Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
(pages 345 - 349)
The subject of our present sketch, Joseph Manning, is:
"One of the few, th' immortal names,
That were not born to die."
He was born in Cocke County, near the French Broad River, September 22, 1806. In his nineteenth year he was Married to Lucinda Huff, by "Joseph White, minister of the Gospel." The second Saturday in October, 1828, he and his wife joined the Clay Creek Church, by experience and baptism. Just one year after uniting with the church he was "ordained deacon." The "second Saturday" in June, 1831, he was granted liberty to "exercise his gifts in the bounds of Long Creek anal Clay Creek churches, either to exhort or to take a text, if it lay with weight on his mind." .At the regular June meeting. a year later, he was fully liberated "to exercise his gift where the Lord might cast his lot." The following year the Clay Creek church "agreed to call a presbytery from West Tennessee and North Carolina, to ordain Ephraim Moore and Joseph Manning to the work of the ministry." Only one minister could be secured for the service. Accordingly, the first Saturday in May, 1833, these two brethren, Manning and Moore, were ordained to the full work of the ministry, Elder Garrett Dewees, of North Carolina, and some deacons, constituting the presbytery. Elders Manning and Moore were joint and alternating pastors of this newly constituted church. for several years, and Manning singly for a long term of service.
August 12, 1833, Elders Manning, Moore and Henry Hunt organized the Big Creek Church, at the mouth of Big Creek, on French Broad River; and, May 19, 1838, Manning and Moore, aided by Elder Garrett Dewees, organized the Pleasant Grove Church, six miles from Newport, on the Pigeon River, the church calling Elder Manning as her first pastor.
Elders Manning and Moore were also the leaders in the organization of the East Tennessee Association, consisting at first of only three churches. During a long and useful ministry Elder Manning was pastor of the following churches Concord, Greene County, 23 years; Dandridge, 1.4 years; Se. vierville, 6 years; French Broad, Cocke County, 21 years; Pleasant Grove, 40 years; Big Creek (Del Rio), nominally, till his death, September 10, 1883 - a period of fifty years.
Elder Manning never kept a record of the persons converter; under his ministry, but over a large section of country, where he labored in meetings and was pastor, he was father to a greater number of spiritual children than any preacher of his day - among them, a number of preachers who became men of influence and of note.
He also preached more "funerals" and attended more Associations than any man known to the writer. Many time, he would ride horseback a hundred or two hundred miles into 'Western North Carolina, as "corresponding messenger" to some Baptist Association; and sometimes would go horseback from his home, sixty miles east of Knoxville, to Middle Tennessee (a four weeks' trip), to represent his brethren in council.
He and his true yoke-fellow, Ephraim Moore, lore the brunt of battle over a large part of East Tennessee, in the antinomian and anti-mission controversy of the '30s and '40s. In this crisis in Baptist affairs Elder Manning thought it inexpedient to press the matter of ministerial support, and, consequently, received little pecuniary compensation for his, ministerial labors. His dependence for a living was a good little farm and a business life-partner who always claimed that "she herself supported one missionary."
In his preaching Elder Manning emphasized the doctrines of grace, particularly the atonement, the priesthood of Christ, and justification by faith. He was strictly a New Testament preacher, rarely ever, if at all, taking a text from the Old Testament. The writer of this sketch has vivid boyhood recollections of Father Manning's favorite pulpit themes and his frequent quotations from his favorite author, McKnight. I have in my possession McKnight's Commentary on the Epistles of Paul - a well-worn volume, with the well-marked familiar quotations, Which I prize as the gift of James Manning, "in memory of" his father. One of Elder Manning's most valuable assets, as a preacher, was a voice of great pathos, flexibility and sweetness. Among my earliest recollections are the sweet-toned cadences of his voice and the melting tenderness of his exhortations, tenderness and tears, as I recall, that rarely failed to make a small boy weep, and feel that he was a great sinner.
Elder Manning was also a gifted singer. Even in his old age he loved to sing the songs of Zion, and would sing them with great unction and power. In his prime, I am sure, he must have been a wonderfully sweet singer in Israel. Years ago, "Uncle Malcolm" McNabb, then 84 years old, and a Methodist, but a life-long friend of Father Manning, told me how he had "heard Mr. Manning sing in his younger days, when he could sure-enough sing; and how he had many times seen him leading a double-file singing procession of members and new converts down to the edge of the river, where the crowds waited to witness the baptismal scene."
Hundreds of times I have heard the remark that "Joseph Manning never had an enemy; that nobody was ever heard to say a word against him,." That was the rule. but the following is the exception. In the strife between the mission and anti mission parties of his day a little bad blood would naturally be stirred up. And so it was said that some of his opponents would try to get even with him by circulating the vexing report, that when "sick" on one occasion, and thinking he might never get well, he showed great alarm, and was "afraid to die."
On the hill at the old home place, where flows the French Broad River, rests the mortal remains of him who was indeed to many a "father in Israel," his epitaph being the living and dying sentiment of his life - "only a sinner saved by grace." He rests from his labors, and his works follow. His memory is a benediction.
"The memory of the just
Smells sweet and blossoms in the dust."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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