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Home arrow Writers arrow Wilson Thompson arrow Autobiography: Labor in the Ohio Churches; A Revival
Autobiography: Labor in the Ohio Churches; A Revival PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   

  

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

SPRINGFIELD Church was constituted, and my time was divided among the three, Mill Creek, Pleasant Run, and Springfield. These three churches were so situated that most of the members could attend all the meetings, and they lived in such peace and Christian love that they were more like one church with three meeting-houses, than three separate churches. A gradual work of grace was going on among them, and some were added to one of the churches by experience nearly every month. I still visited the other churches around, and sometimes took a trip into Kentucky, through the counties of Campbell and Boone, and once a year I made a tour through Bracken, Mason, Fleming, Bath, Montgomery, Bourbon, and other counties. Sometimes I would make a tour through Indiana, mostly in the counties of Franklin and Union. I generally attended the associations in direct correspondence with Miami. These were Mad River, White Water, East Fork, Little Miami, and Brush Creek.

One year I visited a church called Pleasant Run, in the Sciota Association, about seven miles toward Zanesville from New Lancaster. The day I started it rained in torrents, and before I got one mile on my way I was as wet as I could be. On coming to Mill Creek I had to swim it. I went on to Lebanon, in Warren County, and there learned that the Little Miami was overflowing its banks, and the logs and drift were floating down so that no craft could cross. I stopped for the night, and in the morning went on to the river. The drift was not so thick but that a small craft, easily managed, could cross. I rode my horse into the water among the trees and timber, and sometimes he came near swimming. After working through the trees, brush, and floating logs for about half a mile up the river above the road, I approached the main channel of the river. Here the small boat came to me and I entered it and swam my horse by its side, and so reached the other shore. Going eastward I had to swim all the large creeks, such as Todd’s Fork, Paint Creek, and Rattlesnake, until I came to Old Town, Ross County. Passing this, I went to a ferry on the Sciota River below the mouth of Deer Creek, after crossing which I traveled through Piqua plains, Circleville, and New Lancaster, and reached the association. I had been wet most of the time, for the rain continued every day, and swimming the waters kept me wet.

We had a very pleasant season, and though this was the first time I had ever attended this association, or ever been in this part of country, I formed many agreeable acquaintances among the elders and brethren, many of whom were Germans; but they were tinctured with Arminianism.

I returned home quite unwell. I became benumbed and lost the proper use of my limbs, and I had a slow fever, with chills. My feet would involuntarily fly up, for I had but little control of my limbs; my strength declined rapidly; my head ached and became very dizzy. Sometimes I would have three or four chills in one day. I was still about, and missed none of my meetings. My wife often caught my horse and rode with me, for fear I might fall off on my way. I remained in this strange condition for some months, and at length I consulted a physician. He said I was broken down from overexertion, and that no medicine could restore me unless I would stop either preaching or farming. He then directed me to take a handful of parsley tops and roots, and a handful of juniper berries, and put them into a jug containing a gallon of clear cider, to shake it well every day for ten days, then take a gill three times a day, and not labor during the time, and preach but moderately. I took his advice, and one gallon of this preparation cured me.

After I had recovered I went to work, for I now had a wife and three children to support. During the time I was living on this lease I received intelligence through my brother, that my father was not likely to live. I started with all my family and reached his place about midnight, and found him already struck with death. He was calm and perfectly in his right mind, and fully sensible of his situation; he knew he was dying. His faith was firm, and his assurance unshaken. His tongue began to be stiff, but he talked as long as we could understand him. Just before daylight he breathed his last, in the unshaken and joyful prospect of a glorious immortality. After he was buried in the Indian Creek burial-ground, this being the church of which he was a member, we returned home. Mother and one of my sisters came with us. When we came to the Big Miami we found it rising fast, but we were informed that it could be forded. I took the three children on my horse, one behind me, and two in my arms. I had no girth to my saddle and the water ran very swift. I rode before and the three women followed. The water was much deeper than we had expected, and some of the horses swam part of the way. We all got wet to the waist, and the weather was quite cold for October. We landed safe and felt that our escape was providential.

Not long after this I sold my lease, and bought forty acres of land near the little village of New Burlington, and the next spring I moved to it. Here I lived three years more. I greatly improved this little farm; I cleared some land, repaired the fences and cabins, built a good frame barn and some other buildings, enlarged the orchard—altogether I made it a comfortable little home. I was requested to come and preach on a week day at Brown’s Run, between Elk Creek and Twin Creek, as it was known that all my Sundays were taken up. Very few Baptist members lived there, and they had no church. Elk Creek Church was seven or eight miles distant one way, and Tapscott’s meeting-house a little farther the other way. The few members at Brown’s Run, and down in the Miami bottom, about Banker’s Mill, belonged to Elk Creek Church, then under the pastoral care of Elder Stephen Gard. I visited this neighborhood and preached at the house of John Lee, son of Elder James Lee, before mentioned.

This was a very solemn season. I had never preached in that immediate neighborhood before, although I had often preached within a few miles of it. I felt deeply impressed that the Lord had a people in that place, and that the time was at hand to gather them into His visible fold. After preaching two days and nights, I made an appointment in two weeks for two days more, and left many wounded hearts, and went home, some twenty-five or thirty miles distant. In two weeks I came again, and found such a large crowd of people collected that we had to go to the grove. The good work seemed general and powerful. I continued to visit them every two weeks, and preached two days and nights each visit, all on week days. Two stands were erected, one on the Run, near Lee’s, and the other over in the river valley in a grove, near a place called Post-town. We would hold the meeting one day and night at one place, and the next day and night at the other. These meetings became so large that it appeared like an association.

Soon there were a number of rejoicing young converts, who greatly desired to follow their Lord and Saviour into the liquid stream. By request Pleasant Run, where my membership was, authorized me to baptize approved candidates, with the consent of Elk Creek Church, and to give each a certificate of his baptism, upon which, if circumstances approved, they might be constituted into a church, or otherwise could be received by neighboring churches. The members of the churches crowded to these meetings, and frequently Elders Gard and Poineer were present. All these would be called together, and would sit as a church, to hear the young converts tell the reason of the hope that was in them. All would welcome them to baptism. This neighborhood had been considered rather on the rough order, and but very little preaching had been heard there. When this work broke out among them it made a more visible change than it otherwise would. Their experiences generally were very satisfactory. This work continued from spring until fall, in which time many that lived more convenient to Elk Creek or Tapscott Churches went to them and were baptized; besides, there were about sixty constituted into a church, which was called Mount Pleasant; this church yet remains. Their meeting-house stands on the hill bordering the large valley of bottom land between Banker’s Mill and Brown’s Run.

I will further describe this powerful work by narrating a few cases. There was a man named James Bowles, who, like King Saul, was a very tall man. He was an avowed atheist. Several years before this he bursted an overcharged musket, on a Fourth of July celebration, which tore off one of his hands at the wrist. He came to one of the meetings on the Run. After preaching we went to the water for baptism; the congregation was immensely large. On one side the bank was perpendicular, and a large hornbeam grew on its verge and bent directly over the water. Along this tree, Bowles stretched his long body at full length. On the opposite side was a gravel bar that sloped down into the water. Here I led the candidates down into the water, directly under where Bowles had stretched himself. The first that I took into the water was a young man named Samuel Lucas, and as I laid his body in the liquid grave, Bowles burst out crying, and quickly turned to retreat; but when he had faced about he found a dense crowd before him. He pressed through, however, weeping like a whipped child, and being a head and neck taller than any one else, every eye was fixed upon him, but he never stopped until he got out of sight. After this he attended our meetings, but would not come into the crowd; he preferred to seat himself by a tree, at a distance, and take out his knife and whittle a stick, in a hurried manner, during the services.

At length his step-daughter came, and, with many others, was received for baptism. In the morning of the day the baptism was to take place he broke out in opposition to the immersion of the young woman, talked very hard to his wife, who was a member, and said he had resolved to attend no more of these meetings. This greatly troubled his wife, who came on her way to meeting weeping. She said she could not pray for him, but she pled of all the members to pray for him. I told her that her tears were as much prayer as words could be, and that I believed this little bluster was probably one of his last bursts of opposition, and I should look for him at meeting even that day. The meeting was on the river, near Post-town, at a stand in the grove. After a large assembly had met and I was about to open meeting, I saw Bowles coming on foot, and in a hurried walk. When he came near the outskirts of the assembly he sat down by a tree. I went on with my discourse. Suddenly he sprang to his feet and advanced with quick steps toward the stand. After coming about halfway he suddenly dropped down by a tree; his knife, as usual, was busily plied to a stick. He sat there but a short time, until he started up again and rushed to the corner of the stand, and dropped down again. Many persons were alarmed, and thought that he would attack me with his knife. I saw it all, but I had no fears. After I had closed my discourse we went to the river, near Banker’s Mill, and I baptized a number of willing converts.

The next day we met on Brown’s Run at the stand. The crowds were gathering fast, and the songs of praise were swelling from many voices, when a messenger came, saying that Mr. Bowles wished to see me out in the wood. I started to go out to him, but a number of my brethren opposed me, believing it unsafe for me to go to him. I told them that I should go to the man, doubting nothing; but if they were afraid of any evil design against me, they could follow behind until I approached him, and then, if Bowles would consent, I would give them a sign, and they could come and join us. He was sitting on a log about fifty yards from the outskirts of the crowd. When I drew near enough to see his countenance, I saw the plain index of a calm and gentle heart. I stepped up to him, with an extended hand, and asked him if he had a desire to tell me what great things the Lord had done for his soul, and how He had compassion upon him? He said, yes, he wished to tell me what an atheist had felt and seen. I asked him if those brethren who had followed me part of the way, and who would be glad to hear him, might join us? He said, yes, he wanted Christians to hear, and to tell him if they ever felt as he had. I beckoned to them to come. We all sat down on the log, and I told him to begin.

He said he had first been a deist, then an atheist, and believed there was no God, devil, hell, nor heaven, and, of course, no resurrection, except as matter was in constant progression, changing from one form to another. Under this delusion, he had long lived; but, of late, something had greatly troubled him, and his mind had become gloomy and loaded down with a weight, and he could not tell what it was about. On the day that Samuel Lucas was baptized, and just as he was immersed, he had such a view of the holiness, goodness, and justice of God, that all his atheism left him, and his sins and criminal rebellion rose up in his view. He then held up the arm from which the hand had been torn. “There,” said he, “is the mark of my rebellion against the God of mercy.” He then spoke of his sense of guilt, of the justice of God in his condemnation, of his helpless condition, of his repentance, and sense of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, of the love he felt for Christians, and his desire to follow Christ in baptism, and to live with His people. But he feared that, as he had been such a great and hardened sinner, they could not have confidence in him. I told him to come along and try them. He walked with us to the stand, and when the opportunity was given, he related his experience and was cordially received.

A number of others were also received. One young man, who had been raised a Lutheran, came and related his trials. He said he could not read, but his mother had told him that he was once baptized, and that the Scripture said: “Cursed is he that is baptized over again.” This had greatly troubled him, since he hoped he had felt the preciousness of a Saviour and wished to follow him in baptism. He wished to know what that text meant. I told him there was no such text in the Scriptures, and if there were it could have nothing to do in his case, as he had never been baptized. “Sprinkling is not baptism,” said I, “and even the immersion of an unconscious infant is no gospel baptism; nor can any man administer gospel baptism without the legal authority of Christ. This authority He has vested in the true church, as the executive authority in His kingdom, to see to the proper execution of all His laws and ordinances. The proper authority, therefore, is indispensable to gospel baptism, and this no Lutheran has. So you need have no more trouble on that account.” His mother, being present, became very angry, and rushed furiously through the crowd toward me, but stopped and sat down before she reached me, and said: “My son is lost forever for this dreadful act.” Such is the effect of a false religious education.

While this gracious work was progressing there was also a similar work going on at Pleasant Run. This good work spread on the north to Hamilton, and south to Mill Creek and Springfield, making many additions to those churches, especially to Mill Creek. These were joyful seasons. Pleasant Run, adjoining the line between the counties of Hamilton and Butler, was a most favored place. Large numbers were added to that church. This work continued for about one year.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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