The Life of Matthias Luse
Matthias Luse was born the 17th of October, *1759 in Morris County, New Jersey. He was married to Susannah Stark of Morris County, New Jersey in 1779. Susannah was born the 2nd of February, *1764 in Flanders, Morris Co. N.J. Born to this couple were thirteen children, five girls and seven boys. These were: Robert, born 19 August 1780; Elizabeth, born 30 July 1782 "Betsey," a twin; 3. Mary Dilla, born 30 July 1782, a twin; 4. Ann, born 4 July 1784; 5. Permelia, born 20 January 1787; 6. John, born 02 April 1789; 7. Reuben, born 21 April 1792; 8. Eli, born 09 July 1795; 9. Matthias Jr., born 10 September 1798; 10. Aaron, born 27 May 1800; 11. Daniel H., born 21 April 1802; 12. Morgan Jones, born 11 May 1808; 13. Susannah, born ?? October 1809.
According to the Pennsylvania, U.S. Direct Tax List for 1798, the Luse family lived at Amwell township, Washington County, Pennsylvannia. There he owned 123 acres of property valued at $515.00. A house on the property was worth $40.00. According to the U.S. Federal Census of 1800 there were three people in the home. This remained his home the remainder of his life.
Alfred Creigh, an 1871 historian of what is now southwest Pennsylvania, explained that the Tenmile Creek Baptist Church in Washington County, has a history going back to as early as 1772. The church later became known at Mount Hermon Baptist Church. (work cited below, page 215). Today it is recognized as an Independant church. The records of the old Tenmile church leave a gap in their list of pastors between 1781 and 1831 as the records were lost. (pgs. 94,95). It was during this period that Matthias Luce served as pastor of this church. As a point of proof, the Baptist church in Washington was founded on October 15, 1814, by delegates of three Baptist churches, Peters Creek, Tenmile, and Uniontown. The delegate that served on this "advisory counsil" from Tenmile Baptist church was "Rev. Matthias Luse." That same day the Rev. Charles Wheeler was ordained to the ministry of the Washington church by three Baptist ministers, one of whom was "M. Luce" of Tenmile Creek (page 196). (Alfred Creigh, "History of Washington County From Its First Settlement to the Present Time: First Under Virginia as Yohogania, Ohio or Augusta County Until 1871, and Subsequently Under Pennsylvania.")
Matthias Luse was a church planter and builder. He was early connected with the Maple Baptist Church in Fallowfield Township, Pennsylvania, located on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, and about fifteen miles east of his home. His name appears as being appointed as one of "six men" to assist in the work there in December 1800. Including in the list were: "Rev. John Corbly, Matthias Luce, William Davis, Joseph Hill, J. Jones, and A. Kearns." (Boyd Crumrine, "History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men" (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts & Co., 1882, pages 789-796).
Interestingly, when Creigh introduced the history of the Disciples of Christ in Washington County, Pennsylvania, he wrote, "As early as 1803 a church was constituted in the Pigeon Creek settlement, under the labors of Rev. Matthias Luce, the Rev. Speers, and others, taking the Holy Scriptures for their rule of faith and practice. The record itself styles this organization 'The Gospel Church.' This church was afterwards called the Baptist church, the cause of its origin being brought about by Rev. Charles Wheeler, who, in an effort to introduce the creed of that denomination, said, 'Those that subscribed to the creed would be known and recognized as the regular Baptist Church of Pigeon Creek, those who would not, as Campbellites.'" (page 193,194) When Pigeon Creek was forced to choose its direction, it must have occured around the time of Brush Run's departure from the Redstone Association in 1824.
Creigh's report on the planting at Pigeon Creek by Luce, leads one to believe that he was open minded about those from other denominations who, around that time, were planting churches that also took the "Holy Scriptures for their rule of faith and practice." In 1807, when Presbyterian Thomas Campbell, arrived in Washington County from Ireland, he soon made a name for himself, not only among the Presbyterians, but of the people of the small community of Washington. By the summer of 1809, Campbell's departure from Presbyterianism with the group known as the Christian Association of Washington must have raised the awareness of others in the community doing the same things. By the summer of 1812, it would appear that Luse and the Campbells were more than aware of each other.
Examine an explanation of the events that led to Luse baptizing the Campbells in an article Alexander Campbell wrote for The British Millennial Harbinger and Family Magazine in 1848. In Volume 1, No. 8, under the title, "Anecdotes, Incidents, & Facts: Connected With The Origin And Progress Of The Current Reformation, Some of Which Have Never Been Before Published, No. 1," Campbell reported the following to his British readers:
"I will go no further back than my arrival in the United States in 1809, and note a few matters very trivial in appearance, but important in their bearing and results.
"The first proof sheet that I ever read was a form of My Father's Declaration And Address, in press in Washington, Pennsylvania, on my arrival therein October, 1809. There were in it the following sentences:— "Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the Church, or be made a term of communion amongst Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament. Nor ought any thing to be admitted as of Divine obligation, in the Church constitution and management, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles upon the New Testament Church, either in express terms or by approved precedent." These last words, "express terms" and "approved precedent" made a deep impression on my mind, then well furnished with the popular doctrines of the Presbyterian church in all its branches. While there was some ambiguity about this "approved precedent," there was none about "express terms." Still a precedent, I alleged, might be in "express terms," and a good precedent might not be clearly approved or expressly stated by apostles or evangelists with approbation.
Alexander Campbell, age 26
"While reasoning with myself and others on these matters, I accidentally fell in with Dr. Riddle, of the Presbyterian Union church, and introduced the matter to him. "Sir," said he, "these words, however plausible in appearance, are not sound; for if you follow out these, you must become a Baptist." "Why sir," said I, "is there, in the scriptures, no express precept for, or precept of, infant baptism?" "Not one, sir," responded the Doctor. I was startled, and mortified that I could not produce one. He withdrew. Turning round to Mr. Andrew Munroe, the principal bookseller of Jefferson College, Cannonsburgh, Pa. who heard the conversation: "Send me, sir, if you please, forthwith, all the treatises you have in favour of infant baptism." He did so. Disclaiming the Baptists as "an ignorant and uneducated population," as my notions were, I never inquired for any of their books or writings. I knew John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and had often read it; but I knew not at that time that he was a Baptist.
"All the members of the 'Washington Christian Association,' whose 'Declaration and Address' my father had then written, were not only all Pedo-baptists, but the most leading and influential persons in it were hostile to the Baptist views and practice. So to work I went to maintain my positions in favor of infant baptism. I read much during one year on the subject. I was better pleased with Presbyterianism than with any thing else, and desired, if possible, to maintain it. But despite of my prejudices, partialities and prospects, the conviction deepened and strengthened that it was all a grand Papal imposition. I threw away the Pedobaptist volumes with indignation at their assumptions and fallacious reasonings, and fled, with some faint hope of finding something more convincing, to my Greek New Testament. But still worse. I found no resting place there; and entering into conversation with on the subject, he admitted there was neither express terms nor express precedent. But, strange to tell, he took the ground that once in the church, and a participant of the Lord's supper, we could not "unchurch or paganize ourselves;" put off Christ and then make a new profession, and commence again as would a heathen man and a publican.
"Having the highest esteem for his learning, and the deepest conviction of his piety and devotion to the truth, his authority over me then was paramount and almost irresistible. We went into discussion. He simply conceded, that we ought not to teach nor practice infant baptism without Divine authority; but, on the contrary, preach and administer the apostolic baptism. Still, however, we ought not to unchristianize ourselves and put on Christ, having not only professed and preached the Christian faith, but also participated in its solemn rites. We discussed this question, and all that family of questions, at sundry interviews, for many months. At length I told him that, with great reluctance, I must dissent from all his reasonings upon that subject and be baptized. I now fully and conscientiouly believed that I never had been baptized, and, consequently, I was then, in point of fact, an unbaptized person; and hence could not consistently preach a baptism to others, of which I had never been a subject myself.
"His response was, 'I have, then, no more to add; you must please yourself.' On leaving me in the morning, he asked me when, where, and by whom I intended to be immersed? As to the place, I preferred to be baptized near home, among those who were accustomed to attend my preaching; as to the time, just as soon as I could procure an acceptable Baptist minister. The nearest, and, indeed, the only one known to me, was Elder Matthias Luse, living some thirty miles from my residence. I promised to let my father know the time and place as soon as I obtained the consent of Elder Luse. Immediately I went in quest of an administrator, of one who practised what he preached. I spent the next evening with Elder Luse. During the evening I announced my errand. He heard me with pleasure. Having, on a former occasion, heard him preach, but not on that subject, I asked him into what formula of faith he immersed? His answer was, that 'the Baptist church required candidates to appear before it, and on a narration of their experience, approved by the church, a time and place were appointed for the baptism.'"
"To this I immediately demurred, saying, that I knew no scriptural authority for bringing a candidate for baptism before the church to be examined, judged, and approved by it, as prerequisite to his baptism. To which he simply responded, 'It was the Baptist custom.' But was it, said I, the apostolic custom? He did not contend that it was, admitting freely that such was not the case from the beginning. 'But,' added he, 'if I were to depart from our usual custom, they might hold me to account before the Association.' 'Sir,' I replied, 'there is but one confession of faith that I can make, and into that alone can I consent to be baptized.' 'What is that?' said he. 'Into the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the confession into which the first converts were immersed. I have set out to follow the apostles of Christ and their master, and I will be baptized only into the primitive Christian faith.'"
"After a short silence, he replied, saying, 'I believe you are right, and I will risk the consequences; I will get, if possible, one of our Redstone preachers to accompany me. Where do you desire to be baptized?' 'In Buffalo creek, on which I live, and on which I am accustomed to preach. My Presbyterian wife, 'I added,' and, perhaps, some others, will accompany me.'"
On the day appointed, Elder Henry Spears, from the Monongahela, and Matthias Luse, according to promise, met us at the place appointed. It was on the 12th of June, 1812, a beautiful day; a large and attentive concourse was present, with Elder David Jones, of Eastern Pennsylvania. My father made an elaborate address on the occasion. I followed him with a statement of the reasons of my change of views, and vindicated the primitive institution of baptism, and the necessity of personal obedience."
To my great satisfaction, my father, mother, and eldest sister, my wife, and three other persons, besides myself, were that same day immersed into the faith of that great proposition on which the Lord himself said he would build his church. The next Lord's day some twenty others made a similar confession, and so the work progressed, until in a short time almost an hundred persons were immersed. This company, as far as I am yet informed, was the first community in the country that was immersed into that primitive, simple, and most significant confession of faith in the divine person and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, without being brought before a church to answer certain doctrinal questions, or to give a history of all their feelings and emotions, in those days falsely called "Christian experience;" as if a man could have Christian experience before he was a Christian! A. C. (pages 381-383)
It appears from the explanation that Alexander Campbell had heard the elder Baptist preacher sometime prior to their meeting leading up to his baptism. It is also reasonable to say that Luse readily accepted Campbell's observations of Scriptural baptism, though he initially feared retribution from the Baptist Association should he decide to assist him. His decision to baptize Campbell without the relating of an experience, added to his part in the planting of the Pigeon Creek church nearly ten years earlier, demonstrates Luse's commitment to do Bible things in Bible ways, no matter the consequences.
One clear thing that should be gleaned from the baptisms of the Campbells is that Luse's participation showed that the understanding of purpose in baptism is significant on the part of the recipient. While Campbell felt the importance of finding an "acceptable Baptist Minister," he clearly intended to be baptized on the basis of what the Scriptures taught. Luse knew the Redstone Baptist Association that ordained him to preach in the area would take a dim view of his immersing the young Irishman on the basis of a simple faith in Christ with no related experience. Yet, when Campbell appealed to the Scriptures, Luse relented and committed to baptism him.
When Luse baptized the Campbells it caused people to consider them as Baptists, even though their reasons for being baptized were clearly a departure from typical Baptist tradition. Thus, saying Alexander Campbell was a Baptist, according to its tradition and rules of acceptance, is impossible. While he continued to work among the Baptists until 1830, it is certain that he never saw himself as a traditional Calvinist Baptist. Elder Luse saw it initially, and others recognised this in a relatively short period of time. After the Campbells were baptized, it was not long before the Christian Association of Washington, soon becoming the Brush Run church, became a part of the Redstone Baptist Association. Luse and Campbell continued to work together for several years, until the Brush Run church withdrew from the Association in 1824 to join the Mahoning Assocation. It is unclear how their relationship continued after Campell's departure from the Redstone Association.
The period now referred to as the Second Great Awakening in the history of the United States of America enjoined the interests of many people from many different religious backgrounds. The honesty and openness to Biblical truth, and the willingness on the part of many to allow the Scriptures to take precedence over denomination traditions, allowed many to have greater fellowship, at least for a time. It appears that while Barton W. Stone and the Presbyterians of his day were coming together under the authority of the Scriptures in Kentucky, similar things were taking place in southwest Pennsylvania with the Matthias Luse and some of his acquaintances. This is evident by his involvement with Pigeon Creek in 1803. While some entertained for a time, the encouragements of Alexander Campbell to return to the Scriptures, some like Jeremiah Vardeman in Kentucky, and Luse in Pennsylvania chose to stay with their traditions rather than leaving them.
Matthias Luce was a respected man among the communities of Washington County. He was known by most everyone. For a time, he was involved in the political scene. In October of 1820, he was elected as the County Commissioner, serving one term.
The last years of the Baptist preacher's life were among his people at Tenmile Creek, Amwell Township. He died the 28th of July, 1831. According to what is inscribed on his monument, he was 67 years old at his death. His body was laid to rest in the cemetery above the old church which is now known as Mt. Hermon Independent Baptist Church. His wife Susannah continued until her passing the 11th of July, 1841 at the age of 75.* She was laid to rest beside him in the cemetery.
Sources: Ancestry.com contribution; The British Millennial Harbinger and Family Magazine in 1848. In Volume 1, No. 8,; the Pennsylvania, U.S. Direct Tax List for 1798; The 1800 U.S. Federal Census; Alfred Creigh, "History of Washington County From Its First Settlement to the Present Time: First Under Virginia as Yohogania, Ohio or Augusta County Until 1871, and Subsequently Under Pennsylvania."
Directions To The Grave of Matthias Luse
South of Pittsburgh, Pa, take I-79 to Exit 30, and head west (right) on Hwy. 19/Amity Ridge Road. Turn right on Baker Station Road. When the road deads end, turn left and continue south on Baker Station Road. When it runs into Banetown Road, turn left. Banetown Road will run into Vista Valley Road. Turn left and the church will be up on your left. Go behind the church building and up the drive toward the top of the cemetery. The Luse graves will be on the left.
or D.d. 40.048723, -80.232194
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Photos Taken May 23, 2012
site produced October 15, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp
*According to some records found on Ancestry.com, the years listed on the monuments of Matthias and Susanna Luce are a mistake. Above, the birthdates are recorded from that information, and thus should be referred to at the link. The grave markers make it look as if Matthias was born in 1764. Yet if other records are true, he was not 67 when he died, but 72.
**The Name "LUSE" is often written with the alternative spelling, "LUCE." The spelling with the "S" is on both grave markers of Matthias and Susanna Luse's graves. Thus Luse is the spelling used here.