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BY RICHARD BEARD, D. D.
PRESIDENT OF CUMBERLAND COLLEGE, AT PRINCETON, KENTUCKY.

Near the close of the last century a great revival of religion occurred in the western country. The first indications of it appeared in May, A. D. 1797, in Kentucky, in Gaspar River Congregation, under the ministry of the Rev. James McGready. Mr. McGready was a pupil of the Rev. Dr. McMillan, the founder of Jefferson College. After having completed his course of studies, preparatory to the ministry, he spent some time in North Carolina, where he preached the gospel with great power and success. In 1796 he removed from North Carolina and settled in Kentucky, in charge of the congrega.. tions of Gaspar river, Red river, and Muddy river. Soon after his settlement in these congregations, in consequence of what he considered the deplorable state of religious feeling and practice among the people of his charge, he proposed to them the following preamble and covenant :

When we consider the reward and promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith, to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow-men. None ever went to Christ when on earth, with the case of their friends, that were denied; and although the days of his humiliation are ended, yet, for the encouragement of his people, he has left it on record, that where two or three agree on earth to ask in prayer believing, it shall be done. Again, •Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer,hearing God for the outpouring of his Spirit, that his people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children and sinners, generally, may be converted. Therefore we bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month, for one year, as a day of fasting and prayer

for the conversion of sinners in Logan county, and throughout the world. We also engage to spend half an hour every Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and half an hour every Sabbath morning at the rising of the sun, in pleading with God to revive his work."*

To this preamble and covenant the pastor and the principal men)bers of his congregations affixed their names. Having thus solemnly pledged themselves to God and to each other, they betook themselves to fervent and persevering prayer. In May following, A. D. 1797, appeared the beginnings of the great and gracious revival. The first cases of seriousness and conversion occurred in the Gaspar river congregation. In September 1798, the congregations of Red river and Muddy river participated to some extent in the work. In the following year the work developed itself in increasing interest and power, but was still confined to Mr. McGready's three congregations. In 1800 it extended itself into what was then called the Cumberland country, and manifested itself in great power in Shiloh congregation, which was under the pastoral care of the Rev. Wm. Hodge. Large meetings began to be held in different parts of Kentucky and the Cumberland country, mainly superintended by the Rev. Messrs. James McGready, Wm. Hodge, and Wm. McGee. On these occasions it was customary for families to attend from a distance of many miles, sometimes twenty, fifty, and even a hundred. As a matter of convenience many went in their wagons, carried their provisions, and lodged upon the ground, either in their wagons, or in temporary cloth tents. This was the origin of camp meetings.

The original and most efficient promoters of the revival were Presbyterian ministers, and a large proportion of the population of Kentucky and Tennessee, were emigrants from Virginia and the Carolinas, and were under the influence of Presbyterian partialities. As a matter of course, the revival created a demand for an increase of Presbyterian ministers. The calls for ministerial labour were constant and multiplying. In this state of things a suggestion was made to the revival ministers by the Rev. David Rice, (then the most aged Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, and considered the father of the church in the West,) that they should select from the churches men of piety and promise, and encourage them to prepare for the work of the ministry, although they might not have, and might not be able to obtain, that amount of education required by the book of discipline. It was thought that the wants of the congregations required a resort

* History of the Christian Church, by the Rev. James Smith, pp. 565, 566.

to the use of extraordinary means. Accordingly, three men, Alexander Anderson, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King, were encouraged to prepare written discourses, and present themselves before the Transylvania presbytery, at its sessions in the fall of 1801. They were men of undaunted piety, and of very respectable intelligence, and had already been useful in promoting the revival. When their case was brought before the presbytery, the measure met with strong opposition. They were permitted, however, to read their discourses privately to Mr. Rice, who reported favourably; and they were then encouraged to catechize and exhort in the vacant congregations, and prepare discourses to be read at the next sessions of the presbytery. At the subsequent meeting of the presbytery, Mr. Anderson was received as a candidate for the ministry; the others were rejected, but continued as catechists and exhorters. In the fall, however, of 1802, they were all licensed as probationers for the holy ministry, having adopted the confession of faith of the Presbyterian Church, with the exception of the idea of fatality, which seemed to them to be taught in that book under the mysterious doctrines of election and reprobation.

At the first sessions of the Kentucky synod, held in October 1802, the Transylvania presbytery was divided, and the Cumberland presbytery was formed, including the Green river and Cumberland countries. This presbytery met on the 5th day of April, 1803, and was composed of the following ministers: Thomas B. Craighead, T. Templin, John Bowman, Samuel Donnel, James Balch, James McGready, Wm. Hodge, Wm. McGee, John Rankin, and Samuel McAdam. The first five were considered opposers, the others were promoters of the revival. In the course of the year, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Ewing were ordained, several young men were licensed as probationers for the ministry, and some were received as candidates. At the spring meeting of the presbytery in 1804, the members opposed to the revival objected to Mr. Ewing's being invited to a seat, on the ground of illegality; but the objection was overruled by a large majority. In June of this year, Mr. King was ordained, and in the course of the year a few licensings occurred.

At the sessions of the Kentucky synod in October, 1804, a letter of remonstrance against the proceedings of the Cumberland presbytery was presented, signed by Thomas B. Craighead, Samuel Donnel, and James Bowman. After some discussion, an order was passed, “ That the parties, both complained of and complaining, be cited to appear at the next stated session of the synod, with all the

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light and testimony on the subject that can be afforded."* In June following, Messrs. Samuel Hodge, Thomas Nelson, and William Dickey were ordained.

At the session of the Kentucky synod in October, 1805, none of the members of the Cumberland presbytery were present, except Rev. Messrs. Samuel Donnel and William Dickey. Their book of records, however, was presented by Mr. Donnel, and a committee appointed to examine it. From the report of the committee, a commission was appointed by the synod, and vested with full synodical powers, to confer with the presbytery, and adjudicate upon their proceedings. The commission was composed of the following members: Rev. Messrs. John Lyle, John P. Campbell, Archibald Cameron, Joseph P. Howe, Samuel Rennels, Robert Stuart, Joshua L. Wilson, Thomas Cleland, and Isaac Tull, and Messrs. William McDowell, Robert Brank, James Allin, James Henderson, Richard Gaines, and Andrew Wallace, elders. The commission met, according to appointment, on the third day of December, 1805, at Gaspar river meeting-house. All the implicated members of the Cumberland presbytery were present: Rev. Messrs. James McGready, William Hodge, William McGee, John Rankin, and Samuel McAdam; also, Rev. Messrs. Finis Ewing, Samuel King, Thomas Nelson, and Samuel Hodge, who had been ordained by the presbytery, and Hugh Kirkpatrick, James B. Porter, Robert Bell, David Foster, and Thomas Caehoon, who had been licensed as probationers, and Robert Guthrie, Samuel K. Blythe, and Samuel Donnel, who had been received as candidates. On the third day of their sessions the commission passed the following resolution :

“On motion, resolved, that the commission of synod do proceed to examine those persons irregularly licensed, and those irregularly ordained by the Cumberland presbytery, and judge of their qualifications for the gospel ministry.”

To this requisition the members of the presbytery refused to submit, alleging that “ they had the exclusive right to examine and license their own candidates, and that the synod had no right to take them out of their hands."

On the fourth day of their sessions, the commission passed an additional resolution,"adjuring them to submit to the authority which God had established in his church, and with which the commission was clothed.” After consultation, and prayer for divine direction, the members of the presbytery still refused. The commission then called on the

History of the Christian Church, by the Rev. James Smith, p. 569.

young men, respecting whose advancement to the ministry the difficulty had originated, to submit to a re-examination. It was requested that they might be permitted to retire and ask counsel of the Most High. To this request objections were made, but it was at length granted. After retirement and prayer they still refused to submit to a re-examination, assigning as their reasons, “ That they considered the Cumberland presbytery a regular church judicatory, and competent to judge of the faith and ability of its candidates ; that they themselves had not been charged with heresy or immorality, and if they had, the presbytery would have been the proper judicature to call them to an account.” Whereupon the commission passed a resolution, prohibiting all those who had been licensed and ordained, in what they considered an irregular manner, from exhorting, preaching the gospel, or administering the ordinances of the church, in consequence of any authority which they had derived from the Cumberland presbytery, until they submitted to the jurisdiction of the commission of synod, and underwent the requisite examination. This resolution was considered unconstitutional, and of course null and void.

As soon as the commission dissolved, the members of the Cumberland presbytery, who had been friendly to the revival, formed themselves into a council, for the purpose of trying to keep themselves and their congregations together until their difficulties could be settled by the proper judicatures of the church. They still preached, administered the ordinances, and held occasional meetings for conference; but transacted no presbyterial business. In the meantime, their labours were abundantly blessed in promoting the kingdom of Christ, and turning the western wilderness into a fruitful field.

In the spring of 1807, the council drew up an able and very respectful letter of remonstrance to the General Assembly. To this letter the assembly replied, " That as the council had not come regularly before that body by appeal, they did not consider themselves called on judicially to decide on their case.”

In the spring of 1808, the council sent a petition to the General Assembly praying for the interference of that body in their behalf. The assembly replied to the petition, " That, as the matter had not been brought up to them by appeal from the Synod of Kentucky, they could give no relief; but must refer the petitioners to the synod itself, as the only constitutional body competent to reverse what they had done wrong."* They were encouraged, however, by private

* Smith's History of the Christian Church, p. 628.

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