Monday, January 16, 2017

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: His Comfort and Success among the Peaks of Otter

Continued from the Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Scene of his First Labors.

This is from Chapter VII 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 general commission is, "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" -- and while a variety of circumstances may forbid this or the other servant of the cross to preach the gospel in this or the other city or district, the call may be very express from some other quarter, "come over and help us." It was so with father Rice. -- He left the people of his first charge with great reluctance. He was at least two or three years before he could see very distinctly in what particular region his Master would be again pleased to employ him. He was, however, during that period of suspense, employed in his Master's work as opportunity offered; and at last he found that souls were to be saved, and the church of the living God edified, even by his labors.

Bedford county, Virginia, was then a frontier. The inhabitants were a mixed race, from nearly all parts of the world, and of nearly all religious denominations. -- No messenger of salvation had as yet settled among them, nor had the message itself been often proclaimed in that region. Thither Mr. Rice removed and settled, and took the charge of three congregations -- one of which was five, another eleven, and another twenty-five miles from the place of his residence.

Here he labored for thirteen years and a half, with some considerable appearance of success. Times of refreshing came at least occasionally from the Lord, when old professors were revived and animated with the vigor of youth, and instances of fresh awakening among the people occurred.

The Peaks of Otter, which was the congregation twenty-five miles from his residence, appeared to be more especially visited. In that place a seriousness and attention to religious exercises commenced, which lasted, with very little abatement, for ten years. The divine influences felt were not like a plentiful shower, but they were as a continual dropping in a rainy day. Here he spent a considerable portion of his time very agreeably. Perhaps, all circumstances considered, he enjoyed more comfort during this period in this place, than ever he enjoyed any where else. The evenings, in places where he lodged, were peculiarly delightful. The house at which he put up was carefully marked and without any previous appointment for that purpose, the most of those in the neighborhood, who were under serious impressions, would collect there. Religious conversation, interspersed with songs of praise, was as naturally introduced and continued as the ordinary chitchat of ordinary meetings of Christians commonly so called, is introduced and continued. The subjects of conversation were usually such as the following. What is the difference between conviction of sin and mere terror of conscience? What is the evidence of true evangelical repentance, and how is it to be distinguished from false repentance? What is the difference between true love to God and the Redeemer, and self-congratulation of which hypocrites may be the subjects? What is the difference between true love of the brethren and that which arises from self-love and party spirit? &tc. &tc. &tc. These questions Mr. Rice endeavored to explain and solve, and in doing so patiently heard whatever remarks or inquires any persons thought fit to make. At a convenient hour, the small and attentive, and every way interesting assemblies, were dismissed by prayer and the pastoral blessing.

Peaks of Otter Presbyterian Church founded in 1761; photograph by Rev. Ken

Their public assemblies during this period commonly consisted of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Baptists, who were pretty numerous, and Methodists, who then were few. All these denominations attended Mr. Rice's public ministrations with peace and friendship, with very little appearance of party spirit. Considerable reason was given to hope that God was glorified, and the souls of the people edified. There were commonly added at each communion, which was twice a year, from six to fifteen new members, some of whom had been old hardened sinners, but who had been made to bow to the scepter of the Prince of peace. Others, and the greater number, were young people rising up or settling in the world. The doctrines of the cross, which have always been the wisdom and the power of God to the salvation of many, appear to have been the great instrument by which men were added to the church under Mr. Rice's administration. "I do not recollect," says he, "that I ever attempted to made a proselyte, and seldom heard of any attempt of that kind being made by any denomination in these parts."

By the blessing of heaven on the faithful labors of his servant, the three congregations so increased, that the sphere of labor was too extensive for one man, even could they all have met in one place of worship. He, therefore, first gave up one of the congregations below, and then the other, and continued his attention to the Peaks of Otter.

It is to be added, that these people were faithful and punctual in fulfilling their pecuniary engagements with their pastor -- that the gospel continues among them and is supported by them still -- and that sometime after Mr. Rice's removal from them they were blessed with a considerable revival, a number of the subjects of which attributed their first serious impression to his preaching.

It is also to be remarked, that the period of Mr. Rice's residence among those people was during the war of the revolution, and that while many of the servants of God in the cities and on the sea coast were driven from their flocks by the unnatural invasion of the British troops, Mr. Rice was in the full, and successful, and uninterrupted discharge of the duties of the pastoral office. The mountains brought forth peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness.

To be continued...

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: Scene of His First Labors
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 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

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