Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
T. J. LANE
(pages 323 - 326)
Thomas Jefferson, son of Aquila and Agnes (Fitzgerald) Lane, was born in Jefferson (now Hamblen) County, Tenn., near Whitesburg, October 9, 1804, being the youngest of twelve children. He was a grandson of Tidence Lane, from North Carolina, one of the earliest settlers in upper East Tennessee, the first pastor of the first church (Buffalo Ridge) established in Tennessee, and first pastor of Bent Creek (now the Whitesburg) Church, the third oldest
Baptist church in the state, having been organized, according to the records, "by Tidence Lane and William Murphy, the second Sunday in June, 1785," the former serving the church as pastor until his death.
The subject of our sketch, while yet in his eighteenth year, was married to Miss Vaney Pangle, a daughter of Frederick and a sister of old Uncle Clinton Pangle, now living (1896) and in his 87th year, well preserved in body and mind. This union was crowned with seven children, two sons and five slaughters.
January, second Saturday, 1834, he related his Christian experience before the Bent Creek Church, and was baptized by the pastor, Andrew Coffman, a good and useful man. The same year he was made clerk of the church, and in June of 1837 was "ordained deacon."
His impressions to preach ripened in the forty-second year of his life, and on the "second Saturday" in June, 1846, he was ordained to the work' of the gospel ministry by Joseph Manning and Woodson Taylor. For a long time before his conversion he was under "conviction" for sin, undergoing a state of warfare between a sense of sin and a sense of duty, and even after his delayed conversion was deterred from the ministry by a high sense of necessary ministerial qualification and a sensible experience of his own lack of fitness. In the providence of God he had fallen heir to his grandfather's library; which he diligently devoured, thus
supplementing his lack of education and laying the foundation for future ministerial
Besides serving his home church, Bent Creek, as pastor for a number of years, he was also pastor of Liberty, Union, New County Line, Cedar Creek, Robertson's and Cloud's Creek, Morristown and Rogersville churches. In the interims of pastoral service he not infrequently labored as "missionary," for 50 cents a day. As pastor, in common with most of the preachers of his day, he thought it "inexpedient" to stress the matter of pastoral support, and was not disappointed in receiving little or no compensation for his services. Right or wrong, these good brethren acted conscientiously, and made great sacrifices to preach to the churches without charge. As for Brother Lane, he had his sure support in his wife and children and a good farm.
In theology Brother Lane was a free-salvationist and combatted [sic] the hard, hyper- Calvanistic doctrine of predestination. He did his own thinking, but frankly acknowledged that he belonged to the "J. R. Graves school" of theological teaching, and was a "landmark Baptist." He was an uncompromising advocate of the independence and autonomy of local churches. He was jealous of the Baptist birthright of soul liberty and independence, and of individual and
church rights. He magnified the church, next to her sovereign Head, and was afraid of overorganization and centralization, or anything like popish usurpation of power among Baptists. In the pulpit, and out of it, he was a man of vigorous thought, impassioned speech, and commanding presence. If there was anything he believed in and prided himself in more than anything else, next to loyalty to Christ and vital godliness, it was in being a sound and consistent Baptist. Hence, he was preeminently a doctrinal preacher and an enforcer of scriptural discipline in the churches in which he had an influence and a voice. If at any time he
appeared stubborn or contentious it was not a fault of the heart, but the result of conscientious convictions, a naturally strong will and a constitutional inability to yield until convinced that he was wrong.
Among his associates in the ministry, or the preachers of blessed memory, "into whose labors he entered,' the Whitesburg church records contain the following venerable and venerated
names: Isaac Barton, Caleb Witt, Pleasant A. Witt - the last two, good and strong men, but of the Primitive persuasion - James Bradley, Andrew Coffman, Woodson Taylor, Grant Taylor, Jeremiah Hale, Ephraim Moore, and Joseph Manning.
At the close of the Civil War ('65) he refused to be pastor of his home church, but gladly consented to serve as clerk, as in his earlier days, and to hunt up the scattered members of the flock for re-enrollment. Not the least of his self-denying and useful labors, during a long life, was his pastoral over sight of his home church and his continual presence and influence with it, to counsel and guide in the stormy days of war, and to conserve the integrity, purity and spiritual interests of the church in the no less perilous times of "piping peace."
In his extreme old age it was the writer's privilege to be in the home of Brother Lane and converse with him, on many occasions, about the things of the kingdom. He was well preserved in mind and memory to the last, and zealous for the cause of truth and righteousness. On July 3, 1888, in the 84th year of his age, he passed to his reward.
After writing the above sketch, twenty years ago, the writer happened upon the following incident, which is here given as a "sidelight" on Brother Lane's character. A good Baptist woman who, it seemed, had been converted in spite of her prejudice from hardshell sentiments to missionary views, in telling her experience said: "Old Uncle Tommie Lane could make things so plain you couldn't help seeing them. You just had to believe them, whether you wanted to or not."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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