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Autobiography: Full-time Labor in the Ohio Churches PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   

  

CHAPTER TWENTY

I MUST now return to Lebanon. The good work was still gradually going on here, and after I had preached one year for the church, and there being no prospect of Elder Clark’s ever being able to preach any more, the church insisted that I should move to Lebanon and take the pastoral care jointly with Elder Clark, although there seemed to be no probability of his ever being able to be at meeting with them. This call took a deep effect on my mind. I had still attended the three churches, Pleasant Run, Mill Creek, and Springfield, monthly. One week of each month I attended a meeting on the south side of the Little Miami River, where a good work of grace was going on, and a number were now waiting for an opportunity to be baptized. Finally, seven or eight old members having settled in that vicinity, and holding letters, were constituted; and to them were added a large number by baptism, so that this soon became a prosperous and growing church. I continued to attend them monthly, on a week day, as all my Sundays were taken up. I thought that, under these circumstances, if I should move to Lebanon and still continue to attend all these churches, it would greatly increase my traveling labor. So before giving my final answer to this call I took a tour westward, through Indiana, as far as the Wabash River, which I struck near the mouth of Raccoon Creek, and ascended it to the mouth of Sugar Creek, then turned down the Wabash, by Terre Haute, to Honey Creek and Turman’s Churches, and here I spent some days preaching. This was a new settlement, and many of the members of these churches were either those I had baptized in the State of Ohio or brethren with whom I was well acquainted in that state. After spending some days here, I went on down the river, through Vincennes, and on to a church not far from Evansville, on the Ohio River. Here I remained and preached a few days. I then crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky and spent some days in the Green River country, and then I went on to Bardstown, and then to Frankfort and Covington.

This tour was performed in the month of January. The weather was extremely cold, and there were several heavy snow storms during the time, through which I had to pass. Part of the way was so thinly settled that I had often to camp in the woods at night. I had no previous appointments, and had to travel from one settlement to another, and there circulate my appointments, and when I had filled them, I would then move on to another settlement, and so on.

The day I came to Covington was extremely cold. The day has since been known as the “cold Wednesday”. I found the river so full of floating ice that the ferryman refused to venture over to Cincinnati. I saw a boat starting out from the Cincinnati shore. I waited until it came over, and then got my horse in and we started across. Shunning very large pieces of ice, and, with poles pushing off the smaller masses and flakes, we made our dubious way, until we came near the Cincinnati landing, when a very large cake of solid ice struck the boat, and carried us below the landing before we could disengage the boat. We were carried far below with the heavy piece of ice, and the smaller pieces were crowded against the wharf, and flake upon flake was piled up until an embankment was raised so high that there was no possibility of getting on the land, and we were in constant danger of being capsized. Every man was to his pole. The stream was swollen, the current swift, and the ice, in very large cakes, pressed hard to the shore. The boat was jammed between the cakes, and a high ledge of ice was banked up against the shore. To push off the floating pieces of ice, and keep the boat from the shore, and push her up a strong current, full of small pieces of ice, was no easy matter. All worked for life, and finally we reached the landing where the ice-ledge had been kept open. Here we got on land again. It was now after sunset, and I had traveled forty-two miles that cold day. Though I was now quite wet from the splashing of the water, I resolved to press on for home that night, which was about thirteen miles distant, and I did get home about ten o’clock. My ears, fingers and feet were frozen until they blistered. I found my family well.

The next evening, being tired and sore, I lay down before the fire to take the cold out of my system. I fell asleep. I dreamed that I was in the neighborhood of Lebanon, and traveling east on a newly-made road, which ran very straight and was quite wide, and every tree and log had been taken out of it. I saw that in the middle of this road was an old beaten track, very narrow and straight, and wore down as if it had been traveled a long time. I walked along in the old straight, beaten track, which appeared to be traveled only by footmen. While thus walking I became suddenly impressed that my life was in great danger, that a great persecution had broken out, that a large reward had been offered for my head, and that the woods were infested, on each side of the road, with men on the hunt for me, to take my life. I raised my eyes and saw, some distance before me, a large band of these men, near the left side of the road, and who were coming toward it. I thought they stopped and looked in every direction. I stood still with my eyes upon them; at length it appeared that they had seen me, for they hallooed loudly: “Catch him; that is the man.” And I thought they started at full speed toward me, screaming and yelling, while their feet made a noise on the ground like a troop of horses. I suddenly took fright and turned to run, and to my satisfaction, soon found that I could easily outrun them all.

But my mind was arrested with the thought that this running was a reproach to the cause of God and truth; for if my work were done and my days ended, let me not run. God can and will sustain me while He has any use for me on earth; and, as I am now persecuted for the truth’s sake, this may be the Lord’s time, and place, and manner, for me to seal my testimony with my life. I stopped instantly, and looked at them as they were coming like a tempest. I faced them and dropped upon my knees in prayer for the Lord’s will to be done with me, and that I should glorify His name, either by my life or by my death. I heard no more of them; and, after a short time, I opened my eyes, but could neither see nor hear anything of them.

Believing firmly, as I did, that God was glorified in my deliverance from these enemies, I arose up from my knees and resumed my walk as before. I had walked but a short distance until I came to the point of a hill, by a creek of beautiful, clear water. Here I began to lift with my hands some very large, flat rock with perfect ease. I thought they were six or eight inches thick and four or five feet square. When I had raised them on one edge I thought they were for a building, but I had no tools to break them to a suitable size. I then rolled one into the water, and immediately the rock broke into pieces, just the proper size for the building, and the sides were so straight, smooth, and square that no hammer was needed for their preparation. I continued to lift them, large as they were, and with perfect ease. As fast as I rolled them into the water, they would fall to pieces as before described. I was greatly delighted with this work. I thought in my dream that I soon had a large quantity of the best and handsomest building rock I ever saw. Presently some friend came along and began to help me. I stepped a little farther up the point, and found another such quarry, and I began to roll the rock into the water with the same result. I spoke to my friend and told him that these rocks were as good as the first, and they were abundant in different places in that hill.

I was greatly delighted with this work; but I dreamed it was all a dream, and that its interpretation was this: that I must soon pass through some sore persecutions on account of the doctrine which I preached, and the ordinances I practiced; but the Lord, in His own good time and way, would deliver me, and I should see the church of God “built up of living stones, for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” With a full assurance and a joyful anticipation of the realization of this dream, or rather its interpretation, I awoke, believing firmly that it would be fulfilled.

The next morning I started to Lebanon to meeting, tired and sore from my journey and frozen flesh. I traveled along alone in the cold, pondering on my dream and its signification. I have never been much of a dreamer, but this dream and some others have made such deep and abiding impressions on my mind, that I have never forgotten them; but have surely seen them fulfilled. Perhaps the reader may think I am an enthusiast; be this so or not, I cannot see why God should not, by dreams or visions, communicate with His servants now as in former times. But I only state these occurrences as they took place, and Leave the reader to form his own conclusions. I will now go on with my narrative, and if the reader will keep my dream in his memory, and also its interpretation, he will be able to lay his finger on the events which I view as its fulfillment. In April I moved to Lebanon. My regular meetings had all been continued. At Brother Drake’s I still held meetings on Sunday evening as before mentioned. I continued to preach for the newly-constituted church south of the Little Miami River.

I will here relate one event, as it may be of interest to the reader. It took place at Lebanon. A lady, named Mrs. Wiles, who had led a female class for some years in connection with the Methodist Church, had become fully convinced of the errors of that church, both in doctrine and practice, and especially as to the practice of baptism, which she considered open rebellion against the ordinance of Christ. The result was she could live no longer with them. She went to the church of which she was a member, and told them plainly to take her name off their class-book, as she could not conscientiously be a member of that body any longer, and she had fully resolved in her own mind to offer herself to the Baptist Church, and if received by them she wished to make her home there.

At our next church meeting she, with several others, came forward. I told her to begin where the Lord had taught her to know and feel the weight of her sins, and give the reasons of the hope that was now in her. She was so deeply affected that she could utter but a few words. Presently her voice was lost in sobs and tears, so we had to wait for her to subdue her feelings, and again she would be overcome as before. These efforts were repeated a number of times. The house was crowded, and a number of the most prominent members of the Methodist Church were present. Their principal class-leader stood leaning against one of the columns which supported the gallery, for the seats were all full.

After she had made some fruitless efforts to proceed, the class-leader said to me: “You need not delay on her account, for she has long been a member of my class, and she is not fit to become a member of the Baptist Church.”

I turned to him and said: “Is not Mrs. Wiles a full and honorable member of what is called the Methodist Church?”

He answered: “Yes, sir.

“Has she not led a female class?”

He answered: “Yes, sir.”

“Has she not been for some years regarded as an orderly, pious, and godly woman, and as a female member highly esteemed?”

“Yes, sir,” said he.

“Then,” said I, “how much better, in your opinion, must persons be, before they are even fit to become members of the Baptist Church, than the most pious, orderly, and exemplary persons in the Methodist Church?” He said he did not know.

I replied to him that she would be able to talk directly, and then the church could decide whether she had the prerequisites for membership and gospel fellowship among us. Then I said to Mrs. Wiles: “Give us a relation of the way the Lord has led you, and why you have come to this church seeking a home, and why you have left the Methodist Society.” She now seemed perfectly composed in mind. Her relation was full and clear on all the points of Christian experience, and of faith, repentance, and a good hope through grace. Then she explained how she was taught by the Methodists, and how she fell in with them, and also how her mind had been exercised as to the doctrine, the ordinances, and discipline of the true church, all of which she found in the Baptist Church, but the very reverse she had found in the Methodist. These were her reasons for leaving them. She was cordially received and baptized, and long continued to be a sound, an orderly, and zealous member.

After some time this work gradually decreased. The church paid my house-rent, and furnished wood and provisions for my family, and I gave myself up to the work of the ministry. I now preached one Saturday and Sunday in Lebanon, one at Mill Creek, one at Pleasant Run, and one at Sugar Creek, and two days in each month at Wilmington, Clinton County, about twenty miles east of Lebanon, and also two days each month at the new church south of the Little Miami River. I spent the remainder of my time among different churches, and in going from place to place, and in writing a book entitled “Simple Truth.”

When this book came out, the persecution of my dream, above stated, began with great violence. Two learned ministers, one a teacher and the other a student in the college at Oxford, Ohio, together with the Oxford Church, opened the campaign by publishing a pamphlet as a review of my book, and a letter was written to the White Water Association in which, as well as in the pamphlet, my writings were misrepresented, and I was arraigned before the world and my brethren as a Brahmin, a Socinian, an Arian, a Sabellian, a believer in the Alcoran, in short, as a teacher of doctrines containing a mixture of all the ancient heresies which had troubled the church. Soon after these productions there came out another pamphlet by an Elder Fairfield, and afterward another by Elder Mason, of whom I have before spoken. These several publications, with the personal influence of many ministers and members of the Baptist churches, produced great excitement, and many misrepresentations were spreading through the country. From these circumstances the world, and more especially those of other denominations, felt emboldened to fall on me and to do all in their power to sink me if possible below recovery, and to load me down with reproaches and disgrace. The churches for which I preached and the Baptists generally, and the associations stood firmly by me. But some of them gave me very strong hits for being too sanguine in believing that patience, forbearance, and kindness on my part, and a calm and deliberate examination of the Scriptures and their plain teachings (on the points investigated in my book) by the friends and churches would bring me out all right.

I also published another book entitled the “Triumphs of Truth”. In this book I undertook to prove by Scripture language every disputed point in my first book. I published some letters to the Oxford Church and to the two ministers who had published the pamphlet in review of my first book, and I fully exposed their misrepresentations in an appendix. When this book came out it quieted the tumult. One of the ministers confessed his wrong, and the Oxford Church finally went down. The other editor of the review removed to Kentucky, and soon after died. Elder Mason lost his influence in Ohio and moved to Wayne County, Indiana, drew a small number from the Elkhorn Church into his views for a time, but he and his party both finally came to the church and made a confession and were restored. He died an elder in the White Water Association.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.