his shoulder to the wheel to perpetuate this blessing against designing, usurping tyrants, whether kings or priests. . . .
"If we examine the Bible for marks of a false prophet, teacher, or preacher, we shall find these as unchangeable marks given throughout the scriptures--gain by godliness--greedy of filthy lucre--the fleece and not the flock--or, craft by their religion; and every false religion introduced into the world, has these marks of craft engraven on it, from the idolatrous to the metamorphosed Christian religion; and is made by its priests a craft of gain, honor and applause, except the religion of Jesus Christ, which is not a religion of craft. . . .
"But it is plain by referring to the scriptures, that all these religious crafts are of the devil, transformed after the fashion of God's ways, to deceive and ruin the souls of men; for the devil has his temples, his oracles, his priests, his sacrifices, his rites, his ceremonies, his baptism, his altars, his saints, his prophets, his transformed ministers, as well as God. But there is as wide a difference between the two as God and the devil, or heaven and hell, or this world and that which is to come; and this difference lies all in this one mark--craft--or running greedily after the error of Balaam, or supposing gain is godliness--from such turn away, for they are the ministers of the devil. . . .
"The second religion of crafts that I shall notice, is a religion established by the laws of men--by laws of kings, states, or nations--so as to compel men under certain penalties, whether agreeable to their conscience or not, to believe and practice certain articles of faith, swear to support them, or be compelled by law to conform to a national form of worship, sacred rites, ceremonies, dues to the priests, &c. . . . Hence law religion is one of the priest's crafts for wealth; by them it has been perpetuated in the nations of the earth with cruelty, and is a bloody craft--yea, the blood of saints has never yet satisfied the greedy stomachs of these sort of blood hounds. . . .
"Fourthly, an established religion opens a door to a craft, to corrupt men, and of course to a corrupt ministry, and thence a corrupt doctrine, corrupt ordinances, corrupt discipline, corrupt members, and corrupt practices, &c. And hence from this one wrong step in establishing even the true religion by law, a door was opened for craftsmen of many kinds . . . such as bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, ex-archs, metropolitans, suffragans, popes, cardinals, monks, nuns, synods, councils, anathemas, dungeons, gibbets, flames and death--all for the glory of God and the good of the church. But take notice, there was a craft at the bottom of all these titles--and thus the true religion became a religion of craftsmen from the Pope to the monk, by weaving it with state policy, and was no longer the religion of Jesus Christ, because removed by craftsmen from the pedestal on which he first set it. True religion is the greatest blessing on earth; but, when interwoven with state policy, the greatest curse and mother of cruelties. . . .
"The fourth religion that I shall notice as having been established in the world, is the Missionary establishment--and will examine that for the marks of craft. It is abundantly harped upon that Jesus Christ and his apostles were all missionaries; that is agreed to as to words or office, but here lies the great matter in dispute; were they craftmen? Did they make gain by godliness? Did they make a craft of their religion, like modern missionaries? I hope to shew presently from the New Testament they did not. The first moneyed Missionary Society that ever was established in the world, as I can find on the pages of history, was established in the year 1622, by Pope Gregory XV (for the New Testament knows nothing of money established religion) and then called the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith. . . . The sect of Christians called Moravians, founded the second mission about one hundred years ago. The third missionary establishment was formed about twenty or thirty years ago in London, called the Evangelical Society. The fourth, called the Baptist Missionary Society, in England. And lastly, the Baptist Missionary Society in America--with others of like occupation. All of which are founded on beggars and money, like that of Pope Gregory's. These are all important establishments of the craft kind, (for their like cannot be found in the New Testament) the basis of which are money, honor, and titles--the love of which (money) is the root of all evil, to clergymen as well as others--has been--is--and will be; and when sanctioned by law for priests to obtain it, the curse of nations. . . .
"But time would fail me to tell of the barefaced conduct of craftmen, imposed on the public under the color of the say so of Jesus Christ--be it sufficient to say, when you see a missionary box on the frontispiece, or on board of a steamboat say to yourself, oh cunning, crafty priest, you shall not befool me, for here stands an evidence of your craft; when you see a board of missionaries met to devise plans for the conversion of sinners, tie your purse fast, if you do not, craftmen are so crafty that by some hook or crook they will get into it, when you see a subscription runner, say craftmen--take care you are not begged out of countenance; when you see a young man hunting about from town to town, in boots and sacred black, for a place to preach for hire, say craftman; when you see and hear a man preach, go ye into all the world and preach money to every creature, say craftman; when you see a publication to call craftmen together; be sure of some new devised craft for wealth, or they think their craft is in danger; when you see and hear a man preach the poor heathen, the destitute, and instead of the gospel the wonderful works of missionaries, and oh come, both goats and sheep, cast your money in the treasury, blasphemously called the Lord's, be sure that man is paid in some way for his services, and is at his craft; when you see a bag hanging at the meeting-house door, full of old rags, say paper priestcraft, when you hear a missionary promise to send a parcel of ladies a preacher, if they will give their money and get their money and away, say craft--and indeed it seems to me, that this system of religion is nothing else but craft, from the priest to the printer, for to get their wealth like Demetrius of old, since they can sell images of northern priests and memberships in various societies, to support their craft. . . .
"A thousand times more might be said on the schemes of the day, but I must desist at present, only observing that there are ways to avert this storm and save your country and liberty to your children, and perhaps children's children, or I think our country is gone--first, don't give one cent to any of these societies; but what you have to give, give to the poor and needy, the fatherless and widow, and their souls will bless you, and you will be acting according to scripture, and shall be blessed in the deed; for without money craft men or the societies cannot exist. Secondly, discountenance every man traveling under the patronage or to promote any of these societies, being sure he is a craft man, and not even honor him with a hearing as money is his design--which I for many years have determined not to do, as I regard such as laying a foundation that may hereafter overturn our happy republic. . . .
"I call on you this day, that are readers of the New Testament, to say, in defence of the honor of Jesus Christ and his doctrine and apostles, as well as the Christian religion in its primitive state, whether he was a craftman or not? whether you remember one instance in his life, or precept, that will shew anything like a craft, or gain, or that even smells of a scheme to get money? I call upon you to say, if you do not think he could have made a great craft of his preaching, his miracles, his cures, or even the sight of himself? You know he could; but you know also the history of his life shows he did not. All was free, all was willingly, only living on the voluntary charity of the world; Susannah and others, and Simon the pharisee, administering to his necessities, without hired beggars, society formers, or subscription runners, to create funds to send him or support him as a preacher while in the world; and would sooner work a miracle to get money to pay his tax, than be a craftman. . . . Next we come to the apostles Paul, Peter, James and John; and upon examination of their epistles, as to doctrine, practices and exhortations, is there anything like forming societies to raise money outside the church of God? Are there any exhortations to that effect? Are there any beggars, societies, or subscription runners among the Jews, to send the gospel to the heathen? Is there any forming societies, begging, funding, and dividing thereby, among the apostles? Are there any schemes laid by them, to bring them in money? Do they seek to have laws passed to give them salaries? Do they say, if you will give me so much, I will preach for you? Oh no, these are all the marks of craftmen, and not the marks of Christ's ministers, as you may easily see. . . .
"Yea, if you suffer the priests by law to ride on your back, you will soon, I assure you, have to carry a king behind him; for do you not know that our forefathers, before the revolution, had to wag along with both king and priest. . . . And in order to save and perpetuate that most blessed and best inheritance of civil and religious liberty, left us by bleeding fathers, keep Congress to the text book of the Constitution, and the church of God to the letter of the New Testament; and when either is perverted to self- interest, and to mean anything and everything, to the interests of the statesman or priests, resist, as the people is the sovereign of the country. For if you lose sight of these polar stars, and do not often refer to first principles, we sink into the whirlpool of tyranny like other nations. Be jealous of your rights and liberty, while you have got them; for if lost it will be your own fault, and when gone, perhaps, gone forever. And if you should carelessly, and negligently let scheming priests take them from you, you will deserve to be accursed by your dead fathers, and by future generations yet unborn."
Principles beget actions, and actions have consequences. Let us never leave the principle of a free gospel.
OTHER PRIMITIVE BAPTISTS' THOUGHTS CONCERNING A FREE GOSPEL
Elder Lemuel Potter, from The Throgmorton-Potter Debate
My brethren in the ministry profess to be Bible missionaries. I claim to be a Bible missionary. I wish to state right here, that one of the distinguishing features of our denomination is, that our church never does hold out inducements, pecuniary or any other kind, for men to preach for us. We never do. We hold out no inducements. We regard the work of the ministry as a sacred work; one that God enjoins upon his servants to perform. Not a lucrative business. It never was intended to be so. More than that, it is not a profession, as the practice of physics or law or anything else; it occurs to me it is wrong to call the ministry a profession; and that ministers of the Gospel should keep a line of distinction drawn between their labors and the common professions of the world. . . .
[Throgmorton] says that Paul was employed by the churches. to preach. I wish he would prove that. We are in debate now, and we would love to hear proof of that fact, that Paul was hired by the churches to preach.. .
As a rule, the missionaries of today have a careful understanding with their congregations, before they engage to serve; and sometimes it is the case that the churches will be destitute of a pastor because they cannot agree with the man whom they wish to employ, as to what the salary shall be. . . .
Elder J. H. Fisher, from My Reasons for Leaving the New School or Missionary Baptists
As to the salary system, I have only a few words to say. For the most part, I received a very good salary [among the Missionary Baptists]; but I never did set a price, which I demanded, in consideration, to be paid or agreed upon before I would preach. I believe that the system encourages improper motives. It degenerates the ministry to a profession and creates, I fear, a great deal of covetousness. Paul had no salary promised him. Peter had none. They were willing to suffer afflictions with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Jesus says: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." May the Lord teach us what self-denial means, and help us to follow Jesus.
Elder John M. Watson, from The Old Baptist Test
A very decided characteristic of [Old Baptist ministers] is, that they do not gain worldly advantages by preaching, but suffer loss; neither does a large salary decide the field of labor for them, as it does among some other denominations. They for the most part labor with their own hands, and ask for no contributions except those which their brethren are willing, unasked, to give.
Elder Sylvester Hassell, from History of the Church of God
The ministry were not to turn the work of preaching into a common trade, stipulating beforehand for a regular and fixed salary, and like a worldly hireling, preaching for filthy lucre's sake, and, like such a one, when the price is not paid, fleeing because he is a hireling. But nothing is plainer in the Scriptures than the Lord's ordination that they who preach the gospel (not some other gospel, which is not another, but they who preach the gospel) should live of the gospel--that they who sow unto the church spiritual things should reap of the carnal things of the church--that, as those called of God to the ministry of the word supply the spiritual wants of the flock, so their own temporal wants should be supplied by the flock according as God has prospered them.
WOE IS UNTO ME, IF I PREACH NOT
Primitive Baptists and the Call to the Ministry
"What does it feel like to be called to preach?" How many times have Old Baptist ministers heard that question asked? Very likely, more often than not, we have not been able to give a very satisfactory answer. We know distinctly what it feels like, and even a cursory description of it will meet with hearty nods of agreement from fellow ministers; but it is very difficult to adequately describe to someone who is not called, simply because it is a unique feeling. There is nothing like it in all the world.
To describe the call to preach as a "feeling" is not to do it justice, for it is much more than that. It is a compulsion, a fire in the bosom of the soul, a deep sense of responsibility for the welfare of the sheep, a cup overflowing with the joy of the message of salvation or a heart weeping under His message of rebuke. It is a divine appointment and urging toward a sacred responsibility, an empowerment to preach to the edification of the saints, a desire to serve the people of God, a joyful burden, a lifelong labor. From time to time Primitive Baptist ministers have spoken of the nature of this divine calling, and given some glimpses as to "what it feels like to be called to preach." Their observations give as clear a glimpse as to the nature of this great calling as any writings I know of.
A Divine Appointment and Urging
One who is called to preach has a definite impression that God has singled him out, appointed him to that specific task. It is not a profession, not a mere worldly occupation, not just his own opinion or preference, but an unmistakable impression of having been divinely summoned to a work. "Baptists of the primitive order--and all religious people bearing the name of Baptists should be of the primitive order--believe in a divine call to the work of the ministry. The work is too important a one to be left to the whimsical caprice of men. It is one of the highest earthly positions, and Paul said, 'no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.' We all have reason to believe that there are many men following the work of the ministry merely as a profession. In my early life I sometimes heard young men discussing entering the ministry as they would talk about entering any other profession. They seemed to look upon it as a matter of business to be taken up and laid down again. I never could look upon the preaching of the gospel in this light. And I am confident that the Bible does not bear out any such idea." (Elder R. H. Pittman)
Several scriptures can be brought to support Elder Pittman's assertion. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." (Eph 1:1) "Preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour." (Tit 1:3) "He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." (1Ti 1:12) "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you." (Col 1:25) 'Even in the Old Testament times, God declared to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." The call to preach moves men to action, as if there were some sort of internal spiritual engine propelling them. They may somewhat suppress the feeling at first, but it will always manifest itself sooner or later. Elder T. S. Dalton spoke of this compelling urge to preach: "Philip then turned to Jerusalem, and while here the angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to get up and go toward the South unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, and he arose at once and started just as the Lord bade him; he did not even take time for the [Missionary] Board to meet and see how much he was to have for his services down there, but he arose and ran, he was in such a hurry he even ran, which shows that he was like Jeremiah said, the word of the Lord was like fire shut up in his bones; and he was weary of forbearing and could not stay. Therefore he ran. We have often wondered if these Arminian preachers had coals of fire shut up in their bones, if they would wait for the Board to meet, and learn how much they were to get for getting it out so they could rest in peace. There is a power in the call of God that moves men to action at once, and they are not left to chance, either."
This is not to say that men do not put up a resistance to this God-given urging to preach. It is not uncommon to hear in the story of God's dealings with a preacher that he ran "Jonah- like" from the call and had to be brought to be willing to exercise his gift through sometimes severe chastisement. Elder Charles Waters referred to this neglecting of ministerial duty at the 1906 session of the Ketocton Association: "'Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.' Now, don't you see in a moment the two thoughts--if I hold my peace there is a woe upon me, then my burden is greater than I can bear, and to preach anything but the gospel, my burden is greater still. So that, what the minister has today, God has given him. I am debtor to you, and whenever I hold this in my mind or in my secret thoughts and refuse to deliver to you the things which God hath sent to you by me, they burn within me. You know that no joys of this life come in neglecting the command of God that burns in your soul."
Our people have at different times emphasized both sides of this resisting of the call to preach. We have abhorred the presumption of "running when God has not sent," and have looked for that humble self-effacing attitude that respects the weightiness of the calling and does not feel to be worthy of it. At other times we have emphasized being obedient to the calling and not having to be "forced" to preach. Elder Pittman addresses both sides of the question: "I have heard some preachers emphasize too much, I thought, what they term their call to the ministry. They seemed to be anxious to prove their ability to preach by impressing upon the people their call to the work. While I fully believe every God-called servant knows something of that call, yet I have felt that after all is said about it, that the best evidence that one is called to preach is that he preaches. On one occasion a certain minister told some terrible things that was sent on him and his family because he would not preach--and still he seemed to be unable to preach. Elder T. S. Dalton was present and was asked by Dr. Waters, 'What do you think of Brother call to the ministry?' Brother Dalton replied, (and I agreed with him), 'I cannot understand how God did all those things in order to make a man preach, and then make a failure.'" "And some who claim to be preachers, called of the Lord to obey Him, tell us that all preachers must go to 'Jonah's College.' I don't believe a word of it. I do not believe that God calls His children to serve Him in any capacity and then causes them to disobey Him in order that He may show His mighty power. But when they do disobey, then the mighty power of God will be shown in their correction."
What about men who have preached, or tried to preach, without this divinely-wrought urging? Truly called Primitive Baptist ministers may sometimes look with some compassion on a humble, well-meaning brother who feels to be called to preach, but who obviously is not; because they know that carrying a "burden of empty pots" must be a cheerless load, indeed. They have had considerably less compassion for someone who manifestly is preaching for the attention and praise he can get from it. But they have saved their boldest thunderings for someone who is preaching error for money, pointing people toward spiritual bondage for filthy lucre's sake. Following are a pair of choice passages by Primitive Baptist Boanerges:
(Elder T. S. Dalton) "We conclude that by reference to Mic 7:2-4, we have a very good history of these men. He says, 'The good man is perished out of the earth; and there is none upright among men; they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his neighbor with a net, that they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward,' (though) it should be but one dollar per head, 'and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier, the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge, the day of the watchman and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.' How beautifully the prophet has here set forth these professional evangelists, that divine for hire and convert souls for one dollar per head. . . .
"Surely this old prophet must have known all about these modem professional evangelists, who would have the audacity to call upon people to give their farms, houses, and heritages generally, and tell them that the Lord had need of them to enable Him to send the gospel to heathen lands, and thereby convert souls to God at rate of one dollar a head. And no doubt they lie on their bed at night, as the prophet here says, and study and devise ways to get the last farthing they can out of the people. We have no doubt but they study what kind of sermon to preach so as to induce the people to throw in the most liberally, under the false pretense of converting souls to God at the meager rate of one dollar per head. And they seem to overlook that God has devised an evil for them, that they shall not escape. . . .
"Yea, Paul would even weep while he told his brethren of these false teachers, money hunters who would put on a cloak of the ministry. They show their total disregard for the truth of God and walk in their own pernicious ways; and speak evil of that they do not understand; and thereby fill their own pockets with worldly gain by professing to convert sinners of Adam's poor fallen race, and prepare them for heaven and immortal glory for one dollar per head, which is contrary to every precept of the sacred oracles of God."
(Elder John M. Watson) "There will be at all times, as in the prophet's days, those who ran and were not called; prophesied, and were not sent by the Lord. These do not contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, but strive earnestly to pervert the very faith which they affect to preach. They are strangers to the cross; strangers to an inward calling; and strangers to a spiritual knowledge of divine things; without the lights of grace; without the spirit of the gospel, and without love to God or man; they of course bring contempt and reproach sooner or later both on themselves and the cause of truth. Each one is a
"Wolf in the clothing of the gentle lamb,
Dark traitor in Messiah's holy camp,
Leper in saintly garb, assassin masked
In virtue's robe, vile hypocrite accursed."
An Empowerment to Preach to Edification
Paul speaks of this ability to preach as an indispensable qualification for the bishopric. An elder must be "apt to teach." This aptness to teach involves several things, and more than just a bare explanation of words. It is the ability to explain the great concepts of the Bible in terms that the tenderest Iamb of God's flock can understand. It is the ability to teach not only the mental aspect of truth, but also to edify the spiritual nature in a way that transcends easy explanation; speaking from the faith of the preacher to the faith of the hearer; communicating not only the fact of grace but the feeling of grace. It is the power to speak to the conscience of the awakened listener, both in a way of gospel rebuke and in a way of comforting him with the knowledge of a God who can "purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
We can understand how that the power to preach to the edification of God's people is a God-given ability when we remember that it takes nothing less than a divine creative power to regenerate the elect, and thus give them spiritual understanding, or "ears to hear." Similarly, the ability to speak in a spiritual language of comfort and instruction to those same quickened ears is uniquely God-given. Men can learn from other men how to teach natural disciplines, but only God can teach men how to teach spiritual things to spiritual hearts. "Not his Greek learning which he acquired in his native city of Tarsus, nor his rabbinic or theological learning which he acquired at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem, enabled Paul to preach the gospel of the Son of God, but only that Divine power with which he was endowed from on high, and which he, with all his natural and theological learning, needed just as much as the ignorant Peter and John, in order to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ." (Elder Sylvester Hassell)
So, the preacher is utterly dependent upon God to preach with power, for it is God who sovereignly works both in the speaker and the hearer. (Elder John M. Watson) "Preaching the gospel is essentially different from all other kinds of speaking or teaching. The literary exegete can teach the elements of literature by ordinary methods; the mathematician, expound his problems by numbers and calculations; the astronomer, his, by appropriate rules; but the preacher is dependent on a 'demonstration of the spirit' for the success of his teaching. Without this revealed truth, however faithfully declared, and skillfully expounded, will be 'foolishness' to the worldly wise, and a stumbling block to the pharisee! . . . Now, therefore, if Paul, who was both learned and inspired, required, for the essential issue of his ministry, a 'demonstration of the spirit,' shall modern ministers presume to preach successfully without it? . . . Suppose a person was called as Paul, to preach the gospel, having as he had, great learning and knowledge, shall he ignore them as did Paul or not? If he be unlike Paul unlearned, shall he spend years at classical and theological schools to the neglect of his ministry, to acquire that which Paul repudiated? surely it would be more conformable both to precept and example, to go forth in 'weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling,' declaring the revealed truths of the gospel, and looking in faith to the Lord for the 'demonstration of the spirit,' than to spend years in literary institutions to learn other things 'save Jesus Christ and him crucified. Shall we excuse Paul for not employing the 'excellency of speech, and the enticing words of men's wisdom,' who was able to do so, and then condemn those who cannot? The very calling of God excludes such things; and accords well with the present state of the Old Baptist Ministry, giving rise to peculiarities which are neither accidental nor affected, as some reproachfully suggest, but are ministerial characteristics of their 'calling.' The very objections which are so unsparingly and unfeelingly urged against our preachers by many, prove their calling to be of God!"
There is good reason that the apostle Paul and these two faithful Primitive Baptist elders did not look to human institutions to endow them with preaching power, for the world and all its systems are utterly unable to operate in the sphere of the kingdom of God. They could not make a preacher if they wanted to. "And as their calling is not from men neither do they get their qualifications from men. Evidently it is true, if we accept the Bible as authority on the subject, that all the diplomas from all theological seminaries cannot confer upon one the gift of preaching. Nor will the application of high sounding titles such as 'Rev.,"Rt. Rev.,' 'D. D.,' and 'LL. D.' be of any assistance in the sacred work. In the language of Mr. Spurgeon, 'the title D. D. may mean Doctor of Damnation.' At any rate the world no more needs a literary ministry than it needed a literary Christ. The truthfulness of this statement is evidenced by the fact that Christ chose none of His Apostles, with the single exception of Paul, from the ranks of the learned, nor did he train to literary authorship nor give them one single command to labor in that way." (Elder R. H. Pittman)
While Primitive Baptist ministers do not look to worldly means for their qualifications as preachers, that does not mean that they are not conscious of the need to grow in their knowledge of the scriptures and understanding of sound doctrine and practice. As Elder Watson says: "Some of them after a call to the ministry, have made great proficiency in acquiring a knowledge of the word of God; they have studied their message well; and under the blessing of the Lord have put the whole inner man into it, not wishing to know anything 'save Jesus Christ and him crucified.' A few have even learned to read and write after experiencing a call to the ministry, and afterwards acquired a fuller and better knowledge of the scriptures than many who had the best scholastic advantages. If a man can read or write, or even hear the reading of the scriptures, with circumcised ears, he can learn more about Christ and him crucified in a few weeks, than the unsanctified and uncalled ever can, in the best schools. The latter may learn more of the history and literature of the bible, but they lack the faculty of acquiring a spiritual knowledge of the gospel. I will cite some instances of the former kind; the case of Bunyan, Elisha Cole, W. Huntingdon, Joshua Lawrence, Osborn, McConnico, and many others. As the hart panteth after the water-brook, so did their souls after a knowledge of Christ; and if I were to judge of a man's calling, I should entertain an unfavorable opinion, did he not study to show himself approved unto God. Grace is active; its history is one of activity, diligence and suffering; it overcomes all difficulties; does not reason about things, but believes and works."
Elder John Watson was one of the most honest and frank critics of the shortcomings of the Primitive Baptist ministry, but was also one of their staunchest defenders. To those who refused to recognize the power of the pure preaching of the word; and who, because they courted the opinions of men and catered to their own vanity, despised and ridiculed the lack of formal ministerial training among our preachers, he replied: "The 'calling' of God has very little respect for colleges, and the great and renowned ones, the wise and the prudent. The 'light of life,' and not the light of literature, the power of God, and not the wisdom of men, the presence of Christ and not the influence of 'mighty' ones, are the efficients contemplated in the divine mind in calling men to the work of the ministry. Yet, the Lord's servants, for the want of a regular education, polished manners, and a spirit of compromise, are called 'the most stupid, sottish and despicable of all men on earth.' No one can declare the strong truths of the gospel regardless of the prejudices and opinions of the host of nominal professors without incurring such reproaches. Thus indeed were God's servants anciently spoken of, and even the Master Himself! This generation in its opposition to our preachers, employs its peculiar words of reproach, which however have metonyms in the text of the Apostle. 1Co 4:13.
"The religious carnalite does not want a better subject to break a jest on; the collegiate theologian a better illustration of stupidity; and the man of 'enticing words,' a better nullity, than an Old Baptist minister affords. Did the bible declare as plainly for, as it does against the wisdom of men, who, I ask, among us would ever dare to preach again? The great savans of the age could only then be trusted. The theological learning of the schools would then be necessary, and many wise men, many mighty and many noble, would then preach authoritatively, and not as now, surreptitiously. And the 'weak,' the 'foolish,' the 'despised,' the 'base,' and the nullifies, would have no authority to enter a pulpit! Such a change in the order of God's ministry on earth, would make us justly obnoxious to the reproachful epithets so unmercifully and perseveringly heaped upon us. As it would invert the order of God's 'callings,' we plead not guilty!" How many who have wholeheartedly taken up the world's system of religion have failed to notice the pattern which the Lord himself gave in calling and qualifying ministers! Their power came from Him, and not from their formal ministerial education. Elder Watson himself was a physician of enough learning and ability to hold a professorship in the Medical Department of the University of Nashville. Yet he evidently counted that all as dung when compared to the divine calling which he labored to fulfill.
A Desire to Serve the People of God
There is a haughty, self-serving attitude which is totally incompatible with the work of the ministry. Our Saviour made it very plain to his disciples that their attitude was to be one of humble service. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." Peter echoed His command: "Neither as being lords of God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." Even though he is a bishop--an overseer or supervisor--the preacher must never forget that he is to have the character of a minister (servant). Like the God of love, the minister is to love the sheep, and one of the characteristics of love is that it "seeketh not its own," or is not constantly demanding its own prerogatives.
Elder T. S. Dalton used the example of the apostle Paul to demonstrate the nature of this unselfish attitude of service which the minister is to exhibit: "And therefore in the nineteenth verse [of 1Co 9] he asserts his liberty. He was a free-born citizen of Rome, in bondage to none, nor depended upon any for his subsistence. (Free also to assert and claim his right as an apostle.) Yet he made himself a servant to all. He then starts out to specify some particulars wherein he made himself servant of all. He accommodated himself to all sorts of people. In innocent things he could comply with people's usages, or humors, for their advantage. But he would not transgress any of the laws of Christ to humor any man, but he would accommodate himself to all men where he might do it lawfully, in order to wean them from the law and its service, as the conditions of salvation. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, and perhaps some might say for that he could have excused himself from complying with any of the Jewish rites, but in order to do them good, and wean them over from the idea that salvation was to be obtained by the performance of the rituals found in their law, he would sometimes conform to some of their innocent usages. And though he might by virtue of his character, have challenged authority over the Gentiles, yet he accommodated himself, as much as he innocently might, to their prejudices and ways of thinking. Doing good to others, seems to have been the main object of the apostle's life, and in order that he might reach this end, he did not stand on privileges and customs. He was willing when he met a weak brother, to become as one of them. He did not judge nor despise them because of their weakness, but forbore to use his liberties for their sakes, and always acted cautiously so as not to lay a stumbling block in their way. He denied himself that he might gain their affections, and cause them to turn away from legal service, to the true service of God. In short, he was made all things to all men, that he might by all means (that were lawful) gain some."
The minister is sometimes in the scriptures compared to an ox. This faithful animal, of course, is noted for the prodigious amounts of work it can do in its own peculiarly steady manner. The faithful minister, likewise, is called upon by God to be a "workman." There is little so pathetic as a lethargic preacher. His audience can hardly develop much confidence in what he says if they regularly see him engaged in idleness. "And this reminds us that it appears from incidents recorded in the Bible that God calls busy men--workers--into His service. When Moses was called he was busy with his flocks at Horeb. Saul, the first of Israel's kings was searching for his father's lost beast when Samuel found him. And when the same prophet was sent to anoint God's choice of a king for Israel (David), the lad was busy "keeping the sheep." Gideon was found threshing wheat by the wine press. When Elijah was sent to anoint Elisha he found him "plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him." Nehemiah's call came when he was busy bearing the king's wine-cup. And Peter and Andrew were called from the fishers nets and made fishers of men. Matthew was called from "the receipt of custom," for he was a tax collector. And the eminent apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, was a busy man of affairs when Jesus called him and sent him to preach the faith he was trying to destroy. So it seems that when the Lord has work to be done He goes to those already at work--not to the sluggard. The sluggard is sent to the ant to learn wisdom--not to the gospel field to teach wisdom to others." (Elder R. H. Pittman) A Joyful Burden
Any active, faithful minister, even those in the most advantageous of outward circumstances, will readily admit that the preaching of the word and the caring for the flock is no "picnic." It is hard work, when done properly. Those ministers are said to be worthy of double honor who "labor in word and doctrine." So often it seems that the pastor's path is like that of a roller- coaster, descending to the depths of discouragement only to then rise to heights of joy as the Lord graciously sends some encouraging word or thought. Sometimes it seems like a full time job just to keep his own state of mind as it should be, and that a losing battle.
Elder Lemuel Potter, in his Labors and Travels, devotes several pages to descriptions of especially trying journeys he had experienced in his ministerial labors, "as it is often thought that we ministers have an easy time traveling about from place to place to preach and visit among the brethren." Notwithstanding that, he and hundreds of other faithful Primitive Baptist preachers of his and other generations were quick to demonstrate their joy at the privilege of being named to the work of the ministry, whatever the trials might be. Elder John R. Daily describes one trip to an association when he and Elder E. D. Thomas had to walk the better part of fifteen dusty miles, carrying their belongings, then ride the rest of the way on the jolting tail of a wagon. "Surely dirtier and tireder preachers never entered a congregation." Immediately upon arriving at the meeting, he was called to the stand to preach. "I was hungry, fatigued, and dirty, but I kept my plight to myself and soon forgot about it as I stood and proclaimed the precious gospel. Strength is often given under the most unfavorable circumstances." The truth of salvation was set before him, and he forgot the weight of the burden, finding only its joy. How often do we find this sentiment repeated!
One of the greatest helps to preachers as they bear the weight of the unique burden of the ministry is the knowledge that countless others of their calling have trod the same road. Elder Dalton describes how this spiritual union with his brethren in the ministry has sustained him: "It is but natural with the servants of God when they know there is a great conflict before them and the Master has burdened their minds with a heavy duty that they must perform, for them to call to mind some old servant who has borne the burden and heat of the day, and ask that they may be as he has been and possess the spirit that he possessed, and a sufficient amount of it to hold them up through the trying struggle. This has often been our experience. We look back to when we were but a boy in the ministry, and remember our thoughts about such men as Elders W. A. Bowden, Thomas L. Daniel, R. Ross, S. W. Webb, and many others that we might mention. Oh, how we longed to have the same spirit and faith, courage and grace that had brought them through the struggle; and desired that a double portion of that spirit might be given to us that we might be enabled to follow in their footsteps and fight valiantly for the same cause that they fought for during their lives! Many young men we can now call to mind who started out in the ministry about the time we did, and we doubt not they would concur with me in this sentiment. Such as Elders S. F. Cayce, J. G. Webb, J. K. Stephens, and others we might mention, who doubtless with us look to these old veterans (whose dust has crumbled back to earth) as their fathers in the gospel and as criterions for them to go by, and they with us doubtless often pray to possess the same Spirit that brought them safely through and caused them to be faithful unto death; and we really feel the need of a double portion of their spirit as we pass through the dark and dreary struggle that is now waged against the church of our dear Master. We have thought that these same feelings were possessed by Elisha when his father was to be taken away from him, and should such men as we have above mentioned asked us what we most desired they should leave us as they passed over the cold chilly river of death, we certainly would have said as did Elisha, "I pray thee let a double portion of thy Spirit be upon me." Let me, as you have done, battle for the cause of the Master. While I am left to fill your place, and in my trials and difficulties here, let me ever prove faithful to the Master's cause as you have done; and in the end of my journey let me die as you have died, and at last let me meet with you among the redeemed of God; around the throne of God, with you to chant the sweet notes of His divine praise throughout ceaseless ages of eternity." A Lifelong Labor
I do not recall having ever heard of a Primitive Baptist minister "retiring" from preaching. Oh, yes, some of them have been forced to give up active pastoring because of years or infirmity, but they still preached when the opportunity presented itself and they were able, and they never lost the burden to care for the sheep of God. As the ministry is not a natural occupation, it is not something that can be laid aside at a certain age, as can the medical profession or the bricklaying trade, or any other such field of labor. One of my most enjoyable pastimes in recent years has been reading through Elder Pittman's Biographical History and being inspired by the stories of lives of faithful Old Baptist preachers which are given there. These brief excerpts from some of the biographical sketches demonstrate this lifelong commitment to the cause:
Elder J. C. Beeman: It is probable that he was longer in the ministry than any man of his day in the state of Ohio. Commencing his labors at eighteen he continued without cessation seventy-six years, preaching his last discourse on the occasion of his 94th birthday in Blanchester, Ohio, in 1905.
Elder Z. J. Compton: The doctrine of the Old Order of Baptists he delighted in and proclaimed it from the pulpit from early youth until near the age of eighty-six. He administered to the people both as a physician and minister whether they paid him or not, and very little money was given him for his long, faithful service in the ministry but he never wavered or faltered in duty, because others were neglectful of their duty for it was not for money that he preached, but purely the cause of Christ.
Elder John Gilbert: He was brought to receive a hope in Christ early in life and soon after he joined the Baptist Church of Christ and began preaching the gospel, traveling all over the mountains of Eastern Kentucky on horseback, preaching to those people till he was over one hundred years old. He died March 11, 1868, making him about one hundred and eleven years old at time of his death.
Elder John H. Moore: He was one of the pioneer preachers of [Missouri]. He attended one church as pastor for one year that was forty miles from his home and walked the entire distance both ways. He was always poor in this world's goods but rich in faith as his fidelity to the cause of truth asserts. One time desiring to attend an association one hundred miles away, and having no other way of getting there, he walked the entire distance. The testimony of faithful laborers as Elder Moore, who pass through this earth surrounded with trials, troubles and disappointments, yet have an eye single unto the glory of God, shall endure when the earth and its contents are destroyed. He died January 23, 1905, in his eighty-eighth year.
Elder G. Potter: He died March, 1894, aged ninety-five years, nine months, having served in the ministry seventy-one years, and was faithful until the end. He died as he lived, trusting in God.
v: He was sorely afflicted for fourteen years; and during the last seven years of his life he was carried in an invalid chair, and sat down while preaching. Yet, he continued faithful to the end.
These are but a few examples of long and faithful labors by God's men, which stories could be greatly multiplied. God grant that we may not set them aside from our memory, nor fail to pass them on to the coming generations. Let us value highly the gifts which God has so graciously granted to our churches, and hold up their hands in prayer. As Elder Pittman has so aptly stated: "The humble and faithful 'soldiers of the Cross,' who after spending their lives in obscurity and 'of whom the world is not worthy' should not be forgotten. And as we love to see their graves marked, let us also seek to perpetuate their memory in a more enduring way than the sculptor's chisel on the marble slab, and teach our children to honor their names; to reverence the God they served; and, at least, to respect the principles for which they have so faithfully and unselfishly labored."
AND I ORDAINED THEE A PROPHET
It seems as if Primitive Baptists have always suffered from a shortage of ministers. Throughout our history, we appear to have had more churches wanting preaching than there were preachers to preach to them. (For example, Hassell's History shows that Alabama and Georgia then had 156 ministers serving 386 churches. In 1992 there were approximately 1250 ministers nationwide serving some 1400 churches. And, no doubt, some of the ministers whose names were listed were past the age of being able to serve as actively as they would like.) So then, while we rejoice that there have been hearers hungering for the gospel, we might still lament that though the fields were white to harvest, the laborers have been relatively few. And those elders who have labored in word and doctrine have been oxen well used, and often used up in the gospel. (So far from complaining, any true minister of the gospel would count it his greatest joy to be used up in the ministry.) It is not hard, then, to see why the churches have rejoiced when God has raised up among them men to carry on the work of preaching and to care for the flock.
The call of a man to the ministry is a unique experience. There is nothing else like it in all the world. The relating by preachers of their calls to the ministry has been a subject of intense interest to the children of God throughout the generations, and should never cease to be so as long as men love the truth. What follows are several of these stories of ministerial callings by well-known and respected Primitive Baptist ministers of the past. It is hoped that they will inspire and instruct all who read them, and work in us a genuine and heart- felt thankfulness to God for calling His faithful men into the work of His vineyard. And if some young man should read this who has been called to preach, perhaps it will encourage him as he grapples with the reality of this greatest of all human endeavors.
Elder John M. Watson
(ordained c. 1835)
The feeling of my soul in regard to christian duties could then have been well expressed in the words: "Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?" I felt that it was my duty to tell some christian friend what the Lord had done for my soul, and how He had had compassion on me. This was a great cross, but I soon did so. I then had an exercise of heart on the subject of preaching, I felt and believed that at some future time, I would have to preach; but the time had not come for the performance of that duty, and I tried in my feelings to put it as far in the future as I could. This belief that I would, at some future time, have to preach was most believingly entertained nearly eight years, when I could no longer forbear. Although there were many discouragements, yet in view of all of them, these blessed words, "If God be for us, who can be against us," were applied to my heart with much force and comfort. Besides, the remark of an old Baptist minister, Elder John Atkinson, whose praise was in the Gospel, helped me very much. He said in his usual prompt and decisive manner, "All who can quit preaching ought to do so." In all honesty of heart I feel that if I could only quit nothing would give me more satisfaction, but I knew I could not, and maintain a good conscience, nor have any religious enjoyments in this life. Woe unto me, if I preach not the Gospel, was the prevailing sentiment of my heart. I felt that the "necessity" had been laid on me, and whether willing or not, a dispensation of the Gospel had been committed to me, and that it was my duty to preach. Since then, "as much as in me is," I have tried to preach the Gospel, though I often fear, not as zealously, faithfully and constantly as I should have done. But I feel thankful for the assurance and belief that my ministry is of God, and that He will accomplish that which He pleases by it. Isa 55:11. . . .
For eight years after my conversion, I entertained the belief that I would sooner or later have to preach. The duty of preaching was connected with my christian experience in such a manner, as to produce the conviction, that if I was mistaken about one, I was also about the other, therefore it was with me an affair of vital concern.
Finding that I could have no religious enjoyment without trying to preach, and believing that the time for doing so had come, I applied to, and obtained permission from, the Church to preach. I was shortly afterwards ordained, and requested to take charge of the Church as her pastor, which I did. With a few intervals, I have continued to preach to this Church up to the present time.
Elder Peter L. Branstetter
I will now give some of the exercises of my mind, and impressions made on my poor heart to preach the gospel, and to tell poor sinners that Jesus is a precious Savior.
The thought of preaching gave me trouble for a long time, because the impressions were not made visible, but only in a vision of the night, when the Lord spoke to me, not in an audible voice, but by His Spirit. But we are informed in God's word that "In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men. . . . Then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction."--Job 33:15-16. This and many other Scriptures have given me much comfort, when I have been made to doubt whether the Lord had ever pardoned my sins or not.
Yet looking back to the time when faith presented Jesus to me in all His divine glory, I have been encouraged to try to tell a dying world that Jesus is the Savior of poor, lost sinners. And the glory, power, wisdom, love and mercy of God were so suitably adapted to the condition of poor sinners, that it filled my soul with reverential fear. But then difficulties presented themselves, and my mind would return from those heavenly thoughts and take a view of my sinful self, and I would say, "No, God never called such a creature as I to preach his gospel." I was very poor, had a small family to support, and nothing with which to do it except my own labor, and nothing to be expected from the brethren. The majority of the old preachers were rich and preached against the brethren helping the minister in any way, which was to their own injury and the injury of the church.
Brethren and sisters, read the ninth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians(1Co 9), and see if you have done your duty to the ministry.
As poor as I was, the Lord blessed me with a testament, which I carried in my pocket daily, reading at every interval, while at work. And I read where Paul says, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise." The obligation would return with double force to my mind until sleep left me at night; my pillow would be wet with tears, and my very soul heave with groanings that could not be uttered. Yet I felt that I could not be the man, for I was too ignorant and illiterate.
By this time six years had rolled around, and in order to get rid of my trouble in this matter I concluded to go to California. So in the spring of 1850 I got my outfit and, with my Bible in my pocket, started, leaving my loving wife and three little children behind. Every day I traveled, for over four months, brought more and more to my view the divine power and wisdom of God in the creation of the world, and of His discriminating grace and mercy to the sons of men, in giving them a hope in Christ of a glorious inheritance, incorruptible. Then I saw the bustle of men after the riches of this world, and the depravity of the human heart developed in every perceivable way, and in the midst of all this confusion the very breathing of my soul was, "Lord, have mercy on me, and deliver me from the evils of this world," for I felt that I was a runaway from God.
When I was alone in the mountains, and retired for a night's repose, with my head on a rock for a pillow, under the green boughs of the lofty cedars, the wild beasts prowling around and with their hideous cries making the night still more gloomy--with these surroundings the lovely Jesus as presented to my view more glorious than ever before, in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, (His church,) holding the seven stars, (His ministers,) in His right hand. His power was their protection, His grace their strength, and His mercy their comfort. I was made to cry out in the language of Thomas, "My Lord and my God." I felt then that I could do all things through Jesus, and I promised the Lord that if He would preserve my life until I returned home, I would love, serve and honor him in every duty presented.
For me to have commenced to speak of Jesus there, it seemed, would be presumption, for preaching was not so much as heard of there, and I was easily lulled into a disposition of procrastination. In July, 1851, with my pack on a mule, I started for home, and crossed the rugged mountains and lonely plains under the protection of that God whose love and mercy never fail to those that fear Him. On reaching home, September 14, I found my family all alive and well, at which my poor soul was made to rejoice. I felt that the Lord had answered my prayer in permitting me to return home; and I felt under ten thousand obligations more to discharge my duty in the house of God, still the way was not yet clear.
I had been at home only a few days when I learned that the two preachers belonging to our church had gotten into a difficulty which threatened the dissolution of the church. As there were only a few members and I was young, it was too great an undertaking for me to attempt anything like preaching there, so I concluded to call for a letter of dismission and go back to the church where I was baptized. The letter was granted and the church dissolved without settling the difficulty. . . .
Much to my sorrow I blundered along for five years. Sore temptations, trials, afflictions and doubts attended every step of my way. Out of the communion of the church, from under the watch care of the brethren, I became much depressed in spirit. I had about come to the conclusion that I had been mistaken in the whole matter.
Elder William Davis had an appointment to preach at my father's, and my wife and I went to the meeting. . . . He pointed out the hopes and prospects of the children of God, and spoke of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and of their incorruptible inheritance. I felt as though the very doors of heaven were opened and the glory of the Lord burst upon us with Jesus in the midst; every face was wet with tears. I then realized the language of the Apostle Paul--"Whether in the body, I can not tell," and I realized things that my broken language has never been able to express. I arose to my feet, took Brother Davis by the hand, and told him that I was a runaway from God and could stay away no longer. . . .
Notwithstanding my weakness and ignorance, my duty was so impressed upon me that I could think of nothing else, day or night; and when opportunity was given, or I was called upon to open or close the meetings and I refused, it would give me trouble, for I had promised the Lord that I would try to glorify His name in my body and spirit which are His. When I went forward it was in fear and trembling, but the Lord knows our weakness; and when I had thus gone forward I would leave the meeting house with a calm resignation to the will of the Lord, feeling joyful in spirit that I had given vent to my feelings.
On the fourth Saturday in February, 1859, the church licensed me to exercise my gift, and in a few months there were solicitations by brethren and friends from every neighborhood for me to come and preach, and with reluctance I would consent for them to make appointments for me. I soon found myself perfectly absorbed in trying to proclaim the everlasting gospel of the Son of God, traveling far and near. I felt that I was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, not to the dead sinner. . . .
In the commencement of my ministry, I found myself amid the din of war and the clash of arms, but this did not turn me to the right or to the left. I was cast into prison three times by the Federal forces, and once dragged out of the stand, menaced with cocked revolvers and carried away to prison. But all this did not deter me, I felt that God was my protector. I believed that if He had a work for me to do, all the infernal powers of Satan could not frustrate it, nor destroy me.
In April, 1864, I was regularly ordained to the gospel ministry by Elders William Davis, William Priest and T. P. Rogers. Amid all the strife and persecution God has preserved my life, and enabled me to face all the opposition that has ever been brought to bear against me. "Bless the Lord, -0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name," for His mercy to me, a poor sinner.
Elder Lemuel Potter
After I had joined the church, and felt that I had done my duty so far, it was not long till I began to be impressed with the thought of preaching the gospel. This was something very repugnant to my feelings and nature. I tried to fix the matter up satisfactorily with my own mind, for a long time. I tried to persuade myself that for me to entertain a thought that it was my duty to preach, must be a great delusion. There were many reasons I thought, why it could not be enjoined upon me to preach.
I was poor, and had all the responsibilities of a family as other men had. I was ignorant and inexperienced so far as the world was concerned. I do not think that I had ever been more than thirty or forty miles from home in my life, until I had joined the church and commenced trying to preach. My impressions to preach were all to myself. I kept them a profound secret as long as I could, but felt at times that I endured a great deal of trouble. I would sometimes fancy that I was in the presence of a congregation, preaching to them, or engaged in prayer publicly, or singing with a congregation, and shaking hands with them. Often in my meditations, a text of scripture would crowd itself upon my mind, and I would frequently catch myself preaching to myself on that text, and when I would find myself thus engaged, I felt mean and ashamed, for I thought that it was wrong, and that some one might see me at such things, and if they should, I felt sure they would have no confidence in me. I tried to get rid of such impressions, that I might get rid of such a practice as that, but it increased, and I finally became so absorbed on the subject that I preferred to wander about, and rove the fields and woods alone, rather than the best company I had in the world. Sometimes I would go out for something, or to do something, and would wander about, I do not know how long. I would sometimes go to the barn to feed my horses, and when I had come back, I could not have told whether I had fed them or not. While in this great trouble and strain of mind, I was not unmindful of the responsibilities resting upon a minister of the gospel, although I did not know as fully what it all meant, as I hope I do now. My wife would sometimes tell me about the way I was doing, and would talk to me and try to get me to quit it, and sometimes she would laugh at me, and mimic me in order to break me of what she thought was a habit I had gotten into; but it all did no good. Badly as she might have hated it, she could not remedy the matter. Nothing that I could do, or that she could say, relieved my mind. The greatest privilege to me was frequently to get hold of the Bible, or hymn- book to read or sing.
During the winter of '64 and '65, I taught school, about three and a half miles from home, and as I walked across the fields to and from my school, mornings and evenings, scarcely did any other subject cross my mind. I finally concluded that to read a chapter and pray at night before going to bed, would be a great relief to my mind, and a portion of the time I thus engaged. It was a great pleasure to me to do so and during the day I would frequently think what a pleasure it would be to me tonight to read a chapter, and get on my knees, and try to return to the Lord the gratitude of my heart for all His mercies and blessings to me and mine. I feel now that I lived nearer the Lord then, and realized more sensibly my need of His grace, and the fullness of that grace, than I am able to do since. In my great trouble of mind on the subject of preaching, I frequently thought that if I would go to the church and relate my feelings to the church, just once, that my work in that particular would be done, and that I would be relieved of all my trouble on that subject. At the same time, I felt that if it would, I would freely go the first opportunity, for I would be willing to do almost anything that was respectable and honorable, that would relieve my mind, and set me free from the burden that I was groaning under at the time. But I was afraid to venture, for fear it might be simply the beginning of my labors publicly, as a minister. I did not intend to preach as long as I could possible keep from it. I said nothing to anyone about it as long as I could help it. I never did get relief of mind on this subject until I did engage in the public ministry of the Lord. The first effort I ever made was Saturday before the second Sunday in January, 1865. This was my birthday in the ministry, and I have been as constantly engaged in the work from then till now, as any man during that time.
While I am on the subject of my reasons for ever trying to preach, I wish to give a little narrative that occurred just one month before my first effort. On Saturday of our December meeting, 1864, Elders Lewis Hunsinger and Nathaniel Williams visited us. They lived about thirty miles away, and came on horseback to our meeting, and on that day our church called Elder Hunsinger to the pastoral care of the church, which he accepted. I was not acquainted with those two brethren, it was the second time in my life that I had ever seen Elder Hunsinger, and I had heard Elder Williams preach, in all, perhaps three or four times, and if I had ever spoken to him, or had an introduction to him, I had no recollection of it. I was quite young--only twenty-three years old past, and while I felt like it would be a pleasure to me to have some of the brethren go home with me, I had no thought of asking those preaching brethren to go. I felt that they would want to go among older people, where they could be better, and more agreeably entertained. So, rubbing right round them, I invited some of the brethren, with whom I was better acquainted, to go home with me, and said nothing to them. Finally, Elder Williams looked at me, and said, "Lewis and I are going home with you." That suited me very well, but I had entertained no thought that it would suit them. They went, and, it being cold weather, we had no meeting that night, and I built a large fire, and we had a very pleasant time, sitting by the fire and talking on the subject of religion.
During our conversation, Elder Williams suggested that we all tell our experiences, beginning at the oldest and going down to the youngest. I thought that a good idea, for my wife was not a member of the church at that time, and I thought that those brethren had had some conversation with her during the afternoon, and feeling eager myself upon the subject, I was willing for us to tell our experiences, thinking that by the time she heard all of us talk, she would be willing and ready to talk, and I thought that was what the Elder made the suggestion for; so, agreeable to his own proposition, he, being the oldest person present, told his experience. And after relating a reason of his hope in Christ, and giving an account of his going to the church and being baptized, he went on to give an account of his impressions to preach. And while he was talking he pictured out my course to me as well as I could have done myself. I had never heard a man tell his call to preach before. I felt very badly to sit under his voice and hear him talk as he did. The thought occurred to me that some one had apprehended me and had told him all about what I had been doing, and that he had taken all the pains to come to my house and expose me; then again I would think that he was simply telling his own experience, and that he knew nothing about me, for he had never spoken to me in his life till today, but I was anxious for him to drop the subject. He went on, however, giving his own troubles, till he gave an account of his beginning to preach. When he got through he turned to me and said, "Do you know anything about that?" I was never more astonished, and I think I answered him about this way: "I have had some feelings that I do not understand." He then asked me, "Do you think you can answer me with a clear conscience that you will never try to speak in public?" My reply was, "The Lord only knows what I will do; I do not." The subject was dropped and I was glad. No one had ever hinted anything of the sort to me before, and why this strange man should come to my house and pick me out in any such a manner, was a mystery that I was not able to solve, neither am I yet. If any of the brethren had said anything to him, they never had to me. I have had thoughts about that occasionally, during my whole ministerial life, and I have thought in all probability that it might have been my duty to preach, and the Lord may have impressed that man, as his servant, with the fact so that he might talk to me, and give me some encouragement to go immediately to the work.
Between that time and our next meeting, an old Brother Williams who lived in our little town, called, as he frequently did, to sit and talk till bedtime, and while he was there on this special occasion, I told him my secret. After giving him an account of some of the trouble and impressions that I had undergone, for it seemed that I must tell some one, I said to him, "Now, Uncle Jesse, if you can tell me what is the matter, I want you to do so, for I do not know." He rather laughed, saying, "I know what it is; you have to preach, that is what is the matter with you." I then felt like I had told a secret that I should have kept to myself, and I began to beg him to promise me upon the honor of a man, that he would never say a word about it to anyone. But he would not. He said, "I shall do nothing of the sort. If our pastor is with us next meeting, I will tell him about your case and have him invite you forward. If he should not be there, I shall preside over the meeting in the absence of the preacher, and I shall invite you forward." That was all I could get out of him. He talked to me and so did my wife, on that occasion, giving me encouragement to obey the call, for the Lord had called me to the work of the ministry, and the sooner I obeyed the better it would be for me, and the more he would be honored. This gave me a great deal of trouble. I studied a great deal from that on till meeting time. I knew that Uncle Jesse would do what he said he would. I dreaded it from one standpoint, and I was perfectly willing from another.
When meeting day rolled around, as I was sexton, I concluded to go early, and make fires and sweep out the house and leave before anyone came. That plan seemed all satisfactory till I got back home. But I was made to feel miserable and restless, to think of remaining at home and not going to meeting that day, so I picked up my hat and started. When I got to the meeting house I tried to be cheerful. I led in singing two or three songs, and finally, Uncle Jesse invited me, as the pastor did not come, to come forward and open meeting. I did so, by singing a song, and praying, the first time I had ever tried to pray in public. After prayer, I made the remark to the church that if no one had any objection, I would love to talk a little while. There was an old brother present whose name was Abner Cox, and whose memory I love to this day. He spoke out saying, "If you have anything to say, just say on." I talked awhile, and after meeting was dismissed, this old Brother Cox spoke about having services tomorrow-- Sunday--saying that I could talk to the people--and he and the brethren would not listen to anything else. Meeting was appointed. . . . About four o'clock that afternoon, after the brethren had all gone away, I became deeply distressed about what I had done. I seemed to me that surely it was not my duty to preach, and that it was very much out of my place to undertake it. The very idea, that I should go into the stand and try to talk to the people concerning their spiritual absurd in the extreme. I was poor, weak, ignorant, and in every way disqualified for such an important work. Surely the Lord does not require such a work at my hands. And in this way I reasoned, and tried to beg the Lord to let me know what was right--for about four hours. I felt as if I would give everything that I ever expected to have pertaining to this life if I could just call back a few hours. I did wish I had not gone to church that day, for by going I had exposed myself in a manner that I was fearful would result in great harm to myself and to the cause of the blessed Redeemer. I do not think I ever suffered more in mind, in four hours in my life, as to my impressions on the subject of the ministry. I felt that I wanted to do the will of the Lord, but can it be His will that I should ever try to preach? Does He require such a great and important work at my hands? . . . My wife went to bed with her baby, at the usual hour for bedtime, and left me sitting up, perhaps totally ignorant of what was on my mind, and as I reasoned the matter over, it seemed to me that if I could only have a decision from the Lord, in some way or other, as to my duty in regard to the matter, that I would abide by it. About eight o'clock that night, as I was sitting all alone by the fire, my wife and baby both asleep, the thought presented itself to me like this: "If it is your duty to preach, you will have it to do, and the Lord will let you know by giving you the ability to preach, and if it is not your duty He will let you know by withholding that ability, and you will have to try it in order to find out. This has appeared to me ever since, as a sort of compact entered into between the Lord and myself. I felt perfectly resigned. I went to bed, slept and rested sweetly during the night, and arose the next morning with all the peace of mind and conscience that I desired, and felt as if the matter would soon be decided, for the Lord will let me know by withholding that ability, and I will have to try in order to find out. . . .
On Sunday morning I went to the meeting house with as great a desire and as great a delight in trying to preach as I have ever had in my life since then. That morning when I got to the meeting house I found this same Brother Cox and two or three other old brothers standing out waiting for me to come. When I stepped up to where they were and spoke to them, they told me they wanted to see me a few minutes, and took me around back of the house. They told me they did not want me to feel that I would be in the way when I arose to talk, or that they did not want to hear me, but that they wanted me to feel at liberty and that they were anxious to have me talk and had a great desire to hear me. They gave me every kind of encouragement that a set of good old brethren could, letting me know at the same time that they would pray the Lord to bless me in my efforts. Such kindness as this I have never forgotten. . . .
The day of my ordination was one of the most solemn days to me that I ever witnessed. . . . When the brethren came together and the sermon had been preached by Elder David Stewart, the church sat for business, and asked for the responses from the sister churches that had been called on. The brethren to compose the presbytery were received, and when they had organized for business they called for the candidate. I was sitting rather back of some of the brethren, next to the wall, and I just thought that I could not respond when they called for me. A brother came and took me by the hand and led me out, in front of the presbytery, where there was a chair for me to occupy during the examination. As I was being thus led by this good brother, I felt more like a prisoner than a minister of the gospel. I thought that I could not talk. My recollection is that from the time they called for me until I was ordained I was crying almost all the time, and what little I did say, was said amid sobs and tears.
Elder T. S. Dalton
On the very same night that my burden left me, I felt an impression to go and tell others what a dear precious Saviour I had found, and to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus to others; but I felt that it was too great a task for me.
After a while I became so troubled on the subject I felt that death would be a relief to me; and really I was so wicked and so rebellious that I went far enough to arrange to take my own life; and was very much tempted to do it, rather than expose my ignorance before the world, and bring reproach upon the cause of my dear Master. But by some means I hardly knew how, I was prevented from carrying out my plans.
My trouble increased on the subject of preaching, and I was still stubborn, and I resolved at last to die rather than try to preach. Often I would be walking along and the first thing I knew I would be preaching to myself and throwing my arms, and sometimes talking out. . . .
The day I was baptized was, and is yet, one of the sweetest days of my life; and I have often thought if I could feel that way I would love to be baptized every day of my life. But this lasted me just a little while, until my mind was exercised on the subject of preaching again. I found that I still had that old stubborn nature about me, and I vowed I would never try to preach. My health gave way, and soon I became so diseased that my friends, many of them, almost despaired of my life. I had spells that would throw me prostrate to the earth. Oftentimes I would select men that I thought could preach, and tell the Lord about them; but still it gave me no relief.
I thought I had succeeded in keeping this matter all a profound secret. I really thought no one knew, not even my old mother; but one day I was lying on the bed in the room and mother sitting near the middle of the floor, when I turned over, hardly conscious of what I was doing, and groaned heavily. Mother looked at me and said, "It is strange to me that any one will just go on until the Lord kills them before they will do their duty." It took me but a minute to get out of that house, and it was late in the evening before I went back. I wondered what made her think of such a thing as that.
Our meeting came on, and the old minister came to me and said, "Now, Brother Dalton, we think you have a gift, or that God has put on you a duty to perform, and I am going to make you this proposition: If you ever felt like you had to preach, get up and go into the stand; if you never felt that way, just keep your seat, and we will take your action in the case to be true." I hesitated a moment, and these thoughts flashed through my mind: "If I sit here and refuse to go, I tell an untruth; if I go, it can be but a miserable failure. So God being my helper I will try to do my best; and if I fail, I am nothing anyway. If God designs for me to speak in His dear name He will help me." So I arose trembling, and walked up into the stand. I had no idea how many people burst out crying as I walked up. The old minister followed me and gave me a hymn book, and told me to do just as I felt like and all would be right. I got up and let the book fall open as I arose and it opened at this hymn:
"In all my Lord's appointed ways my journey I'll pursue;
Hinder me not, ye much loved saints, for I must go with you."
I read it, the brethren sang it, and I got on my knees to try to pray, thinking all the time that when I was done trying to pray I would sit down and let the old brother preach.
But as I arose from my knees, without thinking what I was doing I quoted this text, "For if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." The next thing I remember, the congregation, a great many of them were crying, and I sat down. The old minister arose with tears in his eyes and said, "Thank God for this gift to feed my poor soul." I felt perhaps I had ruined everything; but that day the church voted to give me written license to exercise a gift publicly wherever God in his providence might cast my lot.
About one year after this I was ordained (but against my will or wish) to the full functions of the gospel ministry by a presbytery composed of Elders W. A. Bowden, William Howard, W. W. World, T. F. Harrison, and S. S. Nix. Since then I have been all the while engaged in trying to preach; and with poor old Brother B. F. Casey I can say, "Whether my preaching has ever done any good or not it has done me good, for it has been a great relief to my feelings."
All of my efforts to preach have been purely from feeling sense of necessity, for like Paul I feel to say, "Necessity is laid upon me, and woe is me if I preach not the gospel." I know it has never been according to my natural will, but all the while opposed to it, so I feel sometimes to say, I am assured that "A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me," and I preach from a feeling sense of duty, and not to excel, or be counted a big preacher. I know that while I have tried to apply myself and learn all I could, or what my poor limited mind would allow, yet I have studied harder to learn how to quit trying to preach, than I ever did to learn how to preach. But I have been convinced for several years that I will never quit it until my body is cold in death, and I trust in my dying moment God will allow me to preach the blessed name of Jesus to those who may surround me, until my last breath is spent, and then allow me to wake up on the other shore chanting His divine praise for what He has done for a poor old sinner like me, in bringing me into His fold and allowing me to enjoy the sweet fellowship of His dear people on earth, and at last in heaven to sit in full view of Him who died for me that I might live with Him in that goodly land.
Oh! my precious brethren in the Lord, can such be for a poor old worn out sinner like me? Too good, too good!
Elder Walter Cash
While being much impressed with the duty of doing my part with other members, I did not think about ever trying to preach, and was very much alarmed one meeting day, when I had been called on by the old deacon of the church, William Putman, to open the services, and had tried to be excused, saying there were others better qualified than I for that duty, he replied: "We hope that the Lord has given you a gift that will be profitable to the church." How that frightened me! What if that should be true! It would mean so much to me; such a burden, such a responsibility, and I trembled to think of it. But a little more, and a little more was demanded of me by the members at the meetings, and although I could see where it was drifting, I seemed powerless to refuse. It became a constant burden on my mind, but it was with so much weakness and emotion that I spoke, I hoped that nothing more would be required of me than to just assist at the meetings.
I will now speak of a circumstance that later in years caused me to wonder. I was keeping company with Miss Ellen P. Hardin, who afterward became my wife. Miss Hardin was a member of the M. E. church, of which her parents were very devoted members also, and I feel convinced knew the Lord experimentally. Miss Hardin was baptized in infancy and had never known any other faith. But her parents, being zealous in the cause to which they had devoted their lives, knew of the doctrine of the Primitive Baptists, and of course could not approve our church because it contradicted their faith. After my engagement to Miss Hardin she tried to get me to promise that I would never preach for the Primitive Baptists. I felt sure that she loved me, and she had never shown unreasonable prejudice against our people, though she had not heard them much. I had no idea of becoming a preacher at that time, and having some idea of what it entailed, if I had thought it possible, it would seem that I would have been glad to hide behind some refuge as this. But instead of welcoming such an agreement, it aroused such a loyalty in my heart to the church and to my Lord and Master that I think it would have led me to breaking the engagement had she insisted upon it. I argued to her that I did not intend to preach, but this did not satisfy her; and so finally I told her, that although I did not have it in my intentions to preach for the Primitive Baptists, nor to preach at all, but I would not disobey my Lord should he call me to that work. This was the only opposition that she ever manifested toward the church, and after our marriage, which was on August 25, 1875, she welcomed Baptists into our home, and before her death, which occurred February 2, 1876, she asked for a home in the church and was received; but her sickness and death prevented her baptism. . . .
My interest in the cause and in public exercise increased, and I did not feel so averse to it, because many of the members of the church took part in these meetings, opening the meetings with prayer, and speaking. But when the brethren got to talking about giving me license, then I objected. I felt that it was doubtful if I was called to preach, and even if I was, licensing would be no help to me. And if time should show that I was not so called, then it would be but a burden to me, and an embarrassment and injury to the church. . . . In January following (1877) the church voted to recommend me to the churches to speak wherever I might in the providence of God be thrown. . . .
A year after I was granted liberty to speak anywhere I might be, we had a number of additions to our church, and among them was a licentiate who desired very much to be ordained. He had made a motion to ordain some licentiates in a church that he came from to us, and we had been informed that he was much disappointed when the church did not include him also after he got the matter started. He commenced to talk of my ordination, but the brethren told me what they thought his purpose was, and so if he brought the matter up, they did not want me to be surprised if they opposed it. They told me that they intended to ask for my ordination, but they did not intend to ordain this brother who wanted to be ordained, and they thought there was no need of haste in calling for my ordination. The brother that I have had reference to left our church and obtained membership in another church where he was ordained, and where he caused the church much trouble, and was finally excluded, and died out of the church. It is a very safe course to keep hands off of a man who is seeking his own ordination to the ministry.
The matter of my ordination was brought up early in the year 1880 and the time was set for the May meeting. There were present in the presbytery Elders J. E. Goodson, Sr., Wilson Thompson, and A. Bealmer.
Elder John R. Daily
I did not want to become so engaged in teaching that I would lose sight of the goodness and mercy of God to me and of my great obligation to him. I went with my wife to the meetings of her church, at "Gooseberry," near her father's. Her mother's brother was the pastor that year. The preaching was so far from being what I believed that I often sat in deep distress as I saw the people listening to what I regarded as dangerous errors. One night, while a protracted meeting was being held, I took her to church, and while listening to the preaching the emotions of my soul became almost uncontrollable. How I wished for the ability and privilege of telling the people of the true plan of salvation! I returned home in a troubled state of mind and could hardly sleep that night.
The next morning, on my way to school, as I as passing through a grove, my soul seemed full of the love of Jesus. All nature seemed to join me in praising his dear name. I thought of the preaching I had heard the night before, and instantly this prayer occupied my mind: "Lord, send forth true servants into thy vineyard who will preach the truth in its purity." The impression came like a flash, "Would you be willing to go if you were called?" I was astonished at the thought, and tried to banish it from me as a thing impossible. But it followed me day by day till I was made willing to go if I could only know I was called. After this, "Go preach my gospel" was repeatedly impressed upon my mind. In my dreams at night I often seemed to be preaching to the people. While at my work on the farm the next Spring, I frequently started and looked around me to see if any one was in hearing distance, when I found myself expounding the word of God aloud. The burden grew heavier, while my unworthiness arose before me as an apparent barrier to the great undertaking. . . .
The next fall I moved into a house on my father-in-law's farm and engaged in teaching the school at "Gooseberry." I felt a strong desire to preach at my father-in-law's church, which stood by the school house. I had no license, however, and had not yet attempted to speak from a text. At our January meeting that winter, the first Saturday and Sunday in January, 1876, on Saturday night, our pastor, Eld. John T. Oliphant, asked me to talk. I introduced the services and took for a text this beautiful passage: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." 1Co 2:9-10. I did not occupy much time in that first sermon, but what I then taught I believe now. . . .
An appointment was made for me at the Separate Baptist church at "Gooseberry," for the following Sunday, at 4 o'clock. A threatening storm kept many away, but there was a nice little audience of young people, my associates and pupils. I addressed them from the passage, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." Soon after this I was invited to speak to a crowded house at the same place. I took for my text, "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God." Heb 7:19. The opportunity I had long desired was then afforded me, and my soul seemed lit up with love to God and his precious truth. All fear and embarrassment faded away, and my tongue was loosed to proclaim the ancient doctrine of salvation by grace. I was as happy as I ever expect to be in this world. . . .
The delivery of this sermon occupied about one hour. During this time I was favored with the undivided attention of the entire audience, and at the close many eyes were moist with tears. My brother-in-law, William Laymon, who was boarding with us and going to school to me, said that if one's call to the ministry could be judged by the effects of his preaching, there could be no doubt about my call. I received many other encouraging compliments over the effort of that night. . . .I thought I had preached well after being told I had, and I confess I was a little inflated over it. I resolved at once to prepare a sermon on some good text and excel that effort and get myself more praise. So I selected the passage recorded in Joh 4:10. . . . I carefully studied my lesson until I thought I could recite it well. Soon the opportunity was given me to speak to a crowded house at the same place. I tried it, but it just would not go. I was left in the dark and could stand only a few minutes. My feelings, as I took my seat, are known to those only who have had a similar experience. I did not understand it then, but I know now that it was a useful lesson to me. I have been such a dull pupil that I have needed a repetition of such lessons to teach me that without the Lord I could do nothing, and though I have learned this, yet I am often forgetful of what I have learned.
The church of my membership liberated me to use my gift wherever God, in his providence, might cast my lot. I had appointments at school houses and churches, wherever the way opened to me and whenever it seemed advisable, and soon the demand for my services seemed beyond my ability to fill. I sometimes wondered how or why I had entered upon such a great and high calling, and even yet it is a wonder to me. . . .
That spring I became much discouraged over my poor success, as I thought, in the ministry, and resolved to give it up. I told my wife of my resolution, and reasoned with her that if I could quit preaching it would prove I had never been called to the ministry; and it would be so much better for us if I could quit, for we were poor and all my time was needed to make a support for her and our little children, having three at that time. She appeared to agree with me in this, and I was stimulated to fully determine never to speak in public any more. The next meeting at my church, the first Saturday in June, 1879, while we were singing as an invitation hymn, "Grace 'tis a charming sound," she walked forward and asked for a home in the dear old church. How my poor heart rejoiced in the love of Jesus and over flowed with praises to his dear name! He had brought my sweet companion to see the true way of Christian obedience and to become a companion with me in the very church he himself had set up in the world. I forgot the resolution I had to recently formed, and felt that I would spend my life in proclaiming the gospel. . . .
I then began to move out farther from home. I frequently visited Salem and Paint Creek churches, in Carroll county, where I was always joyfully received and very kindly treated. My visits to those churches in the time of my youthful ministry were so pleasant. The dear brethren and sisters there gave me so much encouragement. Many of them have since been called home and now sleep in peaceful sleep of death. . . .
The following autumn Elder J. T. Oliphant moved to Fort Branch, Gibson County, Indiana, leaving me to serve the three churches in that section. Brother Randolph Calhoun was a licensed preacher of my church, who had begun preaching before I joined the church. He and I preached together quite a good deal at various points. Little Flock church called us jointly after Elder Oliphant left, and I served Bethel and Honey Creek alone.
I was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry on the first Saturday in September, 1881. The following ministers formed the presbytery: Elder J. T. Oliphant, Elder John Kinder, Elder H. P. Hayes, Elder Allen McDaniel and Elder Peter Keeney. I was to me an exceedingly solemn service. I realized something of the additional responsibility it was placing me under, and felt sensible of my weakness to fill the high position to which I was thus set apart.
Elder Rees Prather
[The account of Elder Prather's early ministry is interwoven into his accounts of the various churches he has served. There are no details of his ministerial call, per se, but the details surrounding it are interesting.]
Lebanon. In 1889, while at our Association, there was a letter read that said, "They had no pastor." This impressed me and I said to my wife that afternoon that I was sorry for that church that had no pastor. About one month after this I received a letter from Lebanon church which informed me that they had called me as their pastor. This was the church that said they "had no pastor." They also wrote a letter to my church (Emmaus), asking for my service, which was granted. I made my first visit to them in January, 1890. They were all strangers to me, and I found they had been without a pastor for several years, and that there were but five members--two old brethren and three sisters. Neither of these brethren could read or write their names. They were W. B. Roberts, Alex Piper, Eleanor Piper, Judie Tomme, and a Sister Pratt. This was not very encouraging to a young preacher, but the dear Lord gave me strength and faith to press on.
At their first conference they agreed to call for my ordination. To this I objected. I told them they didn't know whether they would be satisfied with me or not. Brother Roberts stuttered, and in a stuttering way said, "No we are satisfied that this is a 'Peter' and a 'Cornelius' case, and we are not willing to wait." So there was a committee appointed to go to my church and ask for my ordination, the details of which are given elsewhere. There were several Baptists that had moved into the neighborhood. They put their letters in. The neighbors took an interest in the meetings and we soon had good congregations. That summer, Brother M. M. Tomme and his wife joined, and I baptized my first subjects. Others joined by letter. In a few years we were in the midst of a great revival.
About this time there was a family in the neighborhood that attended our meetings but were not members anywhere. The mother had talked to me and had expressed a desire to join the church, and we had expected her at our next meeting. But she didn't join. Monday morning, when wife and I passed her home, the lady stopped us and said she was in so much trouble over the matter that she didn't see how she could wait another month. I told her she need not wait, that I could get the church together in a little while, and we could meet at the creek and have it over with. She agreed. Her husband put his boy on a mule and sent him one road. We went back to the brother's home where we spent the night. The brother in surprise, asked, "What is the matter?" I told him I had to bury some one. He said, "Why, who is dead?" Then I explained. In a little while the whole neighborhood was on their way to the creek, so we met at the water, held conference, and the lady and her husband joined. I broke a thin ice, baptized them and they went on their way rejoicing, and wife and I went home.
About this time the members would meet at some brother's or friend's home every Saturday night of our meeting time, and have prayer service. The whole community attended these meetings and they were much enjoyed by all. These meetings continued for several years, and the fruits of these meetings was that the church enjoyed a great revival. Several of this brother and sister's children mentioned above, joined, together with a lot of others.
I was happy in my church work. The Lord blessed my labors. The neighborhood was moved by this revival and for several years the neighbors of the different orders attended our meetings regularly. The brethren and sisters of other churches visited us. The effects of this revival went out among the churches in general and we were much encouraged, both the church and myself. In a few years we had a membership of about fifty. The day I was ordained, Elder W. M. Mitchell, who assisted in my ordination, gave me a private talk, in which he said, "The Lord knows how to deal with His young preachers. In the beginning of your ministry your churches will show much appreciation of you. When you get to the church they will meet you in the yard, take out your horse and show much love and esteem for you. And these conditions may last for some time. But the time will come when you must be TRIED, and walk through the dark valley of despair, for members will become carnal and neglect their meetings; and when you get to church some of them will be off to one side juggling, and you will have to take out your own horse. These will be dark days, and trouble will get in the church which will threaten her destruction. This is the time when you must 'bear hardness as a good soldier'
Beulah. With Elder A. B. Whatley and others, I attended the Beulah Association in 1889. I had been liberated by our church to exercise my gift. I was appointed to preach Saturday morning after Elder Whatley. At this time I had never occupied the stand while speaking, but I was told that I would now have to go in the stand. was quite timid about it, but the dear Lord strengthened me and I was blessed to speak to the comfort of the dear saints, and to the glory of His great Name. In the congregation was Deacon T. M. Floyd from Beulah church. He said while I was preaching he felt impressed that I would be their next pastor. Later, I received a letter from him, asking me to give them an appointment, which I did, and made my first visit to them the second Saturday and Sunday in April, 1890. This was just one week after my ordination. When I got there I found they had been without a pastor for several years and also had been in disorder, but at this time had purged themselves, but had some brethren under dealings because they wouldn't submit to the church. They told me they would dispose of this matter before they made a call for a pastor. At their next meeting they took up the matter of these brethren and as they didn't submit they had to exclude them. One of these brethren, after about a year, came back to the church, made an humble confession, lived an humble and faithful life and died in the full fellowship of his brethren. . . .
After the exclusion of these brethren the church they called me as their pastor and sent a committee to my church to ask for my service. But before the time for our meeting, Elder Whatley, our pastor, and I were talking about the condition of this church, and he said, "that I being a young preacher he didn't think it best for me to serve them in their condition." I told him I was impressed with the church and if the Lord was in the matter He would take care of me, and bless the church. He said, "If you feel that way about it, you go and the Lord bless you and the church." When the committee came the church granted their request. In those days it was a custom among all our churches when the church called a pastor they sent a committee to his church asking them to grant them his service. While I think it was just a matter of courtesy, I think it a good practice. . . .
The church had a good membership nd the community took some interest in it. We had visitors from other churches. There were some that put in their letters, some of the best citizens in that country joined by experience, and we soon had a fine and prosperous church. Our meetings were pleasant and much enjoyed by the church and the visitors.
Elder S. F. Moore
At the end of this utmost struggle, if not deceived, I heard in mind the sweetest voice I ever heard, which, in words were, "Father, this is our sheep; it shall not perish." That sacred impression still lingers in my spirit. Such heavenly peace and rapture I had never felt before in life! My following thoughts were that I must tell my Christian friends, and especially my Christian parents, that some great unseen power of grace had delivered me from all my sorrows, but I did not at that time consider such an impression a call for me to preach what God does for the eternal relief and consolation of His sheep or people. I soon decided that I would not tell anyone anything about it, for fear that I might be deceived and would deceive others. . .
Since this was the case, I am made to wonder if God did not have a purpose in [my lonely life as a shepherd] to make me a real Bible hermit in preparing me to do the work of an evangelistic minister. I thought I could see much need of such work being done by some one, but not by me, for such sacred work was too much for my talent; yet in visions I could often see myself standing before congregations in the regions beyond, preaching and teaching that Jesus was the Son of God and the only eternal Saviour of sinners. I thought I could see the need of more local churches being organized everywhere. And thousands of God's regenerated people needed to be converted to the true doctrine, faith and practice of the Scriptures. I became restless in mind, and wished that I could rid myself of such thoughts. Surely if I brought these impressions upon myself, I ought to be able to get rid of them. But I had to think of them in order to rid myself of them and that only kept me in memory of them; so my nerves became weak, sensitive and easily agitated. . . .
But let all of this be as it may [his spiritual relief in being baptized], my lingering impression to try to tell publicly how the Sovereign Lord deals with His chosen people, began to trouble me no little, for I felt my talent to be too small, my ability too weak and my ignorance too great to do such a sacred task! Still, I found no relief. . . .
We found work to do and we rented land and farmed. I also worked in the timber and coal mines. Father, mother, Sister Elmira and I joined Center Creek Church of Primitive Baptists in Boston, [Missouri], by letter. Elder Jacob Cloud of Nevada, Missouri, was our faithful pastor. I had never told anyone of my impression to try to explain what the Scriptures seemed to me to teach; but father said to me one Friday that if Brother Cloud called on me to open service on Saturday to go on and do the best I could in my own way. I knew right then that Father and Elder Cloud had been discussing my case. So on Saturday morning I told Father I did not feel like going to church and I stayed home.
I attended the services on Sunday thinking they would not bother me on that day. I was hungry to hear singing, prayer and preaching; and to wait another month would be too long.
I took a seat in the middle of the house behind a large man so that I could not be seen plainly from the front. But Brother Cloud saw me and asked me to come up to the front and take part in the service. I refused. Brother Cloud looked me straight in the eye and quoted this Scripture: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." (1Sa 15:22-23) Then he returned to the stand where he and Father preached to the people. But I could not enjoy any of the service. I did not mean to rebel wilfully, but wanted more evidence that my impression was of the Lord, lest I make a fool of myself and reproach the cause of Christ.
I wrote Elder S. F. Cayce, of Martin, Tennessee, (Editor of The Primitive Baptist) that I was in great trouble and did not know the way out and asked him to pray for me. He answered saying that he believed I had a mind to preach the gospel, and, if so, the best thing I could do was to go right on and do the best I could and leave it all with the Lord, and I would feel better.
It seemed that Brother Cayce judged by my many articles to his paper that my mind was burdened with the thought of expounding the word of God. I had not yet met Brother Cayce, but he proved to be a precious father in Israel to me and answered every letter and card I sent him.
Well, every time I went to our church meeting Brother Cloud called on me to open the service. I still refused. I pleaded with Brother Cloud to pray for me and he at last said, "Yes, Brother Moore, I will pray for you, but will have to pray for Him to lay the rod on you until you do your duty." Oh, how that did hurt! He also said, "You may get some ease by writing your views to our papers, but you need to preach your burden off in the pulpit! And the will of God be done." I begged the Lord for mercy and for Him to show me what I should do or should not do! My ignorance was just too great for me to risk the effort in public before all of those intelligent people. I became very sad and decided to leave that country. I had laid aside my part of the crop. My brother-in-law, Mark Tucker, had rented a farm and I took part of it. I put my team in a pasture, paid for two months and then went home and began to pack my valise. My sister said, "What do you mean? Where are you going?" I said, "I don't know and I don't care. I am going to hunt for work." "Well, now," she said, "you may stay right here with us." But I pulled out on foot to the west and camped that night near the little town of Liberty and slept in a haystack. Next day I crossed over the state line into Kansas where I got a job stripping coal with a fine, white team. . . .
I got home all right and helped a neighbor burn and mark some coke. I also worked in the Boston Coal Mines until the roof of one mine caved in. A big slice of rock and slate would have covered me and killed me instantly had I not dodged back as it came down. Next I cut cordwood, but contracted pneumonia and had to quit. When I was able, I sold fruit for a man, hauling it to Lamar in a wagon. . . .
At last under the lash of God, I was made willing to go into the pulpit and try to preach the gospel of grace. The next time Brother Cloud invited me to open the service, I did not rebel but stood on my feet and lined out the song, "Hungry and faint and poor," etc. We sang and I offered prayer, and then I quoted this text, [1Co 2:14]. . . .
Such was the gist of my first public effort to preach the gospel to the people. Brother Cloud gave me much encouragement and comfort. From then it did not seem so difficult to appear before the people. But, to stand in the presence of God knowing that He holds me responsible and accountable for what, and the manner and motive for which I preach, is enough to make me, or any sincere man, tremble. After I learned that neither ignorance nor great literary achievement of man is any inducement for God to call a man to preach His gospel, I could then see the consistency in God's way of making ministers of the New Testament. . . .
The Saturday service was to be at a Brother Hopper's home and I went. A large crowd gathered but Brother Alberty did not come. He sent a runner.to tell us that his child was at the point of death with typhoid fever. We were all disappointed and sad. We and most of the crowd drove out through a big gate and up into a north lane. I was to go home with Brother Dotie that night, ten miles toward my home; but as we were ready to go out of the gate, Brother Dotie said, "Come here, Brother Moore, I want to speak to you." I felt suspicious and replied "I am afraid my pony will run away and leave me." He said, "Tie her to the gate and come here." I did so and went to him. He said in a low voice, "Brother Moore, do you exercise in public?" I said, "Well, not much--I open services and that is all." "Oh, well," he yelled at the crowd, "you send word up the line that we will have preaching at Sister Gass' as soon as we can get there." I said, "Oh, Brother Dotie, please don't do that," but he just smiled and went on. They published the meeting everywhere and a large audience assembled at once. Imagine my feelings, if you can! I felt like a prisoner of the Lord and of the people, too! When the time came for preaching, the deacons told me to go ahead--select a song--and they would help me all they could. They were so fatherly I just could not refuse them. We sang, offered prayer and then I arose with this text, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Php 2:12) . . . As I closed, they gave me the hand of fellowship and we were all weeping for joy. Brother and Sister Patten said, "Brother Moore, we are so happy beause God has given us another gift in our association, and we want you to come back to see us just any time." I do not feel or mean to boast in myself by making this statement for the reader, but it would be very ungrateful and negligent in me not to mention the encouragement they gave me. This was my first trip, first text and first discourse away from home in the ministry. . . .
[Brother Moore then traveled among the churches in several states, finally settling at Little Hope church in Alabama.] At their next regular conference I offered myself and was received by unanimous vote.
As we dispersed, Brother John Deason said to me, "Brother Moore, we are going to put the shackles on you; we are made to feel by the reading of your church letter that you are running to keep from being ordained." I said, "No, surely not! I am young in the cause and too timid to baptize people, neither am I worthy to do so; I could not perform a marriage ceremony and I would not know how to serve a church nor to constitute one. I already have all the obligations my small ability can do anything with, so let us at least postpone the matter for a while." But he said, "No, we have just talked it over and decided to do the work; we have all been reading your writings for several years now, and do not think it a mistake to set you apart to the full work of the ministry, for we need more help here, and everywhere else, so we hope you will submit and help us make a choice of a presbytery of Elders to ordain you!" In substance, the above is what he said and it was hard for me to submit, but perhaps it was right. The elders chosen were J. D. McElroy, G. W. Stewart, R. F. Papazan and W. S. Broom. Elder Stewart was sick at the time set for the work and was not present for the ordination; but the rest were in the presbytery, and did the solemn work in February, 1986, just about fifty-one years ago from this date of my sketching.
from Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers of the United States
by Elder R. H. Pittman
[Following are some brief notes of interest from the sketches in Elder Pittman's book.]
Elder George Alberty. From the time he united with the church he was impressed to preach, but did not obey, for sometime, but tried to keep it to himself, but his chastening was so great that many nights he cried until his pillow was wet with tears. He said it seemed more than he could bear. Other ministers saw his calling without him telling. He went to meeting, but took a back seat, but Elder Whitely said, "Brother George, come and preach for us, you will have it to do." He rose up and went to the pulpit, and as he entered the pulpit this Scripture came to his mind, and he quoted it, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God," and preached about thirty minutes. He felt that the Comforter was with him, that it was better to obey and have sweet comfort than to disobey and suffer the chastening rod, so he ever afterwards followed that rule, and was a faithful soldier of the cross. He was ordained to the full work of the ministry in 1886.
Elder J. E. Battle. He was a traveling salesman and seldom had the privilege of association with his brethren but had great love for them, and for twenty-four years carried the burden of an impression to preach the gospel. On July 23, 1903, he was liberated by the Church to preach, and having suffered sufficiently to be made willing, having learned by experience the lesson learned by Jonah, that "Salvation is of the Lord," he entered boldly into the proclamation of the gospel. Soon his gift made room for him, and October 10, 1905, he was ordained by Elders J. M. Murray, D. F. Woodall and S. T. Bentley.
Elder John Blackstone. Soon after he joined the church, his mind became much weighted with preaching the gospel. But such was his feeling sense of unworthiness and entire unfitness for such a sacred calling, that he shrank from it and even said he could not, and would not do it. Thinking to get rid of such impressions of mind, he took his little family and moved from Georgia to East Tennessee, but much to his distress and surprise, the impression increased upon him, even while he was vainly striving to suppress and keep it hid from his brethren and most intimate friends. But after struggling along in this state of rebellion for about three years it pleased God to sorely afflict him till he was reduced to a mere skeleton, and physicians, family and friends all gave him up to die. And such were the trying scenes through which he passed that some things would seem so incredible he has often been heard to say that he did not like to talk about them to others, lest they should think it mere visionary, or as an idle tale, and thereby shake their confidence in his veracity. And when he was brought to the point to feel that he must preach or die, he took his family and returned to Columbia County, Ga., and was ordained to the full work of the ministry by his home church about the year 1808.
Elder J. F. Farmer. "Soon after this," he writes, "I was strongly impressed with a desire to do something to 'shew forth the praises of Him' who had called me 'out of darkness into His marvelous light.' I began to exercise but could not steadfastly continue. My doubts and fears and feelings of unfitness and unworthiness were such an obstacle that I would quit a while. And then in that condition I was not satisfied and would try again, only to fall by the way. However I was ordained by a presbytery composed of Elders P. D. Gold and William Woodward, other ministers also being present."
Elder John Grist. For years he carried a burden and tried to get relief by moving to Logan County, Ark., but in vain. Not until about three years later--in 1880--did he find rest in Jesus. In 1885 he united with the Primitive Baptists and amid the joys received in obedience he was again burdened with a call to the ministerial work. Feeling he had not one essential qualification he resolved not to preach, but he could not help thinking about preaching when awake or from dreaming about it when asleep. The church saw and realized the burden of his mind and licensed him in 1887, and in January, 1889, he was ordained to the full work.
Elder John C. Hall. He joined the church at White Oak Grove, Floyd County, Va., September 12, 1851, and was baptized the following day by Elder Owen Sumner, and having in him the faith that was in Paul, and being not disobedient to the heavenly vision which he had seen, and which all of God's called and sent servants see he conferred not with flesh and blood, but at the next meeting made his first attempt to preach.
Elder A. B. Hawks. Soon after uniting with the church he felt impressed by the Spirit to stand as a watchman on the walls of Zion, but viewing his weakness and unworthiness, he strove against this impression for some years. He was finally made to yield, and with fear and trembling came before the church in August, 1892, and asked for liberty to speak in public. His request was gladly complied with and on the following day made his first effort to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation.
Elder William M. Mitchell. He was before his baptism wonderfully impressed with the thought that he must preach--the Lord leading his mind, when trying to pray, to read the 12th chapter of Isa 12, and at the fourth verse(Isa 12:4) deeply impressing upon his mind the words, "You must preach;" preached his first sermon eleven months after uniting with the church--speaking about two hours much to the edification of the hearers; was ordained to all the functions of the gospel ministry July, 1845.
Elder Levi Rogerson. Soon he was deeply impressed with the duty of preaching Jesus, but on account of being unable to read much, he felt that to become a minister was a matter impossible. But he was taught in the school of experience, and "Whale College" and by studying to be approved, he became a workman that needed not be ashamed. He was in 1864 ordained by Elders C. B. Hassell and Wm. B. Perry.
Elder D. B. Shiffield. He was soon impressed with the duty of preaching Jesus to others, but as he had no advantages of an education when young, and was unable to read, he felt that to preach was an impossibility. His wife, whose maiden'name was Miss Debbie Miller--to whom he was married in 1866, soon after his return from the war, was fairly well educated, and became her husband's teacher, and her pupil was an apt one and was soon reading the Bible with ease. But Jonah-like, he for many years ran from duty and suffered many trials. His mind was so deeply impressed that there was a work for him to do in South Florida, that he moved there in 1870, was soon ordained, and since has had the care of several churches.
Elder Owen Sumner. He lived with the church in peace and enjoyed their confidence and fellowship, and September, 1832, the church licensed him to preach the gospel of Christ. He went forward in the discharge of his duty with great fear and trembling, often doubting his call; but, to use his own words--he felt unable to preach, but could not remain silent, but was often praying to the Lord to direct him what to do, and as the impression deepened he continued to exercise his gift in the ministry, not without opposition from the enemies, until September 3, 1836, when having made full proof of his ministry and usefulness he was ordained to the full functions of the ministry, and went forward in the administration of the ordinances of the house of God.
Elder A. J. Taylor. The life of Elder Taylor contained lessons for the present hour that need to be emphasized. He belonged to a day that gave us many noble characters--a day that produced men of simple faith, simple tastes, unaffected piety, of plain living and right thinking. An humble, uneducated farmer, high on the slopes of the hills of Alleghany, this old patriarch heard the call to preach the gospel as plainly as ever one of God's prophets of old was called to do His work. Taking neither scrip nor purse, Andy Taylor put aside from him ease, the comforts of home, and for many years devoted much of his life to travelling and preaching wherever a flock of the faithful wished to hear him preach.
"And he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder." (Mr 3:17)
"Hast Thou a foe before whose face I fear Thy cause to plead?" (Doddridge)
"Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Enoch)
"Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, or must be awakened." (Elijah)
"0 generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (John the Baptist)
"But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption." (Peter)
"I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." (Paul)
"Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words." (John)
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Jesus)
Like those given above, in every generation of the Christian era God has called men to stand in the gap, to boldly face sin and error and to speak against them in an uncompromising fashion. The ministers of the churches of Christ known as Primitive Baptist have been no exception. In fact, their willingness to combat error as they saw it has been one of their outstanding characteristics. Without giving quarter, without expecting to become popular with the religions of the world, they have stood with their feet planted firmly in the "old paths," and were determined not to be moved from them.
In our generation, when every form of opinion is tolerated and it is "politically incorrect" to show any sort of bias or discrimination whatsoever; in the "I'm OK, you're OK" era; when distinctiveness and individuality are being legislated out of American life; the bold speech of our Primitive Baptist forefathers might seem somewhat harsh to some. It should be kept in mind, however, that when compared with some of the scriptural examples, even they might seem mild. Read the 23rd chapter of Matthew(Mt 23), for example.
The men who founded this country and who helped it grow into the greatest nation on earth were men of principle. They stood for something. In the early days of America there were no guarantees, no social welfare system, no retirement plans. To function at all, a man had to be willing to take risks, take responsibility, and accept the brutal consequences if he failed. Men asked few favors and expected few in return. They would have been ashamed not to have been able to make their own way. It was a period of "rugged individualism." It took that sort of men to hack a new country out of a wilderness, to forge new trails in the arena of free republicanism. It was not a place for the timid or the faint of heart. Only the fittest survived--politically, economically, physically. It was in this environment, a mere 51 years after the Declaration of Independence, at the Kehukee Association in 1827, that the Primitive Baptist denomination as a distinct, separate people was born. That was back when men were men, and didn't apologize for being so. They stated their beliefs plainly, not caring who disagreed with them, and were ready to defend their principles in the area of "public discussion" if necessary. The bold speech used in debates was not as insulting to the opposing parties as we might think today, for the men involved probably would have been insulted if the other debater had felt like he had to "pull his punches" against him.
It is against this backdrop that I present the following collection of excerpts from Primitive Baptist writings, sermons, and debates. It was very hard to decide which to include and still keep the length reasonable, for there were so many sterling samples from which to choose. I have tried to get a wide variety of subjects, and to include a fairly representative selection of well-known ministers. There are lots of descriptions that could be given to them--pugnacious, stubborn, combative, bull-headed, argumentative--all fit our beloved old "Hardshell" name quite well. (And as has been said so many times, we had rather be hardshells than softshells any day.) The fact is, it was simply contrary to their sense of duty in upholding the truth to let error go unchallenged. They would not give in to any assault on the doctrines of grace and biblical practice. So here they are, seventeen Regular Old School Primitive Baptist ministers in their finest fighting trim. Hold onto your seats as we follow these Hardshell Sons of Thunder into the battle. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
THE ATONEMENT from the Daily-Hughes debate (November 1908)
[b. 1854, bapt. 1871, ord. 1881. Elder John R. Daily was the editor of Zion's Advocate, publisher of a well-known hymnal, and a gifted hynmwriter. Mr. Hughes was a Universalist minister.]
He says he does not believe in a vicarious, limited atonement. The fact is, he does not believe in any atonement being made by the death of Christ at all. In the atonement as typified by the Jewish offerings, the sins of the people were ceremonially put upon the head of the scapegoat. There is nothing in the Universalist doctrine that corresponds with this. In the antitype, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;" "for the transgression of my people was he stricken;" "he shall bear their iniquities;" "he bare the sins of many;" "this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins;" "he bath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;" "who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity;" "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." This is the atonement of the Bible which Brother Hughes says is "too abhorrent, too monstrous in every sense; wounding every sensibility of righteousness, outraging every sense of justice." One who makes such an assertion in the face of these plain scriptural declarations regarding the atonement, is rather to be pitied than blamed!
He is unable to show that any benefit is conferred upon sinners by the death of Christ according to his doctrine. He says it is moral in its effects in the sense that it commends God's love to men. How does it commend God's love to men when it does not remove or mitigate any punishment they deserve, when it does not deliver them from sin in any sense, save them from death, from the grave or hell? If men are saved because punished sufficiently, would they not have been saved as well without the death of Christ as with it? He knows they would! Then the death of Christ is no benefit to sinners. As it is no benefit it is useless. The love of God would not be commended by the useless death of Christ. Again the death of Christ does not win the love of sinners and reconcile them to God if punishment inflicted upon them is the instrument that brings them. This is wholly inconsistent, and Brother Hughes will forever fail to clear the inconsistency.
CHURCH IDENTITY from the Potter-Throgmorton debate (July 1887)
[b. 1841, bapt. 1863, ord. 1867, d. 1897. Elder Lemuel Potter was founder and editor of the Church Advocate, and was a frequent and able debater. "He was so widely known and so universally beloved that is would seem almost superfluous to speak of his character or work." Mr. Throgmorton was a Missionary Baptist and a very formidable opponent. The question being debated was: "Who are the Primitive Baptists?"]
During Mr. Fuller's ministry, he was denied the pulpits in the eastern part of England. Remember, he sought an occasion to speak to them without them knowing by whom they were addressed. This was evidently what caused all this. It was his reputation; he caused such prejudices and discontent among the churches of England, that they would not allow him to enter their pulpits. Now, I ask, if this was true, did they not hold non-fellowship with the practices that Mr. Fuller was advocating? If they fellowshipped that kind of doctrine, I do not see why this opposition to Fuller, if they did not make them tests of fellowship. They did not make their fellowship as broad as my opponent does. We are identical with the Primitive Baptists on that. If you are identical with the Primitive Baptists why did you not deny Fuller? You remember that the Primitive Baptists denied him their pulpits in England, or he must preach to them without them knowing who it was that was talking to them. Let me tell you, that is the very best evidence that those Baptists did not like his doctrine. I get this from the Missionary witness, "Story of the Baptists" written by Mr. Cook, that I have already read from in this discussion. He shows there, indirectly, that it was the Arminian doctrine that they denied at the start, a departure. Benedict himself admits that it is a new explanation. Benedict also admits that in America a large proportion of the American Baptists have fallen in with it. What does that prove, if they fell in with it? According to Mr. Ray, he says upon that subject, as I quoted this morning, "the time for the falling away spoken of by Paul had now fully come. For it matters not which party is in the majority when a separation occurs, it is always true that the party which departs from the faith, has fallen away."
Did Fuller depart from the faith? Did he depart from the faith? He set himself to oppose and refute the faith with all his might, so says the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Well, then, he departed from the faith; he did not believe the doctrine of the church at that time. When he began to advocate his new theory, the brethren denied him their pulpits; the privilege of preaching among them. This has never been noticed by my opponent. I made this point the first day of this discussion and it has never been noticed.
He has been interested too much in denying tests of fellowship, doctrinally, until recently. This point was made in the very introduction of this discussion, and has not been noticed yet. It is too late to notice it now. Too late now! It remains unanswered. I will tell you, here is a plain point, the first one I made during this discussion, that the Baptists did not tolerate Fuller's doctrine when he began to oppose and refute their old doctrine with all his might.
I have also proven by them, that this- old doctrine opposed missionary work. I proved this by the Missionaries themselves; not only by the Enclycopedia of Religious Knowledge, but I proved it by my opponent, and he is here as a representative of the Missionary Baptists. I have proven by him that this doctrine opposed mission work. If it does oppose mission work, it was the prevailing system of doctrine among the Baptists during Fuller's ministry. I ask were they Missionary Baptists? Did they favor missions? How can it be? I have asked that question a half a dozen times during this discussion. My opponent has been silent on that point.
from History of the Church of God by Elder C. B. Hassell
[b. 1808, bapt. 1828, ord. 1842, d. 1880. Elder Hassell was one of the spiritual giants of the early days of Primitive Baptists; and there are few names that are held in as high respect in the memories of our people as his. He served as moderator of the famous old Kehukee Association for two decades, and as a Trustee of the University of North Carolina. The section from which the following is taken is one of the true classics of Primitive Baptist literature. Every Primitive Baptist should be familiar with it.]
One departure made way for another. Imbibing false doctrine led to false practice. The idea of salvation by works caused a dependence on works for salvation. When once confidence in God was lost, then it was placed on man. As soon as a religionist believes that God is unable or unwilling to save sinners, then he sets about the work himself, and soon concludes that he can do it alone without God's assistance. So soon as disbelief in God's word entered the mind of Eve she believed the lies of Satan, and that belief in his false statements produced the action, on her part, of reaching forth and partaking the forbidden fruit. So soon as Baptists in America, during the present century, imbibed "Fuller's gospel"-- all complete, they were ready to carry it out in practice, by the examples set them in England by Carey and Fuller.
So that we feel called on to state it as a historical truth, not successfully to be denied, that wherever Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, Dorcas Societies, Mite Societies, Religious Fairs and Festivals, Temperance Societies, Sectarian Schools and Theological Seminaries in America prevail, there the doctrine of Phariseeism (modernly called Arminianism) prevails, there the doctrine of saving the souls of men from sin and from hell by works which men may do for themselves and for each other prevails. There the mark of the Beast and there persecution prevail. There fraternization with these in all sects and societies (Pedobaptists included) where salvation is reckoned of men prevails. In all these new things, cominglements and fraternizations, the New School party disprove their identity with Primitive Christians, and repudiate the faith and practice of the Apostles of the Lamb. . . .
For some few years now prior to the writing of this history, their ablest minds, through the medium of pulpit and press, have been endeavoring to prove themselves the veritable Primitive Baptists of the nineteenth century! It is likely their affliction will increase as the prosperity of Zion becomes more and more manifest, and the well established among themselves forsake them and go where they rightfully belong, to the citizenship of the saints and the household of God.
This claim on the part of the New School has been set up by some of them, perhaps, since the year 1870. Lectures have been given, sermons delivered, newspapers have teemed, magazine have been filled, and books have abounded with argument, declamation and sophistry, to prove that the New School are the Old School-- that the pharisaical, money-loving, money-hunting, money- begging, mesmerizing, passion-exciting, "do and live" Baptists of the present day are the Simon-pure, old-fashioned, Primitive Baptists of a hundred years ago; and that Kehukeeites and Black- Rockers need not lay claim to any such title at all! Thus it is seen after all what advantage there is thought to be in a good name. It was for this reason, we suppose, that seven women were to "take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach" (Isa 4:1). What a pity that some people now desire to eat their own bread (the doctrine of the Pharisees), and wear their own apparel (self-righteousness), and yet greatly desire to be called "Primitive Baptists!" Primitive Baptists in reality are they who are "of the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
We proceed now to prove the Missionaries, so-called, of the present day, to be the New School party; that their worldly institutions, under the garb of religion, have divided the Baptists--that they are only about fifty to seventy-five years old in the United States, and that they have gone away from the original fold or church of Christ, and have made it manifest that they were not with her in faith and practice. Also that the constant tendency of the Missionaries is from the doctrine of predestination and election as set forth in the Bible to the doctrine of a Conditional Salvation, made sure only by man; that they have abandoned the true church of Christ, and made a confederacy with the daughters of Babylon and of Papal Rome; and that the Mother of Harlots herself has as good a doctrine to preach to the millions of her deluded followers as have a large number of the Missionary Baptists, so-called, either of Europe or America. The more is the pity and the more is the shame, because these people, as Baptists, had a noble origin. They never belonged to Babylon--they did not come out of her. Their predecessors from the beginning fought against and denounced Antichrist as the great spiritual evil in the world, that was poisoning the minds of men with false doctrine and destroying hecatombs of victims from generation to generation. They denounced her till the Reformation, so-called, under Luther and Melancton, Zuinglius and Calvin; they denounced her since the Reformation; they denounced her daughters, the Established "Churches" of Germany, Switzerland and England, whose hierarchies hated and persecuted Baptists as they hated and threatened Rome. Baptists stood independent of all other religious organizations and acted their part nobly, until in England they succumbed to the principles and practices of Rome (save her persecutions) under the leadership of Fuller and Carey, and in America under that of Judson and Rice. Now, therefore, we behold those calling themselves Baptists, and recently calling themselves "Primitive Baptists," fused with numerous other sects and societies, and with the non-professing world also, in order to carry to a successful issue their craft and schemes of aggrandizement, born of worldly wisdom.
In the first place, we take it to be a self-evident truth that a project never submitted to the consideration of the Kehukee Association for the first thirty-seven years of her existence, when it was submitted, was then a new project to her. The subject of Missions was proposed to her by Martin Ross in 1803; it was never proposed before that time. The Association was constituted in 1765, and was therefore thirty-seven years old before the subject was brought to her notice. The subject was therefore new to her then, and those originating it must of course be called a "new order" or "New School Baptists." Then and there (at Conoho, in 1803) originated the "Missionary" cause, so far as the Kehukee Association and all within the bounds of the State of North Carolina were concerned. The age of the concern, therefore, in its incipient state, in North Carolina, is much less than a century.
Younger and younger still are those who, from time to time, have since then set up for themselves--unfurled their "missionary" banners to the breeze--joined the armies of the aliens, and made war against the old original panel, the church of Christ.
We do not see how such organizations as these can with any degree of propriety be called churches of Christ; because those of them who departed from the original fold were excommunicated from church privileges and gospel fellowship. Whatever they did thereafter was done in a state of disorder, whether it was to form churches, adopt creeds, baptize persons, or administer the elements at communion season. All was in disorder, and consequently should not be reckoned by the true church as legal or valid. Whatsoever has sprung from this impure source of course must be impure also; and their baptisms, as well as their false doctrines, must be rejected and disowned by the true church of Jesus Christ.
That portion of Baptists who have not departed from the faith, or who have been properly constituted into churches under the faith and order of Baptists of a hundred years ago, to say nothing of the Apostolic Age, must be the true church of Christ. It was unto the true church of Christ that the keys of the kingdom of Heaven were committed, with which to bind or loose, as she thought proper. And, by virtue of this Divine authority, she has loosed, withdrawn from and excommunicated these disorderly brethren, and therefore has no fellowship for them.
If there is to be union again it must be by a return of the excluded and their converts to the original fold. The door has all along been open and still is open for them to do so, upon repentance and faith--in the same manner as other people are received. And, on these terms, they are now welcome to the fellowship and the name of "Primitive Baptists."
CONDITIONAL SALVATION from Salvation by Elder T. S. Dalton
[b. 1846, ord. 1870, d. 1931. Elder Dalton was editor of Herald of Truth and Zion's Advocate, and moderator of the Ketocton Association. He participated in at least 28 debates. In one year he baptized over 300 persons.]
If God begins to purpose after the sinner acts, then God must change. If God changes then the bible is untrue. If the Bible proves to be untrue, then we are left without a guide. The Bible is true; therefore Malachi was right when he said, "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." And James was correct when he said, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God being unchangeable, He never began to purpose to do His work. God having never begun to purpose what He would do, His purpose must, therefore, be eternal; His purpose being eternal, it could not be founded on conditions performed by sinners for there were no sinners in eternity to perform conditions, which must, of necessity, make the work of God unconditional; and if the work of God be unconditional, the eternal salvation of the sinner is the work of God. "For it is of God that ye are in Christ Jesus."
A man in Christ Jesus must certainly dwell in a different element to those who are not in Christ. Now, my Arminian brother, suppose you wanted to change the element of the little fish, which God has elemented to live in the water, what would you do first? Or what would you tell the fish to do? Would you preach to it? and then get around it and sing Psalms and hymns to it? and pat it on the back, as though you could beat a different element into it, between the shoulder blades? Would you tell it to believe and it will be changed in a moment? Remember, my Arminian brother, that it would be much easier to change the nature of a fish, so as to element it to live in the air, than to change the nature of a poor sinner, who is elemented to live in nature (or sin), to live in a spiritual element, for in the case of the fish it is only changing from one natural element to another natural element, but in the case of the poor sinner it is changing from a natural element to a spiritual element. And the process has never been reached in the medical science by which they can change the nature of the fish to live in the air, or the child to live in water.
We all admit that it takes supernatural power to perform such work as this; but when it comes to changing the sinner from a natural to a spiritual element, we will get around them like a set of wild Arabs and begin to sing Psalms and hymns, and shout with wild enthusiasm, and beat them in the back and tell them to believe and the work will be done in a moment; and soon the poor, deluded soul gets fully under the influence of the wild fire and he arises to shout with the rest. He then starts out to mingle with the world and soon finds he loves the world and its amusements and desires to be back where he was, but it will not do; "I have joined the church, and I must hold out faithful;" hence the poor soul is lying on Jeremiah's bed--"And the bed was too short, they could not stretch themselves on it; and the cover too narrow, so they could not wrap themselves in it;" and poor things, they remain on this uneasy bed of profession until about Christmas, and they freeze out and go forth in the world hardened infidels, because they have been deluded by this wild enthusiasm which surrounded them, and they conclude that if this is Christianity they don't want any of it. And the preacher will go off and write a long sketch of his work and have it published in his denominational journal and report so many souls in Christ, so many souls elemented to live in a spiritual world, and the poor deluded soul gets the paper, reads the report, and perhaps curses the preacher for deceiving him; and next fall the preacher returns and finds all of his work to do over again, and yet they will report great work done for the Lord, and the people are simple enough to be deluded by him again next fall; and all of this grows out of the doctrine of conditional offers of salvation. Paul says, "But of him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus." If people would believe the statements of Paul on this subject and pay less attention to what men say, we would be nearer together than we are; but as long as men go forth in the world preaching conditional offers of salvation, just that long will there be division in the ranks of the professed religious world, for God said He "will never have himself without a witness;" and just as soon as all turn out to witness that God offers salvation to men on condition of their doing certain things, then God is without a witness in the world.
from The Final Perseverance of the Saints by Elder P. T. Oliphant
[b. 1848, ord. 1880. Elder Oliphant was also the author of Edith Austin's Enquiry and The Holy Scriptures on Women Preachers.]
Some regard the suffering of the Son of God as only conditional satisfaction to the divine law, and hold that faith, or belief, is the prime and all important condition. But what are we to believe as the conditions? Shall we say that the condition of salvation is the belief that Christ is the Son of God? But this the devils believe, and tremble, and even made public confession of their belief, see Mt 8:29. Certainly such belief and confession cannot be a condition of salvation, unless we say that the devils have a chance to be saved. But, say others, we must believe that Jesus is our Savior, and that this is the condition upon which we are to be saved. But how can a person believe that Jesus is his Savior, if it be not a fact until he has believed it? Are sinners required to believe that which is not true until they have believed it? But, some say, they are required to believe, as a condition of salvation, that Christ died for them on the cross. But how can they believe that Christ actually died for them, if it be true that he died for them on conditions to be performed by them? If this is the scheme of salvation, they cannot believe that he really died for them until after they have believed it. For it is not a fact until they have performed the condition by believing it, for that is necessary to make it a fact.
If such belief is the condition upon which it becomes true that he died for sinners, then they will have to believe that to be true, in order to make it true. But others say they must believe that Christ did bear their sins on the cross, and put them away by his death and suffering. But how can they make that a fact now, by believing it? If he bore their sins in his own body on the cross eighteen hundred years ago, why do they have to believe it now, to make it a fact? How can they make what occurred eighteen hundred years ago true now, by believing it?
Such a ludicrous scheme of salvation does not appeal to the intelligence of mankind. Suppose a physician should say to his patient, "You must have faith in this prescription, you must believe it will cure you, or it will do you no good." In such a case, the patient would decide at once, that if it has no efficacy to cure him until he believes it has, then he will have to believe in that which has no efficacy to cure him, in order to make it efficacious. How strange it is that such inconsistency can be foisted upon the people as the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ! Yet millions swallow it down as simon pure gospel.
Any view of the plan of salvation that represents Jesus as a High Priest who officiates inefficacious; as a sacrifice for sin, that removes no sin actually; as a "scape goat" that bears no sin away; as a "Paschal lamb," whose blood secures none certainly from the destroying angel; as a "wave offering" that secures not the crop from mildew and blasting; as a "redeemer" that buys nothing back certainly; as a "substitute," that releases no one certainly; as a "law fulfiller," that leaves the law still in force against us; as a "shepherd" that dies ineffectually for his sheep; as a "husband" that pays not his bride's debts in full; as a "deliverer," simply making propositions; as a "Savior" trying to save and failing, is dishonoring to God, a travesty upon Jesus as a Savior, and extremely discouraging to the Lord's humble poor.
Such a strange, uncertain, indefinite, conditional scheme of salvation, is enough to cause one to exclaim, as did Mary Magdalene at the Savior's sepulchre, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him."
ETERNAL PUNISHMENT from The Church of God by Elder Lee Hanks
[b. 1861, bapt. 1877, ord. 1886. Elder Hanks was associate editor of the Gospel Messenger and editor of the Southern Department of The Primitive Baptist.]
Paul says: "Be not deceived (by Universalists, Russellites, Spiritualists, those who profess new revelations, by grievous wolves speaking such perverse doctrines to draw away disciples after them, claiming there is no devil, no endless hell), neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1Co 6:9-10). Endless hell will be the doom of all such who die in that condition. They are not born again; "except a man be born again (from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God." Hence, the unborn again cannot reach heaven--impossible. Jesus Christ says he cannot see it, and cannot enter it. To say those wicked characters can reach heaven in that condition, unborn again, would fill heaven with drunkards, whoremongers, liars, gamblers, profane swearers, still in their sins and loving sin with all their guilt resting upon them. No man can believe that such enter heaven and believe Jesus Christ at the same time. Jesus says they cannot see it and cannot enter it. The Bible tell us where such characters go: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Re 21:8). This is where God says they shall go. Russellites and Universalists and wicked men to justify their wicked course, may dispute this plain declaration of truth; but God has said, with heaven's seal upon it, that they shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. God's eternal truth will stand in spite of men and devils. How long will this punishment last? Re 20:10 tells us: "And the Devil (there is a devil and there is a hell) that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night (without cessation) forever and ever." Means endless, for eternity. Just as interminable as the happiness of the righteousness. Paul says: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal (aionion) in the heavens" (2Co 5:1).
ETERNAL VITAL SONSHIP from Exposure of Heresies by Elder John Clark
[b. 1804, bapt. 1829, ord. 1831, d. 1882. Elder Clark founded Zion's Advocate in 1853, and compiled the Ebenezer Hymn Book. He was looked on by some as the leading minister of the Old School Baptists in Virginia. This work is turned against errors within the Primitive Baptist denomination, in this case, the belief that the elect had actual existence in Christ
No greater absurdity was ever put forth by any sane man (if any such ever did advance such an idea), than to talk of an eternal creation, or a creation before creation! And, moreover, it flatly contradicts the scriptural account of creation. "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." (Ge 1:1) "And the heavens and earth were finished, and all the host of them." (Ge 2:1) The created spirits of which we have heard, if they have an existence at all, received it at that time, and were embraced in the hosts, or armies, as the word means, either of the heavens or the earth, and could not have been created before there was a creation, or anything made. But these speculators cannot, by their own theory, escape the dilemma, or obviate the difficulty that they seem to be so much afraid of, which is, that, if there was not always an actual vital union with Christ and his people--if they were not in him, in every sense, from everlasting, there is no way by which they could get in him afterwards. Now, upon their scheme of a creation in eternity, there was a point even in that state of existence, compared with the being and existence of God himself, when that creation took place. The very idea of a creation is that something has been produced, or brought forth, which did not previously exist, and antecedent to that, of course, they were not in Christ, and so must be considered as being put in him by creation.
Creation is something done; an act, a work performed, and it is idle to talk of any such a thing being done in eternity. The performance of the work would show the intervention of time. We readily admit, yea, contend, that, according to the purpose of God in election, his people were in Christ from everlasting-- had grace given them in him before the world began, and that there are no after-thoughts or acts of God in regard to that purpose and grace of his, which is so gloriously displayed in his kindness towards them in Christ Jesus. But shall we contend from hence that they had actual existence in Christ as early? If so, we might upon the same hypothesis contend for eternal regeneration--though that is not needed in the scheme; eternal faith, hope, and love; in short, every grace of the Spirit by which the saints are recognized and distinguished in time, as actually existing from eternity. And according to this, there is no purpose of God at all for that, or predestination is a determination beforehand to do something, and presupposes that the thing is not yet done, but guaranties and gives assurance that it shall be done at the appointed time.
But the worst feature in this theory of eternal creation is, that Christ himself was created at the same time, or that he was created in eternity, and his people created in him, and this is one of the passages referred to as proof of that doctrine. As Adam was created, and all his posterity in him, so Christ was created, and all his seed in him. Indeed, the creation of Christ is inseparable from their theory, without considering it a more unintelligible jargon than it really is. And if the creation here spoken of was done in eternity, we cannot escape the conclusion that Christ himself was embraced in the work. But the apostle does not say, created in Christ Jesus before the world began; but put the word chosen in place of created, and it will be the apostolic testimony. The people of God were in Christ before the world was, according to that choice, but they are in him in time by faith--become children of God by faith in Christ; and hence, some are in Christ, in this sense, before others, as the apostle stated on a particular occasion.
FAITH from The Doctrine of the Final Perseverance of the Saints by Elder James H. Oliphant
[b. 1846, bapt. 1869, ord. 1872. Elder Oliphant was author of several books and was associate editor of the Primitive Monitor, Gospel Messenger and Zion's Advocate. In 1900 he was the moderator of the meeting that produced the famous Fulton Confession of Faith. He was the brother of Elder P. T. Oliphant.]
Nothing is clearer than that men would be inclined to trust themselves, by being continually taught that their eternal salvation depends upon their works; and this is one serious objection I urge against that doctrine. It is, in its very nature, inclined to take men's confidence away from Christ. Also, the Christian who is conscious of indwelling sin, and that from all sin; that Christ saves sinners, as sinners, and that God does not expect us to furnish the grounds of justification; if we were taught that justification is not obtained by sanctification, but freely by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, he would look out of self, and up to God, for what he needs. But, as long as men are taught that sanctification is the root of justification, they can not, they dare not, trust in Jesus Christ crucified; for by this their justification depends, not on Jesus or his blood, but on their own inward state. What a pity that so large a number of professors, instead of trusting Christ, are trusting their own faith; or their faith seems to be in their own faith; while it is the business of faith to look for nothing good in us, but to lay hold on Christ; not to trust itself, or plead itself, as a condition of salvation, but to discard every thing in self, and' in the world, and trust simply in Jesus.
How fearfully ignorant thousands are of the nature of faith, even claiming that faith is the condition upon which our salvation rests. I tell you that faith rejects everything as a condition--even itself is rejected and it anchors in Jesus. Ask the man of faith why he is saved; he answers, Jesus, and Jesus only. Faith does not create truths and then believe them, but it embraces existing truths. It does not create its Savior and then embrace him, but embraces the eternal truth, "Jesus is my Savior." It never claims to be worthy of heaven, but knows and acknowledges itself to be unworthy of heaven's notice. How many dear ones today are waiting for some sanctification within, who now verily believe that Jesus alone saves for his own namesake, and who, if they know what they love, do love God and his children. Let me say to such, the grounds of your acceptance is not your outward reformation or your inward sanctification, but Jesus, and Jesus only; and just so long as you are thinking that your justification depends on something in or about you, just so long you are looking to the wrong place. If you realize that you are poor in spirit--that you are destitute of every good thing or quality--this argues nothing against you. Oh, how simple is the gospel; it is so free and simple that none can understand it until they are made willing to drop confidence in everything but Christ; to look on reformation and sanctification, and all kinds of obedience and works of every kind, as being worthless in the great matter of justification. When the vilest sinner that ever breathed gets this view of Jesus, it gladdens his heart. The poor thief on the cross doubtless had this view of Christ. He could not, he dare not trust in himself or think of anything done by him, as a condition upon which he was to get to heaven; but by faith he looked to Jesus! Oh, what work it is to look to Jesus. I said a work; it is not a work, it is a ceasing of works of every kind and giving all up to Jesus. "Now, to him that worketh not, but believeth."
The greatest objection ever urged to the gospel is, it is free, simply free, and men are so proud they do not want heaven unless they perform the conditions necessary to get it; and when they are told that they must have it freely or not at all, they turn away saying, "it is a hard doctrine." As long as men expect heaven upon conditions to be performed by them, they can not rely wholly and solely on Christ. And as long as men believe in the possibility of apostacy, just so long their confidence can not be undividedly in Christ. It is right to trust in Christ: "Blessed is the man whose hope the Lord is." It is safe and right for every poor, broken-hearted sinner, who feels poor and needy, to trust in Christ--not to make him your apostacy, just so long their confidence can not be undividedly in Christ. It is right to trust in Christ: "Blessed is the man whose hope the Lord is." It is safe and right for every poor, broken-hearted sinner, who feels poor and needy, to trust in Christ--not to make him your Savior, but because he is your Savior; not to cause him to save you, but because he will save you. To say your trusting him as your Savior makes him your Savior, is mere foolishness, and even worse. Neither should men trust him to make him faithful to keep us to the end, but because he is faithful and never will leave nor forsake you. This is the business of faith, and one of the greatest obstacles today in the way of God's children receiving Christ as their Savior, and honoring him as such, is the foolish idea that some condition must be performed on our part to entitle us to what these same people call free. Some tell us that one thing, and some another, is the condition, while real true faith discards everything as conditions.
FREE WILL from the Hume-Franklin debate (November 1853)
[b. 1807, bapt. 1831, ord. 1836, d. 1891. Elder Joel Hume was moderator of the Salem Association for more than forty years. "He was a man of extra-ordinary natural ability, a very impressive speaker." Mr. Franklin was a minister of the Christian Church.]
But read, if you please, Lu 19th chapter, 10th verse(Lu 19:10), where the Savior uses the same language verbatim, with the addition of the word seek, and surely he knew for what he came. And he never, upon any occasion, said he came to make salvation possible to any, but to do the work, and that was to save the lost. We now refer you to the gospel by Joh 6th chapter, 37th, 38th, 39th, 44th and 45th verses(Joh 6:37-39,44-45), which read as follows, to wit: [reads verses]. Here are at least four important points brought to view in this connection. First, that the Father gave some to the Son; and secondly that those given should all come; thirdly, that none could come but such as were drawn by the Father; and fourthly, that they should all be taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh to Jesus Christ--not some of them, but every man. Not that they can or might come, no, but they do come. And why? Simply because they are drawn by the Father. Now, if my friend says that all are drawn by the Father, I prove by the dear Savior that all who are drawn come. And my friend is again dressed up in Universalism, and he does not like this dress very well, but he has to wear it or turn his coat. We wonder what he will do.
But again. Joh 8th chapter, 43rd, 44th, 47th verses(Joh 8:43-44,47): "Why do you not understand my speech, even because ye can not hear my word." Now the gentleman told us in his speech this morning, that the truth of his proposition turned upon the word CAN; they can repent, believe, turn to God, etc. We told you, since we were up, that we would show the gentleman about his can. Here it is. Jesus tells certain people they can not hear his words. Now, Jesus and the gentleman is at variance here. My friend says they can, and Jesus says they can not. I leave you, my audience, to determine between them, while I proceed to show you why they could not hear the words of the Savior. Jesus says in Joh 8:44, "Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." This is the reason that the Savior gives, and we suppose he knew. But read Joh 8:47, and you will find the same idea confirmed. He there says, "he that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore, hear them not, because ye are not of God." What do you think, my friends, the gentleman will do with his can along here? We rather guess he will have to put not to it, or be found contradicting the Savior, and this would not go down well with the people. Once more. Joh 10th chapter, 26th verse(Joh 10:26), Jesus says to certain characters, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." Now, the gentleman says, the reason why sinners do not believe, is, because they will not. Jesus says, it is because they are not of his sheep, and we are so simple that we believe Jesus tells the truth about it. But again. Joh 12th chapter, 39th and 40th verses(Joh 12:39-40), Jesus says: "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, he hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart," etc. Here you find the Savior contradicting my friend in most positive terms. In the text above, we showed you that they could not hear the words of the Savior; in this connection we show you that they can not believe, they can not see neither can they understand. Now I ask every candid mind here, if we are now to stop and proceed no farther, if we have not redeemed our pledge, which was to prove a negative. The proposition says, any man of adult years and sane mind 'can hear the word of the Lord and believe; we have showed you that the Master says there are those that can not hear the words of the Lord, and can not believe.
I have no doubt the gentleman would like, by this time, to have a not attached to his can, but he is too late. The battle has advanced too far, and is waxing hotter and hotter, and will continue to do so, until the gentleman's Arminian nest is entirely burned up.
MODERN MISSIONARY MOVEMENT
from History of the Church of God by Elder Sylvester Hassell
[ b. 1842, bapt. 1871, ord. 1874, d. 1928. He completed the monumental History which his father had begun, and like him, was moderator of the Kehukee Association. He was also editor of the Gospel Messenger. Elder R. H. Pittman said of him: "It has not been my privilege to know one who bore more marks of real greatness."]
There can be no doubt that the effect of modern missions (or Anglo-Saxon civilization) has been to educate, soften, civilize the minds, manners and customs of a very small number of the foreign heathens; it is even possible that, in a much smaller number of instances, the morals of a few heathens have been, in some respects, improved. In regard to whether any of the foreign heathen have been genuinely converted to Christianity or not, while the evident spuriousness of numberless alleged home conversions leads us also to fear that the last state of multitudes of heathen "converts" is worse than the first, still none but the Divine Author of faith, who looks not upon the outward appearance, but upon the heart, can speak with certainty upon this subject. The Apostle Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached to the heathens in Rome, even though from improper motives; and so would all true Bible Baptists rejoice if they had any satisfactory evidence to believe that Christ had indeed been preached and believed on among the foreign heathens. Though Paul took pleasure in all furtherance of the gospel, he could not approve the improper motives or methods or the doctrinal errors of either friends or foes; neither can Old School, Primitive or Bible Baptists approve of the Pelagian and Arminian errors and the humanly-devised, unscriptural, unspiritual, idolized practices of modern fashionable religionists, whether in home or in foreign lands. A gentleman who occupies the highest position in the "missionary" cause in the Southern States of the Union, declares, in a recent letter to the present writer, that he has always admired the Primitive Baptists for "their two basal principles--a God-called ministry, and evangelization by New Testament churches."
It is a demonstrable fact that Primitive Baptist Churches are nearer, in both doctrine and practice, than any others to the New Testament models--our full and critical examination of the apostolic church in the ninth chapter of this volume proves that important fact; and, if their ministry are indeed called of God, it is to be supposed that the unchangeable and ever-living Head of the church, by His indwelling Spirit, affords them all needful direction in their labors. The present writer can truly testify that the ministers of those stigmatized as Anti- Missionaries, though few in number, poor in purse, and destitute of classical training, like the Elders in the New Testament, are, so far as his own knowledge and belief extend, the most zealous and active and faithful scriptural home missionaries in the United States. Not trained in theological schools or courses, not sent out by any human authority, not furnished beforehand with ample funds, not making any charge for their services, they go forth like the twelve and the seventy, depending upon the faithfulness of the God of Israel, and, in their preaching tours, travel tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of miles, speaking, in general, the unadulterated truth as it is in Jesus to all having ears to hear, wherever and whenever opportunity is afforded; and I have never heard from them any other testimony than that, when they returned, like the twelve and the seventy, they lacked nothing. The impressions upon their minds to leave their homes at certain times, and go in certain directions, are often proved to be of the Lord by the wonderful spiritual results of their journeys.
from A Patriotic Discourse by Elder Joshua Lawrence
(delivered on Sunday, July 4, 1830)
[b. 1778, d.1843. If it can be properly said of any man, Elder Lawrence was the "father" of the stand taken by the churches which eventually resulted in the distinct name of Primitive Baptist. He was the author of the "Declaration of Principles" which was the basis for the Kehukee Declaration in 1827. The following oration was against the practice of "priestcraft."]
Now I ask you seriously my audience, as some of you are Bible readers, whether such forming societies, begging, funding and dividing the spoil, is a craft or not; and whether the first Christians practiced any craft like this; or whether such conduct is found among Christ and his apostles? It has always appeared to me, that when I see a minister, after preaching a missionary moneyed sermon come down out of the pulpit, singing and shaking hands to whet up the passions and press upon young ladies to form a missionary society and give their money, that the preaching, the singing, and the shaking of hands of the minister, were but the craft of the preacher to have access to the purse; and it would be in my mind, these are they that creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with divers sins, &c., (Paul)--and also when I have seen the missionary preacher stretch every nerve of eloquence and bear hard on every pathetic string to affect his audience in favor of missions, I never could help saying craft in the preacher, to catch money and not souls.
And when I have seen a parcel of priests assembled to devise plans to get money to convert the heathen, (for I have set in missionary boards,) I have been astonished to see that they, by the by, would get part as it was passing; and that they should form the plan and so turn the wheel as to bring them out the prize, I was forced to think there is craft somewhere .. .
Now does one instance appear, my hearers, in the New Testament, of a Prophet, or Christ, or his apostles, ever being hired to preach, to beg, or to form societies to make money?-- You know there is no such a precedent in the word of God. Then I must say preaching, begging, and forming of societies, is a craft to get money set in operation by priests and carried on by--you comb my head and I will scratch your elbow.
But what is the worst of all, the conversion of sinners which is the work of God, must be lugged into this craft to make it current with the public. You beg for me and I will pay you for your services. And what has become of the $25,000 begged out of Congress for the ministerial factory--to give away which Congress had no right, for it was the nation's money and they ought to have applied it to national use, and not sectarian individual benefit. And I could further ask you, my audience, if any of you know to what use the missionaries applied that $16,000 it is said they got from the Indians that was due from the United States for these poor creatures' land, and how Congress paid it? Why what will not a priest do, even beg and then divide, and perhaps the last cent of negro, widow, children or Indian--for what differs this craft from that of Demetrius, in getting wealth out of negro or Indian, goat or sheep, so wealth is coming? And what differs the selling of membership, from the sale of pardons, indulgences, or silver shrines by Demetrius? I see none--or at least, I think, my hearers, they are all crafts, and equally craftmen's different trades for wealth--what say you?
from The Writings of S. A. Paine
[b. 1874, bapt. 1896, ord. 1897, d. 1910. In the thirteen years of his ministry, Elder Paine engaged in 28 debates. His father, Elder J. A. Paine, was a prominent physician and also a Primitive Baptist minister.]
"Your love has a broken wing if it cannot fly across the ocean," is a saying of M. D. Babcock, and quoted in the Texas Baptist Standard. This is a way the Standard has of appealing to the people for more money with which to save heathens. This is a good place to add that the love of Christ has a broken wing if it cannot fly across the ocean. If they admit that Christ's love for heathens has two good wings that speeds it to them, but helpless to shed itself abroad in their hearts until the preacher arrives, we would necessarily conclude that His power has a broken engine. In fact, if Missionary preachers serve as God's engine through which He communicates His power in salvation, He has had a broken engine all the time. When a wheel of the old machinery does turn with a view of business, it is attended with such a howling screech as renders it unbearable--out of grace. So annoying does this grating noise become that many will give oil to hush the racket., But strange to say the more oil applied the more required, for the noise intensifies. What a pity God did not survey the oil prospects before constructing His machinery. God is always crowded with work; got the engine and power, but always out of grease. No wonder the old machinery makes so much and so many kinds of racket. Shame on such a concern! God's machinery used for shaping the hearts of men for glory has never for one moment been out of repair; never stood idle nor an expense for want of anything. Its construction is perfect, its composition durable, and its supplies inexhaustible. It has never looked to man for wisdom or guidance, nor to money as a lubricator. In the Trinity we find the engine, the wisdom, power, love, oil, and everything essential to a perfect unfrustable work. "His praise will He not give to graven images, nor His glory unto another." "In thee, 0 Lord, do I put my trust."
PREACHING from Autobiography and Sermons by Elder Walter Cash
[b. 1856, bapt. 1873, ord. 1880. Elder Cash was editor of The Messenger of Peace and a very capable writer. In this sermon he addresses the responsibility of pastors, and gives a strong example of disciplinary "thunder," of preachers exhorting and correcting in the churches.]
Brother minister as you look about you, do you not see many things in the churches that ought to be corrected? And not only in the churches but in the lives of the members. All these you should strive to correct, but especially in the church you should see to it that it is after the divine pattern. It is not merely a difference of opinion between you and the brethren, in which they are as likely to be right as you are, for then it would not be right to consider the matter as very serious. But what the Bible teaches, you are not at liberty to surrender because some do not have the right view of the matter, for if you were, a preacher would not have to study what God's word teaches, but he would need to ascertain the mind of those to whom he was preaching and then either preach to suit them, or upon points where they were at variance with the word of God, if his conscience would not permit him to go with them, simply keep silent upon those things. Would such a course be characteristic of a true servant of God?
0, no, he must never, never, never give up the right! He must ever have it in view and be striving, not only to go toward it himself, but to bring others to it as well. It should strengthen him in this struggle to know, and have full confidence in the fact, that God will be on the side of the right to bless and strengthen it. But you will "have need of patience that after you have done the will of God ye might receive the promise." We should not expect to receive the promise while still in disobedience.
The church our blessed Redeemer gave us should be preserved in form, and doctrine, and practice. How will you do this? By preaching on doctrine when you know that practice ought to be preached? When you go to a church should you not ask, "What does this church need?" If a servant went out to care for sheep and there was plenty of corn in the troughs, but no water, and some were sick and needed attention, yet he poured in more corn and went away, would his course be approved? The Shepherd would say, "You should have given the thirsty (poor souls needing encouragement) water (spiritual instruction), and the diseased (erring ones) should have had medicine (correction)."
Will you deliberately withhold from the erring what they need because you think it will not be well received? When you know that no member of the church is infected with Arminian ideas, but that covetousness is keeping members away from the church meetings, and forcing the pastor to carry on the warfare at his own charges, and keeping him from receiving of the fruit of the vineyard, or eating of the milk of the flock, will you then preach a sermon against Arminianism or against covetousness, which? If you preach against Arminianism under such circumstances why do you do it? Do you do it to please God or men? Is this considering the matter as it should be? Or would it not be best to remember that to his own master a man standeth or he falleth, and then tell the church what you think they ought to know, and insist on their returning to such scriptural practices as you know they have departed from?
I sometimes hear a minister say, "I know that is right but you would not dare to preach it at my church." Is it possible that a church can get so far away from the right that it will not do to preach to it the right way without giving serious offense! That is the spirit that put our Lord to death, and ought it to be fostered in the churches? Any of us ought to be shamed that would educate a church in that direction. My dear brother, let us be honest with ourselves and obedient to God, for if "God be for us," why need we care who is against us? But God will be against us if we are not faithful in our ministry, and the more friends we make by perverting the gospel, or keeping back part of it, will only add that much to our shame and confusion when we are brought to realize our standing before Him.
SECRET SOCIETIES from My Reasons for Leaving the New School or Missionary Baptists
by Elder J. H. Fisher
[b. 1860, bapt. 1893, ord. 1893. Elder Fisher was founder and publisher of the Primitive Baptist Review.]
So, we see, in order to follow Jesus we must deny ourselves all these things--crucify the deeds of the flesh, and be a separate people from the world. We associate with all classes in these lodges, however strict the rules of admission may be. We know that ancient Israel were to have no connection with the surrounding nations--not to marry among them, or have any dealings among them whatever. So the church is composed of people called out of the world to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation, a chosen generation, a peculiar people. They were to be different from those around them. So it is with the church today. Those who would be the followers of the rejected Nazarene must come out from among the world. 2Co 6:14-15: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord bath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" After this he goes on to mention idols that men have invented and followed, and then says--2Co 6:17-18: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." How solemn and awful this heavenly injunction! How the palpitating heart of the lover of truth and righteousness leaps up and longs to follow Jesus and do his commandments!
"He that is the friend to the world, is the enemy to God." How awful the thought that if I flirt and mingle with the husband's enemy, I cannot possibly claim to be his wife any longer. If I claim it, it will only be a false claim. The woman that flirts with the enemy of Me husband is only a divorced woman, if she ever was a true wife. So it is with any congregation claiming to be the church (wife of Christ). If she is affiliating with the world and her many idols, she has lost her candlestick, and is no longer a gospel church--no more than the Farmer's Alliance. It takes more than men and ceremony to make a true church of Christ. After they get the form, they still must have a candlestick, or else there is no New Testament church.
The greatest sin of Israel seemed to be that they so mingled with the surrounding nations as to partly lose their peculiarity and identity. Jg 2:1-2: "And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bachim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars." Here is a text that I never could feel free to preach from while I sojourned with the Missionary Baptists. Why? Because I remember that when the angel of the Lord called their attention to those things they repented, mourned, and wept. But I have never found the new order of Baptists mourning because they have drifted into these worldly institutions, the Primitive Baptists have, "time out of mind," been a continual reminder to them that they were departing in reference to these secret societies: that their members were joined to and serving worldly institutions--and even their churches, sometimes. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
SEPARATION from Naaman the Syrian by Elder J. R. Respess
[b. 1831, d. 1895. Elder Respess was associate editor of the Gospel Messenger.]
Let not those who have, in a practical sense, gone into Abana and Pharpar (it may have the seeming of going down, but it is flesh-exalting), let them not suppose that by doing more, to put away their sins and hide them from God; for God knows what it takes to cleanse you, and the prophet knew what it would take to cleanse Naaman; and nothing else would do it, for nothing else would humble the proud heart, and until that is humbled the leprosy reigns. For everything you do in Abana and Pharpar is a sin--a sin--and must be atoned for from the first to the last, from baptism down. Why do men spend so much time and labor to convince their fellows that it will do as well to go to Abana and Pharpar as to Jordan? how can a Christian rest short of the truth? How strange it is that men an be so easily convinced in regard to the concerns of eternity, and yet are so particular and watchful in regard to the things of time! Christian, pause! see if you are honoring the word in all you do; in your -doctrine, order and self-denial. Search the word, and be not led about by those who make merchandise of you. I care not if you be great in this world. Naaman was great. And what is your greatness to be accounted of in the presence of Him, before whom all nations are but a drop in the bucket? nothing--yea, less than nothing, and vanity! Be more solicitous to inscribe your name in Christ than in Syrian marble; for in Him is durable riches and honor--the other is but the corrupt breath of time, and soon vanishes away forever. And beware of that popular phrase, "Religious liberality--religious charity." Don't be afraid of being called a bigot, because you contend earnestly for the truth as it is in Christ. There are no two right ways; there are no two churches of Christ; it is impossible. There may be two or more wrong ways, as Abana and Pharpar, but there is but one Jordan. And worldly respectability is no test of the Church of Christ; in fact, it is evidence against her. That doctrine and order which the world loves, you may set it down that God hates it. And never conform to error in religion, above all things. A man who contends that he is right, and who will not admit that any who differ with him can be right, is, in these days of false and fashionable religion, called a bigot; and those who call him so are as tenacious of their opinion that any way will do--as Abana and Pharpar--as he is that none will do but Jordan, the way that is pointed out in the word. It is a shrewd device of Satan to throw dust into the eyes of Christians; and when I hear a man talking that way, I think that he either has not religious convictions, or he has suppressed them for love of the world, or has been deceived by Satan and his ministers.
SUPPORT OF THE MINISTRY from Life and Travels, Labors and Writings of Elder Peter L. Branstetter
[b. 1825, bapt. 1844, ord. 1864, d. 1890. "He became one of the foremost defenders of the Primitive Baptist church, being a very forcible speaker." This is another example of strong exhortation and correction which Old Baptist ministers gave their own
brethren from time to time.]
My dear brethren, how will you account to God who has made it your duty from His word to communicate your good things bountifully and cheerfully to the man that teaches you, for your sparing, grudging, and covetous disposition in this case, when the gospel, common reason, the law of nations, and of shepherds, vinedressers, farmers, and the law of brotherly love, teach you better?
But your covetousness can find evasions of conscience and scripture to get around this duty to your God and your brother.
But perhaps you will say, "The preacher is as rich as I am." That does not lessen your duty to the man that teaches you.
And you will say, "The minister had as well work as I." This is false. He works for your spiritual good, and you are bound by the word to give him of your carnal things.
'"But," says one, "God sent the minister to preach, and he has as much time to preach as I have to hear." You are a wicked and disobedient professor to the command of God.
"God sends and pays," says another, "and I do not thank him for preaching for me." Thou art no better than an Arab, who, while his camel carries spices, will let him feed on thistles at least, that grow spontaneously.
"I must take care of myself and family," says another, "and the minister must look out for himself." Will you tell me, dear brother, how you get around the word of God, and how you will settle with God for your neglect of this duty, whether you be saint or sinner? . .
Where is the love of God? what is its fruits?
Where is the professed love of your preacher? what is its fruits?
Where is the sense of duty to God and man? what is its fruits?
Publicans and sinners in state do better than this, and yet you say, "0, brother, come preach for us; we want to hear you preach; we love to hear you preach; we want you to attend us."
But only mention money to help the preacher and his family comfortably through the world, and such professors are struck dumb, and their mouths shut almost as fast as the mouths of Daniel's lions; all good feeling departs, and they take up the cry, "money-hunter!" It shows that such professors love their style, their pride, their grandeur, their great name and grand appearance at home, at church and in the world, more than they love God, their minister, their duty, the gospel, or the prosperity of the church.
These stylish professors should read this text: "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."--1Ti 6:17-18. Some such I know, who are worth from ten thousand to forty thousand dollars, can make out to spare their preacher fifty cents or a dollar for a year's services.
And now to conclude on this point. It appears from the scriptures that the general tenor is this: Every man "that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things," for I have learned almost every text in the scriptures on this subject by heart. This is a duty required by God under the gospel dispensation wherever the messengers thereof shall come. The manner of this duty should be bountifully and cheerfully as he may purpose in his heart to give. And there is no other plan of ministerial support warranted by the New Testament.
TWO-SEEDISM from The Old Baptist Test by Elder John M. Watson
[b. 1798, d. 1866. Elder Watson was a physician and "became the leading minister of the old order of Baptists in Tennessee." Two-Seedism is a modem manifestation of the dualistic belief in two eternal essences of good and evil. This old heresy was propogated early among American Baptists by Elder Daniel Parker.]
When the Waldenses were charged with this heresy, they regarded the charge as a reproach and the fruit of persecution. The English Baptists forestalled it in their confession of faith; and the Sequachee Valley, the Fountain Creek, Elk River, Stones River and Round Lick Associations have declared a non- fellowship with it. It cannot exist with the Old Baptists; for it must either change them, or form a sect. The latter will be done, should it survive its separation from the old order of Baptists.
We have become too ultra in most things. How great the change. Watchman! what of the night? I hear one respond, All is not well! another, that strange winds are blowing--another, that the sickly dews of heresy are falling thickly around us, many are sickly and weak--another, that the sound of another gospel is heard in our midst, whereby many are being bewitched. From another quarter I hear I proclaimed that old Manichaeanism, which was supposed to have died centuries ago, has been revived, through the heretical skill of one Daniel Parker, unto almost youthful vigor; and now, with more than a hundred tongues, propagates his poisonous heathenism, whereby were it possible, he would heathenize the old order of Baptists. But 0 thou perverter of truth, thou Polytheist, thou disturber of the Lord's people, thy day of rebuke has come, thy native darkness is being expelled, and although thou art clothed in fancy's gossamer, wrought with cunning craftiness from the word of God, yet thy deformities still appear. Flee, from the light of truth; for in it thou art seen a Pagan Monster. Go league thyself with Roman or Mormon darkness, where thou mayest dwell in quiet, until thou and all other kindred monsters shall be consumed with the coming brightness of truth!
Something new, exclaims a watchman in another direction: Manichaeanism and Arianism have formed an alliance. The former concedes the notion that Christ was created in His Divinity, on consideration that the latter will admit the new tenet, that His people were created in Him when he Himself was created! Thus, a Manichaeo-Arian banner of Pagan aspect, has been raised by innovators. Some strong men have enlisted under it, and are now fighting with intemperate zeal against the great and cherished truth of Christ's uncreated Divinity and Godhead, and against the great and hitherto acknowledged principles of the spiritual regeneration of Adamic personalities.
I hear something of heavenly origin! Listen: "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." 0, Israel, to your tents! Gird on the sword of the Spirit! Put on the whole armor of God. Set up the way marks, and, in holy boldness and meekness, defend them against all heretical defacers! Ye! whose lips have been touched with a live coal from the altar, you, unto whom the Lord has said, go ye, study to show yourselves approved unto God; workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Preach the word, according to your commission, to every creature within the scope of your ministry--declare the precept as well as the doctrine-- show the difference between works, the obedience of faith, and works without faith. Let those good works, which God ordained for Christians to walk in, be seen plainly contradistinguished from the works of a soul dead in trespasses and sins--the great difference between works which are the fruit of the spirit and those the fruit of the flesh. Labor to show all these things in their proper places and connections. But, above all things, avoid those prevailing ultraisms which are now eating on the Old Baptist Church as doth a canker--dividing Churches and Associations, and disturbing the order and peace of the Baptists generally. Rebuke the ultraist whenever you meet with him-- reclaim or reject him--let him be regarded constantly as the worst enemy of the Baptists of the present day! And ye hearers of the word! receive he admonition; it came from heaven--be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
We pampered children of the modern era must heartily admit that these great and brave men who came through the fire and stood firm against errors of many sorts were of a stronger fiber than is seen today. How thankful we should be to God for their faithfulness and zeal, their regard and love for God's word and His church! As long as Satan walks about seeking victims for his lies, we will need Sons of Thunder to oppose him, to steer God's sorely buffeted children down the strait and narrow path, which is the only safe way. May God in His great mercy continue to raise them up in this day as in days past