Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Chapter 8

By John Carr, 1857

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne, 2001

Chapter 8

The extraordinary exercises just noticed, which commenced in Tennessee in 1800, made their appearance in 1801 in the middle and upper portions of Kentucky. Barton W. Stone, an eminent man of God and a minister of the Presbyterian Church, had charge of two congregations Cane Ridge and Concord, in Bourbon County, Ky. Religion at that time was at a very low ebb in the Presbyterian Church. But in the spring of 1801 a great meeting was held near Russellville, Kentucky, and Mr. Stone, having heard of the gracious work in Tennessee and the southern portion of Kentucky, attended that meeting, at which the preachers were Messrs. McGrady, McGee, Rankin, and Hodge, of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Stone stated that he had never before witnessed such a scene. The people were struck down powerless, and lay as though they were in the agonies of death, pleading for mercy; and after awhile they would rise and tell the wonders of redeeming love. Mr. Stone soon became convinced that it was the, work of God. He returned home and had a meeting the next Sabbath at Cane Ridge. A large congregation attended to hear the news from the South-west. He ascended the pulpit, and narrated to them the extraordinary exercises which he had seen, and then preached a close, experimental sermon. It was like seed sown in good ground. He appointed to preach there again in the course of the week, and hastened that night to Concord, to preach to his other congregation. Two young ladies were struck down that night, and in every respect acted similarly to those he had seen in the South-west. When they arose their addresses made deep impressions upon the congregation. When Mr. Stone returned to his appointment in the week at Cane Ridge, indeed before he reached the place, he heard of the good effects of the preaching the Sabbath before. When he arrived at the gate of the church he was met by a Mr. Rogers, one of the most influential men in the country, and his wife, shouting at the top of their voices, and telling him what God, for Christ's sake, had done for them. The crowd left the house, and hurried to this novel scene. In twenty minutes scores had fallen to the ground, and paleness and trembling appeared in all. Some, panic-struck, attempted to flee from the scene; but they either fell or returned immediately to the crowd, as if unable to get away. A noted deist in the neighborhood was struck down, and when he arose, he confessed the Savior. The meeting continued on that spot in the open air, and many found peace in the Lord. The effects of this meeting through the country seemed like fire in dry stubble, driven by a strong wind. All felt its influence to a greater or less extent.

Soon after, Mr. Stone had a protracted meeting at Concord. It is said the whole country appeared to be in motion to the place, and multitudes of all denominations attended. All seemed heartily to unite in the work and in Christian love, and party spirit, abashed, shrunk away. This meeting continued five days and nights without ceasing. Many, very many, will through eternity remember it with thanksgiving and praise.

Shortly after this, the great meeting at Cane Ridge came on. It was said to be awfully solemn. On Thursday and Friday before the meeting, the roads were literally crowded with wagons, carriages, horsemen, and footmen, moving to the solemn camp. It is stated the sight was most affecting. It was judged by military men that there were between twenty and thirty thousand collected on the ground. Four or five preachers were frequently speaking at the same time, in different parts of the encampment, without confusion. The Methodist and Baptist preachers aided in the work, and all appeared cordially united in it, of one mind and one soul, and the salvation of sinners seems to be the great object of all. They all engaged in singing the same songs of praise, all united in prayer, all preached the same things-free salvation urged upon all by repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. The meeting continued six or seven days and nights, and would have continued longer, but provision for such a multitude failed. To this meeting, many had come from Ohio and other distant parts, who returned home and diffused the same spirit in their neighborhoods, and the same work followed. So low had religion sunk, and such carelessness universally had prevailed, it was thought that nothing common could have arrested the attention of the world. During these meetings, therefore, those uncommon agitations, already described, were sent for that purpose. At any rate, this was their effect upon the community.

Barton W. Stone was the chief instrument at the commencement of this great revival in Kentucky. He labored almost night and day, and many were added to the Church. There were four or five other Presbyterian preachers that joined him in the great reformation. They preached free salvation to a dying world, and leveled their artillery against the doctrine of election and reprobation. They declared that Christ had tasted death for every man, and invited the whole world to come unto Jesus and be saved. It was not long before the anti-revival party saw their Confession of Faith was in danger. The first one they brought to an account for preaching against the Confession of Faith was Richard McNemar. He was had before a Presbytery, and his case was carried up to the Synod at Lexington, Kentucky. That body appeared generally very hostile to their doctrine, and there was much spirited altercation among them. The other four of the revival party expected their fate in the decision on McNemar's case. They were John Dunlary, Robert Marshal, John Thompson, and Barton W. Stone. It had been plainly hinted to them that they would not be forgotten by the Synod. So they waited anxiously for the issue. till they plainly saw it would be against them all. Then, in a short recess of the Synod, the five above-named with drew to a private garden, where, after prayer for direction, and a free conversation with each other, they drew up a protest against the proceedings of the Synod in McNemar's case, and a declaration of their independence, and of their withdrawal from their jurisdiction, but not from their communion. This protest they immediately presented to the Synod through the Moderator. It was altogether unexpected by them, and produced very unpleasant feelings, and a profound silence for a few minutes ensued. The protestants retired to a friend's house in town, and were quickly followed by a committee of Synod to reclaim them to their standards. They had with them a very friendly conversation, the result of which was that one of the committee, Matthew Houston, became convinced that the doctrine they preached was true; and soon afterward united with them. The committee reported to the Synod a failure to reclaim them, and after a few more vain attempts, they proceeded to the solemn work of suspending them, because they had departed from the Confession of Faith of their Church. They insisted, however, that after they had protested and withdrawn in an orderly manner, the Synod had no better right to suspend them than the Pope of Rome had to suspend Luther after he had done the same thing; and they contended that if Luther's suspension was valid, then the whole Protestant succession was out of order. Immediately after their separation from Synod they constituted themselves into a Presbytery, which they called the Springfield Presbytery. The battle had just commenced. The revival party became bold in proclaiming the absurdities of the Confession of Faith, while the anti-revival party stood up for it. The presses issued from both sides for and against Calvinism. Our country was flooded with their pamphlets and harangues against each other. Soon after the separation, Mr. Stone called together his congregations, and informed them that he could no longer conscientiously preach to support the Presbyterian Church; that his labors would be directed to advance the Redeemer's kingdom, irrespective of parties, and that he absolved them from all obligations in a pecuniary point of view; and then in their presence he tore up their salary obligations to him, in order to free their minds from all fear of being called upon hereafter for aid. Never had a pastor and churches lived together more harmoniously than they had for about six years. He made a great sacrifice, for he was handsomely supported. Mr. Stone also emancipated his negroes, and preached almost night and day, and the work of God went on through his instrumentality. They all went on under the name of the Springfield Presbytery, preaching and constituting churches; but they had not worn this name more than one year before they saw it bordered on a party spirit with the manmade creeds. So they threw it overboard, and having preached the last will and testament of the Springfield Presbytery, they took the name of Christians -the name given to the disciples first at Antioch. They progressed for some time very harmoniously, constituting a great many churches throughout Kentucky and Ohio, and quite a number of valuable young men were raised up among them to preach the gospel.

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