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The years 1800 and 1801 were distinguished by an uncommon religious excitement among the Presbyterians of Kentucky. "This excitement began in Logan county, and soon extended all over the state, and inte the neighbouring states and territories. Besides increased attention to the usual and ordinary seasons and modes of worship, there were, during the summers of these years, large camp-meetings held, and four or five days and nights at a time were spent in almost incessant religious exercises. At these meetings hundreds, and in some cases thousands of people might have been seen and heard at one and the same time engaged in singing, and prayer, and exhortation, and preaching, and leaping, and shouting, and disputing, and conversing. It was in meetings and exercises of this kind that the Cumberland Presbyterians bad their origin.
Previous to the first meeting of the Kentucky Synod, which was in October, 1802, all the ministers and churches south of the Kentucky river were under the inspection of one Presbytery, and it was within the bounds of this Presbytery, and particularly in the setHlements on the waters of Green river and Cumberland, that the religious excitement was the greatest. It was supposed by many good men that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the churches in a degree nearly equal to what was seen and felt on the day of Pentecost, and consequently, that ministerial gifts and ministerial graces were bestowed in greater abondance, and to a greater extent, than any ofthat generation had ever witnessed Hence at the fall meeting of Presbytery in 1801, it was proposed that the ordinary rules of the Presbyterian church respecting literary qualitications, and the length of time to be spent in the regular study of divinity, by all candidates for the holy ministry, should be dispensed with, and that four men, who were produced, should be taken immediately under trials for license; and a majority of the members of Presbytery being in favour of the measure, it was adopted, though strenuously opposed by a respectable minority.
At the first meeting of the Kentucky Synod, the Presbytery was divided, and a new Presbytery formed, to be called the Cumberland Presbytery. This new Presbytery being chiefly composed of those who had been warmest in supporting the new measures, they went on with great rapidity in their own way. Many offered themselves, and were (to use the words of the Presbytery) "licensed as regular exhorters," and "authorized to make public appointments in any congrega tion or settlement within the bounds of the Fresbytery." Messrs.
were "licensed to exhort in the bounds of the Presbytery, or wherever God in his providence may call them.” The churches under the care of the Presbytery were ordered to contribute to
the exhorters” for their pecuniary support. “Each licentiate to exhort” was ordered to exercise himself in composition on any subject he might choose, and show as many pieces of such composition to the nearest minister as he could with convenience." Some were re. ceived as candidates for the holy mioistry on the delivery of a discourse as the first evidence or specimen of their abilities. Those who were licensed to preach, and those who were ordained, were required, at their licensure and ordination, to adopt the Confession of Faith, so far only, as they believed it to agree with the word of God; which, according to the Presbyterian law and usage, was irregular and unconstitutional. This opened a door to any one who might choose to enter, no matter what his creed might be.
In this way matters went, on, until the number of these men, including exhorters, licentiates, and a few who were thus unconstitutionally ordained, amounted to nearly thirty. Some were now entitled to a seat in Synod, and began to appear
there. A number "of young societies," as they state, had been organized, and the most of them represented by their elders, who, from their numbers, were about to create an overwhelming majority in the Synod. They also established what they called "Circuits,” which were principally supplied by the licentiates. The meetings of the Presbytery were very frequent for licensures and ordinations;- and had not their progress been impeded in some way or other, there is little doubt but that Presbytery, by its rapid movements, in a very short time, would have gained such an ascendancy in Synod, as to hare oom! pletely swayed that body in any measure they might wish to carry.
These disorders called loudly for the interference of Synod-accordin-'y, at the meeting of Oct, 1805, the following mirute u is entered up.
"Oo motion, Fiesolved, that the business of the Cumberland Presbytery be again taken up. After considerable deliberation, it was resolved, that the Rev. John Lyle, John P. Campbell, Archibald Cameron, Joseph P. Howe, Samuel Rannalis, Robert Stuart, Joshua L. Wilson, Robert Wilson, Thomas Cleland, and Isaac Tull, together with Messrs. William M'Dowell, Robert Brank, James Allen, James Henderson, Richard Gaines, and Andrew Wailace, 'ruling elders, or any seven ministers of them, with as many elders as may be present, be a Commission, vested with full Synodical powers, to confer with the members of Cumberland Presbytery, and adjudicate our their Presbyterial proceedings which appear upon the minutes of said Presbytery, for the purpose aforesaid, and taken notice of by the Committee appointed by Synod to examine said minutes--that the said Commission 'meet on the first Tuesday in December next, at Gasper meeting house, Logan Connty, in the bounds of said Presbytery, for the purpose aforesaid. That notice be given to the members of said Presbytery, by the stated Clerk of Synod, to attend on the day and at the place aforesaid-so that a full, fair, and friends ly investigation may take place. That the said Commis. sion take into consideration, and decide upon a letter from the Rev. T. B. Craighead and others," &c.
This Commission met the 3d of December, 1805, about six weeks after its appointment, at the time and place appointed. The members were all present except Messrs. Campbell, Henderson, and R. Wilson. Prior to the meeting, the most ungenerous and unfavourable representations respecting the motives and designs of the Synod were extensively spread in the region round about where the Commission was to meet :-consequently, the most unfavourable impressions were made on the minds of the people there. Prejudice, in her most scowling aspect, had fied like lightning before the Commission, and taken her seat in the bosoms of all classes. The Commission was stigmatized with the unhallowed name of an “Inquisition,” sent down by the Synod to destroy the revival of religion, and to cut off all the young preachers, because they had not learned Latin and Greek, Mr. Rankin, the minister of the place, who afterwards became a Shaker, delivered an inflammatory address to his people, on the evening preceding the communion, and in the presence of the Commission, accotnpanied with threats, or language indicative of personal violence or opposition. The most of the members of the Commission were nick-named, and given some appellation intended either to affix a stigma or confer an encomium, as the fruitful and ingenious in-. ventors thought the individuals were favourable or unfavourable to their cause. Under such very unpleasant and forbidding circumstances did the Commission meet and transact their business-only one man in the settlement, living some re or four miles from the