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Written by Peter Branstetter   


 
LABORS IN THE MINISTRY

Curryville, Mo., June 23, 1887.

Dear Brethren:
When I united with the Primitive Bap­tists, both a surprised and a vindictive spirit was manifested among my large fam­ily of relatives, who belonged to the differ­ent Arminian sects; so I found myself sur­rounded by the enemies of truth.

My wife had a little Testament, and I would read of nights until 10 o’clock, com­mitting to memory the blessed truths of God’s word. The very breathing of my soul was—O God, open my understanding to understand and know the truth! and I felt that Lie granted my request. I could soon silence my opponents by proving that salvation was by grace and not of works. When I went to hear the other sects preach, it was to me a perfect contradiction of what Christ and the apostles had preached, and my very soul would burn within me for the honor and glory of God to be presented in the salvation of sinners.

I could rest neither day nor night until I should know all that God had said. I read the Testament through four times before I commenced preaching. At the third read­ing, my mind seemed to comprehend the connecting links of the entire revelation, and I could see a perfect chain of God’s purposes in every thing that takes place in time or eternity. I felt to realize the truth of God’s servant of old—”The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the ever­lasting arms.”

At the fourth reading I marked as I went, and when I got through my stakes were all set; God had set them for me, and my heart was fixed. What joy I realized when God said, “Look upon Zion, [the church of God,] the city of our solemnities; thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” When my mind of faith was brought to view the power, wisdom and purpose of His glorious will, it was too much for me. I viewed myself a poor, corrupt and harden­ed sinner, and the question arose, Can such a creature as I am set forth the honor and glory of God in the salvation of His people, to their comfort and encouragement? These were my daily reflections and the burden of my soul.

But my purpose is to give my experi­ence while a licentiate. It seems that there is a disposition manifest on the part of licentiates; as soon as they can talk a little publicly they must be ordained before prov­ing their gift to be profitable. And the church of Christ has made many mistakes, to her injury, by setting young gifts apart before they are thoroughly proven to be edifying and instructive. We are com­manded to “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” For some men’s sins go to judg­ment beforehand, their conduct proves that they are not called of God to the work; others’ sins follow after, and they disgrace themselves and the cause of our blessed Redeemer. The church has felt the weight of hasty discipline in many other things.

I preached five years as a licentiate, traveling far and near, at the request of friends and brethren. I preached three years regularly once a month, at one place, with large congregations. I had to stop to preach for a church without a pastor, and I preached for it about a year, when they petitioned the church of my membership for my ordination. But when it was brought up in the church I begged them to defer it, as I had all the liberty I wanted, and was preaching every Saturday and Sunday; and as to having the care of churches, I felt that it was too great a responsibility for me. But the church would not grant my request, and I have felt from that time un­til now to submit to the will of the church.

Two weeks before my ordination I was taken out of the stand with cocked revolv­ers, and taken to prison by the Federal forces. So after my ordination I refused to take the care of the church that had asked for it. I felt that I would not be al­lowed to preach there. They called a young preacher who was ordained at the same time I was, who in a few years caused seri­ous trouble in the association, and died ex­cluded from the fellowship of the Baptists.

The apostle says, “We have this treas­ure [the gospel] in earthen vessels.” How careful, then, the young and old ministers should be to take care of the vessel, for it is easily cracked and then it is good for nothing. How careful the Lord’s minis­ters should be, not only to preach with the mouth, but with the hands, and the feet, and the everyday walk in life, that their character as men be unimpeachable. This has given me a great deal of trouble. I cannot live as a minister of the gospel should live. I see so many misgivings in my na­ture that I am made to say, Surely the Lord is not in me, or I could live a holy life. Yet my brethren have borne with my weakness and imperfections, and given me great encouragement in my feeble efforts to try to preach Christ the way, the truth and the life to poor sinners.

I preached three years after I was or­dained before I consented to take the pas­toral care of a church. My wife was a very energetic domestic woman, and she op­posed me in going so much from home. When I would commence getting ready to start to my appointment she would say, “You had better stay at home and make a living for your family.” This was like a dagger to my heart; for there was so much truth in it that it killed me in my feelings. I felt that she knew I could not and ought not to preach, and that had been the puzzle within myself from my first effort. But it seemed death to go, and death to stay at home; so I was quitting and commencing again for many years.

In 1865 my wife went with me to the Concord association, in Illinois, where I preached on the stand, on Sunday, with good liberty. I felt that the Lord was with me, and while preaching I saw the tears running down my wife’s cheeks. She tried to hide her face when she saw that I noticed her.

From that day to the day of her death she never said for me not to go, but seemed to feel the importance of my going, and it was a pleasure to fix me off. She gave me words of encouragement, and if I was trou­bled about leaving my work she would say, “Go along, I will have that attended to all right.”

O what encouragement to a burdened minister! for his wife to feel the burden of the gospel, as well as himself.

Dear sister, what I have said is my own experience; and if your husband is a min­ister I know you have a lonesome and hard time. But you should not give trouble to the Lord’s anointed. His appointments are always out ahead, and when the time comes, if things at home are not just as they should be, you should encourage him to go on; for with the grace of God and a good wife he can endure all things.

In September 1866, my wife was taken with consumption, and, after lingering eleven months, died in August, 1867. This was one of the hardest trials of my life. I could not feel to be reconciled to the will of the Lord. My confinement at home, losing my dear helpmate, with nine children to care for, heavy doctor bills, and financial embarrassment, made me feel irreconciled to the will of God, and I thought this was all sent on me for bringing reproach upon His blessed cause in trying to preach. The very breathings of my poor, afflicted soul were, “O God, reconcile me to thy will, and open the way to me, if I am thy servant, to do thy will.”

In some two weeks after the death of my wife I received a message that Elder T. J. Wright was dead, and a request to be at their next meeting, forty-five miles away. With a broken heart and a downcast spirit I started, asking myself the question, What are you going for? you can not preach; you are not reconciled to the will of God, and the apostle says, “I pray you, . . . be ye reconciled to God.” If any poor mortal ever suffered, mentally, beyond description, it was I.

On arriving at the meeting on Saturday, I found all the members cast down, with sad hearts, at the loss of their dear pastor, but a mixture of joy seemed to be express­ed in every countenance when they took me by the hand in love and fellowship. At the close of the meeting there was much good feeling manifested, and they requested me to be with them at their next meeting; and I could not refuse them a promise.

At the next meeting three of the old brethren asked me what I would take to preach for them a year.

I replied, “I am not for hire.”

They dropped their heads.

I said, “If I am a minister of Christ and preach the truth, I can not put an estimate on my labors; but if I am not, and do not preach the truth, it is not worth anything.”

They then wanted me to accept the care of the church, but this I refused to do, until in March, and it was then with doubts and fears, for I did not feel that God had blessed me with a pastoral gift. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints.” Soon some were added to this church; they were satisfied with my labors, and gave me great encouragement.

At this church, called Sand Run, Lin­coln County, Missouri, I found another help­mate, Frances Elmore, a woman blessed of God both naturally and spiritually. We were married April 22, 1868, and have had ten children, four boys and six girls; eight of them now living.

I continued the care of this church, Sand Run, fourteen years, and baptized some thirty or more into its fellowship.

In January 1869, I was called to the care of Little Bethel church, thirty miles distant, having only nine members, and just one male member, a minister. This church, situated in Lincoln County, Missouri, had gone down from a serious trouble that oc­curred years before, and their house of worship had rotted down. It was a step in the dark to me, and with reluctance I consented to serve them. But everything grew bright in a short time. God had much people in that vicinity, and at the second meeting a young man and his wife united with the church. The Lord added to the church for three years, until there were some thirty-five members, with fifteen prominent male members. They built a good house in which to worship, and the membership is now over fifty. I still have the care of this church.

In 1871 I was called to the care of Davis Fork church, in the town of Mexico, Au­drain county, Missouri; distance from home, thirty-two miles. This church be­longed to the Salem association. I preach­ed for them five years, and left them in a prosperous condition. But the church has since about gone down, under the preach­ing of the Means, or Gospel-regeneration, Baptists, with whom we have no corres­pondence or fellowship.

In 1874 I was called to the care of Bry­ants Creek church, in Lincoln County, Mis­souri, and served them as pastor for twelve years. At this time I had the care of seven churches upon me, as Elder William Davis, who baptized me, was very old and preach­ed only for my home church, Siloam, Pike county, Missouri.

In 1876 Elder Stephen Ham and myself constituted Elkhorn church of Primitive Baptists, in Montgomery County, Missouri, twenty miles distant, with seven members. Soon after this the church built a splendid house of worship, and it now has twenty-five members and is in a prosperous condi­tion. I have had the care of this church from its constitution.

In April 1881, Elder S. A. Elkins, of Kentucky, moved within the bounds of our (Cuivre-Siloam) association. He took over half the burden from me, and has the care of four churches. He is truly a yokefellow in the gospel of our blessed Savior.

I have traveled and preached among the Primitive Baptists in six States, and, so far as I know, my preaching has been re­ceived wherever I have been. I have aver­aged forty-five hundred miles a year, in traveling to preach, since 1872; have spent more than half my time in this manner, and can truly say, I have lacked nothing. I have baptized, during my short ministry, one hundred and seventy into the fellow­ship of the church, about one-fourth of them coming out from the Arminian organ­izations.

I have been constrained many times to praise the Lord, and say in the language of David, “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” And of a truth I can say with the Psalmist, “Except the Lord build the house, [church,] they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
 
 
SUMMARY OF DIARY—1881 TO 1889.
 
During the year 1881, together with the churches of his regular pastorate, Elder Branstetter visited the following churches: Elk Horn, Little Bethel, Siloam, Sand Run, Bear Creek, Bryant’s Creek, Flint Hill and Hopewell (Ill.).

Associations visited were as follows: Mt. Gilead, Concord, Salem and Sangamon in Illinois; Cuivre-Siloam, Two River, Sa­lem and Mt. Zion in Missouri. Besides these places he made two tours of preach­ing of about two weeks each.

The number of days spent was 165, preached 144 sermons, traveled 4,813 miles, expended $70.50 and received $260.45.

During the year he baptized four per­sons and married three couples; for the last service he received $13.00.

The following named churches were vis­ited during the year 1882: Elk Horn, Pisgah, Bryant’s Creek, Little Bethel, Siloam, Nebo, (Ill.), Middle Fork and Sardis-Bethle­hem, besides some outside appointments.


He visited the Mt. Gilead and Concord associations in Illinois, and the Cuivre-Si. Loam, Two River, Yellow Creek and Fishing River associations in Missouri. November  was spent in Kentucky and Indiana.

He spent 145 days, preached 106 ser­mons, traveled 5,359 miles, was out in ex­pense $76.40, and received $141.60.

He baptized two persons and married three couples, receiving $20.00 in marriage fees.

In 1883 he preached at Siloam, Elk Horn, Sand Run, Bryant’s Creek, Little Bethel, Union (Ill.), Middle Fork, Sardis, (Chariton Co, Mo.), and Bear Creek. Besides these points he preached at Curryville and Kirks­ville, and attended funerals.

The associations attended were, Two River, Hazel Creek, Cuivre-Siloam, Con­cord, (Ill.), Fishing River and Mt. Zion. In December he made a tour among the churches in Illinois and Indiana.

The total number of days spent was 172,

141 sermons were delivered, he traveled 4,760 miles, received $165.03 and had $68.10 expense.

The number of persons baptized was five, and married one couple, for which he received $1.00.

In the diary for 1884 the names of the following churches appear: Elk Horn, Girard, (Ill.), Bryant’s Creek, Flint Hill, Siloam, Little Bethel, Little Blue, Mauvais­terre, (Ill.), Bear Creek and Palestine; be­sides these he preached at Bible Chapel, Curryville, Prairie and Ellis school houses, and conducted several funerals.

The associations attended were, Morgan, (Ill.), Cuivre-Siloam, Two River, Spoon Riv­er, (Ill.), and Mt. Zion. He also made a tour of fifteen days among the churches in Mt. Zion association.

The whole number of days spent in trav­eling and preaching was 181, during which time he delivered 142 sermons, traveling 4,757 miles at an expense of $78.15, and re­ceiving $173.00.

During this year he baptized eleven per­sons, and married three couples, receiving $18.00 for the latter service.

For 1885 we find the following list of places visited and at which he preached: Churches, Mauvaisterre, Siloam, Bryant’s Creek, Elk Horn, Walnut Branch, Union, Little Bethel; at private homes and outside appointments.

He attended the following associations: Morgan, Cuivre-Siloam, Two River, Lamine River, Yellow Creek, Fishing River and Mt. Zion. Eighteen days were spent among churches in Illinois.

Total number of days 147, sermons 126, miles traveled 4,130, expenses $80,20, con­tribution received $150.45.

During this year he baptized one person.

The churches named in the diary for 1886 were, Goshen, Mauvaisterre, Sni-a-Bar, Bear Creek, Siloam, Elk Horn, Little Bethel, Oak Grove and New Liberty. Be­sides these he visited seven churches in Ray and Clay counties, Missouri, and made a tour of ten days in Illinois. He notes that he attended a Sunday School convention and made two speeches against Sunday schools.

Associations visited are named as fol­lows: Morgan, (Ill.), Cuivre-Siloam, Two River, Kaskaskia, (Ill.), Licking (Ky.), and Mt. Zion.

Total number of days 177, sermons delivered 148, miles traveled 6,397, expenses $102.90, amount received $222.50. Three persons were baptized and one marriage solemnized.

Names of churches visited in 1887 ap­pear as follows: Elk Horn, Goshen, Mau­vaisterre, Fancy Point, Siloam, Little Bethel, Oak Grove and Pisgah. A tour was made in February in the states of Indiana and Ohio, one in October in Illinois, and one in December among the churches of Missouri.

The associations attended were, Mt. Gil­ead, Cuivre Siloam, Two River, Salem, (Ill.), Concord (Ill.) and Mt. Zion.

Total number of days spent 210, ser­mons preached 216, miles traveled 7,583, ex­penses $143.90, contributions, $294.55.

Fourteen persons were baptized and married two couples.

The churches usually attended appear in the diary for the year 1888. The asso­ciations visited were, Mt. Gilead, Cuivre­-Siloam, Sangamon, (Ill.), Two River and Mt. Zion.

Total number of days 134, sermons de­livered 116, miles traveled 8,076 miles, ex­penses $92.44, contributions $193.10. Five persons were baptized and one marriage solemnized.

The diary ends with August 24, 1889. Number of days 50, preached 86 ser­mons, traveled 1,885 miles, expended $33.00, amount received $95.50. Two persons were baptized.

NOTE—The diary shows that in the eight and one-half years he spent 1,381 days in actual travel and preaching, deliv­ered 1,175 sermons, traveled 47,760 miles, received $1,696.18, of which he paid out for expenses in travel $785.59. What remained after the expense of travel was deducted would amount to 65 cents a day for the time spent away from home, from which the sacrifice that he made for the cause can be clearly seen. This amount would not begin to compensate him for the loss of time from his business, to say nothing of the time that must be spent at home in study, and the expense of clothing.

So it clearly appears that instead of the churches helping him to sustain his family, as Elder Branstetter plainly shows is their duty in his article on “The Support of the Ministry,” he took from his own labor and family that he might serve the churches.

But it should be remarked that he came into the ministry shortly after the division on the Mission question, and no doubt the opposition to the money system of the Mis­sionary faction had an effect to influence the churches to do so little. But the writ­ings of Elder Branstetter show that he believed that “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” though he him­self loved the cause well enough to make any sacrifice for it.—Publisher.

OBITUARY.

Elder Peter L. Branstetter was born in Pike County, Missouri, February 11, 1825, and died April 16, 1890 at the age of sixty-five years, two months and five days. He united with the Primitive Baptist church in August 1844, and was ordained to the work of the ministry in April 1864, by Elders Wm. Davis, Wm. Priest and S. P. Rogers, and I feel certain that those emi­nent ministers never had cause to regret laying their hands on him, for surely his whole life was an evidence of faithfulness to God who called him, and also to his brethren who had the utmost confidence in him.

Elder Branstetter was reared at a time when schools in Missouri were scarce, and did not have the advantage of even a com­mon education. But after he began preaching he was very studious and became famil­iar with the scriptures which he held in the highest esteem, considering them all-suffi­cient for the instruction of the church, and a perfect defense against all forms of false doctrine. He frequently exhorted his brethren to search the scriptures which would always lead them right in doctrine and practice. He also obtained consider­able knowledge of church history.

He became afflicted with cancer in 1888, which grew very rapidly and baffled all efforts to stop it. He complained very little of his sufferings, only while being treated by some one of the many doctors who at­tended him. When he first became afflict­ed he had great horror of mind in thinking he would be eaten up with cancer, but he became reconciled to his condition, and realized the enjoyment of dying grace, as our dear Lord has promised to all his children. He was twice married, and was the father of twenty children, of which four­teen are living, together with his second wife, who mourn their irreparable loss. May God’s blessings rest upon them, and especially our dear sister in her loneliness. I can only say to them, try to put your trust in Him who has said that He will be a Father to the fatherless and a widow’s God.

The demise of our dear brother has thrown a feeling of gloom over the churches of Cuivre-Siloam association, which had so long enjoyed his faithful labors in the ministry. But we would try to be still and know that God does all things well, and that He knows best, and that our loss is his gain.

I had the pleasure of visiting him fre­quently during his affliction, and he spoke with bright anticipation of his future rest, and I sorrow not as for those who have no hope. The remains were laid away in the burying ground at Siloam church, there to await the resurrection morn, when he shall come forth to be fashioned like unto the glorious Son of God. O, dear children of God, what a blessed thought!

S. A. ELLKINS.
Middletown, Mo., April 25, 1890.
 
NOTE—The following letter was written to Elder S. A. Elkins by Elder Branstetter near the last days of his life.—Pub.
 
Dear Brother in Sorrow and Affliction:

My last sermon was preached at Bryant’s Creek on the fifth Sunday in June 1889. My ministry is at an end, and my earthly career closed so far as my work is concerned. And my dear Brother Elkins, my dying request is that you contend for the truth of God and His glorious grace, which can and does save such a sinner as poor me. Farewell, my brother, I am going home. After a few days we will meet here no more, but hope to meet with the blessed Jesus in glory.

PETER L. BRANSTETTER.


Life and Writings of Elder Peter Branstetter
 
CHARACTER SKETCH.

There is no task, perhaps, more difficult and yet more pleasant than to undertake to present in words the history of man’s life, even if it be but to note a few of the many incidents by which the real character is to be understood. In the fear of the Almighty God, I hope not to say anything that would lead the reader to believe or think of this truly great man, of whom I am writing, above what he ought to think, or to leave anything out that would lessen the admira­tion that so illustrious a man as Elder Branstetter justly merited, and in which he was held by those who knew him.

It is a sad mistake in the judgment of men, when only those are called great who are brought into notice by their own pre­tenses, endeavoring to immortalize them­selves. While it is right for every man and woman to strive to be the most useful in all the many relations of life that may sur­round each of them, yet if such acts are for no other purpose than to gratify a desire for fame and wealth, they can not be said to be Christian works. Such works lack that spirit of self-denial which was so prominent in the whole life of our dear Re­deemer, and has been followed by His chil­dren through all the trials and troubles of this life.

In this particular it may be said that none of God’s children in this age followed more closely the example of Christ than did Elder Branstetter. The writer has often heard him say, in speaking of the difficul­ties of the Christian life, that we should not murmur with the promises of God before us of a blessed immortality, and with the gracious evidence in our poor hearts that in a short time all our troubles would be over and we would enjoy that rest which God has provided for His children—the pur­chase of the blood of Christ.

I never knew a man who was a strong­er believer in the sovereignty and immuta­bility of God than Elder Branstetter. We are often told by conditionalists that if they believed in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and predestination, they would take their fill of sin. This idea was not true in the case of Elder Branstetter. Neither do I believe it is true in the case of any truly converted soul.

Elder Branstetter had very limited op­portunities of attending school, and grew to manhood illiterate. After he received a hope in the forgiveness of his sins, he was very anxious to become acquainted with the scriptures and to know what the Redeemer said in reference to the salvation of His people. It was with great difficulty that he began the task of reading the word of God, but with a dictionary to aid him in pronouncing, he slowly, but surely, ac­quired an extensive knowledge of the Bible. He believed, and often said, that the Bible contained everything that was necessary for the church to know, both in faith and practice.

Elder Branstetter, in his public speak­ing, was very positive, and some thought him a little rough. This, however, was a mistake that grew out of not being ac­quainted with his disposition. He was one of those earnest, zealous, kind of preachers who tried to get every Christian to understand the doctrine of Christ, which he be­lieved to be necessary to peace and fellow­ship in the church.

A difficulty came up in the Cuivre-Si­loam association in the year 1875, which finally resulted in a division of several of the churches. Elder Branstetter was cho­sen moderator of the association that same year. He had often said to the writer that he plainly saw some of the preachers and lay members in the association were lead­ing off into false doctrine, which would finally bring division.

So he set to work with all his power to explain and show the churches the differ­ence between the doctrine of Christ and the new “Means” doctrine of antichrist that was then being preached in some of the churches. But in spite of all he could say or do, the separation came and the scriptural truth was demonstrated that they (the Means Baptists) “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have con­tinued with us.” He often said that this trouble in the churches was one of the greatest trials of his life—to see brethren and sisters in whom he had the utmost con­fidence, going off after strange doctrine.

But in taking a different view of the mat­ter, he said that it was all right; that God had told us there should be false teachers in the last days who would draw away dis­ciples after them. His faith was unshaken in God’s promise that he would save his people from their sins.

Elder Branstetter’s travels in the minis­try were very extensive, and his endur­ance in this direction showed him to be a man of wonderful constitution as well as determination. He might have said with the eminent Paul that what he found to do he did with all his might.

At one time he had quite a trial of mind in reference to a church called Sand Run, in Lincoln county, Missouri, of which he was then pastor. He lived on a farm, had quite a large wheat harvest and was very hard at work, being scarce of hands, and he began to think that he could not leave his work to go to meeting. This caused him much trouble. Having a very faithful wife, he told her his conclusions. After he went to the field she rode out on horseback and found a hand to work in his place. So, late Friday evening he started to meeting, which was forty miles away. He traveled until late at night, and on Saturday morn­ing resumed his journey.

When within five miles of the church his horse was taken very sick. After doc­toring him for some time he decided that the horse would die. He tried to hire a horse from a man who lived near by, but failed. Feeling determined to fill his ap­pointment, he resumed his journey on foot, and was there in time for the meeting Sun­day morning. To his surprise his horse got well and was brought on to the church, and he was able to reach home by midnight.

This is only one of many such instances that occurred during his ministry of over thirty years. I speak of this particular case to give the reader some idea of the self-denial and fortitude of this man of God. He did not wait for some church to promise him a salary, or give him a reward for his services, but trusting in the Savior’s pow­er and promises, he felt that all would be right, and that God could and would bless His children in the discharge of their duty. He did not believe that God ever called hirelings to preach the gospel, and he was very prompt to warn the churches everywhere against those religious hirelings that Christ called “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

He often said that the greater part of all the troubles in the church of Christ was caused by false teachers getting into the fold of God who were prophesying for re­ward and divining for money. At the same time he frequently told his churches that it was their bounden duty to look after the temporal needs of their ministers; and in failing to do this they would most certainly bring God’s displeasure upon them.

He frequently complained of the negli­gence of the churches toward their preach­ers, not in reference to himself, for he was blessed with plenty, but for those faithful preachers who were very poor and very willing to make every sacrifice for the truth’s sake. The writer had often conversed with Elder Branstetter on this sub­ject, and he said that the ministers of Christ were placed in a very peculiar posi­tion. They had to guard the churches against intruders and money hunters on the one hand, and exhort them to their duty to the true minister on the other. And be believed it to be the duty of the servants of Christ to do both.

In his last days Elder Branstetter fre­quently said that he could see quite an im­provement among the churches of his ac­quaintance in their liberality to their preachers, as compared with what it was when he began preaching, and that he hoped the time was near at hand when the Primitive Baptists would come fully up to the Bible rule in this important matter.

He did not think that indolence or ex­travagance was becoming in a preacher, and thought every true minister should labor with all the ability he possessed to promote the cause of truth in whatever way God would enable him, whether by privations, or troubles, or necessities, and that his motto should be the same as was Paul’s—“I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ,” be­ing assured that he who bad Christ pos­sessed the true riches, an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that fades not away. He often said in his preaching that he would not give his little hope of salvation through Christ for all this world.

How very different was the preaching of Elder Branstetter on practical religion, and the preaching that is so common in this age of the world, in which sinners are told that they must serve God in order to become His children, while they are yet dead in their sins. He exhorted all saints to obey God because they were His chil­dren, and that Christ required them to fol­low Him. He often declared that the dead sinner could no more change his heart by good works than the apple tree could be changed by the fruit it bore. While good works were an evidence of a change of heart, they did not produce that change. In this particular bethought the Arminians had the cart before the horse.

I wish to make a reference to a sermon the writer once heard Elder Branstetter preach on the watch-care that every Christian should have over himself, and especially those in the ministry. In the course of his remarks he said, by way of comparison, that a cracked jar never afterwards rang clear; so with the Chris­tian who gives over to the flesh and falls a victim to false doctrine or bad habit. While they may see their error and turn from it, yet full confidence is seldom, if ever, restored. This being true, he insisted that all of God’s children should heed the admonition of the apostle in which he said to the church—“Be ye steadfast, unmova­ble, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” The re­mark that a cracked jar never rang clear any more should rest on the mind of every Christian.

Elder Branstetter was very much op­posed to Baptists joining any of the many secret orders that are now in the world, and some have thought that he was a strong enemy of those societies. This was not true, so far as the world was concerned. He has often said to the writer that if the world wanted such things let it have them, but he thought Primitive Baptists should take the Bible for their guide, and that all such things are positively forbidden. He thought that the church was enough for every one of God’s people, and that by join­ing such societies no Christian can keep himself unspotted from the world. He often said that if the intention of such soci­eties, as some would claim, was for protec­tion in this life, it showed lack of confidence on the part of Christians in that God who owns and controls the earth and all that is in it.

His strongest point in preaching was on the sovereignty of God, and to this point he would direct the minds of his audience in speaking of temporal blessings as well as spiritual, man being dependent upon God, not for his eternal salvation only, but for every earthly blessing; that the scriptures directed the saint to look to and trust in God for every good as well as every perfect gift. This was one reason why he claimed that the doctrine of humanly devised means was contrary to the scriptures, and could not be true from the fact that the blessing of God’s grace in the salvation of poor, lost sinners was not suspended upon the act of fallen man; that for this reason, if no other, the gospel was good news to those who had realized that they were destitute of any­thing to commend them to God and His love.

No man, perhaps, ever lived who rejoiced more in the gospel than Elder Branstetter. He seemed to fully realize that the gospel of Christ presented a full and complete Sav­ior, a kind Protector and a rich Benefactor, who could bless and none could curse, and could sustain and protect His children in all the privations and trials they had to meet in this life. This faith, I think, was what enabled this worthy man of God to stand firm against all the strong opposition with which be had to meet during his en­tire ministry.

S. A. ELKINS.
Middletown, Mo., December 1891. 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 October 2006 )
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Purpose

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.