Elder Wilson Thompson


Thompson, Elder Wilson (1788-1866), a native of Hillsborough, Ky., is regarded as the ablest Primitive Baptist minister that ever lived in the United States. He was of an old Baptist family, of English, Welsh, Scotch, Irish and German descent. He had religious impressions from his earliest recollections; and, during the first twelve years of his life, without any instruction from any person or book, he became a thorough graduate in Arminian, Pharisaical or natural religion-"getting religion" himself by his own resolutions and exertions, idolizing "the Sabbath," attaining perfection in the flesh, assured that he was bound for heaven, despising the people of God, as far below himself in religious knowledge and attainments; then "falling from grace, "taking his fill of sin," then afterwards terrified anew by natural convictions, going to work again with more zeal than ever to ingratiate himself into the favor of God, repenting and praying more, and doing more good works until he felt he was sinless and resolved he never would commit another sin. He rested in the persuasion of his own righteousness, with which he believed God was well pleased. While in his thirteenth year he went to see Elder James Lee baptize some candidates, among others, a small slender girl, named Mary Grigg, who afterward became Elder Thompson's wife; and, while this girl was being led into the water, suddenly all nature seemed to him to be overspread with a dark, heavy, angry, threatening gloom, and he felt like one forsaken of God and man, the most loathsome and guilty wretch that ever lived on earth, utterly corrupt without and within, and justly exposed to the everlasting wrath of an infinitely holy God. He left the company and the water in despair, and sought a deep ravine in the wood, expecting there to die alone. For three days and nights he continued in such gloom that he did not seem to have one hopeful thought of his salvation, and while his heart was all the time pleading for mercy, if mercy were possible, he did not dare to make a formal prayer, because feeling it impossible for a holy God to pardon such a sinner as himself. Still he would seek the woods, fall on his knees, close his eyes, and make confession of his sinfulness and of God's justice in his condemnation. While thus engaged, on the fourth day, he was startled three times by the sudden appearance of a glittering brightness, visible only when his eyes were closed, and each time increasing in brilliancy, so that at last in amazement he sprang to his feet, opened his eyes, and saw all nature glittering with the glory of God. He was completely captivated with the scene, the gloom and the burden of sin were gone; but he soon began to be troubled because his trouble had left him, and never once thought of this being conversion. After many seasons of rejoicings, doubts and fears, he, in 1881 united with the church called the "Mouth of Hicking." and was baptized by Elder Jas. Lee. When raised from the water he felt a strong desire to speak of the glorious plan of salvation, but, remaining silent in language. he burst into tears and came out of the water weeping like a child. For many years he resisted the impressions to preach, feeling he would rather die than expose his ignorance in this public way. He was so troubled in mind and lost so much sleep and appetite that his parents feared he would commit suicide and had him to sleep in the room with them. One night after all had retired, and the fire had burned down, a shadowy form seemed to approach him, bend over him, and say, "I know your trouble, and your great desire to know what you should do; and I have come to tell you. Read the sixth and tenth chapters of Matthew, and to every sentence, answer, "I am the man," and you will soon come to know your duty." This was done and said three times. He believed that the appearance was not literal, but a vision (Acts 2:17-18), He was soon licensed to preach. His first text, February, 1810, was John x:2, 3; and was ordained January, 1812, by Elders Stephen Stilley and John Tanner. He was about this time led to the then Territory of Missouri where he baptized some four or five hundred persons. From Missouri he moved to Lebanon, O., and in 1834 moved to Fayette County, md., and became pastor of churches in the White Water Association. During the year of 1843 there were two hundred and forty-seven persons that joined the churches of this association. While residing in Indiana he made extensive tours of preaching in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia; and his ministerial gifts and Christian virtues shone with starry brilliancy. Elder Thompson was the author of several books and pamphlets, among them "simple Truth," "Triumph of Truth," "An Address to the Baptists of the United States," in 1850, and his "Autobiography." He was a strong writer, able debater and powerful pulpit orator. Few more interesting books are to be found in human literature than Elder Thompsons' autobiography, which may be purchased from Elder R. W. Thompson, Greenfield, md. (I am not sure if this is still available - TA)