James Hall

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At peace with himself, and with his God, and engaged in a good cause.

Our entry today is drawn from William Henry Foote’s great work, Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical (1846). 

Rev. James Hall and the Churches in Iredell, NC.

Melchizedek was a king, and a priest of the Most High God. Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, led, for once at least, a military expedition, and on his return from a complete victory received the blessing of the king of Salem, whom the Apostle set forth as a type of Christ the Lord, the author and finisher of Faith. In the war of the American Revolution there were many young men to be found in the ranks of our armies, and in the prisons of the enemy, who, after hazarding their lives for their country, entered the ministry and spent their days in preaching the everlasting gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christs—such as Hunter of Carolina, and Marshall, and Houston, and Lyle of Virginia. There were also many clergymen that went with the armies to act as chaplains, and displayed in the various dangers and exposures of the camp and a soldier’s life, the cool collected bravery of men at peace with themselves and with their God, and engaged in a good cause,—such as McCaule of Centre, afterwards of South Carolina, who was beside General Davidson when he fell at Cowan’s Ford; some of whom were made a sacrifice to their country’s safety—as Rosborough of New Jersey. But there is not perhaps another instance of a man, a licensed preacher of the gospel, that took part in military expeditions, and commanded companies, and still retained the character and maintained the dignity and office of a minister of the gospel, beside that of James Hall of Iredell, the preacher and the soldier. There were some ministers that laid aside their office for a military command, and never resumed it, as Muhlenburg of Pennsylvania, and Thruston of Virginia.

But James Hall performed both offices, a military commander and a preacher of righteousness; was acceptable in both as a young man, and died at an advanced age a minister of the gospel. Said Dr. Robinson of Poplar Tent, “when a boy at school at Charlotte, I saw James Hall pass through the town, with his three-cornered hat and long sword, the captain at the head of a company, and chaplain of the regiment.” An amalgamation of characters and officers justified only by special emergencies, and to be successfully attempted only by few. Born of Scotch-Irish parentage, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, August 22d, 1744, and removed by them to North Carolina, when about eight years old, he grew up in the upper part of Rowan, now Iredell, in the bounds of the congregation to which he afterwards was pastor during his whole ministerial life of thirty-eight years. Secluded in the forests of Rowan, alike ignorant of the knowledge and the follies of the great world, James Hall grew up under the watchful care of pious parents, and the instructions he would receive from faithful and laborious missionaries whose visits to the congregation were less often than desired, about once a quarter. He was made familiar with the Bible and the Westminster catechism in his early days, and his mind stored with the best of truth before he could appreciate the excellence of the truth itself, or the motives of the pious parents who so assiduously taught him.

During the exciting scenes of the Revolution, during which time he had been licensed and ordained, Mr. Hall held the office of pastor of three congregations, which territory extended from South Yadkin to the Catawba, with some congregation members coming from beyond these rivers; and after the Revolution he served them till the year 1790, when wishing to devote more time to the cause of domestic missions than could be consistent with so large a charge, he was released from his connection with the Fourth Creek and Concord churches. His connection with the Bethany church continued till his death on July 25th, 1826, a period of twenty-six years.

A full account of his actions during the Revolution would fill a volume; his active, enterprising spirit would not let him be neutral; his principles drawn from the Word of God and the doctrines of his church, and cultivated by Dr. Witherspoon, carried him with all his heart to defend the ground taken by the convention in Mecklenberg, May, 1775, and by the Continental Congress in 1776. He gave his powers of mind, body and estate to the cause of his country. As the citizens would assemble to hear news and discuss the politics of those trying times, and were making choice of the side they would espouse, Mr. Hall was accustomed to meet with them, and addressing them, infused his own spirit and inflamed their love of liberty, and strengthened their purpose of maintaining their rights at all hazards. The tradition about him, in these cases, is that he was eminently successful; and the fact that there was great unanimity in that section of country, in a measure the effect of his exertions, would of itself show that he was both influential and eloquent.

Words to Live By:
God often gives a powerful voice to the Christian who faithfully kneels before His throne; for truly, as has been said, those who fear the Lord can properly live without any earthly fear.

The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.—Proverbs 29:25, KJV

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.—Hebrews 13:5-6, KJV.

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Today’s entry comes from E.H. Gillett’s HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES. I found his account of Indian missions under the Rev. Peter Bullen an enjoyable read, and hope you will too. What a picture of the cost of such missions in the early days of this country!

In 1804 the Synod of Carolina directed the Presbytery of Orange to ordain James Smylie, who had been laboring at Natchez in the Louisiana Territory, with a view to his returning thither to engage in missionary labor. This region of the Southwest, rapidly filling up after the Louisiana Purchase, was for the most part under the supervision of the Synods of Virginia and Carolina.

The way had been prepared for the labors of Mr. Smylie by that veteran in the cause of Presbyterianism at the South, Rev. James Hall, of North Carolina. In the autumn of 1800, under a commission of the General Assembly, he commenced a mission to Natchez. Two other brethren whom the Synod appointed accompanied him. This was the first in the series of Protestant missionary efforts in the lower valley of the Mississippi. The report of the mission was made to Synod in 1801, and, as published in the papers of the day, excited a very general interest throughout the Southern country. The Presbytery of West Tennessee, erected in 1810, had this field under its care; but it was not till 1815 that, by a division of it, the Presbytery of Mississippi was formed.

In 1817 this body consisted of five ministers and had under its care eight congregations. At the head of its list stood the name of the venerable Joseph Bullen, verging upon his threescore years and ten, a pioneer in the cause of Indian missions. Soon after the formation of the New York Missionary Society, it was determined to attempt the establishment of a mission among the Chickasaws of “West Georgia” and Mr. Bullen was selected as the man to conduct it. He was a native of Vermont, and had already reached his forty-seventh year when he commenced the undertaking. At New York he received his public charge from the venerable Dr. Rodgers, and set out March 26, 1799, on his journey to the Southwest. He was accompanied by his son, a youth of seventeen years, who it was thought might render important aid in acquiring the language and giving instructions as a teacher of Indian children.

His route led him through Philadelphia, where he received the friendly attentions not only of Dr. [Ashbel] Green, but of Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, and other distinguished persons. Thence he proceeded westward, by way of Lexington, Va., to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. Here he was two hundred and seventy miles distant from his point of destination, and his friends urged him to delay his journey for several weeks, in order to secure company. Such were the dangers of the way that it was quite unadvisable to attempt the journey without guides. But the zeal of the missionary would not allow him to pause. He had already had experiences of hardship, exposure to storms, and perils from swollen streams, sometimes crossing “waters almost to the horse’s back.” Unappalled by the representations made to him, he resolved to press on. “Trusting in divine goodness to direct” their way, the travelers set out for the Indian country. Their horses were encumbered with baggage, and their movements were slow. But, provided with food, blankets, an axe, and a gun, they made such progress as they were able. Their lonesome way was occasionally cheered by meeting traders from Natchez and New Orleans, returning to Kentucky. Sometimes they were impeded by the rains and the swollen streams. The waters of the Tennessee were high, and places of entertainment were few and far between. The food which they could procure was not of the best kind,—sometimes hominy or damaged meat. A bed of bear-skin was a luxury for the night’s lodging.

At length Mr. Bullen reached his destination, worn, weary, and almost an invalid. The Chickasaws he found “without any kind of religious observance, and without temple and priest,” except that a few of their enchanters had images, the use of which was little understood among the people. He preached and conversed as he had opportunity, witnessed their frolics and their “mysteries,” their “singing, yelling, and running,” gained their confidence, and, with alternate experience of encouragement and disappointment, prosecuted his work. From one town he journeyed to another, distributing his labors among the Indians and whites, and coming in frequent contact with the hundreds of traders who, after their trip down the Mississippi, returned by land to their homes. His greatest success was among the slaves, five of whom he baptized on one occasion. Daunted by no difficulties or hardships, wet, hungry, shelterless oftentimes, he labored at all seasons to prosecute the missionary work in which all the sympathies of his soul were enlisted.

Worn out with labors, Rev. Bullen returned to the North in the fall of 1800. On his way he stopped at Maryville {TN], where Gideon Blackburn ministered to a church of over three hundred communicants. The two men, kindred in missionary zeal and devotion, conferred together; and, though we have no record of the themes upon which they conversed, we can scarcely doubt, from our knowledge of the men, that the subject nearest to Mr. Bullen’s heart claimed their attention. This, at least, we know, that within a few months of that meeting, Mr. Blackburn threw his whole soul into the work of Indian missions, and pleaded their cause with a glowing eloquence in the Eastern cities, both North and South.

Mr. Bullen soon returned to his field of labor, accompanied by his family, resolved thenceforth to make his home in the Southwest. Deacon Rice, who was employed as his assistant, proved unacceptable to the Indians, who forced him to leave the country. But Mr. Bullen remained; and ere long we find him disconnected with the Indian mission, and one of the original members of the Presbytery of Mississippi,–indeed, the patriarch of the body.

At last the Rev. Peter Bullen rested from his labors and entered his eternal reward, on March 26, 1825.

[excerpted from History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, by E. H. Gillett (1864), pp. 367-370.]

Words to Live By:
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:1-4, KJV)

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