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Autobiography: More Labor in the Ohio Churches-Lebanon Church PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

I CONTINUED preaching for these three churches, and the work of grace still progressed at Brown’s Run, until the church had increased to about sixty members. Most of these were new converts, although many had also joined Elk Creek and Tapscott’s Churches. During the progress of that gracious work of Divine power, a similar work was going on at Pleasant Run Church, where my wife and I held our membership. This revival was preceded by a general travailing in the minds of the members of the church, and seemed to spread gradually its influence, until sinners were awakened generally, so that I was compelled (as on a former occasion) to resort to the grove, as our place of worship would not accommodate the people. This work was one that was truly deep and solemn, adding many valuable members, who in after years became its pillars. During this time a similar demonstration of Divine power was prevailing in the churches of Westfork, Mill Creek, and Springfield. The additions were not so numerous, yet they were marked with the same deep and impressive solemnity, being free from exciting emotions. The work gradually developed. Christians were refreshed, and sinners were awakened and made to rejoice. Most of these were young and of middle age. The work continued about one year, during which time about one hundred were added to the churches.

About this time I received a call from the church at Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio, located about thirty miles from Cincinnati, and about twenty-five from where I lived. I told the committee that my time was all engaged: the first Saturday and Sunday in each month at Mill Creek; the second at Pleasant Run; the third at Springfield; and the fourth I divided among the three; thus giving to each church two Sundays in every three months; consequently, all my meetings in the Brown’s Run vicinity had been on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I felt, however, some impressions to go to Lebanon, so I replied to the committee, that if their church saw proper to send a committee to these three churches, and they would release me on the fourth Sunday, that being the regular meeting-day at Lebanon, I would accept the call. A committee was accordingly sent, and the churches agreed to release me on that day, so I gave to the committee an appointment for the Friday following, at four o’clock, at one Alexander Van Pelt’s, and at Lebanon the two days following.

The circumstances which led the Lebanon Church to call on me at this time were as follows: Elder Daniel Clark, a fatherly man and a good minister, had become old and infirm and unable to perform the duties of a pastor, especially as a baptizer, and had requested the church to release him and call another. The church refused to release him from the pastoral office, but was willing to call me as his assistant, and did so. This excellent old elder had been their pastor from the period of their organization many years before, and served them so faithfully that he seemed like a father to them all. They could not bear to dissolve the relation of pastor and flock while he lived. I heartily approved of their course and believed then, as I do now, that he was worthy of their marked respect.

When I attended the aforementioned appointment, at Van Pelt’s, old Elder Clark was there. After the meeting was over and the crowd had dispersed, a conversation ensued. Some brethren had accompanied me from Pleasant Run, and others of the neighborhood stayed, and all joined in the conversation. Many questions were put to me on various points of doctrine, to all of which I answered as fully and copiously as I could, being a stranger to most of them, and but very little acquainted even with Elder Clark. The questions led on to the doctrine of the legal relation of Christ and the elect, and their justification in Him. These points, about this time, were greatly agitating the minds of the members of the Baptist churches, and I had heard that old Elder Clark taught a different opinion to the one I advocated. After fully and freely expressing my views, I observed that I was taking too much of the time and would rather hear others talk. Elder Clark, who had been a silent listener, requested me to go on. Said he: “I have an ear for these subjects, and I wish you to explain your views of these points, in accordance with Christian experience.”

I replied: “I believe that any creature who is led by the Holy Spirit is led according to that volume which was written by the inspiration of the same Spirit, and therefore the written word and a gospel experience will always harmonize. Men are by nature the children of wrath, both elect and non-elect. In this state they are dead, blind, deaf, and without understanding, or any proper knowledge of their condition, or of the true God, and the heavenly kingdom, or spiritual things. Christ is hid from them as a mediator, although in other things they may be both wise and prudent. When God quickens or gives eternal life, He opens the eyes of the understanding to correct views of the Divine character, glory, and goodness of God; and these views, contrasted with the sinner’s own native depravity and degradation, show him his just condemnation. He sees that such an unholy sinner is utterly unqualified to dwell with a holy God. He begins to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to pant for the living God, and to inquire how to order his cause before Him.

“Now he flies to the law, and summons all his powers to keep its precepts, and resolves to reform and seek for pardon. Failing in all this, his burden and load presses him heavier and heavier; every prospect of hope fades away; death, judgment, and eternal despair are before him, and the justice of God and the terrors of His offended law, as the ministration of condemnation and death are upon him. But as he dies to the last hope of salvation, pardon, justification, or acceptance with God through his own works, he falls as a pensioner before Him and cries: ‘Lord, save or I perish.’ Christ, the end of the law, the way, the truth, and the life, is revealed to his faith. He sees in His blood and righteousness, and infinite fullness, the ground of his justification, acceptance or pardon, and he rejoices in hope of the glory of God.

“The relation he sustains to God as his Father, and to Christ as the mediator of his Father’s will, may be illustrated by supposing me to be an heir to one dollar, bequeathed to me by the will of my father even before I was born, and the dollar deposited for safe keeping with the executor to be given to me at a set time, and under circumstances which he foreknew would surround me. We will suppose all this was unknown to me. I had never seen my father and knew nothing of his will. In process of time I became oppressed with poverty; I was willing to work but none would hire me at any wages. I began to beg, but no one gave me even a morsel to eat, or one drop to drink. In this forlorn condition I grew weak and faint, and fell helpless and hopeless and was dying of hunger and thirst, and in despair. One dollar would now relieve me, but I had not one cent. Death seemed about to fasten its fatal grasp upon me. A friend stood by me and held up a dollar and said: ‘This is yours, bequeathed to you by your father, and this is the time I, as his executor, was to give it to you.’ With what joy I would grasp the dollar! how I would love my father and admire the plan of his will! How I should love the executor, and admire his faithfulness! How I should desire to see and read the will; and O! how I should prize the relation in which I found myself standing to such a father, and to such an executor, and for being known and blessed in such a will.”

The old elder burst into tears, saying: “That is the doctrine I love and believe, and have loved ever since I knew the plan of salvation. Is that the doctrine preached by Elders Lee and Gard?” I replied that it was. He said that he had not so understood them. I replied that they were merchants who dealt by the wholesale, but I am a retail dealer and so deal out by the small. Elder Clark became fully settled on these points of doctrine, which removed his last objection to my becoming his assistant. The next day was their church meeting, when I became Elder Clark’s assistant for one year.

On going to attend the next meeting there I went from Banker’s Mill on the Big Miami, and the road being very intricate I missed my way and did not arrive until just as Elder Clark was about to read his text. As I stepped in, he called on me to come into the pulpit. I requested him to go on, as I preferred to follow him. While sitting in the pulpit I felt some strange impressions. A child was crying near me, and as I looked toward it, my eye was attracted by a young woman who was sitting by the mother of the crying child. Why it was I cannot tell, but I felt an assurance that she was one of God’s elect and would be gathered into His fold. She seemed careless and indifferent and was an entire stranger to me, yet those impressions were strong and irresistible. When the elder closed I followed him, after which I read a hymn and gave the book to the singing clerk and sat down. I saw that this young woman had been weeping. She wiped her eyes and commenced singing. She came to the verse:

My faith would lay her hand,
On that dear head of thine;
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.

At these words she dropped her head and wept like a child. The good work was now begun in her. Her name was Elizabeth Eddy, and she was the daughter of Joseph Eddy, one of the elders of the Presbyterian Church in the town. He lived at the crossing of Turtle Creek, two or three miles below town. They were a good and wealthy family. I continued to attend this church every month, and still saw this young lady every meeting. I saw that she was deeply and solemnly impressed, though I had never spoken to her.

About this time Elder Clark was prostrated by a paralytic stroke, which greatly injured his mind and impaired his speech so that he could not attend any more meetings. Although he lived many years afterward he never attended but one meeting after his first shock, nor was his mind or speech ever restored; yet on religious subjects his conversation was deeply interesting and edifying. Brother Drake, a sound Baptist, and his wife lived about four miles from Lebanon, in a little village called Deerfield, on the Little Miami River. This man and his wife had letters from some sister church, but had never joined since they came to this place although it had been several years. He came to Lebanon and requested me to hold a Sunday evening meeting at his house, after preaching at Lebanon, each month. This I agreed to do and published it. I saw full evidences of a work of grace silently but gradually progressing. The congregation became very large and solemnly attentive, and many were deeply affected. The church was revived.

After the next meeting closed, a request was made for me to make an appointment on the Friday evening before the next meeting at Lebanon, at the house of Mr. Joseph Eddy. It surprised me that a Presbyterian should make such a request. From the time I had first noticed his daughter I had a desire to talk to her on the exercises of her mind, but had never spoken to her, nor did I know any other member of the family. I readily published the appointment and thought the way was open for me to converse with the young woman, for I had observed such a visible change in her countenance, from a look of gloom and despair to that of peace and hope, that I was very anxious to speak with her. The time of the meeting came on and doubts began to arise like this: “This leading Presbyterian has showed great friendship to me in requesting me to make this appointment at his house, and now if I should find his daughter to be a gospel subject for baptism, and I should lay this duty before her, perhaps her father would be offended, and, with plausible reason, think me unfriendly, fancying that I had taken an undue advantage of his invitation. I am not willing to give any just ground to any one to think me an intruder, but should I introduce the subject of baptism to this man’s daughter, it would look quite impolite, and he might think it an insolent return for his friendship.” The more I thought on this matter the greater the embarrassment was magnified in my view, although I had resolved to leave it all to such circumstances as might arise during my stay at his house.

When I arrived I was received with marked attention and cordiality. A large crowd of people were in attendance, and we had a very solemn and interesting meeting. After preaching was over and the people had dispersed, and the family were all seated in a large parlor, the old gentleman introduced a social conversation which soon convinced me that he was a well-informed man, and by his familiar manner, soon changed my feelings of being a stranger and a Baptist in the midst of a Presbyterian family, to the feeling of being at home. He was sound in doctrine, and on experience he spoke as if he had traveled my road and knew the land-marks. After some time I asked him if there were any “dryland Baptists” in his neighborhood.

He replied after some hesitation: “There are some Baptists among my neighbors, but ‘dryland Baptist’ is a denomination of which I never heard.”

I then said: “We Baptists use this term to designate such persons as have been taught by the Holy Spirit to know that they are poor and helpless sinners, justly condemned by a righteous law, and have no power to help themselves. Having received faith as a fruit of that same Spirit, to lay hold of Christ, the end of the law, they rejoice in Him as their Sayiour; but though they have believed Him to be worthy of their obedience, and have found baptism to be one of His positive commands to all believers, and have often felt more or less impressed on that matter, yet, in consequence of doubts of their own fitness, or their pride, or some other cause, they have never been baptized. Of course they are not Baptists, but we speak of them as ‘dryland Baptists,’ and I did not know but I was in the house of just such a man.”

At this he dropped his head for a little, then looked up and said: “I do hope I have felt and seen myself to be a helpless, guilty, and justly-condemned sinner; and I also hope that I have received some comfortable evidences that God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven my sins. In this faith and hope I do sometimes rejoice; but often I am filled with doubts and fears, and walk in darkness. I have thought much about water baptism, but have finally thought the virtue was not in the water, nor in the manner of its application, and so I became a Presbyterian, and for a number of years I have been a member of that church.”

“My friend,” said I, “if you were to tell your daughter to make you a cup of tea, and forthwith she went and made you a cup of coffee, would she have obeyed you any more than if she had done nothing at all? Water, both in quality and in quantity, was as good in the coffee as in the tea; but the essence of the obedience is in the authority from whence the command came and in the command itself, and neither sprinkling nor pouring is baptism in any language, any more than coffee is tea. I will just leave this for your consideration.”

After some further friendly conversation I turned to his daughter, who was sitting beside a stand some distance from me, and said: “I know your mind has for some time been very much exercised on religious subjects, and probably you have found rest, and feel a desire to relate to some one your feelings. If so, just begin where the Lord began with you, and give us a history of the manner in which your mind has been led. I shall be pleased to hear it, and if I can help you in deciding on the nature of your case, I will try honestly to give you the best counsel that I can.”

She then began at the very day that I had first noticed her, and went on and related as clear and thorough an exercise as any one could ask for. Her father sat and wept like a child. I asked her if she had felt it to be her duty and wish to unite with some church. She said she had felt such a wish.

Said I: “There are many denominations of professed Christians around us; to which of these does your mind lead you?”

She answered very promptly, “If ever I join any church it must be the Baptist.”

I asked her if she would not feel bad to go alone to the Baptist Church, as her parents were both Presbyterians, and, of course, would go to their church.

Said she: “I cannot help that.”

Her father then raised his head, the tears flowing down his cheeks, and said: “My daughter, I have known for some months past that you were very deeply impressed in mind, and have desired to hear you talk; and now, for the first time, I have heard you, and I do rejoice and thank God to hear you, with such clearness, give evidence that you are ‘born of God’. Now, my daughter, do not confer with flesh and blood. Let father and mother, sisters and brothers go where they please, but you should serve and obey your Lord, Who has done such great things for you. I give you my free consent to be baptized, and my prayers for your happiness. Go to the Baptist Church if your mind leads you there, and I will make it convenient for you.

I then said to him: “I do rejoice, sir, to find you so friendly; you have my thanks for your proffered consent to your daughter’s baptism, which is all that she could ask of you except the more potent prompter—that of a father’s example. I am reminded of an illustration an old minister once gave in showing the power of a father’s example over his child.

“A boy was sent into a field to bring some pumpkins. He took a stick sharpened at both ends, so as to carry a pumpkin on each point. He came to the first pumpkin and stuck the stick through it, but pulled it out again, and then went to a second and stuck one end of the stick through that, then went to a third and stuck the other end of the stick through that, and then balanced these two pumpkins across his shoulder and started home, leaving the first pumpkin he had pierced lying in the field. On being asked why he left the pumpkin after sticking it, he replied that his father always did so. I thought, perhaps, your daughter might think that disobedience was perfectly right, because her father had set the example. The power of a kind and affectionate father over an obedient child, by example, is far beyond that of precept.”

The old man wept like a child. The conversation went on very agreeably until a late hour, before we retired. I had observed, that during the time of Elizabeth’s relation, and at different parts of the conversation, the old lady and younger daughters were deeply affected, but remained silent listeners to all that was said. In the morning all was friendship, and most of the family went with me to meeting. I was satisfied that I had given no offense. Some were received for baptism that day, for the good work was progressing, and some were received and baptized each month. The next month came round, and Joseph Eddy, his wife, and his daughter Elizabeth, and a younger daughter, were all received and baptized with others. This old Presbyterian afterward became clerk of the church, and one among its leading business members. I subsequently baptized two more of his daughters and one of his sons.

 

About this time, on a Sunday, after meeting at Lebanon, as I rode on my way to Brother Drake’s, who lived at Deerfield, a man came out of a lane and joined me. After the first common salutation I put the common Arminian question to him:

“Stranger, have you got religion?”

“No, sir,” said he, “not yet.”

Said I, “Do you think it worth having?”

“Yes, sir,” said he, “I believe it is.”

“Do you think you could get it if you were to try?”

“Yes, sir, if I should go at it in earnest I could, of course.

“Could you get it in one month by doing your best all the time?”

“Yes, I think I could.”

“Do you not think that religion would be worth more than any thing you could possibly get in one month, at any other business?”

“I believe it would.”

“Then,” said I, “surely wisdom would dictate to you the propriety of making this the month for the trial. Life is uncertain to us all, for it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment; and it is an awful thing to die without religion. If we should both live another month, and I should be here again, and you should do your best and get religion, you could tell me all about it, and I do love to hear young converts talk. Will you now agree to do your best this month?”

He said he would. We talked until we reached the place of meeting. The next month we met at the same place, and I renewed the same inquiry.

“Stranger,” said I (for I had not learned his name), “have you got religion?”

“No, sir,” said he, “my business has kept me so constantly engaged that I have neglected my duty too much.”

“Then,” said I, “you have not done your best yet, and another month of precious time is gone for ever. It will be a great mercy bestowed if we should live another month. Will you now begin afresh, and make the getting of religion your first business, so that all other engagements, being of an inferior nature, must be suspended if they stand in the way of this great leading pursuit, seeing you admit that it is worth more than all other things?”

“Yes,” said he, “I believe it is; and I will do my best for this month, and not be led off by any other things.”

I replied: “Do your best this month, and remember that half work will not do. The whole heart, and mind, and strength, must be in the work.” We continued the conversation until we reached the place of meeting.

The next month came and we met again at the same place. I put the question: “Have you now got religion?”

He answered: “No, sir; and I fear I never shall.” He burst into tears. I paused for a moment and asked him what was the matter, and what had hindered and discouraged him.

As soon as he could control his feelings, he said: “I fully intended to do my very best for the month, as I said I would; and I commenced, but soon found that I could not do my best if it were to save me. You said half work would not do, and the whole mind, and heart, and strength must be engaged; but, sir, I cannot control my mind nor get it engaged in the work at all. It is constantly flying from one evil and presumptuous thought to another. The more I try to engage it, the more it wanders from all that is good. My heart seems to be more wicked, hard, and deceitful than ever before; and on these accounts I cannot do my best, and fear I never shall. Can you tell me what to do?”

Said I: “My friend, yours seems to be a very bad case; you admit that you can never get religion except you do your best, and now, after a trial of two months, you seem to think your chance even worse than it was at the start. If you are fully convinced that, with such mind and heart as you say you have, and that you cannot control them or engage them in the work, and cannot possibly do your best without them, and that if your salvation depends upon your doing your best (and you can not do that), the case looks next to hopeless. Perhaps as a last effort, you had better go humbly to God, and confess to Him that, with such a wicked heart, and such a wandering mind and presumptuous thoughts as you have, you can not do your best. Plead humbly and fervently before Him to enable you to do your best. Try this plan for another month, and add to it every plan of doing which your own mind may suggest, but be sure that all you do is done in faith, humbly and fervently. If we should live another month, and should meet again, you can tell me what advance, if any, that you have made.”

So our conversation ended for the time. Although he seemed much discouraged because he could not do his best, I felt strong hope that the light of the Holy Spirit was within him, showing him the depravity of his corrupt nature, and the impossibility of salvation on a system of works, or of a sinner ever obtaining it on the plan of doing. The month passed away and we met again as before.

Said I: “The month has passed and we still live to meet again. Have you got religion yet?”

With despair in his countenance he said: “No, and I never shall. I think I am a lost and helpless sinner. There is no help for me. I have tried to plead with God to help me to do what I found (and confessed) that I could not do of myself; but I could no more pray humbly and fervently with faith than I could do all the other good things which I had been trying to do. It came into my mind,” continued he, “that there was no mercy for me, and therefore I could never perform even one of those good things, and it was not worth my while to try any more; but still my load of guilt, a sense of the hardness of my heart, and the heinous nature of my sins of thought, and all my wicked doings, oppressed me more and more. I do now believe that my sins are so many and so great that I deserve nothing better than a portion with the lost. This is my present condition. Do you think there is any hope for me?”

I replied: “My friend, upon the plan you have been trying, your case is indeed hopeless, for by the deeds of the law none can ever be justified; and yet, strange as it might seem, it is true that men do, and will continue to, believe that they can and must do something to get religion, as they call it. I saw, when we met the first time, that you were strongly attached to that plan. I did not wish to debate that question with you, but to try to get you to test your powers, and if it pleased the Lord to show you your depravity, you would need no further evidence to convince you that salvation is by grace. God alone can teach His children to understand this plan, and give them faith in it, and every man thus taught of the Father cometh to Christ and is saved. I hope you are now under the true Teacher, and will both hear and learn of the Father. Come to Jesus Christ, ‘who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption’, and in Him you will find redemption, ‘even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.’ In Him there is salvation, and in none other. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”’ The conversation ended here.

At the next meeting, at Lebanon, I saw this friend with a countenance that indicated a mind at ease. After preaching, the church being organized for business, and the opportunity offered for the reception of members, this man arose and walked around to the farther side of the room and gave his hand to his wife, and they came hand in hand before the church, related their experiences, and were cordially received. Now, for the first time, I learned his name. It was Edward Dunham. This man gave an unusually clear account of his travail of mind and death-like struggle under a legal or law-work effort to obtain acceptance with God. He sought to obtain pardon by some works of his own, until the last hope of salvation on that plan yielded up to despair. Then Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life”, with His fullness of grace and glory, appeared for his relief, and in Him he found comfort, peace, and an assuring hope. He continued a sound, orderly, and useful member of this church until his death, which took place some years afterward.

The good work was still progressing, and some were baptized nearly every meeting for over a year. Then the excitement gradually wore away. The church remained in peace and union, our meetings were largely attended, and occasionally another convert was received. The church called me for another year. I continued preaching for this church, and Pleasant Run, and West Fork of Mill Creek.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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