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The Life of Elder Peter Branstetter--Experience and Call to the Ministry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Branstetter   

 

Curryville, Mo., June 9,1887.

Dear Brethren:

I feel impressed to give a short history of my life. My parents were born in America, but they were of German descent. They were married in 1821, in Kentucky. In 1822 they moved to Missouri, where they bad ten children born to them, six boys and four girls. I was the second child, and eld­est son, and was born February 11, 1825.

My parents were not professors of re­ligion during my rearing, and I grew up in all the amusements and vices of that day and loved them well. I was sent to school a few months, when a boy, and at the age of fourteen I could read and write.

At the age of sixteen I commenced ar­guing that there is no God, no devil, no hereafter. And as my opponents would go to the Bible to confute my arguments, I commenced reading it to confute them. But I would change the Scriptures to suit my notion, and quote it my way in argu­ment, and very few would know but that I was right. But if I was caught at my trick I would then contend that the Bible was nothing but man’s opinion, and that my opinion was worth as much as any one's.

In February 1843, I was at the home of my aunt, a very religious old lady, and she brought up the subject of religion, and quoted Scripture to prove her positions. I got the Bible, turned to her proof texts, and changed the reading until I got her perfectly confused. I felt lifted up over my victory.

I started home, about a mile away, and while on the way I had such a feeling sense of conviction for my course, and my under­standing was so opened that I seemed to group in at one view, all creation, and this thought pierced through my soul—This is the work of God! Conviction took hold of me, because of my conduct and course of life; conviction for sin took hold of my be­ing, and I found myself breathing from my soul, “God, have mercy.” I could see in an instant all my wicked acts and infidel ar­guments; and my mind seemed to compre­hend the wisdom, holiness, justice and judgment of the eternal God so clearly that my poor frame trembled, and I realized that I was a condemned sinner. I tried to banish these thoughts and feelings from me, and tried to appear as jovial with my young associates as ever.

I kept it concealed for about six weeks, until the last of March, when there was a Methodist protracted meeting going on. I went one day and sixteen joined them, sev­eral of whom were my cousins. With such a deep sense of my sinful condition, my feelings were so overcome that I could not help crying aloud and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The members gathered around me and begged me to join them. I told them that I was a condemned sinner and had no hope of ever being saved. They said the church was the place to get forgiveness. But I did not go.

I have ever believed it was God who kept me from joining that church, for all my boyhood associates were with the Meth­odists. I knew nothing about the Baptists, only having heard them spoken of occasion­ally in a taunting manner. I was now in my eighteenth year, and I would say within myself, “I will put these convictions of sin away from me, and not think about them; and I will enjoy myself as I once did.” But I could never get rid of the feeling sense of condemnation.

November 22, 1843, I married Miss Mis­souri A. Henderson, and we went to keep­ing house in a little log cabin, on the farm where I now live. I got along very well, as I thought, still believing I could soon wear off my convictions, as I had to work very hard, and many other things to look after. But, alas! about the first of April my con­victions returned upon me with double force, and for three long months I felt to be the most condemned wretch that God ever permitted to live. I saw nothing and could think of nothing but my condemned state. And the breathing of my poor soul was, “God have mercy.” I felt sure that I was going to die. I often went to the woods after supper to ask God to have mercy, yet I felt that my condemnation was just.

The first night in August I went to bed, feeling sure that I should never see the sun rise again, and that God would not spare me any longer. Some time in the night I dropped into a sleep, and I saw Jesus just where the sun is at noon, the sun seeming to be at 3 p. m. Christ’s brightness illu­minated the entire heavens, and I could see the shape of the sun, but it gave no light. I knew this was Jesus, and he held a man by the right hand, who shone as bright as he. While gazing at the sublime scene, I felt that I was gone forever, when lo, Christ commenced descending, holding the man with his right hand at his side. I stood and looked until he came near the window where I was, when he seemed to stop; he spoke to me and said, “I am the Savior of sinners, and you go and tell thy friends, the Day of Judgment is at hand.” He then disappeared. It seemed that I started to tell father and mother that Jesus had appeared to me as the Savior of sin­ners, when I awoke, getting out of bed and clapping my hands for joy. My burden of sin was gone, and my soul was full of the love of God.

My wife awoke and said, “What is the matter?”

I said, “Jesus is my Savior! He is all glorious, and fills immensity.”

This was one of the happiest moments of my life! My poor tongue has never been able to express the love of God that filled my soul, which only a few hours before was enshrouded in darkness and condemnation. But, to my surprise, after a few hours, doubts began to arise like these:

“This is nothing but a dream or vision, and nothing real in it.” Then would come the thought, “But if only a dream, why this love of God in my poor soul? It remains, and my sins are gone, my condemnation re­moved.” This I realized in my feelings, and I could say with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His ben­efits” and mercies to me, a sinner.

That vision is as bright to me to-day as it was then, and Christ is my only hope.

The third Sunday in August, 1844, three weeks from the time of this heavenly vision, I offered myself to the Primitive Baptists for membership and was received, and the fourth Sunday I was baptized into the fellowship of Siloam church, Pike county, Mis­souri, by Elder William Davis.

Life and Writings of Elder Peter Branstetter

CALL TO THE MINISTRY.

Curryville, Mo., June 13, 1887.

Dear Brethren:
I will now give some of the exercises of my mind, and impressions made on my poor heart to preach the gospel, and to tell poor sinners that Jesus is a precious Savior.

The thought of preaching gave me trou­ble for a long time, because the impress­ions were not made visible, but only in a vision of the night, when the Lord spoke to me, not in an audible voice, but by His Spirit. But we are informed in God’s word that “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men.

Then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. “—Job xxxiii. 15, 16. This and many other Scriptures have given me much comfort, when I have been made to doubt whether the Lord had ever pardoned my sins or not.

Yet looking back to the time when faith presented Jesus to me in all His divine glo­ry, I have been encouraged to try to tell a dying world that Jesus is the Savior of poor, lost sinners. And the glory, power, wisdom, love and mercy of God were so suitably adapted to the condition of poor sinners, that it filled my soul with reveren­tial fear. But then difficulties presented themselves, and my mind would return from those heavenly thoughts and take a view of my sinful self, and I would say, “No, God never called such a creature as I to preach his gospel.” I was very poor, had a small family to support, and nothing with which to do it except my own labor, and nothing to be expected from the breth­ren. The majority of the old preachers were rich and preached against the brethren helping the minister in any way, which was to their own injury and the injury of the church.

Brethren and sisters, read the ninth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corin­thians, and see if you have done your duty to the ministry.

As poor as I was, the Lord blessed me with a Testament, which I carried in my pocket daily, reading at every interval, while at work. And I read where Paul says, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise.” The obligation would return with double force to my mind until sleep left me at night; my pillow would be wet with tears, and my very soul heave with groanings that could not be uttered. Yet I felt that I could not be the man, for I was too igno­rant and illiterate.

By this time six years had rolled around, and in order to get rid of my trou­ble in this matter I concluded to go to Cali­fornia. So in the spring of 1850 I got my outfit and, with my Bible in my pocket, started, leaving my loving wife and three little children behind. Every day I travel­ed, for over four months, brought more and more to my view the divine power and wis­dom of God in the creation of the world, and of His discriminating grace and mercy to the sons of men, in giving them a hope in Christ of a glorious inheritance, incorrupt­ible. Then I saw the bustle of men after the riches of this world, and the depravity of the human heart developed in every per­ceivable way, and in the midst of all this confusion the very breathing of my soul was, “Lord, have mercy on me, and deliver me from the evils of this world,” for I felt that I was a runaway from God.

When I was alone in the mountains, and retired for a night’s repose, with my head on a rock for a pillow, under the green boughs of the lofty cedars, the wild beasts prowling around and with their hideous cries making the night still more gloomy~ with these surroundings the lovely Jesus was presented to my view more glorious than ever before, in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, (His church) holding the seven stars (His ministers) in His right hand. His power was their protection, His grace their strength, and His mercy their comfort. I was made to cry out in the lan­guage of Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” I felt then that I could do all things through Jesus, and I promised the Lord that if He would preserve my life until I returned home, I would love, serve and honor Him in every duty presented.

For me to have commenced to speak of Jesus there, it seemed, would be presump­tion, for preaching was not so much as heard of there, and I was easily lulled into a disposition of procrastination. In July 1851, with my pack on a mule, I started for home, and crossed the rugged mountains and lonely plains under the protection of that God whose love and mercy never fail to those that fear Him. On reaching home, September 14, 1 found my family all alive and well, at which my poor soul was made to rejoice. I felt that the Lord had an­swered my prayer in permitting me to re­turn home; and I felt under ten thousand obligations more to discharge my duty in the house of God, still the way was not yet clear.

I had been at home only a few days when I learned that the two preachers be­longing to our church had gotten into a dif­ficulty which threatened the dissolution of the church. As there were only a few members and I was young, it was too great an undertaking for me to attempt anything like preaching there, so I concluded to call for a letter of dismission and go back to the church where I was baptized. The letter was granted and the church dissolved with­out settling the difficulty.

This circumstance gave rise to another close investigation of myself. To see brethren in the ministry, whom I so dearly loved, and under whose preaching my soul had been filled to overflowing, bring re­proach upon themselves and the cause they had professed, even to the scattering of the flock, caused me to have many serious and bitter reflections.

I came to the conclusion that the im­pressions I had had to defend the gospel were produced by the pride of my natural heart, and that in the future I should be content with what the Lord had given me, that is, the pardon of my sins. And in or­der to wear off my impressions to preach Jesus to sinners, I concluded to hold my letter, and read my Bible, thinking that I could worship God at home as well as any­where else. Much to my sorrow I blun­dered along for five years.

Sore temptations, trials, afflictions and doubts attended every step of my way. Out of the communion of the church, from under the watch care of the brethren, I be­came much depressed in spirit. I had about come to the conclusion that IF had been mistaken in the whole matter.

Elder William Davis had an appointment to preach at my father’s, and my wife and I went to the meeting. But the preaching did not make much impression on my mind. He had an appointment also in the evening, near us, and he continued the subject of the forenoon. He commenced with the Christian’s exercises of mind, and ere I was aware I got so full I could hardly keep my seat. He then pointed out the hopes and prospects of the children of God, and spoke of the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and of their incor­ruptible inheritance. I felt as though the very doors of heaven were opened and the glory of the Lord burst upon us with Jesus in the midst; every face was wet with tears. I then realized the language of the Apostle Paul—”Whether in the body, I can not tell,” and I realized things that my broken language has never been able to express. I arose to my feet, took Brother Davis by the hand and told him that I was a runaway from God and could stay away no longer.

My wife had a hope before we were married, but her people all being Presby­terians and bitterly opposed to the Prim­itive Baptists, she had never united with the church. At the next meeting, when the opportunity was given to any who wish­ed to unite with the church, my wife and I offered ourselves, and we were received. I then felt like talking, and did talk of Jesus and His salvation, how He had brought me through the fiery furnace and the deep waters of temptation and affliction.

Yes, dear brethren and sisters, “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms,” and the poor, little child of God can never finally fall and be lost. For by one offering the blessed Jesus bath perfected forever them that are sanctified from the world, by the quicken­ing power and influence of the Spirit, and made us lively stones, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God by Jesus Christ. And there are diversities of gifts, but all by the same Spirit; and every gift is made manifest to the church by the discharge of the duties the Spirit points out for the members to do.

Notwithstanding my weakness and ig­norance, my duty was so impressed upon me that I could think of nothing else, day or night; and when opportunity was given, or I was called upon to open or close the meetings and I refused, it would give me trouble, for I had promised the Lord that I would try to glorify His name in my body and spirit which are His. When I went forward it was in fear and trembling, but the Lord knows our weakness; and when I had thus gone forward I would leave the meet­ing house with a calm resignation to the will of the Lord, feeling joyful in spirit that I had given vent to my feelings.

On the fourth Saturday in February 1859, the church licensed me to exercise my gift, and in a few months there were solicitations by brethren and friends from every neighborhood for me to come and preach, and with reluctance I would con­sent for them to make appointments for me. I soon found myself perfectly ab­sorbed in trying to proclaim the everlasting gospel of the Son of God, traveling far and near. I felt that I was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, not to the dead sinner. The apostle says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The gospel then, being spiritual, must be re­ceived in the light of the Spirit; for “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness un­to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The man that preaches the gospel is made to do, even as was Paul; “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, bath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” And having this qualification, the man called of God is ready for the work of the ministry, without the aid of theological schools, or taking a test oath as I was forced to do, which was imposed on ministers of Christ by men of corrupt hearts.

In the commencement of my ministry, I found myself amid the din of war and the clash of arms, but this did not turn me to the right or to the left. I was cast into prison three times by the Federal forces, and once dragged out of the stand, menaced with cocked revolvers and carried away to prison. But all this did not deter me; I felt that God was my protector. I believed that if He had a work for me to do, all the infernal powers of Satan could not frustrate it, nor destroy me.

In April 1864, I was regularly ordained to the gospel ministry by Elders William Davis, William Priest and T. P. Rogers. Amid all the strife and persecution God has preserved my life, and enabled me to face all the opposition that has ever been brought to bear against me. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name,” for His mercy to me, a poor sinner.

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