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Sketches of Virginia
Chapter XXV. - Dr. Rice - Residence in Charlotte

The church of Cub Creek, when Mr. Rice became pastor, consisted of 113 members, of whom 55 were black slaves. These assembled at three places of worship in rotation, the second and fourth Sabbaths of the month at Cub Creek, the first at the Court House, and the third at Bethesda. The largest assemblies were at Cub Creek; and of the four or five hundred people assembling, about one-fourth or fifth were blacks. At this place he commonly preached twice on the Sabbath; the afternoon sermon being to the colored people. At one place only, Bethesda, did the congregation assemble near their pastor’s residence.

At this time Hanover Presbytery consisted of fourteen members — three of whom through infirmities were unable to preach, the other eleven were in their prime, and had for the theatre of their regular ministrations, the Presbyterian churches already gathered, and for their missionary operations, all the country east of the Blue Ridge, between the Rappahannock river, and the North Carolina line, unoccupied by other denominations. Not one of these eleven received from the congregations, to whom he ministered, salary sufficient to supply the necessary demands of a small family. And every minister of the .Presbytery was compelled to engage in literary and scientific schools, or the cultivation of the earth. The salaries fixed for Davies and his coadjutors were barely sufficient for their support. Very few of the generation following received a salary approaching any reasonable proportion to the support of the first ministers. Two reasons may be found; the liberal givers were scattered, and as new congregations were formed for regular services, their number of liberal supporters was not always increased; the congregations became careless, and the ministers were backward to complain, preferring to dig rather than to beg. This state of things led to embarrassments, and finally to the removal to the other sections of the church of some of the most beloved men in the Presbytery.

Mr. Rice received about four hundred dollars from his charge. He chose to add to his salary by teaching; at the same time cultivating the soil to an extent sufficient to employ the domestics and work-habits necessary for house-keeping in a country of tobacco planters. His reputation as a teacher was high ; and his house was generally filled with the children of his friends. The confidence and judiciousness of his supporters may be estimated by an incident related by Mrs. Rice. A young lad by the name of Trent, from Cumberland, had by repeated transgressions of the laws of the school, brought on himself the displeasure of his teacher; and finally chastisement, to preserve the peace of the school. The boy secretly departed, and reached home late Saturday afternoon. No one saw him come in but his mother. She received him kindly, took him to her chamber, ascertained the cause of his unexpected return, required him to keep himself concealed that night and the succeeding Sabbath in his bed-chamber, and early Monday morning sent him on horseback under safe guidance to resume his studies. The mother, like Mrs. Morton, believed Mr. Rice to be the friend of boys, and appreciated his efforts to subdue the rugged will, and check the heedlessness of his little charge.

Three times in the month he was called to a distance from home for his Sabbath ministrations. Most commonly he went on Friday evening, or Saturday morning, visiting among the families of his scattered charge, catechising the children, and preaching in private houses. He commonly rested at home Sabbath night. Five days in school each week, and but one Saturday at home in a month, with the various calls for the attendance at the sick-bed, and at funerals, and at weddings, gave Mr. Rice ample employ for all his powers of body and mind, and stores of knowledge.

His attention was turned particularly to the slave population. A large number of African slaves upon the estate of Colonel Byrd, in Hanover, became pious under the ministry of Samuel Davies, and with the consent of their master, members of the Presbyterian church. Their black faces, Mr. Davies says, often cheered him in his Sabbath ministrations. Some of these were taught to read, and were presented with a copy of the Bible, Catechism, and Hymn book, and occasionally other religious books. Part .of this Byrd estate was removed to Charlotte, by Colonel Coles, one of the heirs. Of those thus removed, a number were pious, and two could read. These two were very particular in teaching their descendants the Catechism, and the principal truths of the gospel, had the privilege of attending preaching, and the liberty of teaching as many to learn to read as desired. These privileges they freely used, without abusing the confidence of their master, who was not a member of the Presbyterian church, to which they all belonged. Mr. Rice thought that a special appointment to preach to the colored people would be advantageous to the cause, among that race, in his own charge, and throughout the southern country. The Commission of the Virginia Synod, east of the Alleghenies, having been dissolved, he obtained a commission directly from the General Assembly in 1806 — “to spend two months in missionary labor among the blacks in Charlotte County, Virginia, and parts adjacent.” The next year his commission was for three months, and was renewed from year to year while he resided in Charlotte. The attachment of the colored people to Mr. Rice was great, and his success among them as a minister very encouraging. At the close of his ministry, about 100 were members of Cub Creek church; a large number of which were from the Cole’s estate, which had greatly multiplied on the waters of the Roanoke, the professors of religion bearing a good proportion to the general increase.

Rev. S. J. Price, who became well acquainted with the condition of these people, says: — “They were industrious and faithful to their owners; had regular religious worship, and maintained Christian discipline. Men of good character were appointed watchmen, to take the lead in their religious matters, and make their regular reports of the moral and religious conduct of those committed to their charge. The children were, as a general thing, able to repeat the Shorter Catechism, whether they could read or not. Very many were exemplary and happy in their religion; their prayers were fervent, and their singing melodious. An unfavorable report from a watchman was a heavy punishment, relieved only by restoration to favor. After the death of Col. Coles, they served their mistress for years without an overseer; and worked a large estate to advantage, dividing out among themselves the necessary plantation operations, and emulating each other in the performance of their work. These servants were finally divided among the heirs. And at this time (1850) some of the descendants of the two old men are owned by James C. Bruce, Esq., of Halifax county, and are connected with the Presbyterian church at Halifax Court-House; some by John R. Edmonds, of the same county, and are connected with the same church; some by Capt. Henry Edmunds, of Halifax, and are connected with Mercy Seat church; some by Mrs. Sarah E. Carrington, of Halifax; some by Messrs. Charles Bruce, Paul Carrington, and Joseph Edmunds, of Charlotte, connected with Roanoke church; some by William B. Green, of Charlotte, who are connected with Bethesda church; some by Capt. Walter Carrington, of Mecklenburg, and I suppose connected with Clarksville church; some by Mr. Morson, on James River, who are connected with Hebron church, Goochland County; some by Isaac Carrington, of Charlotte, and connected with Bethesda church ; and some by General Edward Carrington, of Botetourt, and I suppose connected with the church in Eincastle.” This is from one estate. Many persons in Charlotte and counties adjacent paid great attention to the instruction of their servants, and were in a good degree successful. Those servants that heard Davies remembered him through life: some living to a great age, would repeat parts of his sermons with tears. Mr. Rice thought that the evidence of piety among his colored people was as decisive as among the most polished and intelligent members of the church.

The success of the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine induced the Synod of Virginia to take the necessary steps to establish a periodical. In October, 1804, the first number of the Virginia Religious Magazine was published at the press of Samuel Walkup, Lexington, Virginia, “the first of the kind, we believe, that has ever been published in this State, or in any of the States south of the Potomac.” The work was continued three years, in numbers of sixty-four pages, once in two months. Mr. Rice contributed to this work very regularly: in 1805 three numbers on Infidelity; in 1806 another number on Infidelity; Vivax and Paulinus, a dialogue on the Bible doctrines; Jack Vincent, or the misery of not training children in the fear of the Lord; Vivax and Contumax, a dialogue on experimental religion; in 180T an abridgment of Lord Littleton’s observations on the conversion of St. Paul, originally drawn up for the young members of Major Morton’s family, at Willington; and an account of Mr. Jervis, his family, and conversations held there, in four numbers. In this fancy sketch, after the model of the English. Essayists, the character and opinions of his friends Majoi Morton, Archibald Alexander, and Conrad Speece, are portrayed in an agreeable manner, with great truthfulness. These two gentlemen also contributed to that work — Mr. Alexander four pieces, and Mr. Speece more numerously than any other contributor.

Another step towards a Theological Seminary was the bequest made by Andrew Baker, an elder in Buffalo congregation. At the meeting of Presbytery, at the time Mr. Rice was ordained, it was announced that Mr. Baker had, by will, made a donation to the Presbytery of £400, in three equal notes of 133. 6s. 8d., due in 1803, 1804 and 1805; the interest arising on the first note to go to the education of poor and pious youth for the ministry; the second to the support of missionaries; the third for the distribution of religious books. Mr. Baker named the person to enjoy the advantage first — his nephew, Andrew Davidson, pursuing his education in Washington College. The charitable fund commenced about the year 1797 amounted, at this time, to 241. 18s. 9d. Other members of the church expressing increasing interest in the education of young men for the ministry, the Presbytery was encouraged to make still greater efforts to prepare a well-educated gospel ministry.

In the month of May, 1806, Mr. Rice made his first trial as agent for a Theological School. The committee appointed to manage the business of providing a Library and Theological School, appointed him to the work of collection. He preached the first Sabbath of May at College, the second in Richmond, the third in Norfolk, and then returned to his charge. Mr. Maxwell says — “He was kindly received in Norfolk by the Rev. Mr. Grigsby;” — who had not yet joined Hanover Presbytery — “preached from Romans 1st, 16 — ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ;’ and it was on this occasion I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing him for the first time. There was nothing, however, as far as I can recollect, that was very striking or peculiar in his appearance, or style of preaching, at that period of his life, and certainly nothing fine or fascinating in his manner. He stood up, in the pulpit, at his full height, and, being rather thinner than he afterwards became, appeared to be very tall. His voice, too, was a little hard and dry, and his action (what there was of it) was by no means graceful. His sermon, however, I thought, was full of solid and valuable matter, and it was heard, I believe, with interest by all who could appreciate its merit. Among the rest, I was myself favored with a call from him on this occasion, and had some little conversation with him, when I found that, though he was not very chatty, he could yet talk well and agreeably on the subject of letters and religion. His good nature, too, as it struck me, and his affectionate disposition, were quite apparent, and very pleasing; and it was impossible, I thought, to see and hear him without being satisfied that he was a good man, and much engaged in his work. He succeeded in raising about $200, mostly in small sums of five and ten dollars.”

He made but one other excursion during the year, and that included his attendance on the Presbytery in the Byrd congregation, in October, and was extended into Amherst County. In April, 1807, the Committee reported subscriptions to the amount of $2500, of which $1000 were paid in, and $324 had been expended in books, viz., Walton’s Polyglott Bible, 6 vols. folio; Castell’s Lexicon, 2 vols. folio; Rabbi Joseph’s Paraphrase, 1 vol. quarto; an Introduction to the Study of Oriental Languages, 1 vol. quarto; Chrysostom’s Works, 8 vols. folio; Tertullian’s Works, 1 vol. folio; and Calmet’s Dictionary, 3 vols. quarto. This beginning gave great satisfaction, and the Presbytery began to think a theological school was certain; the library was begun, no mean beginning at that time, the funds for carrying on the work, though small, were yet begun also, and the person to be the Professor, in the eye and heart of all.

But there came a chill on all these warm and kind feelings, and incipient anticipations. Mr. Alexander had been recommended by his beloved friend, J. B. Smith, D. D., to the church of his charge in Philadelphia, as worthy of any position to which he should be called, or could be persuaded to accept. He had been talked about as a proper person to fill various posts; in New England they asked for him as Professor in a College; in Baltimore they wanted him as pastor of their church, the mother of all the Presbyterian churches in the city. The people of Philadelphia had talked with him at different times, when visiting that city as Commissioner to the Assembly. The confinement and labor of College, superadded to the ministerial life he was resolved to lead, oppressed him. Mr. Rice knew he was, sometimes, meditating a change of position, as a necessary consequence of his exceeding labors. The other brethren were unwilling to hear or think about it, and wove around him all the bonds they could invent. Under date of the 8th of March, 1806, a lady writes of Mr. Rice — “He is seriously alarmed lest Mr. Alexander should remove to Philadelphia next fall, and he staid to talk with him about it. Oh, that the Lord in mercy to us and Virginia would not suffer him to forsake us, but would bless and prosper his labors amongst us, and convince him that he is now in the most useful station in which he can be placed.” But such was not the mind of the Lord. Having declined, in the spring, to listen to any propositions, according to the desire of his friend Rice, he received another in September in the midst of a season of insubordination and vexatious inattention to study among the College boys. Without consulting with any of his brethren, he visited Philadelphia, and accepted an unanimous invitation to Pine Street church. He was absent at the regular meeting of the Presbytery at the Bird, in Goochland, Oct. 3d, and procured a called meeting at the College, Nov. 13th, to grant his dismission. The brethren grieving at the decision he had made on the subject, yielded in silence, and dissolved his connection with the churches and the Presbytery, and transferred his relations to Philadelphia.

On the 9th of June, 1807, the Rev. Moses Hoge, of Shepherds-town, Virginia, was unanimously chosen to succeed Mr. Alexander in the Presidency in the College. The members of Hanover Presbytery, in urging him to accept the office, laid before him their desires and prospects for a Theological Seminary; and their expectations that he should unite that office with the Presidency of the College. And this last consideration weighed decisively with him in accepting the Presidency of the College. The collection of funds went on slowly. In February, 1808, Mr. Rice writes to Mr. Alexander — “The embargo has completely stopped all collections for the Theological school. The last year was a time of such scarcity that many of the most judicious friends of the institution advised us to wait until the present crop should be sold before we urged the payment of the money. And now we must wait till the embargo is taken off. The whole success of the scheme depends upon the activity of one or two individuals. The whole energy of the Presbytery, I fear, will never be exerted in its favor. The truth is, as a body, we are deplorably deficient in public spirit.”

In April, an agreement was made with the Trustees of the College, by which the funds and other property of the Theological school should be held by the Trustees of the College, on condition —that the books transferred, and those thereafter purchased, — be used according to the direction of Presbytery — the funds to be safely vested, and the interest only to be used in the purchase of books, the education of poor and pious youths for the gospel ministry, and the support of a teacher of Theology; “and when the funds, given by said Presbytery, shall be sufficient to employ a teacher of Theology, for the instruction of such poor and pious youths, their teacher shall be such person as shall be recommended by the Presbytery, and approved by the Trustees of the College.” And in October, the Committee on the Library and School, appointed in 1806, reported — “that on this recommendation the Rev. Moses Hoge had been elected by the Trustees of Hampden Sidney College, teacher of Theology in the Theological school.”

In 1807, Mr. Alexander was Moderator of the Assembly. According to custom he opened the Assembly of 1808. Prom the text —“Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church,” he set forth the advantage of training young men, preparing for the gospel ministry, in a well arrranged theological school. In 1809, an overture came up from the Presbytery of Philadelphia—“for the establishment of a theological school.” The question sent down to the Presbyteries, was, Should there be one school for the whole church? —or should there be two in places to accommodate North and South?—or should there be a school in each Synod? In 1810, the votes were, 10 Presbyteries were for one school, 10 for Synodical schools, 6 for none at present, and some sent no report. The Assembly proceeded to establish one. This was located in Princeton, and in 1812, the prime mover in the matter, Mr. Alexander, was chosen Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology. All the advantages he had anticipated from a seminary, were, before his death, more than realized in this. He saw also, in Prince Edward, an institution rising, under his friends, Hoge and Rice, such as had never entered their imaginings, when the ministers of Hanover collected their few books, and planned their extensive course of study, and called the attention of the church.

The opening of the Assembly, of 1810, devolved upon Drury Lacy. Not finding it convenient to attend, he prevailed upon his neighbor, Mr. Rice, a delegate from Hanover Presbytery, to be his proxy. The sermon delivered on the occasion,—says Dr. Alexander to Mr. Maxwell,—“proved to be a most seasonable one, for the two parties in the Presbyterian Church, at that time, seemed ready to come to an open rupture. The discourse itself contained nothing very striking or remarkable; but it was delivered with so much of the spirit of meek benevolence, and breathed so entirely the love of peace, that it operated as oil upon the troubled waters. From this time Mr. Rice became a favorite with the public, and the reputation he now acquired was never forfeited, but continued to increase as long as he lived.” Soon after his return from that Assembly, he writes to his friend Alexander—“I feel myself, since my last journey, less tied to the spot on which I live, than I did before; or rather, I feel more ready to go wherever the providence of God may open a door for greater usefulness, in the church, than appears to be open before me here. I am now quite reconciled to your living in Philadelphia I am zealously engaged in the study of Hebrew this summer. I am determined to master it if possible. Would I could get a Syriac New Testament, such as yours.” By means of his friend Alexander, he4 obtained Mill, Wetstein, Trommius, the Syriac New Testament, and other desired books. We are ready to wonder what hours he found for study, with his school, and his extensive charge. It would seem almost impossible that he should become intimate with books, were his library ever so large. His thirst for knowledge was excited by his visit to Philadelphia. And the rare opportunities for study, possessed by those brethren, whose congregations sustained them, by a- competent salary, suggested the first thought that, he could ever leave the place of his labor. Clinging to his native State, he looked around to find a place in the “Ancient Dominion,” where he might have full liberty to preach, and to study in preparation for it, as he thought became a minister. But he commenced a new, vigorous, and extensive study, in the place where he was, in the midst of labors most abundant.

An anecdote related by Dr. William Morton, illustrates the power of his example upon Drury Lacy. "Having been his pupil for several years, and well knowing his habits, (Mr. Lacy’s,) I am prepared to understand why he sometimes so signally failed. When I was his pupil, I think he scarcely read fifty pages in a year, besides in his Bible and school books. As I was a small boy, and his wife’s nephew, he concealed nothing from me, indeed he concealed from nobody. I knew his preparation for preaching. It consisted in choosing his text, and turning over the leaves of Brown’s Concordance for a little while; he would then walk about his yard or house in profound, and sometimes apparently rapturous contemplation, and draw things, new and old, from his capacious and noble mind. He seemed to have no idea of the business of a literary man; but to have fallen into the error then, and now, too common, that a man is educated, upon .getting through the college course. I do not believe he ever read the newspapers. With all his fine powers, he must have totally failed, but for his habit of deep meditation, and his glorious moral talents,—worth far more than all others,—which ranked him eminently among the children of nature and of God. Not many years before his death, which took place, Dec. 6th, 18.15, in his frank, open manner, he asked me if I did not think he had improved in preaching within the last five years. I answered, I thought his recent sermons immeasurably surpassed his former ones. Well, says he, I will tell you how it has occurred. I owe it all to Jack Rice. Do you think when he first came before the world, as a preacher and writer, I was not mean enough to feel rivalry, and to envy him, on account of the interest which he excited. But I was deeply mortified when I caught myself at it, and concluded I had much better imitate his laborious efforts to do good, than envy his success. I went to work, and for five years have been at hard study, —for me ;—think I am well rewarded; thank and love Jack Rice, and wonder how I could have spent my early life with so little study.

This venerable man was removed from earth, just when he began to develop uncommon powers, which had long lain dormant, and when he appeared to me to be more rapidly improving than any young man I ever knew. I think the grade of intellectual powers allotted to him has been placed too low.”

Mr. Lacy made some short visits to the city of Richmond, and preached to those citizens, who felt in some degree, the importance of regular ministrations in the Presbyterian mode, in the business part of the city. His thrilling appeals vibrated the hearts of men religiously educated in another country, and touched the feelings of those who had, in this, grown up under pious instruction. Other preachers visited them, and encouraged the building of a house of worship near Rockett’s. Mr. Rice, on a missionary excursion, visited the city. In 1810 they began to talk about him as a proper person to preach statedly in Richmond. In 1811 propositions were made to him for his removal to the city. A classical school, and a subscription for ministerial services were proposed ; from these conjoined, it was supposed he would receive an ample support for his family. Mr. Rice decided that the duties devolving upon a minister in Richmond, especially at that juncture, would require the time and talents of a well furnished man, wholly devoted to the work of preaching the gospel. If necessity were laid upon him to teach school in conjunction with his ministerial duties, he preferred the situation in Charlotte. The proposition for removal was renewed in terms he thought proper to accept; and he hastened to bring all his engagements to a close in readiness for his removal.

Making preparations to remove to Richmond, Mr. Rice looked around upon his Presbytery with love, encouragement and deep solemnity. Changing, passing away, renewing, were seen on every hand, and seemed to forbid the idea of having the semblance of rest here on earth. Since he had entered upon the ministry, death had done its work. Waddell, the eloquent, had fallen asleep, Sept. 7th, 1806; M’Robert, the ardent minister, Oct. 8th, 1807; Irwin, the polite and classic, April 7th, 1809; Tompkins, received from the Baptist Church, went down to the grave in the prime of life, July 20th, 1806; Lumpkin, a young man of great promise, licensed in 1808, suddenly terminated his course while preparations were making for his ordination at I). S., Albemarle; and Grigsby, the fellow-student and missionary with Alexander, ceased from his warnings and exhortations in Norfolk, Oct. 6th, 1810. Three old, and three young ministers had ended their labors. Some had left the bounds of the Presbytery, called to other positions in the church. Calhoon had gone to the valley, to be pastor of Staunton and Brown’s Meeting-house, May, 18U5 ; there he labored, and found his grave in advanced years ; Alexander had left the college November, 1806, for Philadelphia ; Todd had gone from the congregations of his father in Goochland and Louisa, to Kentucky. Nine had gone from the little band of laborers with whom he had associated.

There had also been additions. Speece had returned from Baltimore Presbytery, Oct., 1805; Dr. Hoge had succeeded to the presidency of the college, Oct., 1807; Mr. Read had withdrawn from the Republican Methodists, and sought connexion with the friends of his youth, Sept., 1809; Legrand, the generous and kind, had removed from Cedar Creek and Opecquon, in Frederick, and was living in Charlotte ; W. S. Reid, a candidate from Winchester Presbytery, had presided over the college, and was pastor of Concord, April, 1810; John Hendren, from Lexington Presbytery, was made pastor in Amherst, Oct., 1810; J. D. Logan over Providence and Bird, in 1811; and Kennon, an evangelist, for Brunnswick, only too short-lived.

Of those that were members when he first was united to the Presbytery, there remained Mitchel, in Bedford, a county dear to Rice as his birth-place ; Mitchel, hale, active and of a missionary spirit, in advancing years ; Turner, the colleague of Mitchel, growing more charming in his resistless eloquence ; Lacy, the noble, the simple-hearted, the trumpet-tongued; and Lyle, the staid, the classic, the wise counsellor; Robinson, the ardent, the impassioned, in Albemarle. These five, with himself and the seven that had come in, formed the Presbytery of thirteen. His removal of his pastoral connexions to Richmond did not affect his Presbyterial relations.

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