Dear Brother Beebe: – Having for a considerable time had a strong desire to visit the brethren of the Licking Particular Association of Kentucky, whom I had learned to love for the Truth’s sake, I left my home on Saturday before the fourth Sunday in August, for the purpose, by divine permission, of attending the recent session of that Association, and of visiting other places as well.
I spent the fourth Sunday in August pleasantly with the brethren in Baltimore, Washington and Alexandria. The cities, as you are aware, are within a short distance of each other, and I visited all three upon the fourth Sunday, commencing at Baltimore. The Lord, I trust, has a remnant “according to the election of grace” at each place, preserved there by His protecting care, and unlimited power, amidst the religious errors and delusions which sweep as a mighty pestilence over this land, burying the people in the terrible darkness of heathen idolatry, the horrible bondage of sin, death and will worship.
I left Alexandria early Monday morning for Washington, leaving the latter city at 8:10 o’clock the same morning, arriving in about three hours at Kearncyville, Jefferson Co., West Virginia, where I left the cars, in order to fill appointments with the Mill Creek Church. This church, a member of our Virginia Corresponding Meeting, is situated in the midst of enemies of the Sovereignty of God, and of people who apparently care nothing for the preaching of the Word. But few come to the solemn feasts of Zion here; yet the Lord, I trust, has gathered a remnant from the numbers around, enough to preserve alive a witness to His Truth, and who stand together, contending earnestly for the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” While I was here, a “Temperance Camp Meeting” (I think they called it) was in progress, and while at the residence of Mr. Turner, and witnessing the number of people who were passing by in attendance upon this meeting, I was forcibly remind of the following lines:
“Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there.”
I had two pleasant meetings with the brethren and friends of this church, one at Mr. Turner’s and the second at Mr. Thompson’s. I met with brother E. C. Trussell, of the Ebenezer Church, Va., who was with me at both meetings, and whose presence added to the pleasure of my visit. Wednesday morning I parted from Mr. David Thompson and his kind and agreeable family, and took the cars at Martinsburg for Indianapolis. During our attendance upon the spring associations, Elder J. G. Sawin, of Illinois, learning of my desire to visit Kentucky this year, extended to me a kind and cordial invitation to visit the Conn’s Creek Association in Indiana, of which he was a member. I finally yielded to the kind and pressing invitation of Elder Sawin and concluded by divine permission to attend the Conn’s Creek Association, which was in affiliation with the Licking Particular of Ky.
My trip from Martinsburg to Indianapolis was not disturbed by anything of an unusual character, that I now remember of, with the exception of an agreeable surprise in meeting Elder A. B. Francis who got on the cars at Parkersburg, West Virginia., on his way to the Mount Pleasant Old School Association of Ky. & Ohio. I had not met with Elder Francis since June, and we enjoyed a pleasant interview until Thursday morning, when we parted at Cincinnati. I continued on westward to Indianapolis, where I arrived about 11 o’clock, and was pleased to meet with Elder J. G. Sawin, and brother Newton Owings, from his neighborhood. We remained at Indianapolis several hours, then took the cars for Edinburg, Johnson Co., Ind., near where Elder Sawin’s mother and brothers reside. Arriving at Edinburg, we were soon at the residence of sister Sawin, where I spent Thursday night, (before the first Sunday in September,) and met with brethren who were on their way to the Conn’s Creek Association, which was to begin, by divine appointment, Friday morning. My visit to this Association was quite pleasant. We traveled about twenty miles Friday morning, to the place where the Association was in session, arriving there while they were reading the letters from the several churches composing the same. I met here with Elders J. A. Johnson and Harvey Wright, brethren with whom I had a previous acquaintance. For three days I enjoyed a pleasant interview with these brethren in the (to me) distant West, and while among them the words of the Savior came to my mind, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matt. Vii. 11. I thought I saw before me a living witness in the fulfillment of these words, and spoke from them during the meeting.
I met with the following elders in attendance upon this meeting: J. G. Jackson, T. Martin, J. A. Johnson, J. G. Sawin, P. K. Parr, Harvey Wright, Isaac Sawin, O. W. Sawin, M. Moorehouse, B. M. Zion, D. S. Robinson, A. B. Nay, D. Caudle, T. J. Jones, J. Meade; and the following licentiates: Geo. Riggs, J. F. Weaver, W. N. Tharp, A. Everson, and S. T. Riggs. I was sorry to learn that Elder David Bartley, who is a member of this association, was sick and unable to attend, consequently I did not meet with him. After the close of the Conn’s Creek Association Sunday I returned to sister Sawin’s, where we had meeting Sunday evening, and the following evening at the residence of her son Marion, Tuesday at brother Morgan Jackson’s, about eight miles distant, and Wednesday again at sister Sawin’s. The three days spent in this neighborhood passed swiftly by. The Lord has highly blessed sister Sawin and her family. She has seven children living, all of whom are members, and three out of the seven are preachers – Elders John G., P. W., and Isaac Sawin. The first of the three, Elder J. G. Sawin, is well known and beloved in the East. I was favored with the privilege, during the Conn’s Creek session, at the house of brother Ragsdale, of listening to all three of these brothers preach, one after another, all proclaiming the glorious doctrine of the finished salvation through the crucified and risen Redeemer. Sister Sawin has lost six children, three of them at the time of their death being members, the remaining three died in infancy. Her husband is dead; he was also a member. I parted from this estimable family Thursday morning, and took the cars at Edinburg, Ind., for Louisville, Ky., and thence to Lexington. While at Louisville, and on my way to Lexington, I anxiously scanned the passengers, eagerly searching to ascertain whether there were any Old School Baptists among them. I had about given up the idea of finding any, when, I think, at a place called Christianburg, about fifty miles from Louisville, two men got on the cars. I at once concluded that they must belong to the class for whom I was seeking, and upon addressing them was highly pleased to find that they were brethren- Elders Humston and Demaree, from the Mount Pleasant, and on their way to the Licking Particular Association. This was one of the most pleasant incidents of my trip.
At Lexington, in company with a number of others, I was kindly entertained by brother James Dudley, and on Friday morning conveyed to the meeting-house of the Bryan Station Church, where the Licking Association held its annual session. The following preaching brethren were present at this Association: T. P. Dudley, J. F. Johnson, Silas H. Durand, J. M. Theobald, Jeremiah Taylor Moore, A. B. Francis, A. Humston, W. Housel, S. F. Jones, J. H. Wallingford and J. M. Demaree. Elder Thomas P. Dudley preached the introductory sermon, from Ezekiel xliv. 5-9. I enjoyed my visit to this association very much, in listening to the preaching, beholding the sweet fellowship existing among, and in forming as acquaintance with the dear brethren composing the same, and in receiving tokens of, and witnessing their kindness and love to the people of God.
I think that we realized, while here, the sweet comfort, the rapturous joy, which flow from a living realization of the truth of the words, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” O how amiable! How lovely it is! To behold a band of brethren walking together in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace. Brethren whose cheerful hearts unite, and who stand together, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, contending earnestly for the faith of God’s elect. How doleful in the contrast! A church rent with internal strife, whose members are found murmuring, grumbling, disputing and quarreling, disgracing and degrading themselves, in the eyes of the world, and of their brethren, a spectacle of reproach before all people.
But to return, the first night of the Licking Particular Baptist Association I spent with the venerable Moderator, Elder T. P. Dudley, whose interesting and instructive conversation and kindness I hope I shall never forget. Elder Dudley is over eighty years of age, has been many years in the ministry, during which he has been called to pass through many trials. But the Lord, I believe, has, and I hope will continue to sustain and strength him through the infirmities of old age, and all the labors of the way; to the crown of endless life.
It would perhaps protract my letter to a greater length than is proper, were I to recite the many interesting incidents of this meeting. I met with a sister in Lexington who was baptized seventy years ago, in Prince Williams Co., Va., in the fellowship of the Occoquan Church where my membership now is! I have hardly language to express the satisfaction and joy which I experienced in meeting with the brethren of this association. Having quite a desire to visit Elder John F. Johnson, and the churches of his pastoral care, after the close of the association, in company with Elder Johnson and a number of brethren, we traveled about twenty miles, to the neighborhood of his home, and the day following (Monday after the second Sunday) in company with Elder Johnson and wife, I came to their home in Lawrenceburg, which is the county seat of Anderson County, Kentucky. I spent a week with Elder J. P. Johnson, visiting three of the churches under his pastoral care, viz: Little Flock, Salt River and Goshen, enjoying a pleasant interview with the brethren and their congregations of these churches. I had an opportunity for considerable conversation with Elder Johnson, which was pleasant and agreeable to me, and also the privilege of hearing him preach once. Elder Johnson is near seventy-six years of age, but retains his health and strength to a remarkable extent. The Lord has blessed him. May that blessing continue in the evening of life, to the perfect light of the cloudless and eternal day.
I left the residence of brother Farmer, not far from Lawrenceburg, Tuesday after the third Sunday, came to Frankfort, thence to Cincinnati, via the B. & O. Road, to Washington, D.., arriving at Washington Thursday morning, and returned in safety to my home the same morning, after an absence of nearly a month.
I saw on fact plainly demonstrated during this trip – the people of God are one people. They may differ in local customs, but in experience of grace they are but one. They are not confined to the narrow limits of any particular section or nationality. But in every age and nation, north, south, east and west, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I am glad to see the intercourse existing between brethren in different sections of our country. I trust that it may ripen and develop more and more as time passes by. Differences between brethren may, and do, sometimes, arise; but when the clear shining of God’s love is felt within, flowing from heart to heart, it will most assuredly remove all minor things. May He build us up in His most holy faith, cause us to walk together in His precious doctrine, in the order of His house, and that we may endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
“With equal love our spirits flame,
The same our joy, our song the same.”
With kind remembrance to the many brethren and sisters among whom I have recently traveled, and, I trust, sincerely and earnestly desiring the welfare of the flock in every place, I remain, Yours in gospel fellowship,
WM. M. Smoot,
September 27, 1876