Monday, December 26, 2016

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Introduction of the Gospel into Virginia

Continued from the Memoirs of Rev. David Rice (Chapter III): Relief Obtained

This is from Chapter IV 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.

"My aunt, Mary Rice, was married to a John Symms. John Symms in some part of his life, by what means I know no, probably by little more than reading the Scriptures, got deeply impressed with the necessity and importance of a better religion than that which he possessed. Under a deep conviction of his being a guilty depraved sinner, he continued for ten or twelve years, earnestly seeking the bread of life, while he found none to break it to him. At length, by the same means of reading the Bible, he found that God had made provision for such sinners, and that it was revealed to them in the Gospel. He believed in Christ as a Savior, and embraced the plan of salvation, and the deep gloom of a long night of darkness was dispelled by the beams of the son of righteousness. From that time to the close of his life he appeared to be a tender, sober, and exemplary Christian.

About the same time, or perhaps a little later, my uncle, James Rice, got under similar impressions, and probably by similar means, only his convictions appeared to be more pungent and terrifying. He told me himself that for three months he did not remember to have slept so sound as not to hear a cock crow or a dog bark at any time of the night. On receiving deliverances by the Gospel of God's grace, his joy appeared to be proportionally ecstatic. I do not remember ever to have heard him mention the love of God manifested in the suffering of Christ in the room of guilty men, but with tears of affection and gratitude in his eyes.

My grandmother, Rice, was esteemed truly a religious woman; but when or by what means she obtained religion I do not remember to have heard.

There was in the same neighborhood with them a James Hooper, who was also esteemed a pious man. These four seldom attended their parish church, but used to meet together at one or other of their houses, and spend the Sabbath in religious conversations. 'Then they that feared the Lord spoke often to one another, and a book of remembrance was written before him,' etc. For fifteen or twenty years my uncle James never walked but with crutches, or when at best with a staff in each hand; yet when he had been helped on a horse he rode tolerably well. He had in the country round a number of old acquaintance, whom he used occasionally to visit. In some of these houses he found a few old books, which had been imported by the first settlers, written by the Puritans, or the great divines who lived in England when the Westminster confession of faith was composed. He found also Luther on the Galatians, or on justification by grace without the works of the law. From these old books he made large extracts, and by frequently reading them over, his memory being good, he could give a pretty good account of the whole of them. When his neighbors came to see him, he would commonly introduce religious conversation, and often repeat whole pages from these extracts. His conversation at length began to make some serious impression on his neighbors. One in particular became deeply sensible of his being in a ruined condition, and condemned by the law of God. To give him relief my uncle lent him Luther on the Galatians. While my uncle was one day looking out of his door, he saw this man running with all his might, and this book in his arms. As soon as he was within call, he cried out as in a transport, James! I have found it! James! I have found it! meaning that he had found out the way made known in the gospel for the justification of the sinner without the works of the law. This man, being a pretty good reader, and of a more forward disposition than my uncle, invited his neighbors to come to his house on Sabbath days to hear him read this book. This at length gained the attention of people, and produced some religious stir among them, and caused a few earnestly to inquire what they should do to be saved. He soon had a small congregation who regularly attended him on the Sabbath -- though they had no prayer or singing. The omission of the former was probably owing to strong prejudices which they had imbibed against the prayer of the church of England, from having often heard it canted over with an air of levity, without even the appearance of serious devotion. By which means they and thousands besides lost the benefit of the many appropriate petitions contained in that book. Their omission of singing was probably owing to their total ignorance of church music.

About this time a dark cloud of persecution almost threatened the destruction of the little church. Several of its members were present for not attending their parish church as often as was required by a penal statute, and were consequently under the necessity of answering for their conduct before the governor and council. They had, however, by this time, learned that there was an English act of toleration for protestant dissenters. Being interrogated by the governor on the reason of their not attending their parish churches, they pled they were protestant dissenters. His excellency asked them, of what denomination? Here they were at a loss, for they had as yet assumed no name. At length one of them, more ready witted than the rest, replied that they were Lutherans. Thus, by the name of Luther, and the affinity between the church of Luther and the church of England, the cloud was dissipated, and they allowed to return home in peace.

During this period the inhabitants of the upper part of Virginia, that lies west of the South mountain, who were emigrants from Pennsylvania, used to go down to what they called Old Virginia to purchase iron, salt, etc. One of these Augusta men, in one of his trips, fell in with some of these new Lutherans, and having some religious conversations with them, he found their sentiments very different from what was common in that part of the country. Upon which he asked them what place of worship they attended? They replied, none. He asked them if they did not believe it to be a duty to worship God publicly? They replied they did -- but did not think it worth while to go and hear men preach who did not preach the gospel of the grace of God, and that their ministers did not preach this gospel.

The Augusta man informed them that there had lately been a minister preaching in their country, whom; should they hear, they would think preached the true gospel. They eagerly asked his name -- whence he came -- and whither he had gone/ They were answered, his name is Robinson -- he is from Pennsylvania -- and is gone to Colwell's settlement. Upon this a messenger was dispatched in quest of the unknown preacher. He was found, but just on the eve of starting homeward. However, on receiving their earnest request, he resolved to comply with it. He tarried with them only a few days, preached to them two or three sermons, advised them to continue their meetings, and taught them to add singing and prayer to their former exercises. He left them also one or two volumes of Erskine's sermons, which was a very considerable addition to their former stock. With these improvements their meetings were greatly enlarged, and excited considerable attention. Erskine's sermons were particularly esteemed. Some of their best readers were invited to go fifteen, twenty, and even thirty miles to read these sermons. The effects produced were considerable. In fact, one of these readers read his discourses much more oratorically than one half of the preachers of this country deliver their sermons. The pronunciation of a number of these is spoiled by the rules of art illy understand and illy applied, or by a servile imitation of some particular person. The reader in the new Lutheran church followed nature. After Mr. Robinson returned to Pennsylvania, there came in succession a number of ministers and preachers, who preached in Hanover and some adjacent places -- Their labors were crowned with considerable success. These supplies continued till the arrival of Rev. Samuel Davies, a man of great talents and eminent piety, who after the previous steps were taken, settled in Hanover county, and took charge of two or three congregations.

Rev. Samuel Davies; image courtesy of Wikipedia

Thus the Presbyterian doctrine and the discipline were introduced into Old Virginia. This doctrine was in substance the doctrine of the established church of England, and of all Reformed churches. Their government and discipline were in the main that which was adopted by John Calvin, one of the first reformers.'

(Thus far father Rice, from memory alone, in the last year of his life, as the patriarchs of old did, rehearsed to his children and grandchildren the wonderful works of God. The following extract from the Memoirs of Rev. Dr. Rodgers, of New York, by Rev. Dr. Miller, gives a more particular account of this interesting subject.)

The rise and progress of the body of Presbyterians in Virginia, to whom the labors of Mr. Davies and Mr. Rodgers were now directed, deserve some notice, before we proceed. They deserve this notice not only as being remarkably interesting in themselves, but also as throwing light on the treatment received by the subject of these Memoirs, in the course of the southern mission of which we are speaking.

The first settlers in Virginia were greatly connected with the Episcopal church. Episcopacy was early established in the dominion by law, and remained so until the revolution which terminated in American independence.* A very small number of Presbyterians from Scotland, and a still smaller number of dissenters from south Britain were thinly scattered through the Colony; but they were so few and so destitute of religious zeal, that no ecclesiastical organization, different from that of the establishment, seems to have been thought of, (excepting on a small scale on the eastern shore, as will hereafter appear,) until between the years 1730 and 1743. During that period, a few Presbyterian churches were formed under circumstances to remarkable and interesting to pass unnoticed.

About the year 1730, there resided in the great northern neck, between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, a certain John Organ, a pious schoolmaster, from Scotland. Soon after his establishment in that country, finding there was no place of public worship in his immediate neighborhood, and that a large portion of the people wholly disregarded the ordinances of religion, and were sunk in carelessness and profligacy, his spirit was stirred within him to attempt something for the spiritual advantage of his neighbors. Accordingly, he collected, in private houses, such of them as were tolerably decent and sober, and had any sense of religion, and read to them the Scriptures and other pious writings, accompanied with prayer and singing. These exercises were much blessed, to the awakening and conversion of a number of souls. For several years nothing more was attempted; especially as the frowns of the government were soon towards this little flock, and the laws against dissenters rigorously enforced against them. In a short time, however, after the formation of the Synod of Philadelphia, the people of Organ's neighborhood made an application to that body for supplies. This request was granted; and the Rev. Mr. Anderson, who had before resided in New York, but was then settled in Pennsylvania, was sent by the Synod to preach among them, to organize a church, and to interceded with the government on their behalf. Mr. Anderson succeeded in attaining all these objects. He preached with great acceptance and with much impression; and formed a church which has continued to the present day.

While these things were going one in one neighborhood, events of a similar kind, but still more extraordinary, were taking place in another.

In Hanover, and the adjacent counties, the aspect of religion and morals had long been extremely low and discouraging. The established clergy were many of them notoriously profligate in their lives, and very few of them preached, or appeared to understand, the Gospel of Christ. It was under these circumstances that some pious books, or fragments of books, which fell into the hands of a few individuals, were made the means of awakening them to a concern for their eternal interest, and of commencing a work of grace, which was afterwards most powerfully and happily extended.

Boston's Fourfold State was one of these books. A few leaves of this inestimable work, which ad belonged to a pious Scot woman, fell into the hands of a wealthy planter. Being pleased and surprised at what he read, and finding the title page among the leaves, he sent a commission, with his next cargo of tobacco, to procure for him a copy of the book. He obtained it; and the more he read, the more he found himself interested in its contents; until he was brought, as there was every reason to believe, to a saving acquaintance with the truth as it is in Jesus. Another wealthy planter, Mr. Samuel Morris, of Hanover, having providentially fallen in with an old copy of Luther on the Galatians, perused it with eagerness and astonishment. He there found representations of Gospel truth, such as he had never met with before, and widely different from what he had received from the pulpit.** Deeply affected with the view of human nature, and of the way of salvation, which this work exhibits, he never ceased to read, to inquire, and to pray, until he found consolation in Christ, as the Lord his righteousness and strength. Nor was this all. It is one of the glorious distinctions of the genuine Gospel of the grace of God, that wherever its power is felt in the heart, and in proportion to the degree in which that power is felt, there will always be manifested a tender love to the souls of men, and an ardent zeal for spreading the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Not the warmth of mere party zeal; not the strange fire of bigotry and contention for modes and forms; but an affectionate desire that men may be saved, and that Christ in all things may be glorified. Such was the spirit excited in this remarkable convert. He no sooner had obtained a comfortable hope for himself, than he was filled with concern for the spiritual welfare of his neighbors. He invited them to come to his house, and to hear him read passages from the book which had been so much blessed to his own sol. They attended, particularly on the Sabbath, for this purpose. At first, and indeed for a considerable time afterwards, no other exercise than that of reading was attempted. Extemporary prayer was a thing so unknown among them, that none durst attempt it. Their whole time, when together, was employed in reading; and Mr. Morris, being an excellent reader, was enabled, to a very unusual degree, to keep up their attention. And the spirit of God visibly attended the exercise. A number of persons were seriously impressed, and some hopefully converted. In 1743, a young Scottish gentleman, having received from his friends at home a volume of Whitefield's Sermons, published a short time before, put them into the hands of Mr. Morris, who perused them himself with much profit, and soon began to read them to his assembled neighbors. The plainness and fervor of these discourses were blessed to the awakening and hopeful conversion of several persons. The curiosity of some, and the serious impressions of others, increasing, people began to meet on weekdays for this exercise, as well as on the Sabbath. In a short time Mr. Morris' house became too small to accommodate those who attended; on which he and his neighbors determined to erect a building expressly for their accommodation at these religious meetings. This building was commonly called "Morris' reading-house," and was generally crowded with hearers. The knowledge of these circumstances spreading, Mr. Morris was invited to attend, at several distant places, for the purpose of reading the books, and especially Whitefield's Sermons, which had been so acceptable and useful in his immediate neighborhood. He complied with these invitations; and thus the religious awakening and anxiety became considerably extended.

About this time Mr. Morris and his friends attracted the notice of the government. Their absenting themselves from their parish churches, contrary, as was alleged, to the laws of the land, was considered and treated as an offense. They were called upon by the court to assign their reasons for this absence, and to declare to what denomination they belonged. The latter question embarrassed them not a little. Having known scarcely any other denomination of dissenters besides Quakers; and not being aware that any body of people then on earth embraced the same opinions on the subject of religion with themselves, they were at a loss what name to assume. In this embarrassment they begged of the court a little time to retire, and determine by what name they chose to be known. After a short consultation, recollecting that Luther was a noted reformer, and that some of his works had been of peculiar service among them, they resolved to take their denomination from him; they accordingly returned into court, and declared themselves Lutherans. By this answer the members of the court were embarrassed in their turn, not finding any law or precedent which directed them how to proceed against Lutherans; and, after a little consideration, dismissed Mr. Morris and his friends without perusing their design further at the time.

Things were in this situation, when, in the year 1743, the Rev. William Robinson, a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick,# who had been ordained sine titulo, with a view of his being sent as an Evangelist to preach the Gospel on the frontier settlements, in the course of his mission, entered Virginia, and preached with considerable success in some of the more remote counties of the Colony. While he was thus employed, some young people from the neighborhood of Mr. Morris, and the children of his friends, being on a visit to that part of the country, heard him preach, and recognizing in his sermons the same doctrines which they had been accustomed to hear at the reading house, they communicated the intelligence to their parents in Hanover, who immediately dispatched two men to Cub Creek where he had been heard by their children, in search of Mr. Robinson. He had left the place, however, before the arrival of the messengers, and they were obliged to follow him a hundred miles on his journey. They at length found him, and prevailed on him to appoint a time for visiting Hanover.

At the appointed time Mr. Robinson came. He had been obliged to ride the whole of the preceding night in order to avoid disappointing the people. When he arrived at the reading-house, they were assembled in crowds, waiting for the preacher. On his appearance a scene ensued which marked at once the conscientiousness and the simplicity of the parties on both sides. Mr. Morris and his friends, though they had heard a high character of Mr. Robinson from their children and others, thought proper to be more certain as to his testimonials and his creed, before they suffered him to address the congregation which had assembled. They, therefore, took him aside, while the people waited, and not only requested to see his testimonials, which were ample; but also proceeded to examine him as to his views of the leading doctrines of the Gospel. To this Mr. Robinson submitted, not only with meekness, but with affection, and having entirely satisfied his examiners, he went into the house and began to address the people. Mr. Morris himself, to a letter to President Davies, thus describes the scene which ensued.

'On the 6th of July, 1743, Mr. Robinson preached his first sermon to us from Luke xiii. 3, and continued with us preaching four days successively. The congregation was large the first day, and vastly increased the three following. It is hard for the liveliest imagination to form an image of the condition of the assembly on these glorious days of the Son of man. Such of us as had been hungering for the word before, were lost in an agreeable surprise and astonishment, and some could not refrain from publicly declaring their transport. We were overwhelmed with the thoughts of the unexpected goodness of God in allowing us to hear the Gospel preached in a manner that surpassed our hopes. Many that came through curiosity, were pricked to the heart; and not a few in the numerous assemblies on these four days appeared unaffected. They returned alarmed with apprehensions of their dangerous condition, convinced of their former entire ignorance of religion, and anxiously inquiring what they should do to be saved. And there is reason to believe that there was as much good done by these four sermons as by all the sermons preached in these parts before or since.'

These pious people, after formally taken the names to themselves in the presence of the court, steadily called themselves Lutherans. When Mr. Robinson visited them, they inquired of him to what denomination he belonged. On his informing them that he was a Presbyterian, and laying before them the import and reasons of this denomination, the agreed to adopt it. They accordingly took the earliest opportunity of connecting themselves with the Presbytery of New Castle, which was the nearest body of that kind to the place of their residence; and ever afterwards they called themselves Presbyterians.

What too place subsequent to the short visit of Mr. Robinson at Hanover, will appear from the following continued account by Mr. Morris, in the same letter from which the former quotation was made. 'Before Mr. Robinson left us he successfully endeavored to correct some of our mistakes, and to bring us to carry on the worship of God more regularly at our meetings. After this we met to read good sermons, and began and concluded with prayer and singing of psalms, which till then we had omitted. The blessing of God remarkably attended these more private means, and it was really astonishing to observe the solemn impressions begun, or continued in many, by hearing good discourses read. I had repeated invitations to come to many places round, some of them thirty or forty miles distant, to read. Considerable numbers attended with eager attention and awful solemnity, and several were, in a judgment of charity, turned to God, and thereupon erected meeting-homes, and chose readers among themselves, by which the work was more extensively carried on. Soon after Mr. Robinson left us, the Re. Mr. John Blair paid us a visit; and truly he came to us in the fullness of the Gospel of Christ. Former impressions were ripened, and new ones made on many hearts. one night in particular a whole house full of people was quite overcome with the power of the word, particularly one pungent sentence, and they could hardly sit or stand, or keep their passions under any proper restraint. So general was the concern, during his stay with us, and so ignorant were we of the danger of apostasy, that we pleased ourselves with the thoughts of more being brought to Christ at that time, than now appear to have been, though there is still the greatest reason to hope that several bound themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten. Some time after this, the Rev. Mr. Roan was sent to us, by the Presbytery of New Castle. He continued with us longer than any of the former, and the happy effects of his ministrations are still apparent. He was instrumental in beginning and promoting a religious concern in several places where there was little appearance of it before. This, together with his speaking pretty freely about the degeneracy of the clergy in this colony, gave a general alarm, and some measures were concerted to suppress us. To incense the indignation of the government the more, a perfidious wretch deposed he heard Mr. Roan utter blasphemous expressions in his sermon. An indictment was thereupon drawn up against Mr. Roan, (though by that time he had departed the colony,) and some who had invited him to preach at their houses were cited to appear before the general court, and two of them were fined. While my cause was upon trial, I had reason to rejoice that the throne of grace is accessible in all places, and that helpless creatures can send up their desires unseen in the midst of a crowd. Six witnesses were cited to prove the indictment against Mr. Roan, but their depositions were in his favor; and the witness who accused him of blasphemy, when he heard of the arrival of Messrs. Tennent and Finley, he fled, and has not returned since; so that the indictment was dropped. But I had reason to fear being banished the colony, and all circumstances seemed to threaten the extirpation of religion among the dissenters in these parts. In these difficulties, having no person of a public charter to appear in our favor, we were determined to acquaint the synod of New York with our case. Accordingly, four of us went to the synod, May, 1745, when the Lord favored us with success. The synod drew up an address to our governor, the honorable Sir William Gooch, and sent it with Messrs. Tennent and Finley, who were received by the governor with respect, and  had liberty granted to preach amongst us. By this means the dreadful cloud was scattered for a while, and our languid hopes revived. They continued with us about a week, and though the deluge of passion in which we were at first overwhelmed, was by this time somewhat abated, yet much good was done by their ministry. The people of God were refreshed and several careless sinners were awakened. Some that had trusted before in their moral conduct, and religious duties, were convinced of the depravity of their nature, and the necessity of regeneration, though indeed there were but few unregenerate persons among us at that time, that could claim so regular a character; the most part indulging themselves in criminal liberties, and being remiss in the duties of religion, which alas! is too commonly the case still, in such parts of the colony as the late revival did not extend to. After they left us, we continued vacant for a considerable time, and kept up our meetings for reading and prayer, in several places, and the Lord favored us with his presence. I was again repeatedly presented and fined in court, for absenting myself from church, and keeping up unlawful meetings, as they were called; as they were called; but the bush flourished in the flames. The next that were appointed to supply us, were the Rev. Messrs. William Tennet and Samuel Blair. They administered the Lord's supper among us; and we have reason ever to remember it as a most glorious day of the Son of man. The assembly was large, and the novelty of the manner of the administration did peculiarly engage their attention. It appeared as one of the days of heaven to some of us; and we could hardly help wishing we could, with Joshua, have delayed the revolutions of the heavens to prolong it. After Messrs. Tennent and Blair were gone, Mr. Whitefield came and preached four or five days, which was the happy means of giving us further encouragement, and engaging others to the Lord, especially among the church people, who received the Gospel more readily from him than from ministers of the Presbyterian denomination. After his departure, we were destitute of a minister, and followed our usual method of reading and prayer at our meetings, till the Rev. Mr. Davies, our present pastor, was sent us by the Presbytery, to supply us a few weeks in the spring of 1747, when our discouragements from the government were renewed and multiplied; for, upon a Lord's day, a proclamation was set up at our meeting-house, strictly requiring all magistrates to suppress and prohibit, as far as they lawfully could, all itinerant preachers, etc. which occasioned us to forbear reading that day, till we had time to deliberate and consult what was expedient to do; but how joyfully were we surprised, before the next Sabbath, when we unexpectedly heard that Mr. Davies was come to preach so long among us, and especially that he had qualified himself according to law, and obtained the licensing of four meeting-houses among us, which had never been done before. Thus man's extremity is the Lord's opportunity. For this seasonable interposition of divine providence, we desire to offer our grateful praises, and we importune the friends of Zion to concur with us.'

*In 1618 a law was passed in Virginia which enacted, that "every person should go to church on Sundays and holy days, or lie neck and heels that night, and be a slave to the Colony the following week." For the second offense he was to be a slave for a month; and for the third, a year and a day." Stith's History, p. 148, in 1642 a law passed, which enacted that "no minister shall be permitted to officiate in the country but such as shall produce to the governor a testimonial that he hath received his ordination from some Bishop in England; and shall then subscribe to be conformable to the orders and constitutions of the Church of England; and if any other person, pretending himself to be a minister, shall, contrary to this act, presume to teach or preach, publicly or privately, the governor and council are hereby desired and empowered to suspend and silence the person so offending; and upon his obstinate persistence, to compel him to depart the country with the first convenience." Laws of Virginia, Edit. 1769, p. 3.

Several of these laws were afterwards repealed, or their penalties mitigated; but they remained severe until the revolution. We are accustomed to smile at what are called the blue laws of Connecticut; but it would be difficult to find anything in them equal to the first act above mentioned.

**It will be considered, by many, not a little remarkable, that those who loved and admired Boston's Fourfold State, (a strongly Calvinistic work,) should equally relish Luther on the Galatians; and should consider themselves as finding the same precious system of truth in both. An impression seems to have been received by multitudes, that Luther and Calvin differed materially on important points, particularly on the subject of the divine Decree, or the doctrine of sovereign Election. Nothing can be more erroneous than this impression. Excepting in the single article of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, there was the most entire harmony of opinion between these two great reformers. Those who wish to see what Luther believed on the doctrines of Predestination and Grace, would do well to consult his book De Servo Arbitrio,  in which they will find as high-toned Calvinism as was ever penned. Indeed, all the eminent reformers, were agreed on these points. The leading men among them were all doctrinal Calvinists. It is notorious, that, for a number of years, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, Calvin's Institutes was the great standard book put by authority into the hands of the students of divinity in the British universities, and considered as the foundation of their studies. This is acknowledged by Heylin and others in terms of bitterest regret. Nay, by a convocation held at Oxford, that book was recommended to the general study of the nation. Let those who deny the Calvinism of the early reformers and standards of the Church of England, impartially consult Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, the Lambeth Articles, (drawn and signed by Archbishop Whitgift, and declared by him to be true, and corresponding with the doctrines professed in the Church of England,) the writings of Hall, Davenant, and Horsely, and they will perceive and be ashamed of their mistake. But to return; it is certain that Luther was not only a strong doctrinal Calvinist, but also a Presbyterian; that is to say, he early and uniformly maintained the parity of ministers by divine right, and the scriptural authority of Presbyters to ordain. He himself, though only a Presbyter, freely ordained, at an early period of his Protestant ministry, and he did the same only a few days before his death.

#Mr. Robinson was the son of a wealthy Quaker in England. Being permitted to pay a visit of a few weeks to an aunt in the city of London, from whom he had considerable expectations he greatly overstayed the time which had been allowed him; and becoming deeply involved in the dissipations of the town, he incurred large debts, which he knew his father would never pay, and which his aunt refused to discharge. In this situation, fearing to return home, and unable to remain longer in London, he determined to quit his native country, and seek his fortune in America. In this determination his aunt reluctantly acquiesced, and furnished him with a small sum of money for the purpose. Soon after his arrival in America, he had recourse, for the subsistence, to teaching a school, in New Jersey, within the bounds of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. He had been, for some time, engaged in this business, without any practical sense of religion, when it pleased God to bring him to a knowledge of himself, and of the way of salvation, in a remarkable manner. He was riding at a late hour, one evening, when the moon and stars sone with unusual brightness, and when every thing around him was calculated to excite reflection. While he was meditating on the beauty and the grandeur of the scene which the firmament presented, and was saying to himself, 'How transcendently glorious must he the author of all this beauty, and grandeur!' the thought struck him with the suddenness and the force of lightning, 'But what do I know of this God? Have I ever sought his favor or made him my friend?' This happy impression, which proved, by its permanency and its effects, to have come from the best of all sources, never left him until he took refuge in Christ as the hope and life of his soul. He soon resolved to devote himself to the work of the Gospel ministry; completed his academical education, and studied theology, while he went on with his school; and was, in due time, licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, as above stated. Mr. Robinson was remarkable for the native vigor of his mind, and still more for the fervor of his piety. Wherever he went, it pleased God to grant him some precious fruits of his ministry. Few names in the American church rank higher than his on the scale of usefulness. He died at St. George's in Delaware, in the month of April, 1746.

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

To be continued...

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

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Relief Obtained
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

Monday, December 19, 2016

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Relief Obtained

Continued from Memoirs of Rev. David Rice (Chapter II): Further Convictions

This is from Chapter III 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.

"No son of Adam ever yet sought the Lord in vain. A high sovereignity is indeed displayed as to the time, and manner, and extent, in which prayer is answered; but he continues faithful who has promised -- not onle prayer from a penitent heart shall be forgotten, and though weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning. -- See Luxe xi. 9-18.

At the end of the two weeks mentioned above, Mr. Rice retired one evening to a secret place, to meditate on his deplorable condition, and plead for mercy. His attention was soon turned again to the fullness and suitableness of Christ as a Savior, and the display of divine perfections in the work of redemption. He saw what he appears never to have seen before, that the Savior and this plan of salvation were just such as suited him. He had been puzzled with this difficulty, 'How can that righteousness which is inherent in Christ justify a being in whom it is not inherent?' This difficulty was solved by the recollection of the words of the Savior concerning Jerusalem, 'How often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.' He considered that though the feathers were inherent in the hen, yet they were as sufficient to secure the chickens that were under her wings as if they were inherent in the chickens. So the righteousness of Christ, applied by an act of God's grace, was as sufficient to justify him in the sight of God, as if it were his own personal righteousness. He considered that though there was nothing good in himself, nor any thing good done by him, yet the faithfulness and truth of God in his word were sufficient encouragement for him to venture his all upon this Savior. Thus encouraged he endeavored on the spot to secure God's Son as his unspeakable gift. -- To lay hold of him as made unto him by God himself, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In short, that evening he in very deed received it as a faithful saying and worthy of all acception, 'That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinner, of whom he acknowledged himself the chief.'

Upon his closing with the gospel offer, the gloom under which he had labored for years, was dispelled, and a peace and tranquility were produced which he had never enjoyed before. 'I seemed,' says he 'for a while to forget myself, and to be wholly taken up with viewing the displays of divine perfections in the astonishing work of redemption.' After spending some time in these delightful experiences he returned homeward. The serenity of the night corresponded with the calmness of his mind. The great mercy of God to such miserable creatures was still the object of his admiration. He began to say, 'Shall I ever sin against so great and glorious a being any more?' But from the sense he had of human frailty, and the examples of the best men of whom he had read, he concluded that he would probably even yet become forgetful, and, through the temptations by which he was surrounded, sin against God. This thought caused him to stop several times and weep bitterly. Yet even in these tears there was a joy and a peace which he would not have exchanged for all the joy of the world. Old Testament prophecy was once fulfilled. -- See Zac. xii. 10-14, and xiii. 1.

These mixed view and mixed exercises continued with him for some months. Though he had his darkness and his doubts, they were not of the tormenting kind with which he had formerly been afflicted. Like the spouse of old, he found his beloved sometimes gone, but still he was his beloved; even his seeking and his doubts were attended with a considerable degree of confidence. His warrent to believe as a sinner was never lost sight of. And he frequently enjoyed, during this period, such confidence as may be expressed by the 'full assurance of grace.' 'This assurance,' says he, 'did not arise from any thing good in myself, but from the direct act of faith in Christ and the promises of God. I felt a comfortable persuasion that I should be supported by grace and ket by divine power through faith unto salvation. This persuasion arose not from any confidence in my own faithfulness but from an apprehension of the work of redemption in the hands of an all-sufficient Mediator. This Mediator I was fully persuaded was able to keep safely unto that day that which I had committed to his trust.

During these exercises he got such a sense of his danger of sinning, (an excellent mark of genuine faith) and dishonoring his God and Redeemer, that he was often willing and even desirous to die, that he might be beyond the reach of sinning. He had read or heard of Christians personally covenanting God, and that it ought to be done with solemn fasting and prayer. This he considered a duty and a great privilege, and felt a strong desire to join himself unto his Lord in a perpetual covenant which should never be forgotten. To perform this with the usual forms he had not time at his own disposal and he was ashamed to ask it of his father, to whom his religious exercises were unknown. -- Another excellent mark of genuine faith, -- it was humble, and modest, and calm, and just. He consequently determined to do it as well as he could at his daily labor, and in walking from place to place, and in his secret retirements. In this work he was frequently engaged for about two weeks. He endeavored in so many words to renounce the devil and all his works, the pomp and the vanities of the world, and all the lusts of the flesh. He also in express terms renounced all self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and devoted all the members of his body and all the powers of his soul, his whole man, to the service of God forever. All this he endeavored to do in the name and in the strength of Christ. 'I endeavored,' says he, 'in a particular manner to take God the Father to be my father, God the Son to be my savior, and God the Holy Ghost to be my sanctifier, my guide, my comfort, and my support. I took also that Law, which no longer appeared a galling yoke, but holy, just and good, to be the rule of my life, and the Gospel to be the support and the solace of my heart.' He adds, 'Near views of Christ and the covenant of grace were so far from removing a penitential sense of sin, that I think they greatly increased it. I looked on him whom I had pierced, and mourned for him as one mourneth for any only son, and was in bitterness for him as one is in bitterness for a first born. And all united in increasing in me a hatred of sin, and a desire after conformity to God in holiness. My heart was also expanded in benevolence towards my fellow creatures, and the love of God towards our lost race seemed not only to transport but to transform my soul into the same divine image.'

Having this in secret solemnly devoted himself to the Lord, he considered it to be at once his duty and his privilege publicly to avow himself a child of the covenant, and on the Lord's side. As opportunity soon offered, in the Lord's supper being to be be dispensed in the congregation, in the bounds of which he resided.

The Rev. John Todd had at that time become a resident in Virginia, and was stated minister in the congregation which Mr. Rice lived. Mr. Davis assisted him on the sacramental occasions. At a convenient season, previous to the administration of the ordinance, he conversed with a minister on the subject, and, according to the custom of the society, received a token of admission. On the Sabbath of the administration a sermon was preached by the pastor of the congregation on the sufferings of Christ for the redemption of mankind when he bore our sins in his own body on the tree. -- 'While the sermon was delivering,' says he, 'I felt a hardness of heart which I conceived to be inconsistent with the love and gratitude to God in which the inward exercises of religion very much consists. Hence I concluded I was not qualified to take a seat at the Lord's table.' After the sermon, which was preached out of doors, was finished, a psalm or an hymn was given out, and the intended communicants generally retired to the meeting-house, and took their seats at the table. After the singing, the boy of the congregation walked also toward the house. In the crowd Mr. Rice found himself walking close by the side of the minister from whom he had received the token of admission. He offered to return the token, intimating that he did not think he could sit down at the table. The minister refused to take it back, and told him to come with him into the house, and he would hear more of the matter. He accordingly entered, and found the minister who had preached addressing the people nearly on the same subject, observing that he who knew no sin, was made for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. On hearing this, and on seeing the intended communicants seated, 'One of the first thoughts,' says he, 'that entered my mind was, here is a number of the fallen sons of Adam seated at the table of the King of kings. The thought made me tremble from head to foot, and made my knees smite one upon another. I at the same time, however, saw a glory, and fitness, and excellency in Christ, and in the plan of salvation, which encouraged me to roll myself with all my guilt and all my moral and natural weakness and imperfection, upon his all-sufficiency, taking him for my Prophet, Priest, and King, and resting on him for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. And thus receiving an all-sufficient Savior, and thus devoting myself wholly to him, I ventured to take my seat and publicly partake of his broken body and shed blood.'

Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest, lithograph by P. S. Duval, 1801; Library
of Congress

The above forming what may be called the first period in the history of our worthy father, it may not be unprofitable to pause and make a reflection or two.

Divine sovereignty is here illustriously displayed. There were many needy and hardened and lost sinners besides young David Rice in the county of Hanover at the time referred to in these Memoirs. Yet David Rice was called, and the majority of his companions and equals in age and in wickedness were perhaps passed over. Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Sovereignty was also displayed in the length of time Mr. Rice labored under convictions. Though he was early the subject of religious convictions, and never was distinguished as an open and hardened sinner, yet years of sore trouble were endured before relief was obtained.

In the very worst of times, and under the most unfavorable circumstances, Jehovah can raise up a seed to serve his Son. When God himself gives the word, neither earth nor hell shall be able to withstand him. And the good work being begun shall be carried on till it is perfected, in spite of every difficulty. Judging after the manner of men, it was extremely improbably that the first serious impressions of Mr. Rice should end in genuine conversion. Thousands of young men at least under more favorable opportunities have made shipwreck of the faith.

What encouragement have those whose office it is to preach the Gospel of God's grace to persevere, though they should have but little visible evidence of success. It is probable Mr. Davies never knew what signal benefit he was to Mr. Rice; nor is it in the nature of things possible to calculate the good effects of that single sermon, till all who have benefited by Mr. Rice's labors are called together. Let us stand in our place and minister in the name and strength of our Master; the great day only will reveal the amount of our success.

A firm belief in the doctrines of personal and unconditional election does not necessarily lead men to be careless about the use of means for either their own salvation or the salvation of others. In Mr. Rice at least this belief produced quite the opposite effect.

Whatever may be the means which are used for the conviction and conversion of sinners, a new nature will display itself by the same marks in all men and in all parts of the world, -- a hatred of sin, an abhorrence of sin, an ardent desire of holiness, a spirit of prayer, a love for all God's ordinances, a concern for the eternal welfare of our fellow men, a low opinion of ourselves, a high opinion of Christ and the way of salvation by him; -- these are the genuine marks of a new nature; they were all displayed in Mr. Rice in that part of his history which we have been reviewing. Careless sinner, formal professor, genuine believer, try your state and your character by these.

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

To be continued...

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

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

Monday, December 12, 2016

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions

Continued from Memoirs of Rev. David Rice (Chapter I): Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions.

This is from Chapter II 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.

Having formed the resolution to persevere in seeking God in all the appointed means of his grace, Mr. Rice was careful not to lose the advantage which he had gained; knowing the treachery of his own heart, he committed it to writing, and daily carried it in his pocket, that he might always have a monitor at hand. This expedient appears to have been remarkably blest. From that time he was in a great measure preserved from his former occasional languor and indifference, and was enabled to persevere with a considerable degree of ardor and regularity in the use of the appointed means, till he was brought to discover the way of salvation through a Redeemer.

During this period he had a growing sense of the corruption of his own nature, particularly of his unbelief and hardness of heart. The two things which appeared to him the greatest wonders, were the goodness of God in the gift of his only begotten Son for the redemption of mankind, and his own ingratitude for so great a gift. He saw and felt that salvation was freely offered to him in the Gospel, and that nothing separated him from it but unbelief. "This unbelief," says he, "I viewed and felt as the greatest sin of my life, that it reflected dishonor on the greatest and best of beings, rejected the council of God against my own soul, refused the greatest and best gift of God to man, and bound the guilt of all my other sins on my conscience. I wondered that I was suffered to have a place on God's earth, to breathe his air, or enjoy any of the blessings of his providence."

He thus went for sometime with the sentence of death in his heart. To obtain relief he determined to spend the Sabbath in an old house on his father's plantation, in reading, meditation, and prayer. The day was spent in a kind of mixed exercise and mixed feeling. His wretched state was at one time the object of his meditations, and at others his mind dwelt with some considerable delight on the provisions made in the plan of salvation for perishing sinners.

Christ in the Desert, Ivan Kramskol, 1872, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow;
courtesy of Wikipedia

He sometimes thought he had a glimpse of the excellency and the preciousness of the way of salvation, and the wisdom of God in devising a method of grace that at once secured his own glory and the salvation of sinners. He saw at times so much of the beauty and excellency of the gospel plan, that his heart seemed ready to spring forward and embrace it. Then darkness and unbelief would again prevail.

He returned in the evening without having obtained any relief, and the two weeks which followed were the darkest and most distressing period of his whole life. He thought he was just on the point of being given up to the dominion of his own hardened and unbelieving heart. "I thought," said he, "I had these glimpses of punishment for my abuse of former privileges. I knew that as to outward conduct I had been more orderly than many, yet I viewed myself the most miserable sinner under heaven." No human needed now unfold unto him the import of "Cursed is everyone who continueth no in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." He felt, without the assistance of any comment, the force of the Apostle's exclamation, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death."

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

To be continued...

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

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

Friday, December 9, 2016

USS California (ACR-6)

The USS California (ACR-6) was the second ship so named in the U.S. Navy. It was an armored cruiser and the only one of the Pennsylvania cruiser class built. She was launched in 1904 by Union Iron Works of San Francisco.

She joined the 2nd Division, Pacific Fleet, and took part in a Naval review in San Francisco in May 1908. She cruised to Hawaii and Samoa in the autumn of 1909 and then operated mostly along the west coast of the United States, training and drilling her sailors.

She sailed to Hawaii in December 1911 and then in early 1912 sailed to the Asiatic Station where she joined other ships stationed in the Far East representing American power and prestige. She returned home from the Asiatic Station in August 1912 and was quickly sent to Corinto, Nicaragua, which was then in the throes of a political disturbance. Her primary objective was to protect American lives and property.

She then kept a watchful eye on Mexico, which was also suffering from political disturbances, by sailing in Pacific coastal waters. While there the USS California was involved in an international incident in which two of her crew were shot and killed.

She was renamed the USS San Diego sometime before 1915 and at one time was the flagship of the Pacific Fleet.

USS California (ACR-6) circa 1915 after she had been renamed USS San Diego;
photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

On 19 July 1918 she was sunk off Long Island by a German mine.

Alexander Muir was stationed aboard the USS California when the 1910 census was enumerated. According to his World War I draft registration card, he had served in the U.S. Navy for four years. So he likely participated in the events in Nicaragua and Mexico and perhaps the ship's initial cruise to the Far East.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Staged His Own Disappearance

Arthur Edwin Jenks disappeared on the night of 12 July 1934 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Four days later his abandoned car was found on the side of a state highway, it's left front door torn by bullets and blood stained. Deputy sheriffs learned Arthur's wife, Lillian Mabel (Koch) had filed for divorce two days before he disappeared. What happened?

Arthur was born in Elkhart County, Indiana, to Samuel Edward Jenks and Bertha "Birdie" Krontz on 31 May 1906. He grew up in Butler, Indiana, was a high school athlete and graduated in 1924. At the time of his disappearance he was 29 years old and worked for the Wabash Railroad. Before marrying Lillian, he had been married previously and had a son.

Arthur Edwin Jenks class photograph; courtesy of

His second wife, Lillian, was questioned by the deputies and told them she believed Arthur had staged his own disappearance and abandoned car to cast suspicion on her. For whatever reason the deputies believed her but came no closer to solving the mystery until late August 1934. Arthur wrote to his parents and told them he was staying with a sister in Fort Wayne.

Lillian's divorce suit was heard on 12 September 1934. The court awarded her a divorce decree and restored her maiden name. She told the court Arthur "struck and cursed her numerous times during their marriage," which lasted twenty-one months.

That wasn't Arthur's first brush with divorce. He married Bessie Irene Matson on 8 December 1926 six months after she graduated from Waterloo High School. They had a son in 1928 but divorced in February 1932 after Bessie claimed "her husband had an ungovernable temper and frequently cursed and absued her, struck and beat her." Bessie was awarded $2 a week in child support. In August 1933 Bessie was back in court attempting to receive $40 in back child support.

Article from 30 November 1931 Garrett Clipper; image courtesy of

Arthur was not finished with marriage, however. He married Elizabeth Caswell, my grandmother's first cousin on 12 May 1936 in Peru, Indiana. Elizabeth was born in Missouri to Robert Caswell and Margaret "Maggie" Muir, who was the younger sister of my great grandfather, Robert Muir. Elizabeth grew up in Danville, Illinois, where her father worked as a miner. After their marriage Arthur and Elizabeth lived in Danville. They raised two children and Arthur worked at a variety of jobs, including in the coal mines, as a state policeman, and as a dock man at Merchants' Delivery.

Arthur Edwin Jenks died 1989; Elizabeth in 1995. They were interred at Lake View Cemetery in Hertel, Wisconsin, where their daughter lived, and share a headstone.

After Bessie Irene Matson and Arthur divorced, she married Harley Earl Spence (1902-1974). After his death she married Peter William Urban (1901-1998). Bessie died 4 January 1998 and was interred at Waterloo Cemetery, Waterloo, Indiana.

Lillian Mabel Koch married Henry Clayton McKee (1900-1970) in 1941, but they divorced by 1943 when Henry married again. Lillian then married Frank Ellsworth Clouse (1891-1969). Lillian died on 14 October 1981 and was interred at White City Cemetery in Spencerville, Indiana.

The research for this story was conducted by Sarah Semple.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Memoirs of David Rice (1733-1816): Birth, Parentage and First Convictions

This is from Chapter I 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.

The Rev. David Rice was born in Hanover County, Virginia, on 29 January 1733.[1]

His grandfather, Thomas Rice, was an Englishman by birth, of Welch extraction. He was an early adventurer into Virginia. Where he spent the first part of his life is not certainly known. In the latter part of his life he owned a small plantation in the lower part of what is now called Hanover County. Here he left his wife, with nine sons and three daughters, and went to England to receive a considerable estate which had been left him, but returned no more. The sailors reported that he died at sea. It was supposed that he was assassinated. No return was ever made of the property after which he had gone, and his family were left destitute in a strange land.

A widow and fatherless children, really suffering for want of the necessaries of life, is, perhaps not to be found in the whole history of some men. "Leave thy fatherless children," said Jehovah to Esau, "I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me."

The family being left without an earthly father, were distressed, but they were in the good providence of God provided for. The greater part moved about thirty miles farther up the country, where they procured small plantations, on which they raised numerous families. Four or five of them became serious professors of religion, and were succeeded in their religious professions by a considerable number of their children.

Hanover County, Virginia, Courthouse; courtesy of Virginia Department of
Historic Resources

His father, David Rice, was a plain farmer, who having food and raiment by his daily labor, was therewith content. The spirit of speculation had not in those happy days possessed the American people. He never had any slaves, as he considered them more plague than profit. His wife was averse to it from principle; as being a traffic in human flesh, and an unjust infringement on the rights of our fellow creatures. They were both members of the established church, and taught their children the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the ten Commandments.

Mr. Rice was early the subject of religious impressions. "When I was," says he, "only six or seven years old, I often prayed in secret, and ardently desired to escape punishment and obtain happiness after death. My prayers were frequently accompanied with many tears. After having gone on in this way for perhaps two years, I began to inquire what was necessary in order to escape punishment and obtain happiness, and found that it was necessary to repent and believe. But I took my prayers and my tears to have repentance, and believing in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, according to the creed which my parents and school masters had taught me. I thought that this was faith, and consequently I was happy. This persuasion filled one with much delight, yes, I may say, with joy unspeakable. Nor were my wishes and my prayers confined to myself. I felt a deep concern for my friends and fellow creatures. For these I frequently wrestled with God, and sometimes even to an agony."

Religious instructions were not wholly neglected in the neighborhood where Mr. Rice was raised. Yet there was little or nothing of the power of religion either seen or felt. Parents required their children on Sabbath morning to clean themselves, and read a chapter or two in the holy scriptures, and after this, instead of spending the day as the Sabbath of the Lord, they met promiscuously and spent the remainder of the day in idle amusements, such as fishing, bunting, etc. etc. Those exercises were extremely agreeable to the carnal mind; but the Sabbath thus being a day of idleness or dissipation, more sin was committed or done in all the week besides.

This state of things was a great grief of mind to young Rice, and was a matter of much secret mourning.

"Truly," says he, "I had a great zeal for God, but it was not according to knowledge." There was a John Whitehead, a boy in whose welfare Mr. Rice felt deeply interested. This boy he visited early one Sabbath morning, and having stated to him, in the best manner he could, the necessity for secret prayer, meditation, and reading the Bible, he invited him to go along with him to a solitary place, and spend the day together in religious exercises. Whitehead laughed at the proposal, but proposed in his turn that if Rice would go and play at ball with him half the day, he would go and read with him the other half. Thinking the end might justify the means, Rice consented, though with considerable reluctance. The tasteless playtime having been spent, Rice renewed his suit with additional earnestness, and urged upon Whitehead his promise, but in vain. Whitehead laughed, Rice wept, caught him in his arms, and still urged his claim. The sinner became more hardened and more insulting; the tender conscience went home with a sobbing heart and eyes bathed in tears. (What became of Whitehead?) when these two men again meet at the resurrection of the just we will hear something more of this Sabbath day's work.

When he was about thirteen years of age, his father having one day broken his plough in the field, sent him to the house for a handsaw. While he was returning with the saw in his hand, he happened to stop a few minutes by the side of a stump, and without any particular design, began to saw a notch in a splinter of the stump. While thus engaged this text of scripture came with particular force on his mind, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." This convinced him that something was wanting which he had not yet experienced. What this being born again was he knew not, but supposed that it must be a change of heart from the love and practice of sin to the love and practice of holiness. "I then drew the conclusion," says he, "that I was a lost and condemned sinner, and under this conviction continued about four years without entertaining any other thought during this whole period, but dying in that state I should be undone forever. This turned my play into prayer, which I practiced from one to seven times a day, yet all this prayer and all this seriousness, I afterwards found proceeded from no higher principle than self-love. The avoiding of misery and the obtaining of happiness were the sum of my motives."

To obtain the desired relief he read the promises particularly, "Ask and and ye shall receive," "seek and ye shall find." Bet here a formidable objection presented itself. "I cannot," said he to himself, "ask without pure motives, my seeking must have something morally good in it, as humility, love of God, love to holiness, faith in Christ, etc. etc.; but my heart is carnal, is enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Therefore my prayers cannot be acceptable, but must be an abomination to the Lord." These and similar discoveries convinced him that the sinful manner of his religious performances was of itself a sufficient ground for his eternal condemnation. This conviction so discouraged him that he was almost ready to give up all, and risk the consequences. Still, however, the thought occurred to him, "Our God is a consuming fire, who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" And thus alarmed, he could not rest without continuing in the use of the means of grace.

Under these agitations he became more and more convinced that such obedience as his could not be acceptable to God, that he could not do anything to recommend himself to the divine favor, and that salvation must be a sovereign act of divine power.

The necessity of his having a new heart and a new nature, before he could ever come to God in the name of Christ, was also strongly impressed up his mind. For this he sought and most earnestly prayed, but instead of becoming better prepared for coming to Christ, he appeared to himself to be more and more unprepared. "I found," says he, "the longer sin remained in my heart the deeper root it took, and the more deeply affected all the mental powers." He appears, in fact, to have been in that state described by the apostle, Rom. vii. 8-11.

Still, however, he thought he could not come to Christ without some price in his hand. Of coming to Christ without money and without price he had no conception. Having become depraved and sinful before he was condemned, he supposed that something of spiritual life and moral rectitude, though it should be bestowed by another, must be possessed before he could come to Christ as the way, the truth and the life. Thus he labored in the fire, seeking after some preparatory qualification, till he had nearly sunk into a state of despair. At length, either by some instructions received, or by the reflections of his own mind, be was brought to the full conviction, that he must come to Christ just as he was, empty and condemned, without anything to recommend him to the divine favor arising from anything wrought in him or done by him.

He was at the same time greatly distressed on account of the corruption of his nature. Original sin, as explained in the IX Article of the church of England, was felt by him and seen by him in all its force and all its malignity. It was seen and felt by him to be the root of all actual transgression, and of itself a sufficient ground of eternal condemnation.

About the same time he became thoroughly convinced that if ever he were saved, he could be saved only by the free and sovereign grace of God. Hence, also, he became fully established in the doctrine of par-particular election, knowing of no other doctrine that could preserve him from despair. He learned the doctrine from no author, but from his own experience and the Bible. "And indeed," says he, "I cannot find to this day how any rationally convinced sinner can find any ground of encouragement in the use of the means of grace from any other doctrine. But by this doctrine I do not mean, that if we are elected we shall be saved, let us do as we will, or if we are not elected, we shall be lost let us do as we will; but I mean that God has decreed to effect salvation in the use of certain means, that he has put these means in our hands, and in the use of these means we are encouraged to hope in his sovereign mercy."

From this view of things, he was encouraged to continue in the use of the means, though sometimes, through the depravity of human nature, he became remiss and negligent.

There was a something in the means of grace, which made them always an object of his desire, though the degree of this desire was extremely fluctuating. At one time it was remarkably strong, at another time it just existed, so that he could not refrain from using them. So high a value did he put on sermons and sacramental occasions, that he frequently rose early on the Sabbath morning, baked himself a cake, which he took with him, and walked twelve or fifteen miles to the place of worship, and sometimes returned on the same day. A spirit of prayer was generally enjoyed by him at this time to a considerable degree. He prayed before, and prayed after, and prayed while he was hearing for God's blessing on his own truths, and his own ordinances. He went to meeting sometimes walking, and sometimes running, frequently praying as he went. Thus he went on for upwards of a year or eighteen months. Sometimes attending upon the public and private means of grace with a great deal of fervor, and at other times with a great deal of languor, and with something like indifference, till at length, in holy and good providence, he went to hear the Rev. Samuel Davies, whose ministry he had frequently attended without having received from it any special or direct benefit.

In this sermon however that man of God pointed out to him the road he had been traveling with more clearness than he could have done himself, and at the same time showed him the great danger to which he was exposed. "When Satan," said the preacher, "cannot induce men to renounce religion entirely and forever, he will lead them on step by step, supported by their own resolutions, until the thread of life break, and they drop into eternal ruin."

This description sunk into his very heart. "I knew it,: says he, "to be true history, and believed the dreadful consequences as pointed out would most assuredly follow. This brought me to a sad dilemma -- whether I should persevere or give it over forever. But the thought would regurn again and again.

Finally, I resolved to persevere in seeking; and if I perished I would perish on my knees.

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

To be continued...

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

[1] The birthdate on his headstone, which is located at the Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Danville, Kentucky, is 20 December 1733.

Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Justin Richard Colby, His Many Wives and a Surprise

Justin Richard Colby was born on 11 September 1882 to Jeddiah "Jed" Colby and Evaline Stephenson. Some time around 1906 he began a relationship with or married Florence (Farwell) Hamlin, daughter of Thomas Farwell and Warrnetta Kronk. She was 12 years his senior and a widow with six children by previous husband, Albert Hamlin.

In 1910 Justin and Florence lived in Chicago. With them were their three oldest children and Florence's four youngest children from her first marriage. By 1918 Justin and his family, which now included four children of his own, lived in Detroit, Michigan. In 1920 his family lived with his brother-in-law, sister, and their children.

Justin and Florence must have broken up because on 28 May 1925 he married Pauline (Sinor/Shenor) Blum Dodge in Highland Park, Michigan. She said she had been married two times previously and Justin said he had never been married. Pauline immigrated from Bohemia, which was part of the Austrian Empire as a young girl. This marriage didn't last long. Pauline was awarded a divorce on 10 November 1926 for "extreme and repeated cruelty and non-support. But Justin had already married again. On 16 April 1926 he wed Florence Aetna (McElwain) Ball in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.[1] So for the first seven months of their marriage Justin was a bigamist. At the time of this marriage, Justin lived in Chicago.

Pauline (Sinor/Shenor) Colby Divorce Record; image courtesy of

In 1930 Justin and Florence lived in Pontiac, Michigan, with Justin's youngest son by the first Florence. This relationship did not last either. On 14 September 1939 Justin was in Gate City, Virginia, marrying 36-year-old widow, Millie Virginia (Hackler) Carter. When they married, Justin said he's been married two times previously. Like his other relationships, this one was destined to be short. Minnie was granted an absolute divorce on 1 August 1939 because Justin had deserted her.

When the 1940 census was enumerated Justin was married yet again to Edith Sheets, daughter of George Washington Sheets and Esther May Canbler. and lived in Pontiac. He died on 5 April 1945 in Pontiac. But this tale of the oft-married Justin Colby had one more twist...

On October 1945, barely six month's after Justin's death, Edith married his eldest son, Jeddiah Richard Colby, who was about 16 years her junior. This marriage record had me shaking my head. It's not every day you find a woman marrying her step-son.

[1] Florence Aetna McElwain was the daughter of Hiram McElwain and Mary A. Palmer. 

Florence (Farwell) Hamlin Colby died in 1948 in Lincoln Park, Michigan
Pauline (Sinor or Shenor) Bllum Dodge Colby Rhead died in 1960 and was interred in Napoleon, Michigan.
Florence Aetna (McElwain) Ball Colby died in 1968 in Ashland, Ohio.
Millie Virginia (Hackler) Carter Colby Stacy died in 1987 in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Edith (Sheets) was born about about 1889 or 1890; I do not know when she died.

Justin Richard Colby is not related to me. Millie Virginia (Hackler) Carter Colby Stacy was the wife of a third cousin once removed of my cousin's husband.