CHAPTER XVI. The Mountain Preacher
I will now relate an incident or two that occurred in 1820-24.
Old Father Walker, of excellent memory, and myself, set out in the month of April, 1820, to the General Conference, in Baltimore, on horseback. We traveled hard all the week. Late on Saturday afternoon we came to the spurs of the Alleghany Mountains, and were within a few miles of the toll-gate, when a gentleman overtook us. We inquired of him if he knew of any quiet tavern on the road near by, where two weary travelers could rest over Sabbath, as we did not intend traveling on that day. He said there was no such house on the road for many miles; but if we would turn off the road a mile or such a matter, he could take us to a good, quiet, religious family, where we could rest till Monday very comfortably; for he, being a local preacher, had an appointment next day. We thankfully consented to go with this local brother, and following him, we soon came to a poor but decent house and family and were made very welcome. The brother, on learning that we were preachers, insisted that we should preach for the people in the morning and evening, to which we consented.
At eleven o'clock, Brother Walker held forth. The people were all attention, but there was no excitement. At night I tried to preach, and although I had profound attention from a cabinful of these mountaineers, yet the preaching did not seem to have any effect whatever. When I closed, I called on our kind local preacher to conclude. He rose and began to sing a mountain song, and pat his foot, and clap his hands, and ever and anon would shout at the top of his speech, "Pray, brethren." In a few minutes the whole house was in an uproarious shout. When Brother Walker and I got a chance to talk, I said: "Well, sir, I tell you this local preacher can do more in singing, clapping, and stamping, than all our preaching put together."
"Verily," said Walker, "he must be a great man, and these are a great people living here in these poor dreary mountains."
In passing on our journey going down the mountains, on Monday, we met several wagons and carriages moving west. Shortly after we had passed them, I saw lying in the road a very neat pocket-pistol. I picked it up, and found it heavily loaded and freshly primed. Supposing it to have been dropped by some of these movers, I said to Brother Walker, "This looks providential;" for the road across these mountains was, at this time, infested by many robbers, and several daring murders and robberies had lately been committed. Brother Walker's horse was a tolerably good one, but my horse was a stout, fleet, superior animal. As we approached the foot of the mountains, and were about two miles from the public-house, where we intended to lodge that night, the sun just declining behind the western mountains, we overtook a man walking with a large stick as a walking cane, and he appeared to be very lame, and was limping along at a very slow rate. He spoke to us, and said he was traveling, and a poor cripple, and begged us to let him ride a little way, as he was nearly given out, and was fearful he could not reach the tavern that night.
Brother Walker said, "O yes," and was in the attitude of dismounting and letting him ride his horse. Just then a thought struck me, that this fellow's lameness was feigned, and that it was not safe to trust him. I said to Walker: "Keep your horse; we are a long way from home, have a long journey before us; under such circumstances trust no man," and we trotted on down the hill, and thought we had left our lame man more than a hundred yards behind. Walker was rather ahead of me. All at once my horse made a spring forward; I turned to see what was the matter, and lo! and behold, here was my lame man, within a few steps of me coming as fleet as a deer. I grasped my pistol, which was in my over-coat pocket, cocked it, wheeled about, and rushed toward him; he faced about, and in a few jumps more I should have been on him, but he plunged into the thick brush, and I could not follow him. When we got to the tavern the landlord said we had made a very fortunate escape, for these robbers in this way had decoyed and robbed several travelers lately.
Brother Walker being the oldest man and rather infirm, we had agreed that he should conduct all religious ceremonies, and that I should call for lodging attend to horses, payoff bills, etc. When we had gotten down into Virginia some distance, we called one evening at a Mr. Baly's, who kept a tavern on the road; his wife and daughters were very kind and clever, but the man of the house was a drunken Universalist. He was not sober when we called, but granted us the liberty to stay all night. While I was out seeing to the horses, Brother Walker and the landlord got into a strong debate on the universal restoration plan. Brother Walker was very mild and easy in debate; the landlord was abrupt and insulting, as well as very profane. I stood it a good while, but at length I got tired of it, and said to Brother Walker that the way he debated was of no use; that it was casting pearls before swine. The old landlord at this let loose a volley of curses on me. I did not attempt any debate, but shook my brimstone wallet over him till he was sick and tired of it. The old lady and daughters were very much mortified at their husband and father. By this time it became proper that we should retire to bed. Brother Walker told the landlord that we were preachers, and asked leave to pray in the family before we went to bed. The landlord flatly denied us that privilege, and swore he would have none of our praying about him, saying he knew we only wanted to pray off our bill. Brother Walker mildly expostulated with him, and insisted on having the privilege to pray; but all in vain. He said he would have no praying about his house. I then asked him if he did not keep a house of public entertainment.
He replied, "Yes."
"Then," said I, "do you not allow men to curse and swear, and get drunk in your house, if they pay for it?"
He said, "Yes."
"Well, then, we have as good a right to pray and serve God in your house, if we pay for it, as they have to serve the devil and pay for it; and I insist that we have our rights. We have plenty of money, and don't wish to pray off our bill." So said I to Brother Walker, "Go to prayer, and if he cuts up any capers I'll down him, and hold him still till you are done praying; for," said I, "'the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.'" So Brother W. prayed, and I watched the old landlord, who sat very quiet and looked sullen. After this we retired to bed, and his wife and daughter made many apologies for him, and hoped we would not be offended. I told them no, not at all; that he was heartily welcome to all he had made of us. They laughed, and said they had never seen him so completely used up before.
In the morning we rose early; our horses were fed, and breakfast on the table. We prayed and took our meal, the old man still in bed. I then asked the landlady for our bill. She frankly said she would not have anything; that we were welcome to all we had from them, and invited us to call and stay with them as we returned. I insisted that she should receive pay; "for you know," said I, "the old gentleman said we wanted to pray off our bill;" but she utterly refused. So we bade farewell, and went on our way rejoicing, for we had said our prayers and prayed off our bill in the bargain.
On our return from the General Conference in Baltimore, in 1820, in the month of June, which was very warm, and we having to travel on horseback, it may be supposed that our journey in this way for a thousand miles was very fatiguing. When we got to Knoxville, East Tennessee, the following incident in substance occurred:
Brother Walker and myself had started early in the morning, had traveled about twenty-five miles, and reached Knoxville at noon. We rode up to a tavern with a view of dining, but finding a great crowd of noisy, drinking, and drunken persons there, I said to Brother Walker: "This is a poor place for weary travelers, and we will not stop here." We then rode to another tavern, but it was worse than the first, for here they were in a real bully fight. I then proposed to Brother Walker that we should go on, and said we would soon find a house of private entertainment, where we could be quiet; so on we went. Presently we came to a house with a sign over the door of "Private Entertainment, and New Cider." Said I, "Here's the place; and if we can get some good light bread and new cider, that's dinner enough for me."
Brother Walker said: "That is exactly what I want."
We accordingly hailed. The old gentleman came out. I inquired if we could get our horses fed, and some light bread and new cider for dinner.
"O yes," said the landlord; "alight, for I suspect you are two Methodist preachers, that have been to Baltimore, to the General Conference."
We replied we were. Our horses were quickly taken, and well fed. A large loaf of good light bread and a pitcher of new cider were quickly set before us. This gentleman was an Otterbein Methodist. His wife was very sick, and sent from the other room for us to pray for her. We did so, and then returned to take our bread and cider dinner. The weather was warm, and we were very thirsty, and began to lay in the bread and cider at a pretty liberal rate. It, however, seemed to me that our cider was not only new cider, but something more, and I began to rein up my appetite. Brother Walker laid on liberally, and at length I said to him: "You had better stop, brother; for there is surely something more than cider here."
"I reckon not," said he.
But as I was not in the habit of using spirits at all, I knew that a very little would keel me up, so I forbore; but with all my forbearance presently I began to feel light-headed. I instantly ordered our horses, fearing we were snapped for once.
I called for our bill; the old brother would have nothing. We mounted, and started on our journey. When we had rode about a mile, being in the rear, I saw Brother Walker was nodding at a mighty rate. After riding on some distance in this way, I suddenly rode up to Brother Walker, and cried out, "Wake up! wake up!" He roused up, his eyes watering freely. "I believe," said I, "we are both drunk. Let us turn out of the road, and lie down and take a nap till we get sober." But we rode on without stopping. We were not drunk, but we both evidently felt it flying into our heads; and I have thought proper, in all candor, to name it, with a view to put others on their guard.
We journeyed on till we came to the Crab Orchard, where was kept a toll-gate. This gate was kept at this time by two very mean men; they also kept a house of entertainment; and, it being late, we concluded to tarry all night. The fare was very indifferent. We asked the privilege to pray with them. It was granted, and we prayed with them night and morning; took breakfast, and then asked our bill. The landlord told us, and I drew out my pocket-book, in which I had several hundred dollars in good current bank bills. He told me he would not take any of them; he must have silver. I told him I had no silver, and no coin but a few cents. He very abruptly swore he knew better; he knew I had the silver. I assured him again that I had no silver, but he persisted in swearing he knew I had, and that we could not leave or pass the toll-gate till we paid our bill of fare. Our horses were all ready to mount, and I had fresh loaded my pistol over night, for I did not like the signs about the house; and as I had a good deal of money in bills about me, I had determined I would not be robbed without leaving my mark. Brother Walker tried to reason the case with him, but to no purpose. I then threw down the amount of his charge, and told him he had to take that or nothing, and mounted my horse and started. He ordered one of his servants to shut and lock the toll-gate, and not let me through. I spurred my horse, and was at the gate nearly as quick as his servant, and drew my horsewhip, and told the negro, if he attempted to close the gate I would down him. The negro took fright, and let go the gate, and took to his heels for safety. The moment I passed through the gate I wheeled my horse, and called for Brother Walker to come on; I would bear him harmless. The landlord called for his pistols, swearing he would follow me. I told him to come on, and wheeled my horse, and started on my way independently. But he took the "second, sober thought," and declined pursuing me. This was to me a pretty trying and tempting circumstance, but I survived it.
Shortly after this Brother Walker left me to visit some of his old friends and relatives in West Tennessee, and I journeyed on toward my home in Christian County, Kentucky. Saturday night came on, and found me in a strange region of country, and in the hills, knobs, and spurs of the Cumberland Mountains. I greatly desired to stop on the approaching Sabbath, and spend it with a Christian people; but I was now in a region of country where there was no Gospel minister for many miles around, and where, as I learned, many of the scattered population had never heard a Gospel sermon in all their lives, and where the inhabitants knew no Sabbath only to hunt and visit, drink and dance. Thus lonesome and pensive, late in the evening, I hailed at a tolerably decent house, and the landlord kept entertainment. I rode up and asked for quarters. The gentleman said I could stay, but he was afraid I would not enjoy myself very much as a traveler, inasmuch as they had a party meeting there that night to have a little dance. I inquired how far it was to a decent house of entertainment on the road; he said seven miles. I told him if he would treat me civilly and feed my horse well, by his leave I would stay. He assured me I should be treated civilly. I dismounted and went in. The people collected, a large company. I saw there was not much drinking going on.
I quietly took my seat in one corner of the house, and the dance commenced. I sat quietly musing, a total stranger, and greatly desired to preach to this people. Finally, I concluded to spend the next day (Sabbath) there, and ask the privilege to preach to them. I had hardly settled this point in my mind, when a beautiful, ruddy young lady walked very gracefully up to me, dropped a handsome courtesy, and pleasantly, with winning smiles, invited me out to take a dance with her. I can hardly describe my thoughts or feelings on that occasion. However, in a moment I resolved on a desperate experiment. I rose as gracefully as I could; I will not say with some emotion, but with many emotions. The young lady moved to my right side; I grasped her right hand with my right hand, while she leaned her left arm on mine. In this position we walked on the floor. The whole company seemed pleased at this act of politeness in the young lady, shown to a stranger. The colored man, who was the fiddler, began to put his fiddle in the best order. I then spoke to the fiddler to hold a moment, and added that for several years I had not undertaken any matter of importance without first the blessing of God upon it, and I desired now to ask the blessing of God upon this beautiful young lady and the whole company, that had shown such an act of politeness to a total stranger.
Here I grasped the young lady's hand tightly, and said, "Let us all I kneel down and pray," and then instantly dropped on my knees, and commenced praying with all the power of soul and body that I could command. The young lady tried to get loose from me, but I held her tight. Presently she fell on her knees. Some of the company kneeled, some stood, some fled, some sat still, all looked curious. The fiddler ran off into the kitchen, saying, "Lord a marcy, what de matter? what is dat mean?"
While I prayed some wept, and wept out aloud, and some cried for mercy. I rose from my knees and commenced an exhortation, after which I sang a hymn. The young lady who invited me on the floor lay prostrate, crying earnestly for mercy. I exhorted again, I sang and prayed nearly all night. About fifteen of that company professed religion, and our meeting lasted next day and next night, and as many more were powerfully converted. I organized a society, took thirty-two into the Church, and sent them a preacher. My landlord was appointed leader, which post he held for many years. This was the commencement of a great and glorious revival of religion in that region of country, and several of the young men converted at this Methodist preacher dance became useful ministers of Jesus Christ.
I recall this strange scene of my life with astonishment to this day, and do not permit myself to reason on it much. In some conditions of society, I should have failed; in others I should have been mobbed; in others I should have been considered a lunatic. So far as I did permit myself to reason on it at the time, my conclusions were something like these: These are a people not Gospel taught or hardened. They, at this early hour, have not drunk to intoxication, and they will at least be as much alarmed at me and my operations, as I possibly can be at theirs. If I fail, it is no disgrace; if I succeed, it will be a fulfillment of a duty commanded, to be "instant in season and out of season." Surely, in all human wisdom, it was out of season, but I had, from some cause or other, a strong impression on my mind, from the beginning to the end of this affair, (if it is ended,) that I should succeed by taking the devil at surprise, as he had often served me, and thereby be avenged of him for giving me so much trouble on my way to General Conference and back thus far.
The actions prompted by those sudden impressions to perform religious duty, often succeed beyond all human calculation, and thereby inspire a confident belief in an immediate superintending agency of the Divine Spirit of God. In this agency of the Holy Spirit of God I have been a firm believer for more than fifty-four years, and I do firmly believe that if the ministers of the present day had more of the unction or baptismal fire of the Holy Ghost prompting their ministerial efforts, we should succeed much better than we do, and be more successful in winning souls to Christ than we are. If those ministers, or young men that think they are called of God to minister in the word and doctrine of Jesus Christ, were to cultivate, by a holy life, a better knowledge of this supreme agency of the Divine Spirit, and depend less on the learned theological knowledge of Biblical institutes, it is my opinion they would do vastly more good than they are likely to do; and I would humbly ask, is not this the grand secret of the success of all early pioneer preachers, from John Wesley down to the present day?
Now I say for one, who has been trying to preach in the wilderness for more than fifty years, that I take no flattering unction to my soul from those who pretend to speak in such lofty terms of the old and early pioneers of Methodism, for in the very next breath they tell us that such preachers and preaching will not do now, and at one fell swoop sweep us, as with the besom of destruction, from the face of the earth.
I am often reminded by the advocates of learned and theologically-trained preachers, of a circumstance that occurred years gone by in Kentucky, after the wilderness state of the country had passed away, and the people had grown up into improved life, and many of them had become wealthy.
In the region alluded to there was a large and wealthy Presbyterian congregation that, by growing tired of their old and early preacher, had become vacant. They sought a popular successor, one that was up with the improved and advanced state of the times. They finally, by the offer of a large call, or salary, succeeded in engaging a very pious young minister as their pastor. At his first appointment, he took for his text, "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Acts iii, 19. He preached an excellent sermon from this passage, in the judgment of the congregation, and they were very much delighted. The next Sabbath rolled on. Their new pastor rose in the pulpit and took the same text, and delivered substantially the same sermon. This produced a little whispering among their wise and knowing elders; but they attributed it all to absence of thought. The third Sunday rolled on, and up rose the preacher, reading off the same text and preaching the same sermon. Well, the elders concluded that this was outrageous and insufferable, and that they must really talk to him and put a stop to this way of preaching. So they called on their young pastor, and tabled their complaints very feelingly before him, asking him if he really had but the one sermon. If so, they must call the congregation together and dismiss him. To all of which the pastor responded, the Bible was full of as good texts as the one he had preached from, and he had an abundance of good sermons ready; but he thought that as the signs of this improved age, and state of society, required an improved and advanced ministry, so did the advanced age require that the congregation should fully keep up with an improved ministry; "and," said the minister, "do you really think the congregation has complied with the requirements of my sermon? If you think they have, and you shall be the judges, I am ready at all times to take another text and preach a new sermon."
The elders, at that moment, were possessed of a dumb devil, and they never afterward called their minister to chide with him. As the old truths of the Gospel were behind the times, the Lord did signally own and bless the labors of this young minister, and made him a savor of life unto life to many of his hearers, giving ample evidence that he will own and bless his word.
A few more incidents will close this chapter. It is very astonishing how easily and generally mankind fall into idle and sinful habits. I have often been astonished at the far-seeing wisdom of John Wesley. In the General Rules of his United Societies he interdicts dram-drinking; and while the whole religious world, priests, preachers, and members, rushed into this demoralizing practice, Mr. Wesley made desisting from dram-drinking a condition of membership in the Methodist societies; and although the Methodist Episcopal Church, in her organization, as a wise provision in her General Rules, forbids dram-drinking, yet how often and how long did it remain a dead letter! From my earliest recollection drinking drams, in family and social circles, was considered harmless and allowable socialities. It was almost universally the custom for preachers, in common with all others, to take drams; and if a man would not have it in his family, his harvest, his house-raisings, log-rollings, weddings, and so on, he was considered parsimonious and unsociable; and many, even professors of Christianity, would not help a man if he did not have spirits and treat the company. I recollect, at an early day, at a court time in Springfield, Tennessee, to have seen and heard a very popular Baptist preacher, who was evidently intoxicated, drink the health of the company in what he called the health the devil drank to a dead hog--Boo! I have often seen it carried and used freely at large baptizings, where the ordinance was administered by immersion.
In 1821, the last year I traveled the Christian Circuit, I took in a preaching-place in a densely-populated settlement that was long destitute of the Gospel, and had many notorious drunkards in it. Here the Lord owned and blessed my labors; religion spread through the settlement. Among the rest there was one interesting family; the man was a drunkard; the family became deeply interested about religion and joined the Church, and were remarkably friendly to me; the old man was also very friendly. On a certain occasion I met him in a store in Hopkinsville, and--although I was never intoxicated but once in my life, yet I had wholly abandoned the social glass, for according to my best conviction, it was a bad and dangerous habit, and that the rules of the Methodist Church required it--this drinking gentleman called for some cherry-bounce, and sweetened it for me expressly, out of pure love to me, as he said, and then invited me to drink with him. I declined. He urged me. I refused. I told him I had wholly given up the practice. Nothing would satisfy him; he said, if I did not drink with him, I was no friend of his, or his family, and he would never hear me preach again. I told him that it was all in vain to urge me; my principles were fixed, and that I would not violate my principles for the friendship of any man or mortal. He flew into a violent rage, and cursed and abused me. I walked off and left him in his glory. He never forgave me, I suppose, and made his family leave the Church, and would not let them come to hear me preach, and he lived and died a drunkard.
In 1824, Jesse Walker, Samuel H. Thompson, F. S., and myself, were elected delegates to the General Conference in Baltimore: the first three from Missouri, myself from Kentucky. We started on horseback, and traveled together. Two of the company would call for spirits when we stayed at public houses. Brother Thompson and myself would not drink spirits at all. We made it a rule to pray in families wherever we stayed, if it was agreeable. I felt hurt that two Methodist preachers, delegates to the General Conference, and our traveling companions, would call for and drink spirits in those public houses. Thompson and myself remonstrated with them. They defended the practice. I told them at length that if they did not quit practice I would not travel with them, and in this Thompson joined me. Brother Walker was a good man, and for our sakes he agreed to, and did quit it altogether, and we got along much better.
In the fall of 1821 our conference was held in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was appointed, by Bishop M'Kendree, to Cumberland District, containing the following appointments, namely: Green River, Somerset, Wayne, Roaring River, Goose Creek, Fountain Head, Barren, and Bowling Green Circuits; it lay partly in Kentucky and partly in Tennessee, and was a large and populous district, containing between five and six thousand members, many of whom had grown wealthy; there was also a great number of talented local preachers.
On my first round of quarterly meetings--I was on my way to Somerset Circuit, had rode, on Friday, about fifty miles, and my horse and myself were both very much tired--I called at several houses on the public highway, and asked to stay all night, but was denied. About dusk I hailed another house, and asked leave to stay. The man said I could not stay. I inquired how far to the next house where he thought they would take me in. He said, "Seven miles." Said I, "My dear sir, I have rode to-day fifty miles, and I cannot go seven more. If you will give me a fagot of fire, I will camp out rather than go any further."
He stepped into a little kitchen hard by for the fire, and I heard his old lady say to her husband, "You had better let that man stay. If he gets the fire he will burn up the barn because you turned him off." And as she spoke out loud, I replied, equally as loud, "Yes, you had better let me stay; if you don't, some mischief will befall you before morning."
He threw down his chunk of fire, and said, "Well, I suppose you must stay."
Down I got, stepped to the kitchen door, and said, "Good lady, will you give me supper quick? for I could get no dinner on the road to-day."
"O yes," said the old lady.
My horse put up, my supper eaten, I felt much better. Presently I began to inquire about religion and religious denominations. I soon found out that the old gentleman and old lady were real high-toned Predestinarian Baptists. The old gentleman informed me that, a few miles off, most all the people were Methodists, and that he was really afraid they would take the country, and that they had a quarterly meeting the next day, (Saturday,) a few miles from there.
Said I, " A quarterly meeting; what sort of a meeting is that?" He did not know, he replied.
Said I, "What did you call the name of this religious sect?"
Said he, "Methodist."
"Methodist," said I; "what's that? What sort of people are they?"
"Ah," said he, "they are the strangest people you ever saw; they shout and halloo so loud you may hear them for miles; they hold that all will be saved, and a man can live without sin in this life, and yet that a Christian can fall from grace; and all this," said he, "is not half; they are the worst people you ever saw. They had a camp-meeting just over here last year, and they had a tent they called the preachers' tent, and there, by night and day, the preachers carried on all sorts of wickedness; and," said he, "they are begging and taking all the money out of the country."
"Mercy defend us!" I exclaimed; "why don't you raise a company and drive them out of the country?"
"O!" said he, "they are too strong for us; if we were able to drive them they should soon go, you may depend."
Said I, "What a wretched set they must be; but it may be they are misrepresented, and are not as bad as you say."
"No, sir," said he; "I was there at the camp-meeting, and their bad conduct I saw with my own eyes."
"Well," said I, "if these things be so, it is too bad for a civilized country." By this time they thought that it was near bedtime, and he said, "If you wish to lie down, there is a bed."
"But," said I, "my friend, I learn you are a professor of religion, and religious people ought always to pray with their families. I am a friend to religion, and hope you will pray with us before we go to bed."
"Ah!" said he, "I am a poor weak creature, and can't pray in my family."
"O!" said I, "you must certainly pray for us; you ought to pray for the benefit of these interesting children of yours."
"No," said he; "I can't do it."
"Well, sir," said I, "we must have prayers before we lie down, and I am a weak creature, too; but if you will not pray, may I?"
"Do as you please," said he.
So I read a chapter, rose, gave out a hymn, and commenced singing. There were two young ladies present, one a daughter, the other a niece, of the old man; they both rose and sung with me. Finally, I knelt down, and so did the girls; I prayed, but the old man and old lady kept their, seats all the time. In prayer I told the Lord what a poor weak old man lived there, and asked the Lord to give him strength and grace to set a better example before his family. I also prayed the Lord to have mercy on those deluded Methodists, if they were half as bad as my old friend had represented them; but if he had misrepresented them, to forgive him, and prosper them. As soon as prayer was over the old gentleman and lady went into the kitchen, and the niece said to me, "You need not believe a word uncle has said about the Methodists, and the doings at their camp-meeting, for I was there, and they are a good people, and my uncle is prejudiced." His daughter said the same. Presently I stepped out at the door, and I heard the old lady say to her husband, "He is a Methodist preacher."
The old man said, "No, he is not."
"Well," said she, "he is, and you have done it now."
The old man said, "I don't care if he is; it's good enough for him."
Shortly after this I retired to bed, and the two young ladies began to sing some of the Methodist camp-meeting songs, and really they sang delightfully. I rose early next morning, and went on to my quarterly meeting, and we had a real good one.
I will just say here, in this connection, the next summer I held a large and splendid camp-meeting on the ground where this old gentleman had told me there was such bad conduct, and he and his family were out; and right in their presence I told the congregation what this man had said about them to me. The old man could not face it, and slunk off and went home. His daughter and niece both were powerfully converted, and joined the Methodist Church.
When I got over on the southern part of my district, the summer following, to a camp-meeting in the Roaring River Circuit, having been detained a little by affliction in my family, and not being able to reach my camp-meeting till Sunday, Brother Simon Carlisle was in the stand preaching. He was a real Boanerges, an able and successful New Testament preacher. The congregation was large and very disorderly. Brother Carlisle reproved them sharply, but they behaved very rudely. When he closed, I rose to preach, but the congregation was so disorderly that I found it would be very difficult for me to proceed; so at length I told the vast crowd if they would give me their attention a few moments, I would relate an incident or two worthy of their attention. I commenced by relating several short anecdotes. They began to draw up nearer, and nearer still; the anecdotes were well calculated to excite their risibilities. Right before me sat an old, gray-headed man, with straight-breasted coat; he did not like the laughter that my anecdotes produced, and he spoke out loudly to me and said, "Make us cry--make us cry; don't make us laugh."
As quick as thought I replied to him thus:
"I don't hold the puckering strings of your mouths, and I want you to take the negro's eleventh commandment; that is, Every man mind his own business."
"Yes, sir; yes, sir," said the old man, and sank down perfectly still.
This produced considerable mirth in the congregation, but by this time the vast crowd had gathered up as close as they well could, and were all eyes and ears. I then announced my text: "To the unknown God, whom ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." And for two hours I held listening thousands spell-bound, while, to the very best of my abilities, I defended the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ, and riddled Arianism as best I could. Arianism was rife through all that country, although they called themselves "Christians," and were called by the world, New Lights, Marshallites, or Stoneites. (These were two leading Presbyterian ministers, that in the time of a great revival in Kentucky, were disowned by the Synod of Kentucky. They headed the New Light party, and gratuitously assumed the name of Christian, yet they evidently imbibed the Arian sentiment, and spread their errors, and did great mischief in corrupting the Scriptural doctrine of the true Divinity of Jesus Christ.) The two Baptist preachers that would not receive me into the Baptist Church without rebaptizing, in Stogden's Valley, at an early day, elsewhere stated in this narrative, were present on this occasion. The circumstance of that encounter was one of the incidents that I had just related to gain audience with the people, and the old man with strait coat bade me make them cry and not laugh, whom I had taken to be a Methodist from his strait coat, proved to be an old Baptist man that had long been in the habit of speaking out to the preachers in time of preaching; but, alas for these Baptist preachers! they, with many more of their co-laboring ministerial brethren, had been carried off into the whirlpool of Arianism. While I was preaching, I not only gained audience, but there was solemn silence and profound attention; for, by the blessing of God, I succeeded in interesting the whole congregation in the sublime subject under discussion. And when I came to show that if Jesus Christ was not the supreme God, that all heaven and earth was filled with idolatrous devotions, and that angels and men, and redeemed spirits had been, were now, and eternally would be, nothing more or less than gross idolators: "Now," said I, "if there is a single man, minister, woman, or child, in this assembly, that will dare to ascribe Divine honors to Jesus Christ and not believe in his supreme Divinity, let them show it by raising their hand."
I then paused, but not one hand went up. It was an awful solemn time; every soul seemed to feel that the supreme Divinity brooded over the assembly. I then said, I wanted one more triumphant testimony of our holy religion that should overwhelm all the legions of devils that rose from the stagnant pools of Arianism, Unitarianism, and Socinianism. I then desired that everyone in that vast crowd that believed that Jesus Christ was justly entitled to supreme honor and glory, and expected to get to heaven through his merits alone, to give me the sign by raising their right hand; the hands went up by the thousand, and with hands, triumphant shouts of glory ascended by hundreds, and many sinners were seen with streaming eyes, and even exulting shouts, giving glory to Jesus Christ. The vast multitude fell almost in every direction, and I sat down under a deep sense that God was there. Mourners were found all through the crowd, to be numbered by the hundred. Many of the Arians recanted; and after the legions that had distracted them for years were cast out, came to their right minds, were clothed, and once more esteemed in their highest honor to sit at the feet of Jesus Christ. There was no more preaching for that day and the next. The cries of the penitents, and shouts of the young converts and the old professors, went up without intermission, day and night. Two hundred professed religion, and one hundred and seventy joined the Methodist Episcopal Church before the close of the camp-meeting, and it was remarked by many, that it seemed the easiest thing for sinners to get religion here of any place or time they ever saw, and they could not account for it; but I told them that it was plain to me the Lord had given marching orders to the legions of little Arian devils to the lake, as he had done to the swine in the days of old, and when these were cast out it was quite easy to come to their right minds. Perhaps there never was a more manifest display of God's saving mercy on a small scale than on the present occasion, since the confounding of tongues at the building of the tower of Babel. Many Arians returned to their old folds, perfectly tired of their wanderings, and having cast anchor once more in a safe harbor, they gave their wanderings o'er. Those that remained among the New Lights so called, split into many factions, and fought each other till they ate each other up all to the tail, and that was immersion. This remains, and perhaps will, until the millennial glory shall inundate the whole world. A remarkable incident occurred on this occasion which I must not omit relating.
There was a very confirmed Arian lady in the congregation who denied the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ. Late on Monday, she professed to get very happy, and shouted out aloud; but said, while shouting, among other things, she knew I was wrong in my views of Jesus Christ, but she desired some one to go and bring me to her, for she wanted to show me, that though I was in error, she could love her enemies and do good for evil. At first I refused to go; but she sent again. I then thought of the unjust judge, and lest by her continual coming she might weary me, I went.
She told me she knew I was wrong, and that she was right, and that God had blessed her and made her happy.
Said I, "Sister, while I was preaching, did you not get mad?"
She answered, "Yes, very mad; I could have cut your throat. But I am not mad now, and love you, and God has blessed me."
Said I, "I fear you are not happy; you have only got in a little better humor, and think this is happiness. But we will test this matter. Let us kneel down here, and pray to God to make it manifest who is wrong."
"But," said she, "I don't want to pray; I want to talk."
"Well," said I, "I have no desire to talk; I always go to God in prayer; and I now believe God, in answer to prayer, will recover you out of the snare of the devil, for you certainly are not happy at all."
So I called upon all around (and they were many) to kneel down and help me to pray God to dislodge the lingering Arian devil that still claimed a residence in this woman's heart. We knelt, and by the score united in wrestling, mighty prayer; and while we prayed it seemed that the bending heavens came near; and if the power of God was ever felt among mortals, it was felt then and there. The woman lost her assumed good feelings, and sunk down into sullen, dumb silence, and so she remained during the meeting; and for weeks afterward many of her friends feared she would totally lose her balance of mind. She became incapable of her business till one night she had a dream or vision, in which she afterward declared she saw her Saviour apparently in all his supreme glory, and he told her she was wrong, but he frankly forgave her; and when she came to herself, or awoke, she was unspeakably happy, and never afterward, for one moment, doubted the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ. She joined the Methodists, and lived and died a shining and shouting Christian.
There is another circumstance I wish to state before I close this chapter. The brother, Simon Carlisle, before mentioned, had been a regular circuit preacher somewhere down South, and there was a wealthy family at or near one of his appointments. The old gentleman and lady were members of the Church; but they had a very profligate son, who behaved disorderly at one of Carlisle's appointments, and Carlisle sharply reproved him for his disorderly conduct, at which the young man took great umbrage, and swore he would have satisfaction out of Carlisle. The house of the father of this young man was the preacher's home. When Carlisle came round next time he was, as usual, invited by this old brother home with him. Brother Carlisle said, as he had offended his son, perhaps he had better not go; but the old brother and sister insisted he should go; for they knew their son was to blame altogether, and that Carlisle had done nothing but his duty in reproving him; so he went. This young man was at home, but slunk about, and would not be social with Carlisle; and next morning, while Carlisle was fixing his horse to ride on to his next appointment, he took a brace of pistols, and slipped into the room where Carlisle's saddle-bags were lying, and put those pistols in the bottom of his saddlebags, unperceived and unsuspected by Carlisle, or anybody else. Shortly after Carlisle started, the young man pretended to miss his pistols, and declared he knew that Carlisle had stolen them. The old people remonstrated against any such imputation; but he persisted in affirming he knew that the preacher had stolen his pistols, and off he started, got a writ, and an officer, and pursued Carlisle, and before he reached his next appointment they overtook him. The officer informed him of the allegation, and that he had a writ for him, and that he was his prisoner. Carlisle, conscious of his innocence, told the officer that he was welcome to search him, and handed over his saddle-bags, when, lo and behold, there were the pistols at the bottom of them. What could he say? He protested his innocence, but submitted to the law, was found guilty, and only escaped being incarcerated in prison by the father of this mean young man going his bail till further trial.
We will not narrate the trouble and cost Carlisle was put to before he got clear of this malicious prosecution. Suffice it to say, during the pendency of this prosecution, the Annual Conference came on, and Carlisle had to answer to this criminal charge; but what could he say? He had no evidence of his innocence, and by possibility could have none. The Conference did not believe him guilty, but his guilt was sworn to by this young man. In this dilemma, into which the Conference was thrown, Carlisle rose and requested the Conference, for the honor of the cause of God, that they would expel him until God should, in some way, vindicate his innocence. He affirmed he was innocent, and that he believed God would shortly make his innocence manifest to all.
The Conference very reluctantly, and by a bare majority, expelled him. Able counsel, believing in his innocence, volunteered in his defense. He was here cleared. Believing it to be his duty and privilege, he married, and when I saw him he had an interesting rising family. The Church restored him to his former standing, offered him a circuit, but for the present he declined traveling, and went to work to support his family, and did it with credit to himself and them.
But the circumstance that triumphantly vindicated his innocence remains yet to be told. The young man who pursued him so maliciously, in about nine months after Carlisle was arrested, was taken down with a fever common to that region of country. The best medical aid was called in; he was faithfully attended and administered unto. His parents were much alarmed for his safety and his salvation. He was talked to and prayed with, but to no purpose. His physicians told him he must die. He then said he could not die until he disclosed one important matter. His parents were called in, and he frankly told them and others that he put his pistols in Carlisle's saddle-bags himself; and shortly after the disclosure he expired, without hope of mercy.