Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
(pages 313 - 315)
Richard Knight was a son of William Knight. He vas born May 3, 1800, in Buncombe County, N. C. He was married, when quite young, to Elizabeth Burke, a daughter of David Burke, of North Carolina. To this union were born five children, the youngest of them, Benjamin Knight, is still living, and upwards of 80 years old. His early educational advantages were limited. His wife taught him to read; in fact, he never got further in "book learning" than the Bible and hymn book, and Buck's Theological Dictionary. He was converted under the preaching of "Billy Baker," a colored preacher and a Methodist, both he and his wife uniting, at first, with the Methodists in North Carolina. He afterwards joined the Baptists, and was baptized in due form. About the year 1827 he moved to Tennessee, and settled on Grassy Fork, in Cocke County. In the organization of the Big Creek Church (at Del Rio), August 12, 1833, Richard Knight was one of the "constituent members." On the birthday of the church he was "ordained a deacon." October, fourth Saturday, 1838, the church "authorized Brother Richard Knight to preach from a text or exhort in the bounds of any of the churches where he may see proper."
June, fourth Saturday, 1853, he and Elder J. J. Stamps served as a presbytery in the constitution of Mt. Zion Church, Grassy Fork, Brother Knight becoming pastor and continuing in that relation as long as he lived.
Richard Knight in some respects was an extraordinary man, wonderfully gifted. I have often heard my father said that "Dickey Knight was the best natural orator" he ever heard. He was marvelously gifted in prayer and exhortation. When happy he would "shout" in spite of himself and of all conventional proprieties, and he could "beat anybody praising his Saviour." One of the earliest recollections of the writer is "Uncle Dickey Knight" and his fervent, soulful prayers, his shouting exhortations. There was an educated young preacher in the church for whom Brother Knight had great admiration and respect, but when the spirit of exhortation came upon him he would walk the floor and say, "I am happy tonight. When I feel like I now feel I would shout if the devil was at the door instead of you, Brother Jesse." Mounting as in a chariot above the earth and beyond the clouds, in one of his exalted and exultant moods, he addressed the pastor in a most familiar way, "Well, Jo, if one drop in the bucket is like this, what will it be to swim in an ocean of bliss up yonder?"
In a protracted effort at the Mouth of Big Creek, following a
meeting of the association, there was preaching talent of a high
order, one or two, "doctors of divinity" helping in the meeting. But
little interest was manifest, and the meeting was about to be closed without results, when it was decided to "preach Brother Knight." Approached upon the subject he refused at first, protesting that he could not preach. He finally consented, however, to "try." Taking a text he proceeded slowly and with some embarrassment for a little while, but the spirit of exhortation coming upon him he went all over the house, making personal appeals to the "boys" and to the "girls," telling them what the "devil was saying to them," to keep them out of heaven, and exhorting them to renounce the devil and all his works and come forward for prayer. Some forty persons came forward to the "anxious seat," and many of them were converted.
Brother Knight exhorted everybody to the narrow way and the
better life as long as he "had breath." He believed in the Lord and in his brethren, but didn't believe much in the doctors. In his last
illness he was urged to send for the doctor. "No, " he said; "my time has come." There was a home-made medicine man who had done a good deal of free medical practice in the neighborhood. It was agreed that he might come to see him. It would "do him good to see him," but he doubted the "good of his medicine."
Everybody had confidence in Dickey Knight's religion. He fell
on sleep January 11, 1859, and was buried on Grassy Fork, under
the shadow of Mt. Zion Church. His epitaph, "Full of Faith and of
the Holy Ghost," tells the true story of his humble but fruitful life.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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