Dk. Rufus C. Bukleson. 49
sweeping over the country, had some effect in rendering the
Baptists steady and loyal to the Church of their fathers.
The reformers felt the influence of his resistance to the
inroads made on Baptist ranks, and the urgent necessity of
quieting him in some way. They knew a resort to argument
would be fruitless, because that had been unsuccessfully tried.
So they decided to resort to diplomacy.
Rev. W. H. Muse, a roommate of Mr. Burleson in iSTash-
ville University, and a very warm personal friend, had heard
Dr. Campbell, was swept off his feet, renounced his allegiance
to the Baptists, and surrendered his credentials as a Baptist
minister, and espoused the cause of the new sect. Mr. Muse
made the application for Mr. Burleson's license to preach,
to the Baptist Church in ISTashville, accompanying the appli-
cation with some tender remarks, which were never forgotten.
For this, as well as other reasons, the attachment between these
young ministers was very strong.
The Disciples, therefore, determined the wisest course to
pursue would be to have Mr. Muse have a personal interview
with Mr. Burleson, and supplement his strong arguments in
behalf of the reformers with his personal influence.
The meeting was held in Huntsville, Alabama, where
Mr. Muse was preaching his new doctrine to crowded houses.
He implored his young friend to get out of the ruts, abandon
his antiquated church. "This new doctrine," he said, "i^
being accepted by the multitude, is rolling from State to
State, and will ultimately become the dominant controlling
code in the new world. If you will give it your support now,
when it becomes an established system, your talents and edu-
cation will naturally command any position or pastorate
suited to your taste, or in harmony with your inclination."
Mr. Burleson accorded his talented schoolmate a respect-
ful hearing, and then fixing his piercing eyes on Mr. Muse's
face, he answered : "Some of the tenderest memories of my
life date from the 12th day of December, 1840, when, in
earnest, loving words, you recited the story of my conversion
and call to the ministry when the Church in iN'ashville licensed
me to preach the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. Your
50 The Life axd Writings of
words I will never, never forget, and they form a bond of love
and friendship between us that religious differences will never
sever. On that day I consecrated my energies and power to
the good old fashion religion of the Bible and my Baptist
ancestors, which no amount of enthusiasm for new-formed
religious systems and codes would ever shake. Besides this,
my brother, you have lost your spiritual bearings under the
magnetic power and splendid ability of Dr. Campbell, and the
time will come in your life when you will deplore the course
you have taken, and regret the earnest appeal you have made
to-day for me to follow you after strange gods. ISTo, sir, I
shall stay with my people, and continue as heretofore to defend
in my feeble way 'the faith once delivered unto the saints.' "
AVith this these schoolmates parted, Mr. Burleson pur-
suing the even tenor of his way, and Mr. Muse blazing like an
Later Mr. Muse moved to Columbus, Mississippi, estab-
lished a military school, and used all his brilliant powers of
mind and influence to disrupt the flourishing Baptist Church,
of which that great scholar and preacher. Rev. Wm. Carey
Crane was pastor. He soon became involved in a most ^dolent
contention with the students in his school, which resulted in
its destruction. He renounced his recently formed religious
views, was appointed Secretary of State, applied for reinstate-
ment in a Baptist Church, and died breathing a prayer for his
old pastor. Dr. E. B. C. Howell, and his friend and brother,
R. C. Burleson.
During this animated discussion, which was much
warmer between the Baptists and Disciples than any other
denominations, some of the more intemperate reformers had
publicly declared that the Baptists were being rendered hors
de combat by the thousands, and that when the crusade was
over they would be dead as a denomination. This gloomy
prognostication of the impending doom which awaited Mr.
Burleson, and all others who believed as he did, was perhaps
seriously made, but failed to make a serious impression on the
Baptists of the South.
Mr. Burleson became facetious when the threat, or proph-
ecv reached his ear, and wrote a serio-comic article, in which
Dr. Rufus C. Bukleson. 51
he gave the substcance of a lecture delivered by a theological
professor to his class as containing the only formula then
known for killing Baptists, which is here given.
A Way to I\jll the Baptists.
Amid all the inventions of this age of inventions, I learn
a method has been invented to kill Baptists. This has been
a desideratum for years, but a want more keenly felt recently
I learn the experiment is being tried by many of our
Pedo Baptist friends. The invention was first made publie
under the following circumstances :
The learned and venerable Dr. A., in an address to his
class in a certain theological seminary, said : Young brethren,
one question which you will have to meet is the controversy
on baptism. The Baptists are very numerous all over the
w^orld. They are establishing schools and colleges everywhere,
and you will have to meet them in argument at every point.
I forewarn you they can never be killed by persecution;
this was fully tried all over Europe for 1,800 years, and also
in the ^N'ew England States. The fires of Smithfield and else-
w^here were kindled in vain. The exile of Roger Williams
and the whipping of Holmes were bright eras in Baptist
Their church has always risen from the ashes of persecu-
tion like a Phenix, more beautiful and powerful.
It will be equally useless to meet them in public debate,
for controversy is the element in which they flourish. Their
pastors, with nothing but old Bunyan's Jerusalem blade, are
more than a match for our Doctors of Divinity.
On matters of doctrine they think they have the authority
of God's word, and you had just as well try to chunk Pike's
Peak to pieces with pebbles as to convince them to the con-
The truth is, there is but one way to kill the Baptists, and
that way is to hug them to death. I mean kill them with kind-
ness, call them dear brethren, invite them to your communion
table, urge them to come unite with you as brethren, and leave
52 * The Life axd AVritixgs of
off the discussion of doctrinal questions. This is the most
effective, indeed, the only way, to kill the Baptists.
The old Doctor was right, and many weak-kneed Baptists
are suffering; themselves to be hugged to death every day,
while those who are loyal to their convictions are increasing
Mr, Burleson continued his school in Mayhew prairie,
and also to serve these three churches with most signal ability.
The membership in each of them increased, contributions to
missions and other denominational enterprises were large, and
the relations between pastor and people of the most affection-
ate and harmonious nature.
The time, however, had come when these tender ties must
be severed. He apprised the patrons of the school and
members of these churches of his intention to resign; they
were grieved beyond expression; proposed to increase his sal-
ary and insisted upon his remaining. But he was now twenty-
one, and had ample means to defray his expenses in college
until the course was finished. He, therefore, sent in his resig-
nation to school and churches, which were reluctantly
accepted. A parting reception was tendered this popular
young preacher and teacher, and with streaming eyes parish-
ioner, parent and pupil bid him an affectionate farewell.
Dr. Burleson's experience in the school room, pulpit and
social circle in Mayhew prairie was always acounted by him
in after life to be among the richest and sweetest in social
enjoyment in all the sixty years he spent in public life.
Attachments were formed during this time that sixty
years of separation did not alienate, but filled a large place in
his heart's affection until his last hour on earth.
That these tender ties and mellow memories were mutual
is evidenced by the fact that in 1900, when the Baptists of
Starkville had completed a new and beautiful church edifice,
he was preferred above any other man on earth to come and
dedicate it to the worship of the living God. He went, and
wliile preaching the dedicatory sermon stood on the same spot
wliere he sat when ordained to the full work of the gospel
ministry, fiftv-five vears before.
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 53.
Fko^i Mayhew Praikie Mr. Burleson Returns to His
Father's Far^m — Reviews the Scenes oe His Boyhooi^
^P-tEACiiEs to His Old Ctiukch — Bids Farewell to
Family and Friends, Rides Away to Covington and
Enters the AVestern Baptist Theological Seminary
— Graduates June 8tii, 1847 — Consecrates His Life
to Texas — Incidents While at the Seiniinary — Beau-
tiful Story of Dr. AVilltam A. Ashmore, That Had
Its Culmination in Texas — Southern People Slan-
dered — Theological Student Resents it — Challenge
Passed — A Duel Arranged — Young Burleson Pre-
R. BlJRLESOi^" had spent five vears in teacliing and
preacliing in Mississippi, during wliioh time he kept
up a course of study. His intention had been to
return to j^ashville University. He liad, however, completed
the course prescribed in this institution; granduation was
hence only a matter of form, conferring no substantial bene-
fits. He, therefore, decided to change his plans.
Returning from Mayhew prairie, he spent a few month?
in recreation and rest at his father's mansion on Flint River,
Alabama, greeting old friends, who gave him the glad Jiand,
and congratulated him most \\armly upon his first experience
in the struggle of life, and the brilliant success achieved. He
reviewed the scenes of his happy childhood, visited the old
forest through which he had wandered when a boy; sat upon
54 The Life axd Writings of
the river bank and feasted his soul upon the familiar scenes,
while the blue waters sang a rippling sonnet as they passed,
and went laughing and dancing onward to the sea.
He ascended the rugged hills, scaled the mountain's
height, and looked out upon the same sublime prospect that
had thrilled his boyish mind in former years.
He gathered chestnuts from the same old tree, plucked
wild flowers from the same lovely glen, and slaked his thirst
fr(5m the same old spring where he had drank in the rosy morn
of early youth.
He visited the grave of his angel mother, and upon this
little mound of earth, in the quiet twilight, with a tiny star
MT, PISGAH CHURCH: FIRST CHURCH DR. BURLESON WAS
A MEMBER OF.
occasionally peeping through the cerulean curtains overhead,
got on his knees, and in broken accents, between sobs, thanked
his Father in heaven for her pure life, her unstained character,
noble example, and her tender, loving care and instruction, to
which he attributed everything that he was, or could hope to
be in life.
When he left Flint Eiver five years before, he was only
a licentiate, but now he was a full-fledged minister, so his old
friends asked him to preach, and made an appointment at
'*Mt. Pisgah," the church into whose fellowship ho had been
Dr. Rufus C. Burleson. 55
baptized. He accepted the invitation with sensations of joy,
because it was near this place he preached his first sermon in
1840, when a seventeen-year-old boy, from the text, "Behold
the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world."
At the appointed time the house was packed with people,
from pulpit to door, some of whom had traveled ten miles to
Mr. Burleson continued to occupy the pulpit of this his
mother church during the remainder of the autumn, with
pleasure to himself and his old neighbors and boyhood friends.
In January, 1846, he bid farewell to the friends and
scenes of his infancy on Flint River, and instead of returning
to the university at ISTashville, as he intended, he rode away to
Covington, Kentucky, and matriculated in the Western Bap-
tist Theological Seminary.
His soul was all aflame with a desire to get to work, but
felt his equipment was incomplete \vithout a theological
course so when he entered he resolved to utilize every moment
in hard study, and complete the course in one year.
Scores of brilliant young men had tried to accomplish
this herculean task in former years, but failed; this, however,
did not discourage Mr. Burleson from making the attempt.
This ill-fated school at that time was one of the most cele-
brated institutions for ministerial training in the South. A
diploma signified that the bearer had mastered a thorough
course of theological instruction.
The faculty was composed of illustrious scholars and
divines. Chairs were filled by Dr. R. Pattison, Dr. Asa
Drury, Dr. E. Gr. Robinson, and Dr. E. Dodge. Dr. Pattison,
the President of the Seminary, was a graduate of Amherst
College, and after graduation became a tutor in Columbian
University, then Professor of Mathematics in Waterville Col-
lege, and in 1836 was elected to the presidency. He filled a
chair in I^ewton Theological Seminary for six years, and was
also a member of the faculty of Shurtleff College, Union
Baptist Theological Seminary, and Oread Institute.
Dr. Robinson, when he left the seminary at Covington,
became President of Brown University, founded in 1764, the
oldest Baptist and among the foremost institutions of learning
50 The Life axd "Wkttixos of
on the continent. Dr. Burleson also tilled at one time the
chair of theology in Rochester Theological Seminary. He
filled several fine pastorates, and resigned at Cambridge, Mass.,
to accept the professorship of Biblical interpretation in the
Western Baptist Theological Institute at Covington. As a
scholar, theologian preacher or teacher, he was regarded as
one of the profonndest men in his day.
Dr. Dodge was a full graduate of Brown I'niversity, and
took a course at N'ewton Theological Seminary. He was
called to the presidency of Madison University in 1868, and
served until 1871, when he was elected President of Hamilton
Theological Seminary. In both these positions he won fresh
laurels for accomplished scholarship and profound learning.
Doctor Drury was a man f>f much learning, and a worthy
codaborer of Drs. Pattison, Robinson and Dodge. There
were literary and theological institutions in the country more
liberally endowed, and more famous perhaps, but very few
with a faculty of a higher order of aldlity and scholastic learn-
ing, or with a higher curriculum.
]\Ir. Burleson was regarded as a precocious boy, bvit this
precocity did not fade with his youth, as is often the case, but
grew with his manhood, and develoi)e(l with his growth.
When a mere youth he had acquired studious habits, wheh five
years' experience as a teacher had developed into an insatiate
He was already an accomplished Latin scholar, and had
also a good knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and for this
reason was not only prepared for hard work, but, being thus
well grounded, had a clear conception of th(> task he had
resolved to master during the session.
His eagerness to finish the course did not in any way
unscltlediis determination to be thorough. In this connection
it may be rcinarked llint in everything, the most insignificant
detail, as well as the weightiest and most momentous afi"airs of
life, he was thorough. The importance of this, he wa^ fond
of emphasizing. lie was also self-reliant, and made it a rule
in life nevei' to call on others foi- anything he could do himself.
IIundre(b of times has this :inth..r heard him sny in his chai)el
talks, when ad\idng voniig men. whose training had heen com-
Dr. Rffus C. "Rfrlesox. 57
mitted to liim, '"AVrite voiir own orations, solve your own
problems, read your own Latin."
In taking up the course in the seminary he brought all
these qualities into requisition. He determined to be thor-
ough, self-dependent, so as to be able to say at the close of the
session, "I have mastered the situation."
With untiring energy and ceaseless application he fin-
ished the course June the 8th, 1847, with distinction.
On this day, and at this place, a solemn resolution was
made of tremendous moment and far-reaching importance to
After receiving his diploma, Mr. Burleson stepped from
the building, and standing in the shadow of the walls of his
Alma Mater, surrounded by preceptors and pupils, he straight-
ened his tall form to its full stature, with closed eyes, as if to
shut out the world, while a solemn resolution was being
formed, he raised his boyish face toward heaven, stretched
both his arms toward the AVcst, and in a clear voice and elo-
quent tones he exclaimed :
"This Day I Coxsecrate My Life to Texas."
This resolution was fraught with as much consequence to
the religious, and educational, affairs of the State as the shout,
"Remember the Alamo," on the battlefield of San Jacinto.
The latter gave to Texas her civil, religious and political free-
dom; the former, her splendid universities and other institu-
tions of learning.
There are some incidents connected with Mr. Burleson's
life, Avhile in the seminary, aside from his studies, worth
reciting. Many of the theological students had been criti-
cised, it seems, for depending upon public contributions for
their expenses. Dr. "William A. Ashmore, a classmate of Mr.
Burleson and a consecrated missionary to China, among the
number. One of these critics was so rude as to say to young
Ashmore that he had better return to his home and go to
work for a living.
This pierced the heart of this noble young man, and pro-
duced feelings of great discouragement and despondency. He
took it as a rebuke from Ood, for presuming to enter upon the
58 The Life and Writings of
holy work of the ministry. He went to the college hall, and
spent the entire night in sadness, and concluded next morning
to give up all hope of becoming a minister and missionary,
and leave Covington for his home.
Mr. Burleson noticed that his usually bright and happy
face was sad as he came into the dining hall for breakfast, and
asked him the cause of his trouble. Mr. Ashmore referred to
the criticism of the ministerial students, and stated he was
without money to pay his expenses, and felt if God had called
him to preach. He would provide a way for him to prepare
himself, and that he was going home with the sorrowful con-
viction that he had never been called to the work of the
These young friends walked together, from the breakfast
table to Mr. Ashmore's room. Mr. Burleson took him by the
hand, and said: "My brother, God is only testing your
patience and faith, as he did Abraham's. I am able to help
you. Dorsey A, Outlaw, a friend of mine in Starkville, Mis-
sissippi, told me when I left that place, nearly two years ago,
if I ever found a worthy young preacher in need, to let him
know, and assistance should be forthcoming. Thirty-five dol-
lars wall defray your expenses until the close of the term ; here
is $10.00, and I will write Bro. Outlaw immediately for the
balance." The letter was written, the money came, and thus
was this great missionary to the Empire of China enabled to
finish his preparation to proclaim the unsearchable riches of
the gospel to these heathen people for nearly fifty years.
It is a little out of order, but this interesting story has
a beautiful sequel, which we will here relate. Years after-
ward Mr. Ashmore refunded this money, and Mr. Burleson,
while pastor in Houston, chanced to meet Rev. D. B. IMorrill,
who was attending school at Independence, and, on account of
financial depression and embarrassment, was discouraged,
despairing and doubtful, just as Mr. Ashmore had been. He
related his distress to Mr. Burleson, who answered him, say-
ing: "The Lord has placed $35.00 in my possession, to be
applied to just such cases. Here it is, return and finish your
course." The money was accepted with praises, Mr. Morrill
returned to Independence, completed his studies, and lived to
Dk. Rufus C. Bueleson. 59
preach the gospel in every portion of Texas, from Red River
to the Rio Grande, and thus did Dorsey A. Outlaw's contribu-
tion of $35.00 in Starkville, Mississippi, enable two zealous
missionaries to tell the story of everlasting life on both sides
of the world.
Another incident of Mr. Burleson's last year at the semi-
nary is worthy of being preserved. He came of fighting
stock, and cowards were unknowm in the whole line of
Burleson descent. Rufus C. Burleson himself was a stranger
to the sensation of fear, but was, at the same time, opposed to
personal encounters, and during the long years that he had
-control of young men prevented numbers of conflicts.
On one occasion, in a hotel in Covington, Mr. A. B.
Brown, a student in the seminary, was seated at the table in
the dining room with a number of guests. The conversation
at first was general and pleasant. At length, however, a
drummer present commenced a violent tirade against the
Southern people. For a time no attention was paid to his
violent denunciations. This rather emboldened him, and his
references to the people of the South grew worse. Mr, Brown
remonstrated with him, saying his remarks about Southern
people were unpleasant; and, more, that he had evidently
arrived at his conclusions from ex-parte testimony, and his
charges and statements were wholly untrue. This only
increased the drummer's ire and enmity, and he offered Mr.
]Brown a gross insult. The latter seized a pitcher of water,
and was in the act of resenting it, but was prevented.
This so aroused the drummer's indignation that he sprang
to his feet, and shouted in a voice full of anger :
"You have publicly insulted me, and I demand satisfac-
tion. Choose your weapons, and we will settle our
The young preacher bowed his acceptance, and retired to
his room. Pistols were selected as the weapons to be used,
and the time fixed for that evening., in a secluded spot near
The news spread over Covington like a flash that a young
theological student and a stranger were to fight a duel that
evening. Mr. Burleson heard of it, and went at once to
60 The Life axd Writixgs of
learn the student's name. AVhen told it was his friend Brown,
he repaired to his room. He fonnd him in deep meditation^
Avalking the floor with folded arms.
"Why, Brother Brown, are yon going to fight a dnel V
"Yes. I have been publicly insulted and challenged,
and my enemy's blood must be the penalty."
"I am shocked. You must bear in mind that you are a
minister, and cannot use carnal weapons," responded Dr.
"Yes, I know this, and deplore the necessity, but I wmild
rather die than show the white feather."
"Trust to me, and perhaps I can effect a settlement of the-
unfortunate affair, without doing either."
Mr. Brown said: "I appreciate your offer, and thank
you for your friendship, but I shall be on the ground, Avith this
pistol in hand, at the appointed time to the minute."
]\Ir. Burleson continued to reason and plead with liis
friend to abandon all thought of thus dishonoring his holy
calling, until he said :
"I will not act the coward, but I tell you what I will
promise you. I will meet the fellow on time, take my posi-
tion on the field, and when the command is given to fire, I will
not attempt to shoot my antagonist, but discharge my pistol
in the air."
This point gained, he left the room, and sought the drum-
mer in the hotel.
He introduced himself, and before he could make known
his purpose, the drummer said :
"Well, I suppose you are ^Mr. Brown's second in the
affair this evening, and have called to consult with me in r(>fer-
ence to the detail."
"Xo, I am a friend of the unfortunate man, and a fellow-
minister in the seminary, and have called on a mission ot
peace. T have just left his room, where I have been pleading
with liini not to dishonor his life calling by resorting to arms-
to settle a difhculty. I succeeded so far as to get liini to
promise that when the word fire was given this evening, lu>
would not aim at you, but discharge his pistol in the air."
"My Lord, is that young fellow a preachei'? Why. my
mother is a shouting Methodist, an.l if 1 were to shoot a