This book was originally written in 1910 and consisted of four chapters on the Cane Ridge Meeting-house, then ten chapters being Barton W. Stone's autobiography and a final chapter, a sketch of David Purviance, by William Rogers.
We considered the reproduction of the physical history and details of the Cane Ridge building unnecessary and omitted the first three chapters. The final chapter on David Purviance is also considered of little consequence and has been omitted.
The Kentucky Revival of 1801 really began in 1800 when camp meetings were held in Logan County. A camp meeting was scheduled in Cane Ridge later the same year and this venue subsequently became the centre of the revival.
The meetings often witnessed scenes of astounding manifestations. Shaking, jerking, shouting and catatonic (death-like) states were common. Laughter, barking like dogs and convulsions often preceded great conviction and conversion. Barton Stone was at the centre of the revival and, with a few others, formed a new Christian movement known simply as as 'Christians.'
We have included 4 of the 10 chapters.
I was born near Port Tobacco, in the State of Maryland, December 24, 1772. My father, John Stone, died when I was very young. I have no recollection of him in life. My mother, whose maiden name was Mary Warren, a few years after the death of my father, with a large family of children and servants, moved to the then called backwoods of Virginia, Pittsylvania County, near Dan River, about eighty miles below the Blue Mountain. This occurred in 1779, during the Revolutionary War.
The manners and customs of the people among whom we lived were exceedingly simple—no aspirations for wealth or preferment—contentment appeared to be the lot of all, and happiness dwelt in every breast amidst the abundance of home stores, acquired by honest industry. Benevolence and kindness in supplying the wants of newcomers, as late immigrants were called, were universal. Courts of justice were rare and far distant from us. To remedy this inconvenience, the neighborhoods selected their best men, whose duty was to preserve order and administer justice. By them Lynch’s law was frequently executed on offenders. Sports of the most simple kind were generally practiced, and friendship and good feeling universally reigned. Religion engaged the attention of but a few. Indeed, our parson himself mingled in all the sports and pastimes of the people, and was what may be termed a man of pleasure.
Frequent calls were made for men to aid in our revotionary struggles against our enemies, the British and the Tories. Those calls were promptly obeyed by the hardy sons of the backwoods. Parents in tears cheerfully equipped their willing sons for the tented field. Never shall I forget the sorrows of my widowed mother when her sons shouldered their firelocks and marched away to join the army. Never will the impressions of my own grief be erased from the tablet of my memory when these scenes occurred.
We knew that General Green and Lord Cornwallis would shortly meet in mortal combat not far from us. The whole country was in great anxiety and bustle. Nothing was secure from the depredation of the Tories and of bands of thieves worse than they: My mother had some valuable horses needed for the use of the farm, to secure which from being taken by scouting parties she sent me with my two elder brothers to conceal them in a thicket of brushwood not far distant from home. This was to me, even then, a gloomy day. It was the day when Green and Cornwallis met at Guilford Court-house, in North Carolina, about thirty miles distant from us. We distinctly heard the roar of the artillery, and awfully feared the result.
The soldiers, when they returned home from their war tour, brought back with them many vices almost unknown to us before; as, profane swearing, debauchery, drunkenness, gambling, quarreling and fighting. For having been soldiers, and having fought for liberty, they were respected and caressed by all. They gave the tone to the neighborhood, and therefore their influence in demoralizing society was very great. These vices soon became general and almost honorable. Such are universally the effects of war, than which a greater evil cannot assail and afflict a nation.
In such society were my youthful days spent; but in these vices I never participated. From my earliest recollection I drank deeply into the spirit of liberty, and was so warmed by the soul-inspiring draughts that I could not hear the name of British, or Tories, without feeling a rush of blood through the whole system. Such prejudices, formed in youth, are with difficulty ever removed. I confess their magic influence to this advanced day of my life, especially when the name Tory is mentioned— so many injuries, fresh in my recollection, attach to that name.
I was early sent to school to a very tyrant of a teacher, who seemed to take pleasure in whipping and abusing his pupils for every trifling offence. I could learn nothing through fear of him. When I was called on to recite my lessons to him, I was so affected with fear and trembling, and so confused in mind, that I could say nothing. I remained with him but a few days, and was sent to another teacher of a different temper, with whom I acquired with facility the first rudiments of an English education—reading, writing and arithmetic. Here I must enter my protest against tyrannical and ill-disposed teachers. Such are a curse to any neighborhood in which they may teach. Teachers should be the most patient, self-possessed and reasonable of men, yet of such firmness as to secure authority and respect. The rod should be rarely used—only in cases of necessity, and then by the arm of mercy. He should act the part of a kind father towards them as his children. Gain their respect and love, and they will delight in obedience, and rarely fail to learn the lessons given to them.
Grammar, geography, and the branches of science now taught in common schools, were then unknown, and not sought after. My old teacher, Robert W. Somerhays, an Englishman, was considered in our neighborhood a prodigy of learning. After I had continued with him for four or five years, he pronounced me a finished scholar, and such indeed was I considered generally in the neighborhood. This, with my natural love of letters, fired my mind and increased my exertions to rise to eminence. Being naturally ambitious to excel, the praises lavished unsparingly upon me swelled my vanity, and caused me to think myself a little above mediocrity. From the time I was able to read, I took great delight in books, and preferred them to any company, and often retired from my young companions to indulge in the pleasure of reading. But books of science were the rarest articles in our country, and, in fact, were not to be found in our backwoods. Nothing but a few novels, as “Peregrine Pickle,” “Tom Jones,” “Roderic Random,” and such trash, could I obtain. These were poor helps, and yet from reading these, my ardent thirst for knowledge increased. The Bible we had; but this, being the only book read in our schools, had become so familiar by constantly reading it there that I wished variety. Here I wish to leave my testimony in favor of making the Bible a school-book. - By this means the young mind receives information and impressions, which are not erased through life. The Bible, not read in school, is seldom read afterwards. To this, as one leading cause, may be attributed the present growth of infidelity and skepticism then scarcely known and never openly avowed in all our country.
As soon as liberty from the yoke of Britain was achieved, the priests’ salaries were abolished, and our parsons generally left us, and many returned to England. Every man did what seemed right in his own eyes; wickedness abounded, the Lord’s Day was converted into a day of pleasure, and the house of worship deserted. A few Baptist preachers came in amongst us, some of whom I well remember; as, Samuel Harris, Dutton Lane, S. Cantrell, etc. They began to preach to the people, and great effects followed. Multitudes attended their ministrations and many were immersed. Immersion was so novel in those parts that many from a distance were incited to come to see the ordinance administered.
I was a constant attendant and was particularly interested to hear the converts giving in their experience. Of their conviction and great distress for sin, they were very particular in giving an account, and how and when they obtained deliverance from their burdens. Some were delivered by a dream, a vision, or some uncommon appearance of light; some by a voice spoken to them, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” and others by seeing the Saviour with their natural eyes. Such experiences were considered good by the church, and the subjects of them were received for baptism and into full fellowship. Great and good was the reformation in society. Knowing nothing better, I considered this to be the work of God and the way of salvation. The preachers had the art of affecting their hearers by a tuneful or singing voice in preaching.
About this time came in a few Methodist preachers. Their appearance was prepossessing — grave, holy, meek, plain and humble. Their very presence checked levity in all around them—their zeal was fervent and unaffected, and their preaching was often electric on the congregation and fixed their attention. The Episcopalians and Baptists began to oppose them with great warmth. The Baptists represented them as denying the doctrines, of grace and of preaching salvation by works. They publicly declared them to be the locusts of the Apocalypse, and warned the people against receiving them. Poor Methodists! They were then but few, reproached, misrepresented, and persecuted as unfit to live on the earth. My mind was much agitated, and was vacillating between these two parties. For some time I had been in the habit of retiring in secret, morning and evening, for prayer, with an earnest desire for religion; but, being ignorant of what I ought to do, I became discouraged, and quit praying, and engaged in the youthful sports of the day.
My father’s will was that when I, the youngest child, should arrive at tile age of twenty-one years, his estate should be equally divided among his children, except the part bequeathed to my mother. When I was fifteen or sixteen years of age, my three elder brothers were grown, and about to start into the world penniless. It was proposed that a division of our property be made. To this I willingly acceded, and it was accordingly done to the satisfaction of all. When my part was assigned me, my mind was absorbed day and night in devising some plan to improve it. At length I came to the determination to acquire, if possible, a liberal education, and thus qualify myself for a barrister. I communicated my mind to my mother and brothers, who all cordially approved of my purpose, and gave the promise of pecuniary aid should I need it.
2. Enters Guilford Academy--Embraces Christianity among the Presbyterians--Completes his Academic Course.
Having determined on my future course, I bade farewell to my mother, brothers, companions and neighbors and directed my way to a noted academy in Guilford, North Carolina, under the direction of Dr. David Caldwell. Here I commenced the Latin grammar the first day of February 1790. With the ardor of Eneas’ son, I commenced with the full purpose to acquire an education, or die in the attempt. With such a mind, every obstacle can be surmounted in the affairs of life. I stripped myself of every hindrance for the course— denied myself of strong food, lived chiefly on milk and vegetables, and allowed myself but six or seven hours in the twenty-four for sleep. By such indefatigable application to study, as might be expected, I passed several classes, until I came up with one of equal application, with which I continued through the whole of our academic course.
When I first entered the academy, there had been, and then was, a great religious excitement. About thirty or more of the students had lately embraced religion under the ministration of James McGready, a Presbyterian preacher of exceeding popularity, piety and engagedness. I was not a little surprised to find those pious students assembled every morning before the hour of recitation and engaged in singing and praying in a private room. Their daily walk evinced to me their sincere piety and happiness. This was a source of uneasiness to my mind, and frequently brought me to serious reflection. I labored to banish these serious thoughts, believing that religion would impede my progress in learning—would thwart the object I had in view, and expose me to the frowns of my relatives and companions. I therefore associated with that part of the students who made light of divine things, and joined with them in their jests at the pious. For this my conscience severely upbraided me when alone, and made me so unhappy that I could neither enjoy the company of the pious nor of the impious.
I now began seriously to think it would be better for me to remove from this academy, and go to Hampden-Sidney College, in Virginia; for no other reason than that I might get away from the constant sight of religion. I had formed the resolution and had determined to start the next morning, but was prevented by a very stormy day. I remained in my room during that day, and came to the firm resolution to pursue my studies there, attend to my own business, and let every one pursue his own way. From this I have learned that the most effectual way to conquer the depraved heart is the constant exhibition of piety and a godly life in the professors of religion.
Having formed this resolution, I was settled for a short time, until my roommate, Benjamin McReynolds, a pious young Virginian, politely asked me to walk with him a short distance in the neighborhood to hear a certain preacher. I consented and walked with him. A crowd of people had assembled, the preacher came; it was James McGready, whom I had never seen before. He rose and looked around on the assembly. His person was not prepossessing, nor his appearance interesting, except his remarkable gravity and small, piercing eyes His coarse, tremulous voice excited in me the idea of something unearthly. His gestures were sui generis, the perfect reverse of elegance. Everything appeared by him forgotten but the salvation of souls. Such earnestness, such zeal, such powerful persuasion, enforced by the joys of heaven and miseries of hell, I had never witnessed before. My mind; was chained by him, and followed him closely in his rounds of heaven, earth and hell with feelings indescribable. His concluding remarks were addressed to the sinner to flee the wrath to come without delay. Never before had I comparatively felt the force of truth. Such was my excitement that, had I been standing, I should have probably sunk to the floor under the impression.
The meeting over, I returned to my room. Night coming on, I walked out into an open field, and seriously reasoned with myself on the all-important subject of religion. What shall I do? Shall I embrace religion now or not? I impartially weighed the subject, and counted the cost. If I embrace religion, I must incur the displeasure of my dear relatives, lose the favor and company of my companions—become the object of their scorn and ridicule—relinquish all my plans and schemes for worldly honor, wealth and preferment, and bid a final adieu to all the pleasures in which I had lived, and hoped to live, on earth. Are you willing to make this sacrifice to religion? No, no, was the answer of my heart. Then the certain alternative is, you must be damned. Are you willing to be damned—to be banished from God—from heaven—from all good—and suffer the pains of eternal fire? After due deliberation, I resolved from that hour to seek religion at the sacrifice of every earthly good, and immediately prostrated myself before God in supplication for mercy.
According to the preaching and the experience of the pious in those days, I anticipated a long and painful struggle before I should be prepared to come to Christ; or, in the language then used, before I should get religion. This anticipation was completely realized by me. For one year I was tossed on the waves of uncertainty— laboring, praying and striving to obtain saving faith— sometimes desponding, and almost despairing, of ever getting it.
The doctrines then publicly taught were that mankind were so totally depraved that they could not believe, repent nor obey the gospel—that regeneration was an immediate work of the Spirit, whereby faith and repentance were wrought in the heart. These things were portrayed in vivid colors, with all earnestness and solemity. Now was not then, the accepted time—now was not then, the day of salvation; but it was God’s own sovereign time, and for that time the sinner must wait.
In February 1791, with many of my fellow-students, I went some distance to a meeting on Sandy River, in Virginia. J. B. Smith, president of Hampden-Sidney College; Cairy Allen, James Blythe, Robert Marshall and James McGready were there. On Lord’s Day President Smith spoke on these words: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.” In his description of a broken and contrite heart, I felt my own described. Hope began to rise, and my sorrow-worn heart felt a gleam of joy. He urged all of this character to approach the Lord’s Table that day on pain of his sore displeasure. For the first time I partook of the Lord’s Supper. In the evening the honest J. McGready addressed the people from “Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” He went through all the legal works of the sinner—all the hiding-places of the hypocrite—all the resting-places of the deceived—he drew the character of the regenerated in the deepest colors, and thundered divine anathemas against every other. Before he closed his discourse I had lost all hope, all feeling, and had sunk into an indescribable apathy. He soon after inquired of me the state of my mind. I honestly told him. He labored to arouse me from my torpor by the terrors of God and the horrors of hell. I told him his labors were lost upon me—that I was entirely callous. He left me in this gloomy state without one encouraging word.
In this state I remained for several weeks. I wandered alone, my strength failed me, and sighs and groans filled my days. My relatives in Virginia heard of my situation and sent for me. My altered appearance surprised them. My old mother took me in private and asked what was the matter. I told her all. She wept much. She had always been a praying woman and a member of the Church of England; but from this time she more earnestly sought the Lord, united with the Methodists, and lived and died a Christian. My visit proved to be a blessing to several of my relatives, who were awakened to a sense of their dangerous condition and inclined to turn to the Lord.
After a few days’ stay in Virginia, I returned to the academy in the same state of mind. Soon after I attended a meeting at Alamance, in Guilford County. Great was the excitement among the people. On the. Lord’s Day evening a strange young preacher, William Hodge, addressed the people. His text I shall never forget: “God is love.” With much animation and with many tears he spoke of the love of God to sinners, and of what that love had done for sinners. My heart warmed with love for that lovely character described, and momentary hope and joy would rise in my troubled breast. My mind was absorbed in the doctrine—to me it appeared new. But the common admonition, “Take heed lest you be deceived,” would quickly repress them. This cannot be the mighty work of the Spirit, which you must experience—that instantaneous work of almighty power, which, like an electric shock, is to renew the soul and bring it to Christ.
The discourse being ended, I immediately retired to the woods alone with my Bible. Here I read and prayed with various feelings, between hope and fear. But the truth I had just heard, “God is love,’’ prevailed. Jesus came to seek and save the lost—”Him that cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out.” I yielded and sank at his feet a willing subject. I loved him—I adored him—I praised him aloud in the silent night, in the echoing grove around. I confessed to the Lord my sin and folly in disbelieving his word so long, and in following so long the devices of men. I now saw that a poor sinner was as much authorized to believe in Jesus at first, as at last— that now was the accepted time and day of salvation.
From this time till I finished my course of learning I lived devoted to God. The study of the dead languages and of the sciences was not irksome, but pleasant, from the consideration that I was engaged in them for the glory to God, to whom I had unreservedly devoted my all. During this period a few incidents transpired which were severe trials of my faith. My expenses for boarding, tuition, clothing, books, etc., were considerable, far more than I had anticipated. My funds were nearly exhausted; my small patrimony had suffered loss. I could not procure decent clothes or books or things indispensably necessary. I had serious thoughts of relinquishing my studies, and mentioned it to my good friend and father, Dr. Caldwell. He urged me to go forward, and promised to wait with me till I should be able to pay him. Encouraged by him, I renewed my application through difficulties great till I had finished my course of studies.
3. Becomes a Candidate for the Ministry--Studies Theology under Mr. Hodge, of North Carolina--Abandons, for a tithe, his Theological Studies--Visits Georgia--Is Appointed...
Having finished my academic course, I advised with my good friend Dr. Caldwell with regard to my future career. I made known to him my great desire to preach the gospel, but that I had no assurance of being divinely called and sent. He removed my scruples on this subject, by assuring me that I had no right to expect a miracle to convince me, and that if I had a hearty desire to glorify God and save sinners by preaching, and if my fathers in the ministry should encourage me, I should hesitate no longer. He was glad to hear of my desire, and, in order to expedite my licensure, he gave me a text, and requested me to write a discourse upon it, and present it to the next presbytery, when I should offer myself a candidate for the ministry. By doing this I should be set forward six months.
In the year 1793, I, with several more of my fellow-students, became a candidate for the ministry in the Orange Presbytery. Samuel Holmes, a prodigy of genius (afterwards president of the North Carolina University), and myself put ourselves under the direction of William Hodge, of Orange County, North Carolina; The presbytery had assigned us particular subjects of divinity to study, as parts of trial, against their next stated session, among which were the being and attributes of God and the Trinity, with certain theses on which to write. We commenced in high spirits. “Witsius on the Trinity” was put into our hands. I had never before read any books on theology but the Bible. This had been my daily companion since I became seriously disposed to religion. From it I had received all my little stock of divinity. It was my life, my comfort and guide. In fact, by my close attention to other studies, I had but little time and opportunity to read anything else. My mind had remained happily ignorant of and undisturbed by polemic and obscure divinity. The doctrine of the Trinity may have been occasionally glanced at by our preachers, but was never made the subject of a discourse in my hearing.
Witsius would first prove that there was but one God, and then that there were three persons in this one God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost—that the Father was unbegotten, the Son eternally begotten, and the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son—that it was idolatry to worship more gods than one, and yet equal worship must be given to the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. He wound up all in incomprehensible mystery. My mind became confused, so much confused that I knew not how to pray. Till now secret prayer and meditation had been my delightful employ. It was a heaven on earth to approach my God and Saviour, but now this heavenly exercise was checked and gloominess and fear filled my troubled mind. I had serious thoughts of relinquishing the study of theology entirely, and of engaging in some other business. I made known my case to my fellow student, S. Holmes, but to none else. He acknowledged that his mind was similarly affected. We laid the book aside as unprofitable as well as unintelligible to us—calculated to involve our minds in mystic darkness, and to cool the ardor of our devotion. We heard of Dr. Watts’ treatise on the subject. We sought for it, and obtained it. This we read with pleasure and understanding and received his views.
The next session of our presbytery came on. We with many other candidates attended. Old Father Patillo was there, who himself embraced Watts’ views on the Trinity. The examination of the candidates on theology was laid on him. When he came to the subject of Trinity, he was very short, and his interrogatories involved no peculiarities of the system. Our answers were honest and satisfactory. The reasons why he was so short and indefinite on this subject were doubtless to prevent debate on the subject in presbytery, and to maintain peace among its members.
Before the next session of the presbytery, when we were to receive licensure, my mind had become much depressed, from various causes. My pecuniary resources had failed and none of my relatives were willing to aid me. Having been so long engaged and confined to the study of systematic divinity from the Calvinistic mold, my zeal, comfort and spiritual life became considerably abated. My mind was embarrassed with many abstruse doctrines, which I admitted as true, yet could not satisfactorily reconcile with others which were plainly taught in the Bible. For these causes I became so depressed in mind that I determined to give up the idea of preaching, and engage in some other calling.
With this determination, I collected my last resources of money (about fifteen dollars) and started alone to the State of Georgia. When I had gone half my journey, I was suddenly seized with a violent fever. Being scarce of money, and entirely among strangers, I determined to travel on. One day the fever rose so high that I was bereft of reason, and found by a philanthropist sitting on my horse, which was feeding by the side of the road. He took me to his house, where I remained till the next morning, when the fever had considerably abated and my senses were restored. Contrary to good advice, I started on my journey, and with much pain arrived at my brother Matthew Stone’s in Georgia, Oglethorpe County. Here I remained sick for several months.
The Methodists had just established an academy near Washington, under the superintendence of a Mr. Hope Hull, a very distinguished preacher of that denomination. Through the influence of my brothers, I was chosen professor of languages. We commenced with about seventy students about the beginning of 1795. I exerted myself to fill the appointment with honor to myself and profit to my pupils, and had the unspeakable satisfaction of receiving the approbation of the trustees of the institution and of the literati of the country. Men of letters were few at that time, especially in that part of the world, and were regarded with more than common respect. The marked attention paid me by the most respectable part of the community was nearly my ruin. Invitations to tea parties and social circles were frequent. I attended them for a while, until I found that this course would cause me to make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Though I still maintained the profession of religion, and did not disgrace it by improper conduct, yet my devotion was cold and communion with God much interrupted. Seeing my danger, I denied myself of these fascinating pleasures, and determined to live more devoted to God.
I constantly attended on the ministration of Mr. Springer, a very zealous Presbyterian preacher, near Washington. With him I became intimate, and to him was warmly attached. By his discourses I was always profited, and began to feel a very strong desire again to preach the gospel. These impressions I resisted and labored to suppress; the consequence of which was that my comforts were destroyed. At length I determined to resume my theological studies and prepare myself for the ministry.
About this time a great many Frenchmen, who had fled from the reign of terror in France, landed in Georgia. Washington was full of them. The trustees of the academy employed one of them, Francois Aubir, to teach the French language. With him I learned the language more perfectly, having acquired some knowledge of it before with a certain Dr. Hale, of North Carolina.
In the winter of 1795, I accompanied a number of Methodist preachers to a general conference at Charleston, South Carolina. Hope Hull was among them. It was a pleasant journey, and our stay in the city was highly agreeable. The road from the Black Swamp to Charleston was surpassed by none in the world for beauty and goodness. It was perfectly level and straight. On each side it was beautified with evergreens in the swamps, and with stately, long-leaf pines and pendent moss on the sands and dry ground.
Having returned to Washington, I continued to teach till the spring of 1796. Then, having resigned my professorship to the trustees, I started back to North Carolina, with a determination to receive from Orange Presbytery a license to preach. I had now more than enough money to discharge all my debts. The day of my departure was a day of sorrow. I bade an affectionate farewell to my pupils and numerous friends and hurried off alone. Nothing of moment occurred in my solitary journey till I arrived at the presbytery. Here I met with many of my warm friends, and our joyful salutation was mutual.
At this presbytery I, with several other candidates, received license. Never shall I forget the impressions made on my mind when a venerable old father addressed the candidates, standing up together before the presbytery. After the address he presented to each of the candidates the Bible (not the Confession of Faith), with this solemn charge, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Appointments were then made for us. Robert Foster and myself, licensed at the same time, were appointed to ride and preach in the lower parts of the State, till the next stated presbytery. After adjournment I proceeded to my mother’s, in Virginia.
Having remained at my mother’s a short time, I returned to North Carolina, and met with my colleague, R. Foster, and, having preached together, we proceeded to our destination in the lower parts of the State, where we arrived in a few days, and made our appointments for the Lord’s Day following. While we were waiting for our first appointment, my companion came to the determination to preach no more, and in this purpose he remained through life, for he never after attempted it. His reason was that he was not qualified for such a solemn work. This was the prevailing argument I had brought against myself; and now, coming from one against himself, whom I viewed my superior, I sank under it, and secretly resolved to leave that field and seek some distant country, where I should be a perfect stranger. Florida was then in my view. Next morning, while my companion was absent, I mounted my horse and started alone. This was on Saturday, in the beginning of May 1796.
On the Lord’s Day I attended a meeting in the neighborhood where I had lodged the night before. A pious old lady was there and knew me. She suspected my intentions, and told me plainly that she feared I was acting the part of Jonah—solemnly warned me of the danger, and advised me, if I disliked the lower parts of the State, to go over the mountains to the west. This advice pleased me, and determined me at once for the west. In the evening of that day, to my surprise, I saw Robert Foster in the congregation. He approached me and gently upbraided me for leaving him. I told him my determination to go to the west. He immediately agreed to accompany me. Next morning we started without naming to any one our destination.
We quickly got into the region of strangers, and wished to remain among such through life—to such a low state had our minds fallen. Having crossed the mountain at the flower gap, and New River at Herbert’s Ferry, we were jogging leisurely along the way to Fort Chiswell, when, passing a small house on the roadside, a man hailed us and ran out to us. He was an intimate acquaintance and a pious brother, Captain Sanders, from North Carolina. He was moving his family to Cumberland, but by some accident was obliged to abide where he was for one season. He constrained us to tarry with him, and said, “You must preach for us next Sabbath at the Presbyterian meeting-house,” not far distant. We both refused, but at length consented that he might make an appointment for worship, and we would attend and worship with them.
On Lord’s Day a large congregation met at Grimes’ meeting-house on Reed Creek. With great difficulty I. was prevailed on to ascend the pulpit. While singing and praying my mind was happily relieved, and I was enabled to speak with boldness and with profit to the people. I was pressingly solicited for another appointment. This congregation, and several more in the county (Wythe, Virginia), were all entirely destitute of preaching. I prevailed on my companion to tarry another week, and afterwards we would push forward, we knew not where. I made several appointments for the ensuing week—one at Smith’s meeting-house, near Samuel Ewen’s, an Israelite in whom was no guile; another at Colonel Austin’s, the proprietor of the lead mines on New River. The urgent and affectionate entreaties of the people for me to abide with them for awhile prevailed, and I made a number of appointments. My companion determined to leave me, journeying to the west. On May 23, 1796, he left me. The separation was painful, nor did we know where or when we should ever meet in this world.
I continued in Wythe and Montgomery Counties, preaching frequently, till July. The people were attentive, kind and liberal, yet I greatly desired to go forward to the west, and bade them farewell, never expecting to visit them again. That night, according to a previous promise, I lodged with Mr. Stonger, a Dutch Lutheran minister. I was kindly received and entertained. I find in my journal, written at that time, these Latin words:
Nocte pulices me deturbant, et somnum fugant. Taedet me vitae.
The next day I journeyed forward, and at night came to Mr. Thomas’, on South Holstein. I had inquired into the character of the family before I came there. I was informed that they were a very religious family of Baptists—that the old lady and daughter were very zealous. My horse being put away, I went into the house and sat down in silence. The old lady and daughter were busily spinning, and the old gentleman in conversation with another aged man. One of them observed to the other that a discovery had been lately made that if the logs of a house be cut in the full moon of February, a bedbug would never molest that house. I was so well pleased with the idea of unhousing these filthy, hateful vermin that I broke silence, and felicitated the country on this happy discovery. I then asked whether any discovery had been made for banishing fleas from a house. I was answered in the negative. “That is a pity,” said I; “for I have heard of such a place as hell; but if hell is worse than to be bedded with ten thousand fleas, it must be a dreadful place.” This, as I intended, roused the mother and daughter. “Yes,” said the old lady, ‘‘there is a hell, and if you do not repent and be converted, you will find it to your eternal sorrow.” The daughter zealously sanctioned these awful declarations, and both of them affectionately exhorted me to repentance in many words. For some minutes they gave me no opportunity to respond. At length I smilingly said, “You are Christians, I suppose; Christianity may be a good thing, but, madam, there are strange things in that system hard to be understood. I heard a man lately preach that a man must be born again before he could get to heaven; now, do you believe this?” “Yes, I do,” said she, calling me an ignorant Nicodemus. “Do, madam, tell me what it is to be born again.” She described it well, and really felt for my supposed condition. I stated many common cavils against the doctrine, which she answered with intelligence. Wearied with my supposed infidelity, she ceased to talk. The old man took a candle and invited me to bed. I observed to him, “I wish to hear you pray first, for Christians always pray in their families evening and morning.” He was thunder-stricken and walked the floor backwards and forwards, deeply groaning. The old lady laid the Bible on the table; still he walked and groaned. I then said, “If you will not pray, I will try.” I then advanced to the table, read, sung and prayed, and immediately retired to bed. Next morning I rose early, and was met at the door of the stairs by the mother and daughter. They gently reproved me for my deception, apologized for their conduct, and dismissed me with their blessings.
I started in the morning early on my journey to Cumberland, and on Saturday night lodged near where Edward Crawford, a Presbyterian minister, lived, on Holstein. On Sunday I attended his meeting, a perfect stranger, and determined to remain so till after worship. Here, to my astonishment, I saw my companion, Robert Foster, who had stopped in that neighborhood and was teaching a school. He proposed introducing me to the preacher. I declined an introduction till after worship. He would do it, and the consequence was I had to preach. On Holstein I tarried several days, and formed some valuable acquaintances, among whom Samuel Edmonson and his brother were pre-eminent. Near them is the Ebbing Spring, to me a great natural curiosity.
I left my companion, R. Foster, whom I saw no more for many years. Our last interview was in Tennessee, soon after which he died. I journeyed solitarily along to Knoxville, and went to the house of rendezvous for travelers through the wilderness to Nashville. Traveling through the wilderness was yet considered dangerous because of the Indians. But two travelers were at the house waiting for company. I was overpersuaded by them to venture through. Having laid up our provision for ourselves and horses, we left Knoxville, August 14, 1796.
My two companions were of very different temperaments. One was a West Tennesseean, a large, hoarse backwoodsman and Indian fighter of great courage; the other was a South Carolinian, the greatest coward I ever saw. We chose the Tennesseean for our captain and leader. Nothing of any note happened until we had crossed Clinch River. About sunset we discovered fifteen or twenty Indians about a hundred yards distant from us on the edge of a canebreak. They sprang up. Our leader said to us, “Follow me,” and rode on with a quick pace. We followed with equal speed for several miles, then slacked our gait for a council. It was concluded that the Indians would pursue us, but if they had no dogs we could evade them. The Cumberland Mountain was but a few miles ahead; we knew that we could not ascend it at night without danger to ourselves and horses, therefore concluded to turn off the road a short distance at the foot of the mountain and lie concealed till morning. According to this arrangement, we cautiously rode to the mountain, turned aside into a thick brushwood, tied our horses, and laid down on our blankets to rest. Being much fatigued, I slept so soundly that I did not perceive a shower of rain, which had awaked the other two and driven them off to seek shelter. At length I awoke and missed my company. Everything was profoundly silent, except the wolves and foxes in the mountain. My feelings were unpleasant. I almost concluded that the Indians had surprised them, and that they had fled. I remembered that the same God who had always protected me was present, and could protect me still. To him I humbly commended myself, laid down again, and securely slept till day, when I saw my companions about a hundred yards off, sheltered by a large tree. I blamed them for leaving me thus exposed to the ravening beasts around.
In climbing the mountain that morning, my horse lost one of his fore shoes. At this I was troubled, knowing that it would be almost impossible to get him to the settlement in Cumberland. He soon became very lame. I applied to the Tennesseean to let me ride his packhorse, and put his pack on mine. He unfeelingly refused. I trotted after my horse, and drove him along after the company, till I was overcome by weariness. They neither permitted me to ride their horses, nor slacked their pace, and finally rode off, and left me alone in the wilderness. I traveled leisurely along afoot, driving my horse before me, vexed at the baseness of my company in leaving me alone in this manner.
I had now arrived at the frontier settlement of West Tennessee, on Bledsoe’s Creek, at the cabin of Major White. Here I was kindly entertained, and rested several days, and then proceeded to Shiloh, near where Gallatin now stands. Here I joyfully met with many old friends and brethren, who had lately moved from Carolina, among whom were my fellow-students and, fellow laborers, William McGee and John Anderson, the latter of whom agreed to travel and preach with me through all the settlements of Cumberland. A length of time was not then required to do this, for the settlements extended but a few miles from Nashville, which at that time was a poor little village, hardly worth notice.
Among other settlements visited by us was that on Mansker’s Creek. Here we often preached to respectable and large assemblies from a stand erected by the people in a shady grove. At the same time a dancing master was lecturing the youth in the neighborhood in his art. This I evidently saw was drawing their attention from religion. I spoke my mind publicly and freely against the practice, and boldly and zealously protested against it. Some of the youth withdrew from his lectures, which highly exasperated the teacher. He swore he would whip me the next time I preached there. I came to my appointment, and so did he with a band of ruffians, armed with clubs, and stood in a half circle before me while preaching, in striking distance Un-appalled at their menaces, I proceeded in my discourse, nor did I forget the dancers, but drubbed them without mercy. The bandits soon saw that the gaze of the congregation was upon them. Like cowards, they sneaked off, one by one, and disappeared.
At the same place, and at another time, I was publicly attacked by an old deist, immediately after I had closed my discourse and descended from the stand. He walked up to me and said, “I suppose you know me, sir.” “No, sir,” said I, “I have no knowledge of you.” “I am Burns, the celebrated deist of this neighborhood.” “Mr. Burns,” said I, “I am sorry to hear you boast of your infidelity; pray, sir, inform me what is a deist?” Said he, “The man that believes there is but one God.” “Sir,” said I, “this is my belief, taught me by the Bible. But, sir, what is the character of your God?” “I believe,” said he, “that he is infinitely good, just and merciful.” “Whence, Mr. Burns, did you gain this information?” “From the book of nature,” said he. “Mr. Burns, please to show me the page in that book which declares that God is infinitely good.” “Why’ said he, “all nature declares it. We see the traces of goodness everywhere; hence I conclude that God, the great Governor of the universe, is infinitely good.” Mr. Burns please turn your eye on the opposite page of your book, and see the miseries, and attend to the groans of the millions who are suffering and dying every moment. You must conclude, from your own premises, that God, the great Governor of the universe, is also infinitely evil and malevolent. Your God, Mr. Burns, is infinitely good, and infinitely evil—a perfect contradiction! You must be an atheist, Mr. Burns, not a deist. You said, also, that your book taught you that God was infinitely just. Please show me the page in your book that teaches this doctrine.” Said he, “It is evident from this that there is a principle of justice in, every man; therefore I conclude that God, the Maker of all men, must be infinitely just.”. “Mr. Burns, I can show you in your own book as many men of unjust principles as you can men of just principles. Then it follows, from your premises, that God, the Maker, is infinitely just and infinitely unjust. Surely, Mr. Burns, atheism is your creed! But, sir, look here, on this page of your book. Here is a good citizen, a good husband, a good father, acknowledged such by all; yet his whole life is full of suffering, pain and want. Here also is a bad citizen, a bad husband, a bad father, acknowledged such by all; yet he is free from pain and wallows in wealth. How can you reconcile this with the infinite justice of God, the great Governor of the universe?” Mr. Burns’ lips quivered, the whole congregation intensely listening. “Oh” says he, “just rewards will be given in another world.” “But, Mr. Burns, your book nowhere teaches this doctrine; you have stolen it from our Bible.” “Sir,” said he, “I will see you at another time,” and retired in confusion, the congregation smiling approbation at his defeat.
My Colleague, J. Anderson, having preached through the settlements of West Tennessee, determined to visit Kentucky. We had our last appointment in Father Thomas Craighead’s congregation, in which neighborhood we had often preached. As we expected a large and intelligent audience, we endeavored to prepare discourses suitable to the occasion. My companion; Anderson, first rose to preach from these words: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” I shall never forget his exordium, which, in fact, was also his peroration. “Holiness,” said he, “is a moral quality”—he paused, having forgotten all his studied discourse. Confused, he turned with staring eyes to address the other side of his audience, and repeated with emphasis, “Holiness is a moral quality,” and, after a few incoherent words, he paused again, and sat down. Astonished at the failure of my brother, I arose and preached. He declared to me afterwards that every idea had forsaken him; that he viewed it as from God, to humble his pride, as he had expected to make a brilliant display of talent to that assembly. I never remembered a sermon better, and to me it has been very profitable; for, from the hint given, I was led to more correct, views of the doctrines of original sin and of regeneration.
4. Reaches Kentucky and Settles in the Close of the Year 1795, as the Preacher of the Congregations of Cane Ridge and Concord, Bourbon County--Is Appointed by Transylvania...
Having finished our labors in Cumberland, we started for Kentucky. We traveled through an extensive, uninhabited tract of barrens, or prairies, but now a fine timbered country, densely settled by wealthy farmers. We continued to preach in Kentucky till the winter set in severely. Brother Anderson stopped by invitation at Ashridge; near Lexington, and I at Cane Ridge and Concord, in Bourbon County. That winter, or early in the spring, a letter of importance recalled my companion, Anderson, to Carolina, whose face I have never since seen.
In Cane Ridge and Concord I spent the chief of my time, at the request of the congregations. I now learned experimentally that the rambling course of preaching which I had taken was of little profit to society and ruinous to the mental improvement of young preachers. I received the advice of my friends to become stationary for awhile, and apply myself closely to reading and study. I witnessed the good effects of this procedure, for many were added to the churches within a few months—about fifty in Concord and thirty in Cane Ridge. I became much attached to these congregations, and was persuaded that the attachment was reciprocal. I at length yielded to their solicitations to become their settled and permanent pastor.
Some unsettled business in Georgia demanded my presence there. By the Transylvania Presbytery I was solicited and appointed to visit Charleston, in South Carolina, and endeavor to obtain money for the purpose of establishing a college in our infant State. I accepted the appointment, having determined from Charleston to return through Virginia, and visit my mother and relations.
Marauding parties of Indians still infested travelers in the wilderness between Kentucky and Virginia, so that travelers always went in companies prepared for defense. In the fall of 1797 I left Cane Ridge for Georgia, in company with Henry Wilson, who, with a led horse packed with silver, was going to Virginia on land business. Having repaired to the house of rendezvous for travelers at the Crab Orchard, we learned that a company had just left that place two hours before, with intention to encamp at the Hazlepatch that night. We instantly followed at a quick pace, determined to ride late and overtake them. About ten o’clock we came to Hazlepatch, but to our distress we found no one there. My companion, being an early settler of Kentucky and often engaged in war with the Indians, advised to turn off the road some distance, and encamp till day. Having kindled a fire, supped, hobbled our horses, and prayed together, we laid down in our blankets to rest. But we were soon aroused from our slumbers by the snorting and running of our horses. We sprang up, and saw a fire about one hundred and fifty yards below us, and in a moment it was pulled asunder; as quikly did my companion pull ours apart also. He whispered to me, “They are Indians after our horses.” We laid down again, not to sleep, but to consult the best method of escape. We soon distinctly heard an Indian cautiously walking on the dry leaves towards our camp, about fifty yards off. Fearing he might shoot us in our blankets, without noise we crept into the bushes. Becoming very chilly there, and contrary to advice, I returned to my blanket, and was followed by my companion. A short time after we heard the Indian walk off in the same cautious manner. We concealed the bag of money and most valuable goods and hung up our blankets and bags of provisions over our camp, and cautiously went towards the course our horses had gone. When it was day, we found their trace, and overtook them about eight o’clock, and rode back very watchfully to our camp. When we came near, with difficulty we compelled our horses to advance, they frequently snorting and wheeling back. Every moment we expected to be fired upon, but were mercifully preserved. We packed up very quickly, and swiftly pursued the company, and late in the day came up with them. They informed us that when they came to the Hazlepatch the evening before they found a camp of white people, just before defeated, several lying dead and mangled in Indian style; that they pushed forward and traveled late at night. We clearly saw the kind hand of God in delivering us.
Having passed through the wilderness, our company parted; some for Virginia, the rest, with myself, for Georgia. After having settled my business, visited my relations, and preached through the country for several weeks, I started alone to Charleston. Nothing of note happened in my journey, except that by my caution and the fleetness of my horse I escaped a band of robbers, who attempted to stop me. I had been previously warned of the danger in those dismal swamps between Augusta and Charleston, and was therefore continually on my guard.
Before I reached Charleston, I passed over Stone River into John’s and Wadmelaw Islands. There I remained some days, and received the most friendly attention of gentlemen professing religion, living in splendid palaces, surrounded with a rich profusion of luxuries, and of everything desirable; these pleasures were heightened by free, humble and pious conversation. But in the midst of all this glory my soul sickened at the sight of slavery in more horrid forms than I had ever seen it before. Poor Negroes! Some chained to their work, some wearing iron collars, all half naked, and followed and driven by the merciless lash of a gentleman overseer, distress appeared scowling in every face. This was the exciting cause of my abandonment of slavery. Having preached several times in the islands, I left my horse on the island, and sailed over to Charleston by water. I lodged with Dr.Hollinshead, a gentleman and preacher of high standing. In the city I met with my former friend and classmate, Samuel Holmes. It was a joyful meeting. We visited the islands and country round in company. I observed the great change in his former simple manners and conversation. But few men can bear prosperity and popularity so as to retain the humble spirit of religion. In one of our excursions from the city in a pleasure vessel, a strong gale fell on us, and tossed us about tremendously on high waves. The scene was new to me, and produced very unpleasant feelings. I noticed the sailors, and saw in them no signs of fear. This calmed my fears, and I remained composed. My companion, Holmes, manifested strong symptoms of fear. One of the sailors, knowing him to be a preacher, looked at him, and with a laugh asked him if he was afraid to go to heaven by water. I smiled, but not with a good grace.
Having spent several weeks in the city and vicinity, we started together, Holmes, myself and two others, to the north. I arrived in safety at my mother’s in Virginia, and found her still alive and enjoying health. But many of my relatives and friends were gone, some to the grave and some to distant lands. When I was in the then far West I often sighed at the remembrance of the home of my youth, and the former haunts of my boyish pleasures, and longed to revisit them. But how disappointed was I! I felt more of a disposition to weep at the sight of these objects than to rejoice—the old schoolhouse in ruins; the old trees, under whose shade we used to play, either destroyed or dwindling with age. Those scenes, which had long ago passed away, never—ah! never to return. Vain world! After remaining some weeks with my mother, I bade a sorrowful adieu, and returned to Kentucky.
In the fall of I798, a call from the united congregations of Cane Ridge and Concord was presented me, through the Presbytery of Transylvania. I accepted, and a day not far ahead was appointed for my ordination. Knowing that at my ordination I should be required to adopt the Confession of Faith, as the system of doctrines taught in the Bible, I determined to give it a careful examination once more. This was to me almost the beginning of sorrows. I stumbled at the doctrine of Trinity as taught in the Confession; I labored to believe it, but could not conscientiously subscribe to it. Doubts, too, arose in my mind on the doctrines of election, reprobation and predestination, as there taught. I had before this time learned from my superiors the way of divesting those doctrines of their hard; repulsive features, and admitted them as true, yet unfathomable mysteries. Viewing them as such, I let them alone in my public discourses, and confined myself to the practical part of religion, and to subjects within my depth. But in reexamining these doctrines I found the covering put over them could not hide them from a discerning eye with close inspection. Indeed, I saw they were necessary to the system without any covering.
In this state of mind the day appointed for my ordination found me. I had determined to tell the presbytery honestly the state of my mind, and to request them to defer my ordination until I should be better informed and settled The presbytery came together, and a large congregation attended. Before its constitution, I took aside the two pillars of it, Dr. James Blythe and Robert Marshall, and made known to them my difficulties, and that I had determined to decline ordination at that times They labored, but in vain, to remove my difficulties and objections. They asked me how far I was willing to receive the Confession. I told them as far as I saw if consistent with the word of God. They concluded that was sufficient. I went into presbytery, and when the question was proposed, “Do you receive and adopt the Confession of Faith, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Bible?” I answered aloud, so that the whole congregation might hear, “I do, as far as I see it consistent with the word of God.” No objection being made, I was ordained.
Chapter 1. Birth and Early Education
Chapter 2. Enters Guilford Academy--Embraces Christianity among the Presbyterians--Completes his Academic Course
Chapter 3. Becomes a Candidate for the Ministry--Studies Theology under Mr. Hodge, of North Carolina--Abandons, for a tithe, his Theological Studies--Visits Georgia--Is Appointed...
Chapter 4. Reaches Kentucky and Settles in the Close of the Year 1795, as the Preacher of the Congregations of Cane Ridge and Concord, Bourbon County--Is Appointed by Transylvania...
Chapter 5. His Mind is Greatly Agitated by Calvinistic Speculations--He Re-examines the Scriptures, and Cordially Abandons Calvinism --Hears of a Great Religious Excitement in Logan...
Chapter 6. An account of the remarkable religious exercises witnessed in the beginning of the nineteenth century
Chapter 7. Hemorrhage of the Lungs from Excessive Speaking, etc.--Attends a Camp-Meeting at Paris--Meets with Opposition--Frees his Slaves--Richard McNemar, John Dunlavy, John Thompson,...
Chapter 8. Atonement--Change of Views--Baptism; Is Himself Immersed-- Fanaticism Makes Considerable Advance--The Shakers Come--Some of the Preachers and People Led Off
Chapter 9. The Churches had Scarcely Recovered from the Shock of Shakerism, When Marshall and Thompson Became Disaffected--They Endeavor to Introduce a Human Creed--But Failing, They...
Chapter 10. A. Campbell appears--Visits Kentucky--His Character and Views--In 1826 Elder Stone Commences the Publication of the Christian Messenger--In 1832 John T. Johnson Became...