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Big Spring Church
By John Taylor, 1823
Chapter 8
When I had gotten to the Forks of Elkhorn, I was brought to a pause where I should put my membership, for churches were plenty in various directions. The nearest church was where Mr. Hickman had the pastoral care, at the Forks of Elkhorn; but considering this an old church, and the Pastor an older man than myself, having been always fond of new establishments, and fmding that Mr. Silas M. Noel a young minister, and a man in the prime of life, had the care of a young church, called Big Spring in Woodford county and about five miles from where I lived, my wife and myself cast our lots at Big Spring, under the pastoral care of Mr. Noel. Here we had but a spareing [sic] acquaintance with the members of the church, and though they were not numerous after more acquaintance, I became warmly attached to the worthy brethren. Being well advanced in years, my conclusion was, here I shall live and die I felt happy with my pastor and brethren, though we were in a manner, new to each other, our acquaintance was increasing into brotherly love, so that I was as happy as the nature of my own condition would admit. For some of the stings from Mount Byrd, and Corn Creek, would haunt me at times, as if all some way had not been right as to my proceedings there for I began to take notice, that from the time of the burning my fine barn with fire from heaven, my substance in life, had been crumbling away; when in my travels I would call at Mount Byrd, though my affectionate children lived there, it would present itself to me as the theatre of my past folly, Zophar's reproach on Job chapter 20, seemed as if it applied to me more than to Job. He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again but above
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all, it was painful to me to believe, what appeared most obvious, that my usefulness in the gospel ministry, was laid aside, that in that sense I had become a cast away and especially in that part of it, always most dear to me, the conversion of my poor fellow sinners; this has often made me feel, that death would be a relief.

Judge [Henry] Davidge, a man of high standing, both as a Judge of Law, and moral deportment, had been Baptized a few months before I joined the church at Big Spring; being intimately acquainted with the judge, and believing him to be a religious man, I had no scruple in becoming a member with him in the same church, though I knew him to be much tinctured with Armeniism [Arminianism]. For the constitution of Big Spring Church was not of that cast. Not long after I became a member there, the judge published a pamphlet, in which the Armenian [sic] doctrine was strained to its utmost link. This filled me with surprise, for I had thought, that the Judge was on the change of sentiment, as he had voluntarily joined the Baptists and I knew they had treated him very respectfully, but it is probably, the Judge was not fully apprised of the order of the people, with whom he had lately connected himself.

The Judge's book, soon spread far and wide, and began much to arrest the attention of the Baptists, and the more so, as he was a licensed preacher in the Big Spring Church.

Traveling about, I found many of the Baptists, much disgusted with this new book and that Big Spring Church, was like to be brought under an odium, if she did not in some way, act on that affair. This led me to converse with the pastor on that subject but whether from the Judge's influence being greater with him than my own, or from some other source, so it was, what I said was treated with neglect; under this I could not in good conscience lie still; for I could not tell but that the Judge and our pastor,
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both of them being great men, intended to try their strength in the society, for a new organization of things, both in doctrine and other ways. For indeed I found some of the Baptists who were pleased with the Judge's book though there were but few of that cast. About this time a number of Baptists, in and about Frankfort, were contemplating the setting up a new church in the town. Some individual overtures being made to me, on that head, and on some accounts it being more convenient to me, than the Big Spring, and especially as no society kept up stated worship in Frankfort at this time, I was prevailed on to unite in a new establishment of this kind in Frankfort.

I found the church at Big Spring somewhat divided, as to the contents of the Judge's book and having a desire to know the doctrinal sentiments of my new brethren, I had lately become connected with, I thought proper to introduce a question into the church, of the follow purport: "Does this church approve, or disapprove, of the doctrine contained in the above named pamphlet?" This was at a January meeting, held at a schoolhouse, and but few people there. Having the highest opinion of the Judge, every other way, but in his doctrinal points having lived a friendly neighbor to him several years before I moved, his wife also I esteemed among the most amiable of her sex and from charitable hope, I also esteemed her a christian so that I could not have had ill design against the judge in this query. My design was that he should by, the voice of the church, receive a gentle admonition, so as not to indulge in the same kind of practice hereafter. On the day of the introduction of this query into the church, before our business closed, I applied for a letter of dismission, expecting to become a member of the new constitution at Frankfort before the next meeting. The pastor of the Church at Big Spring did not arrive, till just before the reading of the business
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of the day. And on reading the item of the query, (which had been laid over till next meeting,) he seemed to manifest considerable displeasure expressing to this amount, that queries in a church were generally mischievious things, and that the present one would never be answered in the church In all of which I felt unmoved, believing that I had done my duty. For I felt entirely easy making some allowance for my pastor's age.

Various methods were used to prevent the answer of this query in the church other men of influence combined with the pastor, to effect this mighty important work which was done at length by a committee of picked men, to the amount of from ten to fifteen, sent for from other Churches. Their decision was, that the query was brought into the church contrary to good order, that if I had a complaint against my brother I should have used the eighteenth of Matthew. These committee men also advised, that it was contrary to good order, to answer the query at all. Thus the business seemed settled smooth and easy; as to myself, I was at none of those council holding meetings, my presence was not very acceptable in those days their last council day I heard of by chance. Previous to the information, I had about ten days preaching appointed from home, that I did not think proper to disappoint, on account of this choice meeting. The Judge went home from this celebrated meeting in high spirits but being a man of great generosity and sympathy, expressed much pity for the blunder I had made, in this breach of good order but the Baptist society became so much concerned for his breach of good doctrine in his book, that at the next session of Elkhorn association, they took up this business very nearly in the same style, that I had introduced it into Big Spring Church, and with almost a unanimous vote, condemned the doctrine in the book.

William Kellar, being at Elkhorn association,
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purchased one of the judge's books he went home, and first investigated it in the church where he lived, who sent a request to Long Run association, where the book met with a second association condemnation with a united voice, except one man who voted in favour of the book who had been very strongly suspected as an Arian.

General [Joseph] Lewis of Bardstown, being at Long Run association, had the same book investigated in Salem association, where it met with the same fate as at other places. So that we see three of the most respectable associations, at that time in the state, decided against the judge's book. And all in consequence of the excessive friendship of his friends who thought at first they were doing a great favour for him. I much question whether one of them thought more highly of the judge than myself, and it is probable had the plan I first had in view been followed, the Judge would now have felt himself happy in the Baptist society. It seems the Judge, by these several association decisions felt himself illy treated, obtained a letter of dismission from Big Spring Church, and has never joined any religious society since neither does he now preach any more.

Mr. Noel, sometime after this, relinquished the pastoral charge at Big Spring, though he preached some time for them after this he at length took a letter of dismission, and joined the church at Frankfort. After which being appointed a Circuit Judge for a season, he desisted from preaching altogether, and resumed the practice of the law, to which he had been raised; he forbore the sacred office of gospel minister about two years, being very unhappy in mind in this elapsed state. About one year past he came forward again as a preacher, with more zeal, consistency, and apparent stability, than at any time of his life before, and is now one of our first rate Baptist preachers in Kentucky and has lately taken
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the pastoral care of the Baptist church in Frankfort.

After Mr. Noel and Mr. [Jacob] Creath served the church at Big Spring one year for about two years past they have very acceptably been served by the well known Mr. John Edwards. This church has only had a gradual growth from the beginning, they do not now perhaps exceed fifty in number but they are a well-disposed, loving body of brethren.

[John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823; rpt. 1968, pp. 128-133. jrd]

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