The Friends to Humanity Become Three Bands
"Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land." From the year of the great revival at Cantine Creek, in 1821, the Baptized churches of Christ, Friends to Humanity, continued to have a steady growth, not chiefly by immigration but by conversion. That was the year of theit first printed Minutes; ten years after, in the language of one of their Circular Letters, they had begun "on the waters of Cantine and Silver Creeks." "Thou preparest a table before us in the presence of our enemies," was their glad adaptation of their own circumstances to the words of Psalm 23.
By 1825 they had outstripped the Illinois Association in number of members; though with a less number of churches. They had that year eight churches in Illinois, and one of them, Cantine Creek, with seventy-six members, was the largest Baptist church in the state, By 1827 they had thirteen churches in Illinois, and had spread north into Morgan and Greene counties. They were distinguished too by their enlightened views and readiness to welcome the missionary spirit from brethren in any of the Associations. In their Circular Letter for 1827 they remarked on the numbers in the community who professed Unitarian and Universalist views, or were Deists or even atheists. Yet while warning their people against the influence of this environment, they rejoiced to see in it "a spirit of liberty and of free inquiry." How abreast of the age, "hoping all things," thinking the best of every man, were these our Illinois puriians! In spirit however rather pilgrim than puritan.
In harmony with the name they bore, and with what because of that name they knew the world expected of them, in every annual letter they denounced the outrage of human slavery. Objection was made in that day as in this that the church ought to have nothing to do with politics. They replied that "slavery is a moral as well as a political evil," and was therefore to be taken up by the churches as churches. They believed every church was in this world not alone to deliver a divine message but to stand for human righteousness. They believed that our articles of faith were not to be accepted only, but to be interpreted to the world in terms of human life; thus only are they "fulfilled."
The most terrible blots in church history have been made by those who supposed that their duty to truth was finished when they preserved it in a confession or hewed it into a creed.
Other topics besides slavery were treated in their annual Letters. The topic of one was Communion. "There is divine fellowship, christian fellowship and church fellowship, or communion." The conditions of divine and christian fellowship are repentance and faith. Two other conditions are added to make church fellowship, viz, baptism, and union with a church. Baptism as a condition of church fellowship is proved by the practice in the apostolic churches. The question comes, What is baptism? Baptists are not asked to abandon these conditions, but to change one of them by substituting sprinkling for baptism. It is as easy for others to accept baptism, and thus end the contention.
The Friends to Humanity finding little sympathy outside were by that fact drawn closer together. They loved to meet in their own religious gatherings. "How welcome is our annual meeting!" was their exclamation. But the hour came when they had spread over so much territory that it was deemed best to separate. In 1828 they voted to divide into three bodies, viz, a Missouri Association with five churches; a North District, north of Madison county, with eight churches; and a South District with nine churches. Altogether, twenty-two churches; or in Illinois seventeen churches and 492 members. Their Minutes however were still to be printed in one pamphlet, thus testifying to their unity as one people.
The year 1830 was for them another remarkable revival season. The number baptized that year equalled eighteen per cent of their entire previous membership, while in the other churches it was but three percent. The Spirit of the Lord was their portion. In that year our brother Joseph Chance preached the introductory sermon at the meeting of the North District. He had come "back home." He continued to be a member of the Richland Creek church, which belonged to the Illinois Association. Lieut. Gov. Kinney was a member of the same church, so we may understand the spiritual atmosphere in which he lived. But that atmosphere though it restrained did not change him, and he still at sixty-five cherished the same truths and loved the same zeal as when, a young man of thirty one, he assisted David Badgley in organizing in James Lemen;s house the first Baptist church in Illinois.
In 1830 the South District met with the Crooked Creek church, Marion county, in the midst of a strong proslavery and antimission population. Thus they would strengthen their brethren at Crooked Creek. The Kaskaskia antimission Association was organized the same season on the same ground. It probably still exists, with small churches in Bond, Fayette and Montgomery counties.
Let us look at another scene. The same year that John M. Peck settled at Rock Spring, Isaac McCoy settled at Niles, Mich., among the Pottawatomies. In 1829 he had felt obliged to do as Mr. Peck had done nine years before, cut loose from the mission Board and follow his own judgment rather than their judgment. The greatest obstacle to his work among the Indians was the whisky trader, and he had come to the conclusion that there was no future for the race unless they could be placed by themselves and the roving trader kept out. He had persuaded the government of this fact, and had been to the west as a government commissioner to help locate the Indian Territory. The proposal for such a Territory came first from Mr.McCoy, the first establishment there was under his supervision and he and his family were the first missionaries. So it came to pass that in July, 1829, Isaac McCoy and family; wended their way across the state of Illinois on the old State road from Vincennes to St. Louis. Sickness overtook them, and they were obliged to leave their second son, down with bilious fever, at a friendly home near Salem and push on without him. Friday, July 31, they were due to reach Rock Spring with its substantial frame dwelling house and Seminary buildings. We, would give much to know the details of this chance touching of the paths of the two great foundation builders. Did the travelers pass on without recognition? Did they stop? Did they stay all night? Did they merely accost each other at the gate? It is a theme for a painting; those two veterans who were so mightily molding the west, and yet whose paths lay so diverse. Both men devoted, earnest, resolute. Both acquainted with poverty and hardship. Both called of God to an apostleship; one to the race that was passing out and the other to the race that was coming in. Both earning names that could not die. Peck in his prime, just forty that year; sober, positive, deliberate. McCoy five years older; bronzed with twenty-five years of pioneer life and a dozen years of Indian service, sanguine in temperament, cheerful even in his disappointments. Paint them there. The school and farm buildings on
one side of the picture and the covered emigrant wagon on the other, and the two heroes shaking hands over the front yard fence!
The travelers passed on: Mr. McCoy for seventeen years of further service, and then to lay down his life, and Mr. Peck to continue after that for twelve years. One lies in the old cemetery in the city of Louisville, the other in Bellefontaine cemetery, St. Louis; but both are with the Lord who called them to serve, and their works do follow them. ===================
[Edward P. Brand, Illinois Baptists -- A History, 1930, pp. 97-100. -- jrd]
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