Continues to Evangelize. Dr. Cook's Prescription. Incident at Glendale. Peculiar Feature in the Meeting at Madisonville. The Fractious Preacher at Sonora. Closes his Evangelistic Labors. Establishes the Old Path Guide
. The Bruner Debate.
In 1877 I spent much time evangelizing, being called to hold protracted meetings at many important places. I accepted work at seven of these, and my labors were fruitful in the conversion of sinners and in building up the saints in their most holy faith; but I had to be away from home a great deal, and my exposure in all kinds of weather, and the wear and tear of constant preaching, increased my lung disease.
While preaching at Cynthiana my spinal trouble returned, causing me to close abruptly, and I could preach no more till July. On my return from Cynthiana, some friends in Cincinnati induced me to visit a Dr. Cook (I think that is the name). He was celebrated for his skill in such afflictions. He was a corpulent, jolly old gentleman, full of humor. When I was introduced, he looked at me for a moment without coming near, and said: |Well, sir, you don't laugh enough. You take too serious a view of life. Why, sir, at least two inches of your spinal marrow is inflamed, produced by nervous exhaustion, the result of overwork and no mental recreation. I tell you, sir, all the medicine in the world will do you no good till you quit that and cultivate laziness. You must take a more cheerful view of life. And you must learn to laugh, not giggle a little, but laugh away down to the bottom of the abdomen. Then you will get well. I used to be a little, scrawny, sallow, nervous, overworked thing like you are, but I saw it was going to kill me, and I quit it and went to laughing, and now see what I am?| And this was all the prescription he gave me. There is, doubtless, a good deal of philosophy in it.
At Glendale a rather singular circumstance occurred. The first night of the meeting, I observed a very intelligent looking lady in the audience, and she was intensely interested. When we got back to the place where I was stopping, I asked the sister who this lady was. She gave her name, stating that she was the pride of the Methodist Church in that country; that her talk at the love-feast a few weeks before had been the topic of conversation ever since. I remarked that she would not be a Methodist when that meeting was over. But they would not listen to the idea that she would ever be anything but a Methodist. She was present the second and third nights, and manifested the same intense interest. The next morning early, she sent to ascertain if she could have a private interview. When she came, she made her business known at once. She wanted to learn if I would immerse her and let her remain in the M. E. Church. Without answering her question, I asked her what she wanted to be immersed for. She said she had become convinced that she had never obeyed the gospel, and she wanted to be immersed because it was the Saviour's will, and her sprinkling was not authorized. |Well,| said I, |why do you want to correct your life in some things according to the divine authority, and not in others?| She said she wanted to correct it in all respects where it was contrary to divine authority. I then told her that there were a number of things in the Methodist Church for which there was no more authority than there is for infant baptism. She inquired what, and when I told her, she said, |That will do,| and right away I immersed her. She had been brought up a Romanist, and while we were gone to the baptizing her sister burnt her Bible. No special persecution followed her change to the Methodists, but it was otherwise when she united with us. Her relatives, so far as known to me, have never become reconciled.
The meeting at Madisonville, O., eighteen miles from Cincinnati, also had a peculiar feature which I think worthy of mention. It was the first preaching by our brethren ever heard in the place, and most of those who made the confession had never before heard it made. The first person called upon to make it answered aloud and distinctly: |Yes, sir; I believe with my whole heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.| All who followed answered in the same way. I wish it could always be so.
In 1878 calls upon me to conduct meetings were multiplied, but I could comply only with those from Vevay, Ind., Sonora, Ky., Dover, White's Run, Columbia, Burksville, Glendale, Oakland and Owenton.
At Sonora, a Methodist preacher attended a few times, and he was remarkably fractious. Several times he interrupted me. One night, in preaching on the |Plan of Salvation,| commenting on the case of the jailer, I remarked that the fact that the apostles sometimes baptized households, was no evidence that they baptized infants, since there are many households without infants. He spoke up very much excited, saying, |May I ask you a question?| I told him yes. |Well, now,| he says, |suppose we take a common sense view of that matter. Suppose you were to come to town, and start out to baptizing households, and you were to go to Bro. Creel's house and mine, wouldn't you have to baptize infants?| (Bro. Creel had five little fellows, and he seven.) I answered, |Yes, Bro. Campbell, I admit that whenever you go to a preacher's house, you are very apt to find them.| The whole house laughed outright, and they never ceased laughing at that preacher till he left the circuit.
These meetings were all successful in the way of additions, except that at Vevay. But I have never kept an account of my additions, and remember the number at only a few meetings.
This year my regular evangelistic work closed on account of editing the Guide and preaching half the time at Portland Avenue Church, in Louisville.
In January, 1879, I established the Old Path Guide, in Louisville. I was owner, proprietor, editor, bookkeeper, treasurer, mailing clerk, general agent, and special |boss.| This required all my time, except what I had necessarily to give to preaching on the Lord's day and the preparation therefor. The Guide was a success, financially, from the beginning. I put money in bank the first three months of each year to pay every dollar of expense to the end. The net profits the first year were over [USD]600, and this increased each year for the three years that I managed it all myself. The third year would have netted [USD]1,000, but in the midst of it I made the change, transferring one-half of it to Cline, Marrs & Co., and giving them control of its business management. This was the beginning of financial embarrassment. The change was demanded by my failing health, and I could no longer do everything, as I had been doing from the first.
That year I engaged to preach half my time for the Portland Avenue Church. In order to serve the Glendale church, which is fifty miles on the Louisville & Nashville road, the Mt. Byrd church released me one Sunday in the month. During the year the Portland Avenue Church increased 120 per cent.
In February, 1879, I held a meeting for the Campbell St. church, Louisville. The meeting proved to be quite beneficial to the congregation, in many respects. I boarded in the city during the winter, and moved my family down in April.
The church at Glendale had a partnership house -- a very common thing in all Southwestern Kentucky. This prevented their meeting regularly on the Lord's day, and also prevented a Sunday-school, as the house was occupied more than half the time by others. Knowing that I could accomplish no substantial and enduring good while this state of things lasted, I made it a condition of preaching for them that they build a new house. This they did. The house is a neat frame, well finished inside and out, and large enough for all ordinary use. It was promptly built and paid for.
In November I held a debate there -- the first use made of the new house -- with I. W. Bruner, a Baptist preacher. The Baptist church there and ours arranged for a debate, on certain specified propositions, and each had the privilege of selecting its representative. Consequently I had nothing to do with getting up the debate or arranging for it. I never challenged a man for debate in my life, and never held one except by special invitation. And I have declined more debates than I ever held. While I was peculiarly fond of it, I never debated simply for the sake of debating; hence, if the circumstances were not favorable for good results, I always declined. This debate with Mr. Bruner was, I think, the poorest one I ever held, and I lost all interest in it before it was half over.