Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Elijah Goodwin
ELDER ELIJAH GOODWIN was born in Champaign county, Ohio, January 16th, 1807. When three years old his father, Aaron Goodwin, and his grandfather, Elijah Chapman, together with several other families, emigrated to Illinois Territory and settled in the American Bottom, about twelve miles from St. Louis. This locality proving very unhealthful, they resolved to return to Ohio in the Fall of 1813.
Matters being arranged for this purpose, they set out in wagons on their return, but by the time they reached Indiana Territory the winter set in with such severity that they could proceed no farther. They therefore pitched their tents in what is now Gibson county, some five miles north of the present town of Princeton, and there awaited the coming of Spring.
In the mean time his father and others of the company made several excursions into the surrounding wilderness to ascertain the quality of the land, which, it was found, promised a rich reward to the future husbandman. Therefore their purpose of journeying farther eastward, passed away with the winter, and they chose for themselves dwelling places between the forks of White River, in Daviess county, and about twenty miles east of Vincennes, or Old Post Vincent, as it was then called.
At that time there were but few settlements of whites in that part of the Territory, and the stillness of the forest was seldom disturbed save by the red man shouting in the chase. They were therefore subjected to all the dangers and inconveniences incident to frontier life. Not the least of these inconveniences was the absence of the school-master. True, each neighborhood had a nominal teacher, but he was usually a blind leader of the blind, neither "gentle, patient, nor apt to teach." Yet so weak was the element of civilization that even such a teacher could be sustained for only three months each year. Moreover Elijah's parents were poor, and he was often required to be absent from the school that he might be present in the field or in the "clearing." His father usually signed one scholar for the term, and the time was made up by several of the family in such fractions as it often puzzled the " master" himself to reckon.
Under such circumstances, however, he learned to read, and, to him, this was equivalent to an education: for he possessed a mind delighting "to search out the causes of things," and, having acquired the ability to read, he became his own instructor. Among his first acquisitions was a respectable knowledge of the English language. This gave him a power in the pulpit which, in that day, was extraordinary, and elevated him at once to a somewhat conspicuous rank in the ministry. He has been through life an inquisitive and indefatigable student—ever seeking to increase his stock of knowledge, whether in the school-room, behind the counter, at home with his family, or in the houses of his brethren as he has journeyed, preaching. To this studious habit, mainly, he owes, under God, his present honorable position, and to it society is indebted for his usefulness.
Having by such means obtained a tolerable English education, he learned, with the assistance of some friend, the Greek alphabet. With this key he unlocked that classic store-house, in which, to the mere English scholar, are hid all the treasures of revealed wisdom and know ledge. He is not, to be sure, a thorough Greek scholar, but by means of his Lexicon he is able to arrive at the meaning of the Scripture, as conveyed in the original words which the Holy Spirit taught. To conclude this topic, Elder Goodwin may be set down as an educated man, who is worthy of double honor in that he is self-educated.
His religious training was more carefully attended to, though circumstances were unfavorable. His parents and grand-parents were members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and, until he was thirteen years old, he never heard any but Methodist preachers. The "circuits" in those days being very large, the bishop usually placed, on each, two itinerants, who, by making their appointments eight weeks apart, supplied the " societies" with preaching every four weeks. As the appointment usually fell on one of the "six days," it was very common—indeed customary—for the men who attended to take their guns and dogs with them to church. Arriving at the house of worship, which was usually a squatter's cabin, they would "stack arms" in the outside corner of the chimney, go in, and seat themselves with powder horns and shot-pouches hanging by their sides. The benediction pronounced, they whistled up the errant dogs, and set out in hope of killing a deer on their way home—a hope which was frequently realized.
But it was perhaps not unfortunate that such circumstances existed. As there were then no deified preachers, the believer could worship God even in their absence. There being no magnificent temples in which devotion could parade itself on Sundays, it took up its abode in the hearts of those simple people, and manifested itself to the Creator around the family altar. Such worshippers were the ancestors of Elder Goodwin. In his mother Mary and his grandmother Achsah, especially, dwelt the unfeigned faith.
He himself was piously inclined even from a child. He received the religious instructions of his parents with great readiness of mind, and, at a very tender age, was anxious to experience the joys of salvation. Nor did he think of becoming a Christian only—even then, in his childhood, he cherished the hope of being, one day, a preacher of the ever-blessed gospel. Long before he made a profession of religion, he used to steal away to the groves and deliver extempore sermons to the trees. Indeed, like the holy child Samuel, he seems to have been born for the obedience and service of the Lord.
Looking forward to the ministerial profession, he did all in his power to qualify himself to discharge its solemn duties. His father's library contained only a Bible and a Methodist hymn book, but these he made his frequent study until he became very familiar with their contents.
With such a disposition, it is not surprising that he was always delighted when the circuit-riders came round, and greatly interested in their singing and preaching.
Those preachers taught that people could never "get religion" until they should be brought to see themselves as the vilest of sinners. They endeavored first of all to convince them of their total depravity, and, in the second place, to afford them a magnified conception of
Having thus brought them through the darkness of despair to the very verge of the awful pit, they suddenly admitted a flood of light from the Lord's blessed promises of forgiveness and mercy. By this artful maneuver they transported their hearers from the confines of "outer darkness" to the bright regions of hope; and this rapid transition, this sudden elevation of greatly depressed spirits, the mourners regarded as their conversion, and glorified God! In this plan of pardon there is at least some sound philosophy, and for this reason, possibly, it is still followed by many without the shadow of divine authority. To young Goodwin's conversion under this system, one thing stood opposed—on a faithful comparison of himself with his profane associates, he could not conclude that he was the chief of sinners. Therefore he remained in the kingdom of Satan, though most anxious to be translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
About the year 1819 there came into Daviess county several preachers who called themselves Christians, but were culled by various names, such as Newlights, Schismatics, Heretics, etc. The love, rather than "the terror of the Lord," was their favorite theme, and they appealed to sinners with great earnestness and with many tears. Young Goodwin soon became much attached to those despised people, and began to defend their views when opposed by the several orthodox sects.
At one of their meetings held in May, 1821, near Washington, he made a profession of religion, and was soon afterward received into the church. Under the lenient rule of the Old Christian Body, he enjoyed the fellowship of his brethren for several months without obeying from the heart "the form of doctrine." This he did through fear of wounding the feelings of his parents upon whose faith he had been sprinkled in infancy. This obstacle was entirely removed as soon as they were apprised of his heart's desire, and, in October following, he was immersed in Prairie Creek by Elder Cummins Brown.
In 1823 his father moved into the southern part of the county to a point several miles from the nearest Christian church. Finding in that settlement a few persons of his faith, the young disciple, then in his sixteenth year, prevailed upon them to hold evening prayer meetings from house to house. At such meetings he at once became a leader, and from that he soon began to exhort and to preach. From the first he was very successful in bringing sinners to the anxious seat to call on the name of the Lord. But to those unfortunate ones who asked and received not, he could only say "pray on." He was at that time, like many preachers of the present day, in the condition of those so forcibly described by Paul, "Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm."
It was in May, 1824, that he first attempted to deliver a regular sermon. His text was 1 Peter, iv. 18. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" The following were the divisions of his subject in their order.
I. Define the character of the righteous.
By observing this order he made a most favorable impression upon the minds of his hearers.
He was followed by another preacher, by the name of Abner Davis, who took for his text, "The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad." He made a direct application of the passage to the young speaker that had just taken his seat. He attempted to show that preaching was all-important; that the Lord called and qualified all true preachers; that in the present case he had done a great thing, and they were all very glad of it! From this time Elder Goodwin kept up regular appointments in different parts of the county. As there were no railways and as he was too poor to buy a horse, he traveled at first on foot. In the beginning of his ministry he exhibited greater boldness than most young preachers, nor was he to be discouraged by any ordinary difficulty, as the following incident will show.
He once sent an appointment to preach at a certain point in a distant part of the county. The day came, and after an early breakfast the youthful evangelist set out on foot. Arriving at the place, he found a few persons in the house, and a few others at a preacher's stand in a grove near by. Perceiving that the house would easily accommodate all present, and supposing that all would come in when the exercises commenced, he took out his Testament and hymn book, and began to look for a suitable hymn. Upon this, those in the house arose and marched out to the stand two and two, male and female. Nothing daunted, the deserted preacher followed them, ascended the outdoor pulpit, and, without giving them time to retire, began to read the introductory hymn. This attracted the attention of the company, which had by this time become quite large.
After singing and prayer, he proceeded to follow out in regular order the several divisions of his discourse, all the while thinking it wondrous strange that none of his brethren were present to aid and encourage him. When on the last division of his subject, a funeral procession came up, and then, for the first time, he discovered an open grave near him. The hearse was driven up near the stand, where the whole company took seats and listened respectfully to the remainder of the sermon.
An explanation followed, from which it appeared that his appointment had never been published, and that he had preached to people who had come out with no other purpose than to attend the funeral!
Up to this time he had obtained no authority to preach the gospel. But in September, 1825, he applied for license to the Indiana Christian Conference, which convened that year at Blue Spring,Monroe county. Agreeably to their custom they appointed a committee to examine the candidates as to their soundness in the faith and aptness to teach.
On this occasion, as usual, the committee was composed of gray-haired preachers who had been many years in the service. The chairman was Lewis Byram, a man of great gravity, extensive biblical knowledge, and excellent Christian character.
Before this venerable body the youthful candidate, then in his nineteenth year, presented himself with fear and trembling. But to his great surprise only two important questions were propounded to him. 1st, "What think you of Christ, whose Son is he?" 2nd, "What do you understand to be the design of the death of Christ?" To the first he answered promptly, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Thus, having been four years in the church and two years in the ministry, he made the Scriptural confession of faith in Jesus Christ.
To the other question he replied, "I believe that Christ died to reconcile sinners to God, and not God to sinners." A few more inquiries with reference to his impression that it was his duty to preach, closed the examination, and the license was granted by a unanimous vote. His name was accordingly enrolled as a member of the Conference. It being a camp-meeting as well as a Conference occasion, the older preachers were anxious to hear the new member.
They therefore appointed him to preach at the afternoon session. To him this was a greater task than it was for Paul to preach before the Areopagus. Before him, in a beautiful grove, sat an immense assembly; behind him were the Elders of Israel. Nevertheless he delivered one of his systematic discourses, at the close of which he exhorted with so much feeling that quite a number of persons presented themselves at the anxious seat.
Hitherto he had attracted but little attention in the Conference, for in those days he wore an old white hat, whose crown, once cylindrical, had assumed a conical shape. His coat, also, was "out" at the elbows, and the length of his pantaloons had evidently been determined upon principles of rigid economy. After this effort, however, they asked him many questions, and spoke, in flattering terms, of his ability.
On returning home he reflected much on what he had seen and heard at Conference. It was held that such an organization was absolutely necessary to depose false teachers and prevent incompetent persons from being licensed. But, thought he, from such an examination as that to which I was subjected, what could they learn as to one's ability to preach the gospel? Such reflections on the doings and uses of that ecclesiastical body, the Conference, begat in his mind a hostility to it, which soon made itself manifest.
In the Summer of 1826, he received a letter from some friends in Illinois, near the mouth of Illinois river, requesting him to come out and hold a few meetings in that region. This he resolved to do, taking the Conference in his route. This body met that year at some point in Owen county. After its adjournment he set out on horseback for his Illinois appointments, having just twenty-five cents in his pocket.
There was at that time a flourishing church on Allison Prairie, some ten miles west of Vincennes. He resolved to proceed by way of this church, to spend a night with the brethren there, and preach for them. He reached Christian settlement before night, and called on a brother Daniel Travis, to whom he made known the object of his coming. The brother, who looked upon the outward appearance, asked him several questions as to his age, the length of time he had been preaching, etc., and finally agreed to circulate the appointment. Quite a congregation assembled, to whom he discoursed in a manner that fully met their expectations.
Next morning he started at early dawn in hope of reaching the house of a brother by noon. It was necessary for him to keep within the brotherhood as much as possible, for his purse was light and he received little or nothing for his labor in the Lord. Some preached vehemently against receiving any remuneration, but "he had not so learned Christ." Moreover it seemed to him that, if none were receiving more than he, there was no need of warning the brethren against paying the preachers! Previous to starting, his friend Travis asked him how far he was going. "Some hundred and fifty miles," was the reply. "How much money have you for the trip?" continued the questioner. "Twenty-five cents," said the preacher. The good brother then gave him an additional quarter—a liberal contribution in that day—and he went on his way rejoicing.
He reached the brother's by the way-side after the sun had crossed the meridian. But dinner was soon prepared, which proved to be the last meal he enjoyed until he reached the end of his journey. Remembering that "a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," he spent his money for food for his horse, while he himself fasted for two whole days. Resuming his journey he resolved to travel all that night. In pursuance of this resolution he came, about one o'clock, A. M., to where some emigrants had encamped for the night, at whose fire he stopped to warm himself. He had not been long by the fire when a coarse voice cried out, with a terrible allusion to Tartarus, "What are you doing here?" "Only warming myself, sir," he innocently replied; and turning round, he saw the man who had so rudely accosted him standing at his horse's head, the bridle over his arm, and a gun aimed directly at him. The holder of the weapon seeing him so unconcerned, came up and offered an apology. He said that the night before some one had stolen a horse in the neighborhood; that the thief was expected to return and purloin other property; that the owner of the stolen horse had requested him to watch; and that he had mistaken the innocent for the guilty. "Had you made the least attempt to run," said he, "I would have shot you down in your tracks." After this narrow escape the evangelist pursued his lonely way, and in two days more reached the place of his destination.
Having preached a week or two for his Illinois friends, he set out on his return, intending to reach a camp-meeting on Barney's Prairie, Wabash county, by Saturday night. But at the close of that clay he found himself twenty miles from the camp-ground, the road to which ran through a thinly settled region, and was not much traveled. Nevertheless about nine o'clock, P. M. he left the old Vincennes and St. Louis road and set out afresh for the camp-meeting, resolved once more to travel all night rather than fail in his undertaking. Of him this determination to carry out his purposes is characteristic.
To fill his appointments he has often imperiled his life in crossing swollen streams; and in every department of his business he is faithful to perform whatever he promises. About one o'clock the next morning he hulled at a farm-house, called the farmer up and inquired the way and the distance to the place at which the meeting was to be held. "It is about six miles," said the kind man. "but light; we will be going thither in the morning; so tarry with us and take a little repose."
In the time the horse was cared for, the good lady was up preparing a lunch for the weary traveler. After some conversation he observed to her: "You resemble a lady of my acquaintance in Indiana, whose name is Day; perhaps you are of the same name." "No," said she, "as far from it as you could easily imagine—my name is Knight." After a refreshing nap, breakfast was taken, and Mr. and Mrs. Knight, together with the preacher, were soon on their way to the camp-ground, where they arrived just before the services commenced. A great number of persons were seated before a rude stand in a delightful grove. There were in attendance several distinguished preachers, among whom was the eccentric and talented William Kinkade. Goodwin was immediately invited into the stand and called upon for a sermon. No excuse would avail, so he arose and addressed the people from Romans i. 16: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."
The following transcript of the original
"skeleton" of his discourse, will give the reader an idea of his method of
sermonizing in that day.
The effort was highly applauded even by the older preachers; yet, to one well acquainted with the Christian system, it is evident that none could learn, from such a discourse, what the gospel of Christ is, or what is to be done, on the part of man, in order to be saved by it.
At the annual meeting of the Indiana Conference in the Fall of 1827, he was appointed to travel and preach during six months of the ensuing year. The Wabash Conference, which embraced the churches in southwestern Indiana and southeastern Illinois, held its annual meeting about the same time. By it also he was appointed to preach half the year within the bounds of that Conference. These calls he accepted; and for the sake of giving each an equal division of seasons, he threw the two districts into one, which gave him a circuit of about six hundred miles. He has, therefore, been a circuit-rider on a large scale! Vermillion and White counties, Illinois; and Posey, Crawford, Monroe and Vigo counties, Indiana, formed the circumference of his circle. He arranged the appointments so as to make a revolution every eight weeks. To do this he was kept busy every day, for the roads were in a bad condition, many of the creeks were unbridged, and the swamps at times almost impassable.
No definite amount was promised him for his year's service. The brethren simply said, "Go preach the gospel and we will see that you do not suffer." Under such a contract he of course received but very little compensation. Still he filled out the time, had many happy meetings, and saw his labors crowned with a good degree of success.
On the 6th of August, 1828, in Gibson county, Indiana he was married to Miss Jane Moore Davis, who still lives to share his sacrifices for the gospel, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour by her meekness and "patient continuance in well doing."
Shortly after his marriage he and his wife made a visit to Tennessee, passing through Kentucky. While she remained with a sister in Wilson county, Tennessee, he made a tour through several counties of that State. His preaching was well received, and greatly revived some old churches that had forgotten their first love.
Up to this time he had operated on the mourning-bench system, under the illusion that the Bible is full of authority for proceeding in that way. While en route to Tennessee an aged sister, in Kentucky, at whose house he preached, asked him the following question: "Brother Goodwin," said she, "what is Baptism for?" Having looked at the subject no further than he had been led by his seniors in the ministry, he replied, "Baptism is an emblem of the burial and resurrection of Christ: therefore one is baptized to show his faith in these facts." "Then," continued the old lady, "the Lord's Supper shows our faith in the death of Christ, and Baptism shows our faith in his burial and resurrection." "So I understand it," rejoined the preacher. "Why then," said she, "do we, by the SUPPER, show forth the Lord's DEATH OFTEN, and, by BAPTISM, show forth his BURIAL AND RESURRECTION only ONCE in our whole lives?" By this inquiry he was completely nonplussed. The aged sister then observed that she was really anxious to ascertain the true design of the ordinance, for she thought there was something in it that all the preachers had overlooked.
Here the conversation ended, but study and reflection began; nor did he cease to reflect and inquire, until he had learned from the teaching of the apostles that Baptism, with its proper antecedents, is "for the remission of sins."
From this apparently trivial incident is to be dated the beginning of his reformation. Here he reached his aphelion, and began to approach the great Light of the World and his satellites, the apostles. Surely God hath "chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty."
Previous to this, one thing had troubled him, but it had not shaken his faith in the correctness of his practice. He was always most successful in persuading people to the anxious seat; but on almost all occasions he found persons—usually of the more sober and intelligent sort—who called upon the Lord in vain, for He would not answer. After almost every protracted meeting, he left many "unconverted" mourners, some of whom sought the Lord again, but others went their ways to infidelity. Finally he mentioned to older preachers the difficulty which was to him inexplicable; and many expedients were resorted to in order to account for it without calling in question the correctness of the system. Of course that could not be wrong, for had not many souls been joyfully converted in that way!
About this time there arose no small stir among the brethren with reference to the Reformation, especially in its bearings upon church polity. Elder Goodwin had long been opposing the organization of the ministers into an ecclesiastical body, which subject he had freely discussed with the ablest preachers in open Conference. The Indiana Conference was soon decapitated by the sword of the Spirit; and the Wabash Conference was not long in experiencing the same fate—the churches assuming an independent form of government; and the preachers becoming amenable to them.
To assist in bringing about this result, was his first public act in the direction of reform. But the examination, to which he had been led by the old lady in Kentucky, soon convinced him that the teaching of Christ—and the acts of the apostles stood opposed to his teaching—and practice on the important subject of conversion. He plainly saw that the apostles preached Christ crucified as the "only name given under heaven among men whereby they could be saved;" and that when the people believed their word, and were willing to obey the gospel, they commanded them to be baptized every one of them "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." He saw that in this way thousands became Christians in a single day without the long agonizing process through which his teaching compelled men to pass. He also discovered that in the beginning no one ever came sincerely to the Lord for salvation, and went away sorrowful, as many did in his day.
But how to carry into practice what he now saw to be according to apostolic precept and example, was a grave question. He feared that if he should attempt to substitute the ancient gospel, which was hated, for the received traditions, which were dearly loved, the people would not obey it, and he would have occasion to say with Esaias, "Lord, who hath believed our report." It was not until the Summer of 1835 that he resolved to declare the apostles' doctrine at all hazards, and exhort the people to obey the gospel as believers did on the day of Pentecost. "If," thought he, "I preach the same facts to be believed and the same commands to be obeyed; and if the people believe and obey, surely all will be well, for the Lord is faithful that promised: but if they are contentious, and will not obey the truth, but persist in unrighteousness, then the consequence shall be upon their own heads—I shall have delivered my soul."
From that hour to the present he has never taught the penitent sinner to seek pardon where God has never promised to bestow it. He has learned too that if persons are truly convinced of their sinfulness and really desirous of obtaining forgiveness—if they have "unfeigned faith" in Christ and in his gracious promises—they will gladly receive the word and be baptized, both men and women.
Up to this time, except during the year he was employed by the Conferences, he did not "live of the gospel." To support his family he sometimes taught school, sometimes served as salesman in a store, but always preached as much as circumstances would possibly allow.
In January, 1840, he abandoned all secular business and gave himself wholly to the word. He had organized several new churches in Posey county—one at Mount Vernon. These, with some Old Christian churches that had come into the Reformation, agreed to co-operate in sustaining him as an evangelist, at a salary of three hundred dollars per annum. Under this arrangement he labored for seven years, annually enlarging his field, which eventually embraced portions of Illinois and Kentucky.
According to a report contained in the Christian Record of that date, he traveled, during the year ending October, 1845, three thousand four hundred and seventy-two miles and preached three hundred and eighty-two sermons. In 1846 he lost nearly three months on account of ill health, yet he traveled, during the remainder of the year, about three thousand miles and delivered two hundred and thirty-one public discourses.
This will serve as an index of his zeal for God, and as a measure of the influence he exerted as a speaker only, and not as a writer. He has always acted upon the suggestion of King Solomon, " What thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
In June, 1847, he left his old residence at Mount Vernon, and removed to Bloomington, where he became associated with Elder J. M. Mathes in the publication of the Christian Record.
In this connection he continued two years at a considerable sacrifice. The profits arising from the publication were insufficient to support two families, and they received nothing for preaching, though employed nearly every Lord's day and frequently throughout the week. The brethren, with singular views of justice and Christian obligation, seemed to think that the Record sustained the editors, and that therefore they ought to preach for nothing! Strange that they did not see, with equal clearness, that if one half of their farms supported their families, they ought therefore to receive nothing for the products of the other half!
Starved out of the editorial chair, he removed to Madison and became the pastor of the church in that city. During two years from April, 1849, he preached for that congregation with very general acceptance and tolerable success.
At the expiration of the second year he accepted a call from the church at Bloomington. The brethren at Madison remonstrated; but his family was then large and his children were demanding mental culture: therefore, for the sake of a better support, and especially in view of the educational facilities afforded by the State University, he returned to Bloomington in 1851, and assumed the pastoral care of the churches at that place and Clear Creek.
In this position he remained until the Fall of 1854, when he accepted an agency for the N. W. C. University. As an agent he was indefatigable; and he did much toward increasing both the funds and the popularity of the institution. He canvassed a large portion of the State, soliciting stock and contributions, preaching the gospel, and, by public lectures and private conversations, awakening an educational spirit among all the people, and especially among those of the household of faith.
Having become a prey to bronchitis, and being much exposed in this work, he suspended operations, as agent, for the Winter of 1855-6. But unwilling to be idle during that time, be wrote and published the Family Companion, a book of sermons, on various subjects, both doctrinal and practical: intended for the private edification and comfort of the disciples of Christ, and to aid the honest inquirer after truth in finding the true church and the law of induction into the same; etc., etc., etc." It is written in a plain, simple style, in which the rigor of logic and the spirit of Christ are happily blended. The popularity of the work is attested by its having already passed through five editions, and by the fact that some of the sermons have been republished in Europe, and some have been translated into the German language.
In the Spring of 1856 he resumed his agency, but upon the urgent solicitations of the brethren in Indianapolis, he abandoned that work in May; on the 27th of which month he became the pastor of the Christian congregation in that city. The church there was, then, in a deplorable condition. Through the influence of those who were contentious, it had been rent into two parties, each of which had their place of worship, and not a few things were being done "through strife and vain glory." It required much nerve and a firm reliance upon the strong arm of the Lord, to encounter such carnality;[1 Cor. iii. 3.] and, having done so, he met with an opposition to his pacific measures that he had not anticipated. Under such trying circumstances many a man would have "withdrawn himself," leaving the wranglers to "eat of the fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices." But realizing the importance of the church located at the capital of the State, and sympathizing with the righteous members that were partakers of the common shame, he resolved to meet all opposition with meekness and never to "give up the ship."
In this position he remained three years, in the course of which time the conflicting elements were brought together and their affinity re-established. The two folds became one again under one shepherd, and the congregation resumed a prosperous condition and a commanding influence.
Having accomplished this happy result, he resigned his charge, and purchased of Elder J. M. Mathes the Christian Record, of which he became sole editor and proprietor. This valuable religious magazine he continued to conduct, in Indianapolis, until the close of the year 1861. In addition to his editorial labors he made frequent preaching tours through this and other States of the Union, and rendered important service as Treasurer of the N. W. C. University. He was one of the commissioners to organize this institution, and from the beginning he has served as a member of the Business Committee and also of the Board of Directors, of which he has once been President.
At the commencement of the year 1862, in connection with his eldest son, A. D. Goodwin, he began a new volume of the Monthly, and also commenced the publication of the Weekly Christian Record, a family newspaper devoted to the interests of primitive Christianity. Both the paper and the magazine are ably and judiciously conducted, and they exert a powerful influence upon the disciples in the northwest, whose liberal patronage they assuredly merit.
In the course of his ministerial life he has been engaged in ten public discussions, in all of which, save two held prior to his entrance into the Reformation, he has successfully vindicated the truth as it is in Jesus. The first, which occurred in 1829, was a one-sided little affair, for the reason that his opponent, a Methodist preacher by the name of Richey, could not read the notes or comprehend the arguments prepared for him by another.
The second was with Dr. H. Holland, also a minister in the M. E. Church, and a man of considerable ability. It took place in the court-house at Mount Vernon, in the Spring of 1832. Proposition: "Is Jesus Christ the very and Eternal God?" Affirmative—Holland; negative—Goodwin.
His third debate was held near Mount Vernon, in 1837. His opponent was the same Dr. Holland, and the subject Infant Baptism. The fourth, in which he was opposed by Joel Hume, a Predestinarian Baptist, occurred in 1843 or 4. The proposition was the following: "Is it possible for all men to be saved by complying with conditions within their power." In the affirmative, Mr. Goodwin offered twenty arguments, to ten of which his opponent attempted no reply.
He next discussed the Action, Subject and Design of Baptism, with the Rev. F. Forbes, of the M. E. Church. This transpired at Kent, Jefferson county, in February, 1851, and was followed by the immersion of one of the moderators, his wife, and twelve others. In the Spring of 1853 he debated the same propositions with the Rev. James Scott (Methodist), in the chapel of the State University at Bloomington. At the same place in 1854 or 5 he affirmed the following proposition: "A law embracing the principles of search, seizure, confiscation, and destruction of intoxicating liquors kept for illegal sale, would be in accordance with the Bible and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and promotive of the well-being of society." His opponent was Rev. Mr. Tabor of the Baptist Church.
He subsequently debated with R. Hargrave (Methodist) on the Action and Design of Baptism; and, at a still later period, with H. Wells (Lutheran) on the Action of Baptism. The former took place at Oxford, Benton county, the latter at Jalapa, Grant county.
Finally, in December 1861, be debated the Action of Baptism at Cadiz, Henry county, with the Rev. M. Mahan of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This discussion lasted four days, and, like those preceding, converted to "sound doctrine" many who, turning away their ears from the truth, had been "turned unto fables."
Thus did the subject of this sketch, by the force of his mind and the candor of his heart, find his way, through gross darkness, to the foundation of apostles and prophets, though born, baptized, and bred in a different faith.
Thus by his own efforts, in the providence of God, has he elevated himself from obscurity to his present honorable and influential position.
Thus has he lived without reproach and labored for his race almost without reward.
Only a few more years, at farthest, will he write, and speak, and pray for the success of the Reformation, which be verily believes to be the cause of God; then will he leave a bright example on earth, to ascend to a glorious inheritance in heaven.
Elder Goodwin is a man of fine personal appearance. He is about five feet nine inches high—erect, well-proportioned, and weighs about one hundred and sixty pounds. His complexion is fair, his hair light and intermingled with gray. He has a well-balanced head, with a fine broad forehead, clearly indicative of great intellectual power.
His mind is clear, logical, comprehensive. He is a deep, constant thinker; and he reasons forcibly, from cause to effect more than by comparison. As a disputant, he is self-possessed, ready, convincing, and, under all circumstances, courteous toward his opponent. He descends to no chicanery to deceive the simple, employs no vulgar wit for the sake of gaining the applause of the multitude, but, by a clear and respectful "manifestation of the truth," he commends himself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
He possesses an amiable disposition and strong and lasting attachments. Except the cause of Christ, nothing lies nearer his heart or receives more of his attention than his family; the remainder of which consists of the wife of his youth, two sons and two daughters. The rest have fallen "on sleep," among whom was Friend Chapman, a promising son, who having graduated at the N. W. C. University, soon "finished his course" on earth and passed up into the presence of the Great Teacher.
Though he has experienced many occasions of sadness, yet he is uniformly cheerful, and eminently sociable. Indeed, there is not a little humor in his composition, and he enjoys a good anecdote most heartily. This element he sometimes turns to good account, for, sanctified to the Master's use, he constrains all his powers to work together "for good." The following incident will perhaps illustrate the manner in which he is wont to employ his humorous faculty "unto edifying."
Once while on a preaching tour through Henderson county, Kentucky, he stopped one day at a blacksmith's shop to have his buggy slightly repaired. While the work was being done, he inquired of the smith with regard to the religious views of the people thereabout. "Oh," said the smith, "we have some Methodists, some Baptists, some Presbyterians and a few Campbellites." "Campbellites" said Goodwin, "why what kind of people are they?" Smith.—A very singular people, I assure you. They don't believe in repentance, in conversion, or in a change of heart. They also deny the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Goodwin.—They must be a singular people,
indeed. They deny repentance?
Here the colloquy ended, and Elder Goodwin pursued his journey, leaving behind him a wiser if not a better man.
In attempting to describe him in the pulpit, one cannot do better than to adopt Cowper's fine description of
It expresses him precisely; for, without exaggeration, he is
To this it may be added that he is fluent, partly by nature and partly because he never speaks without preparation. His voice, once strong, clear, and melodious, has been somewhat impaired by disease; and his delivery is slightly monotonous. Yet the people everywhere hear him gladly; for his ideas are good and abundant; his discourses pointed, methodical, edifying.
He possesses yet one other trait, which Cowper should have attributed to his model preacher—namely, boldness in defense of the truth. This sometimes exhibits itself to good advantage even out of the pulpit, as the following incident will show:
"Once when traveling on a western steamer, he observed a number of passengers collected in the gentlemen's cabin and engaged in earnest conversation. Approaching them, he found that one of the company was enlightening the others in regard to a new kind of professed Christians that had appeared in his part of the country. Said he, "They don't believe in any thing but baptism. They will take a sinner in all his guilt, immerse him in water, and pronounce him fit for heaven."
After listening awhile, Elder Goodwin asked, "Do these people have churches?" "O yes, and preachers too," was the reply. "And they require nothing but baptism. I suppose then they never deal with their members for immoral conduct." "Really, I am not sure as to that, but I rather think they do," said the stranger. "Do you think," continued Goodwin, "that they would retain in their fellowship a thief, a blasphemer, a drunkard, or a false witness against his neighbor?" The gentleman, who by this time had become much confused, replied, "O no. I believe they would promptly exclude all such persons." "I perceive then," said the interrogator, "that those people require more than baptism. From your own lips I prove you guilty of bearing false witness; and now let me advise you to be more careful, in future, when attempting to represent the views and practices of men professing godliness." He then proceeded, by request, to give the gospel plan of conversion and salvation: the "false witness" was silent, and the company were both pleased and edified.
His success as a speaker is, perhaps, more than balanced by his influence as a writer. From his connection with the Reformation until the present, he has written more or less for several religious papers and magazines, the most of his contributions being to the Christian Record. Since his installment in the editorial chair—which, to him, is not an " easy" one—his pen has seldom been idle. Enter his sanctum at almost any hour of the day, and you will find him, pen in hand, surrounded by his exchanges and books of reference. You would like to sit longer and enjoy his agreeable conversation, but you feel that you are encroaching upon his time. He is an indefatigable worker. The cause of Godliness, the cause of Temperance, the cause of Union, the cause of Missions, the cause of Education, the cause of the National Government, the cause of Human Liberty, without respect to races—all find, in him, an unwearied and unwavering advocate.
His style is more remarkable for its perspicuity than for its vigor, ornament, or conciseness. He never attempts to write any thing beautiful, and his pen assumes considerable latitude of expression, being careful only to keep within the bounds of truth. Though his literary productions never fall below mediocrity, yet he is a useful rather than an elegant writer. Extracts would be inserted in this sketch, but for the fact that his writings are so numerous and so worthy of preservation, that they will no doubt be collected and given to the world in book form as soon as he shall have written the last line and laid aside his pen forever. To that certain event he already begins to look forward with regret, but not with fear; for, having been "diligent in business" as well as "fervent in spirit," the testimony of his conscience assures him that he
-Biographical Sketches of Pioneer Preachers Of Indiana, Madison Evans, Page 158-185.
Directions To The Grave Of Elijah Goodwin
Elijah Goodwin is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. Traveling On I-65 North Out Of Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Take The Dr. Martin Luther King Street Exit - Exit 117. (Note: If you cross White River, You Have Gone Too Far) Go North On Dr. Martin Luther King Street. Turn Right On West 32nd Street. Cemetery Will Be On Your Left. Go Until The Road Dead Ends Into Boulevard And Turn Left. There Will Be An Entrance To The Cemetery As You Cross The 34th Street Intersection. Turn Left Into The Cemetery. Be Sure To Click On The Map for specific location in the cemetery.