Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
(pages 336 - 339)
The place where I am now standing is historic ground. Here in the cemetery of the old Washington (Presbyterian) Church, Knox County, rests the mortal remains of one of Tennessee's ablest and most lovable preachers, whose passing in the prime If life brought sorrow to many a heart. Three miles away is the brick house in which he lived and died, and here in the cemetery is a tombstone marked: "In memory of Rev. Samuel Love, a Baptist minister, who was born January 5, 1802, and died August 19, 1840: Whose praise is in all the churches."
Samuel Love was born in Jefferson County, Tenn., four miles east of Dandridge. His father, William Love, was of scotch-Irish descent, but born in Virginia. His mother, Miss Lucy Chilton, before marriage, was of Welsh descent. The son inherited the sturdiness of his Scotch ancestors; from his mother he inherited the Welsh "fire and feeling" so characteristic of his preaching.
Young love was brought up on a farm, with fair educational advantages for his day, and was the subject of "early religious impressions." He was "approved for baptism" by the French Broad (now the Dandridge) Church, November, fourth Saturday, 1822. He was authorized to "exercise a public gift," October, fourth Saturday, 1823. He was further "liberated" at the April meeting of the following year. September 23, 1826, he was "ordained" to the full work of the ministry by a council composed of Elders Richard Wood, Henry Randolph and the pastor, Duke Kimbrough, Brother Wood preaching the ordination sermon. Simultaneous with his conversion, it would seem, was his "call" to preach, for the day he joined the church, we are told, "he delivered an earnest exhortation" to the people. With the call to preach also came the call to equip himself for the undertaking. His father's ambition was to make a lawyer out of his gifted son; failing in that, his next highest ambition was that he be a Presbyterian preacher. For a while it seemed that that was what he was going to be. Young Love had matriculated in a Presbyterian college or high school at Dandridge, in charge of Dr. John McCampbell. In the study of the Greek language it chanced that the pupil came upon the Greek word baptidzo, and he asked the president and professor what he understood to be the original and true weaning of that word. The frank reply was, that the word meant "to dip, to immerse." Said Love, with a smile, "If that be so, I can't be a Presbyterian." The teacher was greatly impressed by the evident sincerity of his pupil, and was afterwards heard to say: "That young man is a great free soul, and, knowing his convictions as I do, I would not urge him to be a Presbyterian for anything in the world." Love lived in Dr. McCampbell's home, used his library, attended his school for several months, becoming a good Latin and Greek scholar. He afterwards taught school to pay the doctor what he owed him for "schooling," and, after he had become a preacher, I am told, he often "supplied" Dr. McCampbell's New Market Church, when it was not convenient for the doctor to do his own preaching. Teacher and pupil always had very great respect and admiration for each other.
November 14, 1826, he was married to Elizabeth West, of Grainger County, Tenn. To this union were born four sons, one of them, James K. Love, becoming a preacher.
His field of labor was Anderson, Campbell, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox and Sevier counties. He was instrumental in building up Beaver Dam and Little Flat Creek churches, established the "mission" which afterwards became the Third Creek Church, near Knoxville, held meetings in destitute places, ministered to weak churches, distributed Bibles, collected for missions. He labored under appointment of a number of our conventions and societies, North and South, and independently as well. "He was eminently useful, mingled in many glorious revivals and hundreds in our churches view him as the honored instrument of their conversion." Isaac Ellege, a venerable father in Israel, says of him: "Sam Love was a fine-looking man, fair-complected, medium size, was a genuine missionary and a great soul-winner. He preached a great deal of the hard doctrine out of the Baptists in these parts." Sister Nancy Johnson, an octogenarian, who grew up under his ministry, says of him: "Love by name and love by nature. He always preached with tears. No man was more loved by his brethren or more esteemed by the world than Brother Love." He was the "unwearied advocate of missions, Sabbath schools, temperance and education, in the midst of opposition. When church doors were shut against him he would preach in groves, barns or private dwellings. He breasted the storms of winter and the storms of persecution that he might preach the gospel of missions everywhere."
As a sample of the marvelous energy displayed and the prodigious amount of work done by our hardy pioneer fathers, in a given time, I submit the following extract from one of Brother Love's quarterly reports to the American Baptist Home Mission Society, dated "October, 1835" : Miles traveled (horseback and on foot), 1,200; sermons preached, 80; lectures delivered, 35; families visited for religious conversation, 700; church meetings attended, 16; associations attended, 4; temperance societies attended, 4; baptisms, 3; times of administering the Lord's Supper, 3; attended a Baptist camp meeting in Monroe County, remained eight days, witnessed 25 professions of faith and 14 baptisms."'
The writer has heard many thrilling accounts of his wonderful power over an audience; how in sermon or exhortation he would bring his hearers to their feet and draw them about him in spontaneous "amens," in demonstrations and "shoutings" of joy, in "halleluiah" praises to God.
The candle of his life burned out all too quickly, less than fifteen brief years of ministerial labors, but the love light of his life left a glow in the hearts of the people he was leading in the heavenly way; his works follow, and he will never be forgotten. "The sublime tones of his heavenly-inspired eloquence are yet sounding in our ears." When nearing the end of life's journey he was visited by Elder James Kennon, a brother beloved, who spoke to him of his self-denying labors and the hardships he had endured. "Yes," he replied, "but, thank God! eternity will be long enough to rest in." "But what of the comforts of religion in a dying hour?" said Brother Kennon. "Oh, my brother!" was the reply, "there is a boundless fullness in Christ. It is all around me. It is all through me." Thus he passed from the glory here to the greater glory beyond.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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