Baptists and the American Civil War: September 6, 1861

John Henderson Spencer

John Henderson Spencer

The Long Run Baptist Association of Kentucky meets today. The war is upon the minds of the Baptists gathered.

Kentucky Baptist historian John H. Spencer, born in 1826 and now at the prime of his preaching career, recalls the meeting:

On the 6th of that month [September, 1861] I went to the meeting of Long Run Association at old Long Run church in Jefferson County. Dr. S. H. Ford then of Louisville, had been appointed to preach the annual sermon before the body, but he declined and the task was laid on me. I took occasion in my sermon to urge upon the large number of ministers present a more thorough and self-sacrificing consecration to the work of the Gospel. I think I used the expression: “We should be concerned about drawing tears rather than salaries.” There was more war-excitement than spirituality among the brethren, and some of them were offended at my preaching.

Other Baptist associations in Kentucky are also meeting this month. Again, Spencer:

On the following Thursday I met with Sulphur Fork Association at Hillsboro in Henry County. I was put up to preach at the stand the same day, but the rain drove us in the house before I was half through my discourse. That night I heard for the only time, the illiterate but gifted Lewis Alexander, Owen Co. The faithful Wm. B. Smith preached the introductory sermon. T. C. McKee who afterwards proved himself an impostor delivered a brilliant sermon in the house and was followed by the pious A. E. Shirley. That night I stayed at the house of the now aged Wm. Coombs, who entertained me during many subsequent meetings at Hillsboro. To prevent exciting discussion of the war, which had already commenced, old Bro. E. G. Berry induced several aged persons, who, were present, to relate their Christian experiences.

Evidencing divided loyalties in the border state that refuses to side with the South, Kentucky Baptists remain bewitched over the war for the next four years.

Note: John H. Spencer wrote A History of Kentucky Baptists: From 1769 to 1885 (2 Vol), Cincinnati: J. R. Baumes, 1885. Jim Duvall, author of the Baptist History Homepage, provided the information for this journal entry.

Sources: Autobiography of John Henderson Spencer, Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky. Typed manuscript, January, and February, 1947, by Mrs. J. Henry Simpson; illustration (link)