Dr. Silas Mercer Noel
1784 - 1830
SILAS MERCER NOEL was the son of Theodrick
Noel, a distinguished Baptist preacher in the Old Dominion, in the early days of
Baptist operations in that State, and was born in Henrico county, Va., August
13, 1783. His father gave him a good English education, after which he educated
himself in the classical languages, and then studied law. He emigrated to
Kentucky and established himself in the practice of his profession, at
Frankfort. He professed conversion, probably as early as 1810, and was baptized
by William Hickman, pastor of Forks of Elkhorn church. Soon after his union with
the church, he was licensed "to exercise a preaching gift," and, about 1813, was
ordained to the pastoral care of Big Spring church, in Woodford county, which
was constituted that year. He continued pastor of this church one year.
Mr. Noel was a man of fine culture, of broad
views, of active enterprise, and enlarged public spirit. As soon as he entered
the work of the ministry, his active mind began to inquire into the wants of the
Baptists of the State. In 1813, he commenced the publication of a religious
monthly magazine, called the Gospel Herald.1
In the first number of this periodical, he advocated the establishment of a
"General Committee, " among the Baptists of Kentucky, in which the whole Baptist
denomination in the State, might be represented. and thereby secure unity and
harmony of action in promoting schemes of benevolence, especially home and
foreign missions. Without entering into particulars here, it is sufficient to
say, in this place, that the proposed "General Committee" was intended to answer
similar ends to those now promoted by the General Association of Kentucky
Baptists. The measure would have been a wise one, if the Baptists of Kentucky,
had been prepared to adopt it and carry out its purposes; but they were not, and
the movement had to be postponed about nineteen years. Mr. Noel, however, lived
to see his measure carried into successful operation in the General Association.
In 1812, Mr. Noel and Jeremiah Vardeman
proposed to publish "a comprehensive History of the Baptist Society."2
How far this work progressed is not known.
About 1816, Mr. Noel was appointed by Gov.
Slaughter, Judge of the Circuit Court. In filling this office, he abandoned the
work of the ministry, for a time. John Taylor speaks of him at this period as
follows: "Mr. Noel sometime after this relinquished the pastoral charge at Big
Spring, though he preached for them sometime after this. He at length took a
letter of dismission, and joined the church at Frankfort, after which being
appointed circuit judge, for a season he desisted from preaching, and resumed
the practice of law to which he had been bred. He forebore the sacred office of
gospel minister, about two years, being very unhappy in this lapsed state. About
one year past, he came forward again as a preacher, with more zeal, consistency
and apparent stability than at any time of his life, before, and is now one of
our first-rate Baptist preachers in Kentucky, and has lately taken the pastoral
care of the Baptist church in Frankfort."3
Speaking of him at a later period the same author says: "Silas M. Noel . . is
now a great traveler and one of the most successful preachers the Baptists have
in Kentucky For three years past I suppose he has baptized more people than
any other man in Kentucky. His labors seem blessed in whatever direction he
takes. The conversion of sinners to the Lord seems to be the greatest object of
his address to men. Repentance and faith, or faith and repentance, connected
with a godly life, is the main drift of his discourses, with profuse invitations
to everyone to come to the Supper. Speculative trifles are barely found in his
"The high powers of Lexington, authorized to
make doctors of Divinity, a year or two back saluted him with a flowing diploma.
But it is pleasing to see that these high flying trifles do, not prevent his
going into thickets; or, according to his own term, while at his work, the
highways and hedges, to invite the poor, the halt, the blind and lame, with
every other soul to seek the salvation of God."4
In 1827, Mr. Noel accepted a call to
Stamping Ground, where he labored but a short time. The next year he took charge
of Great Crossing church. Here his success was remarkable. Within one year he
baptized into its fellowship 359 persons. Among them were seventeen Indians from
Choctaw Academy at Blue Springs. At least one of these Indians, Sampson Birch,
was afterward ordained to the ministry.
During the two or three years that followed
this large in-gathering at Great Crossing, the Campbellite excitement was at
fever heat. The discussion partook largely of the popular feeling, but also
brought into the arena of newspaper warfare, the ablest men on both sides of the
question. Among them Silas M. Noel stood in the front rank on the Baptist side,
and while he was not the equal of William Vaughan in the pulpit, he was
decidedly his superior with the pen, and, with this he entered largely into the
discussions, through the press, while Vaughan was in the lead on the rostrum.
Out of a membership of 558, Great Crossing lost only sixteen by the Campbellite
Mr. Noel probably served some other country
churches, at different periods. In 1836, he accepted a call to the church in
Lexington. Here he served acceptably about three years, when he was called up
higher, May 5, 1839.
In his early life, Mr. Noel was somewhat
perplexed on the subject of church government, and probably inclined to the
Presbyterian, but after a few years, became fully settled in that of the
Baptists. He, however, felt the need of some general organization, through which
the denomination, at least, over the extent of the State, could act in harmony.
Hence his proposal for a general committee, in 1813. He established, in that
year, the Gospel Herald, a denominational monthly Magazine, by means of
which the Baptists of the State could have inter-communion of sentiments. But
this was soon discontinued for want of patronage. He was very active in
originating Georgetown College, especially for the educating of young preachers.
He was a member and President of its Board of Trustees, was instrumental in
securing the Paulding fund, and subscribed $500 to the college endowment. He was
a leading spirit in organizing the Kentucky Baptist State Convention, in 1832,
of which he was Moderator during its existence. The Baptists of Kentucky owe
much, under God, to this good and great man.
— History Of Kentucky Baptists, J.H. Spencer,
Vol. 1, pages 316-319
This was not, as
Dr. Ford supposes, the first religious periodical published in Kentucky.
I have before me a complete volume of the Kentucky
Theological Magazine, a quarterly edited by Stark Dupuy, and published
at Frankfort, Ky. The first number was issued, May, 1812.
Min. of South Dis.
Asso. of 1812.
His. Ten. Ch's, pp.
Churches Of Christ & Grave Location
He was known as one of the
"ablest" Baptist preachers in Kentucky, Silas M. Noel, D.D., preached
for the Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky and fought the
Movements for many years. P.S. Fall,
was a bitter enemy of Noel's, as Fall had
led an entire Baptist church to give up their theology to become a first century
church in 1824. Noel wrote articles against the Churches or Christ, and debated their
preachers in his writings. He, along with Jeremiah Vardeman, planned the Baptist, Georgetown
College, in hopes of producing Baptist preachers who would combat Campbellism. He was the man who initially baptized
Emily H. Tubman,
never worshipped as a Baptist, always with the Christians. Noel is buried under
a flat stone that has weathered and worn through the years. He is in the section
just southwest of the large War Memorial in the center of the cemetery. While
visiting the cemetery, this marker is one you will not want to miss. Noel is
buried in Section M.
See Map Here!