By John Knowles
An examination of the recordsshows that the origin of what afterwards became the Rushville Baptist Churchwas on this wise:–
At a meeting of the SpoonRiver Association, held with Salem Church, in Fulton county, Illinois,a resolution was adopted declaring non-fellowship with all Baptists whowere engaged in mission, Bible, tract, Sunday-school, or temperance effort.
A number of members presentdeeming this action a violation not only of their rights as individuals,but also as being in direct conflict with Baptist teaching and usage, andas tending to destroy if carried into effect, the individual independenceof 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 churchis competent to manage, direct and control its own affairs–believing also,that the resolution in question, was opposed to the spirit and teachingsof the gospel, and would retard its progress, they withdrew from the associationand on October 20, 1832, organized a Baptist Church of Christ called Concord.The Baptist Church to-day has articles of faith which are recognized andsubscribed to by all the churches in the denomination, but when the ConcordChurch was organized such articles seem to not to have been available.And the church adopted such as in their judgement were, best calculatedto promote the interests of the organization. It is interesting to note,that not only did they plant themselves squarely upon a platform whichrecognized and endorsed all the benevolent operations of the day, but addedto their constitution these words: We wish it well understood that weconsider it disorderly for any member of this church to distil ardent spiritsfor gain, as the same is calculated to demoralize society, or to resortto taverns or groceries for the purpose of buying ardent spirits, but wewould recommend to our brethren entire abstinence except in cases of sickness,when it is recommended by a physician.
Thirty-three brethren andsisters signed the constitution, and articles of faith, and the organizationwas completed by the unanimous call of elder John Logan to the pastorateof 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 clearlykept by brother Lenox during his whole term of services. They show thatmonthly meetings were held by the church, at first in private houses, butvery soon a house was built and set apart for worship. Meetings invariablycommenced on the Saturday before the Lords day; a business meeting followedeach Saturday service; always the doors of the church were opened for theadmission of members, but few meetings are recorded when there were notaccessions to the membership of the church. For years these accessionswere constant and steady; much good was done and many souls brought intothe kingdom through its efforts and influence.
Elder Logan served the churchas its pastor for four years, and in the fall of 1836, was succeeded byElder Newell. In 1837 the church bought a lot and erected a meeting-housein Rushville, but after a short occupancy, voted to sell the property andreturn again to the county. Accordingly a log church was built on the Macombroad four and a half miles north of Rushville, and in this log church underthe pastorate of Elder H. Davis the church seems to have enjoyed the mostprosperous years of its existence. Elder Davis succeeded to the pastoratein 1840; the church had been for some time without preaching, but seemedto take on new life with its new minister. Meetings were held, many wereconverted, and the church became a power for good in the community. Earlyin 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 eventuallydied out. Elder Davis continued to serve the church as pastor until thefall of 1847. Perhaps to copy a resolution from the record about the reluctantacceptance of his resignation, owing to removal to too great a distancefrom the church, will furnish the best idea of the man: Resolved, thatas a church we feel sincerely grateful to Elder Davis for his unweariedlabors in serving the church and traveling the distance of twenty-fivemiles once every monthly; besides a number of interesting and profitablemeetings held, and for the space of seven years and five months, he neverfailed in one appointment. The writer well remembers hearing Deacon WilliamOwen tell how on one cold, inclement Saturday, Brother Swan and himselfstarted on foot to open and warm the church for worship. After waitingtill nearly the usual time for closing and no one had come, they concludedto lock up and go home. As they started, they saw coming toward them, asolitary horseman plowing with difficulty his way through the deep snow.As he neared them they saw it was Elder Davis; he had kept his appointmentand 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 twoother ministers succeeded Elder Davis, in short pastorates. The next notableevent in the history of the church occurred in 1849. The village of Littletonwas located about nine miles from Rushville; a number of the members ofthe Rushville Baptist Church lived in the neighborhood, it was thoughtdesirable to plant a Baptist Church in the village. Seventeen members weregranted letters from the Rushville Church, and Littleton Baptist Churchbecame a fixed face; has remained such ever since, and is to-day a flourishingchurch of some one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty members,and a large and interesting Sabbath-school.
In the winter of 1850 and1851 the church decided to again build a meeting-house in Rushville. Acomfortable house was built and opened for regular services in the fallof 1851. Elder N. Hayes was called to the pastorate, and served the churchin 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 locatedin the country; and while under several different pastors it has been blestwith occasional revivals resulting in additions to its membership, thelast few years of its existence have been so uneventful as to furnish butlittle to point a moral or adorn the tale of its history. The town itselfhas remained practically at a stand still. For many years, removals andinevitable death, made sad inroads upon the membership of the church, renderingit too feeble to support preaching or keep up its meetings. In additionto the churches formed from its membership at Brooklyn and Littleton, ofwhich mention has been made, two other churches, one six miles northeastof town, the other at Pleasant View, were each organized from the membershipof the old Rushville Church.
During the nearly fifty yearsof its existence the church has received into its fellowship three hundredand seventy-six members. Of these the records show that some fell by thewayside; others, and the much larger number, moved away and were furnishedletters to other churches; still others, a goodly and precious and everincreasing company, have crossed the flood, and are safe in the everlastingArms. While the Baptist denomination is, perhaps, as much alive to theimportance of an educated ministry as is any other body of Christians,it yet remains true that the Rushville Church has not been much indebtedfor whatever of good it has accomplished in the education if its ministers.They were for the most part, plain, unlettered men; many of them probablynever heard of Murray, and were not very familiar with Webster, but fordevoted, earnest piety, for faithfulness in discharge of duty, for intenseburning love for the souls of their hearers, and for true pulpit power,the ministers of later days have never excelled them. The laymen of thechurch furnish a bright and shining part of her history. So numerous werethey that it may seem invidious to mention names, yet a long and profitableacquaintance with Deacons Wilson and Harrington, and later with DeaconWilliam Owens, has convinced the writer that good laymen contribute muchto the strength, stability and efficiency of a church. The brethren mentionedhave each in turn, and in ripe old age, been called from the labor theyloved so well to glorious fulness of reward. What in the good providenceof 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 thathistory its unflinching, unwearying fidelity to truth, the wholesome andfaithful discipline which it has always exercised over its members, thenumber and character of its converts, the hold it still has, even in itsenforced weakness, on the best feelings of the community, the difficultiesit has encountered and conquered along its way, the general good it hasaccomplished, the members from its ranks who have passed from the churchmilitant to the church triumphant, all unite to lead us to thank God forthe organization of the Rushville Baptist Church in Schuyler county.
Source: The Combined Historyof Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol LongwellMiller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb.
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