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While in Kentucky he preached when opportunity offered. On his return he met with upwards of four thousand people moving out. Shortly after his return he received a verbal invitation to come to Kentucky and officiate as a minister. He replied, that if a written invitation were sent him, signed only by those who were permanently settled, and who wished to attach them. Selves to religious society, he would take it into consideration, and return an answer in due time. After a few months a call, subscribed by three hundred men, was forwarded to him; but from the face of it he had strong suspicions, that his request, respecting the situation of subscribers, had not been attended to. However, he, upon the whole, resolved to remove to this new country, which he did in Oct. 1783.
STATE OF RELIGION IN KENTUCKY IN 1784 -ORGANIZATION OF THE FIRST CONGREGATION THERE.
Mr. Rice soon found that his suspicions concerning the character and situation of those who had put their names to-bis call, were not without ground. He expected that as soon as he should have obtained a temporary residence, a number of old professors would have come and made up their acquaintance with him.
But he was
greatly surprised and distressed to find scarcely any such, a few who had been his old acquaintances and hearers in Virginia excepted. “After I had been here," says he, "some weeks, and had preached at several places, I found scarcely one man and but few women. who supported a credible profession of religion. Some were grossly ignorant of the first principles of religion. Some were given to quarrelling and fighting, some to profane swearing, some to intemperance, and perhaps most of them totally negligent of the forms of religion in their own houses."
"I could not think," continues be, sa church formed of such materials as these could properly be called a church of Christ. With this I was considerably distres. sed, and made to cry, where am I! What situation am I in? . Many of these produced certificates of their having been regular members in full communion and in good standing in the churches from which they had emigrated, and this they thought entitled them to what they called christian privileges here. Others would be angry and raise a quarrel with their neighbours if they did not certify, contrary to their knowledge and belief, that the bearer was a good moral character. I found indeed very few on whose information I could rely respecting the moral character of those who wished to be church members."
In these perplexities he resolved not to administer sealing ordinances, but preach among the people one year, that he might get better acquainted with them and they with him. This exposed him to much censure from the loose nominal professors and tended greatly
to thin his flock; though it was considered by the few solid church members as the best expedient wbich the circumstances of the case would admit.
At the commencement of the second year all was to begin anew. With a good deal of difficulty, however, a congregation was organized in what is now called Mercer county, with as much formality as their distance from other regular churches, and other disadvantages, would admit.
They had three places of worship, which were known by the names of Danville, Cane-Run, and the Forks of Dick River; and though circumstances were far from being promising, Mr. Rice considered himself as called by the head of the church to preach the gospel and dispense other ordinances within these bounds, and leave the result to the decision of the great day.
SOME OF THE
Of his first fellow labourers in Kentucky Mr. Rice says, “They were men of some information, and held sound principles, but did not appear to possess much of the spirit of the gospel. Upon this my spirits sunk pretty low, verging on a deep melancholy.” A melancholy prospect indeed to a pious mind. Like priest, like peo.
ple--genuine piety scarcely discernible in either-the spirit of the world animating all.
Not finding much of the power of religion among his own denomination, he began to look to other denominations to see if things were any better there. "The Baptists," says he, “were at this time pretty numerous, and were engaged in some disputes among themselves about some abstruse points, which I suspected neither party well understood. About the same time twoMethodist preachers came to the country, who, though they were rather passionate in their addresses, they seemed to be men of tender catholic spirits, and advocates for good morals. For some time their coming encouraged and revived me, in some degree, but as soon as they had gained a little footing in the country they began to preach what they called their principles, that is, those doctrines which distinguish them from other societies. This, so far as I could learn, produced its genuine effects -a party spirit and alienation of affections among the people. This sunk me into my former melancholy. To me it appeared that all our religious societies, Presby. terians, Baptists, Methodists, &c. &c. were in a fair way to destroy both the spirit and the practice of religion, and sink it into contempt. And as we are naturally inclined to look to means and instruments rather than to him from whom alone help must come, I was often rea dy to cry out passionately, for the Tennents, the Blairs, and the Dayieses, to come and preach to us in Kentucky!"
About this time an old disciple, Mr. Gano, of the Bap. tist church, came from the state of New-York. Mr. Rice had been formerly acquainted with his character, and was rejoiced at his arrival. He at length preached within about four miles of his house. "I heard him," says he, "with great avidity and satisfaction. He appeared to preach the gospel in its native simplicity, with honest intention to promote the glory of God and the good of men. He preached in the neighbourhood a second and a third time, and still in the same spirit. To me he appeared as one of the ancient Paritans* ris en from the dead."
Even good men are sometimes mistaken as to the piety of those with whom they have intercourse. Considerable allowances are to be made for natural dispositions, for early habits, and for a change of the state of society. The apostles, Paul, Peter,' and John, were equally pious and equally devoted to the service of their Master; yet they were of very different natural dispositions, and this diversity gave a character to all their ministrations.
The state of society in Kentucky was in 1784-5 remarkably different from the state of society to which
* The term Puritun was first used as a term of reproach, It has however ceased to carry with it any thing but respect and affection with all who have the least affection for evangelical truth. The Puritans were a set of pious men, and were as faithful propagators of the gospel as ever adorned the British pation. They were the first settlers of New England.