FRANK G. ALLEN,
Minister of the Gospel
SELECTIONS FROM HIS WRITINGS
President of the College of the Bible, Lexington, Ky.
CINCINNATI GUIDE PRINTING & PUBLISHING CO. 1887
Copyright, 1887, by THE GUIDE PRINTING & PUBLISHING CO.
To all who love the Old Paths, This Volume, In Memory of One Who Found Them And Walked Therein, Is Respectfully Inscribed, by The Editor.
By prescription, which often has the force of law, a book should have both a Preface and an Introduction: the first relating to the writer; the second to the things written. I may well dispense with the latter, for what is here written the humblest capacity can understand; and it would be cruel to detain him long on the porch who is anxious to enter the building.
But, dear reader, a word with you (for that is the meaning of "Preface") before you begin this unpretentious little book, the joint production of an author, an editor, and a publisher.
It is due the first, to say that he wrote what is here called his Autobiography in great physical weakness, and without expecting that it would appear in this form. This will account for its homely garb, and apologize for it, if apology be necessary. Frank Allen had no time to spend upon mere style in anything he wrote. He aimed at clearness and force of expression, and reached these in a remarkable degree in his latter days. If any one, therefore, should take up this volume expecting to find literary entertainment, he will have the search for his pains; but if he seeks for what is far better, the secret of a life devoted to God and goodness, told in plain, unvarnished English, he will not be disappointed.
When I received from the gifted author the record of his "travel's history," I intended to write his Life, but death came and found us, not him, unprepared; and so, under the constraint of other and pressing duties, my purpose was reluctantly abandoned. Besides, upon examination it was found that with a few changes and additions here and there, these memoranda, as they came from the hand of their author, could, under the circumstances, appear in that form and do him no discredit.
Such is my admiration of this noble man, and such my deference to what I am sure must be the desire of his friends, that I have preferred to let him tell in simple phrase the strange story of his struggles and triumphs; and if its perusal should give the reader half the pleasure it has been to me to prepare it for the press, I shall not have labored in vain. The book is intended to be a Memorial Volume, and especially one to encourage young men who, under adverse circumstances, are striving to qualify themselves to preach the gospel. Bro. Allen was always in warm and loving sympathy with these—so much so, that he was rightly called the young preacher's friend.
It is a pleasure to say that such is the veneration of the publishers, The Guide Printing and Publishing Company, for the memory of our deceased brother, that but for them this tribute would hardly have appeared. With a generosity as rare as it is praiseworthy, they have undertaken to publish the work in the best style of their art, at a low price, and without any pecuniary risk to Sister Allen; and, indeed, in all their transactions with her they have given abundant proof that men can carry into business the benevolent spirit of pure and undefiled religion.
It only remains to be said that whatever profits arise from the sale of this book go to the wife and children of its lamented author, and that should sufficient encouragement be given, a companion volume containing the letters and miscellaneous productions of Bro. Allen may in due time be issued.
LEXINGTON, Ky., May, 1887.
Birth and Ancestors. Family Circumstances. "Fist and Skull" Entertainment. Removal to Ohio and Return. Fight with his Mother. Gets Lost. His Father Buys a Farm. The "Improvements." Plenty of Hard Work. His Opinion of Work and of Play. 1
His First School. The School-house. The Teacher. The Order of Reciting. Spelling Matches. First Sweetheart. Extremes in Likes and Dislikes. Fondness for Study. Improvement in Schools. 7
His Religious Experience. Tries to be a Methodist. Hopes to Become a Preacher. Boy Preaching. Attends a Sunday-school. "Chaws" Tobacco. Goes to Love Feast. Mourners' Bench Experience. Is Puzzled and Disgusted. 12
Fun and Mischief. His Little Cousin and the "Gnats." The Aurora Borealis. A Bumble-bee Scrape. Another Bee Scrape. Justification by Faith Alone. Readiness to Fight. Love of Justice. No Surrender. 17
Given to Abstraction of Thought. Cases in Point. Opinion of Debating Societies. Perseverance. Consumption. Endurance. More Comfortable Home. Death of his Father. Love of Fashionable Amusements. Meets his Future Wife. Is Married. Tribute to his Wife. Her Father and Mother. 25
Goes to Housekeeping. Discussions with Mr. Maddox. Attends Meeting. Is Baptized by William Tharp. Double Damages for an Old Horse. Begins Trading. Moves to Floydsburg. Description of the Place. 31
Tries to Become a Politician. Fails. Last Act as a Politician. Tries to Join the Southern Army. Fails Again. His First Appointment. Feeling of Responsibility. His Plan. Text. Analysis of Sermon. Buys a Family Bible. Rules of Life. 36
Resolves to go to College. Friends Oppose. Wife Decides It. Hard Living and Hard Work. Impaired Health. Preaches for his Home Church. Father-in-law Dies. "Frank, Be a True Man." House Robbed. "Scraps." College Incidents. First Pay for Preaching. Holds Several Meetings. Dishonest Preacher. 43
Leaves College. Goes to Alexandria, Ky. An Adventure in Ohio. A Baby not Baptized. Peril in Crossing the River. Opens his School. Makes Some Money. Buys a Nice Home. 52
Narrow Escapes. Is Thrown from a Horse. Has Pneumonia. Nearly Killed. Self-possession. Almost Drowned. Eludes Angry Soldiers. Reflections. 58
He Abandons the School-room. Remarkable Meeting near Alexandria. Incidents. Establishes a Church. Mischief-making Preachers. Long and Severe Attack of Typhoid Fever. Does not Lose Hope. Gratitude. 65
Sells out at Alexandria. Moves to Crittenden. Preaches there and at Williamstown. Low State of these Churches. Plan of Work. Memorizing in Sunday-school. Lack of Church Discipline. One-Man System. Moves to New Liberty. Visits Mount Byrd 71
History of the Mt. Byrd Church. When Established. Where. Charter Members. Officers. Preachers. Number of Members. Three Things Contributing to its Prosperity. New House of Worship. Serious Trouble in the Church. How Settled. Method of Raising Money. The Church Builds Allen a House. Organizes a Sunday-school. How it is Conducted 77
He Moves to Mt. Byrd. Debate with J. W. Fitch. Preaches at Madison, Ind. Protracted meetings at Columbia, Burksville, Thompson's Church, Dover, Germantown, Pleasant Hill, Burksville again, Beech Grove, Dover again 88
Begins Preaching at Beech Grove. Debates with Elder Hiner. Amusing Incident. Holds Many Meetings. Debates with Elder Frogge. Debates again with Elder Hiner. Repudiates Miller's Book. Sick Again. Holds more Meetings 96
Continues to Evangelize. Dr. Cook's Prescription. Incident at Glendale. Peculiar Feature in the Meeting at Madisonville. The Fractious Preacher at Sonora. Closes his Evangelistic Labors. Establishes the Old Path Guide. The Bruner Debate 101
Visits Midway. Attends the Missouri State Convention. Reflections. Annual Sermons. Last Protracted Meeting. Kindness of Mt. Byrd, Glendale and Smithfield Churches. Gives up Office Work. Goes to Eureka, Ill. Country Home. Takes Cold at the Lexington Convention. Goes to Florida 107
Organizes a Church at DeLand. Health Improves. Relapses. Starts Home. Resignation. Sells His Interest in the Guide. Begins Writing again. Attends Two Conventions. Goes to Texas. At Home again. Works on. 113
Reflections on his Fiftieth Birthday. What a Wonderful Being is Man! Governed, not by Instinct, but by Reason. Man Lives by Deeds, not Years. How to Grow Old. Half of Life Spent in Satan's Service. Renewed Consecration. Last Three Birthdays. His Trust in God. 118
Conclusion, by the Editor. Tokens of Love from Many. Keeps Writing. Controversy with the Standard. Last Meeting with His Mother. Visited by Professors McGarvey and Graham. Commits His Writings to the Latter. Visits Eminence and Lexington. Many Brethren Come to See Him. Meeting at Mt. Byrd. Estimate of His Character. The Closing Scenes. Farewell to His Family. Dies. Funeral Services. 127
I.—Culture and Christianity: their Relation and Necessity. 137
III.—Plus Ultra vs. Ne Plus Ultra. 175
NEW TESTAMENT VIEWS OF CHRIST.
I.—Christ the Lamb of God. 190
II.—Christ the Bread of Life. 194
III.—Christ the Water of Life. 199
IV.—Christ the Son of God. 202
V.—Christ the Son of Man 212
VI.—Christ the Great Teacher 218
VII.—Christ the Deliverer 223
VIII.—Christ the Great Physician 230
IX.—Christ Our Mediator 236
X.—Christ Our Mediator (continued) 242
XI.—Christ Our High Priest 249
XII.—Christ Our Righteousness 254
Birth and Ancestors. Family Circumstances. "Fist and Skull" Entertainment. Removal to Ohio and Return. Fight with his Mother. Gets Lost. His Father Buys a Farm. The "Improvements." Plenty of Hard Work. His Opinion of Work and of Play.
I was born near La Grange, Oldham county, Ky., March 7, 1836. My father, Francis Myers Allen, was born in Brown county, Ohio, December 7, 1807. He was the son of Thomas Allen, who, in 1812, when my father was only five years old, moved from Brown county, O., to Shelby county, Ky., and lived on Little Bullskin, a few miles west of Shelbyville.
My mother, Sarah A. Gibbs, was a daughter of James L. Gibbs and Mary Ashby, and was born in Loudoun county, Va., April 6, 1808. The family moved from Virginia to Kentucky in 1810, and lived in Shelbyville.
My grandparents on both sides reared large families of industrious, thrifty children, and both grandfathers lived to be quite aged, my mother's father living to be nearly one hundred years old.
My parents were married near Simpsonville, in Shelby county, April 9, 1829, and to them were born thirteen children—five boys and eight girls—ten of whom lived to be grown. I was the fifth child—two boys and two girls being older. The oldest child, a boy, died in infancy. Being poor, both parents and children had to work hard and use strict economy to make ends meet. We all knew much of the toils and hardships of life, little of its luxuries. Both parents were blessed with good constitutions, and had fine native intellects, but they were uneducated save in the mere rudiments of the common school. They thought that "to read, write and cipher" as far as the single rule of three, was all the learning one needed for this life, unless he was going to teach. If my father's mind had been trained, it would have been one of vast power. He was philosophical, a good reasoner, and possessed of unusual discrimination. He had also great coolness and self-possession in emergencies.
In illustration of the latter statement, there recurs an incident in my father's life that will bear recital. In those old-fashioned days of "fist and skull" entertainments on public occasions, it was common for each county to have its bully. Oldham at different times had several—men of great muscular build and power, whose chief idea of fame was that they could "whip anything in the county." My father was a small man, weighing only one hundred and thirty pounds, and of a peaceable disposition. Indeed, it was hard to provoke him to pugilistic measures. But circumstances caused one of these bullies to force a fight upon him at La Grange, in which the man was whipped so quickly and so badly that no one knew how it was done. The man himself accounted for it on the ground that "Mr. Allen came at me smiling." This caused one or two others, at different times, to seek to immortalize themselves by doing what the first had failed to accomplish; but with the same result.
Being a farmer, my father was never without occupation, and he always had plenty for his boys to do; hence I knew nothing but hard work on the farm, except a few school days in winter, from the time I could pull a weed out of a hill of corn till I reached my majority.
In the fall after I was born my parents moved from the farm near La Grange to Brown county, O., not far from Hamersville. There they remained a year; but my mother being much dissatisfied, they moved to Floydsburg, Ky., and in the following spring, when I was two years old, returned to the old place where I was born. Here the memories of life begin. The incidents of daily life from this time forward are fresh in my memory to-day. Here I had my first and last fight with my mother. When I was three years old, my father, one day in June, was plowing corn in a field not far from the house. When he went out, after noon, I wanted to go with him. He took me behind him on the horse to the field. When we got there I wanted to come back. He brought me back. I then wanted to go to the field. He took me to the field. I then wanted to come back. He brought me back. I then wanted to go to the field, but he left me, telling my mother to take me in charge. Because she attempted to control me I began fighting her. She whipped me with a small switch, and I fought till I fell. Being completely exhausted, I begged my oldest sister to fight for me, and when she refused and I had recovered a little, I got up and went at it again. But when I fell the second time, I lay till they took me and put me to bed, and there I remained several days. Though I did not surrender, I never afterwards felt disposed to renew the engagement. It was almost death to my mother, for she did not chastise me in anger; her firmness, however, saved me.
In the spring of 1840 we moved to a farm some two miles south of La Grange, on the road leading from that place to Ballardsville. Here we lived one year. Only one event worth naming occurred while we lived here. My mother took myself, an older sister, and a younger brother to visit a sister she had living in La Grange. It was a beautiful summer day, the roads were good, and we walked. My mother stopped at the house of a neighbor on the road side for a few minutes, and told us to go on, and be sure not to leave the road. With childish perversity we thought the green fields better than the dusty road, and were soon into them. It was not long till we were completely lost, and naturally wandered the wrong way, not thinking to observe the sun and consider our course. So, when we did not put in an appearance, the whole neighborhood was aroused, and several hours of excitement followed before we were found. My sister Bettie, two years my senior, was captain of this expedition.
In the spring of 1841 my father bought a farm of one hundred and twenty acres, lying about three miles southwest from La Grange. Most of the land was poor, and the "improvements" equally so. The house was a hewed log cabin about 18x20 feet, with clap-board roof held down by weight poles, and the walls "chinked" with mud. It had a large fire-place at one end, and a chimney made of slats and mortar, familiarly known as a "stick" chimney. The only window was paneless, with a solid shutter hung on leather hinges, propped up with a stick, except when it was wanted down. The floors above and below, were of broad lumber, and laid loose. The door, when closed, was fastened with a big pin. A narrow porch ran along the front, connecting with another at one end of the house, between it and the kitchen. This was large and of the same style of architecture as the house, but what that style was would puzzle any one to tell. These two rooms and porches, with the smoke-house and hen-house, constituted the "improvements" in that line. The out-buildings were stables and a crib, of round logs. The fences were all of rails, and inferior in kind. "Bars" and "slip-gaps" supplied the place of gates in some places, and in others the fences had to be often pulled down for lack of such conveniences. A fine spring gushed from the foot of a hill, one hundred yards in front of this humble abode. The location of dwellings, in that age and country, was determined almost exclusively by springs. Every other consideration yielded to this.
Here we took up our abode in a home of our own in the spring of 1841, as above stated. The farm was afterwards enlarged by other purchases, and the original still remains in the family. The poverty of the soil, its tendency to produce briars, its large amount of heavy timber, with the clearing necessary to be done, made it a place specially favorable for the cultivation of industry. My father was one of those men who never ran short of work; he always had plenty of it for himself and the whole family. Recreation was almost unknown, and we had hardly rest enough to secure good health. We were not of those who had to resort to base-ball and foot-ball for exercise; it was ours to combine pleasure with profit, only the profit was more than the pleasure. There is no doubt that employment contributes to health of both body and mind. Good blood, good thought and good morals are born of industry, provided it be not pushed to the extreme of exhaustion. Children and young people must have relaxation from toil, that both the physical and mental powers may recuperate; but not much attention was paid to this beneficent philosophy in my father's family. Had there been, it might have been better for at least some of his children in after years. There is a golden mean in this, as in other things, which parents sometimes miss in their blind adhesion to a false theory. Rest and labor are both appointments of God's benevolence.
His First School. The School-house. The Teacher. The Order of Reciting. Spelling Matches. First Sweetheart. Extremes in Likes and Dislikes. Fondness for Study. Improvement in Schools.
At the age of about seven I attended my first school. The house was on my father's farm, a half a mile from our dwelling. It was constructed of round logs, and had five corners—the fifth was formed at one end by having shorter logs laid from the corners at an obtuse angle, like the corner of a rail fence, and meeting in the middle. It was built up thus to the square, then the logs went straight across, forming the end for the roof to rest on; consequently this fifth corner was open, and this was the fire-place. Stones laid with mud mortar were built in this corner, extending several feet each way, and wood nearly as long as the breadth of the house would be filled in. The seats were split logs smoothed on the flat side, and supported on legs put in with an auger. From these the feet of the children dangled early and late. There was no support for the back. The house had a dirt floor and a clap-board roof. Light was let in by cutting away part of two logs in the end. A wide puncheon was fastened just below this for the writers, with a seat to correspond. During winter they pasted paper over these openings, and light for the rest of the school came down the chimney.
The first teacher we had was an old man by the name of Ballou. He lived on our place, not far from the school-house, and taught for several years. He was very poor, did poor teaching, and got poor pay. He was master of only reading, writing and ciphering.
There were no classes in the school, and each one went it independently, studying what suited his taste and ability. Some read in the Testament, and others in any book they happened to have. In those days the rule was that those who got to school first "said first"—that is, they recited in the order in which they got to the house. This would sometimes get up a great rivalry, and I have known young men living two miles away to be at school before daylight. The whole day, except an hour at noon, was spent in saying lessons. The old teacher sat in his chair, and the pupils went to him one by one, in the order in which they got to the house, and said their lessons. When they got around, the same process was repeated. Sometimes between turns the old man would take a little nap, and then we all would have some fun. One more bold than the rest would tickle his bald head or his nose, and to see him scratching would afford us much amusement.
Each Friday afternoon was spent in a spelling-match. Captains were chosen, and they would "choose up" till the school was divided into two classes. Beginning at the head, one of each class would stand up and spell, till one was "turned down;" then another took his place, and so on until all on one side were down. I began at this school in the alphabet, and the second winter I could spell almost every word in Webster's old Elementary Speller. If provided with a sharp knife, and a stick on which to whittle, which the kind old man would allow, I could generally stand most of an afternoon without missing. Strange to say, after a few years, when I had given myself to the study of other things, it all went from me, and I have been a poor speller ever since.
In this school I had my first sweetheart—a buxom, jolly good girl, about six years my senior. To her I wrote my first love letter, and when it was done its chirography looked as if it had been struck by lightning; and I had to get an old bachelor friend to help me read it. Here I am reminded of an early tendency to extremes in my likes and dislikes. I had a race one morning with a girl whom I saw coming to school from an opposite direction, each striving to get into the house first. I clearly went in ahead, but she claimed the race and beat me out of it. From this on I had an extreme dislike for her. The spring to which we all had to go for a drink, was about a hundred yards from the house. The path to it passed through a broken place in a large log that lay across this path. In this I would never walk, nor would I pass through the gap, but would always climb over that big log.
These school days were only during winter, after the crop was all gathered in and before spring work began. After I got large enough to help in winter work, my attendance was only "semi-occasional." After a while a better school-house was built, a mile further away, and it was every way more comfortable, save that we had still the backless slab seats. Here I went at odd times in winter for several years. I had acquired a great fondness for reading, devouring everything in the way of books I could lay my hands upon. Especially I had a great passion for history, biography, geography, natural philosophy, and the like, and I let nothing escape me that the country afforded. I had no money to buy books, and had to depend on borrowing them. I soon went through arithmetic, grammar, and the history of the United States. This was more than my paterfamilias recognized as essential to a practical education, and hence he was not disposed to let me go to school as much as the other children, who gave themselves no concern about books out of school. The idea of one's going through grammar, philosophy, or more than half the arithmetic, "unless he was going to teach," he regarded as a waste of time. His conception of life and mine were so different that there was frequently more or less friction. It was decidedly unpleasant from youth to manhood to be discouraged and opposed in my one absorbing passion for obtaining an education. My mother sympathized with me, but could not help me. The first dollar I ever made I spent for a book, and for this purpose I saved my hard-earned pennies. Midnight often found me poring over this book by the light of kindling prepared for the purpose. This was opposed; and thus the struggle went on during my minority.
I can not forbear, before closing this short chapter upon my school life, to allude to the great improvement in the matter of common schools since I was a boy. My native State, though sadly behind many of her younger sisters, has made some progress in this direction, and I can but hope this is only an earnest of what is to come. In a few favored localities, chiefly the cities, there is ample provision made for the education of the children of the people, but in the country districts much remains to be done before we are up with the demands of the age in regard to the comfort of the pupils as well as the facilities for the prosecution of their studies. We need more and better school-houses, better furniture, and more attractive surroundings. Well qualified and earnest teachers are not yet as thick as blackberries in Kentucky. When as much attention is bestowed on these as on jockeys, and on our boys as on our horses, we shall be both richer and better.
His Religious Experience. Tries to be a Methodist. Hopes to become a Preacher. Boy Preaching. Attends a Sunday-school. "Chaws" Tobacco. Goes to Love Feast. Mourners' Bench Experience. Is Puzzled and Disgusted.
My parents were Methodists, as were their ancestors on both sides. My mother was uniformly religious, but not fussy about it. I have seen her intensely happy, but never heard her shout. Her religion was a deep, smooth, current without fluctuation. My father was religious more by spells, but still he never went to extremes, and could never "get religion" at the altar, in the Methodist fashion. This lifelong failure of his discouraged him, causing him at times to become somewhat skeptical and indifferent. But he died, rejoicing in the faith of Christ as held by the Methodist Church.
When about ten years of age I joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. A great revival was in progress at La Grange, and over one hundred persons united with the church. I enjoyed the services, and continued to do so for a number of years. Often in those early times I rode to meeting at surrounding churches and private dwellings on horseback behind my mother. I still remember, as vividly as if it were but yesterday, the texts and treatment of many of the sermons I heard. In later years I have frequently thought of the fallacies the preachers imposed upon us, and, I charitably believe, upon themselves, in these sermons, but which neither we nor they could detect for want of correct scriptural knowledge. The thought that I should one day become a preacher impressed me, and it clung to me for years. When afterwards I grew wild and wicked, this impression possessed me, and many a time, when my good wife would rebuke me for my wickedness, I would say, "Never mind, dear; I'll be a preacher yet." I had a high regard for preachers, and from early life was fond of their company; and since I have become one myself, the society of good, faithful men of God brings me as near heaven as I shall ever be in the flesh.
It was a common thing with me, when I came home from meeting, to get up one of my own by gathering the children together and preaching to them the sermons I had heard; and while these were not verbally correct, there was in them the substance of what the preachers had delivered. I would sing and pray, and go through the whole performance. I improvised a little pulpit, and had a church after my own notion; I was a great plagiarist, and in this, too, I copied after some others.
I attended the first Sunday-school I ever heard of; it was conducted by Floyd Wellman, a gentleman who afterwards became a prominent and honored citizen of Louisville. Sunday-schools were then poor things, as I fear many of them are yet. Little question-books, with the answers supplied, and reading-books, mostly about angelic boys and girls who died of early piety, furnished the staple of our reading, while but little of the Scriptures was taught, or thought about.
To chew tobacco seemed to me to be manly; so to let the people see I was thus far developed, I prepared me a rough twist of "long green;" this I stuck in my pantaloons pocket, for the occasion, and when everything was propitious in the Sunday-school, I drew out the twist and bit off a "chaw." It raised quite a laugh, in which the superintendent himself joined; and this ended for life my chewing tobacco to be seen of men.
I often went with my parents to "love feast." At the first of these which I attended I had an experience of my own. The light-bread was cut into slips about two inches long and a half an inch wide and thick. Some of these were then divided into small pieces. On the plate which was passed around were two long pieces, and I concluded that if there was any virtue in the thing it would be enhanced by my taking a long one; but when I discovered that all the rest had taken but a bite my philosophy failed, and I hid the remainder where Rachel hid the gods of her father Laban.
When about fifteen years of age the Methodists had a big revival at Mount Tabor, a neighboring country church. In this meeting a great many of my friends and companions were "getting religion" at the altar of prayer. I became intensely desirous of the same blessing, and in great anxiety and hopefulness I went to the altar. Day after day did I go, but only to be disappointed. Every time some would "get through," and there would be great rejoicing, till only one young man and myself were left. The whole power of the church was then concentrated on us, but to no purpose. In this extremity I began to reason about it as I had not done before. I had been taught that "God was no respecter of persons; but that in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." My soul ever recoiled from the idea of His decreeing some men to salvation and others to damnation, irrespective of their own will and conduct. Here, now, I was as helpless as a stone till God should do this work of grace for me. Why would he send down the Holy Spirit and convert one on my right, another on my left, till the "bench" was vacant, and not convert me? The preachers were praying for Him to do it; my father and mother were praying earnestly for it; the whole church were pleading with Him, and yet He would not do it. I knew I was a sinner; that I wanted salvation; that I was sincere, earnest as the others could be: but all this availed nothing. The preachers tried to explain the failure on the ground that I was still clinging to the world and my own righteousness; that I had not given my heart wholly to God, etc. This I knew to be false. I concluded that if a poor, penitent, agonizing sinner with all his prayers and pleadings, with the whole church earnestly cooperating, could not induce God to save him, he might just as well be decreed to damnation from all eternity. With these reflections I left the mourners' bench in disgust, and ever since I have had for it an inexpressible contempt. Time and observation have confirmed me in this feeling; and while I cherish a sincere respect for those who in ignorance think it is a divine arrangement, and that in resorting to it they are obeying a command of God, I have none for those who, knowing better, still use it as a means of conversion. As often employed by professional evangelists, there is so much of clap-trap that it must bring the whole subject of religion into contempt with sensible people. It is amazing to me that, in view of its entire lack of Scripture precept or example, the light and knowledge of this day, and its frequent failures, it, and the whole system of which it is an essential part, are not laid aside.
Having been taught that Methodism and Christianity were identical, and having completely lost faith in the former, it was natural enough that I should become skeptical as to the latter. Only a lingering suspicion that after all they might be different, saved me from hopeless infidelity; and had I not in after years learned such to be the case, I should have lived and died in rebellion against God.
Fun and Mischief. His Little Cousin and the "Gnats." The Aurora Borealis. A Bumble-bee Scrape. Another Bee Scrape. Justification by Faith alone. Readiness to Fight. Love of Justice. No Surrender.
When a boy, I was as full of fun and mischief as an egg is of meat, and I have never got rid of it. With a younger brother and a neighbor boy of my own age, equally mischievous with myself, there was hardly a thing in the way of fun and frolic that we were not continually into. Hunting rabbits was our chief sport, and, when we got larger, coons, 'possums and the like at night. There was not a tree of any peculiarity, or a hole in the ground, for miles around, that we did not know all about. We knew, also, every fruit tree, from the apple to the black-haw or persimmon in the same territory, and the time they were ready for company; and we never failed to pay our respects to them all in due time. I would not mention many of the bad things of my early life; but that is the way the Bible does with its heroes, and the Bible is always a safe guide to follow.
About all the money we made in our boyhood days was from the sale of nuts and the flesh and skins of the animals we caught during the fall and winter. This was my way of getting books, maps, etc., to help me in my studies. I was the recognized leader in all the mischief we did, and many prophecies were made that I should one day be hanged, and in this anticipation my father fully shared. My younger brother and I were constantly playing practical jokes on each other, and often upon others. We never became offended, though the pranks were sometimes exceedingly rough; but we were always watching an opportunity to "get even." I will relate a few as samples, while others are too bad to tell.
On one occasion some cousins and their children visited us from Shelby county. They were considered quite wealthy for that time. Their little boy was dressed in very fine clothes, at least, in our estimation, and we concluded he was putting on airs. We thought we would do him a valuable service by taking him down a little, so we asked him if he had ever seen a singular kind of gnat, which we described. He had not. We proposed to show him a fine lot—a big nest of them. We affirmed that they were nice, harmless things to play with. So we went forth to see the gnats. We got him to the nest and stirred them up, and in a few minutes the innocent, unsuspecting boy was covered with yellow jackets. Of course, he ran to the house screaming, and they had a time in getting them off of him. He was badly stung, but we made it appear that we had gone down there to fight them, which was a favorite pastime with us, and that he got too near the nest. Thus we escaped a well-merited whipping.
About the same time in life my younger brother and I caught a rabbit and dressed it for breakfast. It was Saturday afternoon, and father and mother had gone to her father's, some six miles away, to stay till the next evening. That night the aurora borealis was unusually bright, and as the excitement of Millerism had not died away, there was much talk of the world's coming to an end. My oldest sister, Mary, was getting supper ready and was greatly alarmed. She would go out and watch the sky, and then go back to see about the supper. Finally I said, "Mary, do you really think the world will come to an end before morning?" "I do believe it will," said she. "Then," said I, "we must have the rabbit for supper." I had no notion of losing my rabbit by such a trifling circumstance as that.
Later in life, when old enough to work in the harvest field, we had a neighbor who was very "close," and we never had any fancy for him. He was always boasting of his ability to work with bees. One year he had a large harvest, and many hands employed, and we were helping him. One day we told him we had found a fine bee tree which could be cut down in a few minutes, and that if he would go and take the honey he might have it all except what we could eat. He was delighted with the proposal, so after supper a number of us started for the bee tree, a mile and a half from his house, in a dense forest. He had several buckets prepared to secure a large amount of honey. When we began to chop, the bees began to roar, and our friend was frantic with delight. Soon the tree fell, and he "waded in" with his axe and buckets to get the luscious spoil. As he went in we went out, and soon he discovered himself in a big bumble-bees' nest alone with all his buckets, etc., a mile and a half from home! We saw no more of him that night, and did not care to meet him next day.
This reminds me of another bee scrape, in which my father figured largely. He prided himself on being able to handle bees as so many flies. On a cool, drizzly day we cut a bee tree on the farm. I was wearing a brown jeans sack coat. This I laid aside while chopping. When the tree fell the bees swarmed forth in great numbers, and my father stalked in with his axe, chipping and cutting the limbs, preparatory to chopping for the honey, and was as indifferent as if surrounded only by gnats. We stood at a safe distance. Soon he came out with a trifle less indifference than he went in with, picking the bees out of his hair with both hands. They had literally settled on his head and were stinging him furiously. He came running to us to fight them off. I grabbed up my coat, and with both hands struck him over the head. A large jack knife, very heavy, was in one of the pockets, and this struck him on the opposite side of the head and came near felling him to the ground. We fought the bees off the best we could, but he was terribly stung. This was the last of his working with bees as with flies.
My father was a firm believer in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. All those passages of Scripture that connect justification or salvation with faith, without mentioning anything else as a condition, he had at his tongue's end. His argument was, whatever may be mentioned elsewhere, here salvation is promised on the condition of faith, and nothing else is in the text. With all this I had become perfectly familiar, and always had a suspicion that there was a fallacy in it some where, though I could not exactly expose it. We were clearing a piece of new ground in April, about the time the spring fever sets in, and my younger brother and I always "had it bad." It was a Monday morning, and father was going to La Grange to attend court. At breakfast he gave us very particular instructions about our work—what to do and how to do it—and a feature emphasized was that we were to keep at it. It was getting quite dry, and when he had started to town he hallooed back and said, "Boys, I want you to watch the fire to-day and not let it get out." "All right," we responded. His two directions, perhaps not an hour apart, reminded me of his theology, and I resolved at once to test its validity when weighed in his own scales. So we went out to the clearing, lay down under the shade of a tree, and "watched the fire" all day! Having returned, he asked us how we had got along. We replied, "Finely," that we had done what he told us; but when he came to "view the landscape o'er," we had to give an account for the deeds done in the body, or, rather, not done. I told him that his specific instruction was to watch the fire. "But," said he, "I told you before that, that you were to do the work." "Yes," I replied, "but the last time you said anything about it you did not allude to the work; but only to watch the fire. There was no work in the text." However, he was by no means disposed to look upon that as favorably as upon justification by faith only, which rests on the same principle. Still it opened his eyes to a fallacy in his argument that he had not seen before.
I generally lived in peace and good will with all the boys in the neighborhood, but a few times in my life feeling imposed on, or that some one else was, I got into fights, and always with those older and stronger than myself. I had learned something of the secret of success in that line from what I had heard said of my father. This often gave me a victory quite unlooked for. I would fight the best friend I had in the world if he imposed on one unable to cope with him. I had a companion much stronger than I, and inclined to be overbearing. On one occasion, at a corn husking, he tried to force a fight on a boy smaller than himself. When I saw he was quite determined about it, while the other boy was trying to avoid it, I said, "Jim, you and I are good friends. I have nothing against you in the world. I like you, but you can't fight that boy. If you fight any body you will have to fight me. I don't want any quarrel with you, nor do I want to hurt you, but if nothing but a fight will do you, that's just the way it has to be done." When he saw I was in earnest, the matter was dropped, and our friendship continued.
I was severely tried on one occasion. My older brother had a falling out with a neighbor, and we three were alone in the woods. I had a dislike for the man, as much as my brother had. He was boastful, bigoted and disagreeable. But in this particular case I saw clearly that my brother was in the wrong, I felt compelled, therefore, to take sides with the other man. At this my brother was deeply offended, and it took him a long time to get over it. He did not see his wrong, and thought my conduct very strange and unnatural, especially as I did not like the man. I deplored this, but could not yield the principle of holding justice superior to persons.
One of my difficulties was so peculiar that I will recount it. It was in the winter, and the ground was frozen deep. The day was bright, and on the south hillsides the ground had thawed to the depth of two or three inches. Several boys were together, and one of them several years older than I. He was a son of one of our tenants, and entirely too proud for one in his condition. He was imposing on my younger brother, and I gave him to understand he must not do that. With this he turned upon me. We were upon a south hillside, under a large beech tree, and the ground was thawed on top and frozen beneath. About the first pass I slipped on a root concealed in the mud, and fell on my back, with my shoulders wedged between two projecting roots and my head against the tree. I was utterly powerless. After pommeling me a while, he proposed to let me up if I would say "enough." This I declined to do. Then he would renew the operation, and then the proposition. The sun was three hours high, no one interfered, and I insisted that they should not. Sometimes he would lie upon me and talk for half an hour or more; he would argue the case, remind me of my helplessness, and that it would be death to lie there on the frozen ground till night. Then when his advice all failed, he would renew hostilities. Thus it continued till sundown. As the sun got low he changed his proposal. He would now let me up if I would promise to make friends, and not fight him. This I also declined. Finally, when he saw that nothing would avail, he gave me a few parting salutes, and, springing to his feet, ran away. Before I could get up he had such a start that I could not overtake him. For some time I watched for a chance to pay him back, but he kept out of my sight; and soon after his folks moved away, and thus the matter ended.
From my infancy it has been my disposition to stick to my convictions till I saw I was in the wrong. I can not say that I am obstinate, though it may have that appearance to others. I never could yield a point for policy's sake, though my adherence to my convictions has cost me a good deal. This led me early in life to be careful in coming to a conclusion, and I have always admired Davy Crockett's motto, "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead." I commend this homemade philosophy to all who may read this chapter.
Given to Abstraction of Thought. Cases in Point. Opinion of Debating Societies. Perseverance. Consumption. Endurance. More Comfortable Home. Death of his Father. Love of Fashionable Amusements. Meets his Future Wife. Is Married. Tribute to his Wife. Her Father and Mother.
During early life I was much given to abstraction of thought, and I am still down with the same disease. From morning till night, between the plow-handles or swinging the maul, I was absorbed in reflection. My reading and other studies raised many questions that I sought to find out. Natural philosophy and the elements of astronomy were subjects of peculiar delight, and would cause me to become oblivious of all surroundings. This frequently got me into trouble. It vexed my father very much that my mind was not more on my work, and he had but little patience with me. When about the house I would often realize that I had been told to do something, and I would start at once about it, and perchance when I came to myself I would find that I was at the barn or spring, wholly forgetful of what I had been told to do. On one occasion I was told to go to the lot and catch a horse and come to the crib, and my father would put the sack on for me, and I was to go to mill. I went and caught the horse, got on and went, but when I arrived the mill was in ashes; it was just through burning. On my return I saw that my father was not as serene as a May morning. But not till he spoke of it did I discover that I had gone off without the sack. I at once taxed my eloquence to give a glowing account of the fire, and thus divert his attention from my neglect.
Many a time have I acted ridiculously on account of this absorption of thought. While at Eminence College, there was a public exhibition one evening in the chapel. A few minutes before it began I went into the room of Prof. Henry Giltner, just across the hall from the chapel, and here I saw McGarvey's "Commentary on Acts" for the first time. I thought I would look into it for a moment before the exercises should begin; and that was the last I thought of the exhibition till some one came into the room just before its close, hunting for me.
One more instance of this nature must suffice. About 1872, I was holding a very successful meeting at Burksville, on the Cumberland river, and while I was preaching one night there came up a terrific thunderstorm, with vivid lightning and hard rain. A young man occupied a front seat who had just been reclaimed from a life of sin, and who is now a preacher. I had a faint recollection of seeing him leave the house. He had become alarmed at the storm and left, but I knew nothing of the confusion till the services closed.
Every fall and winter we would have debating societies at the school-house, and at these, men of considerable attainments would be present and participate—teachers, preachers, and lawyers. In these I took a deep interest. My reading enabled me to become well posted on most of the questions discussed; and by careful preparation I soon came to be recognized as a good debater for one of my age. These discussions were of great advantage to me, and I am clearly of opinion that debating societies, when properly conducted, can be made useful to aspiring young men.
From childhood my under front teeth passed up on the outside, and, when a good sized boy, I concluded that that was not just the right thing, and that I would bring them into their proper place. By an effort in drawing back my under jaw, I could barely get the edges to so pass as to make a pressure of any value. But with this slight purchase the operation was continued from day to day, till the work was accomplished. The teeth became very sore from pressure, and the muscles of the jaw very tired from the unnatural strain, but in about ten days it was all over, and the job complete for life.
Another case required much greater perseverance. My older brother was very hollow-chested, and died of consumption; several others of the family were afflicted in like manner, and met the same fate. When about sixteen, I had strong tendencies in that direction. My chest was becoming "hollow," and I decided upon an effort to counteract it. To this end I slept on my back with no pillow under my head, and a good-sized one under my chest. I would awake of a morning feeling almost too dignified to bend forward. This I kept up for two years, holding myself erect during the day, till my chest expanded and the threatening trouble was overcome. But for that I should have been in my grave long ago. The simple fact is, I have been fighting consumption since I was sixteen years of age.
While I was never robust in health or appearance, I was exceedingly tough, and had great power of endurance. One of my physicians told me long ago that in all his practice he had never seen anything that would compare with it. This enabled me to do as much work as men of much greater strength. In those days reapers were generally unknown in our country, and the grain was all "cradled." At this I was an adept, never meeting any one that could excel me. The same was true of jumping and running foot races. Hundreds of men could no doubt beat me, but I never happened to meet them. I kept up these exercises till I left college.
When I was about twelve years of age my father built a large and comfortable house on another part of his farm. It was of hewed logs, and a story and a half high, with a large kitchen and dining-room, porches, etc. It was subsequently weather-boarded, and it is still a comfortable, commodious dwelling, owned by my mother, who never left it till her children all married and went to themselves. Father died of typhoid fever in 1860, in the fifty-third year of his age. He left my mother in comparatively easy circumstances, with nearly three hundred acres of land, plenty of stock, and a considerable amount of money on interest. By industry and economy on the part of himself and the whole family this property was accumulated, and he died in the assurance that with prudence on our part we could all make a respectable living. My mother now makes her home with her oldest daughter, Mary Crenshaw, wife of Mr. O. B. Crenshaw, a few miles north of Simpsonville, Shelby county, Ky. She waits in confident expectation that before long she too will depart to be with Christ and His redeemed, where the families of his saints will be reunited for ever.
After I grew to be a young man, I became very fond of fashionable amusements; I liked dancing, and went far and near to engage in the fascinating exercise. I gave a great deal of attention to dress; priding myself on being a gentleman; hence I found a welcome in the best society. In those years of wildness and wickedness, some things I was careful to avoid. I never learned to play cards, to gamble, or to tolerate the company of immodest women. For the latter I had an invincible repugnance that grew stronger with my years.
In the summer of 1855, while harvesting for her uncle, I first met at the dinner-table Miss Jennie Maddox, the lady whom I afterwards married. I looked as rough and unprepossessing that day as she ever saw me afterwards. I was as brown as a Florida "cracker," and my dress was anything but elegant. Had I anticipated the forming of such a captivating acquaintance, I should have made some preparation, but I was caught, and I had to make the best of it. We were married September 11, 1856; I was twenty years and a half old; she ten months younger. From that time to this she has been a loving, faithful wife, prudent in all things, industrious and frugal, caring for me and her children; and, above all, a consistent disciple of Jesus Christ, whom she had obeyed several years before our marriage. When we first met I thought her very handsome; she was rather small, had auburn hair, blue eyes and fair skin.
"And to-day you are fairer to me, Jennie, Than when you and I were young."
As to myself, I was six feet one inch in height, weighed a hundred and forty pounds, had brown eyes, and was, and am still, of a nervous-bilious temperament. My complexion was then, as now, very dark.
My wife's father, G. W. Maddox, was an elder in the Pleasant Hill church, Oldham county, Ky., near which he lived. The church is about two miles south-east of Baird's Station, on the Louisville & Lexington Railroad. He was a man of a firm logical mind, good general information, and more intelligent in the Scriptures than any man I ever met, outside of the ministry. I have heard several preachers make the same remark. He was, however, a timid man, and it was difficult to get much out of him in public. He began too late in life, and had no training in that direction. But he was a very popular man, both in and out of the church, and his counsel was generally taken. His wife was a timid, unassuming, good woman, very conscientious and religious. They reared a family of six girls and one boy, all of whom obeyed the gospel in good time. I myself baptized several of them.
My father-in-law and I soon became very much attached to each other, fond of each other's company, and I loved him as I loved few others. His fine information, philosophic Christian spirit and wonderful self-control first won my admiration, and this ripened into the strongest friendship. He, more than all other men, caused me to see the error of my way. We spent the first winter of our married life in his pious home, and this gave us much time for investigation and conversation upon the subject of religion.
Goes to Housekeeping. Discussions with Mr. Maddox. Attends Meeting. Is Baptized by William Tharp. Double Damages for an Old Horse. Begins Trading. Moves to Floydsburg. Description of the Place.
In the spring of 1857 we moved to a place on Currie's Fork, near Centerfield, about a mile and a half from my former home and a little farther from hers. So it will be seen I married only a few miles from home. It may seem a little strange that we grew up in the same neighborhood, and knew nothing of each other till a year before we were married. But I rarely went to her church, and she as rarely went anywhere else. Our religious proclivities led us in different directions, and into different society. I had been taught to look upon "Campbellism" as the most miserable of all heresies; and till I began to visit at the Maddox house I was seldom in the company of "that deluded people."
After moving to ourselves, we went nearly every Lord's day to the home of my wife's father, and this for several reasons: she wanted to attend her church, and this took her virtually home: this she enjoyed, and so did I. The old folks could not visit us on that day without missing church, and this they would not do. Mr. Maddox and I still engaged in the investigation of Methodism, "Campbellism" and Infidelity. I could feel the ground gradually giving way under me, but I was resolved upon thoroughly testing every inch, and not yielding till I should become satisfied as to the truth of all his positions. I would therefore study all week and arrange my arguments with the utmost care, and when the time seemed propitious I would present them as forcibly as I could. He would never say a word till I was through; then he would say, "Well! now let us test that." Then he would very calmly and pleasantly pick the thing all to pieces, till I could see nothing but shreds. With a mere touch, my carefully built structure would tumble like a cob house. Thus the work went on for years. In the meantime I attended meeting with my wife nearly every Lord's day, and heard much good preaching. Every important point in the sermon would be afterward investigated, and, like the noble Bereans, I searched the Scriptures daily, "to see whether those things were so."
During these years several successful meetings were held at the church, all of which I closely attended. One of these was conducted by John A. Brooks, and another by the lamented Simeon King. At the latter I came very near yielding to Christ, but persuaded myself that all was not yet ready. I delighted to see others obey the Lord, and enjoy the blessings of his religion, but I could not exactly see the way clear for myself. In spite of a more enlightened judgment, I would find some of my old erroneous notions clinging to me. I had a high regard for the church, and loved the company of its good members, and only a supreme carefulness, born of former blunders, kept me in disobedience.
In May, 1861, William Tharp and Wallace Cox were holding a meeting, and at this I confessed Christ, and was immersed by Bro. Tharp. My doubts as to the truth of the Christian religion and the way of salvation therein, had all been removed; and to this day not a shadow of a doubt has crossed my mind as to either. I now experienced a peace of conscience that I had not known since my thought was first disturbed in regard to the right way of the Lord.
I farmed for three years after marriage. The last year, we lived on the railroad just below Buckner's Station, and while here I had a little experience with the railroad company that teaches a lesson worth learning. I had an old horse, of not much value, but useful to me; he got out upon the road, and was killed by a passing train. I spoke of going to Louisville, to see if I could not get pay for it. The neighbors discouraged the idea, saying it would be useless. They cited a number of instances where stock had been killed, and in no case had any one obtained damages. But I went, found the Superintendent, and to him I made my speech of about three minutes' length. At its conclusion, he asked me if seventy-five dollars would satisfy me; and on my replying that it would, he handed me the money. He then remarked that the reason people got nothing in such cases, was because of the spirit in which they came and the way they talked about it. I left him feeling quite pleasant, for it was more than double the animal was worth. This was before I became an adept in Christian ethics.
In the fall of 1859 I began trading, having obtained an interest in a country store at a little place called Centerfield. We moved to the place, and I began to haul country produce to Louisville. I had a team which was said to be the best that came into the city, and I made weekly trips, bringing back merchandise. This I continued for three years, without the least regard to weather, and with scarcely a failure during the whole time. This employment threw me into rough associations in the city every week. Many engaged in like business from Kentucky and Indiana stopped at the same tavern, and most of them were given to dissipation. At home it was predicted that with my inclination to wildness this would finish me; and while truth compels me to confess that I often had "a jolly good time" with "the boys," the excess of wickedness I saw had an opposite effect, and I came out at last a preacher.
The next year we moved to Floydsburg, sixteen miles from Louisville, because, as I did not stay in the store, but did the hauling back and forth, it was a better location for us. It is an old town, in which my maternal grandfather lived before I was born, in which I spent much time before I was old enough to work, and around which cluster the earliest memories of life. It was once a place of large business, on the main road from Henry and adjacent counties to Louisville, and in ante-railroad times a large amount of wagoning was done through the place. At certain seasons great droves of cattle and hogs were driven through it, and everything was lively; besides, it had a good trade with the country around. But the Louisville & Lexington Railroad, which runs within a mile of the town, killed it as dead as an Egyptian mummy, because all this through business was taken by the railroad, and the surrounding trade went to the stations or to the city. It is, therefore, a quiet, undisturbed little place to live in, if one is not dependent upon making his expenses there. Most of the old citizens, business men of its prosperous days, have passed away, and the town has the appearance of being at their funeral.
As far back as I recollect, and I know not how much farther, it had in it one church, built of stone, small, and with a roof as sharp as the best presentations of Methodism that were ever set forth in it. About 1850, this ancient structure was replaced by one of brick, of good size, but poorly furnished. This is the only church that has ever been in the place; and while the people have been unusually quiet and moral, they have never been burdened with religion. There is a graveyard in the rear of the house, opened, perhaps, when the first building was erected, and in this silent spot sleep many of my friends and relatives. I have never thought it made much difference where one is buried—and in this I suppose I agree with most Protestants—but it is one proof of the improved taste of the age to see the care now taken of our cemeteries. Such places were unknown when I was a boy and where I lived, and even yet, outside of our cities and larger towns, they are too rare. Every village should have a neat and well-kept cemetery, to take the place of the neglected old burying-grounds where,
"Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
Tries to Become a Politician. Fails. Last Act as a Politician. Tries to Join the Southern Army. Fails Again. His First Appointment. Feeling of Responsibility. His Plan. Text. Analysis of Sermon. Buys a Family Bible. Rules of Life.
When I obeyed the Saviour, the brethren urged me to begin at once to preach the gospel. I had been accustomed to making political speeches, and public addresses of different kinds, and they thought I could just as easily preach a sermon as to make a speech on any other subject. But I was not thus inclined. I had political aspirations, and was not disposed to give them up. My idea was, that I could have a good influence on public men, in conversation and association, by being a faithful and consistent Christian. I regarded this as a field in which the influence of Christianity was much needed; and I decided to make this a specialty, while leading a public political life. But it did not take long for me to learn that there was at least a strong probability that the influence would go the other way. However successfully some men may be politicians and Christians both, I soon discovered that, with my temperament, the two things would not work harmoniously together. I concluded that if I continued in politics I would be a very sorry kind of Christian, if one at all. For a thing of this kind I had a deep repugnance. The issue, then, as it appeared to me, was finally forced upon me: Shall I give up politics or Christianity? Of course I was not compelled to give up Christianity in theory, but I felt that I would virtually do so in practice; and with me the difference between the two was hardly worth considering. While I felt that it was a great sacrifice, in a worldly point of view, to give up the golden dreams of a brilliant future, I decided in favor of Christ and the Bible. I shall never cease to thank God for the decision.
My last act in political life was attending, as a delegate, a State Convention at Frankfort, in August, 1861. This was, in some respects, a miserable affair, and I became thoroughly disgusted with politics and politicians, such as seemed to be pushing to the front, and crowding modesty and decency and honesty out of sight. I decided that that kind of association, that kind of companionship in the profession, that kind of trickery and treachery as food for daily thought, however successful one might be, was disgusting and debasing. I went home from the convention determined upon a clear cut-loose from the whole concern.
During the convention, Gen. Wm. Preston remarked in a speech that in one year from that day, "the stars and bars" would be waving from the dome of that capitol. In twelve months to a day, I went to Frankfort to see the Board of the Christian Education Society, about assisting me in college. The railroad was not in use, and I went by way of the Shelbyville pike. When I got in sight of the city, I saw "the stars and bars" waving from the dome of the capitol! Gen. Kirby Smith had possession.
When the brethren learned of my determination to give up politics, they renewed their solicitations in regard to my preaching. But I had become intensely concerned about the cause of the Southern Confederacy, and longed to take a part in what I then considered her struggle for independence and justice. In my misguided zeal, I regarded this a duty that patriotism would not allow me to exchange for anything till it was performed. Then, if spared, my life-work should be begun. A peculiar circumstance, greatly lamented at the time, kept me out of the Southern army. But I have long regarded it as a special providence of God.
I was an officer in a large cavalry company under the training of Col. J. W. Griffith. He had fought through the Mexican war, was an intelligent man, and a good soldier. He also fought through the late war, and was several times promoted. We had been drilling for some weeks, and the time was set for our departure. I had a good deal of unsettled business at Louisville, and went to the city to settle it up. During my absence the Federal authorities of Louisville were apprised, in some way, of the movements and purposes of our men, and two companies of cavalry were sent out to intercept them. Our men were notified of this, and went twenty-four hours in advance of the set time. Of all this I knew nothing, and when I got home the company was gone. I knew not which way it had taken, for our Colonel kept his own counsel. When night came I left home, determined upon an earnest effort to find the trail of the company and follow them. Twice I came near being caught by the soldiers in pursuit, and after a night's fruitless search, I was compelled to return disappointed. I had not another opportunity, and ere long I gave up the vain idea. But for that disappointment I should have gone into the Southern army; and what the result would have been will remain a secret till the day in which the results of all contingencies are known. But it is highly improbable that I should have ever become a preacher of the gospel of the grace of God. Thank Him for the providence that overruled me!
I finally yielded to the importunities of the brethren, and allowed them to make an appointment. This was in May, 1862, one year after making the confession. The meeting was announced two weeks ahead. It was a fine day, and through curiosity a great crowd assembled. I had never been in the pulpit before, nor made any remarks in the church except to pray. The brethren had a Bible-class every Lord's day when there was no preaching, and no public speaking was indulged in except a few remarks at the Lord's table, by one of the elders. Though I was accustomed to speak in public, I felt a responsibility in this matter that I never felt before. I decided upon three things as insuring success, or at least resulting in no harm:
1. To select a plain, practical subject, on which I would not be likely to indulge in false teaching.
2. To thoroughly study the subject, rather than the sermon.
3. To make myself thoroughly familiar with the analysis of the subject, and then talk about it, without relying upon memory as to language.
Relying on memory has been the cause of ten thousand failures, and has taken all the "snap" out of ten thousand more, that were considered a success. The intellect never leaps and bounds with vivacity when it is chained by verbal memory.
I selected for my text Matt. xvi. 24: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." I went into the pulpit alone, "introduced," as the saying is, for myself, and then spoke for forty minutes. While I felt embarrassed by a sense of responsibility, there was no confusion of thought in regard to the subject; hence no difficulty in its presentation. As it was my first sermon, the analysis of it may be of some interest.
I called attention, first, to the universal offer of salvation: "If any man." Second, to the freedom of the will: "If any man will." Third, personal responsibility involved in the foregoing. Fourth, self-denial as a condition of eternal life. Fifth, the nature and necessity of cross-bearing. Sixth, examples of self-denial and cross-bearing on the part of Christ and the apostles.
The church in which I preached my first sermon was the same in which I made the confession, and near which I was reared. For it I did my first regular monthly preaching, while in college, and in it held a number of successful protracted meetings, one annually, during the early years of my ministry. The old church is dear to me yet; its old members are my devoted friends, and I delight to visit them when Providence permits.
Immediately after obeying the Saviour I bought a family Bible and a pocket Testament; not that we had none before, but they were not such as suited my convenience. At home and abroad, in the city or the country, in the store or on the road, I had my Testament. As I drove all day along the highway, I would look at it occasionally to see how a certain passage read, and then study its meaning. I have never read the Bible largely, as some do, but I have studied it every day since I knew the way of life, unless I was too sick to have anything in mind. I have studied, doubtless, a hundred times as much without the book in my hands as with it. The idea that one can study the Bible only as he has opportunity to sit down with the book in his hands, is a great mistake. Hence many people complain of having no time to study the Bible, when the fact is they have nearly all their time, if they only knew it. I early learned to study the Bible at any time or under any circumstances, and the advantages of this to me have been beyond estimation.
As soon as I got my family Bible, I wrote on a flyleaf a few simple
RULES OF LIFE.
1. To study this book carefully and prayerfully every day.
2. To try to understand its teaching, regardless of the theories and traditions of men.
3. To make it the man of my counsel, the source and limit of my knowledge of divine things, and to speak on such matters only as it speaks.
4. To measure myself in everything by this standard, and bring my life, in all respects, in subjection to its divine authority.
5. To strive to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the truth, that I may become strong in the Lord, be a blessing to my fellow men, and at last obtain a home in heaven.
These rules, in some respects, have been closely observed; especially the first three. While in the others I have fallen immeasurably short, I feel that, upon the whole, the rules have been of great advantage to me.
Resolves to Go to College. Friends Oppose. Wife Decides It. Hard Living and Hard Work. Impaired Health. Preaches for His Home Church. Father-in-law Dies. "Frank, Be a True Man." House Robbed. "Scraps." College Incidents. First Pay for Preaching. Holds Several Meetings. Dishonest Preacher.
When I fully decided to devote my life to the ministry of the Word, I felt an overwhelming desire for a better education, in order to do the kind of work for the Master that his cause demanded. I had a good deal of general information that I had acquired through years of reading and study, but I was wholly ignorant of a number of things that I felt to be necessary to reliable, satisfactory work for the Lord. I wanted to devote my life to study, and I needed assistance in laying the foundation on which to build in after years. I decided, therefore, to quit business and go to college. This was vigorously opposed by all my friends. The church insisted that I had education enough, and that all I lacked was practice, to make me as good a preacher as there was need to be. My relatives opposed it, because they could not see the necessity, and it promised to wife and children only starvation. I had had some reverses, and had got just fairly square with the world. The flush war times had just come on. Trade was booming, money abundant and prices going up. I was now prepared to make money as I had never made it before, by five to one. To quit business just at that time, cut off all source of revenue, and go with a wife and three children to college, with but little money to start on, did, indeed, in one sense, look like absolute recklessness. Indeed, some of the brethren thought I was actually going crazy.
It was then argued that I should at least defer it a few years, till I should make some money, which was then easily done, and thus provide for the wants of my family while going through college. This looked very plausible; but I was deeply impressed with the blunders I had already made in trying to be a politician, then a soldier, and not going at once to the work of the Lord. I was afraid to dally about the matter any longer. I laid the case before the Lord and my wife. I knew she was to be the greatest sufferer by the change, and her counsel weighed more with me than that of all others. Considering what might result from delay, the brave little woman said "Go." That settled it.
In August, 1862, I wound up my business, and prepared to enter Eminence College. I rented an old, dilapidated house near the railroad, a mile above town. The place had about three acres for cultivation, and the same amount in grass. I kept a horse and buggy, a cow and several hogs. My wife raised a large number of fowls. I cultivated the ground, making it produce all it would, cut and hauled my fuel from the woods, and so managed as to be at no great expense in living. But when going to a city market every week, and feeling no embarrassment about money, we indulged in a style of living that now had to be discontinued. This went rather hard, but we tried to bear it bravely. The plainest and hardest living of our lives, by far, were those years at Eminence. The self-denial of my wife, for my sake and the gospel's, greatly encouraged me to bear the cross.
I did double work during the whole time, reciting eight times a day. This required intense application. I allowed myself eight hours for sleep, and the other sixteen were given to study. Whether eating, walking, working in the garden or chopping wood, I was boring into the questions of the recitation room. I would occasionally take a little turn with the boys on the playground at noon, but not often. I was fond of it, but felt that I could not spare the time. This was a sad mistake, confirmed by a life of broken-down health. But, like many others, it was not discovered till the mischief was done. A determined effort to crowd four years' work into two, under discouraging circumstances, resulted in impaired health; which continued labor beyond my strength kept impaired for the rest of my life. It is often stated that preachers suffer more from overeating than overwork. This is doubtless true to a large extent. But it was far from true in my case. I was never a large eater after I was grown. And when my health first failed me, want of a variety of good, nourishing food had no little to do with it. And all through subsequent life, a trouble has been to take sufficient food to meet the wants of the system.
I was the first married man that ever attended Eminence College. It was considered quite a novelty by some. But a few months later, in the same term, Bro. Briney came in. He and his wife boarded at the college. A few years later Bro. George Bersot and wife came, and married school-boys got to be quite common.
While attending school, I preached once a month for the old church at home—Pleasant Hill. The distance was twenty miles, with a good dirt road—when it wasn't bad. This afforded my wife an opportunity, during favorable weather, to go to see her parents once a month. And her father was now getting low with consumption. The church promised me no specified amount for my preaching, and, as is frequently the case, most of them considered the contract complied with when they gave me a hearing. They were not in sympathy with my college enterprise, and were not specially concerned about supporting it.
In May, 1863, my father-in-law died. In his death I lost one of my best and dearest earthly friends. He was the only one who encouraged me in my efforts for an education. While he could give me no material aid, being himself embarrassed by years of affliction, his wise counsel and deep sympathy helped me even more than money, badly as that was needed. When he was gone, I felt as if the only bright spot in my horizon, apart from my family, had faded into darkness. By nature he had a quick temper, and was very impulsive. By Christian culture he came to be a model in gentleness, patience and self-control. He was a wonderful example of how men, by faith, "out of weakness are made strong." As we stood around his bed of death, and his breathing indicated that the end was at hand, he opened his eyes as I was bending over him, looked me earnestly in the face, and composedly said, "Frank, be a true man." And with these words his spirit took its flight. No other words that ever fell from mortal lips ever so impressed me as these. The source whence they came, and the circumstances under which they were uttered, gave them peculiar significance. My soul, what is it for one to be a true man—true to his friends and true to his foes; true to his family and to her whose life is dearer to him than his own; true to himself and his better nature in all that involves his honor as a man; true to the truth, under all circumstances; and true to the Saviour and His cause, to which he has dedicated his life? Ever in after years when tempted in regard to a faithful discharge of its responsibilities, those sacred words came from the sleeping dust of death—"Frank, be a true man." Though dead, he yet speaks, and his words have been fruitful of good.
While attending his death and funeral, our house was broken into, and almost everything we had was stolen. We had laid in meat and lard for the year, and not a pound was left. All the flour, meal, sugar, coffee, preserves, jams, jellies, and everything else, was taken. Not a pound of anything to eat was left on the place. All the best cupboard ware, and part of the bedding and my wife's clothing were taken. This was a sorry plight to find ourselves in when we returned from the funeral. The country was full of soldiers, and nothing was done towards recovering the property. Thus we started on a darker and rougher road for the rest of college life.
During the first year at Eminence there grew up a strong rivalry between the two leading college societies—the Philomathean and the Rising Star. Both were strong in numbers, and each had in it an unusual amount of talent. I was appointed by the Philomathean Society to criticise the Rising Stars. This was my special business. I prepared what I called a scrap-basket. For this I would prepare notes from time to time, as something would suggest them, and on the nights of public exhibition, which were quite frequent, I would read them. These were cuts at the young ladies and criticisms of their performances, as sharp as I could make them. The result was, the whole Society soon got too much out of humor to speak to me. They called me "Scraps." Even Sister Giltner became offended, and was so for several months, till I was brought down in sickness, and then her good heart conquered, and she came to see me, bringing a load of delicacies to tempt and satisfy my appetite. The "scrap" at which she became offended was about this: Coming on the stage, the first scrap I took from the basket read: "We do not expect many compliments for this dish of scraps, especially from the young ladies of the boarding-house, as they are so used to being fed on scraps, it will be no variety to them." Sister G. prided herself on her good table. I knew it was good, and hence felt free to make the jocular remark. Had it been otherwise, I should have felt some hesitation in doing so.
President Giltner and I were in frequent conflict, and he came in for a full share of notice from the scrap-basket. While I would not assent to his views of things, which frequently caused disputation, on the whole he was kind and generous, and did much to help me through those hard school years. I have since met many of those young ladies in all parts of the country, mothers of interesting families, but not one of them had ever forgotten that scrap-basket.
Doctor Russell was my teacher in Latin and the Sciences, and Prof. Henry Giltner in Mathematics and Greek. The Doctor was a fine moralist, but an unbeliever. He was a fine teacher, and very popular with the boys.
In the public debates in our society, Bro. J. B. Briney and I were always pitted against each other. We were the oldest and the nearest equal in our advancement, especially in this line. We had quite a number of public discussions.
Here, as elsewhere, many went through on the shoulders of others. As an illustration of this, take two young men who were appointed on public debate. Soon each came to me insisting that I should write his speech. I refused both. The time was drawing nigh, and neither had done anything. One evening one of them went home with me from school, and compelled me, virtually, to write his speech. He was delighted with it. The next morning, while he was asleep, I got up and wrote a reply, just "tearing it all to flinders." The negative gained the decision, and neither one knows to this day that I wrote the speech of the other.
During the winter of 1862-3 I went to Hendronsville, the old church that now composes the one at Smithfield, to fill an appointment for Bro. Giltner. I went to dinner with old Bro. Hieatt. On leaving, he gave me a dollar—the first dollar I ever received for preaching.
In the summer of 1863 I held a meeting at Hendronsville, with Bro. Giltner, for which I was liberally paid, all things considered, and this was my first pay for a protracted meeting.
The same vacation, I went to South Fork, in Boone county, to fill an appointment for Bro. Wm. Tandy. Bro. Jacob Hugley was to come on the first of the week, and join me in a protracted meeting. Something prevented him from coming. I soon ran out of sermons, the supply on hand being small. In the meantime a fine interest had sprung up, and I had no excuse for quitting. So I had either to face the music, prepare and preach two sermons a day, or ingloriously surrender. The meeting continued two weeks, with some eighteen or twenty additions. During the same trip I held a meeting at a church near Walton, at which several additions were made to the congregation.
I did but little preaching during the school term. Convenient churches could not be obtained, and inconvenient ones took too much of my time to be given for nothing.
At Eminence I first met Bro. I. B. Grubbs. He came to preach for a few days, and spent a day at our humble home. I then formed for him a peculiar attachment, which has grown and strengthened with the passing years. Our minds ran close together in the channels of divine truth, and they have never materially diverged. A disagreement between us in the interpretation of Scripture has been very rare.
Old Bro. T. M. Allen preached for the church at Eminence while I was there. His sermons were enjoyable, and possessed considerable power, but they lacked logical construction, and I learned but little from them.
In a few weeks after going to Eminence, in the fall of 1862, we were blessed with the birth of a third daughter, and in the summer of 1864 the Lord took her to himself, and left us to mourn her absence.
In June, 1864, I went with Willis and Wallace Cox to Daviess county, to hold some meetings. Wallace was not able to preach, but went along for the enjoyment of the trip. He had labored there before, and was well acquainted. We held a meeting at Owensboro, and one at a new church some eight miles in the country. Both meetings were moderately successful.
As an evidence of what some men can do, I shall speak of a meeting held about this time, without giving place or name. The meeting had been successful, and a fine interest prevailed. The night it was to close there came a severe storm, and no one was out. We had to leave the next morning, and on the next Lord's day the brethren raised considerable money and gave it to the preacher to send to us. Some years after, the brother who was with me in the meeting went back there to preach for the church, and while there some one asked him whether he and I received our money all right. This was the first intimation that any money had been sent to us. The case was investigated by the church, and the man confessed he had never sent it. The brother got his, and the thief preacher promised to send mine, but hasn't done it yet. He is still preaching, and on several occasions has come a long way to hear me preach. What kind of a face and heart such a man can have, is a mystery I have never been able to solve!
Leaves College. Goes to Alexandria, Ky. An Adventure in Ohio. A Baby not Baptized. Peril in Crossing the River. Opens His School. Makes Some Money. Buys a Nice Home.
Having obtained a sufficient knowledge of Latin, Greek, and various sciences, to enable me to prosecute my education without a teacher, and my health being bad through close application and hard living, and feeling that I ought not to subject my family to such hardships any longer, I determined, very reluctantly, to leave college, at least for a time. I had now been at Eminence two years, and I shall ever thank God that even for this short time I was able to gratify my burning desire to acquire knowledge. It was at a great sacrifice we went there and remained as long as we did, but we have never once regretted it.
Through the influence of President Giltner, we secured the High School at Alexandria, Campbell county, Ky. This had been conducted for some years previously by Bros. O. A. and Chester Bartholomew, under the name of the "Mammoth Institute." I visited the place, and arranged to conduct the school and preach for the church there, which was small and financially weak; but there was no other in reach. So I could not do better than to give them all my time, at whatever could be raised in the way of salary. They had a nice little brick house, and a number of good members, and for several years the church prospered; but the county filled up with Germans, some of the best members moved away, and the cause went down. The house was sold, and to-day we have no church in the place.
After completing arrangements to preach and teach, I went over to Hamersville, Brown county, O., to see some relatives. A brother and sister of my father lived there, besides other relatives. My uncle had a large family. I had never visited any of them, and now being near and having a little time, I borrowed a horse and rode over. I sent an appointment for Lord's day at Hamersville, and got there about the middle of the week. I found that an appointment had not been made for Sunday morning, but for night. The reason was, the Methodists were to have a quarterly meeting in the woods near town—a big affair—and everybody was going. Hence I could get no hearing in the morning. I went to the meeting, as it was the only place to which to go. It was thought that three thousand people were on the ground. There were seven preachers. It was during the darkest period of the war, and every man from the south side of the Ohio River was looked upon with suspicion. I had been there several days, and quite a number knew who I was and where I was from. I took a seat near the stand, and when they prayed, in conformity with their custom, I kneeled in the leaves. The old preacher who "led in prayer" yelled as if his congregation was a mile away and God was on a journey. He began by praying for the President; then his Cabinet; then the Senate; then the Representatives; then the generals; then the colonels; then the captains; then the private soldiers. All this I tolerated, but did not say Amen. Finally he prayed for the utter extermination of the Southern people. He besought God to wipe them out of existence—men, women and children—from the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico. This blasphemy and contemptible wickedness I could not endure, and I arose from my knees. Perhaps five hundred people saw me when I got up. The point in the prayer at which I got up aroused suspicion, and inquiry was in a moment rife. They learned who I was and where I was from, and the excitement grew intense. Numerous threats were made to hang me on a limb there and then. The country was full of what they called "copperheads," who had kept very quiet, because it was to their interest to do so, but now they were aroused, and any attempt at violence would have led to the most serious trouble. During the intermission at noon, men of different politics congregated in different groups, in earnest conversation, and the meeting was forgotten in the excitement over a refusal to indorse that prayer. I was waited on by a committee to know if it was my political feelings that caused me to get up when I did. Without hesitation, I confessed that it was. Then they said, "What more need have we of evidence?" It was finally decided, so we were informed, that I would not be allowed to preach at night—that they would egg me, etc. But at night, not only the house, but the yard, was full of "copperheads" who meant "business," and I preached without molestation.