By Ben M. Bogard
William Yaughan was born February 22, 1785, in Westmoreland county, Pa. He was of Welch extraction. His father moved to Kentucky and settled in Scott county when William was only three years old.
He had in his almost wilderness home but very few educational advantages, and what he learned was due to his native ability more than any outside encouragement. He, however, became a proficient scholar before he reached middle life, and used his acquirements to good advantage in his long ministerial career.
He displayed his inclination to preach when a. small boy, age eight years. The sermon he preached was to a number of his playmates and was as follows: "Boys, if you break the Sabbath, or tell stories, or swear, or don't mind your mammy and daddy, or don't mind your books and be good boys, you will die and go to hell — a lake of blue blazes, burning with fire and brimstone. And when you ask for water the devil will melt lead in a ladle and pour it down your throat." Of course he was not converted to Christ at that time, but it was an indication of the predisposition of the child, and his developing into a great preacher is not to be wondered
at. For this sermon, however, the brutal teacher gave him a whipping, and the whipping was so severe that he carried the marks twelve months. Let us thank God that we have a more humane class of school teachers in this generation.
In early life Mr. Vaughan learned the trade of tailor, and for several years he made an honest living with his needle. During this time, by reading Paine's "Age of Reason," he became skeptical — almost an infidel. For a time he belonged to an infidel club, yet he said, on one occasion, to Elder J. H. Spencer, "I never expected to die in that faith."
The influence of literature cannot be estimated. How many have been led to ruin by reading bad books! Let Christian people be diligent in circulating good books, and, as far as possible, counteract the pernicious influence of the trainloads of cheap and ruinous stuff now being scattered among the people.
Upon visiting a rich friend who was wicked, profane and skeptical, and who was on his deathbed, Mr. Vaughan was made to reflect seriously upon his own lost and ruined condition. He there and then resolved to seek the salvation of his soul, but he felt like he would be disgraced if he should make a profession of religion — all of his infidel friends would deride him and turn against him. In this condition he resolved to become a Christian and live a righteous life and prepare for Heaven and not let any one know it. Of course, upon reading the Bible, he
found this was folly. His trouble deepened, and; the fact of his wickedness became oppressive. He said to himself, "How wicked I have been to sin against so good a God."
While in this state of mind he attended a little log meeting-house where a preacher by the name of Leathers preached, and after he preached he was followed by Eld. Geo. Eve, preaching from the text, "Ye must be born again," and after he sat down Eld. James Quisenberry concluded the services by preaching from the text, "The great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?"
This was truly a primitive meeting — three long-sermons at one sitting — but it mightily aroused Wm. Yaughan, who was soon converted and made a public profession of his faith in Christ. Let us hear him tell how he accepted Christ: "It seemed to me that I cried every breath: 'Lord be merciful to me.' This continued a half hour. Suddenly the thought occurred: 'What a great change has come over me. Six weeks ago I could not utter a sentence without an oath; now every breath is a prayer for mercy.' Then this text occurred to me: 'Ye have received the spirit of adoption whereby ye cry Abba, Father.' In a moment it seemed to me that the blood of Christ overwhelmed me, and I felt that my burden and distress were gone. I felt such a love for Jesus Christ that I thought if he was on earth and I could get hold of his feet I would press them to my bosom."
Such was the conversion of Wm. Yaughan. When God raises up a man to stay the onward march of
heresy he gives that man unmistakable evidence of his acceptance with God. A powerful conversion was meet for Wm. Vaughan since he was the chosen one to frustrate the pernicious work of Campbellism. He had a clear insight into the doctrines of Grace by experience, and his earnest and persistent study of the Holy Scriptures confirmed that rich experience.
He was licensed to preach February, 1811, by Friendship Church, Ky. He made some dismal failures at the beginning, but he increased in power as he continued to try, and no other man in Kentucky ever became so great a preacher as he. Testimonies from various sources could be quoted, but suffice it to say that all accord to Wm. Vaughan the first place as a great preacher of all who lived during the first half of the nineteenth century. Others have risen up who have perhaps been as great, but none equaled him in his day.
He was at various times pastor of a number of country and village churches, and traveled extensively as missionary and evangelist, and thousands were converted and baptized under his ministry. He labored untiringly, and braved the cold and the heat, and went under all circumstances "everywhere preaching the word." The greatest work of his life, however, was his fight with Campbellism. He met the leaders of the Campbellite movement in debate and always administered a crushing defeat to his opponent. Besides this he confirmed the churches and the ministry.
Had it not been for his powerful preaching whole churches and associations, that are now among the strongest in Kentucky, would have gone with Alexander Campbell. Such men as Wm. Warder and Jeremiah Vardeman, and several other lesser lights, were saved from the errors of Campbell by his influence.
The Baptists will never know until eternity reveals the facts how much they owe to Wm. Vaughan. Among the mighty defenders of the faith stands as a pillar of strength this remarkable man. He gave a son to the ministry who made a strong, useful preacher. He gave solidity to Kentucky Baptists, and they have ever since been noted for their orthodoxy.
His greatest debate was with Alexander Campbell. In this debate "he dissected Mr. Campbell's system with a masterly hand, drew the line between it and the doctrine of the Baptists, and made open war on the new theory." (Spencer's History Ky. Baptists, page 226.)
In 1868 Elder Vaughan fell and crushed his hip. Being in his eighty-fourth year he was permanently disabled, but he had preached constantly up to that time. His remarkable activity at that great age, .and his powerful preaching for the twenty-five years preceding, proves that the fad of "laying on the shelf" all preachers at the age of sixty is superlative nonsense. A preacher is really not at his best until he reaches fifty, and for twenty years after that he should do, and generally does, his best work. After the age of seventy we may look for a decline, but many
remain effective and strong to eighty or ninety years of age. For instance, there is the subject of this sketch and Dr. A. D. Sears, who in his ninety-sixth year preached every Sunday acceptably for the church in Clarksville, Tenn.; and there is S. H. Ford, who at the age of eighty-one preaches with great power. J. M. Pendleton did the best year's work of his life, judging from the results, when he was seventy-one years old. It was his last year at Upland, Penn. The author calls attention to this because of the pernicious idea that our old men should step aside just when they are strongest mentally and spiritually and give place to young men with but little to commend them besides their energy. The author is himself a young man, just thirty-one years old, but he hereby enters a protest against the mischievous practice of pushing out of the ministry our strongest and most experienced preachers.
During the last years of his life he lived with his son, Eld. T. M. Vaughan. He was a student to the last, and occasionally preached a sermon while he sat in his easy arm-chair, being unable to stand. On February 25, 1877, at the advanced age of ninety-three years, he preached his last sermon in the church house at Danville, Ky. On the 31st day of March, a few days over a month thereafter, he fell asleep in Jesus, and was laid to rest in the Bloomfield (Ky.) cemetery, near the pulpit where he had preached for over thirty years.
"Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" — II Samuel 3:38. ================[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900. — jrd]
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