By John Knowles
An examination of the records shows that the origin of what afterwards became the Rushville Baptist Church was on this wise:--
At a meeting of the Spoon River Association, held with Salem Church, in Fulton county, Illinois, a resolution was adopted declaring non-fellowship with all Baptists who were engaged in mission, Bible, tract, Sunday-school, or temperance effort.
A number of members present deeming this action a violation not only of their rights as individuals, but also as being in direct conflict with Baptist teaching and usage, and as tending to destroy if carried into effect, the individual independence of the churches--a right believed to be taught and enjoined in the Scriptures, and for which Baptists in all ages have earnestly contended that each church is competent to manage, direct and control its own affairs--believing also, that the resolution in question, was opposed to the spirit and teachings of the gospel, and would retard its progress, they withdrew from the association and on October 20, 1832, organized a Baptist Church of Christ called Concord. The Baptist Church to-day has articles of faith which are recognized and subscribed to by all the churches in the denomination, but when the Concord Church was organized such articles seem to not to have been available. And the church adopted such as in their judgement were, best calculated to promote the interests of the organization. It is interesting to note, that not only did they plant themselves squarely upon a platform which recognized and endorsed all the benevolent operations of the day, but added to their constitution these words: “We wish it well understood that we consider it disorderly for any member of this church to distil ardent spirits for gain, as the same is calculated to demoralize society, or to resort to taverns or groceries for the purpose of buying ardent spirits, but we would recommend to our brethren entire abstinence except in cases of sickness, when it is recommended by a physician.”
Thirty-three brethren and sisters signed the constitution, and articles of faith, and the organization was completed by the unanimous call of elder John Logan to the pastorate of the church and the election of Elijah M. Wilson and George Swan deacons, and David Lenox church clerk. The records of the church were well and clearly kept by brother Lenox during his whole term of services. They show that monthly meetings were held by the church, at first in private houses, but very soon a house was built and set apart for worship. Meetings invariably commenced on the Saturday before the Lord’s day; a business meeting followed each Saturday service; always the doors of the church were opened for the admission of members, but few meetings are recorded when there were not accessions to the membership of the church. For years these accessions were constant and steady; much good was done and many souls brought into the kingdom through its efforts and influence.
Elder Logan served the church as its pastor for four years, and in the fall of 1836, was succeeded by Elder Newell. In 1837 the church bought a lot and erected a meeting-house in Rushville, but after a short occupancy, voted to sell the property and return again to the county. Accordingly a log church was built on the Macomb road four and a half miles north of Rushville, and in this log church under the pastorate of Elder H. Davis the church seems to have enjoyed the most prosperous years of its existence. Elder Davis succeeded to the pastorate in 1840; the church had been for some time without preaching, but seemed to take on new life with its new minister. Meetings were held, many were converted, and the church became a power for good in the community. Early in the year 1842 a meeting was held by Elder Davis in the village of Brooklyn; the result was a church organized which flourished for some time but eventually died out. Elder Davis continued to serve the church as pastor until the fall of 1847. Perhaps to copy a resolution from the record about the reluctant acceptance of his resignation, owing to removal to too great a distance from the church, will furnish the best idea of the man: “Resolved, that as a church we feel sincerely grateful to Elder Davis for his unwearied labors in serving the church and traveling the distance of twenty-five miles once every monthly; besides a number of interesting and profitable meetings held, and for the space of seven years and five months, he never failed in one appointment.” The writer well remembers hearing Deacon William Owen tell how on one cold, inclement Saturday, Brother Swan and himself started on foot to open and warm the church for worship. After waiting till nearly the usual time for closing and no one had come, they concluded to lock up and go home. As they started, they saw coming toward them, a solitary horseman plowing with difficulty his way through the deep snow. As he neared them they saw it was Elder Davis; he had kept his appointment and insisted on their all going back to the church and having meeting; and said the deacon, in conclusion we had a very good meeting. One or two other ministers succeeded Elder Davis, in short pastorates. The next notable event in the history of the church occurred in 1849. The village of Littleton was located about nine miles from Rushville; a number of the members of the Rushville Baptist Church lived in the neighborhood, it was thought desirable to plant a Baptist Church in the village. Seventeen members were granted letters from the Rushville Church, and Littleton Baptist Church became a fixed face; has remained such ever since, and is to-day a flourishing church of some one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty members, and a large and interesting Sabbath-school.
In the winter of 1850 and 1851 the church decided to again build a meeting-house in Rushville. A comfortable house was built and opened for regular services in the fall of 1851. Elder N. Hayes was called to the pastorate, and served the church in that capacity for nearly two years, being then succeeded by Elder Gibbs. The church has never been as successful in town as while it was located in the country; and while under several different pastors it has been blest with occasional revivals resulting in additions to its membership, the last few years of its existence have been so uneventful as to furnish but little to point a moral or adorn the tale of its history. The town itself has remained practically at a stand still. For many years, removals and inevitable death, made sad inroads upon the membership of the church, rendering it too feeble to support preaching or keep up its meetings. In addition to the churches formed from its membership at Brooklyn and Littleton, of which mention has been made, two other churches, one six miles northeast of town, the other at Pleasant View, were each organized from the membership of the old Rushville Church.
During the nearly fifty years of its existence the church has received into its fellowship three hundred and seventy-six members. Of these the records show that some fell by the wayside; others, and the much larger number, moved away and were furnished letters to other churches; still others, a goodly and precious and ever increasing company, have crossed the flood, and are safe in the everlasting Arms. While the Baptist denomination is, perhaps, as much alive to the importance of an educated ministry as is any other body of Christians, it yet remains true that the Rushville Church has not been much indebted for whatever of good it has accomplished in the education if its ministers. They were for the most part, plain, unlettered men; many of them probably never heard of Murray, and were not very familiar with Webster, but for devoted, earnest piety, for faithfulness in discharge of duty, for intense burning love for the souls of their hearers, and for true pulpit power, the ministers of later days have never excelled them. The laymen of the church furnish a bright and shining part of her history. So numerous were they that it may seem invidious to mention names, yet a long and profitable acquaintance with Deacons Wilson and Harrington, and later with Deacon William Owens, has convinced the writer that good laymen contribute much to the strength, stability and efficiency of a church. The brethren mentioned have each in turn, and in ripe old age, been called from the labor they loved so well to glorious fulness of reward. What in the good providence of our God may be the future of our church we are of course unable to say, but, looking back over the years of its history, seeing always in that history its unflinching, unwearying fidelity to truth, the wholesome and faithful discipline which it has always exercised over its members, the number and character of its converts, the hold it still has, even in its enforced weakness, on the best feelings of the community, the difficulties it has encountered and conquered along its way, the general good it has accomplished, the members from its ranks who have passed from the church militant to the church triumphant, all unite to lead us to thank God for the organization of the Rushville Baptist Church in Schuyler county.
Source: The Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol Longwell Miller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb.
Copyright 1999, 2000 Robin L. W. Petersen; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.
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