Dr. Chester Bullard
The Life Of Chester A. Bullard
Dr. Chester Bullard was the child of Baptist parents. His early childhood was spent in Montgomery county, in Southwest Virginia, near the source of the Roanoke river, about three miles from Christiansburg. This section was rife with irreligion, there being but three professing Christians among the four hundred inhabitants of Christiansburg. In the midst of such society it was the constant prayer of Bro. Bullard's parents that he might be led to Christ, and the family altar was never neglected. How much better would be the condition of our children under the superior advantages of this later age if we never let the fires on the family altar die out. As Chester Bullard grew up into manhood he showed a remarkable interest in matters of religion, and finally began to experience much distress of mind concerning his salvation. He had been taught the prevailing doctrine of spiritual regeneration, with all the attending phenomena of signs and visions, and earnestly did he seek for that feeling of assurance that his sins were pardoned.
About this time the Methodists made their appearance in the community, and Bro. Bullard early became a seeker at the mourners' bench. He finally professed conversion, but could not subscribe to many of the doctrines of that body, so he remained unconnected with any religious body. He was now seventeen years of age and began to study the Bible with renewed vigor, and devoted much time to this pursuit. He was possessed of an independent mind, a deep love of God, and an earnest desire to learn his will, and with these qualifications he soon saw that after faith in Christ and repentance from sin, baptism was required.
About this time his eldest brother happened to be travelling in Pennsylvania, and, after supper at a public house, found, upon retiring to his room from the uncongenial company at the inn, a number of the Christian Baptist lying on the table. He read this before retiring, and was so much pleased with it that he advised his brother-in-law upon his return to Montgomery county, Va., to subscribe for it, telling him that the editor was a half century ahead of his age. This advice was taken, and the last number of the Christian Baptist and the first of the Millennial Harbinger were duly received, but for lack of interest in the matters treated most of the numbers were thrown aside unread.
During that year (1831) Mr. Bullard, who had studied medicine a little, decided to complete his studies with Dr. D. J. Chapman, near the Sulphur Springs, in Giles county. Here, where the Sinking Creek flows for four miles under Thomas mountain and empties itself beneath the cliffs into New River, he took up the study of medicine. But religious matters were uppermost in his mind. He had decided to be immersed, but could find no one to immerse him except the Baptists, and if immersed by them he would have to unite with that denomination, as they baptized into the Baptist Church. This he was unwilling to submit to, as he could not approve of many of their tenets sufficiently to unite with them. During this period of his isolation Landon Duncan, being tax assessor for the county, happened to be in the neighborhood on official business. Since his baptism by the "White Pilgrim," Duncan had become something of a preacher. On this visit he met Dr. Bullard, and the two soon fell into a conversation on the matters of religion, uppermost in both minds. Mr. Bullard freely communicated his views and wishes, and, although he frankly expressed his dissent from some of the views held by Mr. Duncan, the latter agreed to baptize him. This was done without delay, and Bro. Bullard now felt himself qualified by obedience to proclaim the simple gospel of a risen Christ.
After his baptism Chester Bullard at once began to labor in the word and doctrine, delivering his first discourse on the evening of the day in which he was baptized. He avoided the speculative doctrines of the day, such as that concerning the atonement, with which Landon Duncan and the Christian Connection were much occupied. On the contrary, he presented simple views of the Gospel, showing that faith comes not as a gift of the Holy Spirit, but by hearing the Word of God; and that he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Two years of hard labor passed before a single soul made the good confession and was baptized for the remission of sins. The seed he had been diligently sowing had taken root, and now the harvest time was near at hand. In a short time a small band had been gathered and formed themselves into a Church of Christ. This congregation met near the source of the Catawba. By degrees those who were members of the Christian Connection, including Landon Duncan, gave in their adhesion to the new "Bullardite" movement, as it was called, and one James Redpath and others began to aid in the public ministry. From 1835 to 1840 a number of churches were organized throughout that section.
In 1839 Dr. Bullard happened, while at the home of his brother-in-law, to pick up a copy of the Harbinger, which turned out to be Mr. Campbell's "Extra on Remission." Up to this time he had shared the common prejudice against what was termed "Campbellism." He was now surprised and delighted with the new views this Extra gave of the Gospel, and immediately sought out all the back numbers of the Harbinger. He was overjoyed to find how clear and consistent were Mr. Campbell's views, and how different they were from the slanderous misrepresentations that had been circulated through pulpit and press. He immediately began to circulate these writings, and preached with greater clearness than before the faith once delivered to the saints; being strengthened by the thought that he was not alone in the work he had already been doing in a small way, but surrounded by a host of brethren, all laboring in the same cause. Hearing that Mr. Campbell was to visit Charlottesville in 1840, Dr. Bullard decided to meet him. They met and had many lengthy interviews during the few days of Mr. Campbell's visit, and formed an acquaintance and mutual admiration that continued through life.
On a notable occasion the Methodists chose one of their preachers, T. J. Stone, to represent them in a debate with Dr. Bullard on the subject of baptism. The debate was to be held in a grove at a place some distance from Dr. Bullard 's home, and he had to start the day before to get there. Late in the afternoon of the first day's journey, the Doctor fell in with the preacher who was to be his opponent of the following day. Mr. Stone had been studying the Campbell and Rice Debate in search of arguments to sustain his side of the question. As they rode along together their talk turned on the debate to be held the next day, and Bro. Bullard noticed rather a lack of confidence in the language of his opponent. The wily Doctor adjusted the conversation so that he might find out the cause of this, and soon came to the conclusion that his opponent had but little relish for the affair, and, in short, in his research his confidence in affusion had been upset. Bro. Bullard finally said, "Bro. Stone, you better let me baptize you tomorrow instead of debating." Mr. Stone answered that if it were not for one or two objections, he would.
That night they spent at Mr. Stone's home, and the quick-witted Doctor soon perceived that one of the greatest objections was Stone's wife. Accordingly he gave her much attention, and the three searched the Scriptures till the small hours of the night.
A large crowd was assembled next day to hear the debate. Bro. Bullard announced that there would be no debate, but that he would preach that morning and Bro. Stone in the afternoon, also that there would be an immersion directly after the morning services. Much to the surprise of all, both Bro. Stone and his wife presented themselves for baptism when the invitation was given. This couple are still living, having preached the Old Jerusalem gospel for many years in Virginia.*
Dr. Bullard travelled all over Virginia preaching, baptized thousands, and organized a great number of churches. For many years he was the only real preacher of the reformation in Southwestern Virginia. He was an earnest man, a strong preacher, an exhorter of great force and an untiring worker. He lived to see much fruit of his early labors and enjoyed the honor, esteem and love of all who knew him.
*Bro. Stone has passed away since this was written.
Source: Frederick Arthur Lodge, The Plea And The Pioneers In Virginia, Richmond: Everett Waddey Company, c.1905, pages 200-205
The Autobiography of Chester Bullard
On Monday, February 27, this veteran preacher of the gospel entered into his rest. His name is a household word among Virginia Disciples and his fame has reached the furthest bounds of our brotherhood. He is the last of the pioneers for the cause of primitive Christianity in the Old Dominion, and was a man of such forceful character, extended service, varied gifts, noble prominence and long identification with the movement for the restoration of New Testament order and the union of God's people, that he deserves to be held in grateful remembrance. The facts of his life deserve to be more widely noticed than those of ordinary men. It chanced to be my good fortune to know him from my boyhood, and four years before his departure for the better land he has been so long seeking, he placed in my hands an autobiographical sketch to be used in the Christian Standard after he had left us. It now becomes my sad duty to comply with his wishes, and I give the interesting story in his own words.
-Frederick D. Power
Framingham is the name appropriated by a township in Massachusetts, surrounded in early times by Indians, the converts of the Apostolic Elliot, fourteen miles south of Concord and twenty-one miles west of Boston. Bullard is a name frequently occurring in its records, most frequently in its church history. Seth Bullard, born one hundred and eighty years ago, was regularly employed to prepare the record of the religious experience of those who were seeking communion in the Congregational church. He was a praying man, repairing daily to his chaise-house for secret devotion. One Sunday morning while engaged in family worship his wife discovered cattle in the corn lot, and motioned to her grandson, Daniel--my father, then a child--to drive them out. He went out and whistled for his dog. When he returned to the house his grandfather reproved him for whistling on the Lord's day, and to his apology replied: "Could you not have called, 'Here, Bolus!'"
His son Ebenezer, my grandfather, was equally pious, but not so scrupulous about whistling on the Lord's day. The religious tendency in the Bullards was not diminished by their intermarriage with such families as Rice, Stone, Haven, Cook, Beeches, Freeland, Fisk, etc., nor did it lessen the large percentage of those who gave themselves to the ministry of the gospel. This appears from the earliest period to have been the favored family calling. Omitting the names belonging to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and all excepting my own family in the nineteenth, I had two brothers who were preachers. My father not infrequently occupied the pulpit. My next older brother was an elder in the church, and two nephews and my only son are preachers. A social meeting never wanted a tongue to voice their devotions when my mother or one of my two sisters was there. One of my earliest recollections is kneeling beside my mother at the bedside and hearing a voice which time cannot silence. When five years old, while gathering berries with other children, I thought we had sinned, and I proposed to pray, which I did, with feelings of deep contrition.
Notwithstanding the earnest efforts to make me a Christian, a terrible mistake was made in not showing me the Father-side of God. In my childhood, I loved my father, and especially my mother, more than God. I feared God. I remember one night, when probably four years of age, lying on my back, and looking up at the light fleecy clouds which were covering over the disk of the moon, and being almost in an ecstasy until I remembered that God was there, and then I jumped up in a fright and ran into the house. At the same time I thought that everything that was kind, was comprehended in the Christian. A horse in the neighborhood—which had won the sobriquet of "church-horse," because of its connection with a church squabble, I had invested with every enviable quality—not distinguishing between the terms church and Christian—and accordingly I made a swing of the horse's tail while hitched at my father's gate, and to my father who rushed to rescue me, I explained that a Christian horse would not hurt anybody.
At nine years of age I was removed to Staunton, Virginia, and there I attended a school of a pious Methodist class-leader, who habitually prayed in his school. This was calculated to increase my religious anxiety. I uniformly on Saturdays visited Judge Browne's, to secure the supply of butter for my sister's table. Beside the path a little white oak was embowered with a grape vine, a beautiful retreat for prayer, where week by week with alternations of hope and despair, I struggled to secure the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of pardon. It was after my removal to Montgomery county, in my seventeenth year, that I became almost hopeless of ever being numbered with the redeemed. I determined to make one supreme effort and then accept my fate. My sister, Mrs. Snow, became acquainted with my miserable condition, and induced me to consent to invite some religious persons to talk and pray with me. I knelt by my chair, and for hours persevered in the struggle for peace, every effort being succeeded by increasing despondency, just as a convict condemned to death with every failure in attempting to secure reprieve feels the rope tightening around his neck. At last sensibility gave way. My extremities grew cold, the blood retreating to the heart and larger arteries. I ceased to pray and almost to feel I was lifted into my seat. My sister, overwhelmed with anxiety, gazed most earnestly into my face and said, "There is a change in Chester!" There had indeed been a change, for until that word was spoken I was almost insensible; but as I had almost unbounded confidence in my sister Mary, I gathered hope from that sentence. The mental condition reacted upon the physical; there was an instant reaction in the circulating medium, the blood rushed to the extremities, making my toes and fingers tingle, which I accepted as the operation of the Holy Spirit.
There was, in reality, no change in character. There has been, in fact, no time from early childhood when I would not have gladly laid down my life for the assurance of an interest in Christ, and my fear of not securing it made me often wish I had never been born, or that I had been born an imbecile or had died in infancy.
However, if there be any virtue in error here, then was an instance of it, for the serenity which had resulted from the struggle enabled me with a well-balanced mind to search the word of God. I very soon learned that God had no disposition to perpetuate a quarrel with one of his offending creatures, but that he only wanted the prodigal to come home. My friends thought that I ought to unite with some religious body. The Methodist was the only one within my reach. There I found lovely spirits to whom I became fondly attached. But in reading my Testament I found the Christ died to reconcile the world unto God, while the Methodists taught that he died to reconcile God unto the world. I believed that we were justified by faith working by love and purifying the heart which led to obedience; the Methodists, that we are justified by faith alone. I made no concealment of my views, and the preacher in charge told me I was not a Methodist, and advised me to procure a discipline. This only made the matter worse. Hence, one of the sorest trials of my life was a separation from a people I so dearly loved and who had truly loved me, but now turned their backs upon me. And I was led to believe there was not a being on earth that sympathized with me. Even the Great Commission was not understood by others as I read it. With me it was an invitation to salvation on the condition of a loving trust in Christ and a baptism unto Christ.
I now went in search of someone to immerse me; someone who venerated and practiced the ordinance. A Baptist preacher told me I could only receive immersion by first being received by the Baptist church, but I could neither find Baptist church nor its conditions of discipleship in the New Testament. One view that I entertained at this time, so offensive to the religious tastes of the day, was my estimate of the object of preaching which was to reconcile men to God, to be effected by such an exhibition of Christ as to make God understood and loved. And the time came when I felt it my duty to forego all the hopes of early manhood in the effort to reconcile the people of God. This implied an abandonment of every expectation of worldly success and the channels through which happiness had been anticipated. I had exhausted my means in preparing to practice medicine. Like most young men, I had not escaped the fascinations of the other sex, and was in reality engaged to an almost life-long loved one. Could I be so cruel as to expose to ostracism one so universally loved, to bring down upon her head an odium inseparable from the career I had marked out for myself? I laid the whole case before her and yet, woman-like, though sorely disappointed, she refused to renounce me, and I scarcely know a standard by which to measure her devotion during her short life—a life that was a necessity in that crucial period of my career.
No one at this day can understand how "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved," or pardoned, sounded fifty or sixty years ago. A Christian body without a creed was, they said, in the elegant metaphor of the time, a tub without a bottom. And that the faith that saved a soul came through the word received through the ears on the outside of the head was almost a sin against the Holy Ghost. Saving faith came immediately to the heart.
Up to this time, 1836, when I had planted six churches, I was ignorant of having trenched so much upon "Campbellism," a heresy so terrible in my estimation, for a preacher had told me that Campbell taught that a mental acceptance of Christ as the Son of God and an immersion in water made the subject as pure as an angel. At first I was heard by very few persons. My first convert was my wife. Talking with her on the subject of conversions, the influence of a knowledge of God's goodness and its power to win the heart, God's plan burst upon her mind and she was extremely happy and anxious to be baptized.
But how did I receive my baptism? Just below the New River, White Sulphur Springs, rises the majestic cliff, the summit of which is known as Thomas' Hill. There Joseph Thomas, the White Pilgrim, spent a portion of his early life. He was one of the most laborious and enterprising preachers in the early years of the nineteenth century. Landon Duncan, originally a Baptist preacher, became very much widened by intimate association with him. Duncan was of good report. While he was filling the office of assessor, he spent a night at the New River White, where I made his acquaintance and demanded baptism at his hands, which he finally decided to administer with the understanding that I should preach my convictions, though somewhat divergent from his own and those of Barton W. Stone, with whom he affiliated; and on the 11th day of December, 1830, I was baptized in Sinking Creek at the house of Parker Lucas, and that night preached my first sermon. My views were pretty generally received by the associates of Duncan and Lucas. Subsequently, Duncan and Lucas were almost sick of their bargain, but their members very generally sustained me. Ultimately the most amicable relations were sustained between Brother Duncan and myself, and his son Elisha, a preacher, while Parker Lucas antagonized me to the last, though nothing occurred between us that caused me to distrust his fidelity to conscience, or that disturbed our mutual esteem, and all of his family gave in their adhesion, and his grandson, C.S. Lucas, became a powerful proclaimer of the gospel, much of whose ability, in my judgment, was latent in his grandfather.
Now the question arises, how did the brethren in Southwest Virginia become willing to exchange the name "Bullardite," with which their enemies had stigmatized them, for one which had been with them even more distasteful? Thus it occurred. In a journey from the East, through the western part of Pennsylvania, my eldest brother, at a public house where he was stopping, picked up one of the last numbers of the Christian Baptist, which he perused before retiring. On returning to his family in Montgomery County, he recommended his sister, Mrs. Snow, to subscribe to the periodical, asserting that its author was half a century in advance of the age. Two numbers of the Baptist were received, succeeded by two volumes of the Millennial Harbinger, and would have been read had my sister lived. She dying, they were packed away on a shelf until they were covered with dust. All at once it occurred to me to let A. Campbell speak for himself. The first utterance I laid hold of was from his Extra on Regeneration. Up to this time I had not noticed Acts 2:38, and the charge of the disciples to begin at Jerusalem. Believe me. I was not long in getting to Jerusalem, where the whole road into the kingdom of heaven was illuminated with a brightness exceeding that of the electric light of our day; where the process of the regeneration was illuminated with three thousand examples.
When David Crockett first became the proprietor of a Johnson-Walker dictionary, he declared his readiness to spell against Adams and his whole cabinet. Now I felt ready to spell against all the contrivances for getting religion. Up to this time I had been enabled, from various passages, especially the Commission, to lead thousands to Christ and a good conscience. No one reared under the present administration of the Word, where "the beginning at Jerusalem" is not ignored, can know what "the beginning at Jerusalem" was worth to me. In Giles County, where I was baptized, God's great, loving heart was more fully understood, and the way in which Christians may become a unit without sacrifice of conscience, was, for the first time, clearly understood by them, while Parker Lucas' views of a unanimity of religious sentiment as necessary to union were abandoned. A meeting house was built, and many added to the church. At Gravel Hill, fifteen miles above in the same valley of Sinking Creek, a church, already strong, was greatly enlarged, and a good house was built, greatly through the instrumentality of one of its charter members, Jacob McPherson. This is the only man who told me, after I had preached on the beginning at Jerusalem, that he had often asked the preachers to preach as Peter did. This man reminded me of my great grandfather in his extreme conscientiousness. He was in the habit of resorting to Gap Mountain to spend the day in fasting and prayer. Bright and early one morning, as he started out, he was reminded of the passage, "Anoint thy head and wash thy face." He thought, how can I anoint my head without oil. He remembered that his wife had churned the day before, and the spring house being in his path, he proceeded to butter his head, and surely there was water enough to wash his face, for I have baptized scores in that beautiful stream. And he washed his face and went on his way. Since that he has shaken his sides laughing at the illustration of the way in which a literal obedience may contravene the divine purpose.
There is one incident in my never-to-be-forgotten intercourse with Jacob McPherson that I will relate, as it is a singular one. He was a most God-like man, one of the most efficient Christians—probably the most efficient—in the county in which he lived. On one occasion I had been preaching at Gravel Hill, but without fruit. Bro. McPherson was there early for nine o'clock prayer-meeting. I met him in the yard, and he said to me with animated countenance: "There will be accessions today." I observed, "I see no hope." "Never mind," he replied. I preached and I believe twelve came forward. I exhorted and still asked for confessions. I was about to dismiss the congregation when he came to me and said: "Stop, Bro. Bullard, till I count!" and he proceeded, and, getting through, remarked there was one lacking. I then told the congregation that Bro. McPherson believed there was another in the audience who would carry away a sore heart if a disobedient one, and a gentleman some fifty years of age from the most remote seat arose and came forward, and the count was up. Jacob McPherson's dream was accomplished.
Gravel Hill is midway between Sugar Grove and New Castle, the county-seat of Craig County, where I suppose I have baptized five hundred persons, nearly all of whom are in the other world. I wish to name several of the preachers in this field, especially those early in the work. Claiborne Curtis, starting from Mecklenburg County to the West, had the misfortune to break his leg, and was for a long time confined in the vicinity of New Castle. He was a Baptist, a school teacher, with gifts as a public speaker. He heard me frequently, and was glad to see me receive the confession of his wife and baptize her.
He became an elder in the church at New Castle. He afterwards removed to Raleigh County, West Virginia, where he and his wife were the only members in the region in which he lived, and thinking the gospel perverted by what he heard, determined himself to try to preach it. There was a young man in the county who had, when a little boy, heard me preach in Peterstown, Monroe County, and was willing then to make confession, but thought I would not receive it on account of his extreme youth. He now came forward, and Bro. Curtis baptized him. His name was Carper. The two, as long as Bro. Curtis lived, were pillars and supports of a spreading church, and Carper still lives.
D.A. Snow was baptized when fifteen years of age. James Calfee when probably nineteen. Both have made their mark, commencing to preach when they were young men. Snow, my nephew, was for some time pastor of the church in Jackson, Mississippi, and is widely and favorably known. The county of Mercer is more indebted to Calfee than to anyone dead or alive. He has passed to his reward, not only for work done there, but at various points of useful service.
The church at Cypress Grove received an early and valuable accession in the person of James Redpath, a local Methodist preacher. He was left in charge of the Salem Methodist Church, but despite everything he could do, one after another of his people were buried with Christ in baptism. He first determined to forbid any preaching in the Salem house of worship, but then I preached under the oaks, and he was said to be hid in the Chinquapin bushes. I was again admitted to the house. Either way there were the same results. The preacher in charge of the circuit consulted with him as to what was to be done. Redpath advised that "the chickens still left should be taken away and put under the old hen at Bethel," "For," said he, "by the time you get around again Bullard will have the old rooster!" He was immersed and his last was the most useful years of his life.
Within five miles of my home resided Hezekiah Whitt of the Baptist Church. It was not hard for him to do what he saw to be his duty. He united his labors with mine, choosing as the text of his first sermon: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." It was so easy to follow him with the indubitable evidence that faith comes by the Word of God that I never failed to make him preach from the same text when asked on what subject he should preach. No one finally was more willing to accept God's plan of salvation than Hezekiah Whitt, and he urged others as long as he was able to preach. His wife, who could never accept Baptist teachings, and his children accepted the gospel as the power of God unto salvation.
Having learned from some tobacco traders passing through the country that John T. Wooton, of Prince Edward County, who had been discipled by Jacob Creath, on becoming a citizen of Henry County, had discipled two brethren in that county, I determined to visit that section. A very successful meeting not only established a strong church at Horse Pasture, but one which dominated the public sentiment of the region. Subsequent visits planted the cause in the lower end of the county at Mt. Vernon; also at County Line; later Pittsylvania Court House, now Chatham. By this time incidental visits from Silas and Cephas Shelburne and the permanent labors of Dr. Hugart established the cause in Southern Piedmont.
I finally responded to a call to one of the border counties of North Carolina. Among my hearers was a young skeptical lawyer and his bride. Retiring from the church he observed: "This is putting the case in an entirely new light. I must re-examine it." A few months later he alighted at my door, spent a few days with me, and returned a preacher of the gospel of the grace of God, winning souls to Christ. His name was Virgil A. Wilson.
Other States are indebted to Southwest Virginia—Kentucky, Missouri, Washington, etc. Preaching in West Virginia, Powhatan Baber, one of my hearers and a Baptist, after listening to a single sermon on God's plan for the union of Christians, was thoroughly convinced and made the best time I have ever seen in a church from the seat he occupied to give in his adhesion. His efficient labors are divided between the two States. The same may be said of Bro. Lineburg, of Carroll County. He was a Baptist preacher who, with his church, joyfully united with us on the one foundation laid in Zion. Afterward he removed to the West—dead or alive, he is one of the Lord's noblemen.
A very valuable accession was made from the Presbyterian church—Thomas G. Shelor, my brother-in-law, who was welcomed in every congregation and strong in the faith, though he fought every step of the way from Presbyterianism and his wife from Methodism to a burial with Christ in baptism, and thought, I believe, for some time that he was going to capture me, always preparing during my absence to retrieve a defeat.
While returning a visit of Coleman and Goss to Piedmont, I was induced to pass through Southeast Virginia, and preached at Mt. Olivet, Lunenburgh County. Shortly after my return home two men from that county came to my house to induce me, if possible, to visit their section. I little thought of spending so much time there when complying with their needs. I found the needs of that field were very great. I began preaching, and proceeded on the theory that there is a spirit in man and that the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding; that men have hearts, and crowds were made conscious of the fact. Hundreds were converted. Houses of worship were filled with hearers. On one occasion, fifty persons, mostly heads of families, were baptized in six days.
But to return to the Southwest. Hearing there was a proselyte at the gate, who had been under the instruction of Bro. Moody for a time, I determined to visit his neighborhood. Bro. Leonard was baptized, and a respectable church was established at Pleasant Hill, Grayson County, embracing several members of the family of Thomas Stone, a Methodist preacher, and a young man of parts and culture. He felt it his duty to defend his Zion, and proposed to discuss Methodism vs. the teachings of the Disciples. I thought it discreet to lift the gauntlet. He attended an appointment I had at Pleasant Hill. At the close of the services he invited me to his house, with the purpose, as I supposed, of arranging for the conflict. On the way, from some remarks he made, I pleasantly suggested the propriety of settling our controversy by his immersion, and was surprised with the serious reply that, with the removal of a few difficulties, he was prepared for such a step. The truth was, he had provided himself with a copy of the Campbell and Rice debate, and there was not much left for discussion. I was very glad to find his difficulties removed, and as the water was not distant, as the sun was setting behind the western hills, he was buried with Christ in baptism. I invited his wife to accompany him in this significant ordinance embracing such a precious promise. Her father, too, was a preacher, and she was unprepared for such a step, but I was glad to see that during a long conversation on the subject before retiring on the night of her husband's baptism, she was a very close and anxious listener. She probably saw that the questions discussed comprehended her difficulties. Certain it is that her husband, very early in the morning, was at my bedside with the intelligence of his wife's desire for baptism. Before my return home they were received into the church, and Bro. Stone was ordained as a minister of the gospel, which he has faithfully proclaimed to this day.
I must notice my first interview with Alexander Campbell. The universal prejudice which existed against him was as blind and unjust with the brethren I had gathered as with the religious denominations. After I had made myself acquainted with his views, and had my own mind disabused of false impressions, knowing what would be the ultimate destiny of the churches I had planted, I hastened to privately inform the minds of brethren that were of reputation, as Paul says, and even to induce them to subscribe for the Harbinger; and thus by 1839, when Mr. Campbell was to be in Charlottesville, a public sentiment had been established in the mountains which justified me, with the advice and consent of the churches here, in seeking recognition by the churches in Eastern Virginia. In Charlottesville, I arranged to exchange labors with R.L. Coleman and J.W. Goss, who on visiting us were joyfully received. Their presence relieved the brethren of the fear of what might result to the churches as a consequence of my death. They now felt they were not alone in the world, that there were other defenders of the faith to whom they might look with confidence. Of course I contemplated A. Campbell with the liveliest interest. And, say what we will about human leaders, the cause which had so much of our hearts, was deeply involved in this man. I left Charlottesville greatly encouraged. I had never known a man whom I would place beside A. Campbell. I heard him with delight; and personally he had accepted me for every dime I was worth. I should mention as the other preachers in Eastern Virginia, at the time of this interview with Mr. Campbell, Thomas Henley, James Henshall, Dr. Wm. Pendleton and his nephew, Dr. Madison Pendleton, James Bagby, James W. Goss, Dr. Duval and A.B. Walthall.
I cannot close this brief and partial record of my life without some acknowledgment, of some of its great deficiencies. One prominent wrong was the failure to educate the brethren in the important duty of supplying the sinews of war. The churches in Southwest Virginia and West Virginia, the border counties of North Carolina and Tennessee, and of Southern Piedmont are largely the fruitage of unrequited toil. For twenty-five years I did not receive the equivalent of my horse's outfit and expenses. And I am confident that James Miller, of Tennessee, a most excellent preacher, who exchanged labors with me, was scarcely better requited. And how am I to meet G.W. Abell, whom I lured to this field as his home by deducting five hundred dollars from the value of the farm he purchased? I am thankful that he soon saw his mistake in committing himself to churches, which, unspoiled, would have been all his heart could have wished. The truth was, I had discovered the apostolic modes of conversion and sanctification, and it was pay enough to see the grateful tears of the joyful penitent though to me a day of toil and fasting. Thus moved I had no compunction in persuading Cephas Shelburne to settle here, and while toiling for a growing family, at the same time supplying with no little labor and travel weekly, sermons of no ordinary merit for twenty years without a shadow of compensation. And yet Brother Walthall lies heavier on my conscience, who came to supply my place while battling with materialism in Southeast Virginia. Last night memory confronted me with his cold, but patient face, as he was urging his horse "Charlie," to one of his appointments. I claim credit for not distinguishing between my kin and others. D.A. Snow was the principal agent in building the Wytheville Church, and, I may add, that my business connection with his father enabled me to do more preaching than I otherwise would have done.
In controversies which could not be avoided, I was not always lamb-like. The truth is, I was rendered almost desperate by the proscriptions in every form save in assaults upon my character. I certainly lacked gentleness. Crossing swords with a Presbyterian preacher I did not properly respect his ripe years, sound scholarship and highly valued labors. With a milder manner the venerable Geo. Fainter's feelings would have been spared. If we could only learn an easier way than by experience. But this is a road we never travel but once, and our mistakes have to survive us.
To my loving brethren and my still more loving heavenly Father, with a grateful remembrance of all the kindness of earth and heaven, I close, with all the forbearance I can speak, this short sketch of what I have attempted in the name of my Lord and Master. I referred to the failure of my parents to impress my young mind with God's goodness. It has just occurred to me that the fear with which I regarded him was, to a great extent, caused by the pall that hung over my family for thirteen years from the harrowing anxieties for the fate of a brother stolen when four years old. I am certain I never saw father or mother, or either of my two sisters laugh until he was recovered when I was nine years of age. Such a grief-stricken family was not calculated to inspire a sense of a loving God. Jacob's believing that Joseph had been torn by wild beasts cannot compare with the grief of parents knowing their children were in the hands of sinful captors.
Part Three: Frederick Power Remembers Chester Bullard
It is to be regretted that this good man has left us no account of his later service. While these imperfect notes furnish some idea of his early struggles to plant the cause of primitive Christianity in Southwest Virginia, for many years after Dr. Bullard joined his forces with these of the greater leader he did a splendid work and preached the gospel far and wide, organizing churches and baptizing thousands. No history of the reformatory work of Mr. Campbell and his co-laborers can be perfect without taking into account the movement in the Virginia mountains, of which this man was the inspiration. He was incessant and unwearied in his labors as an evangelist, traveling on horseback through the mountains and enduring great hardships. Three thousand souls were gathered into the fold in Southwest Virginia through his efforts, and perhaps seventy-five churches established, either directly or indirectly, through his influence, in that section alone. His preaching tours extended frequently to other parts of the State, and wherever he went large crowds attended his meetings, and hundreds and even thousands obeyed the gospel.
The writer first met him in Eastern Virginia in 1867 and 1868. He was then well advanced in life, but still a vigorous and laborious preacher. He stood about five feet eight inches, and weighed perhaps a hundred and fifty pounds. He had a patriarchal appearance, wearing a long grey beard, and beneath shaggy eyebrows sparkled small dark grey eyes that had a wonderful glow during his powerful exhortations. He was not strictly a logical reasoner in his sermons, but he was very impassioned often, and always commanded the closest attention. He dealt chiefly with "First Principles," Christ the foundation, the conversions in the New Testament, the union of Christians on the Bible alone, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation. His sermons, while sufficiently clear in statement of doctrine, were largely given to declamation and exhortation. He had a magnificent voice, which evidently had been much abused by the constant tax of outdoor preaching and unceasing exercise in the pulpit and out of it, but was still impressive and powerful. In exhortation, he was specially gifted, and would plead with the people with great tenderness and untiring perseverance, urging them in repeated appeals so long as one would come to confess Christ. And this apostolic labor was not only in the public meetings but from house to house. He would go among all classes and talk to them in their homes of the love of Christ for human souls. D.A. Snow traveled with him as early as 1838, when he was seventeen years of age, leading the singing and aiding him in prayer and exhortation, and he tells many interesting experiences connected with the doctor's labors among the mountains, visiting the very poor, sleeping in log cabins, and sharing with the humblest people in their frugal bounty. The converts were then known as "Bullardites," and an ex-Methodist brother by the name of Shepherd was well known throughout that region for his daily prayer at his home altar for his "brudder Methodists that they might all be converted and come over and jine Bullard!"
Dr. Bullard was noted for his kindness to young people, and especially his encouragement to young men to preach the gospel. The writer would, in this public manner, acknowledge his own obligations to this noble servant of Jesus Christ. He organized in the churches, where he held meetings, young men's prayer-meetings for the training of young converts. He would himself write out a constitution and meet with the young men and boys and talk to them, teach them how to pray, call on them to follow him in prayer, and help them in their feeble attempts to utter their petitions. Such a prayer-meeting he organized in a schoolhouse at the home of my father, which was continued for years by the handful of boys which constituted it, though most of them lived miles away from the place of meeting, and out of that little gathering, which had an average attendance of seven, with no other exercises than Bible reading, prayer and song, came three preachers of the gospel. The good fruits of this faithful man's excessive labors in the gospel, are to be found everywhere in Virginia, and out of it in many places.
Doctor Bullard was married four times. His first wife was Eley K. Pierce, of Montgomery County; his second, Adeline Stone, of Lunenburg County; his third, Mary Dunkum, of Albemarle, the mother of William S. Bullard, and his last wife was Elizabeth Craig, of Pulaski County. He had only three children, and but one survives him, his son W.S. Bullard, a bright and pure man, and a faithful preacher of the cross, who inherits much of his father's eloquence and enthusiasm without, we regret to say, his physical powers of endurance. Few men have been more richly endowed in mind and body for such a pioneer service than Dr. Bullard. He blazed the way for others, and endured hardness as a true soldier of Jesus Christ. He had the lion-like qualities of courage and persistence and a right of command. His trust in God was very beautiful, and his spirit of piety was felt by all who came in contact with him, but by nature he had a strong element of conscious personality and leadership. He was a man whose affections were warm and deep. His sermons were full of an unction that stirred souls to their depths. His appeals were often overpowering in their earnestness and heartfulness. He won the children to him, and he was always welcome in the homes of the people, leaving behind him, wherever he came, a benediction. For threescore years he proclaimed the gospel story, and told it with a simplicity and a power that was irresistible, as thousands dead and alive would joyfully bear witness. It was a positive exhilaration to him to preach. His industry was indefatigable, his courage undaunted, his zeal for souls a consuming fire. God acknowledged the work of his servant and blessed him abundantly. Gradually his labors were lessened, and sustained by his unfaltering trust in his Master and the loving ministries of his family and friends he came to the close of his earthly pilgrimage. He entered calmly upon his rest, and on the first day of March, eleven days before the completion of his eighty-fourth year, the worn body was put away in its last resting place on the hillside over-looking his old home, "Humility," near the village of Snowville, there to await the resurrection when this vile body shall be fashioned like unto the glorious body of the Son of God. For him to live was Christ, and to die was gain.
I am glad in closing this brief tribute to so faithful a life to be able to lay before my readers a synopsis of Dr. Bullard's famous sermon on "Christian Union"--one which he was often called upon to repeat over and over again at the same place, and sometimes during the same meeting.
Part Four: Sermon on Christian Union
John 17:21-22: "That Christianity will ultimately triumph is assured by prophecy and promises, but never by a mutinous church, ignoring both the plan and the spirit of its author, can this be done. Union is an indispensable condition through all the vegetable, animal, and spiritual realms of the universe, as illustrated in our Lord's parable of the vine and its branches. When the little worm under the bark has encircled the mighty oak its doom is fixed. When the late planted is overtaken by the early frost, splitting every conduit of life, the lifeless blades soon shiver over the blasted hopes of the laggard husbandman. On the battlefield we see in every instrument of death an instrument of schism, intended to mutilate God's image. And I believe, like the worm under the bark, every disease intercepting the vital fluid is only the power wielded by the rider of the pale horse. Spiritually we know what the result is of a separation from him who is the life of the world. Just as the branch dies, deprived of the sap, so a member of Christ's body, drawn away and enticed by dogma, dies spiritually, becomes no longer life inspiring, but only poisons the stream of life for those with whom he is connected.
"Our great Lord and Master has staked all the benefits of his mission to inspire a principle, which can be spelled with four letters, in the hearts of his retainers. This principle can only be possessed and wielded by the pure in heart—only by those begotten of God. There is not a sectarian in the whole band. Many Christians have been captured, but not one of them sectarian in heart, and when one of God's children is brought in contact with a kindred spirit, they will unite as drops of water. Though one of them may have encumbered himself with a thousand notions or doctrines, it no more quenches the flame of his unencumbered brother's love than the dirt on the face of the little child quenches its mother's sympathies. And this love must either secure the world's conversion and union, or the mission of Christ is a failure.
"The parentage of sectarianism is given by the apostle James when he tells of the origin of wars and fightings. Paul asks of those infected with this spirit 'Are you not carnal, and walk as men?' And again: 'If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.' Do you say not all that are incorporated in sectarian ranks bite and devour one another? Then they are in the wrong pew, for all true sectarians have terrible teeth. Read the account of the birth of any religious party. The church has assembled to deliver over to Satan a brother guilty of a thought not colored like their own and he is cast out, though he would give his life to share the love of those who love his Master. This is sectarianism. It is simply the absence of love, which seeks union with every kindred spirit. It now exists in Church and State. Its whole soul is selfishness. A young angel, in care of an old one bearing dispatches to this earth, descended upon the scene of the battle of Trafalgar and accused his escort of having brought him to hell. They say a sectarian was once found in heaven. Why not leave him there, since it is said sects are good things on earth. You would not send him to hell since its tenants do not deserve good things. I think our first parents would have done better without him. If you doubt the existence of Christians under Sectarian banners, bring two who love their Saviour together, out of sight of their leaders; let them converse about the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and behold the loving tears and heaving bosoms and the joyful anticipation of meeting where there will be no more separation, and the ardent wish that they might have a blessed time here as well. Is the question asked, how are they kept apart here? It has been done by authoritatively requiring unanimity of sentiment as a basis of Christian fellowship, thus virtually discarding Christ as the basis of the Church, of whom Paul says: 'Other foundation can no man lay then is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' When the Eunuch said: 'Here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?' Philip answered: 'If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest.' And he was at once baptized, not into any sect or party, but into Christ, or, as Paul says, 'built upon the one foundation.'
"As love is indispensable to Christian character, and as nobody can love a creed, or, indeed, anything in all the universe but a person, so Satan never told a bigger falsehood, or a more mischievous one, than when he suggested building a Christian church on any other foundation than on a living, loving Christ, who could inspire love in these united to him. Now, if we know what Philip preached, and by what action he baptized the Eunuch, we would know how to build a church against which the gates of hell would not prevail; and they never did prevail until the primitive church began to formulate creeds, such as 'Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, ye can not be saved'; and 'I am of Paul' and 'I am of Apollos,' thus virtually ignoring the foundation laid in Zion.
"Some apologists for division will say: 'Union is impossible, because all cannot think alike.' Do all Christians think as God thinks, or a child of twelve as a sage of fifty? Who, by requiring it, would lord it ever God's heritage? How long does anyone retain the thoughts of today? In only one thing are we required to think alike—that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, that he loved us better than his life, and that to obey him is the whole duty of man. Now this is what every Christian thinks. No two Christians have different Lords, faiths or Spirits; and as soon as they love God as they should and as the necessities of a perishing world require, they will find one baptism and not have to blush in the presence of a pagan whom they have crossed the ocean to serve.
"After all the efforts Christians have made to believe what they think is inevitable that sects and parties are good things of the Holy Spirit in them gives it the lie and is grieved at their efforts to prove it true. Just as well believe that it is not good for the members of a family to dwell together in unity; that brothers, sisters, husbands and wives should war with each other. If the members of Christ's body should wake some morning with the intelligence that the representatives of the different churches had agreed to unite on a single article—faith in the living Christ—ignoring as a condition of union every debatable question that has hitherto divided the church, what a shout of joy would go up to heaven rolling under its broad archway. There is no event in the annals of time that has so thrilled the human heart as this would move it. When the world was created the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy, but that event was not to be compared with the world teeming with inhabitants being conquered for Christ. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the shepherds did well to worship the babe in the manger, the wise men to present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Simeon and Anna to take the young child in their arms and bless him, the angels to sing their choral, 'Glory to God in the highest peace on earth, good will to men; but none of them knew the import of his birth. The prophets searched diligently how and what manner of time the spirit that was in them did signify when it spake beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. The glory was to succeed the union of his blood-bought followers.
"I have already said that we can only love persons. I now say we only deeply love those who so love us as to be willing to suffer for us. Our children only love us because we first loved them; and every family will be found a quarreling family unrestrained by devoted parental love. We love Christ because he first loved us. He said: 'If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me'; and the apostle said, `I determined not to know anything among you but Christ and him crucified.' Here we have Christ's whole philosophy of Christian union, and by uniting his prayer with his life we have it illustrated. It was a Jew that approached the Samaritan woman, and the man who has not realized the animus of the two days domiciled in Shechem will probably go into the next world only partially acquainted with his Master. See him apparently throwing himself away in calling Zaccheus from the sycamore tree, and you will see in the gratitude of his host that he was searching for hearts which in this case and in Matthew's he could distinguish underneath their callings. Not less is this evident in the sinful woman who anointed his feet in the house of Simon. And see him selecting a Samaritan in his prince of parables, and almost with his last breath pouring salvation on the wretch that languished at his side."
It is no wonder, when this devoted preacher of the cross pleaded during the sixty years of his unselfish ministry in such loving terms for the oneness of God's people, that thousands discarded their human standards, and accepted the divine basis. The times call for just such earnest, honest, tender and apostolic service now. Let this heroic example move our young men; let such great characters abide with us; let bind ourselves by all that is sacred, that the fruits of such noble toil and sacrifice shall not perish from the earth.
-Edited by Frederick D. Power
Originally appeared in the Christian Standard, 1893, Then, Sketches of Our Pioneers, To Which Was Added The Autobiography of Chester Bullard, page 109-130.
The Baltimore Sun., Thursday, Mar_2, 1893, p.7 (Baltimore, Maryland)
Directions To The Grave Of Dr. Chester Bullard
Snowville, Virginia is a small community on the very eastern edge of Pulaski County, separated from Montgomery County by the Little River. Snowville is on State Highway Route 693, Lead Mine Road. On the WEST edge of the village, and on the NORTH side of Route 693 is a lovely farm, and an equally beautiful, large, old, white, multi-section farm house. The LANE into this farm begins on Route 693 with a dual-pillar, concrete-cased, entrance gateway. Immediately ACROSS Route 693 from this gateway entrance, on the south-side of Lead Mine Road is a cattle gate, with vehicle path up a hill leading toward an open meadow. The path is without gravel, only bare dirt, with lush grass in the center. Follow this grass lane, along the left-edge of open meadow. (Grass may be high in summer, but take your time and look for the ruts. Drive around the outside of the field to the left rear of the field. The old cemetery is on the left, just into the woods. A large pillared entrance (back in the woods) into the cemetery is easily visible, and a small grass parking space is in front of the cemetery. These directions DO NOT include permission to trespass across the meadows. All visitors enter at their own risk. And certainly, any planned service to the cemetery must surely seek permission of the land-owner of the access lane.
Once entering the cemetery there are two or three graves of note. One is that of Elder G.W. Abel, located near the entrance just on the left, and surrounded by an iron fence. To the right of the cemetery is the obelisk of Snowville's founder A. Snow., and Dr. Chester Bullard's monument is at the rear of the cemetery along the wood fence.
Bullard grave nest to big tree (left center of pic) next to wood fence.
Mar. 12, 1809
Feb. 27, 1893
A Soldier Of The Cross
He wore the breastplate
Of Righteousness; he bore
the Shield of Faith; he
weilded the Sword of the
the Spirit; he endured hard-
ness as a Good Soldier.
He turned many to
Righteousness and so
shall shine as the stars
forever and ever.
Photos Taken 04.2019
Webpage produced 12.24.2019
Courtesy Of Scott Harp
In April, 2019, I had the privilege to speak on the lectureship program of Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies, held at the Karns church of Christ in Knoxville, Tennessee. Along with me was long time friend and fellow laborer in restoration research, C. Wayne Kilpatrick. After we both completed our responsiblies at SEIBS, we made our way into southern Virginia where we sought the burial places of several leaders in the Restoration Movement in that area. Special thanks are extended to John Showalter, great-grandson of J.T. and Sarah Showalter, who traveled with us from his home in Abingdon, Va., to show us these graves as well as other sites in his Snowville, Va. home.