Then one of my friends, at my request, took hold of my prisoner, and the drunken justice made a pass at me; but I parried the stroke, and seized him by the collar and the hair of the head, and fetching him a sudden jerk forward, brought him to the ground, and jumped on him.
Peter Cartwright- Backwoods Preacher (1)
A Character story about determination.
As the people of Europe traveled to Canada and the United States in the early 1800's, they first settled in the eastern part of the land. Soon these areas became crowded, especially for those wanting to farm. The pioneers began to travel westward, move into remote areas, clear the land, work a farm, and raise a family.
No churches existed for these early pioneers to attend so some decided to send the preacher to the people. These men were called circuit riding preachers and the Methodist Church was the most successful in sending out these circuit riders.
These preachers traveled hundreds of miles within their assigned circuit to bring these pioneers and their families the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Their lives were filled with hardships and dangers and many of them only lived a few years in this primitive environment.
One of the most colorful circuit preachers coming out of the Methodist church at this time was Peter Cartwright. He was born in Virginia in 1785 and accepted the Lord as His Savior in 1801 at a camp meeting at the age of 15. His early circuits were in Kentucky but, because of his dislike for slavery, he moved his family to Illinois where he spend the remainder of his days traveling and preaching. You can appreciate how unusual he was in the fact that he lived to be 87, preached for 71 of those years, had a family of 9 and left 50 grandchildren and 37 great grand children! Peter Cartwright once wrote, "It was a part of my creed to love everybody, but to fear no one; and I did not permit myself to believe any man could whip me till it was tried."
In 1856, at the age of 70, Peter Cartwright took the time to write down some of the colorful events of his long life as a circuit preacher. His stories demonstrate the difficulties he and other preachers faced. They can also challenge us when we see the influence of one man who was fully dedicated to God. The first event took place in about 1806. These are his own words. Imagine this happening in your church!
"Our last quarterly meeting was a camp meeting. We had a great many tents, and a large turn-out for a new country, and, perhaps, there never was a greater collection of rabble and rowdies. They came drunk, and armed with dirks, clubs, knives, and horsewhips, and swore they would break up the meeting. After interrupting us very much on Saturday night, they collected early on Sunday morning, determined on a general riot. At eight o'clock, I was appointed to preach. About the time I was half through my discourse, two very fine dressed young men marched into the congregation with loaded whips, and hats on, and rose up and stood in the midst of the ladies, and began to laugh and talk. They were near the stand, and I requested them to desist and get off the seats; but they cursed me, and told me to mind my own business, and said they would not get down. I stopped trying to preach, and called for a magistrate (police). There were two at hand, but I saw they were both afraid. I ordered them to take these men into custody, but they said they could not do it. I told them, as I left the stand, to command me to take them, and I would do it at the risk of my life. I advanced toward them. They ordered me to stand off, but I advanced. One of them made a pass at my head with his whip, but I closed in with him, and jerked him off the seat. A regular scuffle ensued. The congregation by this time were all in commotion. I heard the magistrates give general orders, commanding all friends of order to aid in suppressing the riot. In the scuffle I threw my prisoner down, and held him fast; he tried his best to get loose; I told him to be quiet, or I would pound his chest well. An old and drunken magistrate came up to me, and ordered me to let my prisoner go. I told him I should not. He swore if I did not he would knock me down. I told him to crack away. Then one of my friends, at my request, took hold of my prisoner, and the drunken justice made a pass at me; but I parried the stroke, and seized him by the collar and the hair of the head, and fetching him a sudden jerk forward, brought him to the ground, and jumped on him. I told him to be quiet, or I would pound him well. The mob then rushed to the scene; they knocked down seven magistrates, and several preachers and others. I gave up my drunken prisoner to another, and threw myself in front of the friends of order. Just at this moment the ringleader of the mob and I met; he made three passes at me, intending to knock me down. The last time he struck at me, by the force of his own effort he threw the side of his face toward me. It seemed at that moment I had not power to resist temptation, and I struck a sudden blow in the burr of his ear and dropped him to the earth. Just at that moment the friends of order rushed by hundreds on the mob, knocking them down in every direction; In a few minutes the place became too strait for the mob, and they wheeled and fled in every direction; but we secured about thirty prisoners, marched them off to a vacant tent, and put them under guard till Monday morning, when they were tried, and every man was fined to the utmost limits of the law. On Sunday, when we had vanquished the mob, the whole encampment was filled with mourning; and although there was no attempt to resume preaching till evening, yet such was our confused state, that there was not then a single preacher on the ground willing to preach. Seeing we had fallen on evil times, my spirit was stirred within me. I said to the elder, 'I feel a clear conscience, for under the necessity of the circumstances we have done right, and now I ask to let me preach.' My voice was strong and clear, and my preaching was more of an exhortation and encouragement than anything else. My text was, 'The gates of hell shall not prevail.' In about thirty minutes the power of God fell on the congregation in such a manner as is seldom seen; the people fell in every direction, right and left, front and rear. It was supposed that not less than three hundred fell like dead men in mighty battle; and there was no need of calling mourners, for they were strewed all over the campground; loud wailings went up to heaven from sinners for mercy, and a general shout from Christians, so that the noise was heard afar off. Our meeting lasted all night, and Monday and Monday night; and when we closed on Tuesday, there were two hundred who had professed religion, and about that number joined the Church."