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The winter of 1855-6 that I spent in Illinois was uneventful. My success was not such as to discourage an evangelist that desires to be useful, neither was it such as to fill him with vanity. The weather was intensely cold, and the snow was deep.

 

It is said that before the coming of an earthquake, the sea gives forth deep moanings, as if it felt the approaching convulsion; so at that time there seemed premonitions in the hearts of the people that the whole nation, North, South, East and West, would be swept by a political cyclone that should leave behind it the desolation that is sometimes, in the West India Islands, left in the track of a tropical hurricane. We had heard of the murder of Dow, the rescue of Branson, and the invasion of Lawrence, and these certainly did not give promise that Kansas would be a favorable field for evangelical work, at least for a time. The writer had not hitherto spent much of his time in Adams county; he now spent a considerable part of the winter there, and visited the churches of Quincy, Chambersburg, Camp Point, and many others. The brethren at Quincy were making that experiment of monthly preaching that has been found so hazardous, especially to city churches. They have since changed the plan with wonderfully good results. It was at the church at Chambersburg that Bro. Cottingham who has now won a national reputation, achieved some of his earliest successes.

The majority of the leading members of these churches had been men and women of full age when they left Kentucky. Some had tarried a little time in Indiana. The memory of some went back to the time when the Mississippi Valley was almost an unbroken wilderness, with here and there a scattered settlement, made up of a frontier and uneducated people. What are now its great cities were then insignificant hamlets, and its means of commerce were rude flat boats on its rivers, and pack-horses, or clumsy, heavy lumber wagons on its rough and often impassable roads. There were few schools, fewer churches and still fewer educated men. The country was perambulated by itinerant preachers. These were guided by visions and revelations. Signs, omens and impressions directed them to their field of labor and controlled their lives. Ecstatic joy, vivid impressions, voices in the air, or seeing the Lord in the tree-tops, were their evidences of pardon.

Once every year the people came together to a great camp-meeting. There was intense excitement and enthusiasm, and many got religion; and this was followed by spiritual lethargy, coldness and apostasy. It was a short, hot summer, followed by a long, cold winter of moral and spiritual death.

Among the Old Baptists there was preaching once a month. This was all. There were no prayer-meetings, no meeting together every first day of the week to break break and read the Holy Scriptures. Christian morality was at a low ebb, and Christian liberality down to zero.

At length there came a change. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and men broke loose from the dominion of these old and man-made systems. John Smith took the lead, and was followed by old Jacob Creath, Samuel Rogers, John Rogers, John Allen Gano, P. S. Fall, and many others. Alex. Campbell once said:

If any man can read the Acts of Apostles through three times, chapter by chapter, pondering each chapter as he reads, and then can remain an advocate of these old systems of conversion, may the Lord have mercy on him!

But the old Baptists fiercely resisted the Reformers, and cast them out as heathen men and publicans. And now the Bible was a new revelation to the men that came into this movement. The veil was taken off their eyes, and they could read the Scriptures as they had never read them before. They could now see that the Bible was a simple and intelligible volume, written to be understood by the common people, and they were only amazed at their former blindness. But they were made to know what persecution means. All the denominations combined against them, and they were compelled to read the Scriptures to defend themselves; and thus pressed by their enemies on every hand, they were made to feel how near they were to each other, and how much they loved each other, and it became an easy thing to meet together every first day of the week to sing, to pray, to exhort, and to commemorate the death of their risen Lord. But many of them were poor, and had growing families, and they had heard that there was a large and good land in the Military Tract in Illinois, and with many a tearful adieu, and bidding farewell to the they loved so well, like Abraham going out into the land that God had given him, into this land flowing with milk and honey they came--and prospered.

And here the writer of these "Personal Recollections" found them, growing strong, and rich, and influential, and more prosperous than any other religious body in Adams county. It is now after the lapse of thirty years, to be mentioned to their honor--and to the honor of the churches of the State--that they have made commendable progress in the direction of a Christian liberality, and of moral, intellectual, and religious growth; still they are not yet up to the mark.

For the purpose of the moral, intellectual and religious education of his people, the Lord has given us one day in seven, and in one year he has given us fifty such days. This in seven years is one whole year, and in seventy-five years it is ten years, leaving out five years as the period of babyhood; and this as fitting men for the highest style of religious life, and of American citizenship is, if well employed, the best school on the face of the earth. Needs it to be said, that to do this work well, the teachers in this school of the prophets have need to be well qualified? There are certain Scriptures bearing on this point we will do well to ponder:

Meditate on these things; give thyself _wholly_ to them, that thy profitting may appear unto all.

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath called him to be a soldier. The Lord give thee understanding in all things.

We have no churches in this nation to whom these admonitions apply with greater weight of impressive authority than to the churches of Illinois. Where much is given, there much is required, and to no State in the Union has more been given in the way of worldly wealth than to the Disciples of that commonwealth. There is not such another body of rich land in this great nation, perhaps not in the world. Water is an element essential to the highest productiveness, even of fertile soil, and the vapors rising on the Gulf of Mexico have not a hillock three hundred feet high to obstruct their flow up the Mississippi eastward and northward, until they reach the State of Illinois. And the men that do business in the cities of this prosperous State, or till its fertile and alluvial soil, that was lifted up, not many geologic ages ago, from beneath the bottom of the sea, are so rich they do not know how rich they are. But it is a peril to be rich. Jesus, Paul and Solomon unite in saying so, and it is especially a peril when wealth comes suddenly. When a man starts poor, and has felt the sting of contempt because of his poverty, and then finds himself rich and prosperous and flattered, and tempted to indulge in every luxury, then this man is in great peril; and there is no security against this danger like using the wealth that God has given him for the glory of God and the good of men.

But there were brethren thirty years ago that needed no admonition as touching the disposition they should make of their world goods. I could give a goodly number of examples, but the reader will pardon me if, because of the narrow limits of these "Recollections," I confine myself to one.

Peter B. Garrett, of Camp Point, Adams county, had set himself, with honest purpose, to bring his Kentucky brethren up to the level of the demands of primitive and apostolic Christianity. Every man has his hobby, and Bro. G. had his hobby. When the writer first visited Camp Point, he was demanded of to know if it was not a fixed part of the apostolic order that each disciple should, on the first day of the week, lay by him in store, of money or goods, as the Lord had prospered him, putting it into the Lord's treasury? I could not quite affirm this, but Bro. G. stuck to his hobby.

Bro. Garrett knew the value of a full treasury, and was ready to do his part towards settling a preacher in the church, and paying him. But he could not bring his brethren up to the level of his own aspirations.

Bro. G. came from Kentucky a poor man, but he got hold of a considerable body of good land, when it was cheap, and cultivated it skillfully. Then the Quincy, Galesburg and Chicago Railroad was build in front of his farm, and the town of Camp Point grew up adjoining his premises. He also built a flouring mill, and this added to his gains; and thus he grew rich and influential, but he never thought of himself only as plain Peter Garrett. The writer in fifty years has known many excellent Christian families, but he has never known one family that, with saint and sinner, among persons outside and inside of the church, have had a more honorable fame than this Christian family. His wife was a motherly woman. She did not assume to know much, but what she did know she knew well, and translated her little store of knowledge into an abundance of good deeds. She knew how to guide the house, take good care of her children, live in peace with her neighbors, love the church and attend its meetings, fear God and entertain strangers; and so this house, like the house of the Vicar of Wakefield, became a resort for

    "All the vagrant train,"

whether of tramps or preachers. His children, from the time they were able to toddle, were taught to do something useful. His little boys were made to bring in wood, and run on errands, and his girls to wash the dishes; and thus this house became a hive of industry, and it came to pass that in process of time, when our beloved Bro. Garrison, of the _Christian-Evangelist,_ went out to seek a woman to take care of his house, he very properly sought this favor at the hands of Peter Garrett's daughter. It is a good thing to follow a good example, and our devoted Bro. Smart, hitherto of the _Witness_, now co-editor of the _Evangelist_, went and did likewise. [3]

Bro. Garret loaned the writer a light spring wagon for the purpose of bringing his family back from Kansas, and thus equipped, he started a second time on the journey he had made one year before.

One thought filled his heart: Will this tumult pass away, and will the American people go forward and fulfill that glorious destiny to which God in his providence has called them?