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he rose and addressed the congregation: 'I partly promised the devil, a few days past, at the courthouse, that I would not preach in this county again in the term of a year. But the devil is a perfidious wretch, and covenants with him are not to be kept; and, therefore, I will preach.' He preached a lively, animating sermon. The court never meddled with
These details concerning Samuel Harriss have been given for the two-fold purpose of showing the extreme activity of the Baptist missionaries in these years, and of illustrating the way in which the attacks upon these itinerant preachers began. In his own county, where he was known and respected, Harriss seems never to have been molested. The social element was in his favor. Thus, it is related of him that he wished to preach to the officers and soldiers. opportunity offered in Fort Mayo, and Mr. Harriss began his harangue, urging most vehemently the necessity of the new birth. In the course of his harangue, an officer interrupted him, saying: " Colonel, you have sucked up much eloquence from the rum cask to-day. Pray give us a little, that we may declaim as well when it comes to our turn." Harriss replied: "I am not drunk," and resumed his discourse. He had not gone far before he was accosted by another in a serious manner, who, looking in his face, said:
Sam, you say you are not drunk; pray, are you mad, then? What the devils ails you?" Colonel Harriss replied, in the words of Paul: "I am not mad, most noble gentleman." " Away from home, however, Harriss did not meet with the same courtesy from individuals. Indeed, it is evident that at first the masses of the people were opposed to the Baptists and feared them. The presence of the rabble is shown by the kind of attack made upon them. Some illustrations may make plainer the temper of the times. Speaking of the early work of the Regular Baptists in Northeastern Virginia, Semple says: "Sometimes when the
Semple, ibid., 282.
Semple, ibid., 381.
preachers came to a place for the purpose of preaching, a
dread of hell-fire and eternal damnation, or they leaped Covaulting
into the air with ecstatic shouts at the glory of their newfound salvation. We see here a frame of mind like that of Bunyan when he heard voices warning him, or like that of Balfour of Burley, with sharp sword out, lunging against
Semple, 20, 185, 382, 309, 357, 413: Fristoe, passim.
Leland, p. 105.
Semple, 320, note.
the very devil himself." We seem, as we read, to be on the verge of slipping back into the Middle Ages; of seeing again the sailors of Columbus on their knees as they chant the Gospel of John to ward off the oncoming water-spout; of witnessing the dancing mania reproduced, or of hearing again the enthusiastic shouts of the Crusading multitudes: "Noel! Noel! God wills it!" In truth, many of these people were but little removed from the Middle Ages in the intensity of their religious emotion and belief. The miraculous became to them the commonplace of God's chosen ones, and the commonplace became miraculous."
21 Cf. Sir Walter Scott, " Old Mortality," ch. 43, and notes.
Objection XIV. Against making a Noise, etc., under Preaching. You pretend to stick very close to the word of GOD, to be sure! But where, I pray ye, do you read of such noisy meetings! What loud crying! What jumping up! What falling down! What roaring, schreeching, screaming! Does the Holy Scripture countenance such wild disorder? . . . .
Answer. As these horrid vociferations and obstreperous commotions, mentioned in the objection, never were the effect of my preaching, nor are approved of by our churches, as any part of religion; I am no ways obliged to vindicate any or all of them. However, being it is cast upon the poor Baptists as an odium peculiar to us, I shall give a short history of this modern phenomenon, as follows:
The first appearance of it was under the preaching of the Rev. George Whitefield, a noted priest of the Church of England, who died two or three years ago, near Boston in New England. From him certain Presbyterians catched the fire, and zealously fanned the flame for some years. At last it kindled among some Baptists, where it continues burning to this day. Now, whether this fire is celestial or terrestrial, or of what nature it is, as I pretend not to know, I shall not undertake to determine. Those who think it is of GOD, are the fittest to defend it. They are of age, ask them, they shall speak for themselves. I confess I can find no account of it in the word of GOD."
Thomas, The Virginian Baptist, 63.
Evidently Thomas, and we may suppose the Regular Baptists generally, disapproved of the warm and enthusiastic " meetings of the Separates.
I remember being greatly impressed some years ago by the remark of a young Swedish poet then visiting this country that among the things which seemed most strange to him were the absence of the folk songs and hymns and the presence of the (to
But those who were not swept along by this tide of emotion were both alarmed and angered by hope so exalted, by despair so abject, by zeal so intrusive. To many the very name Baptist was terrifying. They were thought to be sacrilegiously cruel in neglecting the baptism of their children, their own flesh and blood; and they were dreaded as monstrous beings. . . . In the early part of my ministry," says Benedict, "a very honest and candid old lady, who had never been far from her retired home, said to me in a very sober tone: 'Your society are much more like other folk than they were when I was young. Then there was a company of them in the back part of our town, and an outlandish set of people they certainly were. For yourself would say so if you had seen them. As it was told to me, you could hardly find one among them but what was deformed in some way or other. Some of them were harelipped, others were blear-eyed, or hump-backed, or bowlegged, or clump-footed, hardly any of them looked like other people. But they were all strong for plunging, and let their poor ignorant children run wild, and never had the seal of the covenant put on them." " "
With these things-strange to us-in mind, we can better understand why a woman should be whipped by her husband for being baptized by the Rev. John Leland, and why an ex-captain should draw his sword to kill Leland as he preached." We can better understand, too, the feeling on
him) astonishing exhibitions of religious emotion witnessed in our camp-meetings and revivals. Of the last he wanted an explanation. I had none to offer. Matthew Arnold, in his essay On the Study of Celtic Literature," maintains that this emotional religion of the English, as compared with the other Teutons, is due to the Celtic element. Perhaps some historico-philological Matthew Arnold in our midst may find in the sources of Virginia colonization and in the names of the early Virginia Baptists and Presbyterians some evidence of a Celtic influence present in those surprising revivals.
Cf. Matthew Arnold, On the Study of Celtic Literature, v, p. 94.
Benedict, Fifty Years, 92 ff.
Leland, Writings, 20, 27, etc.
the Baptist side that the avenging arm of the Lord was with them. Thus a child of Satan, a landlord, opened his house apparently to Leland's preaching but really to make money out of the crowds gathered to listen. Swiftly the wrath fell on him. Some weeks afterwards... I saw the landlord's chimney standing but the house consumed by fire. When I saw it, my heart burst out in sacred language, Righteous art thou, Lord God Almighty, because thou hast judged thus!"" Upon another occasion, "Robert Ware was preaching, there came one Davis and one Kemp, two sons of Belial, and stood before him with a bottle and drank, offering the bottle to him, cursing him. As soon as he closed his service, they drew out a pack of cards and began to play on the stage where he had been standing, wishing him to reprove them, that they might beat him." Now mark the sequel. "It is worthy of note that these two men both died soon after, ravingly distracted, each accusing the other of leading him into so detestable a crime."" The offence shows the popular feeling against the Baptist preachers; the punishment shows that the feeling has veered around in favor of the Baptists. So, too, when James Ireland was in jail in Culpeper county, "they attempted to blow him up with gunpowder, but the quantity obtained was only sufficient to force up some of the flooring of his prison. The individual who led in this infamous conduct was, shortly after, in a hunting excursion, and, while asleep in the woods, bitten by a mad wolf, of which wound he died in the most excruciating pain. There was also an attempt made by Elder Ireland's enemies to suffocate him by burning brimstone, etc., at the door and window of his prison. A scheme was also formed to poison him, but the mercy of God prevented."" We see the popular myth-making imagination in full swing here, and, as in the case cited above, on the Baptist side. The
25 Leland, 23. Semple, 20, and note. "J. B. Taylor, Virginian Baptist Ministers, 1st Series, 3d Edition, 1860, p. 120.