Editor's note: The bios are not listed in alphabetical order in the essay; they are given here in alphabetical order and page number that you may more easily locate them. Brantly, William T. (205), Brown, Thomas (201), Culpeper, John (219), Daniel, Robert Thomas (202), Davis, Elnathan (200), Freeman, Ralph (220), Hardman, Hezekiah (218), Hicks, Isaac (201), Marshal, Daniel (199), Merritt, William H. (215), Phillips, Eli (217), Pope, George (200), Stearns, Shubael (197). — Jim Duvall
A History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association
by Elder George W. Purefoy
Elder Shubael Stearns
CONCERNING his early history little or nothing is known. About the year 1740 an extensive revival of religion prevailed in the New-England states, through the instrumentality of George Whitefield and others. Owing to some peculiarities in the views and manner of the laborers in that work, they, with their followers, were called New Lights, and afterwards Separates. With this body of Christians Mr. Stearns connected himself, in the year 1745. Immediately after, his mind became impressed with the obligation to preach the gospel, and he at once engaged in this work. In 1751 he left the Pedobaptists, being convinced, from the word of God, that in failing to submit to the ordinance of immersion, he had neglected a most important command of the Redeemer. He also discovered the futility of infant baptism, and united with the Baptists on the 20th of May, 1751. He was immersed by Elder Wait Palmer, at Tolland, Conn., and was ordained to the work of the ministry the same year, by Elders Palmer and Joshua Morse. Mr. Stearns was a native of Boston. After laboring a few years in New- England he left his native state, being influenced by strong impressions that it was his duty to travel extensively. He stopped awhile in Virginia, and preached in the counties of Berkley and Hampshire for some time, but not meeting with his expected success, he left Virginia and came to North Carolina, and settled on Sandy Creek, in Guilford (now Randolph) county. Here he and his company built a meeting-house, and organized a church, and called it Sandy Creek, of which he continued its pastor during his life. Mr. Stearns travelled extensively in Virginia and North Carolina, and was instrumental in doing much good. He was the chief instrument in the organization of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association. He was a man of small stature, of good natural powers, and sound judgment. His education was limited, yet he was pretty well acquainted with books. His voice was musical and strong, which he managed in such a way as to make soft impressions on the heart, and bring tears from the eyes in a mechanical way, and anon to shake the very nerves, and throw the animal system into tumults and perturbations. All the Separate Baptists copied after him, in tones of voice and actions of body, and some few exceeded him. His character was indisputably good, both as a man, a Christian, and a preacher. In his eyes was something very penetrating; there seemed to be a meaning in every glance. Many stories have been told respecting the enchantments of his eyes and voice, but the two following examples we give with the more confidence (says Morgan
Edwards), because the subjects of them were men of sense and reputation, and afterwards became distinguished Baptist ministers:
"When the fame of Mr. Stearn's preaching," said Mr. Tidance Lane, "had reached the Yadkin, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach tree, with a book in his hand, and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I never had felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far; I walked about, sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased, and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking hands would, relieve me, but it happened otherwise. I began to think that he had an evil eye, and ought to be shunned, but shunning him I could no more effect. than a bird can shun the rattlesnake, when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach, my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sunk to the ground." Mr. Lane afterward became a very useful Baptist minister, "Elnathan Davis," continues Mr. Edwards, "had heard that one John Steward was to be baptized such a day, by Mr. Stearns. Now this Steward being a very large man, and Stearns of small stature, he concluded there would be some diversion, if not drowning; therefore, he gathered about eight or ten of his companions in wickedness, and went to the spot. Mr. Stearns came, began to preach; Elnathan went to hear him, while his companions stood at a distance. He was no sooner among the crowd than he perceived some of the people tremble, as if in a fit of the ague; he felt and examined them, in order to find if it were not a dissimulation. Meanwhile one man leaned on his shoulder, weeping bitterly. Elnathan, perceiving he had wet his new white coat, pushed him off, and ran to his companions, who were sitting on a log at a distance. When he came, one said, 'Well, Elnathan, what do you think now of these people?' affixing to them a profane and reproachful epithet. He replied, 'There is a trembling and crying spirit among them, but whether it be the spirit of God or the devil I don't know; if it be the devil, the devil go with them, for I will never more venture myself among them!' He stood awhile in that resolution, but the enchantment of Stearns' voice drew him to the crowd once more. He had not been long there before the trembling seized him also; he attempted to withdraw, but his strength failing, and his understanding being confounded, he, with many others, sunk to the ground; when he came to himself he found nothing in him but dread and anxiety, bordering on horror. He continued in this situation some days, and then found relief by faith in Christ." After a laborious and useful life, Mr. Stearns died in the midst of his flock, at Sandy Creek, on the 20th of November, 1771. His body was interred near the meeting-house.
Mr. Marshal was the brother-in-law of Mr. Stearns, and accompanied him to this state, and he and his wife were two of the sixteen members with which the Sandy Creek church was at first constituted. The following sketch of his life is taken from a biographical notice prepared by his son, Elder Abraham Marshal: "He was born in 1706, in Windsor, in Connecticut. He was religiously educated, by respectable and pious parents, and being hopefully converted at twenty years of age, joined the Presbyterians in his native place. He was for eighteen months a missionary among the Mohawk Indians, and labored with much success, which position he had to abandon on account of war among the savage tribes. He lived a while at Connogogig, in Pennsylvania, and thence he moved to Winchester, in Virginia. Here he became acquainted with Baptists, and after an impartial examination of their faith and order, he and his wife were immersed, in the forty-eighth year of his life. He moved from Virginia to North Carolina, and settled for a while on Uwhary; he afterward moved to Abbott's Creek, in Davidson county, North Carolina, and was instrumental in planting what is now called Abbott's Creek church. He was ordained pastor of this church in the fifty-second year of his age, by Elders Henry Ledbetter and Shubael Stearns. Soon after this, while travelling in Virginia, he baptized Col. Samuel Harris, who became an eminent and useful minister in that state. A few years after his ordination he moved to and settled on Beaver Creek, in South Carolina, where he soon raised a church; he then removed to Horse Creek, about fifteen miles north of Augusta, Georgia. While engaged in prayer he was seized, in the presence of his audience, for preaching in the parish of St. Paul, and made to give security for his appearance in Augusta, on the Monday following. On the trial he was ordered not to come again as a preacher into Georgia. In the words of an apostle, similarly circumstanced, he replied: "Whether it be right to obey God, or man, judge ye." On the 1st of January, 1771, he, with his family, settled at Kioke, and the following spring formed a church, which became the mother of many more, and sent out several ordained ministers; among these are Elders Saunders, Walker, Samuel Newton, Loveless, Savage, A. Scott, and Abraham Marshal.
During the war of the revolution Mr. Marshal was a strong friend of the American cause, and was once made a prisoner, and put under a strong guard, but obtaining leave of the officers, he commenced and supported so heavy a charge of exhortation and prayer, that, like Daniel of old, while his enemies stood amazed and confounded, he was safely and honorably delivered from this den of lions.
After a life of extended labor and usefulness, he, at a good old age (78 years), fell asleep in Jesus. His last words (as taken down at the time) were as follows:
"Dear Brethren and sisters, I am just gone; this night I shall probably expire; but I have nothing to fear; I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; and henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. God has shown me that he is my God; that I am his son; and that an eternal weight of glory is mine!" He then said to his dear wife and faithful assistant in all his labors, who was sitting by his side, bedewed with tears:
"Go on my dear wife to serve the Lord. Hold out to the end. Eternal glory is before us." After a silence of some minutes he called his son, and said, “My breath is almost gone. I have been praying that I may go home to-night. I had great happiness in our worship this morning, particularly in singing, which will make a part of my exercises in a blessed eternity.” He then closed his eyes in death, at the dawn of the 2d day of November, 1784.
His funeral sermon was preached from the above named text ("I have finished my course," &c.), by Elder Charles Buffey.
"Tho’ no proud pile, learned pen,
nor lettered stone His virtues rare to late posterity reveals
He'll ever shine, and waxingly has shone,
Through rolling years, in ministerial seals."
Elder Elnathan Davis "Mr. Davis was born in Baltimore county, Maryland 1735, was bred a Seventh-day Baptist; went to Slow River, N. C., in 1757; was baptized by Elder Shubael Stearns, at Sandy Creek, and ordained by Elder Samuel Harris, in 1764; continued in N. C., until 1798, when he removed to South Carolina, and settled in the bounds of the Saluda Association." An interesting account of his conviction and conversion was given in the biographical sketch of Elder Stearns. Mr. Davis was a man of considerable abilities, and was the leading Baptist minister, after the death of Elder Stearns, In the bounds of the Sandy Creek Association. For a number of years before he moved to South Carona, he resided on Dry creek, in Chatham County, N.C.
Elder George Pope
George Pope was, for a number of years, pastor of the church at Abbott's Creek, in Davidson (then Rowan) county, N.C. He was a man of sense and moderation, and exerted great influence for good, in his day; he was repeatedly chosen moderator of the Sandy Creek Association, and was one of its most influential members for a number of years. During the year 1800, there was an
extensive revival of religion in the bounds of this association. Elder Pope, during the revival, baptized about 500 persons, many of whom became ministers of the gospel. An interesting account of this revival has already been given, in the words of Elder Pope, as related to Elder Benedict, who visited him in 1810.
Elder Isaac Hicks
Mr. Hicks was for a number of years a member of the Sandy Creek Association. He was a useful man, maintained an exemplary Christian character; his preaching was of an experimental character, and was much blessed to the conviction and conversion of souls. During the revival of 1800, and afterward, he baptized a great many persons; quite a number of whom became ministers of the gospel. He was possessed of very little learning, was poor, as to this world’s goods, and received very little, if any, support from the church which he served as pastor. He lived in Chatham county, on the waters of Bush Creek, at which place, after a laborious life, he died at an advanced age. Some of his descendants are now living in that vicinity.
Elder Thomas Brown
Mr. Brown was a man of obscure parentage, without education; but was possessed with a strong mind, though somewhat eccentric. Previous to his conversion he had been a very wicked and dissipated man; afterward he maintained a consistent Christian character. Quite a number of anecdotes are related of him: On one occasion he met with a man in a state of intoxication, who had embraced religion under his ministry. The unfortunate man said to Mr. Brown, "You are the very man that converted my soul." "Yes," replied Mr. Brown, "it looks like some of my bungling work, for if God had converted you, you would not now be drunk." After his conversion, he was sometimes insulted by persons, who, though afraid of him, relied upon his piety as their protection. At one time, Mr. Brown happened at a public collection, when a man by the name of King said a good many abusive things to him, and then called him a coward for not fighting him. Mr. Brown (knowing that King was afraid of him, and was relying upon Brown's being a preacher for protection) said to him, "If you will go with me to the woods, where no one can see us, and will promise not to tell Brother Elnathan Davis, I will fight you." After this, King was respectful to him, and he was never again insulted in that way.
Mr. Brown was a poor man, and received very little, if any remuneration for his services, and having a large family to raise, he did not preach a great deal. He lived and died in Chatham county, on Haw river.
On one or more occasions, Mr. Brown visited Raleigh during the session of the legislature, and preached before the members in exceedingly coarse apparel, with negro cotton wrappers on. The members made him a handsome donation, out of respect to his preaching abilities, and in view of his necessities.
Elder Robert Thomas Daniel
Robert T. Daniel was the fifth son of Samuel and Eliza Thomas Daniel. He was born on the 10th of June, 1773, in Middlesex county, Virginia. Soon after the close of the Revolutionary war, the family emigrated to North Carolina, and settled in Chatham county.
At the age of twenty-three, March 1st, 1796, Mr. D. was married to Miss Penelope Cain Flowers, of Chatham county, N. C. This lady was eminently a co-worker with her husband in his ministerial labors. She died in Mississippi on the 1st day of January, 1840. She met the summons with a serene heart, and ascended, expressing her perfect confidence in the boundless fullness of Christ, and that in him she was safe.
Mr. D. professed conversion in July, 1802, in his twenty-ninth year, and was baptized by Elder Isaac Hicks, at Holly Springs, in Wake county, N. C. He was licensed to preach in April, 1803, and was ordained to the work of the ministry in July of that year, by Elders Isaac Hicks and Nathan Gully. His education was extremely limited, but he had less need of this species of preparation (says Dr. R. B. C. Howell, to whom I am indebted for the most of this biographical sketch), than any man he ever saw. His extraordinary abilities were at once perceived and appreciated.
The church at Mount Pisgah was the first that shared his pastoral labors. After some years he moved to Rocky River, in Chatham, and took charge of May's Chapel Church. Thence he removed to Sawmill Church, in Marlborough district, S.C. From that place he returned to May's Chapel. While here he accepted the call to the church in Raleigh, and removed to that city. From there he moved to Pitt county, and took charge of the church in Greenville. Thence he removed to the church at Black Creek, in Southampton county, Virginia. Thence to Bullfield, Greenville county, in Virginia. He then moved to Tennessee, and itinerated for some time in the middle portion of the State. Thence he removed to Holly Springs, Mississippi. He finally settled in Salem, Mississippi, which he regarded as his home at the time of his death.
From this rapid sketch (continues Dr. H.) it will he seen that Mr. Daniel was emphatically a wanderer. He had literally “no continuing city.” This feature in his history was the result of causes not difficult to be ascertained. His temperament was sanguine. He was easily discouraged, and as easily induced to change his place by the prospect of greater usefulness at some other. The revival spirit had a permanent home in his heart. Where religious excitement prevailed, for the time, he was power-fully attracted, and strongly.disposed to fix his residence. No man had more of Christian urbanity and kindness, was more ardently beloved by his people, or more deeply regretted when he considered it his duty to leave them.
Another prominent characteristic of our departed brother was, an abiding desire to unite the people of God in evangelical action, by which he was assured they could accomplish more than in their separate and individual capacity. During a great part of his life he was either a missionary or an agent of some missionary society.
When not especially employed as a missionary or agent, the whole region of country, within from a hundred to two hundred miles of his residence, was frequently visited by him, and especially such places as gave indications of revival. In these excursions his labors were often attended by the most happy results. He was not, consequently, much with his churches; and yet most of them were, by his instrumentality, built up, and greatly strengthened.
In a letter to Dr. Howell, he says: "During the thirty years that have passed away since I commenced the work of the ministry, I have travelled, for the purpose of preaching the gospel, about sixty thousand miles, preached upward of five thousand sermons, and baptized more than fifteen hundred people. Of that number, many are now ministers of various grades, but twelve are men of distinguished talents and usefulness, and ten, mostly through my procurement, are regularly and thoroughly educated. Of all these," he adds, "I have nothing to boast, only in Christ Jesus, my Lord. I regret, much, that I have done so little for his dear cause, and been so coldhearted and remiss of duty." Mr. Daniel was emphatically the friend of young preachers. Affectionate and sympathetic in his intercourse with them, he was ever ready to impart instruction, and to encourage and sustain them by his countenance and influence. His advice was always in favor of a close and constant study of the Bible, joined with ardent prayer, humility, and exclusive devotion to the glorious cause. Many a young minister has felt, for years, the influence of a few hours’ intercourse with him. He was truly apostolic in his sentiments and actions regarding the spread of the gospel. The cause of Christ was the same to him in all lands, and had the same measure of his prayers, labors, and
anxieties. In the last article he ever wrote for publication, he earnestly, as professedly his dying admonition, solicits the ministry to give themselves wholly to the work; to avoid all feelings of selfishness; in their addresses to be plain, brief, perspicuous, and to preach to the heart; to be affectionate to other denominations; to seek self-government, and continued mental advancement; to indulge no jealousies toward each other; to seek out and encourage young men whose duty it may be to preach, and to avoid secular and political stations and honors; to be faithful in private intercourse; to be industrious in preparations for the pulpit; to abjure all egotism; never to ordain any man of whose fitness for the sacred office they are not entirely satisfied; and to remember that, whatever may be their literary and philosophical attainments, without a thorough knowledge of the Bible, they are unprenared to perform the duties of a minister of Christ. In the same paper he exhorts the churches to be indissolubly united in. their efforts for the spread of the gospel; to sustain the ministry by their co-operation, their prayers, and their contributions; to provide means for the education of those who are preparing to enter the field; to see that they are all devoted to the work; to secure the services of able and efficient deacons; and to cultivate among themselves, assiduously, the spirit of concord.
The Bible and the human heart were his chief books. His manner was natural and affectionate. He possessed a tall and manly person, a countenance of the finest mould, intellectual and benevolent, a voice in which was mingled the sweetness of music and affection. For many years his locks upon his brow were white as wool, his whole aspect and manner instantly enchained his hearers, and made them feel that they were in the presence of a great and good man. His piety was consistent., ardent, and cheerful. He was uniformly prayerful, and ready to every good word and work, ever prepared to weep with those who weep, and to rejoice with those who rejoice; to instruct the inquirer, and to point all to "the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world."
To his closing hour he retained his accustomed vigor of mind. His last sermon was from the text 2 Corinthians 13:11: "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God o love and peace shall be with you." He died at Paris, Tennessee, on the 11th day of September, 1810. His last words were, "Lord,Jesus, receive my spirit," and then quietly fell asleep in Jesus. It has been the lot of but few men to serve his generation more acceptably, or usefully, than Elder R.T. Daniel. The bare mention of his name, is sufficient to excite the, liveliest emotions in the hearts of hundreds, who are still living, whose happiness it was to enjoy his pulpit ministrations, and fireside conversations.
William T. Brantly, D.D. *
Dr. Brantly was born in January, 1787, in Chatham county, in the state of North Carolina. Being one of a numerous family of children, but scantily provided with this world’s goods, he was deprived of the benefits of liberal instruction at that age when the mind is most docile, and when the most permanent impressions are produced. This deficiency was in part compensated by the tuition of his mother; a lady, who, though of very imperfect education, was remarkable for her piety and decision of character. Under her care, he conceived, at the tenderest age, an unusual fondness for reading; and though compelled to daily labor upon a farm, many a volume was digested, and much valuable information acquired, in those moments when he was relieved from more urgent avocations. When he had completed his fourteenth year, it pleased God to make him a new creature. He was brought to a knowledge of the truth during a very powerful and extensive revival of religion, which was enjoyed for several years, in the states south and west of Virginia, about the commencement of the present century. The peculiar characteristics of his mental exercises, in conversion, were pungent convictions of his sinfulness and danger. Before finding peace in Christ, he was the subject of most distressing apprehensions of the wrath of God. Pardon for such a sinner as he was, he thought impossible; his perdition seemed inevitable. His faith, at first, very feebly apprehended the Saviour; and, if he rejoiced at all, it was with great trembling. It was during his baptism, as he has been heard to say, that every doubt was dispelled, and that he was favored with a most luminous manifestation of the divine presence. He came up out of the water, and went on his way rejoicing. The mental agony which he suffered in the period just referred to, seems to have been permitted as one qualification for the important work to which he was subsequently called. It prepared him to appreciate the distress of souls burdened with sin. In his intercourse with such persons, we have never known one more sympathizing and tender. When he saw the anguish of the convicted sinner, it seemed to revive afresh the recollection of his own sorrows. With many tears of sympathy, we have seen him pointing hundreds of distressed ones to the Saviour, who had delivered his “feet feet from fading and his soul from death.” After his conversion, Dr. Brantly seemed to have no other thought or desire but that of devoting his life to the service of God. A profession of religion had hardly been made, before, with a zeal which some might deem indiscreet, but which, in him, was irrepressible, he commenced, publicly and privately, wherever a hearing could be secured, exhorting sinners to repentance. At this period, in the exuberance of his youthful zeal, when excited by the presence of a congregation, he would become so anxious to do good, that he has been
* For this interesting Biographical Sketch of Dr. Brantly, we are indebted to Elder William Brautly, son of Dr. Brantly.
frequently known to rise, after the regular services were concluded, and ask permission to exhort the people farther. This he did is the most affecting manner. More than one sinner has dated his convictions to the appeals made by "that boy who spoke after the minister had done."
Shortly after professing Christ, a wealthy friend,* impressed with his talents, tendered him such assistance as might be requisite for him to prosecute his studies to the extent of preparation for college. The proposition was cheerfully accepted, and he became at once a very diligent student; not unmindful, at the same time, of the work which he had proposed as the great business of life. In a few years he entered South Carolina College. At this time, the institution was enjoying the presidential labors of Jonathan Maxey, whose valuable remains have recently been published, and who had previously been the distinguished president of Brown University and of Union College. Betwixt the pupil and the preceptor, an intimacy, far stronger than is ordinarily found between those sustaining such a relationship, soon grew up. The scholar was an enthusiastic admirer of the talents, learning and piety of the president. The latter, looking upon the student as a companion and friend, received him into a familiar intercourse which lasted through life. Dr. Brantly frequently reverted to the instructions and conversation of Maxey, as having been of inexpressible value to him.
Though compelled, while in college, to sustain himself mainly by his own exertions, Dr. Brantly took high rank as a scholar, and graduated with distinction in 1808.
It was his design, upon graduation, to enter upon a field where he might devote his undivided energies to the ministry. But, at this period, there were probably not half a dozen churches in all South Carolina and Georgia which sustained a regular ministry. To secure a support, therefore, he took the rectorship of the Richmond Academy, in Augusta, Ga., an institution well endowed by the State. Here he remained for about two years, teaching during the week, and preaching every Sabbath to some of the destitute congregations in the city and vicinity. While residing in this place he was married to the sister of Governor McDonald. In the choice of his companion he was singularly fortunate. She was a help meet indeed. A competent judge, who was well acquainted with her, has said that she was a lady of such "talents, piety, and accomplishments, as are rarely combined in one person." To her efficient and affectionate tutorship, the writer has frequently heard the husband ascribe much of that success, which, under God, he was subsequently enabled to achieve, as a scholar and as a minister.
In 1811, Dr. Brantly was invited to the pastorship of the Baptist church, in Beaufort, S.C., now under the care of Dr. Fuller. In their call they said to him,
* William Warden, a Scotchman, that resided in Pittsborongh, Chatham county N.C. He was not a member of the church.
"If you will come and minister to us in spirituals, we will minister to you in temporals." This was the amount of salary tendered. Deeming it sufficient, and anxious to give his time entirely to the ministry of the word, he resigned his situation in Augusta, and removed to Beaufort. Here he remained for eight years, constantly growing in usefulness, and in the affectionate regard of his people. Sinners were converted, saints were edified, and thus Christ’s kingdom was built up through his instrumentality. In addition to his pastoral labors in this place, he was also president of the Beaufort College for several years While in this vocation, he numbered among his pupils the distinguished author of the sermon before us, and the Rev. Dr. Manly, his predecessor in Charleston. The latter gentleman, addressing his beloved preceptor and friend, during his last illness, says to him: "To you, more than to any other man, I owe, under God, whatever I am, or have done in the world."
During his residence in Beaufort, he was a frequent contributor to the American Baptist Magazine, then published in Boston. His earliest published effusions are found in this work. The surviving readers of the periodical at the time referred to, no doubt, well remember the interest excited by the communications of "Theophilus." An eminent divine, speaking of these articles since the death of their author, remarks, that"they were read and reread, and laid up among the selectest treasures of memory. It will remain for the day that shall reveal hidden things, to show what multitudes of young persons in the United States received the tone of their intellectual and Christian character from these inspiring productions." After he had been settled for some time in Beaufort, it was thought that the preaching of Dr. Brantly had too much of the intellectual, and not enough of the spiritual, too much of the philosophy of Christianity, and not enough of the marrow of the gospel. Though characterized by much power and originality, it was not thought to possess that unction and tenderness for which it was afterward so remarkable. The zeal and ardor of the young exhorter had sobered off into the precise logician. He needed something to make him more effective in reaching the heart. This he received as the fruit of an affliction, which overwhelmed him with unutterable sorrow It was the death of his pious companion, which occurred in 1818.
In 1819, the trustees of the academy in Augusta invited Dr. Brantly to resume the rectorship. Augusta having increased considerably in size, and promising to become one of the most important towns of the state, he acceded to their request to return there, in the hope that he might also be able to establish a Baptist interest in that growing community. Upon his removal to Augusta., scarcely half a dozen Baptists could be found in the whole city. The few, however, were collected, and he preached to them, in the chapel of the
academy, on every Lord's day. The congregation increased rapidly, and in the course of a few years, be was permitted to see, mainly through his efforts, a substantial house of worship, which had cost $22,000, and a flourishing church, where the Baptist name had recently been comparatively unknown. For seven years he ministered to this flock "without money and without price," depending upon his daily labor for support.
At the dedication of the church, just referred to, he preached and published a discourse on the "Beauty and Stability of Gospel Institutions." It may be interesting to repeat the opinion expressed of this earliest effort of Dr. Brantly, by a judicious critic. Speaking of this sermon, the American Baptist Magazine, for March, 1822, a copy of which is now before us, says: "This sermon is evidently the production of a man of learning and genius. It is everywhere forcibly, and in many places, eloquently written. Although the subject is trite, yet the author displays, in the discussion of it, is vigor and originality of mind, which cannot fail to interest and instruct.
"We have seldom seen the progress of Christianity more eloquently sketched, than in the following paragraph:
"'In forming a scheme for the conversion of mankind, what mind could ever have devised one so improbable as the cross of Christ? To human wisdom, it would have appeared an idle frenzy to think of reducing a rebellious people to allegiance, by the unmixed scandal of an ignominious crucifixion. Of all improbable plans, this might have seemed the most unpromising. Yet, behold what wonders are accomplished by the unvarnished majesty of this simple fact. Without any of the aids of learning, of authority, or of eloquence; with none of the ingenious sophistries of the schools; without any elaborate discussions, or studied appeals to the passions, we see humble, unassuming men, carrying in triumph a religion obnoxious to the repulsive spirit of pride and ambition. They had the approving tokens of divine regard. Their gospel became the power of God, and the wisdom of God to them that believed; and their work, which, in itself, would have been the derision of every idler, when confirmed by the hand of the Lord, supplied to thousands the elements of a new life; struck terror into the opposing ranks of sin; subverted the rites which antiquity had consecrated, and organized communities for the worship of one God and one Mediator. Nor has their case been one of uncommon occurrence. The effects of that preaching, in which Christ crucified is the leading theme, are still stupendous. It contains the power of a mysterious attraction. The solemn echo from groaning Calvary is the eloquence which persuades men. Here shines the true morality; here virtue is improved into devotion; here the soul catches the fire of a holy inspiration, and rises to assert its kindred with the spirits of the just.'"
While a resident of Georgia, Dr. Brantly exerted an excellent influence upon the denomination throughout the State. He was active in organizing the Baptist
Convention of the State; was zealous in advocating the cause of missions and of ministerial education; and in every good work he was the efficient coadjutor of the Mercers and Armstrongs of the times. At the distance of a quarter of a century, the salutary impression of his labors is distinctly felt and gratefully acknowledged by large numbers.
In 1824, the pastorship of the first Baptist church in Philadelphia became vacant, by the death of the much lamented Henry Holcombe. We have understood that, in his last moments, Dr. Holcombe warmly recommended Dr. Brantly as one under whose ministrations he would be happy to leave the church. In accordance with this suggestion, Dr. Brantly was invited to visit them. The result of this visit was a unanimous call to be their pastor.
A large sphere of usefulness, as he deemed it, being thus presented, he removed to Philadelphia, in the spring of 1826. That success which had crowned his labors at the South, attended them at the North. He soon became known as one of the most eloquent preachers in the city. Under his ministry the congregation increased; there was a number of powerful revivals, and many who are now known as among the most efficient and liberal members of the denomination, were brought into the church.
In 1827, the publication, entitled "The Columbian Star," which, we believe, had previously been the property of the Baptist Triennial Convention, was removed to Philadelphia, and the editorial department was confided to his care. How this trust was discharged is well known, since several thousand copies of the paper were circulated in different parts of the Union. He continued to edit this paper for about eight years. In its columns, during this period, may be found, we think, some of his ablest writings. Valuable articles on church discipline, important points of Christian doctrine and practice, and essays on a great variety of subjects everywhere abound. Could they be collected and published, they would make a very useful, and, we doubt not, acceptable volume.
During his residence in Philadelphia, Dr. Brantly published a volume of sermons, being principally those which had been delivered to his people, in the regular course of pastoral labor. The interest with which this volume was received is evinced by the fact that the whole edition was soon disposed of, and followed by still further demands. Though lucid and forcible discourses, we do not think, as a whole, that they sustained the expectation which his oral performances had created. They were prepared for the press with much haste, at the urgent solicitation of his people. Others of his sermons, which were taken down by a stenographer, as he delivered them, extempore, and subsequently published, just as they were preached, we think decidedly better
illustrations of his preaching power, than many of the discourses in this volume.
During his residence in this city, the degree of D. D. was conferred upon him by Brown University. We presume that it was bestowed through the influence of the president of that institution, of whose talents he was a sincere admirer.
After having been settled in Philadelphia for nearly twelve years, Dr. Brantly's health began to fail. Apprehensive lest the severity of a Northern climate might entirely prostrate his already shattered constitution, at the same time, what he believed to be a promising field opening in Charleston, he resigned the charge of the church in Philadelphia, and entered upon that of the First Baptist church in the former city. For two or three years after his removal to Charleston, he did not enjoy that success which had attended his labors in all other places. Several members of the church, to whom he had particularly looked for countenance and aid, taking exception to some of his views and practices, declined cordial co-operation with their pastor. The consequences were, that he was for a time thrown into much discouragement and distress. In such a state of things there were but few conversions and many dissensions. The malcontents were finally dismissed to form a new church. Soon after their withdrawal, a better state of things began to appear. The church and congregation then became warmly united, and ardently attached to their spiritual guide. Their affection was reciprocated by the most indefatigable labors for their welfare. He had the happiness of rejoicing with many newborn souls, and with burying them with Christ in baptism. At the time that an inscrutable Providence smote him, with fatal disease, the church was enjoying a deep and extensive work of grace.
Dr. Brantly's labors, after his return to the South, were too arduous. Shortly after his removal to Charleston, he was elected president of the College of Charleston. Believing that he could perform the duties of both offices, and thus extend his usefulness, he accepted the appointment. Under his administration, the college was more prosperous than at any former period of its history. The number of students largely increased, and the institution constantly grew in popularity. In the meantime, unremitting labor had seriously undermined his constitution. While about to hear the recitation of the senior class, on the 13th of July, 1844, he was attacked with a paralysis, which after keeping him for some months in the most affecting, prostration and helplessness, terminated fatally.
The malady which prostrated his body, also afflicted him with mental imbecility. Although there were lucid intervals during his illness, in which he signified to his friends, as well as be was able, that he was perfectly aware of his situation, and fully resigned to the divine will, yet his intellect was
evidently sympathizing with his body. Though his prostration was sudden, it was not altogether unexpected. For two years prior to his death, he supposed himself to be affected with a disease of the heart, which, although it did not disqualify him for his public duties, might terminate fatally at any moment. On one occasion, he remarked to a friend: "I have had death constantly before me, for the last two years. I have been looking for it every day." Writing to a member of his family, a few weeks before his attack, he said: Were I to be seized with a paralysis of the arm or leg, I should at once become an object of wretchedness and pity." At another time he said: "I shall break off suddenly; and I think I had rather die in the harness."
It is evident from these expressions, that Providence afforded him a presentiment of what awaited him. The summons did not reach him unprepared. It found him with his armor on, doing with his might what his hands found to do in his Master's service. He had "oil in his vessel;" and with his lamp trimmed and burning, he promptly and cheerfully responded to the cry, "Go ye out to meet him." He departed this life in Augusta, Ga., in March, 1845, in the city which had been the scene of his early labors, and among the attached friends of his youthful years.
It has been justly said of Dr. Brantly, that his life was an uninterrupted scene of arduous labor. In addition to his ministerial labors, which were always abundant, he was constantly engaged in the instruction of youth. To him idleness was insupportably irksome. He had a love for labor. For several years, while residing in Philadelphia, besides being the pastor of one of the largest churches in that city, he taught a school, edited a religious newspaper, rendered much service to the Baptist Tract Society, of whose board he was the president, in the selection of tracts, and when the agent of that society, the beloved Davis, died, he discharged his duties for six months, in order that his destitute family might have the benefit of the salary for this period. His distinguished friend, the present president of the Alabama University, speaking of him, says: "He was always busy, and yet never confused or behind-hand; and he ever found time for all the innumerable and nameless demands which were made upon him, whenever God and his fellowmen were to be served. The principle of his success amid herculean labors was, first, that he attended to one thing at a time, never suffering interruption; and secondly, he devoted his whole energy, in the most concentrated and absorbing attention, to whatever was before him. His mind, by use, became like a prism catching the combined radiance of an intricate subject, and distributing it into its elements almost in an instant." His love for teaching amounted almost to a passion. He delighted in that which many look upon as a drudgery. As might be expected, he was eminently
successful in imparting knowledge. Many who now occupy important positions in the pulpit, in our national councils, and at the bar, received much of their intellectual training from him. Wherever he met with an indigent youth of promise, desiring instruction at his hands, he took him under his care without charge. He instructed gratuitously not a few, who are now useful servants of the Lord Jesus.
As an intellectual man, Dr. Fuller says of him, "He had not many superiors in this country." His mind was remarkable for its grand and comprehensive views. He seemed to grasp a subject in all its bearings; and, resolving it into its elements, could hold it up in a very perspicuous light to others. His avocation as a teacher kept his naturally vigorous mind in healthy exercise. He delighted in the Latin and Greek classics, and was constantly in the habit of reading them. His exquisite taste readily detected their beauties; and no one could be long in his company without perceiving that his lips were "wet with Castalian dews."
In almost every department of learning he had attained respectable proficiency. It was, however, in the languages and in the metaphysics that he excelled. He was one of the most critical linguists and profound metaphysicians which this country has ever produced. The already too protracted length of this article will not permit us to record evidences of his excellence as a scholar, which might be interesting and instructive.
It may be said, however, that preaching was the forte of Dr. Brantly. This was ever his delightful employment. His noble person and fine voice conferred upon him great natural advantages as an orator. He never appeared so well as when proclaiming the gospel to perishing sinners. It was impossible for any one to hear him, without being convinced that he was thoroughly in earnest. He seemed to say, "I believe, therefore I speak." Some of the discourses which he preached were attended with extraordinary success. From twenty to thirty persons have been known to ascribe their conviction to a single sermon.
His appeals to the backslider were frequently irresistible. He would assail such persons with the most melting rhetoric to which we have ever listened. It required a stout heart, indeed, to withstand the tears and entreaties with which he would beseech them to return to their deserted Lord.
Although the crowds that attended his ministry attest their general acceptance of his labors, and the fruits of his efforts attest his usefulness, yet there were occasions when he was not equal to himself. At such times he seemed to preach with considerable difficulty, and not to enter much into the spirit of his subject. At other times, he was too abstract to be understood by plain people. His premises and deductions were not readily seen and appreciated. But if he
was not always forcible and eloquent, he was always sensible, and preached, not for the purpose of saying something, but because he had something to say. His inequalities were chiefly owing to the fact that he was an extempore preacher. His numerous labors did not allow him time to write his discourses; and he was frequently constrained to depend upon very imperfect preparation.
The author of the sketch before us says, that "Dr. Brantly possessed a facility, both in writing and speaking, such as I never knew it in any other person; yet so severely had he trained and castigated his mind, that this did not hinder him from attaining great excellence." Frequently, when we have supposed him to be wholly unprepared, he would come out upon his congregation with discourses possessing all the beauty and force of studied compositions. In illustration of this remark, we subjoin an extract from a. sermon preached extemore, and subsequently written out, as nearly as could be recollected. It is an appeal to the unconverted portion of the congregation: "Sinners, it is precisely thus that matters stand betwixt you and your eternal Judge. Your earth-born hearts will not relinquish their attachments. Your lovers you have, and after them you will go That God who takes no pleasure in your death, is the witness and opposer of your desperation. Not much longer will he resist your madness; not much longer will he endure the insulting infidelity of your hearts. Of one thing, however, you cannot suppress the conviction: every step you take in your journey is contrary to the will of God. Understand and appreciate this truth now, and do not travel all the way to hell, to find it out. when once you are locked up in eternal darkness, are consigned to the imprisonment of eternal despair, and tortured with the raging fires of avenging justice, you will feel, when too late, that you are indebted solely to yourselves for the sad doom. So long as forms of horror shall haunt and terrify your spirits, and fierce passions shall prey upon them, and inexorable despair shall hold them with its tyrant grasp, and tormenting fiends, nurtured in your own bosoms, shall exult and raven amid the weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, in the horrible pit, so long will remain fastened upon your hearts the conviction that your perdition is of yourselves. You mean to remain unjust, ungodly, unreconciled to your own happiness and salvation. Yourselves, then, are planting the fangs of the viper in your own bosom. Show some mercy to yourselves, and desist from the had enterprise of self-immolation to the prince of hell.
"Look forward a little, and see yourselves in eternity, with unrepented sins. Light and peace have disappeared; time's beguiling pleasures and recurring enjoyments have ceased for ever; friendship's softening sympathies, and society's cheering smile, and humanity's mitigating touch, have all vanished from the dismal scene; the voice of mercy has ceased, and love's redeeming work has been completed. You are then sad expectants of hopeless
wretchedness; abandoned to your sins, left with your tormentors within you; capable of misery, and incapable of comfort, you are prepared for all the complex sufferings of a ruined soul. The hell is one of your own seeking; the bed on which you are writhing, but not reposing, is made by your own hands. All hell resounds with the justice of God. All heaven proclaims his righteousness."
Dr. Brantly had the faculty of securing the strongest attachment of those for whom he labored. His tender and sympathizing heart, identifying him with all the vicissitudes of his people, weeping with those that wept, and rejoicing with those that rejoiced, won their confidence and riveted their attention. As a pastor, it has been truly said of him, that he "grew steadily in the admiration and love of his flock." The tears and tenacity with which his beloved people in Philadelphia clung to him, when he announced his resignation, evinced that they were far more decided and earnest in their unanimity than when they had called him twelve years before. The distress of the church and congregation in Charleston, when he was smitten down, evinced the continued strength and sincerity of their affection, after an acquaintance of seven years. In his intercourse with his people, he was remarkable for his candor. He was in the habit of speaking the truth in love, in a very plain way. This trait of his character excited the indignation of some who did not know him. They took him to be uncharitable and overbearing; but when they understood him, their attachment and respect were increased.
Amidst his various engagements, Dr. Brantly did not neglect the keeping of the heart. He walked daily with God. Those who were most intimately acquainted with him, know that his piety was a uniform flame. He ever cherished the most humbling views of himself; and the most exalted views of Christ. He was always the consistent Christian, thoroughly conscientious in everything which he undertook, seeming to keep ever before him the day of final account.
It may be thought that this sketch will be incomplete, if we are silent as to the imperfections of him of whom we have been speaking. We do not deny that there were defects in his character. He was a fallen creature, and therefore sinful. If it could be of any benefit, we might fill many pages with a recital of his frailties. But we think that the good which grace accomplished through him so immeasurably exceeded any evil which he may have done, that we may be pardoned for dwelling upon the former to the omission of the latter. In addition to this, it is true, -- and with these words, uttered by the ever to be loved and lamented man whose life we have attempted to sketch, we close, -- that"Death applies the finishing touch to the character of a good man. This may be regarded as a reason why his remembered history is clothed with a peculiar majesty and charm. That spirit which once delighted us with the communications of affection and wisdom, now wears the vestments of
[p. 215]perfection. It is enrolled among the spirits of the just made perfect. Its graces, once lovely on earth, are now resplendent in heaven. Its pensive groans, once heaved from an aching heart, are succeeded by the softest harmonies of heavenly music. The languor and the sickness have fled for ever, and to their place have succeeded the health and vigor of immortality. The erring judgment has acquired those attributes of truth and certainty, which will for ever preclude future mistake and deception. It is not wonderful, then, that our associations should draw down from the bright empyreal, whither they have ascended, a portion of that perfection with which good men are now arrayed, in their supernal blessedness, and place the same to the credit of their earthly history."
"This sun has set,
Oh when shall other such arise?"
Elder William H. Merritt
Was born the 19th of February, A.D. 1779, in Chatham county, North Carolina. He professed religion in 1801 or '02, at the Old Fork M. H. (now Rock Spring), under the ministry of Elder George Pope, and was baptized shortly afterward by Elder Isaac Flicks, near the mouth of New-Hope. The church of which he became a member was at Prichard's M. H. (now Mount Carmel). He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1824; his first sermon was preached from Psalm 119:103, at Benjamin Dodd's, on the first Sabbath evening in November, 1824.
He was strongly impressed that it was his duty to preach for a long time before he commenced. His education was limited; he was, however, well read in the Scriptures, in Andrew Fuller's and other works, and was no doubt the best disciplinarian that ever belonged to the Sandy Creek Association. For a long time before he entered the ministry, and afterward, he was seldom without a New Testament in his bosom, and frequently slept with it there at night. Few men have loved the Bible better, and studied it more closely than he. He was ordained to the work of the ministry by Elders James Ferrell and Thomas Freeman, on the 12th of May, 1827.
Elder Merritt was raised by Pedobaptist parents; his father, Rev. William Merritt, was an Episcopal Methodist. As soon as Elder Merritt learned to read the New Testament (at school) he became a Baptist in sentiment. Upon reading that book it was evident to him that the Methodists did not practise according to its teaching. He could recognize nothing for baptism but immersion, and could discover no command, or example for infant sprinkling. He then had no knowledge of the Baptists, but supposed that somewhere there were no doubt Christians who followed the Bible; he determined, when he became his own man, that he would travel until he found them. When he became acquainted
with the Baptists he recognized them as the true followers of the Scriptures, and when converted, he united with then.
When he first commenced preaching, his ideas sometimes became eclipsed, and he would be compelled to stop in the midst of his sermon. This was a severe trial of his faith. He was very much discouraged by some of his older brethren in the ministry; by others he was much encouraged; among the latter were Elders R.T. Daniel and John Purefoy, each of whom were emphatically the young preacher's friend. From 1830 to 1838 he preached a great deal, was blessed with revivals, and baptized quite a number of persons, built up several churches, and subscribed liberally for meeting-houses, on condition that they were built large enough and of good materials. At Antioch, Rock Spring, Emmaus, Bear Creek, Mineral Spring, and McCloud’s, he was instrumental in doing much good. His liberality to the poor, and to every good work, is well known. He was a strong friend of all those institutions the tendency of which was to diffuse knowledge, and extend the Redeemer's kingdom at home and abroad. He bequeathed $1,000 to build a Baptist house of worship in Chapel Hill, and $2,000 to Wake Forest College, to be appropriated to the education of young men called of God to the work of the ministry.
Few men have suffered for so long a time as severe affliction as Elder Merritt. For a number of years before his death, from pains winch he had suffered, he was unable to walk; he still continued to preach, and would ride to his appointments in his carriage, and then be placed in a chair, and his servant, assisted by a brother or friend, would take him into the pulpit, where, on a high chair made for that purpose, and which he carried with him, he would sit and preach.
Elder Merritt was possessed of indomitable energy and perseverance, both in secular and religious matters. At the time of his death he had been confined six or eight weeks; during a part of this time he was in doubts and tears, owing mainly to the diseased condition of his body. He frequently said, during his last sickness, which he was sure would be unto death, "I am willing to die when, where, and how the Lord pleases." A few days before his death he said to the writer, "I know that Jesus was formed in my soul, the hope of eternal glory, about fifty years ago."
He died on the third day of July, 1850, being in the seventy-second year of his age. His funeral sermon, at his request, was preached by Elder John Purefoy, from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14.
Elder Eli Phillips
Eli Phillips, son of Mark and Runina Phillips, was born during the year 17 -- . When but six years of age, he became seriously impressed with the salvation of his soul, by the religious instructions of his pious mother. He professed conversion while young, and joined the church at Friendship, where his parents were. members, about three years afterward. He often spoke of these three years as lost, and regretted that he did not join the church immediately after his conversion. Soon after his baptism he was appointed a deacon, which office he held until he entered the ministry. His education was limited. He was kind and urbane in his manners.
In 1824 and '25, the Friendship church conducted a flourishing Sabbath school, of which Brother Phillips was chosen superintendent. He opened and closed the sehool by prayer, and often lectured and exhorted the children. The church soon discovered that he had the gift of teaching, and licensed him to preach the gospel. He was ordained to the work of the ministry by Elders A. Lilley and H. Harman, in 1826 or '27. Soon after this he became pastor of the Friendship church, which office he held until his death. During his ministry he served as pastor the following churches: Friendship, Mechanic's Hill, Fall Creek, Brush Creek, Bear Creek, May's Chapel, Sharon, Cross-Roads, Laurel Hill, and Abbott's Creek. He performed a great deal of itinerant service, and was one of the first missionaries sent out by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. His labors were abundantly blessed; many were converted under his ministry; hundreds were baptized by him. Since his death, many have, in relating their experience before the church, dated their conviction to his preaching.
On his return home from a missionary tour in the mountains of North Carolina, he attended a camp-meeting at Lick Creek, in Davidson county. On Sunday he preached from the parable, "The Harvest of the World." Fifteen persons, in relating their experience before the church, dated their conviction to this sermon!
He was for many years Moderator of the Sandy Creek Association, and was generally elected to preach on the Sabbath.
As a husband, he was kind and affectionate; as a father, he united kindness and affection with good discipline, and was dearly beloved by his children. He raised a large family of children, the most of whom have followed their father's example, and embraced the Saviour while young, and are members of the Baptist church. He endured heavy family bereavements. His youngest son died in youth, rejoicing in Christ his Savior; his second daughter, a most lovely Christian, died while he was from home, engaged in preaching. Being sent for,
he rode all night to get home in time to see her buried. A little son and daughter died on the same night, within a few minutes of each other.
Elder Phillips was an advocate of and warm friend to missions, education, and to every other effort that tended to promote the cause of godliness. As pastor, he was always beloved by his churches, which generally were in a prosperous condition.
Elder Phillips fell asleep in Jesus in the fall of 1848, after a protracted sickness of some weeks, which he bore with becoming Christian fortitude and resignation, often expressing a willingness to depart and be with Christ. He was buried in the burying ground at Friendship M.H. As a token of his worth, and the esteem they had for him, the Sandy Creek Baptist Association erected a marble slab at his grave. His beloved companion, who was to him all that a minister's wife should be, soon followed him to the home of eternal reposer May their posterity be precious in the sight of the Lord. May it be his good pleasure to give them abundant admittance into his everlasting rest.
NOTE. -- This Biographical Sketch of Brother Phillips was furnished by Elder N. Richardson.
Elder Hezekiah Hardman
Was born January 16th, A.D. 1763. His father was named Zachariah Harman, who resided near Pittsborough, in Chatham county, and was Sheriff of the county for a number of years. His mother’s name, previous to her marriage, was Rebecca Petty. Hezekiah Harman was a soldier in the revolutionary war before he was of age, and fought in the battle at Cane Creek. He embraced religion in 1798, but did not unite with the church until the great revival in 1802. He was baptized by George Pope and Isaac Hicks, and was ordained to the work of the ministry in the New Hope Mountain Church, by Elders Jesse Buckner and Isaac Hicks, in 1809.
Elder Harman was a man of good intellect, with but little education; he was, however, well read in the Scriptures. His preaching was in the old-fashioned style, and was mainly experimental, typical, and spiritualizing. Few ministers in his day were more ingenious than Elder H. in what is termed spiritualizing a text of Scripture.
Elder H. also preached frequently about the "Types and Shadows" of the Old Testament. He was pastor of a good many churches, and baptized a great many persons. He was a man of piety and usefulness. In 1824, Elder H., who favored missions, while pastor of Bear Creek Church, and acting as its moderator, appointed P. P. Smith and others, to attend at
Sandy Creek Church, for the purpose of consulting about the missionary cause. Elder H. was somewhat eccentric, or rather peculiar in his manners. When on his way to his appointments, and young men would hurry by him, he would sometimes say to them, "Young men, you need not ride so fast, there will be no dancing until the fiddler arrive." When some of his audience seemed to be asleep, and others outside of the house were heard talking, he has been known to say, "Those gentlemen out of doors, will please not talk so loud, or they will wake up those that are asleep in the house."
Elder Harman died on the 29th of March, 1832, from home, while attending his monthly meeting at Bear Creek church. He was taken sick at meeting on Sunday, and went home with George Henry, and died at William Hackney's on the following Friday, being sixty-nine years of age.
Elder John Culpeper
Elder Culpeper was born in Anson county, N. C., in A. D. 1764. His father's name was Samson Culpeper, a man of moderate means. John, his son, was in school only three months. After his marriage and the birth of four of his children, he spent four months in reading Latin. This was all the schooling that he ever received, when young John was about twenty years of age, his father moved to Georgia. Here John soon became acquainted with Elder Silas Mercer. Under his ministry he embraced religion, and was soon afterward baptized by him. He soon began to peach with an earnestness and success that have seldom been exceeded. He soon returned to N. C. and preached in the churches of the Sandy Creek Association, which then reached to Pee Dee river. Extensive revivals accompanied his preaching wherever he went. He continued these labors with undiminished zeal and effect for several years. In the meantime, his popularity became so great, that his misguided friends urged him to become a candidate for Congress, as the only means of preventing the reelection of the then incumbent, who was particularly distasteful to the voters in that part of the district. To this course he unhappily yielded; and most of his after-life was spent in politics. In Congress he obtained a distinguished reputation for consistency, firmness, and disinterested devotion to the interest of his country.
During this time he continued to preach the true doctrines of the gospel, but it was with greatly diminished zeal and success. About ten or twelve years before his death, he retired from political life, and devoted himself to the ministry with considerable zeal and some success, but far short of his earlier labors.
For several years he was agent for the Baptist State Convention of N. C. He was a man of great energy of character, his motto was "wear out, but never rust out."
Previous to the division of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association, Elder Culpeper was, for a number of years, one of the most efficient ministers of the association. Afterward, he was a leading minister in the Pee Dee Association.
In the 76th year of his age, in the strong exercise of an unwavering faith, at the house of his son, Elder John Culpeper, jr., in Darlington District, S.C., Elder Culpeper died; and was buried in the graveyard at Society Hill. At the head of his grave may be seen a plain but nice marble slab, with a suitable inscription. His son, John Culpeper, is now laboring in the ministry, in South Carolina, with zeal and efficiency.
Elder Ralph Freeman
Elder Ralph was a colored man, and at first a slave belonging to a man in Anson county, N. C. Soon after making a profession of religion and being baptized, it was discovered that he had impressions to preach; he was licensed by the church of which he was a member. His owner proposed to sell him, and the brethren bought and gave to him his freedom. Soon after this, he was ordained to the work of the ministry. He travelled and preached a great deal in the counties of Anson, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, and Davidson. Ile became a good reader, and was well read in the Scriptures. He was considered an able preacher, was frequently called upon to preach on funeral occasions, was appointed to preach on Sabbath at the association, and frequently administered the ordinance of baptism and the Lord's Supper. He was of common size, was perfectly black, with smiling countenance, especially in the pulpit while speaking. He was very humble in his appearance at all times, and especially when conducting religions services. Great personal respect was always shown him by the brethren whom he visited in his preaching excursions. Elder Joseph Magee, a Baptist minister, became his warm friend, and travelled and preached with him. Such was their attachment for each other, that they agreed that the surviving one should preach the funeral of the one that died first. Elder Magee moved to the West, and died first. Upon his deathbed, he bequeathed to Ralph his riding horse, overcoat, Bible, and fifty dollars in cash, and requested his family to send for Ralph to come and preach at his funeral. In company with a white brother, Ralph went to the West and preached the funeral sermon from a text the deceased had selected. The brother that went with Ralph stated to Elder N. Richardson that he never before saw so large a congregation. At the conclusion of the sermon, Elder Magee’s brother stated to the congregation what provision his deceased brother had made for Ralph, and added, if any of you would like to give him any amount, it would be thankfully received; the congregation soon made up fifty dollars, which was given to him. While this contribution was being made, a Methodist came up and handed to Ralph one dollar. A Presbyterian, who observed it, said to him,
"You ought not to give Ralph anything." "Why not?" said the Methodist. "Because," said the Presbyterian, "he has torn your system all to pieces." The Methodist replied, "I believe he has preached the truth, and I will give him the dollar."
Ralph was able in illustrating and unfolding the doctrines of grace. Elder N. Richardson (to whom we are indebted for this biographical sketch), has baptized a number of persons who dated their convictions to the preaching of Ralph.
When the anti-mission party was formed, we have been told that Ralph became an anti-missionary.
When the legislature passed the law prohibiting colored men from preaching, Ralph was greatly mortified. and had the sympathy of many brethren. Ralph was, no doubt, a truly pious and humble Christian, he had the confidence and esteem of thousands, and died in the full assurance o a blessed immortality. ============
[Elder George W. Purefoy, A History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association from its Organization in A.D. 1758, to A.D. 1858 — by being an Enlargement of the Centenary Sermon Delivered by him at its one Hundredth Annual Session, at Love's Creek Meeting-house, 1859, 197-221. — jrd]
Baptist History Homepage