Baptist Operations During the Decade Ending with 1860
At the beginning of the year 1851, the Baptist denomination in Kentucky was enjoying a high degree of prosperity. The revival, which had prevailed among the churches more than two years, was still in progress. Large numbers were being converted and added to the churches. This state of prosperity continued, with but slight interruptions, during the whole of the decade that followed. The growth of the denomination, in numbers, influence and efficiency, was steady, up to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.
This happy state of affairs was doubtless due, in a great measure, to the wise policy of the General Association. That body, at its annual meetings, constantly urged upon the churches the preeminent importance of supplying the home destitution with the preaching of the gospel. The principles upon which this supply was to be afforded, were laid down by the founders of the General Association, at the time of its constitution, in 1837. These principles were:
1st. That the churches should support their pastors and thereby enable them to supply the destitution within, and contiguous to the bounds of their charges. 2nd. That each district association should supply the destitution within its own bounds, as far as practicable. 3d. That the General Association should supply, as far as practicable such destitution, within the bounds of the State, as could not be reached by the churches and district associations.
The progress made in carrying into practical effect these wholesome principles, though not as great as was desired, was very encouraging, and, considering the bitter opposition of the Anti-missionary faction, and the false education of many of the churches, was much more rapid than could reasonably have been
expected. By means of these prudent measures, under the divine blessing, the denomination rapidly regained its ancient ascendency in the Commonwealth; and, after a series of wasting contentions, with Campbellism and Anti-missionism, for a period of twenty years, the churches now enjoyed great peace and prosperity, and the more abounded in good works.
If we except the partial failure of the crops, on account of the extraordinary drouth of 1854, and the one scarcely less disastrous of 1856, the periodextending from 1850 to 1860 was one of great temporal prosperity. The liberality of the churches in sustaining missions and the Bible cause, was largely augmented. The latter cause gained unprecedented popularity in in Kentucky, for a time, in consequence of the organization of of some new Bible societies, embracing in their purposes, the revision of the English Bible.
The American and Foreign Bible Society had been very popular in Kentucky, from the time of its organizaton. The Baptists of this State continued to support it heartily, five years after they had withdrawn their patronage from all other northern societies. Its avowed object was to aid in the circulation of the purest versions of the Bible, obtainable, in all languages. This principle, however was modified by the following resolution:
"Resolved, That in the distribution of the Scriptures in the English language, they (the Board will) use the commonly received version, until otherwise directed by the Society.'
In May, 1849, this modifying resolution was repealed, in order to make room for preparing and circulating a corrected version of the English Scriptures. Meanwhile. Rev. Spencer H. Cone, D.D. and William H. Wyckoff Esq., probably with undue haste, prepared and published a revised version of the New Testament, and issued a circular which contained the following paragraph:
"A corrected edition of the English New Testament has been prepared by the subscribers, in connection with eminent scholars, who have kindly co-operated, and given their hearty approval to the proposed corrections. A copy of this will he sent gratuitously to the written order of each member of the Society who wishes to examine it. You are invited to procure and read it, and to attend the ensuing anniversary of the Society, when
the stereotype plates will be offered as a donation, with the provision that they be printed from according to the demand."
On the appearance of this circular, a meeting was convened in the meeting-house of Oliver Street church, in New York city. This meeting published a lengthy answer to the circular of Messrs. Cone and Wyckoff, which was also circulated extensively among the members of the society convened in 1850, it was manifest that a majority of the members were opposed to the revision movement. The excitement was very high, and the business of the meeting was transacted with indecent haste.
At an early stage of its proceedings, the following resolution was passed.
"Resolved, That this society, in its issues and circulation of the English scriptures, be restricted to the commonly received version, without note or comment."
At a later period in the proceedings, the following was put on record:
"WHEREAS, by the constitution of this society, its object is to aid in the wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures in all lands, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is not the province and duty of the American and Foreign Bible Society to attempt on their own part, or to procure from others, a revision of the commonly received English version of the Sacred Scriptures."
The friends of revision immediately withdrew from the society, and organized the American Bible Union. The new society contemplated exactly the same object, for the accomplishment of which the old one had been originated, except that it embraced the purpose of circulating the purest English version of the scriptures that could be procured. The Baptists of Kentucky sympathized with the American Bible Union. The Kentucky and Foreign Bible Society, at its meeting in Covington, in October, 1850, withdrew its auxiliaryship from the American and Foreign Bible Society.
When the subject of revising and correcting, the English Bible was first introduced among the masses in Kentucky, it caused no small degree of alarm. A majority of the church members, and not a few of the illiterate preachers, had taken it for granted that the authorized version was perfect. An anecdote, related of the eminently pious and useful but illiterate
William Mason of Virginia, by the venerable and eloquent John Bryce, may serve to illustrate the feelings and opinions of many of the Kentucky Baptists, including not a few of their preachers, as late as A.D. 1850. Mr. Mason was preaching on the importance of plainness and simplicity in expounding the scriptures, when he remarked:
'Brethren, I do not like to hear ministers using unknown languages in their sermons: Christ and his apostles all spoke in the plain English."
But, however crude the notions of the people may have been, they were desirous to know the truth. The subject of a new revision of the scriptures was widely discussed in Kentucky, both in the pulpit and through the religious press. The churches and preachers soon became convinced of the importance of having a corrected version of the English Bible, and became zealous supporters of the revision movement.
After the year 1850, the Kentucky Baptists co-operated with none of the northern societies except the American Bible Union, and with that, in but onedepartment of its operations, viz.: that of revising the English Scriptures. A society was formed with the single object of promoting that work, as its name indicated. That society, known as the Bible Revision Association, was nominally national and non-sectarian in its character. But its operations mere confined principally to the Southern States, and the Baptists were the principal contributors to its object, the Campbellites, who generally endorsed it, being few at that period, and the Pedo-Baptists being almost universally opposed.
The American Bible Union was organized June 10, 1850, “to procure and circulate the most faithful versions of the sacred scriptures in all languages throughout the world."
The board adopted the following, which was subsequently sanctioned by the Union.
Resolved, That appropriations made by the Union, shall in no case be employed for the circulation of a version which is not made on the following principles:
"The exact meaning of the inspired text, as that text expressed it to those who understood the original scriptures at the time they were first written, must be translated by corresponding words and phrases, so far as they can be found, in the vernacular
tongue of those for whom the version is designed, with the least possible obscurity or indefiniteness."
"In the plan adopted for the English version, the following principle is embodied: 'To give to the ordinary reader, as nearly as possible, the exact meaning of the inspired original, while so far as compatible with this design, the general style and phraseology of the commonly received version are retained.'"
The Bible Revision Association was constituted on principles similar to those of the American Bible Union. The first movement towards its organization was made during the sitting of the Southern Baptist Convention at Nashville, Tenn., in May, 1851. A few friends of revision met in the basement of the house in which the convention held its meetings at such times as the convention was not in session, and arranged for a meeting to be held in Memphis, Tenn., on the 26th of the following December. When the time appointed for this meeting arrived, navigation was suspended on account of tine river being blocked with ice. The few who came together appointed a meeting, to be held at the same place, the following spring. Accordingly, a large assemblage convened at Memphis, Tenn., April 2, 1852. Delegates were present from Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. The meeting was organized, and the importance of revising the English scriptures wasdiscussed by a number, of able scholars, among whom were Rev. S. W. Lynd, Rev. D. R. Campbell and Rev. A. Drury, of Kentucky; Rev. Thomas Armitage, D.D., and Rev. A. McClay, D.D., of New York; James Challen and Rev. David E. Thomas, of Ohio; Rev. W. C. Crane, of Mississippi; Rev. James Shannon, of Missouri, and Rev. A. Campbell, of Virginia. The Bible Revision Association was then organized upon a constitution, the second article of which reads as follows:
"The object of the Society shall be to aid in conjunction with the American Bible Union, in procuring a pure version of the English scriptures."
Rev. John L. Waller was chosen President of the Association, a position he continued to fill until his death. The Board of Managers was located in Louisville, Ky.
The addresses of the above named speakers were published with the proceedings of the meeting, and in several of the religious and secular periodicals of the country, and extensively circulated. The object and claims of the Association were widely discussed among the masses of the people of Kentucky, by Dr. Waller, Dr. McClay and others. The opposition to the revision movement, among the Baptists of Kentucky, rapidly gave way, and the Association became one of the most popular that ever claimed the benevolence of their churches. The total receipts of the Association for the year ending April 1, 1852, was $1,752.46; for the next year, $3,326.50, and, for 1853, $12,297.50. The figures show the rapidity with which the Association gained popular favor. But during the last named date, Dr. McClay, who had been one of the warmest and most efficient supporters of the Bible Revision Association and the parent society, the American Bible Union, published a pamphlet, severely criticising the management of the latter Society. It appeared that the monies, so liberally contributed to its support, had been profligately squandered, while the work intrusted to it was executed with extreme tardiness. This, with other mismanagement, which was afterwards made manifest, from time to time, ultimately proved the destruction of both societies. The Bible Revision Association, after a struggle of a few years longer, was dissolved. The American Bible Union, after producing a revised English version of the New Testament, which was supposed to possess some excellences, but also to be marred by the prejudices of the revisers on the subject of slavery, became bankrupt, and was finally dissolved.
It must not be supposed that this popular movement proved a failure. Besides the intrinsic value of some of the American Bible Union’s publications, the Kentucky Baptists, as well as those of other sections, received tenfold the value of the money they expended in the enterprise, in the diffusion of scriptural knowledge, by the discussion among them of the topics connected with the object of the revision movement.
REV. JOHN LIGHTFOOT WALLER, LL.D., was one of the most distinguished Baptist ministers of his generation. As far as any man can be said to be a leader among the Baptists, he was preeminently the leader of God's hosts in Kentucky. He headed almost every benevolent enterprise among them, from
the time he entered the ministry, until the Lord called him to his reward. His grandfather, Rev. William Edmund Waller, a sketch of whose life has been given, was a brother of the famous John Waller of Virginia, and, according to Dr. Semple, "was a descendant of the honorable Wallers of England." The father of Dr. Waller was a native of Virginia, but emigrated with his father to Kentucky at an early age. After entering the ministry and laboring some years, in Shelby county, he moved to Woodford county, where his illustrious son was born, Nov. 23, 1809.
John L. Waller received, in his youth, a moderate education, including some knowledge of the dead languages, mainly under the instruction of private teachers. But his aptitude for learning, and his great fondness for books, together with his tireless energy and industry in pursuit of knowledge, was such that he acquired a national reputation for critical learning and extensive reading, before he reached middle life. At the age of nineteen years, he commenced teaching school, in Jessamine county, and continued this occupation about six years. During this period, and before he had made a public profession of religion, he distinguished himself, as a pungent and logical writer, by the publication of a series of letters addressed to the famous Alexander Campbell.
In 1835, he became editor of the Baptist Banner, a biweekly religious newspaper, which had been established at Shelbyville, Kentucky, the preceding year, by James Wilson, M. D. Soon after Mr. Waller became editor of the Baptist Banner, the Baptist, published at Nashville, Tennessee, and the Western Pioneer, published at Alton, Illinois, were merged into it. The new paper took the title of Baptist Banner, and Western Pioneer. It was moved to Louisville, where Mr. Waller continued its chief editor till 1841, when he resigned in favor of William C. Buck.
Mr. Waller took an active part in the organization of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists. He was clerk of the convention that formed it, and was the first corresponding secretary of its Executive Board. He was also general agent of the Board, from 1841 to 1843. In 1840, he was ordained to the ministry, and, three years later, succeeded his father in the pastoral care of Glens Creek church in Woodford county, in which
capacity he served nine years. In 1845, he established the Western Baptist Review, a monthly magazine, published at Louisville, which he edited with marked ability, till his death. The name of the periodical, however, was exchanged for that of the Christian Repository, in 1849.
During the last named date, he became a candidate for delegate from Woodford county to the Convention that formed the present constitution of Kentucky, under rather peculiar circumstances. The distinguished orator, Thomas F. Marshall, had, for some time, been a candidate for the position. Being present at one of Mr. Marshall's meetings, and hearing him speak, Mr. Waller asked permission to reply to that part of the speech which related to the Bible teaching on the subject of slavery. Mr. Marshall refused to grant the request, unless the petitioner would become a candidate. Mr. Waller immediately arose, announced himself a candidate, and answered Mr. Marshall's speech. The two rival candidates now entered upon a canvass which soon became one of the most exciting that the country ever witnessed. As a political orator, Mr. Marshall had no equal in Kentucky, except Henry’ Clay, and his opponent had no peer in the Kentucky pulpit. Mr. Waller only became a candidate in order to have the privilege of answering certain points in his eloquent opponent's speeches, and intended to withdraw his candidacy before the election. But, after hearing his speeches, his friends urged him so persistently to continue the race, that he finally consented, and was elected by a majority of 219 votes. He was soon acknowledged to be without a superior, in point of statesmanship, in the Convention, even by the widely famed Ben. Hardin. His speech in opposition to the adoption of an article in the Constitution, making a gospel minister ineligible to a seat in the Legislature, was pronounced the ablest of the session.
In 1850, in addition to his other labors, he resumed the editorship of the Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer, a position he occupied until he was removed by death. Meanwhile, the name of the paper was exchanged, in 1851, for that of the Western Recorder. In 1852, Madison University conferred on him the degree of LL. D. During this year, he commenced the last great work of his life. He was the leader of the movement to organize the Bible Revision Association. When it was constituted,
in April, 1852, he was elected its President and filled the position the remainder of his life. To the advocacy of the cause of Bible revision, he gave the full measure of his great strength and learning. To him the Society owed much of its popularity among the Baptists of Kentucky, as well as those of the whole South. In the midst of a career of great usefulness, and in the very prime of manhood, he was suddenly and unexpectedly called to his reward above, October to, 1854. A great and good man had fallen, and the Baptists of the nation deplored his loss. But the Baptists of Kentucky mourned for him as the children of Israel did for Moses. He was to them almost an idol. They felt that his loss was irreparable. In theiraffections, he was without a rival, and they felt, when he was gone, that they should never look upon his like again, upon earth.
Dr. Waller was truly a great man. To use his own expression, concerning another, "his brain was cast in nature’s most capacious mould." He was an enthusiastic student. "Many a time," said he, "I have sat in my study, from sunrise till sunrise again, leaving it only to go to my meals." To him, study was not a task, but a supreme pleasure. He retained, with remarkable tenacity and exactness, everything he read. Even at the early age of thirty-three, when he engaged in public debates with such champions of the Presbyterian church as Nathan L. Rice, John Brown, Robert C. Grundy, and John T. Hendrick, he seemed to be thoroughly acquainted with the whole range of Ecclesiastical history, religious controversy, and Biblical criticism. As a controversialist he had few superiors. Dr. N. L. Rice, the most famous debater in the Presbyterian church of the United States, virtually acknowledged his (Waller's) superiority, by refusing to have his and Dr. Waller's debate published, after employing a stenographer to report it, for that purpose.
As a conversationalist, Dr. Waller greatly excelled. His colloquial powers, like those of Dr. Franklin, were seldom equaled. He talked on every subject that came under review with an ease and grace that pleased the most learned, and with a simplicity that charmed the most illiterate. As a writer, he was held in high esteem. But he left nothing on record in a more permanent form than a monthly review, except his debate on Universalism with E. M. Pingree. After his death, a
small volume of his writings was published, under the title of "Open Communion," being a review of the learned Robert Hall's work, on that subject. He proposed to write a history of the Kentucky Baptists, and it was, at first, supposed that the book had been written. But subsequent investigation renders it probable that he had not commenced that work.
The TEMPERANCE REFORM became a subject of much interest, during the period under consideration. The evils of intemperance in the use of strong drink, had been recognized and deplored, by the pious and thoughtful; and earnest efforts had been made to abate them, by means of temperance pledges, temperance societies and other means of moral suasion, for more than a quarter of a century. Now, however, the question began to assume a new phase, both in church and state. Prohibition began to be advocated, and enforced total abstinence came to be regarded as the only remedy for the crying sin in the churches, and the moral plague spot in the State. The opposition to the movement was too strong to be overcome immediately. The subject was very intemperately discussed, on both sides, and much ill feeling was engendered.
The chief opposition to enforced abstinence, arises from the inate love of strong drink, or, rather, of the immediate exhilerating effects it produces on theanimal nature of man. But the opposition was much strengthened by the political teaching, the social habits, and the religious prejudices of the people. The use of ardent spirits, which the drinker averred concerned himself alone, was supposed to be one of his inalienable rights. The advocate of prohibition was often met with the angry retort: "You are trying to take away the liberties our fathers fought for."
The use of intoxicating liquors was interwoven with the social habits of the people, from the earliest settlement of the country, and was regarded a necessity to health and comfort. Within the memory of men now living, a supply of ardent spirits was regarded of equal importance to a family, with that of sugar and coffee, or even more needful. If a man paid a visit to his friend, and the bottle was not set out, the visitor felt himself slighted. To treat and be treated, at the public bar, when friends met at their county seat, or other place of public resort, was regarded essential to gentility. An incident is related of a man who,
meeting with several men at a village tavern, invited each of them, in turn, to drink with him. They all declined. He then extended the same invitation to a slave who was present. The negro accepted the invitation, and the man complimented him, in the presence of those who had declined his invitation, by saying to him: "You are the only gentleman in the crowd."
The most pious christian had no hesitancy about the propriety of drinking in moderation. When the minister visited any member of his flock, he expected to have a bottle of whisky or brandy set before him, as an act of hospitality and respect, and he unhesitatingly extended the same hospitality to his visitors. Not a few of the pioneer preachers were distillers, and sold to their neighbors the product of their stills with as little thought of doing wrong as when they sold grain, or live stock from their farms. At log-rollings, house-raisings, and other social gatherings, ardent spirits was regarded indispensible. For a man to become "gentlemanly groggy" was every way genteel, and to become drunk enough to stagger was only a slight indiscretion. With such general habits of society, it can hardly be a matter of surprise that church members were often "overtaken in the fault of drinking too much." Indeed, the wonder is, that more were not "overtaken."
The churches were very strict in the exercise of discipline for drunkenness, according to their definition of that term, which was rather liberal. It was rare for a church meeting to pass without one or more cases of discipline for intoxication; and it was not uncommon for a half dozen, or even a dozen, cases to be on the docket at the same time, as many of the old church records will show. It was long before any considerable number of ministers gathered courage to attack a vice, so popular with all classes of men as was whisky drinking. And when, at last, a few of the more courageous did attempt to expose it, it was at a heavy expense to their popularity. "I saw brother F. weeping freely under the sermon to-day," said a humorous church member, "but when the preacher spoke of the evils of whisky drinking, he took his tears all back into his eyes again." The distinguished Dr. William Vaughan apologized to certain church members who became offended at his preaching against dramdrinking, by saying publicly: "Brethren, I did not know there was a drunkard in this church." But despite the opposition of
the masses, a few earnest preachers continued to discuss the subject, till the more intelligent churches began to be aroused to a sense of the great evil of intemperance.
The subject of temperance had been under discussion no great while before temperance societies began to be formed. Allusion is made to such a society's having been formed somewhere in New England or New York, at a place called Hector, about 1818. But the first reliable account we are in possession of, on that subject, relates to the American Temperance Society, organized in New York, in 1828. The records of its third annual meeting reported 1,015 societies in the United States, with an aggregate membership of not less than 100,000. The first society of the kind, in Kentucky, was formed at Lexington, Jan. 29, 1830. It was called the Fayette County Temperance Society. Rev. Alva Wood D.D., an eminent Baptist minister, and President of Transylvania University, was chosen President of the Society. The object of the organization was expressed in the third article of its constitution, which reads as follows:
"ART. 3. The members of this Society, believing that the use of intoxicating liquors is, for persons in health, not only unnecessary, but hurtful; and that the practice is the cause of forming intemperate appetites and habits; and that, while it continues, the evils of intemperance can never be prevented; do therefore agree that we will abstain from the use of distilled spirits, except as a medicine in case of bodily infirmity; that we will not allow the use of them in our families, nor provide them for the entertainment of our friends, or for persons in our employment; and that, in all suitable ways, we will discountenance the use of them in the community."
The Georgetown Anti-Intemperance Society was organized soon afterwards. Joel S. Bacon, President of Georgetown College, was prominent in this movement. Other societies were formed in various localities, and the subject of temperance became one of general and heated discussion. The churches were called on, through the periodical press, to prohibit the making and selling of intoxicating liquors, by their members. But it does not appear that any of them took such action, at so early a period.
During the same year, the Danville Baptist Association, in Vermont, passed the following resolution:
"Resolved, That we cordially approve the efforts in operation for the suppression of intemperance, and hereby recommend to all the members of the churches composing this Association, to combine their efforts and their influence to effect the entire disuse of ardent spirits."
This appears to have been the first official action, among the Baptists, on the subject of temperance. But the example was soon followed by a still larger body. In 1831, the Baptist State Convention of New Hampshire, Resolved "That it is inconsistent with the christian profession, to be concerned in any shape in the manufacture, sale, or use of ardent spirits, except it be in the strictest sense for medical purposes."
The Temperance Herald, of the Mississippi Valley, a semi-monthly sheet, and doubtless the first temperance paper published in Kentucky, was issued at Lexington, by Thomas T. Skillman, in March, 1832. It was a small sheet, published at fifty cents a year, but it added its mite to the great work of Temperance Reform. The temperance societies, at this period, were not very strict in their organization or requirements. Some of them, it is believed, did not require even total abstinence as a condition of membership. They were in no sense secret societies. Their meetings were open to the public, and they had no private signs, pass-words, or grips, by which the members recognized each other. Most of them were ephemeral, and multitudes of them organized and dissolved, in a single decade. Yet they subserved important ends. Many drunkards were temporarily, and a few permanently reformed; and the rising generation was educated to see and abhor the evils of drunkenness.
In 1841, the cause of temperance received a new and powerful impulse. Two reformed drunkards from Baltimore, of the names of Vickars and Brown, entered Kentucky at Maysville, on the 3rd of December of that year, in the interest of the Washingtonian Temperance movement. They held meetings in various localities in the State. A flame of enthusiasm was kindled, and ran like fire in a dry prairie. Immense crowds of people flocked to the temperance meetings, and the fire was kindled in almost every nook and corner of the Commonwealth. Within four months, from the time Vickars and Brown entered the State, more than 30,000 persons signed the pledge of total
abstinence. It was not the object of the lecturers to form societies, but simply to take the pledges of the people. Some of those who had taken the pledge, however, formed societies for mutual encouragement to keep the vow, and to forward the good work of temperance reform.
This remarkable temperance movement occurred just at the period when the anti-missionary faction was being severed from the main body of the Baptist denomination in Kentucky. This faction took strong grounds against alltemperance societies, and even the taking of temperance pledges; and discipline was promptly exercised over offenders. Many good men were excluded from the anti-missionary churches, for joining temperance societies or signing temperance pledges. A certain church in Barren county, excluded a brother James Gillock from its membership for intoxication. His son, R. R. H. Gillock, [now, and for many years past, a valuable minister of the gospel,] seeing the evil of drinking, took the Washingtonian pledge. For this he was promptly excluded from the same church that had excluded his father. It is related that a wag in the neighborhood approached a member of the church and said to him in a very grave manner: "I have been thinking of joining your church, and if I do so, I desire to be a faithful member. I learn that you have excluded a father for drinking too much, and his son for drinking too little. I wish to know just how much whisky a man must drink in order to be an acceptable member of your church." It is needless to say the brother was puzzled to give an answer.
Their opposition to temperance societies and temperance pledges, procured for the anti-missionary Baptists the title of "Whisky Baptists," and many ridiculous stories were told, and much cheap wit exhibited at the expense of their preachers, by the irreverent and skeptical. It is hardly necessary to say that the imputations were unjust. The Anti-missionary Baptists of Kentucky have stood much in the way of practical benevolence, by opposing all benevolent societies. But in this, they have acted from their conscientious convictions, and should, therefore, receive no harsh judgment of fallible men. In point of honesty, temperance and personal piety, it is believed they will compare favorably with any denomination in the State. And, while most of their ministers deem it their privilege to use
strong drink, in moderation, there is probably as small a percentage of drunkards among them as among those of any of their rival sects.
THE SONS OF TEMPERANCE succeeded the Washingtonians as temperance reformers. They formed lodges somewhat after the manner of Freemasons, and established, signs, grips, passwords and badges, or, at least, such of these as they deemed necessary for purposes of recognition. Their organization was much more complete, and their operations more systematic than those of any temperance society that had preceded them. They collected regular “dues” from their members, and employed traveling lecturers. Their fraternity was essentially a secret society. This made them wholly unendurable to the Anti-missionary Baptists; and not a few churches, connected with missionary associations, made the joining of a secret society a bar to fellowship. This created considerable confusion in the denomination forseveral years, and many zealous advocates of temperance lost their seats in their churches because they would not relinquish those in their lodges. The great majority of the churches, however, favored the Sons of Temperance, and extended no sympathy to the spirit of proscription manifested by the small minority. A more liberal spirit soon prevailed among the latter, and harmony was restored to the denomination.
THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF GOOD TEMPLARS began their operations in Kentucky about the year 1856. This order of temperance reformers soon supplanted the Sons of Temperance in a large measure. The principal points of difference between the two orders were that the Sons of Temperance required its members to take a pledge of total abstinence only while they remained connected with the order, and admitted only males to membership; while the Good Templars required a pledge of abstinence for life, and admitted both sexes. The latter has continued the prevailing order of temperance reformers to the present time, and has exerted a great influence on all classes of society. At first, they proposed to use only “moral suasion.” But as the friends of total abstinence increased in numbers and influence, they began to advocate legal prohibition. Legal measures, for suppressing the use of intoxicating drinks, began
to be advocated in the northern and eastern States several years earlier than in the southern and south-western States. A "local option” law prevailed in New York as early as 1846.
The Maine Liquor Law was passed by the legislature of that State in June, 1851, and has continued in force till the present time. Similar laws were passed, in 1852, in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont; in 1853, in Michigan and Ohio; in 1854, in New York and Connecticut, but were all made void, that of New York by the governor’s veto, and the others by adverse decisions of the courts.
The first legal measure taken in Kentucky in the interest of temperance was the enactment of a law to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors, passed by the legislature, December 13, 1851. This law granted tavern license without the privilege of selling spirituous liquors, for the retailing of which, an additional license, at a cost of $25, was required. This was a very small concession to the temperance reformers, and rather disgusted, than satisfied them. Meanwhile, the ministers of the gospel were discussing temperance in their pulpits, and the churches were taking such action as they deemed best calculated to promote the good cause. The General Association of Baptists in Kentucky deemed themselves appropriately representing the sentiment of the churches, when, in October, 1853, they passed the following preamble and resolutions, every member of the body voting in the affirmative, except Elder T.L. Garrett, who obtained leave to withhold his vote:
"The evils consequent upon the making, selling and drinking of intoxicating liquors are fearfully manifested in every part of our country; and while its deepest wounds are hid in the faithful hearts of parents, wives and children, yet, in the dark record open to view, we read its work of ruin, It has palsied the strong arm, and children cry for bread. It has dwarfed the intellect and barred the windows of the soul to the penetrating rays of truth. It has ravaged the heart of its offices of love, and cursed it with hatred, revenge and murder. It has invaded the sanctuary of God, and begotten a licentious and infidel spirit. It has severed the bonds of virtue, and deified lust. It is the ally of every vice, and couples itself with the darkest murder. It is an outlaw, and outrages the inalienable
rights of life, liberty, and the pursuits of happiness. It stands opposing all moral reforms and defies the spirit of happiness. Therefore,
"Resloved, That the making, selling and drinking of all intoxicating liquors, as a beverage, by professed Christians, is a barrier and hindrance to a proper growth in the Christian graces, inconsistent with Christian character, degrading to the cause of Christ, and that it should be held up and condemned by all ministers, before all the churches.
" , That, as the present temperance movement presents to us a probable means of banishing the mountain sin of intemperance from our land, we hail it as an opening field of great usefulness, in the extermination of this great evil from this, our beloved land; and to this end, by the grace of God, will we ever labor and pray."
In January, 1854, Maysville voted against license to sell intoxicating liquors. At Lexington the measure was defeated by a small majority. The excitement reached its culminating point, during this year. The churches were much agitated on subject. In the more illiterate parts of the State, the Baptist churches were much divided. Some of them split in factions, and in some cases the advocates of temperance were excluded from the churches. But the better informed churches were zealous in promoting the temperance cause, and many of the district associations passed strong resolutions in its support. In October of the same year, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, representing the entire denomination of the State, passed the following resolutions:
Resolved, That we hail, as the omen of better times, the movements of religious and political bodies and various organizations, as well as individual effort, to advance the cause of temperance.
Resolved, That we approve of the efforts to suppress by legal enactment, the manufacture of, and traffic in ardent spirits to be used as a beverage.
Resolved, That we rejoice at the bold and decided position taken by very many of the district associations, upon this subject.
Resolved, That, as ministers and members of the churches of Christ, we regard it as our duty, to discountenance the practice
of church members visiting dram shops, or indulging in the habit of using ardent spirits, as a beverage, at their homes, or offering it to guests, privately, or on festive occasions."
On the 14th of December, 1854, a temperance convention met in Louisville, and nominated George W. Williams, for Governor, and James G. Hardy for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Hardy was a most exemplary member of Rock Spring Baptist church, in Barren county, and a zealous advocate of temperance. He was adopted by the American party as their candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and was elected in August, 1855. Charles S. Morehead being elected Governor. During this year a check was put to the temperance movement, by the unusual excitement, consequent upon the formation of a new political party in the State. The Baptist churches have usually maintained their position firmly on the subject of temperance reform, but it has never since reached as high a degree of popularity in the State, as it attained in 1854.
KNOW-NOTHINGISM, as it was popularly called, began to agitate the people of Kentucky, during the eventful year of 1854. This was the political doctrine and practice of a new organization, styling itself the American Party, which had sprung up in the country, almost like magic. It was a secret society, and was thoroughly organized. It held its meetings with guarded watchfulness, "convening in a sink hole," said a witty opponent, "and taking the hole in with them." They had their private signs, by which they could distinguish each other, and impart private information.
Their peculiar principles were:
1st. That all foreigners should remain in the United States twenty-one years before being entitled to vote, and 2d. That they would vote for no Roman Catholic, to fill any office of trust, because, as they averred, all Catholics acknowledged supreme allegiance to a foreign potentate (the Pope of Rome). They carried this second principle so far as to pledge themselves not to vote for any man who had a Catholic wife.
At first the party was very popular in Kentucky. The charm of secrecy drew into its councils multitudes of young men, and, in the local and State elections, "it carried everything before it." In 1855, it elected Charles S. Morehead, Governor,
with the entire State ticket. But on its failure to elect Fillmore to the Presidency of the United States, in 1856, it perished like Jonah's gourd.
From several considerations this organization was peculiarly repugnant to the Baptist churches. In the first place, it was a secret political association. The Baptists have never been very favorable to secret societies, even when they were purely social. They involved themselves in much confusion, and no small loss of membership, especially in the Northern States, in the early years of the republic, by their opposition to Freemasonry. And in subsequent periods, although they have been compelled to tolerate secret social orders, it has always been under protest, felt, if not expressed. But a secret political organization they regarded dangerous to civil liberty, of which they had been, in all the Christian age, the staunchest advocates.
Another principle of Know-Nothingism, still more repulsive to the Baptists, was its proscription of men on account of their religious tenets. Baptists have no sympathy for Catholicism. They have suffered far more at its cruel and bloody hand, than have all other existing religious sects, together. They have therefore, the best of reasons for detesting and abhoring it. But they have always held firmly to the principle, that every man should be permitted to worship God, according to the convictions of his own conscience, without suffering any political disability or social ostracism therefor. The proscribing of the Catholics, therefore, was directly antagonistic to one of their most cherished principles.
True, the Know-Nothings claimed that they proscribed the Catholics, not on account of their religious convictions, but because of their allegiance to a foreign potentate, But this discrimination was not sufficiently obvious to appease the jealousy of the liberty-loving Baptist.
Another feature of this secret political organization was, if possible, still more offensive to so plain, direct and truth-loving a people as the Baptists. It was the very common practice of the members of the order, to use a disingenuous quirk, which appeared little less than direct falsehood. The order was known in its councils by a secret name that was sacredly guarded. Publicly, they were called Know-Nothings. This term they regarded an opprobrious nick-name. When a member of
the order was gravely asked if he belonged to the Know-Nothings, he as gravely replied that he did not. When, afterward, this member, who also happened to be a member of a Baptist church, was ascertained to have been a member of the order, at the time he made the denial, he was accused, before his church, of falsehood, and his quirk served him little purpose. Much confusion and disorder prevailed among the churches, during the prevalence of this political organization. Happily for the Baptists, this confusion was of short duration, on account of the speedy dissolution of the order.
OLD LANDMARKISM exerted no small influence among the Baptists of Kentucky, at the period under consideration. The term was used to express adhesion to certain principles, averred to have been entertained by the Baptists, but to have been ignored at a later period. It was the avowed purpose of the advocates of Old Landmarkism, to restore to the churches the practice of these, now neglected principles of the fathers. Elder James R. Graves (now Dr. Graves of Memphis) was, at first, the principal advocate of this system, but was soon joined by many able writers and preachers of the South and West. Mr. Graves became editor of The Baptist -- soon afterwards called The Tennessee Baptist, -- in 1846. In this paper, which, as the editor claimed, soon attained a larger circulation than any other Baptist weekly in the world, Mr. Graves began the advocacy of the principles of Old Landmarkism, and speedily drew to his aid, a large corps of correspondents. The principles were opposed with warmth and ability. Disputations, on the subject, were introduced in many of the churches and associations, where it was discussed with intemperate warmth. In 1851, a meeting was called to assemble at Cotton Grove, Tenn., for the purpose of investigating these principles. The Convention met on the 24th of June, and passed what was afterwards widely known as "The Cotton Grove Resolutions," These resolutions, as they were termed, were presented in the form of queries, as follows:
"1st. Can Baptists, consistently with their principles or the Scriptures, recognize those societies not organized according to the pattern of the Jerusalem Church, but possessing different governments, different officers, different class of members, different ordinances, doctrines and practices, as churches of Christ?
"2d. Ought they to be called gospel churches, or churches in a religious sense? "3d. Can we consistently recognize the ministers of such irregular and unscriptural bodies as gospel ministers? "4th. [This queries the propriety of inviting ministers of other religious bodies into Baptist pulpits, or otherwise recognizing them as ministers of the gospel?] '5th. Can we consistently address as brethren those professing Christianity, who not only have not the doctrine of Christ and walk notaccording to his commandments, but are arrayed in bitter opposition to them!”
These queries were all answered unanimously in the negative.
In 1854, Elder J. M. Pendleton, of Bowling Green, Ky., wrote a pamphlet entitled "An Old Landmark Reset," in which he discussed with his usual clearness and force, the question “Ought Baptists to recognize Pedobaptist preachers as Gospel Ministers?" He answered the question in the negative. His clear reasoning, together with the high esteem in which he was held, gave his little work an extensive influence in the churches. From this pamphlet the term Old Landmarkism was derived, although but one principle of the system was directly discussed in it. The principles set forth in the Cotton Grove Resolutions made rapid progress among the Baptists of the Southern States, and, at present, they prevail, in whole or or in part, in nearly all the southern churches. "There is only one Baptist paper [The Religious Herald] in the South, of the sixteen weeklies," writes Dr. Graves, in 1880, "that approves of alien immersion and pulpit affiliation."
Great and long continued as was the excitement, connected with the discussion of Old Landmarkism, it is not known to the author that any church or association, in Kentucky, was ruptured by it. The subject is still under investigation, but the discussion is more calm, and it is hoped that it will continue, in the spirit of meekness,, till the churches all come to the unity of the faith, on this subject.
SUNDAY SCHOOLS, in their present form, are of comparatively recent origin. The first Sunday School of modern times was established at Gloucester, England, in 1784, by Robert Raikes, of the Church of England. At the same time William
Fox, a deacon of a Baptist Church in London, was deliberating on a plan for the universal education of the poor. He laid his plan before the Baptist monthly meeting, in May, 1785. The chairman, supposing Mr. Fox intended to limit his plan, that gentleman replied: "The work is great, and I shall not be satisfied until every person in the world be able to read the BIBLE, and therefore we must call upon all the world to help us." A committee was appointed to appeal to the public and call a public meeting. Meantime Mr. Fox opened correspondence with Mr. Raikes, to learn his plan of procedure. At the public meeting August 10, 1785, there was formed "A Society for the Establishment and Support of Sunday Schools Throughout Great Britain." This proceeding being published, the plan was immediately adopted by several bodies of Dissenters and Methodists, and in a few yearsalmost every congregation had a Sunday School attached to it. This society has continued in operation to the present time.
Dr. Benedict, the distinguished Baptist historian of the United States, than whom, perhaps, no man on the Continent was better posted in the religious affairs of America, states that the first Sunday School on this side the Atlantic, was established by Samuel Slater, a cotton manufacturer, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for the benefit of the children of the operatives, in 1798. Mr. Benedict had the superintendence of this school, as early as 1805. "We had heard," says he, "of Raikes' enterprise in England in the Sunday School line, and his plan was copied by the American institution." This school was non-sectarian, as were most of the Sunday Schools established in the country for many years afterwards.
A society called the Philadelphia, Sunday and Adult School Union, was formed in Philadelphia, in 1816. Out of this organization, the American Sunday School Union was formed, in May, 1824. It professed to be nonsectarian, and grew rapidly in popular favor. In 1830, it resolved, "That the American Sunday School Union, in reliance upon the divine aid will, within two years, establish a Sunday School in every destitute place where it is practicable, throughout the Valley of the Mississippi." The auxiliaries of this society, in 1833, were 7900 schools connected with the Union, 9,187; scholars, 542,420; teachers 80,913.
When the first churches were planted in Kentucky, there was no such a thing as a Sunday School known in the world, and for many years afterwards this institution was unknown in the Mississippi Valley. Little was done towards establishing Sunday Schools in the West, until after the organization of The American Sunday School Union. The Baptists of Kentucky were slow and cautious about adopting them, even after they had been approved by other sects. It does not appear that they were rejected by a vote of any organized body of Baptists (except the Antimissionary Baptists, whose unqualified condemnation they receive, even to the present time). But Sunday Schools were new institutions, and the Baptists delayed the adoption of them, till they could satisfy themselves that such schools would be for the glory of God, as well as for the temporal good of men. The first popular impulse given to these institutions, among the Kentucky Baptists, was under the labors of the late Dr. William Vaughan. He accepted the appointment of agent of the American Sunday School Union, for Kentucky, in 1831, and labored in that capacity, principally in the Northern part of the State, two and a half years, and organized about one hundred schools. After this, some degree of interest was maintained, especially in towns and cities. But it was twenty years later before Sunday Schools became generally popular among the Baptists, over the State. The first notice taken of them, by the General Association, was in 1854, when they set forth the attitude of the denomination, with reference to these institutions in the following extract from a report on the subject, adopted by that body:
'From the best information we can obtain, we are of the opinion that Sunday schools are not appreciated among our churches; that a very small proportion of the churches (probably not one fourth) have Sunday schools, and many of them in a very sickly condition, scarcely maintaining an existence.” In 1856, the same body passed the following:
Resolved, That we recommend to our churches the importance of organizing Sabbath schools wherever it is practicable.
"Resolved, That pastors of churches use their influence, by presenting to their respective congregations, the subject of Sabbath schools, and aid in organizing a healthy and efficient system."
As the interest in Sunday schools increased, there began to be a distrust of the books, issued by the American Sunday School Union. In order to furnish suitable literature for Sunday schools, the need of a new Sunday school society was felt. To meet this demand, the Southern Sunday School Union was organized, at Memphis, Tennessee, in November, 1858, with its board located at Nashville, Tennessee. The following resolutions adopted by the General Association, in 1859, expressed the feelings of the Kentucky Baptists, with reference to this new Society:
"Resolved, That while we recognize the excellences of the Sunday School Union libraries, in the main, we feel the defect of an entire silence on many points of divine truth, essential to the duty of Christians, and to the union of God's people.
"Resolved, That we approve the principle of supplying all our libraries with a literature entirely scriptural, and expressive on all points of duty, both of doctrine and polity.
"Resolved, That we recommend the patronage of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Union."
Elder L.B. Fish was appointed agent of the new society for Kentucky, in 1860, and succeeded in arousing much additional interest, on the subject of Sunday schools, among the churches. But the Civil War coming on, in 1861, put a stop to further operations, and the society perished.
Since the close of the War, the interest in Sunday schools has gradually increased to the present time. But there is still much to be done, before the full advantage of Sunday school teaching can be realized.
WILLIAM S. SEDWICK was probably the most active and useful Sunday school worker that has ever labored among the Baptists in Kentucky, His whole nature seemed to be consecrated to this especial calling. His eminently godly mother dedicated him to the Sunday school work, in her solemn prayer to God, while he was yet a small boy. His father, George C. Sedwick, a native of Virginia, was a Baptist minister of more than ordinary ability, who, in early life moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where his son William was born. He afterwards moved to Kentucky, where he spent some years at Paris and other points.
William S. Sedwick was born, May 24, 1836. He obtained
a moderate English education. Being of a mirthful and restless temperament, and adverse to religious exercises, he made up his mind, to use his own words, that "they were a little too religious at home." At the age of fifteen years, he ran away and went to New Orleans on a flat boat. Here he stopped with his brother George, who was in business in that city. Soon after this, George died of yellow fever, leaving with William this message: "Tell my mother I died trusting in Jesus." William ascribed to this brief message, under God, his conviction and subsequent conversion. Returning to his father’s house, at Zanesville, Ohio, he united with the Baptist church at that place, about five months afterwards. Not long after his conversion, he entered into the Sunday school work in his native town with much zeal. After attaining his majority, he went to New York city, and labored for a time, in the Howard Mission. From thence he came to Kentucky, as Missionary of the American Sunday School Union. While engaged in this work, he offered himself to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, at Boston, as a candidate for a missionary to China. His application being rejected, he accepted the position of Sunday School Agent for Kentucky, under the appointment of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists, in the Spring of 1865. About the same time, he was ordained to the gospel ministry, at Jeffersontown, Kentucky. He labored as Sunday School Agent, under appointment of the General Association only about twenty months. But the amount of work he performed was wonderful. He established a small periodical, called the Try Paper, and formed a TRY SOCIETY, consisting of 7,000 children, each of which took the following pledge: "I promise to try to read, daily, one chapter in the New Testament, and that the chapter indicated by the Try Almanac." This society became so popular that it had been introduced in fifteen states, before Mr. Sedwick's death. Mr. Sedwick traveled with great rapidity, and labored with consuming zeal, over a large portion of the State. His influence over children was marvelous. He would calltogether the children of the village or country place, and within an hour after they met, would have a Sunday school well organized, and the children singing, "at the top of their voices," Sunday school songs they had never before heard. But in the midst of this career of usefulness,
he was suddenly called to give an account of his stewardship. He reached his home in Bardstown, perhaps on Tuesday evening, and took a congestive chill next day. "Can Wednesday afternoon," writes his wife, "he was lying in our bed and fell asleep. I went out and left him a little while. When I returned, he was lying on Kimmie's little bed, and seemed to be in an intense excitement, and was trembling from head to foot. I said to him, 'Why, Will, what is the matter? Why did you get up and come here?' 'O,' said he, 'I hardly know where I am yet.' He said he awoke in the greatest excitement, got up before he knew it, and fell on the trundle bed. He had been dreaming that he was at a World's Sunday School Convention, and there was a great crowd and a great interest, and he had been making an address. Just as he awoke, they were presenting him with a crown or wreath, in token of their regard for him, and it so excited him that he trembled for hours." He died the following Saturday, September 29, 1866.
As a preacher, he succeeded only with children. He was extremely simple in his language and illustrations, and so full of wit, humor and buoyancy of spirit that no audience could avoid laughing under his sermons.
A general revival of religion pervaded Kentucky, from 1858 to 1860, and the churches were generally prosperous. During this period, there were added to the churches of Elkhorn Association, by Baptism. 1,522; to those of Bethel, 1,415, and to those of the smaller associations, proportionate numbers. During the year 1860, the political excitement, preceding the Presidential election, in November of that year, ran unusually high, in the extreme northern and southern portions of the country; but in Kentucky, a good degree of conservatism was maintained; and, while the churches of Christ prayed for peace, and labored for the salvation of men, God blessed them with a good degree of prosperity. Not only were large additions made to the churches, by experience and baptism, but the benevolent institutions, through which they promoted the causes of education, Sunday schools, and home and foreign missions, were all in a highly prosperous condition. The contributions to these objects were larger than during any previous year. The several academies and both the colleges, under the control of the Baptists of the State, were well filled with pupils.
There was a marked improvement in the ministry. Georgetown and Bethel Colleges, although the latter had been in operation but four years, had sent out from the halls of learning a number of young ministers, who were zealous laborers in the Master’s vineyard, and active supporters of the benevolent enterprises of the denomination. About twenty-missionaries were employed to labor in different portions of the State, and the receipts of the Board of the General Association were something more than $14,000, for the year ending May, 1860.
Especial efforts were made at this period, for the better supplying of the colored people with the preaching of the gospel. The slaves generally occupied the same houses of worship with their masters, and enjoyed the same privileges of hearing the word and receiving the ordinances. But it was felt that these illiterate people needed especial religious teaching, better adapted to their capacity, than that ministered to their better educated masters. In some cases, wealthy farmers employed white preachers to minister to their slaves on Sabbath; sometimes colored men would preach to their fellow slaves, and in other cases, pastors and missionaries would make special appointments for their instruction. They received the word readily, and it is probable, that as large a proportion of them were church members, as of the white people, and many of them were devotedly pious.
A steady growth of the churches, during the decade under review, added to the Baptist denomination in Kentucky, an increase in numerical strength of about 20,000 members: So that there were in the State, in 1860, of Missionary Baptists, forty-four associations, 880 churches, and 84,403 members; of the Anti-missionary Baptists, twenty-six associations, 271 churches, and 10,356 members; making an aggregate of Baptists in the State, of 70 associations, 1,151 churches, and 94,759 members. The population of the State was 1,155,684. This gave, in round numbers, one Baptist to twelve of the population.
The Methodist Church in Kentucky, numbered fifteen districts, 173 circuits and stations, 183 preachers, and 56,815 members.
The Presbyterians in the State numbered about 10,000 members.
The other religious sects of the State furnish no data for a reliable estimate of their numbers. ===========
[John Henderson Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists, 1885; rpt. CHR&A, 1984.]
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