Discouraging Condition of the Baptists in Kentucky in 1830-1837 —
Baptist State Convention
If the Baptists of Kentucky were in a most happy and prosperous condition in 1820, they had oscillated to the other extreme, at the beginning of the next decade. Their numbers had been greatly depreciated by the Campbellite schism. They had been kept in a continued state of confusion and irritation for seven years. The spirit of bitterness had almost supplanted the spirit of devotion and piety. A gloomy religious dearth pervaded the whole State; and noxious plants of discord were springing up in all the churches and associations. The seeds of these ill weeds sown years before, began now to yield bitter fruits in ample abundance. During the prevalence of Campbellism in the churches, that heresy had been the all-absorbing topic of discussion. The Baptists who fell not into the ways of Mr. Campbell's teaching, were closely united in opposing it, and in their strong opposition to the new doctrines, their minds were diverted from the diversity of sentiment that existed among themselves, and that had been insensibly intensified during these years of bitterness and strife.
On some points of abstruse doctrine, differences of sentiment existed among the Baptists of Kentucky, from the first settlement of the country. Of as early a date as 1785, Rev. David Rice says: “The Baptists were at this time, pretty numerous and were engaged in some disputes among themselves about abstruse points which I suspect neither party well understood."1 They agreed on terms of General Union, in 1801, and the denomination was nominally united. But the union was
only nominal. The great body of the denomination adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, with certain exceptions, and were Calvinistic in sentiment. A smaller party were inclined more toward Arminian views. The extremes of these parties provoked each other, and the breach between them continually widened. The Hyper-Calvinists began to insist on the doctrines of eternal justification, a limited atonement, and the impropriety of preaching the gospel to sinners. The split between Licking and Elkhorn Associations, and the division of Red River Association have already been noticed. Attention was turned away from these differences, in 1825, by the more exciting contest with Campbellism. In 1830, the Arminian element was sloughed off with the Campbellite faction, and now that the excitement consequent upon the Campbellite infection, was allayed by theexcision of the faction, the old differences among the Baptists were revived. The two parties arrayed against each other at this period were known as Missionaries and Anti-missionaries. The former, which embraced the main body of the denomination, held the doctrinal sentiments of Andrew Fuller, from which circumstance they were, by way of reproach called Fullerites, both by the Campbellites, whom they had excluded, and the Antinomians, who were still among them. They were in favor of missionary operations, Bible distribution and theological education, but were not united as to the proper methods of carrying out their benevolent enterprises. The Anti-missionary party was divided into two factions. One of these, represented by Licking and Red River, and, at a later period, by several other small associations, was decidedly Antinomian, in its doctrines; the other agreed with Fuller on the doctrines of grace, but "opposed all human societies” as mediums for spreading the gospel. The members of this last named faction were popularly distinguished as "Go-Betweens," on account of their being supposed to occupy a middle ground between the Missionaries and the Antinomians. The Antinomian faction was divided on the Two-Seeds doctrine of the notorious Daniel Parker, and subsequently, on the doctrine of the ressurrection.
Had all these antimissionaries been cut off from the denomination at the time the Campbellites were excluded, it would have further diminished the number of Baptists in the State by
about 7,000. But it would have greatly strengthened them in their power of recuperation. But the churches and ministers were weary of strife and division, and were willing to bear much for the sake of peace. Yet, with all the conflicting parties in the churches, it seemed impossible to make any advance. All the intelligent of the denomination saw that the cause of Christ was languishing, that the churches were diminishing in numbers, and still more in piety, intelligence and the enforcement of discipline. They bowed their heads and wept over the waste places of Zion, but their councils were all divided, and they could not arise and repair the breaches. Many were willing to give of their means to aid ministers in building up the weak churches and preaching to the destitute, but the anti-missionaries were not only unwilling to aid any missionary enterprise themselves, or, as they expressed it, help God to do his work, but they made it a breach of fellowship for others to do so. A little incident shall be recorded here to illustrate the proscriptiveness of the anti-missionaries, who were sufficiently numerous in a majority of the churches to intimidate or greatly annoy any member who should attempt to aid in the spread of the gospel.
A Mr. McMurry, who was a member of a Baptist church near Scottsville, Kentucky, gave a dollar to some missionary enterprise. This highly culpable act was soon noised among his brethren. At the next church meeting, a charge was taken up against him for this disorderly conduct, and he was cited to attend the following church meeting to answer the charge. When his case was called at the next meeting, he spoke to the following purport: "Brother Moderator, I have labored very hard with my own hands to accumulate what little of this world's goods I possess. I thought I had obtained it honestly, and had a right to dispose of it in any way that I deemed fit, so that I did not injure my neighbor by it. But it appears that I was mistaken. I wish to do right. If the church claims the right to control my property, I cheerfully submit to her superior wisdom. [Taking a bunch of keys from his pocket]. Here is the key to my corn crib, this one will admit you into my meat house, and this third one unlocks my money drawer. Take them, and dispose of my possessions as you think most to the glory of God." Laying the bunch of keys on the clerk's table,
he resumed his seat. The church did not take possession of his keys, and his wit saved him from exclusion, or a humiliating confession of guilt.
The support of their ministers was generally neglected by the Baptists of Kentucky, as it had been in Virginia and North Carolina, from the first settling of the country, and there was a strong prejudice against preachers having a fixed salary for preaching. But the principle that ministers, who devoted themselves to preaching the gospel, should be supported by the churches they served, was never denied by the early Baptists of Kentucky. And we know that this principle was carried into practical effect at Bryant’s Station, Clear Creek, Forks of Elkhorn and other churches, where some of the pastors received fixed salaries, and others received a reasonable support, even before Kentucky became a State. The origin of the prejudices against salaried, or "hireling preachers" has already been stated, Some of the preachers, themselves, partook of the popular prejudice, and others, it is to be feared, held their peace upon the subject, because they feared to incur popular indignation, and others still, whose ignorance wholly unfitted them for the ministerial office, declaimed against "hireling preachers," as some of the same class still do, solely for the purpose of gaining popularity.
This evil was not so sensibly felt in the early history of the country. The emigration of ministers from the older States, furnished a full supply of preachers, who, in struggling, with intense enthusiasm, for the coveted boon of religious liberty, had acquired the habit of enduring hardships and poverty in preaching the gospel without charge. The people in the new country were illiterate, and it required little more preparation for the pulpit than the acquisition of the simple knowledge of the plan of salvation, good strength of lungs, and a pathetic intonation of voice, with a character of sincerity and piety, to meet their religious wants. These hardy, honest preachers labored or hunted all day, and all the week, and then told the simple story of the Cross, in their own cabins, or those of their neighbors, or, in their rude meeting-houses, on week nights and Sundays; and in this way the people were supplied with the bread of life. But when the country became older, and the people were better educated, it required a better informed ministry. In order
to have this, the ministers must not only have a better mental training, but they must also have time for study, while they are engaged in their holy calling. Living, also, becomes necessarily more expensive, and it requires more of the time and thought of the householder, to provide for the wants of his family. But, unfortunately, the Baptists of Kentucky kept up the early habit of neglecting the support of their ministers, almost entirely. The subjects of theological education and ministerial support began to be discussed with much interest, among them, and it is probable that the Baptists of Kentucky would have made improvements in these important measures at a much earlier period than they did, if it had not been for the potent opposition of Alexander Campbell, who had gained a great influence over them in the manner before related, and who, in 1823, began a most furious attack on theological education and a "hireling clergy," and kept up the disgraceful onslaught, till he was excluded from the fellowship of the Baptists, in 1829.
By this time the illiterate, suspicious and covetous, among the Kentucky Baptists, had all their old prejudices and suspicions aroused and intensified against “hireling preachers.” Georgetown College had been erected, in 1829, by a few noble Christian men, with an especial view to the educating of young ministers. But the same evil influences rendered it almost useless, during the first ten years of its existence. It appeared as if all the powers of darkness had arrayed themselves against the Baptist churches in Kentucky, at this gloomy period, for their utter annihilation. Wise and good men felt that something must be done speedily, or the denomination would fall to pieces of its own discordant weakness, or descend to a contemptible imbecility, that would render it a curse, rather than a blessing to mankind.
In this hour of peril, the ever to be honored Silas M. Noel, whom God seems to have raised up, to be used as his instrument for delivering his people from destruction, in the time of their extremity, took the lead in an enterprise, designed to unite the discordant elements of the fractured and discouraged denomination, and to engage them in the more active and consecrated service of the Master. This design was to bring the ministers and leading members of the churches together in solemn council, when they might devise measures upon which they could
unite in restoring peace and confidence among the churches, and in building the waste places, and extending the borders of Zion.
As early as 1813, Dr. Noel proposed to the Baptists of Kentucky a plan for forming a "General Meeting of Correspondence," in which ministers and other members of the churches should meet together from all parts of the State, at least once a year; for the purpose of consulting together, as to the best means of of advancing the Redeemer's Kingdom. The proposal was made through the first number of the Gospel Herald, edited by Mr. Noel, and issued in August of that year. The subject was taken up by Elkhorn Association, and deferred to the next meeting of that body, that the churches might have time to consider it. The Association took up the subject again, in 1814, and, after discussion, rejected the proposition. The subject seems not to have been agitated again, till 1827, when it was proposed, through the columns of the Baptist Recorder, edited by Spencer Clack and George Waller. John S. Wilson favored the movement, at this time. But the great excitement on the subject of the Campbellistic heresy, interposed an insuperable barrier to carrying it into effect, at that time.
In 1831, the subject of a "General Meeting" was revived. But now, a new difficulty appeared. It was manifest that such a meeting, or convention, in order to effect the ends proposed, must be a Representative body, But for such a body there was no constituency. It would not do to depend on the churches and associations to represent themselves in a convention in their present demoralized condition. The missionary societies, that had so warmly and liberally supported foreign and domestic missions, before the Christian Baptist "stopped" their operations, had been dissolved, The first thing to be done in the new enterprise, therefore, was to form a constituency for a convention.
Dr. Noel published a call for a meeting of the friends of the enterprise, to be held in Frankfort, on the 11th of December, 1831. The personal influence of Dr. Noel, if no higher a motive, brought together a large assembly. By the request of the meeting, S.M. Noel delivered a discourse, on the necessity of a common effort among the friends of religion, to send the
gospel speedily and statedly to all the destitute places within the limits of this State, from the TEXT, "Let us rise up and build." Nehemiah 2:18.
In the afternoon, a society was formed of 153 members, under the style of the "Frankfort Association, auxiliary to the Kentucky Baptist Convention (expected to be instituted)." The association issued an "Address to the Baptists of Kentucky," setting forth the objects of the proposed convention, and urging them to form similar associations as speedily as practicable. The following preamble and resolution was passed: "Whereas, we consider it all important to the interest and well being of the Baptist denomination in Kentucky, that a common effort be made to supply the destitute churches and waste places with evangelical preaching, at stated intervals; and to ascertain our strength in regard to churches, ministers and associations, with our annual increase or decrease, to be published for the use of all; and to strengthen our hands, by promoting a better acquaintance among churches and ministers; and to give to each and every church, according to her necessities, thebenefit of such gifts as have been bestowed upon us, by encouraging a system of traveling preaching, in addition to our present plan: Therefore, Resolved, That we invite our brethren and friends throughout the State to co-operate with us by forming similar associations, and to meet by their representatives, in a State convention, that some plan or system may be devised and adopted, to effect the purposes and objects above stated."
Two other associations having been formed, a call was made for a meeting of representatives from the three associations and such churches as might choose to represent themselves.
The meeting was held at Bardstown, commencing March 29, 1832, and continued three days. The following is a list of the organizations represented, together with the names of their representatives:
Frankfort Association — Silas M. Noel, George Blackburn, James Shannon, Henry Wingate, George Woods, George Ramsay.
Little Union Church, Spencer county — Aaron Bridges.
Green River Church, [now Lonoke] Hart county — Albert G. Maxey.
2d. Church, Louisville — J. B. Smith.
Georgetown Association — J. S. Bacon, U. B. Chambers, G. W. Eaton, Wm. F. Nelson, P. J. Burrus, John Bryce.
Cox's Creek Church, Nelson county — Isaac Taylor, Joshua Hobbs, Abner King.
Lexington Association — R. T. Dillard, F. F. Sieg, H. C. Thompson.
Salem Church, Bardstown — Samuel Carpenter, A. Graham, George Penny, Henry Gore.
Zoar Church — James E. Duvall, J. S. Eaton.
1st Church, Louisville — Silas T. Toncray, John Delph, Thomas Parrent.
Mill Creek Church, Nelson county — Thomas Linthicum, Thomas Lewis. Bloomfield Church, Spencer county — James Porter, William Davis, S. Clack.
In addition to these, the following ministers, being present, were invited to seats: George Waller, David Thurman, Jacob Lock, Joshua Morris, William M. Brown, and perhaps some others. The whole number of delegates was 34. Silas M. Noel was elected moderator, and Henry Wingate clerk. The meeting adopted the following:
CONSTITUTION OF THE KENTUCKY BAPTIST STATE CONVENTION. ART. 1. This convention shall be known by the name of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
2. It shall be composed of those, and those only, who belong to or are in correspondence with the General Union of Baptists in Kentucky.
3. Any church, auxiliary society or association belonging to the Baptist connection, shall be entitled to three representatives qualified as in Article 2.
4. The representatives of the churches, societies and associations, when assembled in convention, shall have no ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the churches or associations, nor act even as an advisory council in cases of difficulty between churches; nor shall they interfere with the constitution of any church or association, nor with the articles of general union.
5. The convention, when met, shall elect a moderator, three corresponding secretaries, clerk, treasurer, and as many
other members as the convention may, from time to time, think necessary; who, together with said officers, shall be an executive board; a majority may constitute a quorum for business. During the recess of the convention, its business shall be transacted by the executive committee, who shall have power to fill vacancies in their own body, and shall submit a report of their proceedings to each annual meeting.
6. The convention shall, annually, collect and publish a statistical account of the churches and associations in this State, devise and execute plans for supplying destitute churches and neighborhoods with the gospel of Christ, and have the power to disburse monies, contributed by the churches and associations, in the manner specified by the contributors, provided special instructions are sent.
7. All monies contributed by the churches, associations and others to aid traveling preachers and to advance the benevolent views and objects of the convention, generally, shall be specifically appropriated to those purposes.
8. The convention shall send forth men of tried integrity and usefulness to preach the gospel.
The two only remaining articles relate to the time and place of meeting, and the amending of the constitution. A brief circular letter was appended to theminutes of the Convention, explaining the objects of the institution, as set forth in the constitution. The sum of $190.68 3/4 was placed at the disposal of the convention, and, after passing some unimportant resolutions, it adjourned to meet at New Castle the following October.
The only important business transacted at the "adjourned meeting" at New Castle was the adoption of Rules of Decorum and the report of a special committee that had been charged with the duty of establishing a weekly newspaper, as the organ of the convention. This duty had been discharged by the establishment of the Cross and Baptist Banner, the first Baptist weekly that was published in Kentucky. The first number had been issued previous to this Meeting of the Convention. Uriel B. Chambers was its editor, and assumed all the pecuniary responsibility of its publication, taking the profits of the paper as a compensation for his labors.
The first annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist convention
was held at Lexington, beginning May 25, 1833. George Waller preached the introductory sermon. There were present 26 delegates, representing 10 auxiliary associations and 3 churches. The report of the executive committee was encouraging. Forty commissions had been issued, ten of which had been accepted by the missionaries. Ninety weeks of missionary labor had been performed, and between 400 and 500 had been baptized. The receipts of the committee, during the year, amounted to $595.52 1/2, which was overdrawn by the missionaries, leaving a small indebtedness on the committee.
The second annual meeting of the convention began in Louisville, October 18, 1834. Alfred Bennett of New York preached the introductory sermon. Only 15 delegates were present. Only three churches were represented, the other twelve delegates being from auxiliary associations. The report of the executive committee was gloomy and discouraging. They lament the death, from cholera, of David Thurman, Herbert Waggener, James H. L. Moorman and David Kelly, all friends of the convention, and the last two, in its employ, as missionaries, at the time of their death. The Treasurer's report showed the receipts for the year to have been only $339.17 1/2. It was sufficiently manifest, that the convention, which was unpopular from the beginning, was constantly becoming more so. The friends of the organization made strenuous efforts to sustain it. But their efforts were in vain. It was manifestly falling to pieces. Some of the district associations passed resolutions against it, while others were silent on the subject. A new paper, called the Baptist Banner, was started in Shelbyville, edited by J. S. Wilson, M.D., and issued semi-monthly as a rival of, if not in opposition to, “the Cross and Baptist Weekly Journal,” the organ of the convention.
An adjourned meeting of the convention was herd at Frankfort in January, 1835. John S. Wilson preached the introductory sermon. Ten ministers and seven delegates were present. It appears from the wording of the minutes, that the preachers present were not delegates. The finances of the convention were less satisfactory than at the previous meeting. For the purpose of enabling the Executive Committee to employ more missionary labor, a call for $1,000 to be raised by $10 subscriptions, had been made through the papers. The convention
endorsed the call by a resolution, and $140 of the amount was subscribed, before the convention adjourned. A committee to devise a more efficient plan of itinerant preaching, appointed at the previous meeting of the convention, and consisting of John S. Wilson, George Waller, U. B. Chambers, John Scott, Silas M. Noel, and Samuel Haycraft, now made a lengthy report, in which they lay down seven propositions, or principles. The first four, they aver had been received by the churches. The remaining three, they attempt to sustain by copious quotations from the scriptures. The four conceded propositions are as follows:
First, That the church is the only, and consequently, the highest ecclesiastical authority and government delegated to men by Jesus Christ, the King of saints.
Second, That all other associations or councils, are not only subordinate to the authority of the churches, but can act in no other capacity than to advise or help them in doing good.
Third, That this advice or help, has been long found highly important; for concert or united strength, has accomplished, by the blessing of God, a thousand-fold more, in the triumphs of the Redeemer’s Kingdom than could have been done without it.
Fourth, The special call by the Holy Spirit of God to the work of the ministry; and by the voice of God in the church, the consecrating and sending forth of such men to the great work. An attempt is made to sustain the following propositions, by scripture quotations:
1st. That it is the duty of the church to support the ministry.
2d. That the call to the ministry includes all the time and talents of the person called.
3d. That [there is] subordination and coincidence in the arrangements for systematic labor."
It is difficult to determine exactly what ideas are intended to be conveyed by the language of this third proposition. Indeed, it seems to be the purpose of the writer, as if conscious that he was treading on dangerous ground, to advance very cautiously. The scripture texts he quotes to support the proposition, would indicate that he was attempting to support the Episcopal
theory of ministerial co-operation. And the following sentence, with which he closes his argument, still further confirms his readers in the belief that he is advocating English Episcopacy: "Either by office, or by common consent, we see, some one fill the place of Helper, to all the other ministers, as to their arrangements for combined and efficient labors; and, although we have now no living Apostles, yet the principle they acted on must be as necessary now, as then." We cannot avoid the conclusion, that the term Helper is but another name for Apostle, or, in Episcopal parlance, Bishop, and we are still more fully convinced of this, when we examine the plan of ministerial co-operation, deduced from the above seven propositions, or, rather from the last of the seven. The following is the plan recommended by the committee, and adopted by the convention:
"Let the State be divided, so as to make an Eastern, a Middle, and a Western division. . . . . . . Let the convention now, and at each Annual Meeting hereafter, elect, without nomination, by private ballot, one brother for each division; who, in point of 'holiness, wisdom, zeal, and Christian influence' in the ministry, shall, by each voter, be thought best qualified to 'help' all the ministers and churches in his division; who shall be denominated the Helping Evangelist in the -- division of Kentucky. His duty to consist in giving himself 'wholly' to the work; visiting every United Baptist minister in his division (if possible) at his own house; and by patient continuance in conversation and explanation, help him to engage, in addition to his pastoral duties (if any), with right views and feelings, in the field of evangelical labor; consulting with him as to his wants for himself and family, his means of support, his income (if any) from the brethren, what difficulties are left, his prospects of doing good, etc., etc. And if advisable, on condition of his devotion to the work as agreed on, and making full report thereof to the Helping Evangelist, he, in behalf of the convention, is to engage to supply those deficiencies, and make a faithful record of the whole agreement in a book. Feeling at liberty to vary the stipulation in each case, to suit each minister’s peculiar circumstances; always having an eye to the great principle of "economy, self-denial and humility," so essential to please God and beprofitable to men;
all which "to be binding in the convention." "Consult, also, and assist in determining the field of labor, make arrangements for great meetings of several days continuance, and if possible to attend the most of them."
Some other particulars are given as to the manner of carrying out the minutia of this utopian scheme, but they are not necessary to a correct understanding of the plan. How such men as composed this committee could make such a report, or how a Baptist convention could adopt it, must remain one of those knotty questions, with which the phantasms of the human mind is constantly puzzling us.
After the adoption of the Report, the Convention proceeded to elect W. C. Buck, Helping Evangelist for the Eastern division, George Waller for the Middle division, and W. C. Warfield for the Western division, We are curious to know how these Apostles or Bishops succeeded in guiding the labors, and supplying the wants of "all the united Baptist preachers" within the bounds of their respective dioceases, without the aid of civil government, or access to the public treasury, But we shall probably never have our curiosity gratified. The Convention, very properly, dissolved soon after this extraordinary transaction. If it ever published the minutes of another meeting, we have not been able to hear of them. This last line of policy, these noble men of God adopted, appears to us a great blunder, and it proved fatal to the already tottering Convention. Yet, they were men of wisdom, prudence, and undoubted piety, and probably made fewer mistakes than would we, under similar circumstances. They doubtless saw their blunders, when it was too late to prevent their evil effects, and were compelled to abandon their cherished Convention. But the cause of Christ was as dear to them as ever, and its wants were as palpable. The Convention had accomplished some good. The attention of the churches had been called to the critical condition of the denomination. The great loss of numbers, sustained by the recent schism, was partially estimated. The need of discipline in the discordant churches, had been pointed out. The great destitution of preaching, in large areas of the country, had been made manifest. The Antinomian spirit, and its ruinous tendencies, existing in a majority of the churches, had been forced on the minds of the more intelligent. And,
above all, the weakness and inefficiency of the ministry, in the existing state of affairs, had been made painfully palpable. "Something must be done," said Dr. Noel, before the Convention was organized. And now that it had failed to accomplish the "something" needed, and had been dissolved, the same eminent servant of God, and many of his godly compeers were repeating, -- "something must be done." No isolated efforts that could be made, could succeed in restoring harmony and prosperity to the denomination. There must be simultaneous effort, and in the spirit of union and mutual confidence and sympathy, asnearly all over the State as possible, before the desired ends could be attained. A few undaunted spirits, whose names shall be recorded on a subsequent page, determined to make an effort to establish a General Meeting among the Baptists of Kentucky. God helped them, and they succeeded. But before giving, a history of that event, we may give a brief review of the condition and wants of the denomination, at that period.
The doctrinal differences, the division of sentiment on the subject of missions and ministerial education, and the opposition to the support of the ministry, which pervaded every association, and almost every church in the State, have already been alluded to; but the results of these evils will constitute a large part of the history of the Baptists of Kentucky, during the decade of which we now write, as well as that which follows it. The doctrinal differences and the opposition to a "hireling ministry" were brought to Kentucky by the first Baptists that settled on its soil, and were fostered and strengthened by mistaken, or designing men, from that time to the period of which we write, and had now become most destructive evils. But opposition to missions was of a recent origin, It has been shown that the early Baptists of Kentucky, as well as those of the mother State, were most active and zealous home missionaries, and they became liberal and enthusiastic supporters of foreign missions, as soon as an opportunity was afforded them. Previous to the year 1815, "not the first syllable was uttered against the expediency or scripturalty of missionary operations. The records of all the important associations in the State, attest the truth of this declaration. Indeed, the mother and model association of all those in the West, the Philadelphia Association, that sanctioned and advocated what is termed the Philadelphia
Baptist Confession of Faith, was then a domestic and foreign missionary body, and is such still. Opposition to the spread of the gospel being “unknown; all were unitedly engaged in whatever tended to advance the glory of the name and the greatness of the kingdom of the Redeemer. Whatever else might occasion schisms and controversies, none manifested a recreant spirit in coming up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Upon this subject, our denomination presented are undivided front."2
"The Anti-missionary spirit owes its origin to the notorious Daniel Parker. He was the first person, called a Baptist, that lent a hand to the Infidel and Papist in opposing the proclamation of the gospel to every creature, and the translation and circulation of the Scriptures in all languages and among all people.3 " John Taylor, it will be remembered, seconded Mr. Parker in opposing missions, and they won over to their views several ministers of less influence.But by far the most potent opposer of missions, was Alexander Campbell. With learning, popularity and a fertile pen, he exerted his whole force against missions, during a period of more than eight years, while he remained among the Baptists. The immediate effects of his writings, in dividing the associations in North Carolina, and "well nigh stopping" the contributions to missions in Kentucky, have already been noticed. The leaven continued to spread in the Kentucky churches, till the contributing to the spread of the gospel, or the circulating of the Bible, was made a breach of Christian fellowship to such an extent that the friends of benevolent societies regarded themselves fortunate if they could effect a compromise in the churches and associations on the terms, "That giving, or not giving, shall be no bar to fellowship." This sentence is still to be found in many old church books, and associational records. But many churches were not so highly favored: for not a few pious brethren, including some valuable preachers, were excluded from their churches for contributing to, or advocating the claims of, missions. This state of affairs prevailed extensively among the Baptists of Kentucky, from 1830, to 1840. The opposition to missions and "paying preachers" was so strong, that very few preachers had
the courage to attempt to resist the popular current. It was during this period that the pious and eloquent William Warder is reported to have said, in a Sunday sermon, or rather prefatory to his sermon, preached during a stormy session of one of our large associations: "Brethren, this cause [of missions] demands the sacrifice of a preacher. It might as well be I as any other. To-day I lay myself on the altar." He then proceeded to preach a most powerful sermon on missions, the influence of which lives in Bethel Association till this day.
The greatest need of the Kentucky Baptists, at this period, was more and better preaching. This could not be obtained without affording a temporal support to the ministry. There were, in Kentucky, in 1835, according to the official statistics, published in the minutes of the associations, about 598 churches, aggregating 39,809 members. The number of ministers was estimated, by Elder Wm. C. Buck, at 200, which appears to be too small. There were probably at least 250, of whom, however, a large proportion were illy qualified to fill the pastoral office, or preach the gospel very effectively, even if they had been liberated to give their whole time to the work of the ministry. But when they were forced to labor six days in the week to support their families, their efforts to preach could not be acceptable even to the ignorant and illiterate. The Baptist ministry in Kentucky was probably weaker in comparison with the intelligence of the people, than at any previous or subsequent period. The pioneer preachers had all passed away or become superannuated, Vardeman and Clack had moved to Missouri, Hodgen and Thurman were dead, both the Warders died in 1836, and were followed by Noel in 1839. John S. Wilson hadalso gone to his reward in 1835, and a number of less distinguished, but eminently useful ministers, had been called away by cholera, and otherwise, between 1831 and 1835. Very few ministers of any considerable prominence, remained to fight the great Battle of the Baptist denomination, in 1835-40, with the enemies that environed it.
The great disparity between the number of effective preachers and the number of churches, would have rendered it impossible to supply the latter, adequately with the ministry of theword, if the former had been able to give all their time to their holy calling, to say nothing of the wide fields "white unto the
harvest," in which no churches had been gathered. But the preachers, without a half dozen exceptions, were forced to provide for their temporal necessities by means of some secular employment. William C. Buck, who probably understood the condition of the Baptists in Kentucky better than any other man in the State, says of their condition, in 1835:
"The preachers had to engage in some secular employments for support, and preach when they could; so that there was not one settled pastor in Kentucky, nor one minister supported, and not one pastoral laborer, except in the Louisville church. A very few churches had preaching twice a month. Once a month was thought to be the rule of perfection, and beyond this, few aspired, while a large portion were entirely destitute. Yet, if you would attend one of those monthly Sabbath meetings, you would see from one to half a dozen ordained and licensed preachers assembled to avail themselves of the stated preacher’s popularity, in calling out an assembly, in order to show their talent in preaching . . . while all the country for miles around was left in entire destitution. Not more than a third of the ministry were employed, taking one Sabbath with another, the year round."4
This state of affairs had a bad effect on the preachers themselves, in many respects. They had no time to study. Often did the preacher plow with the only horse he possessed, five days in the week, and Saturday morning till 10 o'clock, then ride the jaded animal to meeting, enter the pulpit, physically, and mentally wearied and worried, and attempt to preach to the people assembled, without having spent one hour in preparing for the solemn duty. The author remembers distinctly to have heard a preacher, who was "pastor of four churches," say that he was a poor man, had a large family, and was compelled to work so hard that he did not have an opportunity to read a chapter in his Bible once in two months. The sermons delivered under such circumstances could only be made up of such things as could most readily be called to mind, on the occasion, and too often consisted in an oft repeated tirade against Arminianism, missionary and Bible societies, Sunday schools and educated preachers, and that, too, spoken in a tone and manner, indicating
contempt and derision, rather than spiritual unction.
The preacher engaged in a secular calling, at first, from necessity, is liable, at last, to continue in it from choice, to become worldly minded and covetous, or ambitious to excel his neighbor in money making, and finally to preach only when it is convenient. He is also liable to have contentions in his business transactions, bring suspicions on his moral integrity, and thereby impair his religious and ministerial influence. With the loss of an acute sense of duty to preach the gospel, he loses his zeal for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. The task of preaching becomes irksome, his ministrations become dull and wearisome to his audience, and he loses his popularity. This further depresses his spirit, arouses his jealousy against his more popular brethren in the ministry, and probably sours his temper permanently.
Another evil effect of a preacher's being forced to follow a secular calling for his support is, that, in excusing himself for giving only a small portion of his time to the ministry, for want of opportunity to preach oftner, he gradually acquires the feel ing, and finally the settled conviction that a small proportion of his time is all that he owes to his sacred calling. Theodrick Boulware, a preacher of more than ordinary ability, who labored some years in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, and, in 1826, moved to Missouri, says with manifest satisfaction: "I now determined to devote not less than three months in each year to the ministry, which I have regularly done, and frequently four months, for twenty-six years." This was, no doubt, more than many of his brother ministers had done. But it was a delusion, to be satisfied with it; for, after all, it was only discharging from one-fourth to one-third of his duty, if God had called him to the ministry. But his case well illustrates the danger to which a secularized ministry is exposed, at this point.
With a ministry so diminutive in numbers, so hampered by worldly engagements, having such meager qualifications for their high calling at best, and those qualifications so much depreciated by secular employment, and their ministerial labors restricted to one fourth of their time, the hopelessness of supplying more than one-eighth of the demand for the bread of life, was easy to be seen and felt, Yet there were many obstacles
in the way of applying the only apparent remedy — the engaging of the ministers in the work all their time.
The greatest obstacle was in the ministers themselves. They had been educated in the popular prejudice against a salaried ministry, and many of them were conscientously opposed to receiving a stipulated sum for preaching. It appeared to them like being hired to serve God, and was, therefore, little less than blasphemy. If they could have been convinced to the contrary, they had so often declaimed against “hireling preachers,” that it would have been difficult for them to preach in favor of paying preachers. Then, weak and ignorant men, who had been ordained to the ministry, and were desirous to become pastors, either for their own agrandizement, or from a mistaken estimate of their own abilities to fill the position, would have taken advantage of the apparently selfish change of views of their more popular rivals for pastoral dignities, to bring them into disrepute, that they might occupy the pulpits thus made vacant. The following circumstance, which is vouched for as an actual occurence, will illustrate this difficulty.
Elder H. had been pastor of a certain church several years, and was beginning to lose his popularity. The church seemed to be directing her mind to Elder P., as a suitable successor of their present pastor. He discovered this, and soon fell upon a plan to avert the threatened loss of his place. He sought an early interview with his more popular rival, told him that the church was not giving anything to supply his necessities, and ended by inviting P. to come and preach to his people on the subject of their duty to supply the temporal necessities of their pastor. Sympathizing with his brother, P. went and preached according to the request. As soon as he was gone, H. said to his people: "I have been telling you that these popular preachers were only preaching for money, and now you see for yourselves that it is true. The very first sermon this man preached to you was about money."
The deep rooted prejudice of the whole mass of the people against "hired preachers," had a strong tendency to close the lips of such ministers as were convinced of the importance of supporting the ministry. A preacher who should demand a support from his flock, would not only lose his place, but raise suspicions against the purity of his motives, and thereby destroy
his influence over the masses of the people, both in and out of the churches. Nothing but a revolution of the popular sentiment on this subject would accomplish the important end, and there were few, indeed, who had the courage to lead off in an attempt to accomplish a work so difficult, and dangerous to character and influence. It was known, too, that a large majority of the preachers would side with the populace, or prudently take a neutral position, till they should see how the contest would be decided.
Still another feature of the times greatly lessened the amount of effective ministerial labor that might have been performed. The character of much of the preaching was deficient in all the elements of success. This was not so much on account of the want of ability on the part of the preachers, as it was owing to the subject matter of their discourses. The doctrinal differences, already alluded to, kept the preachers in a perpetual warfare among themselves. Instead of preaching Christ to dying sinners, and warning every man to repent, the preachers of either party exhausted their strength in attempting to establish their own peculiar views, and endeavoring to refute the supposed errors of the opposite party. The reader will probably remember the anecdote of David Thurman, who, having become discouraged in one of his pastorates, was lamenting his want of success in a church meeting, when the aged widow of John LaRue, pointing her finger at him and looking him steadily in the face, said: "I'll tell you what is the matter Brother Thurman, stop preaching John Calvin and James Arminius, and preach Jesus Christ." Taking her advice, he immediately read the text, "I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," and preached a melting sermon. A great revival immediately ensued. Happy would it have been for the Baptists had every church had such a sister as Mrs. LaRue, and such a pastor as David Thurman. But the popular taste had become so perverted that the people, generally, who attended Baptist preaching, were satisfied with nothing but this guerrilla warfare. This wrangling and confusion continued several years longer, when the anti-missionary faction sloughed off, and peace was restored to the denomination.
While the Baptists were paralyzed by their recent contest with Campbellism, the prostration of their college, the strangulation
of their missions, and the comparative failure of their Convention, discouraged by the paucity and feebleness of their ministry, and their efforts to recuperate were neutralized by internal factions, the Methodists, who were now about equal to the Baptists [less the anti-mission faction] in numbers, were harmonious and full of zeal, and had all their ministerial force effectively employed. The Presbyterians were having a quarrel between the old and new school parties, while the Cumberland Presbyterians were in the zenith of their strength, and were prosecuting their labors with an able and harmonious ministry. The Campbellites and Newlights had united in one body, and were laboring with a zeal and enthusiasm that scarcely knew any bounds, with the confident expectation of bringing the whole christian world under their latitudinarian banner, and ushering in the Millennium in an incredibly short time. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may the Baptists say; if it had not been the Lord who was on our side: then had they swallowed us up quickly.
This was truly a dark hour to the Baptists of Kentucky. The watchman who stood on the wall of Sion, at the beginning of the year 1837, saw no dawn of the coming morning. He trode his beat, beneath the starless sky, walking by faith and not by sight, chilled by the bitter cold, and sighing oft, because the light delayed so long; yet hoping still; for. He had promised, who can ne'er deceive. Tears trickled down his furrowed cheeks, seen but by Him to whom "the darkness and the light are both alike," as he murmured, low, with choking sobs: "He that cometh shall not tarry long." And as he turned to face the chambers of the Morn, he cheer'd his aching heart with words, repeated o'er and o'er: -- "Sorrow continues for the night; but joy, in the morning, comes." He waited, watched, and often prayed; but, waiting, watching, praying, never ceased to answer back, to all who called: "The morning cometh -- quick repair the breach. The lab'rers call to work -- let not the idler stand. The fields are broad and white, the lab'rers few. Pray ye the Lord to send them forth. And lo the harvest yield shall be, in quantity, as copious rain, and all the lab'rers shall rejoice with songs." ____________________
1 Bishop's Memoir's of Rice, p. 70. 2 Minutes of the General Association, 1837, p. 8. 3 Ibid, p. 11. 4 Western Recorder of November 13, 1879.
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984.]
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