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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



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EARLY



RELIGIOUS HISTORY OF

JOHN BARR,

WRITTEN BY HIMSELF, 'V^^

'■1

i^SD LEFT AS A LEGACY TO HIS GEAXD-CHILDRBN.
TO -R-HICH IS ADDED



A SKETCH OF HIS CHARACTER.

PHILADELPHIA:

PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF PUBLICATION,

No. 265 CHESTNUT STREET.



Entered according to the Act of Congress in the year 1852, by

Alexander "W. Mitchell, M. D.

In the office of the Clerk of the District Court for tne
Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



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Stereotyped by Slote & Moonet, Philadelphia,



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€ n t c n t ♦



CHAPTER I.

Address to his Grand-children — Family History — Early
Life — Remarkable Dream — Religious Impressions —
Escape from Drowning, 5

CHAPTER II.

Various Exercises of Mind — Preparation for the Lord's
Supper^ 23

CHAPTER III.
A remarkable Sabbath, 35

CHAPTER IV.

Various Temptations — Sahbath Exercises, 43

CHAPTER V.

Remarks on Salvation by Grace — On reading the Scrip-
tures in Family Worship, 54



Sketch of his Character, 63

^ 550162 ^"^



i



EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY



OP



JOHN BARE



CHAPTER I.



Address to his Grand-children — Family History — Early Life-
Remarkable Dream — Religious Impressions — Escape from
Drowning.

My Dear Children : — My heart's desire
and prayer to God for you is, that you may
be saved.

"What advantages or disadvantages the age
you are now entering on may offer for that
purpose, is to me altogether unknown. If
you should be so happy as never to hear the
doctrine of salvation by grace, or the opera-
tions of the Holy Spirit on the human heart,
doubted by some, and denied and derided by
1* (5)



6 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

otliers, you may, in this respect at least, be
said to live in a better age than your grand-
father did. To give my feeble testimony to
the truth of these doctrines, is what is prin-
cipally intended in the following narrative.
Subordinate to this, is a desire to leave a
pledge of my respect and affection for you,
that when I am silent in the dust, you may
have these lines to serve as a memorandum,
to remind you that you had a grandfather
who cared for you while living, and who,
"being dead, yet speaketh." You may also
profit by my mistakes and errors, which are
every where to be seen ; and if you find any-
thing worthy of imitation, copy after it, not
as the example of a weak, falhble creature ;
but as you find it authorized and approved
by the oracles of truth.

Let me hope that none of you will defer
religion as long as I did, and upon the same
mistaken and presumptuous grounds. The
sooner you get it the better. In a word, let
it be your first, your chief concern, to become
religious. "With this you will be rich, though
you have nothing else — " As having nothing.



OFJOHNBARR. 7

and yet possessing all things." I know not
how to conclude this address better than in
the words of inspiration by Moses and the
apostle Paul, to which I will add my Amen.
" The Lord bless you and keep you — the
Lord lift up his countenance upon you and
give you peace." "Now the God of peace
make you perfect in every good work to do
his will, working in you that which is well
pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to
whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen, and
Amen."

I WAS born in the lower part of Pennsyl-
vania in the fall of the year 1749, of L'ish
parents.

The spring following, my father moved up
to Little Connewago, York county, where he
lived till 1765, when he came to Rowan
county, North Carolina, October 5th, and
died the year following, October 31st, at the
age of 57 years, leaving four daughters and
five sons. My father's name was William.
He was of a middle stature, plain in his man-
ners, mild in his deportment, and exemplary



8 EAKLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

in his life. His talents were moderate, and
he seemed to excel in no one except in
strength of memory. My youngest sister
was married to John McCorkle, January
2Tth, 1774.

On the 4th of April, 1776, I was joined in
marriage to Mary King, daughter of E-ichard
King, by whom I had ten children.

But it is now time to take a retrospect of
the former part of my life. " "When I was a
child, I spake as a child, I understood as a
child, I thought as a child." Thus far I
could imitate the great apostle ; but when I
became a man, I found it not so easy with him
to "put away childish things.'' At the age
of sixty-five years, it will not be expected
that anything more than a sketch can be
given, and that a very imperfect one ; but it
may be depended on, so far as it goes, to be
correct.

Being born of religious parents, their care
and attention was exercised in endeavouring
to bring me up in the nui'ture and fear of
God. I seemed naturally to have an attach-
ment to books, and was fond of learning to



OF JOHN BARR. 9

read, and was not without some very early
serious impressions, whether they could be
called religious or not. I was told that hea-
ven was a pretty place and that good people
went there. I wondered that every body did
not be good. I think, about the age of three
or four, my father bought me a new book
with a sky-blue cover, which recommended it
to me very much. I thought heaven was all
like the cover of my book.

I recollect about this time to have asked
my mother what people should do to get to
heaven. She told me if I wanted to go to
heaven, I must be a good boy — must say my
prayers — read my book — not fight or tell
lies, &c. These conditions I thought I could
very easily comply with ; but thought it was
not enough to pray twice a day, and asked
her why people did not keep praying always.
She told me people could not live without
eating, and must work to get something to
eat. I saw the force of this, and made no
reply ; yet still I thought with myself, that if
people would do nothing but pray till they
should die of hunger, it would be very likely



10 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

^ to secure heaven to them. I thought that if
praying twice a day would make me good,
praying seven times a day would make me
better. This was more than mere specu-
lation. I actually tried to put it in practice,
BO early and deeply rooted did the legal spirit
appear. I soon, however, began to relax a
little, and it was not long till I thought twice
a day was too much trouble. And I know
not whether I should not have laid it aside
altogether, had it not been for some alarm-
ing dreams I had about this time. I fre-
quently dreamed that the day of judgment
was come, and it always found me un-
prepared. One dream in particular I will
here insert at length, which made an impres-
sion on my mind that I could not easily
shake off.

I thought I was on a vast extended plain,
where I could see in every direction as far as
the eye could reach. And looking up to the
sky, I thought it parted and fell off to each
side — when, to my no small astonishment, a
light which darkened the sun, appeared in the
opening a little south of where I stood. I



OFJOHNBAER. 11

did not hesitate a moment about the cause of
this light. I had no doubt that it was Christ
coming to judgment. I saw the appearance
of one like the Son of Man clothed in light,
attended with thousands and tens of thou-
sands of shining forms which I supposed to
be angels, descending as if to the spot where
I stood, but he stopped in the region of the
clouds, and did not come quite to the ground.
I saw a throne erected, and heard the loud
trumpet sound, " arise, ye dead, and come to
judgment." I cast my eyes around and saw
the earth teeming with its former inhabitants,
the dead rising in every direction. Some
had got on their feet — others appeared in a
sitting position — whilst only the heads of
some were to be seen above ground. But
this I observed, that all faces were turned to-
wards where I was, and every one, so soon
as disengaged from his clay, moved with
hasty steps towards the centre where I stood,
till a countless multitude filled the plain. I
should have been very glad to have been
only a spectator of this scene ; but found I
must have a share, and act a part in it. The



12 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

order of process I do not so well recollect, aa
what followed it, which I suppose I shall
never forget, so long as I am capable of re-
membering any thing. A separation took
place in this vast assembly — one part seemed
to mount as on eao-les' wino^s towards heaven.
I followed them with a wishful eye, till out of
sight, but remained still with those left upon
the ground. It was not long however till the
multitude on the ground was put in motion
by legions of frightful beings, which I had no
doubt were devils ; and I among the rest de-
scended a long dechvity, at the end of which,
as I expected, we came in sight of hell's gate.
It was not without great reluctance that I
proceeded — and though I felt no external
force pushing me forward, yet I was somehow
impelled to move on in a way that I could
not resist. I at last came to the gate, and
set my foot upon the threshold — the gate was
wide and had been crowded for some time. I
being near the last was not jostled by any
person. I took my stand on the threshold,
laying fast hold of one of the side-posts, and
looked in. It was a most dismal place, be-



OFJOHNBABE. 13

yond all description or conception I had
formed of it. Some parts had the blackness
of darkness — in others, objects could be seen
in a dim twilight. I observed that it -svas
much easier to get in than to get out again, the
way to it being down hill, the door but little
raised, and then a perpendicular pitch down,
more than the length of a man's body. I
thought with myself that if I should once go
in, I w^ould never get out again ; and resolved
that I would not go in, if I could do otherwise.

! how precious did time appear to me then !

1 thought if I had but one day, how I would
improve it ! how I would pray, and strive, and
live ! The thoughts of going into hell were
greatly aggravated too, by the hopes I had
formerly entertained of getting into the joys
of heaven. I did not know, however, but a
prayer might be heard from the very gates of
hell, and resolved that if I could do nothing
else, I would pray even before I went into it,
I had learned the Lord's prayer, which was
all that I made use of at that time, and be-
gan to say it over as w^ell as I could ; but my
fears of every moment dropping into hell

2



,14 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

awoke me, when I found myself about half
through, speaking with an audible, broken
accent, weeping at the same time. Some
of the family awoke me, and asked what
ailed me. I answered that I had only been
dreaming.

This dream appears to me a little extraor-
dinary on two accounts.

1. The order and regularity of it, which is
not common to me in dreaming. However
regular my thoughts might appear to be in
sleep, I had but few dreams that would stand
the sober investigation and reflection of wak-
ing hours ; but, generally speaking, they were
too full of inconsistencies and incoherencies to
be classed among the cogitations of a rational
creature.

2. I could hardly persuade myself other-
wise than that some things in it were beyond
my acquired knowledge at that time. I recol-
lect some time after to have read a description
of the general judgment, which placed the
seat of it in the air, and was struck with the
likeness that appeared between the descrip-
tion in that particular and my dream ; but



OFJOHNBARR. 15

cannot recollect to have had any other idea
before, than that it should be upon the earth.
But here perhaps I may incur the charge
of enthusiasm, in seeming to indicate that I
had a new revelation in sleep. I do not ad-
mit the charge, for two reasons : Fii'stj I am
not certain that I had not the idea before ;
my not being able to recollect it, is not suffi-
cient evidence to my own mind that no such idea
existed there ; but of this I am certain, that
if I had the idea, it had made very little im-
pression on my mind. Secondly, on the sup-
position that I had not the idea before, it was
not what I would call a new revelation, but
what was before plainly revealed. In 1 Thes-
salonians iv. 17, Paul mentions at least the
saints meeting the Lord in the air, whether
he will descend with them to the new earth
(as some think,) or not. So that taken either
way, that I had, or had not the idea before, I
can see nothing but what is in perfect unison
with the promise of the Comforter, (John xiv,
26,) who was to teach things before unnoticed
or unknown, and bring to remembrance things
that were known before. I know it may be



16 EAELY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

said, that " although in the earlv ages God
was pleased to communicate instruction by
dreams, visions, &c., as Elihu observes, (Job
xxxiii. 14 — 16,) in this age of the world, it
seems rather superstitious to expect commu-
nications in sleep, when we have now a more
sure word of prophecy."

I must confess that I am no great advocate
for dreams, and that any communications that
are now made, when the canon of Scripture
is completed, must be in conformity with the
written word ; but if a revealed truth that
had been but little known, or scarcely noticed
before, is in a dream more deeply impressed
on the mind, I should be unwilling to reject
it ; because I believe that there may be a good
as well as an evil agency on our minds in
sleep, and that we may now be instructed
in the night season, as well as those in Da-
vid's time. For this we have the authority
of the apostle Peter, in his quotation of, and
comment on the prophet Joel, (Acts ii. 17,)
that dreams should be occasioned by, or be a
consequence of, the pouring out of the Spii'it.

I shall now dismiss this particular, by ob-



OFJOHNBARR. 17

serving, with an eminent English writer,*
" That the phenomenon of dreaming is inex-
plicable at least, if not absolutely impossible,
without taking in the agency and intervention
of spiritual beings to us invisible."

About the age of five or six, I was much
entertained with a little book written, I think,
by James Janeway, on the piety and happy
deaths of children, from the age I then was
and upward. If I recollect right, the title
was, "Janeway's Token for Children." I
remember once taking it out to the field —
(I think I had some small charge assigned to
me of keeping cattle from the corn, which
required but little attention,) and sitting down
on a log, and reading till my eyes so over-
flowed with tears, that I could not see to read
any more. I knelt down and prayed. I had
by this time learned some forms of prayer
out of my mother's catechism ; but this was
the first time I recollect to have ventured to
make use of my own words, or what is called
extemporary prayer. Thus I spent perhaps
some hours, reading and praying alternately.

* Baxter on the Vis Inertice in Kewton, vol. 1st.

2*



18 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

I thought it Tvould be a very desirable event
to die and go to heaven. I could not content
myself with being a common Christian. I
wanted to be eminent for piety and religion.
But these thoughts having spent their force, I
returned again to my former state of coldness
and carelessness.

At eight years of age, I attended preach-
ing frequently ; and although it was not much
calculated to alarm sinners, yet I went home
sometimes very uneasy. When the works of
a true believer were described, I found I
could not apply them. I was however fruit-
ful in expedients, to prevent myself from
being, as I thought, too much disturbed.
Yet I found that I had enough to do to per-
suade myself that all was well with me.

The first expedient that occurred to me
was, " that I was as good as my neighbours,
and if it fared ill with me, it would fare ill
with a great many." This satisfied me for a
while, till at last I thought if it should fare
ill with others, it would be but a poor conso-
lation for me, that I had gone to hell for the
sake of company ! In another expedient, I



OFJOnXBAEE. 19

thought I was more correct and more ra-
tional. I knew that it was the preacher's
business to try to make the people good, and
that people were more disposed to stop short
of the line of rectitude, than to reach or go
over it. I thought then that it was a piece
of wise policy in a preacher, when drawing
the character of a man, to go a little over the
mark in order to bring the people up to it :
or perhaps draw the character of a man far
advanced in religion, which the younir s^.-
ginner was by no means yet able to lir. ate.
In this dexterous way of reason jl/. and in
which I was no doubt assisted b" an invisible
agency, I got the clamors of an awakened
conscience laid asleep again.

With respect to my external conduct, it
was in the main irreproachable; but I had a
vain and empty mind, excessively fond of
hearing my own praise ; and perhaps from no
higher motive, was urged on to what was
deemed laudable. At the age of eleven, I
suppose I could have answered, without hesi-
tation, every question in the Larger and
Shorter Catechisms. About this time, Mr.



20 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

Thompson, our minister, came round in a
course of family visitation — and observing me
to be forward in answering questions, lie
asked my father how old I was. On being
informed, he said I ought to be put to the
Latin school. My father said nothing about
my want of capacity to learn, but expressed
some doubt of his circumstances being ade-
quate to such an undertaking. This was food
for my vanity. I began to think I was almost
half a preacher already, and was vain and
foolish enough to learn little scraps of Latin
out of old authors, when they were put into
English, such as " Quamvis sis in tuto, noli
esse securus' — Though you be safe, be not
secure. But after all, my splendid talents
amounted to little more than an ease or fa-
cility in committing anything to memory, and
a power of retaining it, when some of my
brothers were greatly superior in depth,
strength, and solidity of judgment.

When I was about fifteen, my father sold
his land in order to move ; which he did the
year following. Having then little to do on
the farm, I had much leisure ; some of it I



F J H X B A R R . 21

spent in going to school, and on vacant days
would sometimes join a fishing party. One
day I went alone to a mill-pond about a mile
from home. Soon after I let down my hook,
I found it was fast on some old wood that
lay concealed in the water. Being afraid of
breaking my line, and consequently losing my
hook, which was a borrowed one, I thought
of trying to wade in to get it off. In this
attempt, to human appearance, I was the
nearest to death that I ever was in my life.
What David said frequently to Jonathan —
" there is but one step between me and death"
— was more than Hterally true, when there
was apparently not half a step with me.

Not knowing the depth of the water, I pro-
ceeded with some caution a few steps, when I
was suddenly alarmed at not finding the bot-
tom — and had imprudently ventured so far in
feeling for it, that I found it much easier to
go forward than to get back. Thus fixed in
a kind of poise, death appeared on one side,
and life on the other, and I hung for a few
moments in doubtful suspense between them !
I could not swim, and feared that I should



22 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

sink ; tlie balance however soon tui'ned in
favour of life.

I was glad to get out again. But my hook
was still fast. I then went up a small dis-
tance, to where some boys were at work in a
clearing ; told them how I was situated, with
the attempt I had made. They were alarmed
on hearing the danger I had just escaped, and
came down with me; and being better ac-
quainted with the fishing business than I was,
got my hook off safely.

They told me that the water there was ten
feet deep ; that the bank at which I had
stopped was perpendicular, being the bank of
the creek's former channel. After thanking
them for their kind assistance, I was content to
go home without any further attempt at fishing.
And although I considered myself very for-
tunate in having made such a narrow escape,
yet the impression on my mind was very
superficial. I thought more about it seven or
eight years after, than I did at the time. In
these days of vanity and dissipation, serious
thoughts were almost banished from my mind.



OF JOHN BARR. 23



CHAPTER II.

Various Exercises of Mind — Preparation for the Lord's Supper.

After coming to Carolina, I found myself
for some time rather lonesome, being cut off
from intercourse with my former companions.
I had however much time for thought and re-
flection. There was then no stated preach-
ing in this country, but only occasional sup-
plies from the northward, which were most
frequent in the winter season. Our long
summer Sabbaths were mostly silent. These
however afforded a great deal of time for
reading as well as rest. Being fond of read-
ing and rest too, the Sabbath was to me
generally a welcome day. And I sometimes
thought that the sun shone with more beauty
and benignity on that day than on any other ;
that it seemed to give a more pleasing aspect
to the whole face of nature.

About this time I was much delighted in
reading the dying sayings of good men, in



24 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

"Willison's Afflicted Man's Companion." I
thought sometimes that if I could die like
some of them, I did not much care how soon,
and sometimes meditated on the jojs of hea-
ven till my eyes would overflow with tears,
not of sorrow or remorse, but of joy, of gra-
titude, of desire, and, as I thought, of love.
About the year 1772, the Rev. Mr. Harris
took the charge of Thyatira congregation for
one or two years. In the after part of the
summer of 1773, the administration of the
sacrament of the supper was proposed — pre-
paratory to which several days were appointed
for catechizing young people who had in pros-
pect to come forward for the first time. I
attended with the rest, and being found to
have a competency of knowledge, and nothing
against my moral character, the way was open
for my admission. Self-examination was,
however, to be attended to. This I found to
be a pretty difficult business, for which I had
neither much inclination nor capacity — but
was determined that in the result it ought to
come out in my favour. And so it did. Eut
it cost me some trouble, both with respect to



OFJOHXBARR. 25

my general character as a Christian, and more
especially as to the exercises of some particu-
lar graces. Faith and repentance I had un-
derstood to be essential to the Christian cha-
racter. Faith I thought to be quite an easy
thing, and that I could believe as well as any
body. I was not so certain about repentance
— but a little doubtful whether ever I had re-
pented in my life. I knew I had sometimes
been sorry for sin, but whether my sorrow
was of that kind and degree that was neces-
sary to constitute true repentance, I could
not so well determine.

However, I thought it was best to make
sure work of it, and begin then, if I had
never done it before. Not knowing or con-
sidering that Jesus Christ was exalted to give
repentance, &:c., I set myself to perform that
good work in my own strength. To effect
this, I tried to call up all my sins, and set
them in order before me. But I had been
such an innocent creature, I could not find
materials to lay a foundation, on which I could
build repentance. I believe I rather repented
that I had not been a greater sinner, and
3



26 EARLY RELIGIOUS HISTORY

almost envied the situation of a malefactor
condemned for murder, or some atrocious
crime, and even once thought of committing
some gross sin that would cause remorse, and
lay a foundation for repentance. From what-
ever source this thought proceeded, whether
from a heart blinded by ignorance and vice,
or by the ruler of the darkness of this world,
it was too gross to admit of a moment's
serious investigation.

I saw then no other way than, like Saul
with the burnt-offering, "to force myself;'*
but in this attempt also I failed. It gave me
some uneasiness, that there was a grace that
I knew to be absolutely necessary to salvation,
and yet I could not exercise it. I read much
on the subject to little advantage, and at last
laid it aside, as an uncertainty which I would
perhaps know more al)out afterwards. I was
told that two things were necessary to fit us


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