Jay Guy Cisco.

Historic Sumner County, Tennessee, with genealogies of the Bledsoe, Gage and Douglass families and genealogical notes of other Sumner County families online

. (page 21 of 21)
Online LibraryJay Guy CiscoHistoric Sumner County, Tennessee, with genealogies of the Bledsoe, Gage and Douglass families and genealogical notes of other Sumner County families → online text (page 21 of 21)
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another reason, aside from his holy calling, why he
was always welcome. There were no newspapers,
.and the mail-s were irreuular and uncertain, so the



Tin: Pioxr.KR rRKACiiLK, 315

preacher was tlic bearer of the news frcmi one selile-
nient lo another, and, loo, he was the bearer of let-
ters and niessag'es. He knew everybody, and every-
body knew him.

He connnenced religions services by linin.i^ a hymn,
in which the congreg^ation joined lustily in singing.
This was followed by a long and fervent prayer, then
the text was announced and the sermon begun, and it
was continued with unabated vigor for two or three
hours. Everything in the bible, "from kiver to kiver,"
was accepted as literally true ; it was the revealed
word of God, and who did not accept it was an infidel
and an outcast. There were no "higher criticism,"
and doubt did not disturb the minds of the jieople.
All Christians believed the ]-5il)le, though different
dcnominati'jns had different interpretations for cer-
tain passages, and, as now, furious disputes and de-
bates failed to settle the debatable passages.

Sermons had an extraordinary inlhience upon their
hearers. They were solemn, earnest, and often ap-
proached the grotesque. The preacher taught the
good, old-fashioned doctrine of hell, where fires of
brimstone ami melted pitch were never (juenched, and
where the wicked burned forever ami were never
consumed. Hell was a bottomless and shoreless lake
of fire, into the immeasurcless depths of which sin-
ners were plunged headlong, that on its burning bil-
lows, ti])ped with dickering dames of damnation, souls
were tossed and dashed through all eternity. They
believed in a personal devil, with horns and claws
and a foiked tail, and who laughed with diabolical
glee while he shoveled sulphur into the blazing pit
of un(|uenchablc fire. The good man held out no
hope for those who died in sin. Their jnmishment
would continue unchanged throughout all e(ernit\.

These good old preachers vied with each otlu-r in
picturing the torments of the dannied. the agonizing
screams and writhings of lost souls, the endless throb-
bing, burning anguish, the blistering fires of uncon-



316 Historic Sumxer County, Tenx,

suniing' wratli. Even now. after all lliese j^^ood and
devout men have long gone to their reward, it makes
one's flesh creep to recall the awful pictures they
■painted in such frightful colors in their effcjrts to
turn men from sin to repentance. We can see the
doomed soul the moment it leaves the body phnige
into the depts of eternal perdition, into the lake oi
torment. It is seized by gloating demons with hooks
of red hot iron and is thurst into flames a thousand
times hotter than melted iron. A thousand devil?
scream with infernal delight at the sound and sight
of its awful agony and hopeless desj^air.

"Imagine, if }0U can. yourself to be cast int') a
furnace where your j>ains would be as much greater
than that occasioned by accidentally touching a cttal
"of fire, as the heat is greater! Imagine, also, that if
your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour,
full of pain and all the while full of quick sense, wliai
horror would you feel at the entrance of such a
place, and how long would that quarter of hour seem
to you, and after you had enilurecl the pain for one
minute how frightful it would be to you to think
you would have to endure it for the other fourte<-n I
But what v^-ould be the eftect on your soul if yon
knew that you must He there enrluring that agony t"
the full twenty-four hours! And how much greater
would be the torment if yrm kr.ew you luust endure
it for a whole year ! And how vastly greater still
if you" knew that you must endure it for a thousand
years! C) then, how would your heart sink if y<vj
knew tb.nt you must bear it forever and ever: that
after millions of years and millions of ages yfjr
torment would be no nearer t<» an eml : and that y..u
shou.ld never be delivered. Thank Cnn\ for his ten-
der mercies, ;md his I'^ving kindness in pr«n-i<ling >neh
a place f^r unrei)entant souls."

.Vfter all these years have come an<l gone that
favorite text of the Pioneer Preacher still rings ni
our ears: "Depart from me. ye cursed, into ever-



The Pioxi;i:k Pkeachkr. 317

lasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." A
favorite ilhislration of eternity was: "Grind the world
into sand, i)lace the sands into an immense hourglass,
let these grains of sand drop, one every million years,
and when they have all passed through eternity will
only have just hcgun !''

"Mow many years and centiu'ies shall the lost soul
be imprisoned? Forever. How many ages shall it
groan in tears of regret and despair? Forever. How
many )ears shall it burn in flames? Forever. Will
there be no iiUerruptiun of these torments? Never.
Stretch your imagination, add years to years, ages to
ages, multiply them by the leaves in the forests, the
sands of the sea shore, the drops of water in the
immensity of all the oceans, you will not conceive the
meaning of ever, never! On the brazen arch of hell
forever is written in letters of eternal fire."

Such were the pictures painted by these pious men,
and they had their effect in a harvest of redeemed
souls. Set the most hardened sinner on a puncheon
bench where for two or more hours he must face a
preacher with cncs in fierce frenzie rolling, while in
stentorian Aoice he pictures such horrible scenes, and
if it don't fetch him to the mourners' bench he is
surely a goner. When the old-time preacher took
off his coat, unbuttoned his collar and got down to
business in this strain, he usually made tlie dry bones
of sinners rattle. Strong men would groan, women
would weep and little children shriek in agony of
fright.

Death-bed scenes were favorite themes with the
Pioneer Preacher, and here. tO(\ he was an artist.
The joys, the exquisite delights of the departure from
the corrupt body of the soul of the Christian. The
despair, the agony, the terror, the consternation of
the dying sinner. They were awful pictures.

Heaven was painted as the very reverse of hell.
But ])ossible more souls were induced to flee the
wrath to come through fear of torment than ihrouuh



318 Historic Sumxer Countv, Tj:xx.

hope of ])ara(lis(.'. 'Jlie rioncer I'roaclier was en-
dowed 1)\ iiauire with jiuwerlul hmc^s. and he
preached liis sermons loud cn()uc,di to make the women
cry and to hrin^- from the male side of the house a
sonorious and hearty "amen." T.e it remembered
that the two sexes did not mingle iniliscriminateJv in
houses of worship at that time. The women sat on
one side of the house and the men on the other. The
sheep were divided from the .q'oats, as it were. It was
not consiilered bad form for a worshipper to lii;ht
\his cob pipe and enjoy a smoke durini:: the sermon,
nor for a mother to give her babe it? natural food.

Many amusing incidents might be related of these
meetings, but 1 will forbear. Tbe Christians of that
day were e;trnest and devout. They believerl in the
good book. If it was not in the Ihble it wasn't so. and
if it was in the Bible every word and every svllable
was true, and he who doubted was damned. They
hated cards and had a contempt for fine clothes. /\
fiddler occupied a low place in societv. Silks and
broad cloth were deemed worldly and a "biled shirt''
was looked u]jon with suspicion. The preacher was
usually a nuiscular man. and he not unireriuently
fcnmd ji necessary to enforce respect by the a])plica-
tion of nuiscular energy. He was not a college-bred
man, and his sermons were delivered in -pioneer Kng-
lish without frilk or f.atin quotations. His dress was
of home-s]nm, though on state occasions he donned
an antique suit of broad cloth, well worn and thread-
bare and with brass buttons on the coat, which was
cut with a forked tail and had an enormous collar.
With this suit he wore a hat of uncertain age, prob-
ably inherited from a remote ancestor. It was tall,
and made of fur. and was the wonder and admiration
of all beholders. The gestures of the Pioneer Preacher
were vigorous and violent. He would .<5omelimes squat
very low. then suddenly, like a jack in the box. rise
on his tiji-toes, th'ng his arms, roll hi'^ eyes heaven-
ward and shi.nit loud enough to be heard for a mile or



The Pioxi:r.R Prkaciilr. 319

more. No mortal could have doubted his earnestness
and holy zeal. There was a j^ood deal of hyperbole
in his discourse, but he was in dead earnest, lie
wrestled with the Lord for the salvation of sinners
and made the devil take to tall cane. lie didn't know
whether the world was round or flat, and he didn't
care. It was only a place of temporary abode for
weary souls where they were prepared for better or
worse after the judji^ment. He knew that heaven was
above and that hell was below, and that was enouijh.
He was absolutely sure that the world was made abour
six thousand }ears ago out of nothing-; the Bible said
so, and no man could doubt it and be saved. Previous
to that period the place where the earth had its orbit
was an aching void.

In those days the family dog regularly attended
divine service, and they often disputed with each
other while the good man was warning sinners to
flee the wrath to come. Crying babies did not inter-
fere with the devotional exercises, other than to
stimulate the preacher to renewed exertion. The chil-
dren had souls to l)e saved.

The lot of the I'ioneer Preacher was a hard one. but
he never comi>lained. lie faithfully j)erlormed his
duties imtil called by the Pilaster, hrm in the faiih
that he would wear a crown of glory on the other
shore.



124



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Online LibraryJay Guy CiscoHistoric Sumner County, Tennessee, with genealogies of the Bledsoe, Gage and Douglass families and genealogical notes of other Sumner County families → online text (page 21 of 21)