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Autobiography: Churches Added in Missouri PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   



ANOTHER event occurred which will show something of the spreading of the gospel during that glorious work. There was a man of some attainments and learning, by the name of John Faroe, who had taught dancing through the country sometime before. He was riding thoughtfully through the forest, when he fancied that the wind, playing through the foliage of the trees, was whispering to him of the Being and wisdom of God. His mind became so deeply affected, that he finally took his wife and moved to Tennessee, in order to dispel his gloom; but, instead of removing his distress, it grew more weighty, nor did he find any relief until he found it in the atoning blood of Christ. Then he, and his wife also, who had received like precious faith, were both baptized, and they returned home. They lived in what was then called “Caldwell’s Settlement”, on the river St. Francis, not far from a village called St. Michael, about sixty miles from the Bethel Church. They came and joined the church by letter, and the man requested us to regard him and his wife as arms of the Bethel Church. He requested me to go down to his place, and, if possible, bring some others with me, and “sit”, in order to receive and baptize members, if any should desire to unite with the church. There never had been a Baptist preacher in all that part of the country, and he had not found a single Baptist. The Methodists and Campbellites were all the sects he knew of. He said that a Methodist minister by the name of Thomas Wright had a circuit along the river, and that was all the Protestant preaching that had ever been in that country. The church adopted the proposition, and gave me the necessary authority. I made an appointment, and Brother Faroe was to circulate it.

When I set out I found the way was through a dreary uninhabited wilderness, having only a narrow trace or path. I at last found the place after much difficulty. The appointment was at a mill in the vicinity of Brother Faroe’s. Here I was an entire stranger to every one, except Brother and Sister Faroe. Every eye was upon me. I was the first Baptist preacher many of them had ever seen. I felt very lonely under these circumstances, as at that time I was young in the ministry, and not accustomed to going among strangers without friends with me. A considerable congregation had gathered, and I delivered as plain and pointed a discourse, and as definite as I could. I then explained the circumstances which had led to that appointment, and that I was authorized by the Bethel Church, of which I was a member, and which was located in the district of Cape Girardeau, to give an invitation to any persons wishing to be baptized and become members of the Bethel Regular Baptist Church. I added that if they could give full and satisfactory evidence of the hope that was in them, I was ready and willing to baptize. But I would wish all to understand, that the Baptists alone were by us considered a gospel church, and therefore they received none into their fellowship or communion, except on public profession of their faith in Christ, according to the doctrine of His grace.

No probationers of six months, no infants who were sprinkled on the profession of their parents, nor any others but believers in Jesus Christ were received. Therefore, all who joined this church must renounce alliance with all other denominations. They should treat all men friendly as men, but have no communion or fellowship with any but the Baptist Church of Christ; for they should look upon all others as the daughters of mystic Babylon. “I have been thus particular, as I wish to deceive no one,” said I. “We wish to be understood to say, as did the Lord in reference to this ‘Mystery, Babylon’ (if any of God’s people be ensnared by her), ‘Come out of her my people, and be ye separated from her.’ If any believe the doctrine I have been preaching this day, and feel the evidence of repentance, faith, hope, and a love for God and His people, who wish to walk in the truth, and desire to partake of the ordinances of His church, come forward. You now have, perhaps, the first opportunity in your lives of declaring for Christ; come forward, and we will hear you relate what you hope the Lord has done for your souls.” Four persons came forward immediately. All of them were Methodists, but they fully renounced Methodism, and gave satisfactory evidence of a Christian experience, and were received to be baptized the next day.

On Sunday a powerful effect was visible; many tears of repentance were shed, and great solemnity was manifested. The request for me to come again was so urgent, and my feelings were so enlisted, that I made another appointment, one month from that time. A new, large block-house had been erected in this vicinity, for the people to repair to in case of an attack by the British or Indians, as this was during the war of 1812, and the Indians had become so hostile as to compel the people to fortify themselves. This block-house was to be used as a place of worship by all Protestant denominations, and the preference was to be to the oldest appointment. Mr. Wright had held his meetings there, and so had some other minister. My next appointment was to be at that house, and at a time not to interfere with any other.

The time came on and I went to fill my appointment. When I arrived I was informed that Mr. Wright had been there and preached in the blockhouse, and that he had forbidden me to preach in it, saying that it was a Methodist meeting-house, and that he claimed it as such upon the right of possession. The builders were principally Methodists, he had obtained peaceable and full possession of it, and he intended to hold it. He said that I was an impostor, and that he was well acquainted with my character as such, and that where I was known no respectable person would patronize me. I had come out there and plunged four of his members in the water, and had deluded them into a renunciation of all connection and fellowship with the Methodists. I had preached false doctrine among them, and had broken their harmony. He charged me with having preached among them the doctrines of fatalism, Divine decrees, saints once in grace could never finally fall so as to be lost, for let them do what they might, they, by a decree of fate, must be reclaimed. This doctrine, he said, destroyed all virtue and good works; and if it were true, he could take seven or eight of the old backsliders and storm Canada, for they were bullet proof and could neither die nor be killed until they were reclaimed. Such doctrine should not be preached in that house.

After hearing all this I concluded to say but little, for I saw that the excitement was pretty high already, and I found that many, even some of his own members, and all others, were displeased with his course, and the main proprietors of the house told me that I should have it at any time, that I had as good a right to preach in it as Mr. Wright, or any other man on earth, and that I need suffer no fears, for I should not be interrupted. I went on with my meeting on Saturday, when four more were received for baptism, and on Sunday I baptized them. These were also some of Mr. Wright’s members. This was a very solemn meeting, and the effect seemed so deep and so general, and the solicitude of the people was so urgent, and my own mind was so impressed with a sense of duty, that I agreed to attend them once each month for a time.

At this meeting, while I was preaching, a man who was supposed to be employed by Mr. Wright or his friends, arose and came to me, and in a loud voice said: “That is a lie. You are preaching lies, sir.” He repeated this several times. I still continued, seeming to pay no attention, or make any reply. Finally, a man who, it was said, was a justice of the peace, came and took him by the arm and led him out of the house. After preaching I stated to the congregation, that I had been informed that Mr. Wright, the Methodist preacher, was very much troubled about my preaching in that blockhouse; and because the neighborhood had permitted him to preach in the house, he had assumed the right and control of it. If he had been favored with the use of the house through the benevolence of the people, he should have learned not to claim it as a Methodist meeting-house, and then try to prevent one from preaching in it who was invited by the same benevolent proprietors. My right was equally as good as his, and neither of us had any right except by the hospitable permission of the people who had built it.

In regard to my character I invited all or any of them to inquire of the most respectable people in the district of Cape Girardeau, and they could easily satisfy themselves. As to the doctrine that I preached, all would be satisfied, I thought, that it was the very reverse of that which Mr. Wright had represented; and as they had Bibles, and we both appealed to it as our standard, they must examine and decide for themselves. As to the effect of my doctrine, in destroying all virtue and good works, the course each of us had taken, in reference of that house, might decide that matter; for when I had accepted the kind invitation to preach in it, I had inquired when Mr. Wright’s appointment was to be filled, and then made mine, so as not to interfere with him, or any one else; but, on the contrary, when he was invited by the same benevolent community, he not only entirely claimed the house as a Methodist meeting-house, but, on that absurd claim, warned me not to preach in the house at any time. Any one might easily see where virtue and good works might be expected.

“It was true,” said I, “that I did preach the gospel of the grace of God, that He so effectually saves His people, that not one of them shall ever perish, but have eternal life. The Baptist people have always proved to be good soldiers in the Revolutionary War, and in all other wars for independence and liberty, they have proved to be valiant and trustworthy, and even an old backslider, if any such there be, who still believes the doctrine, would, no doubt, be a good soldier, and would do a valiant part either in the storming of Canada or in attacking the Creek nation of Indians. But still I very much doubt the estimate which Mr. Wright puts upon them; for he says, ‘He could take seven or eight of these old backsliders’, which implies that he would be their leader and commander. The Baptists, being subject to those powers which are over them, would, no doubt, be obedient to their captain. But I fancy Mr. Wright would be very much afraid lest he should accidentally get killed by some roving bullet, that his God could not, or would not, control it, and thus die before his time. In this alarm I doubt if he would not order a retreat and run from the field of battle, and thus defeat his object, by throwing his backsliders into confusion. He had better let them have a commander, who would fight under the banner of the Lord and of Gideon.”

Waving any further remarks, in reference to Mr. Wright and his course, and tendering my sincere thanks to the people of this vicinity for the very friendly manner in which they had received me (a stranger), and for the kind offer of this house for our meeting, I left the subject by submitting this proposition: “Seeing that unpleasant excitement is always the effect of such an opposition as Mr. Wright has made, and often occasions discord and strife among neighbors and friends; and as I have concluded to attend a meeting here, at least for some time, I would prefer holding it at some neighbor’s house in the central part of this vicinity, and so end the strife, and allay the excitement. I am a stranger here, and profess to be a subject of the Prince of Peace, and wish to have no share in the strife. I will await to see if any one feels willing to open his doors freely to admit the church. If not I shall thankfully receive the tender of this house.’”

A gentleman, an entire stranger, arose and said: “I am not a member of any church. I beg to say, however, that I live in as central a part of the neighborhood as any one, I believe; and I have as large a house as there is in this settlement; and if it is too small, I have a barn that will hold a much larger congregation than this house; and if that should be too small, I have a grove that is large enough, I am sure. I have also a convenient place for baptizing, in a small creek in my meadow. I have a plenty to accommodate both horses and the people with food, and I tender it cheerfully at any time. You are welcome to any accommodations I have power to bestow. If the neighbors feel willing to turn out and haul slabs from the mill and make seats for the people, then I believe there will be nothing more needed to accommodate the congregation as well or better than here; and to all this they are welcome as long and as often as they choose.” Many persons said they would attend to preparing the seats, and all seemed glad of the offer. The brethren expressed the obligation they felt for the generous proposals, and accepted them.

We continued our meetings at his house one Saturday and Sunday in each month, as long as I continued in that country, until the church was constituted and had built a meeting-house. I baptized over sixty willing converts in his beautiful stream, and, although he was an infidel after the order of Payne, yet he was always as kind and accommodating as any deacon of the church, both to me and the company. Here, in the house of this deist, we met from month to month, and many young converts related the dealings of God with them, and sweetly sang the praises of their King. The deacons of the Bethel Church came out with me occasionally and administered the Lord’s Supper. This was an evidence to me that God, Who caused the ravens to feed Elijah, and quails to supply the camp of Israel, could also move a deist to cheerfully invite and bountifully entertain the persecuted people of God. A Methodist preacher refused them admittance to a public block-house, in which he had no right of interest, only to gratify his malignant hatred of the truth. I never saw Mr. Wright before that I know of, and of course no personal matter could have induced this opposition. I have frequently been invited to preach in Methodist meeting-houses, and sometimes at their private residences. But, in times of revival, when converts are coming into the church of Christ, some of God’s dear children have been caught in the devices of anti-christ. To these the Lord says: “Come out of her my people,” and when they begin to leave the daughters of Babylon, and come to Zion, then we may expect the fire of persecution to flame against the truth and all those who love and preach it.

I must relate one event which occurred at this deist’s house: At one of the meetings several persons came before the church and were received for baptism. Among them was an elderly lady, who said: “My friends, I regret that it cannot be my privilege to be baptized and become a member of the church of Christ with you. I have long believed that the regular Baptists are the only true church which Christ has on earth, and the doctrine they preach I believe to be the doctrine of the Scriptures; they are the people I love in the truth, and have long desired to be with them. I hope that I experienced the teachings and leadings of the Holy Spirit before I came to this country. I was then strongly impressed with a sense of duty to join the church and to be baptized, but my husband, although he is as kind a husband as any woman need desire, yet is of a stern and unyielding mind, opposed me in my religious impressions. I often labored to persuade him to consent for me to be baptized, but he would always become angry, and said he ‘would not live with me another day if I did so.’ I have a family of children, and in every other respect a kind and indulgent husband, and one, too, who amply provides for the family. But in this one case he would always become angry whenever I said anything to him about it; and so I concluded never to introduce the subject again. I studied very much about my duty as a wife and as a mother, and finally determined to trust to God, that He, in His providence, would open up a way by which I could be privileged to follow Him without violating His commands to me as a wife and as a mother. So, I have never mentioned the subject since to my husband. We finally moved to this Territory, and until you came here I had never heard of any Baptist meeting. I have attended your meetings, and heard the converts relate their experiences, and I have seen them baptized. I have heard you preach, and all is just as I believe. I desire to be with you all, but dare not consent to be baptized. I now have one request to make, and that is, that the church hear me relate my experience, and if you can fellowship it as a work of grace, then suffer me to live under your watch-care, and if you see me doing wrong, which is so often the case, reprove and correct me, as you would a member, and allow me to enjoy fellowship as far as an unbaptized person can. I know I cannot come to your communion table, nor have a voice in your proceedings, or even a name among you; but I want your prayers, your friendship, your counsel, and watch-care, as far as good order will admit.”

We told her to relate her experience, which she did, to the full satisfaction of all. I felt some very strange emotions while she was talking. I believed that God had enjoined on the wife and mother duties to her husband and her children; but He had also commanded all believers to be baptized, and had made no exception to these positive orders. All things were under His control; and how could it be that one duty He had commanded should interfere with another? How was it that any of His people should be so situated as to be compelled to violate one of His divine injunctions in obeying another? This I could not reconcile. Still, I believed that there was a way by which all such seemingly conflicting duties could be removed. I believed that this woman was a true believer, and the command to be baptized was positive to her; and I knew that wives were positively commanded to obey their husbands in all things. When she had told her experience, I asked her if her husband should now consent for her to be baptized, whether she would embrace it as a privilege and duty?

Said she: “O, yes, I would rejoice in it as such; but I think there is no hope for this.”

I then inquired: “Are you willing that I should ask your husband for his consent?” She answered that she had no other objections except that she knew her husband’s turbulent temper, and she feared he would abuse me. She added that she had not mentioned it to him for years on that account. It was the only thing he had ever spoken severely about, and when he became angry he was very severe. She did not want my feelings hurt; she believed he would insult me if I spoke to him on that subject.

Said I: “He cannot hurt my feelings on that matter. When no objections are made known, I never go to hunt for any. But in a case like this, where they are made known, I believe we should then do all we can to remove them; and I believe if we strive lawfully, we shall succeed. And now, if you are willing, I wish to make the trial.”

She replied that she was willing if I wished to try him, but I must be prepared to hear hard talk.

Said I: “Will your husband be at meeting tomorrow?” She replied that he had intended to come. “Then,” said I, “say nothing to him about this matter, but come early, and bring a change of clothing, for I believe he will give his consent, and you will be baptized tomorrow without any opposition. The next morning they came early.

I had inquired of my host and others, and they all agreed that he was a staunch deist but a warm Republican, that is, a Jefferson Democrat, and almost an enthusiast on the subject of a free government. My plan was adopted at once. They said if he got angry all was over; for he could not be persuaded, and would abuse and insult anybody. But when in a good humor he was one of the finest of men and the best of neighbors and citizens in the country, and, withal, a well-informed and wealthy man. I told my host that I should expect him to give me an introduction, as I had never seen him. He did so, and I began conversation at once.

“This,” said I, “is a morning that promises a pleasant day for our meeting; and, under the auspices of a popular free government, that disarms the disposition of tyrants and places us all under the protection of the tree of liberty, men can now enjoy freedom of conscience, of thought, of speech, and of the press, and be free to act in compliance with their own convictions of where and how they should worship God, or not to worship at all, as they choose. All are free from the ‘established’ religion of an earthly king, and an oppressive law-made clergy to override the consciences of the people—regardless of reason or the free volition of the mind and will.”

He replied that we were a very happy people at this time; but we should watch well the windings of the spirit of bigotry and despotism, for it was still lurking around us, ready to assume all the power it could possibly obtain. I then said that great as our religious and political liberties were, I believed there were some now in America, who would prefer to have their own opinions and speculations established by law, that so they might control the consciences of others, and dictate to them how they should worship and serve God, and what they should do in His service. He replied that all such despots could well be spared in this country, and he heartily wished them all in Europe, under the iron yoke of some tyrant, until they could learn to appreciate the blessings of a republican government.

The people, as they gathered in, crowded around us. We were out in the yard, and we continued to talk until he became quite enthusiastic on the subject of the right of conscience, and liberty of speech and of the press. I heard him in this way until the yard was full of people. I then observed to him: “This day we enjoy the fruits of our free institutions; every man and woman can worship the God of the Bible, or of the Koran, or any other, or none, as he chooses, and in whatever manner he chooses. He can worship in public or private as his conscience dictates, and adopt any form or ordinance in his worship that will answer the convictions of his judgment, and none to control or make him afraid. See the crowds that are now coming to this meeting, all voluntary, none to force or retard them in their attendance. There, in the house, the songs of vocal praise to God are sounding; here, in the yard, we are recounting the infinite kindness of God’s providence in conducting us to the realization of our free institutions.

“I should be very glad to continue this very interesting theme, but the time for our worship is near, and I must defer a further pursuit of this subject until some other time. It gives me great pleasure to converse with a man who knows how to appreciate these blessings. As the duties of this day now call on us to leave this topic, I will just say to you, in conclusion, that your wife came forward yesterday before the Baptists here, and gave full evidence of her faith and hope. The church gave her a hearty welcome to baptism, and then to a membership with us. It is always pleasant, in such cases, to have the free consent and cordial approbation of the husband, so that no disturbance or reflections should be made afterward, and as our conversation has led to this point, I will ask your free consent to me to administer the ordinance of baptism to her, and the church to receive her as a member. We hope to do all this by your free consent and approbation, so that nothing disagreeable may hereafter disturb the domestic comforts of your family. I take it for granted, from your political creed, and the very high and correct estimate which you and I place upon the rights of conscience, that you will make no objections; but still we would prefer to have a free and full expression of your hearty consent. I therefore await to receive it.”

He replied: “You have it, sir. She has always been a good and agreeable wife, and you and your church have treated me with respect. You have my full consent to baptize her, and she has my approbation in being baptized, and the church is at liberty to receive her as one of their number, and I shall never oppose her in going to the meetings and filling her place, and following the dictates of her conscience, nor will it disturb the peace of my family.”

I replied: “I thank you, sir, for so full an expression of your cordial consent. It is always most pleasing to me, when I baptize a woman, to have the full, free, and universal approbation of her husband. You were an entire stranger to me, yet as our conversation was so reciprocal that it seemed almost unnecessary to ask your consent; but I had intended to do so, and our conversation led directly to it. I rejoice in the assurance you have given me; and I hope, at some future time, we may have the pleasure of further acquaintance. I must now attend to the duties of the day.”

I then went into the house, fully convinced that none of the duties which God has enjoined on His people, do so interfere, that they cannot be observed without one clashing with another. If we can act consistently and do right in these cases, I believe God’s commands are all consistent.

This was a day of very great power. After preaching was over we went to the water, and there I baptized this woman and a number of others. One sister whose name was Riggs, in this arm of the church, was afflicted with the jerks severely. She was sound in the faith and practice of the gospel. She said there was no religion in the jerks; but if her mind became much excited, either on natural or spiritual matters, she was often taken with that strange exercise. If she was at meeting and was blessed with great enjoyment in hearing preaching, or in any part of worship, and the jerks took her, they left her very dull, and spoiled all her comfort for that day. She considered it a real affliction and greatly desired to be released from it; but when it came upon her she could not avoid it. I believe I never saw her have them but once; then she jerked backward off her seat, and her feet and arms played like drumsticks on the floor, as she lay in spasmodic emotions. She was the only Baptist I believe that I ever knew who was afflicted with this strange disease. I have seen many of the Newlights and Methodists in wonderful commotions with them, dancing, falling, jumping, and all such wild expressions of excited passions. These people call such things religion; but this woman called it an affliction that destroyed her religious enjoyments.

While the glorious displays of Divine power and grace were spreading through this settlement, and to some extent on Bear Creek, Brother Johnson, from Turkey Creek, about twenty miles southwest of Bethel Church, came in with his wife and son, and joined the Bethel Church by letter, and requested me to attend them monthly, and carry with me the authority to receive and baptize members there, as members of Bethel Church. This was called Johnson’s Settlement on Turkey Creek. The church granted the request. I made an appointment and went out there, and several members went with me. I baptized two persons the first visit, and continued my visits monthly until I had baptized quite a number in that new small settlement, where no Baptist preaching had ever been before. About this time a brother, Thomas Donahue, who had once been a member of a small church below St. Genevra, long since dissolved, came to Bethel and joined by relation, and some of the old members of Bethel having formerly been there with Elder Green, corroborated his statements. He also requested that I should come authorized to receive members and to baptize for the Bethel Church in that vicinity. This privilege the church granted.

The country was new and sprinkled with small settlements, so where there was any prospect of raising a church in a settlement, the members, as they were gathered in, became members of the Bethel Church, with the understanding that if the Lord should prosper them and gather a number sufficient, all other matters agreeing, these arms or branches would in the proper time become organized as independent churches. This last-named arm had now only one member. I went there accompanied by some of the Bethel members. Several Baptists having emigrated to that part along the Saline, about forty miles north of Bethel, came and joined by letter; and some, like Brother Donahue, as the relics of the old church, were also received. That arm became quite strong, for the good work of grace soon became powerful in that settlement. I continued to visit them as long as I remained in that territory, which was about one year after that time. On the occasion of my last visit I baptized twelve. It was a time of Divine power; at the water especially was the power manifested. I never saw more soul-stirring manifestations of Divine grace than here. I left crowds of people weeping on the sand bar by the Saline Creek, who seemed to have no inclination to leave the place.

I visited all these settlements monthly: Caldwell’s Settlement, sixty miles west; Johnson’s Settlement, twenty miles southwest; and Saline Settlement, forty miles north. Going and returning I had to travel about two hundred and forty miles each month. I was very poor and not able to hire labor, and was just beginning in the green woods. Most of the people were newcomers and had nothing to spare, so I got nothing to help me. I had to work by day labor for provisions, at least for my meat and flour. I raised corn. I had to work hard at clearing and fencing my ground, and the building of houses and barns was all to be done by myself, besides all this traveling and preaching. I generally preached from two to four times a week in the bounds of Bethel Church, and often had to go on foot.

My chance for opening a farm was very poor, but still I kept in good spirits. I felt that I was now fully realizing all that I had anticipated before I left Kentucky. The conviction that I was just where God had placed me sustained me; and when I was at home I did all that I could, day and night, in my clearing and building. The revival was still going on about Bethel. All was love, joy, and peace in the church, and some were baptized each month. The meetings were always crowded, day and night, wet or dry, cold or warm. The songs of praise were heard from the mingled voices of both young and old, and often in some retired corner, or on the back seats, could be seen the dejected countenances which indicated hearts heavily burdened with guilt and sin.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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