Monday, February 6, 2017

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Character of Some of the First Preachers in Kentucky

Continued from the Memoirs of Rev. David Rice:  State of Religion in Kentucky.

This is from Chapter X 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.

Of his first laborers 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 prespect indeed a pious mind. Like priest, like people -- 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 two Methodist preachers came to the country, who though they were rather passionate in their address, 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, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, etc., etc. 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 ready to cry out passionately, O, for the Tennets, the Blairs, and the Davieses, to come and preach to us in Kentucky!"

About this time an old disciple, Mr. Gano, of the Baptist 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 hear 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 neighborhood a second and a third time, and still in the same spirit. To me he appeared as one of the ancient Puritans* risen 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 from 1784-85 remarkably different from the state of society to which Mr. Rice had been accustomed for ten or fifteen years among the Peaks of Otter. In Kentucky both preachers and people, even those of them who were pious, assumed a new character, from the fact of their having been thrown into a new situation. And some time was necessary for those who where of similar habits and similar tempers to form a profitable acquaintance.

But with all these and similar allowances it must be remembered that the want of regular ordinances, particularly the want of regular Sabbath sanctification, the being removed from under the eye of those under whose inspection we formed our religious character, and the being not actually under the influence of the government and discipline of the church; these facts, wherever they exist, have a most unhappy influence upon both preacher and people -- upon those who have made a profession of religion, and upon those who have never made any profession -- and these were likely the causes which produced the effects of which Mr. Rice complained.

*The term Puritan was first used as a term of reproach. It has however ceased to carry with it anything but respect and affection with all who have the least affection for evangelical truth. The Puritans were a set of pious men, and were a faithful propagators of the gospel as ever adorned the British nation. They were the first settlers of New England.

To be continued...

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

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

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: State of Religion in Kentucky
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: He Moves to Kentucky
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: His Comfort and Success among the Peaks of Otter
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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