Benevolent Societies Through Which Baptist Operated -- Transactions Between 1840 and 1850
At the beginning of the period now to be considered, extending from 1840, to 1850, the Baptists of Kentucky were in a better condition, in almost every respect, than they had been since the beginning of the Cambellite schism. Their schools and benevolent societies were in a better condition than ever before; they were in the midst of a great religious revival, which had been in progress for more than three years, and had pervaded almost every corner and nook of the State, while immense numbers of happy converts had been added to the churches, and many new churches had been formed; the denomination had been freed, in a great measure, from the Antinomian leaven, and the process of excising the more temperate, yet very annoying anti-missionary faction, was well advanced.
The Anti-missionaries, however, both those who still clung to the skirts of the churches, and those who had gone "out from us because they were not of us," continued to be a source of embarrassment to all the benevolent operations of the denomination. They still bore the name of Baptists, to which they had prefixed such prenonyms’ as "Old," "Old School," "Primitive," "Predestination," "Original." "Particular," "Regular," and, in one small association, at least, "Anti-missionary." They continued to mingle with their former brethren, in the social circle, and, in every way, to exert the full measure of their influence againt every form of systematic benevolence. Most of their sermons were, in part, at least, bitter or ludicrous satires against missions, Sunday-schools, Bible societies, Colleges, Prortacted Meetings and "larned" preachers. Elder M. F. Ham, of Scottsville, Ky., repeated to the author, some years ago, the substance or a sermon he heard an Antinomian preacher
deliver from the following misquoted text: "That there should be no schemes in the body." 1 Corinthians 12:25. With great vehemence he proceeded to denounce, one after another, the Missionary scheme, the Bible Society scheme, the Sunday school scheme, and all other benevolent schemes, the names of which he could call to mind, "clinching" each paragraph with a thundering repetition of the text: "That there should be no schemes in the body." The preaching of such men, however absurd it may appear to the thoughtful, harmonizing as it did with covetousness, one of the strongest passions of corrupt human nature, could not fail to exert a strong influence against missions, among the masses of the illiterate. Dr. James A. Kirtley thus speaks of the manner in which they influenced the thoughtless, against truth and benevolence: "The annual gatherings of this little body [Salem Association of Antinomian Baptists,] and some of the occasional meetings of their churches, were the stated seasons for the coming together of their preachers from North, South, East and West, who seemed to think that the highest aim of their calling was, by vulgar wit and ludicrous anecdotes, to hold up to derision and contempt those to whom they applied the epithets 'Arminian,' 'Soft-shell,' and the like; while educated ministers, missionaries, Bible societies, etc., came in for a full share of their denunciation."1
At the period of which we write, the separation between the missionaries and anti-missionaries was not completed, and the preaching described above, contrasted strongly with that heard in protracted meetings. It could not be expected that people with such different religious views, feelings and modes of worship, would long remain together in the same churches and associations. It was but natural that the division should go on, until the two peoples should be separated in ecclesiastical relationship, as they were already divided in doctrine and practice. Goshen, South Concord and Stockstons Valley associations split in 1842; the first throwing off a small fragment of anti-missionaries, and the last two setting off each a feeble band of missionaries. This about completed the division. When the statistics of Kentucky Baptists, for 1843, were collected, there
was a general surprise. All the anti-missionaries, of which there were at least three different sects, embraced 17 associations, 204 churches, 82 ordained ministers and 7,877 members, of which 476 had been baptized the last year, while the missionary Baptists numbered 39 associations, 625 churches, 59,302 members, of which 7,271 had been baptized during the last year.2 The anti missionary schismatics had set up the claim, that they were the original Baptist denomination in Kentucky, and had asserted it so loud, and have continued to assert it so long, that they have not only deceived many others, on that subject, but have actually deceived themselves. Happily the records of the doings of these stormy days have been well preserved, and the impartial historian of to-day need have but little difficulty in setting forth the facts in the case.
During the long continued revival, the hearts of God's people were continually enlarged, and their zeal for every good work was greatly increased. As they feasted on the bread that cometh down from God, they yearned continually, more and more, for the same inestimable blessings to be bestowed upon all their suffering race, but especially did they long to see every dark corner of Kentucky penetrated by the glorious light of the gospel of God. To this end, they now directed their most earnest labors. The ever to be remembered William C. Buck canvassed a large district of the State, for the especial purpose of instructing and exhorting the churches to support their pastors. D.S. Colgan was engaged in the same work, in other portions of the State; many of the associations had missionaries in their own bounds, holding protracted meetings, and visiting destitute neighborhoods. John L. Waller, first, and William C. Buck, afterwards, were urging upon the ministers and churches, through the columns of the Baptist Banner, the great importance of missionary labor in the home field, and private church members were going from house to house, holding prayer meetings, and exhorting the people to repent and turn to the Lord. So deep and wide spread a religious zeal, and so glorious a display of divine power and grace have visited Kentucky since its settlement on but one other occasion.
No wonder the revival continued long, and with most
glorious results. Indeed, it has not been succeeded by a lengthy religious dirth, even to the present time. And the growth of the denomination has been much more constant and regular, in Kentucky, since that period, than before. But much as the churches and ministers enjoyed, and were engaged in, home missions and the revival which was so intimately connected with them, they did not neglect other enterprises for promoting the glory of God. A brief reference to the societies through which they operated, will be in place here.
THE CHINA MISSION ASSOCIATION, at first called the "Roberts Fund and China Mission Association," of which a brief account is given in the preceeding chapter, was intended as a medium for the foreign mission operations of the Western States. But its board was located in Louisville, and it received its chief support from Kentucky. It employed one missionary to China, Issachar J. Roberts, with whom it communicated directly through its own board. For a time, it published at Louisville, a monthly magazine, called the Chinese Advocate. In 1840, it became auxiliary to the American Board of Foreign Missions located at Boston. In 1843, it again changed its name to that of the CHINA MISSION SOCIETY OF KENTUCKY. In 1845, it withdrew its auxiliaryship from the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, and became virtually, though not formally, auxiliary to the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, located at Richmond, Virginia. In 1848, it again changed its name, and was henceforth known as the KENTUCKY FOREIGN MISSION SOCIETY. Under this style it continued to operate, till 1851, when, the Foreign Mission Board at Richmond, having been entrusted with the management of all the Foreign Missions of the Southern States, it was dissolved. This society, did a good work. Its average receipts, from its organization to its dissolution, was probably about $1,000 a year. It supported I. J. Roberts and his several native assistants in China, during its entire existence.
THE INDIAN MISSION ASSOCIATION, was designed to embrace in its organization, the friends of the Red Men, throughout the Mississippi Valley; but Kentucky Baptists were more active and conspicuous in promoting its objects, than were those of any other State, The Baptists of Kentucky had taken a deep interest in the conversion of the Indians, from soon after
the first settlements in the State. As early as 1801, they took active measures to send the gospel to the Red Men in the Western territories, and as often as opportunity had been afforded they had exhibited ready zeal and liberality in contributing to Indian Missions. The resolutions calling for a convention to organize the Indian Mission Association, were passed at a meeting of the Western Baptist Publication Society, in Louisville. The convention met in Cincinnati, October 27, 1842, and, on that and the two days following, the association was constituted. The board was located at Louisville. Isaac McCoy, whose home was in Louisville, was immediately chosen corresponding secretary, and continued to act in that capacity until his death. The Kentucky Baptists expressed their interest in this association, by adopting the following preamble and resolution, during the session of their General Association which met in Georgetown, October, 1843:
“Whereas, in view of injuries which the Indian tribes have sustained in consequence of the settlement of white men in their country, they have a stronger claim upon American christians than other nations who have not been thus injured, and whereas very favorable openings for doing them good present themselves, therefore,
"Resolved, That the information afforded this Association of the success and future prospects of the Indian Mission Association is especially cheering, and calls for devout praise to God; and that we hail the indications of divine Providence in favor of that society as a pledge that the wilderness shall soon be made to flourish as the garden of God; and we earnestly commend it to the favor of the churches, and the blessing of the God of Missions."
Similar resolutions were passed by the same body the next year. The Indian Advocate, a monthly journal was published at Louisville in the interest of the Indian Mission Association. The society enjoyed a high degree of popularity, till the death of its zealous and laborious corresponding secretary, which occurred June 21, 1846. After this, it declined in efficiency, and was dissolved about 1850.
This Association was organized, chiefly through the influence of Isaac McCoy, one of the most zealous and devoted philanthropists that have lived and died in Kentucky. This self-sacrificing
Christian minister, and devoted missionary,deserves to be "held in everlasting remembrance," especially by all the friends of the American Indians.
ISAAC MCCOY was a son of WILLIAM McCoy, one of the pioneer Baptist preachers of Kentucky. The latter was either a native of Pennsylvania, where he was raised, or was born in Ireland, from whence his father emigrated to America. He moved from Pennsylvania to North Bend, Ohio, in the year 1789 or 1790. On account of Indian hostilities, he remained there only a few months, when he removed to Kentucky, and settled near the Ohio river, in Jefferson county, about seventeen miles above Louisville. He subsequently moved to Shelby county, where he became a member of Buck Creek church. Of this church he was pastor a short time, about 1802. A small church called Fourteen Mile, but afterwards known as Silver Creek church, now located in Charleston, Clark county, Indiana, petitioned Buck Creek for ministerial help. In answer to this petition, the church directed William McCoy and George Waller to preach to this church alternately. After keeping up this arrangement for a short period, Mr. McCoy moved to Indiana, and took pastoral charge of the church, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Isaac McCoy was born near Uniontown, Pa., June 13, 1784. He was brought by his parents to Kentucky, when he was about six years old. He united with the Baptist church at Buck Creek, Shelby county, Kentucky, and was baptized by Joshua Morris, March 6, 1801. On the 6th of October, 1803, he was married to Christina Polk, daughter of Charles Polk, of Shelby county, Kentucky. In April, 1804, he moved to Vincennes, Ia., where he resided until the fall of 1805, when he removed to Clark county, Ia., and settled near Silver Creek church. By this church he was licensed to preach, July 11, 1807. After preaching with much zeal, about three years he was ordained at Mariah Creek church, not far from Vincennes, by William McCoy and George Waller, of Kentucky, Octobor 12, 1810. After his ordination, he spent eight years in traveling and preaching in Indiana and Illinois, where he was instrumental in leading many to Christ, and in constituting many churches in the new settlements. A part of this time, he was in the employ of the old Triennial Convention, which instructed him to
give attention to the Indians who were still numerous in his field of labor.
"By this time," says he, "my anxiety to preach the gospel to the Indians, had become great." He now resolved, to use his own words, "To make an effort to establish a mission among the Indians, and to spend the remainder of my life in promoting their temporal and eternal welfare."
In October, 181 8, he moved with his wife and his seven small children, a little beyond the settlements, and established a school for Indian children. In thespring of 1820, he moved 180 miles further into the Indian country, and established a mission, including a school at Fort Wayne.
He remained at Fort Wayne less than a year and a half, when the encroachments of the white settlers induced him to move again. He was, however, encouraged by the conversion of two half-breed women, whom he baptized. On the 13th of October, 1821, he set out for the St. Josephs river, in Michigan, with a part of the mission family, for the purpose of erecting necessary buildings. The rest of the mission family, church and school followed in December. This station he named Carey, and here he continued to labor, making it the center of his operations, until he moved to the West to carry out his plan for colonizing the Indians west of Missouri and Arkansas, in 1829. In 1826, Mr. McCoy established a mission station, which he called Thomas, on Grand river, Michigan. This station and Carey enjoyed a moderate degree of prosperity. The latter, especially enjoyed a delightful revival in 1824-25. But Mr. McCoy had become convinced that little could be done for the permanent improvement of the red men, until they could be settled on territory of their own, and where they could not be encroached upon by the white settlers. He selected the present Indian Territory, as a suitable location on which to colonize the tribes then scattered along the borders of the white settlements, from Florida to Michigan.
In the winter of 1823-4, he visited Washington for the purpose of laying his plan before the government of the United States. As the Foreign Mission Board of the Baptist Triennial Convention, under whose employment he was acting; was then located in Washington, he first laid his plan before that body. Luther Rice gave his entire influence in favor of the plan; and,
after several meetings for the purpose of deliberating on the subject, the board appointed Dr. William Staughton and Rev. Luther Rice to go with Mr. McCoy, and lay the matter before the President, Mr. Monroe, and the Secretary of War, Mr. Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun expressed his full approbation of the matter, but the board hesitated and deferred any further action for the present. Mr. McCoy however, never lost sight of his important measure, but continued to press its claims upon Congress and the Executive, from year to year, with untiring patience and perseverance, until 1830, when the bill passed both Houses and became a law. Mr. McCoy was subsequently appointed by the Government to survey the territory, and partition it off for the occupancy of the several tribes. He lost no time in accomplishing the work assigned him, and in laying a map of the whole before Congress and the Executive.
In the spring of 1829, and before his plan had passed into a law of the United States, he moved with his family to the farwest, and entered morefully upon his great work of colonizing the Indians. To enter into, even a partial account of all his benevolent arrangements for the benefit of the Indians, would require a volume. For a period of twenty-eight years, his whole time, strength and talents, were unremittingly devoted to these objects. After trying in vain, for a number of years, to enlist the interest of the Foreign Mission Board in the great work in which he was engaged, he withdrew from its employment.
He now turned his attention to the formation of a special, association for the promotion of his benevolent operations among the Indians. This resulted in the organization of the American Indian Missionary Association, in October, 1842, as related above. As corresponding secretary of this association, Mr. McCoy continued to labor with unabated zeal for the welfare of the Indians, until the Lord called him to his rest,-June 21, 1846. Among the last words he uttered, were: -- TELL THE BRETHREN NEVER TO LET THE INDIAN MISSION DECLINE.
AMERICAN BAPTIST HOME MISSION SOCIETY was constituted in 1832, with the object of promoting the preaching of the gospel in North America. The Executive Board is in New York city. This great benevolent society has continued to grow in popular favor and efficiency, from its organization to the present
time. It is now one of the leading societies of its kind in the world. The good that has been accomplished in the broad field of its labors, through its agencies, is inestimable Its receipts and disbursements approximate, if they do not exceed $200,000 per annum. The General Association of Kentucky Baptists became auxiliary to this body, in 1843, and aided in its noble work two years. But on account of the great excitement on the subject of slavery, the Association dissolved its connection with the parent society, in 1845, and became auxiliary to the Southern Baptist convention.
THE AMERICAN AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY, an account of the origin of which has been given, is not technically a Baptist society, although, on account of its specific objects, the circulating faithful versions of the Word of God in all the languages of the earth, the Baptists have always been its chief supporters. From its constitution, in 1837, till the formation of the American Bible Union, it was a very prosperous, efficient organization, but, on account of the greater popularity of the latter, which had for its accomplishment the same object, it gradually declined until its operations, at present, are comparatively insignificant. Its decline was due to the fact that, while it gave faithful translations of the sacred scriptures in foreign languages, it refused to give a correct translation in English. The original object of the society, was certainly a most important one. It is not pretended that any of the versions of the English Scriptures, now in use, are faithful translations of the Word of God. Every popular version of the English Bible is known to be acompromise among the various religious sects concerned. A Bible society, endowed with ample means, which would be faithful to the avowed object of translating faithfully and circulating the Bible in all languages, is one of the very greatest wants of the age.
THE KENTUCKY AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY continued to be cherished by the Baptists of Kentucky, during the decade now under consideration. Like the American and Foreign Bible Society, to which it was auxiliary, it was nominally unsectarian, but its chief support was from the Baptists. It continued to aid in circulating the Bible, in the various countries occupied by Baptist missionaries, till 1850, when it severed its
connection with the parent society, and was dissolved the following year.
THE WESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE, located at Covington, was an "eye-sore" and a "bone of contention" to the Baptists of the whole Mississippi Valley, as long as it had an existence. The propriety of establishing a Baptist Theological school for the common benefit of the Baptists of the West was first discussed at the first meeting, of a sort of anomolous Association, known as the Western Baptist Convention, in Cincinnati, in November, 1833. A committee was appointed to investigate the matter, which reported in favor of such a school, the following November. The Western Baptist Education Society was organized to prosecute the design. The enterprise succeeded. A valuable property was secured, and the school was located on it, in 1840, in Covington, Kentucky. The Instittute was fully organized and put in operation, in 1845. Rev. R. E. Pattison, D.D., of Massachusetts, was elected President. This election occurred while the famous “Alabama resolutions” were under discussion by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, of which Dr. Pattison was a member. The answer of the Board to those resolutions caused the Baptists of Kentucky to suspicion Dr. Pattison, as being in sympathy with the abolition fanaticism that characterized the majority of the Board. He was called upon publicly to define his position on that subject. This he declined to do; whereupon the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, at its meeting, in Georgetown, in October, 1845, passed the following:
"Resolved, That in the opinion of this Association, the Western Baptist Theological Institute ought not, under present circumstances, to receive the support of the Baptists of Kentucky."
The charter of the Institute allowed the trustees to be chosen from Ohio and Kentucky. Up to 1847, a majority of the trustees were citizens of Cincinnati. As early as 1846, it began to be suspicioned that Dr. Pattison was seeking, privately, to secure the sale of the property belonging to the Institute, in Covington, and the removal of the Institute to the opposite side of the OhioRiver. Subsequent investigation fully confirmed the suspicion. On application to the Legislature of Kentucky, during its session of 1847-8, the charter of the Institute was so
amended as to prevent the execution of this nefarious design. This affair forced the severance of Dr. Pattison’s connection with the Institute. The following extracts from the report on education, adopted by the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, at Bowling Green, in October, 1848, shows the condition of the Institute at that time:
"The Western Baptist Theological Institute, located in Covington, Kentucky, is well situated for a great theological in, stitution for the whole West. It possesses a property sufficient for an ample endowment, amounting to upwards of $200,000, which is still rapidly increasing in value. It is now placed in the hands of men who will conduct it in a manner worthy of its noble object. Dr. S. W. Lynd has been appointed President, and will enter upon his duties the first Monday in January next."
"Resolved, That the election of S. W. Lynd, D.D., of the Western Baptist Theological Institute, meets our hearty approbation."
From this time, till 1852, the Institution enjoyed a good degree of prosperity. But the northern and southern parties concerned in it were irreconcilable, and, in 1855, the trustees deemed it wise to sell the property, and divide between the claimants equally the proceeds. The portion falling to the South was appropriated to the sustaining of a professor of theology in Georgetown College, for a time. Thus ended the effort to build up a great central theological Institute for the whole great West.
THE MINISTERIAL EDUCATION SOCIETY was constituted immediately after the adjournment of the General Association, in Henderson, Ky., Oct. 1844. Its object was "to aid in acquiring a suitable education, such indigent, pious young men of the Baptist denomination, as shall give satisfactory evidence to the churches of which they are members, that they are called of God to the gospel ministry." The operations of the society were small, yet of much importance to the cause of Christ. The want of more educated ministers among the Baptists of Kentucky was deeply felt, at that period. This little society gave aid to some poor young men who were struggling to educate themselves, that they might more effectively preach the Gospel, and who have become valuable ministers of Christ. It appears to have continued its operations but a few years.
The educational interests of the Baptists of Kentucky was greatly advanced, during the decade under review. Georgetown College was advanced to the grade of a first-class institution of learning. Its halls were crowded with students; and, to the especial joy of those of its benevolent founders, who lived to see this realization of their fond hopes, there were among its students, in 1845, no less than 27 young men, studying with a view to preaching the gospel. Academies, under the control of the Baptists, were springing up in different parts of the State. A High School was established at Russellville, in 1850, which gave promise of much usefulness, and the spirit of education was much enlarged, among the masses of the people. The originating of a system of colportage, and the establishment of hook depositories, by the General Association, added much to the diffusion of knowledge among the masses of the people.
While the period under consideration was one of hitherto unparalleled progress, of enlarged practical benevolence, of great increase in knowledge, and of important revolutions in polity in the Baptist denomination in Kentucky, it was also a period of unwonted embarrassment to religious and benevolent enterprises, of the wildest political excitement, and of stormy contentions and revolutions, in religious associations.
A great financial crash spread over the whole country, begining as early as 1839. "Bankruptcies," says Mr. McClung, "multiplied in every direction. All public improvements were suspended; many States were unable to pay the interest of their respective debts, and Kentucky was compelled to add fifty percent to her direct tax, or forfeit her integrity. In the latter part of 1841, and in the year 1842, the tempest so long suspended, burst in full force over Kentucky. The dockets of her courts groaned under the enormous load of law-suits, and the most frightful sacrifices of property were incurred by forced sales under execution." Elder A. D. Sears, Corresponding Secretary of the Kentucky and Foreign Bible Society, in his report to that body, in October, 1842, says: "The unparalleled pressure in the monetary concerns of the country rendered any collections almost impossible. Your Agent . . . was everywhere disheartened at the cry of distress, which came from every class of the community. The rich and the poor alike complained of the scarcity of money, and but few seemed
to know what would be their condition when the storm, which had already wrecked the hopes and fortunes of so many, had spent its fury." The Agent of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, in his report of the same date, says: "I have visited but very few churches that were able to give any assistance towards supplying the destitute of the State. Churches where hundreds might have been collected a few years ago, I have found barely able to meet their own wants."
Under such a financial pressure, and with the violent apposition of the Anti-missionary fraternity, so recently separated from the Baptist of the State, the recently formed benevolent societies of the denominations had many grounds of discouragement. But the brave men who founded them labored, sacrificed and prayed for their sustinance, and the God of benevolence preserved them all till the storm blew by. In 1844, an ordinary degree of prosperity returned, and the channels of benevolence were opened again.
"The underground railroad” was the figurative expression by which was meant the systematic enticing away of slaves from Kentucky and other slaveholding States, and conducting them to Canada, by a cordon of posts, or relays. This unlawful proceeding was begun by the Abolition fanatics of the Northern States, about 1843, and carried on with increasing facility, for several years. This not only involved the people in a heavy loss of property, but what was far worse, engendered a most unwholesome excitement in every part of the South, and especially in Kentucky, which, being on the border was more exposed. The excitement was greatly increased in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, by the commencement of the publication, at Lexington, in June 1843, by Cassius M. Clay, of an Abolition paper, called the "True American."
On the 14th of August following, a large meeting of the citizens requested Mr. Clay to discontinue its publication, which they regarded as dangerous to the peace of the community, and to the safety of their homes and families. The request was defiantly refused. Four days later, a committee of sixty prominent citizens were authorized by the meeting to take possession of the True American press, type, and printing apparatus, and send them forth with to Cincinnati. This was done, and the freight charges and expenses thereon paid. Its publication was
continued at Cincinnati, for a year or more. The committee of sixty were tried on the charge of riot. The verdict of the jury was, "not guilty."
Meanwhile "the holding of slaves" assumed the form of a grave question of morals. Most of the Christian churches, of all denominations, in the Northern States, began to express strong doubts as to the legitimacy of holding slaves; and several of the larger denominations, had publicly declared the holding of slaves unlawful in the light of divine truth. The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, the largest religious body on the Continent, adopted a plan, in 1844, for the separation of the Northern from the Southern conferences, on account of their disagreement on the question of slavery. This separation was formally consummated the following year, by the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, of the fifteen conferences embraced in the Slave States.
Up to about this time, the Baptist denomination in the United States acted harmoniously, in all their benevolent operations, through their General Boards. The first exception to this was the organization, at Boston, in 1843, on anti-slavery principles, a small association, called the American and Foreign Baptist Missionary Society. The main channels through which the denomination carried on its missionary work, and kindred operations, were the four following:
1st. THE GENERAL MISSIONARY CONVENTION OF THE BAPTIST DENOMINATION, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, commonly known as the TRIENNIAL CONVENTION. This body was organized in Philadelphia, in May, 1814, principally to sustain Judson as missionary in Burmah. Its specific object from its organization, till its dissolution in 1845, was the promotion of Foreign Missions. Its Acting Board was finally located in Boston, Mass.
2. AMERICAN BAPTIST HOME MISSION SOCIETY was organized in 1832, for the specific purpose of promoting the preaching of the gospel in North America. Its Executive Board was located in New York city.
3d. AMERICAN AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY was organized in 1837, for the purpose of circulating pure versions of the Bible in all languages. Its Executive Board was located in New York city.
4th AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION AND SUNDAY SCHOOL SOCIETY was organized in 1840, for the purpose of publishing and circulating Baptist literature, especially in the United States. Its publishing office and depository were located in Philadelphia, Pa.
Numerous smaller associations, auxiliary to these, were formed all over the country, and through them flowed into the treasuries of the principal boards the benevolent contributions of the denomination, from all parts of the United States. But it began to be manifest, that the northern and southern churches could not work in harmony. A publication appeared in some of the periodical prints, intimating that the Acting Board of the Triennial Convention would no longer tolerate slavery. This communication was afterwards accredited to Dr. R. E. Pattison, then Home Secretary of the Boston Board, and who afterwards made himself somewhat notorious by attempting to kidnap the Western Baptist Theological Institute, while he was its President. The Alabama State Convention, at its meeting, in 1844, had its attention called to the above named publication, where. upon it passed a series of resolutions, subsequently known as the ALABAMA RESOLUTIONS. The second of the series reads as follows:
"Resolved, That our duty at this crisis requires us to demand from the proper authorities in all those bodies to whose funds we have contributed, or with whom we have in any way been connected, the distinct, explicit avowal that slaveholders are eligible, and entitled, equally with non-slaveholders, to all the privileges and immunities of their several unions; and especially to receive any agency, mission, or other appointment, which may run within the scope of their operations or duties."
The Acting Board of the Triennial Convention, in the course of their reply to this resolution, say: "If, however, any one should offer himself as a missionary, having slaves, and should insist on retaining them as his property, we could not appoint him. One thing is certain, we can never be a party to any arrangement which would imply approbation of slavery."
On the publication of this answer, the Board of the Foreign Missionary Society of Virginia convened and passed a series of resolutions condemnatory of the action of the Board of the Triennial Convention, and calling for a meeting of delegates from the churches and associations of the Southern States, to
convene at Augusta, Georgia, on Thursday before the 2d Lord's Day in May, 1845.
The proposed meeting in Augusta was anticipated by the meeting of the American Baptist Mission Society, which convened in Providence, R. I., in April, 1845. At this meeting, Dr. John S. Maginnis, of New York, offered the following preamble and resolutions:
"Whereas, The American Baptist Home Missionary Society is composed of contributors residing in slave holding and non-slaveholding States; and, whereas, the constitution recognizes no distinction among the members of the Society as to eligibility to all the offices and appointments in the gift, both of the society and of the Board; and, whereas, it has been found that the basis on which the Society was organized, is one upon which all the members and friends of the Society are not now willing to act, therefore,
"Resolved, That, in our opinion, it is expedient that the members now forming the Society, should hereafter act in separate organizations atthe South and at the North, in promoting the objects which were originally contemplated by the Society.
"Resolved, That a committee be appointed to report a plan by which the object contemplated in the preceding resolution may be accomplished in the best way, and at the earliest period of time, consistently with the preseveration of the constitutional rights of all the members, and with the least possible interruption of the missionary work of the society.”
The preamble and resolutions were adopted, and thus a virtual separation of the Northern and Southern members of the Society was effected. In accordance with the call of the Board of Managers of the Virginia Foreign Mission Society, there assembled in Augusta, Ga., May 8, 1845, three hundred and ten delegates from the States of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia. Other southern States were represented only by letter. After mature deliberation, the Southern Baptist Convention was constituted. A Board of Foreign Missions was appointed, to be located in Richmond, Va., and a Board of Domestic Missions, to be located in Marion, Ala.
These movements completely severed the Baptists of Kentucky, as well as those of the other slaveholding States, from all the northern Boards, so far as missionary operations were concerned. It has been seen, however, that they continued to contribute to the American and Foreign Bible Society, till the year 1850.
The war between Mexico and the United States began in 1846, and continued about two years. This carried away many of the active, enterprising young men of Kentucky from the field of Christian labor; and the California gold fever broke out, in 1848, and carried away perhaps a larger number.
The decade under review was one of unusual excitement, both in political and religious circles. Still the cause of Christ steadily advanced among the Baptists of Kentucky. There was an unprecedented activity in the home field of labor, and large additions were made to the churches every year during this period. The decade closed with a glorious revival which extended to most of the churches in the State, and prevailed from 1847 till 1852.
A revival of religion in Kentucky, even as late as 1827-30, was so different in its manifestations from a revival of religion in in 1847-50, that a passing observation on the subject may fitly be made at this place. From the settlement of the State to the first named date, there were five extensive religious awakenings, beginning respectively, in 1785, 1800, 1810, 1817 and 1827. Each continued about three years, within the limits of the State, but seldom morethan fifteen or eighteen months, in any one church. During the latter period, the church would usually receive a number of candidates on each Saturday meeting, which was held once a month, and baptize them on the following day. Each candidate was required to stand up and give a detailed account of his spiritual exercises, from the time of his conversion, till he found peace in Christ. If his "experience" was unsatisfactory, he was rejected, and exhorted to continue seeking till he should obtain satisfactory evidence that he had been “born again.” At the regular church meetings and the occasional night meetings, held sometimes at the meeting house, but much oftener at the private dwellings of the people in the vicinity, besides the sermon, there was much exhortation, prayer and singing, with weeping, rejoicing, shaking hands and frequent shouting.
When the revival season was passed, the church continued to meet once a month, have Saturday and Sunday preaching, and exercise strict discipline over its members. But there were few additions to the church by "experience and baptism" till another revival season came around, and often the church would be much diminished in numbers by death and exclusion, unless it was kept up by immigration from the older States.
During the revival of 1827-30, Vardeman, Noel, Jno. S. Wilson, the Warders and some other ministers began to hold meetings of three or four days continuance. Great crowds of people attended these meetings, the chief attraction of which was the supposed excellence of the preaching. Many were deeply convicted of their sins. The penitents were invited to come forward and designate themselves as such, when they received instructions from the ministers and other church members, and special prayer was offered for their conversion. As they usually occupied one seat, convenient of approach, and were spoken of as mourners, on account of their sins, the seat they occupied during the exercises came to be called the Mourners' Bench. This may have been used sometimes as a convenient term of designation, but much oftener, by the wicked and the followers of Alexander Campbell, as a term of contempt.
It has sometimes been erroneously supposed that the practice of praying for the unconverted originated among the Baptists, about this period. This is a great mistake. It was practiced by Dudley, Taylor, Hickman and other pioneer preachers from the time of planting the first churches in the Mississippi Valley. Attention was particularly directed to the practice about 1827, because it was then first opposed, and that by the followers of Alexander Campbell, who opposed almost everything in religious practice that did not originate with the would be great reformer.
The "three or four days meetings" instituted by Vardeman and others gradually lengthened in the period of their duration, until they reached a continuance oftwo weeks or more, took the appellation of “protracted meetings,” and became general during the revival of 1837 and the years following. Among the most efficient laborers in these protracted meetings, from 1840 to 1850, were Thomas Smith, A. D. Sears, John L. Burrows, Alfred Taylor, Smith Thomas, and T. J. Fisher, Vardeman
having gone to Missouri, and Noel, both the Warders and Wilson having gone to their reward.
It was the introduction of protracted meetings that wrought so great a change in the manner of conducting religious revivals, and building up the churches. Formerly the churches were revived and enlarged by the addition of new converts, once in about ten years: after protracted meetings came into general use, many of the churches enjoyed annual revivals and large accessions. From this cause, the growth of the Baptist denomination in Kentucky has been much more regular, as well as more rapid, since 1837, than previous to that period. This can be said, however, only of the main body of the denomination, which favored missions and other benevolent enterprizes. The anti-missionary faction opposed protracted meetings, and all other efforts to bring sinners to Christ, and hence have never enjoyed a revival of any considerable extent, since their severance from the main body of the denomination. For example During the revival period, from 1837 to 1840, Elkhorn Association of twenty-two churches received by baptism, 1,504, while Licking Association of twentynine churches received only 106. During the same period, Barren River Association (Mis.) with nineteen churches, received by baptism 619, while Barren River ("Regular") received sixteen. During 1849-50, Elkhorn received 947, Licking eleven; Barren River (Mis.) 485, Barren River (Regular) not one; Sulphur Fork of sixteen churches received 226, Mt. Pleasant, with nine churches, received ten; North Bend with eight churches, received 87, Salem (Anti.) with ten churches, received nine. These figures give a fair representation of the difference in the progress of the Missionary and Antimissionary churches, during the revival periods referred to, as well as at all subsequent periods.
At the close of the year 1850, the separation between the Missionary and Antimissionary elements of the denomination had been about completed. The latter had gathered themselves into twenty-five small associations, embracing 266 churches and 9, 476 members. Of these, about three-fourths did not differ from the Missionary Baptists, except in the single item of forming and contributing to benevolent societies. The other fourth were pretty evenly divided into Two- Seeders, Hyper-Calvinists, and Anti-Resurrectionists. The main body of the denomination
comprised forty-three associations, 757 churches and 65,489 members.
There were, at this period, in Kentucky, altogether, sixtyeight Baptist Associations, comprising 1,023 churches and 74,965 members. The population of the State was 982,405. This gave, in round numbers, one Baptist church to every 960 of the population, and one Baptist to every thirteen of the population.
The Methodist church comprised, at this date, two conferences, thirteen districts, 123 circuits and stations, 138 preachers, and 44,631 members.
The Presbyterian Church numbered five presbyteries, eighty ministers and 9, 586 members.
The Episcopal Church numbered about 700 communicants.
The other denominations in the State, kept no statistics, and, there is, at hand, no data from which to make a reliable estimate of their numbers. ______________________
1 History of Bullittsburg Church, pp. 60-61.
2 These Statistics are taken from the Minutes of the General Association for 1843, and are presumed to be correct.
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984.]
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