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Autobiography: Experience at an Association PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

THE time for the meeting of the White Water Association came on, and Elder Stephen Card and I, with several brethren, were appointed by the Miami Association to bear a corresponding letter to the White Water Association, to meet with the Franklin Church, Fayette County, Indiana, on White Water, some four miles below Connersville.

When on our way to that place, near Oxford, we met some brethren who began to urge on me to return home by all means, for a letter had been sent from the Oxford Church, and I was to be rejected from a seat in the association, and would receive no entertainment. I told them whatever treatment I might meet with I should go on and hand in the letter, and discharge the duties which the Miami Association had given into my hands; and then I should act as circumstances might dictate. We went on our way in rather a melancholy mood. I was a stranger and had never been at the church where we were to meet, and had attended the association but a few times. My acquaintance was very limited, either with ministers or members of that association, and I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I said to Elder Card: “I suppose I shall have to hunt for a tavern to get lodgings, and so we will be separated at night.” He replied that our horses should not part. This was before I had published my second book.

When we came to the place, we found a very large crowd, and Elder Minor Thomas, of New York, was reading a hymn, preparatory to preaching the introductory sermon. We dismounted in the grove and were about to hitch, when an elderly gentleman, by the name of Pierce, a stranger to us all, but who knew me, came forward and intimated that he lived in the house on the bank of the river, the nearest house to the stand, “and,” said he, “as your horses have traveled a good way, I will take them under my care, and you can walk backward and forth to the meeting, and let your horses rest. You can make my house your home.” I thanked him and introduced Elder Card and the brethren, and said: “If you can take us all in, we shall be glad to accept your generous offer.” He said he was prepared to receive all of us. I felt encouraged by this providence at such a trying moment, for, as such, I viewed it. We went up near the stand and heard a good sermon delivered by Elder Thomas, after which the moderator called for the letters from the several churches to be read. When Oxford was called for, many of its partisans went on the stand and others stood about it. The letter was very lengthy, and while it was being read the moderator said he believed such a letter as that ought not to be read on the stand. To this one of the authors of the review replied: “Let it be read; it is from one of our churches, and is well worth hearing.” The moderator took his seat, and the letter was read. He then announced that the association, and all that were interested in the business department of it, would now repair to the house, and, after a short recess, preaching would recommence on the stand.

As we were going to the house, I was accosted by a stranger who seemed to know me. He said: “Ah, and are you here? At what time did you come? Did you hear that letter?”

I replied that I heard it all.

“And what did you think of it?”

“Why,” said I, “I think they have put in too much powder, and have entirely overshot me; and, as their powder will be wasted by to-morrow, and so be found very scarce, they will undershoot me then, and so I shall not get hit at all.”

He said: “May be so”; and turned away. After the association was organized, Elder Lewis Dewees was chosen moderator. The Miami letter of correspondence was the first called for. I arose and handed it in. It was read, and all the messengers were cordially invited to seats in the deliberations of the association. Here, I supposed, my seat would be objected to, and the investigation respecting me would commence; but not a word was said. I still waited until all the letters of the corresponding associations had been read and disposed of, and then I obtained the floor and said: “I rejoice to perceive, in the friendly reception you have given the letter from Miami, which I have handed in, abundant evidence of the harmony and uninterrupted brotherly correspondence that still exists among us. And now I have discharged the duties which my association required of me to do, and you, by inviting me to a seat with you, have showed your regard for the body which sent me here.

“Now I wish to call your attention to a letter from one of your churches, and which was publicly read on your stand this day, in which I am personally assailed as being a heretic, a Brahmin, a Mohammedan, and a believer in about all other species of heresy, both ancient and modern, which have ever troubled the church. I am personally attacked by one of the churches of your body; and yet I am sitting with you in council, without your offering any reproof, or any manifestation of your disapprobation of that church’s course. If I am guilty of even one-half of what they have accused me of, I cannot be worthy of a seat with you in council, or of any other Christian body. If that church has basely misrepresented my writing, as I now charge them, then I cannot sit with them in this association. I say this only for myself, as an individual, and I add, upon my own responsibility, that I am ready to meet any committee that either this association, or the Oxford Church, may appoint. I think I can prove that all they have said in that letter about the heresies of my writing, are misrepresentations of my book. Therefore I cannot sit in this association until I know by some expressive act of hers, her disapprobation of that church and her letter. I, therefore, for myself personally and individually, decline taking a seat under present circumstances.”

No one made any reply, and, for some time all was silent. Then a motion was made and carried to refer the Oxford letter and the whole matter to the committee on arrangement, so that it should come in as an item of business on the morrow. Thus the matter ended on Friday. Elder Card was appointed to preach on the stand first, on Saturday morning. After we went to our place of entertainment and had dined, Elder Card and I took a walk in a meadow. We both felt sad and gloomy.

After walking some time in silence I said: “Well, Brother Card, contrary to the wish of the Oxford combination, who did not intend that either of us should preach to the people from the stand where that letter was read, God has so ruled it that you are to preach to-morrow morning; and I do hope and pray that the Lord, who has called and sent you to feed His sheep and lambs, will be your present helper in time of trouble.” He remarked that he was surprised at the appointment, “for,” said he, “I plainly saw that neither of us was to be put on the stand, and the association was not to take any action on our case if they could prevent it, and so their letter would stand in full force, and the association, by her silence, would seem to endorse it. This was their policy, and yet I was appointed without any visible opposition. From the time it was announced that I was to occupy the stand I felt like Samson.” He stopped suddenly, trembling with emotion.

I said that I was glad that he felt so strong, and added: “I do hope that your looks may not be timid.”

Said he: “I feel very weak; it was not in regard to strength that I felt like Samson; but when he grasped the pillars he cried: ‘Lord, help this once.’ So I now pray, ‘Lord, help this once, for I am not able,”’ and he burst into tears. We both stood weeping for some time together.

At length I said: “My brother, these people have not so much against you as they have to the company you keep. I am the victim they came to sacrifice. Your doctrine, ‘tis true, is the same as mine, but my book, they perceive, lays the ax at the root of ‘Fullerism’, which has long been their hobby, and they are now seeking for an advantage to prostrate the book and me both, not by any fair Scriptural investigation, nor by letting my book go before the people to speak for itself, but by that letter sent by the Oxford Church (the very seat of learning in the West) to the association. This is their policy to keep us both out of the stand, and prevent the association from taking any action on the letter, but let it all pass as though it were approved and endorsed by her. Then their condemnation of all the alleged heresies they have accused me and my book of advancing, will seem to be endorsed by the silence of the association, and by our being rejected from the stand. But I believe that the God who has committed to you a dispensation of the gospel of His grace has so far restrained the wrath of men that it shall praise Him; and prejudices that were intended to be fixed on the minds of the people, and especially on the churches and brethren, will in some degree be removed. Let them succeed as they may with me; I am in the hand of God in this matter; and, if it be His will that I should preach here, He will so have it. I shall submit and leave it all with Him, for I am far too ignorant and unworthy to dictate in such a case. I feel to say, ‘Not my will, but thine be done, O Lord.’”

When Saturday morning came we went to the meeting-house, and when the bill of arrangement of business was reported, received, and made the order of business for the day, not one word appeared about that letter. I then saw that it was to be passed over without any action of the association, unless it was to be called up by motion, if I should go to the stand to hear preaching. Soon a call came from the stand requesting Elder Card to go out, for that an immensely large crowd of people were in waiting to hear him. The moderator called for him to go and preach to the people. The elder came to me and got my Bible and hymn-book. I saw his countenance was unusually solemn. He walked out, and quite a number followed him. I kept my seat to watch the movements of the business. When I began to hear the loud, strong voice of the elder sounding aloud, my mind became deeply and powerfully impressed with a desire to know if the Lord was with him in his time of need. I could sit there no longer, and so stepped out and went near enough to the stand to hear every word. I saw at once that he was in one of his happiest moods of preaching. I stood by a tree until I felt as confident that God was with him for good, as I could have been had I seen His glorious presence with my natural eyes.

I then returned to the house, fully satisfied that God would in some way, beyond my comprehension, overrule this thing for His glory and the good of the church and His people. When the bill of arrangement had about gone through, Elder Thomas took me out and said: “That letter which was referred to the committee was not attended to as directed by the association, and if you wish it, I will bring it up by motion, after the bill has been gone through.”

Said I: “I should surely feel much relieved to see the association act on the case.” He replied that he would make the motion at the proper time. We then went into the house. When the ballots were cast for the preachers to occupy the stand on Sunday, I was truly surprised to hear my name announced as one of them, and that I had the highest vote. The rule was then that the one having the highest number of votes should preach last. At the proper time Elder Thomas made his motion, which was carried. Several persons said they did not know what the association could do in the case. The letter had been written by one of the churches, and she could write on any subject she chose. One minister said he did not see what I could wish the association to do more than she had done. She had invited me to a seat, and had appointed me to preach on her stand tomorrow, and he thought all that was enough, and he wished to know of me what would satisfy me. The moderator then called on me to say what I wished the association to do in the case.

I then arose and said: “This association has heard that letter from the Oxford Church read publicly on her stand in a mixed assembly of people, both saints and sinners, believers and infidels, and in the hearing of both the messengers from the churches of your own body and from the wide range of your correspondence. I am a stranger among you; the attack was personal, and made before some thousands of people, charging me with almost every heresy that can be named. So here I stand as a condemned heretic, of the worst sort, by the authority of one of your churches. After all this, when I handed in the corresponding letter from Miami, that association was not accused by any church, and, of course, this association in receiving that letter, could do nothing else than invite its accidental messengers to seats with you. This was all done as a matter of course, and I, being a messenger, was, of course, included, as no personal objection was made.

“Now all this gave no expression of the mind of the association either for or against the course of that church or their personal attack on me as an incorrigible heretic; unless, indeed, their silence on the matter, and passing it over as though it were all right, be construed into an implied approbation of that church, and a justification of its course, as well as their belief that I am guilty of all the heresies which I have been charged with by that church. I saw this was the design of my accusers; for to avoid any investigation of the matter they raised no objection to such a heretic having a seat m council with them. This left me but one course to take. I refused a seat and charged them with base misrepresentations, and declared my readiness to substantiate my charge by a fair investigation. This was treated with silence, and the letter was handed over to the committee on arrangement, to be taken up in the order of business on Saturday. But this order of the association was strangely passed over without any notice whatever in the report of the committee, and the report thus deficient was made the business of the day. So that if Elder Thomas had not directly brought it up by motion before the association, I suppose that no expression would have been given nor any investigation entered into. And yet my accusers seem to suppose that the association has done all that she could do to satisfy me, because she received a corresponding letter at my hand, and also appointed me to preach on the stand on Sunday, and had excluded me from a seat in her council!

“Now, I am called upon to say what more I wish the association to do in the case. It has been said that a church has a right to write on what subject she pleases; then, if she chose, she can fill a long letter with slander, detraction, falsehood, and misrepresentation, and even presumption, blasphemy, and persecution, and yet, strange to add, the association cannot reprove or admonish a church of her body for sending such a letter to her! Every person must see the fallacy of such a position. I am disposed to be satisfied with as little as the nature of the case will admit. I do not wish to dictate to this body what they should do; but I will now propose to you that if by your inviting me to a seat with you, I am to understand that it is a full expression of your fellowship for me personally, notwithstanding all that the Oxford letter has said, and also that by your electing me as one to preach to-morrow, you mean to declare by this act that after all the grievous charges of heresy contained in that long letter from the Oxford Church, you still believe the doctrine contained in my book, and are willing to have it preached among you, or, by a resolution or motion send a reproof upon your minutes to that church for sending such a letter to you, and thus caution all the churches against sending any such letters for the future, and, in addition, grant me a certified copy of the letter, as it was personal, to take with me and use as prudence and circumstances may dictate, I shall be content.” To this proposition the association cordially agreed. The reproof and caution were spread upon the minutes of that session, and I got a certified copy of the letter.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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