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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow My Six Weeks' Tour in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
My Six Weeks' Tour in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sylvester Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger—February 1895


In accordance with repeated and earnest solicitations from brethren, and with impressions, I believe, from the God of Israel, I left home October 25th, 1894, and visited and tried to preach in Montgomery and Carroll counties, Maryland; Fairfax, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Page, and Warren counties, Virginia; Fulton county, Pennsylvania; and Morgan county, W. Virginia, in the bounds of the Ketockton, Ebenezer, Juniata, and Patterson’s Creek Associations; and I returned home December 7th. I was everywhere most cordially received, and most kindly treated; and I had abundant evidence to feel that the Lord had sent me, on my journey, to labor, with some success, to teach, establish, and comfort His people, and thus afforded me fresh and clear proof, at the time, that I was indeed His servant, and that those whom I addressed were His children.

On pages 912, 925, and 926 of the Church History, my father records the names of all these Associations in the tables of Primitive Baptist Associations; and on pages 916 to 920 I have given an extended account of the Ketockton Association, which is, after the Kehukee, the next oldest Primitive Baptist Association in the world. Few passages in the Church History are more interesting and satisfactory than these four pages. More sound and orderly Primitive Baptists I have never found than I did on this trip. Without fear or favor of man, they are contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints; and, like nine-tenths of all the Primitive Baptists in the United States, they, with equal faithfulness, oppose the perversions of Jewish (Arminian) and Heathen (Speculative) philosophy, by which Satan beguiles and corrupts the minds of even some of the people of God from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ (Jude 3; Acts -xv. 1; Gal. iii. 5; Acts xx 30; 2 Cor. xi. 3, 4; Colo. ii. 8; 2 Tim. ii. 17-26; 1 John iv. 1-3).

During my tour I met and was very much pleased with Elders C. H. Waters (Gaithersburg, Md.), E. E. Oliver (Kemore, Va.), J. K. Booten (Luray, Va), J. A. Norton (Sperryville, Va.), T. S. Dalton (Stanleyton, Va.), W. T Eaton (Elkton, Va.), T. N. Alderton (Great Cacapon, W. Va.), C. L Funk (Needmore, Pa.), A. Mellott (Needmore, Pa.), and B. W. Powers (Slanesville, W. Va); but I had the pleasure of hearing only Elders Waters and Dalton preach. The two latter are moderators of the Ketockton and Ebenezer Associations, and are editors of Zion’s Advocate, an excellent monthly periodical published at Stanleyton, Va. Eld. Waters has a fine female boarding school, is a skilful physician. a noble and lovely man, and a gifted and fearless defender of the doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace alone, showing no mercy to the errors of conditionalism. Eld Dalton, a native of Tennessee, is one of the ablest Primitive Baptist debaters, and a strong and comforting preacher and writer, and is as uncompromisingly opposed to conditionalism as is Eld. Waters. Eld. Booten has a valuable religious library, and a musical voice, with which he leads his congregations in singing; though in his 72d year, and lame from his youth, he still crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains four times a month in his buggy, attending his churches, riding east from 30 to 40 miles and back each trip, over a rough and lonely road, sometimes meeting snow-drifts 20 feet high; and he has suffered great persecution for his steadfast adherence to the cause of eternal truth. I saw him baptize Bro. Abner Paine and his wife in the fellowship of Battle Run Church. Eld Norton moved from Texas to Virginia, three years ago, to serve destitute churches, and his labors are very acceptable. Eld. Eaton was brought out by the power of God from the errors of Lutheranism, and is highly esteemed. Eld. Alderton lives in the Great Cacapon Valley, in riding up which 13 miles, between the mountains of West Virginia, to the meeting-house of Enon Church, I saw wild and romantic scenery—the rushing river, giant hills, and dark forests, and wheat-farming on land sloping at an angle of about 70 degrees; and in this old Baptist valley, where no other denomination has a house of worship, the poor, simple, and devout people of God love to gather in their rude meeting-house, and to engage, like the Primitive saints, in the humble, heartfelt service of the God whom they love. The most delightful congregational singing that I heard on my trip was in this favored valley, where the voices were as sweet and clear as the pure air and water of their mountain homes, and the hymns which they were fondest of singing were those that tell of .Jesus and heaven. Elder Alderton serves, with ability and faithfulness, churches hundreds of miles apart, and he dearly loves to find and feed and gather into the fold the scattered sheep of Christ.

I saw, on my tour, for the first time, the very sound Ebenezer Selection of Hymns (sold by Mrs. J. G. Wiltshire, Front Royal, Va., and sent by mail for 80 cents, $1 25, and $1.90, according to binding). The collection occupies 668 pages, and contains some admirable hymns that I had never seen, of four of which 1 will give the first stanza:

“Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross I spend;
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend.”—Page 222.

“Beneath the sacred throne of God
I saw a river rise;
The streams were peace and pardoning blood
Descending from the skies.”—Page 394.

“Love was the great self-moving cause
From which salvation came;
Free grace, the channel where it flows,
Eternally the same.”—Page 396.

“Now, in a song of grateful praise,
To my dear Lord my voice I’ll raise;
With all His saints I’ll join to tell,
My Jesus hath done all things well.”—Page 522.

I was especially pleased with the Index of Scriptures (from Genesis to Revelation) unfolded in each hymn, and proving the truth of the sentiments of the hymns I was glad to notice that the churches which I visited not only had no new doctrines among them, but also used the same old tunes that we use and think unequalled in North Carolina.

On November 20th I explored the Luray Cave, near Luray, Page County, Va., in company with a pleasant and competent guide, Mr. Smith, and Eld. J. K. Booten, Bro John Grove, and Miss Burner, from Illinois. This cave was discovered in 1878, and is one of the natural wonders of the world, not so immense as the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, but containing more beautiful and varied limestone drip formations, in many shapes, sizes, and colors—the marvelous works of the unseen Creative Hand. It is lighted by electricity, and is half a mile long, and in some places 300 feet wide, and 70 feet high, and 100 feet under ground. Some of the most striking formations are the Flower Garden, Natural Bridge, Fish Market, Crystal Spring, Pluto’s Chasm, Spectre, Saracen’s Tent, Fallen Column, Cathedral, Organ (from which the sweetest music is elicited by the guide), Tower of Babel, Cemetery, Giants’ Hall, Madonna and Child, Angel’s Wing, Christ Blessing the Children, Empress Column, Castles on the Rhine, Lake Lethe, Wet Blanket, and Leaning Tower. Each male visitor has a tin candle-stand with three candles burning at once; and the guide has also magnesium wire, which he burns at times to make a very brilliant light. The temperature is uniform and comfortable in both Winter and Summer. In very rainy seasons explorers have to use a small boat to go about in the cave. A house is built over the entrance, and steps and walks and balusters are arranged for the convenience of visitors.

In the libraries of Elders Booten and Dalton I saw, for the first time, the first two full volumes of the Signs of the Times. I. Eld. Gilbert Beebe writes his first editorial on “The Absolute Predestination of All Things.” In this article he seems to make predestination but little if anything more than foreknowledge, and he uses the sound Scriptural word “suffered” in reference to the providence of God—which word, I have repeatedly shown, occurs fourteen times in the Original Scriptures, sometimes in connection with the providence, and sometimes in connection with the predestination of God. In Vol. II., No. 3, pages 33-35, Eld. Samuel Trott (the most scholarly and able of all the early contributors to the Signs) says what I have often stated, with both my tongue and pen,—that the literal meaning of the Greek word pro-orizo, which is translated predestinate in the King James Version, is to fore-bound, fore-limit; and, in accordance with this true meaning of the word, he gives the most able, correct, and unobjectionable statement of the doctrine of the “Absolute Predestination of All Things” that I have ever seen. He says: “God exercises universal dominion over His creatures— exercises control over wicked actions and thoughts to limit their extent, to overrule their results in accordance with His purposes. The predestination of God determines the results, fixes the limits, and so controls the actions and devices of wicked men and devils as to cause them to terminate in the furtherance of His own glorious purposes.” Thus, according to the plainest teachings of the Scriptures and of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the origin of and instigation to sin are not at all to be ascribed to a Most Holy God (which would be the most horrible blasphemy), but to His rebellions creatures; while the limitation and overruling of sin for the furtherance of His glorious purposes are truthfully to be ascribed to God. If all who maintain the doctrine of the “Absolute Predestination of All Things” had always confined themselves to these original Scriptural statements of the original advocates of that doctrine, there never would have been the confusion and division that have arisen among Primitive Baptists on this subject. Only by a return to original Scriptural ground can there be a return to gospel fellowship and union.
While on my tour I spoke ten times in Maryland, thirty-five times in Northern Virginia, three times in Pennsylvania, and six times in West Virginia. Thus, the most of my labors were in Northern Virginia, which was the leading battle-ground of the Federal and Confederate armies in the late civil war, and which has been, for 44 years, the battle-ground of the so-called Beebeite and Clarkite Old School Baptists, whose strifes have, for seven years, been complicated by the extreme development, bitter contentions, and ultimate separation of the so-called Smootites (Eternal Vital Unionists) from the Beebeites, and of the so-called Burnamites (Means-ites) from the Clarkites. The two little opposite extremes (the first comprising two churches and fragments of one or two others, and the last comprising fragments of eight churches) having been thus providentially sloughed off, there remains no sufficient reason why the great body of Primitive Baptists in Northern Virginia should continue at variance. As the two White Water Associations in Indiana, after a similar unhappy division of about 50 years, when they had been providentially ridden of the same bitter unscriptural extremes, returned to harmonious gospel fellowship in August, 1893, so should the so-called Beebe and Clark Primitive Baptists, whom the Lord has brought nearer together now than they have been before in 40 years, be similarly re-united. I am glad to know that the Old School Baptist Church in Baltimore has always received the Clark brethren; and that the Baltimore and the other Northeastern Old School Baptist Associations have, nevertheless, fellowshipped the Baltimore Church. To promote the reunion of the Beebe and Clark Baptists was one of my chief objects in undertaking my recent tour, and in writing and publishing the present account of that tour. I unexpectedly found myself, on my trip, called by a new name—a Beebeite; and wonder was expressed at my traveling and preaching among the Clarkites. I told my congregations that I was neither a Beebeite nor a Clarkite, a Smootite, nor a Burnamite; that we knew no such unscriptural, carnal divisions and names in North Carolina, where all Primitive Baptists are a unit in doctrine; that I came among them to preach the pure, simple, old-fashioned gospel of Christ, without any human additions or subtractions, unadulterated by a spurious gospel of philosophy or a spurious gospel of legality—the gospel as taught by prophets and apostles, and Christ Himself (so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, could understand it sufficiently for his guidance in the way of truth), and as received by all our Baptist fathers and by nine-tenths of the Primitive Baptists of to-day—the gospel of the free, holy, almighty, and everlasting salvation, in soul and body, of all the people of God by the electing, redeeming, and renewing love of the Father, Son, and Spirit—the gospel that esteems every statement of the Scriptures as literally, spiritually, and eternally true, and affords the strongest consolation to all the children of God, and ascribes to God alone all the glory of the salvation of His people. And I found that such preaching was just what the dear children of God delighted to hear—plain Bible truth, comforting the people of God, and glorifying Him, alone.

Eld. Gilbert Beebe, of New York, was born in 1800, and died in 1881; Eld. John Clark, of Virginia, was born in 1804, and died in 1882. Entering and leaving the world at almost the same time, and evincing, by their long and devoted lives, that they were the objects of the Divine love, it would seem highly unreasonable to doubt that their glorified spirits have now for many years been hymning in unison the praises of God and of the Lamb. Eld. Beebe started the Signs of the Times in 1832; and Eld. Clark, Zion’s Advocate in 1854. Until 1850, Eld. Clark was a frequent and friendly correspondent of the Signs; and neither he nor Eld. Beebe ever departed from the sentiments of the Old School Baptist Address of the Black Rock Convention of 1832. But Eld. Clark noticed that there were published in the Signs, from 1849 to 1853, articles in which the writers, misled by certain misunderstood and misinterpreted passages of Scripture, and rationalizing or philosophizing upon the unfathomable mysteries of the Divine Nature, and incarnation, and election, and regeneration, said that Christ, as the Head and Life of His Church, and as Mediator between God and man, was a creature of God; and that the spirit of life by which we are regenerated is a creature (these expressions savoring strongly of Arianism); and that the Church was eternally created in Christ, and is, therefore, as eternal as He; and that there is no change in the soul of man in regeneration (these expressions savoring strongly of Parkerite Two Sexism)—these gross heresies being carried by a few later speakers and writers into a denial of the immateriality and endless duration of the human soul, the second bodily appearance of Christ on earth, the resurrection of the dead, general judgment and the everlasting punishment of the wicked. For the erroneous doctrines of the creator-ship of the Son and the Spirit of God, and that there is no change in the soul in regeneration, the Ketockton Association, in 1852, and the Ebenezer Association, in 1853, very properly declared non-fellowship; and, to combat such ruinous errors, Eld. Clark began the publication of Zion’s Advocate in 1854.

On pages 636 and 637 of the Church History, I have said: “In regard to the charge of Arianism made against the first editor and some of the old correspondents of the ‘Signs of the Times,’ my father, who was personally acquainted with the parties, was fully satisfied that the charge arose from the misconstruction of the real views of the writers; while, at the same time, it must be admitted that some of the expressions of some of the writers were unguarded, ill-advised, and unscriptural.” From a careful examination of the Signs of the Times since its first publication to the present time, and a personal acquaintance with many of its leading contributors, I am perfectly assured that, while some of them, .4-5 years ago, very incorrectly understood and interpreted such Scriptures as 1 Cor. xv. 45, Ephes. ii. 10, iv. 30, Colos i. 15, and Rev. iii. 14, no one of them ever meant to deny the eternal untreated Divinity of the Son and the Spirit of God; and I do not suppose that any one now in fellowship with the Northeastern Old School Baptist Associations believes that the Church is as uncreated and eternal as Christ (only as He Himself is her life), or maintains that there is no change in the soul in regeneration; and the most of the later unscriptural theories mentioned above are held, I am sure, as I have said many times, by only a few unsettled brethren, whom, I rejoice to see, the God of Israel is gradually and surely bringing back to the landmarks of eternal truth. The heresies, therefore, for which the Ketockton and Ebenezer Associations, in 1852 and 1853, declared non-fellowship, do not now, if they ever did, exist in the Northeastern Old School Baptist. Associations; and the extreme and bitter expressions used by some in the Ketockton and Ebenezer ranks are now universally condemned by the members of those Associations; so that I can see no adequate reason for any further separation between the Ketockton and Ebenezer (and Patterson’s Creek and Juniata) Associations on the one side, and our Northeastern Associations on the other. “What God hath joined together let not man put asunder” (Matt. xix 6) “There should be no schism in the body” of Christ (1 Cor. xii 25). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment” (1 Cor i. 10). “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples; if ye have love one to another” (John xiii. 34, 35). “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may he one in us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John xvii. 20, 21). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he bath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That He who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John iii. 14, 15; iv. 20, 21). “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. xiii. 13).

Eld. Wm. M Smoot, of Occoquan, Va., used to make a yearly visit to my own church and other churches in the Kehukee Association, and we esteemed him dearly and highly as a minister of the gospel of Christ; and we mourn over what seems to us his carnal preference of consistency with former, human, philosophical error in consistency with Divine eternal Scriptural truth, and the increasing bitterness (which demonstrates the erroneousness of the position) of the little faction that he has helped to lead away from the fellowship of ninety-nine one-hundredths of the Primitive Baptists; and we would implore the God of Israel to give to him, and those with him, more of His enlightening, humbling, and loving Spirit.

Eld. E H. Burnam, a native of Kentucky and a resident of Missouri, Mexico, Virginia, and now of New Mexico, and his very few followers, should know that Primitive, or Old School, Baptists are no longer entitled to that name when they abandon the fundamental principle of John, the first Baptist (the almighty spiritual power of God alone, Luke i. 15, 80; Matt. iii 9, 11), and the distinctive principles of our fathers who, in 1827 and afterwards, declared non-fellowship for modern religious institutions unknown in the Scriptures and for 1500 years after the birth of Christ, and invented in the 16th century by Papal Rome, and that it is the height of unwisdom for Old School Baptists to be taking up, at this late day, with these idols which their most intelligent Arminian advocates now pronounce “unmitigated evils;” and they should understand that no genuine Primitive Baptist is opposed to the proper study and teaching and dissemination of the Scriptures; and that God alone can give spiritual or eternal life to those dead in sin, and that, only after such life has been given, can the written or preached word be of any spiritual benefit to the reader or hearer, and that such benefit is only temporal (John i 12, 13; v. 25; vi. 63; viii 47; x. 27-30; xvii. 2, 3; I John iv. 6; v. 1; 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10); that the substitution of a.. few minutes a week religious instruction of children by an unrelated and incompetent Sunday School teacher for the daily and hourly training of children at home by their parents, both by precept and example, especially when the Sunday School is made, as it is by many, a substitute also for the Holy Ghost, is thoroughly unscriptural, and has been and can be only pernicious; that the failure of so-called “Regular Baptist” Modern Missions, Sunday Schools, and periodicals, prove that they were not of God (Acts v.38, 39; Neh, iv. 15, Job v. 12; Psalm xxxiii. 10, 11; Isa. vii. 7; viii. 9, 10; Matt. xv. 13); and that the confusion, division, hatred, and bitterness brought in by these unscriptural, idolatrous inventions and innovations, between the members of families, neighborhoods. and churches, are the work, not of God, but of Satan (Matt. xxii. 37-40; Gal. v. 19.26; 1 Cor. xiv. 33; Ephes iv. 1-6, 15, 16, 30 32; 1 Pet. ii. 1-5; 1 John iv. 1,7, 8, 20, 21; John xiii 34, 35; xvii. 20, 21). May the Lord deliver all His people from the subtle and ruinous devices of the devil, reunite them all in love, and preserve them blameless unto His heavenly kingdom (Gen. iii; 2 Cor. ii. 11; xi. 3, 4, 13.15; 2 Tim. iii. 6-9; Ephes. iv. 15, 16; Rev. xxi. 2; 2 Tim. iv. 18; Jude 24, 25).


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