Editor's note: The footnote numbers have been changed and are at the end of the essay. Of special interest is a letter from Richard Furman describing the revival meetings in the upper portion of South Carolina in footnote #4. -- jrd
History of North Carolina Baptists
By George Washington Paschal
Almost contemporaneous with the organization of the Broad River Association in the year 1800 was the coming to North Carolina of the Great Revival. Of the beginnings of this movement in Kentucky, and of it as it affected the Baptists of the Kehukee and Sandy Creek associations, some account has been given in the first volume of this work, pages 535 following, in which are included the statements of Elder George Pope of the Sandy Creek Association and of Elder Lemuel Burkitt of the Kehukee Association, two Baptist ministers who, each in his own association, had a prominent part in the Great Revival.
The Baptist historian Benedict1 tells that in addition to 500 baptized by Pope in the Sandy Creek Association, "large numbers were also baptized by John Culpepper, William McGregore,” and many other ministers laboring in the counties of Anson and Montgomery, the section of the Sandy Creek territory nearest the Broad River churches, with which they were in all probability in frequent communication. Doubtless, the progress of the revival in the Sandy Creek was well known to their Baptist brethren further south. It was as an extension of a work already in progress in central North Carolina and in the Sandy Creek Association that the Great Revival came to South Carolina and the churches of the Broad River Association, and its characteristics were those already described.2
In the south as well as in the north there were two classes of meetings. One class consisted of general meetings, in which the Presbyterians usually had the leading part, but in which they were united with the Methodists both in preaching and in the communion of the Lord’s Supper, which was a regular feature of these general meetings, and in which some Baptist ministers, on invitation, also preached but took no part in the communion. The other class of meetings were the camp-meetings such as already were in use in Baptist churches and continued for more than a half century to be used in the more thinly settled sections of North Carolina. Benedict, in his History of the Baptists,3 tells something of the general nature of the camp-meetings of the Baptists and also those of the Methodists which differed in some respects from those of the Baptists. This work was not confined to the Baptists, but prevailed, at the same time, amongst the Methodists and Presbyterians, both of which denominations were considerably numerous in the parts. These two last denominations, soon after the commencement of the revival, united in their communion and camp-meetings. The Baptists were strongly solicited to embark in the general communion scheme; but they, pursuant to their consistent (many call them rigid) principles, declined a compliance. But they had camp or field-meetings
[p. 218]amongst themselves, and many individuals of them united with the Methodists and Presbyterians in theirs. The Baptists established campmeetings from motives of convenience and necessity, and relinquished them as soon as they were no longer needful. Their meeting-houses are generally small, and surrounded with groves of wood, which they carefully preserve, for the advantage of the cooling shade, which they afford in the heat of summer. In these groves the stages were erected, around which the numerous congregation encamped; and when they could be accommodated in the meeting-houses, to them they repaired. A circumstance which led the people to come prepared to encamp on the ground was, that those who lived adjacent to the place of meeting, although willing to provide for the refreshment, as far as they were able, of the numerous congregations which assembled; yet, in most cases, they would have found it impracticable; and furthermore, they wished to be at the meetings themselves, what time they must have stayed at home for the purpose. The people, therefore, would be advised by their ministers and others, at the first camp-meetings, to come to the next and all succeeding ones, prepared to accommodate and refresh themselves. In this way, camp-meetings were instituted amongst the Baptists.
In nearly the same way, meetings of a similar nature were established by the united body of Methodists and Presbyterians in these parts; but like many other things produced on extraordinary occasions, they continued after the call for them had ceased. Their efficacy was by many too highly estimated. They had witnessed at them, besides much confusion and disorder, many evident and remarkable displays of divine power; and their ardour in promoting them, after the zeal which instituted them had abated, indicated that they considered them the most probable means of effecting a revival. From these motives (I am induced to think) camp-meetings have been, and are still,  industriously kept up by the Methodists throughout the United States. It is well known that they take much pains, by giving lengthy notice of their approach, by advertising them in newspapers, &c. to collect as large an assemblage of people as possible, and then, by preconcerted and artful manoeuvres, and by a mechanical play upon the passions, to produce that animation and zeal, which, at the times abovementioned, were spontaneous and unaffected.
In the progress of the revival among the Baptists, and, especially, at their camp-meetings, there were exhibited scenes of the most solemn and affecting nature; and in many instances there was heard at the same time, throughout the vast congregation, a mingled sound of prayer, exhortation, groans, and praise. The fantastick exercise of jerking, dancing, &c. in a religious way, prevailed much with the united body of Methodists and Presbyterians, towards the close of the revival; but they were not introduced at all among the Baptists in these parts. But falling down under religious impressions was frequent among them. Many were taken with these religious epilepsies, if we may so call them, not only at the great meetings, where those scenes were exhibited, which were calculated to move the sympathetick affections; but
[p. 219]also about their daily employments, some in the fields, some in their houses, and some when hunting their cattle in the woods. And in some cases, people were thus strangely affected when alone; so that if some played the hypocrite, with others the exercise must have been involuntary and unaffected. And besides falling down, there were many other expressions of zeal, which in more moderate people would be considered enthusiastick and wild.
The nature of a general revival of the Presbyterians and Methodists during the Great Revival may be learned from the letter of Dr. Richard Furman, reprinted by Benedict from Rippon's Baptist Register of London, which is given in the footnote.4 The first and best known of the general revival meetings in this section of North Carolina and South Carolina was that at the Waxhaws described by Furman. But there were others. "Not far from Rutherford courthouse there was another general meetings the first of June, 1802."5 Another such meeting was that at Nazareth Church, Spartanburg County, called by the Presbyterians for Friday, July 2, 1802, and attended by thirteen Presbyterian preachers and an unknown number of Methodist and Baptist preachers; the attendance was five or six thousand. A general meeting at Hanging Rock, just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, was under the control of the Methodists. "There were fifteen ministers, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian, with about three thousand people."6 The number of Baptist preachers in attendance at these general meetings was relatively small and in all of them they refused to join in the communion services with the other denominations. In 1802 the Bethel Association, and in 1804 the Broad River Association gave emphatic negatives to the query: "Will the Scriptures tolerate us to hold a member in fellowship who communes with Pedo-Baptists?" It was doubtless because the communion services were a regular feature of the general meetings that only a few Baptist ministers took an active part in them. It was in meetings in their own churches that Baptists joined in the work. These meetings, we are told, were many and successful.7 _____________
1 History of the Baptists, II, p. 110f.
2 Vol. I, pp. 535 f.
3 II, p. 108f.
4 History of the Baptists, II, p. 167 f.
"A Letter from Dr. Furman of Charleston, to Dr. Rippon of London. "Charleston, 11th Aug. 1802.
"Rev. and dear Sir,
"Having promised you some information respecting the extraordinary meeting at the Waxhaws, to which I purposed going at the time I wrote in May, and having accordingly attended it, I now sit down to perform my promise.
"It was appointed by the Presbyterian clergy in that part of the country, but clergymen of other denominations were invited to it; and it was proposed to be conducted on the same principles and plan with those held in Kentucky. The place of meeting is about 170 miles from Charleston, in the midst of a large settlement of Presbyterians, but not far distant from some congregations of Baptists and Methodists. This Presbyterian congregation is one of the first which were formed in the upper parts of this State; has for its pastor a Mr. Brown, who is a respectable character; and is furnished with a commodious place of worship. But as the place of worship would not be in any wise equal to the numbers expected, a place was chosen in the forest for an encampment. The numbers which assembled from various parts of the country, formed a very large congregation, the amount of which has been variously estimated; to me there appeared to be 3000, or perhaps 4000 persons; but some supposed there were 7000 or 8000. My information respecting the number of ministers who attended, was probably not correct; but from what I observed, and collected from others, there were 11 Presbyterians, 4 Baptists, and 3 Methodists. The encampment was laid out in an oblong form, extending from the top of a hill down the south side of it, toward a stream of water, which ran at the bottom in an eastern direction, including a vacant space of about 300 yards in length and 160 in breadth. Lines of tents were erected on every side of this space; and between them, and behind, were the waggons and riding carriages placed; the space itself being reserved for the assembling of the congregation, or congregations rather, to attend publick worship. Two stands were fixed on for this purpose: at the one, a stage was erected under some lofty trees, which afforded an ample shade; at the other, which was not so well provided with shade, a waggon was placed for the rostrum.
"The publick service began on Friday afternoon, the 21st of May, with a sermon by the Rev. Dr. M'Corckel, of the Presbyterian church; after which, the congregation was dismissed: but at the same time the hearers were informed, that they would be visited at their tents, and exhorted by the ministers, during the course of the evening. To this information an exhortation was added, that they would improve the time in religious conversation, earnest prayer, and singing the praises of God. This mode of improving the time, both by the ministers and a large proportion of the hearers, was strictly adhered to: not only were exhortations given, but many sermons also were preached along the lines in the evening; and the exercises continued, by the ministers in general, till midnight; and by the Methodist ministers, among their adherents, nearly or quite all the night.
"On Saturday morning, the ministers assembled, after an early breakfast, and appointed a committee to arrange the services for that day and the two following. The committee consisted wholly of Presbyterian ministers. They soon performed the work of their appointment, and assigned the several ministers present their respective parts of the service. By this arrangement, two publick services were appointed at each stand for that day; three for the Sabbath, together with the administration of the communion, at a place a little distant from the encampment; and two at each stand again for Monday. The intervals, and evenings in particular, to be improved in the same manner as on the former day. Necessary business calling me away on Sunday evening, I did not see the conclusion of the meeting. This, however, I can say, it was conducted with much solemnity, while I was at it; and the engagedness of the people appeared to be great. Many seemed to be seriously concerned for the salvation of their souls; and the preaching and exhortations of the ministers in general were well calculated to inspire right sentiments, and make right impressions. In the intervals of publick worship, the voice of praise was heard among the tents in every direction, and frequently that of prayer by private Christians. The communion service was performed with much apparent devotion, while I attended, which was at the serving of the first table. The Presbyterians and Methodists sat down together; but the Baptists, on the principle which has generally governed them on this subject, abstained. Several persons suffered at this meeting those bodily affections, which have been before experienced at Kentucky, North-Carolina, and at other places, where the extraordinary revivals in religion within this year or two have taken place. Some of them fell instantaneously, as though struck with lightning, and continued insensible for a length of time; others were more mildly affected, and soon recovered their bodily strength, with a proper command of their mental powers, Deep conviction for sin, and apprehension of the wrath of God, was professed by the chief of them at first; and several of them afterwards appeared to have a joyful sense of pardoning mercy through a Redeemer. Others continued under a sense of condemnation, after those extraordinary bodily affections ceased; and some from the first, appeared to be more affected with the greatness and goodness of God, and with the love of Christ, than with apprehensions of divine wrath. In a few cases there were indications, as I conceived, of enthusiasm, and even affectation; but in others a strong evidence of supernatural power and gracious influence. Several received the impression in their tents; others in a still more retired situation, quite withdrawn from company; some, who had been to that moment in opposition to what was thus going on, under the character of the work of God; and others, who had been till then careless. The number of persons thus affected, while I was present, was not great in proportion to the multitude attending. I have, indeed, been informed several more were affected the evening after I came away, and the next day; but in all, they could not be equal to the proportional numbers which were thus affected at some other meetings, especially in Kentucky. Several, indeed a very considerable number, had gone 70 or 80 miles from the lower parts of this State to attend this meeting; of these a pretty large proportion came under the above described impressions; and since their return to their houses, an extraordinary revival has taken place in the congregations to which they belong. It has spread also across the upper parts of this State, in a western direction. There are some favorable appearances in several of the Baptist churches; but my accounts of them are not particular enough to be transmitted. Taking it for granted that you have seen the publication entitled 'Surprizing Accounts,' by Woodward, of Philadelphia, containing the accounts of revivals in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North-Carolina, I therefore say nothing of them; but only, that the work in North-Carolina increases greatly; opposition however is made by many; and I am informed that the congregation, of which I have been writing so much, (that at the Waxhaws) is likely to be divided on account of it; and that Mr. Brown has been shut out of the place of worship since the meeting was held there, by some, I suppose a majority, of his elders and adherents. A particular reason of the offence taken by them, as I have understood, was the practice of communing with the Methodists. Having mentioned this denomination frequently, I think it proper to say, that it is that class of Methodists who are followers of Mr. Wesley, which is intended; few of the followers of Mr. Whitefield are to be found in the United States, not at least as congregations. These general meetings have a great tendency to excite the attention, and engage it to religion. Were there no other argument in their favour, this alone would carry a great weight with a reflecting mind; but there are many more which may be urged. At the same time, it must be conceded that there are some incidental evils which attend them, and give pain to one who feels a just regard for religion. Men of an enthusiastick disposition have a favourable opportunity at them of diffusing their spirit, and they do not fail to improve the opportunity for this purpose; and the too free intercourse between the sexes in such an encampment is unfavourable. However, I hope the direct good obtained from these meetings will much more than counterbalance the incidental evil.
"I am, reverend and dear Sir, your friend and servant in the gospel,
5 Townsend, South Carolina Baptists, 1670-1805, p. 298, quoting Rev. James Jenkins, a Methodist minister. Griffin, History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina, 1730-1930, p. 591, says that the place was eight and one-half miles from Rutherford.
6 Townsend, South Carolina Baptists, 1670-1805, p. 298, again quoting Jenkins.
7 Townsend, South Carolina Baptists, 1670-1805, p. 299: "Baptist ministers apparently did not call general meetings but held frequent and successful gatherings in their own congregations. These claim that the violent exercises seldom appeared among their converts, and that with the Baptists the revival proceeded in an orderly and truly spiritual manner."
George Washington Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists, Volume 2. -- jrd]