Wilson Thompson.

The autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson embracing a sketch of his life, travels, & ministerial labors, in which is included a concise history of the old order of regular Baptist churches online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryWilson ThompsonThe autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson embracing a sketch of his life, travels, & ministerial labors, in which is included a concise history of the old order of regular Baptist churches → online text (page 1 of 29)
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In these pages are presented a brief outline of the
life of that eminent saint and go^pel laborer, Elder
Wilson Thompson, whose praise is in many churehes.

The work is the produet ot the Elder's own pen, and
the following is a statement of its contents as given in
his own peculiar style: ".A biographical sketch of the
life and travels of Wilson Thompson ; containing his
views of many texts of Scripture, points of doctrine
thought to be mj'sterious, and some matters of contro-
vers}', together with a very concise history of the old
order of Ilegular Baptist Churches in the West, espe-
cially those of which he has been a member, or of
which he had the privilege, from time to time, to serve
as their pastor or called minister."

The reader will not look upon this volume as " a lit-
erary production of great merit," for the writer never
had the advantage of a scholastic education. It is
simply an unpretending narrative of ministerial labors
by one whose only learning was to know his Bible

Born of humble parents, at a time when schools
were few, especially in country districts, it was not to
be expected that the son of a poor backwoodsman could
acquire the learning of the schools, whether literary or


lie was, howiiver, early introduced into the school of
Christ, where both head and heart were taught and
trained in the best of all knowledge, and himself fitted,
in an extraordinary degree, for future usefulness.

In this school he continued to his dying day, an
humble yet earnest scholar. He shrunk not from a
personal application of the rule of discipleship as laid
down by our divine Master: "Whosoever will come
after me let him deny himself, and take up his cross
and follow me." He was ever more anxious to know
his Lord's will, however painful, that he might do it,
than to listen to the suggestions of the natural feelings
when they would incline him to seek ease and comfort.

Without pledging the reader to a belief in all the
theological views of our deceased parent, we will be
excused this humble eulogium on one whose memory
is sacred to our hearts : " Few in any age of the Church,
since the days of the apostles, have labored more unsel-
fishly to promote the cause of true and undefiled religion
than has our father— Elder Wilson Thompson."

Commending this little volume to the candid and
indulgent consideration of the friends of the deceased,
among whom it will chiefly be circulated, we feel no
hesitation in saying, that to them as well as to us —

" He being dead yet speaketh."



When the memoirs of a man are preserved in
book form, the reader is very apt to inquire, " Of
what stock or blood was he?" To gratify this so-
licitude, I answer: I have learned that my great-
grandmother was an English lady, and that she
married a Welchman, whose name was Jones.
Whether this marriage took place before they came
to America or after, I have not learned; but all
their children were born in America. I have no
knowledge of any more than five of them ; and,
most likely, there were no more. At all events, of
those who lived to maturity, two were sons, and
three were daughters.

James, the eldest son, lived to old age. Although
poor he was, nevertheless, comfortable and respect-
able, and was a beloved member of the regular Bap-
tist church, for many years before his death.

Thomas, the other son, became somewhat
wealthy ; he raised a large famil}-, and died in a
good old age ; he also was an esteemed member of
the Baptist church.

6 Autobiography of

Nancy, one of the daughters, was remarkable as
being a good singer and poetess, and for her knowl-
edge in the Scriptures and divine things. As a sis-
ter in the church she was highly esteemed. She
married a man by the name of Whitaker, raised a
respectable family, anel died in old age.

The otlier two daughters, Mary and Jane, were
my grandmothers — my father and mother being
cousins. Mary, the elder of these two, married a
man by the name of McDonnell, by whom she had
one son. Her husband died, and she then married a
raw Irish Presbyterian by the name of James Wilson,
by whom she raised a family of girls. These all
married. Elizabeth, the oldest, married Joseph
Ilolman ; IN'ancy married Charles Reynolds; Mary
married William Wilson ; and Rebecca, the young-
est, married Closs Thompson, my father.

Jane Jones, my other grandmother — m}' father's
mother — iirst married a man by the name of Lee,
by whom she had a son and a daughter. The son
became the celebrated Baptist minister whose praise
was in many of the churches, and who was known
as Elder James Lee The daughter married Bethnel
Riggs, who also became a Baptist minister of note.
After the birth of these two children Elder Lee
died, and Jane, the widow, married Closs Thomp-.
son — a cross-blood of Scotch and German — and my
father was the first child of this marriage.

Elder Wilson Thompson. 7

, So, friendly reader, you see the blood of England,
Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany mingles in
my veins, yet myself, and parents, and grandparents,
except my mother's father, were natives of Amer-
ica ; and all of them stood firm in the American
cause during the revolutionary struggle.

After the independence of the United States was
achieved my father and his next brother, Lawrence,
left their native State, North Carolina, and spent one
year (perhaps A. D. 1786) as pioneers in the dense
forests of Kentucky, among the wild beasts and savage
Indians. I have often sat spell-bound while hearing
my father relate the many dangers and hair-breadth
escapes of his border life, and those of the llevolu-

After spending about one year in Kentucky he
returned to I^orth Carolina, and married Rebecca
"Wilson, and, shortly after, again moved to Ken-
tucky. So in the fall of 1787 he, and all his father's
family, and all my mother's father's family, also, came
to dwell in the forests of what the Indians called "the
bloody land," where my parents passed through
many of those thrilling alarms and trying privations
incident to border warfare, and to the settling of
Kentucky in particular.

I was the first born of my parents; and my birth
took place on the 17th day of August, A. J). 1788,
in Woodford County, at Hillsborough, Clear Creek.

8 Autobiography of

But my first recollection of anything was of Madi-
son County, not far from llicbmond, on the waters
of Silver Creek. The whole family of my race,
down to my own parents, generally lived to an old
age. They died at ages varying from seventy to
eighty years, except my father's mother, who lived
to one hundred and four years.

This sketch may sufiice as to my blood, parent-
age, and nativity. My ancestors were all of the old
stock of regular Baptists, with but few exceptions.
One of m}^ mother's sisters was a Methodist, but her
father, who came to America from the "Emerald
Isle" a Presbyterian, became a Baptist many years be-
fore his death. My father was raised and christ-
ened (as sprinkling was called) in the Church of
England, became a Baptist before my recollection,
and filled the office of a Deacon from my first mem-
ory until his death, which occurred in the fift}^-
fourth year of his age. My mother was about four
years younger, and died about four years after him.

N'ow I shall proceed, more particularly, to narrate
my own history. As stated above, I was born on
the 17th day of August, A. J). 1788— the first child
of my parents. It was thought that both mother and
child must immediately die; the friends were called
in ; and Elder James Lee, my father's half-brother,
being then a young preacher, was requested to en-

Elder Wilson Thompson. 9

gage in prayer. During his prayer, by some special
impulse and access at the Throne of Grace, he re-
ceived such full assurance, that, rising from his
knees, he boldly said to all present, that the child
would be a man for God, to preach the Gospel of
Ilis Grace. He then gave special charge to my
father respecting my education.

This conviction of his never subsided, but contin-
ued undiminished ; and he often spoke of it to va-
rious persons, and at different places, always with
the same assurance. All this, however, was kept
from me until after I began to preach. I was not
sent to college, however; for I suppose my father
did not feel able to send me from home, and pay
my board and tuition fees. As a further drawback
to my education I must add, that the country being
new and thinly settled, the little schooling I re-
ceived was obtained by walking morning and even-
ing, over a very hilly pathway, a distance of about four
miles. By the time I was able to walk this far to
school, I was also able to work at home ; and
father having lost two tracts of land by the bad ti-
tles of Kentucky, and, as about this time, having
bought new lands in the green woods, my labor
was much needed in the opening of a farm.

And so the little schooling I could get was only a
few days at a time; yet, in this scattering way, I
picked up a little knowledge of spelling, reading,

10 Autobiography of

arithmetic, and English grammar. iS'othing was
pcrlected. I only acquired a mere smattering of
either. In those days teachers had but little qualifi-
cations; and were distinguished for bad habits in
reading, and worse, if possible, in pronunciation.
So that when I commenced preaching I could not
read a chapter nor a hymn intelligently. The little
learning I have, I got by myself without a teacher,
except books; and, being poor, and having a family
to support by the labor of my own hands, my
opportunity for study and improvement was
exceedingly limited, and, of course, my progress

I know but little of my childhood worth record-
ing. Neither of my parents had made any profession
of vital Christianity at the period of my birth. I
grew up like other " backwood's " boys. In my
infancy my father and mother both professed vital
religion, and became members of a Eegular Baptist
Church. My father, moreover, was a deacon of the
Church. Among the earliest events of my recollec-
tion was seeing him passing around the bread and
wine at the Lord's Supper. I have heard him and
mother relate one event that was truly strange to
them. It was this : My father became deeply im-
pressed on some point of Scripture doctrine, which
called up, imperfectly to liis memory, some text in
point, but the precise words, and the connection of

Elder Wilson TiiOxMPson. 11

the text, he could not rememher. So he turned to
his Bible, but after ti long and fruitless search for the
passage he gave it up, concluding that there was no
such text; and having closed the book, he sat with
it in his hands. When I came to his knees, I took
the book and o[)ened it, turning the leaves as it lay
on his lap, and having placed my linger on a certain
spot, he looked at the place and there saw the long-
souo^ht text. This was when I was a little infant,
and had no knowledge of the use of books or letters..
These, with some other similar events, I have heard
my parents and others relate, but all occurred before
my memory, and I heard nothing of them until after
I began to preach.

I believe my mind was more or less impressed with
the importance of religion from my first recollection.
I had a dread of death, and fears of future misery,
that betimes would harrass me very much; but, I
am now convinced that these early exercises were
the efiect of education. My father's house was a
liome for the preachers, and was called a " Baptist
Tavern." Meeting was often held there, and then
the Baptists from a large boundary would come,
father being a deacon and regarded as having a
special gift in discipline, prayer, and exhortation,
and, withal, was one of the best of singers, and
what was called a fireside preacher. He was able in
the Scriptures, sound in faith, social in his manners.

12 Autobiography of

and interesting but not assuming in conversation,
lie attended all the associations and other large
meetings, and visited many of the churches, conse-
quently his acquaintance became general, and his
doors were always open to receive all that came. So
I heard much about religious subjects, and, perhaps,
this will account for the early impressions of my
mind. I am very sure, from a retrospect of those
early impressions, that they were just of that char-
acter which a carnal heart and a defiled conscience
might be expected to have, under such circumstances
as I liave related. These impressions are what the
Armenian world calls religion — such as they can get
and lose at pleasure.

The abundance of religious conversation which I
heard, early impressed my young mind with the
awful realities of a future state, the miseries of the
wicked, and kindred subjects; so I resolved to do
good, get religion, and thus get clear of future mis-
eries, and at last reach a happy heaven. These were
m}^ views, and a firm resolve to attend to this matter
by and by, and attend to it well, gave me some ease
and a kind of resting-place. Although all the relig-
ious conversation I had ever had (and that was not
a little) was on salvation by grace alone, yet I had
no just conceptions of that plan ; but, while I felt
very partial to the Baptists, I had never learned one

Elder Wilson Thompson. 13

idea of their system of grace, but was building all
my hope upon the good works which I intended to
perform. Tiius spent I my youth, until I was about
eleven years old. About this time my father, having
lost his second tract of land, resolved to leave the
State of Kentucky, where land-titles were so uncer-
tain, and move to the ITorth-Western Territory, now
the State of Ohio. In prosecution of this resolve,
he, with his family and effects, started for the Little
Miami, where he had previously been to look out a
location. Leaving Madison County, we all came
safe to Campbell County, Kentucky, near the mouth
of the Licking River. My grandfather, for many
years, had been laboring under an asthmatic aflec-
tlon, which had so reduced his strength, that he
became entirely unable to provide for, or indeed to
do anything for liimself or family. Aly mother be-
ing their youngest child, and both of them being now
quite old, they had quit keeping house, and were
living with father and mother, and, of course, moved
with them. When we came to Licking River the
word came to them, that the Indians had broken
out afresh in the Territory, and that the settlers
were then in forts and stations. Some of them
had been killed, and horses, cattle, etc., had been
stolen; hence great alarm pervaded the country.
My grand parents became alarmed, my mother be-
came tired, and, under these circumstances, father

14 Autobiography of

was induced to stop for a year m Campbell County,

One Major Leach, who had settled a station on
Licking River, died about this time; and General
James Taylor, the proprietor of the town of New-
port, Kentucky, settled the affairs of the estate, and
transacted the business for the widow Leach, and
finally married her. My father rented this station
and land for one 3^ear. The family suffered much
with chills and fever during that short period. A
small Baptist Church was constituted near the sta-
tion, and father and mother, grandfather and griind-
mother, became members of it ; and father was the
deacon. They built a log meeting-liouse, on the
bank of the Licking River, and a revival and in-
gathering of the church followed. A goodly num-
ber were added by baptism, and, the countr}^ being
new, some Baptists moved in, and became members
by letter. I was now, as already stated, about eleven
years old. The thoughts of death, of judgment, and
future punishment, with an increased force and ter-
ror, oppressed my mind; and now my resolve to do
better after awhile gave me no relief. I, therefore,
solemnly resolved within myself to set about the
work in good earnest, and never give it up until I
knew I had obtained the pardon of all my sins, and
then live clear of sin the remainder of my da3's, and
be a good, exemplary, straight- walking Christian.

Elder Wilson Thompson. 15

Thus would I have no fears of death, hell, or judg-
ment, but would be prepared for heaven at all times.
All this I verily thought I could obtain by re[)ent-
anee, prayer, diligence, obedience, and a persevering
continuance in well-doing. Do good and be good;
then do good and keep good. I believed that God
was good, and that lie would love and save all that
would repent, do good, pray, and love Him — these
I would do, for I never once thought but what I
could do all these things. So I began, and although
I was at a loss for words, and could not pray fluently,
yet I thought I should improve from practice. For
a time I seemed to get along but poorly, and some-
times thought of giving it up ; but the fears of death
and hell would come on me with such terrific shocks,
that I would go at it again.

Continuing for some months in this way, I found
that I was gaining ground — that I had got much
better. I had prayed often and frequently, I had
repented with sorrow for my sins, I had ceased to
do evil, was very precise in my walk and conversa-
tion, and I had refrained from playing with other
boys, especially on the Sabbath day, as we called the
first day of the week. All these thinirs I had done
so faithfully, that I concluded God did now love me
and w^ould save me, and I felt very happy. I con-
tinued in this frame for a time, and resolved never
to sin again, but live lioly the remainder ot my days.

16 Autobiography of

I had not lived long in this perfect way, until I be-
gan to get tired ; and then I thought that as I was
young, and, perhaps, might live to be old, it was a
gloomy prospect to spend a whole long life in this
irksome way, and never see any pleasure in youth
or manhood. Yet, I reflected again, altliough I was
young I might die, and that would be an awful event
if I should now go back into sin again. While these
things were agitating my mind, the love of sin pul-
ling me back, and the fears of death and judgment
prompting me forward, an event occurred which was
rather singular. I heard my mother and my aunt
talking of the death of one of my cousins, who had
lately died, and they seemed doubtful whether she
had crossed the line of accountability or not. I have
no recollection of ever hearing until then anything
about infant purity, or the lire of accountability that
infants must cross before they can be lost. I under-
stood these women to express this idea. I felt at
once a very deep interest in the doctrine, and a
thought occurred to me at once: "Perhaps I have not
yet crossed this line ; if so, all my religious exercises
and doings have been premature, and I am safe un-
der the covert of infant purity and non-accounta-
bility." This set me on a close search for this line,
but I could not find it. I could not read, but sup-
posed if I could I should soon find it ; for I perceived
that father always went to the Scriptures for infor-

Elder Wilson Thompson. 17

matioii oil all subjects of a religious nature, and
I supposed that this was one, and that it was
made phiin in that book. The difficulty niiglit
be solved it' I could only read! But this I could
not do, and I was too backward to ask my pa-
rents, or any other person, about it; still my anx-
iety continued, and whenever the Bible was read in
my hearing I listened and watched to hear some-
thing on this subject. It was not long until I heard
the chapter read which tells of Christ being found
among the doctors and lawyers, when lie was about
twelve years old, and of Ills saying to His mother:
" Wist ye not that it is time I was about my Father's
business?" This settled my mind. I inferred from
this saying, that about twelve years of age was the
line, and then, and not until then, was it necessary
to begin a religious course of life. By this rule,
taken as I supposed, from the example of Christ, I
found that all my trouble and labor were premature,
by about one year; and this decided my mind, at
once, to drop all my religion, and spend that year in
taking my fill of sin, while 3'et an infant, and in a
safe condition — not yet having passed the line of
accountability, and, of course, not accountable for
anything that I might do, while on the infant side
of that line. This course I did pursue, as far as I
dared go in sin, profane language, and all boyish
vices, so as to keep clear of paternal correction. I

18 Autobiography of

Aveiit with a greediness, perhaps almost unparalleled;
for helieving that all was safe with me, I went into
sin with a rush. My parents were very strict in
family discipline: and I not only feared the rod, but
even the frown of my parents would almost break
my heart, for I verily thought my parents were the
best people living on earth. So I continued until I
had entered into my thirteenth year.

About this time, a powerful work of grace broke
out in the neighborhood ; and here it is necessary to
explain that my father had, during this time, pur-
chased a small farm a little up the Licking — above
the station ; that my grandfather and grandmother
were both dead, being about seventy-five years old
at the time of their decease; that we now lived on the
east bank of Licking River, Campbell County, and
that father still talked of moving to the Territory.
This great work spread out upon the hills and up-
land settlements with great powder, and among per-
sons of different ages, including quite a number of
young people down to eleven or twelve years of age.
The work was powerful, and continued for a length
of time. The country was but thinly settled, and
that in patches or small settlements, yet many were
added to that church, which was called the Mouth
of Licking. During this revival my fears became
more terrific than ever before. I reflected on the

Elder AVilson Thompson. 19

past. I thought, that perhaps I had been mistaken
about the Ihie of accountability, and that I was really
accountable for laying down my religion and for all
the sins that I had conunittcd since; nay, more, one
year had nearly past since I was twelve years old,
and I had promised never to sin after I was that
age; but I had disregarded this promise! I thought
that God was now very angry with me, and perhaps
would not receive my repentance, nor hear and
answer my prayers. I thought that I had forfeited
His confidence, and now, if ever I gained it again, it
must take a long time, require many prayers, deep
repentance, and the performance of many good
works. I was ashamed and afraid to begin, but I
knew of no way to obtain God's favor and the par-
don of my sins, but to begin again, and pursue the
same course I had pursued so successfully before.
This plan I adopted, feeling, however, less confident
of success, but resolved to be more vigilant than
ever; and although the time might be longer, and
the effort require more repentance and prayer than
before — as my sins had greatly multiplied, yet I
would persevere and faithfully perform my part;
and so, I hoped, a God of mercy would finally be
pacified and pardon and accept me. With these
views and feelings, I commenced, as I thought, in
good earnest, determined to watch every evil and
avoid it, and do all I thought would please God.

20 Autobiography of

I began by abandoning all my former evil words
and ways, and by praying often — every day and night
l)efore I went to sleep, and every time I awoke
during the night, and in the morning before I arose.
I forsook all bad boys, and was especially observant
of what was called the Sabbath. I continued in
this way for some time. I Unally began to compare
myself with the members of the church, especially

Online LibraryWilson ThompsonThe autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson embracing a sketch of his life, travels, & ministerial labors, in which is included a concise history of the old order of regular Baptist churches → online text (page 1 of 29)