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The Friendship Association--1883 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.C. Denton   

The Gospel Messenger--September 1883

Dear Brother Respess—Having agreed to go as a correspondent to the Friendship Association, if not providentially hindered, I left home on the morning of the 1st Sunday in this month for that purpose, I attended our home church meeting that day; heard an able and edifying discourse by Elder Gunter, from the words of Paul, in Ephesians, “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” After preaching, we opened the door of the church, and received a brother for baptism. He will be baptized at our next meeting. Went from there to Blackjack Grove, four miles east of Hearne, where I tried to preach at night; took the cars next morning for Georgetown, Williamson county; went from there Brother Whitley’s, where I found an appointment waiting for me. I tried to preach from words in 1 John i. 3; was short in my discourse, having but little liberty.

 On Wednesday morning, in company with Brother Whitley and some others, I started, by private conveyance, for Llano County, where the Asso­ciation was to be held. At Liberty Hill, which was in our route, I met Elder Robert Baker, whom I had never met before. We dined together, and had some conversation of a pleasant character, but as his condition was such that he could not go to the Association, we could not become so well acquainted as we desired. We stopped with brother  J. M. Willis that night. Here we met Elder Hester, whom I had not met before. We were detained at Brother Willis’ on account of heavy rains, till Friday morning, which was the day the Association was to meet, and we were now thirty miles from the place of meeting. But the brethren used us. Brother Hester and myself both spoke three times, and Brother Whitley, who is a deacon, and a very good preacher, too, took part with us. On Friday morning;  all appeared gloomy. Though the rain had ceased, the clouds looked threatening, and that black, waxy land is very disagreeable to travel in when wet. The incli­nation to turn hack was very strong with the most of our company. Finally Brother Whitley suggested that it be left with Brother Hester and myself to say whether to go forward or not. Brother Hester seemed disposed to let it be with me to say. The responsibility just here was considerable. The roads were heavy with mud, the clouds still low, and the Colorado to cross, and the distance considerable. But I could not feel to turn back. Past experience had taught me that when the Lord would accomplish good through me, as his servant in the gospel, he would also bring me to a deep sense of may own weakness, and of my great dependence upon him to make rough ways smooth, and crooked paths straight, and cause me to feelingly cry, “Lord, help me!” So I could but say, “Brother Whitely, I left home to go to the Association, and I feel that if I turn back it must not be till I can in truth say it is by providential hindrance.” He remarked that he had promised me, nearly a year ago, that if I would go he would convey me, if he could; so we would go forward. In a short time we were all on the road, and before 12 o’clock the clouds gave way. We reached the Colorado late in the evening, and crossed it without any trouble. I can scarcely describe my feelings as I crossed that stream. I had long desired to see it, and had long felt that in that romantic country I must one day try, in my poor, weak way, to preach the gospel. We reached the vicinity of the church with which the Association was to convene, and found but one ordained minister thieve, and he had traveled afoot all day on Thursday in the rain, and had waded the river; but there were enough messengers there to proceed with the business for which they came. I heard some right touch­ing expressions of joy when we arrived among them, and especially from a sister. Elder Woods was Moderator, and Bro. J. R. Clark, Clerk, and the business of the Association, which, as it ought to be, was not much, was attended to in peace. Then came the more interesting part, to me at least. The church there was a newly constituted one, and fifty miles or more, I think, from any other church in the Association, in a newly settled part of the country, worshiping in a log house, which reminded me of houses they worshiped in back in dear old Georgia when I was a little boy; and this church had been trying for a good while to get a presbytery to ordain a couple of young ministers and a deacon, and had become discouraged. So she concluded to have them ordained at this time, and it was desired that I should act with Elders Woods and Hester in the ordination, and after having heard them both preach, and having also tried myself to preach on the sub­ject of the gospel ministry, we proceeded to ordain them; also the brother chosen to the office of deacon. The occasion was one of solemnity and joy. While I cannot say that the duty assigned me, which was to examine them in doctrine, &c., was well performed, owing ho my weakness and imperfec­tions, I can say that the ordination prayer by Elder Woods was much to edification, and the charge by Elder Hester, though he seemed desirous of brevity, was far ahead of any sermon I had heard him preach since we have been together. We all were melted, as it were, under it. There seemed to be an outpouring of the Spirit upon us. Some wept aloud for joy. The services being over, we were dismissed.

 I felt to be much worn down physically from the day’s labor, and thought I would not try to preach, or even attend preaching that night, it having been published that there would be preaching at the meeting-house. So I went to Bro. Robert Mercer’s (one of the young preachers), intending to retire to rest early. But somehow there was a failure in the appointment at the church, and soon Brother Mercer’s yard was full, or nearly so of people and preaching called for. I could but refuse, and so with the brethren Woods and Hester. So it was requested that Brother Clark, who is a deacon, should open services by singing and prayer, and then talk, if he felt to do so. He did so, and to edification. After him, Bother Whitley was called on, and he arose with the words, “Little children, let no man deceive you, He seemed fearful that some one would be deceived by him, by thinking he was a preacher because he talked in public. He talked much to our edification and instruction for about thirty minutes; and by that the Elder Woods was full, and had only to be asked to talk. He preached about thirty minutes with much feeling, and while he was preaching an affecting scene occurred. Shall I tell it? Yes, but with some reluctance, because of my poor, sinful self being a party to it. I sat in front of him. This was the first time I had ever heard him preach, and that day was the first time he had ever heard me. We had been kept apart by the acts of Association and advisory councils. And he fixed his eyes upon me as he talked, and said that he saw the image of Jesus in my face while I preached at the stand that day, and that what I said about the Saviour’s promise——” Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen “—was enough; that it was not ours to wait till we could see that he had gone before us and opened the way; but it is his right and prerogative to give the word of command, ‘‘Go” and it is our duty to go. ‘‘We walk by faith, and not by sight,” had made an impression on his mind, and that he felt to give mime his hand; and as he did so he embraced me and said, “When you go back home, tell your brethren that between you and me there is no difference.” I told him I was glad to meet him and that I felt to believe somebody must have been praying for the peace of Zion. I suggested, then, that we had better conclude the services by singing that good old hymn, “ What Wondrous Love Is This!” &c., which was done, and as we sang two ladies came weeping, and asked to be remembered in our prayers; and besides them, there were many others that wept for joy, I think. The services were concluded by prayer. And let me add, that this meeting was in under the moonlight shade of a stately water oak, with a few dead limbs on it, caused by the burning of a house close by it about ten years ago, which was the work of the red men. The bloodthirsty creatures first killed the father in the field, and then killed the mother and the children at the house and burnt it. How inscrutable is the providence of God! “His ways are past finding out.”

 On Saturday, we met a large congregation, for that country. Elder Woods preached first, and I followed him. We had a good meeting. I had to bid them farewell after the morning services were over. After I was through with my discourse on Saturday, I found that some half dozen persons, whom I knew and had tried to preach to in Freestone county twelve or thirteen years ago, were in the congregation. Among them was the widow of Eider James Beaver, who assisted in my ordination, and whose Bible Concordance Mrs. Beaver made me a present of after his death. But I would not have recognized these friends if they had not introduced themselves to me. Taking leave of brethren, sisters and friends, nearly all of whom I had never met before, I turned may face homeward, and in due time reached my humble res­idence, and found the loved ones all well, but I was exhausted and somewhat sick. And I am how just back from our own Association. We had a joyful meeting, though some of our churches failed to represent themselves, and five of our preachers were not present. The Association was held with a church in the extreme northeast boundary of our territory. We had ten preachers present, counting visiting ministers. The congregations were large, and the preaching able and edifying.


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