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ORIGINAL SKETCH

Character of the Early American Baptist Preachers

Part III

In the year 1766, when the first Association in Virginia, was organized, among the persons assembled on the occasion were the Fristoes, Daniel and William, who afterwards made so distinguished a figure in the history of the Virginia Baptists, and who were at that time young disciples. William Fristoe, who entered into his rest but a few months ago, related an anecdote that illustrates the spirit of those times. The meeting above mentioned, was held at Ketocton meeting house, Loudon county, about 60 miles from Chappawamsic, the residence of the Fristoes. Notwithstanding this distance they remained at the meeting until the afternoon of the day preceding that on which they judged it necessary for them to be at home. To reconcile the claims of business with those of religion, they resolved to travel the whole of the intervening night; and, accordingly, a company of them set out, cheering the darkness and wearisomeness of the way with animated talk of the love of Jesus. About the middle of the night, when they were also near the middle of their journey, one of their number, older than the rest, was about to be parted from them, because his home lay in a different direction. At his proposal they alighted from their horses, and, having tied them to the boughs of the trees, they gathered into a group in the midst of the spreading forest; and kneeling upon the ground, they poured forth the overflowings of their hearts, in devout prayer to Him who saw and heard amidst the shades of night and the solitude of the wood. When at the call of the aged disciple, they had all prayed in succession, he arose and laid his hands upon their head, encouraged them, gave them his parting blessing, and bade them press on in the ways of the Lord. Having received his benediction, the young disciples pursued their journey, and reached their homes just as the sun had commenced his way through the sky.

Another anecdote, related by William Fristoe, who survived his brother Daniel many years, shows the sources of ingenuity possessed by the latter, whose ministerial career, though short, was remarkably successful. The surviving brother, being himself a careful and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, though he related the anecdote with much pleasure, by no means recommended a licentious freedom in spiritualizing the Divine Word. During a public meeting, two preachers were appointed to preach to the same congregation on the same evening, the last of whom was Daniel Fristoe. It so happened that the first preacher delivered a tedious and uninteresting discourse. Daniel perceived that the congregation were weary, and was sensible that his labor would be in a great measure lost, unless he could, by some expedient, rouse and fix their attention. He therefore, upon rising, proposed to dismiss the congregation, that the weary might retire, suggesting at the same time, that if there were any who felt themselves sufficiently free from fatigue to remain, he would address them after the others had withdrawn. He moreover proposed, for the satisfaction of those who might go, to tell them the text from which he designed to speak: and, accordingly opening the book of Judges, he read a portion respecting Sampson and the foxes: He then paused for the congregation to retire, but in vain, for the hearers were rivetted [sic] to their seats, and were all attentive to hear what could be said about Sampson and the foxes. A rigid expounder of Scripture, such as William Fristoe was, would have perceived very little Gospel in this historical narrative; but the inventive genius of Daniel was at no loss to find occasion for discourse concerning his Saviour. Under the figure of Sampson the strong, he exhibited Him who is the power of God; and he pointed out parallel circumstances in their birth, their exploits, and their victories, at death. Under the figure of the foxes, he pourtrayed [sic] the Ministers of the Gospel, wild by nature, but tamed and brought into the service of the Redeemer by his invincible power, and sent forth, two and two, with the craftiness of foxes, though with the harmlessness of doves. From the tying of the foxes to each other, he inferred the agreement and affection that should subsist between gospel ministers. The fire-brands between their tails, the burnt harvest of the Philistines, and their consequent starving poverty, were to the lively imagination of the preacher, instructive emblems of the terrors of the law, with which Christ's ministers are armed, the destruction of a sinner's self righteous hopes, and the miserable poverty to which he is reduced, when he is brought at length to lie a helpless suppliant at the Redeemer's feet. This exposition was followed by a most animated exhortation. No man slept; but the hearts of many were moved, and God blessed the truth which was brought to view in this extraordinary and ingenious discourse.

The early ministers insisted much upon vital religion; and many of them stated and defended the doctrines of grace with clearness and ability, and opposed strenuously that charity, falsely so called, which confounds truth and error, religion, and irreligion. This conduct often brought upon them the charge of narrow bigotry, from which they at times defended themselves both with argument and eloquence. Jeremiah Moore, once exposed the falseness of that professed liberality, with the want of which he was upbraided in the following pithy manner. 'That charity,' said he, lifted up a small pocket bible from which he had taken his text, and exhibiting it to the view of his congregation in all the narrowness of its dimensions, 'That charity which is wider than this bible, is hypocrisy!'

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[Taken from The Columbian Star and Christian Index,, W. T. Brantly, editor, Philadelphia, July 25, 1829, pages 49-50. From a Microfilm at the Steeley Library, Northern Kentucky University. jrd]

 
 
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