James Lemuel Martin
The subject of this sketch, Elder J. L. Martin, was born in Shelby county, Kentucky, Nov. 14, 1810. A few of the incidents of his life, it is thought, will be interesting to the readers of this book, especially to those who have had a personal acquaintance with the author.
His father, with the prejudice of the early pioneers of Kentucky, thought that all education beyond the ability to “read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three,” was unnecessary; consequently his opportunities for obtaining an education were very limited. He attended school in a five-cornered school-house with a dirt floor. While he attended school in this house, his principal ambition was spelling; and at a spelling-match on the last day of school, he spelled the spelling-book through without missing a word. This is the more remarkable from the fact that the book, entitled “Webster’s Easy Standard of Pronunciation,” was a very hard work to master, as it contained the names of cities, towns, gulfs, bays, and other geographical names. At that spelling-match be gained the prize—two bushels of apples—of which, he says he felt very proud. He was at this time about nine years of age.
After the age of nine years, he had no more privileges of going to school until he was fourteen. His father moved from Kentucky to Indiana, then a new country, and they had much hard work to do. When he was fourteen years of age he entered into a written article of agreement with his father, in which he disinherited himself for the privilege of going to school four months. During this time he improved his penmanship, read some history, refreshed his mind in spelling, and ciphered through Pike’s large arithmetic—writing down all the rules, and putting down the work of all the examples except a very few. He was at that time considered about a master of the science of numbers. He received a great many questions in arithmetic from different schools and colleges, and never failed to send back the answer with the work.
From early childhood he had very poor health, and was often confined to his room and to his bed, with sick-headache, rheumatism, and neuralgia. At about the age of sixteen, he left his father, to learn the trade of cabinet-making, and at eighteen was considered a first-class mechanic—in fact he was a good mechanic at anything—and, at the same time, he was a first-class doubter, or infidel. He had been taught, by all the preachers and by his parents, that the Lord had, from all eternity, an elect number definitely fixed and personally elected, and the fact of any one being of that number would be revealed to each one of the elect in the Lord’s own good time, provided that they sought for the information in prayer. He had been a prayerful seeker for two years without the Lord making known to him in any miraculous way anything on that subject. Hence he doubted the truth of this teaching and the truth of the Bible.
In this doubting mood he felt very unhappy, and concluded to read the Bible for himself. He read the Book through, and became convinced of the errors of his former teaching, and that his duty was to obey God and trust Him for the blessing, not doubting the fulfillment of His promises. Knowing that He had promised that he that believes the gospel and is baptized shall be saved, and as he did believe the gospel in fact, he knew that if he were baptized he would be pardoned. He resolved then to go to the Baptist meeting, confess the Savior, and be baptized, but took care to count up the cost before doing so. If he joined the church and was baptized into Christ, he would have to forsake his wild ways, give up his associates, and lead a different life. He thought he could do all this easily enough, except in one case.
He loved a young lady who was not a member of the church, and whose parents were not members. He feared that if he became a Christian, he would have to give up all hope of obtaining her affections or her hand. He then resolved to wait until after they were married, before he would become a Christian. But here the words of Jesus came to his mind—“He that would not forsake all, for my sake, is not worthy of me.” He changed his resolution, and determined to give up the young lady, if need be, and all the world beside, for Christ’s sake. So, the next day he went to the Baptist meeting, and when the invitation was given he went up and gave his hand.
Then came the day of trial. They had to tell experiences then, and he had none to tell! So the preacher asked him leading questions as follows :
“Do you view yourself a sinner?” He replied: "I do.”
“Do you view Christ as a sufficient Savior?”
“Have you found Him precious to your soul in the pardon of sins?”
“I trust His promises.”
“Has God for Christ’s sake pardoned your sins?”
“I trust the promises of the Lord.” He was looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises of the Lord when he would go to Him through obedience. They received him into the church, and the next day (Lord’s day) he was baptized, and knew that his sins were pardoned by the word of the Lord.
About this time he bought his time of his father, agreeing to give him $75 a year until he was twenty-one years of age.
After he was baptized, his oldest brother, nine years older than himself, became offended with him, pronounced him a hypocrite, and refused to have any friendly intercourse with him for many weeks. He finally came to the conclusion, however, that our author was a Christian, and that he himself was a reprobate, and gave up in despair. J.L. Martin then talked to this brother on every occasion that he could, as he was then willing to talk, and tried to show him the true way. He also went to see the young lady he had given up, and talked to her on the subject of Christianity at the same time he was talking to her on the subject of uniting their fortunes together. He talked to her parents, also, on the subject of Christianity. The next year he was married—at the age of twenty—to the same young lady. He was married on Saturday night, at 8 o’clock—rather an odd time, but he had always a style of his own, and was never noted for following other people’s fashions. On the Lord’s day following, his wife, parents-in-law, his elder brother who had been offended with him, and another brother older than himself, with a cousin of his own age, confessed the Savior, and were baptized on Monday, the day of his infair. It must have been a happy day for him.
Soon after his marriage he attempted occasionally to say something in public, but was so timid and so bashful that he could say very little to the purpose. In addition to his bashfulness, he was very poor—not worth a dollar. He started out to make a living by working at his trade in the summer and teaching school in the winter; and this was followed up regularly for sixteen or seventeen years. Almost all his education was obtained as a teacher, not as a student. His first efforts at preaching were considered the poorest of the poor; so that the old brother (A. Little). [Absalom Littell] who baptized him, after hearing his first efforts in the pulpit, said he thought he had better quit, and the brethren generally thought so too. But they afterward said, that since they had made a preacher of Brother M., they did not see why they could not of any one.
He remained in the Baptist Church for two or three years, when the whole church, without the loss of one, came into the Reformation; then he was made a deacon in the church. Soon after this he was ordained an elder. He preached some, but was not licensed—preached both privately and publicly, as an elder of the church. Three or four years after he was ordained an elder, he was licensed to travel as an evangelist. He still worked at his trade, and preached on Saturdays and Lord’s days for about five years, for which he received the sum of fifty cents—twenty-five cents in silver and a twenty-five cent cheese, for five year’s preaching—ten cents a year, and half of that in trade! This, he good-humoredly remarks, was an indication of the poorness of the preaching or the ignorance of the brethren of its value.
Soon after the judicial districts of Indiana were organized into missionary districts, at a meeting of the churches in the second judicial district he was chosen as their missionary to the destitute in the district, at a salary of $300 a year, which was worth about as much then as a thousand is now. He was forbidden to go into the way of the brotherhood where there was any organized church or any Christian brethren, but was to go among the sects and among the people of the world, and preach to the opposers.
Not knowing much about opposition, he took the field rather with pleasure than otherwise, supposing that all who heard the truth presented in a plain manner, would be willing to receive it, and that certainly no person would oppose it. He was to report to the missionary board every three months, and receive his three months’ salary in advance. The first three months were spent mostly in riding along the highways and byways, and being hooted at by the people; denied a place to preach in, and failing to get an audience when he would make an appointment. He had in his district about fourteen preachers of different denominations to fight, and often cried, prayed, and wished himself at home. He shivered in the cold winds, sleet, rain and snow, without a friend to cheer him. His report, at the end of the three months, was: “No success—strong opposition; not the man for the place: you had better try some one else.” But the treasurer of the missionary board told him that he had his next quarter’s salary ready; that they had employed him for the year, and he had nine months more to serve,—at the end of the year they might let him off—he did not know. He went back into the work with a sorrowful heart, but resolved that if he had nine months more to serve, he would fight somebody or some thing.
By the time the year was out, his report to the yearly meeting was such that they concluded to employ him the second year. During the second year a brother from Corydon requested that the missionary meeting should send them some help to Corydon, but that Brother Martin would not do. They wanted a man in Corydon. Brother Martin might be a very good man, but he would not do for Corydon. The missionary board told him that it was Brother M. or no one; they had employed Brother M., and if Corydon was not satisfied with his help, they were not able to send them any other person. Once a month during that year, he preached in the court-house in Corydon, and succeeded in organizing a little church there. He preached for them once a month in Corydon the second year—the third year of his missionary work. He was employed again by the missionary board the next year, and preached for them again the third year in Corydon, by their request, and left a flourishing congregation there. He preached for the missionary board in the second district every year for ten years.
During his missionary labors in the second district he had a long, hard siege in Georgetown, Ind. He tried for a long time to get to preach there, without being able to get into a house. He attended a campmeeting of the United Brethren, and heard their preacher, on Sunday night, say that they had the word of the Lord for it, that where two or three would agree, as touching any one thing, to ask of the Lord, it should be done, and that there were more than two or three present that were ready to ask the Lord to pardon any one that would come up to the mourner’s bench; that he had found the Lord at the mourner’s bench, and he exhorted others to try it in the same way; that they had the word of the Lord for it, that their sins should be pardoned if they would come, because more than two or three were ready to ask the Lord to do it. They sung a song, extended the invitation, and a dozen came forward and kneeled at the mourner’s bench. The prayers of the two or three, or four or more, were offered, and still the mourners were all unpardoned, as far as they knew. The preacher told the brethren that they had not asked in faith, and then inquired if two or three could not ask the Lord in faith to pardon these mourners. One old brother promptly answered, “Yes, forty.” Then the praying again commenced, and when they had all concluded, the mourners were still on their knees unpardoned. The preacher observed, “There is something wrong, brethren; the Lord has promised, that where two or three ask in faith, it shall be done, and two or three have asked the Lord to pardon these mourners, and they are seeking pardon still.” Elder Martin felt very much hurt at this, as he thought it was blaming the Lord; so he walked out of the stand, into which he had been invited at the beginning of the services,’ and observed: “There is something wrong; and if you will allow me to talk a half hour, I will tell you what it is.” Some one said, “Not now; you must not disturb our meeting; you can tell it some other time.” He asked, “When?” and the reply was, “Set your own time,—do not interrupt our meeting now.” So an arrangement was made, privately, for the next Lord’s day, which they promised to publish. He was on hand promptly the next Lord’s day, and found the house full. He took the stand and was about ready to commence preaching when a circuit-rider came in and claimed the hour—said he was on his first round on his circuit, and must preach. Elder M. told him it was his appointment, and he would like to talk. The circuit-rider told him it was his first round, and he must preach. Elder M. told him he would like to occupy the hour now, and he could preach at four; but he declared that to be impossible, as he had to be at another point at four. “Then,” said Brother Martin, “you preach at this time, and publish an appointment for me at four,” which he consented to do.
At four o’clock he took a seat near the stand, but did not go into it. He was seated by an old Methodist brother—a class-leader—who commenced patting his feet and wringing his hands, and groaning very audibly and pitifully. At length he said, “Brother Martin, I have heard a great deal of talk about you, and I don’t wish to keep anything back.” “No, for the Lord’s sake, let us hear it,” was the reply. The old brother then handed him a slip of paper, saying, “I wish you to read this.” It was as follows: “Can a man receive the gift of the Holy Ghost without baptism? Or can a man receive the remission of his sins before he is baptized? Answer these questions, and we are satisfied.” He asked the old brother if he must answer these questions as the condition on which he occupied the stand at that time, and he said yes. He asked permission to enter the stand to answer them, which was granted. He then entered the stand, read the paper, and told the congregation that he wished to introduce with a few remarks—that when the questions were answered, they would be fairly answered. He preached about an hour without taking a text, and told them he wanted them to come back at night, as he wished to make a few more remarks. He preached to them again for about an hour, and had a crowded house. Then he asked the people to come out again the next day, and hear him make some more remarks. At the close of this discourse he invited them to come back and hear the questions answered. After preaching about an hour that night to a very full house, he told them that the questions were answered, not as they stood on the paper, for they were negative questions; but the affirmative was answered and the man that did obey the Lord, had the promise of the Holy Spirit, and was a child of God; and that the man that believed the gospel and was baptized, had the promise of the pardon of his sins, and his sins were forgiven; and that, if any one present thought that a man could be a child of God, and receive the Holy Spirit without obedience to the Lord, or that a person could have the remission of sins without baptism, or before he was baptized—if they made that the affirmative, the proof devolved on them, not on him. He affirmed that only the obedient were blessed—that the man that believed and was baptized, was pardoned, and he supposed there was no person there that would take the negative—that a man that believed the gospel with all his heart and was baptized, was not saved—was not pardoned.
A meeting was published for the next night, and at the close of the discourse an invitation was given for persons to unite on the Bible, owning no name but the name of Christ—Christians. At the invitation, eleven of their members came forward. At the close of the meeting they surrounded him with a torrent of abuse—said he was a robber of churches and a disturber of the peace, a bad man, and ought not to be allowed to preach. He begged them to be calm, keep cool, and talk one at a timed he would talk to them, if they desired it, all night. But they seemed to be more and more excited, and drew nearer and nearer to him, all talking together, and he had to begin to give back, when a man of the world, a large man, with giant frame, parted the crowd, and seizing their preacher, forcibly seated him on a bench, at the same time saying, “Sit down, sir!” Then, shaking his fists at the remaining persons that were using the abusive language, he said: “One at a time, gentlemen, or I’ll whip the last one of you.” He acted as moderator for about two hours, when the preacher exclaimed: “Let him alone, let him alone; it is not worth while to talk to him,” and the meeting adjourned. Four weeks from that time Elder Martin was in Georgetown again, and had a meeting in the schoolhouse, the church having a call-appointment of its own. The congregation, however, were very much inclined to go to the school-house that day. The members of the Methodist church and of the United Brethren church met and quarreled in the street, some going to the school-house, and some to the meeting-house. That day there were five additions. At his next visit to Georgetown, they let him preach in the meeting-house again, and there was one addition that day. On his next visit, in four weeks afterward, they had a protracted meeting in the meeting-house, and consequently he could not get in, and preached at the tavern near by, and had four additions to the little church they had organized. Upon his next visit he was informed that their house was open to any person in good standing in the church to which he belonged, except J. L. Martin, and that the door was forever closed against J. L. Martin—he could not preach there. One of the trustees gave as a reason that he had caused more disturbance in their town than all the men that had been there before in twenty years, and that he must be a bad man. He told the trustee that Paul had caused more disturbance in Athens than all the men that had been among them for two hundred years past, and still that did not prove that Paul was a bad man. This man said, “You need not tell me you are preaching the gospel while you are causing such division and strife among the people.” Brother Martin replied, that was the very thing Jesus said He had come to do—to cause division by preaching the gospel; but that the gospel was not to blame for the division—it was the ungodly opposition of the gospel that was to blame for the division in the days of Christ on earth, and he presumed it was the same thing yet.
One man gave as a reason for shutting him, out of the house, that he was not orthodox in reference to the divinity of Christ in particular. He told this man he believed that Christ was a divine person, and asked him if he did not think so too; to which he replied that he did. “Then,” said Elder Martin, “If I am not orthodox, you are not.” The man asked, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God?” “Does the Bible say so?” “No, not in just so many words." “Then I don’t believe it, in just so many words.” The man continued: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal son?” “Does the Bible say so?“ “No; not just that way.” “ Then I don’t believe it, just that way.” “But, it is said, ‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: the government shall be on his shoulder, his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ What do you think of that?” “Is it in the Bible ?” “Yes.” “Just that way?” “Yes.” “Then I believe it, just that way, exactly.”
“But,” said Elder Martin, “I am not certain that you believe all that is in the Bible, just as it is stated. I want to catechize you some. Do you believe that the Father told the truth when He said, at the baptism of Christ, ‘This is my Son?'” The man said: "I am not going to debate with you.” "Do you believe that Jesus told the truth when He said, ‘The Father that sent me is greater than I?’ ” “I am not going to debate with you.” “Do you believe that Jesus told the truth when He said, ‘Of myself I can do nothing?’” “I am not called upon to answer your questions.” “I call upon you now to do it.” “I am not going to have a debate with you.” “O, no; I only wish to know if you believe that Jesus told the truth. I am not certain that I am orthodox, for I scarcely know what orthodox means in this country; but I believe, to the best of my ability, all that the Bible says of God and Christ, and if you believe anything more than is taught in the Bible, tell me what it is.” Said the man, “I am not going to argue with you; but if I had my way, you should never preach in this town again. Nothing but the law saves your back.” “I am glad that even that is the case, and now I have a proposition to make to you: that we shall be friendly as citizens of Indiana, as fellow-travelers to the grave, and to the judgment bar of God; and my prayer is, that our prejudice, and envy, and hatred, and hard feelings, may die before we do. And that we may stand acquitted at the judgment bar at last; and with this prayer I offer you my hand to be friendly as a man and as a brother mortal." The man gave his hand, saying: “I have a great mind not to,” but he was always, after that, a friend to Elder Martin.
The final result of his labors in Georgetown was, that a church was organized there and a good meeting-house built.
Leaving the field of Georgetown, he went to Mooresville; and commenced a meeting in the schoolhouse, which was occupied by the United Brethren church; preached there about four or five days, with the preacher of that church in attendance, and thought something might be done there toward organizing a Church of Christ. He asked the preacher what he thought about it; as there were persons in the town who would not join his church, would it not be well for him to try to get them into the Church of Christ, or organize a church into which they would come? He told him he had a notion of giving an invitation at meeting that night, which he thought would be all right. He then asked the preacher if he thought it would be right, in giving an invitation, to say that none but a certain class should come, or, if it should be a general invitation, to any that wished to unite on the Bible. He said, of course the invitation should be general, and afterward was heard to say, he said this “that they might get some of their trash,” but all the trash they would get from them would not be worth much. Elder Martin gave the invitation at night, and about seventeen of the members of the United Brethren church came forward to unite on the Bible. The church was organized on “the Bible alone,” and is now the only organized church in the place.
He went to a town on the Ohio river, below New Albany, found the trustees of the Methodist church, and asked for the privilege of holding a meeting in their house. One of the trustees told him it was free for all except Mormons or Campbellites, and that, if he were neither a Mormon nor a Campbellite, he could preach in it. He told him he was neither—that he was acquainted with the Mormons, and did not like the doctrine; had heard of the Campbellites, but had never formed an acquaintance with any of them, but from what he had heard he did not think he would like them. The man then asked him what he professed to be. He answered, a Christian only. He then inquired as to his faith; and Elder Martin told him he had no rule but the Bible. The man said he could see nothing wrong in all that, and he could have the use of the house. He preached in the house for more than a week, and the local preacher with him all the time. He gave no invitation for joiners—said nothing on that subject. At the close of the meeting the local Methodist preacher took up a collection for him, and expressed himself well pleased. They raised about thirteen dollars Elder Martin remonstrated against the collection, notwithstanding. He left an appointment at the same place for four weeks from that time. Two weeks after he left, their circuit-rider came around, and they told him of the meeting that had been in progress. He inquired the name of the preacher, and when he had learned the name, he said they had been badly taken in; he was acquainted with the man by reputation, and knew him to be the worst kind of a Campbellite. When he went back again, in four weeks, he found a division in the church as to whether he should preach in the house or not. A portion of the members, with the class-leader, declared that he should preach, and a portion of the members, with their local preacher, declared that he should not. But a majority said he should preach in the house, and the class-leader, having the key, opened the door. He commenced preaching, and gave an invitation at the close of the second discourse, when several of the members came forward and made confession for baptism. He gave an invitation at the next discourse for persons who were members of churches to unite on the Bible. Several of the Methodists came forward, and among them the class-leader. He was then turned out of the house; the class-leader could not keep it, having left the church. They got up a subscription paper, made up money, and bought an unfinished house, organized a church in the new house, made an elder of the class-leader, had a number of additions after organizing, and, at the last accounts, they were in good working order.
He visited another town not far from the Ohio river, and was refused admission into any meetinghouse, school-house, or private dwelling to preach until a deist offered him the privilege of having a meeting in his house. His offer was accepted, and a meeting was commenced, which was continued for four days and nights. They obtained a number of additions and partially organized a church, which has since gone down for the want of care and attention. At this place, while walking with a member of the Lutheran church, and preaching to him as they walked, “they came to a certain water,” and the Lutheran said.: “Brother Martin, here is water, what hinders me to be baptized ?” Elder Martin said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” He confessed his faith in Christ, and they walked on into the water, where the baptism was performed; they walked out on the opposite side and pursued their journey on. The man afterward became a preacher.
On another occasion, he was invited by a brother to preach at his house, about twenty miles from his home. The weather was cold and sleety; he reached the house about the middle of the afternoon; he went in and found the lady busily engaged in cooking, and asked for the privilege of warming by the fire. After warming a while, he observed that the weather was so disagreeable that if he could find some place for his horse, he would stay all night. The lady, not knowing who he was, pleasantly informed him that he could not stay, as her husband was not at home. He asked her if he would be back at night; she said she supposed he would. He told her he would then like to stay, as the weather was so unpleasant, and he would try and be very civil until her husband’s return. She told him he could not stay, for they were expecting company; that there was a house in sight where they kept travelers, and he could go to that. He told her he did not like to go out in the cold again, and would much prefer remaining where he was. She told him it would not be convenient for him to stay; as they were expecting a meeting there that night, and were looking for the preacher. He told her he would like to be at the meeting, and, on that account, would like to stay. She said they were not prepared to keep much company, and the preacher might have some company with him; if he wished to be at the meeting, he could come from the other house. He told her he would prefer not to go, that he would make himself as much out of the way as possible, and if they had no bed for him, he would sleep on the floor, on a Pallet, or get under the bed, sooner than go out in the cold. Her patience seemed to be exhausted, and she very firmly said, “You can not stay, sir.” He asked for the privilege of warming a little longer, and while warming, her husband came in, introduced him to his wife, and told her that he was the preacher. She approached, gave him her hand, and said: “You are to blame for all this; I have no apologies to make.” He told her none were needed. The weather was so unfavorable that but five persons were in attendance at the meeting—one professor, and four that were not; but the result was that all four of the non-professors confessed the Savior.
He held a meeting once in Harristown, and had a number of additions. On one occasion he gave an invitation for persons to make confession, and four or five came forward, and, after taking their confessions, he offered an exhortation, and they sang another song of invitation, out no one came forward. He was afterward informed that there was no one in the house who was not a member of the church, excepting those who came forward at the first invitation.
Soon after this time he held a meeting in a Baptist meeting-house; preached only one discourse, and took for a subject the fifteenth chapter of John, “I am the true vine,” etc., and spoke of the commonly received view of Christ being the true vine, and all the different denominations branches. He proved that there were branches to the vine, and that the kingdom of heaven had branches, from the parable of the mustard-seed, which grew up a great tree, or the largest of shrubs, so that the fowls lodged in the branches thereof. He raised the question then as to whether the different denominations were the branches, and asked the congregation if any of them were to plant a mustard-seed, and soon after it came up, a mustard branch would shoot off, and then a little further up a cabbage sprout grow out, and then, in another direction, a radish sprout, and still on further up, a turnip, and still a little further, a beet, and further still, a pumpkin-vine, then, a squash, and then, a potato, and above all this, a beech limb, and an oak limb next, and the whole concern topped off with a hickory, if any of them could tell what kind of a seed had been planted from looking at this monstrous bush. By this time they seemed to be very much amused at the novel-looking tree. Then he made the application, and told them that all these different branches, supposed to have come from the one seed, were not more unlike each other than the different denominations were. The kingdom of heaven, set up by Christ at first, did not last long, until the large, old Roman Catholic limb grew out; and now, in our day, we have the Methodist branch, with all their peculiarities; a United Brethren branch, with their peculiarities; a Baptist branch, with all their notions; an Episcopalian branch, a Shaker branch, with all their peculiarities, as unlike each other as the branches in the figure; and topped off at last with a hickory Quaker. He wished to know if any one there, from looking on the denominations all over the land, could tell what kind of a church or kingdom the Lord first established. But still the kingdom of heaven, he said, has branches, as the mustard stalk has branches. If we plant a mustard seed, and it grows up and has branches on the stalk, all the branches on that stalk are mustard branches. So in the kingdom of heaven,—all the congregations must be alike, of the same spirit—Christians; and it would be wrong to call one mustard branch a potato, another a beet, another a cabbage, and another by some other name, if they were really and truly mustard branches. And so it was equally wrong to call any branch of the kingdom of heaven by any other name than the name given by inspiration; all branches of the same stalk. But, in fact, the churches were not branches, but each individual Christian was a branch of Christ, and should be called by his name.
The result of that meeting was a close investigation there, which resulted in good.
Having returned home on one occasion from a preaching tour, in order to rest a few days, he concluded to go round and see some of the neighbors, solicit some missionary funds, and talk to them about their future state. On returning home in the evening, he came to where there was an old man getting out stone near the river bank. He took a seat near by this old man, and entered into conversation with him—told him he had been going around to see the neighbors, to encourage them to love and good works, and get a little means from them to send the gospel to others. “And now, Uncle Tommy, although you are not a member of the church, I think you love good people, and as you have a considerable amount of this world’s goods, perhaps you would like to give something yourself.” The old man said he would, and handed him a silver dollar. Elder Martin thanked him for the dollar, and said he hoped it would be the means of doing some good, but told the old man he would much rather he would give himself to the Lord than to give a dollar; told him that he knew his duty, and asked him why he had neglected it so long. He said it was only neglect, and that he had often thought that right there was a very pretty place to baptize. Elder Martin replied that the water did look very nice. Then the old man said, ”Why can’t you attend to it now?” “Now is the Lord’s time,” said Elder Martin; when the old man rose, saying, “I am ready.” “But perhaps you had better step into the house and tell your wife, as she would like to see it done.” He said to his son, “‘Drive on and unhitch.” Then they went to the house, and took his wife, his son, and a young lady who lived with them, down to the water, where the baptism was performed. At the next meeting the old man put his membership in.
On another occasion soon after this, he was preaching in the neighborhood of a very prominent United Brother, who attended the meeting, and invited him to his house. After the close of the meeting he staid all night with this brother, and the next morning inquired of him the best way home. He had his horse caught, and said he would go a part of the way with Brother Martin, and show him the way. They traveled on three or four miles, until they came to a creek called Knob Creek. The old man said, “Brother Martin, see, here is water; what hinders me to be baptized?” The reply was, “Brother Cook, if you believe with all your heart, you may.” He said, “I do believe that, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and wish to obey Him in the ordinance of baptism.” They then dismounted, and both went down into the water. The man weighed about two hundred pounds, and remarked, “Brother Martin, you will have your hands full, as I am quite helpless.” Brother Martin replied, “The Lord always gives us sufficient strength.” So he baptized the man, who returned home, while he went on his way—both, no doubt, rejoicing.
He attended a yearly meeting at Muddy Fork church, in Clark county, which commenced on Friday, with quite a number of preachers in attendance, but, by Sunday evening the most of them had gone away, and the preaching from that time devolved on him. The church was in rather a cold condition; he preached twice every day until Thursday without an addition; but on Thursday night there were two or three confessions. He preached on Friday, and going to meeting that night with a brother, the brother remarked that he thought they would have a good meeting that night. Elder Martin said he feared not; he was somewhat discouraged—was weary, and could not preach much. The house was crowded. He preached a short discourse, and remarked, “I can not exhort, I am too much fatigued. The brethren have sung till they can not sing any more, and if there are any soldiers for Jesus here, get up and come along like men and women should, without a song. I’ll meet you in front of the stand. You know your duty; if you are disposed to confess your Savior, come right along. We are not going to sing a song tonight.” Then a man in the far corner of the house rose and walked slowly down the aisle, and then another, and then others—among them a man about thirty-five years of age, who had been a professed deist—and they kept coming as rapidly as he could take them by the hand and seat them, until twenty-two came forward, without a song, and silence all over the house. But the nervous excitement was so great in the congregation that it made the house tremble—or he thought the house was trembling, perhaps, from his own excitement. The meeting was continued until Sunday evening, with forty-four additions.
He held a meeting in Jackson county, where there had been a Church of Christ, but it had become disorganized and gone down. He commenced a meeting in the Methodist church on Saturday, and on Sunday night had the doors locked against him. A number of the Methodists were locked out of their own house. The congregation assembled out of doors, some temporary seats were prepared, and he preached to them, and published a meeting for another neighborhood on Tuesday night. On Monday morning he was visited by a trustee of the Methodist church, who said he had been badly treated, and asked him if he would preach in the Methodist meeting-house if he had a chance. He told him he would, most assuredly. The trustee told him that if he would preach in the house that night, he would open the door for him, if he had to do it with a fence-rail; that the house had been locked against him without his orders. Elder Martin told the man to publish the appointment, have the house lighted, and he would be on hand. The house was full that night. He thanked the Methodist brethren for opening the door, and for their kindness in letting him in, but told them he must speak what he believed to be the truth. One old brother spoke and said, “Say what you please, Brother Martin.” So he preached a discourse on Christian love, Christian union and Christian conduct. He was invited to preach again the next night, but told them he could not, as he had an appointment three miles from there. He went to his appointment, and preached in a private dwelling, kept up the meeting until Thursday, when he gave an invitation for all those who wished to unite on the Bible, or to confess the Savior, to come forward during the singing. The singing commenced, and they began to press forward. He tried to take them by the hand, and seat them, but soon found it was in vain. They were pressing forward on every side. They kept pressing forward until the number reached sixty-four. The meeting was kept up until the number reached eighty-six. There he organized a church, which is still one of the best working congregations in the country.
He once went to hold a meeting in a neighborhood which he had never visited before. He was met at the depot by a brother, who said to him as they were going out to the place of meeting, which was twelve miles from the railroad: “I never saw you before, Brother Martin, but I know you by reputation, and I have heard that you will not let persons sleep in meeting without telling them of it. As I am a doctor, and lose a great deal of sleep, I can not very well keep awake in church; so I concluded to come and meet you, and make a bargain beforehand with you, that if I should go to sleep while you are preaching, you should not say anything to me about it.”
Elder Martin told him that his request was reasonable, and that, he would agree to the contract, and would not say anything to him if he slept during the preaching. They shook hands to confirm the bargain. About the second discourse the doctor was observed to be somewhat dozy. Elder Martin paused in his discourse, looked over into the congregation, beyond where the doctor was seated, and observed: “There is a little matter I wish to state to the people: I made a contract with the doctor, as I came out with him from the depot, that if he went to sleep during my preaching I would not say a word to him about it. I wished to let you know the contract, that you might not think strange of my not naming it to him, for I did not intend to, if he slept all the time.” By the time he had finished publishing the contract with the Doctor, he was wide awake, and at the close of the meeting, which lasted ten days, he declared he had not felt the least inclination to sleep after that time. He had intended to come off “head,” but acknowledged himself fairly turned down.
At a protracted meeting in Clark county, he formed an acquaintance with a preacher from Illinois, who requested him to visit his town and hold a meeting, He wrote several letters, urging this request, and at length Brother Martin gave him an appointment. When he received the letter containing the appointment, he seemed so pleased that his wife made up her mind that Brother Martin must be some great person. At the appointed time he reached the place, was met by the brother, taken to his house, and introduced to his family. The lady, of the house gave him what he considered rather a cool reception—had very little to say, but would occasionally take a sly peep at him. After having been there five or six days, and becoming well acquainted with the family, he asked the lady why she looked so sour at him when he first came. She said: “To tell the truth, Brother Martin, I was disappointed and hurt.” He asked her what he had done to make her feel so. She replied that she had expected a tall, fine-looking man, in every way handsome to look at; but to meet a dark-looking, old man, so very homely as he was, was such a disappointment to her she could not help showing her feelings. Brother Martin does not care to be thought a handsome man, and tells these stories on himself with a great deal of pleasure, often saying he would rather be homely than handsome.
He went to Bloomfield, Iowa, via Michigan City, Chicago, Burlington and Mount Pleasant; took the stage from Mount Pleasant to Bloomfield, and traveled in company with an old lady, who was going to the same place. He inquired of her as to the state of society. She said they had almost all kinds of professors—Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Campbellites. He told her he was acquainted some with all those named, excepting the last; he had no acquaintance with them, had often heard of them, and, as she had stated they were very numerous in her neighborhood, he would like to learn something more particularly about them. The old lady herself was a Presbyterian. “Why,” said she, “such doctrine you never heard. These Campbellites teach that all that is necessary in order to salvation is to get a person under the water, and baptize them: it matters not if they are taken from the grocery—just so they are baptized they are saved.” Elder Martin told her he thought that was horrid doctrine, and that “he would be afraid to live among such people. “But,” said she, “that is not the worst.” “Why, what can be worse than that?” “Why they deny that there is any Holy Ghost at all!” He told her that was indeed worse, if it could be, and asked her if she was not afraid to live among such people. She replied, no, that they were very clever neighbors. He then asked her if she had ever heard them preach this doctrine. She said no, that she had never heard more than one of them preach. “And did that one preach this doctrine that you speak of?” “Oh, no, he could not preach.” “Did he say there was no Holy Ghost, and all that was necessary was to baptize a person?” “Well, I was so disgusted with him I did not stay to hear him through.” “But did he say that in what you did hear?” “O, no, he did not say it, but that is the doctrine they preach; you may depend on it, for our preacher told me so.”
He asked the old lady if she did not think there were many Christians among the Methodists. She said she thought there were a great many, and that she was not so narrow-minded as to think that none are Christians but those who belonged to her church. He then asked her if there were not Christians in the Baptist Church. She said of course there were. Then he said to her that a person might be a Christian and not belong to the Methodist Church; and inquired if there were not persons in those denominations that were not Christians. She replied that there were. “Then,” he continued, “simply belonging to these denominations as such, will not make a person a Christian. These Campbellites, you say, are very numerous and still gaining in numbers; how would it do for all the Christians of all the other denominations to agree, and unite together to form one big Christian Church, to be governed by the Bible, so as to be strong enough to put a stop to this Campbellism?” “The very thing that we ought to do!” replied the old lady; “I never thought of that before.” So he gave her a promise that he would labor for it, and she gave him her hand, saying she would do what she could in that way. So they parted.
He preached a funeral sermon in Washington county, at eleven o’clock A. M., and said something about preaching again at night. The elder of the church remarked that he thought it hardly worth while to protract the meeting as there were none in the neighborhood who would be likely to join. However, they concluded to have a meeting that night, as he could not leave on the train until next day at ten o’clock. At night one Methodist lady came forward, made confession, and requested to be baptized the next day. An appointment was published then for the next day and night. On Monday night there were several more confessions, and meeting was published for Tuesday and Tuesday night. On Tuesday night there were several confessions, and the meeting was continued for Wednesday and Wednesday night. On Wednesday night there were more confessions, and meeting was published for Thursday and Thursday night, with a promise to one of the elders that if one dozen persons did not make confession on Thursday night he would leave on Friday. But on Thurs day night just one dozen came forward to make confession, and meeting was published for Friday and Friday night. He renewed his promise that if a dozen did not make confession on Friday night that he would leave on Saturday. On Friday night there were exactly one dozen more confessions. He then stated that it would take more than a dozen confessions on Saturday night to keep him over Lord’s day, ad he must go to another appointment. On Saturday night there were thirteen confessions. He remained over Lord’s day, closing the meeting Lord’s day night, having had about seventy additions where they thought at the first of the week they would not get one. These are but a few of the remarkable incidents scattered along the life of J.L. Martin. He has received into the fellowship of the Christian brotherhood about six thousand people, and organized more churches than he can now remember, having forgotten the number; but sometimes as many as five in one year. He has grown gray in the service, but has not; retired from the field—he expecting his rest on the other side of the river.
Elder Martin is rather below the medium size, not weighing perhaps over one hundred and thirty-five pounds, and stoops a little as he walks, and is of a dark complexion, with a dark, penetrating eye, and a very pleasant countenance. In fact, though not a handsome man, he is still a very pleasant and agreeable man. He is not fashionable in dress or manners, and assumes nothing of the “Clergyman,” but rather delights in being old-fashioned, and passing along unnoticed. He is full of good humor, and relishes a good joke very much. He is quite witty and quick at repartee, which makes him a universal favorite in the family circle.
As a speaker, Elder Martin is not eloquent, but earnest and pathetic, and always makes a good impression on his audience. He is a very forcible teacher, and a good exhorter. Long may he live to plead the cause of Bible Christianity! And when Elder Martin passes away, it may be written upon his tombstone: “He has done That he could.”
-"The Voice of Seven Thunders: Or, Lectures On The Apocalypse," by J.L. Martin, Eld. J.M. Mathis, Bedford, Indiana, publisher, 1870, pages ix-xl.
Indiana Preacher: J.L. Martin
J. L. Martin, 1810-1871, came from Shelby County, Ky., at the age of nine, to Washington County. He was one of the most noted preachers in southern Indiana in his day. He was associated with the Wrights and served as an evangelist a number of years. He is the author of a book on Revelation called The Voice of Seven Thunders. This book is one of the best ever written on this subject.
Commodore Cauble, Disciples of Christ in Indiana, page 202
Directions To The Grave of J.L. Martin
J.L. & Nancy Martin are buried in the Martinsburg Church of Christ Cemetery.
From Louisville, Kentucky: Take I-64 west, across the Ohio River into Indiana. Go to Exit 119 and head right (north) on Hwy. 150. When passing through Greenville, turn right (north) on Voyles Rd. (It is the straightest) and go four or five miles. Then, turn left on E. Borden Road. The church will be on your left. Go to the second drive and stop about mid-way of the first section. Travel into the middle of the section a few rows, and you will begin to see graves with the name MARTIN, this will get you in the vicinity of the grave in which you are searching.
From Indianapolis: Take I-64 south to Exit 29/Scottsburg and head west toward Salem on Hwy. 56. In Salem, head south on Main Street and turn left on Jackson Street. Then turn right on Martinsburg Road and go about 15 miles. When you get into the Martinsburg community, you will run into Hwy. 335. Turn left, then turn left again on Borden Road. The church will be on the right. Go in at your first right and stop about mid-way of the first section. Travel into the middle of the section a few rows, and you will begin to see graves with the name MARTIN, this will get you in the vicinity of the grave in which you are searching.
While here, be sure to visit the grave of William J. Brown, another restoration preacher buried here.
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Photos Taken May 21, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Web Editor's Note: On May 21, 2012 I visited the grave of J.L. Martin. I had just begun a week's Restoration Research trip with my dear friend Tom L. Childers. J.L. Martin's grave was early on our list of preacher's graves to be found. Special thanks to Tom for doing the driving on this trip. While here, be sure to visit the grave of William J. Brown, another restoration preacher buried here.