Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wilson Thompson: the man, the book

Wilson Thompson, The Autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson, His life, travels, and ministerial labors (Greenfield, IN: D. H. Goble) 1867 [reprint, Old School Hymnal Co. Conley GA 1978]

A rural one-room unpainted clapboard meeting house. A state-of-the-art church plant sprawling over several city blocks. What do these have in common? Baptists. Baptists meet in them. But do the Baptists that meet in them have anything in common? The Autobiography of Elder Wilson Thompson relates a time when New School and Old School Baptists had much in common. In fact in the beginning of his ministry, most of them worshipped together under a common name -- Regular Baptists.

I highly recommend this book. In it you will:

  • Learn about early 19th century Americans on the frontier
  • Learn the struggles and glories of 19th century frontier preachers
  • Learn about the "modern missions movement" from an Old School perspective
  • Learn about revivals and "hyper-Calvinism" on the western frontier
  • Learn about more than 2 divisions in the missions/anti-missions controversy

  • You may see things from a different perspective than you're used to.

Among my readers are Old School Baptists, Missionary Baptists and those who are not Baptists. Often Thompson is unknown outside the Old School/Primitive Baptist camp. You might be intrigued by Thompson's different perception of missionary Baptists Isaac McCoy and Jeremiah Vardeman. Those who have not read this book lack that much in their knowledge of Baptist history.

If anything about the book is disappointing, it is the fact that Thompson did not complete the book before his death. There are several years of his ministry that are not accounted for in the book. The last chapter was written by Wilson Thompson's youngest child (John Adams Thompson). I intended to write a book review, but my notes sat around til they got cold. So I decided on this brief recommendation.

Without pledging the reader to a belief in all the theological views of our deceased parent, we will be excused this humble eulogium on one whose memory is sacred to our hearts. “Few in any age of the church, since the days of the apostles, have labored more unselfishly to promote the cause of true and undefiled religion than has our father—Elder Wilson Thompson.”

"...Elder Wilson Thompson, was one of the greatest preachers of the age in which be lived and...his fame lives after him, for his name is known and honored wherever the Primitive Baptists are found."

"His first text, February, 1810, was John x:2, 3; and [he was] was ordained January, 1812, by Elders Stephen Stilley and John Tanner."..."Elder Thompson was the author of several books and pamphlets, among them “Simple Truth!,” “Triumphs of Truth,” “An Address to the Baptists of the United States,” in 1850, and his “Autobiography.” He was a strong writer, able debater and powerful pulpit orator."


Chris Crouse said...

I "amen" Robert's suggestion to read this book. It is among my very favorite to read. In my life, I've read it about 10 times. At age 27, I expect I'll read it about 10 times that amount before I am through.

I look forward to meeting Elder Thompson in heaven, one of the "cloud of witnesses" I lean on a lot!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Chris. This is certainly that every student of Baptist history ought to read. But as you note, it has value beyond that. It was an encouragement to me.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Should say: "This is certainly a book that that every student of Baptist history ought to read.

Alvie L. Davidson CG said...

I have a first edition of the Autobiography of Wilson Thompson and a reprint. This book is probably one of the few places you will find a first hand account of the mighty earthquake of the New Madrid earthquake in Missouri. Elder Thompson wrote about it as how it shook his house while he was repairing his chimney.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Mr. Davidson, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I remember reading Eld. Thompson mentioning the earthquake, but did not realize it would be one of the few first hand accounts of the New Madrid earthquake in Missouri. Thanks for the information. Enjoy the Baptist History Celebration.