In September, 1854, we left the kind home of my dear sister and returned to Jasper county, Illinois, where my father had been called to put off his Christian armor about three years before. My membership remained in the old home church by my request. Perhaps twenty or more brethren and sisters were holding church letters, who had immigrated from Indiana, and they would importune me to speak at their frequent meetings, but I refused because of my long distance from the watch-care of the home church. Moreover, my fleshly mind again resisted my impressions to speak to the people in the name of the Lord, and I had stoutly resolved to resume the study of medicine. For I had persuaded myself that the Lord had not called me to preach the gospel, so incompetent and unfit was I, and so I had laid aside the Bible and taken up the medical text-books.
Thus time went on, and I seemed to be making satisfactory progress in the way of my own choosing and flattered myself that I should succeed. I had reasoned with myself that it was only a waste of time for me to study the Scriptures with the idea of expounding them, because I could do no good in the ministry, while as a physician I might be useful. I did not see then how ambitious, self-willed and stubborn I was, nor how short-sighted and faithless.
But one evening, near the approach of winter, I took up off the center table the medical book which I was so perseveringly reviewing and turned to sit down, when my eyes were riveted to the Bible on the table; conflicting emotions filled my heart and I stood irresolute and trembling; but the conflict was short, for the power of the Word asserted itself in my heart, and as a subdued child I laid down the coveted book, took up the dear Book of books, which was the more precious now for having been neglected. Thus ended my medical reading for all that winter, for the Bible had become my dearest text-book. So I learned, with Jeremiah, "that the way of man is not in himself."
The spring of 1855, it was in the hearts of ten of us to send to our home churches in Indiana, and ask them to send their Elders and Deacons to constitute us into a gospel church. Accordingly, a goodly number of our beloved ministers and brethren came, among them Elders Asa Nay and Ransom Riggs, and the Conn's Creek church sent to me by her messengers a letter in full fellowship to enter into the new church. But dear Elder McQueary came not with them, for the Lord had taken him to Himself.
On Saturday, May 18, 1855, we submitted to the faithful Council our church letters, articles and rules, and they cordially received us as a gospel church, known as "The Hickory Creek Regular Baptist Church of Christ," and gave us the right hand of fellowship.
Of those ten seven have fallen asleep, and of all the dear messengers of the churches who thus received and comforted us, not one remains. They had been the beloved companions of my father, and with him they rest from their labors; and, also nearly all the ministers whom I knew in the beginning of my ministry.
My trials in the ministry now began anew and in earnest, of which I cannot speak at length, only to say that they were measured to me in the infinite wisdom and mercy of God, and that trials and afflictions are the common heritage of the Lord's servants. "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." This is the Divine plan and end, and it is to the glory of God.
The first year of the infant church was a time of severe trial, and no one was added to it. But after the night of weeping, then cometh joy in the morning; for the Master came and said: "Peace be unto you." He gave us joy and gladness, and greatly revived and built us up in the power and comfort of His grace. The second year fifteen, I think, were added by baptism and numbers by letter; the presence of the Lord was often felt in our worshipping assemblies, and we grew in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
The brethren now became urgent for my ordination to the full work of the gospel ministry, but I felt that it would be premature, and plead with them against it. For I could not yet feel satisfied that the Lord had put me in the ministry, and it seemed too great and sacred a work for me; therefore I looked for the time to come in the near future when I could and should quite trying to preach. Moreover, I feared the brethren wanted me ordained as a matter of convenience, as we had to frequently send to Indiana for a minister to come and baptize our added members; but they kindly assured me that they were satisfied the Lord had called me to the work and felt it their duty to have me ordained to it, or set apart. And so, with fear and trembling, I yielded; for I could not obstinately resist the church. Accordingly, nearly the same Elders and Deacons who pronounced us the church of Christ again convened in solemn Council with the church the second day of January, 1857, and by laying on of hands and prayer ordained me to the full work of the gospel ministry. The ministers officiating were Elders Riggs, Nay and Jackson (who had himself been recently ordained).
The Lord's good work of grace still went on in our midst, and there was much comfort in the church; for believers in Jesus were frequently baptized and added to it. Many of them were heads of families, influential and worthy; some of their children were also gathered into the fold. My eldest brother, Mordecai, was received on his letter from our old home church (Conn's Creek), and his wife by baptism. The wives of my brothers John, Amos, Johnson and Joseph, and my last named three brothers were all baptized and added to our company in process of time. At the time of my ordination dear Elder Nay baptized sisters Sophia Broderick and Rachel Bartley (John's wife) and our brother Joseph. The thermometer was below zero, and after cutting away the thick ice the water had to be stirred to prevent its freezing; yet there was no harm. This showed strong faith and warm hearts. Later on it was my privilege to baptize my brother John's eldest son, James, the second wife of my brother Amos, my brother Joseph's wife and her sister, and a sister of my brother Mordecai's wife, besides many others. Still later I baptized for this church also the eldest son of my brother Johnson, Marion and his wife and her two sisters.
Many, very many, of all those loved ones have gone on before me to appear with Christ in His glory at the resurrection of all the redeemed – of which gospel baptism is the type and pledge – when death shall be swallowed up in victory. Of my brothers and their wives, Joseph and wife and the wife of Amos only are left, and my nephew, Jimmy, long since fell asleep in Jesus – two, also, of my own little family of four; first our sunny baby boy, when nearly twenty-one, Willet Tyler, and two days later his mother. That they all died in the Lord and live with Him, I have the comforting assurance; and, in the same cemetery with my father, they rest from their labors. A little while before our noble son closed his eyes his brother, Gilbert, asked him: "Tyler, do you feel that Jesus is with you?" He raised and clapped his hands, a heavenly smile lighted up his face and he said, "Yes, and that is why I am so happy."