Editor's note: This is a significant essay because it gives a first-person account of the beginning of the revival in northern Kentucky in 1800 that became known as the "Second Awakening." The first religious revival in Amercia or "Great Awakening" occurred in the mid-1700s in New England and spread down the East Coast. This second revival spread throughout much of Kentucky and to other frontier states. — Jim Duvall
by John Taylor, 1823
I have already stated, that one reason of my removal was, a good man, as I esteemed him, had left the church on my account; my desire was that he might enjoy what I esteemed the greatest of all privileges on earth, a place in the church of Christ; some years after my removal, he took his place in the Clear Creek church and has continued a member there ever since. The summer before I moved to the Ohio, I was present at the constitution of a small church there, of eight members, most of them had moved from Clear Creek. This little church though constituted on the margin of the Ohio River, was in the wilderness and not one family free from Indian danger. This little new church in the wilderness, was far from any establishment of the kind, its appellation was the "Baptist Church of Christ at Bullittsburg" — where I moved in April 1795 and took our membership. I think the church was thirteen in number, all of whom I was well acquainted with; I was invited the day I joined the church to take the care of it, as a pastor, which I declined, for my mind was now fully made up as to my pastorship anywhere; as there was a man in the church the name of Duease [Deweese], young in the ministry though a
man in years; I informed the church if they would examine into the character and talents of brother Duease, and thought proper to ordain him, I should be ready with him to render any Gospel service the church called for, that we were capable to do; in this the church seemed quite satisfied. The first year I felt my state awfully wretched, and more so when the Lords day came than at any other time; I had long been in the habit of worshiping the Lord in various directions among thousands of His people; but now from twenty to forty hearers and nearly the same people every time we met together, and all of us as to religion, in a manner cold as Canada. The space of country between us and the settlements on Elkhom, seventy or eighty miles, and the country so generally rough, that in my estimation it would never fill up, or at least in my time; some small villages across the river, had lately began, as North-Bend and others in Symms' late purchase, Cincinnati had lately sprung up a new town; but all looked gloomy to me, every thing seemed to bear the aspect of sorrow, I could not, in good conscience, invite anybody in good circumstances to move to the country; and yet as to this world my all was there; I remember writing a letter to a friend, in which I stated my case to be as Cain, when driven from the presence of the Lord, and dwelling in the land of Nod; and as to my own feelings seemed to have no more comfortable religion than Cain himself. — It is said by the Jews, that when God pronounced the sentence against Cain, that he was struck with a trembling, and a particular nodding with his head which always attended him till his death; and this was the mark that God set on him, and that no body should kill the man that was always nodding with his head; therefore, the country to which he went was called the land of Nod.
But as poor wretched Cain had plenty of work to do in his new country, and went at it and built him a city — so we had the same remedy at hand, it now late in the Spring, and we in a new heavy forest, we went to work, with all might and main, and made a fine little crop, and considerable improvement the first year. Through the course of the next winter and spring, a large connexion of respectable people moved from Virginia by the name of Graves, and settled in our neighbourhood, which was a great acquisition to our settiement — as also the second year after my removal, a number of respectable families from Scott County, and other parts of Kentucky, and a number of them being Baptists of the first class as to religious character. Our little Bullittsburg church received such a reinforcement, that we became much more comfortable in a church way. The settlement soon filled up so thick about Bullittsburg, that the church increased entirely by new-comers to about sixty members, and many of them good old peaceable disciplinarians. About this time the church took up the subject of Brother Duease's ordination at my request. I think there was now about twenty free male members in the church, and their seats seldom vacated at church meetings. In no similar case did I ever see members act with so much plainness, faithfulness and friendship as in this. For each one was asked his or her mind on this ordination, to the best of my recollection, not one was willing to ordain him, and their reasons given. I remember one of the objectors, as if in the presence of God, and with the utmost friendship to the man in question — he had known and been intimate with him from the time he began to preach, which had been several years — he could not see that he had improved any from the beginning, that he was now getting old, and he did not look for improvement hereafter — others had similar reasons, but all agreed that he preached sound doctrine; last of all I was enquired of, I also
objected to his ordination, but not from the same source that others did, my objection lay in an over backwardness, when he was called on to preach. — But the whole church encouraged him to continue preaching, himself under all the investigation seemed meek as a lamb, believing as the church did, that he ought not to be ordained, but the voice of the church to go on, gave him fresh activity, I do not recollect that he ever said, No, after this when I asked him to preach. A few months after this the church took up the same subject and without a dissenting voice ordained him, and he soon became one of the most acceptable preachers in Boon [Boone] county. After this he moved over to White Water, and is now generally the moderator of White Water Association. — About this time James Lee had moved into Campbell county, and came some distance to join Bullittsburg church, this was the same Lee that I had baptized at Clear-Creek, who afterwards won my bible by preaching. His reason for going some distance to join at Bullittsburg, was from his own account, that the church from which he was licensed to preach was young and weak in judgment, he therefore desired to be under the close inspection of Bullittsburg, as related to his ministry. This heavenly man was soon called forward to ordination — I call him a heavenly man, because in his deportment, there was a greater image of the Saviour in him than was commonly seen; with his great power of self-government, he never seemed caught off of his guard, he was often in tears, and his very smiles seemed to have something of heaven in them. After his ordination, he removed to the state of Ohio, where he preached many years with great success, has lately gone the way of all the earth, and not in a very advanced age.
Mr. George Eve moved from Virginia, and took his membership at Bullittsburg. After Mr. Eve's arrival we had great hopes of a revival of religion,
for he had a great talent in stirring up the people that way; by some of the members, the question of particular pastor was thought of, perhaps those who brought the question forward, had their mind on Mr. Eve, but the church was of opinion that they were better off as they were, for they now had three ordained ministers. Though Mr. Eve continued with us, perhaps two years, we had no in-gathering by baptism; Gods time to favour Zion that way had not yet come. But the church at Bullittsburg, through this apparent wintry season, exceeded anything I had ever seen in peace and good will among her members; she exceeded also in strength of counsel, and well tempered zeal in the cause of religion. The brethren were often together, in different kinds of meetings and always seemed to part with reluctance; Gods praises often rang among them with heavenly melody — for we had a number of good singers among us. For five long years, only one man was baptised; and he perhaps was not sound at core — for two months after his baptism he was excluded from the church, yet through all this season, the church with steady zeal in the cause of religion, and love to each other went forward; perhaps their number now was from sixty to eighty. Very early in the spring of 1800 Mr. Eve left us, and though there was some weeping at his parting sermon, (as I heard, for I was then on a tour from home) yet many feared they should never hear again the joyful tidings, of the conversion of sinners, or see any more people Baptized. Indeed myself was very much overwhelmed with those kind of feelings — for the removal of Eve was in a manner like death to me, yea death itself about that time, would have seemed a relief to me and great gain. A few days after Mr. Eve left us, I received a letter from Benjamin Craig, at the mouth of Kentucky, that they had a great revival of religion there — desiring me to pay them an immediate visit, and what night there would be a meeting at his house. —
Some time before this, I had purchased a tract of land, at the lower end of Gallatin county, and fixed on a day to meet the man I had purchased of, or his agent on the land to trace up the lines. Had not Craig sent his letter, (which was near fifty miles,) I had intended to have been at his house, the very night that the meeting was to be there, to meet my business below, so that I deserve no credit for being at the meeting at Craig's. The house being much crowded with a number of preachers present, they requested me to preach. This I did with much reluctance. From the dull feelings of my heart, I took a text which suited my own state — "Lord, help me." I continued but a short time, for I felt myself very worthless. After which they continued on, in prayer, praise, and exhortation, with much noise at times till late in the night. Some were rejoicing, having lately obtained deliverance — others groaning in tears under a pensive load of guilt, while myself silently musing on what I saw or heard. My own heart so barren and hard, that I wished myself out of sight, or lying under the seats where the people sat, or trodden under their feet. And yet I was so base at times, to call in question the reality of the work that was before me. For there were a mixture of Methodists and Baptists together, having now forgotten all their differences, were now worshiping God together; this mixture disgusted my jealous heart a little, thinking that this union would not last long; which did come to pass soon after, when they came to dividing the fish they had caught together — however, the result as to myself was, that be this work what it may, I was too unworthy to bear the name of christian minister — my soul felt sad indeed. Many of the people tarried all night, one object with them was to converse with me — I never heard the question (what shall we do to be saved) more prevalent at any time of my life than now, or had I ever so many questions asked me for the same
length of time, as through the balance of this night — while the text I had taken would reverberate through my whole soul (Lord, help me) for I felt unworthy to be in their company — a number of them neither lay down nor slept through the whole night, and seemed disappointed, when near the break of day, I lay down to take about one hour of broken rest — about sunrise next morning, I took my leave of this blessed company of young disciples which seemed a great grief to them — my excuse was, that I must meet some men in the woods next day, for the purpose of surveying, and that it became my duty not to disappoint them; but with myself I had one more secret reason, which was to get by myself and mourn over my own barren soul. I had no desire to use food that day — I rode on with pensive reflection, calling up in my mind past days, when I had hoped the candle of the Lord shone on me; but by the multiplicity of the business of this little world, my affections had been stolen off from the Lord; my eyes would not only swim but overflow with tears as I rode along by myself; that afternoon I came to a Captain Gray's on Corn Creek, now Col. Presley Gray, he treated me very respectfully but with the small acquaintance I had with him before, I considered him a great critic on the Baptists, and rather Deistical in his principles; as I expected to be several days in the woods surveying, not very distant from Gray's, I concluded to appoint three night meetings one after the other, at different places; Mr. Gray through complaisance agreed to circulate the notice — I felt uncommon desire for the salvation of that family when I took leave of them that evening; my desire had so far enlarged on the same object, that at my second night meeting, being near Mr. Gray's I invited myself home with him, and was made happy to find, this freedom to be very pleasing both to him and Mrs. Gray. It being near bedtime when we got home, though supper came on, an almost entire solemn silence pervaded us all; I had but little
appetite for food through the anxiety of my soul, yet feared to ask them how the state of their souls were, lest they should take offence and my object be lost, but at length I broke my mind with the feelings of my heart, for their eternal interest — I found they were equally willing with myself to converse on that subject, for their minds had been considerably touched that night at meeting — at my last nights meeting they took some trouble, to hunt me up in the dark to take leave of me, and perhaps both of them in tears — this gave me more pleasure than men feel when the oil and wine increases; several others became stired [sic] up at those night meetings. This part of the world becoming my home after this, I will take some notice of this land I was now surveying; It was an old military tract of a thousand acres, that had been surveyed about forty years before, for a Col. Byrd, and it, being one of the highest bluffs on the Ohio River, was called by the surveyor Mount Byrd, by which name it has been called ever since. Though nothing of the kind could be more pleasing to the eye than this situation, the levelness and fertility of the soil together with the plenty and purity of the water, all calculated to invite, my mind was but sparingly elated under its anxieties otherways, while we were doing this surveying; notwithstanding the little apparent success at Corn-Creek, I left the place with an aking [sic] heart thinking on my past delinquency and unprofitableness in the gospel ministry; I went from thence to Clear Creek, the place of my former residence; the object was to be at their church meeting; this was among the calamitous times of Clear Creek church; on Sunday I took another text suited to myself — "I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on — I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them."
This text perhaps suited others as well as myself, though 1 felt at present great heart yearnings for my old neighbors, I almost dreaded to go home, fearing I should be as I had been, unprofitable among them.
Poor Bullittsburg now appeared like a forsaken cottage in the wilderness, for Mr. Eve was now gone, I had heard of his removal while on this tour; when I got home a new scene very much afflicted me — a Captain Depew who had married a relation to my wife, being of a gay turn had been for some time encouraging balls at his house, which had grown to such a height about this time, that chief of the youth in the neighborhood, had become distracted with the pleasure of Depew's dances; and what gave me most pain of all was many of the good old Baptists had not restrained their children from these frolics — Their plan was to advise their children and then let them take their own course; in vain did I remonstrate from the example of old Eli and his sons, some of them were ready to laugh at my scrupulocity. This made me wish heartily that I had never seen Bullittsburg, nothwithstanding all my earthly interest was there; but I had some glance of hope by a removal to Mount Byrd, about sixty miles down the River; for in that neighborhood I had lately seen some buddings of a revival of religion; about this time a brother of Mrs. Depew's, William Mountague got married to a young lady in the neighborhood, and this made a great opening for several days dancing at the weding [sic], and several infares from Thursday till perhaps Sunday morning; they were in the sweet enjoyment of these pleasures of sin; their last day of mirth was at Capt. Depew's on Saturday, that night I had a meeting near the place, where but few attended, though I heard they had a crowded house at the infare — though two young ladies left the dance, and came almost alone from thence to the meeting — this was some encouragement, that the devil did not reign sole monarch of this lower world; the next day was preaching at our meetinghouse — it was a usual thing notwithstanding the vanity of the youth, for all to come to meeting and especially on Sundays -- we had a crowded meeting, perhaps all the dancers were there.
Mrs. Depew had endeavored to strengthen her female disciples before they went to meeting, by saying to them, "girls, we shall hear enough of our dancing today, but let us not mind what Mr. Taylor says, we are at liberty, and will do as we please, let him say what he will." I never had been so thoroughly cowed down by discouragement, through the course of my ministry as now — though it had been in action for twenty-five years and really thought I had better be dead than alive, for I felt as if Satan had gotten the mastery where I lived. So that I could say from my soul — "Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech — and that I dwell in the tents of Keder." My eyes had for several years, often glanced over a text of Scripture, and often had a desire to preach from it — but never had till this day, fearing that I had not the feeling the author had, when he wrote the text, which was Rom. 10 chap. and 1st v. "my hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel, is that they might be saved." Soon after I began, a set of feelings overtook me, that exceeded anything I ever felt in public speaking; they consisted of a profuse weeping that I could not suppress, while I made a comparison of the then state of Israel, with my poor neighbors, while the whole assembly seemed to reciprocate the same feelings, perhaps there was not a dry eye in the house.
Mrs. Depew, who had braced herself and others before she came to meeting, exceeded in weeping, so that it was some time before she could get from the place after meeting broke, she went weeping all the way home, and nothing that her affectionate husband could say could pacify her — because nothing but the blood of Jesus can relieve a wounded conscience. What the Lord did at this meeting entirely broke up all the dancing in the settlement. And about three months after this Mrs. Depew was baptized and her husband soon after. Immediately after this meeting, some business called me down to the mouth of the
Wabash River, and was absent three or four weeks. Arrangements before I started down the river, hurried me home so speedily, that though I came through CornCreek settlement, I did not stop to hold a meeting. I hastily called at captain Gray's and took breakfast — and while at the table, Mrs. Gray informed me that some of her family since I was there last, had expressed a great desire to see me again, but my heedless soul seemed to take no notice of what she said, though her husband was sitting at the table looking very serious. But in my head-long way hurried off, and saying but little about religion, except in common enquiries, while there; and did not reflect on the purport of Mrs. Gray's statement till I had traveled ten miles, when I had a strong excitement to turn back, as a chastisement for my neglect. But I afterwards concluded, I would soon come back to Corn-creek, and spend a week worshipping among the people. Arriving at home I was happily informed that a number of the people were under very serious impressions. This was early in May. Our meetings became more crowded by day or night, till our monthly meeting in June, which was on the first Saturday and Sunday, at which time five respectable men, and they only, came forward and related their experiences and were Baptized. They were men with families and permanent settlers in the place — their names were John Graves, William Cave, Jameson Hawkins, James Cloud, and Edward Webb.
Mr. Graves was between sixty and seventy years of age, had obtained hope in Christ thirty or forty years before, but could never have courage to join the church till now. I have spoken of this as a happy day; I consider it so from the mighty effects of this day's Baptizing. Perhaps, many present, had never seen Baptism before, and others it had been so long since they had seen it, it seemed as if it had just come from heaven. None seemed to leave the place but with great moisture of heart and eyes.
On the road, I traveled myself, about a half mile from the water, I overtook the well known George Gaines, who was a foot — (from his philosophical mind and firmness as a man, it would seem that nothing of a common nature could move him,) had been weeping all the way from the water. When I came near him with all the apparent agony of soul as if the day of judgment had come, forced out a dolerous [sic] cry with this enquiry, — "can you feel, or find a heart to pray for me?" We clasped each other's hands, and for some time neither of us seemed able to speak. I moved on about two miles and overtook another man, who was also walking alone, he seemed to stagger as he moved on, through weighty burthen [burden] of soul, for I saw and beheld him several hundred yards, before I came up with him. This was Christopher Wilson, the now well-known preacher. This man, though the son of a preacher, had seemed as far from God as any man in the county. He had been long striving, through love of vice, to rivet himself in infidelity and throw away the scriptures as a book unworthy of his confidence. At that time he was doing some cabinet work at my house — on Saturday morning I had asked him to go to church meeting — that I expected some people would offer their experiences, and that perhaps the Lord would do something for his soul. And though I looked for nothing but some jeering answer, he seemed struck with a sober appearance and replied if I desired him to go he would, and immediately laid down his tools and prepared for meeting. However, when I overhauled him in the road, he seemed to be trembling in tears, as if the joints of his loins were loosed; we reached out hands to each other, not being able to speak, and parted in solemn silence, while I reciprocated all his then tender feelings. About two months after this, Wilson was Baptized, and soon began to preach. Mr. Gaines was also soon Baptized — from this happy
Baptism, I took notice about twenty experiences were received in the church.
My secret vow to visit Corn Creek, at the lower end of Gallatin county about sixty miles from home, had been put off a week or two on account of this looked for Baptism. I had previously agreed with my very respected friend Mr. Cave, though an old man, now a young preacher, to take this Corn-Creek tour with me. On Monday morning, we set out for Corn-creek, with all the encouragement and heavenly warmth excited at this late Baptizing. We passed by the mouth of Kentucky, leaving appointments on our return. On the second day we came to captain Gray's, he not being at home, my first work was to acknowledge the fault of my abrupt departure when I was there last, to atone for which as one reason I had rode sixty miles over a very rough road, as also to worship some days among the people, and warn that settlement of people to flee from the wrath to come, on which Mrs. Gray burst forth into a torrent of tears, and at times exclaiming, "Mr. Taylor sees the ruin we are in and is come to warn us of it!" and seemed to feel as if Sodom's fire was hovering over the place; perhaps this became a death blow to this dear woman, as Paul says, "Sin revived and I died" — but I have ever thought she died to live again. After becoming a little composed, she expressed her grief at the absence of her husband, who was then on a tour after runaway horses and not likely to return before we left the place, but she informed us that he had been under an increasing concern about his soul, from the time of my surveying my land in the neighborhood — and was much more hopeful of her husband's salvation than her own. We immediately made appointments in the settlement for several days, and not expecting to see Capt. Gray, I wrote him a friendly letter, I meant to express all the friendship and tenderness that one man could to another, but, finding that I came very far short of the feelings of
my heart, I now recollect I closed with a single verse following:
Now to conclude, my dear friend Gray,
It is but little I can say —
But, 'tis a truth, I wish you well,
More than my pen or tongue can tell.
At our last evening meeting Mr. Gray came home and was present, when it was agreed that we would take breakfast with him next morning — when none of us had much appetite for eating. He seemed solemn and pensive, as if the sentence of death had lately been passed on him by an earthly judge. I was soon inquisitive, about the state of his mind, or what view he had of himself as a sinner. Who replied, had he never committed a practical sin, he was a sinner in heart, and that he was nothing but sin throughout — and that he could see but little difference between his best and worst things, in the sight of a holy heart searching God — that he was such a lump of moral corruption in the sight of God, that he could not rise from his then seat and walk out at the door, but there would sin enough naturally flow from him, to damn a world, if imputed to them. — And all this expressed in such a pensive strain, that it was enough to awaken sympathy in the hardest heart. This doctrine may look strange to a blinded heart — but I defy the man who has such a discovery of himself, ever to fall in with areanism [Ariainism] or Socinianism or any other ism of the kind, for only an Almighty Saviour will suit his case. But superficial conviction of sin may lead a deluded soul to make use of a superficial saviour of some sort, but Jesus Christ did not come to our world to save self-helpers, but the lost and helpless.
Sometime after this I Baptized both Gray and his wife, but not at the same time, these were among the first fruits at Corn-creek. We took our leave of the family, attended our meetings at the mouth of Kentucky, and moved on our way to Bullittsburg. The revival
from this Baptizing, became very general through the settlement. I remember when Elkhorn association came on in August, we had Baptized twenty, and but few young people among them, and only one man of colour. A young fellow who I had raised myself, by the name of Asa. I had learned him to read very well — he afterwards became a preacher. Asa and Christopher Wilson were both Baptized the same day, and they only. After they both became preachers, Mr. Wilson took great pleasure in taking Asa with him, when on a tour of preaching. This revival differed a little from the common, for people of years, and of the male kind took the lead, as I have stated in our first Baptism of five men.
This revival continued about one year, with pretty even pace, in which about a hundred and twelve were Baptized. It will be remembered the settlement in Boon[e] County was but sparingly filled up as yet. — Bullittsburg church had now grown up to about two hundred members, and they were very compactly settled with their meeting house in a central place, only some members about Middle Creek and Woolpers Bottom were a little scattered off. Those members began to contemplate a new constitution; and on a paper for this purpose about twenty names were set down, and petitioned Bullittsburg to constitute them; Robert Garnett a young preacher, was among them.
Bullittsburg now had six or seven preachers, but only Duease [Deweese] and myself were ordained; I now lived at the upper end of Woolper's bottom and about middle ground between the new and old church, who immediately appointed helps to examine into and, if need be, constitute this new church; they appointed several others with all their preachers, but myself, to constitute this new church — after this arrangement I soon began to feel as if I was in a sweat house, for I was not on their paper as a petitioner for a new church, and why not named in their council, said my
proud heart, to constitute this new church — the answer in myself was, the old church designs some way to hook you into the new church and thereby get clear of you, and the new church has no desire to have you, or they would have invited your hand to their paper — all this made my sweat house the more hot; the time for the constitution, was on our monthly meeting day, in a house at the lower end of Woolper's bottom, the Sunday's preaching was to be at my house — I went to the meeting, that business being taken up, all went on smoothly, myself was perfectly silent, for I was partly in the dumps; there was then an agreement that all who chose to be in the new church, might say so the next day after preaching, and save the trouble of after applications for letters of dismission; this said I to myself is to be the mode of hooking — my sweat was about its highest pitch when I left the meeting, being at the utmost loss to know what to be at, for to me there was plenty of evidence that neither church wished me to be among them; but after I got home and my sweat began to evaporate, being naturally fond of new establishments, after consulting my family, who then consisted of eleven members of the church, we unitedly agreed to fall in with the new establishment, though it was only the skirts and mere little shanks of the old church, both in members and local situation — accordingly, after preaching next day I made known the choice of myself and family, on which about forty of the members of the old church rose up, and made the same declaration, and some of them beyond the meeting house, and among the most respectable members of the church — perhaps the new church acquired fifty members on that day, and in a few meetings after, by dismissions, the new church became about on an equality as to number, and perhaps equal in strength, either in council or property — the new church had three or four licensed preachers and one ordained, the old church had one licensed preacher
and one ordained. Absolom Graves was also in the new church, a man of fine counsel in a church, and afterwards became a famous preacher — the new church after selecting their officers, proceeded in haste to build them a meeting house, raised about five hundred dollars, and began to build a framed meeting house of size sufficient to hold all the worshipers in the settlement, and about two miles below the old meeting house, the old church intended building a new house higher up, and a greater distance from the new church; but after a solemn pause, appointed a committee to wait on the new church, and propose a re-union of the two churches, which was cheerfully agreed to by the new church, and the materials prepared for their meeting house taken to the old cite [sic], which remains the place of worship for Bullittsburg to this day, and is often called Old Jerusalem. I never did enquire very closely why myself was not named in the counsel to constitute this new church, for it must have been a concerted thing among the brethren, thinking perhaps that I should not approve of what they considered a good work.
Bullittsburg has produced more preachers from first to last, than any other church I ever knew; some time back one of their preachers being at my house, we counted up about fifteen or sixteen, chief of whom have been ordained; four of them were invited forward at my request, about the time that Mr. Eve left Bullittsburg and Dupew's dances were in their highest blast in the neighborhood — and just before this happy revival of religion began; the names of those men I have spoken of before, which were Cave, Matthews, [Jeremiah] Kirtley, and Vawter, three of them are no more in this world, the surviving one is now a good old gospel minister. Christopher Wilson takes the next lead, he became a preacher both useful and popular, was much beloved by the people and well calculated to preach association Sunday sermons — but ah me! may he preach by example as well as
by precept, and remember afresh the day I first saw him staggering under a mighty sense of his guilt; Asa, the black man who was Baptized with him, may he be useful among his fellow blacks, as there is the greatest sphere of his action.
Absalom Graves, every way genteel and decent in his personal appearance, whose regular and pleasant deportment offers conviction, to all who are in his company; there is no thanks due this man for preaching, for though a man of good information, he through native modesty, and timidity of mind kept him back so long, that it seemed as if agony of soul would kill him, and it was preach or die — being thus forced out, the Lord has greatly blessed his labours in different places, but a little less timidity might be a benefit to him yet — but by receiving a missionary spirit in its warmest glow, from the time of his first acquaintance with Luther Rice, has given him a growth, that he never would have had only for that circumstance; he is now their first preacher at Bullittsburg. Time would fail me to speak of all the preachers that has come out from this church, she has been, not only the mother and nursery of many preachers but of many other churches, her two nearest and most flourishing daughters are Middle Creek and Sand Run, as also forks of Gun powder — we will take some notice of several conversions, that were out of the common course — beginning with Captain, or afterwards Col. Abraham Dupew and his wife — we have heard how Mrs. Dupew went to meeting prepared to brook and forestall all the arrows of God, but found them to be weapons, that would not be denied, and forced their way to her heart — her loving husband did all he could to charm away her grief, and restore her spirits to what they were before, but all in vain — when God gives the wound only himself can heal it; after she had obtained relief from the
Lord, she consulted her husbands approbation to be Baptized and join the church — his reply was about to this amount, "my dear, all this is a thing of late date with you, that perhaps will not last long, and that she had better try herself longer, lest she fell away as many others had done" — her reply was "as to falling away she was very fraid [afraid] of that herself, but that being under the care of the church would be at least some remedy against that evil," so that with his consent she desired to make the experiment — he not only gave his approbation, but came with her on the suitable day — the church was sitting when they came to the door and was just then inviting candidates to come forward; when she came in at the door, she made no stop to take a seat, but came straight forward to the table, with her mind fully collected, and a countenance apparently calm as Heaven itself, with a solemn boldness, as if it was a pleasure to do her Lord's will, when, without embarrassment, she related an excellent work of grace lately wrought in her soul; I reminded the church of her husband who sat near the door, the utility of his approbation, in her joining the church, he rose up before the question was asked him, and gave his consent, but soon shrunk back to his seat to vent the tender emotions of his heart; at the Baptizing he stood near the water — not taking notice of Mrs. Dupew's hat on her head, till I had gotten to a proper depth of water, I gave it a cant to the shore, it falling at her husband's feet, he picked it up with an uncommon gush of tears, leaning his head against a tree was not able to leave the place till all the company was gone, not long after this, himself was Baptized.
Moses Scott — This is a small man in stature, but before his conversion, was a very great captain for the Devil — and though some where in the east he was raised by a religious Presbyterian father — he came to Kentucky and threw off even the form of godliness. Among other things he was a great fiddler, and
fond of all the amusements connected with that practice — It may generally be taken for granted that what is called a good fiddler, is the Devil' s right hand man; this Scott gloried in his native strength of intellect, connected with his wit, capacitated [qualified] him to make wickedness acceptable to men, and that of higher ranks — an appointment of county surveyor brought him to Boon — I had a very near neighbor, both rich and wicked, on his land Scott settled for a while — he at once had a fine partner in vice; he very seldom came to meeting at all, but when he did, he looked about as shy and wild as a buck in the woods — after the revival had progressed some time, curiosity, like Zacchaeus, led him to go to a church meeting to see and hear what was designed by telling experiences; this obliged him to get nearer than he was accustomed to. With great attention he stood and heard an experience related, which was so much to the purpose, that it brought forward a moving exhortation from some other person; from whatever it might be, the buck was shot, and tears began to trickle from Scott's eyes, but being willing to hide, as bucks generally do when they receive the deadly ball — by sitting down he concealed himself; that or the next evening a meeting being appointed at Maj. Kirtley's, Mr. Scott came to it — the Major expressing great satisfaction at seeing Scott there, he strove to laugh it off by saying he came to see what sort of a thing a night meeting was, as he had never yet seen one of them; with apparent seriousness, he attended meeting for a while, with a seeming willIngness to converse about his soul. A number of Cincinnati gentry, male and female paying a visit to this near rich neighbor of mine, and desiring to have a dance, could not do it without Scott's agency with his fine fiddle — in this he accommodated them, and they had a long dance, and with this away went all Scott's religion apparently — he forsook meetings for several months till a monthly meeting being at my house in dead of
winter; Mr. Scott living almost in sight, came to the meeting — one of the finest young ladies that I knew in the county as to dress, was also there, a companion of hers came forward and related her experience, which so much affected this fine girl, which she strove to suppress for some time, at length broke forth in plaintive sorrow; by some call I had steped into another room of the house, when a heart-broken sound called after me by name — when I came in, the young lady intreated me to pray for her, as a poor lost sinner — while she trembled from head to foot, while all her flouncery, jewelry, curls, and feathers trembled as if an earthquake was under her feet — what was most affecting, after I had closed my prayer, with tremorous voice before she left her knees, prayed herself at some length, for the Lord to have mercy on her guilty soul; perhaps no preaching could have affected the assembly more. This circumstance opened Mr. Scott's wound afresh — this young lady was Baptized about a month afterwards; that bitter cold evening I Baptized about ten persons among the fleeks [flecks] of ice — being very busy the next day, killing my hogs, about half the distance from my house to Scott's, and on the direction there, he came to where we were at work; he no more looked wild but meek as a lamb — after obtaining a little leisure I sat down to converse with him; with all his striving he could scarce keep his tears within his eyes; he soon spoke of the weeping young lady at the meeting the day before, wishing he could be as she was, to which I replied — "but Mr. Scott what will you do with your fiddle" — His reply was, on that head his mind was made up — that he intended to make a present of it to me, to do with it as I thought proper — however, soon after his house got burnt, with chief of his effects, fiddle and all. He was a considerable time labouring under a consciousness of his helpless condition, which brought about the most intimate friendship between us.
Our old rich neighbor of whom I have been speaking, strove hard to draw Mr. Scott off, but at length became hopeless, being now bereaved of his associates in sin, through the whole settlement, became disconsolate — and said to me one day, seeming more serious than I ever saw him: Mr. Taylor, I really am afraid that Scott will leave me too — to which I replied, "O sir, you had better go with him." But perhaps he lived and died as he was born — Mr. Scott was much afraid of a mistaken conversion. Refusing to be comforted till the Lord spoke peace in his soul, after which he hesitated awhile, on the vaidity of his former Baptism, which led him to the close study of the scripture on that point. But his way being cleared he followed his Lord in Baptism — when I put him into the water, I hoped that I had gotten a preacher, and he certainly would have been numbered among the Bullittsburg preachers. But he is a little too proud, he has made some attempts by the invitation of the Church, which gave great satisfaction to others, being a good judge of preaching himself and not being able to please his own taste that way, lays it all aside. Let him remember the man that laid up his Lord's money in the napkin — perhaps his popularity in the county hangs as a clog to his heels — for he has been elected several times to the state Legislature — but this will be a poor thing in the day of settlement with his Lord. Moses Scott is one of the men with whom I agonized in birth, till Christ was formed within him. John Ryal [Ryle] was one of the happy subjects of sovereign grace, in this revival. He was a tall raw boned giant-looking man, and his countenance at times like the blazing lightning. It would seem as if devils of different complexion attended this man — for at times he would be very merry with his shrewd kind of fun, and quickly change into the appearance of a mad bull, scraping the earth as if he would tear up everything before him — or with cursing make the air ring like the roaring of a lion —
This tiger of a man betook himself to coming to meeting, while his countenance looked awfully sad as ifhe was much troubled with a hard heart. For some time I forbore conversation with him, believing from some previous evidence, that he hated me more than any other man on earth. At length falling in and riding together, I enquired about the state of his soul — I found he was far pushed on the verge of desperation, though he seemed to tremble as we conversed, there was no tear of tenderness about him. When I asked him if he ever prayed to God, he answered in the negative — for that he was afraid to attempt prayer, he was such a monstrous lump of sin before God, that should he attempt the sacred work of prayer, it would offend God more than anything he had ever done, and for the presumption the Lord would with some visible breach of his displeasure cut off and send him to hell at once. All this awakened great sympathy in my heart, remembering the wormwood and gall my soul had felt long before. I encouraged him all I could to call on the Lord, believe and trust in the Saviour, for his eternal salvation. This poor man through deep distress of soul did after this, like the publican in the temple, cry for mercy, and the Lord sent him speedy relief. When he related his hope in Christ, though he hoped the Lord had forgiven him, he could not tell whether some in the Church could forgive his former conduct towards them, seeing for the same conduct he could not forgive himself; knowing whom he meant, I was ready to say, that was done long ago. When we went into the water, I said, taking him by the hand, come, brother Saul — and I know not whether I ever Baptized a man with more pleasure in my life. A number of his connections were Baptized about the same time, while another of the connections said all the rest would hold out, but John Riol [Ryle] would soon fall away. This he judged from his past wickedness — but he ought to have remembered, that sin shall not have dominion
where grace reigns. More than twenty years have elapsed, and he yet stands. Edward Webb was one of the converts of this revival — as named before, he was one of our first day's Baptizing. He was perhaps about thirty years of age, and his character as a man very different from the two last named. About the time Mr. [George] Eve left our country, I had a night meeting at old Mr. Webb's, where I stayed all night, his son Edward was there, and after meeting broke, he tarried till late bed-time. I apparently by accident, asked him if he ever prayed to God in his life — he answered he never had made such an attempt except when joining others when they went to prayer. The thing passed off for perhaps an hour — and other conversation came in the way; when I asked him if I could get him to go to Cincinnati for me, he replied he would if I needed his service that way; I then said I do not want you Neddy to go to Cincinnati for me, but there is a little piece of business I wish you to do for me, that is much easier than going to Cincinnati. Will you in one week from this time go by yourself and kneel down and pray to God? He readily answered yes, without any reserve — for he was a man of that cast, that he could not readily say no, when a favour was asked of him. He soon reflected on what he had promised, concluding it must be done before the week is out — for I do suppose he never had told a willful lie in his life. As days passed on he more seriously thought on what he had promised, I had said it was lighter than going to Cincinnati, but if that would relieve him from his promise, he had rather go there many times, or any other hard labour he ever did in his life. He became so tormented after a few days, that he would go and do it and be done with it -- he would then say what am I going to do — to gratify a man like myself, I am hypocritically going to mock God almighty, who declares he will not be mocked. I am going to commit the greatest sin I ever committed in my life, or perhaps any
man ever committed, thus to trifle with his maker. He tried to examine what God required of those who drew near to him, nothing of which was found in him; after all these painful reflections, he set off to some lonesome and selected spot in his own mind. As to practical sin, he could not so much impeach himself, but his heart was full of hypocricy [sic] and a den of pollution. His knees barely able to bear the weight of his body as he walked along, through apprehensions that a just and holy God would strike him dead at the place. The truth of the case, he was a heavy laden sinner, whom the Saviour invites to himself, before he got to the place of prayer — till this day he has been a man of prayer — perhaps about a month after this, the Lord appeared to his relief.
William Ramey and his wife obtained hope in the Lord, in this heavenly revival; they lived in the new settlement over the Ohio river — for sometime they had been coming across the river to meetings, and appeared to be under much concern. I crossed the river in a vessel, and walked a mile to converse with encourage, and comfort these mourners — when I got to the place, Mr. Ramey was not at home. I found his wife in a very curious way, being in a kind of trouble which bordered on distraction — her tears and lamentations excited my pity, with a secret pleasure, as her mistake could easily be removed. She had been about two weeks, that she had partaken of but little sustenance — she had laid aside all her family business, even to that of cooking for her husband and little children. When the whole was explained, (which she was very ready to do,) about two weeks ago, she had obtained a relief from the Lord, at which time her heart and tongue had made a vow to the Lord, which she could not fulfil without committing one of the greatest sins. Her great strait lay in this, being under a great weight of guilt at the time spoken of, some words had occurred to her mind that
had relieved her, and at which time she had great ecstacy of joy.
The words were "believe and be Baptized and thou shalt be saved," her thoughts had been, at the time that those words came from the Lord, and that Baptism was connected with believing, and with salvation. And that in her ecstacy [sic], she had answered O Lord! I will — I will — I will — that is, be Baptized. But soon after she had found that it was all a mistake and delusion, for she was not yet changed, and as evidence of it, her heart was yet base and vile as it ever was, which would not be the case if she was born of God — and that if the church would receive her, (which she knew they ought not) it would be a great sin against God to be Baptized in her unrenewed state — and then exclaimed with tears and trembling, O Mr. Taylor, what shall I do, what shall I do The religious reader will judge of my then feelings — my advice to her was, that at the first opportunity she had to comply with her vow to God — that is, get Baptized. And then [I] informed her, that a few days hence there would be a Baptizing, convenient to her; adding for her encouragement, not to think it strange concerning the fiery trials she had met with — for they were common to the people of God. I then added, as I see your wheel is idle, do you go to spinning, and as your family has suffered some time through your neglect, clean your house, and cook food for your husband and little children, trust in the Lord and be at rest.
It is probable that Ramey had been in some fret about his wife's conduct and neglect in her family, for they were a very pushing and industrious people — a heavy shower of rain coming on, he came home in a rage, with heavy curses and imprecations against some of his hands, for not taking in some hemp set up in the yard, that should not have gotten wet. But after he came into the house, he seemed a little mortified at finding me there, and especially
when 1 asked him if 1 was mistaken or did I hear cursing in the yard; with much modesty he confessed the impropriety of the practice. He afterwards said, the Devil had used him so ill in that case, that he would never curse for him again, which vow he has perhaps never broken to this day. His wife however came to the meeting, in hopes the church would not receive her — and that would free her from her vow, for she was yet overwhelmed with doubts about her own state; making no delay as the church was sitting when she came, moving right forward she began to tell the church what a dreadful bad creature she was — and would have kept back what she esteemed her best evidences for fear the church would receive her. But they were drawn from her by questions — when the moderator reached out the hand of fellowship to her, she put her hand behind her, and after reaching round and getting hold of her hand, desired her take her seat, which she only did a minute or two, when she rose up with this affecting remark, (being much affected herself.) O my friends, you are mistaken — do examine me further — O! do give me the opportunity to convince you how bad I am. The moderator kindly hushed her to silence, and perhaps the church never received any person with more fellowship. A great tremor attended her till after she was Baptized, in these cases much water does much good to tempted believers.
Sometimes the Devil entirely overleaps himself, as he did in [the] case of Mr. Ramey's cursing, for this with the Baptizing his wife, became as a dagger to his heart, from which he did not get delivered for several months. The same devil that tempted him to curse men, now tempted him to curse God, his maker — and not only call in question, but condemn all the religion that was brought to men in the Bible. — This mighty torrent of temptation, drove him into the extremes of despair for a long time — it was the joys of heaven on earth, to hear him tell how the
Lord Jesus took him from the deeps of sin and gates of gaping hell and fixed his standing on the rock of ages — he was Baptized in dead of winter.
Mrs. Allen, the wife of Thomas Allen was hopefully converted about this time — she had been a very constant attendant on preaching, and at times seemed very much affected. On a return from a tour of several days, my wife informed me that Mrs. Allen was like to die, and had a great desire to see me. I quickly went — when I entered the door she was laying on the bed, seeing me she rose up with a great gush of tears, and loud weeping. I stepped forward and gave her my hand to enquire how she was — she laid hold of me as with a dying grasp, as if the agonies of death were on her, after she became a little composed, I asked her how she was, and what the state of her mind. As to her bodily complaint, she could not well describe, but she was certainly going to die, and very soon — as to her state, inevitable destruction was at hand, and, that hell was to be her final doom forever — and as an evidence that she believed what she said, it seemed as if she would weep her life away. I waited for her composure again, and asked what was her request of me, she replied your prayers, in this she was particular; she had no desire that I should pray for her life if it was to continue as it had been. She feared that I should be deceived in thinking this was a work of God on her — for said she, it is only a hell fright, and not conviction of sin, for I have been so before and promised the Lord great things, and was afterwards bad as ever — and it would be better to die and go to hell at once, than live longer in sin. From which I gathered what she wished I should pray to the Lord for.
I often visited this poor afflicted woman, to pray with and for her, having a much better opinion of her state than she had herself, believing her a changed woman, that whether she lived or died she would never love sin again — her husband also became deeply distressed about his soul and obtained a hopeful deliverance.
It was at length rumored about that Mrs. Allen had obtained hope in the Lord. This news was so good to myself that I soon paid her a visit, and informing her what I had heard, she positively denied the truth of the report, and that it could be no friend to her or religion that had started it. After hearing that her cousin Betsey Mosby was the author she burst into a flood of tears, that her cousin should serve her so, and that she never told her that she had a hope, but only that her trouble was gone which she had been greatly afraid of; that her trouble would leave her where she was before; that her case was worse than it ever was, for her trouble was gone and left her a poor unrenewed sinner still, with tears trinkling from her eyes she would exclaim "oh that I had my trouble again" — for fifteen or twenty minutes, I preached to her the glorious plan of salvation by a Redeemers atonement, and that it was not the quantum of our trouble, that was a recommending qualification for which God saved a sinner — to this she listened with great attention, looking straight at me and the tears droping from her chin — when I ended, she replied this is good news, but it is not for me for my trouble is gone. The Lord after this gave her plainer testimony that himself took away her trouble and she gained confidence enough to be Baptized — after which she lived in the comfortable hope of eternal life, for a number of years, till by death the Lord took her home to rest. Letty, a poor slave; lest I should be considered partial to those of higher rank, we will state the conversion of this poor black woman; I had owned Letty as my property, from a child, and she was now the mother of children — she had ever manifested the greatest aversion to anything like religion, so that she could not be ruled except by harsh means to family worship, but otherways the most faithful servant I ever owned. Her masculine strength made her equal to any black man on the plantation; her high
spirit and violent temper, often brought her in contact with them [black men] in bloody blows — as her body was strong so was her mind — nature had done more for her than common — she was an own sister to Asa, that I have spoken of before, who after his Baptism became a preacher; whether through the conversion of her brother (which was very striking) or some other means, she became alarmed of her lost state and laboured long under great consciousness of guilt, before she obtained relief; the relation of her experience to the church one Sunday morning, with a number of other black people, was more striking to the assembly present, than the loudest preaching — the solemnity of her looks, with the style in which she spoke, I can only give a faint description of — I would give her own phraseology, of which I only recollect a part — The hour of sorrow being come with a woman in the neighborhood, which has killed many of our mother Eves poor daughters for her first sin — my wife had sent Letty to give assistance in this distressing crisis; the husband of this afflicted woman, was the name of Carrol, an Irishman, and perhaps a Catholic as to religion, but be him what he would, otherways he was a monstrous wicked man as to swearing and drunkenness, and on this occasion perhaps in his highest gale, though his wife very like to die immediately; and while Letty stated the case, she made this remark — I looked at Mr. Carrol and thought he was the wickedest man I ever saw in my life, and wondered the Lord did not strike him dead at once — but after reflecting on myself a while, I really thought 1 was worse tham Mr. Carrol, for all he does is only outward sin, but I am a sinner through my whole soul, and my heart is worse than Mr. Carrol's, and [I] had rather have been him with all his wickedness than myself — I then began to wonder that the earth did not open, or some other vengeance, send us all to hell together, which I looked to take place immediately — but she hasted away
from Mr. Carrols and found herself not yet in hell — she went to converse with her brother Asa, to know what she should do in her present lost and helpless condition. After examining of her a while, he pronounced all the work she talked of to be of the Devil, and that she was not under true conviction at all; she then went to the overseer, a very good religious old man, who as she thought, treated her with scorn and contempt, she then thought of going to her master and mistress for advice, but thinking of the contempt she had treated them with heretofore as to religion, they will think of me as my only brother, and the good overseer do; then said she I thought I had no friend in the world; I will go to God and beg Him for mercy, and to be my friend; but when 1 tried to pray to him, I saw that He was angry with me, for I had done nothing but sin all my life, and there was no mercy for me — then said she I thought of Jesus Christ, who had died for sinners — I prayed to Him to be my Saviour and friend; but I thought Jesus Christ was angry with me, for 1 had despised Him all my life, in despising His people — I then thought said she, that I had no friend in heaven nor earth, and that no creature was ever in my case before — living on the River bank, she concluded to run down to the River, perhaps to drown herself, as she went down the steep bank, it occurred to her she ought to fall on her face to the ground, and confess the justice of God in her eternal damnation; she concluded this ought to be done with her head down the steep bank, as she was immediately to go to hell — when I fell down said she, with my face to the ground, some words came into my mind, which were; come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world — when said she, I began to think, "O blessed God, what do these words mean, and who speaks them" — then remembering they were the words of Christ, and that they were spoken to her, for she felt their influence through her whole
soul; I then saw said she, that the anger of God was turned away from me; and that Jesus Christ had made an angry God my friend, I said as I rose up Jesus Christ is my saviour, and God is my friend; thus she went on still repeating till she came to the top of the bank, with that Heavenly rapture not knowing for some time but she was going straight on to the Heavenly kingdom, to which the Saviour had invited her. For more than twenty years this poor black woman has given good evidence that the work I have been stating was a reality, it is probable this River bank will never by her be forgotten. We may see in this instance, what the voice said to Peter verified, that God is no respecter of persons — and it is probable more slaves will go to Heaven than masters.
About the close of the revival spoken of above, and at which time the church consisted of about two hundred members; the great affliction of my family, by summer and fall fevers, which had continued for several years together, I thought it my duty to remove from where I was, to Mount Byrd; the church at Bullittsburg being so well supplied with preachers, as I have named before, there was not so much call for my service at this place, as there appeared at Com Creek, to which I moved in the spring of the year 1802, after living seven years in Bullittsburg church. This mother church has continued from the beginning, about twenty-eight years; not long after my departure from them, the churches in that quarter thought proper to form themselves into an association, consisting of nine churches, their appellation is North Bend Association — In the beginning and for a number of years, Bullittsburg contained about as many members as all the rest of the churches in this new establishment; about seven or eight years after my departure from this church, they had a second great revival, and in which they had about a hundred and fifty Baptized in the course of one winter — about
four years past they had a third most heavenly season; this blessed work began to be very obvious at North Bend Association which was held at Bullittsburg; a number of the preachers present took the fire there and spread it abroad like Samson's foxes, for the work spread to a great distance — Bullittsburg Baptized more people than she had done in any other revival — and though several churches had been constituted from her she now contained upwards of four hundred members and lived in very compact bounds, but being so numerous it was thought most suitable to divide, and constitute a large young church called Sand Run — since their division each church has built a spacious brick meeting house, and about three or four miles apart, and now lives as a loving mother and daughter, while their own sons in the ministry serve them in rich supply — each church having several good preachers and no lordly king among them, for Bullittsburg has never had a particular selected pastor among them from the beginning, and I have never seen so much harmony and good order in any other worshiping church of Christ, as Bullittsburg; an uniform rule in their discipline has been the eighteenth chapter of Matthew; and for many years, in final expulsion they acted by unanimity, but I hear they now expel by majority of voices — whether this rule may not some day do them injury is yet to explain — but where brotherly love continue, any church rule may be innocent, but where that is wanting no rule can supply its place — a very shrewd member of Bullittsburg some years past, being up on Elkhorn [Creek], and seeing the mighty devastation made in the churches by the preachers, remarked thus, "Where we live we are blessed with preachers of smaller growth, and each one esteems another greater and better than himself" — and then expressed thankfulness that his lot was not cast among overgrown preachers — if this man was right, talents of any grade will not fill up the vacuum, where brotherly
Love is lost; I never knew Bullittsburg Church stalled at any difficulty that came before them, each one seemed to pull the right way to get the carriage out of the mud; they seem to have learned how to behave themselves in the house of God, by treating each other with brotherly respect, and receiving the reward as they go; they seem to love going to church meetings, faction among them was perhaps never known; no man has his favourite [preacher] there that he must go with contrary to the dictates of his own judgment; and as the prophet said formerly — "the name of that place is, the Lord is there" — and all this is not a temporary thing, when religion is in lively flow, but seem more like their Saviour than many other churches; for he is the same yesterday, to day, and forever; and the truth is, they never seem very cold and barren in their religious profession, if we are to judge from their actions in general, considering their number, they lose but very few members by exclusion; as a people they are highly respectable in the eyes of all sorts of spectators; to some they are terrible as an army with banners; hence there is scarcely such a thing as other religious sectaries through that whole region.
Whether human nature can bear all this long together, or always, we will not say, as the Lord has thus kept them for many years; may Heaven prevent those high privileges from terminating into a Laodicean luke warmness. =========
[John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823; rpt. 1968, pp. 81-114.]
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