Monday, January 9, 2017

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Scene of His First Labors

Continued from the Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Devotes Himself to the Ministry.

This is from Chapter VI of the memoirs of Rev. David Rice, which were included in An Outline of the History of the Church in the State of Kentucky, During a Period of Forty Years by Robert Hamilton Bishop and published in 1824.

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No situation on earth is without its difficulties and peculiar temptations. Difficulties and temptations of one kind are no sooner over than they are succeeded by others of a different description. While the warfare is thus continued, a wise man and a saint will grow wiser and wiser, and be daily more conformed to the image of his Master. "In my first setting out," says Mr. Rice, "I was considerably popular, and often met with the applause of my fellow creatures, which soon filled me with a considerable degree of vanity. This convinced me of the propriety of the apostle's injunction, -- not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil -- and that it requires much more knowledge to make a man humble than to make him a self-conceited pendant." How many otherwise well qualified preachers have had their usefulness nearly destroyed by not making, at an early period of their career, the same discovery! How kind is our Lord and Master in frequently letting loose the tongues of men against his servants!

He preached about six months in North Carolina and the southern parts of Virginia, not without some evidence of success. He then visited Pennsylvania, where, agreeably to a previous agreement, he married Miss Mary Blair, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Blair, late of New Londonderry, Pennsylvania. Thence he returned to Virginia, with a view to take charge of a congregation in North Carolina; but by a number of unforeseen events, in the course of providence, that design was frustrated. God appoints to us the bounds of our habitation, and a very little, or a number of very little seemingly trifling and accidental things, have frequently extensive influence on our whole lives. He stopped with a congregation in Virginia, which had been formerly under the pastoral care of Mr. Davies. Here, after a few months, he was with the usual solemnities ordained to the work of the ministry, and had that congregation committed to his pastoral inspection. "At this time I was not so fully satisfied as to my possessing some of the qualifications essentially necessary for a gospel minister, and consequently undertook the pastoral office with some degree of reluctance; but I considered that I was not my own but the Lord's, -- that I had in the sincerity of my heart given myself up to him to be devoted to that work -- that I had seen much of his care and kindness in bringing me thus far -- and that as faithful laborers were few I might be of benefit to mankind."

James Wimble's 1738 map of colonial North Carolina; image courtesy of
LearnNC

He labored there for four or five years, not without success, though he thought his success was great among the blacks than among the whites. -- How much has this unhappy class of our race been neglected! His prospects of usefulness were considerable, but all! they were soon blasted. An old dispute in the congregation, which had taken its rise in Mr. Davies' time, was stirred up afresh, which so disjointed the society, as to convince them that they were not able to afford him that pecuniary aid which was necessary for his temporal support; and having no other means of subsistence, he wrote to Presbytery to dissolve the connection between him and them, which was accordingly done.

What a world of mischief have "perverse disputes" done to the church of the living God? How necessary is it for christians both in public and private life to leave off contentions before they be meddled with. How highly ought christians to value a stated dispensation of gospel ordinances while it is enjoyed. Even the great Mr. Davies' congregation, whose praise is in all the churches, and whose sermons will instruct as long as the English language is known, even this man's congregation knew not the value of a gospel ministry. They sacrificed this great inestimable blessing for the gratification of some private, some sinful feeling.

No person who has not in holy providence been in a similar situation can have any adequate conception of the state of mind in which Mr. Rice left these the people of his first charge. He was leaving those with whom he had expected to be connected by the most endearing ties during life. Nay, he was leaving those with whom and with whose children he had expected to have spent an eternity. He was leaving immortal beings to whom he had not been the savior of life unto life, but the savior of death unto death. And he was leaving them from dire necessity, because they had actually put the gospel of God's salvation from them.

In this day of distress, as well as in many subsequent days, he found that "having found a wife he had found a good thing, and obtained favor of the Lord." Mrs. Rice was a woman of uncommon strength of mind, and being the daughter of a clergyman, she had given her hand and her heart to another clergyman, with a full view of the inconveniences and privations to which the family of a clergyman is exposed, which has little or no other source of support but what depends upon popular opinion. She most cheerfully, therefore, on this as well as on many other occasions, brought the resources of her mind into vigorous action. And the heart of her husband did safely trust in her, so that he had no need of spoil. She did him good and not evil all the days of her life. She literally sought out wool and flax, and wrought willingly with her hands. And to her economy and prudence, and cheerful and pious temper, the long and useful life of father Rice is in a great measure to be attributed.

Nor was Mrs. Rice merely an help meet [sic] for him with respect to this world. In the great concerns of eternity she was in her sphere equally active and equally successful. On silent Sabbaths, which, from Mr. Rice having several charges, were frequent, a portion of each day was spent in catechizing her children and servants, and in prayer with them. Having herself enjoyed a full and systemic religious education, and being blest with a considerable genius, a taste for reading, and a mind habituated to reflection, she had acquired a knowledge of the doctrines and the duties of christianity beyond many. Hence she was enabled to discharge the duties of a christian instructor to her family with a good degree of propriety.

She had her set hours of devotion, which were not to be disturbed by any ordinary occurrence. And a portion of every night after the family had retired to bed was allotted as a season of prayer exclusively for her children.

In her interview with her neighbors she possessed a talent which she often used for introducing with a great degree of facility serious conversation. Nor did she confine herself to her family alone, or to personal interviews. When she thought she had influence, and could do it with propriety, she wrote letters to her acquaintances on the necessity and importance of religion, and there are not wanting instances of persons who have given evidence of sound conversion, who have referred to their first serious impressions to these letters.

Her labors and her prayers in her family were particularly blessed. She raised eleven children. Nine of them have become fathers and mothers of families, and all of them have given evidence that they are the sons and daughters of Abraham, to whom the promise was made that he should be heir of the world. And in one instance the blessing was bestowed after the son had left his father's roof, and had no other means of bringing pious instruction to his remembrance but a Bible which his mother had, unknown to him, packed up with his clothes. "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put into thy mouth, shall not depart out of they mouth, nor out of the mouths of they seed, nor out of the mouths of they seed's seed, saith the Lord from Henceforth Even forever."

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I am publishing a chapter of Rev. David Rice's memoirs every Monday.

To be continued...

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Rev. David Rice (1733-1816) was my fifth great grandfather.

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Devotes of Himself to the Ministry
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Introduction of the Gospel into Virginia
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Relief Obtained
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

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